Guest Feature: Cheryl Alldredge & Giveaway

One of the best things about being a romance writer is that you have the opportunity to meet all kinds of great people, interesting women (and a few men!) who genuinely love what they do and bring that joy to their work and to their friendships with other writers.  Today I’m hosting one of my favorite writer pals:  Cheryl Alldredge, who I met when I joined the Jacksonville, Florida chapter of the Romance Writers of America.  Not only is Cheryl smart and kind, she’s a talented writer who has recently released her contemporary romance, Ladybugs and Fireflies, which is set in her home state of Florida.

Now, lots of people visit Florida and come away thinking they know all there is to know about that state.  But that’s only the Florida of ocean resorts and tourist playgrounds.  The Florida that Cheryl uses for the settings of her stories is quite different from Miama, or Disneyworld, or Tampa, or all those other places where tourists flock for vacation.  I’m going to turn the blog over to Cheryl now, and let her tell you about the Florida she loves and uses for the settings of her books:

When I was younger I used to like to say I was a California girl. It’s true that I was born in California, but we moved away when I was a tot. My desire to claim the state probably had more to do with that old Beach Boys song than any sentimental feelings. I actually grew up in Florida. Not the part with the beaches. My Florida was more about swamps and gators and rednecks, oh my! I didn’t realize how much Florida had shaped me until other people started reading my writing. One of my trunk novels (as in tossed in a trunk and all but forgotten) was accused of sounding like a Florida travelogue. A more tactful beta reader said I made Florida a character in my book. The no-nonsense comment came from a ‘Yankee’ friend and the gentler comment came from a southern gentleman. If that’s not cliché come to life I don’t know what is!

So how did Florida shape me? I suppose it taught me not to be too vain. If you wear too much make-up in the summer, it’ll just drip right off when you walk out the door. It also taught me that fun is never far away—we do have a lot of theme parks around here. I think fun is mostly a state of mind, one theme parks have learned how to tap into and turn on at will. It also taught me to tread carefully to avoid snakes on the ground and to look more deeply at things. Florida may be all glitz, beaches, and theme parks in the brochures but it also home to wondrous natural beauty. We have springs so clear you can watch the fish frolic in the river-bottom grasses and oak trees so big they look like old giants with their mossy gray beards scrapping the ground.

In my short novel, Ladybugs and Fireflies, Callie Roberts and Taylor Powers meet when Taylor returns to his home state of Florida after establishing his career in the North.  Taylor is a high powered attorney and Callie is a small fry investigator on the opposite side of a case. It’s an impossible relationship on the surface. To find love they will have to look deeper and see who they are in their hearts.  Florida is very much a part of this story, but hopefully not in a travelogue-ish way.

I’d love to hear how your home has shaped you!

Vanessa, here.  Doesn’t Ladybugs and Fireflies sound great?  I love stories with characters who return to their hometown after life in the big city, especially in romance novels.  Coming home, rediscovering a life that seemed gone forever, is one of my favorite themes and Cheryl does a great job with it.  It’s a lovely story and a perfect summer read.  Ladybugs and Fireflies is available on Amazon, and at a number of other retailers.  Get all the details and read an excerpt on Cheryl’s website.

Cheryl also has two short stories available in e-book and anthology formats, which you can check out on her website.  She also blogs about books, life, and Florida on her Cheryl Alldredge blog, and about all things SciFi on her Smart Girls Love Sci Fi blog.  I really love this blog, which covers Sci Fi from all different angles, including books, movies, TV, and Sci Fi geekery!

On my blog today, Cheryl will be giving away a copy of Ladybugs and Fireflies, in either e-format or print book.  Let’s answer her question, which I think is a great one:  how has your hometown or state shaped your life?  One person who comments will win a copy of Ladybugs and Fireflies.

41 thoughts on “Guest Feature: Cheryl Alldredge & Giveaway

  1. I’m a northern girl at heart (Go Red Sox! Go Patriots! Celtics and Bruins!) and so far, my home state has found its way into at least one character or location in each story. Even in my historical, the names of characters are taken from towns were I grew up. I never really noticed this until now. heh.

    (I already have a copy. I don’t need to be entered in the drawing. And it ROCKS. Just sayin’.)

  2. Great post, Cheryl! LADYBUGS AND FIREFLIES sounds like a wonderful read–perfect for taking to the beach! 🙂 I wasn’t born here in Florida, but I completely agree about Florida’s natural beauty. The crystal clear springs are amazing and teeming with wildlife. I also agree about wearing makeup in summer; sometimes, it’s just impossible. LOL! I guess that’s why in the hot Florida months I try to do my errands early in the morning so I don’t have to be outdoors in the hottest part of the day. Congrats on your new release, Cheryl. I hope it flies off bookstore shelves like, well, ladybugs and fireflies. 🙂

    • Catherine, I spend part of the winter on a small lake in northern Florida. The wildlife always knocks my socks off, and it’s sooo quiet. Not what I initially thought Florida was like at all.

    • Thanks, Catherine.

      Rainbow River is a spring fed river that is one of my favorite FL places for wildlife spotting. I gave one of my charters a house on that river in LBFF.

      Yes, in summer noon is no-woman’s land!

  3. For me, groowing up in what was considered the country 37 years ago, where very few lived shaped me to be more family oriented. We were and still are blessed to live right on the lake in Tennessee where I spent most days fishing, crawdad hunting, shooting carp with bows and swimming. But then we also learned the value of keeping our enviroment clean because we were constantly cleaning up around the lake and preserving the habitat there. Although I did have friends, living so far out most of my relationships were with neighbors and our small communities. I really did GROW UP with my neighbors. I look back on all my family time and have so many great memories on the water!

    • What wonderful memories to have! I have some great memories of neighbors growing up too. Now I live in town and it has been more of a challenge to even meet my neighbors. LOL

  4. Midwestern small town gal here — A Hoosier born & bred! Small towns teach you that you do live in a fishbowl! Everyone knows everything you’ve done! And this was back before cell phones… those moms of ours had eyes on us all over the town! I can sill visit after 40 years & still have someone say… so you’re one of those Smith girls — which one are you?

  5. Cheryl –
    I grew up in a sleepy little village in up-state New York and I spent one summer when I was about 10 at the village library reading every biography about historic women I could find. I loved where we lived and being able to play kick-ball in the street and roller skate up and down the sidewalks. We even roller-skated to school. The one thing I didn’t like were the cold snowy winters – no buses so we walked to school!

    When I graduated from high school I went to college in Arizona and realized I loved really warm weather and moved from there to Jacksonville, Florida! I still loved the heat but the humidty was brutal especially since there wasn’t any airconditioning in my apartment. The best thing about Jacksonville is I met my husband there – he was stationed at NAS Cecil Field (Vietnam) so Jacksonville has a special place in my heart. At the time the city wasn’t as developed as it is now and we were fortunate to find an apartment on Henricks Avenue – half way between the base and where I worked on Beach Boulevard for Procter and Gamble.

    Our home now is in Rhode Island which isn’t much bigger than Jacksonville is! If you drive more than 40 miles your out of the state. I’m back to hating the snow and cold but we live in a small town so I feel the same freedom as I did growing up. I love that our sons were able to play in the street and ride their bikes to school.

    My husband and I both thing that home is where the heart is and that the trappings don’t bring you happiness but the small things do. We have always had an open door policy which meant that when our boys were in High School there was many a night that we had “extra guests” for dinner. Their friends were always welcomed and the first time treated as a guest but from then on they were part of the family – think washing dishes, mowing the lawn, vacuuming, etc.

    We don’t have a fancy house of a manicured lawn but we love that
    often we get a knock on the door and welcome in my son’s frinds with their families to catch up and ooh and aah over there children. Okay so some times it’s to take their children down to the lake a block away to see where they used to swim as children themselves.

    We believe that home isn’t just the building but also the community which means being involved to keep it a place where I children will also want to raise their children.

    My husband and I have both realized that to go home again isn’t a matter of a place but an attitude so whether it’s the town you live in now or the town you came from it’s the spirit within the dwelling that makes the diffenece.

    • Jeanne, that’s lovely! I also grew up in a small town with a wonderful little library. I used to spend weekends and Saturdays – and much of summer – camped out among the shelves. It’s so nice to be able to grow up in a place like that.

    • You are such a wise woman! I think it is wonderful that you’ve discoverd what really matters.

      My father is retired Navy so we spent years in Jacksonville too. It has changed so much over the years. There are shopping centers in place of the dairy farm I remember as a kid. But it is still filled with some wonderful people.

      Thanks for sharing your experiences!

  6. Hi Cheryl and Vanessa!
    I really like this refreshing take on a small-town (Southern) romance in “Ladybugs and Fireflies”. When I think of Florida, for the most part I think pretty palm trees and breezy beaches, the perfect setting for retirement homes and a sedate community. What doesn’t come to mind is a feisty fraud investigator and a hot-shot big-town New York attorney. I have a feeling these two characters are really going to shake up the hometown, in a great way.

    I’m a West Coast girl and my hometown has taken shaped my outlook and attitude in life. It’s very laid back here and the community is very in touch with the outdoors and keeping in shape. It’s all about health and fitness here. I can’t say I’m the next Olympist but I would like to think I am down-to-earth and very laid back. I see the importance in taking care of my body in both the physical and mental capacity. I also believe a positive attitude goes a long way in living a happy life.

    • Great insight, Na. I’ve always thought west coast was most like Florida in attitude. Relaxed, casual and filled with a mix of people from all over the US. Thanks for sharing your positive energy!

  7. I’ve lived in so many different places, so I guess a little part of each place is in me. I was born in South Dakota and lived in Montana and Washington State as well while I was growing up. After that I lived in Tennessee, Ohio, Georgia, Massachusetts, Texas, Illinois and now Florida. Each place brought something good to my life and lots of people and good memories.

    Cheryl, your books sounds really good.

  8. I’ve discovered it’s not the state in which you live that shapes you the most, it’s the people you surround yourself with. Sometimes it takes a giant step away from all you’ve ever known to find a new perspective and outlook. Growing up in a small Indiana town where everyone thinks and believes as one, like the Borg from Star Trek, doesn’t allow for much broadening of one’s horizons. 😉 I’m so thankful I have the wonderful group of friends I’ve gained since moving to Florida. They’ve taught me how to appreciate diversity, not only in understanding how others can hold differing beliefs but also in finding joy in reading other sub-genres besides historical! All you ladies rock!

    I haven’t read Ladybugs and Fireflies yet, but I’m sure it’s as awesome as its author! 🙂

  9. Texas girl born and raised and will stay in the state until death do us part… Wow Charlie it sounds like your part of Florida is either off the beaten path or just not advertised for tourism, would love to see video of the lake so crystal clear you can watch the fish swim… We have places like that in Texas, one down in San Marcos where people tube all year round and if you wade it is crystal clear in places and in the deeper areas it is amazing what you see swimming around…

    Not entering, enjoyed LB&FF’s so much and just had to come see what you were up to here at Vanessa’s. Glad I did because it always makes me happy to read about what inspires scenes of certain places in a story in a book…

    • Thanks, Jackie. If Texas can produce someone as friendly and kind as you, I know I’d love it there. The Rainbow River is the spring fed river where I put Jake’s house in LBFF. The scene of Jake and Taylor playing volleyball in the river was inspired by watching some teens doing just that in that very river. We used to canoe there a lot. Because the river has multiple points were the springs bubble up it stays clear for a long ways. Beautiful.

      • I have to say that Texas has a very diverse population… We are near Austin and it, Houston and Laredo are melting pots for nationalities of pretty much any country you can think of… What is cool though we all have one thing in common, Southern hospitality and general friendly demeanors… I love that about the state that raised me on sunshine and horses, it has been a lifelong adventure discovering different places from the smallest towns like the one I was raised to the metropolitan areas of Houston and Dallas that make me feel like a kite in a strong breeze they are just so fast and hectic to live in much less visit…
        I have to say again that being able to use such a wonderful setting as a backdrop that probably a lot of other people take for granted has to be one of the highlights for you as an author Charlie, you can incorporate your memory into something that others will be able to consider somewhere they would like to see for themselves.
        My husband loves the coastal towns and the beaches here, I love the clear streams and rivers in placid peaceful settings off the beaten track myself…

  10. Hi Cheryl and Vanessa,
    Loved the line, “swamps and gators and rednecks. Oh my!” Ha!
    I’m originally from the midwest (Illinois) but not the big city, the part with soybeans and cornfields as far as the eye can see. But I’m a Florida girl now and couldn’t be happier.

    Valerie

  11. Hi Cheryl & Vanessa!

    I was born and raised in Chicago, I LOVE Chicago!
    It has a little of this and a little of that. LOL!! OK, ok………it has a LOT of this and that! It is Chicago after all. 😀
    There’s so much to see and do, you’ll never get bored there! 🙂

    We now live in NM, for about 3 years, health reasons for hubby.
    It’s nice here, but very quiet! LOL!!
    From big city life to small town. 🙂

    Your book sounds interesting, best to you!

    Have an awesome weekend!

    • Hi!

      I’ve always wanted to visit Chicago. It has been such great fodder for so many wonderful stories: books, plays, TV. but I’m sure there are sides of Chicago that we never hear about.

      Thanks for stopping in and thanks for the kind words.

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