Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Sharing Family Traditions and Haunts with your Characters

Sandra here with a steaming pot of hot Velvet Chocolate coffee. Speaking of which, my stores stopped carrying Millstone Coffee. I about had heart failure.  So thankfully you can order it online.  I have plenty, so grab a cup and let's explore some family haunts in lovely Puget Sound where I've set my upcoming release LOVE'S REFUGE.

Is this cover georgeous or what?  I love it. Lena Goldfinch did a fantastic job. She collaborated with my editor, Amber Stokes of Editing Through The Seasons.  It was Amber's idea to tie the title and look of the cover to my last release, LOVE'S MIRACLES and it was Lena's skill that accomplished the task. And Amber just reminded me that the cover reveal article which posted last Friday on her blog Seasons of Humility features a rafflecopter gift which is still open until this coming Friday, so if you didn't sign in, pop on over. The prize is a lovely kindle bag crafted by a friend of mine.

What do you think?

There is a lighthouse on the cover which I love because it reminds me of my dad and his wife. They loved lighthouses and made it their mission to visit every lighthouse in North America. In fact, at my dad's memorial service the lighthouse was the theme with a picture of one he painted hung on the wall. Hubby and I have visited most of the lighthouses on the Pacific Coast so I was thrilled when Lena added one to the cover. It was Amber's idea to feature the light shining which symbolizes the hope Skye and Danny seek in LOVE'S REFUGE.

At the time I wrote the first draft of LOVE'S REFUGE, my aunt and uncle lived in northern Washington along the coast.  If any of you are familiar with that rugged coastline, you know that there are many islands offshore that make up Puget Sound. My aunt and uncle owned a cabin they built on one of those islands and it was from visits there that I came up with the setting for LOVE'S REFUGE.

The heroine, Skye Larsen, lives on Leeza Island  which is a ficticious island based on the real island where my aunt and uncle had their cabin.

The only access to this island is by boat and air.  There is a flat grassy meadow that serves as the airstrip for small private planes. This is where the opening scene takes place.

“Dummy, dummy, dummy.” Skye Larsen dove for the ground and covered her head. Skye didn’t move. Uneven lumps of grass pressed against her stomach and chest. She closed her eyes and pounded her fists. How could she have forgotten to check for oncoming planes before crossing the island’s airstrip? 
A rumble came on the wind. She looked up to see a small Cessna airplane heading straight for her. The pilot gestured for her to get out of the way. The plane roared over, barely missing her. Backlash wind threw her flowered skirt overhead and whipped the tall grass against her bare legs. She plopped her cheek against the cool grass and moaned. “Great. Just what I need today.” 
The blue and white plane scudded across the grass runway and stopped. She lifted her head and watched the plane circle at the end of the cut-grass strip and taxi toward her. Seeing the “For Sale” sign on her favorite piece of land was bad enough. Now she was going to have to face an irate pilot, probably one of those typical city dudes who wanted to escape from Seattle, but brought the city with them instead. She struggled to her feet and brushed grass and dirt from her blouse and skirt.
Her world was changing and she didn’t like it. 
“Unbelievable,” she muttered as she stomped across the grass runway toward the approaching plane. She breathed in the scent of wildflowers and grass mingled with salt air. She loved this remote island in Washington’s Puget Sound, its thick woods, quiet nights and simple lifestyle. It was safe—no drugs, no vandals, no violence. Not like in the city where she’d grown up. 
The pilot taxied close, nosed the Cessna into the wind, and cut the engine. Skye braced herself as she watched long legs, clad in khaki Dockers, descend from the plane, followed by a sleek torso covered in a brown polo shirt. When his head emerged, Skye groaned. She clenched her fists and prepared for the burst of rage she saw in his expression.
Dark eyes, set in a squared and rigid face, sparked with anger under brown hair blowing in the breeze. “Didn’t you see me coming?” He stormed up and stood in front of her, hands fisted. “It’s only by the grace of the Almighty I didn’t smack into you.”
Skye pulled herself upright, jutted her chin and clamped her teeth together.
“Well. What do you have to say for yourself?” 
Skye tore her gaze away from the fire in his eyes and looked past him at the whitecaps tossing in the straits of Puget Sound. What could she say? She’d been so distracted that she’d ignored caution and crossed the small island’s grass airstrip without looking? “You missed me.” She shrugged. “You’re a good pilot.”

My aunt and uncle had a boat that they used to cross back and forth from Bellingham to the island. But I had my hero flying in from Seattle.  When I was growing up, my dad had a small Cessna like the one Danny has. He used to take us up when we were kids. We'd fly around and then he would sit back and shut off the engine and say "Okay you can fly."  Of course we didn't know how and my sister and I would scream,  "Daddy, daddy!"  My brother loved it and ended up becoming a pilot himself.  There is a scene in the story that reflects this little tidbit from my family history. smile

The odd cabin that Skye lives in actually exists on that island. No building code is required for a building less than 12 feet by 12 feet.  The intent is to allow storage sheds to be built, but the owner of this "cabin" started out with a storage shed, but ended up making it a livable cabin.  He put a second story on it for a bedroom, but the access is by ladder outside the building.  That cabin always struck my funny bone so of course it would end up in one of my novels. And the quirkiness suits my heroine who is rather quirky herself.

I have Skye living in the unusual cabin, but the cabin Danny stays in is based on the cabin my uncle built. He was a contractor by trade and built a gorgeous, even though rustic, cabin on the island with a big porch looking out over the Sound and huge picture windows sporting the same view. All of the materials were brought to the island piece by piece in their boat.  What an undertaking, especially considering there was no electricity or other power source on the island.  Propane is brought over by boat and they have wood stoves and heaters. To this day, it is still very primitive which is what gives it the unique and special charm.

As a humorous tidbit of information, LOVE'S REFUGE was rejected by a traditional New York house and one of the comments of the editor was, "This setting is too unrealistic. There are no such things as propane refrigerators."  I still chuckle over that comment because of course the whole setting is very real and I'm using a propane refrigerator in my RV.

Many of the things Skye and Danny do together on the island are traditional things we did with our family. We walked out on the rocks and picked oysters and roasted them on the fire. We set crab pots in the bay and caught fresh crabs. Later in the day we would build a big bonfire on the beach and heat up a huge pot of water to cook the live crabs in. I know, gross, but they were delicious. We dug for clams on the beach.  One of the scenes where Skye is teaching Danny how to dig for clams is based on the comical lesson my hubby received.

She smiled at the eager look on his face as he forced the shovel into the sand. He brought up a pile of gravel. Skye quickly sorted through it and found three steamers. Danny dug several more times until she heard a sickening crunch.
“You found your clam.”
“I crushed it.”
Her lips twitched at his look of disappointment. “Toss it over. We can still use it. We’ll have to be careful to get rid of the sand, that’s all.”
He held the shovel out to her. “You better finish.”
She stepped back, the crushed clam dripping from the palm of her hand. “No way. You aren’t getting out of the hard work with that excuse.”
A sheepish grin formed. “You’re not going to let me, are you?”
Laughing, she shook her head. “You won’t learn unless you practice.”
He scowled and then he sighed, his stress lines deepening. “You’re as bad as my boss.” 
Sorry that she’d reminded him of work, she searched for another air hole. “Here’s a good spot,” she said and watched him dig more carefully. She had to admire him. He was a good sport. 

The pets in the story are based on our pets--color, breed and names.  Skye names them in alphabetical order, just like my hubby and I did.  She starts out with a black lab named Ace followed by a golden lab named Bo.

The real tribute to my aunt and uncle are the secondary characters based on them. When I read my drafts of LOVE'S REFUGE and come to those characters, I can so see my aunt and uncle. The characterization is based on the real love and humor that were so much a part of the real people in my life.

So what family haunts and traditions have you used in your stories?  Share with us in the comments.  Those who do will have their names plopped in the puppy dish and the winner will receive a copy of their choice of one of my books AND a copy of Debby Giusti's  THE SOLDIER'S SISTER.

In case you didn't see the notice in the Weekend Edition, Debby is selling her books today and the proceeds are going for one of my favorite causes. So of course I'm going to buy some of her books as gifts (one of which will be today's giveaway prize).  Here is a copy of the notice:

Debby Giusti is signing THE SOLDIER'S SISTER, on Tuesday, Sept 24 from 4 to 6:30 EDT, at Omega Book Center, Peachtree City, GA. Proceeds go to the Wounded Warrior Program which helps our injured military heroes.  Bookseller Karen Duncan takes phone orders and mails books throughout the US so if you'd like to take part in the event, reserve a signed copy of THE SOLDIER'S SISTER by calling 770-487-3977.  Of course if you live in the area, please drop by and visit Debby.  100 North Peachtree Parkway, Peachtree, GA.


And guess what?  I know where Peachtree is now,  since visiting the area during RWA Convention last summer in Atlanta.    Waving at you Debby.

Amber just reminded me that the cover reveal that was posted last Friday on her blog Seasons of Humility featured a rafflecopter giveaway that is still open until this coming Friday. So if you haven't signed in, pop on over for a chance to win a lovely  kindle bag hand-crafted by my friend Diane.


  1. What a beautiful post. I loved it when my dad let me fly. That is one thing I think I would like to do, get mt pilot's license, but it cost way too much. A girl can dream though.

    Almost all of my Kansas stories are inspired by old stomping grounds.

    I almost always have someone in my stories that are inspired by real people. In my most recent my heroine is based off a local horse trainer who runs a program with one of the state pens. It's a rehabilitation program fir prisoners and wild mustangs. The hero is inspired by a volunteer fire fighter in a town hubs grew up in. He walked with a limp but was always the first to respond. The hero's brother is inspired by a high school friend who killed his bf in a dui.

    I think my favorite inspired scene is in my western where my heroine has to climb up on the roof to patch a hole from storm damage. My brothe r-in-law was in Iraq when a storm ripped a good portion of my sister in law's roof off. My father-in-law, my sil and I climbed up on her roof to nail down a tarp in Kansas 30 mph breezes. Sil was so scared she clung to the pitch and threatened to upend her stomach. It was very comical. Fil and I were climbing all over the roof and she held on like she was riding an out of control horse, eyes squeezed shut and all. When i get in my computer i will try to share that small bit.

  2. Sandra, with each comment about your cover I had to scroll back up and take another peek. It is a truly beautiful cover.

    I'm a city gal, so I can't imagine roughing it, but I love reading about those who do. Propane is roughing it in my book. LOL. I can already imagine the quirky little cabin.

    The way you incorporated bits and pieces of your family is so cool! The only thing I've ever done is make mention of Westies in my books. I have two and adore them.

    Wait, I take that back. In my current WIP my heroine and her sister are extremely close. Me and my sis are as well, so that is an easy relationship for me to portray. Unfortunately her sister is dead. Thankfully mine is very much alive. We just celebrated her birthday on the 23rd. It's late - I'm rambling.

    Please enter me in the drawing, I'd love to read your book and Debby's!

  3. I am looking forward to getting these latest novels of yours, Sandra. Maybe we can even meet for coffee this winter! The covers are lovely. Roughing isn't bad if you have a motor home!

  4. Aw, Sandra, this is lovely! I'm honored by your kind words - Lena is an absolute joy to work with, so talented and thoughtful. :) I'm thrilled you're happy with the cover! She's given us both such beautiful ones. :)

    It was Lena's idea to use a lighthouse, and I'm really thrilled it worked out the way it did, 'cause I was a bit skeptical about it at first. ;) But it all worked together wonderfully - such a blessing!

    Love how much you included from your own life in the story (it's a great one, everybody!). In my books, I've also included places I've visited with my family (for Bleeding Heart, Virginia City, Falk, and Sunriver area; for Forget Me Not, mainly Virginia City). In fact, the fictional Clifton Ranch is set in a canyon we once stayed in outside of Virginia City. :) There really is a Hebrew cemetery there, and I used a little of what I'd learned about the history along with what I'd seen and felt, and let my imagination invent the Cliftons' home. :)


    P.S. Seeker friends, the cover reveal for Love's Refuge was last Friday, but the giveaway is still open through this Friday! Click HERE to visit the post and enter via the Rafflecopter form for a chance to win a handmade Kindle bag. :)

  5. Sandra, I've always loved Skye's story, from way back in our critiquing days! So nice that it's found a home as an independently published novel...

    And the setting is to die for. My husband would LOVE to be tucked someplace where most can't find him, chopping wood, hunting deer, fishing... But he married a people person so poor Dave!!!! :)

    I'm always sticking people I know in books if the character fits... and I love using friends and family on covers when it works for the story! That's a thrill to little kids to see their likeness on a book. Their joy is contagious. And if someone's a jerk, they make it into my books too... pompous people... snotty people... pretentious people... Usually these folks have a history with me and writing about them is great therapy and so much nicer than prison...

    Open toilets in prison. I'm so happy in my old, leaking farmhouse!!!!! :)

    Grabbing chocolate velvet and loving it! We found a chocolate raspberry coffee that's amazingly good with white chocolate raspberry creamer... Oh My Stars, lovely!!!!

  6. I love Atlanta and Peachtree City. When I lived in Athens it was always a treat to drive over.

    Yesterday KLOVE shared drinking 2 cups of hot chocolate a day helps you lose weight. I'd love a cup of hot Velvet Chocolate. Thanks.

    I created an island in my stories based on a beach we vacation at frequently. I hope to someday have Fuller Island published.

    Thanks for sharing this fun post.

  7. Jackie, seriously? I missed that one. Had to shut K-love off after lunch. I would love some velvety chocolate too.

  8. Lovely covers, Sandy!!

    I always put stuff in my books that is either based on real experiences or my imagining of them. lol

    I love the idea of that little cabin, though I don't know if I'd love the reality of it. heehee!

  9. Sandra, reading your post makes me want to pack up and go find one of those 12x12 cabins.:-)

    I'd like to be there for about three months. Sounds like the perfect writing hide-out!

    Winslow, the dog in my WIP was a little dog my sister and I rescued. I think all writers must draw from their own lives and circumstances at times.

  10. SANDRA, this was interesting. I love reading about the Pacific Northwest. I'm a fan of Melody Carlson's "Shining River" series and I read a lot of Kristin Hannah's women's fiction, not CBA but beautiful stuff. Never been there but my life's not over yet.
    I tend to incorporate more people that I've known, rather than places or family traditions, because I'm doing historicals right now. I cheat a little -- I've got an historical set in New York City and I incorporate generic city scenes from Boston, but research the specifics. I don't consciously model characters on people I know but rather focus on importing characteristics. For example, Michael in "Trail" is a composite of lovable, irresponsible rogues, and we watch him mature through his love for Caroline and his guilt over what he did to her. Caroline is a composite of innocent young women who have to live with the consequences of what they did in an unguarded moment. Christ brings them back together, which I guess is the great truth we're all aiming at.
    RUTHY, I'm going to have to try that technique of putting people who "done me wrong" into books. I've got a few "normal" nasty people, like the banker's wife who snubbed Caroline back in Ohio, but my villains are off-the-charts mean. Like Roy, who raped a girl and killed her and then spent 18 years in jail and one year hunting the man, now a boy, who gave evidence against him. But even Roy has a backstory of abuse and neglect. I just don't let it become an excuse as so many people do today.
    SANDRA, so you're doing indie too? That's great. Good that we live in a time with so many options.
    What is K-LOVE? I may have to start drinking more hot chocolate. Heard on the news chocolate prices are going up. That's all we need.
    Can't enter drawing because already won something this month.
    Kathy Bailey
    Pre-pubbed in New Hampshire

  11. AMBER, thanks for the reminder. I went in and put that info on the main blog post.

    See folks why its great for me to have young people in my life with good memories. LOL

    And folks if you haven't read Amber's BLEEDING HEART then you should. She wrote a really unique and lovely historical romance and did a great job with her settings. I've lived in most of them myself, so know how well she portrayed them.

  12. Oops. I just said Roy was hunting the "man," "now a boy." It should have been the reverse. I have no excuse, I've HAD my coffee. No, this is not Benjamin Button or some weird time traveler fantasy.
    ANYhoo, my villains are pretty awful so of course I have to make them up, I've never known any rapist/murderers, but the territory of the human heart remains the same. Roy is a "mirror antagonist" because my hero also had a horrific childhood, but doesn't let it get in the way of his humanity. What Ever, have a nice day if I don't get back on again, much to do.

  13. CHRISTINA, I love the roof story. I would be right there with your sil--terrified. It will be fun to read that in your story.

    And yes, I agree. Jackie imparted great info. Lets go for the hot chocolate.

  14. HI TERRI, What a blessing to be close to your sister. I know that has to go into one of your stories. smile

  15. HI MARIANNE, yes it would be great to get together again this winter. I can't believe that fall is here already and winter coming. Where did the summer go?

    Happy reading.

  16. RUTHY that raspberry chocolate coffee sounds yummy. Godiva puts out a great raspberry chocolate coffee. Have you tried that one?

    I love your characters and they come across so real, I've always supposed they portrayed real people in your life. smile

    Yes our manuscripts we critiqued together are seeing the light of day in indie publishing. I always loved yours too. Try Try Again was one of my favorites.

  17. HI JACKIE, I hope Fuller Island is published soon. Sounds like a fun place for a setting.

    And thanks for the great tip on two cups of hot chocolate today. That is wonderful information. smile

  18. Hi JESSICA, Yes, I agree with you. The little cabin would be a bit much for me too. I much prefer my aunt and uncles. The deck looking out over the bay is the best part of it.

  19. HI MARY H, Is that Winslow in your photo? Yes, our pets play a big role in our lives and certainly do show up in our stories. smile

  20. Hi KAYBEE, KLOVE is a radio station that features Christian music and topics.

    And you will be entered in the drawing. There are no rules saying you can't win more than once. You should go to the Cover reveal blog and enter that contest too. The kindle bag is really cool. Lots of neat little pockets for cell phone etc.

    Your characters sound terrific. Love the premise.

  21. Sandra,
    Sounds like a kid's dream on the island.
    I have one book that's not a romance and it has several scenes taken from true stories/places told to me from my dad. Like the small town he grew up, there was a mountain lion someone spotted and the farmers loved to talk about it. The teenage boys got to running up and down the creek beds yelling like that cat. Had the farmers chasing them all over the county. Of course in my story, one of the boy accidentally gets shot.

    Put me in for the drawing please.

  22. Hi CONNIE QUEEN, Oh wow that mountain lion scene sounds exciting. What a great scene to incorporate in your book.

    Happy writing.

  23. Sandra, wonderful insight into your book! You gave us such a personal glimpse into your creative process, I'll keep it in mind when I read it!

    I love my home in Colorado and since I've explored most of the state during my lifetime here, it just comes naturally for me to include it in my settings.

    I pray my experiences in the Rocky Mountains are my gift to my readers.

    Thanks for the shout out about Debby's booksigning and her cause!!

  24. Enjoyed living in Pacific Northwest - on the mainland or bridge connected island - for several years out of college. It's such a beautiful place.

    My debut novel is set in a fictional version of my hometown. And the house on the tree farm actually belonged to our neighbors across the field.


  25. HI AUDRA, Yes, I love how you portray your western settings in your books. You are a true western girl. smile

  26. Sandra, I love your cover. It fits in so well with the last one.

    Do you know how to fly an airplane? I'd be terrified to try. When I was in the Navy I 'flew' a link trainer and 'crashed' it right off the bat. I knew I didn't have any flying ability!

  27. Good morning, Sandra! What fun hearing how so much of your life is in your setting for your new book.

    Speaking of... that's the about the most gorgeous cover I've ever seen!! I just love it!

    As for using my own life in stories...the small towns I create are actually made my taking my favorite parts of small towns in north Georgia and using them in my fictional town. :)

  28. Hi ELLEN, Way to go using the house across the field. Don't you find that if you use a real place it becomes more real in your writing? I think that is why I like to at least have been to the places I use as settings.

  29. Good morning, Sandra! I absolutely LOVE hearing all about the background of this story. I can't wait to read ALL of it (only got to read the first few chapters a number of years ago) and this behind-the-scenes post will further enrich the read! Already I think I want to visit this island!

    I love slipping in little details from real-life places and happenings into my stories. :)

  30. Oh CARA that is so funny. I'm glad you didn't try a real plane. I wouldn't have known you then. smile

    I did not pursue flying. I fly a lot and love it, but mostly with others. Gliding is fun also. Have you tried that?

  31. Hi MISSY, Yes, the cover is really cool I think. Lena did a terrific job.

    And I love your small towns. They are so southern and homey. Love your writing too. You can tell you really know your characters.

  32. HI GLYNNA, Since I'm an Arizonan too, I recognize a lot of your settings. smile. Love them and how you incorporate your settings into your stories. Can hardly wait to read the one that came out this month. A Canyon Springs Courtshipsounds delightful.

  33. Oh, your setting sounds wonderful! I'd love to go to a place like that which only makes me want to read the book more. Plus, I love the ending of that last scene.
    "'You missed me.' She shrugged. 'You're a good pilot.'"

    I adore humor in stories. And humor definitely is a main ingredient in mine, mostly because I grew up with three crazy sisters who were full of it. Pretty much everything I've written is based, sometimes just a wee bit, on things that have happened to me or others. It's therapeutic to fold those memories into a story.

    And the cover is so sweet. I heard someone say once that the most heart-melting thing a guy can do is kiss a girl on her forehead :)

    Courtney -- alwaysreadingblog.blogspot.com

  34. *I love the ending of that FIRST scene.*

  35. Hi COURTNEY, Thank you. I rather love that scene myself. smile I mean, really what could she say? She had made a mistake. chuckle

    Sounds like your characters will be fun if based on your sisters. Happy writing.

  36. Ooooh - lovely cover, Sandra. And great idea to tie it in with your last release -- are they part of a series?

    LOVE Skye's flippant response to the pilot! I like her already. :-)

    I find it fascinating to discover the background behind an author's inspiration. Now the book will mean more when I read it.

  37. Sandra, BOTH your covers are flat-out gorgeous!!! Just finished reading Love's Miracles, BTW, and enjoyed it tremendously!

    As for family haunts used in my novels, the most recent, of course, is Hot Springs, Arkansas, the setting for my Abingdon post-WWI series. Hubby and I never get tired of vacationing there. It's become our annual "kick back and do nothing we don't want to" week.

  38. Hi KAV, No they aren't a series, but Lena and Amber wanted to create a brand so that is why they look similar. So exciting. Both are psychological dramas and even though faith based-are aimed at the aba market.

    Thanks for the compliment.

  39. Hi MYRA Yes I love your novels as well and can hardly wait to read When Clouds Roll Again. I didn't realize it was a series. How cool is that?

  40. Oh, Sandra, I just LOVE the new cover, even more than the first one, which is hard to believe because I went crazy over that one. Lena (and Amber and you) have wonderful taste!!

    As a gal who is not big on research, the idea of incorporating fun things from my own past really appeals to me, especially since I have an emotional connection with them. I wasn't able to do that with setting like you did in Love's Refuge because I have never been to Boston and only visited San Fran twice for brief periods of time. But I do use tons of real-life events from my own marriage/life to to give what I hope is an authentic feel to my character's roller-coaster lives.

    My favorite story to that effect is when a good friend of mine came to dinner and was telling Keith just how much she enjoyed A Passion Most Pure. "The only thing is," she said with a scrunch of brows, "is that I found the bedroom fight scene between Marcy and Patrick a little hard to believe." Never missing a beat, Keith took a drink of his Coke and just smiled. "Believe it," he said in his calm and casual manner, and I couldn't help but laugh.

    I have to admit, the poor man quakes before he reads each of my books, not sure just what part of our lives he will find on the pages. I laughed out loud when he stalked into the kitchen one day while reading one of my books. "I cannot believe you put that in there, Julie," he said with a shake of his head. LOL ... I believe that was the day I was wearing a t-shirt that says, "Be nice to me or I'll put you in my novel." ;)


  41. oh JULIE you are soooooo funny. And poor Keith, I can just picture that scene in the kitchen. Did you point to the T-shirt?

    My hubby loves it when he finds himself in the books. Makes him feel like a great hero. Well, he is great hero material. smile

    Your hubby too. Aren't we blessed?

  42. Hi Sandra:

    Your new book, “Love’s Refuge”, has lots of what I enjoy most in a story: small plane, grass strip runway, rustic island cabin, lighthouse, and a pretty blonde. When is the first day we can buy it on Kindle? I’d start reading it today if I could!

    BTW: my wife and I always try to visit any lighthouses we can. (Also old frontier forts.) Have you seen Point Reyes lighthouse in northern California? It is said to be the windiest place on the Pacific coast. It is well worth a visit. It may have the best view of any lighthouse. Amazing.

    What’s with that hero? If I saw a person on the runway or even a cow, I’d go around! Heavens knows I’ve practiced abortive landings many times. Coming in too high, abort. Coming in too low, abort. Coming in too hot (fast) abort. Coming in too slow, full throttle, flaps back up, abort! Go around! Obstructed runway, abort! If I were that heroine I’d get his plane number and turn him in to the FAA. : )

    Did your father really turn the engine off? I had three instructors tell me never to do that as the carburetor can ice up and the plane not start again! Then you have to make a power-off landing. Are you sure your father didn’t just throttle down like a car on idle? You girls may have had good reason to scream. I would never turn an engine off in a small plane while in flight.

    I can still remember all the times my instructor would throttle down and say, “You’ve lost power! What do you do and where do you land?” He would expect me to know which way the wind was blowing, the glide slope of the plane, the speed to go to that would give me the longest time in the air, and where the safest place to put the plane down was. A good pilot knows at any time just what he would do if his plane lost power. Wow.

    Did you ever write a novel and then forget your wrote it? Your question reminds me that I wrote a 53,000 word romance, “The Last Romantic”, which takes place on the UCSB campus – where I went to college. It features two older veterans going to college on the GI bill, (like me) who are in the student cafeteria trying to meet a new girl (it was love at first sight for the hero) when the windows start breaking. Right away they know from war experience that the shots are from an AR-15 at about 200 yards away.

    The shooter is on a high island in the middle of the lagoon outside the student union. Crazily they start running toward the lagoon, (which they know very well from many visits), to catch the shooter. They know there is only one path down the island to the beach.(The island is about 200 feet high). The two vets hope to catch the shooter coming around a bend in the path and push him off the cliff. They do and the shooter dies in the fall.

    After that life becomes crazy with all the national attention. Half the students are outraged and call the vets, blood thirsty war criminals. The other half call them heroes. The heroine thinks they are both crazy for going after a shooter unarmed. When the hero tells her he loves her (after meeting her for the first time) she thinks he’s a deranged stalker and spends most of the book trying to avoid him. His response is to get more and more romantic to win her over. In this effort his amours behavior makes him truly the last authentic romantic.

    Great idea to order a book from Debby’s book signing today! I did it last year and they are very nice on the phone. Debby will personalize the autograph if you leave a message. So you can have a, “Happy Birthday, Nancy,” complete with autograph to give as a present. (Both my sister and sister in law are retired veterans, both are named Nancy, and both have birthdays on the same day!) A military suspense romance is an ideal gift for both of them. Debby had great sales last year at this event and I hope she sells even more books this year! It’s a great way to contribute to a worthy cause.


  43. Puget Sound is one of my favorite areas in the world. And love the book cover, Sandra.

  44. My family goes fishing every summer to a lake in Minnesota and my oh so helpful daughters were brainstorming a book for me one year about a murder mystery at a lake. (trying to figure out how we could all deduct our vacation).
    I gently reminded them I write historical westerns but that didn't stop them from talking.
    Anyway, murder mystery. Lake. Body at the bottom of the lake. Dumping ground for serial killer. Valuable lake front property. Old man refuses to sell. Tries to scare away snoopy kids.

    Pretty soon one of my daughters sort of throws her hands wide and says, "I just realized this is an episode of Scooby Doo."

  45. I remember the time My Cowboy was sitting, reading one of my books, probably The Husband Tree, but I've buried a lot of worthless husbands in my books so who knows. And My Cowboy has heard about how authors put their own lives in their books.
    Anyway, he looks up rather nervously from the book and he asks, "Am I the cowboy who comes riding to the rescue or am I one of the worthless husbands?"

  46. A long ago visit to Carlsbad Cavern definitely inspired the Kincaid Brides series. I've never forgotten the impact that place had on me.
    This was long before I was writing but I was just TRANSPORTED by that place. I could just IMAGINE the first explorer in there.
    The paths were well lit, safe. All so civilized. But right across those heavy railings the floor of the cave looked broken, like it had been thin as glass and someone had stepped on it, thinking it was solid and it had broken under their feet.
    But it was so beautiful. So stunningly beautiful. The lure to go on and see more. The terrible danger telling you to go back.
    Add in a man alone. A lantern so you couldn't begin to see it all.
    Beauty and death.
    It was all there as I walked through that cavern.

    The only place that has come close to being a story right there, alive for me was Lake Atasca in northern Minnesota, the headwaters of the Mississippi. It's the wildest place I've ever been.

    Nice, tidy two lane highway we drove through to get there but it is just RIPPED out of the HEART of this impenetrable wilderness. I didn't see how anyone could even walk through it. Broken down trees, underbrush. Rugged, uneven land.
    I watched out my car window and I could imagine a man (this was NOT a historical story) a survivalist, getting into those woods. Knowing how to survive in there.
    No one could ever get him out.
    What if a bad man kidnapped a woman and dragged her in there. What if a tough man had to go in and save her, get her out.
    Or what if a bad man was after a woman and a good tough man had to protect her so he took her in to a place he knew no one could touch him...except the bad man knew his way in there, too.
    Oh, yeah, it wrote itself!!! :)

  47. OH VINCE, VINCE, VINCE, You ALWAYS make me laugh. I'm sure you are right. I was trying to remember if he turned off the engine which seemed like a strange thing to do but I remember the prop wasn't spinning so I bet he did do as you said and throttd down. Oh my, I'm going to go fix that in LOVE"S REFUGE. Thank you. I would have pilots screaming at me. LOL

    And yes, we love Point Reyes. Hubby and I used to live in Humboldt County so have spent much time on the Northern California coast. It is very rugged and isolated. Love it. (But it is also well watered which is why we now live in the desert)

    And I could have had the hero abort but then I would have lost my dramatic beginning. Oh well. Could it be that he just didn't see her until the last second?

    Your vet story sounds like it would make a great movie. You should send it in. I bet there is a lot of humor in it with that vet trying to be romantic. Sounds like a great premise. So get it out, brush off the cobwebs and publish it. I'd read it.

    Regarding DEBBY's book, I just called and ordered mine. You're right, Karen is really nice. Debby will be thrilled if others call too.

  48. Thanks TINA, It is pretty because its well-watered. Lushy green and spectacular flora and fauna.

  49. MARY your mind is SCARY. LOL You do have some wild imagination, but I guess that is why I love your books so much. Your characters are crazy.

    And you tell your cowboy he is definitely NOT one that needs to be under the husband tree.

  50. VINCE, I've been mulling over your remarks and I think you make a good point. I could have him abort and then come in and land and still have the same scene.

    Thanks good buddy.

  51. Julie, I love that story. That is too funny. I bet your friend was wondering what else from your story was based on fact. :)

  52. OKay, I didn't want to place the scene here and take up too much room so I put it over on my blog if you're interested in reading it.


    Oh, and Sandra, it was really late when I was trying to type in the comments. I think a writer's retreat on your little island is in store. :)

  53. Mary said: "Anyway, he looks up rather nervously from the book and he asks, 'Am I the cowboy who comes riding to the rescue or am I one of the worthless husbands?'"

    LOL!!! I can just hear Your Cowboy saying this!!!! I hope you reassured him!

  54. Oh CHRISTINA, what a super duper idea. It would have to be summer though as it is pretty cold in the winter.

    Thanks for sharing your scene. I'm going to look and see if I have your email address. I can send you how to make your link live on the comment.

    I'll do it now for you. Click here to go to Christina's blog to read her scene.

  55. Myra, what I want to know is how he responded to your answer. ;)

    Thank you, Sandra. I think anytime of the year would be an experience. My dad used to land out in the farmers' fields in a small town when I was little, at least that is what I was told.

  56. Oh, Sandra, we ARE blessed, that's for darn sure ... as all of the Seekers appear to be. I've only met some of the hubbies, but every single one is a gem!!

    And, LOL, Christina ... I'll bet she was ... and she'd be right!! ;)


  57. JULIE, you are right about that. All of the hubbies I've met are real gems. Why do you think we have such great heroes in our books. smile

  58. I live in the PNW, just out of Vancouver, with a best friend in Bellingham, so I recognize your setting.

    I find where I place my characters is where I yearn to be. Our family has a rustic lakeside cabin in BC's Cariboo country... well off the beaten track, beyond the reach of electricity and cell phones, without running water. It has a cranky woodstove, kerosene lanterns AND a propane fridge!!! I love it there. It's a family vacation spot in the summer and my ideal writing retreat in the fall. It's also the setting for one of my unpubbed novels that I titled 'Refuge North'. (Something appealing about refuges! I love your cover as well as the title.)

    We say there's always a bit of ourselves in our characters, so I guess it isn't hard to understand why some of our favourite places find their way into our stories, too.

  59. Hi Sandra:

    You could make the landing even more dramatic! The one way you would not abort and go around is when you are out of gas or about to run out of gas. The hero’s gas gage could have been broken and given him a wrong indication. He could run out of gas about a mile from the air strip. He sets the trim, goes to the air speed that gives him the maximum glide slope (72 in a Cessna 150), makes sure flaps are up (you don’t want drag) and prays like a nun to at least make it to the island. (Don’t forget he is over water! Not a good place for a power-off landing.) He’s praying. Then he’s finally over land and says “Thank you, God” thinking his life has been saved. That’s when he sees the heroine on the runway!

    Is it an opening scene? A potential death of both hero and heroine! What a memorable way for the hero and heroine to meet. Now that would be a ‘seat of the pants’ opening! And believe me, private pilots run out of gas all the time!!! My instructor twice had to go up and fly planes out of farmer’s pastures because the owners ran out of gas and it was a too difficult a takeoff for an amateur to try.

    The hero could come out of the plane fuming mad, not at the heroine -- but at himself. (Yet, she thinks he’s mad at her). He had thought the gas gauge was going bad and he had planned to check it before his next flight. He’s very upset with himself because he forgot to do it. This could be just like Darcy and Elizabeth’s first encounter! And the fact that he blames himself gives credence to the emergency landing. It’s not just a plot device.

    I think pilots would really love this approach. And I’d like the hero a whole lot better.


  60. Sandra and Julie,

    I have a cp's manuscript where the heroine is remembering hateful words her ex said as he was leaving her. I don't know if it was an editor or cp, but they told her it was too unbelievable, too mean.
    They were the exact words her ex said to her.

  61. Shhhhhhh Christina, We don't need blogger to get ideas and make ANOTHER change we have to learn all over again. Although it is a good idea. smile

  62. Hi CAROL, Hubby and I have been up there in Cariboo Country. Love it. Your cabin sounds heavenly. smile
    I hope that novel gets pubbed so I can read it.

  63. Yikes VINCE, my editor will have heart failure if I make that big of a change. But it does sound exciting doesn't it? Let me see what I can do.

  64. Sandra,

    Thanks so much for the shout out about my book signing today. I'm leaving for Omega Book Center shortly with lots of giveaways, an author basket, roses for my bookseller and chocolate!

  65. Hi CONNIE QUEEN, The cba market is reknowned for not wanting harsh reality. They don't want to read about someone that mean. But that isn't to say those mean people aren't out there. sigh. I'm sorry.

  66. Hi DEBBY, Go girl. Wowza, giveaways, author basket and CHOCOLATE. Wish I could pop over. I called earlier today so you have some books to sign for me. One of them will go to the lucky winner today. woo hoo

    Have fun.

  67. Hey VINCE. I'm sitting here thinking again. Sounds like you should write your own story with that opening scene. As we've said many times, it takes experience to write what you know. chuckle. You are having too much fun with this. Go for it, I bet it would be a great novel. Or at least a fun short story.

  68. Hi Sandra. I like the parallel book covers, too. Great idea.

    I name my pets after family pets, too. It makes the book a little more personal for my family.

    Debby, Best of luck on your signing today! Congrats on the new book out, too.

  69. Hi LYNDEE, Thanks, I'm glad you like the book covers. Yes, pets make a story more personable--for me anyway. I love animals and am betting you do also.

    Happy writing today.

  70. CHRISTINA, I think you meant to ask Mary Connealy that question. It was her Cowboy, not mine!

    (And I'd like to know how she responded, too!)

  71. Me too. Come on MARY CONNEALY- let us know. :)

  72. Sandra, the cover of Love's Refuge is STUNNING! Clever of Amber to link the two books---and so beautifully done by Lena!

    After retiring, my in-laws spent many years in Bellingham--lovely area--and we vacationed on Orcas Island, so I can just imagine your setting. Thanks for the tidbits from Love's Refuge--sounds great!

    As far as family traditions, probably riding trains and hiking would be the only ones I've used in my stories.

    I have Debby's new book, but I'd love to win one of yours. Thanks!

  73. Hi Sandra:

    I might be able to write a short scene about the plane incident but I could in no way build a novel around it.

    However, I am having fun.

    I can just ‘see’ the hero storming out of the plane, red faced, fists closed, marching toward the heroine (worried that she might have been hurt because of his stupidity) and mumbling phrases like, “Of all the fool things you could do! What stupidity! What utter incompetence! What were you thinking?”

    Of course, while the hero is saying these things about himself, the heroine thinks he is saying them about her. What a meeting!

    No, I’m not able to write this novel and I don’t want you to give your editor a heart attack. If you do make any changes, don’t tell me. I want to be surprised when I read the book. And now I really, really want to read this book.


    P.S. If anyone calls to buy Debby’s book, while the people at the store are very nice and try very hard to get any dedication correct, they sometimes forget to ask for your address. Be sure to give them your address. : )

  74. Christina, of course I told him he was the hero.

    AM I STUPID!!!!!!!!!!!??????????

  75. MARY MARY MARY, You have to warn us girlfriend and give us a spew alert.

    I'm so happy to know you aren't stupid. :)

  76. Hi SHERIDA, Yes, I know Orcas Island. It is very close to the island in the book. Small world isn't it? smile

    If you win, you can give DEBBY's book away as a gift. I'll put your name in the puppy dish (IF Ruthy can use her cat dish, I'll use my puppy dish)

  77. VINCE, how about a short story? You've got me hooked just in the comments section of this post. lol

    I won't tell what I do with it. You will have to find out. smile. But the gloves have been tossed down. hmmmmmm My pea brain is thinking.

  78. SANDRA
    awesome book cover and peek into the back story. i want to see your setting in person soooooooooooooo bad. i want you book immediately too.

    i like to implement personal life experience into my writing. i've some really cool ideas from all the scuba diving experiences with hubby.

    Lordy I love you. You make me laugh so hard. The Scooby Doo stuff? Perfect. I can see your worried Cowboy, glad you put him out of his misery quickly to assure him he's not the burying kind of husband.

  79. Hi Sandra! What a beautiful setting! I hope someday to visit that area, as I've only been on the other side of Washington, to Spokane where I have relatives. Beautiful place, too, though.

    Speaking of which...in one of my stories, the heroine is from Spokane, although most of the book takes place in Nebraska, where I live! There are many other things I've used from my own life, like settings, character memories, even certain real life "characters!" They say to "write what you know!"

    These excerpts make me want to read this book, so please include me in the drawing, for both! :)

  80. Hi DEB H, Thanks. I want the book immediately too. chuckle

    The scuba diving experiences sound wonderful. You could get some great romantic scenes or suspense scenes.

    I can just imagine what MARY is visualizing. lol No maybe we don't want to go there.

  81. Hi STEPHANIE QUEEN, I love the Spokane area. It really is pretty in the summer which is when I've been there. My niece flys with Southwest Airlines and Spokane is her favorite layover city. I've often thought I should use that scenario --a layover--in a romance.

    Yes, "write what you know" is excellent advice.

    Happy writing.

  82. Sandra,

    Love the premise and the cover for your new book!! Can't wait to read it.

    There is a definite lighthouse theme among writers lately. I myself have been led to include a lighthouse in the setting of my wip. And almost every book I've picked up this summer has a lighthouse in it! I'm reading Susan Wigg's "The Lightkeeper" right now (a re-release, I just found out) and it's very good!

    I love the authenticity of your story with tidbits of your own experiences woven in!

    Best of luck with your release!


  83. HI SUSAN ANNE, How interesting. I hadn't noticed all the lighthouse themes. That is a great marketing tool to have what's popular out there. smile Good thing we included one in the cover.

    Where is the setting for your lighthouse? Pacific coast? Atlantic coast? Great lakes? They are all over the place. smile

  84. Sandra wrote: As a humorous tidbit of information, LOVE'S REFUGE was rejected by a traditional New York house and one of the comments of the editor was, "This setting is too unrealistic. There are no such things as propane refrigerators." -

    What a hoot, Sandra! I love hearing things like that. I don't use people as inspiration, but my settings are patchwork quilts of of places I know well. Hence I think it's particularly cool about the use of the lighthouse on your cover -- and the authenticity your familiarity with the area will bring to the story.

    Oh, and I like the way the cover of the second book echoes back to the first!

    Nancy C

  85. Thanks NANCY, My hubby and I have laughed over that statement so many times. People who live their whole lives in the city don't realize there are still some primitive areas left on the planet and in this country.

    I'm sure thankful there are those wilderness areas to retreat to.

    I like the idea of your settings being a "patchwork quilt of places you've known" Great imagery there. smile

  86. Wonderful post, Sandra. You brought the setting of Love's Refuge alive. I hope to visit Puget Sound one day.

    I love your cover! And also love lighthouses. We have visited several along the Oregon coast and in Michigan.

    Your childhood was so different from mine. No plane, no island, no crabs, clams or oysters. We did have lobster tail upon occasion, though I'm not sure if I ate it. However I kept a clean shell in my closet. :-) No idea why, but I found the movement fascinating.


  87. Thanks JANET, Glad you enjoyed hearing about all the fun things we did. We all come from such different backgrounds, yet are such close friends. Isn't that cool? I think writers are a fun group of people.

    Happy writing.

  88. Sandra, I use tidbits in my novels that I experienced on my grandparents farm. That was especially true in The Substitute Bride.

    As a city girl, the animals, fields, pump, root cellar and wood stoves, etc. all made a huge impression on me. A heated brick tucked in a sock at my feet and piles of comforters kept me toasty warm on frigid nights. I believe that farm and tales my grandfather told planted the desire in me to be a storyteller.


  89. Debby, hope the book signing was a roaring success! Know you put your heart and soul in it.


  90. Sandra, exactly! Writing binds us together. Just occurred to me that all those different backgrounds should come in handy when we're doing research. :-)


  91. Sandra,

    I'm home from the signing. So delightful. Folks streamed in from 4-6:30 PM. The line went for 4 to 6 to 8 deep but no one seemed to mind the wait. A dear friend--94 yrs young--appeared with her daughter. She's been home bound for some time but was determined to get to the book store. So good to see her again.

    Thanks to all those who phoned in book orders! Special thanks to Vince and Sandra for multiple orders. :)

    Everyone was thrilled to help the Wounded Warriors. Love that American pride for our military heroes!

  92. SO sorry to be late popping in today, dear Sandra (gone part of the day, and then computer froze).

    LOVED your post, and your book covers! And Skye's story sounds fascinating (not to mention that quaint island). Visiting the Pacific Northwest (especially Washington) is on my wish list. We have a dear friend in Bellingham who wants us to visit, so maybe one of these days I'll see the area in person.

    My historical ms is set near the Georgia coast, which is an area very dear to my family (we vacation there every year!). And of course I feature two of my real kitties in the story *smile*.

    Thanks again for sharing (oh yes, what you wrote about your special memories with family and also your aunt and uncle is SO sweet).
    Hugs, Patti Jo

  93. Hi JANET, How fun to find out about some of the personal background of the SUBSTITUTE BRIDE It sounds like such a super story. I can hardly wait to read it.

    I love the idea of heating bricks for your feet on cold nights.

  94. Hi DEBBY, So glad to hear your booksigning went so well.

    How precious about the 94 year old coming to the store.

    Get some rest now. :)

  95. Hi PATTI JO, Of course you have the kitties in your stories. I would be surprised if you didn't. smile

    Thanks for your comments.

    Happy writing.

  96. Oh yes, PATTI JO, Forgot to mention how much I enjoyed seeing your lovely state for the first time. I had always wanted to see Georgia. And your Southern hospitality was all I had heard it was. smile

  97. Time for me to call it a day. Thanks all of your for sharing family secrets with me. It was a fun day.

    Be sure and look in the weekend edition for the winner. If your name is selected be sure and send our Seekerville email your contact information.

  98. I think it adds a richness to any story when the writer draws on favorite places.

  99. I'm a Pacific Northwest girl, so I could imagine perfectly the setting of your story. I've been to those islands. My novel takes place in the Seattle area, but it's a historical. I didn't use a specific tradition or haunt, but I did have in mind a specific place on Interstate 5 (which in my story is woods and farmland) where the view of Rainier is stunning. I use it as an overlook and a place of emotional breakthrough.

  100. Thanks MARY P.

    SONDRA your historical should be interesting as there aren't that many in that area. I think I know where you are talking about. A stunning view for sure.

  101. Go INDIES!!!

    Thank you for sharing this, Sandra. I was at an SCBWI conference and a NY editor had completely dissed a scene from a first pages reading, saying it wasn't realistic.

    Of course, she was a twenty or thirty-something and the setting was in the 40's so she had no clue. Sigh.

    Oh yes. I use family stuff all the time in my books. May IS our dog, after all... (Shhhh. She's not really a spy...) ;)

  102. OH.
    And book 3 partially takes place in the Pacific NW. Kitsap Navy Yard and Tofino and Vargas Island, B.C.


  103. I love stories dealing with small hometowns and reunion type stories. They are so much fun! Would love to be entered in the puppy dish to receive a copy of one of your books and a copy of Debby Giusti's THE SOLDIER'S SISTER. Thanks so much for the chance to win!
    tscmshupe [at] pemtel [dot] net

  104. I enjoy when writers are able to draw from real people and experiences. I wrote a short story and a play inspired by real events in my life. It involves Ice Cream Snicker Bars. Thanks for having the giveaway.


  105. Small town settings are nice, but I like living in the city. Please enter me in the giveaway.