Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


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♥ The Best ♥

I don’t know if it’s my sex, what my parents taught me or my age (we’re not going there!) but for some reason, it’s much easier to crow about a friends’ books than it is my own.

Like I mentioned yesterday, I have a couple of friends with books coming out in the very near future and I’m so excited, I’m dancing on my toes!

Today, I want to tell you about Marilyn Pappano.

Marilyn-and-her-guy

Yes, I really know this famous author (honest!) and she’s not only a fantastic writer, she’s nice. Oh,  and she’s a great friend! She has a series of books about people in the military (talk about writing what you know) and their loves. (Did I mention most of my friends write romance?)

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Marilyn gets the most beautiful covers! (Perfect for her books.) Here’s a little bit about this book from the page on Amazon–

A LOVE TO CALL HER OWN

It’s been two years since Jessy Lawrence lost her husband in Afghanistan, and she’s never fully recovered. Drowning her sorrows didn’t help, and neither did the job she’d hoped would give her a sense of purpose. Now trying to rebuild her life, she finds solace in her best friends, fellow military wives who understand what it’s like to love-and lose-a man in uniform . . . and the memory of one stolen night that makes her dream of a second chance at love.

Dalton Smith has known more than his fair share of grief. Since his wife’s death, he revels in the solitude of his cattle ranch. But try as he might, he can’t stop thinking about the stunning redhead and the reckless, passionate night they shared. He wasn’t ready before, but Dalton sees now that Jessy is the only woman who can mend his broken heart. So how will he convince her to take a chance on him?

We met Jessy in the first two books, and I really liked her. She was sassy, sexy and mouthy and standing on her own two feet when she really wanted to crumble in a heap and grieve. What’s not to like? 😀

From my heart: I’ve read most of Marilyn’s books, and from the first one to the last, they’re beautiful. (There’s no other way to describe them.) A glimpse into the heart of a kind and loving woman.

Her books let us live (and relive) that emotional, conflicted, bumpy, exciting glide into love.

Maybe I can get Marilyn to come over and tell us a little about her new book. We’ll see. (She’s one busy woman!)

Since her book doesn’t come out until the 26th of this month, you can read the first two books in this series. (Although it’s not necessary since they’re all stand alone books.)

A Hero to Come Home To

A Man to Hold On To

In case you’re wondering, this isn’t a paid announcement. Marilyn doesn’t even know I’m writing it. She didn’t give me an ARC. (Advance Reading Copy.) I download my own copy of her books on my Kindle to keep forever. 🙂

Check Marilyn out. She’s the best!

 

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Imagination Station

Have I ever mentioned what a weird imagination I have? It’s s-t-r-a-n-g-e.

To start at the beginning of what I’m talking about, I’ll have to rewind a ways. A few years ago, I decided to write a book about a werewolf. (It’s called MAKE ME HOWL.) But I didn’t want a normal, doom and gloom, dark and terrible werewolf. I wanted a fun, cute, funny werewolf.

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So I did what every fiction writer has to do, no matter what genre she’s writing. I created my own world.

For a while I called it ChickWolf-Lit. Jazzy (my heroine) is a fashion consultant who also happens to be a werewolf. She has the gene, so she was born that way. (Her maternal grandmother was a werewolf, too.)

And since the time she was potty trained, she’s been able to keep from going “animal” most of the time. Even a full moon doesn’t bother her.

The only time she accidently goes “wild” is when she’s out of control. She can shift whenever she wants to, though.

She has a twin sister. The two of them have their own “twin speak” which is telepathic, but it gives Jazzy a grinding headache when they use it.

Here’s a little problem I have. My characters in my books are real to me. (I spend so much time with them, they’re like family.)

There’s one thing I discovered in my world: the gene that causes people to be shape shifters turns them into wolves.

♥ ♥ ♥

A few days ago I joined a paranormal group on Facebook. Most of them are writers, and let me tell you, every one has an imagination to match (or outshine) mine.

So I got to thinking . . . what if several shape shifting writers were in a room together. There would be women in pjs and furry slippers (those who don’t have day jobs) women in business suits (they have high powered jobs and write on the side) women dressed in filmy scarves in wild colors with pink hair (who think big-name authors should look like that) and the rest in jeans and t-shirts. (My uniform of choice.)

Can you see us on couches, in chairs, sitting on the floor and leaning against the wall? And drinks? Yeah, we’d have them. Coffee, Diet Dr. Pepper, wine . . . everyone would bring their own poison. 🙂 (Jazzy and I are DDP girls.)

So all of us are sitting there together, and we get to talking about the shapes our characters change into. The Jazzy in me laughs hysterically.

“You guys must be writing cartoon shape shifters,” she says between gasps and giggles. “Because REAL shape shifters change into werewolves.”

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“Your kind of shape shifters come from a virus that results in a bite from an out-of-control werewolf who’s born with the gene. (My apologies to other shape shifting authors. Once my world is twirling, there’s no stopping it.) “So they have to be werewolves!”

“NO WAY!!!” The bejeweled, bangled, pajama-ed, scarved t-shirted, blue jeaned and pink haired women jump on me.

“I didn’t say that. Jazzy did!” I squeak, trying to be heard.

“Well, give her this from us!” Smack in my eye.

And the battle is on.

♥ ♥ ♥

LOL! This post has gone on much longer and gotten even weirder than I intended.

Does your mind ever get away from you like that? Mine does it all the time because I get to thinking how everyone imagines everything differently. The animals shifters change into, where they come from, how much control they have, everything.

That’s what makes reading so much fun!

BTW: After the battle? Do I imagine myself standing on the heap, hands joined over my head in triumph?

No. Way. (And it’s not pretty.)

Jazzy had a good time, though.


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Learnings

I’ve learned a few things in my life. (As old as I am, I’d have to be super dense not to!) They might be true only in my mind, but I thought I’d share a few with you this morning anyway.

  1. Love is. Real Love, that is, is. The kind of love that makes one person willing to lay down his life for another as opposed to the, I-love-you-for-what-you-do-for-me kind. Real Love doesn’t die, wear out, fade out or turn off.
  2. Real Love is, it doesn’t die, wear out, etc, but it can be killed.
  3. There’s not much a child can do to make a normal mother stop loving him.
  4. There’s a lot of things a child can do that can make a normal mother want to kill him. (Especially telling tales in Sunday School.)
  5. Falling in love might be easy, but staying in love for a lifetime isn’t. Sometimes it takes work, sometimes amnesia, sometimes stubbornness and tenacity, and nearly always a sense of humor . (Sorry to burst romantic bubbles, but it’s true.)
  6. No matter how much you plan or how many hours each person works, when the children come, somehow most of the responsibility falls on the mother. (Especially if you give them the gift of breast feeding.)
  7. Nothing’s easy. Well, maybe a few things are easy for some people, but for the most part, anything worth your while is going to take some work.
  8. The only thing in life that doesn’t change is the fact that everything in life changes.
  9. Exception–God never changes. He’s the same today, tomorrow and forever.
  10. God is Love. I think I could make a case that when you fall in love with another person, a man/woman relationship or a mother and her baby, whether you’re a Christian or not, you have God in your life. I’m not sure everyone (or anyone) will agree.
  11. If you want to be loved, you have to love.
  12. If you want to be forgiven, you have to forgive.
  13. The happiest people aren’t looking for happiness themselves but rather for someone else.
  14. One person can’t make another person be happy. (Not really an exception to #11, but it sounds like it.)
  15. True happiness comes from your heart, not the things around you or the size of your bank account.
  16. “Tomorrow is another day,” said Scarlett. IOW: If at first you don’t succeed, give it another shot.
  17. God has a fantastic sense of humor. If you don’t believe me, think about human reproduction. And just look at Giraffes, anteaters and chimpanzees.
  18. God loves a good laugh. He gave us freedom of choice, didn’t he?


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Wonder Weekend

I spent the weekend with my sisters and we had a fantastic time! Not the Spess Girls, though. The RWI girls.

Our motley crew.

Shirts say, “Smart Women Read Romance . . . I write it.” 🙂

You could call us the S Troop.

This is a Smart, Savvy, Supportive group of women. And get this–out of the 14 pictured, nine are published in romance.

I’ll name them so you’ll know whose books to look for. (The published members are in bold, the soon-to-be published in regular.)

From left to right–Me, Kt Somerville, Jackie Kramer, Lynn Somerville, Linda Trout and Peggy Fielding.

Back row, left to right– Jan Warren, Kathlyn Smith, Jennifer Adolph, Marilyn Pappano, Kathleen Y’barbo, Jackie King, Marion Grace and Holly Bazan.

Of the five ladies who aren’t published, I’m sure it won’t be long before they are. So keep their names in mind, too. 🙂

I learned a ton this weekend, and the funny part is, I learn as much from the unpubbed members are I do the published ones. It’s a wonderful group of women to be part of.

But any time I do something like spend time with my girls, I miss something else. This weekend, I missed the arrival of Dad’s one-day-old chicks.

I hated missing the big day after all the excitement of preparation for them. Naturally I asked for pictures.

 Aren’t just-out-of-the-shell chicks cute? Makes me want to cuddle one or two while I can–before they can peck my eyes out. LOL.

Their enclosure is round to keep them from piling up in the corners and smothering each other. There are pebbles in the water to make it shallow, so the babies can’t fall in and drown.

I’m looking forward to seeing these little guys in person soon. And to eating their eggs. I wonder how long it’ll be before they’re mature enough to lay? Which one will mature first? Are the non-producing chicks jealous when one starts to produce?

I don’t know.

Are non-published writers jealous when others publish? That depends on the unpubbed writer. Over the years, I have seen some that are.

In our group, though, the answer is no. (Well, good jealous, maybe, but not the ugly kind.)

Why? Because the professionals in our crew will work nearly as hard to help the others as she does on her own stuff.

And that’s a pretty nice group to be part of. BTW: Marilyn has a new book available. Check it out!

 Order Marilyn Pappano’s newest book now!


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Almost There!

The title really ought to be, “MADE IT!!!”

I finished judging my last (I hope) contest entry in Where the Magic Begins! The Romance Writers Ink contest for unpublished writers.

I’ve probably told you more about it than you wanted to hear, but we’re almost at the end. Everyone on the committee judged at least twice as many entries as most people who pitched in to help out. I had 11 or 12, a couple of category judges had one or two more than I did, and Sandee had (at least) nineteen!

Sandee is a big reader and a wonderful judge. We don’t put our names on the entries we judge, but I truly hope the people who entered appreciate the judges.

It’s hard work. We do our best to critique these entries so they can be fixed and sell ASAP.

All the members of RWI are actively trying to sell our manuscripts, so we know exactly what it’s like to put your heart in a book. Get up early. Stay up late. Take time from your family or your knitting or other interests to tell that story.

And when that story comes to The End, we start all over with a new story, whether the last one has sold or not.

That might sound like the definition of insanity, but there are thousands of women all over America (all over the world!) who are doing the same thing.

Some are succeeding.

Sometimes our comments might seem harsh, but we work to keep that from happening. Any criticism of our babies hurts, and just like when our children have to be disciplined, it only makes them better.

We want to be a stepping stone on the way to success.

I truly hope we are!

 


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What’s Yours?

What do you like to read?

You do read, don’t you? Besides blogs, I mean?

I understand the reason people say blogs got so popular. Supposedly, it’s because they’re short, quick reads. I don’t believe it. At least, that’s not true for me.

For me, it’s because I get a glimpse into someone else’s life. Whether it’s a woman on a ranch who home schools her four kids, a teacher with grown kids, a full time writer, a newbie author or an American who lives in a foreign country, I love peeking into other people’s lives.

Back to what we read. (Sorry about that tangent.) I read romance.

I used to read Louis L’amour. All Louie, all the time! I loved Louie.

Learning about the old west and how people (usually men) survived in that lonely country was so interesting. I learned a lot from him!

After that, I went to historical novels. Did you read, Ride the Wind ? I bought and read the book, but this is from Amazon.

In 1836, when she was nine years old, Cynthia Ann Parker was kidnapped by Comanche Indians. This is the story of how she grew up with them, mastered their ways, married one of their leaders, and became, in every way, a Comanche woman.
It is also the story of a proud and innocent people whose lives pulsed with the very heartbeat of the land. It is the story of a way of life that is gone forever….

The best part of reading about Cynthia Parker was “living” with the indians. (I have to tell you, the men had way more fun than the women!)

After that, I discovered romance.

Did you read Shanna by Kathleen Woodiwiss?

From Amazon:

A pact is sealed in secret behind the foreboding walls of Newgate Prison. In return for a night of unparalleled pleasure, a dashing condemned criminal consents to wed a beautiful heiress, thereby rescuing her with his name from an impending and abhorred arranged union. But in the fading echoes of hollow wedding vows, a solemn promise is broken, as a sensuous free spirit takes flight to a lush Caribbean paradise, abandoning the stranger she married to face the
gallows unfulfilled.

But Ruark Beauchamp’s destiny is now eternally intertwined with that of the tempestuous, intoxicating Shanna. He will be free . . . and he will find her. For no iron ever forged can imprison his resolute passion. And no hangman’s noose will deny Ruark the ecstasy that is rightfully his.

It’s been a hundred years since I read it, but I remember Shanna as a pirate story. LOL. Go figure.

After Shanna I found Bertrice Small’s Skye O’Malley. Whoa! That’s some book!

And my all time favorite, Lady of Fire by Valerie Vayle.

Nobody I’ve ever met read Lady of Fire.

If they did read it, they must have quickly forgotten it. But I didn’t.

It’s the story of a girl who’s just out of convent school. At the beginning, her mother dies just before their ship wrecks and the heroine wakes up to find herself alone on an island. After a day or two, a man who was also in the ship wreck shows up. She falls in love with him, but he doesn’t even remember her name.

As her mother was dying, she told our heroine her father was murdered while working for the government, and the heroine decides to find out who did it. She makes herself over into an independent woman who can swing a sword with the best of pirates.

It’s a long book, but in the end, the hero and heroine fall in love and, naturally, live HEA. (Happily ever after.)

Yeah, I know. A big time fantasy, and I loved it.

The writing probably isn’t the best and much of what she does would probably be found humorous today, but at the time I read it, it was perfect for me! (I once read an interview with one of the authors–yes, Valerie Vayle was actually a pair of writers–and she laughed about the book.)

After that, I knew romance was what I wanted to read. And write. Not about pirates (although there are some great pirate books) but because in a romance, whether it’s Christian Women’s Fiction or Romantic Suspense or Historical Romance, you experience the emotions of the POV characters. You get to live the story through them.

And there’s always a HEA.

What could be better than that?

So what’s your favorite read? Or do you just read a certain author?

If you need a suggestion, let me know. I can help. 🙂


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The Magic Has Begun!

I feel like a swimmer who’s been underwater for too long. You know that feeling? Lungs burning, muscles tiring, brain thinking only one thing–I’ve got to reach the surface!

You keep straining and kicking and pulling the water behind you. You can make it. You have to make it. You don’t have a choice except to make it or . . .

Finally, you do! You break through to the air, gasp a long, loud lungful, and boy! Is it sweet.

You might have heard that long, loud lungful come from my part of Okie-Land yesterday morning. (Late yesterday morning.)

I finally finished my portion of our contest. WOOHOO!!! (Except for actually judging, that is.)

My romance writers group is hosting a contest right now (Where the Magic Begins) and, like a glutton for punishment, I volunteered to be the judge coordinator. JC isn’t such a hard job if someone hands you all the judges. That’s rare, though.

We started this contest to help other unpublished romance writers get published. When I first started writing, I had very little contact with other writers. No critique group. Nobody to say, “You’re doing this right. You should do this better.” So I entered a contest. I knew I wouldn’t win, but I wanted feedback. I was desperate for it.

Entering a contest was a good idea, but that was the wrong contest. (A little research would have helped.) In that particular contest, there’s one judge per category. So if there’s 50 entries, that one person judges them all.

That’s too much work for one person. My entry didn’t get good scores. In fact, the woman who judged it didn’t even finish filling out the score sheet. Instead, she wrote a note that said she didn’t think I had what it takes to finish that book. (A not-too-nice way of saying it was bad.)

So when my writer’s group talked about starting a contest for unpublished writers, I was all for it.

I wanted us to be there for other writers. I wanted to be able to lend a hand–help someone else God had given the craving to write. So I helped carve out the rules.

In our contest, judges must make comments on the manuscript as well as on the score sheet, which is keyed for the specific category, telling the entrant what’s right as well as what’s wrong with their twenty-five pages.

We insist each entrant receive good advice. (I was shocked when I learned that many long-time-regularly-published authors give bad advice in hopes of discouraging those they view as competition.)

Why? I don’t know. I figure if the book I write is good enough, an editor will make a spot for it if she has to. If it’s not, I probably don’t want my name on it anyway. Ü

We have a lot of entries in our contest. (More every year.) And finding judges for it isn’t easy. (Guessing how many you’ll need is even harder.) I finally came up with a math formula to help me.

Each entry (X is the number of entries) gets three judges (Y). Each judge can do around 5 or 6 entries. X times Y divided by 5= the number of judges I needed.

Example: Say I had twenty entries in Single Title. 20 x 3=60/5=12. I’d need twelve judges for that category.

A little daunting for me when I looked at the entire contest. But at least I’m ready for next year. I have my formula. I’m going to ask my chapter for more help getting judges from the very beginning instead of yelling “calf rope” toward the end.

The best part is I’ve met so many NICE women who, even though they already have a “name” and are on deadline, are willing to lend a hand.

That might just be the reason I’m going to volunteer to do it again next year. Maybe.

Or I might just be a glutton for punishment. 🙂