Sunday, August 24, 2014

Special Edition - Tortuga Thursday on Sunday

 Tortuga Thursday
In 2012, on the plains of Northern Arizona, two families joined forces and began the trials and tribulations of building a small family farm with nothing in the bank but love.

Yesterday was my birthday and as hard as I tried to ignore it, others wouldn't. Yet I have to say, WOW what a birthday. I got to celebrate several times between Wednesday and today. But the day of my big day was...a big day.

We were back at the Prescott Farmers' Market and felt so welcome. Customers stopped and bought pickles like they'd been dying for a fix. We met lots of new people too. One woman walked up to our booth with such purpose I asked her if she'd had our pickles before. She said no but that she'd been out to eat at a restaurant in Prescott and ordered fried pickles. The waitress told her she was now spoiled and could only eat Pirate Pickles. So this lady made a point of coming to get our Salty Dogs. What a compliment.

We also launched our IndieGoGo campaign. That's the big reason for this special edition. Crowdfunding has become quite the rage. Several people suggested to us that we should try it out so we can expand and get our pickles on the shelf. We've had a couple of stores ask us if we'd like to put our Pirate Pickles and Relish on their shelves but until we have a commercial kitchen, we can't. So, to accomplish that with nothing in the bank but love. The answer is hopefully crowdfunding. The idea is to set a goal and then offer perks for those who'd like to contribute to the cause. IndieGoGo of course gets a cut of what we raise. We have 40 days to meet our goal. They get a bigger cut if we don't reach it. We aren't trying to fund the commercial kitchen this year - that would be too much to raise. But we are aiming to up our production, get the equipment and materials to do that, and then reinvest toward that kitchen next year. Well, look at the campaign and you'll learn the whole story. Maybe you'd like some Pirate Pickles and a Pirate T-shirt. Thanks!

IndieGoGo Campaign for Pirate Pickles

Friday, August 22, 2014

You'll Publish It When??? by Jody Vitek

So happy to have Jody Vitek as my guest today. Jody is giving away TWO, yes two eBooks of her fantastic book, Florida Heat. Make sure you get to the end of her post and enter to win!
Thank you for having me here for Fearless Friday, Brenda. Today, I’d love to share my fearful, at first, story about my upcoming release, Texas Two Step. Texas Two Step is a follow-up to my debut release Florida Heat. Both books are stand-alone romances with cross-over characters.
I was in the process of writing Texas Two Step and in need of some motivation, so I contacted my publisher, Nancy at Melange Books, LLC, on March 17, 2014, to see what it would take to have an early 2015 release. I needed Nancy to light a fire under my butt and her response shocked me. There was an opening available for a late November 2014 release in their new Satin Romance line. She asked if that was a big enough fire and if she should send a contract.
Holy Smokes! She didn’t light a fire, she started a bonfire under my butt! The question was could I do this? Could I finish a manuscript worthy to be sent in for the editor to work on within the next ... how many months? I’d never written under pressure before. The completed manuscript would need to be turned in by August first to be released at the slated time. That meant I had four and a half months to finish writing the book. I signed the contract for a late October/late November 2014 release, but Nancy would work with me if I didn’t get it finished in time. My work ethic wouldn’t allow me to break a contract and I would do whatever I had to to finish on time.
Contract signed, it was time to look at how I was going to actually finish on time. I took my goal word count of 60,000 and subtracted the number of words I already had written. Then I printed the next four months of our family’s calendar and crossed out days I could not write, including weekends, and counted the number of days, for two out of the four months, I planned on as writing days. So I took the word count number I needed to achieve, divided by the number of days devoted to writing and I had to write a minimum of 500 words per writing day. The other two months would be devoted to editing time to polish the manuscript. I could do this! My minimum daily word count was basically two pages.
Although the story had been started and I basically knew how it was going to end, I didn’t have the ‘in-betweens’ planned out. So I brainstormed the remainder of the book and got to work on writing. The story took off and I was exceeding my daily word count by the hundreds. Having rewards, such as delicious chocolates, for meeting daily goals helps. The manuscript was completed and turned into Nancy ahead of schedule. Let the professional editing games begin.
Born and raised in Minnesota, Jody has remained close to home living with her husband of twenty plus years, three children and a cat named Holly. Growing up, she enjoyed reading V.C. Andrews’ the Dollanganger series, starting with Flowers in the Attic, S.E. Hinton, and Stephen King to name a few. Today her tastes run across the board in fiction and non-fiction, in all genres.
She has traveled throughout the United States, to the Bahamas and Cancun, Mexico. Between watching her son’s soccer games, maintaining one of the many scrapbook albums, gardening and being the COO of the Vitek household, she writes contemporary romances.
Contacts and Links
Twitter: @JodyVitek
Texas Two Step Blurb
Old family ties broken, childhood pain healed and true love revealed—one step at a time.
One phone call sends Chad Rogers back to the one place he’s been avoiding—home. Being at his mother’s side after she was shot, he faces the younger brother who tormented him during childhood and his ex-lover, Chloe Atwood. The reality of his feelings for her is stronger than ever and he confesses his love to Chloe.
Chloe Atwood is engaged to marry a family childhood friend. Chad Rogers steps back into her world, spinning it off its axis. His presence has her seeing her fiancé in a different light, leaving her to question their future life together.
Now be sure to enter the drawing!
a Rafflecopter giveaway ;

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Holy Peppers, Pirate Man

Tortuga Thursday
In 2012, on the plains of Northern Arizona, two families joined forces and began the trials and tribulations of building a small family farm with nothing in the bank but love.

Rows of jalapenos
It's a lush year on Tortuga Flats. Although we have a well and the crops get as much water as they need, rain still trumps irrigation for beefing up the plants. The monsoons continue. I've given up on all but the weeds crowding the tuber veggies like onions and potatoes. We can't keep up and harvest and pickle too.

We grow several varieties of peppers for ourselves and for the Pirate Pickles and Relish. In every jar of pickles there is at least one
Pretty jalapenos
jalapeno. In the Kraken's breath there are jalapenos and cayenne. In our relish you'll also find bells, too. The pepper plants are so thick and lush this year, it's nearly impossible to walk between the rows.

Edamame just before harvest
We grew edamame for the first time. Edamame are immature soy beans. I LOVE them. I've been buying frozen, organic, non-GMO from Costco. Although soy is supposedly very good for you, most of the soy in the U.S. is GMO and sprayed with herbicides. And the soy you find in foods is extracted with bad stuff too. It's a touchy crop to harvest. There's a five day window to harvest the whole plant. I think we made it.

At this moment, the Pirate Pickle crowdfunder campaign is a click away from starting. I'll do a special Tortuga Flats Farm blog the day it pops.

Cayenne going red
Bell peppers
Jalapenos and cayenne
Sadi Belle eating a bell right off the vine

Monday, August 18, 2014

What I Did On My Vacation by Helen C. Johannes

Remember having to write those back-to-school essays? Either we did so much we couldn’t condense it to 1-2 pages, or we felt we hadn’t done anything of note. Regardless, we sat at our desks and stared at the blank paper.
I was one of those kids lucky enough to do ‘stuff,’ but I still had a hard time deciding what to share. Some of the ‘stuff’ wasn’t what I wanted my parents to know about, let alone a classroom full of strangers. Coming up with a safe topic usually meant writing about a trip we’d taken. My dad was—still is—a great one for hauling us off to national monuments, parks, factory tours, open-pit mines, historical sites and such. I wasn’t always enthused about where we went and what we saw (tractor pulls—ugh!), but the very act of getting in the car and going has gotten into my DNA. I still am willing to get up and go—to national parks, natural wonders, historical sites, and such (and the occasional factory tour—cheese and wine, anyone?).
A willingness to travel and a wealth of curiosity about how the world works, how people tick, and what causes events are useful attributes for writers. And it’s not just seeing the sights, but it’s experiencing the atmosphere as well as the adventure of the place for ourselves that translate into great stories.
For instance, this summer my DH and I decided to visit Alaska’s Inside Passage on a cruise. While I may never set a story in Alaska proper (I write fantasy set in medieval-style worlds), I will most definitely use the experience of gliding along a fjord with the land on both sides rising almost vertically from the water and only the roar of the cascades plunging hundreds of feet down the rocks into the placid green water punctuating the silence. That absolute stillness and unspoiled isolation had a profound impact on me, and I can imagine characters experiencing this kind of wild land.
Another experience I might use at some point was our trip on the White Pass Railway in Skagway. It’s a 100-year-old railroad climbing nearly 3,000 feet from shore to the Canadian border. Part of the track follows the Gold Rush trail where each man carried his required ton (2,000 lbs.) of supplies up the mountain on foot along a narrow trail you can still see in places. Men climbed in a line, so close if a person fell out of line, he had to wait hours sometimes to get back in. These men climbed in the winter, ferrying their ton of supplies to the top. And those trips up and back had to be done before they could get permission from the Canadian Mounties to cross the border and head down the other side another 60-plus miles to the gold fields of the Yukon. Seeing what ‘gold fever’ drove these men—and some women—to do, and the conditions in which they attempted to do it, has given me more grist for stories.
Besides the lure of the Great Land, a more personal reason I wanted to go to Alaska was that my dad had done some recreational gold panning and dredging there in the 1980s. I’d used his description of panning a stream for a scene in my book BLOODSTONE, creating my fantasy setting from my own experiences of the Beartooth Mountains. I’d wanted to see how close I’d come. After having been to the Great Land, I’d say I did pretty well weaving a tiny bit of truth into fiction.
So, what should YOU do on your vacation? Have experiences, lots of them—and tuck them away into your memory banks for that moment when need meets knowledge and the creative sparks fly.
BLOODSTONE, 2011 Launching a Star Winner in Fantasy Romance, The Wild Rose Press
What if looking at the face of the man you loved meant death?
Years ago, warrior Durren Drakkonwehr was cursed by a mage. Now feared and reviled as the Shadow Man, he keeps to himself, only going to town to trade rare bloodstones—petrified dragon’s blood—for supplies. Though he hides his face, he can’t hide his heart from the woman who haunts his dreams…
Needing bloodstones for a jewelry commission, Mirianna and her father journey across the dreaded Wehrland where the beast-men roam. When their party is attacked, only the Shadow Man can save them. Strangely drawn to him, Mirianna offers herself in return for her father’s rescue.
Living in the ruined fortress with the Shadow Man, Mirianna slowly realizes that a flesh-and-blood man, not a fiend hides there in hoods and darkness. But are love and courage enough to lift the curse and restore the man?

“What about us? What do we do?”
            Only the hood rotated, cocking with exaggerated deliberation. “Why, you die, old man.”
            Her father blanched. His grip on Mirianna’s arms faltered.
            She saw the Shadow Man turn, saw the muscles of his thighs bunch as he prepared to leap down the hillside, saw, in the corner of her eye, shapes gathering along the tree line below, horrible shapes she’d seen only hours before rushing at her from a darkened clearing. With a shudder, she broke from her father’s grasp.
            “Please!” She reached out to the black sleeve. “Help us!”
            He recoiled at her touch like one snake-bitten. The sudden, sharp focus of his regard staggered her, but she backed no more than a step. No matter how he terrified her, he’d helped her once. She’d been led to him again, and not, her instincts told her, without reason.
            “Please,” she repeated. “Help us. I—we’ll do anything.”
            His voice was a whisper that caressed flesh. Mirianna’s stomach quivered. Her breasts tingled. Her mouth grew even drier. Without thinking, she slid her tongue along her lips. Vaguely, she wondered what she’d done. And why time seemed suspended, as if everyone but she and the Shadow Man had been cast in stone and all sound arrested. All sound except the taut, guttural repeat of his question.

Author Bio:

Author Helen C. Johannes lives in the Midwest with her husband and grown children. Growing up, she read fairy tales, Tolkien, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Agatha Christie, Shakespeare, and Ayn Rand, an unusual mix that undoubtedly explains why the themes, characters, and locales in her writing play out in tales of love and adventure. A member of Romance Writers of America, she credits the friends she has made and the critiques she’s received from her chapter members for encouraging her to achieve her dream of publication. When not working on her next writing project, she teaches English, reads all kinds of fiction, enjoys walks, and travels as often as possible.

Buy Links:
Bloodstone: Amazon:

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Ahoy Matey! What Lurks in the Fog

  Tortuga Thursday
In 2012, on the plains of Northern Arizona, two families joined forces and began the trials and tribulations of building a small family farm with nothing in the bank but love.

Fog hangs over the crops
I was treated to a rare weather phenomenon this morning - fog. I think we've only had a foggy farm one other time in the three years we've been here. Fog fascinates me for some unknown reason. The urge to walk into the cloud and see if there's something waiting that's different pulls at me. A romantic notion because I know that the only thing waiting is mud. We've had so much rain.

The big heirlooms are finally coming ripe. This guy made our salad last
Heirloom compared to regular tomato
night, or at least half of him did. The taste was phenomenal.

The purple green beans are coming in at such a rate we can't keep up. Today, we'll have to can some of them. They are so sweet and tender,
I hate to lose any of them. I'll see if I can wrangle Frank into doing the canning. After cutting and preparing, he'll probably agree to pressure
All shades of purple green beans
cook can them for me. I don't want to learn how.

Last week I promised to unveil our Kickstarter campaign but plans have changed. We've decided to coincide it with our reentry into the farmers' market on August 23. I'll do a special edition
Campaign to expand is coming
of Tortuga Thursday on a Saturday.

Sadi in the willow tree

Sadi clowning in Grand Pa Pa's hat

Monday, August 11, 2014

How I "Birth" My Characters

The first thing I do when I come up with an idea for a novel is set up my Character Sketch Files. I do this even before I write a synopsis or any kind of plot outline. I need to know everything about my characters. Some of what I know never makes it into the book. And often, as I write I learn more about them and add that to the sketch.

My latest book, The Art of Love and Murder, required me to do a family tree research too. Well, I call it research. I had to make it all up of course. Lacy is researching her past and that research will spill over into book three so I had to go back many generations.

I'm not sure you'll find this interesting, but I thought I'd share what my character sketch pages looked like for my main female character, Lacy Dahl.

TITLE: Heroine
Character Name: LACY DAHL                                                     
Birth Date and Place:  Flagstaff, AZ 1969
Character Role: HEROINE
Physical Descriptions:
                Age:  43
                Eye Color:  LIME GREEN
                Hair Color and Style:  BLACK, THICK, HANGS BELOW HER SHOULDERS
                Height/Weight/Build: 5’7”, 135, MEDIUM – CURVY - NICE
                Skin Tone: DARKISH
                Style of Dress: jeans, pricey shoes, gauzy or silk shirts, sparse jewelry but precious

Characteristics/Mannerisms: brushes her hair along her chin when thinking, likes real things like ceramic not paper, diamonds, leather

Personality Traits: until the story begins she’s been happy to live in the present, not an inquisitive person, but a happy person, settled. Self-assured, independent, responsible

Background:  orphaned as a baby and foster parents eventually adopted her. Foster parents were unable to have children. When no blood relatives on either side could be found, they were allowed to adopt her. Her husband died three years earlier before beginning of book in a mountain climbing accident. His name was Conrad Dahl. He was a surgeon. She bought the coffee shop 6 months after his death. Her birth parents were Hartmut Luschin and Kaya Mockta born 1947. They were 27 and 28 when they died in an airplane crash that only she survived.

Internal Conflicts: husband and parents dead, she’s left to discover who she is for her sake as well as her two children – but does she want to know – she’s always been happy with what she knows of her adopted life –she will struggle with an attraction to the sheriff

External Conflicts: someone wants the artifact and sketches she possesses, Kitty is a rival in the romance story

Occupation/Education:  college graduate, now owns a coffee shop in Scottsdale

Miscellaneous Notes: runs every morning before opening the café and then goes home to change before returning to the café. practices yoga twice a week at a studio. She has a son who is at chef school in Paris and a daughter who is getting divorced in Tucson and owns an art gallery.

Lacy’s car is Crimson Red with beige interior.

The BMW Z4

Smooth and powerful engines, quick-folding hardtop, comfortable ride, big trunk (with the top up), excellent visibility for a roadster, sharp styling inside and out.

That's a glimpse into what goes into a book before I start the story.