Welcome Andrea Downing!

perf5.000x8.000.indd Today I’m welcoming fellow Wild Rose Press author Andrea Downing. She’s going to share a bit about her latest release, Dances of the Heart and a few things about the writing side of herself. Welcome, Andrea!

Thanks so much for having me here today, Debra.  It’s always a pleasure to chat with another Rose

Our pleasure too. First off, a bit about you. Tell us when you knew you wanted to be a writer? 

When I was growing up, it was very much a toss-up as to whether to become an actress or a writer—I really did both until I went to England to do my MA, and got involved with a load of poets and other writers.  That sort of sealed the idea once and for all.

What things inspire your writing?  Many things!  I’ve had inspiration from a song, from an historic site, from scenery, and from my daughter, from biographies I’ve read and from people I’ve met.  It’s difficult to discuss how a story evolves, but somehow, something plants the seed of an idea and it spreads branches into a novel.

Who is your favorite character that you’ve written? Why?  Debra, that’s like asking who’s your favorite child!  I think a female romance author has to be at least a little bit in love with her heroes, and Jesse from Loveland, as my ‘first born’, will always have a place in my heart.   He comes to understand Alex, the heroine, in a way we’d all like to be understood, and chooses his battles with her very carefully.  I think they would definitely have a long and happy marriage.

We all have our perfect setting for where we write, if not in reality, then at least in our heads. What would be your dream writing getaway? Jackson, Wyoming, is and probably will always be my dream getaway to clear the head and get down to business.  I’m lucky enough to get out there twice a year for several weeks, take in the clear air and the magnificent scenery, submerge myself in the west and CREATE!

Writers are generally great readers. Who are some of your favorite authors or what are some of your favorite books?  On the romance front, I’m a huge fan of Maggie Osborne but sadly she no longer writes.  I loved her Foxfire Bride, Silver Lining and The Promise of Jenny Jones.  I also loved Julie Garwood’s Rose Hill books.  I read a lot of literary fiction as well, and my favorites would be too numerous to mention really.  Just finished Painted Horses by Malcolm Brooks and I really enjoyed that.

Tell us a bit about this latest book. It’s a double romance but it’s really about learning to live with loss, and move on.  There are four main characters, each of them carrying a burden of regrets and a certain amount of guilt, whether it’s guilt from something they’ve done or guilt for just being the one to survive.  There are military themes in it as well as, of course, a western setting.  It was a struggle to write but so far the reviews have been good.  I hope your readers will give it a try.

Well, let’s give them a sample to whet their appetites:

 

Blurb:  Successful, workaholic author Carrie Bennett lives through her writing, but can’t succeed at writing a man into her life. Furthermore, her equally successful but cynical daughter, Paige, proves inconsolable after the death of her fiancé. Hard-drinking rancher Ray Ryder can find humor in just about anything—except the loss of his oldest son. His younger son, Jake, recently returned from Iraq, now keeps a secret that could shatter his deceased brother’s good name. On one sultry night in Texas, relationships blossom when the four meet, starting a series of events that move from the dancehalls of Hill Country to the beach parties of East Hampton, and from the penthouses of New York to the backstreets of a Mexican border town. But the hurts of the past are hard to leave behind, especially when old adversaries threaten the fragile ties that bind family to family…and lover to lover.

Excerpt: “You still frettin’ over your body?” His words met her closing the bathroom door.

For a moment, she stayed silent while she washed and got ready for sleep. Then she stepped out. “I shall always fret over my body. You’ll be disgusted by it soon. You’ll see. Who wants to make love to a withered old hag?”

Ray inhaled, obviously frustrated with having to deal with this again. “You know,” he drawled out, “there’s two of us aging here. You don’t hear me worrying ’bout my old broken down body appearing in front of you with all its flabby bits. I’m not in love with your body, Carrie. I’m in love with you, you dang fool.” He reached out a hand and drew her over. “Find something else to worry about, will you?”

He was right; she knew she didn’t give a damn what the hell he looked like. To her, he was the best looking damn man on earth. Worry about something else? “I have,” she finally answered him. “I should have phoned Paige again today. She sounded too crisp and business-like to me on the phone yesterday.” It was going to be a long night. Her mind was turning over too much.

Ray stole a glance at the bedside clock. “She’ll be fine,” he assured her. “First thing tomorrow, you can call, but I’m sure she’ll be fine.” He lay back on the pillow. “Anyway, I didn’t know Paige had anything but ‘crisp and business-like’ when speaking. Seems that’s the way a lawyer should be…even with her mother,” he added quickly. He patted the bed beside him.

Carrie curled herself in again as Ray switched off the low bedside light.

“You think again about how long you can stay? Not that I want you to go—I want to make that clear.”

“Oh.” She gave a quiet giggle. “I guess maybe as long as Mabel lets me.” Lying against him, the quake of his laughter quivered against her skin. “Seriously, I don’t know. It sort of depends on

“You miss New York? Your friends?”

“Yes. But then, if I were there, I’d be missing you, so which is worse?” She craned her neck to meet his gaze. A sudden feeling of contentment washed over her, and she curled up again, resting her head against him.

For a while, she listened to the broken record song of the cicadas and frogs until that was joined by the soft whistle of Ray’s even breathing. But such satisfaction did not send her to sleep; it was a night when her mind would not rest and the restlessness won.

Carrie slipped one leg down and then the other to stand and quietly make her way out the door, drawing it shut behind her. The hallway was pitch black, a night in which clouds blanketed the moon, and, like a criminal, she stole her way to the sunroom. Feeling for the switch, she inundated the room in the white light of the ceiling fan bulb and flipped the computer open, jabbing in her password and sitting, waiting for the home page to appear.

And then the dogs started barking.

Slipping back from the table, she rose to see if she could spot a deer that might have set them off as Jake had mentioned. The void of blackness was menacing, a complete emptiness of life as if she were the last person left on the planet. The glare of the light bulb and her own reflection forced her to lean right up to the cold glass, but nothing greeted her, a vacancy was all there was.

She decided it was nothing more making them bark than a passing animal she couldn’t see, and she started to sit down when she became aware of something. Dogs were still barking, but it sounded like there were only two of them barking now, which puzzled her. They were barking more frantically, too, with a sort of whining cry emitted, a terrible yowling of desperation.

And then came the screech of the kennel door.

Hurriedly rising from her chair again, her heart pounding as if it wanted to escape her chest, Carrie rushed to the glass of the sunroom windows, desperately searching the emptiness for a sign of movement. The room’s reflections in the glass sketched specters outside, unnerving doppelgangers in an alternate world. Her hand instinctively went to her chest as she searched the void franticly.

And then, two staring, disembodied eyes came floating through this ghostly setting and, catching the light from the room for a second, a knife held out, red stains of blood just dulling its sheen.

Wow, sounds like I need to check this one out. Here are some places you can pick up your own copy of Dances of the Heart:

http://www.amazon.com/Dances-Heart-Andrea-Downing-ebook/dp/B00S46BGY6/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1421510959&sr=8-2&keywords=Dances+of+the+Heart

http://www.wildrosepublishing.com/maincatalog_v151/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=242_175_141&products_id=6060

If you’d like to find out more about Andrea and her work, you can visit her at:

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/writerAndreaDowning

Twitter:  @andidowning  https://twitter.com/AndiDowning

Goodreads:  http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6446229.Andrea_Downing

Thanks for visiting, Andrea!

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Looking Past What You See

It’s hard being judged. No matter whether it’s for your gender, your age, your body or any other surface aspect, knowing someone is looking at the outside of you and making determinations about what’s on the inside is discouraging, to say the least.

People are like icebergs. We only see the tip and unless we take the time, we never know about the hidden depths below the surface. It’s easy, and lazy, to look at someone and determine their intelligence, their creativity, their life skills and their worth by an outer inspection, or even a casual glance. Such neglect robs the viewer of the surprise of true character.

This is even more apparent for a writer. Characters need layers as much as they require physical descriptions. There should be hidden depths that add spark to the story and make the reader long for more. I would caution those who wish to hone their writing skills with an admonition: if you are depending on the surface to tell you about the inner person, then likely you are writing stereotypes and not real characters. Be careful you don’t judge away the best part of your story.

Score One for Creativity

It’s important to stand out in a crowd. I know, I know, that’s not what we heard when we were kids. Standing out was not the recommended behavior for those whose goal wasn’t to be voted class clown in their high school yearbook.

Still, as writers, it’s what publishers and marketing firms and even readers tell us our books should do. I don’t know if they are right or not, as I’ve apparently not stood out from the crowd enough to discover that answer. The New York Times has not yet come calling to make sure they spell my name right on the bestseller list.

I have discovered though, that sometimes what it takes to stand out is blunt honesty. I uncovered this tactic recently while driving around the city I live in. I don’t know how many panhandlers there are in other places, but my town has turned this into a regular job for a lot of folks. And some of them are using a very creative approach to standing out from their particular crowd. In the last few weeks I’ve seen a couple that made me take note.

One went for the “let me cry on your shoulder” approach with the following sign:

“Homeless due to poor taste in men”

Another decided to throw caution to the wind and act as if we were all his buddies. His sign read:

“I want a beer”

I didn’t stop and chat to see how their attempts at creativity worked out, but they reminded me of something my dad once told me about one of his college professors. He said sometimes they would get papers back with answers marked wrong, but out to the side they would say “OTC +1”. The professor told them he’d given them one point for “the old college try”. Hopefully these folks got a least a buck for trying to stand out from the crowd. I’d hate to see that kind of creativity go to waste.

The Economics of Writing

I have this stereotype of a writer I cling to: sitting in a small cafe for hours, hunched over a journal writing, while sipping some form of expensive hot drink from time to time (or wine, which goes better with the fact that I’d really like the cafe to be in Paris). A small part of me still believes you can’t call yourself a true writer until you do that.

As with most of my dreams, however, this one gets hit by a reality check all the time. I am your basic introvert with one quirk: I love to be in crowds. Oh, I don’t want to interact with them, at least not beyond a smile and a few words of chitchat. I think that’s why I love them. They are strangers demanding nothing more of me than basic courtesy.

And I enjoy getting out somewhere to do my writing, somewhere where I can’t see the dishes or the laundry or all the other little things that can pull me away from writing. So I keep trying to find the perfect spot to sit and write. But experience taught me small cafes have a number of limitations:

  • they are very expensive
  • most of those hot drinks they sell contain coffee
  • I hate coffee

Most of them don’t have the noise either, at least not beyond quiet, polite chatter. When I first got serious about my writing, I would sit in a local diner. It was the most creative atmosphere I’ve ever found. There were kids running around, families arguing, waitresses calling orders back. It was awesome. And it was cheap. Which was excellent because more often than not I was broke. The gas money it took to get there was about all I had to spend.

When my finances got somewhat better, I started looking for one of my dream cafes, where artists of all kind would gather and the creativity vibes would reverberate around the room. Yet the writing I did fell far short of my diner journals.

Thanks to my grandchildren, I have become well acquainted with McDonald’s. It’s full of noise of all kinds, kids running around yelling, all the things you’d think would prevent any focus on writing at all. I even got to watch two old men almost come to blows the other day.

But I’m finally ready to admit I do my best work there. And it’s cheap. I can grab a coke for a dollar, there’s an abundance of excellent character material right in front of me and as long as I don’t start a fight, they don’t appear to want to throw me out. I wonder if they have McDonald’s in Paris?

Why I Have A History Degree

I get a lot of polite smiles when I tell people I have a BA in History. Even my dad shook his head and told me how much he hated history classes, how boring they were. I get it, I really do. The feeling isn’t the same for me, but I understand why people’s eyes glaze over sometimes when they read history books. Too many of them are written by people who act as if they’re still doing it for a grade.

My story is pretty simple. I have a degree in History because of Math. Don’t get me wrong, I do have a passion for history. What I have is much less passion for Math. In fact, I don’t have any passion for Math. Nor any real aptitude for it. It’s a truly loveless relationship.

It isn’t that I didn’t try. I made it a week and a half in the math class I took at the local community college (the remedial one that failing the automated test puts you into so you can learn enough to take the lowest level of real math). I understood more of what was going on in the French class I took.

When I left to complete my BA at a university, I worried about the obstacle of another math class. Then I perused the requirements of the History department. The classes sounded great and there wasn’t a single math class listed. It was made for me.

I studied medieval and reformation Europe, the history of Africa and Germany along with a class on the fall of the Soviet Union. It was awesome. Don’t ever let anyone tell you college doesn’t have a place for everyone. Even History geeks can survive.

Sometimes…

Sometimes I believe there is always a way…sometimes I wish the door would close forever. Life is a complication of choices, death a clear-cut selection.

Sometimes I think now is as good a time as any…sometimes I think yesterday was easier, it held more promise, perhaps more delusion. The truth lives more in today, taking hope in its own direction.

Sometimes there are no answers…sometimes there are no questions, simply facts. I am responsible for me, no one else, even if no one recognizes me anymore.

At this point in my life, no one seeks my heart with the intensity of a lover. Many are in my heart, but they arrived there by default or have been there so long they don’t notice its walls surrounds them anymore.

I realize day by day my heart has become a city that others inhabit but no one owns…or wants to own, at least not more than a small piece of it.

Yes, That Is A Giant Penis

prideparade1

(A rainbow-colored, glittery one at that)

I love parades. Apparently so do lots of others. Like the folks here watching the parade I went to on Saturday. I like to get out from behind my computer every once in a while, to see the “real” world so I can create realistic, “normal” characters. Just a good writing skill I’ve learned.