Our Christmas Anthology

Decorated Christmas tree on white background

Some time ago, our Writing Something Romantic sisterhood decided to publish an anthology of Christmas stories. While other things, including life, intruded on our original schedule, we have accomplished our goal at last!

Each of us contributing to the anthology wrote a story in our own genre. So as you might expect, my story, A VOTE FOR LOVE, is a historical romance. It didn’t take me long to decide the setting.

Montana Territory in the 1880’s is a favorite of mine. I’ve visited the state on several occasions and its history has always fascinated me. I love the time and place and find it easy to recreate in my imagination.

The story of the suffragettes in the West has always intrigued me. Women earned the right to vote in Wyoming and Montana before suffrage was gained nationwide around 1917. The suffragettes didn’t have it easy. Speaking out on street corners and passing out thousands of leaflets was considered quite shocking at the time. They actively campaigned against politicians who opposed the vote for women. And they campaigned for pay equity and improved working conditions. Sound familiar?

My story is about spinster suffragette, Paulette Winslow. I was inspired by a photo of a real-life suffragette who lived in Great Falls, Montana, during that time period. She was shown standing by her bicycle, which she rode to the library where she worked as the city’s librarian. Something about her—the way she stood so straight and proud—caught my attention and my imagination took over.

Did I mention this was a romance? Enter my hero, Brent McFarland. Tall, broad-shouldered and drop-dead handsome, he’s newly arrived in Helena to take over the Gazette from its former owner. Brent wants the territory to become a state and make Helena the capital. He’s not completely opposed to women’s suffrage—he just believes it’s the wrong time to write about it in his newspaper. He wants to keep the horse before the cart.

The moment Paulette and Brent meet, sparks fly! The feisty redhead nearly whacks the wealthy newspaper owner over the head with her suffragette posters. But a sleigh ride into the woods to find the perfect Christmas tree, ending in a snowball fight with friends brings the two adversaries together. Their attraction outweighs their differences, and in the end, they find their happily-ever-after.

 

 

 

A Witch For Christmas – a Short Story

This year my critique group, Writing Something Romantic, decided to publish a holiday  IMG_1611     anthology of original short stories. Because I write light-hearted paranormals, I focused on a humorous witch story with a Christmas Eve deadline. I played the “what if” game. What if a witch who’s been cursed by an evil sorceress must find her one true love by Christmas Eve or be doomed to a loveless future? What if she doesn’t realize that her perfect match is right under her nose?

I had fun with this story. When I named my characters, I chose names from witch and wizard folklore, from movies like Harry Potter and TV shows like Bewitched. I borrowed fantasy book author Roald Dahl’s first name and a name from the high fantasy video game Zelda. The fancy restaurant in my story, Tres Becheur, means “very snobby” in French. I wrote my scenes from memories of whizzing down snowy slopes on a dented aluminum saucer, and afterwards enjoying a mug of rich, hot chocolate with a generous dollop of whipped cream. I still love decorating for the holidays, from overloading the Christmas tree to trimming the mantel, even though I sometimes wish I had a witch like Abigail Goodbody to lighten the task with a well-placed spell.

And, as with almost all of my stories, there be animals. Abby’s canny feline familiar is a blue-eyed ragdoll named Endora. Joe, Abby’s lovelorn next-door neighbor, resists the siren call of his familiar, a calico tomcat. Oh, not to forget the pickled frog sacrificed to the swirling depths of a black cauldron.

If you love your Christmas on the lighthearted, magical and decidedly romantic side, check out “A Witch for Christmas,” in WSR’s Love for Christmas anthology, available in November 2017 from Amazon.

Writing Short

by Ottilia Scherschel

Ottilia ScherschelWhen the members of my critique group decided to publish a Christmas anthology, I took on a form of writing I had not practiced for years. Recently, I’ve been working on novels but chose to tackle a short story. Okay, now what?

I knew writing short had its own set of conventions with which I was no longer that familiar. I hoped with a little research and study I could refresh my knowledge. The big question looming in my mind was what story could I write that occurred over a short time frame and provided a beginning, middle and end.

I read an article about Tolkien. He said important truths include the idea that all of life constitutes a clash between good and evil, dark and light, and everyone’s choices, no matter how “little” of a person they are, matter. The idea of making a choice that matters in the moment and how that affects us stuck with me. I had to think in terms of a small choice–the kind we make every day without expecting consequences, the kind we make in a pinch, the kind we see as inconsequential. After some thought, I chose to write a romantic suspense story about a business woman who encounters evil when she chooses to take a train from Beijing to Hong Kong, China, during the Christmas season.

I worked on the story for weeks to discover my facts, to pinpoint the details and action I needed and to add that touch of romance. The project turned out to be more labor intensive than I anticipated. When I completed the story, my journey felt worthy. I had a sense of accomplishment. I hope you enjoy reading “Night Train to Hong Kong” in the Love for Christmas anthology releasing in November 2017.

How Do Writers Measure Success,Part 1 by Jill Jaynes

Jill Jaynes

So, I’ve written a book. Or a few. How do I know I’m a success as a writer?

That would depend on how I measure success.

I could pick the most common measures – money and fame – but even that is a matter of personal definition.

Financial success is certainly one way to measure success. Money as the currency of success seems pretty self-explanatory.But how much money equals success? Does it have to be”Lottery Rich” (enough to never worry about money again)? Enough to quit my job and support myself? Enough to buy a house? Or does even a single sale do it for me?

Or maybe its recognition, like hitting the New York Times or USA Today’s Best Seller lists. Or winning an award of some kind.

Personally, I think a definition of success has more to do with what satisfies us than just a dollar amount.

They say that nothing succeeds like success, but I think it’s satisfaction that keeps us coming back and working hard. I work in a corporate world and I’ve seen companies spend a lot of money and time trying to figure out the key to keeping good employees. I’ve been asked to take my share of surveys that have been developed to try and zero in on what makes people want to stay a a particular job or company.

In these kinds of surveys, I’ve been asked to rate the factors like the following in order of importance for why I stay at my job or company: Salary, health benefits, geographical distance from home, manager, opportunity to grow, feeling like I have meaningful work, feeling enabled to make decisions, etc.

I’m also asked to rate the reasons I would leave, or have left, a job.

The answers are not as simple as you’d think. Over and over, the results of these surveys show that salary actually does not occupy the first position for why someone chooses to stay in a job. Actually, feeling recognized and empowered has that spot.

Also interesting – the number one reason people leave a job is their boss. A high salary doesn’t overcome the daily misery of working under a bad manager.

In other words, for people who work for a living- and work hard- money simply isn’t everything. It isn’t even the most important thing. In fact, if that is the measure of success, it simply isn’t enough.

Its something a little more wiggly and subjective. It’s a little more personal. It depends on what you really want.

So as a writer, I owe it to myself to sit down and seriously answer that question for myself;-

Why am I doing this? What do I really want?

I’ll talk more about that in a future post.

A Timely Christmas Message

Winston Churchill’s Christmas Message, 24 December 1941

Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, Churchill went to Washington, D.C. with his chiefs of staff to meet President Roosevelt and the American military leaders and coordinate plans for the defeat of the common enemy.  On Christmas Eve Churchill broadcast to the world from the White House on the 20th annual observation of the lighting of the community Christmas tree.

His message begins:  I spend this anniversary and festival far from my country, far from my family…..

…..This is a strange Christmas Eve.  Almost the whole world is locked in deadly struggle, and, with the most terrible weapons which science can devise, the nations advance upon each other.  Ill would it be for us this Christmastide if we were not sure that no greed for the land or wealth of any other people, no vulgar ambition, no morbid lust for material gain at the expense of others, had led us to the field.  Here, in the midst of war, raging and roaring over all the lands and seas, creeping nearer to our hearts and homes, here, amid all the tumult, we have tonight the peace of the spirit in each cottage home and in every generous heart.  Therefore we may cast aside for this night at least the cares and dangers which beset us, and make for the children an evening of happiness in a world of storm.  Here, then, for one night only, each home throughout the English-speaking world should be a brightly-lighted island of happiness and peace.

Let the children have their night of fun and laughter.  Let the gifts of Father Christmas delight their play.  Let us grown-ups share to the full in their unstinted pleasures before we turn again to the stern task and the formidable years that lie before us, resolved that, by our sacrifice and daring, these same children shall not be robbed of their inheritance or denied their right to live in a free and decent world.

Churchill’s message is somehow as relevant today as it was 75 years ago.  Let’s take the message to heart and enjoy the holiday season the way is is meant to be.

I Love Short Shorts

iOCX7EjJdTlDkbSF5Y9mWhIJ_9xkZa0jUU7XoajAWLo  No, I don’t mean the cheeky, ripped cut-offs the young gals wear. I mean short stories in varying lengths between a few hundred words (flash fiction) and 10,000 or so, something to be read in a single sitting. Merriam-Webster defines a short story as “an invented prose narrative shorter than a novel usually dealing with a few characters and aiming at unity of effect and often concentrating on the creation of mood rather than plot.”

O-kay. I’m not sure I wholly agree with that simple definition, because—well, let me go back in time about four years. Orange County Chapter of Romance Writers of America decided to publish an anthology of short stories called Romancing the Pages written by some of its members. I’d never considered writing short and had read very few short stories through the years. But, I answered the call. It sounded easy. Come up with a simple romantic plot; dash off a few thousand words during the down time while working on my novel. Hey, it was a chance to get something published. “The Guy With the Dragon Tattoo” came in at around 2,500 words, took many weeks and many revisions to finish. But I kinda liked writing short, even though it was just as hard (maybe harder on some levels) than working through an entire 60,000-word novel.

But what is the appeal of short stories to the reader? Their appeal, as I mentioned, lies in the fact you can read most of them in one sitting, while getting your hair done, waiting to pick up Junior from soccer practice, that hour at night before turning off the lights. We live in a Snapchat, Twitter, sound bite world. There isn’t the angst associated with picking up a short to read versus an 80,000-word novel. Wow, don’t have time to devote to that tome, so I’ll save it for, um, later.

But why else read short? It’s a chance to try out different genres, authors, styles. Since writing “Dragon Tattoo,” I’ve read dozens and dozens of short stories across many genres and romance sub-genres. A few did focus mainly on creating a mood; many contained an exciting plot and delicious characters. The good stories contained a beginning, middle and end that satisfied like a hearty bowl full of Irish stew. I experienced a full range of emotion appropriate to the genre. I laughed, I cried, I cringed, I sighed.

A side-benefit? Instead of reading the back of my Cheerios box for the millionth time, I can get in a whole story during breakfast to satisfy my reading addiction. Short stories can encourage those who don’t regularly read to get in the habit.

This year, I once again had the opportunity to contribute to not one short story anthology, but two. My critique group, Writing Something Romantic, is working on an anthology called Love for Christmas, which we’re hoping to publish before the holidays. My story, “Charmed by Christmas Magic,” came in at 10,000 words. The other romance anthology, Secrets of Moonlight Cove, will publish in the next few weeks. Each fun story in the anthology takes place in the fictional California coastal town of Moonlight Cove, and references characters from the other stories. “Maggie’s Mystery Man” also runs 10,000 words. Look for announcements of both publication dates here, on Facebook and other social media. I hope you’ll give shorts a try. Bet you can’t read just one!

 

Romancing the RWA Conference

 

 

 

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Kathleen Harrington                                   

Our Writing Something Romantic team attended the Romance Writers of America’s National conference in San Diego this July We enjoyed wonderful workshops where we learned new ideas and brushed up on old skills. We listened to a marvelous keynote speaker, Beverly Jenkins – who shared what it was like breaking into the field of romance as an African American novelist. At a buffet breakfast, Dr. Valerie Young explained how the “imposter syndrome” keeps many women from achieving their full potential.

Some famous writers you’ll no doubt recognize were in attendance at the conference: Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Jayne Ann Krentz, Nora Roberts, Julia Quinn, Cathy Maxwell, Kristan Higgins, and Tessa Dare – to name a few.

For our Writing Something Romantic group, listening to Michael Hauge share his experiences in the Hollywood world of screenwriting proved both delightful and empowering. Michael is well-known as a story expert, author, and lecturer among fiction writers. Yet for all his fame and expertise, he’s very warm and personable.

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WSR Team with Michael Hauge

The RITA and Golden Heart Awards Ceremony on the final evening honored excellence in romance fiction. Robyn Carr gave a gracious acceptance speech when she received the RWA Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award. Her husband and grown children watched proudly from the audience.

wsr Team

All dolled up for the Awards Ceremony

However, the conference wasn’t all business and no play!

The Marriott Marquis is located along the waterfront of the Port of San Diego. My sister, Carol, and I toured the USS Midway, which has an impressive history. Our Writing Something Romantic team enjoyed each other’s company sightseeing, dining at the Harbor House in Seaport Village, sharing buffet breakfasts in the hotel, and celebrating together at a special dinner at Roy’s Restaurant overlooking the harbor.

It’s hard to put into words just how much listening and talking to our sister writers stirred our creative juices and made us ready to get back home and write, write, write!