Posts tagged with: Last Chance

Ruby Release: Last Chance Knit & Stitch by Hope Ramsay

k&SwshadowIn celebration of the release date of Last Chance Knit & Stitch, I asked Ricki Wilson, a long time resident of Last Chance, South Carolina, and the day shift waitress at the Kountry Kitchen Café, to join me on the blog today.  Ricki knows more about what’s going on in Last Chance than just about anyone, except perhaps Ruby Rhodes, who as y’all know is the proprietor of the Cut ‘n’ Curl.

Me:  Welcome Ricki.

Ricki:  Hey, y’all.  I can’t say I’m a regular reader of your blog, since I have no desire to become a writer.  But I do love the books y’all write.  I’m afraid that these days my love life is pretty much lived vicariously.

Me: Why is that?

Well, I’m made a bunch of bad mistakes when I was young and stupid.  I could have married Clay Rhodes after we ran off to Nashville together, but I dumped him for my ex, Randy, who turned out to be a no-account loser who embezzled a bunch of money from the Music City record company he worked for. He left me flat broke with nowhere to go but back home to east nowhere South Carolina.  I arrived just in time to see Clay make a fool of himself over Jane Coblentz.  Now he’s a married man with a baby on the way.  And all I can do is feel sorry for what I lost.  My only fun is going down to Dot’s Spot on Wednesdays and Thursdays to listen to Clay play fiddle.  I know I shouldn’t be doing that.  But, you know, it’s hard sometimes to be alone.  Course, the older I get the harder it is to wait on tables all day and try to line-dance with the boys at Dot’s on a Wednesday evening.  You know what I mean?

Me: I guess being a waitress is a tough job, huh?

Ricki:  You have no idea.  If I don’t get tips I don’t make ends meet.  And to think that once I used to buy all my clothes at designer stores in Nashville.  Now I wear a uniform to work.  ‘Course all of the money Randy supposedly had never did buy me love.  I know in my head I’m better off alone.  But in my heart, maybe not so much.  Like you said in your nice introduction, there are some up sides to being a waitress.  I hear a lot of gossip before anyone else does. 

Me: So what’s new in town?

Ricki: Simon Wolfe has come home.  Do you know Simon?  He’s the former place kicker for the 1990 Champion Davis High Rebels– the one who won the big game for us with his boot.  Well, anyway, he left town 18 years ago after a big ol’ row with his momma and daddy.  I don’t really know what the fight was about, only that he never again set foot in this town until just a couple of days ago.  He’s back on account of his daddy’s death –Ira Wolfe keeled over right there in the showroom at Wolfe Ford.  I tell you, I heard that Ira’s business is in deep trouble.  Folks are saying the dealership might close down altogether now that Ira’s gone.  And I don’t expect Simon to have any interest in keeping a car dealership running.  I’ve heard he just wants to settle his daddy’s estate and get on back to California where he’s been living all these years.  But I heard Thelma Hanks say that the estate is in such a mess that Simon’s gonna have to stay for a while to untangle things. 

Me:  Anything else going on?

Ricki: Well, aside from Ira’s death, the only other gossip in town is about Pat Canaday, the owner of the Knit & Stitch yarn shop.  She’s up and run away from home.  She left home while her husband was on a fishing trip with his bass-hole buddies.  You won’t believe this, but she put a  note on the front door of the yarn shop telling everyone in town that she expects her daughter, Molly, to take things over.

It’ll be a cold day in July if that happens.  Molly’s a mechanic working for LeRoy down at Bill’s Grease Pit.  She and her best friend, Les Hays, are restoring an old Shelby Mustang they’re planning to auction off.  Molly never was a girly kind of girl, you know?  So if this is Pat’s way of trying to force Molly become a girly girl and give up her car business for the yarn shop, I think it’s going to fail. 

Course the knitters of Last Chance are up in arms over this.  They aren’t going to let the yarn shop close without a big fight.  Molly’s going to have to figure something out.

She’s also got a big real estate problem.  Simon Wolfe’s leased the old abandoned building right up the street.  I heard he’s using the place as studio space for his painting — he’s some kind of fancy artist or something.  But Molly wanted that building for her car business and with the Ira’s dealership closed Molly doesn’t have any place to work on that Shelby Mustang.  Molly is fit to be tied about this.  I’ll tell you what.

I predict the sparks are gonna fly between those two.  Not that I’m predicting anything matrimonial, you know.  I’m just saying that you’ve got two bull headed people fighting over one abandoned building.

Me: Speaking of forecasts has Miriam Randall handed out any advice recently?

Ricki:  No, ma’am.  Not that I know.  I sure do wish Miriam would give me a forecast.  I’m tired of being alone, and it seems like all the really good-looking men in town are either married or too young for me.  I tell you what, that Molly Canaday should treat Les Hays a lot better than she does or she’s going to lose that boy.  I only wish I was young enough to make a play for him, myself.  That is one nice looking man. 

But, you know, I reckon every single waitress in the world sings the same blues.  We’re all just waiting on the day when Prince Charming comes waltzing through the doors, sits down, and orders a cup of coffee. 

And there’s no chance of that happening.  So, I reckon I’ll be reading a lot of romance books late at night.  Charlene Polk suggested that I get a cat, to keep me company.  But, to be honest, I don’t really like cats and I don’t see myself as a crazy, single cat lady.  Maybe I should get me one of those cute little dogs you can dress up.  That might be fun.   What do y’all think?

Me: I’m a cat person Ricki.  But maybe some of the Rubies have ideas for you on what kind of pet would be right for you.  And in the meantime, I wouldn’t give up on Prince Charming just yet.  You just never know what’s going to happen in Last Chance.  Things have a way of working themselves out in your little town. 

Ricki I sure do hope so.  And I do thank you for having me here today.  Y’all take care now, and come on by and visit at the Kountry Kitchen if you’re ever in town.

* * * *

One lucky commenter on today’s blog will win an autographed copy of Last Chance Knit and Stitch. 

Buy it at    Buy it at Barns & Noble    Buy it at Walmart

How NOT to Write a Series

When my Ruby Sisters asked me to blog about writing a book series, I stupidly agreed.  Then I realized that I didn’t set out to write a series.  I just blundered into it.

It started when I decided to write a novel set in the small South Carolina town where I spent my childhood summers.  No, it was not Last Chance.  It was a place named Denmark.  The book I wrote was titled Stealing Home.  Unfortunately it didn’t go over well with editors and I collected dozens of rejections.  A wise person would have stopped right then.

Not me.  I decided to write a Rom Com retelling of Cinderella featuring a heroine named Caroline Rhodes who comes from Denmark, SC.  I didn’t want to do the whole step-sister thing, so I gave my heroine three funny brothers: Stone, Clay and Tulane Rhodes. Sadly the book, For Love or Money was not well liked by New York editors either.

So, did I give up?  Of course not.  Caroline had brothers, right?  So I wrote another Rom Com about NASCAR driver Tulane and a pink race car.  This book was not even remotely set in Denmark, and it garnered some really nasty rejections.

Surely by now I really should have given up.  But no.  There were more brothers.  So I trotted out Clay and penned Welcome to Last Chance.  This book was entirely set in my small town, and I changed the name of the place in order to give me more flexibility in creating a somewhat humorous world.  And of course I went back and “borrowed” a bunch of characters from between the pages of previous attempts.

I knew the minute I finished this book that it was the best thing I had ever written.  But I couldn’t get any agents or publishers to look at it.  No one was buying contemporary romance.  So I finally put that book on the shelf (without any rejections) and gave up on Last Chance.  I moved on to seriously writing fantasy.

Flash forward five years (and ten years after writing the first book set in Denmark).  In 2009, I decided to enter all three of my now-dusty “southern” romances in the Golden Heart.  To my astonishment, For Love or Money finaled, making me a Ruby Sister and giving me a chance to pitch my often rejected stories one last time.

The wonderful agent, Elaine English, took me on.  She read all three books and sat me down at the RWA meeting that year and said, “Welcome to Last Chance is exactly the kind of small town story that editors are looking for these days, but the other two have to be completely rewritten so that the action takes place in the town.  The books need a common setting, because the setting is almost like a continuing character.  And you need a series arc too.”

I stared at her like she’d dropped in from Mars.  “Series Arc?  What the heck is that?  The heroes are siblings.  Isn’t that enough?”

She shook her head.  “No.  You need a narrative that ties the individual books together.”

“Uh huh.”  I nodded and smiled like I knew what the heck she was talking about.

I went back to the drawing board and spent a couple of months trying to wrap my brain about this whole series arc thing.  Finally I came up with a plot line that moves from book to book.  It involves a seven-year-old girl, Haley, with an imaginary (and somewhat sorrowful) angel.  This little girl’s story goal is to get the angel back to Heaven.  I had to rewrite parts of Welcome to Last Chance to insert this story, and then a magical thing happened.  Haley’s story became a driving point for the stories in the remaining books.  As I wrote their synopses, the existence of the series arc made the story arcs in each book just a little bit easier to figure out.  Haley’s problem gets steadily worse in each book, and reaches a crisis in the last book where it is resolved.  The resolution of the series arc is so tightly intertwined with the romance plot in the fourth book that they are almost indistinguishable.

I pitched my agent.  She loved it.  She went out and sold it.

So, if you’ve been paying attention here are the takeaways:

  1.  Start by writing the book of your heart regardless of whether or not it might make a good series. And don’t ever give up.
  2. Create a setting that is as real as you can possibly make it.  And make sure all your stories are set there.  Think about your setting as if it were a continuing character in your series.
  3. You will need more than just a cast of connected characters for a series to work.  You need a series arc with its own turning points, crisis, and resolution.  Just think about Harry Potter and how the series arc is all about Harry’s relationship with Voldemort and you’ll get the idea.
  4. Each book’s story arc has to stand on its own.  But the series arc can affect the action that goes on in the story.  Study Harry Potter, you can learn a lot about the action between series arc and story arc.  Rowling has a plot for each book, but the plot usually reaches a crisis that involves Voldemort in some way.
  5. And once you discover that you’re writing a series, you will undoubtedly need to keep copious notes about dates and times and events.  I have a bible that I use for Last Chance that has birth dates and death dates of characters, events of major importance, and other small details about character background.  I also have a master list of town characters and which books they appear in.

So, I hope I’ve saved you from making all the mistakes I made as I discovered that I was writing a series.  If you have questions or suggestions, please comment away.

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