Who is John Lehman?

I wish I knew. I think about him sometimes and wonder what he was like.  I know he lived in 1823 but I have no idea how old he was that year.  How do I know John?  He left a message for me, which I discovered 188 years later.

If you didn’t know, my day job is real estate marketing. That means I get to visit a variety of homes. Over the years, I’ve toured an equine surgery center, several B&B’s, multiple million dollar+ homes and a string of historic properties among others.  Old homes are my favorite.  They resonate with the echoes of yesteryear and the lifeblood of faded memories. “Weathering Rock,” the title of my time-travel/paranormal romance coming in October, refers to a fictitious home built in 1832 that is central to the story.

But let me jump back to John Lehman. Last year, I had the pleasure of visiting a property built in 1783. Think about that. It was the year the American Revolution ended. Am I the only one who finds that mind-boggling? To think of the people who walked through the halls of that home…the joys and concerns they must have had as our newly forged nation took its first tenative steps.

I fell in love with the property. Chestnut plank floors, massive moldings, a center hall with turned staircase, multiple fireplaces and four bedrooms each with its own “keeping cupboard.” That was where Mr. Lehman left his mark–in the rear bedroom on the inside of a cupboard door. He burned his name into the wood, along with the date “John Lehman, 1823.” Surely, he couldn’t have known I’d stumble upon it 188 years later, but it gave me chills.

Was he a young man, just starting out with a wife and family, anxious to embrace life in a nation that had proved iself 40 years after winning a revolution?  Or was he older, reaching the sunset of his life, wanting to leave his mark before he passed from this world?

He made sure he did. I think about him. And I’m sure every homeowner who has ever lived in that historic 18th century property has thought about him too. It was his home and he made sure we knew it. Some of that property went into Weathering Rock when I created it, along with bits and pieces of most of the historical estates I’ve toured. They all left a mark on me in one way or another, each teeming with the phantoms of forgotten years.

Do old homes inspire you?  Are there any you’ve toured, lived in, or visited that stand out in your mind?  I’d love to know about them! Aside from a professional interest, I have a passion for old properties.

Weather ‘Tis Better

I’m a geeky girl about a lot of things, and weather is one of them. We’re a month away from summer which is prime thunderstorm season.  I love the change in the atmosphere right before a storm when the sky grows black, the wind blows through like an angry zephyr, and the leaves bend belly-up to the heavens.  

A few weeks ago I was visiting my mother when she mentioned how much electrical storms frighten her. Then she casually told me when I was a child, I used to sit on the front porch with my father to watch as storms rolled in.

I did?

Oh yes, she assured me.  The rest of the family would be tucked safely inside the house, but my father would take me outside until the weather grew too severe to linger.  I’d forgotten how much he loved that, and was saddened to realize it had slipped from my memory. It all came tumbling back in a rush like someone flipping a light switch. The sprawling front porch, sitting side by side, listening to the thunder, watching the lightning. How bizarre this should be a father/daughter bonding element, but he loved storms and taught me to appreciate them (with a healthy dose of respect for the danger).

Today, weather patterns have grown erratic, often becoming violent.  Tornados were a rare occurrence in my area when I was a kid. Now they spin closer each summer. I’ve even been caught on the fringe of one and don’t think I will ever forget the way the sky looked at that moment, or the unnerving blackness that followed. I know many of you have experienced tornadoes and other weather events first hand.

Do changes in the weather influence the way you write or feel?  I often find myself moved to bursts of creativity during those transition periods.

As we head into storm season, stay safe everyone!

Conversation Starter

When I sat down to write Weathering Rock, (coming in October from Lyrical Press) I had to decide what time period to use for the setting.  I’d already decided on a time-travel with paranormal elements, and knew I wanted to reference the Civil War era. After that, it was a matter of deciding who would do the traveling (hero or heroine) and whether they would go forward or backward in time.

I eventually settled on the novel’s hero, Caleb DeCardian, hurtling him from 1863 into the present. Using a character who lived when the nation was divided, fought the Battle of Gettysburg, and helped put down the New York City Draft Riots, allowed me to sprinkle historical references throughout the book. Today, that has me thinking.

If you could go backward in time and have a conversation with someone famous from history, who would it be and why?

I’m torn on this. Part of me would say Robert F. Kennedy because I admire him and was far too young to remember anything about him. Another part would like to sit down with George Armstrong Custer and say “What were you thinking?!?” Still another is enraptured by the thought of  the Sons of Liberty discussing independence. I’d talk to any one of them! Then there’s Doc Holliday, and . . . can you tell I like history? 🙂

Okay, I’ll stop now and go with RFK.  How about you?  Who inspires you?  Who would you love to have a chat-fest with if you could turn back the pages of time?

A Helicopter, Robber and a Moonlight Swim

A number of years ago I had to attend a 3-day business conference in Phoenix for my employer. Since I’d never been to Arizona, my husband came along, we tacked on a few extra days, and made it into a vacation.

I fell in love with the Sedona area, ate rattlesnake and Indian fry bread, saw my first professional hoop dance, and came home with one very cool kachina doll. But my most vivid memory of Phoenix? You guessed it . . . a helicopter, robber, and a moonlight swim.

I can’t remember the name of our resort, but it was divided into groupings of two-story buildings with eight suites in each. The buildings were sprawled over acres of ground, each building with a private pool. Nice, right?

I thought so too until the helicopter showed up.

Late one night, hubby and I decided to take a dip in the pool (yes, we had our clothes on, thank God!). There we were, enjoying a moonlight swim when a helicopter nailed us in the beam of a high-intensity spotlight. I felt like a fugitive on America’s most wanted! Helicopter-1; romantic moonlight swim-0. Talk about killing the mood!

After it took off, we went back to our suite and my husband stepped onto the balcony to nose around. He saw a cop snooping below and asked what the problem was. Apparently someone had held up a Quickie-Mart and been chased to the area. Given the helicopter, I think the guy was probably armed and the hold-up ugly. The cop didn’t share details, but advised we stay inside. Of course, my writer’s imagination kicked into overdrive.

We’d been oblivious to the danger when in the pool, enjoying the moment, unaware of our surroundings. What if the robber had been lurking in the darkness with a gun?

So, why am I thinking of this now? Because events, no matter how random or long ago, are worth tucking into the idea book you carry in your head. I’m not sure that moonlight swim will ever make it into one of my novels, but I’m going to hang onto the memory. It freaked me out when it happened but, hey, how many people can say they were caught up in the middle of a manhunt?

How about you?  Are you one for collecting ideas and nuturing them indefinitely?

Oh, and by the way, should you ever make it to Phoenix I highly recommend the rattlesnake at Rustler’s Rooste. It really does taste like chicken!

Werewolves to RFK. Seriously?

Is your TBR pile exploding? Mine is. I keep buying books but can’t find the time to make a dent. I’m in the middle of an engrossing YA series by Cassandra Clare called The Mortal Instruments, currently on book three, City of Glass.

I get frustrated when I can’t curl up with my Kindle Fire (okay, that doesn’t have the same ring as curling up with a book, but you get the idea). This is a six book series with five currently in print, the sixth scheduled for release in September of 2014.

There’s also a steampunk prequel, The Infernal Devices. A trilogy, two of the three novels are available now, with Clockwork Princess coming in March 2013. Check out the awesome cover for Clockwork Prince (book 2). Moody, beautiful and artistically envisioned, it’s what orginially reeled me in to take a look at the series.

Instruments and Devices aside, I’m addicted to one-clicking on Amazon. Wow, is that thing handy! Click, buy, click, buy. Two more this week. It made me slow down and take a look at what’s been accumulating in the pile:

Click to Visit Beverly Rae’s Website

Romance Titles:
Betting the Moon by Beverly Rae
Yes, there is werewolf! A sexy one too. 🙂
Lord Midnight by Donna Cummings
Heart of the Hunter by Linda Anne Wulf
Summer’s Song by Allie Boniface
Rendezvous at Midnight by Lynne Connelly

The Jackal Man by Kate Ellis
I love her Wesley Peterson series, currently at fifteen books. I’ve read nine so far and intend to finish with those I’ve missed.
Eyes of Prey by John Sanford
There are twenty-two Prey books. I’ve read seven. Sanford has a crisp no-frills way of writing I like. Surprising, given I normally go for descriptive prose.
Silent Kills by C.E. Lawrence
Book three of a trilogy

Other Titles:
The Aristotelian by Steve Poling
Young Sherlock Holmes. Mycroft is the protagonist.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
Bobby and Jackie: A Love Story by C. David Heymann
Most times when I read non-fiction, I immediately reach for anything on
Robert F. Kennedy

So, there you have my current TBR pile, from werewolves to RFK. Of course it doesn’t include titles on my wish list, many discovered on Six Sentence Sundays, some still waiting for release.

I know the pile will continue to grow as one can never have too many books!

Remember the Twilight Zone episode Time Enough at Last? Burgess Meredith played a bookworm whose single driving passion was reading. He couldn’t find the time, plagued by obligations to the people around him. Then the world ended, leaving him the sole survivor with a treasure-trove of books. He thought he’d discovered nirvana until he shattered his glasses reaching for the first novel. *shudder* That episode has stayed with me since I was a kid.

Apocalyptic catastrophes aside, what’s lurking in your to-be-read pile?

The Wisdom of the Cat

A master at relaxing. And looking good while doing it!

Say hello to Onyx, my beautiful black domestic shorthair. Sadly, I had to say goodbye to him early in the year when cancer claimed him prematurely.  We had 13 wonderful years together, an interesting number for a black cat now that I think about it. During that time, Onyx taught me several things, foremost among them patience.  Cats have an endless supply of that all-elusive, mystical quality.

 A cat can outwait time.

Onyx had two favorite diversions (aside from the cat-popular sun-bathing and sleeping): chasing shadows and stalking whatever colorful trinket I dangled in front of him. He’d crouch behind a piece of furniture (the African bush), tail swishing, waiting for the precise moment to spring. Trust me. There are only so many ways to make a glittering neon green ‘twirly stick’ festooned with feathers seem like enticing prey. I swear there were times when he waited for the planets to align!  

I always thought I was patient, but Onyx showed me I’m reactionary at heart.  Like most people, I’m used to instant results. Whether I’m Googling information, nuking veggies in the microwave, or 1-clicking my Kindle for an e-book download, I rarely have to wait more than a few seconds. Technology is great, but it’s made me into a fidgety wreck when the world slows down. God forbid I’d have stand in line for a teller at the bank rather than use the MAC machine; get stuck with a slow internet connection, or be restricted from fast forwarding through commercials when using On Demand (who made that taboo anyway?). I remember when nuking a potato for eight minutes seemed like a godsend. Now it’s eight minutes too long. 

I need to be more like Onyx. Slow down. Pause. Study. Appreciate.

I do it with writing, choosing just the right word for a snippet of dialogue or a passage of descriptive prose. I take my time. I listen to the music of the sentences and how they flow together. I don’t rush. I savor.

We live in a fast-forward world and that makes it easy to get derailed. Sometimes, we need to press ‘stop’ and be the feline in the grass. My cat, the sage. He had it together.

Which is why I’m going to chill with a book later today and savor my downtime. 

What do you do when you need to unwind?

The Unrepentant Character

The difficult one. The problem child. The-how-the-heck-did-he/she-turn-out-that-way individual. 

We’ve all encountered them, whether reading or writing. It’s that character you’ve already pre-determined is going to act a certain way, but who ends up doing the opposite. I like creating flawed characters, and that blurs the line. My hunky heroes aren’t always heroic. Sometimes they’re selfish, unreasonable or need-a-kick-in-the-butt annoying. My clever, feisty heroines have been known to get in over their heads and do something stupid. Who doesn’t?  They grow as I grow.

Check.  I can live with that.

But what about villains?  They’re the ones that surprise me.  For the most part, I know what makes the bad guy tick and I stick to the plan but, occasionally, one of them puts his or her foot down and decides to do something unexpected. Something decent.

I have a character in my current WIP that I intended to be irredeemable.  Halfway through, I realized he wasn’t all that bad. That his unique way of looking at things was growing on me and, that for all his irritating characteristics, I liked him.  I’m still trying to figure out how that happened.

When I sat down and wrote the opening scenes of Myth and Magic, I set him up to be a bad guy but he had other ideas.  So I let him take the steering wheel to the end of the road.  He still has all those less-than-perfect qualities I dumped on him at the start, but I like the depth he developed.

Was I disappointed? Hardly. Was it the first time it’s happened?  Pff! It still catches me by surprise, but I’m more than happy to concede to my characters when they’re focused.

What about you?  Whether you’re reading a book or writing your own, do you like it when a character forces you to change your opinion, or do you try to keep them pigeonholed as long as possible?

Unrepentant characters have no qualms about upsetting the applecart!

Where Does the Road End?

Do you remember Sunday drives?  Way back in the days of big cars and low gas prices, my parents used to pack the family into our Chevy Biscayne and off we’d go exploring. Now I’m sure my father had a route in mind, but to me it always seemed like a spontaneous journey with adventure waiting around every turn.  If we were coming up on a road and I asked, “Dad, where’s that lead?” he’d say “I don’t know, let’s find out,” and off we’d go on what seemed like a shiny quest—where does the road end?

My characters tend to be like that when I’m writing. I often don’t know how they’re going to respond if I put them in a given situation. I’m a panster when it comes to plotting so I never have a clear vision of where the road ends. Sure, I’ve got a vague idea (otherwise I wouldn’t have started the story in the first place) and I know some of the twists and turns along the way, but the path is never clearly defined. Like the roads on those long-ago Sunday drives, it’s an adventure, dictated by my characters. They control the steering wheel. Sometimes I’ll dangle a plot twist and ask “where does that lead?”  My characters, like my father, will answer “I don’t know, let’s find out,” and I’m racing ahead on that same shiny quest of adventure.

I treasure the memory of Sunday drives. A little of that whimsy makes its way into everything I write. After all, what is a story without wondering where the road ends?

All the Fun of the Fair

Remember May Fairs? 

Today is May 1st, commonly known as May Day!  Given it’s also my namesake day I couldn’t let it pass without a nod for history, traditions and, yes, fairs!  Routinely acknowledged as a celebration of spring, May Day is also known as International Workers Day. You can find more information on that here.

But it’s the joyous festival recognizing the passage of frigid winter into fragrant spring that I’d like to focus on. I have fond memories of May Fairs from childhood . . . pony rides, fat punch balloons, May poles beribboned in colorful streamers, and  warm funnel cakes dusted with sugar.  I might have outgrown skipping home with my friends after a day at the fair, our arms loaded down with the trinkets and goodies we’d bought or won, but I haven’t outgrown the flush of excitement heralded by May.

After a windy March and rainy April, I know spring has arrived with the promise of summer around the corner. I begin looking forward to sun-drenched afternoons and twilight nights perfumed with honeysuckle and clover. Every breeze conjures images of Faerie glades, romantic bewitchment and moonlight strolls surrounded by fireflies. For a writer, it’s like tapping into a well of creativity. Pure magic!

With that in mind, I wish you all a Happy May Day. However you choose to celebrate the day and the season, here are some links you might enjoy:

Fairy Lore of May Day 
May Day Customs
History of May Day in the UK
May Day Customs and Jokes

“‘Tis like the birthday of the world,
When earth was born in bloom;
The light is made of many dyes,
The air is all perfume:
There’s crimson buds, and white and blue,
The very rainbow showers
Have turned to blossoms where they fell,
And sown the earth with flowers.”
–  Thomas Hood

When You Want a Book to End But You Don’t

It usually doesn’t take many pages of reading before you know you’ve hit a goldmine – – those books with plot and characters that reach out and grab you practically from the start.  Magic spools across the pages, transporting you to another world and, for a while, nothing else matters.  Forget the laundry waiting to be done, the errands you were set on running, phone calls waiting to be returned or even the latest home improvement project (we do a lot of those at my house)!

Ditto watching TV. Television completely lost me when it ventured into the “reality” realm, but that’s a subject (rant, actually) for another post. This one is about books. Favorite books that inspire the conflict of I-want-to-reach-the-end-but -I-don’t-want-it-to-be-over.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve become involved in a novel, eager to learn how everything works out, but saddened when I do because I’ve reached the end of the story. It’s that feeling of anticipating Christmas for weeks and, then in a flash, it’s gone. The glow is still there but I want to spin back the clock and wallow in the magic all over again.

By the same token, I have a few all-time favorite books that didn’t conjure that same feeling.  “The Terror” by Dan Simmons is one of the best novels I’ve read (if not THE best) but I was satisfied when I reached the end.  Maybe it was the length (close to 800 pages) or that the story had been expertly twisted in every conceivable direction. I journeyed with the characters, immersed myself in the setting, and was satisfied by the author’s resolutions. Amazing tale, one I highly recommend. I will always be in awe of that book.

When I DO want a book to continue, it isn’t because I’ve found the ending unsatisfying, but because I’m not ready to part with the characters.  Case in point – – I just finished Clockwork Angel and Clockwork Prince, Books 1 and 2 of the Infernal Devices trilogy by Cassandra Clare.  I couldn’t wait to reach the end of the second novel, biting my fingernails along the way, anxious to discover how everything worked out. And now that it’s over I’m disappointed there is nothing more. How will I survive without angelic Nephilim, colorful Downworlders and Victorian-era Mundanes?

Book 2 of the Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare

I know Clockwork Princess is coming in November/December, but I’m impatient. Tessa, Will, and, especially Jem, have become family to me. I’ve hurt with them, laughed with them, fallen in love when they did, and defied impossible odds at their sides. I rushed to reach the conclusion but, now that I have, I’m like a kid who gobbled up all the candy and still wants more. And that translates into some freaking good candy, let me tell you! :)Fortunately, I have the Mortal Instruments series waiting in the wings (next on my list) but I’m saddened I need to leave the friends I made in the Infernal Devices.

Good books are forever-treasures, we can revisit time and again, whenever we want. I do it often with those novels I love most.  

What are some of your favorites — stories that stay with you long after you’ve finished them?  There’s nothing like a good read or a good recommendation!