Sunday, August 18, 2019

The Dark Moment

All of us who write romance know that a good novel has to have a dark moment. The hero and heroine might think things are going along swimmingly and they are in a happy place, but then the bottom drops out of their lives. They have to work hard, and fight for each other and their happiness in order to get to the happy ending. Here's the official definition:

The darkest moment in the book is when a character loses all hope - normally the protagonist. It's often towards the end of the book, because that's right before the inevitable happy ending (or not, if you're being cruel) will emerge from the dark.

My sister and her husband are in their dark moment right now. After months of searching for a place to live, they found a great house, and are scheduled to settle on their new home in a few weeks. Everything was moving along well until, as my sister calls it, what happened wasn't a bump in the road, but a sink hole. My brother-in-law developed serious, life-threatening medical issues, and is currently being treated in the hospital.

What will happen? Right now, it's all up in the air. I have my idea of what they should do next, my sister and hubby have a different idea, and her daughter and her husband have another solution. All I can say is however it plays out, and whatever happens, they will deserve the best, most elaborate  happy ever after ending.


Their story would make a great book. 

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Kids Say The Darnedest Things

Mary and I are not accustomed to being around children, so having a visit from my great-niece and nephew has been an eye-opening experience. My brother-in-law had emergency surgery while staying with me and now his daughter, son-in-law and grandkids have come to spend a couple days with him and my sister. I am overrun with people of all ages. The little girl, Keira, especially, is full of questions about why I don't have any children of my own.

I won't detail all the embarrassing questions I had to answer tonight, but Art Linkletter knew what he was talking about when he said Kids Say the Darnedest Things. I've decided to enjoy this interlude in my life, immerse myself in being the grandmother I never had a chance to be and put writing on hold for a week or so.


Sunday, August 4, 2019

Family Time

My month of August has been chaotic so far. My sister, her husband, and their two dogs, are between houses and are camping out at Chez Lower. Fortunately, the dogs are getting along fine. The people? It's been a challenge. Buying a house is a lot different than it was just a few years ago, and I've been helping get their paperwork in order for the mortgage company. That's as close as I've come to doing any creative writing.

Fortunately, I think the paperwork is finally coming to an end, and we'll just count down the days until settlement. At least I hope that will be the case. So maybe I can get back to work this week, writing the big battle scene from the Revolutionary War. Obviously, I need to be in the proper mindset for that. You can't just throw on a tricorn hat and be there.


So, while I do battle with the underwriter, and with the Battle of Machias, not to mention a printer upgrade no one told me about, I'll try to work in a massage and some pool time to keep my sanity. September seems a long way off.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Kindle Countdown Deal!

This is the first time I've tried a Kindle Countdown Deal and it's for one of my favorite books, Blame It On The Brontes. From now until Tuesday, July 30, the price has been lowered to 99 cents for the ebook version. So, if you've been thinking about buying this one, now's the time.


          
            Sisters Charlotte, Emily and Anne are back together again to eagerly dig into their dead mother’s fortune. 
         Only their mother has other plans for their contentious reunion. 
         Unknown to the trio, Mom decided her fortune wouldn’t be divided until one very critical thing happened. The sisters have to reunite in their childhood home for one year in Puffin Bay, Maine.
         And they have to get along. 
         But long-buried resentments, old rivalries, and would-be boyfriends are about to provoke their biggest feud yet, threatening the sisters’ financial claims and the lineage of a family that hasn’t known peace in decades. 
         Will a year be enough for three brash sisters to figure it all out? 

Excerpt: 

Charlotte raised her binoculars, searching the ocean for the only boat on the water that mattered to her. Nothing yet, but soon, The Brontëand Gray would be on their way home, to her. She really didn’t need visual proof that he was coming into shore. She could feel it in her gut. Goosebumps, which had nothing to do with the breeze wafting in from the water, dotted her skin.
Charlotte’s heart constricted with a twinge of loneliness. Her mother was gone forever. The keen sense of loss was something Gray would certainly understand. For the first time in her life, her mother would not inhabit the house with her, tidying the comfortable rooms, taking care of everyone and making them feel at home. She needed Gray to help take away the feeling she was all alone. She needed Gray, plain and simple.
For the next several days she would fulfill the role of hostess to her two sisters, who were returning home for the somber event of laying their mother to rest. As the eldest, Charlotte accepted the mantle that fell on her shoulders, although she was not happy about it. Their mother had been the one to keep the lines of communication open between the three of them, and Charlotte now wondered what would happen. Certainly, she had no plans to talk to her sisters, beyond what was necessary this week. 
She climbed over the wet, sun-bleached granite boulders ringing the shoreline. 
“Hi there, Char.” 
She gazed into the faded blue eyes of Puffin Bay’s oldest resident, Autry Jones. He sat in his usual summertime spot, on the slatted wooden bench in front of the post office. His white beard rested on his chest, and his captain’s hat shielded his eyes from the harsh glare of the sun. 
Charlotte smiled at the old codger. “Hey, Autry.” 
She had a lot to do before Gray’s boat arrived at the dock, but she always had time to talk to Autry. 
“The sea cough up anything for you today?” 
“No, nothing. But I wasn’t really searching for sea glass. I’m not going to have time to make any jewelry this week, what with everyone coming in for the funeral.” 
Charlotte lowered herself onto the bench beside him. Autry bumped his arm up against hers and tore his gaze away from the ocean. “One thing you don’t need to worry about is groceries this week. Mrs. Spradling headed to your house a bit earlier to drop off a mountain of food, as she does every time someone in this town passes. Sorry about your mom. Such a good woman.”
“Thank you. She was kind-hearted, even though she stuffed our childish heads with romantic nonsense. Hell, instead of hearing Dr. Seuss books when we were kids, we got yet another chapter of her favorite romance novel. And, every night after supper, Mom took us to the widow’s walk to see if Daddy’s boat was in port.” 
“She did her best to raise you girls while your daddy was earning a living from the sea.”
“I know, and I miss her terribly already. Are you going to be at the memorial service? Emily and Anne will be coming home for the funeral. The two of them should be pulling into town later today.”
“Ay-yup. I’ll be there. It’ll be nice to see you girls together again. Should be good weather for a funeral. I hear Grayson turned his boat toward the shore, too.” Autry’s pale eyes twinkled.
“I figured he’d come in from the sea, but Mom’s viewing isn’t until tomorrow, so I don’t expect to see him until then.” She shifted on the seat under Autry’s keen gaze.
“You can’t think of any reason he might want to come in early? Charlotte Bronson, you and Gray may think you’ve been fooling the town for eighteen years, pretending the two of you don’t care for each other, but you can’t hoodwink an old coot. I was young once, too, and I know what love is.”
“But we haven’t been in love for years. We try to avoid each other.”
Autry continued to stare at her without saying a word. 
She shook off the rush of schoolgirl giddiness that came with the idea Gray was turning toward port early in order to see her. She ran a hand down her braid of dark hair, now liberally laced with silver. Maybe she could do something about the streaks before he arrived. If only I could erase the past as easily as I can get rid of the outward signs of aging. Then maybe Gray and I could fall in love again. Remembering she had a million things to do, she leaned over and kissed the old man on the cheek before jumping up. 

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Pass the Pepper, Please!

 I'm so pleased that this week saw the re-release of A Widow's Salvation. As the Akron Beacon Journal said in their review, "It's high time Pepper has her turn at romance." 
After serving as a secondary character in the previous seven Cotillion Ball books, Pepper gets her own story, a year after her husband, Michael, died at the first battle of the Civil War. This war affected everyone living in America during the time, so it would have been unusual for the large Fitzpatrick family to not have one fatality. Since I was so entrenched in the series, as I hoped my readers were, I didn't want to do away with any of the Fitzpatrick men, so Michael seemed the logical choice, since he was related only by marriage. Here's the way the story opens: 


New York City, July 1862

Pepper Brown yanked open her bedroom armoire and stared at the sea of black. Her widow’s weeds, as people called them. They were showing up in increasing numbers on the streets of New York, on women of all ages. The Civil War, which both sides had thought would be over in a matter of weeks, marked its one-year anniversary today. Which meant today was also Pepper’s one-year anniversary as a widow. She drummed her foot on the floor while she perused the black dresses. Was she ready to move on? Michael had thought she would be. In fact, he extracted a promise from her before he left for the war. One year and not one day more, he had said. Her mother thought so, too, or she wouldn’t have planned their outing for today. All Pepper now needed was the courage to convince herself they were right. The churning in her stomach told her she had a ways to go yet.


She straightened and turned her back on the black.

“Molly, please come help me dress,” Pepper called down the hall to her lady’s maid. “I’m going out today.”

“Aye, ma’am.” Molly, a young Irish girl with light brown hair and matching freckles across her pert nose, came quickly into the room. “Which gown would you be liking?” She began fondling the various dresses in the armoire.

“None of these. I’m done with these dresses. Besides, most of them are maternity gowns. I want to wear something fresh, something different.”

Molly nodded vigorously, and the little white cap on her head bounced askew. She righted it before she spoke. “Perfectly understood, ma’am, and you should be stepping down to half mourning. Perhaps I can find a nice gray or deep purple gown among your other things.”

Pepper shook her head. “No, no half mourning for me. What kind of silly term is that, anyway? I’m going out with Mother, and I want our day to be special. I want to wear something bright. I think the periwinkle dress Jasmine created for me right before Michael’s death will do. Yes, the periwinkle.”

Pepper smiled at Molly’s horrified intake of breath. She obviously disapproved, which meant it was the right decision.

“Periwinkle? Forgive me saying so, ma’am, but isn’t it a wee bit too much of a difference?”
“Why yes, it is, Molly.”


I am constantly surprised, and amused, at the way history works with my stories. Pepper was now a single mother raising three young boys, so she possessed the inner strength of every mother who's ever raised a child. What I didn't see coming when I began the story was how the Civil War led to the advancement of the use of prosthetic devices. Who better to take on the task of getting grown men to use a prosthetic leg than a mother? There are several scenes where Pepper whipped these men into shape and got them to walk again. I hope you enjoy Pepper's story as much as I enjoyed writing it. 

https://www.amazon.com/Widows-Salvation-Cotillion-Ball-Saga-ebook/dp/B07TVPD6SJ/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=a+widow%27s+salvation&qid=1563029753&s=gateway&sr=8-2

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Worth The Wait?

Since the demise of Crimson Romance, I haven't been able to release any new books, only re-publish the ones they returned to me. A few loyal readers have reached out to me over the past year, asking when I'd put out something new, and I had no answer.

Now, I do. Sort of, anyway.

I labored this past year writing two manuscripts set in the Regency era. Labor being the key word here. They were both very difficult to write and now have taken up residence under my bed. But in each book, I introduced a secondary, minor character to move the story forward and became entranced by these characters. One of my beta readers told me I should toss the Regency and write the story of the secondary woman. I'm glad I listened.

I decided to take the minor character from the first book and tell her tale. But instead of having her be in England, I transported her to America during the Revolutionary War. I figured her penchant for a good cheroot would not be so frowned on in America. The book idea came to me so easily, and I really enjoyed writing it. I entered it into a few contests to get some good feedback and to see if it held up under the scrutiny of others. And look what happened!


I am a finalist! Haven't been able to say that in a while. We'll see where this leads, but right now, it's under scrutiny at four different publishers and I'm working on the next one. My secondary character from the second rejected Regency is a courtesan who finds her way to Boston one year after the Declaration of Independence was signed. She's left her profession behind. Or so she thinks. Can anyone really leave their past behind?

Stay tuned.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

House Hunting

My sister and her husband are in the market for a new house. If you've ever been through the process, you know the steps you have to take. While your current home is on the market, you start narrowing down your options on where you want to relocate. You create a list of 'must-haves' and another of 'pie-in-the-sky wants.' You spend hours on the internet sites, looking at homes in your price bracket and winnow down your choices. You also winnow down your lists of essentials, since no new home will have everything on your list. Eventually, you tire of looking at houses and settle for something that's not quite right. Or, you put your foot to the pedal and keep going.


That's the point my sister is at right now. Out of steam, nearly out of options, and ready to settle.

Which reminds me of a story idea I had recently. (Of course it does.)

The story began well enough. Several people had read the original manuscript which featured my heroine in a secondary role and told me they'd like to read her story. I spent a couple of days filling out my beat sheet to see if I had enough of a story to do justice to my character. My list of 'must-haves' was forming. So, I began working on the story. But unlike the manuscript I just finished, which came out of my head with no problem, this one isn't so easy. Do I winnow down my 'must-have' list, throw in a pie-in-the-sky idea, or tire of the plot and settle for something that's not quite right?

Right now, I'm liking my hero much better than the heroine. So it's time to put my foot to the pedal and keep going. Figure out ways to make her more appealing to me, and consequently, to my readers. With two extraordinary characters living through extraordinary times in America, you'd think it would be an easy task. But just like searching for the perfect home, you sometimes have to tear up those lists and begin anew. While my sister tackles finding a home, I'm going to go tackle my beat sheet.


Sunday, June 30, 2019

Footwear

I don't know about you, but I can tell a lot about a person by their choice of footwear. I'm currently working on a novel that takes place during the Revolutionary War in America. My heroine is a former courtesan from London, and during her time there, she was given gifts from her paramours in the form of fancy footwear, among other things. So she came to America with a truckload full of fine shoes. It's turning out to be a theme in the book.


I recently got back the rights to my contemporary, Blame It On The Brontes. I argued for years with the publisher to put three pairs of shoes on the cover that depicted the personalities of the three women who tell the story, but I could never convince them of my vision. Now that I had the rights back, I could create my own cover exactly the way I wanted it. There's the hippie, the practical one, and the starlet. And my guess is you can tell exactly whose shoes belong to whom on the cover.


As I write this from my Carolina room in sweltering North Carolina, I am barefooted. For someone who writes about women with shoe fetishes, I am coming up woefully short myself. But it's summer in the south, so bare feet are acceptable.

So, grab your flip flops and head to the beach or the pool with the Bronte book. It's a great beach read. Happy Independence Day, everyone!

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Cleaning House

I had a relative move out this week after living here for six months. Another will be moving into the revolving door my house has become soon, so I have a lot of cleaning and laundry to get done in a short amount of time. In the past few days I've been doing mounds of laundry and bedding, and, since a lot of clothing got left behind, I had to decide what to take to Goodwill and what to take to the trash. Sorting through what's good enough to keep and what to toss.

And, after the laundry gets done, I can start getting down to details. Vacuuming, scrubbing, picking up empty peanut butter cups, etc. All those details that happened during his tenure here need to be assessed and a decision made as to whether it's worth hanging onto.

And, of course, this all reminded me of editing a manuscript once you type "The End." First, you clean up the glaring errors, or fill in the gaping holes in your story line. Then, you get down to the details. You can vacuum up a lot of them quickly, such as changing out straight quotes with curly ones. But then there are those details that have become so ingrained in the story that it's really hard to scrub the story clean. Lots of elbow grease is going to be needed to have the end product be clean as a whistle.

So, in between loads of laundry and vacuuming this weekend, I'll be cleaning off my laptop in preparation for getting serious writing time in next week on my new story. I've got the story line planned, just like I have a plan for cleaning the upstairs. But, as is always the case, the story has a tendency to go its own way, regardless of the amount of planning I have done. I only hope there are no surprises when it comes to cleaning the second floor.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Accepting The Inevitable

I wrote a post for another blog recently where I talked about my collection of fashion prints. And I blamed my mother for getting me started on this mad obsession of mine. She was helping another sister fix up her home in Maine and unearthed a fashion print still in its frame, under a porch. Then, since Mom was never one to throw a perfectly good item away, she washed the dirt off it and gave it to me as a housewarming gift when I bought my first home.


Now, years later, I'm writing historical romances and I spend a lot of time discussing gowns–shabby ones, off the shoulder ones, gowns the same exact shade as the woman's lover's eyes, etc. I even went so far as to make one of my characters the owner of a dressmaking shop.

My current work in progress features a young woman who masqueraded as a boy while stowing away on a ship bound for America. When she arrived, she needed to borrow a gown in order to be properly presented to her aunt, and the only gown available was a faded blue serviceable dress which belonged to the hero's dead wife and is the only thing of hers that he kept, since it was his favorite dress. The aunt made some rather caustic remarks about the inferior quality of the gown, but the heroine knew how much it meant to the hero and takes care to properly clean and return it.

Mom may have started me down this path years ago, but if my first Godey print was the catalyst for my choice of genre, then I should be thanking her every day that I write. Not being one who likes being told what to do, it took me several experiments in writing before I settled in on American historical romance. I have accepted the inevitable and will continue to write about the clever, dedicated, brave men and women who made us a free nation.

Thanks, Mom.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Emancipation Day

Since February, when a character from a manuscript I was working on, appeared on the scene and wouldn't leave me alone, I've been working on her story. The aforementioned manuscript, from whence she emerged, has been pushed under the bed. At least something good came out of that whole experience.

The story takes place during the Revolutionary War in America. I wasn't that well versed in Revolutionary history before, other than knowing the basics, so I had a huge learning curve. And the story begins in England, where my character sails from, so I had to familiarize myself with sailing vessels used in the late 1700s. And then, there was Boston. Other than the Tea Party and the Common, I didn't know much about that place, either. But I love historicals where I take two normal people who happen to be living through perilous times and sink them into the history. Think Rose and Jack on the Titanic and you'll understand.

Boston Tea Party

Anyway, in the course of my research I learned Bostonians celebrate something called "Evacuation Day" every March, even to this day. That's the day the British ships left the harbor for good, having been intimidated by the large number of cannons pointed at the harbor from Dorchester Heights. The Brits didn't know there was no ammunition to back up the bold presence. They also didn't know some of the cannons were simply painted logs, made to resemble a cannon. The Brits couldn't take the chance, so they ended their blockade and evacuated the area.
Cannons being moved to Boston from upstate New York. 

My main character has been fighting her own battle. She's desperate to escape the rule of her father, who wants to marry her off to a man with great wealth. She'd rather marry for love. As she stands in the harbor watching the ships leave and hearing it referred to as Evacuation Day, she thinks instead it should be called Emancipation Day. Because she's found love and her father can no longer run her life.

The manuscript is now finished, except for writing a synopsis. So in a way, this is my Emancipation Day. These characters, and this story line, have been a daily part of my life since February, and I'm ready to move on. My next idea also sprang from one of those manuscripts taking up residence under the bed. A high-priced English courtesan decides to migrate to America. What could go wrong?

Stick a pin in that for a couple months.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

On To The Next

I am pleased to say I finished the second read-through of my current WIP. This "fingers off the keyboard" reading went fairly well, and the book that has consumed my days and my time in the pool where I like to think about the next scene, is done. At least this phase of it is done. It's now in the hands of my beta readers. I'll wait for their comments, make their suggested changes, and send it off to my publishers of choice to see what they have to say about it. Fingers crossed!










Besides meeting that milestone, I worked with Prairie Rose on the new cover for the next book in the Cotillion Ball series to be released--A Widow's Salvation. What do you think of it?






And the last major event of the week happened by accident. I noticed one of my books was missing on my Amazon page and queried the publisher. They told me they had reverted rights to the book two weeks ago, but sent the reversion letter to an old email address that I have requested be changed three times. How hard can it be? Anyway, I have the rights back to Blame It On The Brontes, and can republish it, which I will probably do on my own. I need a new cover, and am looking forward to it. I'm thinking a beach, flip flops and sea glass jewelry.



June is upon us, and in the south that means hot, sweltering weather. I'll leave the golf to others and spend my days in my Carolina Room, taking care of business. And when I do manage to get to the pool, I'll dream up the next book to fill my creative space for the next four months.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Contest Season

A lot of people ask me why I still enter writing contests. After all, I've published 19 books, and written plenty more that will never come out from under the bed. Am I a glutton for punishment or what?

It takes a great amount of courage to enter a contest.After all, you're asking for people to tear into the story you've poured yourself into for months and find things wrong with it.  I'm not a trophy collector and don't really care if I win. But I would like to be a finalist, since that means my work gets read by someone in the industry. However, even if I don't make it into the top three, I can count on getting some really helpful feedback about my entry. That's the real reason I enter contests. Since I moved to North Carolina, I lost my critique group. And it doesn't matter how many books you've written, another set of eyes on your work is always a good idea. Often the author is too close to the work, knows exactly what the story is about, even though it hasn't translated entirely to the page.


Such is the case with my current WIP. The idea sprouted from a scene in another book I was working on and I decided to run with it. But, while I was running, I kept one of the characters from the original manuscript and he kind of was like the headless horseman in this instance. I didn't really think about him in this manuscript, since it worked in the other book, but the contest judges were left scratching their heads. Needless to say, the man is gone now. He hit the cutting room floor with a resounding thud.

I've taken the comments from the first contest and improved the opening scenes of the book. And I have even more ideas on how to improve it further. Since a book is never done, even after it's published, I'll keep working on this one.

Watch this space.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

It's Re-Release Time!

As most of you know, I have decided to re-release all nine books in the Cotillion Ball Series, plus the novella prequel, as I regained the rights to this landmark series. Book 7 in the series, Expressly Yours, Samantha, is available for pre-orders now and will be released on May 30. It contains one of my favorite tropes–a girl who disguises herself as a boy or man. In this case, Samantha, or Sam, decides to sign on with the Pony Express until she can reach her 18th birthday and legally be free of her uncle. Here's the cover of this tale that has fast horses, duplicity and intrigue. There's even a reference to my favorite explorer, Jedediah Smith.



The novella prequel, An Unconventional Courtship, is still available at no charge. If you'd like to read about how George and Charlotte met and fell in love, this sweet little tale will help you understand how they raised such unique children. Here's the link for the free download: https://claims.prolificworks.com/free/wPvUwkuJ


Happy Reading! Load up your Kindle and get ready for the beach.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Happy Mother's Day!

Today is Mother's Day, the time when we all pause for a moment and think about the woman who gave us birth. My own mother has been gone for more than twenty years, but my best friend has willingly allowed me to share her mother, and two of my sisters, and my nieces are mothers, so I do have cause to celebrate. In fact, if you count a four-legged offspring, I guess I'm a mother, too.


I certainly write enough about women who, if they aren't mothers already, they will be by the time the book is finished. In fact, Charlotte and George Fitzpatrick had nine children before they stopped reproducing. Nine children wasn't as unusual 150 years ago as it is now, but George wanted to stop at three or four. Charlotte's wish was for a large family. And we see who won that battle.

I can think of no better way to celebrate the day than to offer up Charlotte and George's story to everyone, free of charge. Here's the link to download your copy: https://claims.prolificworks.com/free/wPvUwkuJ


And to all the selfless mothers out there, Happy Mother's Day! I hope you get to prop your feet up for a little while, anyway, and read about Charlotte and George.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

It's Giveaway Time!

It's my birthday month, and I'm celebrating. I think birthdays shouldn't be limited to a specific day, but rather should encompass the entire month. So, you might ask, what am I doing to celebrate?

Glad you asked.

I recently got the rights back to the final two books I had with Crimson Romance/Simon & Schuster. One of these was the sweet romance novella that encapsulated the meeting and romance of Charlotte and George Fitzpatrick, the heads of the Fitzpatrick household, and parents to the nine children who have their own individual stories in the Cotillion Ball books. Charlotte and George most certainly did have An Unconventional Courtship. 


So, to celebrate the re-release of this sweet book, I'm offering it up for free, all this month. Here's the link to download your free copy :https://claims.prolificworks.com/free/wPvUwkuJ

Your free copy will be available from now until the end of May. Thanks for sharing my birthday month with me. 

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Roses

Anyone who has spent any time around me knows I love roses. I've had them as an integral part of my landscape and in my writing, for years. When I was in Austin, I found the Antique Rose Emporium, who specializes in (you'll never guess) antique roses. Their website even breaks down the various varieties into the type of fragrance they offer. When I moved to North Carolina, my little patch of yard had two rose bushes, leggy, spindly things. I pruned them back, fed them with my favorite rose food, and was rewarded with only one rose. One bloom for the entire season.

Sadly, it didn't even have much of a scent.

A few days ago, I was at a major home improvement store, in their outdoor section, which was bustling with folks. The woman behind me in line had a rose bush in her basket and I asked if she'd ever heard of the Antique Rose Emporium. She said she only grew Knockout roses, which have heavy blooms, but alas, no heavy scent. No scent at all.


So which way do you lean? Do you want show or do you want substance? Because roses are as much a part of me as my writing is, I favor substance. I want heavy fragrance, and continual blooms all season. I even wrote about roses in the first of the Flower Girl series. My heroine spent her days in the greenhouse, talking to her roses. I admit to doing the same.


My rose from the Antique Rose Emporium arrived yesterday. I passed on the one that smelled like pineapples in favor of an old-time musky scent. My new rose is called The Beverly. I just planted Bev in the back yard along with a huge gulp of water and some of my famous rose food. All she needs is some sunlight and she'll hopefully spread her toes in the sandy soil of North Carolina and take off.
Here's Beverly!
My conversation with the stranger with the Knockout did yield something good, though. She told me of a place in Vancouver, Canada, where they have acre after acre of roses that perfume the air. I'm going to have to check it out.


Sunday, April 21, 2019

Mueller Time

Like most Americans, I've been riveted to the news this week. The long-anticipated report from Bob Mueller was finally ready for viewing. The news reporters reminded me of gleeful children at Halloween with too much candy from which to choose.

Although I was pleased that I was able to understand the Cliff Notes versions of the report the news folk divulged, I was tantalized by the fact I could download and read the entire 400 pages. I googled how to do it, hit the button, and had this strange screen appear on my computer. I couldn't get rid of it and get back to the normal screen of favorites that I see whenever I open Safari. So I decided to shut down and restart my computer to try to get rid of it. By the way, I didn't get the report. One more thing to blame Trump for.

When I started the computer back up again, I was instructed to enter my password, which I did. However, Apple didn't recognize that password and asked if I wanted to reset. I went along with them, tried a new password, and got the message that this computer wasn't eligible for a new Apple ID. I was effectively locked out of my computer.

Since the nearest Genius Bar is two hours away, I called the Apple help line. It took hours to figure out what had happened. My frustration level hit an all-time high, since I'm not the most tech savvy person on the planet. But in the end, they figured out what had happened and how to get rid of the annoying screen. And they cleaned up a lot of space on my computer, helping me eliminate old programs that were occupying way too many gigabytes, or whatever.

I still have no copy of the report, but have decided that's okay. I'd rather have a functioning computer so I can make a living. Maybe I should stay away from politics.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Advertising Hype

I attended a writer's conference this weekend. It had been billed as an A to Z of self-publishing, and since I'd just regained the rights to two of my books, I thought it a timely discussion. So, despite the prediction of rain all day, off I went, on a 3-hour round trip in the pouring rain to have the speaker impart her words of wisdom. Come hell or high water, I wasn't about to miss this talk.

When I arrived at my location, it wasn't just raining–it was pouring. Sheets of rain slammed down on the hood of my car.

My in-car umbrella decided to play hide and seek with me, so I sat for a few minutes in the downpour, hoping for a break–which didn't happen. I wasn't about to sit in the parking lot and miss the meeting, so I took off at a brisk walk toward the door.

Brisk pace or not, by the time I got inside the building I was drenched. My t-shirt clung to my back in a cold, icy grip and I could feel my muscles begin to seize up. My shoes made little squishy noises as I walked across the marble floor. My hair, never known for putting on a good show, gave up completely and dribbled onto my cheeks. A quick check in the ladies' room proved what I'd already guessed. I looked like something the cat had drug in, after she tossed me in a few puddles.



I wiped the mascara off my face, propped my wet locks behind my ears, and proceeded to the meeting. I am nothing if not motivated and persistent. But, alas, here's where the problem began. (I  know what you're thinking...)

Either I'd read the wrong meeting blurb or the speaker had, but the talk wasn't about self-publishing at all. Rather, it was how to write and market a book. The speaker had come prepared with a slide show and handouts. Which she then proceeded to read.

This type of speaker has always bothered me. I'm a writer, as is everyone else in this meeting. Which means we know how to read. Words are our business. I don't need someone to read for me what I can read on the screen myself. I want embellishment on the points being flashed on the screen. So I got grumpy. Not only was I not getting the talk I'd driven here for, it was being read from a screen to me, as if I couldn't make out the words on my own.

Or maybe I was just cold and damp. The puddle under my seat kept growing.

After spending most of my professional life in the advertising business, you'd think I'd have learned not to trust the advertising hype. I sat quietly, damp and cold, and kicked myself for not double checking the agenda. Then, the speaker told me something new. Something I'd never thought of before. Eureka!

As I drove home, I realized hell hadn't come to North Carolina, but some of the rivers were running out of their banks. And while I didn't learn anything about self-publishing, I learned something. Time well spent.


Sunday, April 7, 2019

Fast Or Slow?

Early on in my writing career, I attended a lecture held by Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Jayne Anne Krentz. Their wit, and their obvious friendship with each other was inspiring. But what struck me most was the different approach they each took to their writing. One wrote very fast, the other took a more slow approach. The takeaway from this meeting was I needed to figure out which approach worked best for me and not be swayed or intimidated by another author's output. What was important was to keep the storyline moving toward "the end" every day.

I took their advice to heart and now, with 19 books under my belt and more than that under the bed, I've found an agreeable pace for myself. I know the first 500 words are the hardest for me each day. It's like I'm slogging through mud as each word is slow to develop, elusive and just out of my grasp. But I also know that at some point during those 500 words the scene takes over and the remaining 500 words of my daily output are quick to follow. I can sometimes get to 2,000 words a day, but that's a rarity. But looking at the big picture helps. If I write 1000 words a day, in two months' time, I will have a flash first draft of a book. Usually it works.

But my current WIP has altered my formula. I began the book in early February, so according to my timeline, I should have the first draft completed by now. Not happening. There's something about these characters–Pippa and Daniel–and something about the time period –the American Revolutionary War–that keeps me adding to the story line.


I'm only about halfway to the end of the story and all they've managed to do is share some cheroots and a couple of kisses. Yes, Pippa likes the occasional cigar and blows some impressive smoke rings. By the time I crawl to "the end" I figure I'll have a first draft of about 80,000 words. Usually I need to go back through my flash draft and add in description and emotion, fleshing out the structure. In this case, I may have to cut words from it

Life could be worse.

How about you? Do you write fast, like Jayne Anne, or slow, like Susan Elizabeth?


Sunday, March 31, 2019

There's Still Time!

I know April Fool's Day is tomorrow, but I am not pulling your leg.

I'm giving away my books.

Yep, that's right. For the first time ever,  I am offering up a free copy of my novella. A Regency Yuletide is a Christmas novel which is short, sweet, and tied up with a red ribbon. Any month of the year is a good month to read about the magic of Christmas. There are a few copies remaining, so head on over to the link and add this to your Kindle TBR pile:




Book Six in the Cotillion Ball series released last week, too. The Duplicitous Debutante features Rosemary Fitzpatrick, who has created a business for herself as the author of dime novels in 1850s New York. However, no one is aware that the author of this wildly successful series is a woman. Dime novels were the precursor to the paperback book of today. They opened the door for millions of Americans to read for pleasure for the first time. Thanks to a combination of better education, revolutions in printing, and a less demanding work schedule, people now had time to read, and the dime novel was what they were reading. Here's a cover example of the dime novel.

Most of these tales were over-the-top stories about America's wild west. Here's a bit of Rosemary's offerings about her hero, Harry Hawk: 

Harry Hawk and the Tycoon’s Daughter—Book Six in the Harry Hawk Series

Harry Hawk stared down the barrel of his Colt .45. A huge Sioux Indian was in his sights, but was holding the girl in front of him as a shield. Her eyes were as big as saucers as she struggled against the man, and she trembled as she kept her eyes on the end of Harry’s gun.

“What are you doing, Screaming Eagle?” Harry tried to keep the exasperation out of his voice.

“Her father is running the railroad through Sioux land.”

“And by kidnapping his daughter, you think he’ll sit down and smoke a peace pipe with you?”

The Indian tossed back his long, straight, black hair and tightened his hold on the woman. Harry’s grip on his gun tightened as well when her whimper reached his ears.

“Come on, you’re doing the wrong thing and you know it.”

“White man does us wrong, we do same.”

“And two wrongs don’t make a right.” Harry glanced from the sniveling woman to the Indian. “Your father would not be pleased with this behavior, Screaming Eagle. Hiding behind a woman’s skirts.”

The Indian hesitated, then shoved the girl at Harry. “Take her, then. But keep everyone off our land.”

“I can’t promise that, Screaming Eagle. You’re raising a stink with the railroad, when it should be with the government. Not these honest, hard-working men who are just trying to build a railroad.”

“So bring me your chief, and we’ll talk.”

Harry smiled wryly as he thought of President Buchanan sitting down with Screaming Eagle and negotiating a land treaty. The man couldn’t maintain order in the civilized part of the United States. He couldn’t possibly interact with Indians.

“I’ll see what I can do. In the meantime, you lie low, and I’ll try to smooth things over with the rail boss.”

The woman Screaming Eagle had thrust into his arms fainted. Great, Harry thought as he slung her over his shoulder.

If you'd like to read the rest of Harry's adventures, you'll have to buy The Duplicitous Debutante.

Here's the link:

Sunday, March 24, 2019

On Being a Hybrid Author

By the end of this month, I will be able to retrieve the rights to the last remaining books held by Simon & Schuster. It has taken over a year to dissolve my relationship with them, and right now, I'm still represented by three different publishers. I'm considering what to do with these last two books. Should I try self-publishing again? My first trip down that road was a failure, but I learned a lot.

A hybrid author, for those reading this blog who are readers rather than authors, is one who has a toe in both traditional publishing and self publishing. There are benefits and drawbacks to each type of publishing, and it is refreshing for an author to finally have a choice in the matter, rather than to wait anxiously for word from a traditional house that they want, or reject, your work.

But as much as the freedom to be your own boss is with self publishing, there's something to be said for belonging to a traditional house as well. In addition to the marketing support you get, which in most cases is marginal, you become part of a sisterhood that can extend far past your contract with the publisher. Your universe of like-minded people grows with each publishing house and the benefits are great. Fellow authors are a great support system, and the more ways you can grow that list, the better.

I recently finished a manuscript and sent it off to a new-to-me publisher in hopes they'll consider it. Why would I consider adding a fourth house? To meet new people, to expand my reader base, to not place all my eggs in one basket. Take your pick of reasons. As for the two books reverting back to me? They may become my next attempts at self-publishing. Time will tell.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Creating Your Team

Since moving to North Carolina a year ago, I've tried out five different hair studios in an attempt to find someone who understands my vision and can offer advice and counsel. My hair is thin and fine, so it needs a special kind of cut by someone who understands that not every head of hair is the same. So far, no luck, but there are many hair salons yet to go.

But it got me to thinking about how similar building a support team for your personal life is to building a support team for a writing career. Regardless of which route you take in publishing, you still need an editor, or an agent, or an author coach, a critique partner, or just a like-minded individual to bounce ideas off. You want to listen to their concerns, consider their reasons for why to do or not do something in your manuscript or to your characters or your career, yet you don't want to ever lose your original vision, your original voice. It's a fine line to walk and sometimes you have to put your foot down, even when it makes you uncomfortable to do so.

Which is what I'm doing with my quest for a decent hair salon. I live in an area with a healthy dose of senior citizens and, since I have white hair, when a hairdresser sees me coming in, they automatically think "little old lady haircut coming up." But although I might fit into that category chronologically, I am far from a "little old lady" and refuse to be categorized as such. I explain in no uncertain terms what type of cut I want, I show them a picture of my vision, and if they insist on giving me the little old lady cut, I'll put my foot down and move on to the next, even though the place has been highly recommended by friends.

Fortunately, my hair grows fast, so next month I may find a hairdresser that I like. And I may find a new publisher for my latest endeavor. Someone who loves my voice and vision. Fingers crossed, on both counts.


Sunday, March 10, 2019

Wanting More

If you're an author, you can be inundated with people who will tell you the best way to spend your marketing budget to guarantee you'll make boatloads of money in royalties.

The problem is, everyone offers different advice, and, if you send them money and buy their how-to books or videos, chances are the only ones who will see those boatloads of money are the ones giving the advice. The rest of us will continue to throw darts and hope for the best.

Most every author, after the initial euphoria of seeing their name in print, wants to make enough money to be able to quit the day job and spend their days in their heads, creating new, awesome stories for their readers' voracious appetites. But the hard truth of being a writer is this is a very hard business to figure out. And the odds of making the big time are long. A Huffington Post article stated recently that barely 2 percent of the total books published sold more than 5,000 copies. The average is less than 500 copies.

So why do we do it? Continue to bang our foreheads on the wall, trying to figure out how to get folks to find your precious book and read it? And after they read it, leave a positive review of it in the hopes it may catch the attention of another reader?

The reason is very simple. The voices in our heads need to have a mouthpiece. If we didn't have the creative outlet that publishing a book provides, we'd probably all end up in the loony bin with multiple personality disorder. Marketing of those precious books will continue to be a mystery, a moving target. Some of us will figure it out, but most of us will be in that less than 500 copies area.

We may want more, but we'll continue to do what we do best. Write the next story. Maybe it will be the one that has the magic juice and makes it to the big time.


Sunday, March 3, 2019

March Comes In Like A Lion

It's finally March!

February may be the shortest month of the year, but it seems to take its sweet old time getting done. Bad weather, clogged highways, missed deadlines–all happen in February.

But it's March!

Time for new beginnings. I'm pleased to announce that two of my Cotillion books will be re-released in March. Blinded By Grace is one of my favorites, since it deals with the eldest son of the family, Halwyn, and how he only needed a pair of eyeglasses to see what had been in front of him all along. Here's the new, snazzy cover, and the blurb:

In 1858 New York City, Halwyn Fitzpatrick thinks he's off the hook for attendance at the annual Cotillion Ball. He has no sister to shepherd down the grand staircase this year and no real desire to go through the rituals of courtship and betrothal himself. Besides, he'll know the right girl when he sees her, especially now that he has new spectacles. But his mother has other plans for him. At twenty-seven years of age, her son is in dire need of a wife.
Grace Wagner needs a husband by July in order to inherit the trust her father has left for her. Her stepfather, though, has plans for the money that don't include Grace, and the last thing he wants is for her to find a husband before she turns twenty-one, thereby fulfilling the terms of the trust. She's been in love with Halwyn since she was thirteen, but he hasn't noticed her at any of the balls they've been at over the years. With the aid of his new glasses, he spies Grace from across the room and they share a dance. Grace decides to present him with a business proposition that will satisfy them both. But can a clueless knight in shining armor and a desperate damsel in distress find a way to turn this marriage of convenience into something more?








The Duplicitous Debutante is another favorite, since Rosemary Fitzpatrick is an author who writes Penny Dreadfuls, but under an assumed name–a name everyone believes to belong to a man. 

In 1859, ladies of New York society are expected to do three things well: find a husband, organize a household, and have children. But despite her mother's best intentions, making her debut is the last thing on Rosemary Fitzpatrick's mind. Writing the popular Harry Hawk dime novels as F.P. Elliott, she's too busy hiding her female identity from her new publisher, Henry Cooper. To protect her clandestine career, she ends up posing as the enigmatic author's secretary.
Henry is not the typical Boston Brahmin, nor the typical publisher, and Rosemary entrances him from the moment they meet. As they work together and grow closer, he wonders how his traditional-minded father will react when he brings her into the family, because Henry firmly intends to marry the working-class woman.
But when her deception begins to unravel at the cotillion ball, will Henry be able to forgive her or has deceit cost her the man she loves?









This entire series is set during one of the most tumultuous times in American history–westward expansion, the suffragette movement, the abolitionist movement, the Civil War and Reconstruction. I've loved taking this ordinary, well-bred family and tossing each member into the midst of history. Sometimes their choices surprised even me, the author. Each book in this series features a different sibling, all of them named after an herb or spice. And although each book can be read as a stand alone, it's fun to see how the siblings and their parents, Charlotte and George, pop in and out of each story. If you've been with me since this journey began, let me know which book was your favorite. If you're new to the series, they're now available on Kindle Unlimited for the first time.

Hope you enjoy the break in the weather and the Cotillion Ball series. 









Sunday, February 24, 2019

Thinking About Words

I just finished reading Julia Quinn's latest endeavor, The Other Miss Bridgerton. Her heroine, Poppy Bridgerton, had a thing for words. Specifically words that sounded like their meaning. One of her examples in the book was the word devoid. 

Which got me to thinking about other words that sound like their meaning. Here's my short list:

Ooze
Fizz
Swish
Shaggy
Wisp
Raindrop
Freeze
Kill
Phlegm



I'll add another to the list. The other day, I was wearing my slippers when I slipped on my wet floor and took a tumble. Does that count?

How about you? Do you have any favorite words that sound like their meaning? Or are Julia Quinn and I the only ones who ponder things like this? And is this type of word called onomatopoeia or ideophone?

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Creating Your Tribe

Every writer working today has heard you need a tribe to get a book from concept to reality. A tribe is a support system in this lonely world of fiction writing. You need critique partners to let you know when you've run your book's story line off into a ditch. You need a coach, mentor, agent, whatever your want to call the person or persons you lean on for advice. Throw in editors, web designers, proofreaders, reviewers who write glowing reviews of your books, publishers, all the people who operate blogs where you can introduce your book to a new audience, and, of course, your family.

Never has this concept of tribalism come into play than this past week. My website is one of the most consistent of the elements of my social media, and I keep track of the daily hits. The consistency tapered off around Valentine's Day, and had trickled to one or two visitors a day instead of the usual 100 or so. I watched it for a couple days, but didn't think to check the link. One of my favorite fellow authors with whom I share the History Imagined blog brought it to my attention. What to do? Since I know next to nothing about how to fashion a website, I emailed my tribe member who takes care of that. It only took her a few minutes on the phone with the company who hosts my site to determine they had tried to send an authentication notice to me at my Ohio email address and when I didn't respond, they shut the site down. It has since been fixed and updated. Problem solved, but not without help.

On a more personal note, I now have my grown nephew living with me. Since I've never married, it's been nice to be able to share my home with my siblings and/or their children over the years. He's working at a grocery chain and has to be there by 6 am. Normally, I never hear him, but last night was different. I got sick at about 3 am, and was awake when he left the house. I texted him to please pick up some Pepto for me before he came home. Not only did he bring the medicine, he brought hot soup and yogurt for my delicate stomach. Then, he walked my dog!
Mary

So this week has taught me that, while some parts of my tribe need to be shored up and expanded, the core group is to be trusted. Not only with my writing process but also with my health. I'm eternally grateful to each of you.