Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Book Signing in Temple, Texas.

I'll be signing copies of My Heart Will Find Yours, book one of The Turquoise Legacy, on October 3, 2009 from 1:00-3:00 PM at Borders Book Store in the Temple Mall. If you are in the area, please stop by.

Book two, Flames on the Sky, will be out October 23, 2009.

Thanks for reading!


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Guest Mickey Flagg: With Halloween All Things Paranormal Come to Mind.

I'm pleased to have author Mickey Flagg as my guest today. She'll be sharing details about her upcoming books and her love of the paranormal. I hope you'll leave her a comment and I'll enter you in my monthly ebook drawing.

A little about Mickey:

Mickey Flagg brings the joy of music to hundreds of students every week. Named a Distinguished Music Educator at the 2009 Yale Music Symposium, she also writes paranormal romance. Retribution! is her debut novel, and Book 2, Consequences, has also been contracted with The Wild Rose Press. Living in northern NJ, her quiet home sits on the edge of a forest.

Retribution! Short blurb:

Dreams often reflect deepest desires…even if they’re nightmares. While cruelly captured, a vampire creates a languid fantasy with the help of a powerful soul. Eternal devotion to two important people forces this creature to see himself with honest eyes. Imagination runs wild, yet Michael Malone still desires death. Why should he survive? Two very good reasons… One is revenge. The other is love.

Short excerpt:

The habit was hundreds of years old… An absentminded glance in an empty mirror as the vampire ran firm bristles back and forth over even, white teeth. But this time, he stared in disbelief. A cloudy image peered back—one that hadn’t been seen in centuries. High cheekbones, straight nose, square chin and strong brow were unmistakably his. Leaning into the mirror, Michael couldn’t see his eyes clearly, but it was his reflection, something lost the night he’d been turned. The one thing that sets me apart from humanity, he thought, one thing that should be lost forever. The image fascinated, but also frightened. One more secret I must keep from Alana—for now.
~ Retribution! The Champion Chronicles: Book One

Blog Post:

Hi Linda. Thanks for inviting me. Congratulations on your blog awards. How lovely and well deserved!

October is right around the corner. Of course, with Halloween and the change of seasons, all things paranormal come to mind. We decorate our houses for those little munchkins who ring our doorbells because it’s time to celebrate all things creepy. Writing paranormal is like living Halloween all year round. We are the authors that crave the shape-shifter, psychic phenomena, and the sensual vampire. This genre is one where imagination runs wild before you arrive at the happily ever after ending. That seed of creation is what I’d like to talk about today.

Imagination in a child is where it all starts. I see this as an educator, as a mother, and as a writer. When I was a little girl, merry-go-rounds were an early version of portals for me. Fairytales took me to another realm. Quite often, my mother disowned me with a shake of her head and a mumbled, “Oh God, where did she come from?” A few years later, Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames had me vacillating between being a detective or a nurse. I had to live the books – not only read them.

When my son and daughter were young, I encouraged them to explore their rich fantasy lives. Like their mother, they were very creative children. A purple princess, a rugged adventure-seeker, whatever they became brought wide eyes and smiles to their faces. It’s was a rite of passage, a glimpse into the creative individuals they’d become as adults. This time of year meant buying material for Halloween costumes, bringing to life what they envisioned for that day of fantasy. Of course, I took lots of pictures!

I teach children from many different countries in an inner-city school. Most of the upper graders know I write about vampires and all things paranormal. More than a few walk around with Harry Potter and Twilight on top of their core subject books. This tells us that paranormal events spark a child’s imagination. A large number of my students don’t get the chance to don a costume and ring doorbells for treats on October 31st. For some, it’s not an acceptable practice. For most, it’s a safety issue. But when I see these books so treasured by them, I know that their imagined worlds are richer than most would suspect. Harry and Edward don’t offend anyone. After all, it’s simply not real even though the underlying moral issues, the choices, are right there on the written page.

The way a paranormal author chooses to use imagination can take a reader to some wonderful places. As an author, writing in this genre allows me to create a different world. All the elements of reality are visible through conflict, characterization, setting and situation. Whether the hero is a vampire or a shape-shifter, good stories have the same elements of reality. Intrigue, drama, out-of-the-norm experiences make our plots unique.

Once a year, ghosts and vampires have a starring role. By adding a touch of romance to these characters, an entirely different take on the paranormal appears. Doesn’t it seem that as the season changes, Halloween is the perfect holiday to celebrate our active imaginations? Please leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Have a great day!

M. Flagg – become a fan on Facebook.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Short Story: Goatheads and Yellow Roses, part 2

Thank you for all your kind comments about the first
half of this story. I hope you enjoy the conclusion as much.

Now Grandma was a different story altogether. She was always even-tempered, quiet and loving. Except when you did something where you might get hurt. Then look out Nellie!

Grandma was old when she married, thirty-one, and by the time she had six children she was pretty wore out. So, when I knew her she was already having trouble getting around. We’d been told to stay out of the road, so one day when my brother thought she wasn’t looking, where do you think he went? You got it, into the road. Jimmy heard the screen door slap closed and by the time he looked up all he saw was Grandma’s big tennis shoe coming off the front porch. And she was loaded for bear, with the fly swatter. That thing really gets your attention when you’re wearing shorts and shirtless like he was. From that day on we knew our sweet Grandma meant what she said.

Grandma was a good Christian woman, her kids called her a saint because she “put up with Papa,” but she had two vices. Well, she thought of them as vices. She dipped snuff and read those romance magazines. They sat in a tall stack at the end of the sofa. Every afternoon, after her work was done and before it was time to cook supper, she’d sit and read awhile. It was her one escape from a hard life.

Grandma and Grandpa got too old to manage the farm and moved into a white frame house in town. Town being a small community of about 100 people several miles from the farm. The yard was grass and though there were no rose bushes, honeysuckle covered a trellis on the front porch.

As a teenager I loved to visit, and when Grandpa passed, I went as often as possible. She was lonely. Mama was grateful I liked to go because she couldn’t get out often. I’d take her car, and feeling free as a breeze, drive too fast on the two-lane highway.

We’d sit at her kitchen table and eat tomato and macaroni soup from pink Depression glass bowls — the ones so collectable today. Some days I’d stop at a burger joint just outside town and pick up a couple of hamburgers, her favorite meal. According to her, it was perfect — it had all the food groups, you could eat it with your hands and there were no dishes to wash. While we ate, she listened to my teenage woes, never condemning or scolding. And I learned things about her. I knew she loved roses but not that yellow was her favorite.

I cherish the richness of my childhood. Playing in that dirt with brothers, sisters and cousins we learned give and take, fairness and loyalty. Grandma’s simple life, her love and wisdom taught me compassion, unconditional love, and joy in what I have. Her life was an example of what it means to live the life of a Christian. She truly walked with Jesus.

Only remnants of Grandma’s shrubs and flowers remain at the farm, most died off from lack of water, a valuable commodity in the 1950’s due to the seven-year drought. No wonder she didn’t have grass. A new log home stands a short distance from where Grandma’s small house stood. Scraps of tin from the roof and chips of green asbestos siding are all that remain. Stand there for just a minute and memories will make you smile. Close your eyes, breathe in the scent of roses and listen to the sound of children’s laughter on the breeze as they ride stick horses and hunt doodlebugs in Grandma’s dirt yard.

Each time I look at a rose and its fragrance teases my nostrils, I think of Grandma Riley. Every memory I have is like the flower, beautiful, sweet and lingering. Though I loved Grandpa too, his memory congers up reminders of those goatheads, sharp and prickly.


Thanks for reading!


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Short Story: Goatheads and Yellow Roses

Oh, the memories of childhood. This is a special one of mine I'd like to share. Since it's longer I'm posting it in two parts. I'll post the conclusion next Tuesday. I hope you enjoy!
This is a picture of Grandma Riley before she married. It was probably taken around 1920.

Goatheads and Yellow Roses
by Linda LaRoque

Grandma Riley’s front yard was odd. It was pretty, with rose bushes and shrubs, but it was all dirt. If a blade of grass poked its head through the soil, Grandma sealed its fate with a “whack” of her hoe. The same hoe she used to kill snakes. As a child, I couldn’t understand her dislike of grass. But her shrubs and flowers created ideal dirt paths for hide and seek, roads for our tricycles, and trails for our stick horses.

What fun we had in that sandy soil. We made roads and bridges with little ponds. A twig made a perfect tree and with pop sickle sticks, we built houses. My favorite past time was playing Betty Crocker. In the 1950’s coffee cans were bigger around and shorter — the perfect size for a double layer chocolate fudge cake. Mud made icing of perfect consistency and I made swirls on my cake just like those on the cake mix box.

That soil had one drawback, goatheads — a vicious sticker. It was mean and ugly and if you’ve ever stepped on one, most likely you remember it to this day. A goathead has two thorns that stick up, just like a goats horns do and a third one stuck out at an odd angle below them. When planted in the tender flesh of your foot they cause considerable pain going in and more coming out. They’re so tough they can imbed in your shoes and scar the floor. Most days, one of us kids would need first aid. On went our shoes for a while, until we got too hot, then off they’d come again. We’d tiptoe through the hot dirt trying to avoid the goatheads, until we forgot to worry and played with abandon. Tanned and barefoot, we wiled away the hours, never complaining of boredom or expecting someone to entertain us.

In the evenings, by the light of kerosene lamps, electricity hadn’t yet reached the farm, we’d eat grandma’s saucer-sized biscuits. Butter mixed with Karo syrup spread between the two halves made it dee-lish. We’d wash it down with a glass of milk and lick our fingers and plate clean. If Grandpa was in a good mood, we’d play dominoes on the old card table in the front room. We didn’t beat him, though. He was a sore looser.

Before bed, we’d drag the round tin washtub in from the back porch, and wash away the dirt before piling into the big feather bed in the back room. We’d talk and giggle until grandpa bellowed, “quiet.” Since he went to bed with the chickens, it wasn’t long.

We slept in the backroom where grandma stored her eggs. She sold them in town for extra money, and the food she’d canned for the winter. I loved to help sort the eggs. We’d dip them in buckets of water to wash and rinse them, and hold them before a bright light to candle them. If they looked cloudy inside or floated, we threw them out.

That bedroom became off limits the closer it got to Christmas. Grandpa bought apples, oranges and nuts for the holiday and hid them under the bed – Grandma baked and stored cakes and pies on top. With the door closed it was as cold as the refrigerator. The best was her yellow cake with brown sugar icing topped with pecan halves. Somehow a pecan or two would disappear. The culprit was never caught. Grandma never said anything, she’d just smile and replace them. It must have been one of the grown kids, you know, my mama or aunt. Or, maybe it was Grandpa.

Because the only plumbing in the house was water in the kitchen, the facilities were located in the pasture next to the house. It was called the outhouse. I don’t think it had a half-moon cut out on the door though. And I’m not lying, it had old Sears’s catalogues for toilet paper. It really did.

During the day I was afraid to go in the pasture because of the cows, and no way would I chance stepping on a snake at night. If I did go, I’d look long and hard to make sure no cows were near before going through the gate and making a b-line for the door. Before sitting down, I’d peek under the toilet seat and in the corners just to make sure spiders or other critters weren’t waiting to pounce. Most times we kids did our business behind the smokehouse or in the slop jar kept in the back room. Not around Christmas time though.

Grandpa’s bed sat, like a big fluffy shrine, taking up valuable floor space I might add, in the front room. I didn’t know another soul with a bed in the living room. His reason became clear when the cold winter wind whipped through the papered walls. The only heat came from the black pot bellied stove located — “tah-dah” — in the front room. But, please, don’t think because it’s in the living room you can sit on it. No way. The standard question if caught on it was, “Are you sick?” And don’t lean on it, either. The spread remained wrinkle free. Even the adults didn’t sit on the bed.

When Grandpa said to “jump”, we learned to “jump.” Being from the old school, he didn’t take any lip. My first lesson from grandpa came when I was six years old. I was there with my aunt and uncle, and two-year-old cousin.

“Watch the baby and don’t let her go outside,” said my aunt Jewell. She was helping Grandma fix supper.

Proud of this awesome responsibility, I watched her like a hawk. Anna Muriel toddled toward the front door. To keep her inside I latched the screen door.
Grandpa ordered, “Unlatch that door.”

“But, Grandpa, Aunt . . .”

Quicker than a lick, I was marched outside into the dark to stand, alone, by the cistern. Chin trembling, I stood, frozen in fright. Beyond the well it was pitch black and the intermittent howl of wolves seemed to get closer and closer. I knew wolves were around because farmers hung dead ones on the fences to scare others away. I could almost feel them sneaking up to the house looking for food. And I was dinner.

I jumped when the screen door squeaked. Warm arms hugged me. My aunt took me inside to the table in the kitchen. And Grandpa didn’t say one word, he knew everyone was mad at him.
One day I asked Grandma why he was so grouchy. “Oh, honey, he doesn’t mean to be that way.” She always made excuses for him. But she did for all of us. I never heard her say an unkind word about anyone.

And, he was good to us in his own way. He’d take us to the pasture with him and sometimes to town to sell Grandma’s eggs. While in town he’d buy us a coke, a rare treat.

We also learned interesting things from him. Useful things, like how to kill mice when traps and poison didn’t do the job. One day we stood around him and watched as he poured coca-cola in a pie pan. What on earth was he thinking? Draw them with the cola and then club them to death? Nope. Mice, like cows can’t belch, so they just blow up and die. Not like “bang” but swell up, bloat.
To be continued next week. Thanks for stopping by. Happy Reading and Writing!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Description – Moving the Story or Boring Our Reader?

As a writer, one of my greatest strengths, or so I’ve been told, is description. I do love for the reader to see the countryside as I see it. And to write an engaging account, the author needs to intimately know the landscape. If you’re writing about an area where you’ve lived and love, it’s easy. Otherwise, unless you visit the area or do a great deal of research, it may sound stilted or flat.

But how much description should you include in your story and when does it become too much? Good question and one I’ve faced many times. Because I love it, I write it and then have to reduce it by 3/4ths.

My first novel had pages of beautiful descriptive passages of west Texas, the flora and fauna, the mesas, the land ruined by oil derricks, and the offensive smell of gas. My sister had never been to the area and loved it. An editor said it read like a travelogue. Oh, it was painful to cut out that beautiful description from my manuscript, but when it was finished, I had a much better story.

Description should enhance the characters and have a direct affect on the plot of your story. In my first novel, When the Ocotillo Bloom(reissued by Champagne Books July 2009), the hero compares the heroine to the ocotillo plant. It is bare and ugly in the winter, but when it rains in the spring, tiny green leaves adorn the stems and cover its thorns. At the top of each long spike blooms a beautiful reddish-gold flower. The heroine is prickly with an attitude, but as the layers of her discontent peel away, her beauty is exposed.

Our readers need to know what our character’s environments are like, but they don’t need a detailed description of the floor plan or furniture. It’s nice if they know the style of the house because in many ways it reflects the hero/heroine’s personality and lifestyle. The u-shaped hacienda blended with the raw landscape of distant mesas and purple sunsets. The cactus that grew beside the front walk merged with the adobe giving the impression it was an extension of the house itself.

If we describe the house inside, we want the description to be part of the action. She plopped down on the horrid orange sofa she’d bought at a salvage house. It clashed nicely with the stuffed red chair she’d found by the dumpster outside her apartment. Yep, her place added a new dimension to shabby chic.

How do you handle description in your stories? Is writing it a pleasure or a pain?

Leave a comment to be entered in September's E-book drawing.

Happy Reading and Writing!


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Winner of Ebook Drawing for August

The winner of the drawing for an ebook of their choice for the month of August is Ciara Gold. Congratulations, Ciara. Email me at linda@lindalaroque.com to tell which book you'd like to have and I'll get your copy to you.

Thanks to all who left comments during August. New comments started coming in September 1st.

Happy reading and writing!


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Towel Art

As most of you know, my husband and I took a cruise in July to New England and Canada. Each night when we came in to our turned down bed and mints, a piece of towel art was on dispaly on our bed or somewhere in our room. I want to share some of those with you. These folks get pretty creative.

A sea gull hanging from the ceiling reflected in the mirror.

A pig.

A sting ray.

A sea turtle.

I considerered trying my hand at towel art but decided to leave it to the experts. However, some on the cruise ship were novices. We were told if we got a snake, we had a beginner.

Thanks for reading. Happy Reading and writing!