I will be at the Fish and Farm Festival in Aurora Saturday, September 9th. Come by and visit if you’re in town and if you want, you can buy a book. Remy’s Dilemma, the final book in the Harrell Family Chronicles is available along with all of my backlist. Come on out and join the fun. Food vendors, crafters, musicians, games, tractor pull and more. I had so much fun last year. I can’t wait.
After the festival, books will be available at the Blue Crab in Aurora, The Next Chapter Books in New Bern, and as soon as I can get there, the Riverwalk Gallery in Washington. If you want a signed copy of any of my books, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, $16 per book in continental United States.
If you prefer ebooks, my Harrell Family Chronicles are on sale for $1.99 each, don’t miss your chance to get them for this low price. (Regular price $3.99 each)
Do you like Horror Movies?
Carnival of Darkness starts Friday, September 22nd at Raised in a Barn Farm, and continues through Saturday at the historic Turnage Theater where the Haunted Pamlico will be showing submissions to their Carnival of Darkness film competition. With hundreds of film entries from all around the world, live action entertainment, awards and attractions, the Carnival of Darkness starts the haunting season with a true carnival experience. If you love spooky and things that go bump in the night, you won’t want to miss this event!
In honor of my friends at Haunted Pamlico I’m giving away a free ticket to the Carnival of Darkness weekend to one lucky winner, a $25 value. To get your name in the drawing, all you have to do is post a review of any of my books and email me a link to the review(s). The review has to be current 2023. It can be on Amazon, Goodreads or Bookbub. Each review will get another chance to win.
The drawing will be Wednesday, September 20th. The winner’s name will be given and they will be able to pick up their ticket at the event. Good Luck!
Setting is more than just a place. Often where a story is set is more important than even when it takes place. A romance set in New Orleans would be very different from one set in New York City. When we think about horror it is often in a small rural setting but when it’s done in a suburban setting or in a city, it takes on a different feel.
I love any story set in Louisiana or North Carolina because I’ve lived in both places. I also love to read a lot of westerns both modern and historical because of my travels. Feeling a connection to the places I read about is part of the fun, but I also love to read about the highlands of Scotland and Regency or Victorian England even though I’ve never been there.
Part of what I love about reading and writing about different places is becoming immersed in the setting. Victorian London fog evokes danger and mystery. A stone castle alone on a windswept mountain can give you the feeling of strength and solitude, or if viewed during a storm, fear and uncertainty.
Setting combined with weather, time period (era), season and the emotions of the point of view character can influence the reader’s feelings. If a determined optimist arrives during a terrible storm to a cold, ancient stone castle, they might be glad to be out of the storm and notice all the faded beauty and majesty of the castle, thankful for a fire in a hearth to chase away the chill. On the other hand, a grumpy, pessimist might see the same castle with its cold stone and faded glory as another burden to bear. Someone who is a bit melodramatic and fearful might view it all with a sense of foreboding and fear.
To give the reader the most accurate version of what you wish them to know and feel about the setting, be sure to have one of your point of view characters react to it that way. If you wish to surprise your reader or mislead them, do just the opposite. Remember in jaws, the characters are all reacting to a day at the beach. They are mostly happy, excited, having fun…until disaster strikes.
With hurricane Idalia just making her way past North Carolina, I wonder how writers might portray this event differently depending on their experience. Here we had little more than a tropical storm but down in Florida the experience was a bit different. Using natural disasters in a story, severe weather, even terrible events, can add another layer of drama, fear, and even depth to the setting, time period and even the characters’ growth. How a character reacts to these things can tell us a little more about them.
How do you feel about setting, weather and events in your stories? Do you like to read about them? Do you write about them?
A Carefree Novel series by Leslie Ray I knew I’d made a huge mistake before I ever finished the first book in this series. I’d only bought first two books and I was devouring them. Thankfully, the third novel was only an email away.
I haven’t taken much time to read until lately. I’ve been so busy with work, writing and life. Getting older sucks. But one thing I’ve learned is I have to take time for myself. I can’t continue to push myself without risking my health. Taking time to read, watch a movie with my husband or hang out with friends and family are a great way to keep the doctors away. Finding great books to read isn’t difficult when you know so many authors but finding the books that resonate with you is a bit more of a challenge. I have a confession, I’m a moody reader. I read eclectically but I have to be in the right mood to read certain books and genres.
The Carefree series hit all the right spots but warning you’ll have to read these books with a fresh pack of tissues close at hand.
Carefree, South Carolina is a peaceful small town, or it was before Julia Hawthorne arrived. Julia didn’t know about the house her father left her in his will, but it might just be the haven she needs. Healing from one heartache after another, Julia plans to restart her life and Carefree’s slower pace is just the ticket. Unless she ends up with a ticket or in lock up… after a few run-ins with Carefree’s police chief she’s not so sure that her new life is going to start out behind bars.
Miles Scott, the Carefree Chief of Police is in for a roller coaster ride as Julia leads him on a whirlwind chase. Returning home after years in the military, Miles hasn’t let people get too close, including his big noisy family, but he has an instant attraction to Julia Hawthorn. Can two broken people heal each other? Secrets from their pasts collide and their fears have them running away, will they take a chance on love or is their fear greater than their attraction.
Kat Henley is the big, shouldered broad who owns the local diner Kat Got Your Tongue. She’s not a person who lets anyone else tell her what to do. Kat is happiest tending everyone else’s business, but she doesn’t like to have the tables turned. Preparing for her twin’s wedding, she has an unexpected surprise that changes everything. Ashamed of choices she made in her past, will she continue to let it control her or is she brave enough to face the future?
Officer Marshall Brooks is Miles’ best friend and a fixture in the Scott family. He’s been in love with Kat since they were kids. New challenges and old fears threaten their future as he tries to convince Kat to take a chance on them. Will he give up on the woman he’s loved nearly his whole life? This was an awesome sequel to Exposure. The feel of the town of Carefree and the secondary characters adds so much richness to this story. I could see Carefree as a series. I can’t wait to read the last book in the series, Division.
Lost & Found Love A Mountain Meadow Homecomings novel by Laura Browning
I’ve read a lot of books and every once in a while you find one that really touches your soul. That’s what this book did to me. When I first picked up this book, I thought it’d be just a sweet love story but it’s more than that. It does have a couple of triggers. It deals with child abuse and prejudice, as well as some extreme emotional issues, but Laura Browing does it with a deft had. She is skilled at making the reader feel, pointing her finger at injustice without making it preachy, even though the male love interest is a preacher. Discovering the male protagonist was a preacher nearly turned me off. So many stories make the preacher the bad guy or so good your teeth hurt. This did neither. He was a good guy, but he was a real person complete with flaws and desires. Ms. Browning’s portrayal of Pastor Joe was so well done, I wanted him to be my pastor. He, in fact reminded me of my favorite minister who unashamedly loved his wife and let his love show in an honest and open fashion I’d never known with other ministers. The twists and turns in the relationship between Tabby and Joe is as complex as the mountain roads that inspired the setting. Add in family drama, church and community jealousy and gossip, and secrets from the past and you have a fantastic series ready to pull you in for another glimpse. I will definitely go back and read the books prior to Lost & Found Love and read any others in this series. Prepare to have your heart broken and put back together.
When the steam engine first appeared on the scene it was met with both excitement and trepidation. The steam engine opened up new places, new opportunities, offered new and different jobs, but it also took away from existing jobs. The mail, once delivered by Pony Express could now arrive more quickly and safely by the railroad. Packages, cargo and travelers could also arrive via steam powered trains opening up the need for more coal mines and miners. The sewing machine made it faster to create dresses and suits at home. It even allowed ready-made clothes to be more accessible. But the seamstress and tailors who sewed by hand either had to learn to use the new machines, if they could afford it or compete for the fancy, detail work only handwork could do. Each generation faces challenges in the name of progress from the invention of the automobile and electric lights, to talking films replacing the silent movies, to frozen foods making meat and produce available around the world all year long. Not all of the changes have been bad, some have created new jobs, allowed farmers to sell more product, opened new opportunities.
But with every change there have been challenges and naysayers. The most recent change in our world is AI, artificial intelligence. Now, I’m not a computer geek. I don’t have the latest gadgets, but just like the air fryer and microwave, I appreciate anything that makes my life easier. I believe AI such as Chat GBT has its place. For me, AI is a tool to help me with those things I have trouble doing myself, like marketing. I feed it my ideas and it spits out something usually not something I can use, so I give it more information. The more I tell it, the better it does in giving me what I’m looking for. After a few tries I usually get something that sounds close to what I want. I might take ten suggestions from Chat and kick out two or three to start with, combine two or three deleting anything over the top, and by editing and piecing together come up with something that will work for a blurb, description, or tagline. As far as writing a story, I can’t see using AI to write because that is what I love to do. To give my ideas to Chat and let it do the writing, takes all the fun out of it. But if I’m looking for something that happened at a certain point in history, or fashion information, or even foreign names, this would be a tool I think would save me some time.
How do you feel about AI? Have you tried it? While I still feel we need to be careful about using AI in an ethical manor, I believe it is here to stay. Like the SAG-AFRA strikes in Hollywood, I support the authors and artist who wish to get paid for the use of their works in the creating of AI. I also believe that any whose works were used who choose to not be a part of it should be allowed to have their works and influence pulled from AI’s learning. I am sure that is not easily done and if the bots can search the web on their own (I’m not sure if that’s possible), they can find it and learn it without our knowledge. We need a new way of copyrighting our work and protecting the original creators. It’s a conundrum progress versus ethics, but if history has taught us anything, it’s that the outcome doesn’t justify the means.
If you are interested in learning more about AI and Writing, check out the Heart of Carolina’s online program coming Saturday, August 12th from 1-3 pm via Zoom with author, Elizabeth Ann West.
This workshop is designed to provide authors with a comprehensive understanding of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its potential applications in the realm of creative writing. Led by renowned indie author and AI enthusiast Elizabeth Ann West, this workshop will equip participants with basic knowledge and tools to leverage AI as a valuable assistant in their writing journey.During the workshop, participants will delve into the fundamental concepts of AI and explore its capabilities in aiding various aspects of the writing process. Through a combination of a presentation and an interactive Q&A discussion, attendees will gain practical insights into harnessing AI technologies to enhance their creativity, productivity, and storytelling prowess.General Topics Covered:
Introduction to AI: Understanding the basic principles and terminology of Artificial Intelligence.
AI in Writing: Exploring the intersection of AI and creative writing and how it can benefit authors.
Natural Language Processing (NLP): Explaining the concept of NLP and its relevance to AI-based writing applications.
Text Generation Models: Exploring state-of-the-art language models such as GPT-3 and its applications in generating story ideas, character development, and dialogue.
Ethical Considerations: Discuss the ethical implications of using AI in writing and understand the limitations of AI-generated content.
Incorporating AI into Workflow: Practical tips and strategies for seamlessly integrating AI tools into an author’s writing process and workflow.
By the end of the workshop, participants will have an excellent beginner’s understanding of AI, its applications in the field of writing, and how to effectively utilize AI tools as assistants in their own creative endeavors. Join Elizabeth Ann West for this enlightening workshop and unlock the potential of AI in transforming your writing journey. This event is online only. A handout will be provided, and a recording will be available for one week. Chapter members: Free. No registration required. Nonmembers: $12.50. Register: https://hcrw-2023-08.eventbrite.com
Speaker bio: Elizabeth Ann West is an author of over 20 novels and novellas and CEO of Future Fiction Academy. She has used generative AI as part of her writing process since November of 2021, helped create the prompting structure for Sudo write’s Story Engine, and now works as an AI Author educator, advocate, prompt engineer, and consultant to AI software startups. Her chief concern is making sure AI is not only something big publishers have access to and understand how to harness, but that every writer has access to these incredible advancements on technologies we’ve been using for over a decade in other applications. Plus, it’s so much fun to play with, she loses sleep over it regularly. She holds a Bachelor’s in Political Science, Leadership Studies, of all things, so she is a firm believer that if she can figure out the technology, she can help others, too.
Sorry I’ve been absent lately. I have been trying to finish the last book in the Harrell Family Chronicles series, Remy’s Dilemma.
This book should have been out before now but sometimes life gets in the way. No excuses but I do think it will be worth the wait. I hope you agree.
Dive into the town of Leeward one more time and get your goodies at Goodie Galore Bakery. Roxanne and her business partner, Kendra have opened their bakery and are making a sweet impact on the town.
Get you grub at Hole in the Sky Pub where the beer is out of this world. Ethan quit college to brew beer but don’t worry, who needs a fourth degree.
Janie and Mike are finally tying the knot if their wedding doesn’t go up in flames.
If Sothy doesn’t run away, she might make a success of her new craft store.
Remington Harrell is the oldest of the Harrell siblings and the one expected to fix everything. Whether it’s a friend accused of murder or saving the local phosphate plant there’s nothing he can’t do, except relationships. After his last girlfriend threatened to kill his sister and sell her child on the black market, he’s been a little apprehensive about dating. With cyber-attacks on the phosphate plant escalating along with threats to the employees, Remy worries his family and friends will be the next targets. When he realizes the threat comes from someone in Sothy’s past. They must team up to stop the cyber-attacks. But if Sothy isn’t willing to share her secrets, can Remy trust her with his heart?
We just celebrated our wedding anniversary, thirty-two years. We didn’t do anything special since we both had to work but I can’t help but remember our wedding. Since we’d both been married before and we had five children between us, we didn’t want to spend a lot of money on our wedding. I did a lot of the wedding décor and preparations myself. Looking back, I can see how brides turn into Bridezillas. All the craziness beforehand with trying to remake my dress and make my bouquets. When things went wrong, they went very wrong. Desperate and crazy, I called my maid of honor, and we went shopping for a sundress. What is the saying, when the going gets tough the tough go shopping!
We both wore white sundresses and my two flower girls had flowered dresses on white background. The guys wore black pants and white shirts, except my groom, he wore gray. The ceremony was near perfection. It was pretty close to my dream wedding. We were married outside at my aunt’s home on the river. My father-in-law built us a trellis and we decorated it with flowers. We had a pig picking for our reception. Our brother-in-law cooked the pig. Altogether we probably didn’t spend a thousand dollars including the cake and the food. I’d say it was closer to five hundred.
Because of my own simple wedding, it’s difficult for me to even imagine spending tens of thousands of dollars on a wedding. I’ve watched movie weddings and soap opera weddings, I’ve even watched the royal weddings, but it always seems like such a waste. These kinds of weddings are the fantasy weddings so many little girls dream about but so few can afford. What is it about weddings we love or hate?
I’m writing a bonus story for my newsletter with a wedding. As a reader, what part of the wedding do you want to know the details? I love the dress description, but I also want to know the groom’s expression when he sees his bride coming down the aisle.
So, what would you want to see or read about in a short wedding story? The walk down the aisle with her father or maybe the teasing of friends or siblings? I always loved watching the first dance with the bride and groom, or the bride’s dance with her father. Perhaps you love to see the couple cut the cake and feed each other, or maybe you just like to eat the cake.
Share your wedding photos or tell me your favorite part of a wedding.
What do horror stories and romance have in common? My husband is an avid horror movie buff and he reads sci-fi and medical thrillers, but he also likes to watch romance movies and those reunion clips on YouTube. You know the ones where a military person is reunited with their child, spouse or other family member. It always makes me cry.
I have never loved horror movies. I like vampires and werewolves, and some horror/thriller movies. I enjoy reading some of the darker books with some horror elements but I don’t consider myself a true horror fan. I have worked in haunted houses and I’ve marched in parades dressed as a clown, yet find it difficult to go into a haunted house and clowns can be a bit creepy.
While I was doing research for this blog, I was curious about what scientist and psychologist say about our love for horror. As a romance author, I have heard speakers talk about the affects of romance novels on readers. Stories can make people more empathetic, understanding, open-minded and there is a feminism to modern romance stories. Yes, readers still want the happy ever after of old but we see women who choose careers over having a family, we see their love-interest being supportive of their goals and willing to make sacrifices to help them achieve them. There are still some traditional romances where the couple marries and have a family, but they aren’t the only option. What surprised me when I was doing the research was that horror fans are also thought to be more empathetic and intuitive. While it’s true, some movies can feed aggressive behavior, such as movies where there is a lot of fighting, and the theme is might is always right. For the most part, as the master Stephen King explains, horror itself is a sort of safety valve, a symbolic cantharis for our cruel and aggressive behavior.
From WebMD blog “Why We Love Scary Movies” by Richard Sine, his interview with Joanne Cantor, PhD, director of the Center of Communication Research at University of Wisconsin, Madison states, “most people like to experience pleasant emotions.” We fall in love alongside the characters in a romance, experience their journey to their happy ending and are left feeling as if we’ve just fallen in love.
Professor Glen Sparks believes horror movies may be similar to our ancient rite of passage rituals. Young men especially feel the need to pit themselves against something bigger, meaner, and prove themselves. In watching a scary movie, the fear is real. Our bodies haven’t learned to filter out what is on screen and what is real danger. We react as if we are the ones hunted by the monster; our heartbeats increase, our palms sweat, skin temperature drops, muscles tense, and our blood pressure spikes.
Psychologist Glenn D. Walters identified three factors that feed the attraction to horror entertainment: 1) Tension-by including elements of mystery, suspense, gore, terror, and shock it ramps up the tension. 2) Relevance-including elements viewers identify with which plays on the psychology of fear, the most universal, the fear of death, the unknown, or cultural relevance. 3) Unrealism-having all of these “real” elements coupled with the knowledge that it is not real and probably won’t ever happen, allows the viewer to experience the fear, test their mettle within a safe environment.
Stories were originally told as a form of education. Don’t go too far from the cave or you’ll be eaten by dinosaurs. Don’t go into the woods or you’ll be attacked by wolves. Our first stories were horror stories told to keep us safe and warn of dangers.
Going into a haunted house or watching a scary movie allows us to conquer our fears. For many, horror and other violent entertainment is a way to deal with actual fears and real violence. Just as a person might learn how they wish to be treated by a lover from a romance book or movie, they can also learn to cope with evil from watching or reading horror. Fiction, no matter the genre has a way of telling us what other options are available to us. It can open our eyes to possibilities. While I don’t expect to meet a Duke and live in a mansion, having a husband who treats me as his priority and he mine, is a big part of what romance taught me. Being brave enough to face down demons from hell with only a bottle of holy water and a crucifix, well, maybe not so much. I think I’d prefer to be armed with a flamethrower at least. But whether you are a fan of horror or romance, sci-fi or action-adventure, I hope you will open your eyes and heart to people, their differences and similarities. Most of us, no matter where we come from, the color of our skin or our religion, we’re just trying to survive, find love and enjoy a few moments of peace and happiness.
WebMD-Why We Love Scary Movies by Richard Sine
Washington Post-Why We Like Scary Things by Richard Sima
RWR-Romance Writers of America
sherrilhollister.com/Suspense She Writes Bookstore Dismiss