Christina Cole Romance

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Endings and Beginnings

On Monday I spoke of synchronicity. I wrote that the universe seemed to be leading me in exciting new directions.  Later that day, I sat down in MLWR (my little writing room) and wrote a the set-up for a scene from The Sheriff Wore Skirts. In that scene, the main character, Caleb Bryant, ponders a fact of life:

Willow TreeCaleb leaned against the old willow tree and watched the waters of the nearby creek gurgling past. Not really much of a creek these days, although it had once been deep enough to swim in. Now it would barely come to the top of his boots if he stepped in.

Funny how things in life changed that way.

He shifted his gaze westward toward the glittering peaks of the Rockies, raising a hand to shield his eyes from the late afternoon sunlight. Some folks said even the mighty mountains would one day be gone, eroded away by the ravages of weather and time.

Caleb couldn’t imagine it. He’d once attended a fancy lecture in Denver and had heard some esteemed scholar with a string of letters attached to his name provide a scientific explanation. Water, the professor said, seeped into the cracks, froze, expanded, and broke the rocks down. Gravity then took over to carry the pieces down the slope.

When the spring rains came, more rocks were swept away. Some were even dissolved by the steady forces of nature.

The human eye might not see the changes happening, but they were going on all the same.

Changes were always going on in life, too. No matter how a man might wish things could stay the same once he got himself to a comfortable place, life didn’t work that way.

 

Caleb’s got it right. Changes are always happening in life.

Yesterday, I learned that my publisher — Secret Cravings — will be closing. What this means is that all  Secret Cravings and Sweet Cravings titles are coming down from Amazon and other booksellers, and rights to my stories — including those under contract for 2016 publication — will revert to me.  I can choose whether or not to re-publish the current titles and whether or not to release the upcoming additions to “The Sunset Series”.

In many ways, I think I was prepared for this. The writing/publishing industry has changed drastically in the last few years.  Although I was quite comfortable as an SCP author and hoped to publish many more stories through their imprint, I often found myself exhausted by efforts to keep up with marketing and promotional events and maintain a rigorous writing schedule in order to meet all deadlines.

At times, over the past year, I’ve considered other possibilities for my writing. Times are changing, and authors have to change, too. Accordingly, I choose to view this ending as a fortuitous beginning for my future.

What happens now?

My immediate plans are to take care of the business at hand — purchasing my cover art, putting files in order for possible re-publication, and making sure all legal issues are addressed.

I have many decisions to make involving not only the question of re-publishing my books but also questions involving this blog, my author page on Facebook, and my newly-formed “street team”.

What I don’t have yet is a definite plan…only a vague idea of where I want to go and how I’ll choose to get there. With a lot going on in my personal life, I’m choosing now to take a break from writing and publishing.  I will continue to post to this blog but not on a daily basis. I will also maintain my official author page at Facebook — Christina Cole’s Love Notes — and I will most like make daily posts there.

Of course, I will be keeping up with my friends and readers, although I will be “disbanding” Christina’s Corner. I want to thank each street team member for the love and kindness you’ve shown in the short time the group has been together.

At this time, I’m also choosing to set aside The Sheriff Wore Skirts. The book was scheduled for January release with Secret Cravings. That, of course, won’t happen now.  Instead of completing and publishing the book now, I will be exploring other avenues in my life.

I’m adopting the willow tree now as my symbol for the future. Willows bend; they don’t break. Endings bring opportunities to begin anew, and I’m looking forward to seeing where life leads me now.

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Make a Mess!

Creativity

I say these words over and over because they’re so very true. I don’t recall the source, but I do remember when I first heard them. I was sitting on the living room floor, surrounded by a mess of papers, drawings, art supplies, books, and snacks as I worked on a project. Yes, creative people make big messes.

It was then as I began the “cleaning up” process that I fully understood this little saying. As I sorted through ideas and inspirations — keeping some and discarding others — my mess turned into a completed project.

I approach fiction from this perspective, too. I make a huge mess with story ideas all over the place. I scribble notes on odd scraps of paper. I grab research books to keep close at hand. Putting a story together does get very messy indeed.

For what it’s worth, my current project — The Sheriff Wore Skirts — is a disastrous mess at the moment. Even though I began with a synopsis for the publisher, now that I’m working on the story, I’m seeing new possibilities. New characters are emerging. New complications and conflicts are happening.

What do I do?  I let it happen. It’s wondrous fun.

To me, it’s much like working a jigsaw puzzle…only first, I have to create all the pieces.

I won’t use them all. As with any creative project, I’ll find myself throwing away things that aren’t needed, sorting out what’s right for the story, getting rid of ideas that don’t fit. Gradually, the mess will be picked up. The research books will go back on the shelf. The little scraps of paper will be tossed aside. A finished manuscript will come together, ready to go to the publisher.

Don’t ever get discouraged when your creative efforts result in a huge mess. That’s how it’s supposed to be. It’s a process, and making a mess — the bigger, the better — is the first step toward success. Celebrate all the mixed-up, confused ideas. Scatter the pieces of your own puzzle around so you can look at them from different angles. Pick things up and play with them. Enjoy the mess!

Then begin the cleaning-up process. Throw away or set aside things you know you don’t need. Find what’s most important and build around it. Add in possibilities that might work. Discard ones that don’t work.

Slowly and surely, as you clean up the mess — whether it’s an art project, a poem you’re writing, a recipe you’re cooking, or any other endeavor — you’ll see a beautiful creation shining through.

 

 


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Playing by the Rules

I’ve been browsing through The Writer’s Guide to Character Traits, written by pyschologist Linda Edelstein. It’s an interesting book, and I’ve enjoyed reading about various adult personality types.

I’ve always believed that understanding is a key component of good relationships — in real life and in fiction, as well. So from time to time, I’m going to share a bit of information regarding Edelstein’s basic personality types. Perhaps this knowledge will help us build stronger relationships — and for the writers among us, create realistic characters.

Today, I’m sharing a few thoughts about conformists.

Conformity2The conformist believes in following rules and regulations, going along with others, and acting in a responsible manner.

Conformists are staunch supporters of law and order in society, and generally consider themselves to hold high moral standards.

Life with a conformist can be comfortable. These folks don’t like to “rock the boat” or make a fuss about anything…unless someone goes too far afield of their traditional beliefs and values, in which case the conformist can become rigid and dogmatic. They will then insist on upholding what they perceive as “right”.  They can be extremely intolerant, demanding that others conform to their way of thinking.

There’s a bit of interesting history behind the word, Conformist.

In England, Conformists were individuals whose religious practices were in line with the requirements of The Act of Uniformity. These acts — there were several — established rites and rituals for the Church of England, specifying prayers books to be used and the order of services performed.  Those who opposed the acts were called Noncomformists.

Today the words have come to mean anyone who “goes along with the crowd” or one who “marches to a different drum”, respectively.

Our society sends very mixed messages about conformity. We place children in classrooms and teach them to behave in very specific ways. We give them rules to obey.

  • Sit at your desk.
  • Raise your hand to ask a question.
  • Walk in single file as you leave the classroom.

At the same time, we speak of individuality, the need to recognize our own uniqueness, and the importance of learning to think for oneself.  Little wonder we’re often confused about who we are…and who we’re supposed to be.

Overall, despite our efforts to teach it and instill conformist values in our children, conformity gets a bad rap throughout history.  Ralph Waldo Emerson spoke out against it.

nonconformist-quotes-2

So did President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Conformity-president-quote

 

Conformists rarely stand out in society. They’re content to follow others and can make valuable assistants, always well-versed in “company policy” and willing to do what’s asked of them.

In fiction, we find two kinds of conformists. We sometimes see a character who is intent on following all the rules — to the detriment of their own happiness. My latest release, “No Regrets“,  features a shy young woman who, in the words of the hero, is stuck being…

“…the prim and proper Miss Richards, the quiet little mouse who never disturbs anybody, has never once told a lie, and who would never think of breaking any of society’s rules.”
We see the overbearing conformist at times, too, in the guise of a well-meaning parent or a moral leader. As conformists, they often join others in their intolerance.  I’ve included these characters in my stories, too, most notably the women of the “Ladies’ Charitable Society” in my fictional town of Sunset, Colorado.  Here’s a quick look at the ladies, from “Keeping Faith“.
Not only Mrs. Gilman, but all the other women as well wore black. They reminded Tom of a bunch of crows perching in the parlor, hovering about, ready to peck the eyes out of him and his mother if they made a wrong move.
Maybe conformity is best treated as a useful tool, not as a way of life. There are times and places where perhaps it’s best to go along,  to do what’s expected, and to accept little things that aren’t really worth making a fuss about.

Yes, rules are important. So are laws.  Sometimes we do need to follow others…so long as they’re leading us in the direction we want to go.

When all is said and done, the most important thing is knowing who we are and living our life fully.
be-yourself-everyone-else-is-taken

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Back to School? Already?

the-3-rsIt’s only August! Mid-August, in fact. Yet already schools are open and students are boarding buses each morning, heading off to learn “readin’, ritin’, and ‘rithmetic”. Although, to my mind, it’s still a bit too early — when I grew up, school never started until after Labor Day — I do look forward to the beginning of each new school year.

I’ve always loved walking into stores and seeing school supplies lined up. Oh, the notebooks, pencils, and pens! The colorful binders and folders!

Yes, I was one of those “nerdy” kids who loved school. Of course, back in the day, we weren’t called nerds or geeks.  I always got excited to think of all the new discoveries I would make and all I would learn over the coming year.

I still get excited by learning, and that’s why the end of summer and the beginning of school always thrills me. As autumn arrives — officially — and the air grows cool and the leaves turn colors, my excitement will continue to grow.

For me, this time of year is a signal to settle down, get into a regular routine, and turn my mind and attention to what I most enjoy doing — writing.  With that “back to school” attitude in my head and that same excitement in my heart, I can come into MLWR (my little writing room) each day with a burst of enthusiasm.

What can I learn today about fiction-writing and story-telling? What new possibilities will I discover as I’m putting scenes together? What ideas might suddenly come along?

My current project is The Sheriff Wore Skirts —another title in the “Sunset Series”. These are stories of life and love in the old west, with an ever-growing cast of characters who’ve become near and dear to my heart. At present, the manuscript is about 34,000 words, so there’s still much to be done before the story goes to the publisher in November.

Here’s a short little “tease” from the opening of The Sheriff Wore Skirts:

How long did a broken heart last? Nearly a month had passed since Sheriff Caleb Bryant’s best girl Molly had run off with another man – his former deputy, Hank Goddard – and his heart hadn’t yet begun to heal. Now, Hank and Molly were home again in Sunset.

Worse still, she was standing right in front of him.

Even though this is the project I’m actively involved with, it’s not the only project I have “in the works”. As a writer, I always have dozens of ideas lurking around, and that’s where all those colorful binders and organizational folders come in very handy.

The key to writing a novel is keeping it organized. There’s a great deal of information a writer needs, even if it doesn’t all go into the story. There’s research information, details about characters — their appearance, their background, their goals, their motivations — and there’s various settings we have to keep in mind. Writers often create timelines of events, of course, or outlines of a story’s scenes. As a writer of historical fiction, I also keep calendars from the years a story takes place so I know for certain what day of the week things are happening. For what it’s worth, I always check the moon phases, too, so if you’re reading about a gorgeous full moon as my lovers stroll hand in hand, you can be sure it really was full that particular long-ago night.

In the same way as a novel needs organization — a binder is great for this — future ideas also need some sort of order. I keep a stack of folders nearby, and when new ideas come to mind, or when I suddenly “hear” or “see” a scene from a new story, I can quickly jot down my thoughts and file them away.

So, what it all means is that this week, I’ll probably be stocking up on “school supplies” — even if I now call them “writing supplies”. I’ll be doing a lot of “readin’ and ‘ritin'” and even a bit of “rithmetic” as I keep my characters’ biographies up to date. Let’s see, just how old is little Kitty Barron now?

Oh, is that a school bell I hear? Guess that means it’s time to begin my day. Readers are waiting for the next book. Time for me get busy.

Thanks for visiting today!

Which of the “Sunset” books is your favorite?

 


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Who’s the Boss?

I’ve been browsing through The Writer’s Guide to Character Traits, written by pyschologist Linda Edelstein. It’s an interesting book, and I’ve enjoyed reading about various adult personality types.

I’ve always believed that understanding is a key component of good relationships — in real life and in fiction, as well. So from time to time, I’m going to share a bit of information regarding Edelstein’s basic personality types. Perhaps this knowledge will help us build stronger relationships — and for the writers among us, create realistic characters.

Today, in light of the political controversy swirling around, let’s look at the Boss.

donald-trump-better-thumb1Perhaps no one epitomizes the characteristics of “The Boss” better than “The Donald.”  According to Edelstein, The Boss “wants to be in the limelight, whether at home, work, or play.”  She goes on to say that the key themes in the life of a bossy individual are (1) being in control and (2) having things his or her way.

Key traits you’ll see in this personality type are confidence, aggressiveness, competitiveness, and obstinacy.

An interesting note is that while the “boss” is thick-skinned and insensitive to social approval, these people are also very sensitive to comments and attacks from others. Pain and punishment won’t change their behavior, but they will react strongly to personal criticism.

Here’s a short video clip to show the boss-type in action:

“I was promised fair treatment.”

 

In the interest of fairness to readers, I’ll quickly point out that bossiness extends across the political spectrum. One of the best-known “bosses” in history was William Magear Tweed, better known simply as “Boss Tweed.”

Boss TweedHe was an American politician and the “boss” of Tammany Hall. This Democratic Party “machine” played a major role in the political life of New York  — at both the city and state level — during the late 19th century. At the height of his influence, Tweed was ranked as the third-largest landowner in New York City. He was a director of the Erie Railroad, the New York Printing Company, and the Tenth National Bank. He also owned the Metropolitan Hotel.

Bosses thrive on being in charge and will stop at nothing to get things done. They have the ability to accurately assess other people, especially when it comes to finding weaknesses which they can then exploit. They are often sarcastic and have no compunctions about humiliating others.

You can learn more about “Boss” Tweed and the wheelings and dealings of Tammany Hall here:

Tammany Hall

 

The boss personality is brusque, bold, boastful, and belligerent, and will not acknowledge other points of view. They tend to see others as “puppets” to be manipulated as they set their grand schemes in motion.

In childhood, a future “boss” will often take the lead in watching younger siblings, keeping things organized, and directing activities. Of course, those leadership abilities can be channeled in a positive direction. Not every child who steps up as a leader will become a cold, ruthless, and demanding boss.

I find it interesting , too, that the leaders of crime syndicates are referred to as “bosses”. Names like Al Capone, John Gotti, and Meyer Lansky quickly come to mind. And what of “Vito Corleone”, the fictional “godfather” created by Mario Puzo? Definitely “the boss”.

Famous Mafia Bosses

The Godfather

Always aggressive, the boss can become reckless. His or her quarrelsome nature can become abusive. These are the people who force their thoughts and beliefs upon others. They refuse to take a subordinate position. They can be rude and sarcastic and will often heckle or ridicule others.

Again, not all “bosses” go to the extremes we see in people like Trump, Tweed, or the mafioso bosses. Some are able to put their aggressiveness to work in socially acceptable ways, rising through the ranks in the military or making a name as a “corporate raider”.

The boss-type personality generally gravitates toward careers where they can be in charge of others, so look for these individuals in hotel management, restaurant management, advertising executives, and CEO positions.

The “boss” is a standard character in fiction, not only crime fiction such as The Godfather, but in contemporary romance, as well. “Billionaire” and “tycoon” are words you’ll often see in the titles of love stories, and while these men may start the story as a veritable tyrant whom no one can please, you know by story’s end, he’ll be changed by the power of love.

And what of the women? Yes, certainly women can be leaders, too, although they aren’t as often associated with the negative qualities we see in the “bossy” male characters. Why is this? Pure speculation here, but perhaps it comes because we so often praise young men when they demonstrate a “take-charge” attitude, yet chastise little girls for the same behavior, referring to them as “bossy” and “domineering”…which immediately brings to mind one of my favorite illustrations. If you follow me on Facebook, you’ve seen it before.

CAW-xfUUQAAYm44

 

No doubt the little charmer above will grow up to make this list from Forbes magazine:

The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women

Without a doubt, the boss — male or female — is a powerful figure. Little wonder we enjoy reading about them and being inspired by their successes.

 

 


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Are You an Adventurer?

I’ve been browsing through The Writer’s Guide to Character Traits, written by pyschologist Linda Edelstein. It’s an interesting book, and I’ve enjoyed reading about various adult personality types.

I’ve always believed that understanding is a key component of good relationships — in real life and in fiction, as well. So from time to time, I’m going to share a bit of information regarding Edelstein’s basic personality types. Perhaps this knowledge will help us build stronger relationships — and for the writers among us, create realistic characters.

Today, let’s look at the Adventurer.

Amelia-EarhartThe adventurer lives on excitement. He or she often takes on “warrior” characteristics. They are always on the go, can be highly competitive, and are often unaware of other people’s feelings. It’s interesting to note that more men than women fall into the Adventurer category, primarily because our culture generally doesn’t support adventurous females.

An exception pointed out by Edelstein is Amelia Earhart. Born in 1897, she became the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She received the U. S. Distinguished Flying Cross for the feat.

In 1937, Earhart disappeared while attempting to complete a flight around the world. Two years later, she was declared dead at the age of 41.

To learn more, visit The Official Website of Amelia Earhart.

Although the Adventurer is an adult personality type, signs of it are usually seen in childhood.  Traits of boldness and risk-taking are apparent even in the very young.

Adventurers often become leaders. They are out-going, fun-loving, and often quite entertaining. On the negative side, though, adventurers can become domineering. They ignore rules, bark out orders, and insist on having things their way.

ekThese are the people who live life in the fast lane. They thrive on excitement and are always seeking thrills, especially involving speed or danger. They enjoy the spotlight and love to “put on a show” for others.

Daredevil Evel Knievel comes quickly to mind when I think of the adventurer personality type. Although his death in 2007 was not from any disaster but from disease — diabetes, pulmonary fibrosis, and hepatitis — he once remarked that he was “nothing but scar tissue and surgical steel.”

To learn more about this colorful, larger-than-life character, check out the story of his life and death from the New York Times.

The New York Times – Evel Knievel Dies

 

Normally thick-headed, Adventurers can become stubborn to a fault. Their confidence can lead them to make poor judgments. At their worst, the Adventurer can be hostile and agressive, and their impulsiveness can put them — and others — in danger.

Adventurers among us may not become pioneers in aviation or death-defying stuntmen, but they will be drawn to exciting careers. Fiction is filled with adventurous men and women. Firefighters, Navy SEALS, ruthless stock-traders, and jet-setting playboys are familiar characters, as are female spies, women in the military, and from stories of days gone by, female bandits, gunslingers, and officers of the law, such as Samantha Reynolds, the heroine of my current work-in-progress, The Sheriff Wore Skirts. 

Life is never dull with an adventurer around. They live on the edge and will take us with them if we’re brave enough to go along.

Adventures_Megan_gilger

 


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What If…?

What ifFor writers, those are two of the most important words in the English language. Small but powerful, they turn ordinary men and women into the heroes and heroines of romantic fiction. “What if…” transforms the mundane world into imaginative fantasies, incredible realms that might exist in the future, or endearing remebrances of past times.

Readers might think a writer uses those two little words to generate story ideas. Yes, of course, we do.

  • What if a woman living a glamorous life in a big city had to return home to a small, rural community?  That was the idea behind Summertime, my story of a stage star who spends a life-changing summer back home in Kansas.
  • What if a woman with no domestic skills had to find a husband? Yep, that “what if” thought turned into Not the Marrying Kind, the first book of my “Sunset” series.
  • What if a town accidentally hired a woman as sheriff? That’s the idea behind my current WIP, The Sheriff Wore Skirts. It’s scheduled for publication in January and will be my fifth story about the good folks of Sunset, Colorado.

You might think that once we’ve come up with a premise for a story, once we have an interesting “what if” to work from, we can retire those words and move on to writing. Nope. Throughout the process of crafting a story, “what if” continues to be an intriguing question.

Writers generally fall into two camps: plotters and pantsters. You’ve heard those terms before, I’m sure. Plotters like to plan stories out before they write. Pantsters take off with an idea and go wherever it leads them. Successful stories can come from either approach, and regardless of which writing method an author uses, “what if” plays an important role.

Although I lean more toward planning than “pantsing”, I rely on “what if” to provide me with lots of ideas and possibilities for the stories I write. As I’m putting together different scenes, I let my imagination wander, and my first story outlines will be littered with notes on POSSIBILITIES. That’s exactly how I write it. All in capital letters at the end of a scene…or, at times, right in the middle of a scene.

Yesterday, I was playing around with ideas for The Sheriff Wore Skirts. I know the storyline. I have a synopsis I’m working from. But the fun comes from figuring out exactly how the story events will unfold. I was sketching out a scene where hero and heroine come together and a bit of conflict occurs between them. As I wrote, my subconscious was writing alongside me, looking for possibilities I hadn’t consciously considered.

Then came that little nudge to my brain. Hey, wait!

  • WHAT IF this takes place at the bath house?
  • WHAT IF she sees him naked?

Later, as I explored other scenes, more little nudges came.

  • WHAT IF he comes home one evening and finds that woman in his bed?
  • WHAT IF the sheriff’s office is ransacked?
  • WHAT IF he suspects she’s lying?

Each time a writer asks “What if…” new possibilities emerge. At times, we can get carried away, of course, and part of the writing process involves choosing the right possibilities and saving the other ones for other days and other stories.

At this stage of the writing process, I can’t promise you the heroine’s going to see the hero naked in the bath house scene. I don’t know for sure whether the hero will have an unexpected — and unwanted — bed partner. Maybe the sheriff’s office will get ransacked; maybe not.  What I can promise is that as I continue working on the story, I’ll be asking the same question as I write each scene.

“What if…”

THANK YOU for visiting today. I hope you’ve enjoyed learning a bit about my writing process.
Your comments will be appreciated.