Sunday, September 29, 2013

Reaching A Milestone

I measure my professional life in terms of goals. Some are big, like getting published within five years of taking my writing seriously. Some are small, like getting more visitors to my website than were there last month. Or starting a newsletter to inform my readers of what's around the next bend.

RWA (Romance Writers of America) has a built-in set of milestones for each member. You can become a PRO member if you have completed a manuscript of 40,000 words or more and can provide proof that you have submitted said manuscript to an editor or agent. This is the first step on the road to becoming a published author, and is fairly easy to attain once you've written a manuscript. (No easy task!)

Then, there's PAN. The Published Authors Network. Rarified Air. To get there, you not only have to write a manuscript and send it out. You also need to have a publisher accept that manuscript and pay you royalties when a reader purchases a copy. You need to reach the threshold of $1,000 in royalties from one title ($5,000 if you self-publish) in order to achieve PAN status. Not so simple these days, when the going price for an e-book is only $2.99. The author's share of the cover price is indeed miniscule.

I joined RWA in 2007. When I moved to Ohio and found the Northeast Ohio chapter of RWA (Cleveland Rocks!) in 2009, I applied for PRO status as a result of sending out my first manuscript, which now has a permanent home under my bed. Fourteen months ago, my debut novel, The Reluctant Debutante, was released by Crimson Romance, the new kid on the block who was willing to take a chance on a good story that didn't happen to fit into a cookie-cutter line. I've had to sit through two royalty statements before I could take the next step, but it's now official.

I applied for PAN status on Friday!

You may look at this milestone progression and think "She's done what she set out to do." I look at it and think "What's next?" My writing career reminds me of why I never could settle down in one house, one state, one part of the country, for too long. I always wanted to see what was over the horizon. Yes, I reached a milestone last week, a big one. Now, I can't wait to see what's to come. If you sign up to receive my newsletter, you can  travel the journey with me. It'll be fun.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Slovenia, My Slovenia

My day-to-day life is fairly mundane. On Sundays, I write this blog and check my schedule for the week at my greeting card job. Then, I plan out the remainder of the week, based on how many days I have to leave the house to get my grocery job done and figure out how many days I can devote myself to writing. Boring stuff, eh?

A few Mondays ago this point was driven home to me. The bank called me bright and early to go over some activity on my credit card. Had I made a purchase at Wal-Mart? Yes, I replied. Purchased something from Barnes & Noble? Yes, I had another book on my Nook which will languish there for months before I get around to it. I was lamenting the fact that, even with my credit card purchases, one could determine how bland my life is. Their next question: Did I make a reservation at a hotel in Slovenia last night? Wha-a-a-t?

I assured them I was not in Slovenia, had never been, that I was, in fact, in Ohio, which is as far removed from Slovenia as one could get. They assured me they'd take care of the charge and cancelled my credit card, with instructions that I should head to the bank that day to be issued a new one. What a headache.

I was grateful that the bank was on top of this fraudulent behavior and I wouldn't be stuck paying someone else's bill. But then, I got angry. How dare someone expect me to pay the bill at a swank hotel in Slovenia and not invite me! I could use a vacation, too.

Is there even a swank hotel in Slovenia? I wondered. A quick internet search answered my question--yes, Slovenia is a great travel destination with many wonderful hotels. It's nestled near the Alps, providing stunning views to any tourists who happen to  wander into the country. Gorgeous scenery and historic old buildings abound. It's even home to the Lipizzaner stallions!

Perhaps, one day I'll join my credit card and venture to Slovenia. I'll stay in the best hotel, I'll ride the stallions, I'll spend a weekend in a castle. Right now, though, it sounds like a great backdrop for one of my stories. This country was never on my radar before, but now I'm thinking about it in terms of how I can use it for my writing. This never would have been conceivable before the call from the bank. Which goes to show that inspiration can come from anywhere and anything. I guess I need to thank the predators who somehow managed to steal my card.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

TRR's Blog Hop--Day 9--Nora Roberts

I began this blog series on favorite writers by talking about Ava Miller's book, Nora Roberts Land. So it only seems fair that I wrap things up with a tribute to the one and only herself. I don't need to tell you about Nora's legendary writing career. The fact that you're visiting here as part of TRR's blog hop tells me you already know her. What you may not know about the woman is what she gives back to the romance community. And to her hometown.

If you get a chance, stop in Boonsboro, MD sometime. There, you'll bear witness to how Nora breathed life into this sleepy little town, one enterprise at a time. There's, of course, the Turn The Page bookstore, where the legendary booksigning takes place every year and ladies have to take numbers and wait outside for their chance to enter. It's kind of like the lines for a new I-phone, or something. People travel from all over the east coast and midwest for this event.

Beyond the bookstore is Nora's pet project. It's the Inn, in the heart of the town, which was transformed from a run-down historic building into the inn which was featured in the Boonsboro trilogy. Even the pizza parlor in town, also featured in the books, is owned by one of her sons.

But all this largesse doesn't even begin to describe how much she gives back to RWA and to romance writers everywhere. When you meet her, she's always willing to pose for a picture. And she will answer your questions, which were probably asked of her hundreds of times already. Here's a picture of my friend, Barb, with Nora at the RWA Conference in Atlanta. They both look happy.

If you sign up for my newsletter, you are automatically entered to win an e-copy of my latest book, The Tempestuous Debutante. Today's the final day for the contest!

Friday, September 20, 2013

TRR's Blog Hop--Day 8--Jude Deveraux

Of course, no tribute to writers who inspire me would be complete without mentioning Jude Deveraux. She is the one who first introduced me to time travel, a sub-genre I've come to adore. A Knight in Shining Armor has a place on my 'forever' shelf. Even though it's not the first book Jude wrote, and by no means her last, it holds a special place in my heart.

In the course of my many moves around the country, I lost the original version of this book and had to replace it with a later edition. In her notes in the front of the book, Jude explained that, after the initial release, some of her faithful followers were bothered by certain elements of the book, and she was glad for the opportunity to be able to make changes. So, even though I adored this book, the author saw room for improvement. That taught me a lot about how a manuscript is never finished. Now, when I think I'm done with a manuscript, I put it away for a couple days. When I pull it back out, I can invariably find something to correct. And I'm still dying to do what Jude did to write this book--hide away in a cabin in the woods for four months. I hope Jude inspires you, too..

Remember, if you sign up at the right to join my newsletter mailing list, you are eligible to win an e-copy of my newest release, The Tempestuous Debutante.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

TRR's Blog Hop--Day 7--Stephen King

I know what you're saying--Stephen King doesn't write romance! But this blog hop is to feature writers who inspire us, and Stephen King's Book, On Writing, did it for me. (And, he has written one romance,  to be technical, but it was still a creepy King-esque kind of book.)

I stopped devouring Stephen King books with The Shining. I loved The Stand, but The Shining scared the beejeesus out of me. It didn't help that I had a setting that added to the book--I was living alone, in a small house set in front of my neighbor's, and he was a prowler who was frequently at my windows. And it was winter, cold and dreary. I had to only read a chapter at a time, otherwise I'd scare myself silly, and wouldn't be able to sleep. I've read a few of his other books over the years, and may make a stab at the sequel to The Shining, which is about to drop.

But, even though I'm no longer an avid reader of his, Mr. King does dispense some wonderful advice on the craft of writing in his book. It should be mandatory reading for any author, fiction or non-fiction.
Shortly after I read his book on writing, I woke up one night, with a scene playing on a continuous reel in my head. When that happens, I know I have to come downstairs, fire up the computer, and get the scene down before I can go back to sleep. So, here I was, at 4 am, in a quiet, dark house, with night still at the windows, and I'm deep into my scene. Suddenly, I hear Stephen's voice in my ear, whispering to me, "That's a passive sentence, Becky. You can do better."

Scared the beejeesus out of me again! You bet I whipped that sentence into shape and ran back upstairs.

Remember, if you sign up to receive my newsletter (on the right side of the page), I'm giving away to one lucky reader an e-copy of my latest book, The Tempestuous Debutante.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

TRR's Blog Hop--Day 6--Amanda L.V. Shalaby

I adore Amanda Shalaby. Not only is she a wonderful author of two historical books, Rhianna and Audra, but she is a truly genuinely nice person. And she has gorgeous hair!

One of the best parts about becoming a Crimson Romance author is developing friendships among the other authors who are also represented. Sometimes, the relationships form naturally, as with other members of your RWA chapter. But the friendships I love the best are the ones that develop because you really admire the way a person writes. Amanda is an historical writer, as am I. (I do have a contemporary side, too, but with Crimson, I'm known as an historical writer.) So, the fact that we both write historical romances led me to first reading her book and vice versa. I was so impressed with Rhianna because it was so beautifully written. I kept going back and reading segments of it, just so I could hear the words. My dog got to hear many passages read aloud, because I loved the way the words felt on my tongue. Amanda's work is lyrical, almost. You can sense the waltzes taking place as you read. Her descriptions of the ballrooms and the gowns make the reader feel they're there, in the story with Rhianna. Here's a bit about the book:

Upon the unexpected death of her parents, Rhianna Braden finds the enigmatic Lord Guilford Kingsley on her doorstep. He escorts her to Kingsley Manor, where family secrets and scandals begin to unfold. Her uncommon beauty captures the attention of the dashing Lord Thayne Brighton of Ravensleigh, but Rhianna is certain, despite their mutual attraction, that he would never choose her over his wealthy intended. Meanwhile, Lady Lydia Kingsley suspects her husband's attention to Rhianna has led to an affair between them. Events turn deadly when the truth of their relationship is discovered. Eventually, Rhianna is forced to make a life-altering decision while discovering that some secrets are not meant to be kept.

The most recent addition to Amanda's booklist is Audra. We meet Audra in her first book, but she's a secondary character, and a child. In Audra, she comes into her own, and even though she's still young, Audra has a mind of her own. Read more of her story:

Audra Kingsley, a wealthy heiress, may not have seen much of the world, but she knows exactly how she wants her future to play out - and a coming out ball held at her country estate, Kingsley Manor, would suit her just fine. Her father’s wish that she be presented at St. James in London seems silly since she is to marry her neighbor and childhood sweetheart, Lord Crispin Brighton, but she obliges him.
Audra travels to London with her patroness, the eccentric Lady Sutherland, intending to return home as soon as she has curtseyed to the Queen. Unknown to her, Lady Sutherland is in no rush to leave London before the Season is over and intends to show Audra she has more options in the suitor department than Lord Crispin, a second son.
Audra finds herself surrounded by few friends and is forced to attend parties, balls, and operas - all while becoming the object of a secret admirer’s obsession. As Audra struggles to make her way home to her beloved, plans to compromise her into an unwanted marriage are underway.

I highly recommend Amanda Shalaby to you, especially if you enjoy reading historical romances.

Remember, if you sign up to receive my newsletter (button to do so is on the right side of this page), you are automatically entered into a drawing to receive an e-copy of my latest: The Tempestuous Debutante.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

TRR's Blog Hop--Day 5--Zrinka Jelic

Zrinka is one of my Crimson Romance sisters, and she writes in one of my favorite genres--time travel. At least her latest book, Love Remains, is a time travel. Her other books include lady pirates and paranormal creatures. She describes herself as a writer of contemporary fiction which leans toward paranormal and adds in just a pinch of history. What I get from that is one extremely creative individual with a healthy imagination! Here's some info about her latest:

Olivia Owen, a busy, single, high-functioning, corporate executive officer, is not afraid to die a spinster for the sake of her career. But in an alternate reality world, bridged by the angel of her Down’s syndrome sister, she meets Tom Medar, a dedicated, Croatian defense attorney who dreams of the right woman, but never has time to find her. Together they foil an adulterous murder plot while discovering there’s room for love and family in their busy lives—but not before they are separated again.
When they awaken from their alternate world, will they be able to cross countries to find each other again?

Keys in her hand, she took the two steps to the front door. She had left a few lights on,
but the smell of home cooking wafting in the air stood her hair on end. Who the hell was
in her house? Heart drumming, she gripped her cell just in case she needed to make a fast
call for the police, then she crept through the foyer toward the kitchen. The candlelit table
set for two in the dining room indicated whoever was here expected a romantic evening.
His back to her, a man stirred a pot on the stove. His tight butt swayed to an Elvis
classic coming from the stereo. Had she made a date prior to her trip but forgot to cancel
it? Impossible, she wouldn't pass up on such a handsome man. Despite her dry mouth,
Olivia swallowed. Whatever food the hunk was preparing on the stove smelled delicious.
The frills on his apron swirled around him as he turned to her with a smile that would
have melted ice caps. Light from the ceiling reflected on his wavy brown hair. “Hi,
honey. I was beginning to worry.”
He stepped to her, leaned down and pecked her cheek with an odd familiarity. “Your
trip must’ve been exhausting. I’m sorry the flight was overbooked, but at least the airline
found you a seat in coach.”
She wiped her cheek where his kiss still simmered on her skin. Rubbing his palms
together, he turned to the stove. “Hope you’re hungry. I made your favorite, ravioli รก la
moi. I just have to pop garlic bread in, but that won’t take too long. So go get
Frozen, she stared. His eyebrows furrowed. “I should have picked you up from the
airport. Next time, I won’t let you talk me out of it.”
Her legs refused to co-operate. She couldn't get them to move, but she managed a
sharp breath. “Who are you?”
WOW! That makes me want to grab my copy and start reading. Zrinka's giving away an ebook copy to one lucky commenter. She's standing by and waiting for your questions. 

And, if you sign up to receive my newsletter, I'll pick a winner and send a free e-copy of my book.

Monday, September 16, 2013

TRR's Blog Hop--Day 4--Ashlyn MacNamera

I just discovered Ashlyn MacNamera. I think, no I know, my interest was piqued by the cover of her latest release, A Most Devilish Rogue, which just released last month. As a contributor to USA Today's Happy Ever After column, it's my job to browse assorted publishing websites looking for new books to feature, and I've been staring at this luscious backside for months now. You can see my obsession, can't' you?

But I started my journey with Ashlyn based on her February release of A Most Scandalous Proposal. I'm only about 1/4 of the way through it, but I find myself thinking about the book when I'm away from it. If I pick up another book to read in between visits, I find myself wondering what is happening with Julia and Sophie and Benedict and the horses. So I put my other books away and head back to Ashlyn. As an author, the best compliment we can hear is that the characters resonated with the reader. They became friends with the characters and actually began to care for them. High praise indeed. Check out Ashlyn. You won't be disappointed.

If you sign up to receive my newsletter, I'll award one winner with a free e-copy of my book.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

TRR's Blog Hop--Day 3--Julia Quinn

No tribute to my favorite authors would be complete without mentioning Julia Quinn. I loved her books before the Bridgerton series, and I love, love, love the Bridgertons. The children are given their names by the alphabet, beginning with Anthony and ending with Hyacinth. Here's what Amazon says about her latest, Happily Ever After Book.

Once upon a time, a historical romance author created a family . . .
But not just any family. Eight brothers and sisters, assorted in-laws, sons and daughters, nieces and nephews (not to mention an overweight corgi) plus an irrepressible matriarch who's a match for any of them . . . These are the Bridgertons: less a family than a force of nature. Through eight bestselling novels, readers laughed, cried, and fell in love. But they wanted more.

And more is what Julia has given us. Secondary characters are now getting their own books, and The Bridgerton family just continues to give us pleasure.

My own Cotillion Ball Series, although based in America rather than in England, is structured much the same way Julia's Bridgerton books are. There are nine children in the Fitzpatrick household, and each will get his or her own book. I do have plans for secondary character books, too, since my readers have their favorites. Instead of my family bestowing names based on the alphabet, they began with a family name, Halwyn, which is a Welsh Arthurian legend name meaning "salt". With a name like salt, it was only natural that his twin sister be called Pepper. Thus began the Fitzpatrick tradition of naming their children after herbs and spices. The latest in the series is Jasmine's story, The Tempestuous Debutante.

Thank you, Julia, for your inspiration, and the many hours of fun you've provided me in reading your books.

If you sign up to receive my newsletter, I'll pick a name and send you an e-book of The Tempestuous Debutante!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

TRR's Blog Hop--Day 2--Sara MacLean

Of course, I was aware of Sarah MacLean prior to this year's RWA Conference in Atlanta. She writes sassy Regency romances, which I devour daily. But when she sat at the table with three of my chapter mates at the Awards presentation, they were entertained by her wit and charm.  And when she capped off the night by winning the RITA for best historical, I decided it was time to get to know her again.

A Rogue By Any Other Name is a perfect place to begin getting reacquainted. It's the first of the Scoundrels books (and you know I love a good scoundrel). Michael Bourne gambled away his lands when he was barely old enough to enter a gambling hell. Faced with such a devastating loss, he decided to never gamble again, but to open a business where he would benefit from others' weaknesses.  He and his partners formed the most famous gambling hell in all of England. He's a rogue and a scoundrel and proud of it.

Penelope was his best friend when they were children. Now she's a spinster with attitude. She hates Michael for leaving her, first when he went off to college, then when his fortunes fell from his grasp. Now, he's back and wants to marry her. She's not buying it.

This is a great read, with a spirited heroine who defies convention and doesn't marry just so she can save face among her peers. She's holding out for the real thing. How can a writer of historical romances not be inspired by a RITA winning book?

Friday, September 13, 2013

TRR's Blog Hop--Romances That Inspire Me

On any number of levels, Nora Roberts Land, by Ava Miller, is an inspiration. When I first heard about it, I thought, what a clever hook, to tie yourself to Nora's name. You'd be sure to show up on lists that your wouldn't otherwise, you'd probably be invited to Nora's Bookstore in Boonsboro, MD for the annual booksigning event. Hell, she'll probably even carry your book in her store! What's not to love about this setup? As a writer, I wished I'd had the inspiration for it instead of Ava.

Here's the premise: The heroine's ass of an ex-husband blamed Nora Roberts and her books for creating an idealistic world where man and woman love each other unconditionally. No wonder they couldn't make a go of their marriage. No one could be the kind of romantic hero that Nora creates in her books. Clever, and examples of some of Nora's finer heroes leap off the page to remind the reader of what is being referred to. Okay, it was a great hook, and kudos to Ava. Still kicking myself for not having thought of it first, I began to read Ava's story.

She didn't need Nora.

This book is so well written, I couldn't put it down to go to sleep. My Nook ran out of juice, and rather than plug it in and wait a few hours, I plugged it in and kept right on reading. The twists and turns as the hero and heroine explore what is really important are the heart of the story. It's kind of like the cover. Nora may have opened the door, but Ava led me into her world.

It's on my current "highly recommended" list. For more favorite and inspiring books, hop on over to the next blog:  TRR's Blog Hop

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Taking A Deep Breath

You know how it is when you're swimming? When, right before you plant your face in the water you take a deep breath? That's how I'm feeling this Sunday. My latest book in the Cotillion Ball series, The Tempestuous Debutante, comes out tomorrow. I have called on almost everyone I know to do an
advance read of the book and post a review on Amazon Monday, since the more reviews you get quickly translates into extra promotion from Amazon, or so I've been told. Now I just need to get those advance readers, to whom I am extremely grateful, to post their reviews. I'll be chasing them for several days, I've a feeling.

While not chasing after reviews, I have a full week of blogging going on. Today, I'm at Authors To Watch. Tomorrow I'm on Crimson's site and USA Today. Tuesday I'm back on Authors To Watch and I have an appearance on Eye on Romance. Wednesday, I'm going to sleep, I think. Thursday, I'm back out on tour, with a stop (and a giveaway!) at Ramblings By This Chick. Friday starts The Romance Review's Fall Blog Hop, which runs until September 21. For a complete lineup of my whistle-stop blog tour, visit my news page here:

Things will calm down again in October. Or will they? I have a contemporary due out sometime before year's end and I'm part of a Christmas anthology.  So, there will be edits for both, promotional efforts for both, and on and on. And then, there's the big news I can't talk about yet. I did some preliminary research for the next book I want to write and had hoped to start on that next month. Oh dear!

I hope my life never slows down. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

How Writing Is Like Cleaning The Floor

A good friend of mine recently wrote an article about the things no one ever tells you to expect once you become published. One item that stuck with me is how, when you're editing your work,
you begin to notice how messy your house has become while you were in the giddy, creative stage of writing your manuscript. And your awareness of the filth and clutter becomes more acute the deeper into the editing process you go. Suddenly, corralling that recalcitrant dust-bunny becomes more important than eliminating that dangling participle. 

Case in point: I spent the weekend putting the final polish on my WIP. I'd painstakingly gone through the process of verifying every scene against my self-imposed checklist over the past few weeks, and I was finally able to dump it out of Scrivener and into a word document, where I set about formatting it and polishing it up. The final step in the editing process started yesterday, and I had a sudden urge to clean the kitchen floor. Usually housekeeping is so far down on my to-do list I can't see it because of the piles of rubble that build up during the exciting, creative phase. And my kitchen floor is probably as old as I am, and it takes forever to make it presentable. Kind of like me getting ready to go somewhere.

Kind of like the process of taking a manuscript and getting it ready to submit. Hmmm....

First, I sweep the floor. That's the easy, breezy part and I can actually see progress being made. The flash draft.

Second, I clean the floor, using a Swiffer machine and liquid cleanser. The first-read-through.

Third, because the floor is old and full of crevices to make it look like it's something it's not, I have to use bleach to really clean the nooks and crannies in the ancient tile. Then, I have to rinse. My checklist, where I am aware of the senses, duplication of words, words I overuse, or which are telling. That kind of thing.

Finally, I polish the floor to a healthy, clean-looking shine. Formatting the manuscript and the final read-through.

See what I mean? And, yes, I CAN make an analogy out of just about anything.