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Friday, November 1, 2013

Friday Friends: Laura Strickland

Sometimes you just can't help but smile at the way life works...last summer I posted a note on a FB group and the nicest lady responded.  We chatted back and forth and began to find all sorts of little things in common.  As it turns out, we only live about an hour apart.  Talk about chance meetings!  I had the great pleasure of meeting her at an area TWRP author's luncheon in August and had a great time chatting with her. We bonded over our love for our dogs, and our love for writing historical romance and within minutes of meeting I felt like I'd known her for years. 

In case I haven't mentioned it, she's an amazing writer!  Please meet my friend and the first Friday Friend for November...Laura Strickland!

Welcome, Laura! Tell us a bit about yourself and why you write the genre you do.

I write Historical Romance because I’ve always liked the idea of time traveling via the power of my mind.  For years I’ve been a student of Celtic history and fascinated with the lore and legends of the British Isles.  Reading is a great way to visit the past.  But as a child, I soon discovered even the best books end too soon.  (I can still remember weeping over the end of Marian Cockrell’s Shadow Castle.  When my mom asked me why, I wailed, “It was so good!”)

I remember the day when it hit me: if I made up the story, I could continue it as long as I wanted and create the same kinds of worlds I enjoyed inhabiting through the stories I loved.  As an adult, I’ve enjoyed creating my own worlds and then going back to visit them time after time.  The books of my “Celtic” series, which includes The God’s Song, The Shadow Ground, The Waking Dream and The War Raven, are all set in what I thought were fictitious places in Scotland and Ireland.  But when I visited Scotland, I actually located two of those places, so there must be some mystical connection.

Have you ever thought about it?  Most people have an affinity for a particular place or time in history.  For some of us it’s the American West, for some the exotic Far East, for some Victorian England or our own Civil War period.  Many of us love the Scottish Highlands, populated by fierce, Scots warriors.  Fortunately for us, we can time travel to all those places, no matter where, through the joy of reading.

I know what you mean!  I feel the same way about Gettysburg.  How long have you been writing?

I wrote my first “book” in third grade.  It was hand-printed in pencil with a construction paper cover and had the unoriginal title of The Haunted House.  Do I really have to confess how long it’s been since third grade?  Let’s just say a long time!  I wrote my way through High School, scrawling story after story in loose leaf binders that would get passed around among my friends.  In fact when, as a freshman, I met my best friend (she’s still my best friend) I introduced myself by saying, “I write books about Scotland”.  Earlier this year when I presented her with a signed copy of my first Historical novel for The Wild Rose Press, Devil Black, I wrote inside the cover, “I write books about Scotland”. 

That is a darling story and how wonderful to have a friend we can go that far back with!  Where do you get your ideas?

Oh, there’s never any shortage of ideas.  My favorite author, Sir Terry Pratchett, has mentioned in his books he believes inspiration comes like invisible arrows out of the sky, striking people indiscriminately.  If they hit just right, or if the person is paying proper attention, s/he will get an idea and become inspired.  That’s how it feels for me, with writing.  The ideas just come from nowhere and strike me in the brain.  I’ve joked to my editor at The Wild Rose Press that my plans for books to come are all flying around inside my head in holding patterns, like planes stacked up at the airport, waiting to land.  Often I’m not sure which one is going to come in first. 

Frequently I get my ideas while I’m busy doing something else: cleaning the house, folding laundry, doing the dishes or grocery shopping.  I’ve had whole plots for books unroll in my head while I’m in a store and I have to scrabble wildly and scratch it all down on a scrap of paper or a receipt so I don’t forget anything. 

Describe your typical writing day.

Well, first let me say there’s never enough time.  I work outside the home and also juggle the same demands as most of us: family obligations and that never-ending housework!  Oh, and my dog, Shannon, always makes sure to stake her claim on a large chunk of my time (thank goodness for her, because she gets me out walking).  Most of my writing is done early in the morning or if I can snatch some precious time on weekends.

My husband and I heat our home with wood, so in the winter I’m the first one up.  I kindle the fire and then settle down with Shannon for the best part of my day, those moments when the world is quiet and I can devote myself to whatever story’s in progress.  I’m usually up when it’s still dark outside, so in the summer, when the windows are open, I hear the first birds begin to sing. 

I always listen to music while I work – Pandora if I’m editing and the stereo if I’m writing.  I still use a spiral notebook and a pen and type it all up later, doing the first edit as I go.  An entire day with nothing to do but write would be sheer bliss!

If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

Wow, that’s an interesting question.  It’s hard for me to imagine not being a writer, at least part time.  Back in school, when we took aptitude tests, they told me I should be an interpreter – still working with words.  I’ve always been fascinated with word origins, so perhaps I should have been an etymologist (words again).  (Nic-butting in.  Another one of those weird coincidences between us, Laura!  I'm obsessed with word origins!) The truth is I have the perfect job now.  I work for a Library System where catalogue books and also assemble loans to send out.  I get to see all the new books as they come in and read the very best new fiction.  Since, as a child, I was always known in my family as the girl who kept a paperback book in her pocket, it’s a natural progression for me to do this job.  And I love everything about books – even the smell of them!

Tell me your best cure for writer’s block?

I’m very fortunate because I don’t suffer from writer’s block often.  The only time I struggle to write is when I’m very tired or so depleted I have too little energy.  Something many people don’t understand is that writing requires huge amounts of energy – it’s the fuel my mind and creativity burn. 

On the few occasions when I’m stuck for an idea, or between books, I love to employ the “what if?” strategy.  What if my dog started talking and turned out to be Albert Einstein reincarnated?  What if I found Viking treasure in a shoe box?  What if I inherited the ashes of an ancestor and he magically came back to life?  This never fails to trigger great ideas for me.  In fact the first book of my Celtic series, The Sacred Fire, came about when I answered the question, “What would happen if an elite Celtic warrior, the best of his clan, was injured in battle and could fight no more?”

Tell us a little bit about Daughter of Sherwood: The Guardians of Sherwood Trilogy Book One.  I loved this story --it definitely pulled me out of my usual reading comfort zone and introduced me to new worlds.  I couldn't put it down and can't wait for the next in the series!

Daughter of Sherwood, released by The Wild Rose Press on November 1st, is Book One of The Guardians of Sherwood Trilogy.  When I first conceived of setting a Historical Romance in the time of Robin Hood, I told myself I must be crazy.  It’s been done so often both on the large and small screen, and ever since the days of that great writer, Howard Pyle, Robin’s been a literary institution.  But the idea wouldn’t go away so I decided I would create my own Sherwood and make it a place of deep magic, an entity that would help in the Saxons’ fight against Norman tyranny.  And I’d populate it with a whole new set of characters, the descendants of those we know from the old stories.  Robin and Marian’s daughter, Wren, became my heroine, and a member of the magical triad that includes two young men: Martin, son of Will Scarlet and Sparrow, son of Little John.  Though she must bond with both of them to become a guardian of Sherwood, she must also choose which of them to love as a woman loves a man.

Here’s the blurb:

Raised in the kitchens of Nottingham Castle, Wren has no idea she is the daughter of the legendary Robin Hood until she is summoned to Sherwood Forest.  Since Robin’s death many years before, the resistance against Norman tyranny has been upheld by a magical triad, but now one of the guardians has died.  With two young men, Sparrow and Martin, Wren must form a new triad with a bond strong enough to defend Sherwood’s magic.  To one of them, she will also give her heart.

From the moment Wren bursts into his life, Sparrow loves her.  But he knows she may choose his lifelong rival, Martin, as her mate.  Martin wants Wren also, but Sparrow fears Martin is driven not by love but ambition.  When Martin is captured and held at Nottingham Castle, will the conflict between love and duty destroy the triad?

Anything else in the works you can share with us?

Well, here’s the exciting thing.  When I wrote Daughter of Sherwood, I never dreamed it would be the first book of a trilogy.  Not until my editor sent me the contract for it did a light go on in my head.  The significance of the number three is so strong in this story: Wren was born three days after Robin’s death, her mother cared for her three days before giving in to her grief and retiring to a convent, and since then three have upheld the magic of Sherwood.  It suddenly seemed obvious there should be three books and the story should form a circle that ultimately brings the tale back to the point where it began.

My editor agreed and so I began work on the second book of the trilogy, which is called Champion of Sherwood.  That book is now under contract and we’re hoping for a release date in the spring.  I’m currently at work on the third book, Lord of Sherwood, in the final stages of the editing process.

Each book can definitely be read and enjoyed on its own – after all, that’s what Daughter of Sherwood was meant to be when I wrote it.  The other two books tell complete stories also but I think there’s a little extra magic when they’re all put together. 

It’s been great fun working on this trilogy and my one hope is that readers find joy in the books.  I’m very grateful to be associated with a wonderful publishing house like The Wild Rose Press, where creativity is given free rein.  Do I have ideas for more books after the Trilogy?  All I can say is the planes are circling the airport!

LOL I love that analogy!  Laura, thanks for visiting with us today!

Born and raised in Western New York, Laura Strickland has pursued lifelong interests in lore, legend, magic and music, all reflected in her writing. Though her imagination frequently takes her to far off places, she is usually happiest at home not far from Lake Ontario with her husband and her "fur" child, a rescue dog. Currently she is at work on the third book of the Guardians of Sherwood series.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Lots to Smile About

Northern Temptress is just back from the copy editor at TWRP, who had this to say:

I thoroughly enjoyed every word. Alexa is a complex character, full of spunk, love and compassion. Caleb, wow... he is the ultimate Southern dashing gentlemen, quiet strength. Together, they light the page on fire. Great story, really a great story. Even the setting, Gettysburg in the Civil War with blood shed, made me feel as if the house shook with the cannon shots. I can not express how much this story really hit my senses. I loved it. Thanks for a fantastic read.

Wow.  It doesn't get any better than that!

And for last fall's release, This Moment in Time, there is a new review on Amazon by Larura Hartland who had this to say:

I love time-travel romances, so I was overjoyed to see this one available for my kindle. And from the very first page I was hooked both by the heroine, Josette - also known as the Rose of Virginia - and the hero, Jamie, a modern-day knight looking for a cause. What could be better?

Josette Beaumont is a woman in an impossible situation, caught in the midst of the Civil War, her husband dead and her beloved home overtaken by Union Soldiers - including one General Stillwater, an absolutely loathsome character whom I loved to hate. Josette has been passing information to aid the Southern cause through one of the few people she's permitted to see during her imprisonment, her pastor, Reverend Huckabee. But the vile Stillwater is suspicious and not above using any available means to intimidate her.

Enter Jamie D'Alessandro, a man of our time who seems like he's been given every advantage, not the least wealth and devastating good looks. But Jamie has already lost so much, including his parents and his direction in life, and he's searching, though at the beginning of the book even he doesn't know exactly for what he's searching. He takes on the job of restoring the ruined mansion that was once Josette's home and stumbles into a portal through time, where he finds a cause that claims his whole heart.

I don't want to ruin any surprises and give away the ending here, but it's a thrilling ride after that through danger, love, achingly sweet sex and Josette's misguided desire to sacrifice herself for Jamie's sake. In the end, Jamie proves he's well able to fight for the woman he loves, and Josette is faced with the choice of two lifetimes.

Though this book is, in fact, a novella, it didn't feel like it while I was reading, and it certainly lacks nothing in suspense or character development. I was so satisfied at the end! I only wish I could give it six stars!

Amazin, Laura, thank you so much for "getting' my characters and their story.

As if all this wasn't enough to plaster a permanent goofy grin on my face,  this weekend is the TWRP author luncheon here in Rochester, and I can't wait to meet some TWRP authors and editors.  Lots to look forward to --and lots to smile about!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Positively Giddy!!

Here is the cover for Northern Temptress, my new release from TWRP which I hope will be out this summer to celebrate the anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.

The blurb and a little excerpt are below.

When the Civil War arrives on her door step, Gettysburg doctor Alexandra Winters uses her knowledge of medicine to help the wounded. When an uncommonly handsome rebel officer finds her tending the wounded in his battlefield, he takes her for a spy until she confesses her darkest secret; her brother fights for the south. He vows to find her brother and insists on escorting her home. But Alexa already has enough gossip attached to her name thanks to a scandalous divorce; she doesn’t need to be seen keeping company with the enemy at a late hour.

Major Caleb McKenna, CSA, has grown weary of war and bloodshed. Dreams of glory and valor are long gone, as is the memory of his beloved fiancĂ©e back home in Georgia. Try as he might, he can’t recall her face. Instead, it’s the bewitching image of Alexa Winters that haunts his every thought. Her stubborn refusal to show weakness is put to the test when he brings news of her missing brother.  His attempt to comfort the stoic beauty quickly engulfs them in a firestorm of passion, leaving Caleb torn between a promise made to the gentle belle awaiting his return – and an emerald-eyed, jet-haired Northern temptress.

When the major is gravely wounded, Alexa comes to his aide. Hiding a Confederate officer in a house filled with recuperating Union soldiers is risky… but fighting their growing attraction is a battle they can’t afford to lose. 


He stroked a thumb over the moisture on her cheeks.  “Alexa,” he sighed.  “Don’t cry.”
Hot tears spilled over his thumb.  “He was so calm, so much braver than I’d have been.”
Edwards had been like a brother to him, he’d felt every damn bit as helpless when his friend had been hit.  “I shouldn’t have put you through it.”
“There was nothing I could do for him.” Her voice was raw with pain and exhaustion.
He pulled her into his arms, needing to comfort her and needing comfort himself.  She held herself rigid for several moments before settling her head on his shoulder.  “I’m sorry. I don’t usually give in to such feminine displays.”
“I won’t tell a soul.”  He gently stroked her back, keenly aware that only a thin cotton barrier stood between her flesh and his palms.  A tangle of emotion tore through him and like her, he fought against the need to give in to the grief gnawing at him.  “It was my fault.  I ordered the men forward.”
“You were following orders.” She relaxed against him a bit more.  “It’s no one’s fault.”
He nuzzled her hair, breathed in the lingering aroma of lilacs.  For the rest of his days, he’d associate that heavenly smell with Alexa Winters. “I hate this damn war.”
She raised her head from his shoulder and though shadowy leaves dappled her face, making it impossible to clearly see her, he could feel her gaze on him. 
Without a thought he brushed his lips against her forehead, intending only to comfort her as he would his sisters.  The teasing smell of those damn lilacs and a scent that was uniquely Alexa filled his nostrils.  Tormented by the soft curves pressed against him, his cock roared to fully erect.  A dizzying sensation enveloped him, urging him to move closer, hold her tighter. He forced aside the thoughts even as he struggled against the demands of his body.
“Alexa,” he whispered against her ear.  “I came here tonight with honorable intentions.”
She turned toward him, the movement bringing her face into close contact with his lips. “A—and now?”
He stroked her cheek with the back of his fingers. The hand at her back flexed, bringing them another inch closer. “God help me, right now all I can think about is kissing you.”

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Sunshine Award

The lovely and talented Stacy D. Holmes has awarded me with the Sunshine Award!   Thanks, Stacy, you made my day--and made me get off my lazy behind and blog LOL.

The Sunshine Award is a lovely sunny flower that bloggers give to other “bloggers who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere”.

And like any award, there are rules....

(1) Thank the person who gave you the award in your blog post.

 (2) Do the Q&A below

(3) Pass on the award to 10-12 deserving and inspiring bloggers, inform them and link to their blogs.

Favorite Color:  It changes but usually a deep royal purple of a nice soft bubblegum pink. 

Favorite Animal: Dogs. I truly believe their unconditional love is a reflection of God's love for us. And I don't care how bad my day has been, that wagging tail to greet me--even if I was only gone long enough to take out the trash or walk to the mailbox-- just lifts my spirits.
Favorite Number: Five
Favorite Non-alcoholic Drink: Ice cold water or unsweetened iced tea, both with a lemon wedge
Facebook or Twitter: Facebook makes more sense to me though I'm not that comfortable with either one--I just don't have time to sit down aand figure it all out, life is too busy!
Your Passion: American history, especially the Civil War era.  I just can't read enough about it and every time I learn something new, it leads me to read even more.  It's a vicious cycle!
Giving or getting presents: Giving.  I love to brighten the days of my loved ones with a little unexpected something that I know they'll enjoy, whether it's a pack of gum, or a special treat in the boys' lunches, or buying hubby a bottle of his favorite soda and sneaking it into his lunch for the next day, I love to give.  
Favorite Day: Thursday.  It sounds totally "Pollyanna" but I really like knowing the weekend is right around the corner.  Once the weekend gets here, it's gone in a flash ...but on Thursday, it's all still ahead of me.
Favorite Flowers: Daisies and tulips.  Daisies are so sunny and cheerful with their little faces tilting toward the sun --and tulips are so elegant and graceful. 

I'm supposed to tag ten people now but am not having much luck finding people who haven't already been given the Sunshine Award so I choose:

Roni Adams 
Kat Henry Doran 
Leanne Tyler
Susan Macatee
Isabel Roman


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Chocolatey, yummy...and good for you??

The day after the snowstorm, there wasn't a lot to do but stay inside and enjoy it.  So I pulled out a cookie recipe that I've been wanting to try.  It's basically a chocolate chocolate chip cookie but it has a secret ingredient that makes it good for you, too.  And know what? It's yummy!  I didn't tell my kids what was in them...I didn't have to, they loved them! 

It's a great recipe for Valentine's Day, you can make this for your sweetie and feel good knowing that at least they're eating their vegetables LOL.

Here's the recipe:

1 box Devil's Food cake mix
2 large eggs
1 15 oz. can beets, drained, juice reserved
1 bag semisweet chocolate chips, divided

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  In blender, puree beets with 2 tbs reserved beet juice for one minute or until smooth.  In bowl, combine cake mix, eggs and 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips and beet puree until blended. Drop spoonfuls of batter (go small with these, they really puff up) 2" apart on greased baking sheet.  Sprinkle tops with remaining chips.  Bake ten minutes or until done.  Let cool completely.

Hint: make two batches, they disappear fast!

The Struggle is Real Week 8: When Life Hits Back

  It’s been nearly two weeks since my last post. Did anyone notice I was missing?   But I have good news/bad news.   The good news. I wr...