Today Wednesday Writers Welcomes June McCrary Jacobs to the blog.
My apologies to June. When I posted her Wednesday Writer interview this morning I forgot to add her giveaways. So, here they are. Just like or leave a comment on this post, or like or leave a comment on her giveaway post to be eligible to be entered in the drawing.
Thank you for inviting me to spend some time with your readers, Catherine.
We’re glad to have you here, June. Would you please tell the readers about the book that is being showcased today.
‘Robin’s Reward’ is Book One in my Bonita Creek Trilogy. This inspirational romance is set in the fictional town of Bonita Creek, California, located in the magnificent coastal mountains of the Mendocino coastal region. Robin Bennett is the town’s librarian. She was abandoned by her first husband, Thomas, because he wanted to pursue a career in professional music. Jeff Clark comes to Bonita Creek and enters Robin’s life quite by accident. The story is about their journey as individuals and a couple as they focus on following God’s path for their lives.
How did you come up with the concept for this book?
I love to spend time in the Mendocino County region of California. The scenery is breath-taking, and I find the serenity and peace there benefits my mind, body, and soul. I set my trilogy in this location so I could share my affection for the area with readers. I wanted to write a series about realistic characters who are experiencing second chances.
I try to accept the fact that challenges and tragedies are going to occur frequently in my life. Those negative things are a natural part of life. As I’ve grown and progressed in my own life, I strive to learn from the hard times and obstacles I’ve faced. I wanted to share, through my fictional writing, how people can heal and move on to live happier, healthier lives.
What are you working on now? Do you have a release date for this book?
I’m working on two stories right now. One is the second installment of the Bonita Creek Trilogy, ‘Penny’s Promise’. It’s the story of Robin’s best friend and cousin, Penny Ralston, a master seamstress and aspiring couture designer. Penny is a shy, introverted young woman who must work daily to cope with her hesitancy at dealing with the world and all of its chaos. I hope to release this book in 2016.
My concurrent project is a work of historical fiction set during and after World War II. This book is set in New Orleans and is loosely based on the life and military career of one of my late uncles. I worked with him on a narrative history of his military career about ten years ago, and I’ve decided to set his interesting journey down on paper for others to read and enjoy. I do not yet have a working title for this book.
Tell the readers how you got started writing.
When I was twelve years old I set the goal of becoming a published fiction author. In 2007, I began designing sewing projects for magazines. Soon I was asked to write a quarterly column for ‘Sewing World’ magazine in the United Kingdom, sharing my thoughts about the sewing scene here in America. I moved on to writing some non-fiction columns about sewing and crafting for other magazines published in this country.
In 2010 I began to write fiction. Most of it has never seen the light of day or been submitted for Publication, but it was great practice for me. I began reading about the craft of writing in magazines and books since it had been more than a few years since I had taken a college writing class. In the autumn of 2012 I found the call for submissions for the 2013 Holiday Tale Contest from Cedar Fort Inc. online. I wrote and submitted ‘A Holiday Miracle in Apple Blossom’. I found out a few weeks later I had won the contest and that my debut novella (around 28,000 words) would be published on October 8th, 2013. As you can imagine, I was euphoric about this news!
I worked on ‘Robin’s Reward’ for over four years, and released it on April 28th, 2015. It is a full-length novel of around 89,000 words.
Are you pen and paper writer, strictly computer, or some combo of the two?
I type my manuscripts on the computer, but when I do research I generally write everything down on paper and file it in a folder exclusively dedicated to that story.
Character names are important in writing. How do you choose your characters’ names?
I decide upon the character’s age group first. Then I try to find a name that was commonly accepted for that gender in that particular time period. Robin in this book is named after one of my close childhood friends. I’ve always enjoyed the name, and since the character of Robin is a master gardener, I felt naming her after a beautiful bird from nature would be appropriate. I’ve received positive feedback about her name from my friends and other readers.
What’s the first book you ever remember reading as a child?
Dr. Seuss’s ‘The Cat in the Hat Comes Back’! My Grandma McCrary sent me a copy of the book (from New Orleans) for my sixth or seventh birthday. I still love reading the rhythmic verse in this story, and Dr. Seuss’s fun artwork and use of only a few colors is priceless.
How often do you read non-fiction?
I read non-fiction often. As a sewing designer and fan of all things textile, I read as many sewing, quilting, crafting, art, decorating, and design books I can get my hands on. Cooking is one of my favorite activities, too, so I enjoy reading cookbooks and bakebooks when I can. I also like to read travel and gardening books.
Most writers love books—our walls are lined with them. Name 3 favorite books you use while writing, 3 fiction books (and the genre), and if you have them, 3 different magazines you read regularly.
I do love to read as much as I can each day.
Books I use when writing: ‘The Large Print American Heritage Dictionary’, ‘The Large Print Roget’s II Thesaurus’, and ‘The Holy Bible’—New American Standard Version.
Three favorite fiction books: ‘Robin’s Reward’ by yours truly. ‘A Holiday Miracle in Apple Blossom’ by yours truly. ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens.
Three writing magazines I read regularly are: ‘The Writer’, ‘Writer’s Digest’, and ‘Publisher’s Weekly’.
Three favorite magazines I read for personal pleasure: ‘American Patchwork & Quilting’, ‘Country Living’, and ‘Southern Living’.
Tell us a little bit about your hobbies outside of writing.
Vintage Dresser Scarf Bolster Pillow’
I’ve enjoyed sewing and hand-embroidery since I was about eight years old. Readers can view a portfolio of my published sewing designs on my website at: http://www.junemccraryjacobs.com/portfolio-of-designs/
‘Vintage Valentine Pillow’
I also like to make quilts for gifts and for the children’s shelter in our county. I love to read, take photographs of gardens we visit, and visit historic homes and museums. I enjoy listening to baseball on the radio. I also like to cook and bake when I have the time to enjoy it.
‘Primitive Jack ‘o Lantern Treat Bag’
What do you do for relaxation?
My favorite activity of all is spending time with my awesome husband! We like to listen to baseball games, watch old movies, and visit botanical gardens, museums, and historic homes together. I also find reading and listening to music to be very relaxing.
We like to travel. What’s the most historic place you’ve visited?
We enjoy visiting historic homes and history museums, so I have multiple answers to this question! I’ve been fortunate to enjoy several tours at The Hearst Castle in San Simeon. My favorite one of these tours was the Christmas tour in late December a few years ago. The bedecked trees were stunning! The home and gardens are exquisite at any time of year, but there was just something memorable about seeing the flowing red satin ribbons cascading down the evergreen trees—lovely.
I’ve also visited the Patterson and Shinn Homes in Fremont, California. They are quaint and simple in their beauty. The Dunsmuir House in Oakland, California, is elegant—especially when decorated for Christmas. I particularly like the Craftsman style of architecture, and the Sun House at the Grace Hudson Museum in Ukiah, California, is one of my favorite examples of this style. The list goes on and on . . .
It’s been a pleasure having you here today. As you say goodbye, can you leave the readers with an encapsulation of your life’s philosophy? (a quote, a Bible verse, a precept you live by or have tried to instill in your children?)
I love this question, Catherine; and I appreciate the opportunity to share here. I have tried to follow the Golden Rule since I was a child. ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ This simple verse has served me well throughout my life. I’ve learned it’s easy to put this into practice when someone responds in kind, but it is difficult to accomplish when you’re being bullied or treated unkindly . . .
Thanks for being with us, June. Now here’s an excerpt from June’s book
JUNE McCRARY JACOBS
Bonita Creek’s librarian Robin Bennett is heartbroken after being abandoned by her husband, Thomas. The mysterious and handsome Jeff Clarke arrives unexpectedly and touches Robin’s life with his wit and warmth. Then, without warning, Jeff’s harsh words and abrasive actions scare her off, and Robin’s hope of finding true love withers again.
Just when it seems Robin and Jeff might have a future, Susan Stinson, whose cruel taunting has plagued Robin since they met as young teens, decides Jeff should be hers, not Robin’s. Susan’s anger and jealousy escalate dangerously. Her vindictiveness threatens the foundation of Jeff and Robin’s young relationship.
Robin’s journey through the peaks and valleys of her life meanders along the twists and turns of new challenges. Is a relationship which began with both parties harboring secrets destined to survive? Can they move past their troubles and the obstacles in their path to find love and happiness together? When their pasts rear their ugly heads, Jeff and Robin must use their faith to remain strong and true. But will it be enough for them to embrace a life of love, trials, and blessings . . . together?
I’m as hot and sticky as the center of a freshly-roasted campfire marshmallow, Miss Praise.” Perspiration trickled past Robin’s sunburned neck, under her collar, and down her back. Her blouse was plastered to her skin.
“I’m not feeling very feminine or lady-like in this condition, if you catch my drift. This brings us to my next question. What was I thinking starting up with this garden renovation project on the hottest March afternoon ever recorded in Bonita Creek? Am I nuts? Wait—don’t answer that.”
Some sympathy from Miss Praise, like purring or even winding herself around Robin’s legs, would’ve been comforting. Instead, the elderly tabby was dozing comfortably in her cozy quilt-lined basket on the shaded porch. Robin was drained from tangling with her vintage hydrangea bush for the past four hours.
She’d read gardening was great exercise, but it gave Robin’s thoughts too many chances to wander. She dreaded those dark, dreary spaces in her mind permanently occupied by unhappy memories and heart-wrenching regrets. Since she wasn’t accomplishing much anyway, she released her shovel to take a break with a refreshing glass or two of her favorite iced tea. She straightened up and stretched her aching arms over her head.
“I’m parched, how about you? Want something cold to drink?” She spoke in the direction of the faded gray cat. Apparently, Miss Praise had heard enough of Robin’s whining. The cat yawned, stretched, flicked her tail, and hopped daintily out of her basket. She lumbered down the brick path to seek refuge in the peaceful back garden. Naturally, Robin hadn’t expected Miss Praise to respond, but talking to the cat helped her feel connected to her Grandma Estelle. The older woman had passed on a few years ago and Robin still ached for her grandmother’s presence. She kneaded her fatigued lower back with her knuckles and sighed deeply.
As she untied the ribbon of her straw hat and shook out her damp curly hair, Robin sensed someone’s gaze. A prickly feeling caused her to rotate her body where she came face-to-face with an unfamiliar—but attractive—man. A hint of amusement lit up his clean-shaven face as he stood on the walkway in front of her garden gate. When the stranger chuckled, Robin’s damp cheeks flamed scarlet. She wondered how long he’d been standing there listening to her grunt and groan and, well, whine.
Since he couldn’t possibly have seen Miss Praise, he probably assumed Robin had been talking to herself. Swell. Just another example of the truckload of awkward moments in life when Robin wished she could vanish on demand. Speaking through clenched teeth, she attempted to use humor to cover up her self-consciousness.
“Instead of breaking your neck staring at me, how about making yourself useful by helping me dig up this stubborn hydrangea?” Her embarrassment grew when the stranger’s sole response was a chorus of boisterous laughter. Lord, please get me out of here—now! Robin’s humiliation took over her common sense, and her sole goal was to flee. Grabbing her garden hat, she slammed it onto the gate post as she wrenched off her work gloves and tossed them on the ground near her birdbath. The sound of the man’s hearty laughter echoing in her ears brought her lifelong dislike of being the object of teasing and taunting racing to the surface.
Like most school children, she’d suffered through her share of teasing and even some bullying. Truth be told, she was still occasionally bullied by a former classmate, Susan Stinson, almost ten years after they’d graduated. Robin had expected—and hoped—in her current stage of life, halfway between twenty-five and thirty, she would’ve overcome this affliction. The scorching feeling in her cheeks told her otherwise. I so do not want to deal with this guy.
Attempting to give the illusion of self-confidence, Robin lengthened her spine and held her chin high as she stalked toward her cottage. In the safety of her cottage’s interior she’d find the solace and peace she was seeking. Far too often in the past she’d allowed her pride and confidence to be battered by a male. Okay, one male in particular. She vowed to handle her reaction in the current situation differently. She was determined to spare herself one more millisecond of humiliation. Today I’m going to stand up to my tormentors. All right, so maybe this stranger isn’t exactly tormenting me. Still, everyone knows laughing at a lady isn’t polite.
Robin wasn’t going to stand there and let some stranger, however handsome he might be—and this guy was definitely above-average in the looks department—laugh at her in her own garden. Hot, briny tears stung her eyes. Time seemed to slow down, and she couldn’t make it to the front door fast enough. Embarrassing incidents from her not so distant past charged to the forefront of her mind as she made her way up the front porch steps.
At the front gate, Jeff froze. He’d offended her. His body felt as if he’d just finished running five miles at a training pace, as it had been since he’d first happened upon the woman. His heart thundered in his ears when he’d first seen her, his vision honed in on a lovely brunette. She was hard at work in her garden on such an oppressive afternoon. He’d never seen anyone so focused on one task. She appeared to be in a frenzy, trying to free the roots of a bush from the sun-dried, hardened soil.
He had to admit, she looked as if she were accustomed to hard work. Strong, fit arms and legs peeked out from her short-sleeved blouse and khaki shorts. She sported a wide-brimmed hat and appeared unafraid of hard work if the sweaty sheen covering her neck and face were any kind of evidence. Smudges of dirt adorned her elbows, knees, and—he couldn’t help but notice—shapely calves.
He’d been walking through the streets surrounding his rental home. Historical architecture was one of his hobbies, and he was checking out the architectural styles located on the streets in this older section of Bonita Creek, California. He’d already identified Craftsman, Victorian, Italianate, Tudor, cottage, ranch, and bungalow style homes. His mind, locked on his thoughts, was jarred when he heard a frustrated voice asking why she was trying to renovate her garden on this hot afternoon. The voice held such conviction he stopped to see if the speaker was seeking his personal opinion. When he realized the sun-kissed gardener was alone in the garden, he became enthralled by her movements and the timbre of her voice.
Unsure of how long he’d been staring, Jeff was jerked out of his trance when the woman turned around and challenged him to come into the garden to help her dig up the bush. Embarrassed he’d been caught staring, his natural reaction was to laugh. Now the woman rushed away from him toward the door of the cottage dominating the center of the property.
This scenario was not unfolding as he wanted. He blamed his complete lack of understanding of women and their mysterious ways for this latest gaffe. Now you’ve done it. You are clueless, Clarke. He needed to come up with something witty and wise to redeem himself. Otherwise, he’d lose a chance to meet this fascinating gardener who had his curiosity.
BUY LINKS FOR ROBIN’S REWARD
AMAZON BARNES & NOBLE
About the Author
Award-winning author, June McCrary Jacobs, was the winner of Cedar Fort Publishing’s 2013 Holiday Tale Contest for her debut novella, ‘A Holiday Miracle in Apple Blossom’. ‘Robin’s Reward’ is her first full-length novel, and is set in her favorite location in California—the Mendocino coastal region. This book is the first installment of the ‘Bonita Creek Trilogy’.
June’s original sewing, quilting, and stitchery designs have been published in over one hundred books, magazines, and blogs in the past few years. When she’s not writing, reading, or sewing, June enjoys cooking, walking, and visiting art and history museums. She also enjoys touring historic homes and gardens and strolling around the many historic Gold Rush towns in the Sierra Nevada foothills. In the summertime you can find June at a variety of county fairs and the California State Fair admiring the sewing projects, quilts, and handiwork other inspired seamstresses, quilters, craftspeople, and artists have created.
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