Friday, August 30, 2013

Annette Drake talks about her debut novel, Celebration House

Welcome to today’s Friday Friend, Annette Drake.
Annette’s work is character-driven and celebrates the law of unintended consequences.
Her debut novel, Celebration House, debuted on August 1st in e-book format for readers everywhere from Tirgearr Publishing.
Annette left high school after two years to obtain her GED and attend Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri. There she earned a degree in journalism before working as a reporter and editor for newspapers in Missouri and Kansas. She earned a bachelor of science in nursing in 1994 from Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Missouri, and worked as a registered nurse in hospitals throughout Missouri, Alaska and Washington for 18 years before returning her focus to writing. Annette recently completed her middle-grade novel, Bone Girl, and is hard at work revising her steamy contemporary romance, A Year with Geno.
She is the mother of four children. The oldest just graduated from the University of Washington; the youngest just graduated from kindergarten. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. She loves libraries, basset hounds and bakeries. She does not camp.
You can follow her writing at
She welcomes correspondence at:
Launch of my Debut Novel
About four weeks ago, my debut novel, Celebration House, premiered on Amazon and Smashwords. I’ve been holding my breath ever since.
Because it’s like Gary Larson said of his creations in The Far Side: you create these characters and release them out into the world and just hope they’re well received.
I have quite a few worries about Celebration House. Did I give the reader enough description so that they can envision Stratton House? Are the renovations and the speed at which they are accomplished plausible? Will the reader empathize with my main character, Carrie, or find her whiny? Are people interested in what Civil War ghosts have to say? Ugh! I just don’t know.
But I will know in late October when Tirgearr Publishing sends me my first royalties statement.
In the meantime, I stew. I fret. It’s like sending your child off to kindergarten. Are the other kids going to be nice to her? Will they want to play with her or will they think she’s just sort of, well, weird?
My husband, trying to be supportive, checks Amazon to see what number the book is ranked. In the early days of its release, it was 240,000-something. Last night, he checked it again. Now, Celebration House is 330,000-something. I tell him to please stop checking.
Part of promoting my novel is to contact bloggers and ask them if they will host me or review my book. Feeling overwhelmed with working full-time and writing the next book, I asked my family to help. I passed onto them a list of more than 300 blogs, and asked them to please send an email and inquire about promoting my book.
On August 1st, I received a response from a blogger that scared the bejesus out of me. In the subject of the email was “slave review.” I froze. Shocked! I couldn’t believe it. This reviewer had already picked up that my paranormal romance featured characters from 1860s Missouri, including Violet, a freed slave who chose to stay with the Stratton family. Already, the criticism had begun.
I met my family for dinner that night and launched into this latest downturn of events. How could this happen? How could the criticism of Violet begin on the day the book premiered?
My 17-year-old daughter’s eyebrows furrowed and she looked at me like I was crazy. Trust me. I’ve seen that look before.
“Mom, what are you talking about?”
“This reviewer wrote back and asked about a ‘slave review.’ That can only mean one thing: he thinks I’m a racist because I wrote that Violet stays with the Strattons. I can’t believe it.”
She asked me what was the name of the blogger, and I told her. She laughed.
“Mom, that’s not the kind of ‘slave’ he’s talking about. He reviews erotica, including S&M.”
Oh. The lightbulb came on. We weren’t talking about human bondage. We were talking about slavery that involved fuzzy handcuffs. More like 50 Shades of Gray. Less like Gone with the Wind.
“Mom, you’re so weird. You worry too much.”
She says this as I log onto Amazon to check the ratings. On second thought, maybe I better not.
Celebration House
Carrie Hansen spent her life caring for cardiac patients. Little did she know she would become a patient herself. After recovering from her own heart surgery, she realizes she has a special gift: the ability to see and talk with the dead.
Now, with her new heart failing, she leaves the bustle of Seattle behind and returns to Lexington, Missouri, the small town where she spent her childhood. Here, she sets out to restore an abandoned antebellum mansion and open it as a venue for celebrations.
Carrie’s work is cut out for her. The 150-year-old Greek revival house is in need of serious repair. Her sister, Melanie, tries to bully Carrie into returning to Seattle, predicting “her little project” is doomed to fail. Finally, Carrie’s health gives out on her, requiring emergency surgery.
But she will not give up. Carrie’s unique gift allows her to build relationships with the mansion’s original occupants, especially Maj. Tom Stewart, the handsome Civil War soldier who died a hundred years before Carrie was born. He encourages and comforts her, though not in the physical way they both desire.
Then there’s the builder of the house, Col. Bartholomew Stratton. If there’s one thing this 19th century horse trader cannot abide, it’s the living trespassing on his estate. He delights in scaring these intruders away, even if they are paying guests.
Will Carrie finish restoring Celebration House or will it finish her? And how can she plan a future with a man who has only a past?
Driving up to the house, Carrie smiled. She loved the long driveway, the poplar trees on both sides. Behind the trees, the fences had fallen into disrepair. Just one more thing she’d have to fix. She parked her car alongside the house and stacked her groceries and camping gear on the front porch. Seeing a small barn behind the main building, she decided to explore and see if there was room to park her car inside.
Carrie opened the door and stepped inside. Sunlight streamed in through the dirty windows. Even though the barn had been vacant for years, she smelled hay and horses.
Looking to her left, she saw a man shaving. He was bare from the waist up, his chest finely proportioned, lean, and muscular. His arms were powerfully built, and his right hand remained steady as he scraped the white soap from his angular jaw. His dark blue uniform pants were tucked into black leather knee-high riding boots. He stood at least six foot tall, and though Carrie hadn’t made her living in the carnival, she guessed he was probably younger than her, likely in his mid 20s. He peered intently at a small mirror tacked up on one of the barn walls. She waited to speak until after he’d finished the last swipe with the ivory-handled straight blade and had dipped it into the basin of soapy water.
“Good morning.”
He turned towards her suddenly, his expression an equal mix of surprise and annoyance. He dropped the razor and grabbed his shirt off a nearby nail. He turned his back to Carrie and pulled it on.
“You can see me, ma’am?” he asked, buttoning his shirt before stuffing it into his pants.
“Yes. Do you see me?”
“Yes, but I believe I have the advantage. I am dead. You are not.”
“I’m sorry to intrude on you. I’m Carrie Hansen,” she said, stepping toward him and extending her hand.
Without even thinking, he reached to shake her hand but his passed through hers. They both jerked back.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to intrude,” she said.
“You surprised me. That’s all. We don’t get many visitors out here, especially living ones who can see us,” he said, putting his blue uniform coat over his shirt and buttoning the long row of brass buttons. “I’m Maj. Thomas Stewart, at your service,” he said, bowing formally at the waist.
“I am sorry I startled you. I sometimes forget that ghosts aren’t accustomed to being seen.”
“How may I be of service to you, Miss Hansen?”
“Where can I find Col. Stratton? I need to speak with him.”
His dark blue eyes showed his puzzlement. “The living do not go looking for Col. Stratton. What business do you have with him?”
“I bought this house, and I intend to live here.”
Thank you so much for being our Friday Friend today, Annette, and we wish you every success with Celebration House, and with your future writing career.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

What makes an Expert?

This may prove controversial, but here goes! Recently I’ve seen several adverts (both online and in a writing magazine) about writing courses, either real life sessions or online workshops, led by ‘published authors’.

When I saw one workshop leader was someone who has had two novels published in the last three years (plus several short stories over the past 10 years), I wondered what ‘qualifications’ one needs to offer workshops or courses on ‘how to write/plot/develop characters’ etc. to other would-be writers.

Not that I’m thinking of doing anything like that, I hasten to add! I don’t want to get into the question, either, of why people pay a large sum of money for an online course when there are masses of articles already online covering every aspect of writing. Real-life courses, admittedly, do give you more opportunity to interact with the tutor and with other writers.

My main question, however, is: at what point does a writer consider himself or herself ‘qualified’ to tutor others in how to write? To go back to the example of the course tutor I mentioned in my second paragraph, I had a quick look at some of the reviews of her books. They ranged from ‘Thoroughly enjoyable’ and ‘Couldn’t put it down’ to ‘Tried to get into this book but gave up after a few chapters’ and ‘the author threw a few ideas together and didn’t expand on any of them.’ And this is the author who is running a weekend course on how to write!

When would you feel qualified to offer tuition to others? I’m not referring to offering bits of advice occasionally to someone, but running a detailed course on writing. I’ve had nine novels published (ten, hopefully, by the end of this year), but I am still learning. Although I could tell people how I write, there’s no way I would presume to tell others how to do it. I would suggest the majority of writers are like this. Many of us are plagued with self-doubt much of the time. Those who aren’t, but have masses of self-confidence in their own abilities – are they the ones who become writing tutors?

What do you think?


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

My List

This summer has been one of learning for me.

I have learned that if I set my mind to it, I can write, even when I don’t want to.

I have learned that having a deadline of when the kids are going to come home can inspire me to write more, faster.

I have learned how to write consistently when the kids are home.

I have learned how to write with the TV on and with constant interruptions from the kids.

I have learned that if I tell my husband I need to go write, he takes me seriously (love him!).

I have learned that I can block out a lot of noise. However, I cannot block out the pounding and noise associated with construction workers who are building my deck (although their shirtless bodies are great inspiration for heroes!) accompanied by the blaring TV from my child who wants to watch TV while they are building and therefore turns up the volume really, REALLY LOUD!

Here’s hoping next week is more productive (and maybe written from my new deck!).

Sunday, August 25, 2013

My night time Muse

We commented a bit ago that inspiration for writing blockages can strike when awaking. This morning, I woke filled with the thought that, in just a few weeks, my nocturnal energy will be liberated.

Presently, and for more years than I care to count right now, I have focused on CSA garden shares and workers. When I return to my body at five a.m., my mind is already engaged in tweaking the day's hectic schedule, resetting water sprinklers, juggling employee needs and customer demands. Or is that employee demands and customer needs?

I will make the final CSA delivery on September 12th. Six more to go. I may have to remind my synapses to not veer onto well-worn work paths, but after this morning's 'revelation,' I think the adjustment won't be hard.

I'm ready. So is my night time muse.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Friday Friend: Welcome to Bernadette Marie

The words are not mine…My characters write their stories.
Bernadette Marie

One of the questions I’m asked most often is, “How many books have you written?” I’m to that point where I have to start to count. By New Years I will have 15 in print.

The next question is, “How do you come up with all those stories?” To thank I don’t really have an answer. Any author will tell you their head is full of them and they just keep coming. But here’s what really happens.

As an author I have a good idea, a character I like, or even a catchy line I want to use. That only gets the ball rolling. I give my characters a few chapters where I tell them what to do and then a miraculous thing happens—they take over!

Now anyone who doesn’t write is thinking that doesn’t make any sense. Oh, but it happens. I’ll have a scene going a certain way and then all the sudden BAM! The character comes up with something all on their own.

Well, from then on out the story is theirs to tell. I just do the manual labor part.

The phenomenon is crazy. I don’t even know how to explain the fact that the author is no longer in charge. After all, wasn’t I the one writing this book? I guess not.

This happens quite a bit, I suppose because I’m a pantser. I write by the seat of my pants.

I don’t detail everything out on a spreadsheet or a paper. I know nothing when I start, except for those few items I discussed earlier. The story builds as I write it (and they take over.) I never know where the journey of the book is going to lead me, but it is as much fun to see where the characters take me while I’m writing as it is when I’m enjoying someone else’s novel.

Not everyone can let their characters do the writing. I, however, like how they think!


Bestselling Author Bernadette Marie is known for building families readers want to be part of. Her series The Keller Family has graced bestseller charts since its release in 2011, along with her other series and single title books. The married mother of five sons promises Happily Ever After always…and says she can write it, because she lives it.

When not writing, Bernadette Marie is shuffling her sons to their many events—mostly hockey—and enjoying the beautiful views of the Colorado Rocky Mountains from her front step. She is also an accomplished martial artist with a second degree black belt in Tang Soo Do.

A chronic entrepreneur, Bernadette Marie opened her own publishing house in 2011, 5 Prince Publishing, so that she could publish the books she liked to write and help make the dreams of other aspiring authors come true too.

Buy links for my book can be found at
Twitter @writesromance


The Executive’s Decision is book one in the Keller Family Series (which will span 10 books.) It is also almost always free in ebook form.

Regan Keller fell in love with a wealthy and powerful man once. He was her boss. When that turbulent relationship ended, she swore she’d never again date someone she worked with. That was before she literally fell into her new boss’s lap.

Zachary Benson is the head of a successful empire and used to getting what he wants in the boardroom and outside of it – and what he wants is Regan Keller. He’s determined to convince Regan that even though he’s her boss, they can share a life together.

However, when Regan’s past threatens to destroy the architectural firm Zach has invested his entire career in, he has to make an executive decision whether to choose his business or fight for the woman he loves.


Thunder rippled through the gray clouds that loomed overhead. Regan Keller raised her eyes to the sky. Please, please don’t rain. As she sent up the silent prayer, she felt the first drop hit her forehead.

The nervous flutter in her stomach quickened as she looked down at her watch. Surely her day couldn’t get any worse. But the sky opened up, and those around her crowded together in the bus stop shelter. Her hair, tied in a tail at the base of her neck, dripped rain down her back as she hunched in her coat. How could she have forgotten her umbrella? Had her car been running, she’d have the one tucked safely away in the glove compartment because spring in Tennessee often meant sudden storms. She should carry one in her bag but had suffered a lapse in memory, having opted for the sunny beaches of Hawaii for the past two years.

As the bus arrived, those under the shelter huddled onto it ahead of her, claiming every seat. Soaking wet, Regan wedged herself between two people and held onto the handrail above her head. She looked out the window at the commuters driving themselves to work in the pouring rain. That should have been her.

A bitter-faced old woman sat below her, her oversized bag occupying the next seat. Regan bent to ask her to move it, but the woman glared up at her and gave a grunt that sounded like a dog’s bark. Regan flinched and tried to look away. But she was compelled to keep an eye on the woman.

The man to the other side of the vacant seat snickered. Regan looked down at him in his long black overcoat and perfect hair. Hemmed in between the old lady’s bag and an overweight man in a jogging suit, he was as pinned in his seat as she was to the people around her. She would have given him a piece of her mind for laughing at her had the bus not jolted to a sudden stop. It lurched forward then back and tossed Regan onto the man’s lap.

“I would have offered you my seat,” he said with a bright grin as the bus lurched again.

“Why, you…” She struggled to free herself, but the crowd moved in tightly around them as the bus bounced down the street. The pace of her heart kicked into gear and she could feel the sweat bead on her brow.

She hadn’t been this close to a man in over a year, and the panic of having him actually hold her on his lap was making her more than uncomfortable. “I need to stand up.”

“You might as well sit.” He wrapped his arms around her. “Doesn’t look like you’ll be standing again anytime soon.”

Regan took a few deep and cleansing breaths. She forced down the panic that was filling her body and tried to push it away. Alexander Hamilton thought she was dead. There should be no danger in sitting on the lap of a nice-looking man. She should find it within her to enjoy the experience and focus on something else.

He didn’t have an accent native to Tennessee like hers. Perhaps the rain had caught him off guard as well. If she didn’t relax, she’d have a heart attack, and this nice gentleman who wasn’t from Nashville would probably be blamed for her death on the bus on his way to work.

Accepting her predicament at face value would be a prime opportunity to let go of bitter feelings for the opposite gender, though after what she’d been through, she wasn’t sure she could. The thought of ever loving another man or letting one touch her made her palms sweat and her stomach clench.