Sunday, May 24, 2015

Getting Ready

There's an awful lot going on in the next few weeks. First, and most important to me, the brace comes off, finally. May 27 will be six weeks living with this thing, and I'm more than ready to be done with it. I won't throw the blasted thing away until May 28, when I see the doctor, but as far as I'm concerned, I'm done with it.

Which is a good thing, since my chapter conference happens on May 29, featuring the great Carla Neggers. I'll be going to the author book signing and lunch, which is about all I'll be able to handle, knowing I need to ease back into things. June 1 starts The Romance Review's Sizzling Summer Reads month-long blog fest, at which I'll be featuring my novella, An Unconventional Courtship and the bundle of the first 3 books in the Cotillion Ball series, both of which are available for pre-order now at a discounted price, and will be available on your Kindle June 8.

Family visits will take up most of the first week of June, too, at which time I'll get to see two very special men–my uncle, the last remaining brother of my dad, will turn 80 in June, and we're invited to the party; and my nephew, who I haven't seen since my brother's wedding fifteen years ago. John is now 31, 6 feet and 7 inches tall, and loves to write sci-fi stories. We've got a lot to talk about.

More exciting things are on tap for this summer, including a trip (for research purposes only, of course), to the Kentucky Bourbon trail. And maybe the Tennessee Whisky trail, too. There's a story or two there.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Summertime in Ohio

As most of you know, I've got a couple more weeks to be housebound wearing my brace and walking around in a nightgown, since that's the only thing that fits. My inactivity was beginning to wear on me, until yesterday. That's when the outdoor furniture finally got carried up out of the basement and the screened porch was put together. I now can sit out on the porch with my computer, working while I'm watching the birds in the yard, and inhaling the scent of freshly mown grass. It certainly has done wonders for my psyche.

Which is a good thing, since I'm going through my checklist on my latest work, trying to polish it up. The checklist is the most tedious part of writing, as far as I'm concerned, since it's not creating a new story, but rather finessing and fine-tuning the work you've just put on the screen. And my checklist just got longer, thanks to some courses I've recently taken, but in the end, I'll have a contemporary work I'm proud of. 100 pages down, 135 yet to go. And at least three more read-throughs before I'm done.

I have a lot of events on the schedule for June and July, which will cut into my writing time. But I'll get to see people I haven't seen in years, I get to tour a part of the country I haven't spent much time in, which I plan to use as a backdrop for another story, and I get to end July at RWA Nationals in New York. Who knows what plot lines I'll find?

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Road Not Taken

I recently took a workshop on writing. After all these years of writing and being a published author, you'd think I'd have seen and done it all, but that's not the case. Everyone needs to work every day on improving their craft, and I'm no exception. I wanted to up my game, and being forced into seclusion with my bum hip gave me a perfect opportunity to mire myself in this course.

So what was the outcome? I began to look at my work in a totally different way. My process is to write a quick first draft, then go back over it time and again, searching for overused words, jumps in the timeline, inconsistencies, equal representation of the senses, etc. Each pass brings me closer to a finished product, but it's time-consuming. Now, with this workshop, I have even more to look for. I need to find power words and try to position them appropriately. So, I'm now looking at every sentence, every paragraph, every chapter hook. It's tedious, but in the end, I think it'll be worth it.

My first project using my newly-minted technique is for the upcoming book 8 in the Cotillion Ball Series. This one's about Pepper, who is a totally different heroine from my usual young, feisty women. She's been married, has 3 children, and her husband was killed during the first battle of the Civil War, so she's learning how to live on her own. And how to find love again. I'll be the first to admit this book took a lot of work–not just the research about the Civil War battles that took place in 1862 and 1863, but what it was like to be a single parent raising three young boys. I had to interview some mothers who were in similar situations in order to understand the tremendous inner strength involved.  I'm happy to say A Widow's Salvation is now finished, except for one final read-through, and I'm on to the next.

Which is what, you might ask? I have a contemporary story finished, and am in search of a good agent to market it for me. But, since it's been over a year since I wrote and rewrote the story, I think it's a good project for me to look over with my new set of workshop eyes. Give the manuscript a new life, take it down a different path. I've always been adventurous and the road not yet taken seems like the right one for me at this stage of my career.

I'll let you know how it works out.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Cover Reveal and Exclusive Excerpt!

About one year ago, Crimson Romance decided to expand into the novella category. So, of course, the competitor in me decided to give it a go and see what happened. I'd been wanting to write a story about how Charlotte & George Fitzpatrick met, and thought a novella would be the right length to tell their story.

So, on June 9 the prequel to the Cotillion Ball Series will be released along with a bundle of the first three books in the series. What better way to get to know the family than to start at the beginning?

Here's the cover for the novella. Doesn't Charlotte's expression say it all?


Long before The Reluctant Debutante, there was the story of Charlotte Ashcroft and George Fitzpatrick.

They were two young strangers in New York City until Charlotte took matters into her own hands. Confronted by a busybody who would surely inform her mother she was where she shouldn’t be, and alone, she forced the man in the jaunty blue hat who had caught her eye to act as her escort. By going along with the ruse, George Fitzpatrick sealed his fate with Charlotte. He would become her husband. Now she just had to convince him he couldn’t live without her.

No Buy Link yet, but stay tuned!

Here's a taste of what's to come:

“Charlotte? Is that you?”
Charlotte cringed inside her Sunday best, lavender dress. She knew that voice.

Accepting her fate, she turned to face the old busybody.
“Well, hello there, Mrs. Beasley. How are you this fine Sunday afternoon? Are you

also planning to attend Frances Wright’s speech?”
Mrs. Beasley’s spine straightened at the suggestion, and her gaze pierced Charlotte.

“Heavens, no. I have no wish to fill my head with such nonsense. Where is your mother? I should say hello.”
“Mother’s not with us today. We took the omnibus to get here.”
“What? Without a male escort? Is your mother aware of what you’re doing, young lady?”
Charlotte glanced around the street where they had been dropped off. Suddenly, she spied a familiar hat in the crowd. A blue hat with a feather tucked into the grosgrain ribbon. Her heart began to race as he came toward her.
“Ah, but we do have a proper male escort.” She wrapped her hand around the man’s arm, bringing him, if somewhat reluctantly, to her side. “This is our chaperone, Mrs. Beasley.” Charlotte turned her eyes toward the man and held her breath, silently pleading with him to catch on to her plight.
He executed a proper bow toward Mrs. Beasley, and Charlotte let out her breath a bit at a time. “George Fitzpatrick, at your service, Mrs. Beasley.”
Mrs. Beasley’s face was still full of disdain. “George Fitzpatrick? I’ve never heard of you. Just how do you know Charlotte Ashcroft?” 
“We’re old friends who love adventure. When I decided to escort Charlotte and her lady friends on their outing today, we thought an omnibus ride would be a delightful way to get there. And it certainly has proven to be so.”
Mrs. Beasley was somewhat mollified, if not totally convinced, sending a loud harrumph” their way before she moved on.
“Oh, Mr. Fitzpatrick, thank you ever so much. We would have been in grave trouble if not for you.” Charlotte fawned over the man.
“Well, since I’ve saved you from your current peril, and since we don’t know who else you’ll run into, perhaps I should finish the job you’ve assigned me to and escort you ladies to your final destination? May I meet the other ladies in your party?”
Charlotte quickly introduced him to Emma and Katie but did not yield her hold on his arm.
They found their way to the Hall of Science where Miss Wright was speaking, and George insisted on paying the entry fee for the four of them. They found enough open seats to sit together and moved to the chairs. Charlotte waited for Emma and Katie to claim a seat, and then she sat next to them, leaving only one remaining empty spot. Next to her alone. She smiled at her craftiness.
He took the seat beside her then leaned over to whisper in her ear. “Mrs. Beasley was right. Young ladies such as you could get into a lot of trouble without a proper escort. I’m offering my services to you, absolutely free of charge, for the remainder of the afternoon.”
Charlotte’s laugh bubbled up. “I have a feeling, sir, you’re the biggest trouble I can get into today.” 


The Reluctant Debutante

It’s 1855 in New York, and Ginger Fitzpatrick joins other women in support of Amelia Bloomer’s cause. During a rally, a stranger helps her evade police. She is introduced to him formally at her debutante ball, the latest society craze. Although Joseph is a friend of her brother’s, he is half Indian and unsuitable. Ginger must ultimately decide if Joseph is worth going against her family’s wishes.

The Abolitionist's Secret

In 1856 New York, despite their divergent views on slavery, romance ensues when David dances with Heather at the Cotillion Ball and later that night, walks her home. An engagement quickly follows. When he receives word that his father is ailing, David wants her to accompany him home to Savannah to meet his family.

But she knows the South is no place for an abolitionist.

Banking On Temperance

Basil Fitzpatrick was born into a life of privilege. In 1856, at 23 years of age, he is the owner of the St. Louis branch of the family banking business. He has his pick of the ladies and life by the horns.

Temperance Jones and her family are far from privileged. Her father is a circuit-riding preacher from Pennsylvania. But the rumblings of a war between the North and the South force the preacher to move his family to Oregon rather than to take up arms against his fellow man. However, hardship and sickness slowed their pace, and they are forced to spend the winter in St. Louis, waiting for the next wagon trains to leave in the spring.

Basil is drawn to the family the moment they roll into town, partly because they remind him of his own big family in New York. But also because of the eldest daughter, Temperance. She is a tiny, no-nonsense spitfire bent on fulfilling her father’s wish to get the family safely to Oregon. Basil knows if he allows Temperance into his heart, he is accepting the obligation of her entire family. He wants Temperance like he has wanted no other, but is the burden of her family too much?

Basil is drawn to the family the moment they roll into town, partly because they remind him of his own big family in New York. But also because of the eldest daughter, Temperance. She is a tiny, no-nonsense spitfire bent on fulfilling her father’s wish to get the family safely to Oregon. Basil knows if he allows Temperance into his heart, he is accepting the obligation of her entire family. He wants Temperance like he has wanted no other, but is the burden of her family too much?

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Lot Going On

Even though my dislocated hip and the resulting brace which I must wear for the next 32 days (but who's counting?) have forced me to take it easy, my mind can't help but race ahead. May, June and July are packed with events, both personal and professional, and when I run down the list, it makes me wonder how it'll all get done.

Kind of like writing a book.

When I get an idea for a new book, my mind spins out all the events that will take place to get my characters to their happy ever after. There are so many plot ideas, high points, dark moments, resolutions, that it is dizzying. Many great writers never get beyond this point, since it is overwhelming. They have massive doubts in their ability to blend all their ideas into a cohesive structure that they stop after writing a few great scenes and never return.

I have found Blake Snyder's Save The Cat book to be of immense value when I first get an idea. I plot out the major turning points in the story in the briefest of outlines. It still gives me flexibility to let the story spin out the way it's going to, but keeps the story line on track to proceed forward.

So, I'm applying the same technique to this summer. I've got all the events posted on my calendar and will tick them off one at a time as I get to that point. In the meantime, I can look forward to what's yet to come. And,
I still have the flexibility to change direction, if need be. After all, I like surprises.

Sunday, April 19, 2015


This past week has been one for the books–unfortunately, not mine.

My shiny new artificial hip decided to dislocate itself while I was shopping last Sunday, resulting in three days in the hospital. Then, I got fitted for a leg brace which extends from hip to foot, which I'm supposed to stay in for 6 weeks. After only three days, the brace fell apart!

Two flukes in the same week.

As a result of these unexpected bumps in the road, I got very little done from a writing or promotional standpoint. I had some edits due back to the publisher, and I've got a deadline looming for the next book in the series, which is due June 1, and I'm only on the first revision.

What to do now?

Well, things could not be working out better in that regard. Since I'm trussed up like a turkey for 5-1/2 more weeks, I'm not going anywhere. Even if I could, I have no clothes that would fit over the brace. It's a good thing I like to work in a nightgown.

So now it's time to buckle down. Edits went back yesterday, so I can check that off my list. I've got to get through that first revision and then dump it from Scrivener into a word document and format it. I know those of you using Scrivener are screaming at the screen right now,"Why are you doing that, when you can format right from Scrivener?"

It's part of my process. No two people work alike.

So, hopefully, by the end of this week, I'll have that first revision knocked out and will start on the formatting. Then, I may even find time to get back to the other historical I'm working on. There's always a list of things to do, broken hips and braces or not.

Have a great Sunday, and an even better week, everyone!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Power Of No

Such a simple word. Such a complicated word.

When was the last time you were told No? An hour ago? Last week? Last month?

On The Voice last week, Pharrell Williams told one of his team "No should be your biggest motivation." His words don't just apply to the music industry. In both your life, and in becoming an author, the word No is constantly volleyed at you left and right.

Sometimes, the word is lower case–no. You can step right over these little pebbles of rejection. Your blind date never called again when you thought something had clicked, or you get a form rejection letter on your very first manuscript from a big publisher.

Then sometimes the first letter of the word is upper case but not in bold letters–No. That's when the job you were so perfect for, the one where you killed on the interview, went to someone else. Or when the agent who thought enough of your work to request a full decided she had someone already on her client list who was similar. What do you do then? You can't just step over these Nos. They're too big. So you decide to go back to school, to get your Master's degree or to take more workshops on craft to better your writing.

The worst, though, is the big NO. Upper case, bold. The man you thought you'd share the rest of your life with tells you he doesn't love you anymore. Or the three book deal with a six-figure advance went to your best writing buddy. In these cases, you have two choices. You can either give up and lay down, letting that huge boulder of a NO flatten you, or you can choose to let it motivate you, spur you on to even greater heights. Your friend got a three-book deal? You'll get a five-book one. Your significant other left you? Put yourself back into the dating pool and find a partner who's even better.

If you let the power of the word no motivate you, you'll become a better person, a better partner, a better writer. You just can't let it flatten you.