Christina Cole Romance

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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.

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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.
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Putting Emotions on the Page

There are two types of writers, or so I’ve been told. One is the objective writer. He – or she — skillfully captures the actions taking place within the environment, delivering a picture so clear that readers can easily see all that’s happening.  Objective writers are direct, to the point, and hard-hitting in the vision of the world they present.

Subjective writers, on the other hand, grab readers by the emotions and don’t let go. They force readers to feel their way through a story rather than observe it. What happens in the lives of the characters also happens — at an emotional level — in the hearts of the readers.

If you’ve read any of my stories, you’ll already know that I’m a highly subjective writer. Although I try to capture the sights and faithfully show the movements and physical aspects of my characters and the settings, my strong suit is getting myself so deeply immersed in their heads that their thoughts and feelings naturally come pouring out — sometimes in ways that surprise me.

I consider myself very fortunate to be a subjective writer. It’s easier, I’ve heard, for a subjective author to learn the techniques involved in writing from an objective point of view. Objective writers, however, often struggle to “add” emotions onto the page. And there’s the rub. Emotions aren’t something that can be added in later. They can’t be layered onto a story. Either they’re there, or they’re not.

Where do emotions come from? How do we draw them out and put them on the page?

This is related to that oft-repeated advice to “show, don’t tell.” Yet how, precisely, do you show a quality as intangible and incomprehensible as an emotion?

Body language is often touted as a ideal way to show emotion. Yes, it’s important. If a character is feeling down-hearted, we need to see those sagging shoulders, the slow, shuffling steps, the pinched facial features that reveal the emotions. We’re still approaching it from an objective point of view, though. We’re using our heads to rationalize how an emotion looks.

How do we move beyond that point and use our hearts instead? How do we give readers the subjective experience that allows them to feel the emotions themselves? What tricks can we use to make readers laugh, cry, or slam doors in anger along with our characters?

First, we have to understand where emotions come from.

I remember back to Psychology 101, many years ago. I really didn’t agree with a lot of what I was taught about emotions. It sounded so backward!

GrizzlyHere’s the example I recall: You see a bear and immediately become frightened. Sounds about right, don’t you think? Well, maybe. But, a two-year old child sees the same bear and laughs. The difference of course, is that YOU know the bear is dangerous. YOU know you “should” be frightened. The child doesn’t have that same awareness. In other words, you had to think before you felt. Or, as it was explained in that textbook, thought precedes emotion.

I’ve lived long enough now and have learned enough about life to realize that this is fairly close to the truth. It’s not, of course, the whole picture. It’s not only our thoughts but our perspectives, our beliefs, our circumstances, and the context of our lives that shape our emotional responses to the world around us.

This, then, is the key to getting emotions onto the page. First, we have to know our characters, and we have to understand their beliefs, their desires, and especially their motivations — a handy word which is closely related to emotion — in order to sense what they are thinking and feeling.

Here’s a short little excerpt from Keeping Faith which illustrates the importance of who the character is and how his perspective on life shapes his emotions. Tom Henderson has returned to the dilapidated old homestead where he was raised. With him is a friend, Caleb Bryant.

“No point thinking about things you can’t have.”

“Who says you can’t have them?” Caleb asked.

Tom’s head jerked up. For as long as he could remember, he’d been told he’d never amount to a hill of beans, that he’d end up swinging from some noose, or rotting away in some jail. He was a bastard. Worse still, a whore’s bastard. Nobody had use for that sort of man.

But Caleb didn’t see him that way. Caleb, by God, was damned stupid enough to think every man deserved a chance to make something of himself. And why the hell not?

Tom wished with all his heart that he could have all the things he’d been denied as a child. Not the material things. Those things didn’t matter. What he wanted were the intangibles. The love. The respect. The laughter, the kindness, the happiness, the joy. He’d never known any of those things before, and now Caleb said he could get whatever he wanted?

Damn, but what did he know that Tom didn’t?

He was going to listen. He was going to learn.

And nobody would ever put Tom Henderson down again.

Can you feel Tom’s emotions? I haven’t named them, but can you feel the first stirrings of hope? Can you sense his sudden awareness of new possibilities in his life? Can you experience the same quiet determination that Tom feels?

Here’s another little excerpt from the same story. In this snippet, Tom’s just learned that his sister Sally died in childbirth, leaving behind a precious little girl. He’s holding the baby for the first time.

“Please, Mr. Henderson. It’s plain to see that you’ve got no way to provide for your niece. I suppose I should have taken time to make the trip on my own to assess the conditions, but I was hopeful you’d be in a position to take her. Optimism is one of my weaknesses, I daresay.”

She didn’t look too optimistic in Tom’s eyes. He couldn’t imagine her ever having a positive outlook about anything.

But this child! She needed hope. She deserved bright blue skies and sunny days. She deserved butterflies and flowers, and the sweet promise of spring. Not some strait-laced, tightly-corseted old biddy who thought of her as nothing more than baby girl.

Tom looked down at the tiny bundle he held in his arms. So tiny, yet so perfect. He marveled over the little fingers, touching each one by one. When the baby’s hand closed around his big thumb, he felt a tugging at his heart so real, so undeniable, he suddenly couldn’t find his breath.

“Excuse me, Mr. Henderson.” Edith Christensen’s nasally voice grated on Tom’s nerves. “I have to leave now. It’s a long trip back to Denver. You need to give me the child.”

“Not yet, ma’am. She’s my niece. I want a little time with her.” He stroked one soft, pink cheek and was rewarded with a gurgling, cooing smile. “She likes me,” he said, glancing toward Lucille.

And he liked her. No, he loved her. This precious life wrapped in a thick gray blanket was kin. Not his own child, but a child who shared his blood, all the same. She was Sally’s daughter, and Sally was gone now. This sweet, nameless angel was all that was left to him of his sister’s kindness, her goodness, her own innocence.

He wished he could have taken better care of Sally, could have helped her and given her all she needed, but he’d failed her. Too young, too mixed-up, and too bitter about his own life, Tom hadn’t been able to save Sally from the wretched evils of their childhood.

But he’d damned sure save this baby.

“I’m not giving her back,” he said in a quiet voice. “I’m going to keep her.”

Again, can you share Tom’s emotions here? Many readers have commented on the emotions within this story. Those emotions come through because we know who Tom is, we know his beliefs about himself and his place in the world, and we know his heart.

That’s the secret. Take what’s in the heart and use it as a way of understanding the thoughts inside the character’s head. Together they become a powerful combination that creates emotions readers can share.

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Thanks for visiting today!

If you’d like to read more, Keeping Faith is available from Amazon and other on-line booksellers. You can purchase it in both e-book and paperback format.


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Just for Fun – A Random Excerpt

Last night was the official Facebook launch party for “He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not”. Of course, even the best-laid plans “gang aft agley”… or, in more modern English, sometimes go astray.

Internet connectivity problems interrupted the party last night, so we’ll be picking up tonight where we left off with more hot cowboys, more great country music, more games, more prizes, and more fun for everyone.  I hope to see you there!

While I’m still celebrating the book’s release, I decided to head to “Random.org” and have a bit of random fun. I entered the number of pages in “He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not”, then asked the random number generator to select one.

It chose page 111.

So, just for fun, here’s an excerpt from page 111.

Glow

Thankfully, nothing was mentioned. The incident, awful as it seemed at the time, had already faded and died. Ben left the parsonage a short time later, his spirit lightened by the events of the day.

Darkness had nearly fallen by the time Ben reached the horse farm. As he rode into the yard, he noticed a strange glow coming from inside the spring house. Or maybe it was nothing more than the reflection of the setting sun.

No. The sun was too far gone, too low on the horizon.

As he tended to his horse then led the Appaloosa into the barn, he kept a watchful eye on the spring house door. The light now burned brighter. Someone was inside.

*****

I hope you’ve enjoyed this random little “snippet”.  You can find all three books from “The Sunset Series” at Amazon.com and other online book-sellers.

Book 1 – Not the Marrying Kind

“Secrets, plot twists, and a strong cast of characters kept me turning pages. 

Book 2 – Keeping Faith

A story with real people and real problems.”

Book 3 – He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not


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Prizes Galore!

One of the greatest things about being a romance author today is being part of a wonderful, supportive community. Writers support one another. We encourage each other, we assist each other, and we celebrate each success.

When an author has a new release coming up, she — or he — can always count on writer friends to join in the fun, not only as guests at “launch parties” or book signings, but also through generously donating their works as gifts and prizes.

The release party for “He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not” will be a Facebook event held on Thursday evening, February 5, 2015. The book is scheduled for release from Secret Cravings Publishing on January 28. It will available to purchase at the publisher’s website on that date, and within a few days should also be available at other online booksellers, such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and All Romance Ebooks.

I’m pleased to announce the names of many of your favorite western historical romance authors who will be giving away ebook prizes at the launch party:

 

  • Peggy Ann Craigprizes
  • Shirleen Davies
  • Kathleen Ball
  • Shanna Hatfield
  • Carra Copelin
  • Elle Marlow
  • Lily Graison
  • A. C. Wilson
  • Jaydyn Chelcee
  • Lynda J. Cox
  • Hebby Roman
  • Kristin Holt
  • Gem Sivad
  • Jude Johnson

Author  Zita Abbott will also be giving away a Nook gift card and card wallet.

In addition, I’ll be giving away a few prizes of my own. Be watching this website for more information, or visit my official Facebook author page:

 

 

Christina Cole’s Love Notes

 

The launch party is going to be a great event. Invitations will begin going out soon. Be watching for additional details and a link to the event site.



 

The Sunset Series

Christina Cole

Book 1 Not the Marrying Kind

Not the Marrying Kind by Christina ColeShe wasn’t looking for a husband…until Josha Barron came along. He wanted Kat for a wife, but for another man.

 

*************

Book 2 Keeping Faith

Keeping FaithLove brings them together, hatred tears them apart. One man, one woman…and between them, a precious child whose future they hold in their hands.

*************

Book 3  He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

He Loves Me, He Loves Me NotA cold-blooded killer, an outlaw’s illegitimate daughter, a fortune in buried gold, and a heart-broken young girl searching for the truth.


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Second Chance Giveaway!

Did you miss the big event on Thursday when we celebrated the release of “Keeping Faith? Or maybe you were at the party, but didn’t win one of the prizes.

I’ve got a second chance for you!

We had so many prizes to give away, we ran out of time before all the prizes were gone. I now have 6 prizes left for 6 lucky readers.

2 Amazon Gift Cards $5.00 Each

2 Kindle Editions of Keeping Faith by Christina Cole

1 Kindle Ebook – Luck of the Draw by Julie Cerniglia Lence

1 Book – The Rancher Takes a Wife by Leslea Tash – Winner’s Choice of Ebook or Signed Paperback

Contest starts NOW and will end on July 17, at 11:59 PM CDT.  Good luck!

secondchance

Christina Cole’s Second Chance Giveaway


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Let’s Party!

Please join Christina Cole and other western historical authors on Facebook  Thursday evening, from 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM CDT to celebrate the release of “Keeping Faith”.  Click the link below and JOIN the event.

Official Release Party Event – Keeping Faith

 

Keeping Faith

Keeping Faith

To see the prize package list, click below.

Prizes Galore!


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Readers Reward Sweepstakes from Christina Cole Romance

Christina Cole’s Reader Rewards Sweepstake is now open!

 

Christina Cole’s Reader Rewards Sweepstakes

This giveaway is my way of thanking readers who have purchased “Keeping Faith”.

To enter, please click the link above.

You will be asked to provide proof of purchase by entering your order number from any of the on-line booksellers where “Keeping Faith” is available.

Winner will receive a Christina Cole Romance Tote Bag.

Tote