Friday, January 21, 2011

Enjoy The Ride

It's my pleasure to welcome back bestselling author, Stephanie Rowe, to Over Coffee. I've read Stephanie's suspense novels and enjoyed each. I'm excited to see her foray into paranormal and I'm looking forward to reading her new series.

Stephanie's topic is a good one. Taking the time to celebrate the positives in our life. It's all too easy to concentrate on all the negatives--things we didn't do, lists we didn't finish--that we forget all the things we have done. Life is not just a list of things to do and tallying check marks on things accomplished or big red X marks on those we haven't.  It's also about giving ourselves permission to stop and smell the flowers. It's a cliche, I know, but true.

When was the last time you took a moment to appreciate the sound of laughter, kittens playing, or a song that makes you feel good? Even in writing, instead of beating yourself up over what haven't gotten done, or worrying yourself over the small wall you hit, why not look at how far you've come in the story? What you like about your characters or what made you want to write this story?

How do you accomplish that change of attitude? Stephanie has a few thoughts on that.  

Stop right where you are.
Close your eyes.



Listen so closely, until you hear a sound you like.

It might be your daughter singing in the next room as she does her homework. It might be the silence of your car, letting you know that no one else is in there, and it's your time, your space, your world to think and be whoever you want to be. It might be the sound of wind rattling distant chimes. It might be the snoring of your dog as he chases tennis balls in his dreams. It might be the lady in line behind you, laughing as her baby gives her googly eyes. Whatever it is, there is something in your environment right in this moment that feels good, if you simply take a moment to identify it, and then enjoy it.

I have a confession to make. I'm one of those people who is always trying to push myself to the next level, to reach the next goal. I want to become a better writer. I want to write a more engaging scene. I want to be more clever in my writing. More unpredictable. I want to be a better tennis player. I want to be more fit. I'd really like to find a way to keep my house cleaner.

It's great and admirable to have goals. There are lots of workshops on how to set S.M.A.R.T. goals so that you're in the best position to vaunt your life forward by leaps and bounds. Aspire! Achieve! Mush, mush! Onward and upward! Hup, hup!

Yah, yah, that is all excellent and stuff… 'cept it's not. Not really. Not if you're like me.

See, I have this little problem. In my quest to accomplish all these things, I have a habit of dwelling on the "nots" instead of the "rock on!"

What I mean by that is, I'm never taking the time to stop and compliment myself on what I've done. I never take the time to look at myself and tell myself that I'm doing a good job. I never pause to simply enjoy what I've accomplished so far, or to notice the good stuff. Instead, I just see what I haven't done. I notice what I've screwed up. I obsess over how I've come up short yet again. I give myself grief for failing to be as outstanding as I want to be. And you know what? If you do that enough, you can become pretty darn good at making yourself feel like a pathetic underachiever with no hope of ever accomplishing anything worthwhile for the rest of your life, which then, of course, makes you feel not so hot. It's almost as if I think that the only way I will be motivated enough to keep working is if I sufficiently condemn where I am and what I've accomplished.

Recently, I decided that it was time to break the cycle. I want to feel GOOD. I want to skip down the hall, basking in the fact I wrote 3000 words, not berating myself for the fact I didn't write 4000. I want to spend time enjoying the good reviews I get, instead of worrying about writing that next book. I know that next book will get written. I know that kitchen will get clean before anyone of significance sees it. But when I enjoy the ride, instead of obsessing over it, then those words get written by someone who is happy, and oh, boy, do those words come out so much more beautifully when I'm feeling good. It feels magnificent to take the time to pat yourself on the back. It's marvelous to pause to enjoy the lovely song on the radio instead of gnashing your teeth at the traffic. Don't we all owe it to ourselves to learn to enjoy the ride a little more?

Hell, yeah, we do!

So, pause for a moment, sit back in your chair and think about three things you did or experienced today that were just great. Feel proud. Chuckle. Bask. And then, when you have thoroughly milked those three things for a good five minutes, notice that your heart feels a little lighter, your mind feels a little clearer, and suddenly the story you were so frustrated with seems to write a little easier. That's because everything is better when you feel better inside. It only takes a minute to slow down, look around, and find a few things that make you feel good.

Try it. Five minutes every two hours. See how your day unfolds. It'll be worth every minute.

Enjoy the ride.

Start now. Look around. Think about your day. Tell us about something in your life, something that you did or saw or experienced, that makes you feel good.

Will you start the ball rolling?


Blaine Underhill was one lucky man. Having recently escaped a century and a half of imprisonment at the hands of an evil witch, he's determined to save his still-enslaved friend. But in order to do so, he'll need the help of one of the world's most lethal women.


Trinity Harpswell is sick and tired of being a Black Widow. Having managed to go three years without accidentally killing anyone she loves, she's one short week away from freeing herself from this killer curse forever. When Blaine tracks her down and convinces her to help him, little does Trinity know that the next seven days are going to be murder! Excerpt


Four-time RITA® Award nominee and Golden Heart® Award winner Stephanie Rowe is a nationally bestselling author of more than twenty books. A life-long reader, she began crafting stories at age ten, but didn't realize it was her dream until she was an adult.

Once the light dawned, she immediately left behind "work" as the world defines it and went to "work" as she defines it, which means getting up every morning with a smile in her heart so she can spend the day doing that which makes her spirit sing.

Stephanie believes in learning to listen to your heart in order to figure out what your dreams are, and then opening yourself to the inspiration that will direct you there. She believes we all deserve the right to enjoy life, that the ride should be as easy as we want it to be, and that we all should accept nothing less than making our dreams come true. Stephanie lives in New England, and spends every day doing her best to fill it with people, observations and activities that uplift her soul, which include writing, tennis, friends, and her amazing family.

Visit Stephanie on the web at

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Writing Historical Fiction--Susan Higginbotham

My guest is the award winning historical fiction author, Susan Higginbotham. Susan writes biographical historical fiction.

I've always loved history. Some of my favorite authors (Roberta Gellis, for one) could keep me enthralled for hours happily visiting medieval Europe. Those sort of epics completely immersed me in the culture of the times. I remember something Roberta Gellis once said about historical fiction. To para phrase, she said that history is a beautiful tapestry, rich with characters and events. The skilled author merely weaves a story in the existing threads of history.

So what’s the difference between an author who writes historicals and biographical historical fiction? I asked Susan that very question. I was curious what drew her to this type of fiction. She indulged my curiosity, with the following:   

All of my four historical novels have been biographical historical fiction—that is, historical fiction centered around actual historical figures, as opposed to fiction that’s set in the past but where the main characters are entirely fictional.

So what draws me to biographical fiction? For one thing, for the lazy plotter, it’s a godsend. The outline of my story is there; all I have to do is add the fun stuff—the dialogue, the motivations, the characterizations. For another, it gives me a chance to go where the responsible historian dare not tread: I can resolve unsolved mysteries, choose which conflicting account of an event to believe, explain a character’s actions where the historian can only speculate.

There are two other reasons that writing biographical fiction especially appeals to me, however. First, through biographical historical fiction, a novelist can bring to life a little-known historical figure—one who might not be important enough to merit more than a line or two in history books, but whose life was fascinating or inspiring. For instance, my first novel, The Traitor’s Wife, features Eleanor de Clare, the niece of Edward II and the wife of his notorious favorite Hugh le Despenser the younger. Eleanor survived her husband’s horrific execution, her own imprisonment in the Tower, and the forced veiling of her daughters; she was also the subject of litigation challenging the validity of her second marriage. How did she find the strength to endure these ordeals, any one of which might have overwhelmed a lesser woman? The Traitor’s Wife allowed me to answer this question. In doing so, I hope it shed some light not only on Eleanor’s courage, but on the incredible strength of medieval women in general. They were no damsels in distress, waiting for their shining knight in armor.

Another reason for writing biographical historical fiction is the chance to portray a maligned figure in a sympathetic light. Margaret of Anjou, the heroine of The Queen of Last Hopes, has been vilified by everyone from her Yorkist opponents to modern novelists. Yet when I encountered her in researching my third novel, The Stolen Crown, I got a picture of a very different woman: a woman who struggled against overwhelming odds to uphold the rights of her husband and her son to the English crown. Only when all was lost did she give up—and even then, her fight laid the foundation for the Tudor dynasty.

Writing this biographical novel about Margaret allowed me to share my own view of the woman I had come to deeply respect and to admire—and, I hope, to change the minds of those who have seen her portrayed in fiction only as an insanely vengeful, twisted she-wolf.

But if those aren’t good enough reasons to write biographical historical fiction, I can suggest five more:

  • 1.  If your hero is riddled with angst, it'll be because someone is trying to overthrow him, not because he is having a mid-life crisis.

  • 2. You can buy all sorts of books in your field of interest and tell your spouse that they are for research purposes.

  • 3. You will not have to write 400 pages about a woman who is juggling her family and her career.

  • 4. You can kill off your main character once you get tired of him or her, and blame it all on history.

  • 5. You’ll never be at a loss as to what to name your main characters.
The Queen of Last Hopes--Story of Margaret of Anjou

When fifteen-year-old Margaret of Anjou journeys from France to marry England’s Henry VI, she hopes that her wedding will mean a lasting peace between England and France. Instead, England’s losses of French territory infuriate the people, resulting in the horrific murder of Margaret’s first friend in England, William de la Pole.

Pregnant at last after eight years of marriage, Margaret places her hopes in her coming child. Then the worst happens: the gentle, ineffectual Henry suddenly goes mad and cannot even recognize his longed-for son. As feuding nobles rush to exploit the situation, Margaret determines to protect the rights of her husband and her child.

Undaunted by exile, poverty, danger, and the slanders of her enemies, Margaret remains loyal to her cause even as those around her falter in their allegiances. For the man and the boy she loves best, she will risk everything—her reputation, her safety, and the future of England itself. Excerpt

"A beautiful blending of turbulent history and deeply felt fiction, Susan Higginbotham, brings alive an amazing woman often overlooked or slandered by historians...a gift to treasure." 

So which do you prefer, historical fiction about real historical figures or historical fiction about purely fictional ones?
Susan Higginbotham's meticulously researched historical fiction brought to life by her heartfelt writing delights readers. Higginbotham runs her own historical fiction/history blog and is a contributor to the blog "Yesterday Revisited." Susan has written four historical novels, including The Traitor's Wife and The Stolen Crown.

Susan has awarded for her historical fiction: Gold Medalist, Historical/Military Fiction, 2008 Independent Publisher Book Awards. Silver Award, Historical Fiction, ForeWord Magazine's 2005 Book of the Year Awards.

She has worked as an editor and an attorney and lives in Apex, North Carolina, with her family.

You can visit Susan's blog: Medieval Woman, Website, Facebook

Monday, January 17, 2011

Monday Musings: Odds and Ends

I’m finally feeling more human than not.

I think I’ve won the battle on the ‘flu front. A week living in two layers of everything, plus a heavy full length winter housecoat (thank you hubs for it’s use) and nestled in a down comforter, I’m now down to only two layers of socks, a pair of flannel wool blend lounge pants, and a heavy thermal shirt. This is progress.

I swear I can’t remember a time when I’ve been so cold that I couldn’t get warm. My sister suggested hot baths, but that would necessitate first taking off clothes—not my first choice. Mom said a heating pad. It helped. Some. I’m not one that gets stuff like this easily. I think the poor immune system had been overworked with an infection prior to this and so I was more susceptible. I’m on round two of Bactrin and I’ll be seeing the doctor for a check up next week, if not before. Between the two, I find myself in dire need of a new energizer battery pack, lol!

So, if you’ve been missing me on your blogs it’s because half the time I couldn’t think beyond, ‘I’m so friggin’ cold’ or ‘damn, I’m so tired’. The former seems better and I’m still wrestling with the latter.

I read a good book recently, called Brooklyn Knight, by CJ Henderson. Sort of an old time pulp adventure with a paranormal bent. Piers Knight is a bit like Indiana Jones only his adventure happens in modern times and in New York. I really enjoyed Piers. He’s a well-developed character, a bit eccentric, very intelligent, witty, and a bit old fashioned. The story is well told. There’s definitely a mystery surrounding Piers and I have some theories. I’m looking forward to Central Park Knight. I’d also love to have CJ on Over Coffee. He has had a very interesting career. I need to write a review of this one!

A question to my readers: Who would you like to see featured on Over Coffee. Let me know and I’ll do my best to get them here.

As soon as Robin Kaye and I are able, we’ll pick the winners for her latest book I let the winners know.

Some upcoming guests this week are Susan Higginbotham and Stephanie Rowe. I’m looking forward to both of them.

Meanwhile, have a great week. Stay healthy. :-)