Teaching English

Last Saturday I volunteered to help in an ESL (English as a Second Language) class. Students were originally from Mexico or The Democratic Republic of Congo, and spoke mainly Spanish or French. The student I helped was a woman from The Democratic Republic of Congo and spoke French. I could see her frustration as she tried to think of words to answer my questions. (I took French in high school long ago, but wasn’t about to try using it.) English to French and English to Spanish dictionaries were on each table. In response to the teacher’s question, “What does respect mean?” my student looked it up.

Vicki Ingle, the teacher, spoke clearly and enthusiastically. She asked them to tell what they liked and disliked. She explained “dislike” meant the same as “do not like.”

Then she had each student ask another classmate questions and write down their name, description, likes, dislikes, and language spoken. After that, each student stood and told the class that information about the person they spoke to. Each one was able to speak clearly and give the information.

Teacher Vicki Ingle asking class members to tell what they liked.


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Forgot to Smell the Roses

This is the last day of summer. I wanted to attend the RWA National Conference, visit a friend and my brother and sister in Florida, swim in the ocean, read some books, and plant flowers in my whiskey barrel half.

I made it to the conference, visited my friend and my brother and sister and even visited an interesting estate on a Florida bay, but did I swim in the ocean? No time.

Bay view from Deering Mansion

Courtyard in the Deering Mansion

Home again I finally caught up on writing my novel, so I can swim in the city pool. After all, it may be September, but it’s been 90 degrees or more every day.  I put on my bathing suit, grabbed a beach towel, and drove to Chisholm pool on the north side of Hurst. It was closed! 😦  I drove to the other pool. Closed also. 😦 Don’t they know it’s still summer?

I did read books I got at the conference. My rose bush won’t bloom. Then I looked at my whiskey barrel half with the remains of my dead petunias that a squirrel dug up. I need to visit Calloway’s Nursery for advice.  After all, it stays warm until December, but I’m not planting another batch of pansies for that squirrel to dig up again. Maybe I’ll do that winter cabbage like plant and hope he doesn’t like the smell.


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Entertainment for Storm Victims

I delivered over one hundred books for victims of Hurricane Harvey.  Evacuees can entertain themselves with mysteries, young adult books, romances, or romantic suspense books from authors David Baldacci, Alex Cross, Cindy Dees, Lara Lacombe, Kara Lennox, Robin Perini, Delores Fossen, Nora Roberts, B. J. Daniels, Jane Graves, Kay Thomas, and others.

Collecting was easy. My Word Wranglers critique group loaded my car.  I knew right where the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Dallas Convention Center was. I drove past the life-size sculptures of cattle being herded to market, but then I couldn’t figure out which door to park next to.  I didn’t want make several long trips to carry everything. After being turned away and given nebulous directions, I finally found the volunteer desk outside. They said I should take the books to the Potter House and gave me directions to a place several miles outside the Dallas City limits.   When I finally got there, I was thankful to have helpful men unload the big box, shopping bag, and two plastic bags full of book

Books to escape with


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Florida and the RWA Conference

I took a break from the RWA Conference and walked past the shops along the boardwalk. I ducked into one and couldn’t resist buying a Tinker Bell charm for my bracelet. All sorts of snacks were available – at higher than grocery store prices, so I decided to wait for supper. I was glad I did because the Salmon and Asian noodle salad in the hotel restaurant was delicious.

The Boardwalk near Disney World





The view from my window at Disney World Dolphin Hotel


Watching swimmers have fun from my hotel room window, I wished I had brought a swim suit. There were cute little boats to ride on a miniature lake off to the left.



My sister is a prolific painter

After the conference, I visited my sister in Sun City Center and worked with her son, Cousin Vinny, on his book, The Devil’s Glove.



Next I visited my brother, Ray, in Fort Lauderdale. He drove me to the Deering Estate, now a museum with a huge mansion and formal gardens with fountains. They were so scenic, photographers were taking pictures of models in flowing evening gowns. One garden had purple and yellow orchids. Each room in the three-story mansion was large and well furnished, even the maid’s room.

Courtyard in the Deering Mansion


While I didn’t get to swim in the ocean, I soaked up lots of sun and knowledge from the conference, as well as a request for a novel proposal.



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Please Welcome Cathy MacRae to my Website.

Cathy, what genre do you write? Hi, Carolyn! I currently write stories of Scottish historical romance.

How many books have you written? Well, I have 5 full-length books in my Highlander’s Bride series, 4 novellas in The Ghosts of Culloden Moor series, a long novella in a Kindle World, World of de Wolfe Pack, headed by Kathryn le Veque, and just released the second in a co-authored series, called the Hardy Heroines.

Cathy, I see you have a contest on your facebook page. Tell me about it?  This week, my latest (with co-author DD MacRae) The Highlander’s Viking Bride is out on a book blog tour. Stop by my facebook page https://www.facebook.com/cathymacraeauthor/ for the daily links. Check out the older ones, too, for even more chances to win a $20 Amazon gift card. You’ll get to read excerpts from the book, read reviews and find new pages to like!

What were some of the most interesting facts you uncovered while researching your books? Oh, I’m a history buff!! This most recent book offered me a chance to learn Norn (ancient Norse language—a few words, anyway) and a bit about ships in the 1300s. The book I’m currently writing takes me even further back (to 1221, in fact) and is full of an account of living in the Levant between Crusades, ancient Armenia, the Assassin (Asasyiun) Order, and how to fight off pirates. Pretty cool stuff!

Have you taken a trip to Scotland? If so, tell me about it.  I’ve been to Scotland twice. Both times were with tour groups, but the second was actually a writer conference headed by Grace Burrowes. We stayed at a lovely home on the Menzies Castle estate and (when we weren’t discussing books or the writing process) took short day trips to nearby areas of interest. Oh, and shopping. I revisited Culloden Moor where the Battle of Culloden (the source of the Ghosts of Culloden Moor) was fought, and viewed heather-covered hills as we drove up into the mountains for the famous Braemar Highland Games where we met (saw) the Queen!

What takes time away from your writing, and do you consider that a guilty pleasure or a time waster? Lots of things, actually. From family time (cooking, cleaning, actually taking part in the family, lol) to gardening and music (I play piano and violin on the church music team), I sometimes have to make myself sit down and write. But all of it is completely worth it.

What is one interesting thing about you that few people know?  LOL! Let me think on that one. One of my favorite jobs was as a tour guide at George Dickel Distillery. I loved meeting the people who came through, and developed an appreciation for the distilling process. Oh, and I’m partial to their whisky.

What gives you the most pleasure from writing? I really enjoy writing stories, but one of the great things is finding readers. Talking about my books, even in just a few lines in a chat on facebook, is like sharing a bit of my heart.

Tell me about your family. How old are your children? I have 2 children who are 28 and 25, and my husband has 4 who range in age from 22 to 29. We’re closer (distance wise) to a couple, not so much to the others. And we have 2 granddaughters. Love those kids!

I see you write with DD MacRae? Tell me about DD. DD and I started as critique partners probably 8 years ago. We were both just starting out, and had a lot to critique, but learned a lot. We also learned we have strengths and weaknesses that really mesh well when story-telling. DD has a background in martial arts and really gets the action right. I’m stronger in fleshing out characters. We decided to put a book together, Highland Escape, and were astounded at how well received it was. The heroine was trained as a warrior, much as the Pictish women in her ancestry were. Readers were thrilled to see a heroine who didn’t rely on the hero to protect her. So we decided to create the Hardy Heroine series which are stand-alones where the heroines have strengths you may not have seen before.

How do you work with a partner? It’s really easy for DD and me. Thanks to the internet, we’re constantly shooting chapters back and forth. DD plots and knows where the story should go. I’m a pantster who just jumps in and starts writing. It’s great to surprise DD occasionally with the direction I take a story, lol! Though, if DD gives me the exact plot, I’ve found I become disinterested. So, we’ve learned how to make it work.

What is your latest book about? (cover attached) The Highlander’s Viking Bride (we refer to it as Katja’s story) is a tale of a young woman who has been verbally (and occasionally physically) abused all of her life by her father. Though quite wealthy, she accepts marriage to a destitute laird in order to end a feud between their clans and to escape to—hopefully—a better life. Here’s the blurb:

Calder MacGerry, laird of an impoverished clan, has resolved to end the bitter feud between the MacGerrys and Sinclairs. He jumps at Laird Sinclair’s offer of marriage to his only daughter, Katja, to seal the agreement between their clans—only to get more than he bargained for.

Katja’s chance to escape her father’s harsh treatment appears to be too good to be true. But becoming Lady of a clan that despises her because she’s a Sinclair, doesn’t make her life any easier. When the attacks turn deadly, she fights her way out, making a dangerous passage to the Shetland Isles for refuge with her Viking family.

Calder and Katja’s marriage, built on mistrust, rushes quickly into disaster. As Calder seeks to repair the damage, Katja discovers not another enemy, but a husband who pledges a new beginning.

Thanks for the opportunity to be on your blog, Carolyn!!

You can find me on my website at http://www.cathymacraeauthor.com and follow me on Amazon at https://www.amzn.com/author/cathymacrae Please ‘like’ my facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/cathymacraeauthor/

The Highlander’s Viking Bride buy links:

Amazon: https://www.amzn.com/dp/B0728HWJRY

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/2940157486617

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-highlander-s-viking-bride

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Pretend Princess available now

Tricia meeting Prince Lawrence

Tricia meeting Prince Lawrence

Mistaken by chance for a missing princess, Tricia is caught up in a tangle of excitement and danger while hiding her hopeless love for Cordillera’s crown prince. Will the public believe her as the princess as she helps him hunt his missing cousin on the Isle of Capri?

And can she win the heart of Prince Lawrence, who’s destined by custom to marry a titled lady?

Chapter One

Patricia Parker’s heels tapped the marble floor of the foyer as she strolled beneath sparkling chandeliers. Women wearing exotic perfumes glanced her way, too well-mannered to stare. She pretended she looked just as good in her short, black cocktail dress and rhinestones as they did in shimmering gowns and glittering diamonds.

The lights dimmed. Sounds of the orchestra playing the overture to Carmen flowed through open doors. Surprised the small country of Cordillera, nestled against the mountains bordering France, even had an opera house, she hurried past the stragglers disappearing into the main floor of the theater.

“Allysa, wait. I must speak with you.” The deep voice rippled down her spine.

A touch on her arm made her turn to face a man with light brown hair, a well-trimmed beard and a determined chin. She took in his white uniform with gold braids and buttons and the two uniformed bodyguards flanking him. Her gaze moved up past his broad chest to meet deep brown eyes with amber flecks. She gasped.

Could it be?

Even in dim light, Prince Lawrence in the flesh was even better looking than pictures she’d seen on the newsstands at the airport last night. What should she do? Bow? Curtsy? Kiss his hand? His intense look made her feel like a fragile butterfly trying to escape a determined hunter with a net.

Click on Books to read more of an excerpt from Chapter One.

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Plotting Made Easy with Post-it Notes

Plotting with Post-it Notes helps you structure your story. Not only does it help keep you focused on where you’re going, but it keeps you from sitting there wondering what to write next. You can see the whole picture of the story, so you can judge if it’s balanced with the major action happening with the main characters, and if you’re writing suspense you have included enough romance along with the danger.

To start, a three-way project cardboard works best, but you can use a large, flat poster board about two and a half feet by three feet. Estimate the number of chapters you’ll write and mark the cardboard off into rectangles, one for each chapter. Mine has room for twenty-four chapters.

Now for the basic plan for the story. Pick your characters, their goals, their positive attributes and flaws. The flaws will be what gets them into trouble and the troubles will challenge them to change as the stakes for not changing grow higher. Their decisions and their strengths are what will help them to act to win their goals and deserve them after all the struggles you put them through. In a romance, both main characters need one trait that will clash with the other and become things they will have to compromise on or learn to live with. It’s best to give each main character an inner conflict that stands in the way of true romance. Little by little, as the story goes on, each main character can resolve the problem to free him or her (or both) for true love.

You need to pick the ending you’ll aim toward. Of course, in romance, it’s the happy ever after. In romantic suspense, you have to catch the bad guys, save the town or situation from disaster, and then give the hero and heroine their happy ever after.

Now get out your Post-it-Notes in several colors. I use pink for the heroine, blue for the hero, orange for the villain or danger, and purple for romance. You could add green or yellow for setting, or use it for an important secondary character. On each note, write a phrase showing what you want to happen. In the first chapter, you’ll want the hero and heroine to meet (or meet again) and be affected by some change that surprises him or her or both and calls for immediate action, something different from what they have been doing. Choose the right time for snippets of backstory, perhaps something one character tells the other about.

Plotting for Double Trouble (not yet published}

Phrases for scenes written on the notes could include: scene showing heroine’s character flaw, scene showing hero’s character flaw, scenes to show her learning flaw is obstacle to goal, scenes to show character realizing flaw is obstacle to winning at love, scene to show she has changed, scenes to show progress of romance such as:
a. First kiss
b. Fondling and caressing
c. Almost love scene
d. Full love scene or more if desired

However, you may find when you are writing the story, the characters may not be ready for a kiss or a love scene, depending on how the heroine and the hero are relating to each other at that time. Historical writer, Emma Merritt, said she was ready to write a love scene, but her hero wouldn’t do it then. If your characters act like that, then move the note to another chapter and continue writing.

Include obstacles to goal, obstacles to romance, and in romantic suspense, dangers to their safety. Make each obstacle harder to overcome than the one before. Western writer, Jack Bickham, (Apple Dumpling Gang) advised letting your character lose each conflict or if he or she wins, add a disappointing complication. That way, the reader will root for the poor heroine or hero. Include the emotion your character feels from setbacks. You can write in disappointment, anger, heartbreak, joy, etc. on the notes, but when you are writing the story, you’ll want to show such emotion by their thoughts and actions without mentioning the emotion itself.

Include the climax near the end when the stakes are high, and let the hero and heroine win this conflict. Include scenes to show each has overcome the flaw so they will be changed persons.

If you have a black moment when all seems lost, put it near the end and show lots of emotion. Then the reader will worry for your characters and cheer when everything comes out all right.

If you’re writing romantic suspense, be sure to include the downfall of the bad guys so the heroine and hero are safe and free to confess their love their love for a happy ever after.

If you write your story scenes and post them on a story board, you won’t wonder what to write next, writing will be easier, and you are more likely to stay focused on what needs to happen next in your story. Also, you’ll be able to see if you’ve balanced the parts of the story so it flows well without spending a lot of chapters on the hero or heroine, when they should be together most of the time.

Carolyn Rae has had eight romantic suspense novels published. Her most recent one is PRETEND PRINCESS, a modern version of the prince and the pauper, where a look-alike, missionary’s daughter is hired to take the place of a missing princess until the real one can be found. Tricia worries she won’t be able to stand in for the princess, but then she falls for the prince, who is supposed to marry a titled lady instead of a commoner.

See below for detailed outline to print and keep for reference.

Detailed Outline to copy and print for reference by Carolyn Rae
I. Why Use a Story Board
A. Prompts you what to write about next
B. Helps keep you on track
C. Helps you structure the story and evaluate it
1. Pick when to have first kiss and love scenes
a. You may have to adjust the timing as you write if it doesn’t feel right
2. Aim scenes toward the end, keep action moving in that direction
3. Add “plants” – a gun to be used later, a thematic symbol
4. Position the dark moment if you have one
II. How to Use a Story Board
A. Buy a large white cardboard or 3-way poster board for projects
B. Mark off into chapters
C. Choose characters, goals, flaws and situation to begin story
a. introduce problem in first chapter
D. Decide ending to aim for
E. Buy Post-it Notes in several colors 2X 2 or 3X3
F. I use these colors
1. Pink for heroine
2. Blue for hero
3. Lavender for romance
4. Orange for villain or danger (to romance or characters)
G. Write scenes on each note
a. If lengthy, can set margins to 2 inches, type note, print, then staple to note
1. Write scenes in 1 -3 phrases (mention setbacks and obstacles)
2. Add emotion character feels from setbacks
3. Write scenes to show heroine’s character flaw
4. Write scenes to show her learning flaw is obstacle to goal
5. Write scenes to show her realizing flaw is obstacle to winning at love
6. Write scenes to show she has changed
7. Write scenes mentioned in 3 – 6 for hero
8. Write scenes to show progress of romance
e. First kiss
f. Fondling and caressing
g. Almost love scene
h. Full love scene or more if desired.
9. Write Climax – critical moment, show high stakes if lose
10. Write black moment when everything seems lost (optional)
11. Tie up suspense before you resolve the romance
12. Check the balance of the colors to be sure you have enough scenes of each type – some for hero’s growth, some for heroine’s growth, progress of romance
13. Write resolution
a. Be sure to tie up all loose ends and questions, even if there’s a sequel
H. Judging balance
1. Large amount of one color shows lots of one character’s viewpoint at a time
2. Too little purple shows you haven’t focused enough on the romance

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