Wednesday, September 12, 2018

New Book Announcement!

Jennifer has a new book coming...

I’m excited to announce the next book in my Serendipity Series, Learning to Love, will be released by The Wild Rose Press on November 28. 

Here’s the blurb:

Dina Jacobs is a single librarian who has never fit in due to her off-the-charts intelligence, frizzy hair and rounder-than-socially-acceptable figure. She left her past behind until she receives an invitation to her ten-year high school reunion, and all her insecurities return.

Adam Mandel is a single corporate attorney who just missed his third deadline at his father's law firm, the law firm where he is up for junior partner. With his reputation on the line, Adam needs all the help he can get to convince his father that he deserves the promotion.

When Dina and Adam run into each other on a deserted road, Dina thinks Mr. Flashypants can't possibly be interested in someone like her. Adam thinks Dina is just the person to help him improve his reputation. Lies and insecurities force them to take a look at themselves. Can they trust each other to look beyond the surface?

The book was a lot of fun to write. Adam comes across as a real player, but he’s got a soul, and bringing it out was challenging and rewarding. Dina is a strong female who spouts random facts when she’s nervous—and Adam makes her nervous! I had a lot of fun researching!

It will be up for preorder on Amazon and Barnes & Noble soon, but in the meantime, you can check it out on TWRP website and add it to your wishlist!

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Ana's Getting 'Tis the Season

Ana is thrilled to share the cover for 'Tis the Season, a joint project between five authors.

“Tis the Season of the heart. Baking cookies, trimming the tree and falling in love with sprinkles of Christmas magic in a collection of sweet romance novelettes.
Sometimes, all you want for Christmas is right before your eyes.”

Releases October 20, 2018 

Poinsettias, by Ana Morgan

Chapter 1
Neely Martin rushed up the Boughboro Hospital stairwell and yanked open the heavy third-floor door. The scent of disinfectant, beeps of monitoring machines, and confident stride of nurses with identification badges reassured her that her father was receiving excellent care. 
She found his room and opened the door without knocking. “I’m so sorry, Dad. The plane from D.C. was late and—” 
Her father sat in a wheelchair wearing his old leather bomber jacket. A rigid plaster cast encased his leg from the top of his thigh to the ball of his foot. His face looked ashen, the lines on his forehead pronounced. 
She gave him a careful hug, and then leveled a scowl at the petite nurse holding the handles of the wheeled chair. “My father had surgery less than twenty-four hours ago. Why isn’t he in bed?”
“Mr. Martin talked with his doctor, and Dr. Franklin agreed to discharge him,” the nurse explained. “His first check-up is in two weeks. We just finished going over his medications.”
“Going over? With whom?”
“With me.” Justin Harrington stepped clear of a partition curtain. 
Neely’s heart stuttered. Justin looked tan and fit, as if he’d stuck to their after-we-graduate promise to balance work and personal time. 
She searched his handsome face for a sign he’d finally forgiven her for accepting the job in D.C., but his steel-blue eyes held no warmth. She swallowed the lump that formed in her throat. “I wish you would have waited for me.”
“We weren’t sure when you’d be able to tear yourself away from Congressman McHenry.” Justin’s voice was cold and condemning.
An awkward silence filled the small room.
Dad patted her arm. “Justin offered to stay until you arrived, honey.”
Remembering how things used to be, she shook off Justin’s jab. When her mother left without saying goodbye he’d sat with her on the edge of the playground while their first-grade classmates played. Fifteen months later, he’d stood beside her in the cemetery as her mother’s casket was lowered into the ground. 
He’d taken her to the prom and waited to mail his application to the University of Vermont until she’d rewritten her application essay. They’d both studied Public Administration with a desire to serve the public. 
So why couldn’t he understand that being an aide to Congressman Daniel McHenry gave her the means to solve big problems? 
“Miss Martin”—the nurse interrupted her thoughts—“The doctor’s orders are pretty straightforward. Elevate the leg. Take the meds. Keep all check-up appointments.” 
The nurse crouched until she was eye-to-eye with her father. “After the cast comes off, you’ll need several weeks of therapy. Then you can ease back into work.” 
Her father nodded. “Understood.”
“We decided the back seat of my four-by-four would be the best way to take him home,” Justin said.
Neely felt a ping of embarrassment. The car she’d rented at the Burlington airport was small and fuel-efficient. Good for the environment, but wholly inadequate to haul a big man with titanium screws in his fractured femur. 
“I’ll meet you at the entrance.” Justin picked up two aluminum crutches and a drawstring hospital bag and carried them out of the room.
“Anything more to carry?” Neely scanned her father’s hospital bed.
“I don’t think so.” Her father craned his neck and looked up at the nurse. “I’m ready to go.”


Neely stood beside the nurse in the elevator, noting her father’s hunched shoulders and clenched jaw. He was in pain—and determined to go home.
The elevator door slid open. 
They passed by the emergency waiting room and approached the automatic exit doors. 
Outside on the curb, Justin stood beside a metallic-blue pickup. Its spotless finish and chrome trim gleamed under the early December sun. 
He’d gotten the city manager job he wanted—and now a truck. Probably saved up and bought it outright. 
The nurse wheeled her father outside and positioned the chair next to the open crew cab door.
Her father immediately pushed out of the chair and tried to stand.
“Dad!” Neely grabbed his arm.
His good leg buckled. He started to topple over.
Justin darted forward and caught him. 
“Back him up to the seat,” the nurse ordered. “Don’t hit his head on the roof.”
Her father scooted across the seat butt first until the full length of his cast was safely inside the truck. Justin leaned in, stretched out a seat belt, and buckled him in.
“You’ll have to slow down, Mr. Martin,” the nurse chided. “Wait for others to help you.”
Her father closed his eyes and nodded, his face ominously pale.
“Take him straight home and put him in bed.” The nurse turned to Neely and lowered her voice. “He needs home care assistance for at least a week. Maybe longer.”
Neely gulped. Her father had never been able to afford top-of-the-line health insurance, and she didn’t have much in savings. Rent, metro transit, and student loan payments ate up most of her congressional aide salary.
Justin shut the crew cab door. “John’s ready to go.” 
Grateful for an excuse to dash off, Neely thanked the nurse, fished the rental car key from her blazer pocket, and scurried across the parking lot. She and her father would manage on their own, just like they’d done for years.

Every muscle in Neely’s body ached by the time she and Justin tiptoed out of her father’s bedroom.
Dad had been so unsteady on his crutches, he’d tossed them aside on the front steps and stretched his arms across her and Justin’s shoulders. They’d supported his weight while he hopped on one foot up.
Justin stopped in the hallway and gazed at the picture taken at their high school prom. His gold cummerbund and tie of his rented tuxedo matched the bodice of the evening dress still hanging in her clothes closet. His forehead glistened with sweat. “Remind me never to own an old house with steep stairs.”
“I’m down for one level with no walls,” she bantered. “A big open space with all the furniture on wheels so you can roll into the kitchen at midnight for a glass of warm milk.” 
She held her breath. They’d often joked not so long ago. Would he play along now?
“I best be going,” He walked downstairs and lifted his jacket off the coat rack. “John’s prescriptions should be ready. He authorized me to pick them up. I’ll swing by, so you don’t have to leave him.” 
“You’ll need money for the co-pay.” She ran down the stairs.
“Already have it.” He chewed on his lower lip, an all-too-familiar sign he had more he wanted to say but was holding back.
She waited for him to disparage her work with Congressman McHenry. She could take it. Working in D.C had taught her to shoulder criticism. 
Without another word, he walked out.
Disappointed, she stood beside her father’s recliner in the living room and watched out the picture window as Justin strode down the front walk, got into his truck, and drove away. She heaved a sigh and felt something in her hand. Looking down, she realized she’d wadded the crocheted doily her father kept on his recliner’s headrest. 
She smoothed her mother’s handiwork back in place. She’d never forgive her mother for walking out, but she didn’t hate her anymore.
Hopefully time would heal the rift between her and Justin.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Up to My Ears in Audio

Debra's audio books are making progress.

Since my publisher began offering an audio version of their books, I've been literally up to my ears in listening. Editing an audio book is a bit different than editing a print book, as cadence and tone and annunciation all play a role. It's different to listen with your ears instead of looking with your eyes.

Up until now, the titles that have come through of mine have all been novellas. This past week I started listening to the first full-length novel of mine that will be offered in audio. Let me just say it's a loooong process.

First of all it's hard for me to just sit and listen. I feel like I'm not doing anything. And I'm not one for sitting around idly. I'm ALWAYS doing something. So while I listen I do try to multi-task and do things like fold laundry or prepare dinner or other rote things that don't require too much concentration. I do have to be careful which chore I choose to multi-task with, as some take away from my focus on what I'm supposed to be listening to. But overall, I think I've found a good balance of listening and being able to get other things done. If I do hear a mistake, I put aside what ever 'other' task I'm doing and focus solely on rewinding and listening and marking the spot of the error and documenting the error so it can be fixed.

Makes me realize that unless it's riding in a car on a long, I probably wouldn't do well with other audio books. Like I said, it's too much like sitting there and doing nothing. I've only given audio a try once on a road trip, and we wound up turning it off because we got caught in a raging downpour that drowned out the sound of the story. We never went back to it. We probably should give it a try again on the way to/from one of our camping adventures.

Anyway like I said, it's an interesting process to edit the audio version of a story. Yesterday I turned in notes/corrections for chapters 1-8 and was 'rewarded' with files for chapters 9-13. So my work is far from over. A full length novel is A LOT to listen to.

One thing I've discovered as I've been listening to Wild Wedding Weekend is how much I LIKE the story! It's been a while since I've 'visited' it, and I'm remembering all the reasons it was such a fun one to write, even if it hasn't been one of my biggest sellers. Maybe audio will help that. Only time will tell.

Until next time,

Happy Reading! (or listening!)


Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Three Questions

Paula asks (and answers) three questions!

Firstly: A couple of weeks ago, someone on FB was asking why the sales of her books were so low. Okay, I know, it’s a question many of us could ask! One of the replies suggested that she should look at the bestselling books on Amazon, and aim to write something similar to those.
My reaction: unless she’s a very fast writer, the ‘popular’ trends might have completely changed by the time her book is actually published, because people soon tire of the same kind of novel. Personally I go into ‘yawn mode’ when I see yet more books about ‘cosy cafes’ or, here in the UK at present, stories set in Cornwall (I blame Poldark for that!), and I’m not into ‘psychological thrillers.’ Yes, these may be current trends, but how long do these kinds of trends last?

Secondly, another author (again on FB) declared that she had read and enjoyed books about the music scene when she was a teenager, so decided to write her own series. This same author then said she’d enjoyed books by another author set in her own city, and so she decided to – yes, you’ve guessed it, write her own series set in that same city.
My reaction? Don’t you have any original ideas of your own, without having to ‘duplicate’ what other authors have written about?

Thirdly, yet another author declared that ‘if you like books by x, y, and z, you will love my book.’
My reaction: for one thing, it comes over as incredibly conceited to ‘compare’ yourself to bestselling authors. Also, if you need to ‘compare’ yourself to other writers, it doesn’t say much for your own originality.

So, what do we do? Follow the trends (albeit belatedly), write to a theme that has been successful for another author in the hope that it will be as successful for you, or try to gain readers by likening yourself to other authors?
My reaction: I couldn’t do any of these things. Or rather, yes, I probably could, but I wouldn’t want to. I can’t write to a ‘trend’ or a ‘theme’, and I certainly don’t try to imitate any other writer.

Maybe my novels don’t sell as well as stories about ‘cosy caf├ęs in Cornwall’ are selling; maybe I’ll never reach the top ranks on Amazon; but I write the stories that I want to write, and I write them in my own style.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Book Trailers

Have you ever made a book trailer?

I’ve seen several and they intrigue me. Basically, they’re taglines paired with photos and set to music, and they’re used to illustrate your book. Like a movie trailer.

I’ve attended conference workshops about them and people pay good money to have them made. While marketing does require investment, trailers were never something I was going to spend money on, because I’m not sure it’s the best use of my resources. The problem is I’m really not a graphic person or a videographer—I should probably make use of my kids.

But then I discovered this free program/computer app. It takes you step by step through the process of creating the video. It can even create one from a blog you write. You can choose images to use and music, colors and fonts and it puts it all together for you.

So I tried it. Once I got the hang of it, it was super easy to do. My biggest problem with trailers is that they’re static, like a slide show. And because I’m not spending money, I’m making do with the images I have access to, as well as the music. But I don’t think it’s a terrible trailer, and I certainly don’t think it’s doing me any harm.

What do you think?

Saturday, July 14, 2018

In the throes of Summer

Ana's summer is probably as busy as yours.

I took cell phone photos of the three ice-cream pails of just-picked-by-me raspberries and my grandkids sliding down the big slide yesterday at the county fair, but Blogger says they are not formatted for uploading. So word pictures will have to suffice until I figure that out.

I asked for, and was granted, an extension on book 2. I'm not a fast writer, and I over-estimated how many chapters I could write last winter. Writing in summer is more challenging with work, gardening and grandkid sleep-overs. I'm half way through the story. The heroine and side-kick are entering a seedy bar in search of the injured and missing hero.

I had fun this past week helping with a short film shoot. The ten-year-old granddaughter is the protagonist. She goes exploring and is frightened by an alien hiding in an abandoned house. She runs home and returns with her skeptical older sister and squirt-gun-toting younger brother. They track down the alien, who checks them out and zooms away.

My film-producer daughter brought home her camera gear, including a film drone. (The drone has crashed into tree tops twice on homing mode. Obviously, it's a city, not a country, drone. More online tutorials will be downloaded.)

The short film footage is now in Rachel's editing computer. She'll add CGI images (shimmery light?) to show the alien being. It will be fun to see the final footage. If it's good enough, she'll color correct and sound design, and who knows where it will end up. The footage Rachel shot with the ten-year granddaughter (when Brandi was five) was just released as a music video for a New York City band.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

A Month of History

Debra spent June immersed in early U.S. history.

My hubby and I love to travel. Usually our one big trip a year is a cruise over spring break for our anniversary. Summers used to be filled with long weekend trips with our parents and and another with the hubby's sister and family. But, as our parents have gotten older and unable to walk around as well as they used to, and as our niece and nephew have gotten older and it's no longer 'cool' to hang with your older relatives, those smaller trips had stopped.

This summer, things changed a bit. At the beginning of June we took a week-long road trip with a friend out to Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. While we spent the majority of our week in Williamsburg immersed in 18th century history, we did take a side trip to Yorktown and Jamestown, which gave us a peek into 17th century history. Every little part of the trip was wonderfully awesome. There is no possible way to pick a favorite thing, although I have to say their Nation Builder program topped the list. My favorite to listen to was Thomas Jefferson. He talked about the importance of education and how the most important thing we can teach our children is history. My paraphrase of both speeches he gave is along the lines of: You have to know where you've been to see where you're going.

Governor's Palace - Colonial Williamsburg

Old Capitol at Night - Colonial Williamsburg

Young Thomas Jefferson - Colonial Williamsburg

The Church at Jamestown Settlement

Artillery Demonstration at the Revolutionary War Museum in Yorktown

Last spring we purchased a travel trailer, so we've been taking quite a few weekend jaunts recently. Last weekend we took a short trip out to Galena, IL (home of President/General Ulysses S. Grant) and walked around taking in the sites of 19th century history.

On July 1, I officially took over as President of our local Historical Society. I'm looking forward to leading the Society in its new direction of programming and education.

Our Newly Restored Original 1896 One-room School

Interior of Central School

Me (Playing "Schoolmarm" at a Laura Ingalls Book Discussion in the Schoolhouse)

So, yessire, it's been a history kind of summer so far. And I love it! (And what a perfect lead up to the Fourth of July here in the States!) #historyisfun

Until next time,

Happy Reading (and traveling)!


Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Tying up the Loose Ends

Paula’s new novel, Irish Shadows, is released today.

There were times last year, during the upheaval of changing publishers, when I wondered if I’d ever finish it. I started it in March 2017 but had no real motivation to continue it for about three months. In August, I began again, with some new ideas about the problems I was going to throw at my characters.

The ‘blurb’ sums up these problems:
After a heart-breaking experience, Rose Finlay has vowed never to give another man a chance to hurt her – until Liam McKenna arrives at Mist Na Mara Arts Centre to organise an anniversary celebration event. Liam has his own reasons for not wanting to embark on a new relationship, and both fight the mutual magnetic attraction.
Shocks await them when Liam meets the boy his sister gave up for adoption twenty years earlier, and Rose’s ‘ex’ makes contact with her thirteen-year-old son. Rose also discovers a betrayal which has divided her family since the Irish Civil War in the 1920s.
Will Liam and Rose be able to resolve all the shadows from the past in order to find a future together?

As you can see, the characters have quite a lot to deal with in addition to their relationship issues, but I enjoy playing with different strands and trying to interweave them. My big problem came when I was nearing the end of the story, and needed to untangle all those strands and tie everything up so that there were no ‘loose ends’. I knew (roughly!) how each strand was going to be resolved, but didn’t know when or in what order.

I eventually made a list of the resolutions of each sub-plot, made some vague notes about possible events leading to these resolutions – and then worked backwards, which is something I’ve never done before. Doing that helped me to decide, for example, that event A needed to happen before event B, and that C, D, and E might work better as D, E, and C!

Long discussions with my brain-storming partner over several pub lunches helped, too, although I do wonder what the couple at the next table must have thought if they’d overheard our conversation about how long a body in a shallow grave would take to decompose! I do hope they weren’t the same couple who overheard us a couple of years ago (when I was writing ‘Irish Secrets’) discussing the best place to hide stolen goods.

Anyway, I finally managed to work out the order of events (although, of course, the characters did decide to deviate from my basic outline a few times!), until all the loose ends were tidily and happily resolved.

Irish Shadows will be available for a few more days at the introductory price of 99c/99p.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Stiletto Contest

Jennifer is a finalist in a writing contest...

This weekend I found out that my book, In the Moment, is a finalist in the Stiletto Contest, sponsored by the Contemporary Romance Writers (an online chapter of the RWA). I was thrilled, to say the least. It’s my favorite book and it’s only the second time I’ve ever finaled in a contest before. As a bonus, the graphic they give the finalists is pretty!

But what I found most interesting is the score sheet they returned to me for the book that didn’t final. For whatever reason, the contests I’ve entered in the past have never returned those before and I was curious to see what the judges said.

There were three of them. One was unpublished, the other two were published in romance. They were all members of RWA. They were to rate the book on a scale of 1 to 5 in a variety of different categories. They could use decimals if they wanted, and they were encouraged to leave comments.

Contests are subjective, and these comments and ratings were too. While there was some agreement in certain areas, for the most part, the three judges differed significantly in areas such as conflict, POV and voice. I respect the time they took to read my book (as well as many others), and their opinions, even though I disagree with many of them. But there were a few things they pointed out that are good for me to be aware of in the future.

All in all, it’s exciting. I’m thrilled to have even been a finalist with one book—it was a much needed boost.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Children's rhymes aren't always warm and fuzzy

Ana's historical WIP heroine just got a job playing piano for riverboat passengers. Her new partner Tess suggests they perform old favorites so the deck passengers can sing along. Research yielded this ditty, entitled 'Miss Susie.'

The steamboat had a bell
Miss Susie went to Heaven and
The steamboat went to–

–Hello operator,
Give me number nine.
and if you disconnect me
I’ll chop off your be–

--’hind the heavy icebox
there was a piece of glass,
Miss Susie sat upon it
and hurt her big fat

Ask me no more questions,
Tell me no more lies.
The cows are in the pasture
making pies for

Flies are in the kitchen,
Bees are in the park.
Boys and girls are busy
kissing in the dark.

This reminded me of another rhyme that girls used to sing when jumping rope. 'Bill and Sarah, sitting in a tree, K I S S I N G. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage.'

Pretty bawdy stuff for kids, my heroine thinks. But she's from a rich family and knows her father didn't invest in her classical music education so she could become a vaudeville act. 
She and Tess are due to start entertaining in fifteen minutes. 
Will she?

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

A Sabbatical

Debra is re-prioritizing her life.

Over the last few months, heck...probably the last few years, I've been debating and debating about what I wanted to do with my writing career. I really love my small press, but was wondering if maybe it was time to branch out a bit. I had an iron in the fire that didn't amount to anything. Recently I've had a huge upswing in auditions for getting my books into audio. (Three are on the market now.) A contest caught my eye, as one of the final judges was an editor at Harlequin, and I figured that would be a good way to possibly get my work in front of her. It would require shortening a mss, but a couple beta readers (Thanks, Paula!) had encouraged that, so it was definitely something to consider. But as I read further through the contest final judges, another name jumped out from another publisher. One I've been really, really interested in. Problem with this one was I'd already been rejected by them for the mss I thought of entering. Did I try a different, albeit incomplete, one and hope that if it caught her eye I'd have it done by fall when the finalists were announced? The deadline is fast approaching, and I still have yet to make a decision.

Probably because I think what I've decided overall is to take a sabbatical from my writing. It's going on the back burner for now.

Oh, I'll still do some publicizing of books I already have out there. And with finalized audio books coming at me left and right these days, I'll be spending time getting together some publicity and campaigns for those. But I'm not going to make writing a huge priority. If the muse happens to strike, my fingers will hit the keyboard and knock out whatever pages I can, but I'm not going to force myself to write every day. And I'll still post and follow and like on Twitter. And of course here at Heroines with Hearts. (Although I am thinking of switching my Facebook account over to my real name instead of my author one, if that's even possible to do.)

I have other things going on in my life right now that I want to focus on. Effective July 1 I will be the president of my local historical society, and I am so excited about that! Oh boy do I have plans! I've written up my five-year plan already and have started outlining and gathering materials for a series of monthly programs I want to develop. I am definitely going to be a hands-on president. So that's where my focus is going to be for the time being.

Writing has always been a hobby for me, not generating anything I can call income in any sense of the word. I thought maybe it was time to go after writing in a more career-minded way, but I've found that my mind is less and less focused on writing and more and more focused on other things. New directions. New opportunities.

I still consider myself to be a writer and always will. But for the time being...I'm going to be a writer who's not writing. Will I come back to it? Hopefully. I still have lots of ideas in my head for stories, books, and series, and I really, really hope that someday they'll see the light of day in published form. But my instinct at the moment is to set that aside and do other things.

So that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Comma Splices

Paula looks at comma splices.  

Recently, I’ve read a couple of books with dozens (if not hundreds!) of what I call ‘run-on sentences’, which are also referred to as ‘comma splices’. Basically, this is when two independent sentences are ‘connected’ with a comma.

For example: Paula loves Ireland, she has been there many times.

I hope that, like me, you are cringing, because all my instincts say this is incorrect – and this is confirmed by every grammar guide.

Independent sentences like this should not have a comma between them. They should have either a full stop (period), or a conjunction, or even a semi-colon. NOT a comma!

One source I checked suggested that comma splices were a common error made by ‘inexperienced writers’. However, the novels I read were not written by newbie writers who hadn’t had their work checked by an editor before self-publishing. Both had independent publishers – and therefore, one assumes, competent editors. But both novels contained not just single comma splices. Often they had three or more independent clauses with only commas between them e.g.
Charlie gazed in admiration at Jane, he was looking forward to dinner with her, they had not been out together for weeks, who knew when they would again.

I’ve adapted this rather than quoted it directly – but it’s an example of what occurs frequently in both novels. And, apart from the comma splices, shouldn’t the final ‘independent sentence’ have a question mark at the end anyway?

This leads me to wonder
(a) whether the authors are totally ignorant of basic grammar rules.
(b) whether these novels have actually received any editing (despite one of them being with a fairly high profile publisher)
(c) perhaps more worrying in my opinion, whether today’s editors are ignoring a fundamental grammar error.

What do you think?

P.S. I’m happy to report that most novels I have read recently do not contain this error!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

A Self-Publishing Adventure

Jennifer is self-publishing one of her backlist books...

When my previous publisher, Rebel Ink Press, let me know they were closing their doors in June, I wasn't surprised. However, I was conflicted about what to do with the four books on my backlist that I had with them. So after taking a breath, I decided to try self-publishing one of my titles

I've heard a lot about self-publishing but didn't quite know how it worked. So before I did anything, I talked to people who did it, and did it well. And what I learned is that while you have to pay money for editing, covers, etc., the percentage of royalties you make is significantly higher than the percentage you make with a traditional publisher. That's not to say I don't want to publish with a publisher. I do. I'm very happy with my current publisher. But some of the backlist books whose rights I now have back are not going to go anywhere and I don't want them to languish in the ether.

Self-publishing is a growing industry and hybrid authors (those who do a combination of self-publishing and traditional publishing) are on the rise. The stigma around self-publishing is gone, especially if you self-publish well. 

I’m starting small, only working with one of those books—A Heart of Little Faith. The first thing I did was to give it to an editor. No matter how many times it’s been looked at, it can always benefit from someone other than me looking at it. A writer friend I know is also a freelance editor. She edited the entire manuscript and oh boy, there were a lot of changes she recommended. I took a deep breath and made them, and wow, the book is SO much better. 

Then I sent the manuscript to a copy editor. Because again, I always miss the little things and those are the things that end up embarrassing me (Random Reader: Did you know you spelled that word wrong?). I know someone who is phenomenal at copyediting and she found lots of things that would have been embarrassing if they had been published. 

Whenever a book is re-published, it needs a new cover. So I hired a cover artist, who designed a beautiful cover.

One of my critique partners does all her own formatting and works with Amazon, so she handled formatting and gave me explicit and easy instructions on how to put it up on the site. It's there now and available for pre-order. It will be released officially on June 1. Since this is an experiment for me, I'm only publishing this book for Kindle. I'm curious to see what happens. I know how much I spent and I’ll see how much I make in sales. If it works, I’ll self publish the others. If not, I’ll hold onto the rights for a while and see what, if any, other options I have. 

Wish me luck!

Monday, May 14, 2018

My mission, should I choose to accept it

Ana muses about a writing challenge.

Last week, the plot of my next chapter requires the hero to battered, put aboard a steam freighter, and expected to die of his injuries. Naturally, being the hero, he lives, but wakes with amnesia. My original draft of this chapter was in a secondary character's POV. Reasonably well-written with dialogue reveals of the hero's situation and condition.

First feedback from a round one crit partner was thumb's down. "Too telling. Try from his POV."

Hmmm. How to write a scene from an unconscious character's POV? Guess he can't be unconscious.
Here's what I have now. What do you think?

The man awoke to drumbeat throbs in his head. He tried to fill his lungs.
Pain stabbed his ribs. 
With an effort that almost left him spent, he forced one eye to open a crack. The other stayed shut.
Somewhere behind him, a hissing lantern cast a faint light. 
He lay prone on a floor, hands crossed on his chest like a corpse. Stacks of burlap sacks towered above him. He swiped his parched tongue over his lips and loosened a chunk of crusted blood. A gash oozed, refreshing the sickening taste of metal coating his mouth.
Feet shuffled past his head, followed by a heavy thump. 
He tried to cry for help, but all that came out was a barely-audible groan.  
“Think he’s stopped breathing?” a man whispered.
“I hope so,” a second replied. “I’ll check.”
Did they mean him? His heart raced with desperation. He’d heard of people who appeared dead and were buried alive. 
A floorboard creaked. Grunts sounded near his ears. Something thin and sharp-edged touched his lower lip. A piece of glass or broken mirror.
Summoning his last ounce of strength, he exhaled and prayed his breath would fog the glass.
“Sonofabitch,” the second man exclaimed. “He’s still alive. He must have medicine man blood in his veins.”
“You still wanna dump him overboard?” the first man asked.
“Can’t until he’s dead. Damn. How am I going to explain this to the captain?”

Monday, April 30, 2018

Murphy's Law or Fate?

Debra's writing has taken an unexpected turn.

Not to get too religious here, but I'm a big believer in letting God lead me in the direction He wants me to go. When I got a rejection on the mss I'd submitted to a new publisher, I took that as a sign that I wasn't supposed to make a huge career change from teacher to full-time author. Yes, yes...I also know the old adage of not putting all of your eggs in one basket, but like I said, I'm a big believer in signs. And I figured He was sending me one. Not to mention that things in my day job were looking up. (The school year got off to a rough start, but the kiddos and I had finally reached an understanding, and I was enjoying being in the classroom again. For a while there...mid-life crisis perhaps?...I really was contemplating getting out.) To me, that was another sign to stay put.

As I was cleaning out my inbox and deleting old e-mails, I came across the one I'd gotten from Wild Rose about getting my books into audio. I'd re-upped all of the contracts necessary to start the projects, but to be honest, with the keep-to-the-path-you're-on signs I seemed to be getting, and a bit of laziness thrown in to boot, I'd kind of lost interest in the idea. So, I deleted that e-mail.

Wouldn't you know it? A day or two later, our marketing rep contacted me and said she was going through old e-mails/files and saw I'd re-upped all of my contracts, and unless I had any questions or special requirements for narrators, she would mark those books as ready for audio auditions. I told her to go ahead, honestly thinking those auditions were hard to come by and it probably wouldn't amount to anything in the long run.

By know I really should know better than to tempt fate, right?

In the next few days I was inundated with auditions for my books. There were coming in two and three in a day. And then things really got rolling.

As it stands right now, here's what's going on:

I have one book (New Year's Eve at The Corral) almost ready to be released. There was just one small correction in one chapter.

(I wanted to attach the 'retail sample' audio clip here, but in reading directions in how to do that in blogger, it seemed WAY too complicated, so I'm not even going to attempt it right now! LOL)

I have another book (Wild Wedding Weekend) mid-production with the narrator sending me chapters to approve as she gets them done.

I've approved chapter samples for two stories (One Great Night and Valentine's Day at The Corral.)

And, I've heard and approved auditions for six other stories, which should mean that contracts have been offered and I'll be getting chapter samples on those soon.

Which means that all of my stories except for my original Corral trilogy (Which I haven't re-upped the contracts for...long story...yet) and An Unexpected Blessing are the only titles not at some stage in the audio process at the moment.

Keep in mind that all of this started on April 5. Less than a month ago.

So in addition to being excited about getting my stories...especially the older ones...out there in a new format and giving them new life, here's what I've taken away from this whole thing.

Apparently God wants me to be multi-dimensional in my life's pursuits.

And I'm getting more excited about my writing again...even though with the school year quickly winding down (which involves more projects, special nights, and field trips than imaginable) I really don't have time to write these days...and am looking forward to sitting down with my laptop once summer comes and figuring out what the heck to do with my completed mss that needs some work and the mss I started for NaNoWriMo...which is a GIANT mess...and (hopefully) getting that sucker finished. Where they'll go once they are fixed/finished is anyone's guess at this point.

But I'll be keeping my heart and mind open for signs from above, and what is meant to happen with them will happen. He always lets me His own time.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Adverbs or No Adverbs?

Paula looks at adverbs in our writing.  

‘The road to hell is paved with adverbs,’ said Stephen King.

In one sense, I agree with him. Adverbs can often lead to lazy writing. Recently I read a novel (by a best-selling author) which was littered with adverbs, especially after dialogue tags. On one Kindle page alone, there was: said truculently, said coldly, retorted sarcastically, said wearily, reiterated sullenly, said dourly - and when I got to 'she ejaculated hoarsely’ I nearly splurted my coffee in the middle of Starbucks!

Yes, there are times when we should avoid adverbs, especially when they are redundant (‘she whispered quietly’) or when the adverb can be replaced by a stronger verb (‘he raced down the street’ instead of ‘he walked quickly’). With dialogue, it is usually better to show (with a simple action/gesture) how a character is feeling, rather than giving readers a plethora of adverbs to tell them how someone said something.

However, this doesn’t mean that ALL adverbs have to be deleted! Sometimes an effort to do that can lead to ‘clunky’ writing, especially if the writer is simply substituting an adverbial phrase in place of the adverb. Isn’t it better to say ‘He stroked her cheek tenderly’ instead of ‘He stroked her cheek in a tender manner’ (or any other verbose description of what ‘tenderly’ means)?

Do a search of your latest chapter for ‘ly’ words, and you’ll probably (there’s one!) be surprised by how often you use words ending in ‘ly’. But then consider how the sentences containing each of those words could be rewritten. Could I have removed ‘probably’ from the above sentence? Yes, but then I’d be assuming that you WILL be surprised or, worse still, insinuating that you have used millions of adverbs! Omitting that adverb would change the whole meaning of the sentence – and that can be true in our fiction writing, too.

I do think we need to be aware of not overusing adverbs, but at the same time, not go overboard trying to find other words. Sometimes a simple adverb is the best word to use.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Writing Workshop

Jennifer attended a writing workshop...

I went to my first writing workshop in a long time. It was a master class, taught by a respected romance writer and the topic was using verbs to plot your story. 

Now, I’ve gotten into a rut with my writing. Yeah, I write daily. And yeah, I’m publishing books steadily now. But I’m having a harder and harder time getting what I want on the page. The techniques that used to work for me don’t and I’m beginning to see the necessity of plotting, which is terrifying for a pantser.

So I decided that taking a class offered by my local writer’s group was a good idea. No matter how talented you are, you can always stand to learn, polish, become better. The fee was reasonable, I’d heard great things about the instructor—like, really great things—and it was a weekend where I was completely free.

I went.

The morning session was instruction and exercises. The afternoon was taking what we learned in the morning and applying it to our own story. It was suggested that we bring an idea for a story or an early-stage manuscript to work on. Since I’ve just started a new manuscript, the timing was perfect. 

Basically, the idea of the workshop was to come up with strong, specific verbs to describe our character. Verbs lead to action. Action makes a compelling story. So, for example, if my hero is hiding from his past, his overarching verb would be hide. Every scene he is in would be either described with a synonym for hide or it’s opposite—a synonym for reveal—as his arc progresses. Once you know the action for each scene, it’s easy to flesh out the rest of it—description, motive, backstory, etc.

And in theory, it is. Unfortunately for me, in practice, it was difficult. I kept shying away from verbs and using adjectives or nouns. It’s not that I don’t know what a verb is, but this was a totally new concept for me and I’ve always been more attracted to the why than the what or the how. Plus, it’s plotting and I can’t do that. So while I could totally see what he wanted me to do, there was a huge disconnect in my brain when it came to actually doing it.

Ultimately, I don’t think this method is going to work for me. It might be helpful for me to come up with stronger verbs when I’m writing, because word choice is essential, but no matter how many times I tried it, it didn’t feel natural. Even the workshop leader said if it doesn’t feel natural, don’t do it, which I appreciated. Every writer is different and writing isn’t something that everyone can do the exact same way.

But it was another tool to add to my toolbox, and it was good to make a conscious effort to get out of my rut. Education is always beneficial, and reminding myself that I’m never too old to learn can only help me.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Blog Tours?

Paula’s thoughts on her week’s blog tour.
At the end of last year, I paid a ‘blog tour organiser’ to set up a tour for me. It seemed like a good way to promote my re-published Irish novels in the week leading up to St. Patrick’s Day. I had detailed instructions from the organiser about what she wanted, and I duly forwarded to her five different blogs and also excerpts which illustrated the blog topic, together with bio, links, covers, and other photos. She then sent me the list of blogs where my posts would appear.
All well and good – or so I thought. To begin with all seemed to go well – my first blog appeared last Monday, I advertised it in various places, and received quite a lot of comments (including those from HWH members – thank you, all!)
Tuesday’s blog appeared – and again I advertised it, but this time in some different FB groups, so as not to promote to the same people. After several hours, I realised there was a small problem – no comments appeared. Neither the usual one I write thanking the blog host, nor any others, although I know for certain that there should have been at least two other comments, and there may have been more. Yes, the message popped up that comments would be posted ‘after approval’ but it would seem this blog host didn’t bother to ‘approve’ any comments (as evidenced by other posts on the site, which also had no comments).
Wednesday – I waited all day for my blog to appear on the third site. It didn’t – until later on Thursday! This meant that I needed to advertise two blogs on the same day – not an ideal situation. Hardly surprising, therefore, that no comments have been made on either of these blogs. Oh, and neither of these blog hosts used the photos of Ireland which I had carefully selected to accompany my blog, either.
Friday – well, we’ll wait and see. The blog post is there, and I’ve advertised it in various groups…

My conclusions at the end of this week:
1. Five consecutive days of blogging is counter-productive. Yes, people visited my first one, but after that, nothing. Were my blogs too boring to comment on? I hope not, because I worked hard on creating completely different topics for each day.
2. In this case, the blog tour organiser formed the contact with the hosts, and I had no contact with them at all (and in fact only one of them actually responded to my thanks to her). The others simply posted what the organiser sent them.
3. Last but not least: effect on sales? As far as I can see at the moment, not a single sale!

So what would I do in future?
1. I would set up my own blog tour, with requests to friends with blogs. This way, a more personal contact is made, and also the blogs will probably follow a different format, rather than all being presented in the same way.
2. I would space out my blogs. Five in one week is too much. People don’t have the time to visit the same person’s blogs every day. One a week (or two, at the most) is enough.

Having said all that, I am seriously beginning to question the value of blogging. Personally, I think it has had its day. It’s nearly ten years since we first set up this blog, and although it is good to ‘chat among ourselves’, how many other comments do we get? Nowhere near as many as we did in the early days. And, if we’re being really honest, how many other blogs do we visit and leave a comment? I know I used to visit (and comment on) a lot more than I do now.

Apologies if this sounds very negative, but this week has been a real disappointment for me.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

I'm An Author!

Jennifer finally believes in her career...

I have decided that I must be a real author.

I know, this sounds crazy, so let me explain. I’ve been writing professionally for twelve years. I have a long way to go to before I can completely support myself doing this, but I make money off of my books, people buy them and even enjoy them. It’s something I love doing.

But no matter how many books I publish, how many readers tell me they like what I write, I’m filled with doubt. I think that’s normal—at least I hope it is.

In order to achieve my goals, I set to-do lists. They include things from my real life as well as my author life, and I know the importance of sticking to the list to make sure I’m productive. Without an office and a boss making sure I hit my targets, it’s too easy to get distracted. So I do my best to stay on task.

Until Friday. This past Friday, we were hit with a Nor’easter that knocked out our power. Without power, our basement flooded. Temperatures in the house went down to 46 degrees. We moved into my parents’ house a town away, but went back and forth, trying to protect our things, deal with the insurance company, get our stuff, etc. During that time, the things I needed to get done for my upcoming book launch didn’t happen. The writing and editing I intended to do didn’t happen either. And I stressed.

Now, some would say that’s a natural reaction to what was going on, and I agree. Of course the situation was stressful. Even though we were all safe, had a warm place to be, and didn’t lose anything that can’t be easily replaced, it’s stressful. I’m not saying I shouldn’t have felt it. But this was the first time I stressed over my writing career.

Which means, in a very roundabout way, that I’m a real author. Because if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t have even thought about it. So while I definitely need to work on ways to manage my stress, the good thing I’m taking away from this is I’ve got enough of a career to worry about. Yay!

By the way, my upcoming book that I’m now woefully behind on marketing  is available for preorder here.