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Stormy Weather Contest – Check It Out!

I’m having a contest to celebrate the launch of my latest novel, Stormy Weather!  All you have to do to be eligible to win is to answer the questions below (which will also help you to get to know me a little better). One lucky winner will receive a book about stormy weather – and of course, the rainbows after the storms – illustrated with photos I’ve taken myself. All you have to do is answer the questions in an email and send the answers to secondwindpublishing@gmail.com. Please do NOT post your answers here so as not to spoil the fun for others. You can find more information about me or my new book (Stormy Weather) at www.SecondWindPublishing.com or my website, www.BlueBelleBooks.com. Good luck!

1. Sherrie worries about her sex scenes being too steamy because she:

A. is an old-fashioned girl at heart.
B. is married to a pastor and is afraid of what the church ladies will say.
C. has Baptist relatives who frown upon such things.
D. All of the above.
E. None of the above. Why worry? Be happy.

2. Sherrie’s response to the question, “Have any of the scenes in your books really happened?” would most likely be:

A. “Yes, but I’ll never tell which ones.”
B. “My books are works of fiction in their entirety. Any similarities to real people, situations, or events are purely coincidental.”
C. “Of course not. If I really had gone skinny-dipping, do you think I’d actually tell anyone about it?”
D. All of the above – depends on whether or not her mother is in the room.

3. Sherrie has lived in all of the following places except:

A. Bar Harbor, Maine
B. Lawton, Oklahoma
C. Colorado Springs, Colorado
D. Albert Lea, Minnesota
E. Wheaton, Illinois
F. Augsburg, Germany

4. When traveling to castles in Scotland, the beach in California, and a cabin in northern Minnesota, Sherrie takes along __________ so she can write whenever the mood hits her.

A. her AlphaSmart
B. a moleskin journal given to her by a dear friend
C. a plain steno notepad and a sharp pencil
D. a cute notepad with cherubs on top and a quill pen
E. a state of the art MacBook Pro.

5. Sherrie belongs to a great writing / critique group called:

A. Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Alpha Writers.
B. just Cherry Writers. (formerly known as Jenny’s Cherry Writers)
C. Romance Writer’s of America Elite Critique Group.
D. Very Berry Writers.
E. Juicy Romance Novelists, Inc.
F. The Rainbow Connection at gather.com

6. Sherrie can hardly wait until the next book in the __________ series comes out.

A. Diana Gabaldon Outlander
B. J.K. Rowling Harry Potter
C. Debbie Macomber Blossom Street
D. Janet Evanovich Stephanie Plum
E. Sue Grafton Alphabet

7. Sherrie has read every book ever written by all of the following authors except:

A. LaVyrle Spencer
B. Jennifer Crusie
C. Sandra Brown
D. Pamela Morsi
E. Jill Marie Landis
F. Susan Elizabeth Phillips

8. In addition to writing, Sherrie keeps busy doing all of the following except:

A. playing the piano at church.
B. running a bed and breakfast and tea house, the Blue Belle Inn.
C. fishing at her cabin on the lake.
D. taking her two young nieces on weekly adventures .
E. planning her next European vacation.
F. watching the latest episode of Big Break on the Golf Channel.

9. Night and Day, the title of Sherrie’s first book, refers to:

A. Midnight in Milwaukee and Daybreak in Delaware.
B. a romance between a night watchman and the host of an early morning talk show whose paths cross for a few seconds each morning.
C. Midnight in Minnesota and Daybreak in Denmark.
D. a romantic dance to Frank Sinatra’s hit song, “Night and Day”.
E. Midnight in Manhattan and Daybreak in New Delhi.

10. In Stormy Weather, Sherrie’s new release, one of the main characters is:

A. a well-known meteorologist.
B. a reckless storm chaser who fears nothing.
C. terrified of tornadoes.
D. haunted by childhood memories of a blizzard that claimed the life of her mother and father.
E. a cute young weathergirl who does the evening news for the local television station.

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My latest release, Stormy Weather, is the first in a trilogy about three sisters – Rachael, Michelle, and Tracy Jones. I am heavy into revisions on the second in the series – Waterlily, and hope it will be released in June of this year.  Tracy’s book, Merry Go Round, will hopefully be ready by the end of 2010.

While there is no single plot that weaves the three books together (a la Nora Roberts) or unresolved cliffhangers left dangling from book to book (a la Debbie Macomber), there are repeat appearances by the sisters, their parents, and a few, key secondary characters in each of the books, and character arcs that span the entire series. While each book stands alone, my hope is that once people become invested in the Jones family, they will want to read all three books.

Writing a trilogy has been fun – I know the family well by now. It’s easier to get into the characters since many of them were introduced in the first book. On the down side, I’ve needed to look up all kinds of names and other little details to be sure they are the same from book to book (which I expected). Aside from that, character consistency has been my biggest challenge – does Rae’s voice sound the same in Waterlily as it did in Stormy Weather? Her role in the family and status in life has changed a great deal by the time Waterlily opens.  (I don’t want to give away the ending, should you not have read Stormy Weather.) But I wonder, should her voice reflect those changes? Is she more cynical now? Softer? More content? Less snarky than she was at the beginning of her book?

The other thing that has really started to bother me is that the names of my three books are totally unrelated. My plan has always been to have the covers of the books be linked by their style: a photo on top, and a quilt block on the bottom. Stormy Weather has a photo of a rainbow in a stormy sky on top and a rainbow quilt block on the bottom. I’ve got a wonderful photo of a water lily to use on the top of Waterlily’s cover, and I plan to make a quilt block with a pink waterlily blossoming in a pond of watercolor hues for the bottom. I just found the perfect photo for the top of Merry Go Round – an old-fashioned carousel horse, taken by one of my friends from Gather. (Thank you, Rose!) The quilt on the bottom will be some sort of a spinning pin wheel design in rich pastels to match the horse’s finery.

So, if I have a common theme in the design of the book covers, do you think the names of the books still need to be related? I’m curious to see if you think this is a problem.

I love the way Nora Roberts weaves together the titles of her trilogies – my favorite of her trios are titled Jewels of the Sun, Tears of the Moon, and Heart of the Sea. Some of her series are even more obviously linked – Born in Fire, Born in Ice, Born in Shame, or Key of Light, Key of Knowledge, Key of Valor.

In Lyn Cote’s Women of Ivy Manor series, each book is named – simply and elegantly – after the main character: Bette, Chloe, Leigh, and Carly.

In Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cover series, each book is named after the street address of the main character, with each sequential book having a house number one number higher. (16 Lighthouse Road, 204 …, 311…, 44…, 50…, 6…, 74…, 8…, 92 Pacific Boulevard.) Then there are the Dakota series, and the Blossom Street series, also cleverly named to alert the reader that these books are continuations of a series.

Since it’s too late for me to change the name of Stormy Weather to Rachael, if I want the titles of my trilogy to be in sync, I’m left with the option of somehow tying the names of the remaining two books to something weather related.

I refuse to do something so obvious as Stormy Weather, Cold Weather, and Hot Weather, so…

The imagery in waterlily is tied to water (Michelle has a lily pond, Jake is a championship swimmer, Michelle is too self-conscious to be seen in a swimming suit, a pivotal scene occurs in the water, under the camouflage of a new moon). The book could conceivably be called Starry, Starry Night, Trace of Moisture, Rainy Days and Mondays, Scattered Showers, Summer Solstice, Moon Shadow, Misty in the Moonlight…

In Merry Go Round, Tracy’s entire world is turned on end (an atmospheric inversion?) when her husband, a pastor, and the father of their three children, leaves her for another man. I can think of a few weather-related terms that might work for a title in this case, too:  Total Eclipse of the Heart (yes, I’m sensing a theme here – I like the names of songs) , Unstable Air, Updraft, Wind Shift, Whirlwind, Heat Wave…

Since I’m still working on both the second and third book in the trilogy, I could weave in the needed imagery to make any of these new names work.

Thoughts? Ideas? Leave well-enough alone?  What are your expectations as a reader when you begin a trilogy?

If you’re a writer – have you ever had to change the title of your book at the last minute? If so, how did it impact your work?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Two days ago (it seems like an eternity), my husband and I returned from a wonderful vacation to California. Not quite two weeks ago, we left northern Iowa a day early to narrowly escape a good, old-fashioned blizzard (22 below zero temperatures, 50 below zero wind chills, zero visibility due to 45 mph wind gusts) The day we flew out of the northern tundra otherwise know as Minneapolis, we peered out frosted-over hotel windows and could barely see across the parking lot. Our shuttle slipped and careened on the snow-covered interstate on the short trip to the airport.

A few hours later, we were walking around in short-sleeved shirts and sandals. Our jackets, wool scarves and mittens were shed, and instead of crunching along on white, snow-covered sidewalks, we found ourselves in a green citrus grove plucking fresh oranges, tangerines and lemons from the trees, peeling them, and popping them into our mouths. A couple of days later, we were on the beach, walking barefoot along the shoreline and picking up shells while the sun set over the Pacific.

Thanks to the fast speed of today’s airplanes, and the severity of our winter as contrasting the balmy temperatures out West, the change from Minnesota to California was so abrupt I almost felt like I was on an episode of Star Trek, Next Generation, where the crew regularly visited a holodeck, or simulated reality facility, for recreational purposes, to experience a different culture or period of history, or even to fulfill a fantasy.

Whether a brief escapade in the holodeck or a week or two at the beach, a good vacation can pick you up from one place and set you down in another, relieving stress, providing laughter and relaxation, and giving you a much need change of scenery.

So can a good book.

When I was young, my family took some wonderful vacations – to Florida, The Black Hills, Lake Superior, and the Rocky Mountains. But most of the many things and places I knew about at the young age of nine or ten, I had learned of not from seeing them with my own eyes, but from reading books.

One of the compliments about my books (Night and Day, and Stormy Weather, Second Wind Publishing) that pleases me most is hearing that my readers were so engrossed while reading that they felt like they were right there, in the book, living and feeling whatever the characters were experiencing.

Although the current trend in writing is not to write lengthy descriptions, I love a book where I can picture the characters and surroundings in such detail that I feel like I’m magically transported to their corner of the universe, feeling what they feel, seeing the world, whether it be Victorian, modern, or futuristic, through their eyes… a vacation from my own troubles without the frustration of lengthy waits at airports, lost suitcases, and expensive room reservations.

Is there a writer whose words have such a strong impact on your senses that you literally feel like you’re transported to another time and place when you’re reading their books? If so, what is it about their style of writing that makes the fictional world in their books seem so real?

Once again, Stormy Weather is impacting my life. Last week, a winter storm (ice, sleet, freezing rain, snow, winds) almost kept my husband and I apart on Christmas. This week, another is threatening our long lusted after vacation.

We’ve had this trip planned – a visit to Visalia, Cayucos, and Glendora California to see friends and family – for months. We checked out the extended forecast a week ago and breathed a sigh of relief when the weather sounded passable for the day we were scheduled to fly from Minneapolis to Bakersfield. We asked my parents to drive us to the airport. Everything was a go – we couldn’t wait to escape the frigid, 50 below zero windchills and two feet of snow that has inundated northern Iowa this winter.

My B&B – the place we are trying to escape.

You can imagine our dismay when well-meaning friends informed us that the revised forecast features a winter storm warning – 5 to 8 inches of fresh snow, winds in excess of 25 mph, near white-out conditions, blowing and drifting snow with blizzard-like periods expected – starting tomorrow afternoon and continuing on until Thursday night. We are supposed to fly out of St. Paul Thursday afternoon, right in the middle of the fray. The airport is two hours from our home – a nice, mellow drive in good weather – a nightmare in near white-out conditions.

So… What possessed me to write a book called Stormy Weather in the first place, I have started to wonder of late… ever since this book came out, my life has been nothing but. A cruel twist of fate? Is Mother Nature mad at me for speaking out about things best left alone? Is God mad at me for making the sex scenes too steamy, something a good girl / pastor’s wife like me really ought not do?

If you have the answer, let me know!

In the meantime… what to do about all this Stormy Weather? Adapt, I guess… we are leaving for the airport a day early, tomorrow morning, in hopes of beating the storm. The plan is to book a room in St. Paul where we can leave our car while we’re gone, and hoping our flight is on schedule the next day so we don’t end up stranded in Minnesota, where the forecast is continued sub-zero temperatures.

We’ve been California Dreaming for months… sandy beaches, warm ocean breezes, barefoot in the sand, Catalina Island romance, tropical paradise type weather… you get the picture. We need this break from the lung-searing cold, frozen tundra, snow and ice everywhere Midwest.

Assuming we get there, we hope to encounter no Stormy Weather in California. (Did you hear that, God?)

A California sunset I witnessed from a friend’s deck while visiting last year.

We really need a rest from all this turbulence… a little smooth sailing would be nice. Red skies at night, sailor’s delight… Please??? I’m taking my Alpha Smart. My husband is dragging the laptop along so I can work on Waterlily. Smooth-petaled, tucked in still waters, sunshine-drenched waterlilies… ah, yes… no ice, no snow. waterlilies… Coming soon if I get my way…

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Golden Rod – New Release!

Sweet William

Shy Violet

Blue Belle

Wild Rose

Thistle Down

Love Notes

Night and Day

Stormy Weather

Water Lily

Merry Go Round

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