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images-31Lately I’ve been thinking about making it through things. It could be an event, a period in our life, an illness, a test, a divorce, a wedding, a meeting, a drive, or just whatever “it” currently is. And the interesting thing is the “it” tends to change as time progresses, but there always seems to be some form of “it” that we are always just trying to make it through. Or at least it seems like that for me.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been battling a cold-turned-acute bronchitis. Simply put: I have physically felt miserable just about non-stop for many endless days. And during this time I’ve had overlapping pet care dates scheduled and multiple doctor appointments while still maintaining my full time job and attempting to catch up on writing chores and household responsibilities whenever I could in between. You could safely say I’ve felt stretched like the cookie dough under a rolling pin.

So I’ve had a whole bunch of “it’s” to make it through. Some were fairly short, like the drive to and fro the various places I needed to be, or the doctor appointments, and those brief moments where I could knock a few to-do items off my list. Other things are longer, like waiting for the bronchitis to run its course and the gut-retching cough to go away and waiting for test results to come back.

About a month ago I started reading a book, called “You’ll Get Through This” by Max Lucado. I like his writing style, and to be frank, the title appealed to me. It is a study of the life of Joseph from the book of Genesis, and how his life was a series of making it through some unfortunate experiences. He had misfortune, one after another, and always ended up triumphant in the end. I’m not looking for triumphant. I would be satisfied with a short break in between things I need to make it through. A period of calm in which nothing is expected of me except to just breathe.

I’d love just a temporary respite to soak in the afterglow of nothingness. A time to drift, not needing to do, to be, go, have, say, or get. Anything.  My very own “Calgon, take me away!” moment.

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However, this raised a bigger question in my mind. Why do we feel we have to make it through “this”? Or climb the mountain? Or clear the hurdle? Or whatever metaphor you happen to personally like. Maybe we’re watching the  clock slowly creeping toward five o’ clock (or our own individual quittin’ time), counting down days until some big event or turning the pages of the calendar wondering where it all went or any other method of getting through. It seems life has become one big never-ending series of the next big-something. Something to dread or something to enjoy, something to endure or something to revel in. It’s always the wait for it to get here, the actual time spent, and the period immediately after to breathe deep or wipe the sweat away.

Sometimes for me that’s the time to grab chocolate and coffee. Celebrate. I’m big into celebrating even minor, small happenstances. Competing projects, surviving rough patches of time, and accomplishing challenging tasks will all garner the reward of chocolate and coffee and a few moments of treasured nothingness– to soak in the glow of satisfaction.

But still, I wonder, if there is some way to live a life that isn’t constantly filled with the sense of “I will make it through this” or worse yet, “I have to make it through this.” Can we just reach a point were life is lived, hourly or daily or by the minute, without the constant looking beyond the “right now”? Where escapism isn’t required or used as a reward for surviving? Because, in all honesty, I suspect my chocolate and coffee treat is sometimes a means to escape as much as a celebration for success.

 

Today, January 27th, is National Chocolate Appreciation Day. This could be like a nation-wide holiday. To celebrate, I thought I’d recycle a page someone featured on their blog earlier this year.

 

Cake Therapy

birthday-cake-2

choc cake finished productThere was a time when Ryan Jo Summers didn’t know if she was going to live until her next birthday. Undergoing surgery after surgery on her pelvis, only to suffer from an abdominal condition that nearly killed her.

After a two week stay in the hospital in a drug induced coma, she was finally able to go home.  She’s here on Fun Friday to share her sweet poem, Cake Therapy, and talk about a lovely recipe about the cake that she had to bake as a symbol of her year of suffering. The cake was difficult to bake, but well worth it.

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Cake Therapy  by Ryan Jo Summers

 

I had wanted to bake a cake, a hard one

a challenge, meant to be both therapy and fun.

A ‘difficult’ rated birthday cake, chocolate of course

To mark my birthday this year, my forty-forth.

Good intentions, I thought, to bake a grand layered cake

for my hard fought birthday, take to work, and celebrate

This year has brought many ups, down, trials and changes

and therapy I find often comes in phases.

 From measuring, leveling, mix and stir

until all the ingredients begin to blur

 A certain sense of unity

can be found by following the recipe

 Next into the oven, then the washing up

bowls, spoons, soapy water and the cups

Except something went unexpectedly wrong

overflowing, the pans set off the smoke alarm’s song

I know it’s part of what I had asked for—the challenge

so gamely the cake base I did try to salvage

 So tonight the failed effort goes into the trash bin

And tomorrow I shall attempt to bake a cake again

 Perhaps this foiled start is a symbol, a sign

Of the journey this year I have taken, the hills I have had to climb

 

So that is the poem I wrote while recovering. That was a few years ago, but I’ve never tried the cake again. I still have the recipe, so if you’d like a copy, just mention your contact method in the comments and I’ll get it to you.

Happy Chocolate Appreciation Day!! Go have a bite of your favorite chocolate treat and celebrate all the hills you have climbed.

I began reading The Black Sheep, by Patricia Ryan, because I am unabashedly drawn to the bad boys (a fact that landed me in some trouble when I was young). And honestly, the model’s arresting gaze on the cover whispered to my curiosity. Oh yeah, plus the author is a USA Today bestselling author.

black-sheep-patricain-ryan

 

Plus the nearly 400 Amazon reviews helped cement the decision.

This is the story of Harley and Tucker.  Harley is the house-sitter in charge. Tucker has a 20 year estrangement from his dad.  He arrives home to find the pretty new house-sitter. Now they have a few weeks to spend getting to know one another till  Tucker’s dad arrives.

Harley is organized and a wee bit of a control freak and perfectionist. She is regimental in her duties and habits. For her, it’s rooted in a rough past and how she keeps balance in her life now. Tucker is a true black sheep, in that he’d would rather bolt from any sort of conflict, and well intended truths, then deal with reality. He is also casual and lax in all matters of everyday. Clearly, Harley and Tucker are personality opposites.

Technical stuff, some errors that were not caught in editing that distracted from the reading flow and a few places where the tension sagged, but picked back up again in a page or two. It was not enough to keep me from reading on.

For all of Tuckers obvious flaws, he does have a tender and caring streak a mile wide. The time with Harley gives him chances to show those character traits. Haley, for all her prim and proper, can also harbor a careless streak of her own, taking the reader, certainly Tucker, and perhaps herself, by surprise.

Tucker’s friend adds a comic relief that is needed when sexual interest and tensions rise a little to high. A good dose suspense of wondering what Tucker will do next. Will he and dad reconcile or not? Can he win Haley’s heart?  A good blend of poignant and sass, fun and sexy. I liked the scene where Harley challenges him to catch her in the swimming pool. His prize if he succeeds—her.  That’s some serious stakes.

This is book 1 of the North Moon Bay Book series, by Patricia Ryan.
North Moon Bay Books

The Black Sheep

The Marriage Arrangement

My Best Friend’s Girl

Last year, about this time, I posted on the evolution of my blog. It had turned five years old and had taken a few radical turns over those years. My ponderings were on those twists.

This year–as my blog turns an incomprehensible six years old–I find those original thoughts to still hold true, with a year’s worth of experience to add to. However, first, a review of last year’s post:

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Jan 1, 2016: In a few months my blog will turn five. I can hardly believe it. Just like I can hardly believe it’s already 2016. As I was taking the calendars down last night, I considered the fact it didn’t seem that long ago I put them up. And now I’ve turned their pages twelve times. I’m sure a few of you can relate.

And that got me to thinking about this blog. It hardly seems possible I started it, albeit very reluctantly, back in May of 2011. I had very little knowledge of what a blog really was, let alone the purpose of creating one. Yet I had been told if I wanted to be a serious writer, I needed one. So voila, Summersrye was created. Had I known then what I know now, I’d have skipped the nickname thing and just used my proper name. But I like Rye, and not knowing any better, it seemed acceptable. Honestly, I don’t recall how I ended up at WordPress. It might have just been the first blog site that popped up when I plugged in a Google search.

keyboard and notebook

I went through recently to see what kind of posts I’ve written and the transformation this blog has undergone. The results sort of surprised me. My first post was May 11, 2011, called “Starting out”. That was pretty much it for 2011. In 2012 there were a whole 17 posts. The content changed directions twice. First I was going to take a non-fiction manuscript and blog it piece by piece. Feedback was nil. I even sent out a post asking “Am I doing this right?” of which I got one response back. Okay, at least someone out there in cyber world was aware I was blogging.

directions sign

Then I got the contract for my first book, “Whispers in her Heart”, the book that would forever change my life. I was going to be a published author. Time to get really serious about this blogging thing. Right? My posts changed from the random and non-fiction snippets to lots of “Whispers” stuff.Whispers cover from amazon

2013 I posted about 48 times, (give or take one) I was learning book promotion and it showed. I started putting in progress on edits and cover creation as well as teasers for “Whispers”, and a few pictures of my first book signings. I included poetry and shared life happenings. I opened up just a little, trying to remember if anyone was reading this, they were a real person on the other end of the computer screen. I shared photos of my pets, who are part of my life. I shared personal reflections and works in progress.

chasing ideas

2014 I continued sharing anecdotes and photos of my pets. I was now reading other people’s books and trying my hand at posting my reviews. I was following other blogs and re posting things I found interesting. Now I had a few books out and was regularly sharing status and updates on “Whispers”, “Shimmers of Stardust”, and “When Clouds Gather”. I posted more times than ever before.

Recipe for writing success

2015 was much the same. Book reviews. Pet anecdotes. Personal situations. Personal reflections. I was getting pretty personal this year. My family of books was growing. Now we added “Chasing the Painted Skies” and “Sizzle in the Snow” Anthology plus more works in progress and two more slated for 2016. I had people contact me asking if I would please read and review their books. I added the new feature somewhere along the way of hosting authors, interviewing them and talking about their books. In exchange, I was usually hosted on their blogs. Giveaways were another new feature in 2015.

All in all, not bad for a kid who few thought would ever make a writer. I recall hiding in my closet, pounding away on an old manual typewriter I bought at a garage sale. I baby sat so I had money for paper, notepads, and pens. Finally my mother gave me an electric typewriter for either my birthday or Christmas when I was around twelve. To have access to the electric outlet, I had to move out of the closet and into first my bedroom and then a corner of the long harvest table situated in the living room. I guess she wanted to see her daughter once in a while.

old typewriter

So while looking back, I also want to look forward. What do I want this blog to accomplish in our brand new 2016? Well, I want it to be a communication point. First, I want to be able to share news with readers about new books, giveaways and anything else share-worthy. I want to continue having others from other houses on my blog, sharing news about their exciting new releases. Bonus if they offer giveaways too. I want to grow the book reviews. In fact, I just finished a sassy little story last night and will be posting a review this weekend. And I have that author scheduled to be hosted on the blog in a few weeks.

Writing is a gift

Of course I want to share stories and pictures of my zany pets. They are the world to me, as many pet owners will testify. I’d be tickled if readers shared their wonderful pet pictures. I will also continue to share personal reflections and observations. Sometimes life gets rough or crazy and it’s nice to talk about it on a blog. It may not fix it, but it makes handling it a little easier. I follow a few blogs of people who do that very well. I’ll probably go back to posting some of the poetry from time to time and maybe some short flash fiction or sample chapters. That has been in the back of my mind for a while too.

Happily ever after

The end result, I want 2016 to be a year of growth and connection both for this blog and my writing career.

 

 

 

 

 

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Well, now it’s time to turn the calendars to 2017. I have added a pet sitting service to my life this year, which does had the unfortunate side effect of eating into my writing life. The bonus is I have met some interesting people and wonderful dogs and cats this year. I have settled comfortably into the house I bought in late 2014, but still have two rooms to paint (still!) and a few odd chores here and there I tackle when I need a break from writing.

What I would like to do with this blog in the coming months is much what I’ve done the last two years–share book reviews, host authors and their works, and continue the ‘Been Thinking About’ posts. Naturally I want to keep sharing misadventures of my pets, though my rescue collie, Ty, has his own blog I struggle to keep up with here on WordPress. Since I have two more books coming out in 2017, I want to share the steps from edits to covers to final release. I have a special giveaway planned for the first one, a Food & Love anthology coming up around May (ish).

Since I have two works in progress, and one more I hope to start soon, I want to share sample chapters. The opening chapters to one is already on my website at http://www.ryanjosummers.com. And I would like to encourage everyone to leave a comment with what they would like to see included in this blog, or more or less of any feature.

Lastly, I wish everyone a happy and healthy and wonderful new 2017.

Where do you get your inspiration? What do you do with it once it arrives, a gift from your muse? What inspires you to do the things that you do?

Lately, I’ve been thinking about inspiration and where mine comes from.inspiration

The short answer: everywhere. Seriously, inspiration is found–at least for me–everywhere and anywhere. While I would like to say I can simply sit somewhere like this picturesque table, gaze out across the lacy curtains and see flowers bobbing in the summer breeze, and easily dream up endless plots and characters–the reality is it usually doesn’t happen like that. At least not to me.

My ideas tend to be born from some sort of action. It might be as easy as reading a magazine article or listening to a song on the radio. Something might resonate and spark an idea. It happens. Pictures are awesome at germinating ideas. My whole novel, “Chasing the Painted Skies” was birthed from this one photo:

CPS Inspiration

From a 1988 calendar to a completed novel:

CHASING THE PAINTED SKIES_1800x2700Part mystery, part shifter, part treasure hunt, a dash of ghost story and all romance.

The heroine’s last name and the treasure idea came from when I saw a plumber’s van at a traffic light. “Coyne’s Plumbing'” became Raven Koynes and a quest for sunken treasure, which required more characters and enhanced the plot.

A photograph that served as an advertisement in a fashion catalogue became a driving force behind the Christian romance released this past November

besidestillwaters400

 

 

 

 

A character was introduced into the story based on me passing an inflatable Santa Claus on my way to work one day and a headline immediately leapt to mind. I knew that was the best way to introduce my troubled teen to the story of “Beside Still Waters”.

More recently, as wildfires ravished within miles of my house, eating up thousands of acres of forest, and destroying homes and businesses across the mountain in Eastern Tennessee, I had another great thought. I was out cleaning dry leaves away from the foundation, reducing the potential fuel for the flames, when something sprang to mind. Quickly I went inside to write it down, left I forget it. I’ve no idea what I will do with it, though I have some thoughts for when time allows.

It was as if God Himself withdrew a hand and swore no more water would fall due to the sins of the people.  {Character} swore as well, softly, pinching two fingers over the bridge of {his/her} nose. They needed the rain, desperately. Any rain. If {character} thought it would help, {he/she} would personally go to the nearest church, synagogue, whatever, and beg forgiveness for the entire town’s population,  a for the heaping amount of {his/her’s} as well.

     Because someone in {town} must have really screwed up to deserve this.

     {Character’s} teams couldn’t keep up. {Include number of heavy equipment} and they could not make a dent in the raging flames. They needed real, hard, rain, pouring from the sky in steady sheets. Endless rain. Otherwise, this out-of-control and control-defying wildfire was going to eat up every square mile of {town}.

And because we really did have a season-long drought and dry winds fueling the fire, I added another character’s POV within the hour, deciding this would be a twin or triplet story, with each sibling having a part in the tragedy as it unfolds. That was the Incident Management Firefighter’s POV. This would belong to another sibling, a law enforcement official:

      Everyone pretty much blamed Jody Ray McAllister for starting the fires. Old Jody Ray was a local wood tick, who doubled as the town handyman. He hired out to do anything for anyone needed an odd job done for a few dollars. He would mow, trim, cut, roof, dig, saw, hammer or tune up a car among other chores. He’d change oil, rotate tires, run a chain saw or move your furniture.  The school hired him to keep the grass cut and so did the library and sheriff’s office.

The only problem was Jody Ray loved to drink. And he drank a lot, unless he was actively working or lighting up the doobies. Sometimes he did both at the time. And that would explain how he could have started this damn fire.

So when the fire started,  and grew thanks to the month’s-long drought, and started eating up people’s homes and businesses, fingers were itching to point. Knowing that people would next be getting lawyers, the good sheriff promptly arrested old Jody Ray for reckless endangerment of a fire and burning without a permit.  Just to cover up his butt, he tested Jody Ray for alcohol and drugs. Except, and it had to be a miracle, Jody Ray came back clean. So he was tested a second time, and came back clean again. And there was no proof his little trash fire burned out of control when {character} checked it out. There was no away anyone could prove Jody Ray created the monster that was presently eating {town}.

It would have made everyone’s life, including his and the good sheriff, if Jody Ray had come back positive for increased blood alcohol or any drug. Even aspirin. As it was, all the sheriff had on him was burning trash without a permit. But that wasn’t keeping him from letting Jody Ray out of jail just yet.

Somebody was going to have to spill some sacrificial blood over this fire and it was {character’s} job to make sure it was the guilty person.

Okay, two POV’s, two related, estranged characters invested in one story. Not a bad start, though it needs lots of work. The truth that born this saga turned out to be some young kids playing around and setting the fires that burned Appalachia this past autumn. By following the real story, so close to home, gave me lots of reference material to draw from and a have a file bulging with notes and reference sites.

Earlier this year, again I was driving to work and spotted police tape stretched across a random driveway I pass each day. Initially I thought it to be a Halloween prank or decoration of some macabre sort. It remained flapping in the wind for about four days. The following is something just as somber that was born from passing that scene each day. Again, not a clue what, if anything, will become of it, but it sure has a promising beginning…

The yellow police tape fluttered in the cold wind as it waved from the leafless tree trunk to the car’s door handle to the porch railing like a bright serpent, and finally ending as a ribbon barrier, sealing off the driveway. A scrawny black cat slinking around the discarded bike and under the caution tape was the only other movement. The windows in the old house were dark, lifeless, and the layer of dust collected on the medium brown car, a testament to the recent lack of rain.

     She stood, shoulders hunched against the wind, hands balled in the pockets of her jacket. This was going to be one big mess.

Now, whether she is a good character or the antagonist, I’ve yet to determine. Also, there is nothing else beyond this dark and mysterious beginning. Interestingly, the house was actually a very pretty two story, in  a nice neighborhood, with an RV covered with a tarpaulin at the side of the garage. I’ve never seen any pets wandering freely. But it sure sounds good. . .

Another time I was sitting at a traffic light, waiting, and spotted a vintage Ford Mustang across the intersection. I don’t recall the exact reddish color now but I did think it would look really neat in seafoam green. Now, what character did I have that would drive a vintage seafoam green Ford Mustang?

Ah ha! A guy from my then work-in-progress women’s lit entitled “Raine’s Promise”. I was just developing him and my mind took wings! Ford de Galetti  restores classic cars as a hobby, so naturally he kept the Mustang as a reminder of his late brother who used to restore them with him. Throw Dad in there too and you have a family, background on the love-interest character and a good start at fleshing him out.

     She swirled her wine glass thoughtfully. “Ford.” She tested the name, gauging his reaction to it. “Your name and you drive one.”

      He smiled. “Ah, yes, the Mustang. A classic dear thing.”

      She pondered that. “It’s a car. Did you buy it just so you could drive something with your name on it?”

      “Hardly. I did not buy the Mustang. You might say it was a gift.”

      Okay, that caught her attention. Who would give a classic car as a gift? “I sense a story in there.”

      “Indeed.” He emptied his glass, looked into the bottom for a long moment and slowly pulled his face back to Raine. The sorrow in the depths of his dark eyes surprised her.

     “My brother was named Lance, for the Lancia automobile manufacturer. I was named for the Ford Corporation. My dad really had a thing for classic cars. Lance and Dad loved to restore them. Lance always somehow sniffed them out, even better than Dad could. For them it was a form of male bonding. So Lance found this derelict Mustang in some barn one day. The three of us rode up in Dad’s old pickup to collect it. It was dreadfully rusty, but in decent shape. Better than some of the rust buckets Lance and Dad have found over the years. A few of them I would have asked to see the title to prove what exactly it was, but they just seemed to instinctively know.

      It was not unusual to bring assorted pieces of cars back on the trailer or pick up bed as well, somehow fitting them together into a classic vehicle.

      So we brought the Mustang back, rattling behind on Dad’s trailer. It was coated with inches of dust but Lance saw great potential in it. He decided on that unique sea-foam green color as well. We were nearly finished when we lost Lance. Dad and I completed the restoration and I drive it in Lance’s memory.”

      Finished, he coughed once. Raine pulled back, not aware she had leaned into his story, reaching closer to him. She licked her lips, thinking it through. “Thank you for sharing that. How did you lose Lance?”

     Ford’s eyes fell to the table and he brushed a crumb away. “He was a weekend warrior in the Reserves. His unit had been called into active duty as we were almost finished with the Mustang. He was six months into his tour when he and another unit member took a direct hit.”  

      “Ford, I’m sorry.”

       He shook his head. “Don’t be. We have shared many great years. Cars have been the glue that kept us close. I remember one in particular, a 1933 chopped Ford Coupe. It looked just like the ‘Eliminator’ when we finished, I half expected to see ZZ Top climb out. The ’57 Mustang is just one of many fine memories Dad and I have of Lance. It was fate to be his final restoration and classics were their passion.” He shrugged, mustering a tiny smile. “No regrets.”

       “And what about you?” The question tumbled from her lips. Perhaps she had been thinking of her own brother overseas now, always hoping he came back safe. Or just feeling Ford’s strong emotions tugging at her.

       “I have a passion for my family. For anyone I love.”

       His earnest answer, coupled with the intense look in his brown eyes, sent chills quivering along Raine’s spine

Not too bad for just seeing a classic car across an intersection at the red light.

cartoon-inspiration

 

 

 

Timely, real writing, with humor, for serious issues. Good Boy is a Good Job.

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I first began reading A Good Boy because it was set in an area I am familiar with and I was curious to know if the author could credibly write with knowledge or had he simply tossed a dart to a map. I was pleasantly surprised to find he was indeed credible and detailed in the building of the setting. Even those not familiar with the area will become comfortable with the setting.

There are doubtlessly people and churches just like the author portrayed here, as I have known some of each. A dying church is a sad reality, as is teen suicide and questionable parenting; and our hero, Wesley Ames, was tasked with a difficult job. And plenty of obstacles along the way.

The book, while based on the trials and tribulations of a good preacher, is not preachy. The reader will not be lectured to. Non-Christians will appreciate the authentic flavor and humor of a real-life story. I found myself sympathizing for Wesley’s friend Gary Meade as he stumbles through a forced diet by his well-intending and loving family. And holding my breath with dread as I waited for another avalanche of ill-timed misfortune to befall the plucky Preacher Wesley. As he moved from good experiences and unfortunate situations, the guy earned my vote. He is a good guy trying to do the right thing while surrounded by stumbling blocks called people.

Such is the reality of Bradshaw’s writing. I truly hope there will be more books like A Good Boy coming from Mr. Bradshaw in the future.

*Note, I received a copy from Reading Alley in exchange for an honest review.

Today I am interviewing fellow Soul Mate Publishing author, Ryan Jo Summers, about her latest release, Beside Still Waters! Q: How long have you been writing?  A: I started when I was ten, taking a…

Source: Spotlight On…Ryan Jo Summer’s Beside Still Waters