Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Welcome, Patricia McAlexander

The Old Debate: Pantser vs Plotter

A “pantser” is the novelist who writes by the seat of her pants, just letting words flow as if transcribing a vision or dream, while the “plotter” carefully outlines the plot before writing. Plotter critics say that meticulous planning ahead of time takes the life out of the novel; there’s no discovery or inspiration.  Pantser critics say that just grabbing a pen or sitting at the keyboard and letting words flow can result in a wandering, muddled draft.

I have always proudly declared myself a pantser—after all, it’s part of an old and respected tradition of creativity. Robert Moss, who writes about “active dreaming,” believes that “creators in all fields are dreamers, not only in sleep but in twilight states of reverie where connections that escape the ordinary rational mind come easily and contact with higher intelligence is often made.”


Many great writers of the past describe inspiration from dreamlike supernatural beings. We see this in the ancient myth of the Muses, the goddesses of inspiration and art to whom the Greek and Roman epic writers appeal. In both the Iliad and Odyssey, Homer asks the Muses to tell him the story. At the beginning of the Aeneid, Virgil writes, “Muse, help me remember ….” Milton tells us that Paradise Lost was dictated to him at night while asleep by the heavenly muse whom he calls Urania; Robert Louis Stevenson said he received his stories in a state of “reverie” from spiritual beings he called “brownies”; in his "Philosophy of Composition,”  Edgar Allen Poe writes of hyponogogic images or "fancies" he experienced " on the brink of sleep And to get away from literature for a moment, even Einstein drew inspiration from dreams and developed the ability to slip into twilight states of consciousness.


When I write the first draft of a novel, I admit that I experience the story as a sort of dream. I believe the “dreams” come from memories of my past—they are like fragments in a kaleidoscope forming new designs—or like those slips of answers and comments floating up in toy gypsy balls when shaken. Perhaps this phase of my writing can also be compared to Method acting, when actors make use of experiences from their own lives to bring them to the experience of their characters. 


I can’t turn on such inspiration like a faucet. For me, it’s magic. Sometimes no answers float up, no kaleidoscope design is formed. But looking back at the experience, I see that my characters and settings are inspired by a combination of movies and novels, pictures in magazines, and perhaps most of all, places I’ve lived, people I have known—including myself. Sandy, the protagonist of Shadows of Doubt, has some of my traits: I like photography and an alternate career for me would have been as a journalist. Sandy’s mother is based in part on my teacher mother, who turned for support to my sister and me when our father died—and who sometimes did not approve of our boyfriends.  In childhood knew a family who owned an upstate New York farm near my parents’ lake house—an intelligent, strong, practical father and his sons. I am sure I based Jeff and his uncle at least in part on them. And while writing Shadows, an image of a friend from long ago came to my mind and I thought, Wow, he was handsome. That’s how I’ll make Jeff look! 

But the two types of writer--pantser and plotter—are not an either-or; their characteristics can be mixed. Sometimes characters run away with a plotter’s story: I’ve heard that happened with Hawthorne’s Hester in The Scarlet Letter. And pantsers have a planner-plotter side. Just as when a person wakes from a dream and tries to make it make sense, pantsers look at their drafts and rationally revise. I revisit content, shaping it like sculpting clay to make story flow logically, cut out boring parts and contradictions, make sure it’s believable (would the character say that?). I do research to be accurate in what I portray. For Shadows, I had to get information on the youth drug culture—reading books, googling, clipping newspaper articles, interviewing people. I rewrite individual sentences to eliminate word repetition and grammar errors, improve word choice. I get friends to read, comment, then revise some more.


And so when someone asks me, “Are you a pantser or a plotter?”, rather than saying “pantser,” perhaps a better answer would be “Yes.”




Former grade school bully and, later, amateur drug dealer Jeff Hudson turns his life around and is pursuing a degree in agriculture. His future, as well as a budding relationship with fellow student Sandy Harris, is threatened when a former dealer threatens to expose Jeff's past to university authorities if he doesn't rejoin the ring. 

Realizing that Jeff is no longer an angry, misunderstood boy, Sandy must take a stand against her family and friends who swear he is no good and will only cause her unhappiness. Together, can they escape the past in order to forge a future?




Bill, standing there dabbing at his pants with a napkin, turned angrily and spoke so that only Jeff and Sandy could hear. “Do you want a rematch?” 

Jeff turned and glared at him. “What do you mean—a rematch?”

“Another round of that fight we had in fifth grade.”

 “You know, I’d really like that. When it’s just the two of us.” 

As Jeff guided Sandy toward the door, Bill followed them. “It would be more equal this time.”

 “I sure hope so.” Jeff opened the door for Sandy and walked out behind her. Bill watched them go.

They’d reached Jeff’s car when they heard footsteps coming toward them fast across the pavement. Bill’s tall shadow loomed in the lights as he grabbed Jeff’s arm. “How about now?”

 Jeff jerked his arm away. “If that’s what you want.” He reached in his pocket, pulled out his car keys and wallet, and handed them to Sandy. “Get in the car, behind the wheel.” 

Her hand closed around what he had handed her. This was crazy. “No—Jeff, Bill—” Before she could get anything more out, she heard a thunk, then another as Bill swung his fist first into Jeff’s jaw, then into his solar plexus. 




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Patricia McAlexander earned a bachelor's degree from The University of New York at Albany, a master's from Columbia University, and a doctorate from The University of Wisconsin, Madison, all in English. After moving with her husband to Athens, Georgia, she taught composition and literature at The University of Georgia. Now retired, she has edited local newsletters and enjoys hiking, travel, and photography. But most of all she enjoys writing novels. Her first thriller-romance, Stranger in the Storm, set in upstate New York, was released by Wild Rose in June 2020. Shadows of Doubt, set in Athens, Georgia, is her second.









Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Spotlight on Nancy Fraser

 Ah ... the Fifties!


A time of innocence, and the not so innocent. From “I Love Lucy” and “Willy” to “Private Secretary”, “Father Knows Best” and “Bachelor Father”, television and music from the fifties gave us inspiration. Come take a trip down memory lane with these five vintage reads!


Get your romance on, and make grandma proud!


Ed Loves Marnie ~ 1955 - Can this handsome military man convince the single mother to take another chance at love? Or, will their shared memory put a wall between them?


Willa Thomas, Attorney-in-Love ~ 1956 - Will these co-workers be able to tow the company line and forego a chance at romance? Or, will they risk everything for love?


Professor Knows Best ~ 1957 - Will this freaky trip back in time to 1957 give her the answers she seeks? Or, only more confusion? How difficult will she find it to navigate being best friends with the college-age version of her own mother?


His Private Secretary ~ 1958 - Can she run interference between her handsome boss, his needy family, and the scores of women trying to bed him and wed him and still remain unaffected by his many charms?


The Bachelor Father ~ 1959 - Will Nanny #5 be the one to finally ace the job, and coax him out of his shell and back into life? And, will a family vacation to Paris fulfill their wildest dreams?




Ed Loves Marnie ~ 1955


“You two know each other?” Terri asked. “That’s great.” The moment Stan set down the drinks, Terri tugged on his coat sleeve and pulled him toward the dance floor. “We’ll just leave you two to get reacquainted.”


“I’m sorry about that,” Marnie apologized, nodding toward her overzealous friend.


“No problem. Would you like to dance?” he asked.


“No, thank you. I’ve really got to be going. My kids—”


“Two, right? A little girl and you were expecting. They must be about four and seven now.” 


“Three-and-a-half and a very precocious six,” she corrected, amazed at his excellent memory for detail.


He smiled and, for the first time in ages, Marnie let down her guard and actually enjoyed the simple gesture. She leaned in and asked, “How about you? I mean, you’re still in the military, and promoted to Major, too.”


“I’m stationed at Andrews Air Force Base,” he confirmed.


“So, you’re just in town for the wedding?”


“Actually, I’ve bought some property just outside Frederick.”


So close. The thought excited and frightened her in equal measure. She suspected a man like Edward Louden would be hard to ignore. “Well, as long as you don’t mind a small town, this is a great place to live.”


“What about you?” he asked. “Have you remarried?”


She shook her head. “I’ve been too busy raising my children and working. And, trying to cram some night classes in at the same time.”


“Sounds as if you’ve been busy.”


“Very. Thankfully, my parents are close by and have been a godsend with the kids.” After a moment’s silence, she asked, “How about you? Any kids?” 


He shot her a broad grin. “No. I’d need a wife for that. Unfortunately, I haven’t had much time to look for one between duty assignments.”


She couldn’t help but appreciate his lighthearted sarcasm.


A comfortable silence fell between them. They both relaxed back in their chairs and enjoyed the music. When it looked as if the orchestra was about to take their break, Marnie stood to leave. “Please, tell Terri and Stan goodbye for me. My children will be up early, no matter how late I get to bed.”


“Would you like me to walk you to your car?” he asked.


 She shook her head. “No, but thank you. Stay here and enjoy the reception.”  


Stan and Terri came back to the table just minutes after Marnie Wilson made her escape. Ed had to admit, he’d barely recognized her. It hadn’t been until the name had registered that he’d realized who she was, and how he knew her. She’d certainly changed over the past three years. Matured. No doubt single-parenthood could do that to a person.


“So,” Terri asked the minute she hit the chair, “where’s Marnie?”


“She left,” Ed said simply. “Apparently her children are early risers.”


Stan chuckled. “All kids are early risers. It’s a gift.”


Ed waited for the inevitable question.


“Just how do you know Marnie?” Terri asked. “Has my best friend been holding out on me?”


“No,” he said, his voice solemn with the memory of their meeting. “We met four years ago this past March. I had the unfortunate task of delivering the military’s condolences when her husband’s plane was shot down over Korea.”  





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Author Bio:


NANCY FRASERJumping Across Romance Genres with Gleeful Abandon—is an Amazon Top 100 and Award-Winning author who can’t seem to decide which romance genre suits her best. So, she writes them all.


Like most authors, Nancy began writing at an early age, usually on the walls and with crayons or, heaven forbid, permanent markers. Her love of writing often made her the English teacher’s pet which, of course, resulted in a whole lot of teasing. Still, it was worth it.


Nancy has published over forty books in full-length, novella, and short format. When not writing (which is almost never), Nancy dotes on her five wonderful grandchildren and looks forward to traveling and reading when time permits. Nancy lives in Atlantic Canada where she enjoys the relaxed pace and colorful people.




Twitter:  @nfraserauthor 


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Monday, May 17, 2021

Chocolate For Breakfast = Adulting

One of my favorite things about being an adult is that I get to eat what I want. Of course, I have to pay for it, but I like that no one is around to tell me not to eat something, or that I should eat more or less of something else. And I indulge myself with chocolate for breakfast. 

Before you become one of those people who tells me that’s not breakfast, let me tell you that my chocolate for breakfast is a muffin, or rather, a half of a muffin, so that I don’t have to pay for my food choices quite as much. Muffins are perfectly acceptable for breakfast. Since muffins are just a grown-up way of saying mini cakes, I even eat mine with a knife and fork, because like I said, I’m a grown up (and civilized).


I had been getting my muffins at my local grocery store. I have a love/hate relationship with this place. They have a very limited selection of food and brands, and that was even before Covid. Their deli guy is super creepy—it got so bad I lodged a formal complaint against him. He no longer bothers me, but I no longer shop in the deli when he’s there. The people are super friendly, though. It’s five minutes from my house. And they have really nice flowers in the spring and fall—sometimes even better than my area nurseries. Plus, they had double chocolate muffins.


Until they didn’t. 


I ran out of my supply at home and during my weekly grocery trip, looked for more. They were out. Horrors! I had to settle for peach, which is yummy but tastes terrible with orange juice and has no chocolate in it. The next week they were out as well. I bought the chocolate chip, which was okay, but there wasn’t enough chocolate.


Finally, I decided to ask the grocery guy if they were getting any more. He said they were no longer carrying them. Confident I’d misheard—we were both wearing masks, there was background noise, and my hearing is bad without those things anyway—I said, “You’re no longer carrying them?”


“That’s what I said, didn’t I?”


Okay Mr. Rude Man. You must not have been warned about me (see my issue with the deli guy above, which most definitely was not about rudeness), but I was in too much shock/chocolate withdrawal to do anything but slink away.


Now what was I supposed to eat for breakfast? It’s the most important meal of the day, isn’t it? 


This is where my local friends are all going to tell me how much they hate shopping at this store and that I should simply shop at any of the other grocery stores in the area—we have lots. And I know they’re right, but here’s the thing. I hate grocery shopping. Even before Covid, I hated doing it. I know this store and where they keep things (until the next time someone who’s never grocery shopped before decides to rearrange it—clothing in the freezer aisle, anyone?). And a five-minute drive is way more appealing than a 15 or 20-minute one.


But you’d be amazed what I’ll do for chocolate. So after trying another store’s brand and hating it—who knew double chocolate muffins could be gross and not even taste like chocolate?—I found one in a grocery store that’s 20 minutes away. It’s not ideal. I’m probably going to get tired of driving there just for muffins. But they’re really good, and I’m not yet ready to give up my “chocolate for breakfast because I’m an adult” thing.



Monday, May 10, 2021

I'm On A Podcast

In my continuously evolving attempt to embarrass myself promote myself, I thought I’d let you know about my appearance on a podcast, airing today. 

One of the benefits of being on my publisher’s email loop is that authors are constantly talking about what they do to promote their books. And someone, I can’t remember who, announced they had been interviewed by a person who had a book podcast. So, when I was working on marketing promo for A Reckless Heart, I emailed the woman.


Amanda Owen is one of the hosts of Books on the Mic, a relatively new podcast about books and authors. She and her co-host, Cheryl, are friendly and eager to talk to fellow authors, so when I emailed them, they responded right away and set up a date for me to talk to them. 


They sent me information ahead of time, so I could prepare, and asked me to send them information about me and my book as well. Boy, do they do their research! They found out things about me I hadn’t even mentioned—apparently, when I tell interviewers I have a blog, I should expect them to read it. Who knew? 


We did the interview over Zoom, which was actually fun because I could talk to them and see their expressions, rather than just over the phone. And, you know, it forced me to put on makeup and look like a human, which is always good for when I eventually emerge into the real world once again. 


They asked me questions I had prepared for, and questions I didn’t expect. We had a long discussion about marketing, the bane of most authors’ existence. And it was really fun. I’d totally do it again.


After they did their editing magic, they sent me a link. As I responded to Amanda, “Oh no, now I actually have to listen to myself!” But hey, now you can, too!


There’s also a rafflecopter link for a chance to win a free copy of A Reckless Heart here:


Hope you enjoy it!

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Welcome, Gabbi Grey


Why m/m romance?


I didn’t start out writing gay romances.  My first novel (or attempt at a novel) was in my senior year of university.  I planned to write a book of literary short stories, but my professor insisted we tackle a novella or novel-length process.  I was a little miffed, but decided it couldn’t possibly be that difficult.  I tackled the project with vigor, planning to write the great Canadian novel.

What came out?  A romance.  I’d only just discovered Harlequin romances the year before and had zero understanding of the genre, but I had a knack for it.  My story was going to have a happy ending.  I completed my six chapters, got an ‘A’, and graduated with honors.

That book?  Not finished.  Not by a long shot.  I wrote all summer, and had a good thing going until I started grad school. Between my course work and assistant stage managing several projects, writing fell by the wayside.  That story has never left me.  The file type doesn’t exist anymore so I can’t retrieve what I wrote, but I have every intention of finishing the book.  Maggie and Josh deserve a happy ending.

For the next twenty years I dabbled.  I started a story here, wrote a scene there…just kept going.  In 2012 I finally knuckled down and finished my first book.  That lit a fire under me.

Knowing my book wasn’t good enough for publication, I sought out a freelance editor who has since become a good friend.  She suggested I expand my reading to include a couple of authors of gay romances.  I’d read a few for free on my e-reader, but I was moving into audiobooks, so I tried a few of her suggestions.

I was hooked.

Eventually I became a reviewer for a blog so I could get free audios in exchange for honest reviews.  A way to safely feed my addiction.

I had submitted a short story to The Wild Rose Press and they published it.  By joining the garden, I heard about the Deerbourne Inn project.  I hemmed and debated and plotted for almost ten months before I finally put forth a proposal. They accepted within twenty-four hours, and told me to go write the book.  I did.  My Past, Your Future is about a dead black Civil War solider and a history professor from Scotland.  Want to know how that works?  Both the book and audio are available.

While writing the book, I encountered Jared – the desk clerk at Deerbourne Inn.  He’s been in almost all the other books and I knew he deserved a happy ending.  With hubris, I knew I was the one who needed to do it.  Now, proposing to write a story involving such a beloved character required more finessing than my first story.  Fortunately, my editor believed in the story and she helped me navigate the process.  In short order, If Only for Today was completed.

This story is a bit different than my other romances (gay and otherwise).  This is a ‘sweet’ book.  No sex.  I dug deep into the emotional wounds and readers have expressed how much they enjoyed the subtle angst in the book.  There’s a happy ending, of course.  I’m hoping fans of the genre will appreciate the story and I’m hoping those who’ve never tried a gay romance will dabble their toe into this amazing subgenre.

Thank you, Jennifer, for hosting me and letting me ramble.


Jared Langford is a happy man. The desk clerk at the Deerbourne Inn knows everyone in his cozy town in Vermont. He is accepted and loved by the community, but he's missing someone special in his life.

Devastating news has brought journalist Xander Fortier to Willow Springs for some much-needed rest. He's photographed every major conflict in the world for the last ten years, but being stateside has forced him to reassess the solitary life he's been living.

Something in Xander's gruff demeanor calls to Jared's caring nature. Soon the men are spending time together, but Jared's kisses might not be enough to keep Xander from leaving. Can the men find a happily ever after if they only have today?


A soft knock brought Xander from his brooding. He rose and answered the door, belatedly realizing he should’ve put on a shirt. Oh well, at least he was wearing shorts. Usually he slept nude.

Jared was taller than he remembered, even though he barely reached Xander’s shoulders. His light-brown hair was close-cropped, and his blue eyes were wide. And they were staring. At Xander’s bare chest.

Is he…?


But maybe.

“Like what you see?”

His tongue darted out before a light blush settled high on Jared’s cheeks. Oh yeah, he’d been checking Xander out.

“Well, uh…” Jared held a bundle against his chest like a shield.

When he finally looked up to meet Xander’s gaze, the actual reason he was staring hit Xander square in the throat. “It’s no big deal.” Gruffer than he intended, but he didn’t want sympathy. Never that.

Jared nodded. “I would say it looks painful, but if you say it’s no big deal, I accept that. It is, after all, none of my business.” He indicated the room. “May I come in?”

Xander stood aside and let the young man in. And exactly how old was the guy? Older than a kid, but doubtful he’d seen thirty.

Scooting inside, Jared dropped his bundle on the bed. “I’ve brought a blanket that you can put under the sheet but over the mattress. That might soften things up a bit.” He put the blanket aside and indicated a pillow. “We keep a couple of very hard pillows in stock, but we don’t pull them out unless requested. It’s not much softer than a rock, but I suspect that won’t bother you.”


His eyes widened. “Sorry, nothing.”

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Gabbi lives in beautiful British Columbia where her fur baby chin-poo keeps her safe from the nasty neighborhood squirrels. Working for the government by day, she spends her early mornings writing contemporary, gay, sweet, and dark erotic BDSM romances. While she firmly believes in happy endings, she also believes in making her characters suffer before finding their true love. She also writes m/f romances as Gabbi Black.




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Monday, May 3, 2021

Premature Announcement

You know that feeling you get when you find out about a surprise? Maybe one of your friends or relatives slip up. Maybe you manage to figure it out on your own, piecing actions and comments together like clues to solving a mystery. But however you figure it out, you learn about the surprise. What happens next? 

Well, something similar happened to me. Whenever I have a new book release, I submit an early copy to a variety of places, including literary industry magazines, in the hopes that they’ll review it. The reviews don’t make it out into the world of the average public necessarily, but they are seen by industry professionals, and if the reviews are positive, I post them. 


Several months ago, I submitted A Reckless Heart to one of those magazines. While they didn’t tell me they were reviewing it, I saw them “reading” it on Goodreads, so I was aware I’d get a review at some point. 


Yesterday, I received an email from the magazine’s marketing department, congratulating me on receiving the highest rating possible—not given out to everyone or every book—and asking me if I’d like to pay to advertise the book. Only problem is, I still haven’t gotten the latest issue of the magazine where the review appears, nor have I been alerted to the review.


That is due to happen today.


To say I’m thrilled with the rating is an understatement. I’ve never had one of my books receive this rating, and the opportunities this rating offers me are terrific. I can’t wait to show off the review to friends and readers. And yes, I will want to pay for advertising. 


But, um, I’d really like to see the review first! 


So in the meantime, I’ll keep checking my email and the magazine website for the May edition. When I get the review, I’ll shout it from the rooftops. And then I’d advertise! J