Are We Speaking the Same Language?

 

Soon after having my first son (I now have three), I realized how males and females possess dissimilar views the world. We also speak and communicate differently. This realization and my sons have helped me be a better writer and create more realistic heroes. At least, I hope so!

 

When my heroes talk, I keep in mind there are phrases that guys just don’t say. Here’s the ever-growing list I search for to eliminate on my final edit.

I don’t think…

What if we…

How about if…

You may have to…

You might want to…

Think about… (or as I say qualifying it further, “Think about maybe…”)

I thought we might…

 

 

Men don’t qualify what they say or soften the blow. They tell others what needs to be done. Period. In clear, concise terms. What if someone doesn’t like it? Tough. We women worry about hurting someone’s feeling. Goodness, we don’t want anyone getting mad over what we say. And where does that come from? Anyone else raised as I was to avoid conflict at any cost? I see all the raised hands from here in Texas.

 

I’m not sure this illustrates my point, but then who cares?

 

For example, here’s setting up a lunch date between two female friends and two male ones.

Women’s Conversation:

“Where would you like to go to lunch?”

“I don’t know. What sounds good to you?”

“Anything. You choose. Wherever you want to go is fine with me.”

“I was thinking Italian.”

“Actually, I had that last night.”

“That’s alright. We can have something else. What do you suggest?”

“Anything but Italian is great, and if you’re really in the mood for that, I don’t mind having it again.”

Five minutes later, the women will hopefully have decided on a time and place.

 

Men’s Conversation:

“You hungry?”

“Yup.”

“Pizza?”

“Sounds good. Make mine pepperoni and green peppers.”

 

This leads into my next point. Women use around 20,000 words as day versus the paltry 7,000 men use. Guys are like Sergeant Joe Friday in Dragnet. They keep it to just the facts. They don’t embellish or add emotion to the story. (When I taught fourth grade writing, that was the hardest thing for boys to learn—to add their feelings to their writing.) Nor do men notice the same details women do. Women notice what people wear, jewelry, outfits, shoes, and hair. My heroine might think a friend’s dress is aqua, but then qualify if as turquoise, but not the blue kind, the type that has a green hue. Guys? They’ll say it’s blue if they notice the color. But a car? Men will often know the make, model, color, how much horsepower it has, and Lord only knows what else. Me? I’m lucky if I know how many doors the car had. This can be fun, though, giving a character an unusual trait such as the heroine being a car expert or a sharpshooter as in The Andy Griffith Show when his date, Karen beats him in shooting competition. Or I might have a hero who has two or more sisters notice details other heroes won’t.

 

Men are also fixers. That’s why when women talk, they often jump in with solutions. They don’t realize we merely want to vent and need another human being to listen. This makes for great conflict, especially if the heroine assumes the reason the hero’s offering solutions is because he thinks she can’t solve the problem or needs his help.

 

For me to write strong characters I had to understand how people are different and how those distinctions create conflict. It’s not that these traits are right or wrong. They’re simply facts. I find if I don’t remember them when I’m writing, especially from my hero’s point of view, my hero doesn’t come off as real to me, and if I don’t fall in love with him, I know none of you will.

 

GIVEAWAY:  To be entered in today’s random giveaway for the credit card holder, coaster, and signed copy of To Tame a Texas Cowboy, leave a comment on what you think is the biggest difference between men and women–other than the obvious Y chromosome, that is. Lol!

Julie Benson’s Winner!

Thank you to everyone who spend part of your day with me yesterday.

The winner of my giveaway is:

Pearl

Congratulations! Look for an email from me on how to claim your giveaway. Take care everyone with the wicked heat we’re having this summer.

                                                                                                 Julie

Stories from My Winery Visit

Photo: Kiepersol

My husband and I recently visited Kiepersol Winery and Bed and Breakfast in Tyler. Our room at the Bed and Breakfast was in the building with the restaurant. Not only were the surroundings quiet, calm, and serene, the wine was wonderful, our room beautiful, and the restaurant defied description. They feature great steaks and seafood, with incredible sides. My favorites were the sauteed mushrooms and garlic potatoes. And the desserts…I had cherries jubilee, and I swear I gain a pound thinking about it, but it was worth every calorie.

But the stories of the winery’s history our wine tour guide, Ron shared captured my writer’s sentimental heart. Founder Pierre de Wet’s story would do any hero proud. Born in South Africa, in 1984 after the death of his wife from skin cancer, he and his young daughters, age two and four, moved to America. Pierre worked as a farm laborer until he could buy acres in Tyler, Texas. Though in 1996 there were no wineries from Austin to Florida, Pierre was sure he could make a winery work.

The winery’s name comes from the Kiepersol farm where Pierre grew up. Legend has it soldiers running from a lion toward a lone tree, shouted, “Kiepersol! Kiepersol” as they sought safety in the tree. (Later it was learned the soldiers yelled, “We hope this tree will keep us all!” Pierre named his winery after that Kiepersol tree, hoping everyone who visited the winery would find that same comfort.

Pierre’s determination and frugality when he started his winery served him well. To lower startup costs, he purchased used equipment. In tough times he sold residential lots, eventually creating one of two wine estates in the U.S. In 2000, he harvested his first grapes. To sell his wine, he hired teenagers with signs and obtained retired Clydesdales for carriages rides that ended at the winery.

Photo: Kiepersol

I can’t share all the winery’s stories today, but I want to share one behind Flight sparkling wine. Guinea fowl have roamed the area for over 20 years as vineyard stewards. Their chatter safekeeps the grapes from deer and birds. They eat bugs serving as nature’s pesticide. Guinea fowl spotted feathers are believed to be good luck charms. Now to the name. The winery says, “We believe each spotted feather found represents a releasing of the past. Flight is grown in a place where one can feel soulfully grounded while also letting dreams soar. So. Take Flight my friends.” That sentiment makes me shiver.

I love visiting Texas wineries and hearing their stories. The minute I heard Pierre de Wet’s, I thought how I would’ve loved to create such a hero. The courage, strength, and determination he possessed to come to America with two young daughters when the only person he knew was a Texas A&M professor, astounds me. He created a winery, a bed and breakfast with fifteen rooms, an incredible restaurant, a distillery, and an RV park! But most importantly, he raised two strong women who carry on his legacy.

Pierre de Wet and his daughters
Photo: Kiepersol

I may have found a retirement-keep-busy-and-involved career. What could be better than telling a winery’s stories, meeting fabulous people, especially if I could be paid with an occasional bottle of wine and dinner?

Today I’m giving away this horseshoe decoration and a signed copy of To Tame a Texas Cowboy. To be entered in my random drawing, leave a comment to this question. What is the best story you’ve heard or best/most interesting fact you’ve learned on a trip? Or, if you don’t have a story to share, just stop by to say hello or tell me about a real life hero in your life.

 

What If Game Day

I’ve been visiting a winery in Tyler. More news to come about that in a blog soon, but I’m here today for a game day what if.

 

 

What if you could meet any western historical or fiction person to sit down for a chat. Who would it be and why? For me, it would be Calamity Jane. I’ve often worried how she held her own in such a male dominated world.

 

Leave me a comment to be entered in the random drawing for the coozie, key chain, and a signed copy of To Love a Texas Cowboy.

To Invite Parents Into A Story or Not

Many of my books deal with the theme of family of choice. There are a couple reasons why. I’ve always been geographically separated from family and then later, I became estranged from my parents. This changed my writing and my definition of family.

Another reason I turned to this theme is because having parents–ones who have a solid relationship with their children, offer advice when asked without dictating, forgive their children, are mentally healthy, and set good examples–is tough. At least for me, they muck up a story. They often keep their children from making bonehead mistakes that drive a story and create conflict. Why? Partly because they’ve raised children to consider options before acting, gave them a solid moral base, and are present during rough times.

That’s why either my hero or heroine often have past issues from with one or both parents. Let’s face it. Anyone who’s a parent has worried about screwing up their kid. I often joked I hoped I wouldn’t botch parenting so bad my kids spent spent in a therapist’s office. But in romance novels, emotionally damaged characters make for create conflict and character growth. How we’re raised, our emotional baggage and wounds, taint how we see the world and influence our every relationship. For example, Zane in To Marry a Texas Cowboy has major family baggage. Like two  large suitcases and a trunk’s worth.

 

Here’s an excerpt that shows how two relationships shaped Zane’s life.

“Why isn’t your old man helping out?”

“He’s in Europe trying to patch up marriage number three. Good thing, too, because he’d be a worse choice than her assistant.” How could folks as wonderful as his grandparents have raised such a shit for a son? Someone who would lead two completely separate lives with two families?

“I’m thinking a man who breaks out in hives when he hears the word wedding has no business managing a wedding planning company,” Cooper said. “If you ask me, that’s looking for trouble.”

Zane wouldn’t let  Grandma Ginny, the one person who’d been there for him his entire life, loving him unconditionally and acting as a guiding force, put her future at risk. He’d do anything this side of legal for her.

Even run Lucky Stars Weddings.

 

Another thing I like about parental absence in my stories is it allows friends to occupy a prominent role. I love creating banter between good friends, who as Elbert Hubbard says, “A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.” That kind of friend will also tell you when you’re being an ass, and often do in my books.

 

Here’s an example of the heroes in To Tame a Texas Cowboy, who view themselves as family.

“What did this one do? Is she another one with a hyena in heat laugh?” Ty asked, pulling Cooper back to the conversation.

AJ dug his wallet out of his back pocket. “Nah, can’t be that. Not even Coop could find two of those. Ten bucks says this one talked too much.”

“I’m still here, guys, and I’d rather skip the psychoanalyzing session. If you’re interested, I think I can scrounge tickets to the Alabama game. If we can beat them, we’ve got a real shot at the national title,” Cooper said, hoping to channel the conversation onto football and off his love life, or lack thereof.

“I say Coop connected with this one on Facebook, and she posts pictures of her food all the time.” Ty tossed a ten on top of AJ’s, completely ignoring Cooper’s change of subject.

Damn. He was in trouble if tickets to the A&M Alabama game failed to divert his buddies.

Zane tossed a bill on the stack and rubbed his chin while he flashed a perfect white smile at the women two tables over who’d been giving him the eye.

When he glanced back at his friends, he said, “I peg her as the strong, assertive type who’s recently divorced and is still in her angry phase. I say she complained about her ex.”

His friends stared, waiting for him to declare the winner. Betting wasn’t much fun when he was the topic. While AJ and Ty weren’t correct now, in the past, he’d lost interest in women for both the reasons they predicted. Tonight, Zane came damn close. Too close.

“Zane, sometimes you’re damn scary when it comes to women. How do you do it?”

“Years of extensive research.” Zane grinned as he scooped up the cash.

 

So, that’s why I often don’t include a parent or parents in my stories. Another time I’ll chat about the couple times I have had a parent be a prominent character.

 

To be entered in my random giveaway for the cactus T-shirt, coozie, and a signed copy of Family Ties, leave a comment telling me what you think about having the hero or heroine’s parent(s) as main characters in a story.

Musical Inspiration

Today I’m giving you an insight on how music occasionally influences my writing. But it’s not how you might expect. I don’t write with music on because if I like a song, then I start singing along. Then my train of thought is shattered. Like now. I’m sitting in Starbucks writing and “Defy Gravity” from the musical Wicked has come on. Excuse me while I sing under my breath…

Okay, I’m back. However, occasionally songs play a big part in my stories. In To Marry A Texas Cowboy, George Strait’s “Here For A Good Time” became my hero’s theme song. Despite knowing Zane’s backstory and him almost taking over a couple books in the series, when I started his story, I couldn’t grasp him. He put up a good front, even from me. But when I heard “Here For A Good Time” Zane’s personality and fears fell into place.

Zane had a rough past. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t read To Marry A Texas Cowboy, but Zane’s dad was a piece of work and his mom wasn’t a winner either. To cope or survive really, he lived in the moment. Everything was about having a good time. That drove his actions and his life.

Here For A Good Time

Source: Musixmatch  Songwriters: Bubba Straight / Dillon Dean / George H Strait

I’m not gonna lay around
And whine and moan for somebody that done me wrong
Don’t think for a minute
That I’m gonna sit around and sing some old sad song
I believe it’s half-full not a half-empty glass
Every day I wake up knowing it could be my last

I ain’t here for a long time
I’m here for a good time
So bring on the sunshine, to hell with the red wine
Pour me some moonshine
When I’m gone, put it in stone “He left nothing behind”
I ain’t here for a long time
I’m here for a good time

Folks are always dreaming about what they like to do
But I like to do just what I like
I’ll take the chance, dance the dance
It might be wrong but then again it might be right
There’s no way of knowing what tomorrow brings
Life’s too short to waste it, I say bring on anything

I ain’t here for a long time
I’m here for a good time
So bring on the sunshine, to hell with the red wine
Pour me some moonshine
When I’m gone, put it in stone “He left nothing behind”
I ain’t here for a long time
I’m here for a good time
I ain’t here for a long time
I’m here for a good time

 

And speaking of Wicked, when attending that musical, the solution to the same problem with my heroine, Maggie in Bet On A Cowboy hit me. When Elphaba sang “I’m Not That Girl” I instantly knew everything about Maggie. I even whispered, “she’s Elphaba” right there in my Broadway seat.

Maggie believed love wasn’t in her future. She was just too plain, too average in every way to attract a man’s notice. As the director of a Bachelor type reality show, she’s surrounded by beautiful, outgoing, extraordinary women and is constantly reminded she doesn’t measure up. The mindset Elphaba shows in “I’m Not That Girl” guided Maggie’s actions and interactions in life.

 

I’m Not That Girl

Source: Musixmatch  Songwriters: Schwartz Stephen Laurence / Sandford Steve

Hands touch, eyes meet
Sudden silence, sudden heat
Hearts leap in a giddy whirl
He could be that boy
But I’m not that girl

Don’t dream too far
Don’t lose sight of who you are
Don’t remember that rush of joy
He could be that boy
I’m not that girl

Every so often we long to steal
To the land of what-might-have-been
But that doesn’t soften the ache we feel
When reality sets back in

Blithe smile, lithe limb
She who’s winsome, she wins him
Gold hair with a gentle curl
That’s the girl he chose
And Heaven knows
I’m not that girl

Don’t wish, don’t start
Wishing only wounds the heart
I wasn’t born for the rose and the pearl
There’s a girl I know
He loves her so
I’m not that girl

I shouldn’t be surprised songs have helped me grasp my characters and their relationships. Songs have always spoken to me and helped me make sense out of life. Why shouldn’t they do the same with my writing?

To be entered in today’s random giveaway for the car coasters, air freshener, and signed copy of Family Ties leave a comment on what song has or could serve as a theme for you?

More Outdated, Strange, or Downright Dumb Texas Laws

A while back I had so much fun discussing odd/weird/crazy Texas laws still on the books, and while I’ve tried to find the reasons behind these laws, so far I haven’t had much luck. However, I have come across more unusual laws still on the Texas books. Unable to resist a good laugh, (I mean can’t we all use one?) I’m sharing these new oddities with you.

  • It’s illegal to own a set of Encyclopedia Britannica in Texas. Apparently, lawmakers were upset it contained a recipe for beer and didn’t want to deal with home breweries. If you have an old set around somewhere better hide it now!
  • In LeFors, Texas, taking more than three drinks, sips, or swallows of beer while standing is illegal. But that makes me ask what about wine or mixed drinks? Is it okay to drink more of those standing?
  • In Houston it’s illegal to sell Limburger cheese on Sunday. Apparently, other cheeses are okay because they’re not specified. This begs the question what do lawmakers have against Limburger cheese and why is it illegal only on Sundays?
  • If you’re planning on committing a crime in Texas, you’re required by law to give your victim 24 hour written or verbal notice. It’s hard to believe someone possessed the nerve to stand in the state legislature and propose this law. Not only that, but the person suggested the law in hopes of reducing crime! (Because people wanting to commit a crime wouldn’t dream of breaking this law!) I’m laughing thinking of a burglar slipping a note in my mailbox. Planning on robbing you Tuesday night. Is that good for you or do I need to reschedule?
  • Don’t eat your neighbor’s garbage…without permission. Major yuck factor with this one because well, garbage. If caught, this law will get you in trouble for trespassing and property theft. Who knew garbage was property? I thought it was fair game once it was put out, but I guess not.

  • Flirting with the “eyes or hands” is illegal in San Antonio, for both men and women. Seriously. If police enforced this one, they could almost empty the Riverwalk daily. Now that would clog up the court system.
  • In Texas your vehicle doesn’t need to have a windshield to be driven on the road. However, it does need to possess windshield wipers! I’m trying to imagine where those wipers could be affixed if there isn’t a windshield. Or maybe they don’t need to be attached but could be tossed in the back seat or in the glove box? Boggles the mind to think the person writing this one and the lawmakers who passed it didn’t see the irony.
  • Another ironic one that lawmakers didn’t think through is when two trains meet at a crossing, both must fully stop, and neither can move until the other has left the crossing. How could this miss this problem and realize it would make for looooong waits at train crossings?
  • In Dennison and Bristol you can land in jail for up to a year for showing your stockings. I’m laughing thinking of some poor old man being tossed in jail for wearing socks with his sandals. Or are socks considered in stockings? Good thing most of us women have given up wearing hose and stockings.
  • Since Texas is a common state, if two willing, single, over 18 parties announce three times they’re married, bam, they are legally married. Wow, talk about lying having major and lasting consequences.
  • In a holdover from the old west, when one rancher would cut another’s fence, it is illegal to carry wire cutters in your pocket.

I hope these laws gave you a chuckle. To be entered in my random drawing for the Cowboy Take Me Away T-shirt and signed copy of Cowboy in the Making leave a comment about what the craziest or silliest law you’ve heard about that is still on the books.

 

Julie Benson’s Winner

 

And the winner is…

Becky Griggs

Congratulations, Becky. Look for an email from me on how to receive your giveaway.

Thank you everyone for spending part of your day with me and for your good wishes for my finger healing. Y’all are the best readers ever!

Julie

 

 

A Recipe From My Childhood

How they wrapped my finger up at the ER.

I don’t think I’ve shared this fact before, but I’m super clumsy. My father used to tease me and say they should’ve named me Grace. I always joke that even if there was only one piece of furniture in a room, I’d manage to bump into it and end up with a bruise.

Well, I’ve done it again. I got tangled up with my dogs, fell, and broke my left ring finger. As it is hard to type, I’m doing a simple recipe post today. My family has made this Strawberry Dessert as we call it, for years. It’s light and refreshing, a perfect dessert for a big easter dinner. As it’s best made the day before to be completely set, it leaves you time on Easter for church, preparing the meal, and having fun with family. If you’re like me, unless I make dessert ahead of time whenever, we go without because by the time we’re done cooking, eating, and cleaning up, I’m too tired to make dessert!

 

Strawberry Dessert

Ingredients:

1 angel food cake

2 packages of # ounce strawberry Jell-O

2 Cups boiling water

2 10 oz (approximately) frozen strawberries in syrup, not the unsweetened kind

1 pint whipped cream

Directions:

  1. Tear angel food cake into bite size pieces and place in a 9×13 pan.
  2. In a bowl, stir boiling water and Jell-O until dissolved. Add frozen strawberries. Stir until strawberries are separated and mixture has started to thicken. Place in refrigerator for fifteen or so minutes until much thicker but not set.
  3. Whip cream to a thick but not stiff stage. Remove strawberry and Jell-O mixture from refrigerator. Fold in whipped cream until mixture is well combined and smooth.
  4. Pour over angel food cake. Refrigerate until firm.

Growing up Lutheran in the Midwest, Jell-O was a staple at family events and church potlucks. I can’t even count how many salad and dessert recipes I have that require this ingredient. This one is one of my spring and summer favorites. I hope you enjoy this blast from my past.

To be entered in my random giveaway for the Hanging With My Peeps T-shirt and a signed copy of Family Ties leave a comment about your favorite Jell-O recipe or the oddest one someone you know has made.