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Thursday, July 31st, 2008
Middlemarch, New Zealand

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Things about The Real MIDDLEMARCH

1. Middlemarch is a small country town, in Central Otago, New Zealand. It is about 80 km West of Dunedin. It’s located in the Strath Taieri Valley.

2. Several suggestions exist about how the township was named. One is that Mrs Alice Humphreys, whose husband Edward Wingfield Humphreys owned and had surveyed for sale of sections in this new township, was reading George Eliot’s novel Middlemarch. Another is that the name is from the obsolete English term “march” meaning a boundary – in this case a middle area between two rivers.

3. Middlemarch is the setting for my feline shapeshifter series, Middlemarch Mates.

4. Each year Middlemarch holds a singles dance and a special train (nicknamed the Love Train) carries women and men to the dance from Dunedin.

5. HOW IT ALL BEGAN – the dance.

In November last year our Community Board was presented with some statistics about rural health and other services in this area. As part of her presentation, Pauline Carruthers, the local Plunket Nurse, District Nurse and at that time only local practise nurse in the area, noted that we needed more nurses and made the flippant comment that we should marry some of our bachelors off to some nurses.

The Community Board took the idea one step further and suggested to the local A & P Society that it would arrange for the sponsor of the Dance for its Centenary Show. We contacted Country & City Contacts (NZ) Ltd. They are an Amberley-based dating service that has had huge success in the rural areas, especially of the South Island. Henk & Joy van Leir were enthusiastic and supportive of the idea of publicising the dance as a good place for their clients to meet each other and also some of our bachelors.

6. The area has some rare creatures – the mountain weta, the Otago and Grand skinks and the NZ falcon.

7. The area is also home to the Sutton Salt Lake. The water in the lake evaporates during the summer.

8. There are also special clouds in the area called the Tairei Pet. A cloud formation reportedly found only in one or two places in the world. It is formed by high north westerly winds being forced upward over the Rock & Pillar range – spectacular and unnerving by its sheer size and its association with the high winds.

9. It is the start of the 150km Otago Central Rail Trail, a path that stretches from Middlemarch to Clyde. People can walk, cycle or ride horses along this path, staying overnight at stops on the way.

10. As I mentioned earlier, there’s a train from Dunedin. It travels through the spectacular Tairei Gorge and is popular with tourists.

11. Scarlet Woman, Peeping Tom and Stray Cat Strut are all set in Middlemarch and feature various members of the Mitchell family.

12. Go here to learn about how the series was born, plus there are photos. There are also Middlemarch photos here.

13. Assassin, Middlemarch Mates book 4 is coming on August 6.

Assassin

Here’s the blurb:

Feline shifter Leo Mitchell is the pretty brother who attracts women with ease, but he’s turned picky. He suspects the mystery blonde hanging around Middlemarch is the one for him. If only he could grab the elusive female and seduce her. Oh yeah. He craves some hot, sinful lovin’ with the lady in black leather.

Assassin Isabella Black has harbored a huge crush on hunky Leo for ages. Because the timing sucked she’s watched him from afar, praying another woman won’t snatch the hottie away before she’s free to stake a claim.

Finally the pair meet. Isabella offers her naked body but Leo counteracts with a cup of tea. Seems Leo likes to call the shots when it comes to sex. A day later they’re finally dancing horizontally. It’s smokin’ hot, steamy, delicious—everything she’s ever wanted. Isabella is ecstatic until another assassin threatens to ruin her happiness. It’s life or death now. One wrong move and her secrets will destroy the Mitchells along with everything that has become dear to her…including Leo.

Do you like small town settings or do you prefer sophisticated city settings for your romances?

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The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others’ comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!
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Wednesday, July 30th, 2008
What A Tangled Web We Weave with Lorelei James

Tied Up Tied Down My special guest today is Samhain author, Lorelei James. She’s talking about family trees and books. Over to Lorelei and her Western men!

Shelley contacted me after she’d finished, TIED UP, TIED DOWN, the latest book in my Rough Riders series from Samhain Publishing, wondering if I’d ever considered creating a family tree for the characters as a reference point for readers.

I’ll admit I hadn’t thought of it. I’ll also admit I have lots of characters in my books — no one really is an island, even in the middle of nowhere Wyoming. The Rough Riders books are a Western saga, if you will, featuring a large ranching family. Each book can be read as a standalone, but each book builds on the entire arc of the series, both forward and backward, and each one features a different McKay or West family member.

***Complete disclosure; if I had it to do all over again, I would not have so many ‘C’ and ‘K’ names in this series – although it is something families do frequently out here in the Wild West, begin all offspring’s first names with the same letter. As sort of a wink wink nudge nudge to my readers and myself, in TIED UP, TIED DOWN, Skylar complains about the excessive use of the same consonant in the McKay family. And Kane asks his twin brother Kade why their mother gave them such similar names.***

I remember a series by a famous author in which the first couple in the series birthed one kid in the epilogue. Then in the next connected book that same couple were blessed with twins…but no mention of the first child. In the 3rd or 4th book, that same couple had triplets, not twins, still no mention of that poor little forgotten first kiddo. The inconsistency pulled me out of the story. Readers might think it is the copy editor’s job to double check facts and character lineage, but I wonder if the whole incident could’ve been avoided had the author created a family tree.

So I took Shelley’s suggestion to heart. Not only would an official roadmap be a bonus for readers, it’d be an easy way for me to keep track of my own characters. I checked a couple of author sites to see how they structured their family trees to get an idea of what I wanted. Then I posed the challenge to my readers loop, The James Gang, and two fabulous ladies volunteered to head up the project. Honestly, I think they’re afraid if I’m dinking around with working on a family tree I won’t actually be writing, and they’re sort of antsy for me to get the next book finished :grin:

These fans, Joy Roett and Carla Hartman created not one, not two, but three separate family trees. Immediately I sent the finished project to my website designer to post. Check out the results here.

Question of the day for readers: Do you look at family trees in the beginnings of books? Or skip over them entirely? Or would you go to the author’s website for more information?

Lorelei James writes erotic Westerns set in the modern day Wild West. For more information on books, contests and the James Gang readers yahoo group, visit Lorelei’s website: www.loreleijames.com

Thursday, July 24th, 2008
Lemons: Yellow Sunshine

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Things about LEMONS

This year our lemon tree has produced heaps of fruit. Our fruit bowls are full of them. They’re a bright sunshine color and remind me of summer, despite the winter gloom outside.
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Thursday, July 17th, 2008
Packing For Travel

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Things about PACKING for a Trip

With my trip coming up soon, packing is looming…

1. Make a list a few weeks beforehand of the things you think you’ll need to take with you.

2. Lay out the clothes you think you want to take, along with toiletries, shoes etc.
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Saturday, July 12th, 2008
Crunchy Lemon Muffins

After a solid week of edits, I’ve decided to have a lazy weekend. I’ve just made a batch of one of my favorite muffins and thought I’d share the recipe with you. It’s taken from New Zealander Alison Holst’s Marvellous Muffins recipe book, and it’s one I make often.

2 cups self-raising flour (I didn’t have any so I used 2 cups of flour and 2 teaspoons of baking powder)
3/4 cup of sugar

75 grams butter
1 cup milk
1 egg
grated rind of 1 large or 2 small lemons

1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar

Measure the flour and sugar into a bowl and toss to mix. Melt the butter, add the milk, egg and lemon rind and beat well with a fork to combine. Add the liquids to the dry ingredients and combine only until the dry ingredients have been lightly dampened but not overly mixed. Divide the mixture evenly between 12 medium-sized muffin pans. (I used paper muffin cases since I hate both greasing the tin and cleaning it afterward!)

Bake at 200 degrees C for 10 minutes. (I find the time depends on the oven. I cooked mine for 10 minutes and found they needed a couple minutes more)

Stir together the lemon juice and sugar without dissolving the sugar and drizzle this over the hot muffins as soon as they come out of the oven. Leave to stand in the pan for only a few minutes after this since the syrup hardens and sticks to the pan when it cools.

Notes: As always I improvise. I use mainly white flour but add a little wholemeal as well. These are also good served with a little fresh fruit and Greek yoghurt. Yum!

I really like muffins. Blueberry are my favorite. I like these lemons ones and also another recipe I make with raspberry jam in the middle and a sugary cinnamon topping. I’ll save that recipe for another time. Strangely, chocolate comes down the list for me, that’s unless it has lots of chocolate chips inside!

Do you like muffins and if so, what is your favorite kind?

Monday, June 23rd, 2008
Handbag Security

This might seem a random topic to blog about, but last week, not far from where I live, a woman was killed during a handbag robbery. Most women carry their lives in their handbag. I know I’m guilty of carrying way more stuff than I need. I thought a refresher of some commonsense rules wouldn’t go astray.

Here are a few things we can do to keep both our possessions and ourselves safe.

1. Be aware of your surroundings. When exiting your car in a carpark look to see who is around.

2. Walk with confidence and display positive body language.

3. Avoid walking in badly lit or isolated areas, especially if you’re alone.

4. Keep your bag close. Zip it shut and be wary of anyone who tries to distract you. Don’t leave your bag unattended. e.g. in a supermarket trolley.

5. Keep your car door locked while driving, and avoid leaving valuable items in your car when you leave it, if possible. Secure valuable items in the boot (trunk) before arriving at your destination.

6. Have your keys in your hand before you reach your vehicle. Secure your handbag first before your shopping.

7. Watch your handbags while in restaurants, public toilets. If you’re at a club and dancing have someone you know look after your bag. I’ve done a lot of traveling and I know how quick thieves can be. When I’m traveling I have my hand on my bag at all times. Sitting on the seat beside you is not a good place to keep your bag.

8. Keep your bag in front of you or in your hand while you’re at the bank or a ticket counter.

If you have any other suggestions please let me know.

Thursday, June 19th, 2008
Yes! We Have No Bananas!

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Things about BANANAS

I had no idea what I was doing for my TT this week. I thought about it while eating my porridge. I glanced around my kitchen and my gaze lit on it–inspiration in the form of one lonely banana. I hereby dedicate my TT to the humble banana.

1. Bananas are originally from Malaysia, but they have spread throughout the world and grow well in tropical areas.

2. Bananas plants are not trees but are actually herbs.

3. Bananas are high in potassium. They also contain protein, Vitamins A, B & C and have trace elements of iron and zinc. In other words, they’re good for you.
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Friday, June 13th, 2008
Goals, Motivation and Conflict

A good romance needs conflict to make it memorable. Our characters need motivation and goals, otherwise why are we bothering? For a beginner writer, conflict is often a difficult thing to grasp. It’s more than mere bickering.

The turning point for me came when I read Debra Dixon’s book GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict. I don’t read a lot of craft books, especially when I’m writing, since I start to second-guess myself. However, this is one of the books I found really useful. Here’s the link to the book.

Debra does charts and talks about internal and external conflict. I still use her method, but I also answer the questions below.

When I’m writing, I always work out the GMC of my two main characters and any important secondary characters before I write a word. Often I’ll layer in more conflict as I write, to strengthen my story, but the basics are in place before I start.

If I can answer the following five questions about my characters, then I know my story is workable, and I’m ready to start.

1. What do my characters want?
2. Why do they want it?
3. How do they plan to get it?
4. What’s standing in their way?
5. What will happen if they don’t get it?

I try to arrange the answers to the above questions so that my hero and heroine want the opposite, and during the course of the book, I try to make things worse. I throw in road blocks, and the characters need to work out another way to get what they want or buckle under the pressure.

How do you go about working out your goals, motivation and conflict for your characters? Do you have any favorite how-to books that help you in this area?

Thursday, June 12th, 2008
All Things Shopping

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Things about SHOPPING

1. In ancient times, there was no money. People bartered or traded goods, that they had produced themselves.

2. In the past, customers were served by the shopkeeper, who would retrieve all the goods on their shopping list. Shops would often deliver the goods to the customers’ homes.

3. This changed to self-serve shopping where customers selected the goods, retrieved them off the shelves and packed their own goods. Customers deliver their own goods.

4. These days many of us shop on the internet, our goods are packed by the shopkeeper or his staff and delivered to us. We’ve come a full circle!

5. Sylvan Goldman invented the first shopping cart in 1936. He invented the first shopping cart by adding two wire basket and wheels to a folding chair.

6. The first shopping mall was the Country Club Plaza, founded by the J.C. Nichols Company and opened near Kansas City, Mo., in 1922.

7. At the start of the nineteenth century a form of mass produced clothing developed. It was of a simple basic style, mainly for ordinary men and women and unsuitable for the high fashion market of the upper classes. The only acceptable ready made items for the wealthy were free size garments like mantles, cloaks and shawls.

8. The American, Gordon Selfridge, invested in building a huge store in Oxford Street, London in 1909. Staff were hired months before it opened. They were trained in selling the Selfridge way. Shoppers flocked to the store when they heard of the delights inside such as make up and perfume. Clothes departments sold all manner of goods and hard to find items. Music greeted the shoppers and browsing there could be an all day experience. Shopping there was intended to be a recreation.

9. A Philadelphia pharmacist named Asa Candler invented the coupon in 1895. Candler bought the Coca-Cola company from the original inventor Dr. John Pemberton, an Atlanta pharmacist. Candler placed coupons in newspaper for a free Coke from any fountain – to help promote the new soft drink.

10. The first patent for bar code (US Patent #2,612,994) was issued to inventors Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver on October 7, 1952.

11. Shopping can be a disease – Compulsive shopping or spending can be a seasonal balm for the depression, anxiety and loneliness during the December holiday season. It also can occur when a person feels depressed, lonely and angry. Shopping and spending will not assure more love, bolster self-esteem, or heal the hurts, regrets, stress, and the problems of daily living. It generally makes these feelings worse because of the increased financial debt the person has obtained from compulsive shopping.

12. Whoever said money can’t buy happiness simply didn’t know where to go shopping. ~ Bo Derek

13. Shopping is a woman thing. It’s a contact sport like football. Women enjoy the scrimmage, the noisy crowds, the danger of being trampled to death, and the ecstasy of the purchase. ~ Erma Bombeck

Extra: Shopping is better than sex. If you’re not satisfied after shopping you can make an exchange for something you really like. ~ Adrienne Gusoff

Do you prefer to shop online or do you like to shop in person at a department store or mall?

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others’ comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!
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Thursday, May 29th, 2008
Relationships.

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Things about RELATIONSHIPS

This week I read about a British couple who have recently celebrated eighty years of marriage. I think this is amazing. Their story inspired me to search for ways to make a marriage last through the years.

1. Spend at least 10 minutes a day focused on one another without the distraction of your kids, the TV, the phone etc.

2. Say I love you. My hubby will ring up and tell me just out of the blue. It always makes me feel good.

3. Affirm something your spouse said or did and say something nice.

4. Laugh together.

5. Don’t criticize your spouse.

6. Kiss your spouse in the morning, before leaving the house, when you go to bed, and several other times during the day and evening.

7. Do a few things together, like working in the yard, taking a walk, watching a favorite movie or planning and cooking dinner.

8. Fight fair.

9. Be willing to forgive.

10. Plan and have a date with one another.

11. Don’t try to change your spouse. Note – it doesn’t work! He can’t change me either. :grin:

12. Don’t expect your spouse to be a mind reader and don’t try to be a mind reader.

13. Accept that there will be some small issues that you two will never resolve and that it’s normal in successful marriages.

I’m sure there are heaps of other things I haven’t mentioned. If you have another suggestion, please add it in the comments section.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others’ comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!
View More Thursday Thirteen Participants