Sunday, October 22, 2017

Drum Roll, Please!

It is with immense pleasure that I give you Sweet Caroline, a sweet contemporary set in the Wild Rose Press fictional town of Lobster Cove, ME, which will be released on November 15. Take a look at this delicious cover, created by Rae Monet, who has designed several other of my covers, along with my website.

Sweet Caroline follows on the heels of Love's In The Cards, my first Lobster Cove book. In that book, sisters Penny and Abbey are getting their card shop ready for the Christmas holiday rush and Del, one of the greeting card artists used by the main office visits their store. He turns out to be an old flame of Penny's, and a HEA happens soon after. Now, in Sweet Caroline, it's February, and Del and Penny are getting married. Caroline is a cousin, and a bridesmaid in the wedding party. 

Here's the blurb for Sweet Caroline: 

Caroline Stuart never returned to Lobster Cove after an embarrassing summer night when she was fifteen. But her cousin’s marriage was an event she couldn’t miss. Imagine her surprise when she discovers her partner in the bridal party is Grant Jackson, the same boy who humiliated her years ago. She still hates him. Yet, he still excites her. 

Grant had more than the usual problems fitting in as a teenager, being the only boy of mixed heritage in the school. And he’d somehow alienated the one girl he desperately wanted to impress. With Caroline’s return to Lobster Cove, he finally has an opportunity to make amends, if only she’ll listen. If only she’ll let go of the past. 

And a bonus excerpt: 

Abbey laughed as the other two bridesmaids stood at the window, giggling. “Come take a look at the groomsmen.” She hustled Caroline to the window.

Four men stood outside, handsome in their dark gray, three-piece suits.

“No tuxedos?” Caroline craned her neck to see the men.

“As Penny said, nothing conventional here today.” Abbey pointed to one of the men. “Allow me to point out my Charlie, the one with the light brown hair.”

“And whose fine backside am I staring at?” Caroline gestured to the man facing away and leaning over to straighten his pants leg.

“I’m glad you approve. That’s your groomsman.” Abbey laughed.

At that precise moment, the man straightened and glanced at the window.

Mocha skin, piercing, unexpected blue eyes, and curly black hair. Caroline caught her breath and put a hand on her suddenly nervous stomach. “Grant? Please tell me he’s not Grant.”

“I’m surprised you even remember him, Caro.” Abbey glanced at Caroline with widening eyes and gave her a playful swat on the arm. “Del picked his groomsmen, and Grant was the only one tall enough to pair with you. I hope you don’t mind.”

Caroline pivoted away from the window, her mind buzzing and her panic rising as she recalled the last time she’d seen Grant. “Yes, I do mind, but we’re too late to change things around. For Penny and Del’s sake, I’ll be cordial. But once today is over I hope never to see him again.”

 I don't have the buy link yet, so stay tuned. 

Is this my last contemporary? I've learned never to say never, especially in this business. Let me know what you think. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Secondary Characters

My new Regency line, The Flower Girl Series, has been scooped up by Simon & Schuster, with the first one scheduled for release on Christmas Day! It is definitely Happy Dance time.

With that in mind, I'd like to talk a bit about the first book, Winning Violet. The Wilson sisters–Iris, Violet, Lily and Poppy, all live and work with their father in his landscaping and nursery business in Hertfordshire, outside of London. And while the entire family does indeed participate in this first book, showing up at the most inauspicious of times, the real secondary character is truly someone special. Her name is Lady Banks. Allow me to introduce you.

Violet is a true scientist who spends her days experimenting with the hybridization of roses–specifically the Lady Banks rose. This particular beautiful climbing rose is spectacular when in bloom, and the scent from the roses is divine, but unfortunately it only blooms once a year. Violet is cross-pollenating it with other varieties in an attempt to make it bloom more frequently and hopes her work will gain her recognition with the Royal Horticultural Society.

The Lady Banks rose plays a pivotal role in the story line. Violet curtsies in front of the plant each time it gets watered or fertilized, calls her My Lady, and uses her pollen to explain the process of hybridization to Parker, Thomas Jefferson's landscaper.

This is the first time I've used a plant as a secondary character, but she does get a lot of words in my story. She bears witness to Violet and Parker's blooming romance, their first kiss and, ahem, other things a Lady doesn't discuss. I like to think that when Violet and Parker finally come to the realization that they are in love with each other, the Lady Banks hides her knowing smile under a green leaf.

What about you? Have you ever used inanimate objects as characters in your books?

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Dressing The Part

I went on a job interview last week. Hey, even a starving artist needs to have grocery money and my third attempt at a ghostwriting job didn't pan out. I thought I'd be a shoe-in for the job–temporary work of eight weeks during the upcoming holidays with the greeting card company I'd worked at for years, but this time I'd be sitting in a cubicle in a large office fielding calls. I was a natural. So, I filled out the on-line questionnaire, sent a cover letter outlining my experience and got a call for an interview. I'd even written a book about working in a card shop.

It's been a number of years since I've been on an interview and I labored for more than 24 hours wondering what to wear. Dress? Didn't own a single one anymore. Slacks? I had a choice between the ones with the shiny butt or the ones I had to keep tugging up. I had just bought some new jeggings that had a nice fit but really–jeans to a job interview?

In the end, I wore the jeggings, a colorful blouse that I hoped would detract from the fact I was wearing jeans, and a sensible sweater. I was ushered into the interview room after getting a guest badge from the front desk and waited. And waited. Finally, after ten or fifteen minutes, a man showed up at the door. I smiled at him, happy to get the process started, but even more happy at his appearance. He wore droopy gym shorts, flip-flops and a ruby stud in each ear. All my worry had been for nothing. I eased back into my seat, ready to wow him with my knowledge of the company.

But, as with everything, the company has evolved from the behemoth it was when I worked for them. The job I had applied for was for their e-card portion of the company. No opening of card packs and straightening them in the racks. This was all done via computer. And Mac computers were the enemy.  I've only used Macs for the past, oh, fifteen years or so. I immediately started reassessing my ability to do this job, wardrobe aside. The fact that I didn't bring a resume with me along with my lack of PC experience pretty much made the guy close the file before I even rose from the table. I explained that it had been so many years since I'd held a full-time job, the people on my resume would have been retired by now or the company out of business, but I could tell the more I talked, the further away the job went.

Ah, well. The money would have been nice, and it was fun to make a list of the various ways I would spend it. But I came home, fired up my faithful Mac and got some nice news, which will fill up my time between now and next April. I'll release more information as I can.

So you see, everything happens for a reason. If I'd qualified for the job, I wouldn't have time to get a new book written by April.

I'd much rather be solving the problems of my hero and heroine than solving the problem of why an e-card won't open. Call me selfish.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Taking Stock

It's now officially autumn, and the leaves here in northern Ohio are beginning to fall. Soon, my front yard will be covered in discarded oak leaves and I'll be scrambling for firewood.

This is the time of year I like to do a look back over the year and see where I'm at in this writing journey and where I'm headed. My yardstick contains several components:

1) October is one of the months during the year where royalty checks are issued. There will be one more issued when the books are closed for the year in December, but March and October are the biggies. I like to compare this year's checks with last year's and see if I've made any headway. If not, I need to explore ways to provide an additional revenue stream.

2) I check my swag to see if I need to order any more bookmarks, business cards, etc. Have I promoted myself enough?

3) Has my supply of my books dwindled to the point where I need to order more? Do I need to plan more public appearances next year?

4) I take a look at my book project folder to see if I'm able to mark anything off that list and update accordingly. Do I have any more compelling story lines to consider for next year?

5) I also look at my five-year plan, which gets extended out by a year each time. It's a good benchmark to keep me on track. Am I accomplishing the goals I've set forth?

Even though it's technically not the end of the year, it is the end of the year for my business, more or less. Before the craziness of the holidays happens, I can reflect on what I've accomplished this year and what even bigger things I can do for next year.

How about you? Do you take stock of your career at the end of each year? Do you make plans to do things differently in the coming months?

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Hurry Up And Wait

If I needed any reminder of what this publishing business is all about, I got it in the past few weeks. You Hurry Up and finish your WIP, only to set it aside for a few weeks to simmer before you polish it up and send it off into the world, in whatever avenue of publishing you choose. That's the first Hurry Up And Wait moment. If you enter it into a contest you Hurry Up and submit before the deadline and then Wait impatiently until the finalists are announced.

I recently attended an event at my local library on self-publishing. The main gripe about traditional publishing is the lag time between when you sign a contract and when the book is released. With the advent of small press publishers, the lag time isn't nearly so great as it used to be–my first book was contracted for in March and released in May, giving me barely enough time to set up my website and this blog. So that argument against using a traditional publisher doesn't hold much water anymore. There are still pluses and drawbacks and it's a very personal choice. But at least now, in this day and age, we authors have many paths to publication.

But say you do want to go the self-publishing route. There's still a Hurry Up And Wait aspect to it. You want to spend time, and unless you have a Fine Arts background, money, on a decent cover and a good editor–preferably two editors. These people, if they're good (and good's what you want) have many other authors as clients, so you need to be worked into their rotations. There can be months of lag time between when a manuscript is submitted to an editor and when the final product goes live on Amazon and other outlets.

If you go the traditional route with a small press, the lag time can be quick or tedious. I mentioned my first book only took two months. My most recent one has taken me since January, when I turned it in, and still there's no release date in sight. I keep telling myself it will happen, I didn't have to find and pay for an editor, a cover, or a formatter, so I'm good with it, but it's been a struggle.

And a Big 5 publisher? One of my favorite small press publishers got bought up by a Big 5 last year, and they've done a fabulous job of promoting my backlist. I want to work with this publishing house again, now since they're part of a Big 5, so I submitted a manuscript to them. It's Book One of a new series, and I've had my fingers crossed for months now. I guess I should spend the Wait time working on the second book in the series, but I find it hard to work with my fingers crossed and holding my breath. Maybe I'll hear something this week...

How about you? Would you like to work with a Big 5 or do you want complete control? Or both? In any scenario, there will be many Hurry Up And Wait moments.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Same, Only Different

My best writing buddy spent this past week writing blurb copy, that all-important couple of paragraphs that you can read on Amazon about what to expect from the book. There are posts all over the internet on what needs to be included and in what order, and writing blurb copy has evolved into a very fine art form which can make or break a book. If you're published via the traditional route, you submit a version of your blurb and then the publisher changes it to make it better. If you're self-published, you're pretty much on your own.

My buddy asked for my help with writing her blurb. Rather than massage her work, I wrote another version of it, since I've read the book already. She sent both versions to her editor and didn't tell the woman which was hers and which was mine. This editor has proofed every book written by my buddy and had no problem deducing which version was hers. We had written essentially the same thing, only different. Each version had strengths and drawbacks, so the final version will probably be a mash-up of the two, but it brought home some points about writing that are usually lurking in the background.

One: You can give a room full of writers the same characters, the same plot points, the same set of circumstances, and you'll get as many different versions as there are people in the room. They're all writing the same thing, but the difference comes in the style, the voice, the backgrounds of the authors.

Two: Beginning authors often don't know what it means when an agent or editor says they like their voice. (Or don't like it, heaven forbid!) Debut authors who hit the big time right out of the gate know intrinsically what their voice is. The rest of us have to work at it. It's the way we write, if we have more dialogue than we do description, if we have a distinct pace, if a sense of humor is evident, if we've taken a usual situation and turned it on its ear. If we've written the same thing, only somehow made it different.

Three: There are only so many tropes in writing romance: friends to lovers, second chances, beauty and the beast, secret baby, etc. The difference between a mediocre work and one that truly shines is to take a trope and make it different.

While I'm waiting to see the final version of the blurb, I'm also working on my next manuscript–a mail-order brides book. There's a trope that's been done to death, but readers seem to love reading about them, so I thought I'd give it a go, since I like to write about American history and I have a ton of books about Covered Wagon Women. Now, my trick is to take a well-loved trope and write something that's the same, only different. Maybe I'll add a dog.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Making Every Word Count

You'd think if you're writing a book that's 70,000 to 85,000 words that not every single one would matter. You as an author can let some things slide. Just telling the story is hard enough without dissecting every sentence and every paragraph.

And you'd be wrong.

I took the first chapter of the first draft of my newest endeavor to a full-day workshop yesterday, taught by Margie Lawson. The workshop was divided into parts, the first being Power Openings. She offered twenty points to check out in your opening. Things like: Is the first line your POV character's line? Uh, no. The story's about one of three sisters who heads west as a mail-order bride, but my first sentence has all three in it. Had all three in it. The reader couldn't tell who the story will be about. I hauled out my red pen and sliced through the first paragraph.

Then, we moved on to Power words. This part of the workshop was fun, since we had to exchange our work with another at the table and circle the power words in their work. Power words heighten the emotion, the tension. The words circled in my first paragraph were as follows: graves, parents, graveyard, fresh mounds. Immediately, you, the reader, know what's going on. And how this situation would affect the POV character.

In the afternoon, we moved on to Rhetorical Devices. Rhetorical Devices are essentially playing with words for a greater impact. I just used one of Margie's Top 20 by using the two word description at the end of one sentence and then at the start of the very next one. There are 19 other ones as well, some of which give my current editor fits. Such is the life of an author.

The last segment was about character descriptions. I thought I had gotten pretty good at describing my characters by now. I no longer stop the action and provide a head-to-toe description. But I do tend to use and reuse the same types of descriptive words to signal hair color, lip color, dimples, freckles, etc.
I need to liven things up without resorting to purple prose. If you think that's a fine line, you're absolutely right. It's what moves a book from the mid-list to the New York Times list.

I'm about 20,000 words into this story and thought it was moving along at a good clip. But I think, rather than getting the story down in a flash format from start to finish, I need to go back over these 20,000 and examine every word, every sentence, every paragraph, and use what I learned in the workshop. If I can apply what I learned to this part, and make every word count, maybe it'll become second nature to me when I get back to the story line.

At least that's the plan.