Friday, October 31, 2014

Be Afraid, Very Afraid

We all know there are numerous types of fear. The dark. I am afraid. Oh, yeah. Needles. No problem as long as I'm not looking. Speaking in public. Only a little.

I will admit I love being frighten, but in a controlled environment like going through haunted houses, watching a ghost story in a dimmed theater (but no horror for me), or being tossed around on a roller coaster.

Well, the time of year that's perfect for scaring people is upon us. Yep. Halloween. So much fun for kids and adults. A holiday like Valentine's Day that's made for giving candy! But the only holiday for costumes. I love dressing up and pretending to be someone or something else. Even when it's not that holiday.  A couple years ago, I dressed up as a dark angel for a conference. Here I am with the wonderful Dianna Love.
(It's law. If you write paranormal or romantic suspense,  you must wear black.  HA!)  

I firmly believe authors write stories as part of their wish to be someone else, to live a different life and to see how it all turns out. Of course, always with a happily ever after.

Unlike many authors (most are introverts), I'm not afraid of meeting strangers, even while I'm dressed in black wings. I love doing book signings because I get to entice readers to my little spot with candy and fun swag.  *evil grin* And woe to the reader who asks me about my books. Often the person runs screaming away (or buys a book) to shut me up. 

All of that miscellaneous information leads us to a question: In honor of Halloween today, what was your favorite costume when you were a kid? An adult?
Me? I loved my Bug Bunny costume. Thin plastic mask and one piece jumpsuit. As an adult it jumped from Frankenstein to a werewolf and back until I bought the wings. Love those wings.

Carla Swafford
Look for me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, & Google+
Time Magazine, ". . . involves deadly assassins, drug lords and doing it."
RT Book Reviews - 4-1/2 stars,"[A] dark, gritty story that will grab you by the throat and not let go."

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Bells and Life

 This isn't a typical blog post, but it just sort of seems to fit me. It's not so much about writing though...  :) 

 Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about my time in the Navy. Something you’ll notice is most people that were in the military are very proud of their service. It doesn’t matter what happened during their time, they're proud. Whether they're proud of their brothers/sisters in arms, their awards, or the places they’ve been to, doesn’t matter. You see these as experiences that we cherish. Me personally, well, I even cherish the bad times.

Not many people know this, but Veteran’s Day is my favorite time of year. It’s the day that I celebrate being alive. Sure, I love holidays, any holiday, but Veteran’s Day is special. I take that day off every year to do something special. I give back. It’s the one holiday that’s so amazingly special that I want to share it with everyone. It’s not just my day though. Some years, I volunteer at a food pantry; others, I build birdhouses with kids, and some, I find a deserving someone that I don’t know that well, and give them something special. A gift that they’ll never forget.

I’m extremely proud of my time in the Navy; however, I lost numerous friends. People that I cared about were just gone… Sometimes, it was through a transfer (orders), sometimes, it was from Separation (meaning their time was done), and others… I miss those the most. When you’re in the military you try not to think about that third option. It’s too much to bear at such a young age. In fact, I enlisted at 17. However, it’s something that’s always in the back of your mind.

When I was still just a babe, there was a funeral aboard our ship. I was on an aircraft carrier, which is basically its own city. We have a ship’s store, two mess decks (cafeterias), gyms, etc. There’s no pool though, despite the joke played on newbies. No McDonald’s either. Anyways, I remember it like it was yesterday… Standing there listening to the bells. A burial at sea is a very special occasion. This one was an elderly gentleman and his family was there. Their sadness was overwhelming. This mainstay in their life was gone. They had loved him for so long…

A burial at sea is full of tradition and ceremony. It involves full dress uniform, flags, etc. A prayer was read and tears were shed by both Sailors and his family. Sailors have our very own prayer. We also have our own creed. To lose one of our own is heartbreaking. It doesn’t matter how old they are. The bells though, they were what broke me.

On the ship we had this old fashioned bell, exactly like the ones on wooden ships. It’s about three feet high with its stand. The bell is shiny, many man-hours went into giving it that shine too. The sound it makes… that sound never leaves your soul. It digs deep and refuses to shake free. Even close to ten years later, I freeze at it’s sound. The same thing with Colors (the lowering of the flag), which signals that the day is done. It’s played at funerals too.

When that bell sounded I decided then and there that I would live my life the best I could. Before that I had never considered what I wanted when I got out of the Navy. It’s amazing the things that change our lives. For me it was the sound of a bell at a burial at sea. It gave me the strength to survive overwhelming odds and make something of myself. At the same time, it reminded me that life was important. Life was meant to be celebrated. Life was meant to be cherished… I picked Veteran’s Day to celebrate life. It was fitting for me I suppose.

Hopefully, as Halloween comes upon us you will know that life is meant to be celebrated and will celebrate it to the best of your ability. For me those celebrations come in helping others. For you, it might be spending time with family. Each person has their own bell…

Brina Cary

Monday, October 27, 2014

Fact or Fiction

 A biography I was reading about the first female big cat trainer in the circus led me to pen The Language of Silence as Peggy Webb. The iconic King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, who happens to be from my hometown, lives on in my sleuthing basset hound in the Southern Cousins Mysteries.
        The question most often posed to me is this: Did you base your story on something that’s true, or is it fiction? My answer is no… and yes. A real story I saw in the newspaper inspired me to write The Sweetest Hallelujah as Elaine Hussey.
            My writing process takes me deep into the unconscious mind where fact is never just that but a magical mixture of truth and fantasy, a heady brew that spews forth as Lola subduing golden-eyed tigers (The Language of Silence), Pony communicating with roses (The Tender Mercy of Roses), and Sweet Mama cooking up a pie with the foretelling scent of peaches (The Oleander Sisters). It becomes a sassy dog narrator who used to eat fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches at Graceland (the Southern Cousins Mysteries).
            Still, after I’ve written a novel and then go back to edit, I’m always astonished to discover so much of myself in the story - Billie, who rode stick horses, elevated eavesdropping to an art and idolized Roy Rogers; Sis, the family fixer who would fight a cross cut saw for those she loves; Lovie and Callie, Ruby Nell and Fayrene, who echo my own close friendships.
            The most telling example of fact finding its way into fiction is the hospital scene I wrote for The Oleander Sisters. I didn’t have to research coma. I knew exactly what it was like to stand at the bedside of a dear friend in ICU and say over and over, “Jane, you are strong; you will come out of this.” A fall had caused massive brain injuries, and she wasn’t expected to live, let alone rise out of her coma, fight her way back to full cognitive abilities and teach again. Months after the fall, when she was still in recovery mode, she told me, “Peggy, it was your strong voice that pulled me out of the coma.”
             Now, here is some book news! My latest Southern Cousins Mystery, Elvis and the Buried Brides, is available in the multi-author collection, Risky Brides. I’ve teamed with some great authors for this set. It’s available for a limited time and it’s the only place you can get the Elvis mystery! One of the things I love most about this set is the variety of stories – thriller, comedic mystery, sweet romance, historical romance and romantic suspense!
I’m delighted visit with you today. If you already have Risky Brides, tell me what you think.  If not, tell me what you’d love to see in another collection. Thanks for stopping by.

Peggy Webb is the USA Today bestselling author of nearly 70 books and has won numerous awards. She writes literary fiction as Elaine Hussey and is a member of PEN. You can visit her at or
Here are quick links to Risky Brides.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Happy October 24

Today is October 24 and I thought I'd share some things that happened on this date in history:

1901 - the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel is Annie Taylor.

1911 - Orville Wright stays aloft in his gilder for 9 minutes.

1926 - Harry Houdini's last performance- takes place in Detroit.

1929 - "Black Thursday" stock market crash.

1931 - The George Washington Bridge in NYC opens.

1945 - founding of the United Nations and in 1949- the cornerstone of the building was laid.

1992 - the Toronto Blue Jays- the first non-USA team to win- wins the World Series.

2003 - The Concorde makes its last flight.

2005 - Hurricane Wilma makes landfall in Florida killing 61 and doing billions in damage.

1957 - My husband was born and shares his birthday with some holidays such as United Nations Day, Suez Day and World Polio Day.

I love October for a lot of reasons. It's finally cool and most of the time, we have less humidity. The leaves turning colors is amazing and ice cold apple cider is one of my favorite seasonal drinks. Halloween is coming and don't we all adore that time of year? Such fun to dress up and pretend you're someone else. I love this sign in my hometown. It cracks me up. 

In my writer's life, I usually try to relax a bit at the end of this month because the madness of NaNoWriMo will be gearing up soon. I read Suzanne's post on Wednesday and enjoyed that (as well as her artwork) and even though NaNo didn't work out for her, she's a prolific writer who doesn't need that nudge to keep her going like I do. I love the camaraderie of the write ins and on the website. they have a spot you can enter your daily word count and watch that grow into a nice graph. Getting my kicks watching that happen should tell you how easily I'm amused. 

Whether you're celebrating a family member's birthday, trick or treating, gearing up for NaNoWriMo or just lazing around drinking cider and watching leaves fall, I hope you're enjoying your October.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Do You NaNo? A Cautionary Tale

It's almost that time again, the month when writers get to work, some determined to push out that next manuscript and others hoping to push out their first, all in 30 days. It's almost November 1, which means it's almost time for NaNoWriMo--National Novel Writing Month.

Do you NaNo?

I sometimes feel as if my life is one continuous NaNoWriMo but, in truth, I've only done it once. It was November 2010. I was in a 29-month holding pattern between selling my first manuscript to Tor and seeing the book actually released. (Yep, 29 months. I counted.) I had an idea for a new book. It would be great! It would be half urban fantasy and half paranormal romance! It would have a subtext about Stockholm Syndrome woven through it, deep and psychological! It would be Southern and Celtic and Gothic, all rolled into one. I would write it from six point-of-view characters, which would make it rich and multifaceted! It would have an apocalyptic sci-fi element! I'd finish it in thirty days, it would be called STOCKHOLM, and it would be brilliant!

I finished it! It was called STOCKHOLM.

It sucked lemons. Really, really big lemons.

I took it apart to see why it wasn't working. Then I had to fix it. Time to write it? Thirty days. Time to fix it? Twelve months. But I learned some things.

It really couldn't sit on the fence, as it turned out. Lesson 1: Be true to your genre or, if not, know why you aren't being true. As it turned out, I didn't really have a reason except 'just because'.

Lesson 2: It's genre fiction, not literary fiction. It can have a deep, psychological subtext, but not at the price of story. Literary fiction is expected to be pretentious and slow. Genre fiction readers would gouge out their eyeballs by chapter three.

Lesson 3: Yeah, it can be Southern and Celtic and Gothic--it is fantasy, after all. But mood is no substitute for depth of character or solidness of plot.

Lesson 4: It can have apocalyptic sci-fi elements but make sure they work within the world of your primary genre. See Lesson 1.

Lesson 5: If you finish it in 30 days, it's probably not going to be brilliant. But it can be a solid starting point.

A year later, I finished that NaNo book. Somewhere along the way, STOCKHOLM became REDEMPTION and it was published about the same time as its 29-month-old elder sibling, ROYAL STREET.

I can safely say I will not do NaNoWriMo again, but I don't regret doing it that one time. The lessons were valuable.

And I forgot Lesson 6: Write from a loose outline. Deconstructing and reconstructing the NaNo book is how I developed the plotting system that has seen me through another dozen or so novels so far. [Inserts shameless plug for the "Quilting the Perfect Plot" workshop I'll be offering through the Southern Magic RWA chapter from November 17-December 14. You can find more info here.]

So how about you? Are you a NaNo veteran, or does the idea send you screaming away from the keyboard?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Soup's On!!

The weather is getting cooler and I'm thinking it's soup time! Here's one of my favorites :) Try it and let me know your thoughts.

Chicken Chili

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 can black beans
1 can whole kernel corn
1 tsp onion powder
1 can Rotel tomatoes
1 packet Ranch dressing mix
1 package cream cheese

  1. Drain and rinse the black beans. Place your chicken at the bottom of the crock pot, then pour out the whole can of corn (undrained), Rotel tomatoes, and black beans on top of chicken.
  2. Top with seasonings and ranch dressing mix. Stir together.
  3. Place cream cheese on top. Cover with lid and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Now there's a little romance for ya! Grab a bowl and a good book and enjoy!!