Posts Tagged With: Blog Challenge

My Biggest Dream….. #MFRWauthor

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As an author who hasn’t made it “big” yet, this topic for the blog challenge is a bit of a no-brainer. I think if you ask any writer, published or not, and they’d tell you they want to their names at the top of the best-seller lists and make money at writing–a lot of money.

I would say this is my biggest dream, but it’s not the only one I have.

I hope for a better future and I pray for peace.

One of my other hopes, since it’s spring and I’ve been planting, is that my garden (both vegetable and flower) do well.

Now, that my children are young adults, I hold their dreams for the future in my heart.

My son is finishing up his second year at Penn State as an engineering student. I hope he is able to, not only finish school doing as well as he is now (he’s an Dean’s List student), but also is able to find a good job, doing something he enjoys.

My daughter, who will be a high school senior in the fall, wants to become an environmental scientist with an emphasis on ecology and wild-life conservation. We’ll be looking at colleges this summer. My hope for her is that she continues to excel at everything she sets out to do and achieves her dream of travailing the world. Of course, she better take me along on some of her adventures…. <grin>

What are your dreams?
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Hanging Out On Social Media #MFRWauthor

take by me in my garden

This week’s blog topic is an interesting one.  Social Media.  I’m not a “social butterfly” by any stretch of the imagination. I actually dislike most of the social media platforms out there. With that being said, I do love Facebook. I’ve reconnected with so many old friends from high school, past co-workers, and even a few long lost cousins. I’ve even remained in contact with several of my old pals from the Star Wars forum I’d posted fan fiction on back in a day.

So, with that being said, where do you find me fluttering around….

Facebook:  

*Profile—  https://www.facebook.com/sara.w.ellwood

*Page—  https://www.facebook.com/sarawalterellwood.ceradubois/

I will usually friend anyone on my profile–if the person has at least a few friends in common and their profile doesn’t look fake (ie: no friends or an obviously fake profile picture)

Twiter:  https://twitter.com/sara_w_ellwood

Not my favorite hangout simply because it changes so fast and because of the limit on words…. I’m a wordy person and 140 characters just ain’t enough!

Pinterest:  https://www.pinterest.com/saraellwood/

I mostly lurk on here. I love getting gardening ideas from the boards I follow.

What’s your favorite social media sight and why?

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There Are Story Ideas Everywhere…When I’m Paying Attention #MFRWauthor

Have you ever wondered where authors get some of their plot ideas? It isn’t as mysterious as you might think.

Inspiration can come from just about everything. Some of the most common are from events that happen in real life, dreams, songs, phrases from other books, and a thousand other places or things can spark a story idea. For example, it’s no secret Stephenie Meyer got the idea for The Twilight Saga from a dream. Then a single line in Eclipse (book 3 of the saga) inspired me to write A Hunter’s Angel, a paranormal romance about a small town police chief and vampire who is an FBI agent so that he can hunt vampires.

My first contemporary western romance Gambling On A Series was sparked when I watched a butterfly hatch from a cocoon. But my hero is an accumulation of things I’ve learned from the soldiers I’ve worked with over the years. While the idea for the rags-to-riches, ex-prostitute heroine, at least partly, came from a Rachel Gibson novel I’d read a few years ago.

I’ll also tweak things that actually happen to create subplots in my books. On such inspiration from real life (as real as reality TV can get anyway) shows up in Heartstrings, but the main idea came from a song. At least somewhat from a song. Let me explain. About six years ago I wrote a Star Wars fan fiction novel using the country song “God Blessed the Broke Road” by Rascal Flatts as my inspiration. The story was about a female who had been in love with two men, who were friends, at different times in her life and who ended up married to one of them, and then to the other after her first husband was killed. Her second husband then raised her daughter to her first husband as his own.

Fast forward two and a half years later. After I wrote the first book of The Hunter’s Dagger Series, A Hunter’s Angel, I got the idea to write a story about a country singer coming home for his father’s funeral to find out he had a daughter. The original story plot, then titled “The Long Road Home” (a sort of play on the song “God Blessed the Broken Road”) was a little different then the story that eventually became Heartstrings. Despite the fifteen or so revisions and rewrites I’ve done to “The Long Road Home” to create Heartstrings, the main plot is still loosely inspired by my old fan fiction and the country song “God Blessed the Broken Road.”

For Heartsong, I got the idea of a country singer married to his much older manager and the marriage failing in part from the real-life

tabloid candy story of Randy Travis and his first wife and manager. In Heartsong, the heroine’s rise to fame at a young age, and eventual fall due to drugs was inspired by several real-life young actresses and singers.

In the second Cowboy Up anthology (which is currently out of print), my story A Cowboy’s Heaven, was inspired by a news article I had read a few years ago. The story was about a man and woman who never believed they’d find love again. Both had been widowed soon after getting married to the person they’d believed to by their soul mate. But thanks to a friend, they met. A friendship grew out of their mutual loss, then after a few years of dating, they realized they had fallen in love and were married. It really was a true-life romance and I knew I had to write a book to pay homage to this beautiful story.

But really, inspiration for me can come from anywhere or anything. If you are a writer, where do you find inspiration?

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My Greatest Weakness–Procrastination @MFRWauthor

Last week the topic for the challenge as to describe my greatest strength. This week prompt is to talk about my greatest weakness, and as with naming my strength, coming up with my less desirable trait was hard. But I think figured it out as I’m typing this article late Thursday night to go live in the morning. Despite determination to succeed being my strength, I have a tendency to put things off until the last moment. I’m a procrastinator.

Believe it or not, this weakness is getting worse as I age. I never put things off when I was in college. I studied for tests days before the exams. I did my papers as soon as they were assigned. Now, I don’t even think about a project until it’s down to the wire. I’m better with my stories, but the day job or something like this blog challenge–not so much. I wait until the last possible moment. Part of the problem I know is I’m juggling so much: day job, housework, family relationships, and just time for me.

Even with writing, I’m able to concentrate better if I have a deadline. If I know I have to get something done in a limited time, I’m able to buckle down and ignore most of the distractions. But even then, I get angry with myself for putting things off; however, I still do it.

So what is your one weakness?
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My Greatest Strength–Determination to Never Give Up #MFRWauthor

Have you ever thought about your greatest strength? What makes you…well…you? This is also a very hard question to answer. After a lot of introspection, I think my greatest strength is my determination to not fail.

If any of you have followed me for any time at all, you know I’m dyslexic. My learning disability was discovered when I was in third grade after a reading teacher noticed I tried to sound out words backwards and my eyes wandered all over the page. I spent the rest of my elementary grades in special education classes to learn to read.

In junior high, I was delegated into the lower tract and spent two miserable years with bullies who called me names and picked on me. For the most part, all of my friends were in the highest tract. Now when I look back, I think this was the best thing that ever happened to me. It was my need to prove these people I was nothing like them and my new found love for history (a subject I’d never had before seventh grade) that made me determined to succeed.

During the second half of seventh grade, a new spirit awakened in me. I studied in a way I never had and my hard work–and believe me it was hard–paid off. By the end of eighth grade, I had As in every subject with several of them being 100%. I was determined to prove to, not only my classmates that I would make it, but to myself that I’d get to where I want to be. I elected the college prep curriculum for high school and by the time I graduated, I was in the top quarter of my class.

I went to college and made the Dean’s List all but two or three of the nine semesters of my years at Penn State. But then life happened and with it a major setback. I couldn’t find a full time teaching job and my dreams were crushed. Not for long though, I changed gears and went back to school where I ended up graduating at the top of my class, simply because I wouldn’t accept anything less.

This spirit of never giving up and of unadulterated determination has severed me well during my writing career. I’ve nearly given up more than once, but this need to persevere despite the odds or how difficult it is has forced me to continue. My calling on this inner strength has helped me swim out of the deepest pools of despair and disappointment. I won’t deny it gets harder and harder, but I refuse to ever say “what if I hadn’t given up” because I will give it my all. I will tackle every obstacle with the determination that helped a girl who couldn’t read in the fourth grade, a teenager who hated to read until she discovered Civil War romance in ninth grade, to become a writer of published books. And hopefully this same stubbornness will help me become a best-selling author.
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The Things that Make Me Crazy When I Read… #MFRWauthor

Today’s blog challenge topic is to write about the words that make you go “ick.” Since I don’t like to write about these words–most of them are vulgar or just plain awful–I’m not about to spell them out on my blog….. Yes, I’m a prude. And proud of it! Well, at least you should be able to use your imagination to figure out what those words are with that confession.

Anyway, I’m going to change the prompt a little and talk about the things that pull me out of a story I’m reading and make me go “WTF?!?” There isn’t much I won’t tolerate, story-wise. I don’t mind if people die or animals are killed–IF it’s absolutely needed to drive the plot or is essential for character growth. But these things listed below will pull me out of a story quicker than anything, and unfortunately I usually can’t get back into it.

**I hate when a historical novel is too politically correct, meaning the author colors the characters’ actions/words with today’s standards. A great series of books that has never fallen victim to this is the Outlander series. Jamie Fraser is an amazing hero, but he acts and talks like a 18th Century man. And although Claire (the time-traveling WWII nurse heroine) probably gets away with more than most women would if they were married to anyone other than Jamie, he still views a man’s role in a marriage in what we’d consider archaic by today’s standards.

**Another thing that destroys a story for me is when details get messed up. I have nearly a photogenic memory when it comes to reading. My comprehension is my strongest skill. I don’t forget much. Someone told me once it’s because I actually read every letter and word due to my dyslexia which helps my brain to form a better picture of the story. Anyway when an author screws up their details, it yanks me out. For example, one time I read a book by a best selling author published by one of the big houses when the heroine changed clothes while walking along a road… No, I don’t mean she stripped and changed. I mean she started out her walk wearing a pantsuit and when her friend picked her up a  page later, she was wearing a skirt. It was so jarring because the author seemed to make her wearing pants matter by mentioning how much she despised that the dust would ruin them. Then only to have her get in the truck and fussing with her skirt because it’s short length made her uncomfortable. I was like “uh??” and reread the passage. That scene bothered me so much, I couldn’t forget the flub. I don’t think I ever finished that book.

**Head hopping! This irritates me to no end. I don’t mean a point of view change after a section of a scene. I mean paragraph one is in the hero’s POV and the next is in the heroine’s POV, then jumps back to the hero’s. Every beginning author is clobbered about this and are taught not to do it. But some authors seem to get away with it… Well, I’m not buying their books. even though most of them some of the oldest and biggest sellers.

**Stupid, lazy, poorly written characters and/or a paper-thin plots–I actually think these two things go hand-in-hand in most cases. I will admit, I don’t read many self-published books by newbie authors. I’ve been burnt too many times with buying a book or downloading a freebie because the blurb sounded good and the reviews may even be good, but the story wasn’t up to snuff. But I’ve read a few stories by established authors published by New York houses that have this distinction as well.

**The last thing that will make me stop reading is if the heroine is weak and mousy and/or the “hero” is a jerk. If he can’t say or think anything nice about the heroine and treats her badly–he isn’t a hero in my way of thinking. Being a jerk doesn’t make him an Alpha male, it makes him an asshole not worth the time of day of any woman. But usually the heroine is too enthralled by him, because she has no backbone, to see she should run the other way, not be daydreaming about how handsome he is and if only he’d look at her. I usually just want to shake the girl and tell her to go find someone else because he sure as hell ain’t worth it.

So, you tell me, what makes you toss a book across the room or hit the delete key on your Kindle?

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Welcome to the World Baby Book–Your Title Is… How I Choose a Title #MFRWauthor

Titles are tricky.  They represent your story. And more importantly they need to hook a reader enough to read the blurb, if not buy your book.

I really don’t have a process for picking titles. Mostly they come to me as I’m coming up with the story. Some of my titles weren’t chosen by me initially for the book, but evolved either by suggestion from an editor, or from the need to redirect my thoughts.

Gambling On A Secret, Sara Walter Ellwood, contemporary western romance, romantic suspense, cowboy romance, Texas romance, small town romanceMy book Gambling On A Secret had been  originally submitted with the title of “Butterfly.” In the story, the metamorphosis of for the two main characters is an important theme of the story. Heroine even mentions this to the hero when she describes what her vision for the broken down ranch is. She wants to turn the ugly into something beautiful. Like a caterpillar that turns into a butterfly. She even calls her ranch the Butterfly Ranch.

But when I submitted the book, the acquiring editor asked me to change the title since it didn’t sound “western-y” enough. I don’t regret this. In fact, I’m glad for it. The title we came up with worA Hunter's Angel, The Hunter's Dagger Series, A Hunter's Demon, A Hunter's Blade, Cera duBois, Sara Walter Ellwoodks just as good if not better for the book and it allowed me to have a similarity in the titles for the other books in the series, which up until then had been untitled because I could never think of anything that worked with “Butterfly.”

With my title for Heartsrings, I chose to change it when I did the final rewrite of this story. At the time I didn’t know I’d turn it into a series, but I knew the working title of “The Long Road Home” just didn’t feel right for the story. This idea of coming home, is still a major theme in the story, but it seemed stale. I did some brainstorming and came up with the title Heartstrings. Then when I decided to create a series by adding books Heartsong and Heartland to the mix, I was glad I’d decided to change it.

A Hunter’s Angel got it’s title before I even knew what the story would be. This title came to me at the same time as I got the idea of a vampire who hunted vampires out of a need to redeem himself. Only it wasn’t doing good that would redeem him. It was the love of a woman.

A Hunter’s Blade got its title in a similar fashion. The newly turned vampire hero of that story, who we first meet as a cocky human in A Hunter’s Angel, only wants one thing–the right to carry a hunter’s dagger or blade.discovery-of-witches-web-1

One of my favorite books that I’ve ever read, I was attracted to simply because of the title. The novel is called A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness and is the first book in the All Souls series.  I read the title in a blog comment about four years ago and it sparked my imagination. The blog commenter didn’t say much about the book, only the author’s name and that he liked it. I was piqued and looked the book up. Next, I bought it and devoured it. Then I bought the second and pre-ordered the third and went on an amazing ride. The books are a jumble of my favorite genres–fantasy, history, paranormal, time travel, and even a little science fiction. I recently read that the story will be made into a TV series–I can’t wait to see it.

Do you have any books that you’ve read simply because of a great title?
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Categories: A Hunter's Angel, A Hunter's Blade, Gambling On a Secret, Heartstrings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Songs that Have Inspired Me #MFRWauthor

Music plays a big part in all of my contemporary westerns, particularly country music. I don’t always listen to music when I write, but I often plan or plot my stories while listening. I’ve even gotten story ideas from listening to either a certain artist or from a particular song.

Sometimes I’ll even hear a song after I’ve written a story that makes me think about a certain character.

Here’s a list of songs that have either inspired me while/before writing or make me think of a character.

  1. 11 by Cassadee Pope, Album: Frame by Frame (2013)

This song makes me think of my heroine from Heartland. The song is about a young girl whose life is turned upside down when her parents divorce. The same thing happens to Emily as a child. Because Emily is a country-turned-pop singer, I almost always picture her singing it when I hear it.

  1. Black Tears by Jason Aldean, Album: Night Train (2012)

The first time I heard this song I instantly thought about my heroine from Gambling On A Secret. The song is an emotional ballad about a stripper and how much she hates what she’s doing and often cries her mascara off; hence the black tears. Charli from Gambling On A Secret had run away from home when she was fifteen and ended up working as a stripper in Las Vegas. The song fits Charli so much it could have been written about her.

  1. Bless the Broken Road by Rascal Flatts, (the version I have comes from the Album: Greatest Hits, Vol 1, 2008)

Heartstrings was inspired by this song. The original title of this story was “The Long Road Home.” In the story my hero is trying to find his way back home—and to the daughter he never knew. The heroine also has a broken road ahead of her—she has to forgive the hero for leaving and herself for pushing him away. This song also inspired the song Seth writes with his teenage daughter in the story.

  1. Drunk On A Plane by Dirks Bentley, Album Riser (2014)

My currently out of print novella, Chasing A Cowboy (published in the anthology set Cowboy Up) was directly inspired by this song. I heard it one day not long after it was released as a radio single and instantly pictured a country singer groom jilted at the altar and going on the honeymoon alone… Only there’s a little less drinking on the plane and I send the run-away bride’s fraternal twin sister after the groom.

This last list are singers who’ve inspired the singers in some of my stories:Heartstrings, Singing to the Heart, Sara Walter Ellwood, Contemporary Western Romance, Cowboys, Texas Romance, Native American Romance, Lyrical Press, Kensington Publishing

Toby Keith—my hero Seth Kendall from Heartstrings is loosely modeled after a young Toby Keith. Crazy fact—I had never seen Toby Keith’s movie Broken Bridges (a story about a country singer who meets his daughter for the first time) until long after I wrote Heartstrings.  In fact, I didn’t even know the movie existed until a friend told me about it.  Then I had to see it to make sure my story didn’t too closely resemble the movie.  I was greatly relieved that, other than the trope, the two have nothing much in common. Well, except the heroes look like Toby Keith…

Heartstrings, Sara Walter Ellwood, contemporary western romance, cowboy romance, Texas romance, small town romance, Country Music star hero, Lyrical Press, Kensington Publishing, Heartsong, Heartland, Colton Gamblers, Singing to the HeartBilly Currington/Luke Bryan—these two singers both have inspired my hero Gabe McKenna from Heartsong… Only Gabe is dark haired, but he likes to shake his cute butt on stage like Luke Bryan does.

Taylor Swift/ LeAnn Rimes/troubled young artists like Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears—A mesh-up these artistsHeartland, Heartsong, Heartstrings, Singing to the Heart, Sara Walter Ellwood, Cowboys, Texas Romance, Contemporary Western Romance gave me elements that made up my troubled young songstress Emily Kendall from Heartland. Like Taylor Swift and LeAnn Rimes, Emily has an amazing-crazy talent at a tender age. She’s only fifteen when she gets her first record deal and she blurs the genre lines—making as many country number one as she does pop. But like so many young artists, she marries far too young and begins using drugs—until she finds out she’s pregnant and realizes she has to get away from her pop star ex-husband.

 

Writers get their ideas from everywhere… Music is just one of the places where I find mine.
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Categories: Gambling On a Secret, Heartland, Heartsong, Heartstrings, Insights | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Out in My Garden…My Favorite Hobby #MFRWauthor

Besides writing, I love to garden. I have a substantial English/Cottage garden that surrounds my house and takes up most of my yard.  I also have a sizable vegetable garden and love to can the bounty that comes from it. I’m always changing something in it. Despite having a book to write this spring, I plan to rip things apart again and redesign some of it.  Today, I’m going to take you on a tour of my favorite place to be in the spring…

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Even in winter, I love my garden when it snows.  This picture was taken a couple of years ago.

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spring, flowers, gardening

From February to November, something is always in bloom in my garden. These are commonly called snowdrops, the botanical name is Galanthus. Although they are not as gorgeous as tulips and daffodils, when I see them every late winter—sometimes even peeking their white flowers out of the snow—I know Spring is not far away.

 

 

 

 

These pictures show some of my favorite April to June flowers.

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spring, flowers, gardening contemporary western romantic suspesne authror Sara Walter Ellwood spring, flowers, gardening spring, flowers, gardening

 

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I love butterflies… In fact, the premise for my story Gambling On A Secret came from watching one of these guys break out of it’s cocoon.

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Here is a great shot of my vegetable garden… And what I like to do with the tomatoes–home made spaghetti sauce. Yum!

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Just a few of the many garden pictures I’ve taken over the years. These pictures were taken about 10 years apart.

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plantsI even bring the garden inside….

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And finally, here are a few photos of my gardening partner….

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Hope you enjoyed the tour.

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How I Met My Best Author Friend–@D’Ann Lindun @DLindun #MFRWauthor

I’d like you to meet someone who has been pretty darn important in helping me become published. Although D’Ann Lindun and I have never met in person, I still value her as one of my very best friends. We “met” on line back in 2010 on a writer’s Yahoo Group. I responded to something she said in what was becoming a heated subject, and she emailed me privately to thank me for standing up with her.

From this, we became critique partners and friends. I was pretty damned new at this whole writing to get published business and D’Ann had been trying for several years. She’s from Colorado and writes contemporary western romance, the same genre I found myself writing in… Thing is this Pennsylvania bred and born gal really had no idea what she was doing. I grew up on a farm, and for this reason, I found writing westerns more comfortable. After all, I knew what it takes to raise cattle–and chickens and pigs and, well, we raised a lot of different animals growing up–but not like how cattle are raised out west.

D’Ann saved my ass by setting me straight. I often say I know what I know about what it really means to be a cowboy, or cowgirl, from her. She taught me so much, and I owe her for that.

But my friendship, love, and respect doesn’t stop there. If it wasn’t for D’Ann, I may not have published my first western when I did. I was coming off a bad spot in my fledgling career. I had to fire an agent who wasn’t really doing anything for me. I was in the midst of overhauling the story that would become Gambling On A Secret, but had no real idea what I was going to do with it. D’Ann sponsored an editor friend of hers who worked for Lyrical Press (before the Kensington acquisition) on her blog where she was taking pitches. D’Ann emphatically encouraged me to pitch something. And at the last moment I did. That editor requested my manuscript and within a few months I got my contract for Gambling On A Secret.

The next time D’Ann helped my career was by asking me to be involved with the wildly successful Cowboy Up anthology sets. Through these, I became a bestselling Amazon author.

She has been a pillar of support and encouragement throughout the years I’ve known her.

She also is one of my all time favorite authors. Her books are amazing and I would recommend them to everyone.

You can find her books on Amazon

D'Ann Lindun, Black Mountain Series, Contemporary Western Romance

 

 

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Categories: Cowboy Up, Gambling On a Secret, Insights | Tags: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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