Sunday, March 1, 2015

Read an Ebook Week

Readers: Where to Find Books

Smashwords Read an Ebook Week Catalog - This is the hub of the action, where you find over 50,000 multi-format books regularly priced at free every day, and thousands more that are free or deep-discounted for one week only.
Apple iBooks - For iPhone, iPad, iTunes and Mac users.   CLICK HERE to bring up a selection of FREE ebooks organized by categories such as Featured Titles, Fiction & Literature, Non-Fiction, Children & Teens, Romance, Mysteries & Thrillers, Sci-fi & Fantasy, Biographies & Memoirs, Arts & Entertainment and more.  iBooks features thousands of free and low-cost books every day in their iBooks app.
Barnes & Noble - Download thousands of free ebooks.  Click the "See all" link to drill down into multiple other categories of free books.

Several of my titles are discounted up to 75% at Smashwords. Click on the title and check the right side of the page for the discount code. Click here to check out your options.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Muses and Cosmic Forces

This has been one of those weeks.

Every author questions what they write. We all wonder if what we've written is so much manure, and sometimes we actually know it would be better as fertilizer. I have at least two stories that I've written that I shelved never to see the light of day. Even I don't like them! But there's this one ...

Whenever I'm between books, I always pull Epitaph back off the shelf. It stays with me, and yet I still seem to push it out of the way when new ideas jump in. So here I am, waiting for my editor to finish looking over Gathering Mist, and looking ahead to my new project. And there's Epitaph, tapping me on the shoulder again. So I opened up the files. And cringed. I wrote this several years ago, and the writing is very sloppy. That means I have to reconstruct it, which makes me stop to wonder if its really worth the effort. But then something happened.

I was reading a book and the author used one of the phrases I looked up as a simile for Epitaph! Really?? A NYT Bestselling author used the same phrase. What are the odds? Well obviously her book was published and mine wasn't, so she gets dibs. The phrase? "Life by Normal Rockwell, screenplay by Stephen King." I have a young epitaph writer who people think is odd. She looks normal, even backward, and yet she has this skill that frightens people. Seemed like a perfect description. Until I read it in someone else's book!  So yeah, I scrambled to come up with another expression to use that probably works better. (Funny how that works!)

THEN, as I continued to wonder at the wisdom of trying to resurrect (no pun intended) this project, someone random posted something to my facebook page. A random quote by Percy Bysshe Shelley. So? you might ask? Well here's the thing. Epitaph has, well, epitaphs in it. One of them is a quote by Shelley.

So what's the big deal? Coincidence? Yeah, probably. But for an author sitting on the precipice between tearing up a story and losing it forever and trying to breathe life into her baby, it's a sign from the cosmos. A muse, tapping her on the shoulder.

So what am I working on? Epitaph. 

I have a cover for Gathering Mist, thanks to a stunning cover artist who has done great work for me! Chewing on my fingernails as I wait to hear from the editor on whether or not that one works. Still looking for an April release date (reminder: sign up for my newsletter to keep up to date on my new releases!).

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Elgin Literary Festival recap

I was honored this year to participate in an inaugural literary festival in Elgin, Illinois. (and a shout out to everyone who stopped by to say hello, and also to those who bought books!) They had something for everyone, from kids at the library, to fantasy, to self-help. Thank you to YA paranormal author Karly Kirkpatrick for organizing a great event.

The festival was spread around the city, in the old downtown area. Lots of charming venues, interesting break-out sessions. It was a nice way to showcase the city along with the information that was available. I sat on a romance writers panel along with Lisa Jenn Bigelow, Kym Brunner, Simone Elkeles, Nicki Elson, AJ Pine and Joanne Zienty. Excellent company! Fun to compare notes with other authors and answer questions from readers.

They had sessions for YA readers, for paranormal readers, Sci-Fi, fantasy and dystopian, poetry and sessions for writers/aspiring authors as well.

The book signings were done in the same venue where the Elgin Symphony Orchestra plays, and we were lucky enough to be there on Sunday when the symphony was playing Brahms.

So what's next? My next brain storm is brewing. While busy season lurks at the day job, I've been reworking Epitaph in the creative lull "between books," while also thinking ahead to the third in the Kundigerin trilogy, along with the next installment of the Northwest Suburbs. Seems as if that tromp l'oeil idea I've been tossing around would work in conjunction with telling Matt's story. Nobody liked Matt, right? I mean he dumped Audrey, then he fathered a child with Shannon, how can a man like that be redeemed? A new challenge...

Still on track for an April release for Gathering Mist - Kundigerin 2. Sign up for my newsletter to keep up to date on the new releases (click on the "About the Author" tab at the top). Pre-release information should be available within the next 10 days (unless I've made a bigger mess of things than I'd expected!). Anyone else as excited as I am?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentines Day!

I saw the best meme the other day! And it inspired me to make sure I wished all my readers a Happy Valentines Day. (You can view the meme here)

As a romance author, I clearly have a soft heart (or a soft head, according to some people). I believe in the power of love and happily ever after (and no, my life hasn't been that proverbial bed of roses). You might be familiar with the Eric Idle song, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life? (or not, I'm including a link if you want a giggle). Life isn't always perfect. Our significant others aren't always perfect, but as I tell my husband when he comments on how much he hates the cat after she's barfed up her dinner, "but you love her all the rest of the time, right?" (He won't admit it, but he does.)

My personal opinion is that love starts with you. You have to be comfortable alone before you can be comfortable with someone else. My husband is a very independent man, and I know that he doesn't need me in his life - he wants me in his life. Knowing that allows me the freedom to be who I am. He doesn't depend on me for his happiness. Likewise, I love having him in my life. He is generous and supportive and kind and loving (and hard-headed sometimes). Even when I get really mad at him, I wouldn't trade him for anyone else.

When I was dating, I remember a friend telling me I was "too picky" after I'd throw one of the frogs back into the pond. But you know what? I didn't want to settle. I wasn't looking for someone to keep me from being alone, I was looking for someone I could co-exist with, someone I actually liked and who understood me for who I was.

Whether you're unattached or in a relationship, I'd like to help you celebrate this Hallmark Holiday. To thank you for reading my blog today, I'm offering Heart for Rent, with an Option FREE. Visit Smashwords today or tomorrow only, and use the following coupon code when you check out.

Heart for Rent, with an Option
Coupon code XD48N

Kundigerin 2, Gathering Mist, is with the editor and I'm planning an April release! As a bonus, if you prefer your romances with a paranormal twist, you can read Mist on the Meadow (Kundigerin 1) for free at Smashwords if you act today or tomorrow, also.  Coupon code SB48M.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Editing - stumbling blocks

While I'm fine tuning the second in The Kundigerin series, I thought I'd share with you some of my stumbling blocks.

I run through a checklist my editor gave me before I send it to her. I'm excited to see the progress I've made during my writing journey, noting that I don't make as many writing errors as I used to. Just as I started patting myself on the back, I went in search of the word "saw." There are places it belongs in a manuscript, but I don't want to tell you how many times I told what the character saw rather than showed what the character saw. This distances the point of view, and even knowing to watch for it, I used "saw" way too many times during the course of the story.

      She saw the beach below.
      Below, the brilliant blue of the sea met a strip of beach.

See the difference? Yep. Me, too.

Maybe some day I'll see all these mistakes on the first draft. Maybe. Not holding my breath.

That's why I do a final run-through at the end to check for all the things I know I should have done, to make sure I actually did them.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Naming characters

Another frequent question I get is how do I name my characters. Let's start with some of "the rules."

Rule 1 - don't name two characters with the same name, or the same first initial.  This avoids confusion. Also, don't name characters with "rhyming" names, like Eddie and Betty, or Terry and Mary.  I did read a book once that had two characters with the same first name. One of them was killed off about halfway through, so I was thoroughly confused when the second one showed up without warning.

Rule 2 - be conscious of the visual a certain name provides. If you name a character John Wayne, your readers won't see a businessman in a suit. Iconic names will immediately bring something to mind. Make sure your character's name matches the image you want to project. "Susie" isn't likely to be mean and nasty, whereas "Susan" might want to be treated with respect. "Sue" might be an easy-going person.

Rule 3 - avoid giving a character two first names (another rule I flubbed starting out). John Thomas. Christian Scott. People will confuse which name is the first one and which is the last.

So where do I get my character names? Well, let's face it. the ones that come immediately to mind are used quickly, and I have to keep a character map to keep from reusing them (and I will admit I failed in a couple of places when I was first starting out). Two of my favorite "man" names are Tom and Bill (no, I don't know why), and those two names continue to creep in on me. I now have a database of names that I have used and which books I used them in. This helps for continuity in a series, and it helps from using repetitive names or alliterate names (with the same first letter). So now that I've used Tom and Bill, where do I go to find another name?

There are baby books, and when I've been searching for something ethnic, I go that route first: "What is an Irish boy name?" Some people use names of the teachers they had in grade school, or people they've met briefly. One of my writing buddies had someone she worked with ask to be put into one of her novels. (I have friends like that, too!) It's a name, it doesn't have to be who that person is. I've used disc jokey names. I've opened a phone book. I've gone walking in a cemetery. I've even taken last names from street signs. And my most recent favorite place to get names? Professional sports. I've combed through the World Cup soccer teams, I've stolen a couple from the NFL. I've borrowed some from baseball and some from basketball. Generally, I cross-match first and last names to prevent association with the real-life counterparts (who are donating nothing more than their names). And then there are the ever-popular middle names. My grandmother's middle name, etc.

Usually, I pick out my characters' names first, and the story tends to revolve around them. The names speak to me as loudly as my concept does, and there have been times I've had to change the names. The story I'm working on now started out with Elisa and Tom (! - go figure, Tom? Maybe that's like "every Tom, Dick and Harry?") I've already overused Tom, so I had to change out my main character's name. I think the new name works! And Elisa is parallel to Marissa (from the first in the series, a character who figures prominently in the second in the series), so her name had to change, too. I think my characters are happy with their new names, and along with recording the names I've used, I'm now recording new names to use as they come to me to make my life easier as I work on new stories!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Fan question of the day - Where do you draw your inspiration?

This is a question that comes up frequently. Where do you get your ideas? Are the characters in your book "real"? Which all comes back to where do you get your inspiration? My hairdresser used to ask me every time I went to visit her. For her, it's amazing that I can come up with names and places and situations. For me, it's second nature.

I draw inspiration from a moment in time. Something I see. Someone I see. My stories generally revolve around that one moment in time. Imagination is a beautiful thing, and it creates a story around that moment. My heroes/heroines don't come from big screen heartthrobs so much as an identifying characteristic I see in someone I know, or while people watching.

Here are examples of story origins, examples that show up only briefly in the final product.

Touched by the Sun - Pompeii, and the Holy Grail. The "moment" was connecting the two after watching a Nova show on volcanos, and then an Indiana Jones movie. A light bulb went off when I realized St. Paul had been in southern Italy a believable period of time after the Last Supper.

Living Canvas happened because of a picture I bought (like the one on the book cover). I bought it because I could see myself sitting in that painting. It was very like a place I'd spent a lot of time at growing up, staring over the water. It was peaceful. The concept of inserting myself into a painting brought on memories of Night Gallery, a T.V. show I watched growing up, and somehow the two meshed together to become the story.

Mist on the Meadow started with a "moment of grace." Something that caught my eye that made the world stop spinning for just a moment: a buck standing at the edge of the woods on a winter day, huffing so that it's breath made a cloud in the early morning air.

Heart for Rent, with an Option started with a walk through a french market in... France. The fresh produce, the tangy, freshly-ground spices. The town of Aix-en-Provence.

Return to Hoffman Grove. I'm going to embarrass myself if I tell you the moment from this book. It's there, in the book. I had a Facebook conversation with my former tennis coach which sent me reminiscing down memory lane and there it was, front and center, a random memory from my time on the tennis team.

I've purposely left out Intimate Distance, mainly because I wrote that during a very dark period in my life. There is a moment, but I'd rather keep that one to myself.

This is the place where I remind you that although I draw on personal experiences when I formulate my books, they are not autobiographical (except, maybe, for that one moment). I read a quote recently where people tend to assume authors write about themselves, unless you tell them that something is autobiographical, in which case they tend to NOT believe you. My stories are made up. They're all in my head. Fiction. I sometimes include "truth is stranger than fiction" moments, which have made people call me out with "that would never happen" (but it did). I had one friend blush after reading Living Canvas because she said she pictured me as Audrey. Nope. Not me. Yes, I traveled to the places I wrote about, but no, I did not meet a handsome stranger during my journeys and end up living happily ever after.

Don't get me wrong, I am living my happily ever after, but the Big Guy doesn't make an appearance in any of my stories. I'm keeping him all to myself.