Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Meet Cody, the Collie in Hometown Girl: Read Excerpt #MFRWHooks

     A full-grown collie bounded toward Justin, slowed, then sat watching him. Even in the semi-dark with only the lights from inside the RV, he noted the dog’s long-tri-colored coat was clean and well-maintained. The animal was mostly a tan color, with dark ears and tail, and a fluffy white collar and chest.

“Well, you’re a handsome fella.”

The dog quirked its ears.

Justin extended a hand, palm down. “Come on over. Let’s get acquainted.”

The collie got right up and padded over to sniff the back of his hand, his jeans, his boots. Justin turned over his hand and scratched behind the animal’s ears. “There are only three or four places close by, and it looks as though you didn’t come far.”

He thought over the neighbors he remembered…and of course the Marshall place was closest. “If you belong to her, we’re both in the dog house.”

       He should probably see if he could reach a neighbor by phone and inquire about an owner. He shouldn’t let the collie leave on its own. Coyotes and wolves were often spotted in the area. He worked through the thick fur to turn the collar and find tags. “Cody. That’s you?”

The dog looked at him, tongue lolling.

“Well, Cody, what shall we do with you?”

The animal thumped its tail on the ground, and its ears pricked upward.

Headlights appeared at the end of the drive, and the twin beams turned toward the house, bouncing up and down on the rutted gravel. As the vehicle approached, he made out the familiar two-tone green ’87 Ford pickup Stevie Marshall’s grandfather had driven years ago. The paint was dulled, but the body was still in great shape, and he didn’t spot any rust. It was time for a pain pill, and his spine was screaming, but he deliberately rose from the chair and forced himself to stand straight.

Cody stood beside him, tail wagging, as the truck engine shut off and the driver door opened. She took a step down to the ground and took in the scene. Cody ran toward her, ears lowered. “You know you’re in trouble. That was bad, Cody.”

“Hey, Stevie.”

“Justin.”

He walked toward her. “He’s yours, huh? Beautiful dog.”

“Beautiful bus.”

“Yeah.” He glanced at his sleek Mirage XL. “Spend a lot of time in ‘er.”

She pointed to her open driver door. “Cody, get in the truck.”

The dog leaped up to the seat and she closed the door with a loud metallic creak. Cody stuck his head out the open window, obviously attentive to their interaction. “Cody’s usually better behaved.”

She wore a flowery dress, denim jacket, and a pair of slip-on canvas shoes.

He straightened and held his shoulders erect. He had a cane inside, but he wouldn’t be caught dead with it. “I stopped by your market this morning. That old truck out front with flowers and bushes planted all around it—some in the bed, some inside—never seen anything like it. And the waterfall pouring from the driver’s window is pretty darned creative.”

       “That truck was in one of the barns. Got the idea for an attention-getter and hauled it out with a tractor.”

“It’s an attention-getter for sure. I’ll bet people stop to take pictures. Heck, I took a picture.”

“Why did you stop by the market?” Her surprise was evident in her voice.

“To shop. Great place you have there.”

She glanced toward the screened door of the mobile home and the light in the windows.

He poked a thumb into his rear pocket and glanced at his home on wheels. “Staying here a while.”

“For the fair?”

“No. The committee asked me to make a few appearances, but I was going to be here anyway.”

She didn’t ask for an explanation.

“Doing physical therapy,” he explained anyway.

She nodded. “An injury?”

“Yeah, I had surgery. Won’t be down long, and I’ll be back on the circuit. Maybe we can grab dinner while I’m here. Catch up.”

“Maybe.” She took a step toward her truck.

“Or I can pick up steaks for us both.”

She studied him.

Why was he trying so hard? No doubt she wondered what he hoped to gain by trying to repair their friendship.

“Why?” she asked finally.

“Because we’re friends.”

“We’re not friends, Justin.”

“Well, we could be.”

“It wouldn’t go anywhere.” She climbed into her truck and shut the door. “Cody, stay on your side.” The dog obeyed and sat on the seat, facing forward.

Justin walked right up to the driver door and placed his hands on the open window frame. His nearness obviously made her uneasy, but she looked at him. “You’re happy, aren’t you, Stevie? Doing what you want to do?”

Her expression said she hadn’t expected his question. He hadn’t planned to ask it. But something inside him wanted to know. She looked away and reached for the keys she’d left in the ignition. “Yes. I’m happy.”


He didn’t move away, so she finally looked back at him. Her dash lights were dim, but enough to highlight the curve of her cheek and the shape of her lips and chin. Seeing her made him feel things he hadn’t felt for a long time. Things he shouldn’t want to feel, but he did.

“Why did you ask?”

“I hope you are, that’s all.” He leaned away, tapped the truck door, and backed up.

She started the engine, put the truck in reverse and backed up in a circle, so she could put the transmission in drive and go forward away from the house, along the dark drive. He watched until her headlights were on the road and released a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding.

They’d both followed their ambitions. He wasn’t sorry about that. He wouldn’t have changed her for the world, and she wouldn’t have wanted him to give up his dreams. It had always been a cryin’ shame their dreams weren’t compatible. It would never have worked out for them to be together. But knowing that didn’t make seeing her now any easier. He loved her as much as he ever had.

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Monday, March 01, 2021

Caught in a lie... A Husband By Any Other Name

Caught in a lie….

Fourteen years ago Dan Beckett’s identical twin took off without a word to his pregnant young fiancé or their father. Having secretly loved Lorraine for years, Dan assumes his twin’s identity as the first-born son, as Lorraine’s husband and father of the baby she carried. Around the lie, he created the perfect life.

But now his greatest fear is coming true. His long-lost brother is coming home—with amnesia. Dan is about to lose his tenuous hold on this masquerade, and he must tell Lorraine the truth before Tom remembers his true identity.

Lorrie built a life with Tom Beckett, the man she loves, the father of her children—or so she believed. Her first reaction to his confession is disbelief…and then anger and hurt. Her whole married life has been a lie. But Lorrie has a secret of her own—a secret that never seemed important until now.

Will the truth unravel the love they once shared? What will become of their family, their children…their marriage when everyone learns the truth?

Thursday, February 25, 2021

The Right Way to Write

...is the way that works for you.

Writers refer to their methods of writing as either being a pantster, meaning they write by the set of their pants with little planning--or a plotter, which means they use one or more of many methods to plot and plan the story first. There are a lot of gradients in between those two extremes.

I used to be a pantster, but have learned over the years to do more planning. I don't by any means outline chapters on note cards or anything (look at my eye twitchin'), but I write a synopsis that shows me I have the conflict and emotional depth to carry the story all the way through. My synopsis is for my own benefit, because I add dialogue and bits of things that excite me about the story so I can recapture them later on. I find I don't get bogged down in the middle if I've planned well enough in the beginning, noted plot points, etc.

For me, synopsis writing is part of my brainstorming and one of the most fun parts of writing a book. The rest is real work. I write the first couple of chapters along with the synopsis, and that's how I learn the characters and their motivation and conflict.

Monday, February 08, 2021

Back to the Joy of Writing – Cheryl St.John

 

I have always had a rule I teach and that we practice in my critique group: Don’t ever budge on that one element that excited you about a story in the first place. That spark that inspired you to write the story is what will carry you through the middle and to the end. Not all books are easy, even when you love your subject matter and characters, but books are double down hard to write if you lose the joy.

We do our best, but the lack of joy eventually shows in our work, our health, our personal lives. I had been under contract for over twenty-five years, writing two or three books a year, and everyone knows a career isn’t a writer’s only responsibility. Most of us have spouses, children, grandchildren and parents. Eventually I realized I needed a change.

After twenty-five years under contract, by fate or a stroke of luck or God’s timing, whichever your belief, a line closed and I didn’t have an option book. I’d been in that place before and it had felt scary. This time it felt good. Like someone had taken an 800-pound boulder off my shoulders. And in this timing of events, I also had a new grandchild due.

To my daughter’s immense relief, I told her I’d care for the baby for the first year. I had a few weeks to decompress and prepare, and then the baby came. I had forgotten how exhausting it is to take care of an infant, but it was a good exhaustion, and I enjoyed every minute of it. After the baby was a year old, my daughter had a neck surgery, and I cared for both of them at their house every day, so this hiatus stretched into about sixteen months. During that time, I eventually missed writing. I got ideas. The desire was there to tell stories, but I knew I didn’t want to go back to where I’d been before. I wanted to write, but I didn’t want to experience the pressure of deadlines.

I made a decision to only write books that I love from that moment on. And to do it in a manner at and a pace that I set for myself. Choosing to make a change was a huge step. Indie authors don’t have the distribution advantages of traditional publishers. They don’t get advances. They do all the work. But they can choose to do the writing and marketing at a pace that’s comfortable for them, and there’s a lot to be said for comfortable.




In deciding what to do next, everything fell into place. Years previously in my critique group, we had the grandiose idea of creating a continuity series. We had thrown ourselves into developing characters, fashioning families, planning family dynamics, and a setting. We had created family trees, character profiles, detailed maps, and brainstormed themes. We collected photos and researched and even started the stories. After a time, the contracted books came first; two members dropped out of the group; a couple new ones came and went. But the core group remained.

In a tragic turn of events, we lost a beloved friend and co-writer. Grief took the remaining wind from our sails. We recovered slowly, welcomed a new friend to our critique group. Then came a day when we got together and said, "We're going to get serious and do this!" Energy built, and the series took on new life. A previous co-creator joined us again. Now, here we are, many years after the initial idea, actually publishing the books and enjoying their development. Together we’ve finished thirteen stories in the Aspen Gold Series and there are more to come.

And I’ve recaptured the joy of writing!

I’m excited about our Valentine’s Day sale. Each of the Aspen Gold Series books is on sale for 99 cents this week. CLICK HERE

 

 


Whisper My Name

Sweet Romance from a USA Today Bestselling Author

 She was the girl behind the headlines.

Anyone hearing her real identity would know who she was, and she’s had enough of cameras, questions and stares. Unwanted attention comes in the worst possible form—a tough, perceptive, and all too determined lawman.

Will Laurel’s truth be his undoing…or hers?

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Tips For Writing a Helpful Book Review

Hook the reader

Why did you pick up this book? Why do you think another reader should or shouldn’t? What was your takeaway? Explain what caught your attention.

 

Don’t write a synopsis of the book
Focus on elements that you feel particularly strongly about or you think that your readers will want to be aware of. If you liked a character, explain why. If you didn’t like a character, make it clear why you felt that way. Did you appreciate the author’s writing style?

 

Avoid spoilers
Writers take special care to reveal plot points and secrets at appropriate times in a story. Authors don’t appreciate reviews giving away the big moments, and readers don’t appreciate knowing what’s going to happen ahead of time. If you’ve done this in the past, be kind and revise.

 

What matters is how you felt about the characters and their story
What worked or didn’t work? Was the story satisfying? Did you appreciate character development? Did the story end the way you hoped or was the conclusion better or worse than expected?

 

Read reviews on other books

What sort of reviews help you select a book to buy? Do you like quotes pulled from the book? Do you like fair warning about emotional triggers? What do others say that you can appreciate about their review style?

 

Always proofread
Did you use correct character names? Do you have typos? Did you give away a spoiler?

 

You love books, so have fun
Readers read reviews to make buying choices. Everyone appreciates a well thought out commentary on a book. Be creative with your remarks and write as though you’re speaking to the next reader trying to decide what to buy. You are!

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Overview of Whisper My Name and the Aspen Gold Series

Her story is ripped from the headlines....

Read the series: Whisper My Name: Aspen Gold Series by Cheryl St John @_cherylstjohn_ @Gold_Aspen #RLFblog #sweet #ContemporaryRomance


Laurel Whitaker has spent her entire life burying her infamous past and becoming a normal person.

Joe Cavanaugh suspects she’s in trouble. His job demands honesty, and it’s his nature is to protect.

Will Laurel’s truth be her undoing…or his?

Whisper My Name in the Aspen Gold Series

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Book heat level (based on movie ratings): G

She was the girl behind the headlines

Laurel Whitaker has been her name for fifteen years. Anyone hearing her true identity would know who she was, and she’s had enough of cameras, questions and stares. Spencer, Colorado is a great place to blend in among the tourists. But unwanted attention comes in the worst possible form—a tough, perceptive, and all too determined lawman.

Sheriff Joe Cavanaugh looks out for people—his large loving family, his teenage daughter, anyone in his county who needs him. But the mistrustful young woman staying in the lake house beside his property goes out of her way to avoid his help, and that’s suspicious. Instinct tells him she’s hiding something…and attraction motivates him to uncover her secrets.

Facts:

Whisper My Name is book #13 in the Aspen Gold Series.

This is my second in this multi-author series, and I have at least five more stories plotted. I’m sure many more ideas will come to me. I’m enjoying the freedom of writing what I love. There are thirteen books so far, including those of my co-authors.

My characters in the series

I’ve written the stories of two Cavanaugh brothers so far: Dusty Cavanaugh and Kendra Price, as well as Joe Cavanaugh and Laurel Whitaker. My current work in progress is about Deputy Jericho Tanner and the woman he still loves. Audrey Knox left Spencer and made it big as a pop-country singer, but she returns in hopes of giving her daughter a normal childhood.

The overall theme of the series

Spencer, Colorado is a thriving tourist town, its main draw an exclusive high-security hotel where celebrities and well-known personalities can vacation in seclusion.

Please list the series titles below, in any order you prefer.

ASPEN GOLD BOOKS AVAILABLE
Dancing in the Dark – Cheryl St John
Call Me Mandy – Debra Hines
Ryder’s Heart – Lizzie Starr
For Keeps – Barbara Gwen &Lizzie Starr
Second Chances – Donna Kaye
Sleepin’ Alone – Bernadette Jones
Stay a Little Longer – Bernadette Jones
Speechless – Lizzie Starr
Close to the Heart – Debra Hines
Finding Hope – Donna Kaye
Fortunate Cookie – Lizzie Starr
Lonely Eyes – Bernadette Jones
Whisper My Name – Cheryl St John

I was under contract with a major publisher for 25 years. Writing the Aspen Gold Series has given me the freedom to write the characters and storylines with complete freedom and with all the energy I have for the stories.

Other recent books not in this series

My other most recent releases are American westerns, Tanner (Bachelors and Babies series) and Joe’s Wife.

Links to find all my books

Amazon Author Page: https://tinyurl.com/y6js92y8


Where to buy Whisper My Name

Publisher Aspen Gold Books
Universal Buy Link https://books2read.com/u/brWz97
Amazon https://amzn.to/3hl5a5g


Cheryl St John Social Media

Cheryl is the author of more than fifty books, both historical and contemporary. Her stories have earned numerous RITA nominations, Romantic Times awards and are published in over a dozen languages. One thing all reviewers and readers agree on regarding Cheryl’s work is the degree of emotion and believability. In describing her stories of second chances and redemption, readers and reviewers use words like, “emotional punch, hometown feel, core values, believable characters and real-life situations.”

Amazon and Goodreads reviews show her popularity with readers. With a 4.9 star rating on amazon, Cheryl’s bestselling non-fiction books, Writing With Emotion, Tension & Conflict and Write Smart, Write Happy by Writers Digest Books are available in print and digital.


Website http://www.cherylstjohn.net/
Blog https://cherylstjohn.blogspot.com/
Twitter https://twitter.com/_CherylStJohn_
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/CherylStJ
Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com/cheryl_stjohn/
Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/cherylstjohn
BookBub https://www.bookbub.com/profile/cheryl-st-john
Amazon Author Page https://tinyurl.com/y6js92y8
Get to know the Aspen Gold authors better by signing up for an email newsletter https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/k8k2i8

Monday, October 12, 2020

Were Your 2020 Goals a Bust? It's Never Too Late

It’s October already! It's time for apple cider and pumpkin-spice everything, to be immediately followed by Thanksgiving--and I expect there are already Christmas trees in the stores. Many of us will be glad to say adios to 2020 and move on. It's been a year we wish we could forget, but we had to live it to the best of our abilities and keep going.

I wrote and published two books this year, though I'd wanted to complete three. I'm not kicking myself however. I've given myself permission to take self-care days when I need them. 

During the year I often encourage followers to check back over their goal lists and see if they’re where they want to be. A lot of times when the excitement has drained from our writing or when we’re bored with the tedium of work and responsibilities, it’s because we’ve forgotten our dreams--or we've allowed other things to gain more importance. The distractions that monopolize our time aren't necessarily bad things; plenty of them are perfectly justified or necessary, rewarding even.

Of course there are mortgages to pay and kids to raise and groceries to buy and dinners to prepare, but tucking away our aspirations at the expense of our personal well-being isn’t healthy. Eventually we resent the things that are robbing us of personal fulfilment, instead of enjoying each facet for the richness it brings. Certainly there is joy to be found in the treasure of children in the dream of your own home and, but sometimes we pause in the midst of all that busyness to wonder, “Is this all there is?” There has to be more, and we yearn to find fulfillment within ourselves. That’s most often the time to reprioritize our busy schedules.

Often, sacrifices must be made to accomplish the things most important to us. It's up to you to identify what those sacrifices are and decide whether or not your goals are worth them.

“What is not started today is never finished tomorrow.” - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Look at the goals you set for this year. If you were in a slump, it's okay. Put it behind you. It’s not too late to get started on something new. Take time now to make a list.

Sit down and write five things that you dream of doing. Divide them into categories if you like: Family, Professional, Writing, Spiritual or Just for Me. Now select one that you will work on before the end of the year.

Make another list of the steps you will take to see that accomplishment come to pass. Now take those steps. Recapture your joy. We need to be participants in our lives, not spectators. We need to be passionate about our dreams. Sometimes simply revisiting our dreams is the kick we need to change our thinking and get us out of a rut.

Dream big and dream often.

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” - C.S. Lewis



“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work. – Stephen King

Friday, October 09, 2020

I love an angsty story!


I grew up watching the old television westerns, so those good-vs-evil and the-good-guy-wins stories appealed to me early on. I read extensively as a young adult, devouring Louis L’Amour and many other genres. The first two romances I read were by Lisa Gregory and LaVyrle Spencer—westerns with true romance! I was hooked.

 
When I really dug in and got serious about writing, I think my biggest hang-up was not thinking anyone would take me seriously. Who was I? I had a husband and four kids and wrote when they all went to bed at night. I had never taken a writing class, but I had read every out-of-date writing book in the public library. It was an immense joy to find the courage to join a group of writers and discover they were all people just like me, from all walks of life, and with a dream we shared.
 
I wrote Americana and westerns for Harlequin Historical for years, branching out into contemporaries for diversity and fun. After 25 years under contract, I gave myself a year-and-a-half hiatus. I promised myself from then on out I would only write stories I loved to write without the stress of contractual deadlines. I still write sweet westerns and contemporaries, and have most recently focused on the multi-author series Aspen Gold with my critique group. We’ve had great fun and have many more books planned.
 

I love an angsty story! The more angst and emotion, the better. If I don’t know how I will resolve the story people’s issues, then I know I’m on the right track—though I will want to pull my hair out at some point when all looks hopeless. I always figure it out.

 
My favorite thing is the ability to write books around the rest of my life without a daily 8-to-5 schedule. I’m able to have a full, busy life with family, friends and church and still write stories. If I want to go to lunch with a friend or take a day trip with my husband, I simply make up my pages on another day. Don’t get me wrong, when I’m pushing toward a book release, I write all day, every day—but that’s my choice and it’s rewarding.
 
It’s a joy to see an idea I came up with fleshed out, brought to life, sent out into the world and enjoyed by so many readers. I love hearing that what I’ve created brought pleasure to a reader, especially if the theme or the strength of a character spoke to them in a meaningful way. My stories are always about redemption and second chances, because that’s the cycle of life.

Monday, October 05, 2020

Listen to playlist that inspired me as I wrote Whisper My Name


Want to hear the music that inspired me as I wrote my new book that releases tomorrow? Here's a LINK to the amazon music playlist for WHISPER MY NAME!



Saturday, October 03, 2020

TEASER: TUESDAY IS RELEASE DAY!

WHISPER MY NAME

 The shredded paper burned quickly, the heat reaching them, and then the sticks caught fire, snapping and cracking pleasantly.

She watched, admiring how easy he made everything look. “The paper starts the sticks burning, and the sticks start the logs burning.”

“Exactly. Once the fire’s going well, you want to keep the screen in front of it, so sparks don’t fly out into the room.” He set the black screen in place.

At least she had an excuse for the warmth in her cheeks now. “That’s nice. Thanks for showing me.”

“You’re a quick learner.”

Now, with him looking at her and both of them kneeling before the fire, their nearness seemed awkwardly intimate. But what did she know? She felt awkward about everything, and yet this was the best awkwardness she’d ever experienced. He wasn’t looming over her or threatening in any way. He was one of the kindest, gentlest people she’d ever met, though she knew he was tough and aggressive at his job. That juxtaposition of strength and peace struck a chord and peeled away a papery layer of her fear and distrust.

She looked into his eyes. What did he think of her? The blaze now gave off enough light to highlight his features, the deep bow of his upper lip…the disquieting fullness of the lower one. He terrified her—or her reaction to him terrified her; in either case, her legs trembled, and she shifted her weight to rest with a hip solidly beneath her.

“What are you thinking?” she asked.

“Do you really want to know?”

“Yes.

“I was thinking you’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever known. Strong, but feminine. Smart.” His gaze took in her hair, her eyes, her mouth. “And now your question made me realize that you don’t play games.”

“Games?”

“You don’t flirt. You look directly at a person. You hold a lot inside, but what you do say is out there. No games.”

“Not the sort of woman you’re used to, I guess.”

“You’re like no one I’ve ever known, that’s for sure. And that’s a good thing.”

She raised her eyebrows. “It is?”

“It is. What were you thinking?”

She rubbed her thumbnail against her jeans. “I was…I was wondering what you were thinking about me. And now I know. Possibly.”

“What were you thinking about me?” he asked.

His steady gaze called her out, so she turned and looked at the fire. “I was remembering the night we were locked in at the Herald.”

He didn’t press her for more, but adjusted his weight to a sitting position.

“You really think I’m beautiful?”

“I thought it from the first time I saw you.”

“Joe.”

“Yeah.”

A question was burning in her, the issue hotter than the fire. Her heart pounded, and she couldn’t believe she was going to say the words, but she couldn’t not. “Am I someone you would kiss?”

She made herself look at him to gauge his reaction.

His eyes seemed to darken even more, and the firelight reflected in their depths. “Seems like you’re fast becoming the only someone I want to kiss.” 


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