Cheryl St. John–August Full Moon Guest!

When Sherri Shackelford and I made plans to go to New York for the Writers Digest Conference it seemed like a long time away, but our departure day was upon us before we knew it. Thank goodness we had the foresight to plan and purchase tickets in advance for the things we wanted to see and do, because priority lines were a snap, while others were impossibly long. Those impulsively deciding to go on a statue cruise waited hours, while we got right on the ferry.

For Nebraska girls, New York City was like another world, filled with scurrying people, cabs, buses and strollers, all vying to be first. Our introduction to the city couldn’t have been better, because two handsome young men picked us up and gave us history and geology lessons while dodging traffic like pros. I never knew Manhattan was built entirely on solid granite, except for one strip of marshland, which is The Village. The granite was clearly visible in Central Park as well as in the foundations of the Twin Towers, which remain on display at the 9-11 museum.

After the hustle and bustle of Times Square, Rockefeller Center and Grand Central Station, the 9-11 memorial was the quietest place in New York. I was especially thankful to see it opening this past Spring, knowing I’d be able to visit. There isn’t a person over 15 or 16 who doesn’t remember that day vividly. The images are familiar. The atmosphere is respectful.

The city truly never sleeps, and has a heartbeat all its own. We’ve already made plans to return. We stood on Ellis Island, where millions of immigrants entered on their way to new lives in America. We touched the names on the reflection pool which honors all those killed in the cruelest act of terrorism our country has known. We walked the streets where Funny Girl, Saturday Night Fever, Ghostbusters and You’ve Got Mail, among many, many other iconic movies were filmed. We listened to street musicians and saw a Broadway Show, ate at The Four Seasons, sat in Irish pubs, chatted with New Yorkers in delis, got separated at the top of 30 Rock, even bought metro cards took the subway, and those experiences only whetted our appetites for more.

Writers Digest plans an extremely well-organized and professional conference with a lot of energy and information. It was held in the historic Roosevelt Hotel on 45th & Madison. Agents and editors took pitches, which they call Pitch Slam. My editor was on a panel the first evening. The workshops I gave were well attended, and it was especially fun to read all the tweets containing quotes afterward. I learned all about metadata and amazon keywords and soaked in info on using social media to my advantage. In an atmosphere different than I’m used to at other conferences, I met writers from all over and enjoyed hearing their stories and about their writing. There’s nothing like getting a bunch of writers together. We get each other in a way no one else does. This was my first conference as a Writers Digest author, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Cheryl St.John is the award-winning author of fifty Harlequin and Silhouette books, which include historical romance as well as contemporary.  She was a voracious reader and admits her early passion was for horror and true crime. Eventually she read Victoria Holt and Catherine Cookson, but one fateful day browsing the book section, she took a chance on a different genre and bought Hummingbird by LaVyrle Spencer, then promptly drove back to the store for The Rainbow Season by Lisa Gregory. She was immediately taken by historical romance, enthralled by Americana, the American West and hooked for life.

And so, when she got serious and decided to write a book, it was, of course, a romance. A very badly written and poorly plotted romance. But eventually she joined Romance Writers of America and her local chapter (then Romance Authors of the Heartland), Heartland Writers Group, and was fortunate to have the late Diane Wicker Davis as her first mentor.

Her book on writing, Writing With Emotion, Tension & Conflict, released by Writers Digest Books, is available in print and ebook.

Cheryl believes in paying it forward, and her some of her most rewarding experiences have been sharing in the successes of writers she has coached over the years.

Cheryl loves hearing from readers.
email her at: SaintJohn@aol.com.
Visit her on the web: http://www.cherylstjohn.net/
Read her blog, From the Heart: http://cherylstjohn.blogspot.com/
Like her Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/CherylStJ
She’s a Pinterest junkie! http://pinterest.com/cheryl_stjohn/

Cheryl St. John joins us Aug. 19th!

Meow, readers! I’m thrilled to tell you one of my all time favorite authors, Cheryl St. John, will be making a return visit to the Authors By Moonlight on August 19th. Cheryl will be sharing some photos and fun from her recent and exciting trip to New York City for the Writers Digest Conference. Be sure and check it out. And if you haven’t read one of Cheryl’s books, go now and get one. She writes purrrfectly wonderful books I can’t put down! See you on the 19th!

A Visit to Arbor Lodge—Home of Arbor Day

With the county fair over, and summer quickly winding down to the start date of school, we managed to sneak in a two-and-a-half day mini vacation. That’s not enough time to do very much, but after a very hectic spring and summer, it was better than nothing, and very welcome.

Where did we go? Well, our destination was Topeka, Kansas, for a weekend long horsemanship clinic with renowned Aussie horseman Clinton Anderson during his Walkabout Tour. It was wonderful, and I’ll share more in my next post, but for today, I’m going to share about our very short visit to Arbor Lodge in Nebraska City where we stopped en route to Topeka. I’ve lived in Nebraska my entire life and I’ve never had the chance to visit Arbor Lodge. I wish we would have had more time, but I managed to squeeze in quite a bit.

The long bricked driveway with canopy of trees leading to the mansion.

I knew Arbor Lodge was big, but I never realized just how big. Now situated on 72 acres of wooded and rolling hills, the 52 room mansion can give any Southern Plantation a run for its money in grandeur and opulence. Founded in 1855 by J. Sterling Morton, Morton and his wife Caroline selected the highest point on their land to build a four room house that was the beginnings of a home that would grow exponentially over the next four and half decades. The home was completed in 1903 by the Morton’s oldest of four sons, Joy Morton, yes, Joy is the Morton of Morton Salt fame—you know, “When It Rains, It Pours”®. Check out the Morton Salt web site for information about the iconic Morton Salt girl and her 100th birthday celebration this year.

J. Sterling and Caroline were nature lovers, and soon after establishing their home, they set about planting trees and greenery on a treeless prairie. Caroline designed the original drives, walks, and gardens. She planted the first trees and oversaw the running of the farm while her husband was traveling for political reasons.

J. Sterling was a journalist by profession, and while in political office he wrote and spoke about the

One of three porticoes that grace the mansion.

benefits of trees and as early as 1872, when he was president of the State Board of Agriculture, he introduced a resolution calling for a tree planting day to be known as Arbor Day. In 1885, the Legislature made Arbor Day, April 22nd–Morton’s birthday, a legal holiday in Nebraska.

After the older Morton’s death in 1902, Joy set about one last addition to the home. For the next twenty years he and his family used the home as a summer retreat, and in 1923 he donated the house and grounds to the State of Nebraska to be preserved for future generations, and as a monument to his father. Lucky for us!

The main staircase. Joy Morton's daughter was married here surrounded by flowers.

In the house you can see Tiffany stained glass, Victorian and Empire style furniture, and a staircase that makes you think–Gone With the Wind. You can see the bedroom where President Grover Cleveland and his wife stayed, enjoy a vast sun room, and see the bowling alley in the basement. You can walk the brick paved drives under a never ending canopy of trees, and visit lush gardens where 300 varieties of lilacs grow. And the stone and brick carriage house would make any horse envious.

While touring the home my writer’s mind took hold and I couldn’t help thinking about the history that had taken place in those rooms. Oh, if the walls could talk! What a great setting Arbor Lodge would make for a ghost story, murder mystery, or a sweeping historical romance! There are so many rooms and staircases it’s easy to get lost and confused as to where you are. And talk about places for someone to hide–they abound! Although the home is so beautiful and well maintained, it’s hard to imagine anything sinister taking place there. But I can sure picture a playful ghost lurking, or two would-be lovers sneaking away for stolen moments.

The bedroom where President Grover Cleveland and his wife stayed while visiting Nebraska during his term in office.

So, if you ever get to Nebraska, be sure to put Arbor Lodge and Arbor Day Farm on your list of “must-see” spots.

Do you love trees? Do you love to plant trees? Like my great-grandfather, grandfather, and father before me, I do.  I think J. Sterling and Caroline Morton would be pleased to know how nationally know Arbor Day has become and how Nebraska isn’t quite the treeless prairie they saw when first arriving back in the mid 1800′s..

Have a great August and we’ll see you back here in September. In the meantime, go plant a tree!

Sherry James
www.sherryjames.com

Inspiring Book of Kells

Another favorite sight during our vacation trip to Ireland was The Book of Kells exhibit at the Trinity College Old Library (the oldest surviving college building constructed between 1712 and 1732). On our first full day in Ireland, we visited this Dublin museum that was within walking distance of our hotel. Being on the grounds of a learning institution that was founded more than 400 years ago (in 1592 by charter of Queen Elizabeth) was amazing in itself. The Book of Kells was sent to Trinity College to remain safe during the Cromwellian period around 1653.

Visitors get to view the actual manuscript that was probably created in the 9th century, and a new page is displayed every day. The book is protected within a temperature-controlled box. The Book of Kells is a manuscript that contains the four gospels in Latin with lavish and detailed drawings to accompany the text. Scholars agree the text was produced by the monks of Iona (island off the west coast of Scotland). The question remains if the manuscript was finished on Iona or after the monks moved to Kells in county Meath following a Viking attack in 806 CE. Drawing the intricate figures and designs must have provided the monks a sense of creative freedom in an otherwise structured life.

As an author, I was in awe of the sheer volume of books within the Old Library. Since 1801, a copy of all books published in Britain and Ireland can be claimed by the library. By the 1850s, the designated space was filled. In 1860, the roof was raised to allow for the construction of the barrel-vaulted ceiling and the gallery bookcases that are in the present-day visitor area. Nearly three million books are stored within eight buildings. Also on display were carved marble busts of famous literary persons.

This is a must-see exhibit for anyone visiting Dublin—book lover or not.

Linda is the author of a short story set in Ireland titled A Legend of Ireland. Maybe someday she will write a story set in Ireland that will be requested to reside in this hallowed hall.

I Guess I’m a Bit ‘Old School’

I know the current trend in publishing is electronic, and I do have a Kindle which I do some reading on, especially when I go on vacation. But for me there’s nothing more satisfying than curling up with a good book and turning pages.

Having a book in my hand is even more thrilling when it’s my own book.

This weekend a box arrived on my porch!

It was filled with copies of my latest release, Family Secrets!

This is my fifth print release, eighth overall, but having that box arrive and opening it to reveal books with MY name on them never gets old.

The official worldwide release date is this Friday, August 1, but paperback copies have been available for a couple of weeks.

Blurb:
Even after the death of her husband, Erika Garrett is still close to his family. She vows they’ll never discover he was cheating on her. She’s content with her play-by-the-rules life until Chase Stewart re-enters her life.
Chase is divorced from Erika’s sister-in-law and wants nothing to do with her family or they with him. If it weren’t for shared custody of his precious four-year old twins, he wouldn’t be a part of their lives at all.
He has no desire to marry again, so the only thing he can offer Erika is a secret summer fling. But when the secret is uncovered, can either of them ever face the family again?

Excerpt:
She shook off the feeling, and once again attempted to concentrate on the movie. Soon the girls drifted off and, eager for something to do to keep her mind off forbidden topics, she rose to gather the remains of their snack. She reached for the empty popcorn bowl as Chase did the same. Her hand brushed his, and she yanked it away as if burned.

“Erika.” Her name came out soft. Husky. Never before had it sounded so intimate on a man’s lips.

“I need to get this cleaned up.” She fled to the kitchen.

She stood by the sink, the snack dishes forgotten. Her hands gripped the edge of the granite so hard her knuckles turned white.

The soft pad of Chase’s bare feet announced his arrival a moment before his hands came to rest on her shoulders. She flinched.

“Erika.” How easily she could get used to him saying her name just like that. As though velvet secrets hid in the simple syllables. She shivered under his touch. “What are you thinking?”

As if he didn’t know. She shook her head, unable to speak, or unwilling to voice her thoughts aloud.

With gentle hands he turned her to face him. “Look at me.” He lifted her chin with a finger.

She tried to tear her gaze from his, but the intensity in the dark depths of his eyes made the task impossible. The silent communication spoke to her soul in a way nothing ever had before.

Family Secrets is available through The Wild Rose Press. (Writing that is also a thrill that never gets old!)

And even though I know sales are way better for electronic copies of my books, having that particular box arrive made me second-guess submitting my latest WIP, which is almost ready to go to my editor in query form, in a length which would only allow a digital release. At this point in the process, I really am not looking to make it any longer, but let me tell you, for a moment I was tempted!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com

It is one of life’s bitterest truths that bed time so often arrives just when things are really getting interesting – Lemony Snicket


As a small child, I *never* wanted to go to bed. I suspected the grown-ups were pulling a fast one on me when they insisted that I wasn’t missing out on anything fun. After all, if life after bedtime was that dull, they would be going to sleep when I did, right? I discovered the truth as I got older and was allowed to stay up later on Friday and Saturday nights. That is when I learned of the wonder that was the late night movie! (Raise your hand if you remember those from the days before talk shows and infomercials were everywhere!)

The adults were totally holding out on us kids!! ‘Murder at the Gallop’! ‘The Devil’s Brigade’! ‘The Rose Tatoo’! They were staying up to watch movies! Some classics, some B-list, but movies!

One of many reasons I loved summertime as a kid is because sometimes my mom let me stay up late and watch a movie during the week. If it was really good, I could invite my best friend Jann over to spend the night. We’d slurp down ‘clown sundaes’ – vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce and salted peanuts as we watched. Some offerings must have run on a monthly basis, we saw them so often. One of those was a 1960 B-list melodrama called ‘Conspiracy of Hearts’ about Italian nuns trying to smuggle Jewish children past Nazis in World War II. I never missed it.

I also enjoyed ‘Sayonara’ with Marlon Brando. And ‘Two for the Road’ with Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney when he was still young and dishy. Most of it was over my head, but that wasn’t important. The main thing is that I got to stay up and my sister still had to go to bed.

I first watched ‘Mister Roberts,  with James Cagney and Henry Fonda, on the late show, along with ‘Trapeze’ (Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis fight over Gina Lollobrigida), ‘Operation Petticoat’ (Tony Curtis and Cary Grant fight over a pink submarine) and ‘Becket’ (Peter O’Toole and Richard Burton fight over some girl from Wales and then over which of them gets to run England). Many of the broadcasts involved beach movies or old war movies, but I didn’t care. I was ten years old and I felt like I was allowed into a cool adult world.

Around the early 70s, (I think) a local station changed its Saturday night late show to horror movies, featuring a local host to introduce commercials. Although I have never had a high tolerance for gore and scary stuff, this proved a gold mine of campy horror classics. Vincent Price reigned in ‘The House of Usher’ and ‘The Pit and the Pendulum’. He alternated with Godzilla, his son, and his frenemy Mothra, bad dubbing and all. My friends and I had a blast making fun of them. To this day, monster movies are just not as appealing to me without cheesy special effects.

Sigh. I think I’ll go see if there are any Burt Lancaster movies on Netflix. And maybe pick up some ice cream.

What old movies did you love to watch that you haven’t seen in ages? And by old, you’re free to include anything made before your birth. Even if it was in the 90s.

Till next month, Ann

Some Useless Facts

Okay, I admit it.  I am a useless facts junkie.  This is no doubt the reason it takes me forever to look up one tiny detail.  I get lost in learning things I didn’t know, and soon, hours have gone by.

Today, I want to share some things I just learned about my home state of Texas:

  • The oldest tree recorded in Texas is near Fulton and is approximately 1,500 years old.
  • The first open domed stadium appeared in Texas.
  • More wool is produced in Texas than any other state in the U.S.
  • Charles Alderton, a pharmacists from Waco, invented Dr Pepper in 1885.  The period after “Dr” was removed in the 1950′s.
  • The word “Texas” comes from the Hasiani Indians and means friends and allies.
  • El Paso is actually closer to California than it is to Dallas.
  • According to state law, it is illegal to: milk another person’s cow, take three sips of beer while standing, or sell one’s eye.

So tell me, do you have any useless facts about your home state you’d like to share?

~Tiffany

An exciting new adventure!

At the end of this month, I’ll have the wonderful experience of having my publisher throw me a book launch party for the second book in my YA post-apocalyptic series The Color of Fear. The party is set for Armadillocon in Austin, Texas–two places I’ve never been–and I’m just..well, EXCITED!

The series is first of all, the book of my heart–my favorite child among the twenty novels I’ll have published by the end of the year. My editor Liz Burton asked me to take the story from one volume to three, and I’ve had so much fun fleshing out the characters and their journey.

For those of you who don’t know, the first book in the series is called WINDMILLS. The story begins in Hong Kong, in a tenement district:

Bio-terrorists release a plague in the United States that spreads to kill most of the world’s Caucasian population. As the deadly virus mutates, Tzu Shin, a renowned medical doctor and biologist, defects from China to help develop a cure. His only daughter, Lin Kwan, is left behind in Hong Kong with her aunt. Then Kwan’s father summons her from across the sea to bring him Chinese medicinal herbs he needs to develop a cure. Lonely and missing her parents, she accepts the challenge, traveling with her sensei Li Zhong to the New World. But a Chinese assassin is on her trail, determined to kill her and Li Zhong, and when Kwan discovers her father has disappeared, she sets out on a journey to find him and deliver her precious cargo, a quest that she may not survive.

Book Two takes our travelers further:

Xi San saved the life of a mysterious girl one night in his ravaged San Francisco neighborhood. He can’t get her out of his mind, but believes that she’s lost to him. When an old friend invites him to St. Louis, the new center of terrorist-decimated America, he leaves his old world behind.

Lin Kwan came to America to bring her scientist father Chinese medicinal herbs, hoping to stop the virus that killed most of the world’s Caucasians, before it mutates to infect the rest of the world. Following his trail, she meets the man who once saved her, and repays her debt.

Gathering diverse companions as they travel toward St. Louis, the two encounter deadly obstacles, including Gabriel, a self-styled religious leader and white supremacist determined to take revenge for the white man.

But Gabriel isn’t their only enemy. They have to battle nature, prejudice and even those hidden among them who wish their destruction.

Book three is due next year, and I can’t wait to get started on it! In the meantime, you can find WINDMILLS at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other online sites, or you can order it in paperback to your local indie bookstore.

If you don’t want to wait, you can check out the free read The Splendid Expedition of Eddie Garrick, Esq., which is a serial companion blog detailing one of the young people’s journeys across the plague-ridden country.

Goodreads is having a giveaway for a set of WINDMILLS and DESTINATIONS, which runs from July 20-August 7, 2014. Please feel free to sign up, and enjoy! I know I will. Thanks to all my readers–I do this for all of us.  :)

Christmas in July!

First off, I’d like to say thanks to all the readers who took part in my Caption the Cat giveaway during the Summer Solstice Bash here at Authors By Moonlight. Congratulations to Virginia Horton for winning a $15.00 gift card to either Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Virginia, please contact me at sherryjames@hamilton.net and let me know which bookseller you’d prefer.

Okay, It’s Christmas in July!

The other day I got to thinking about this concept and wondering where this whole Christmas in July thing came from. I used to work retail so I naturally assumed it was just an advertising gimmick—which it is—but, when I checked it out on good old Wikipedia, I learned there is a bit more to it than that. Thanks to the online encyclopedia I had a duh moment. While it’s summer here in the northern hemisphere and we’re sweating and enjoying boiling temps, summer storms, growing crops and county fairs, the southern hemisphere enjoys it’s winter season—winter, the time us northern hemisphere folks enjoy Christmas with cold temps and snow and short daylight hours. Since winter falls in July in the southern hemisphere—according to Wikipedia– folks on that part of the globe at one point decided to do a little Christmas holiday celebrating during their winter. If you are from the southern hemisphere, share with us if you do any Christmas in July celebrating. Do you go all out with lights and & decorations? Or use it as a time to take a vacation? Gather with family?

In the US, I see the Christmas in July mainly as an advertising scheme. In the 1950’s merchants here decided they could capitalize on the whole Christmas in July theme and use it as a way to spur sales during a time when there isn’t a holiday to shop for, and the transition between spring/summer to fall/winter merchandise. Massive sales are run to move old inventory in order to make room for the new. And, hey, everyone loves a good sale, right?!

Of course, we can’t forget how Hallmark uses July as their roll out time for the year’s new line of Keepsake Ornaments—which, btw, launch this weekend! Are you a collector? I have a few that reflect my personal tastes, but don’t consider myself a collector.

So, I decided to do a little Christmas in July celebrating myself by putting my holiday romance, ELF TROUBLE, on sale for a $1.99 for the month. If you don’t quite feel up to dragging out the lights and tinsel, you can read about it and the spirit of the season in ELF TROUBLE, a Studs 4 Hire “short.”

If You’re Looking 4 Trouble, You’ve Found It!

Gil Boyd hates Christmas, so when his sexy lady bosses at Studs 4 Hire assign him to construct a Santa House for a fundraising event for a local animal shelter, he’s forced to quiet his inner Grinch and get the job done. On a tight deadline to complete the project, Gil is promised plenty of volunteer help only to find that the only help he’s going to get comes in the form of one tiny, blonde-haired beauty named Holly Everwood.

Between Holly’s elf hat, her unwavering holiday spirit, and the mangy mutt by her side, Gil is convinced she’s come direct from the North Pole just to torment his tattered, loner self. With time to complete the project running out, irritating Christmas carols accompanying his work, and a beautiful sprite tempting his resolve to remain unattached, Gil finds he’s in trouble up to his tool belt. Can Holly show Gil the real magic of Christmas is waiting if only he’ll open his heart?

Pick up your copy of ELF TROUBLE at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance EBooks, and Smashwords. But hurry. Sale ends when July ends!

Also to celebrate Christmas in July, I’m hosting a giveaway over at my website. All you have to do to enter is drop me an email with Christmas in July in the subject line. Tell me which one of my ebooks you’d like to receive for a prize, and boom, you’re entered! Deadline to enter is July 31st. I’ll pick a winner by random drawing.

Have a great month, and I’ll see you back here in August!

Sherry James

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Simple Pleasures

I know I’m lucky and that my living situation is shared by a very small percentage of people. My husband’s job is Maintenance Supervisor of a camp and conference center in the southern California mountains. Part of his compensation package is a small (750 s.f.) cabin AND meals when a program camp is running. So I love summertime because week-long camps are scheduled from the week schools let out right through August. That means I only have to cook 2 meals a week and for the rest of the year, I don’t cook on weekends. All I have to do is walk across camp and show up at the lodge to be served a meal. What a wonderful thing for a writer. My brain doesn’t have to menu-plan or keep inventory of available food on hand. Not to count the time spent cooking the food and cleaning the dishes and pans (no dishwasher here).

Another wonderful aspect of living at this camp is participating in some of the activities. Camp staff (and me) are welcomed into workshops or lectures offered by these programs. Yesterday was lake day, which means the afternoon and evening centered around providing the 75 junior high-aged youth and counselors the opportunity to kayak around the lake. For some, this is their first experience handling an oar and being in a small boat. Watching is fun because they develop confidence so quickly with this new skill. The girls wanted to row to see the group of ducks (which promptly swam away) and the guys had races. I remind myself to save these tidbits for use in a future story.

Dinner was served there—picnic style. Typical summer food—hot dogs, baked beans, salad, chips, fruit. But after taking our two dogs on a walk around the lake, even that simple fare tasted great. They were so excited to smell new and wilder scents than they get on their usual evening walk about our camp road. Here they are on the dock that extends into the small lake. Phoenix (on left) is a terrier mix we got from a rescue agency, and Keiko (on right) is a Japanese Shiba Inu—both are 4 years old and bring so much joy and fun into our lives.

I’d love to hear about your favorite simple pleasure of summer. On July 12, I’ll choose one lucky commenter to receive an electronic copy of my summer short story, Dipping In A Toe.

Linda is currently working on revisions for a Halloween novella.

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