From steamy to sweet, we are here to share some book recommendations to pick up for yourself or a very special mother for this Mother’s Day! Missed the second post? Click here!
Yes, Virginia, your editor really is Santa Claus
A good editor is a gift that keeps on giving.
An editor that “gets” you as an author and loves your voice? A gift more valuable than gold.
I’m very fortunate to work with a fabulous editor at Tule. Her name is Sinclair Sawhney. Her brilliance and “get-me-ness” shone through like the Christmas star when I first presented my idea for my proposed holiday book: Montana Miracle.
My chosen topic: suicide.
Because that’s such a happy holiday topic, right?
Most of the writers I know liken that first inkling of story–when it nudges up close and whispers “We belong together” in your ear–to falling in love. Who sees the potential pitfalls in the relationship or the conflict’s inherent weaknesses when all you can feel is the magnetic pull of the story?
That, my friends, is where a good editor steps in.
Somewhere in my writer brain, I glommed onto the idea of a damaged, broken Jimmy-Stewart-sort-of-guy (It’s A Wonderful Life) being brought back from the brink by a strong, determined Donna-Reed-sort-of-gal who whips a Bedford-Falls-sort-of-town into shape to open hearts and arms to help this guy. Yeah, yeah, it’s been done before, but this would be my chance to give Frank Capra and author Philip Van Doren Stern a run for their money. So to speak.
That was until my insightful editor wrote this:
“I am curious as to how you are going to handle his suicidal feelings. Is it more he’s just tired, full of despair or is he actually planning anything? I know you are very skilled at walking a tightrope with heavier elements in your stories—abortion, death, and your readers expect and love the heavier themes, but I do want to be conscious that we are also trying to build your readership, plus Christmas stories do have a tendency to be uplifting.”
Can you see the light bulb that magically appeared in my head? Actually, it was a neon flashing sign that read: “Oh. That’s right. It’s a Christmas story. Good grief, Charlie Brown, what were you thinking?”
With that gentle nudge, the building blocks all fell into place. I’m sure my characters heaved a great sigh of relief that no one was going to come close to dying in this book because almost immediately their natural humor and juicy repartee started to come out.
Sam finished the final few inches of the plank before getting to her feet.
“This is more work than I thought it would be,” she said, turning around to find a tall, large, not unattractive stranger despite the half-moon scar on his upper forehead. Her heart rate spiked. Fear? Maybe. But she’d confronted gangs before. Something else made her mouth go dry and the brush in her hand quiver. “Hello. Who are you?”
He’d removed his black cowboy hat, which he held in his right hand like a Frisbee or one of those star things ninja assassins carried. And that was the vibe he gave off. Intense. Possibly dangerous.
But he didn’t look like an assassin. His heavy, dark brown Carhartt jacket showed ample wear, his jeans could stand to be washed and his boots had seen better days. Not that anyone other than her daughter would want to take out a hit on her, she told herself.
Somebody’s been reading way too many romantic suspense novels lately, she thought, although it was hard to ignore the voice in her head screaming, “You’re alone in a church with a potential murderer or rapist.”
“My name is Gage Monroe,” the potential murderer or rapist said, holding out his hand in a conciliatory way. “I’m looking for Pastor Sam.”
Sam slapped the brush crossways on top of the paint can then clamped her hands to her hips. “Well, of course you are. Because those wiseacres at the Post Office failed to warn you that Sam was short for Samantha.” She shook her head. “It’s getting old, boys,” she said, looking up. But, a part of her still grinned, picturing their boyish pleasure.
“You’re Pastor Sam?”
She stepped toward him, sensing his sudden urge to bolt. “Samantha Zabrinski. Born in Montana, raised in Detroit. I’ve only been back a few months, but I’m happy to be here–despite the weather.”
His hand felt like a block of ice. Did he walk from the Post Office? Maybe. Two blocks wasn’t far, but the only people who seemed to thrive on the cold were young kids and tourists.
“I grew up here, too, but I’ve been gone for quite a few years.”
“I figured as much. Pretty hard to miss a local when there are so few of us. Where do you live?”
“Mile and a half south of town. Used to be a nice little ranch, but it got broken up over the years. Just a few acres with a house and barn left. The Sheriff booted the low-life renters out last week, I was told. Place is in pretty bad shape.”
“Oh, yeah, I remember hearing some talk. You were one of Mr. Vander Wahl’s clients.” The extent of the old man’s incompetence and apparent impairments only came to light after he dropped dead at his desk. “We prayed for his soul. I hate to think of the weight of his burdens at the end of his life.”
Gage Monroe let out a gruff “Pah.” “He left a ton of burdens behind, believe me. I’m trying my best to get out from under them. Which is why I’m here.”
She pointed to the industry behind her. “My prowess with a paint brush precedes me? How nice.”
The reluctant smile that flirted with the corners of Gage Monroe’s nicely shaped mouth made the name Ewan McGregor spring into her mind. Or maybe it was the thatch of longish, cinnamon-brown hair that fell across his forehead that reminded her of one of her favorite actors. Oh, my. Be still my heart. Wait till I tell Makayla.
“I’ve given myself a deadline of December 25th. What isn’t done by then will be somebody else’s problem. I won’t be here to worry about it.”
Sam’s breath caught in her throat making mere breathing impossible. She’d heard another confession like this once and the man doing the talking was found dead the next morning. Suicide. Was that what he meant? A man this vital and filled with life was considering taking his own life?
As she looked closer, she could see tiny stress lines around his eyes and mouth. Was he in pain? Constant physical pain could rob a person of the ability to see a future.
She rushed to him, nearly tripping over her feet in her hurry. “No. I’m sorry, but no. You can’t do this.”
She gripped the forearm not holding his hat with both of her hands. “Life is too precious. It may not seem like it now, but you…have…value,” she said, slowly.
Their gazes locked.
She blinked. “You do? You’re not talking about committing suicide?”
The look that crossed his handsome face was not attractive. She let go of his arm and took a step back. “No. I’m talking about leaving this hellhole and never coming back. But I can’t do that until I sell my folks’ old place.”
I loved writing this story. And hope you’ll agree that Bedford Falls ain’t got nothin’ on Paradise, Montana.
I hope this isn’t a silly gift–since you’ve all seen it, but tell me the title of your favorite holiday movie, and I’ll pick one name to win a copy of It’s A Wonderful Life and a backlist holiday title of mine. Cheers!
Former award-winning newspaper journalist Debra Salonen is a nationally bestselling author with 26 published novels for Harlequin’s Superromance and American lines and one single title release for Harlequin Signature. Several of her titles were nominated for “Best Superromance,” including UNTIL HE MET RACHEL, which took home that honor in 2010. Debra was named Romantic Times Reviewer’s Career Achievement “Series Storyteller of the Year” in 2006. Debra lives in the foothills near Yosemite National Park in California with her husband and two dogs. Luckily, her two children and three grandchildren live close by to keep Debra connected to the real world.
Here’s a truth about writing: sometimes research is dry, boring, and tedious. Sometimes, however, you find yourself spending hours…or days…watching videos that feature Channing Tatum and assorted handsome hunks dancing their tight little buns off. Is this a great job or what?
I never know what I’ll pick up from my research. For instance, the video below showed me there’s a huge variety in the types of dancing out there. This was something my hero, Tucker “The Full Mountie” Montgomery, experienced firsthand when he returned to his off-season job and found a new, up-and-coming “Nordic god” had twerked his way into Tucker’s headliner spotlight. Watching “Ragnar the Bold’s” hip-hop, twerky kind of dance made Tucker realize he was done with that part of his life. Here’s the scene where reality hits home:
He forced himself to focus on his breathing as he stood in the wings of the stage and watched Ragnar the Bold shake his ass. The man could move, Tucker had to give him that. A touch of hip-hop in his routines seemed to appeal to a younger crowd. Toss in a few slides and spins that made the women in the front rows gasp and blink and you had instant sex appeal.
What did I just see, he could almost hear them thinking to themselves. Was that his junk?
All part of the show. Tucker had played a little peek-a-boo when he first started. It was all fun and games as long as there wasn’t some jerk from the morality police sitting in the front row with a video camera. Tucker leaned around the curtain far enough to look at the first few rows. Excited, happy, and lusty women shoulder to shoulder clapping and stomping their feet. Just what you wanted to see if you were about to strip and shake your booty for them.
Now, full disclosure, I haven’t seen Magic Mike XXL on the big or little screen, but it’s on my list. I doubt that the plot is high concept–or any concept other than making money–but it still looks like fun. And Andie MacDowell reminds me of my heroine, Amanda. Here’s a scene from Tucker’s final American Male dance:
Sure enough, the Maroon 5 song Sugar started, and as usual, the beat worked its magic. He’d gone round and round with management to get a more provocative song, which fit his mood. The lyrics of this one seemed to hit a little too close to home, but once the words triggered the memory of one little taste of Amanda, the rest of the routine came naturally.
As part of his trademark moves, he got a running start and slid off the end of the stage so he could snake his way through the front rows looking for a likely partner. Someone like…
“Holy crap,” he swore, holding out his hand to a girl with chocolate brown hair and eyes that said, “Me, me, pick me.”
The girl he held in his arms every night in his dreams.
Amanda. And every morning he awoke with more broken pieces. He had a million of them.
Do I care why she’s here?
Not if she was ready to pour a little sugar on him.
He picked her up, legs straddling his waist.
“Come on, Sugar, I’m right here. Are you with me?”
He spun them about, lifting her to the stage, where the show called for him to pretend to kiss her. Could he stay in character–keep the mask on long enough to survive the pain twisting his insides into a thick, hard knot? He swooped and shook his ass. She laughed and clapped, obviously playing the willing victim.
But when he pressed his hips to hers, she grabbed his butt cheeks and squeezed hard. He bucked and rolled off her. He made a naughty-naughty gesture, shaking his finger at her. The crowd went nuts. He did a few squats and twirls to the music, then gave her his hand and pulled her to her feet.
Amanda was here. She looked hot. And available. And damn if he’d let her go again.
Now, in addition to watching sexy men dance and strip, I also had to do research at Yosemite Zip Lines because Tucker is building a zip line outside of Marietta, Montana and I’m nothing if not thorough. ;-) In fact, we took my husband’s four brothers and one of their wives along to help me get the full experience. What a rush!
Here’s my very own ZIP from Yosemite Ziplines in Mariposa, California:
As you can see, I had a lot of fun researching this book. I hope you’ll get a kick out of Tucker’s and Amanda’s story, too. Have any of you ZIPPED before? Or watched a male burlesque show? Inquiring minds want to know…and one winner will be drawn from your responds for the prize package below.
Happy reading, everyone.
Write to Deb in the comments and you could win Montana Cowgirl in paperback and the Magic Mike movie!
Tule is thrilled to have the author of the Big Sky Mavericks series, Debra Salonen, here with us on the release day of Montana Hero. Learn more about the research Deb did on a heart-wrenching subject for her latest Maverick story below.
Where did I put/leave my keys, purse, glasses, shoes, lipgloss, remote control…etc?
Perhaps because I’ve reached a certain age, these questions come up more often than I’d like. It’s only natural to worry when you forget to remember things that should be readily available in your brain. You may ask yourself: Is this a sign of a busy person with too much on her mind or an ominous hint of something bad to come?
I sincerely hope the former because in researching my heroine, Kat Robinson’s backstory for my new release, MONTANA HERO, I learned more about Alzheimer’s than I really wanted to know. Kat watched her mother and grandmother succumb to complications from the disease. Naturally, Kat’s worried that she, too, will fall victim to “Early Onset”–some call it, “Younger Onset”–Alzheimer’s. Like cancer, it’s hard to find somebody who hasn’t been touched by Alzheimer’s in some form or another.
When my grandmother came to live with us, I was a girl of fifteen. Grandma was eighty-nine. That’s not young, of course, but Grandma’s steady decline had been a source of worry for my mother for many years. As families did in those days, Mom and her siblings took turns caring for their mother. When it was our turn to host Grandma Bagby, I was excited by the “romantic” ideal of sitting by her knee as she told me stories of her childhood. Instead, I remember she cried a lot. And when I was able to coax a story or two from her, they were disconnected fragments that floated to the surface of her mind, out of context, usually sad, poignant moments that had remained frozen in her subconscious like miniature icebergs. Two children who drowned in the river, one trying to save the other. Her father–her rock–buried in the ground he’d donated to a town that no longer existed. Baby rattlesnakes–not worms–in a child’s pocket, discovered after he lay dead.
This tiny, hunched back woman evoked both sympathy and terror in my heart. Back then, doctors called her condition “Hardening of the Arteries.” Would I someday wind up like this? I asked my mother.
“If you live long enough,” was her answer.
And, in Mom’s case, she was right. When my amazing mother came to the end of her ninety-five-year old run, she, too, had morphed into a tiny, hunched back crone, still possessing scattered memories of a truly remarkable life, but having lost the ability to share them. Her doctors called her condition “dementia” and “old age.”
My heroine, Kat, is being as proactive as she can be to protect her mind, memories and health. So am I. The research I did for this book indicates progress is being made in identifying the cause of Alzheimer’s, but until a cure is found, families will continue to watch their loved ones disappear in plain sight.
My friend, the fabulous, bestselling author Sharon Sala, has shared the ongoing saga of her mother’s journey through this dark and mystifying disease on Facebook. No one can describe the raw pain and heartbreak of loss quite like Sharon. But, tell me, have you been touched by this disease in your life or do you know someone who has had to deal with Alzheimer’s cruel reality? I’d love to hear your story.
And, in case you’re wondering, Kat is a fighter, a the-glass-is-half-full sort of optimist, and she has too much to live for to let fear rule her life–especially after she meets my hero, Flynn Bensen.
In my case, I’m banking on reading to keep my mind alert…even if I can’t remember where I left my keys.
We’ve all heard about the Cutting Room Floor–that purgatory-like place where wonderful scenes go to die a death of so-close-and-yet-so-far-away. Maybe you’ve read such scenes in first drafts you’ve been privy to, or possibly an author you follow on Facebook impulsively shared something prematurely that leads you to believe a certain scene will appear in her next book, Montana Maverick. (Sorry, about that.)
Regrettably, not every great idea is a good idea. Feel free to quote me on that.
This is where editors come in. Editors who know and love your work, who share your passion for your characters. Editors who are dumbfounded when you suddenly introduce something that doesn’t quite jibe with your book’s tone. Like say…writing the prologue in the hero’s late daughter’s point of view.
A ghost, you say?
Here’s the prologue that I loved while I was writing it. I cried. I could feel the spirit of Laurel, my hero’s dead daughter, reaching out from beyond to help her family in their time of dire need.
“What you’re planning is very risky. Are you certain this is a good idea?”
“I don’t see any other way for them to meet.”
“What if something goes wrong? There are four children aboard that mechanical beast.”
“That beast is a helicopter. She’s willing to help. My father has been very good to her over the years, and she’s grown weary of this physical incarnation. Her soul is ready to move on.”
Her soul mate let out a long and pensive sigh that probably added to the angst of the storm raging in the atmosphere just beyond the shimmering white line of light. Not below, as most living souls perceive heaven to be, but beside, in a plane not meant to be crossed until the day one’s soul left the corporal body behind for good, as Laurel had done a few months earlier.
But, when souls had unfinished business, as she and Jacob did, exceptions were allowed.
She looked at her other half–the one she’d followed too soon, which had created many problems for their loved ones. Problems that only could be solved by the love of a man and a woman brave enough to defy the odds and join each other on a great and important adventure.
“I can’t do this alone, my heart. Will you help me?”
Jacob had never been able to deny her, except when he died, taking a piece of her soul with him. In lieu of an answer, his love and light enveloped her. Together they breached the membrane. Their combined energy touched the rotating blades of the helicopter–a slight nudge to signal the great metal beast with a giant heart. Some small and seemingly insignificant part shook loose. It made a loud pinging sound as it struck a whirling blade before being tossed into the wind to be lost in the blowing snow.
“Land with care, gentle friend. Thank you.”
The helicopter made a sound that seemed to say, “You’re welcome.”
Its passengers–and anyone awake on the ground–may have interpreted the sound differently.
What happened next was up to the living–the ones Laurel loved more than life.
“At least–we tried,” she told her beloved as they slipped back into the light.
She focused her love a moment longer on the sweet baby she’d barely gotten to hold and love. “They’re in your hands, darling Mystic. Do your best.”
I knew–even before my editor expressed her concern about the scene–that I’d written this for me–not for the book. Meg’s and Henry’s story doesn’t need a helping hand from beyond. These two characters are so strong, so evolved, they could handle anything–even a ghost, but this way, nothing distracts from their journey.
Obviously, the scene didn’t make it into the book, but I’d love to hear your feelings on the subject. Thumbs up or thumbs down to the supernatural? One commenter will receive a Book Girl reader prize. If you picked thumb’s up, I’ll include a backlist book with a hint of paranormal. If you pick thumb’s down, I’ll choose a title without a single hint of the supernatural. Thanks for reading.
Winner to be announced Thursday, February 26th!
Congratulations, Vicki Clevinger! You are our winner! Please see the reply to your comment for instructions on how to claim your prize. Thanks for being a Tule Book Girl! -The Tule Team
Howdy, y’all! The third book in Debra Salonen‘s “Big Sky Mavericks” series has arrived!
Download Montana Darling today!
To enter: Comment below with your favorite thing about Marietta, Montana. Good luck! A random winner will be announced on Tuesday, January 13th.
The “Big Sky Mavericks” series by
- Sam Smith – Stay With Me
- The Civil Wars – Dance With Me To The End Of Love
- Kongos – Come With Me Now
- Kris Allen – Better With You
- Michael Bublé – Home
- Katie Melua – The One I Love Is Gone
- Nina Simone – Feeling Good
- Bruno Mars – Just The Way You Are
- Lady Antebellum – Just A Kiss
- Keith Urban – Somebody Like You