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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

#NewRelease -- KISSING COUSINS by Diana Tobin -- Giveaway!

Be sure and leave a comment to be entered in the drawing for a free ebook of KISSING COUSINS by Diana Tobin.


Augusta Thompson has lost everything—her parents, her husband, her home…and now, her only child. Then, a legal notice arrives asking her to travel across the country to claim an inheritance from an unknown relative—a grandmother she never knew she had. There’s only one catch: she must share her grandmother’s beautiful old home with handsome Olympic contender Charles “Web” Webster—the only other person named in the inheritance—for one year.

Web finds it difficult to believe Augusta never knew about her family in Maine, the family Augusta’s mother turned her back on.  As time goes by, he realizes Augusta was mentally and emotionally abused by her ex-husband, and her heart and soul are wounded.

Can Augusta learn to trust in others once more and make a new life for herself?  Can Web’s love for Augusta heal her broken heart and allow them a future together? Will the conditions of the inheritance prove to be a help or hindrance for these KISSING COUSINS?


     Augusta Thompson kept her most treasured belongings in the trunk of her car. Her scrapbooks and boxes of photos; a string of pearls once belonging to her mother, and a macaroni necklace made by her daughter; a blanket she’d crocheted when pregnant and had wrapped around baby Hope. A few precious books by her favorite authors; Nora Roberts, when she wanted to read about true love—however fictional, and Janet Evanovich when she needed to be reminded there was humor in the world. A small collection of Junie B. Jones books she and Hope had read, and laughed over, together.
     What took up most of the trunk space in her fifteen-year-old Dodge Neon were skeins of yarn, pattern books, notebooks holding more patterns and ideas, and a variety of knitting needles and crochet hooks.
     Logically, keeping her most prized possessions in a vehicle might not be the best idea, but Augusta, better known as Gus, had lost much to someone she was supposed to be able to trust and in places supposedly safe. Plus, her car had become her home. It was old enough, with various dings and dents, that no one would deem it worthy of stealing.
     Today Gus packed the last few items as she wondered how long it would take her to drive from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine. One saw the end of what she loved best and held most dear, the other, hopefully, would help her find a way to go on living.
     Armed with numerous maps to help her find her way across the country, she placed the last item in the trunk. A small ornately carved box holding the ashes of her beloved eight-year-old daughter, Hope.

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Friday, March 20, 2015

Writing Person and Tense

It seems like five or six years ago, almost every new novel I read was written in first person. An example of first person writing is:

"I was walking to the store when this gigantic purple and green dog jumped out of the alley onto the sidewalk. He stood facing me as if to block my path. It stood its ground with its legs splayed.

"I froze in place at the sight of this strange-looking creature. I tried to guess its intent, not to mention its origin. Was I in danger?

"Drawing upon the limited training I had received about how to behave around a potentially dangerous dog, I slowly turned sideways and shifted my gaze so that I did not look directly into its face. The thinking of that stance is, from what I have been told, to signal non-aggression to the dog so that it does not sense danger and respond by attacking.

"I studied the creature’s face out of the corner of my eye. What I witnessed take place in its bright orange eyes shocked me, prompting me to turn back and stare fully into its face."

In some ways, stories written in first person draw me in so that I feel like I experience the scenes in the story as if I am the person telling the story. In other ways, I feel it is limiting--sort of like real life. I don’t know what the other characters are thinking or feeling unless the character telling the story shares their observations with me. In my opinion, some authors show more talent writing in first person than others and that can determine whether or not the story is a pleasure or a chore to read.

The preceding example demonstrates the first person writing style using the past tense. The paragraph that follows is an example of first person in the present tense. In my opinion, one of the biggest challenges of writing a story in first person is to stay in the proper tense.

Is the author telling a story from their point of view that happened in the past? Is the author relating what is happening “on the fly” as it is happening? It is so easy to get “was” and “is” mixed up in the telling, but so important to keep them straight.

Perhaps one of the most popular styles in which to tell a story--and the one that seems to be in vogue, as least in the genres I have been reading lately--is that of third person. The writer is an observer, a fly on the wall, so to speak. Or perhaps the writer is a revered storyteller sharing with those gathered around the campfire a tale of the exploits of others. However you want to view it, the writer is talking about people, animals and things, as a know-all third party.

An advantage of third person is that the writer can share more than one point of view in the story. (That is a whole different topic, so I’m not going there too much now.) The author can share the thoughts, feelings and intents of more than one character. I personally like to separate the thoughts and feelings of different characters by at least a paragraph, if not a chapter section or a chapter.

Swallowing in an effort to calm her thrumming heart, she froze in place as she stared at his  roughened, manly lips surrounded by the bristle of two day’s worth of unshaven whiskers, a longing surging up within her to wrap her arms around his neck and kiss him senseless.

He froze at the sight of the beautiful woman before him as visions of her as the pesky little brat that had made his life miserable when he was still in short pants came crashing back into the forefront of his memory, inspiring within him the childish urge to grab her by her shoulders and send her crashing to the ground.

In this third person example, we have two people standing and looking at each other. We know what each character is thinking and feeling, even if each of them are clueless about what is going on inside the other. What is going to happen next? I don't know. Write the story and we'll find out.

As in writing in first person, it is important to keep track of the use of “was” and “is,” “did” and “do,” “will” and “won’t” not to mention what the characters “would” do.

My novel Family Secrets was started at a time that writing in first person was very much in vogue. I debated about how I wanted it written. Keep in mind that this novel has an ongoing storyline of current-day characters going through experiences in a present-day setting. In addition, some of those older characters are telling about past events in their lives.

One of my first questions at the start centered around whether I should write Family Secrets all in first person, all in third person or a combination of the two. I decided there was only one way to find out. For the first few chapters of the book, I wrote the same scenes both ways. Then, like mixing and baking a good bread dough from scratch, I let those chapters “rest.” When I went back later to read what I had written, I made my decision.

The current day scenes I wrote in third person. They were mostly from Jennie’s point-of-view. Here is an example:

            Jennie chatted with Garrett and her parents through the meal. She waited towards the end to execute her plan, but she knew she better catch her parents before they left the table if she wanted some answers about the family. When she judged it to be just the right moment, she fished the paper with her questions from her jeans pocket. Keeping her tone light and casual, she asked her first question regarding the full, legal names of her grandparents?
            Christy glared at Jennie, a frown creasing her face. “What brought this on?”
           "Oh, I was sharing a table in the library with our neighbor, Mrs. Moore, and we started talking about what she does for a living. I told her I knew your full names, but I also realized that I’m not sure of the first and middle names of my grandparents. So, she helped me put together a list so I could learn more about my family.”
            “What kind of information about the family?” Christy demanded sharply.
            Jennie hesitated as she picked up on the concern in her mother’s voice. She looked up to see her mother’s expression hard and forbidding as a high stone wall. Jennie realized she needed to reassure her of her intentions.
            “You know, like the full, legal names of my grandparents, for starters,” I said. “Grandpa, Grandma, Granddad and Nana are okay when I’m around them, but I know that’s not what is on their birth certificates.”
            Jennie waited, but neither of her parents spoke. In the silence, broken only by Garrett making airplane noises as he swooped his fork over his plate, Jennie noticed that her father was not looking at her. He was intently watching her mother. Something was going on, but Jennie could not guess what it might be.
            “I guess that would be okay,” Jennie’s mom finally said.
            Jennie’s dad was the next to speak. “My father’s full name is John Kevin and the last name is Graves, of course. My mother’s name is Amy Renate Walding.”
            Then Christy told Jennie her parents’ full names, pausing as Jennie carefully recorded them.
            “Okay, I know all their birthdays, but I’m not sure of the years,” Jennie continued. She recorded the birth years of her four grandparents.
            “Okay, where were they all born?” she asked next.
            “Why do you need all this information? What else is on that list of yours, anyway?” Christy demanded.
            Jennie’s senses went on full alert. Her mother was definitely frowning, her voice hostile, her jaw clenched and her body rigid. Jennie looked at her father. His eyes were darting back and forth between her and her mother. At that point, she realized she was somehow touching on a sensitive subject for her mother. What could it possibly be?

The chapters that dealt with her mother’s and grandfather’s historical stories I wrote in first person and the past tense. Here is an example from Christy’s story:

            What I sometimes found strange about the woman in my dreams was how her eyes could change from one extreme to another, almost instantly. Mostly her bright blue eyes were full of laughter as they looked directly into my own. But then, sometimes her eyes would take on a far-away look, as if I no longer existed for her. That frightened me. I always wanted to stay with her when that happened because I was afraid the rest of her would go away like her eyes did.
            In some of my dreams, when that happened, my angel was resting on a lush carpet of tall-bladed grass sprinkled with tiny flowers in pastel shades. Her arms and legs were sprawled. I sat next to her talking and playing. Sometimes her eyes were closed; sometimes they were staring off into space. Sometimes she would not say anything, not even when I shook her and jabbered into her ear. Other times she would sing-song silly words that made me laugh. But I could tell she did not know I was there.
            When the pretty woman in my dream was like that, I accepted this as part of her natural state. I somehow knew that if I waited next to her, she would eventually come back to me, her eyes once more connecting with mine and her smile shining only for me. While I waited for her to return, I amused myself by picking small flowers or blades of grass and scattering them like a veil over her arms and face, watching as she sometimes shook them off to catch in her hair or create a floral ring around her body.
            Other times, when the rain was pounding down upon our world, she would slip away into her other world inside a house with lots of painted wood and faded wallpaper where there were stacks of jars and boxes overflowing with beads and seashells. I often separated the beads into piles by color, or placed them end to end to create shapes. Sometimes I would pretend that the shells were people and animals and flowers from our yard while I patiently waited for the vacant stare to end and for my angel wearing her happy face to come back to me.
            More and more, I had to wait for my angel to come back to me.
            Sometimes my dreams ended while I was playing or just as the woman’s eyes returned to me laughing and happy. Other times, strong arms scooped me up and carried me away while I looked back with a sense of wonder at the motionless pretty angel with her blank stare.

Whether a writer chooses to tell a story in first person or third person, the important thing is to tell a good story. I hope all my readers enjoy the story that crosses three generations in Family Secrets with Jennie and her story told in third person while Grandpa Mike’s Vietnam War experiences and mother Christy’s experiences as a child are told in first person.

Robyn Echols writes using the pen name, Zina Abbott. Her novel, Family Secrets, has been published by Fire Star Press and is now available on Amazon HERE and on Barnes & Nobel for Nook HERE

Also available from Prairie Rose Publications:

Big Meadows Valentine, on Amazon Kindle HERE and on Nook HERE . The second novella in the Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 series, A Resurrected Heart, is scheduled to be released in April 2015.

A Christmas Promise on Amazon Kindle HERE and Nook HERE.

Friday, March 6, 2015

People and the Forest by Jae Hall

Comments posted on this blog between 10 pm pacific time Friday March 6, 2015 and  8 pm pacific time Sunday March 8th will go into a drawing for an e- copy of my contemporary romance novel TimberBeast. Published by Prairie Rose Press/Firestar Press. "Kelsy is an environmental spy running from her troubles. Fox is an timber faller living his dream. They meet in a forest full of  danger, romance and the Timberbeast." What could possibly go wrong?
People and the Forest. 
The herbal medicine in my novels helped inspire this blog.
doesn't seem like winter but the cold/flu season is in full swing in northern California. It would be nice to have lots of snow and rain, but I’m enjoying the warm sunny days.
When it comes to health care I walk two worlds. One modern and full of common medicines and the other tribal where many of our health needs are taken care of with the plant pharmacy growing around us.
Every plant has a use and there is always a way to misuse plants. I get asked the most about the ones that can help with colds and flu. We have several native plants that help with the symptoms. Remember to thoroughly research a plant before gathering or using it. Plants can vary from one area to another so be sure to learn before you gather.
Your local herb store is a good place to learn to identify local plants. Books with pictures are helpful. The US Forest Service botanist or local county ag departments can also assist in identification of wild plants.
Don’t gather near roadways or other areas where pesticides are sprayed.  Just because it’s natural doesn't mean it’s always safe and it is possible to overdose. Much depends on your health, allergies and sensitivities. Here is a little about one plant that I always keep in stock.
Most of the medicine we use comes from the forest and we gather all throughout the year. Different plant uses have come to us through various relatives. 
My mother-in-law, Betty, is of Shasta and Cahuilla Indian descent. She spent her childhood with her aunt gathering plants and learning tribal history. The stories go with the plants. She has passed down this history to me and my family.
One of her favorite herbal stories is a time when her seven children were all down with a stomach illness. She was going through bottles of medicine from the doctor to try to stop the flu symptoms but as soon as one child got better another one would relapse. 
After many days of treating her very sick children, the washer was going nonstop to keep up with all the changes of pajamas and bedding.
Her mother-in-law, Mandy, a full-blood Shasta Indian had heard how sick the grandchildren were. She came to see how they were doing. She was one of those women you see in old pictures that has a permanent frown but her dark brown eyes would sparkle when she was pleased.
She immediately told Betty to ‘Go get some manzanita’. 
(Arctostaphylos)   (

Not sure what was expected, Betty went up on the hill behind her house and cut a huge branch.

Mandy pulled a handful of leaves from the branch and washed them then handed each child 1-2 leaves with the instructions ‘chew them and swallow the juice’.

If you have ever chewed manzanita leaves you will know that they are very bitter. The children didn't argue with Grandma Mandy and did as she instructed.  By the next morning the worst symptoms had stopped and the children were feeling better and able to start eating broth. 
It taste much better to make tea with the manzanita leaves. It isn’t bitter and tastes very much like the water that comes with black olives but without the salt. When having tummy troubles  put 5-10 fresh or dried leaves in 2 cups of boiling hot water and let steep until the water turns from pale to medium green (5-10 minutes). It can be drank hot or cold. Remember to only try a little at first in case of allergies. 
The plant season can vary significantly from place to place. Our manzanita is just starting to put on buds, and soon the air will be humming with wild and domestic honey bees coming to take the sweet nectar. Only 20 miles away the manzanita in town is in full bloom and the smell is heavenly.The berries are small, powdery and edible. 

When I go outside I see our mountain full of manzanita bushes. I am thankful for the medicine the forest provides and the family knowledge that has been gathered and shared down through the generations.

It’s our tribal tradition.

Jae Hall
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Find my  PRP Firestar Press novels and Arcadia history books at