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Jodie's Blogs

My Astrological Sign and How It Fits Me

My astrological sign is Virgo, which is August 23 through September 23. The Zodiac element is Earth. Researching astrology in Wikipedia revealed a link to Demeter and Persephone. Demeter is the Greek goddess of the harvest. Persephone is her daughter and queen of the Underworld. I love Greek mythology, maybe not to write, but I enjoy reading it.


A Virgo's strengths are loyal, analytical, kind, hardworking, and practical. I can't disagree with any of those. They describe me perfectly. Every single one of them. Weaknesses are shyness, worry, overly critical of self and others, and all work and no play. Again, I can't disagree with those, although I have been working on the overly critical of self and other's weakness.


Animals, healthy food, books, nature and cleanliness are among likes of a Virgo. Here is where I disagree. Animals, yes. I never want to see an animal suffer. If I could rescue every suffering animal, I would. Books, oh absolutely. Hello! I'm a writer! You can't exactly be a writer without being a reader. Nature and cleanliness, yes and yes. Healthy food? Uh, no. I like the thought of healthy food; I don't like to eat healthy food.


Dislikes are right on. I dislike rudeness, asking for help, and taking center stage. Taking center stage is the most difficult in my pursuit of living my dream, but it's worth it to see my words in print. To see people enjoy my stories, my characters, my worlds.


Interestingly enough, Virgos have an attention to detail and humanity, making us one of the most caring of the zodiac signs. We lead organized lives, even when things become chaotic. And true to my sign, my concern for details is so strong that I am overly critical and concerned about things that others don't really care about. I constantly worry about fixing something that may or may not be fixable.

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Coming Up With Character Names

Coming up with character names is tricky. The name chosen needs to fit the character's personality and their physical description. Contemporary novels are slightly easier than historical novels in considering names, but you still need to have that right fit. In The Gangster's Daughter, which was an idea in my mind for many years, I knew immediately that my main character names were going to be Regan and Cameron. There was no doubt about it. Everyone else either did not exist yet, and I had to find the right name, or the name changed. Regan's father, Gavriel, was originally going to be Bruce.


I do a bit of research on nationality when choosing a name, but it doesn't always work. Gavriel is an Italian name. I have some books that I use that break down names by nationality, and I use these but I also use the internet. The internet is a wondrous place to find information. I discovered a website that makes up character names from given criteria. Criteria such as gender, character type, nationality and birth year. I don't always find what I'm looking for there, but it's interesting what it generates. There've been times when I have heard a name in passing and thought 'that is a cool name'.


Historical is harder to come up with names. In The Duke's Daughter, I changed the heroine's name at least five times. I finally settled on Evie, and it fit her perfectly. This is equally true with the hero Xander. His name changed at least five times, as well. In fact, almost all the characters in The Duke's Daughter have had a name change. This is also a story that has been on my mind for many years.


Choosing names for historical characters requires consideration of era, personality, and appearance, while avoiding absurdity. I've come across some names of era's that I wouldn't dare put in a novel, and there are some names that are unique but don't fit the character. Historical names are everywhere between baffling and classic. I take a long time pouring through books and the internet, using every resource I can to find the name that fits my character perfectly.


Surnames are a different story. Going way back, surnames weren't used until after the Norman conquest. They identified an individual's trade, birthplace, physical features, and sometimes father's name. Once surnames came into play, you now have to put two names together that make sense and fit the character. Think of famous character's such as Harry Potter (yes, you caught me). Reading the books, or watching the movies, can you think of this character with any other name? Probably not. It fits his character just as Hagrid, Hermione and Ron.


The main thing I have to remember when I'm trying to come up with the perfect character name is not to let it hang me up. I noted dozens of possibilities, then move on. For my fourth novel (not yet named), I found my two main character names right away, but I have several other characters I have to come up with, so I noted several more. I also need dog names and breeds for this one, so this is going to be a fun one. It might change later, it might not. Typically, I have character names set before writing, so I don't miss any changes.

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The Inspiration Behind The Gangster's Daughter

Pinpointing the inspiration behind any of my books is difficult, and I'll tell you why. Have you ever heard a song that caused goosebumps on your skin? Or a scene in a movie that had you in awe? That is me with a combination of both. I have heard so many songs and seen so many movie scenes that have morphed into my dreams.


I'm not talking about copying a movie scene into a scene in my books. That's illegal. Almost every single spark of an idea I have had for a story has been a scene in my head that I watched from a third person's view in my dreams. I'm standing there watching a part of a story unfold, except it's just one tiny piece and I have to figure out the rest of it. One idea transforms into several more and so on until I have somewhat of a story. But a story is more than just a string of scenes. There has to be a plot. There has to be a theme. Characters, who are deep and flawed, like they are real people.


My inspiration behind The Gangster's Daughter stemmed from a single idea of a modern-day betrothal. I love history and history is what I have always written. There were several ways I tried to bend this story into a historical piece, but no matter how hard I tried, it wouldn't fit that way. And I couldn't be happier that it turned out how it did. This book didn't belong to the historical romance genre. It's romantic suspense through and through.


I needed Regan to be a strong, independent woman and she could do that best in the modern day world. It's true that many women have fought decade after decade for equal rights, and rightly so! But I felt that she would have been her best person today rather than say…1910's or 1920's.


The wonderful thing about story-weaving is that you can make up anything you want to, as long as the plot and characters are strong. Without those, you've got nothing.


I don't want to give away too much until people have a chance to actually read the book! For those of you who have signed up for my email list, in my July newsletter I've shared some of my playlist. My playlists are the inspiration behind everything I write. I thrive on music. I urge you to look up some of those songs and give them a listen, and after you read the book – try to picture a scene to one of those songs! And that is my inspiration behind every word I write.

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What Do I Do When I'm Not Writing?

Begin camping season! Usually we start our camping season in April, but because of unforeseen circumstances, we could not start until Memorial Weekend. The RV dealership did not finish the warranty work and winterizing, leading to nearly $2,000 in damages. Every single faucet (kitchen, bathroom, shower), toilet seal and the water heater had issues. We were lucky to bring it to Pleasureland RV in St. Cloud (MN). They fixed all the issues caused by not winterizing and more. And because we put up a fight, the other dealer paid them for the damages because of their negligence in not winterizing.


I needed this past weekend away, put my feet up and relax with a cocktail or a beer and enjoy some friends. Something that I could not do for a while. We've had a hell of a winter, and I've been holed up getting The Gangster's Daughter off and running. It has all been worth it. Or it will be when I get the proof in my hand this weekend.


Camping has become increasingly popular since the start of COVID-19. Reservations are hard to get. Especially if you like state parks like we do. I don't blame people for it. Camping is a wonderful way to spend some time outside. I admit I'm pampered with our camper, but I wasn't always this way.


I started camping when I was sixteen, a long, long, very long time ago, when my first actual boyfriend, Brian, and his family introduced me to camping. Tent camping at its finest. His mom taught me how to make cheesy potatoes and we had the best times. We camped for many years, from AJ Acres in Clearwater (MN) to Brainerd International Speedway (MN) for the Muscle Car Shootout to Nisswa (MN). I believe we did Pequot Lakes one year. We camped with his brothers and their wives, with friends, and we camped every chance we could get. And those were memories I will take with me forever.


Camping extended into my first marriage, although not as much. We did camp at BIR a few different times, but not much other than that. In 2015, Joe and I began camping in the back of his pickup truck. From that moment, I vowed I was getting a camper. And wouldn't you know… the following spring, we bought our first travel. We upgraded to the top-of-the-line travel trailer last year, and I think we're set for a while.


We don't have any reservations so far and Chad Strege in Luck, WI, is our only option for camping. We have several weekends that are already booked with family activities, and my first book's release is also affecting our event schedule. With all that being said, I can't complain.


Camping is the best time, whether you're in a tent or in a camper. Sit around the campfire with a cocktail or a smore, with your significant other and/or your kids, and enjoy life. You won't regret it. Unless you don't like bugs, bears, and you're afraid of the dark.

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Why I Became A Writer

Ever since I could remember, I’ve been a dreamer. Second to that, I’ve been a reader. I remember in grade school doing two things: eagerly awaiting the Scholastic book order time and hoping I would be able to order books, and writing.

One of my favorite books when I was learning to read was The Wednesday Witch by Ruth Chew. I think I liked it because the witch rode on a vacuum cleaner names James, instead of a broom.
I tended to read mysteries and drama, especially grade-school drama from Nate the Great to Scholastic Apple Books. Four books stuck out to me that I remember reading multiple times during grade school. Multiple.

Nothing’s Fair in Fifth Grade and Sixth Grade Can Really Kill You by Barthe DeClements, The Secret of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien, The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright, The Baby-Sitters Club by Ann M. Martin and then Sweet Valley High by Francine Pascal.

Secrets In The Attic by Carol Beach York I probably read the most because the main character’s name was Jodie, and that isn’t a name or the exact spelling you see often. I could think of dozens more if I really did the research and tried to remember them all. My tastes of reading material then and now are all over the place from mystery to fantasy to romance. If it’s a good story, it’s worth reading.

I cherished trips to the mall so I could visit B Dalton Bookstore. I remember exactly where it was in Brookdale Shopping Mall in Brooklyn Center, MN. In later years, B Dalton closed down and Waldenbooks opened. I remember exactly where it was in Ridgedale Shopping Mall in Minnetonka, MN. It’s funny the things you remember.

I wish I would have kept my writings from grade school. I did; however, keep my very first, handwritten book that I wrote just after I graduated from high school. It wasn’t very good. In fact, most of what I wrote in high school was crap.

It was only recently when I really began paying attention and honing my skills. The reading has never stopped. The writing has never stopped. I always wanted to be a writer, I never thought it would take me this long to get here, but I’m glad it did. I wouldn’t be the writer I am today if I didn’t have all of these years of practice behind me.

After I graduated high school, starting out with a word processor, I began to get serious with writing and eventually finished a book. I sent query letters to several literary agents at that time, back when self-publishing was unheard of. Out of probably twenty letters I sent, I received one back that requested the first three chapters. I was positively thrilled. But…as you probably know, it went nowhere.

To be honest, I’m glad it went nowhere. This way may be a lot more work, but in self-publishing, this work is mine and I hold all the rights to everything I write. Traditional publishing houses, own the rights when they pick up an author so the author no longer has any rights to their work. That might not be for me. Not right now. Not when I have worked so long, and so hard to get where I am right now, on the cusp of publishing my first novel.

Not only on the cusp of publishing my first romantic suspense novel, my second one -historical romance - is in the editing phase, my third one – also a historical romance -is in progress of being written, and the fourth one….well, I’ll share a little secret with my readers…I gave a hint of my fourth novel in my first novel. See if you can find it!

For now, my writing love remains with historical romance and romantic suspense. You never know what I might delve into for the future. I’ve always loved a good fantasy novel, witches and wizards especially. The good thing about writing historical is the further you go back, the harder it is to really know how it really was. You can play around, to a point. Facts still need to be somewhat as accurate as you can get them otherwise your credibility is gone, but with fantasy a whole new world can be made up.

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