Ah, February! #mgtab

February is a cruel month, and I won’t be sad to see it go. Hints of warm blue sky and balmy breezes whisper that spring’s just around the corner—then Slam! Arctic gales, dumps and dumps of snow, the heart of winter—Sploosh, slog, sleet and slop—buckets of rain that turn everything to slush again—repeat, repeat, repeat.

It’s a hard month to get out of bed in the morning during, let alone be cheery in—so much gray, so much cold, no festive events to look forward to except Valentine’s Day (which would be much more romantic if it were a civic holiday, LOL).

Yesterday, I admit the month tricked me. I saw the brilliant sun outside my window and recalled the lovely mild temperature of the previous day and headed out in flats without socks to rush the kids to school and get to an appointment. Imagine my poor feet’s surprise when they realized six inches or more of snow had fallen in the night!

The day only got better from there. As I was frantically clearing the car, having not allowed time in my schedule for doing so, my daughter, already feeling miserably sick, slipped on ice. Then she spilled tea across her lap just as we were pulling out of the driveway and had to go back to the house and change.

I followed her inside so I could call my appointment, tell them I was running late—and stepped in my dogs’ full water dish, tipping it over with a crashing splash. The dogs and cat, all convinced the noise was somehow connected to the beginning of a canine/feline apocalypse, took off in separate directions to the four corners of the house.

I tried to cajole the smallest dog—a Pomeranian I dog-sit regularly—back to the dog room. The blond beast took, “Heeeeeere Foxy, heeeere Foxy,” (or some such call) to mean: “Run, run! Go through her legs, jump up on the couch!”

As I lunged to grab the creature, apparently I frightened it again—or rather, scared the crap out of it.  Literally.

There’s nothing like cleaning up dog doo—no matter how little and deer-like the pellets—when you’re already late.

Back in the car, pulling out of the driveway, Take 2, I turned on the stereo—AND WAS HIT BY A HORRIFIC NOISE SO LOUD I ALMOST COULDN’T UNDERSTAND WHAT IT WAS. I slammed the off button as fast as I could, heart and ears bleeding. No one should have to listen to Kesha at the best of times. They should definitely not have to listen to her blasting, “D.I.N.O.YOU ARE a dinosaur,” at sonic-boom decibels before 9:00 in the morning.  At least my kids were cheered up by my trauma. They even laughed.

Not long after that I made the mistake of telling the kids the superstition that bad things happen in threes so we should be home free for the rest of the day. And in quick succession I: was stopped by the train, lost my keys in the office where I finally had my meeting (after going to the completely wrong building), and got my son to school almost a full-hour late.

Some of you are thinking it’s ridiculous to blame a month, especially a tiny, pathetic, no statutory holiday one, for my bad day—but others of you are wiser. You know full well that February is shorter than other months so that we have a better chance of surviving it. You know that bad days can hit anytime, but in February they are worse.

The end of the day came, finally, and the sky held no trace of the day’s foulness.  It was soft and inky black and clear.  The moon, full and round and benevolent, was a bright glowy white; the sympathetic shadows on its face clearly visible.  Saying so is a cliché, perhaps, but it was breathtaking. I’m sure it was the evening’s way of celebrating with me: Ah, February. One night closer to done for another full year!

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“Ah, February” was originally published in the Terrace Standard, February 2011, so it’s a little outdated now . . . but only regarding the age of my children and the number of dogs and cats in my house at any given time. The bad luck that seems to abound in the bleak of February, my general malaise, and my extreme eagerness for us to get into March continues!

In fact, there is only one thing February really has going for it . . . but it’s a fabulous thing: February is the perfect month for guilt-free burrowing on your couch with a blanket and a book! So on that note, see you in March and until then . . . very happy reading!

? Ev

P.S. If you’re looking for a cozy escape, I’d be honored if you “book” your getaway with me. River’s Sigh B & B Vol. 1 -4 is on sale for just .99 for the month of February only! (So I guess I accidentally lied. There are TWO fabulous things in February, LOL.)

Amazon.com – Amazon.ca – Amazon.co.ukAmazon.com.au

Kobo US – Kobo CA iBooks Google Play – Nook

P.P.S. I actually think Kesha’s song “Dinosaur” is awesome.

P.P.P.S. I’m really going to stop blabbing soon. I promise! I just wanted to remind you to make sure you enter our Authors Billboard February contest for a chance to win gift cards, print books, or free eBooks! To find out more details on this month’s contest, click here! https://authorsbillboard.com/

 

Know Your Audience

Knowing your audience before you start writing can save time and as a very busy writer, I am usually all about that 🙂

I am thrilled to announce the new release of In the Dog House, which used to be titled Just For You, and used to be about a divorced military dad who’s ex went into rehab, and he has to suddenly come home to a sullen ten year old the ex had kept from him. He does it, gladly, but is a fish out of water.  The love interest is a local dog trainer/psychologist who had given up a child for adoption when she was just a teen, after getting pregnant when her mom died, and she’d spent time in an out of foster care before her great aunt takes her in. Wonderful angst, wonderful conflict.

Too angsty. The story is now about an uncle in the military who comes home on leave when his sister, who was in a horrific car accident, is put into a medically induced coma. He has to take care of his nephew, who he knows from occasional vacations and Skype calls. Emma still gets to be a psychologist, but never had a baby underage and out of wedlock.

It has taken me a long time to be able to write the above paragraph without gritting my teeth, and to find the humor in the situation. The original book was completely overhauled and I’m glad it got a new title—it needed a new title. It deserved a new title. Why was I willing to do it, you ask?

Because, I love, love love Jackson and Emma. I wanted their story of overcoming odds to be told, and to reach the widest audience, which meant putting in the time to tell the story in a way that ticks all of the “clean” romance boxes.

No cussing, no drugs, no deadbeat single dads, no teenage pregnancy. Oh—and I had to cut 15,000 words. The upside is that I know Emma and Jackson like they are roommates—which is kind of what our characters become; family. I know their story is solid. I hope you enjoy them too—I’ve included an excerpt:

available 2/11 In the Dog House:

Emma finished her wine on the back porch, looking up at the moon and stars. Stars always made her think of Jackson, their very hot kiss in the kitchen, the way they’d fit as if no time had passed at all. Her hand on his muscular arms, her hip to his, his fingers caressing her lower back. The musky scent of his cologne.

Just like that, desire for him had rekindled—but not a thing had changed between them. If anything, the chips were stacked even higher. Now, she had a business that needed to expand in order to save dogs, a doctorate her own professor wasn’t sure she wanted—and the stirring of her heartstrings when she thought of Jackson and the man he’d become.

She might not survive a second broken heart, and he would break it—just by doing what he needed to do, who he’d been raised to be, which was finish his career in the military. He would not choose her—again.

A shooting star whisked across the night sky, and she closed her eyes to make a wish.

I want true love with a man I can trust to pick me first. Which crosses Jackson Hardy off the list.

https://www.amazon.com/Dog-House-Traci-Hall-ebook/dp/B07MYX7596

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/in-the-dog-house-traci-hall/1130335742?

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/in-the-dog-house/id1450181946?_bbid=15668&mt=11

https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/in-the-dog-house-1?

Thank you so much for reading! Make sure to enter the Authors Billboard February contest– Are you interested in winning gift cards, print books, or free eBooks? To find out more details on this month’s contest, click here! https://authorsbillboard.com/

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xoxo

Traci

Jaw-dropping Diets of the Past

In this season where people are frantically trying to shed holiday pounds, I read a recent article in the Washington Post Health and Science section on weight-loss schemes from years past. It was in the category of—you can’t make this stuff up.

Let’s start with my favorite: The Tapeworm Diet. This was popular in Victorian England. The idea is that if you had a tapeworm in your intestines, it would suck up calories. Never mind that it might also kill you or make you very sick. And where did you get one, anyway?

Another suggestion is smoking instead of snacking, It probably started with a Lucky Strike slogan, “Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet.” In 1930 the candy industry threatened to sue, and the tag line was changed to the much snappier, “We do not represent that smoking Lucky Strike Cigarettes will bring modern figures or cause the reduction of flesh. We do declare that when tempted to do yourself too well, if you will ‘Reach for a Lucky instead,’ you will thus avoid over-indulgence in things that cause excess weight and, by avoiding over-indulgence, maintain a modern, graceful form.” Obviously they needed some lessons in blurb writing.

Then there are amphetamines. These little pills were first used to keep troops awake for long periods on the battlefield in WWII. Are you old enough to remember the amphetamine craze? In the early sixties, a friend was using these little black pellets for weight loss and thought they were a miracle. She offered me one. I took it and very quickly felt like I was bouncing off the ceiling with every step I took. I lay awake at night with my nervous system “racing.” The effect lasted two days, and I vowed never to get near one again. My husband, Norman, also had a brush with amphetamines. He used them when he was writing his master’s thesis so he could stay up for hours and write long into the evening after work. I’ve never seen him thinner, but he later told me that he was depressed for months after going off them.

I vaguely remember ads for a diet candy, introduced in the 50’s, called—wait for it—Ayds. You ate them before meals to suppress your appetite. Apparently they contained phenylpropanolamine, a decongestant also used to treat urinary incontinence in dogs. Fun! When the aids epidemic hit, the name did them in.

Then there was the “Twinkie Diet” where you ate junk food all day. I’m not sure what that was about. The guy who promoted it did lose 27 pounds, but he gained back all but seven—as usually happens with diets.

Two more you might remember—the grapefruit diet and the vinegar diet. Obviously limiting yourself to grapefruit will limit your calories. One researcher suggested that there’s no evidence that “vinegar leads to weight loss, but it might cause a feeling of nausea that will make people eat less.”

I hope I haven’t taken away your appetite. And, of course, I’d rather stick with a diet that’s not a gimmick. For the past five years, I’ve had good results with the 2 Day a Week Diet, which is actually a lifestyle change.

What do you think of these diets from the past, and do you have any strategies that you’d like to share?

What kind of Trouble can Trouble solve?

Today is the book birthday for my very first Cozy Mystery: Trouble’s Wedding CaperI’m so excited to share with everyone this romantic mystery with a local Sheriff, Ethan, and a Treasure Hunter by the name Annabel who with the help of a great cat detective, solve the biggest bridal caper to hit Jupiter, Florida!

I started off writing a combination of Romantic Suspense and Contemporary romance. I later branded out into Paranormal and Fantasy romance. But it’s always been heavy on the romance, so when Laura Benedict introduced to me Carolyn Haines who invited me into the wonderful world of Trouble and Cozies, I thought I’d give it a whirl.

The first challenge I had was writing in a cat point-of-view, and not just any cat! I had to make sure how I wrote Trouble was in line with how every other author in the series wrote the black cat with mad detective skills who thinks he’s British. I thought it would be my hardest challenge.

What I think when it comes to writing is often not true. LOL Trouble came easier to me than I thought it, but writing in first person, that was very difficult. I have trouble with tenses to begin with, so writing in first person present tense and then shifting back to third person past tense made me nuts. It made my editor even nuttier! However, we muddled through that pretty well.

Suspense and mystery are very different beasts. When I write romantic suspense, I focus more on the romance than the suspense. The romance is driving the story. In a Cozy, I had to focus on the mystery, putting the romance in the background and that became very difficult, even though there is a big romantic component.

Writing to the cozy reader was also a challenge. I’m used to using colorful language in my romantic suspense novels, but really had to keep that from this novel. Now, not swearing isn’t all that hard, but what was a challenge was not using that as a character trait. It took a few rounds of editing to get all this just right.

And what I ended up with, I’m pretty darn pleased with. I think this is one of the best books I’ve ever written. I hope you’ll check it out!

I also participated in a couple of boxsets this month. Check them out!