“Loving Again” is out in the world!

It’s release day for book #2 in my Second Chances series! “Loving Again” is the story of Sam Richardson and Amanda St. Claire and their not-quite-average-boy-meets-girl relationship. He’s a Portland police detective; she’s a glass artist. They meet when she’s accused of murdering her boyfriend. One recent reviewer summed up the story this way: “steam, suspense and a hot cop.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Here’s a short excerpt and the cover.

When they got to the front door, he held her and made her promise she’d be in touch as soon as she got to Seattle. After he released her from his embrace, she picked up a large, cardboard box from the table in the entryway and handed it to him.

            “I was going to have this delivered to you. Not that it’s close to paying you back for what you’ve done for me—I’ll never be able to do that—but I want you to have it.”

He opened the box. Inside was a bubble-wrapped package with a metal stand taped to it. “Is this what I think it is?”

“If you think it’s a piece of my work, it is. It’s the first piece you ever saw, the night we met.”

“I don’t know what to say. Except thank you.” He looked inside the box. “Does it have the title anyplace on it? I don’t remember what you called it.”

“It’s called ‘Hope’, the piece is called ‘Hope’. Which is exactly what you gave me at the worst time in my life.” 

 

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Music, Maestro

Music inspires my writing, takes my mind off household chores and accompanies me in my car every day. It’s an important part of my life. So, no surprise, I make music part of the lives of the characters in my books. It can set a scene, illustrate who the character is and, I hope, connect emotionally with the reader.

Each book in my Second Chances series has a playlist I’ve used for inspiration or atmosphere while I write the story. Sometimes the music is specifically mentioned in the book or reflects the mood of a scene. Often it is by a local or regional group or artist I think my character would like.

Occasionally, a piece becomes so attached to a character that long afterward, when I hear the music, it’s that character’s experience I remember before my own association with the song surfaces. In my first book, “Beginning Again,” for example, the playlist contained mostly the golden oldies Liz Fairchild, the heroine, loved. I have a couple of the songs from her playlist on the one I listen to when I’m working on my art glass and, I swear, every time Linda Ronstadt sings, “When Will I Be Loved,” Liz joins me in my workshop.

The playlist for the second book in the series is more evenly split between the man and woman. “Loving Again,” which will be released by Crimson Romance on November 12th, (we have now reached the marketing part of the blog entry) is the story of a glass artist and a police detective. For artist Amanda St. Claire I combined the classic cello music and Nora Jones she plays at home with the Jimmy Buffett her studio mate loves to play in their shared work space. And I also included her local favorites Tom Grant and Pink Martini.

But it was with the hero I had the most fun. Sam Richardson was born and raised on a ranch in Eastern Oregon and moved to the city, where he joined the Portland Police Bureau. Sounds like a Tim McGraw/Taylor Swift/Kenny Chesney kinda guy, right? Wrong. Sam grew up with classical music, thanks to his mother, a classically trained pianist, and he has season tickets to the Oregon symphony. When he visits Amanda in Seattle to convince her to return to Portland, he puts a Chopin nocturne CD on for her. (If you’re a classical music geek, you’ll recognize that the theme from his selection was turned into a popular song that contains a variation of the book title.)

But also on the playlist is an indie rock piece “Tell Me Why,” written by the very real Portland Chief of Police Mike Reese and performed by The Usual Suspects, a group made up of current and former Portland Police Bureau members, including Chief Reese. I figured even fictional police officers would want to keep on the good side of the actual Chief of Police.

Take a look at Sam and Amanda’s playlist from “Loving Again.” And in the comment section, tell me what role music plays in your life.

Bach Cello Concerto #1–Yo Yo Ma

Boats to Build– Jimmy Buffett

Caramel–Suzanne Vega

Chopin Nocturne #2–Ivan Moravec

Chopin Nocturne #4–Ivan Moravec

Everywhere–Pink Martini

Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue–Leonard Bernstein

Gold– Tom Grant

He Heals Me–India.Arie

I Don’t Know–Lisa Hannigan

In the Morning–Nora Jones

Let’s Never Stop Falling in Love–Pink Martini

Lonestar–Nora Jones

Never Say Never– Tom Grant

Splendor in the Grass–Pink Martini

Talk to Me Nice–Tom Grant

Trip Around the Sun–Jimmy Buffett

Written in Red–Where Did That Idea Come From? by Peggy Bird

“Where do you get your ideas?” I’ll bet every writer alive—and probably all the dead ones, too, when they were still with us—has heard that question. Most of the time I don’t try to describe the convoluted, complicated and often quixotic way my characters and plots come together on the page for me. I usually say, “Oh, I just dream them up.”

Well, this week it may have actually been true. Or maybe not. I’m unsure. Maybe someone can help me. Here’s what happened.

It’s not uncommon for me to wake up in the morning with a refinement of the last thing I was working on, like a bit of dialogue, in place. Apparently my subconscious mind can work it out while I sleep. (It works for my other art form, too. I can suddenly “see” exactly how to achieve the design I want for my new piece of art glass.) It’s kind of an “Oh, that’s how to do it” moment.

My experience the other morning wasn’t like that.

If it had been a solution to the too-many-balls-in-the-air problem I have right now, I’d have understood what my subconscious was up to. And I would love the help. I have the manuscript for my second novel back from the copy editor in need of some rewriting; I have a fourth manuscript which needs one more round of edits from me before my readers see it; I have a novella in a very early stage calling to me.

But, no. My subconscious served up a guy. Not the solution to a problem. A guy. Jeans, no shirt, black Stetson pulled low over his forehead. Tall, black hair, intensely blue eyes, amazing body, shy smile. (My subconscious is into details, apparently, although the guy was nameless.)

The guy and I were collecting spears, hundreds, maybe thousands, of spears. They were all shapes and sizes from javelin-type to arrow size. We were going from town to town, knocking on doors asking everyone to bring out their spears. The towns looked quaint and Olde English-y. Everyone was happy to get rid of old spears. It was like we were the Goodwill collectors of obsolete weapons. Or those guys who went around during the Black Plague calling, “Bring out your dead” only with, you know, spears.

Anyway, we piled them all into the back of pick-up trucks and headed off into the sunset, I know not where because as we pulled away from the second or third village, NPR woke me up.

Here’s my dilemma: what is my subconscious trying to tell me? Is this some dystopian future plot idea? A new hero? The result of looking at too many images of shirtless men posted by Crimson Romance on Pinterest combined with watching too many hours of Olympics?

Ideas? Anybody?

Writing in Red–Writing About Place by Peggy Bird

In the Pacific Northwest “place” doesn’t yet qualify as a religion but it’s close. It’s a well-established article of faith among Northwesterners that where we live defines us. Our broad vistas and differing landscapes of high plains, mountains, ocean views, rivers and broad valleys, fertile farmland and moonscape volcanic lava fields make us who we are. And it also makes anything possible.

 It’s not a modern phenomenon. For as long as humans have inhabited this part of the earth, their lives have been determined by what’s here. Native Americans didn’t have to chase game all over the west to survive like their Plains neighbors did. European settlers found what they couldn’t find in the old country or the American East or Midwest.  I found what I wanted, too, even though when I first moved here from Philly, I thought there were too many trees and not enough history.

Now I know better. I have become who I am because of where I am. So I set my novels in Portland, Oregon and try to bring some sense of this special place into what I write. Most of my characters come to the city from another state just like real Portlanders. And like the actual inhabitants, they love Portland’s quirky charm.

In this live-and-let-live atmosphere, Nike execs, cowboys, hi-techies, artists, anarchists and entrepreneurs, locavores, microbrewers and loggers coexist. Sometimes it’s even hard to tell them apart. We all have closets full of fleece vests, Tevas, khaki shorts and battered backpacks. Except for the bicycle riders. They like Spandex or hipster dress. Or they ride nude. (Might want to reconsider buying that used bike in Portland.)

 Like good Northwesterners, the characters in my novels are shaped by where they live—in “Beginning Again,” Liz and Collins, two Californians, find artistic freedom in NW Portland and the Wallowa Mountains, respectively. Sam, the city cop in the next novel, moved from Eastern Oregon but couldn’t leave his jeans and cowboy boots behind. Amanda, his love interest, came to Portland for college at Reed and stayed. No one smokes. Everyone has a favorite food cart. They eat, drink and listen locally. That means Washington County strawberries, micro-brews, pinot noirs and Pink Martini, Chris Botti and Storm Large.

 I’ve thought about setting my stories in other interesting parts of the country, regions where I’ve lived or enjoyed visiting. But my characters insist that Dorothy got it right: “There’s no place like home.” And home is here, where we’ve found our place. Who am I to disagree with my characters?

Written in Red–On Getting What You Wish For by Peggy Bird

I wrote my first novel about 15 years ago. It was a cozy mystery. It received glowing rejections, back in the day when writers got personal letters with comments and constructive critique instead of an email saying, “Thank you for thinking of us but your work doesn’t meet our needs.” The novel even got a read through and critique from a local writer who is nationally successful. His final advice? Put it away and get on with writing the next one.

Instead, I started writing shorter pieces. Several dozen were published in anthologies or magazines. I did readings in Portland, Seattle and around SW Washington. I’d found a way to write without putting my neck on the chopping block every time I sent off six months or two years or a lifetime’s worth of work only to have it rejected it.

And then there was my newfound addiction to kiln-formed art glass. It was an art form that allowed me to be creative in a very different way. I started selling my work in galleries and at outdoor art festivals. Fun stuff. Interesting people.

About two years ago my two addictions came together as some intriguing characters began to appear in my daydreaming. A glass artist. An art gallery owner. A sculptor. A jewelry artist. A photographer. I cut out pictures of what they would wear, drive, eat and drink. I furnished their living spaces, created bedrooms for them. Wondered who they would fall in love with. It was fun until I started having dreams about them and realized the only way to get them out of my nightlife was to get them into my computer.

Once they were as alive as I could make them, I started sending manuscripts out to agents and the occasional publisher. The response was discouraging until early this year when I sent the first of my series of novels to Jennifer Lawler who was developing a new imprint–Crimson Romance. She asked for changes. I made them. On Valentine’s Day I got an email from her accepting the book for release in June. A second book has been contracted for a fall release, and a third for next February.

I’ve done it. As of June 4th, I’m a published novelist.

But a funny thing happened on the way to getting what I wanted. What has been my personal passion is now my full-time job. Not only am I writing on my new novel every day but I’m blogging on my website and, like today, for the Ladies in Red column. I have a couple more guest blog gigs coming up. I play around with Facebook every day. I send emails and post teasers online. Hunt down websites where readers might be lurking.

My world has changed. Since Valentine’s Day I have learned about Pinterest, fan pages on Facebook, WordPress, blog hops, the difference between a stand alone WordPress site and a WordPress.com site, how to write a byline and a blurb, how to create an author’s page for Amazon and GoodReads.

I review advance readers’ copies for other writers and send them mine to review. I nag–sorry, ask–friends and family members who’ve read the book to write reviews. I created a post card, which I hand out to anyone who talks to me for longer than thirty seconds. I schedule a book launch party. I make lists of what has to be done and then make a master list of the lists.

My creation is out in the world and I’m not sure which has stunned me more–the fact that it happened at all or finding out what’s on the other side of the divide between being published and unpublished. It’s fun; it’s challenging; it’s exhilarating. It also requires the occasional bottle of wine to celebrate with. I hope when the first check arrives, it’ll be enough to cover a bottle of the really good stuff.

Writing About You-Know-What by Peggy Bird

Kissing. I mean writing about kissing.

Here’s the problem facing every writer trying to craft a decent love scene: the English language, as glorious as it is, has very few words for “kiss.” Or to be specific, very few words that I’m willing to or interested in using in place of the word “kiss.” Stop laughing. This is a serious problem. What is out there, really, other than that four letter word that begins with “k?”I have searched on-line and in my old hardback thesaurus and have come up with nothing satisfactory. The choices are dreadful.

For example, I refuse to even consider the word “osculate.” It sounds more like something a doctor would do in a yearly physical. It’s clinical. Cold. Sterile. It calls up images of metal examining tables and paper gowns. Not the warmth of a candle-lit room with Andrea Bocelli singing in the background. Even a doctor in the throes of a passionate embrace with the woman he’s proposing to doesn’t osculate. (Don’t ask how I know. Let’s just say I’ve been there and done that.)

No, the only way “osculate” would get into something I was writing would be if I were to describe two people bringing into contact the flesh covering their orbicular oris muscles. Then it might work. But I’m not aware of a great demand for that type of anatomically correct love scenes.

“Neck,” which Mr. Gates’s prompt tells me is a synonym, gives me a different image–a warm summer night, a cute teen-age guy and the gearshift getting in the way. Or, with the whole vampire thing that’s going around, it calls up images of fangs and blood. Neither is what I write.

“Canoodle” is what celebrities do in the back booth of a restaurant in Beverly Hills so they can get caught by some reporter and make it on the entertainment shows on TV. “Peck” is what one does on the cheek of a friend to greet her. “Smooch” is loud and rude. “Smack” has too many other meanings, none of them good.

And “buss?” My least favorite after “osculate.” How in the world did a word that sounds like public transportation become synonymous with something emotional, passionate, loving, sweet, tender, sexy? I mean, “he bussed her.” Really? Was she on a school field trip? Run over by a Greyhound vehicle? Ridden out of town on a Trailways?

Janet Evanovich is supposed to have switched from romance writing to mysteries because she ran out of ways to describe the love scenes. I’m beginning to have some idea of what she meant and I’m just on the kissing. Oh, wait. I have an idea. I’ll use my translation program to find out what the word is in other languages. I bet the French have a ton of words for “kiss.” I mean, they’re French, after all.

And maybe, along the way, I can find out if they call it French kissing, too.

 
Peggy Bird is the author of “Beginning Again,” which will be released by Crimson Romance June 4th in e-book format. In her debut novel there is a lot of kissing. Two other novels, “Running Scores” and “Closing Arguments,” have been accepted for release by Crimson. In addition to her writing, Bird is a glass artist and her novels always include an artist or two. Sometimes three. She lives in Vancouver, Washington. Her writing website is http://www.peggybirdwrites.com. Her glass website is http://www.peggybird.com.
 

Meet the Ladies in Red–Peggy Bird

1. Introduce yourself, please—Hi, I’m Peggy Bird, author of “Beginning Again.” I write under my personal name because I’ve always been terrible at remembering names and was sure I’d never remember a pen name.

2. Let’s get the details out of the way:

Single, married, divorced, widowed? Been three of the four at one point or another in my life. Husband thinks I’m aiming for door #4 every time he sees the books on poisons I bought when I was writing a mystery.

Parent? Am life-long parent to a grown daughter and half-life one to two more daughters I acquired in a slick deal by marrying their father.

Living where? Vancouver, Washington

Doing what, other than writing? Art glass, puppeteering, and, lately, aqua zumba.

One—just one—physical characteristic—I’ve never liked the color of my hair so I have bleached, dyed, henna’d and, currently, streaked it with pink.

3. What’s your secret passion? My passions are never secret.

4. Tell us one thing about yourself you’d never change. Where I am in my life.

5. If you didn’t live where you do, where would you live? Why? England because I lived there for a year once and it wasn’t long enough.

6. Do you write about where you live or where you’d like to live? Where I live. Sort of.

7. What’s the first creative writing you remember doing outside a class? Terrible poetry.

8. Why do you write romance novels? Because the characters I fell in love with fell in love with each other.

9. What else do you write? Scripts for a puppet program I’m involved with, memoir pieces, the occasional newspaper or magazine piece.

10. What one thing from your book did you take from personal experience? The helicopter scene. Really.

11. What did you cut from your book that felt like severing a body part? The scene where Liz’s husband announces he’s leaving her.

12. Do you identify closely with one particular character? How? Not really although I’d like to think I’m as resilient as Liz is.

13. The best part about my writing life is: entering the world of my characters.

14. The worst part about my writing life is: leaving the world of my characters when the book is finished.

15. Give us a hint about what the next book’s like. Accused of murder, glass artist Amanda is saved by Portland police detective Sam Richardson who wants more than gratitude from the woman he met at The Fairchild Gallery one First Thursday. But she’s running scared—from Sam and from the consequences of her past. “Running Scores” is due out this fall from Crimson Romance.