Posted by Cassondra Murray Feb 20 2015, 12:30 am in Cassondra Murray, Cassondra's blogs, Grow On Me Honey, Honey Bend series, small town romance, welcometohoneybend.com
When I was a little girl, my grandmother, MotherGrant, had a huge garden. She and DaddyMike grew all the veggies they’d use for the entire year.
But that veggie garden was about survival. It was not about joy.
In the afternoons, after the other garden work was done, MotherGrant would spend a little time every day on her knees, on the outside of the garden fence, weeding and tending her flowers.
MotherGrant’s flower garden ran all the way down the edge of the veggie garden, in a glorious pile of colors and shapes, from the humble violet to the bawdy whore-of-a blossom on the Celosia cristata. That’s a picture of one over there on the left.
She called them Princey Feathers. Her name fit, don’t you think?
I was in the garden with MotherGrant by the time I could walk, and though she had no science, she had something better. She had a gift. She didn’t know the Latin names of the flowers, but the plants didn’t care about that.
She loved the flowers, and they loved her back.
She taught me to love them too, and years later, long after MotherGrant had gone to tend God’s garden, I went to graduate school to study horticulture, and then I became a grower in a big commercial greenhouse.
Flash forward a few years. I was doing something different for a living, but I’d started writing fiction on the side. I was working on a dark romantic suspense series when Del walked walked into my mind.
I figured out right away that she was persistent, because any time I stared out the window at the field in front of my house, that field would fade away and I’d end up in Del’s greenhouse. She was a greenhouse grower, just like I’d been, and while she was innocently puttering around with pots of flowers, she’d swipe a dirt-covered arm across her forehead and start in, telling me how she had this story, and she wanted me to tell it.
Every time I went outside to dig in the dirt in my own garden, Del went with me, pestering me.
Del grew up in a small town in southern Kentucky, not too far from where I live right now.
That town is Honey Bend.
I wrote the start of Del’s story long ago, just to get her to shut up. But then I put it away and ignored it for the longest time. But I never forgot about it.
I told y’all in my blog on February 4th about my growing pains, going from dark romantic suspense Goth Chick to writing small town romance, and I promised to show you the cover today.
Brilliant cover artist Lyndsey Lewellen at LLewellen Designs got just the right feel for Del’s story, Grow On Me Honey.
That’s Del, with her hero, Erik.
Sometimes I wonder if MotherGrant wasn’t the one nudging me all this time, telling me I should write Del’s story, because it was a part of who I am.
Every time I’ve typed a blog over the past eight years, I’ve felt like I was sitting down on the porch with friends, telling stories, snapping beans, and inviting y’all to come around and “set a spell.”
Writing about the town of Honey Bend feels just like that. I can’t wait to tell you more about Del and Erik, but for right now, I’ll leave you with the cover, and hope you’ll feel as welcome in Honey Bend as I do.
In the meantime, tell me, Bandits and Buddies..
If you read small-town romance, what is it that draws you to the genre?
Is there someone from your past who played a role in making you who you are now?
Or is there something from your childhood that’s a part of who you are now, the way MotherGrant’s flower garden became a part of me?
If you want to know when their story comes out, you can follow me on facebook at Author Cassondra Murray.
Or you can sign up for my newsletter here.
I’ll give away one more combo this month to a random commenter—a grab bag of two random books and a piece of swag from my conference stash!
Posted by Cassondra Murray Feb 4 2015, 2:05 am in Cassondra Murray, Cassondra's blogs, Goth chicks, Honey Bend series, reinventing ourselves, small town romance, welcometohoneybend.com
It’s probably no surprise to any of you.
I’m guessing it was a surprise only to me.
Let’s backtrack here.
You see…Owls are my favorite birds. Odd for that one in the photo to be out in the daytime…hmmm.
Most of my clothes are black.
I’ve never minded the whole “sleeping in a coffin” persona because it fit.
If I had no alarm clock, my natural creative cycle would run from about seven in the evening until about three in the morning. So I work as many—or more–hours as the next person. I just work when the sun is sleeping.
Bottom line? By nature I’m a nocturnal creature, and when I first started writing romance, it was in the middle of the night.
The story that first came pouring out of me was a romantic suspense. Think big city. Fog. The sound of a ship’s horn in the harbor. Evil peering around the corner, waiting to pounce.
I probably could have written true crime or hard-boiled detective mysteries. Heck, I like trench coats.
It fits with the whole nocturnal thing, don’t you think?
But see? I needed the happy ending. Even then, happy endings were all I wanted to read.
So I wrote romantic suspense—the best of both worlds, or so I thought. The manuscript that made me a finalist in the Golden Heart—which made me a Romance Bandit– was dark romantic suspense. I had a feel for it, based on the contest wins and the editorial feedback.
Flash forward a few years.
I was heading for the computer every day, but I was veering off to do something else. I got a degree. I landscaped properties. I studied wine. I gutted and rebuilt most of an old house.
I was stuck.
My best friends were writers. I talked a lot about writing.
Heck, I was writing. But I wasn’t writing books.
The truth is, I was avoiding it.
Finally I told my friends,“I think I’m not meant to do this. I need to stop saying I’m a writer.”
But my wise and discerning friend, Dianna Love said, “No, that’s not it. Cassondra, you need to write something else.”
Maybe it was the place I was in mentally. Maybe it was the time of year. Maybe it was the food I had for dinner or the phase of the moon. I dunno, but those were the best words anybody ever said to me.
Because I heard it.
When Dianna said, “you need to write something else,” I went to my suitcase (we were in some city at the time—I don’t remember where) and I dug out the books I’d brought.
They were light contemporary romance.
Small town romance.
I just stood there, shaking my head.
I got home from that trip, and I went to the pile of books on my bedside table. There was a stack on the back corner that was covered with dust.
And there were two stacks on the front that had no dust at all.
What was in those stacks?
Small town romance.
Jill Shalvis. Terri Osburn. Early Susan Crandall novels I’ve read a hundred times. Susan Mallery.
Happy endings with no big world threat. No murders. Real life, but not much ugly at all.
And the truth hit me.
Obviously, the reason I wasn’t writing was that I was avoiding the darker subject matter.
What was wrong with me?
Anybody who’s read the blog for a while knows that when I really write from the heart, what I write about is old houses. Barns. Tractors. Farms. Country.
So the next day I took my laptop out to the deck, sat under the umbrella, and started typing, and I realized I had a big goofy smile on my face.
I looked down at myself and laughed out loud. I had on black jeans, a black shirt, and my fingernails were dark navy blue.
All the signs of a Goth chick were still there, but I was writing small-town romance just the same.
And I haven’t stopped since.
My first cover is almost done, and on the 20th of this month, I’ll show it to y’all. I want to show my cover here in the Lair first, because you’re my family. And because I still have this funky disconnect.
“Goth Chick Writes Small-Town Romance. Film at Eleven.”
Does that not sound weird to you?
So a while back, I had this website all planned out. Black. Gray. Fog. Intrigue. But I ditched it.
Now I have a landing page all set, and some awesome people are designing a new website for me…with nary a wisp of fog anywhere.
I feel like Cinderella, except…
I keep waiting for the spell to break, and the dark Fairy Godmother to announce, “You cannot write THAT! You must write about BAD things, WICKED things, and good that triumphs over EEEEVILLL! It is who you ARE!!! BWAHAHAHAHA!”
My series is set in Honey Bend, Kentucky, not too far from where I live right now.
There’s a bunch of friends who’ve known each other since high school. There’s a few churches, a few decent bars, and in the town square, there’s a bunch of old men sittin’ on the benches outside the courthouse, whittlin’ and talkin’ and keepin’ an eye on their grandkids in line for ice cream at the Frosty Freeze across the street.
And there are some folks who really need to fall in love, but they’re not one bit interested in that at the moment.
There are barns, potlucks, and county fairs. There’s gossip, and there are good people.
That’s how I grew up. It’s what I know, and it’s where my soul goes when I want a smile and a good story.
I’m not sure why it took me so long to come around to this, since that’s what I’ve been writing about in my blogs forever. But that’s what I’m writing in my books now too, even if I still have dark blue fingernails.
So while the Bandits are reinventing themselves, I am too.
I’m not sure how to integrate the black clothes with the small town stories, but it’s all me…maybe more of me than I’ve ever been before.
The first book in the Honey Bend series will be out this year.
I’ll announce it here of course. But if you want to know ahead of time when it’s about to be released, you can go to my temporary author webpage and sign up for my newsletter.
It would be great if you also like my facebook page . I can’t promise I won’t post a photo of an owl or someone with blue fingernails on occasion. My snarky sense of humor is not going away, and I still need a LOT of coffee to get going in the mornings. But most of it will be fun, and I’d love to connect with you there.
I won’t bother you much with emails though.
Okay, well…I might bother you a little when the first book is released. I’m guessing I’ll be really excited about that.
I’ll show y’all the cover, and tell you a little about the book, in my blog on February 20th. I can’t wait.
But in the meantime, to celebrate the reinvention of the Bandits and the reinvention of ME, I’m giving away a $10 gift card to Barnes & Noble, and a surprise grab bag of two books and some goodies from my bottomless box of conference swag.
Have you ever gone one direction in life, only to figure out that you should be going a different way entirely?
Ever changed directions in mid-stream?
Have you ever reinvented yourself in any way, large or small?
What about your reading habits? Do you read everything, all the time? Or do you go through phases–darker, grittier books for a while, then lighter, easier books?
Who’s your favorite small-town romance author?
Did you know any Goth kids growing up? And did any of them turn out to be, by any chance, romance writers?
Oh yeah. I’m on Twitter too…but I’m telling you..I need serious remedial help with that. It might be funny….even when I don’t mean for it to be funny. Just sayin.