Sunday, September 23, 2018

Fast Or Slow?

Years ago, before I realized I was a better writer than a seamstress, I made quilts. And years ago, there were two schools of thought regarding quilting–you could either do it fast or you could do it slow. The fast way involved machine sewing all those little squares and triangles together and then either tying your three layers together (backing, batting and top) or doing a minimal amount of hand quilting. The Long Arm quilting machines were only then coming into existence.

The slow way involved cutting out each individual triangle or square from a template and pinning it to the next piece to make a block, which then was joined to another similar block. Borders were added and then it was all pinned together and the three layers were painstakingly quilted by hand. Believe me, punching a needle through three layers of fabric and batting was not for the faint of heart and it was a source of pride when you could get your quilting stitch fine and consistent enough to reach 10 or 12 stitches to the inch. The quilt shown here was laboriously hand sewn and hand quilted while I was racing around the country years ago. While my friend took over the driving, I stitched the little triangles together in my lap. The pattern was appropriately called the Wild Goose Chase.


I attended a quilting exhibition on Friday and was amazed and disappointed to find only two quilts that were quilted by hand. There were some exquisite tops in vivid design and detail, but to me, the effect was lost because of the long arm machine quilting. As intricate as the stitching was, the quilts didn't have the puffy consistency that you got from hand quilting. They looked flat to me.

So why am I telling you this? Because last weekend, I attended a writer's conference where one of the  speakers talked about outlining your novel before you begin writing it. Her goal is to publish six books a year, and in order to do so, she creates an extensive outline for each one before starting. Her detailed chapter outline even included snippets of dialogue that she thought would be appropriate in the chapter. It's the writer's version of the long arm quilting machine.

I'm not one to disparage a writer's methods. We each have to find our own way of being creative, and if someone like Danielle Steel or this woman from the conference thinks outlines are the way to go, who am I to argue? If it works for them, fine. But to me, it felt flat. Leaving no room for creativity to take over in the middle of a scene, to connect the dots that only your subconscious is aware of before they come together on the page, seems more like a grind than a grin. But that's me and that's why I can't produce six books a year.

What about you? If  you're a plotter, do you use an outline? Write the synopsis first? Use a beat sheet?  How detailed do you get before you begin to put words on a blank screen?

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Friends

This week, an old Girl Scout song has been humming through my mind.
“Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other is gold” 
I sang this chant, along with my other Girl Scouts, back in the 1960s, and it never had much meaning to me until this week. I came back to Ohio, back to the Northeast Ohio chapter of RWA, for probably the final time. Seeing all my old friends who came along the publication journey with me, who shared in my excitement of my first book being published, was a real treat. Those two days of the conference, the endless hugs, and the whispered conversations, are something I won't ever forget. Old friends. 
But I now live in North Carolina, and have joined a new chapter of RWA that's just a tad closer than Ohio. The Heart of the Carolinas chapter, in Raleigh, is my new home, and I'll be attending their annual conference in October. I hope to get to know these ladies a bit better at this conference and make some new friends. 
Authors may write their manuscripts in a solitary environment, but we all need networks of like-minded friends to help us on our journeys. That's why I have more than one publisher. Not only does it offer a measure of safety, should a publishing house decide on a whim to close its doors, but you gain access to a whole new tribe of authors who all will cheer your successes, and help lift your spirits if you fail. The larger the circle, the better and more successful you will become. 

So here's to my friends, both old and new. May we always share love, laughter and success. Oh, and wine.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Breaking With Tradition

Anyone who's spent any time writing romance knows one of the cardinal rules of the genre is that the initial meeting of the hero and heroine must take place no later than Chapter Two.


I never liked following the rules.

My current WIP features a couple who are operating under false pretenses, not of their own making. She had been informed of his death six years ago, on a far-away battlefield. He had been informed of her marriage to another. He's a spy now, involved in an undercover operation and has assumed a different identity. So a meeting in the first chapter or two would undermine the entire concept of the book.

But what to do? If hero and heroine don't even have a conversation until page 100, how can I get around it, do what is expected of a romance and let them interact with each other? This is where brainstorming with my writing buddies pays off. We kicked around a couple of ideas and I finally decided a few lusty dream sequences by the heroine were in order. I've been adding in little snippets of dreams here and there before page 100, and it seems to be working. Maybe add in some fog, since the setting is London, after all.


I'll let you know how it pans out in the long run.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Rounding The Corner

My struggles to get my books back up on Amazon are finally sorting themselves out. Thanks to all of you who offered advice and suggestions. Both The Reluctant Debutante and The Abolitionist's Secret are now available, with Banking on Temperance and The Tempestuous Debutante slated for September.

Then, in October, I'll get new royalty (or, in my case, lack of royalty) statements from Simon & Schuster, which will clear the way for the rights to more of those books to be reverted to me. I will then work with my new publisher, Prairie Rose, to add new covers, rejuvenate the blurbs, and re-edit the work.

It's been a good feeling to see the revised versions back up on Amazon, and I'm excited about the new Kindle Unlimited option, where people can borrow the book instead of buying it and I get a certain amount for each page read. It's a great idea for those of us with already overloaded Kindles, and I've been quite happy with the results from the two books I have already in that  program.

In a few short weeks, I'm heading to Cleveland for a conference with my old RWA chapter. I'll get a face to face with my agent, and hope we can pound out a sensible plan to move my career onto an entirely new level.

I don't play baseball, but if I did, I'd be rounding third and heading for home about now. 2019 is just around the corner and it's going to be a great year. Bring it on. In the words of the immortal Stephen King:



Sunday, August 26, 2018

Filling In


I've used the analogy before of comparing the body of a book to a body of a human. I am proud to say I just finished the skeleton of my current manuscript and now am working on adding meat to my story.

I read through the story last week and am pleased with the way it spools out, but I noticed a few things that need fixing. There are a couple beats in the book that must be BIG, and right now they're only big. I need to strengthen them, beef up those sections of the book, maximize their impact. I'm working on it.

Most of you who follow along with me weekly know I've started going to a fitness center on a regular basis for the first time in my adult life. I alternate between water walking and using the Lightline exercise equipment. I've noticed a few little muscles starting to define my upper arms. I'm working on it.



Now I just have to do the same with my story. Give those sections of the book more definition, a better-looking mid-section. I've enjoyed a lot of my female characters–Ginger Fitzpatrick, Elise Lafontaine and Rosemary Fitzpatrick come to mind readily as favorites. But Iris Wilson, a mild mannered bespectacled bookkeeper who has kept her family on an even keel for years, may be my best heroine yet. Can't wait to share her beefed up story with you.

Keep an eye out for it.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Journey Continues

I continue to find myself in uncharted territory this year. Having the rights on my first four books reverted to me was only the start of the journey. I had to find a new publisher for the books, since I made the hard decision not to go solo with indie publishing.

Then, I had to work with the publisher to get just the right cover and blurb copy. After all, if I'm going to commit to putting this series back up on Amazon, it has to be better than before. Thankfully, my publisher, Prairie Rose Publications, is agreeable to working with me on cover development, so we had several back and forth tries before settling on this. The book, The Reluctant Debutante, is now available on Amazon in print version. The eBook copy will be coming along, hopefully in a few days. While I'm glad Amazon is inspecting all these re-releases carefully, it has me postponing my shouting from the rooftops moment. Maybe next week...


Read a bit more about this book. 

Beautiful Ginger Fitzpatrick wants nothing to do with New York City’s conventional society— after all, she is a bloomer-wearing suffragette who holds a position in her father’s bank! Her mother is determined her willful daughter must go to the popular Cotillion ball and look for a suitable husband during the “season”—and Ginger is given no choice.  But when she meets her brother’s best friend, handsome Joseph Lafontaine, the mysterious man sets Ginger ablaze with a mere glance—and gives her second thoughts about remaining single.

Joseph knows he can never have Ginger. He’s totally unsuitable as a husband for this spirited, cultured woman, for many reasons. He’s from the rough-and-ready Western city of St. Louis, and he’s her brother’s best friend. But there’s one thing he can never overcome: he’s a half-breed Ojibwa, forever tainted in the eyes of these high-society whites from the East. Despite the budding love between them, her family will never accept him.
Joseph returns to St. Louis, and months later, Ginger follows with her father to attend to banking business there. Through a twist of Fate, a deadly accident brings Joseph and Ginger together once more, and this time, neither will allow another separation. Can they find happiness together despite their different backgrounds? It’s all or nothing for THE RELUCTANT DEBUTANTE…

Now, for a taste of what's inside: 

New York City, February 1855  Ginger Fitzpatrick was in a pickle, that much was certain.
Her mother took her by surprise at breakfast by announcing to the family that Ginger would participate in the Cotillion ball two months hence. While her younger sisters squealed in excitement, Ginger couldn‘t find her voice to object to her mother‘s idea. She knew she must, considering that her father was known to grant every wish his wife had, but Ginger could only stare in confusion. And that wasn‘t the worst of it.
“George, her mother stated calmly to her father, “you must relieve Ginger of her duties at the bank so I have time to teach her the rules of etiquette she‘ll need for a full season of events. Dear Lord, I have only a couple months to cram in everything.
Astonished and stunned, Ginger turned to her father, hanging onto a thread of hope that her valued involvement at the bank would save her.
“Let me think about the best way to handle the shift in responsibility, darling. I‘ll make sure Ginger is free by the end of the week. He glanced at Ginger‘s stupefied expression and reached across the table for her hand. “Perhaps we could also offer a reward of some kind. Possibly a trip to St. Louis if she gets through the season without incident?
He had actually smiled over the breakfast table at her. As if the allure of a trip would make everything all right.
Now, Ginger strode down the hallway of the bank to talk to her father before he could continue the discussion with her mother. She had always been able to convince him of anything, if she wanted it strongly enough. After all, he allowed her to work alongside him at the bank, which went against all the rules of society and a woman‘s place in it. She stopped briefly at the window overlooking the street, watching the snow falling outside. It clung to the red bricks of the ornate bank building, and she longed to be as capricious as one of the snowflakes. Instead she had to present a strong argument to make her father see the folly in her mother‘s latest idea.
She stopped in front of his office door and smoothed her long gray skirt. Brushing her hand over her quivering stomach, she knocked.
Ginger was certain she could right this ship and make her father see things her way. At his gruff reply to enter, she inhaled deeply. She was going to have to tread softly to get out of this predicament.
“Papa, may I further discuss Mother‘s idea with you? “Yes, of course, my dear. But you know by now that once your mother makes up her mind, it‘s best to go along with it. Ginger glanced at him as her voice quavered. “But, Papa ...”
Her father merely raised a perfectly arched eyebrow.
Hmmm, the trembling voice trick usually worked. She‘d have to try a different tactic. Tears, maybe? She hated resorting to something as totally feminine as sobbing.
She cleared her throat and started again. “You are aware, are you not, of my worth here at the bank? With a sigh her father laid down his fountain pen and began to reposition his sleeves, which had been rolled up to avoid staining them with ink. “Your mother‘s decision for you to participate in the Cotillion has nothing to do with your abilities at the bank. I‘m well aware of your contributions. Now, do you want to talk about what‘s really at issue here?
Ginger attempted to regain her calm and to remember the precise arguments she‘d planned to present. “You obviously believe dangling a trip to St. Louis before me will be enough to get me through the Cotillion ball and the season Mother wants for me. And I agree with part of your logic. I should go to St. Louis, but without any strings attached. Basil has written to me, Papa, and told me about the West. Men there are more open-minded and not so stringent about what a woman can and cannot do. She began to pace around the office as she warmed to her subject. “Basil might be able to charm little old ladies into depositing their life savings into our bank, but I can make their money work for the good of the bank and for them at the same time. She turned to face her father. “Please, Papa, I am begging you to let me go now before the season begins. I must get away from stuffy old New York City. Our clients in St. Louis need me now, not in the fall.
“I agree it would be a good move for you, my child, even though I have full confidence in your brother‘s ability to run the St. Louis branch. Your mother is the one who needs convincing. And you know what she considers important.
“The Cotillion, Ginger whispered her reply, as tears began to well up in her eyes, unbidden. She knew she was losing this argument. Nonetheless, she persevered. “Who thought up this wretched ball idea anyway? I will feel like a piece of horseflesh at the Cotillion, being paraded about like a fine filly and up for grabs to the highest bidder. She stamped her foot in frustration.
Ginger watched her father‘s jaw flex. He was not an imposing man, but he had a will of iron. He needed a strong constitution to have successfully raised nine children and to have provided a privileged life for all of them. So, when she saw the movement of his jaw, she knew what it meant. Things were not going to go her way.
George Fitzpatrick stood and placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. “I know you despise the idea, but you are not the only one concerned here. You have your sisters to consider. You know how high society works in New York, especially when the Astors and Schemerhorns are involved. If a precedent is not set this year for our family, your sisters will bear the brunt of it.
“But, Papa ...”
He raised a hand to silence her. “They will not be invited to any future balls and will miss their opportunities to be presented to society, all because of your selfish acts. I doubt you want to carry that mantle on your shoulders for the rest of your days, do you? He smiled to soften his words.
“Papa, you can‘t be serious! My actions really won‘t have any impact on my sisters, will they?
He nodded in affirmation, and his eyes flashed at her. “Should you choose not to participate, or to make life difficult for your mother, there will be no trip to St. Louis for you, now or in the future. You‘ll stay at our home here in New York with only your sisters for company, who will be forever known as the ‘Spinster Fitzpatricks.’ Won‘t you have a lovely existence to look forward to?
She dropped her head and softly asked, “So exactly what do I have to do?
George raised both hands in front of him, ticking off each item on his fingers. “You will do whatever your mother wants. Obviously, there will be fittings for new clothes between now and the ball in April, so you will be relieved of your duties here at the bank as of Friday. You will also limit the amount of time you spend with that rabble-rouser, Amelia Bloomer. Your mother will spend the next two months giving you the etiquette lessons you‘ve been avoiding for years, in preparation for the high social season of balls, parties, plays, and operas. You will participate in each and every event and will present yourself with dignity in accordance with our family‘s position in society. You will appear to have a good time, even if it means you will be putting on an act every night. All this will be over and done with by August, and if you have done everything to your mother‘s satisfaction, I will allow you to go to St. Louis. But only if you still want to.
“Of course I‘ll still want to.
Ginger gulped as a tear slid down her cheek. She turned her face away, hoping her father wouldn‘t notice her moist eyes. He had never been this unreasonable before. For one of only a few times in her life, she could not cajole him into doing her bidding. She brushed the tear away, smoothed her skirt, and then turned back to him, meeting his tough yet tender gaze.
“All right then. I will do what you ask, Papa, to appease Mother and for the sake of my sisters. But I want you to know I will hate every moment of it. I will be marking off the days between now and the end of August when I can escape the bonds of conventional society and move to the frontier. I will never become any man‘s chattel.
Her father smiled. “That‘s all I ask for, Ginger. Peace and harmony on the home front. Thank you for being so agreeable. His voice held more than a touch of irony.
She closed her father‘s door and walked slowly back to her office. Ginger stood in the middle of the small room and placed her hands on her hips. Under her breath she muttered, “Bless my bloomers, I‘ve been outfoxed.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Holding Myself Accountable

Shortly after moving to North Carolina, my publisher decided to pull the plug on the Crimson Romance line of books. I had been frantically working on the next book in the series when suddenly I didn't have a publisher, a series or a deadline.

For the first time in six years, I didn't have a book due every six months. There was nothing looming over me. I was in a new place, trying to find my way to the grocery store, the library, etc., and now I was faced with the possibility of never being published again. What to do?

I made a list of things to accomplish that week, both personal and professional. Items like getting a new driver's license went alongside writing 1000 words a day for five days. I really enjoyed marking things off the list. It gave me a sense of purpose and of pride when I could rip off the page with everything crossed off.

As I settled into my new life, I continued making a list each week. The list grew longer as I added things to my routine–the fitness club three times a week, physical therapy twice a week, taking care of my friend's mother every other weekend, writing 5000 words a week, applying for part-time work, etc.

Now it's become my routine to make a new list each Monday morning. So far, I've continued my program goal at the fitness center three times a week, I'm starting my second month of physical therapy, my agent and I have come up with a solid plan for my abandoned series and I've finished the first draft of my current work. Things are looking up, all thanks to finding a way to hold myself accountable during turbulent times.

How about you? What is your method for getting things done?

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Character Development

There's a theory in the writing community that in order to make your characters believable, you need to know them inside and out. Some people do character sketches and go way beyond hair and eye color, getting fixated on what caused their internal conflict as well as their external ones.

Each author has a different approach to crafting a new story, so here's mine: I write a beat sheet, a couple sentences for each of the 15 points that will carry the story from start to finish. Then, I write a synopsis, expanding on the beat sheet to make it into two or three pages. I put together a bible if I'm writing a series, but I merely list age, hair and eye color and any distinguishing marks or traits of my characters. Nothing about their conflicts. I want to know the route the story is going to take and I figure out how many miles I can go in a day, but if I have a few detours along the way, or an interesting sight alongside the road attracts my attention and makes me slow the story until I check it out, I'm okay with it.

Every good story needs a cast of characters other then hero/heroine. After all, we all have family, friends, neighbors, business acquaintances, etc. Most of the time, they play bit parts and their time on the pages is minimal. However, there are times when these characters demand to stand up and be counted.

Such is the case with my latest WIP. My hero owned a detective agency and I needed to give him a case other than the big one, to make his agency legit. I chose a philandering husband and a wife with means. Little did I know the mistress would become a character who demanded to be treated not merely for her charms as a courtesan, but as an intelligent, beautiful woman. She quickly morphed from being called Miss Sumptuous Breasts, a casualty of their detective work, to the classic beauty, Anjanette Shelby.

I've had other books where the secondary characters won't leave me alone and I usually write their stories later. Such was the case with my Legend Award winning hero Jake, who first surfaced in Banking On Temperance when he was every bit the gentleman when Temperance spurned him for Basil. Now, before I even go through the editing process and put a spit polish on Remembering Iris, the next Flower Girl novel, my courtesan, Anjanette, is tapping me on the shoulder demanding for her entire story to be written.

Patience, patience Miss Sumptuous Breasts. I'll get to you.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

First Drafts

Lately, I've been going to physical therapy, hoping to improve my weak leg which is a remnant of my botched hip replacement surgery, and have been inundated with knowledge about my muscles, tissues and skeleton. And when I'm not in PT, I'm drafting the next book in my Flower Girl series. So, of course, I had to connect the dots.


Writing a first draft is similar to creating a skeleton for your story to hang on. It's certainly not complete until you add in the details, but you need a sturdy skeleton, or the story won't hold together. You start with the basics, the big bones, as it were. Femur, tibia, fibula, ulna, radius. You get the idea. These are the building blocks of your story–the ones that make the story have legs to stand on and arms to wrap around the reader. Eventually, you can add in the smaller bones–the fingers, toes, inner ear bones. These are the other parts of the story that give depth and tone–secondary characters, scents associated with the main characters, the lilt of a Scottish accent or the harshness of a shrew.

Many writers think they're done after they put their draft together. After all, it's a big chore to get an idea from start to finish. I agree that it's a monumental feat, and something that more people fail at than succeed. But in order to finish the book, you need to add to the skeleton. To flesh it out, as it were. By adding muscle, tissue and skin, you build tension, softness and grit into the story. That first draft gets rounded into shape and becomes a total package which you can then present to the world.

I'm rounding the corner on the PT–one more week before a decision is made whether to continue with it or to accept that it is what it is. And I'm rounding the corner on Remembering Iris. The skeleton is nearly complete, but I already know I will continue to pound it into shape and not accept it in its current state. It needs tissue, muscle and more grit. I need to add in the senses, show more emotion, dig deep into POV, flesh out the secondary characters, add more drama. All that comes during the second and third drafts. I might show it to my agent after the third run-through, or decide I need one more run at it. Regardless, I'm sure she'll have ideas on how to add more to it–put some polish on the nails, add some lipstick or blush.

Regardless of how many times I change things around, I know that by starting with a sturdy skeleton, I can bulk up the story without having it crater into a pile of miscellaneous parts.

I'm hoping to have the same results with my body.


Sunday, July 22, 2018

More Than Bragging Rights

In the romance community, contest season is in full swing.

A lot of the RWA chapters like to tie their event to the big national conference, which takes place each year in July. I recently acted as a category coordinator for the Northeast Ohio chapter's contest, and judged some entries in the historical category, which is my wheelhouse.

The reason I give back to the romance writing community in this way is because of the great feedback I got, and still get, from entering contests and letting total strangers read my work. When I'm judging an entry, I point out the strengths of each author and pick a few things they need help with. It's the way I like to get feedback and I hope my suggestions are taken in the manner they're intended and the author strengthens her work as a result.

Being a category coordinator is a slightly different animal. I assigned judges for the various entries and checked the scoresheets when they were returned. I was looking for solid comments that could help the writer without demoralizing them. We've all heard stories about how so much negative feedback made people give up on writing altogether, and I didn't want anything like that to happen on my watch.

In addition to participating in this way, I still enter contests, even with 19 books under my belt. I appreciate the feedback from these strangers and usually find some nuggets I can use to enhance my work. My most recent entry was for a work-in-progress, entered into the Romance Through The Ages contest. After I entered the work, I realized my point of view character should be the hero rather than the heroine, since his part in the story is what makes the story different from other mail order bride books. I've changed the title and have been working on this manuscript ever since, changing it around, but the entry stood in the first version.

So what happened? I placed third in my category--Colonial/Civil War. But my hero, Jake, was nominated for the Legend award, for the hero most likely to become legendary, and he won!

So, even with no real feedback in the form of a scoresheet yet, I already have proof that Jake needs more screen time and the beginning of the story needs work. Revisions are next up on my queue, right after I get my Regency heroine out of the mess she's created for herself.

But, since bragging rights are part of the contest frenzy, here are my badges to show the results of the most recent contest. Huzzah!

And as some have already guessed, the hero, Jake Shelton, first appeared in one of the Cotillion books, Banking On Temperance. He was the one spurned when Temperance finally admitted her love for Basil Fitzpatrick. And, yes, my muse for him was Blake Shelton, while he was still married to Miranda Lambert. I'll never forgive him for his defection to Gwen Stefani, but obviously, as the recipient of the Legend award, his actions, both when Temperance spurned him, and now, in the WIP, are the stuff of legends.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Punctuation and Grammar

I wore my new t-shirt that has emblazoned on its front the words "Write On" when I visited the physical therapist the other day. I already knew his daughter had majored in creative writing and editing, so I thought he'd appreciate my choice.

He one-upped me, however, by saying his daughter had a shirt that said "Punctuation matters. It's the difference between Let's eat, kids, normal mealtime conversation, and the more cannibalistic Let's eat kids.

As an unapologetic comma queen, punctuation and grammar are a constant thorn in my side. So I thought today I'd share a few more of these examples that drive home the need for a well-placed comma with you.


Your dinner vs. you're dinner: One leaves you nourished, the other leaves you dead. Correct grammar saves lives. 

I like cooking my family and pets. Use commas. Don't be a psycho. 

Bite me, asshole–grammatically correct and scathing. 
Bite me asshole–kinky pirate (For all my pirate-writing friends)

Other examples of the necessity of using proper punctuation and grammar abound. Here are a few that made me smile: 

Capitalization is the difference between helping your uncle Jack off a horse and helping your uncle jack off a horse.

If you don't think punctuation is important, try forgetting the semicolon when you tell someone, "I'm sorry: I love you." 

And my favorite: The past, the present, and the future walked into a bar. It was tense. 

What about you? What's your favorite example of a sentence in need of some punctuation?

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Retooling

Every so often in the life of an author, it comes time to take a breath, sit back and contemplate your career trajectory.

That's what I've been doing this year. As soon as I made the move from Ohio to North Carolina and got hooked back up to the internet, I found out Simon & Schuster decided to do away with the Crimson Romance line to focus on more mainstream fiction and non-fiction works. I sorted through my options, not ready to cut the chord and demand my rights back until I had a plan in place. I hired an agent, talked to my writing buddies, bounced ideas off anyone who would listen, and finally settled on a plan.

I could only regain the rights to four of the eleven books Simon & Schuster had. They turned out to be the first four in the Cotillion Ball series, so it made sense to me to start retooling them and spiff them up a bit. I finally decided to work with Prairie Rose Publications on them, since I didn't want the hassle of self-publishing. The first two books, The Reluctant Debutante and The Abolitionist's Secret, are scheduled to be re-released into the Amazon world in August. My past few weeks have been spent looking at stock photos and working with Prairie Rose's cover artist, the magnificent Livia Reasoner. We have this uncanny ability to home in on the same photos to use, so it's been a fairly painless process to create new, striking covers for the books.

There have been some issues, though, to deal with. Since six of the books remain with Simon & Schuster, I wanted to maintain some consistency for the series as a whole, so I couldn't steer off in a totally different direction with the covers. Crimson abandoned the sepia-tone covers along about book six, so I tried to match the new ones with the last ones in the series. A consistent font was necessary, as well as a few other elements.

That being said, I'm pleased to offer cover reveals for both The Reluctant Debutante and The Abolitionist's Secret. The real bang for the buck comes when you compare side by side the old and the new. Here, for your viewing pleasure, are the covers.

On the left is the original cover, which was released in March, 2012. Since it was my first-ever cover, I thought it was beautiful, and had it blown up on canvas and proudly displayed in my office. But the new one, on the right,  just knocked my socks off. I may have to update my wall.







The second book to be released in the series is The Abolitionist's Secret, about Ginger's younger, and less flamboyant, sister Heather. Here are the old and new versions of those covers. I'm loving the new looks of these books, and my career is once again on track. What do you think of them?


Sunday, July 1, 2018

Googling My Days Away

As inquiring persons who are semi-computer-literate, we spend a lot of our on-line time doing google searches for various things. The term has even morphed from a noun to a verb in a lot of cases, my headline for this blog being an example.

I've had other authors tell me if their computer was ever to be searched during a criminal investigation, they'd be put away for felonious acts. Those of us who write of intrigue are especially at risk. But, fortunately, most use the information for the purpose of uncovering factual writing tidbits and nothing more. I decided to perform an experiment this week, and keep track of my Google searches. Here's the list for the week of June 24.

When was the word barfing put into use? 

Turns out it’s not a new word at all. It first appeared in the public lexicon in the mid-1700s, but usage of it waned during the late 1700s and early 1800s, not to be picked up again until the year 2000. 

How many varieties of Iris are there?


Over 200 varieties in all shapes, colors and fragrance. The boldest fragrance is a musky scent, but mostly the fragrance of these blooms is very delicate. 

What were the most efficient ways of doing away with a King? 

Poison was a big one in the 1800s. But illness, gunshot by jilted lovers and mental instability caused by bad medicine were also popular. 

What were King George IV’s foibles?

He was addicted to laudanum, grossly overweight, and in love with a twice-widowed Catholic woman. 


When was Scotland Yard begun?

This police force named Scotland Yard was created in 1829, alas too late for my story. 

What are some home remedies for the eradication of water bugs?

This one is personal. I’m getting to know my North Carolina bugs, but I don’t have to invite them into the house. Or give them names. (Do you hear that, Daisy? Be gone with you!)


What kind of tree do I have growing among the long-leaf pines? 

Another non-writing related search. Turns out I have a Mimosa tree in my front yard.




How about you? What's the weirdest Google search you've done recently?






Sunday, June 24, 2018

Audible or Inaudible?

Audible books are all the rage these days, revenues are up 22% so far in 2018. A friend and I were talking about books on tape a week or so ago, and she said she had to pull over to the curb when the book really got good, because she wasn't paying attention to the road. Listening has become the new reading. And it seems, to some people. audio books elicit a bigger emotional response than merely reading the words ourselves and giving our own voices and emotions to the words.

Most of the time while I'm driving, my mind wanders to the story I'm currently working on, or the new story that's talking to me. If I'm playing the radio, it's merely background music and I couldn't tell you what I just listened to. Perhaps because I wasn't listening to it. Instead, I was inside my head, with various characters telling me their tales. I'm afraid the same goes for audible books. I've had people offer to give them to me for free, so I could give an opinion on the voice delivering the tale, but so far, I've resisted. Because I know I wouldn't be able to concentrate on the road, on the voices in my head AND an audible book, however riveting it might be.

But maybe I'm selling the phenomenon short. Trevor Noah gave his voice to his book "Born A Crime." I love his accent, so I probably could listen to it. English accents have always been a weak spot. On the whole, though, I think I'll keep devoting my driving time to the voices in my head rather than on tape.

How about you? Audio books or no?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The In Between

Often, when I was living in Ohio and starting my publishing career, I felt I was between a rock and a hard place. My house was a huge financial burden, the proverbial money pit, and my publishing career was growing, but not to the point where I could afford to pull money out of the business and put it into the house.


My move to North Carolina helped get rid of the huge financial burden, but the publishing career is in the process of being retooled. I now have an agent I trust, I've finished a book I truly enjoyed writing, and I'm sliding into the next one. Yesterday, I drove my 15-year-old Jeep into Pinehurst to go to the library and parked on the street, between a Land Rover and a Mercedes.




A rock and a hard place or a Land Rover and a Mercedes. Even with a 15-year-old Jeep, I'm sitting pretty right now. 

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Fog

My favorite Carl Sandburg quote is about my favorite weather element–Fog. 

"The fog comes on little cat feet. It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches and then moves on."


In my case, it's not the harbor but the golf course behind my house where the fog sat yesterday morning. As I stared out my window lost in my usual morning fog, waiting for the coffee to kick in so I could start writing, I stopped and focused the fog for a moment. It was moving gently across the ground, mirroring my thought pattern. I'm at the stage of my manuscript where I'm just reading the story and massaging it a bit, moving through the story slowly, beefing up the important scenes. My mind started thinking of ideas, possible scenarios that I'd live through if I was on a wagon train headed west. I climbed on board the wagon with my ladies and got to work.

When I got up to grab my second cup of coffee, the fog had moved on. As had my brain fog. I made it through half the manuscript by day's end. Lots done, lots still to go.

On a personal note, I'd like to say farewell to one of my Crimson Romance sisters. Peggy Bird was a bright light in the early days of the Crimson brand and will be sorely missed. She was always posting pictures of buff men in teeny swim trunks saying they had just washed up on her beach. This is for you, Peggy. I hope there's a beach where you are now.






Sunday, June 3, 2018

Best Selling Lists

PBS recently posted a list of the 100 most popular American books of all time, called The Great American Read. I took a look at the list, which was filled with best-sellers. Since I spend most of my time reading romance novels, it came as no surprise to me that I was only able to cross off maybe 30 of the PBS list. Determined to expand my horizons this summer I went to the library and picked up one from the list.

Shouldn't have started with The Handmaid's Tale.



As most of you know, I've been rereading Stephen King's great book On Writing. One of his mantras is that in order to become a great writer, you need to write a lot and read a lot. Given the man's schedule, I was surprised to find he reads about 80 books a year. If he can do it...

But not with The Handmaid's Tale. Too depressing. I like happy endings. I write happy endings. But I don't think Margaret Atwood would appreciate me putting a happy ending on her book.

Fortunately, Stephen graciously supplied a list of the best books he's read. I'm taking back The Handmaid's Tale and selecting one from Stephen's list instead. Maybe The Secret Life Of Bees. 




How about you? What are you reading this summer?

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Stormy Weather

June 1st is the official start of hurricane season, a fact I didn't really care about while in Ohio. It's a different story now that I'm in North Carolina.

The past few nights have been filled with the weather folks urging all in the viewing area to get their hurricane preparedness kits in order. I had to do a Google search to find out what is considered essential in such a kit. The list is this: Food bars, water, AM/FM radio with batteries, candle, emergency bright stick, whistle and waterproof matches, in addition to emergency medical supplies. Whew! I'm going to have to stock up slowly. It may take all summer to compile my kit.


Which makes me realize this latest necessity in my life isn't that much different from my writing kit. I started out slowly, becoming a PRO member of RWA, joining the local chapter, taking classes, attending workshops, all in an effort to compile my writing toolbox, a term used by Stephen King. Along the way I added to the toolbox, turning PRO status into PAN when my first book got published, continuing to enter contests and attend workshops, working with an agent. I added in an editing software program to the mix. I slowly compiled things into my writing toolbox, and six years after my first book was published, I have come to the realization the toolbox will never be completely filled. There's always something new going on in the publishing industry, which is changing at such a rapid pace, it's hard to keep up.

What's next on the horizon? As I gear up for hurricane season, I'm also gearing up for big things to come in the second half of the year, writing-wise. I'll be re-releasing the first four books in the Cotillion Ball series, and am hard at work on the Regency series and my brides book. Lily, Iris and Poppy are eager to show off their men to you, and Jake is ready to tell us who has won his heart. Stay tuned!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Words of Wisdom From Stephen King

I'm rereading Mr. King's book On Writing, which was lost during the move, and recently repurchased.  I feel a particular kinship with Stephen King. We're the same age, for a short time we had the same publisher, both of us had a unfortunate encounter with poison ivy toilet paper when we were young, we both were editors of our high school papers. Of course, his career far surpasses mine, but it's nice to know he struggled in his early years, as we all do.

Here's what he has to say about his career. "I think I was forty before I realized that almost every writer of fiction and poetry who has ever published a line has been accused by someone of wasting his or her God-given talent. If you write (or paint, or dance or sculpt or sing, I suppose), someone will try to make you feel lousy about it, that's all." 

So Stephen had someone try to make him feel lousy about his writing, too. More that we have in common.

So what's the take-away? Don't let anyone tell you you're wasting your talent, or make you feel lousy. Keep your nose to the grindstone and keep cranking out your stories. You'll get better every time you type "The End" on your works and sooner or later, you'll be able to look upon those who made you feel lousy and wish them well.

In that vein, I'm pleased to announce that Book Baby #19 was just awarded a Crowned Heart by Ind'Tale Magazine and is featured on their YouTube feed. You can see the whole thing here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0YbBugDLmK8


Or, you can just take a look at the ad they created for me here:


Sunday, May 13, 2018

Here Come The Brides

No, this post is not about Meghan and Harry, even though it's a fairy tale in real time, something we romance writers love to slobber over.


My bride reference refers to my WIP, which started out with a one mail order bride idea. Actually, I had thought three of them, the heroine and her two sisters. But mail order bride books are extremely popular in the western romance market, and my bride was only slightly different from all those who had traveled the route before her. 

What made my manuscript different was the fact that my bride in question was one of a group of sixteen women who were all traveling west to find their mates. Similar to Westward The Women, a movie about a wagon train full of women, filmed in 1951, I place sixteen women in the care of one brave man, Jake Shelton. If you're familiar with my Cotillion Ball series, you'll remember that Temperance Jones chose Basil Fitzpatrick over Jake in Banking On Temperance. In that book, Jake tipped his hat and rode off into the sunset. Not this time. Not if I have anything to say about it. 

I realized the hook to this book is the fact he's agreed to help his sister, who runs a matchmaking business, to shepherd these ladies west. Over the course of six months, Jake's ladies will prove to him they are strong women, just as Roy Whitman found out in the movie. Some of these ladies stand out in the book, and deserve their own stories about what happens after Jake drops them off and sees them get married. And of course, there's the one who captures his heart. 

So instead of the Bride Of Baxter Ridge, the name of the book has been changed to the working title of The Angelica Train. Is this my new, multi-volume series? Could be. I've learned a lot about the Oregon Trail while writing this book, as my sticky map of the trail attests to. And I wrote about a portion of the trail in my most recent post on History Imagined. 


Sunday, May 6, 2018

Still Learning

I attended an RWA chapter meeting in the Carolinas yesterday. I was drawn to it by the speaker, who was going to talk about deep POV, but I had never attended any of their meetings and didn't know anyone. I sat across from a lady and we got to talking. She's pre-published, still working on her first manuscript. She asked me the same question and when I told her how many books I'd written, she asked why I was even there. I explained that I felt I was still learning, too, and if I could walk away from the meeting with one nugget of info, I'd be happy.


So what did I learn? Glad you asked. I learned about enneagrams and that there are nine basic personality types and only three core emotions that drive a person's backstory–fear, shame and anger. I'm going to take the test later to determine what my personality type is, but I gave some thought last night to my characters in the mail-order bride story. Fear drives my heroine, shame drives the hero, so I guess I intrinsically knew this nugget before yesterday. But it was good to have it spelled out.

The icing on the cake was I got to spend time talking about writing with a group of ladies who "got" it. A new tribe? I don't know yet, but a few new friendships, yes. I'm feeling quite "cocky."

Sunday, April 29, 2018

No More Waiting!

I'm pleased to be able to announce that the demise of Crimson may turn out to be a good thing. Tara Gelsomino, the executive editor from the company, has decided to form her own business, a literary agency, and I'm pleased to be one of her first clients. We plan to continue my Regency series, which was begun by Crimson.

I'm also finishing the first draft of a mail-order bride series that takes the brides from a matchmaker's office in Boston to the mountains of Montana. If you've read the Cotillion Ball series, you may remember Jake Shelton, the wagon master who was set to take Temperance Jones and her family to Oregon, until she admitted her love was not Oregon, or Jake, but instead it was Basil. Well, Jake's back and this time, he won't be denied in love. Imagine a cowboy with a wavy shock of hair, blue eyes and a wide-brimmed hat and you have Jake.

So, a new liaison, a new couple of stories, and a new outlook. Seems only fitting, since I'm in a new house in a new state. And it's only April.

Going to be one hell of a year.