Longsheng, China

b0df697654e0a48eb4e0b234f9415431 SONY DSC I am feeling a sense of nostalgia and wanderlust. My thoughts often drift to this magnificent place and so I wanted to share with you photos of the setting for my novel Broken Smiles. This is how I picture my village. I’ve backpacked all through China when I lived there. Longsheng was by far my favorite place. That is why I chose to make it the main setting for my book. The terraced rice are called the Dragon’s Backbone. I have awoken to the sides of the mountains flaming in early dawn. The mist is the breath of sleeping giants. It inhales and exhales, rich with life. Content. Peaceful. B16 cb6ebe430718e285b6d47983ed6c8880 46fb950779725299fe4f5b905fd4bea9 FullSizeRender-14

The people are unlike any I have ever met. The women never cut their hair. For a small fee, they insist to carry your bags and help you across the river.

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I “helped” to plant some stacks of rice and discovered I was doing it all wrong. There is an age old system to everything in China. Including their maze-like plumbing system made from bamboo. I was a grateful traveler.

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Whenever I opened my laptop and cracked my fingers to dig in to writing my book, it was like opening a book of spells. I would escape back in time to my favorite place. The many smells of rich earth and water buffalo, of sharp spices and tricking water, of steamed rice and bamboo soup, would rush into my mind. It was easy, and yet difficult, to try to capture the setting. I wanted to do it justice. So, when I received reviews like the ones below, it made me happy.

“The beautiful descriptive settings in places like China and Morocco, sweep you away as if you were there. Not only do you “see” what it would looks like there, but you also learn many things about the culture.”

“I loved how the book was set in China. I have never been there but it made me want to go.”

“The author has an incredible way of describing the scenes (especially in China) that even though I’ve never been there – I can picture it so well.”

“**Warning, this book will give you the travel bug after you read it, you may feel like spontaneously buying a ticket to China!”

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Happy travels! Thanks for stopping by. I love to hear from you. What are some of the settings in your novels or some of your favorite spots to travel? – Tara

Photos are found on China-travel, SkylanD, and my own photo albums 🙂

Featured Books Friday!

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Here we go again with Featured Books Friday! Click here, here, or here for other great book blurbs I’ve had in the past.

You are welcome to share—in the comment section of this blog—your name, book, purchase link, and a 500 word blurb or scene from your novel.

You are welcomed and encouraged to share on your social media sites. It’s exciting to see that readers are introduced to books they would have normally not found otherwise.

Thank you for contributing!

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Here’s my blurb and link for Broken Smiles (women’s romance)…

Laidan smiled over at Kort and took note how he dwarfed the Chinese. Despite his size, he looked graceful as he slowly circled his arms about his body.

With eyes closed, he stepped forward and turned with both hands pushing forward as if to ward off an attacker. Then slowly he, along with the group, brought their fingertips toward the earth and circled their head with one hand while they took yet another step forward and balanced on the other foot.

While Laidan watched Kort, she thought of his fighting skills and the success he’d had in Mixed Martial Arts. She wondered if it felt strange to him to be doing all of these moves in slow motion. From the look of peace she saw upon his brow, she decided that he was a natural, and that tai chi was an inner fight. The storm brewed inside as the external motions were peaceful and slow. As the fight for balance between body and mind came together, inner peace was found.

For Laidan, it was a moment to connect with herself. As her mind relaxed, she felt again the calm within the storm. She thought of the night before, standing in the raging river, holding fast to Rafe as the water swirled about them. He calmed her. She realized he still probably didn’t know much about her, at least her biggest secret of being a musical icon, and she wanted to keep it that way. When she was around him, music felt different. It was as if the notes were brighter and the words she sang had more meaning.

Now that Rafe had entered her mind, it proved hard to concentrate on the slow moves. She thought how when he’d kissed her forehead, it had been the most intimate kiss she had ever experienced. Her pulse began to race, and suddenly tai chi moved at a snail’s pace. She closed her eyes, hoping it would help calm her now-excited mind. She followed along with the instructor, but inside she was losing the battle for inner peace.

Rafe brought so many new emotions. He threw her off-tilt and yet at the same time gave her balance. After their talk beside the river, Laidan realized how much they were alike. Both of them had been slaves to separate industries that had made them lose the love and passion found in their natural talents.

Even though she tried to concentrate on inner peace and the simple slow moves, words to another new song sprang rapidly to the forefront of her thoughts:

War, you claim war within my mind

Raging water, blowing wind, no safe place I find

Pulses pounding, beating hearts

Running fast, worlds apart

Then you kiss me on my brow

And silence enters in

Inner peace deep inside,

And true life can begin

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Thanks for stopping by!

Tara

Featured Books Friday!

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The kick off to Featured Books Friday was awesome last time! Thank you to all who participated and purchased books. Please check it out if you want by clicking HERE.

I will be doing the same thing this week.

In the comments put the title, your name, genre, and purchase link along with a blurb or scene from your book under 500 words. (please no erotica or over the top violence)

Here’s mine:

Broken Smiles by Tara Mayoros. Women’s contemporary romance.  http://www.amazon.com/Broken-Smiles-Tara-Mayoros-ebook/dp/B00NU69UMU/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1429659605&sr=8-1-spell&keywords=broken+smils

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Taking her first look at the doctor, Laidan shrank in her seat.

Quickly assessing her appearance, she groaned, thinking about her reflection in the mirror earlier that morning.

Standing at the front of the room, he held the audience captive. He stood tall and fit like an unyielding tree. It grounded Laidan, and for some reason she thought of roots climbing up her legs, holding her captive. An air of confidence swam about him. His brown hair fell long enough to reveal a small wave. Her heart that had skipped a beat moments earlier, was all but pounding now.

The doctor’s voice rang confidant and clear as he spoke. “And that is why I have visited a few hospitals here in the States. The fact of the matter is — I need funding. These kids need your support.” His hand came to his face and rubbed his cheek as if he wasn’t used to its smoothness. Looking up to the slideshow, Laidan noticed how his eyes softened at the sight of the children standing in front of the humble building made of concrete and rocks. The dense backdrop of banana trees and hanging vines seemed to warm the hospital chill around her. The children made funny faces at the camera, and she smiled, imagining the relationship the doctor had with his patients.

He turned to the audience, eyes scanning the room, as if he dared anyone to not help out. His brown eyes passed over her dismissively. Her heart dropped.

Then, very pointedly, his eyes shot back to hers. They held her gaze in a comfortable moment. A shot of butterflies injected straight to her stomach. Her eyes perused his face. His brow showed poise, his easy presence filled the entire room, and his returning smile disclosed a small tease. She didn’t think about how she looked or that she had bloodshot eyes — she knew in that moment he saw beyond her appearance. A blush rose to her face and tickled at her ears.

She felt her friend shaking her rather aggressively.

Andi whispered impatiently in her ear. “I said, are you cold? Do you want my jacket?”

“No, why?”

“Well, your arms are completely covered in goose bumps.”

****

Thanks for stopping by –

Tara

Crawl out of the hole when writing a memoir.

Sitting alone in a crowded hole

Demons possess my inner soul

Caught in a place I can’t escape

The only way is to sit and wait

Fight the thoughts that encompass my mind.

Hurry up, I’ll soon go blind!

Blind to the consciousness of right and wrong

To lose that feeling, everything’s gone

Be strong enough to conquer the worst.

Crawl out of the hole is what to do first.

– from my novel Broken Smiles by Tara Mayoros

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(image found on canyon collective.com)

Sometimes we are stuck in the holes of our own making. We crawl, we fight, and we can emerge from our despair.

Recently I attended an intimate writers workshop. For some reason, many of the attendees have written or are in the process of writing memoirs. Most of the stories were born from past tragedies of life changing accidents, abuse, and thoughts of suicide. Words bring people together. Words heal. There is something uniquely sweet when virgin words are shared. Un-jaded by the industry, those shared moments whittled away at my heart and left me bleeding for their sorrow.

What does it mean to be brave?

Being brave to me, is sharing words that you know will cause a stir, maybe even a hurricane. One woman shared a piece that was gut-wrenchingly beautiful. She had sat on it for months and months, not wanting to offend others or tell her inner most secrets. Maybe it was because none of us knew each other before hand, or maybe she needed to have validation. For whatever the reason, she shared, and cried… and noticeably, a weight was lifted.

The instructor made a very good point when writing a difficult memory… write it with all of the emotion and feelings attached. Do not fight, do not filter your words. It is therapy. Feel what you write, if you want it to be felt by others.

Then, finally, when the story within you has been told, and a certain time and space has distanced you from it, dissect the placement of each word and scene. Don’t be hasty in publishing your final memoir. When writing memoirs, ask for permission from real life characters because everyone has a different side of the story. Or change the characters enough to not be obvious. When writing characters from real life, you run the risk of keeping those people and scenes in the past. You have suspended them in time by publishing them into your book. Do not imprison you and your characters into a book that you wrote fifteen years ago and the situation and people have changed personally.

Expect others to shy away from you. Expect judgements. You must put aside the fear of upsetting friends or family members. It will stunt you if you can’t get past writing the “safe” writing. If your words emerged from a sincere and ernest soul, how could you keep those words inside of you to simmer and boil from the inside? It feels a lot like climbing out of a dark hole, not knowing what the terrain will be like once you have solid ground.

Here are a few ways to dig deep and write a memoir:

Narrow down your life experience: A memoir isn’t your autobiography, it is a peek into your life. It is often one experience that impacted your life greatly. Focus on this one experience to share your message.

Pull out old photos, journals, and objects: This will help bring back the memories. These objects tie you to the past and will help you relive and resurrect the thoughts and feelings you had at the time.

Allow your emotions to flow: Do not write from your mind. Write from your heart. If the memories are scary and confronting, do not close your heart. Your writing will fall flat. I think it is important to write everyday to keep the feelings alive and fresh.

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The silver lining of the long unseen clouds is that your memoir has the ability to change lives.

Many of the authors at the workshop, who were brave and took the plunge of publishing difficult words, shared reviews and comments from readers. The readers said that their books saved their own life or changed how they viewed the world. What better payback is there? No amount of royalties or fame can compare.

Isn’t it worth the fear of being judged?

I have started writing two different memoirs. It is difficult. Much harder than writing fiction or even non-fiction. Quite honestly, I have written fiction to escape what I would put into my memoir. I don’t know when I will ever be able to share my memoir, but in the meantime, I answer the call of my memories and crawl out of the hole which has kept me prisoner… and just write.

I love to hear from you. Please comment if you write memoirs or even blog and journal and have insight.

Thanks,

Tara

What if we couldn’t see the stars…

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HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR!

2015 – Year of the Goat

Over the past few weeks I have opened up my home to a couple fifteen year old Chinese exchange students. My dream is to travel endlessly . . . until then, I will bring culture to us.

I love to witness culture shock.

Late one night, my family and the foreign exchange girls had come home from Mexican food (which they had never tried, but loved) and a movie. My kids piled out of our car and walked inside. When I turned around to press the button to close the garage door, I paused. There, the two girls stood in the driveway, gazing at the night sky. Their mouths hung open and their eyes were glassy with awe. I stood watching and then walked toward them. A tug pulled on my heart when I saw their full expressions. In that moment of stillness, I followed suit and looked up. A brilliant display of stars winked down at us, flirting. The girls began to smile more radiant than I had seen them yet—more than when I had taken them to the mall, or to the American candy isle, or to the high school to see how other kids their age acted.

“Ten years,” one said to me in a watery trance. “Haven’t seen stars in ten years. No moon in over five. Pollution very bad in Beijing.”

My heart ached.

Oh, to never see the stars or moon. Can you imagine?

I would feel lost.

It got me thinking . . .

I have hosted students from China a few times now. Each time, the girls marvel about our freedom of choice in our schooling and futures. Each girl had their futures picked for them by their parents. From the time they were young, they followed a strict school schedule to prepare them for their given professions.

I’ve asked each one of them, upon first meeting, what they plan to do in schooling, because it consumes their life. Banker, engineer, accountant, family business.

By the end of their stay, each one of them has opened up and told me the desires of their hearts, not their parents hearts, theirs. Author, fashion designer, architect. But to them, the dreams of those futures were veiled. Just like the stars.

Soon, my own children came out to see what was taking us so long. And then we all just stood there arm in arm, looking into the endless heavens. I pointed out constellations that they had never seen. It was so interesting to hear the different views of what lies beyond our reach. And what our different beliefs are. I don’t talk religion with them, although they have come to church with us, for research, mainly. That reminded me of another time when I was on a stinky 40 hour bus to Beijing many, many years ago, when the surrounding people were so curious about my American religion that I couldn’t share with them. But anyway, I still want to talk about the stars, so let’s go back go that . . . I take them for granted. I do. Sometimes they are veiled to me in the moments that I am looking down and it takes someone from a faraway place to remind me to be grateful for what I have and look up.

I am so grateful when these girls come to stay. I love Chinese history and culture and am even collaborating on a non-fiction book about their vast history. (Here is another post I wrote about my time in Beijing, China.) I mean no disrespect, but a part of me aches for them and their wishful dreams. Just like they ached to see the stars.

I am grateful to have the freedom to reach for the stars and to have them in my sights.

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Happy Chinese New Year! I hope you reach for the stars.

Tara

***

Here’s when I do a bit of self-promotion… I have written a book called Broken Smiles. (clean romance.) Most of the setting is in China. Below are a few 5 star Amazon reviews, along with the purchase link:

– “Broken Smiles has many wonderful things going on in this novel. The beautiful descriptive settings in places like China and Morocco, sweep you away as if you were there. Not only do you “see” what it would look like there, but you also learn many things about the culture. You can clearly see the large amount of research that Author Tara Mayoros has done in the writing of this book.”

– “I loved how the book was set in China. I have never been there but it made me want to go. This book inspires you to be a better person and to always go after what you love and for the right reasons.”

– “*** Warning, this book will give you the travel bug after you read it, and you may feel like spontaneously buying a ticket to China!***”

Here’s a link to the book. 🙂

Heat Ratings in Romance… should it be like the ratings in Rock Climbing??

I have been thinking about the different levels of heat in Romance novels lately.

There have been times that people told me I needed to add more heat into my novel Broken Smiles. There have also been times that critique partners told me I need to tone down the steam. Where is the balance? I decided to delve in and discover all of the levels of romance and what certain target audiences expect. This is mainly for my reference, and I am glad to share and hope that it will help some of you.

As I was thinking about what rating system I wanted to compare this to, I thought about rock climbing. I love rock climbing and had many friends growing up who were hard core climbers.

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(photos of me, Tara, in Rock Canyon and Mystery Canyon)                                       

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As romance novels become more and more mainstream, there needs to be a definite rating system. I don’t mean to throw the climbing community under the bus by referring to them, but the rating system they use is genius.

By going into detail and explaining each romance category in terms of 1-15a,b,c,d, the guessing game of heat level would be out in the open. There wouldn’t need to be a board of directors or big debates on what should go where when it comes to levels of sizzling heat in romance. We could simply look at it through the eyes of a child. And so that is what I have done…

*No Romance at all would be comparable to the rock climbing ratings of Class 1 to Class 4. These rock climbing ratings begins with:

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Class 1 – Walking on an established trail

Children’s books, picture books

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Class 2 – Hiking up a steep incline

Early Reader, Middle grade reader

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Class 3 – Climbing up a steep hillside

Upper middle grade or Young Adult. Platonic interest between boy and girl.

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Class 4 – bouldering or following a ledge. Sometimes a rope will be used for help.

Young Adult mild swearing or love interest. Internal emotions, but no follow through.

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***The tricky bit is when we get to Class 5 in climbing. This is when ropes are used and technical rock climbing begins. Past Class 5, the climbs begin to become subdivided into categories.***

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Class 5.0-5.4- climbing up a ramp or steep incline with good holds.

Super Sweet Romance – An innocent look, an internal feeling by one or more of the characters. No swearing.

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Class 5.5-5.7 – steeper, more vertical. Still good holds and easily protected.

Sweet Romance – Maybe a brief touch or a steamy look. A walk around a garden alone (in historical fiction) Realistic sexual tension.

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Class 5.8 – Vertical climbing on small holds

Mild Romance – Hand holding, a quick hug. Internal thoughts and feelings of love or lust.

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Class 5.9 – Rocks might be slightly overhung, or smaller hand holds. With practice, beginner climbers can climb with confidence

Clean Romance – A brief kiss. A warm hug. More internal thoughts and feelings described in detail.

***Get clipped in, because it starts to get more intense!***

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(My good friend Emily Ernst “rockin'” American Fork Canyon.

She told me this was about a 5.11a – I don’t believe her 🙂 )

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Class 5.10 – This is where it becomes more intense. A beginner rock climber does not feel comfortable in this range unless they go often or have natural talent. The classifications break down even more into a,b,c,d.

Spicy Romance – a) A more intense kiss, closed bedroom scenes, b) maybe some swearing. c) If lovers do make love, it is implied and not graphically depicted. Much is left to the readers imagination. d) The focus is still on the emotions rather than the body parts.

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Class 5.11 a,b,c,d – Steep and difficult routes with powerful and technical moves. Above average skill.

Steamy Romance –  a) Open door bedroom scenes, some nudity. b) We get heated feelings from the characters, but not in graphic detail. c) Maybe one or two mild love scenes in the novel and they tend to be longer scenes. d) Infidelity.

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Class 5.12 a,b,c,d – Overhanging climbs. Requires delicate footwork on thin holds or long climbs requiring a great deal of balance. Expert level.

Hot Romance – a) Nudity and intimacy in detail. Authors start to use funny words to describe the intimate parts. b) Internal thought and dialogue are meant to make you feel that you are the one experiencing the sensations. c) The focus throughout the book are sexual feelings and desires. d) More description, but nothing wild or kinky.

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Class 5.13 a,b,c,d – Very difficult climbs. Elite athletes.

Erotica – a) Hard core. b) Explicit language and bedroom scenes. There probably isn’t much of a story line at this point. c) The focus is mainly on sex. It probably takes a very gifted author to have a storyline beyond sex. But this is a Billion dollar industry, so there is a demand. I don’t think people read this genre for literary purposes!

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Class 5.14 a,b,c,d – These climbs are among the hardest in the world and very few can even attempt them.

Graphic Erotica, a) Extremely explicit scenes and language. b) BDSM, c) rape, all explained in full detail with all of the feelings described. May include what others consider kinky. This is unlike rock climbing in that this genre is becoming mainstream. It is front and center in grocery stores and gas stations. Movies are being made.

***Often I have seen personally where girls have gone from reading Class 5.0-5.4 to Class 5.14 with no preparation or maturity in between. Imagine the years, the hours, and the training a climber dedicates to this level of skill. You can’t stick a beginner on an over hanging ledge and say “climb.” Nor should you. They would fall, they could die. Why then, is there no rating system to prepare or caution early readers?***

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Class 5.15 – Very few people can climb on this level. I think Spiderman skills are needed.

Beyond Romance and Erotica- Think of the worst or most graphic thing you can think of, combine them all, and this would be there.

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(My awesome sister Traci Stewart rock climbing on Moon Hill in China.

Climbs range from a 5.10b-5.14a)

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In Rock Climbing, when new harder climbs are found, a new number is made. It is impossible to imagine someone being able to find and climb a 5.16. Just as it is impossible to imagine what will be acceptable and written in the literary world. This rating system leaves it open to both. Incomprehensible, but possible.

The thing I have found is that romance in novels can be very subjective. Everyone has different lines they will or will not cross. I have found this as I have been exposed to the romance writing community. There is a definite line that I will not cross in my writing and what I feel comfortable reading. The frustrating part comes when you don’t know what to expect when you pick up a book and then you invest in a story line and it takes you to a place you are frustrated or become uncomfortable with. Much in the same way that a cliff face might look climbable from below, but once you get half way up, you realize you are stuck.

Rock Climbers, I love you! You are genius (and hot!) May us romance writers use or borrow or steal your rating system??

Thanks for “hanging” with me and happy writing –

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Tara

My interview with “The Newest Novelist”

It was fun to be highlighted on this blog. She asked some unique questions. I love to do interviews and if you would like to have me on your blog, go to my contact page and send me an email. Thanks!

The Newest Novelist

I’ve just been in touch with the lovely Tara Mayoros, author of the newly-released novel, Broken Smiles. It’s always exciting to me when an author publishes her first book, but when it’s an author I know personally, I want to jump up and down for joy! I met Tara last year at a book launch, and ran into her again at a recent writer’s conference. Tara was gracious enough to grant an interview with The Newest Novelist.

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THE NEWEST NOVELIST:  When did you know you wanted to be an author?

TARA:  That moment happened when I had finished a couple novels, and had some interest with publishers. Up until then, I was doing it for fun, and meeting so many wonderful people along the way.

TNN:  When did you actually start writing?

TARA:  I have…

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