Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Backstory - when characters come to life

 The plus side of writing a series is that you get to know your characters so when they make cameos in subsequent books, you already have a handle on who they are. The down side is that when the spotlight turns to them, you need to know MORE about them. I had the basic information on the main characters in EPITAPH 3, but as I started to write (and I've made significant progress into the writing of this story), the characters started to reveal things I didn't know in the previous books.

The structure to every book is that your characters need goals, motivation and conflict. The hard part is clearly defining those things. I know the conflict, I know the goals. The motivation often comes from backstory, and that is what I've been concentrating on before I go further into E3, and let me tell you, it's keeping me up at night! Why would my heroine allow herself to be manipulated? What does the antagonist hold over her? How antagonistic is he going to be? And the hero? How much does he know and what is he going to do with the information he has? Will he get in the way or will he be able to "save" the heroine? How much help will a strong woman allow a man to give her? As I consider these questions, I have to weigh whether what I've written to date will fit with the answers or whether I have to start over. The basic storyline hasn't changed, but the "how do they get there" has.

For those readers who have asked me about the rest of the series, EPITAPH 2: THE TWINS (Siobhan's book) is off to the editor, so yes, its on schedule (actually, its ahead of schedule). Hoping to see the cover this week. The plan is to release it the beginning of April. Stay tuned.

I'm hoping to have EPITAPH 3 (Garth's book) ready by July. After that, I have four more siblings standing by. I'd also like to write another Northwest Suburbs book, but since I can only write one book at a time, I'm concentrating on finishing this one first.

For those of you who've read Epitaph, what do you think? Which sibling do you want to read about next?

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Thanks for helping me celebrate my new release

Thank you to everyone who helped me celebrate my new release. The winner of my newsletter contest is Mary C. Congratulations! Your Barnes & Noble gift card is on its way.

If you aren't signed up for my newsletter, check the link in the menu bar so you can be part of the fun when EPITAPH 2 is released in April.

Also as part of the newsletter exclusives, I offered a first look at EPITAPH, which I'm happy to make available to those of you who haven't yet signed up for the newsletter. Just follow the link below.

Here's a sneak peak at EPITAPH

If you haven't yet purchased your copy, I've made it easy for you! You can click on the handy dandy links on the right side of this page. And after you've read it, let me know how you liked it!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A Matter of Opinion

Every time I release a new book, I sit on tenterhooks prior to its "birth." Did I do a good job? Did I promote it correctly? Will people like it? Should I throw in the towel and give up my "second job" as an author?

Starting a new series is always a crap shoot, but with every book  I write, I remember that I wrote this book for me. From my heart. Some people are going to like it, and some people aren't. My biggest challenge is to make sure the readers understand what they're getting into, so someone who isn't likely to appreciate it doesn't pick it up and find something they didn't sign up for. Even if I've successfully targeted readers, some people will like it, and some people won't.

I'm pretty excited by the fact that the first dozen or so reviews for COOKIE THERAPY were all five star reviews (from people I don't know, for the record). But there's always "that one person." The Amazon reviews are still averaging just shy of five stars, but over at Goodreads there are a couple of people who disagree (which is their prerogative). Ultimately, I'm proud of the book, and I stand by it. You know the old saying, "You can't please everybody." This is especially true if you're an author.

EPITAPH arrived into the world yesterday, and one of the ARC readers emailed me ahead of time, while I was still sitting on those tenterhooks wondering if the book was going to resonate or fail miserably, to tell me "it was great." {sigh of relief} I'm watching to see how the rest of the advance copy readers feel. What if they hate it? Then again, what if they love it! (So far, so good - and once again, I'm humbled.)

This is all part and parcel of being an author. I want to reach people, to give them a few hours of enjoyment. To tell a story. That's my goal. Those people who like the stories? Those are the ones who keep me going, and the ones who don't? If they have something constructive to offer in their review, I take that into consideration when writing the next book. How can I make the story better? Am I reaching the right audience? Or is it just a matter of opinion - someone who prefers brunettes to redheads? Love the book or hate it, feedback is important to an author.

Regardless of how the reviews come in, EPITAPH 2 is written and on its way to the editor. I have a head start on EPITAPH 3, but if the series turns out to be a dud, if the premise tanks and people don't like the ghost stories, well, then it's back to the drawing board. I'll go back to the small town stories. If people like the series, I have a bunch more siblings who have stories to tell! Either way, I took a chance, told the stories I wanted to tell, shared my imagination with you. Thank you for giving me the opportunity!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

What Lies Ahead

Happy New Year!

Nobody wants to hear about New Year's Resolutions. We make them, we break them. And yet, it gives us something to strive toward. Some of my goals are already in motion so they'll be easy to accomplish. Let me look back at 2016.

+Goodreads provides a reading goal app every year, and it religiously keeps track of all the books I read. I had a slow year in 2016, so I fell *just* short of my goal. That might be the only real "goal" I set for myself.

Another goal was to publish at least two books (that's an ongoing authorly thing). I had three books ready in 2016, but while I was playing games with publishers and agents, I missed getting that third one out into the world. Instead, it will be wending its way forth in January - next week in fact. Because it sat waiting for requests and acquisition meetings, I continued on my quest and got the second book in the series completed as well. That means I will easily meet my two books a year this year. In fact, I've started on the third, so I'm ahead of the game for 2017. I *could* stretch myself and predict there will be four books in 2017, but I do still have a day job. We'll see how ambitious I get.

What do I want to do in the new year?

There's the ever-popular "I'm going to drop XX number of pounds." I've been chasing that goal for years. 2016 was a good year for me on that front. I have not lost enough to merit documenting in this blog, but I did lose some weight. I'll claim small victories. Instead of the "lose weight" goal this year, my goal is going to be closer to "make more meals at home" (in between the day job and the night job (which would be writing), make healthier meals - both The Big Guy and I should be paying closer attention to our cholesterol, so I've told him to be prepared for me to nag him as we move into the New Year. If I'm able to accomplish that goal, we should both find ourselves dropping some of those extra pounds.

2016 has been a contentious, brutal year. Shout out to +Filtod Walker for always posting positivity and ways to change the way we see things. So proud to know this man. In 2017, I want to look for the good in things, even when the future looks dark. This is where faith comes into play - when I start to worry about what "could" happen, I have to remember I'm not in control. And if I don't like the way things are going, aren't we always told to "be the change you want to see?" Another example I'm very proud to hold up, my sister and her husband for the wonderful work they're doing through their church to feed people who might otherwise go hungry. A resolution for the new year is not to sit on the sidelines while bullies and haters spread lies and try to scare and intimidate us, but instead to stand up for people who are unable to stand up for themselves. I hope to represent the good in the world.

Resolutions are hard to live up to in any year, and I've set some pretty lofty goals, but they *should* be part of my everyday life. My New Year's wish to all of you - Joy, Health, Peace and Harmony.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

My Favorite Books of 2016

I only completed 78 percent of my Goodreads reading goal this year - there were a lot of unexpected interruptions in my regularly scheduled life. I shot for close to one book a week and didn't quite make it. However, for the books that I did read, I wanted to share with you my definition of "The Cream of the Crop."

I'm ranking these based on when I finished them, and on the basis that I gave each of them 5 stars at Goodreads. I give books 5 stars if I would happily read each of these books a second time. There were many excellent books that didn't get 5 stars, which doesn't mean they aren't worthy of the list, but there has to be a line of demarcation. You can find out more about the books I read at My Goodreads Review Page. So now, for your consideration, the books I most enjoyed in 2016:

Accidentally on Purpose - Jill Shalvis*
Doubtful Relations - James M. Jackson
Any Duchess Will Do - Tessa Dare
Anything for You - Kristan Higgins
Reckoning and Ruin - Tina Whittle
How to Capture a Duke - Bianca Blythe
Nobody but You - Jill Shalvis*
Sweet Little Lies - Jill Shalvis*
My Kind of Wonderful - Jill Shalvis*
The Duchess Wars - Courtney Milan

*(I should probably note that I'm an ARC reader for Jill Shalvis, so I might be slightly biased there - although I have NOT rated all of her books 5 stars)

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

My Cover Model is Cheating on Me!

Scrolling through my news feed this morning (and I have a lot of authors in my news feed) I found one of my favorite cover models on someone else's cover.

When I was working up a composite for HEART FOR RENT, WITH AN OPTION, my cover artist found his face and sent it to me to approve, I was all thumbs up. Hey, he's a good looking man! Clearly, I'm not the only person who thinks so.

Just this month, I saw a new release that had the same cover couple that one of my writing buddies used on one of her books. Same people, same pose. How does that happen? Easy enough to explain.

Unless we're "A-list" authors who can justify custom cover shoots, most authors select their cover art from stock photos. There are cover artists who do their own shoots (shout out to the fabulous Killion Group) and offer exclusive rights, but that comes at a price. From the hundreds of thousands of stock photos, the chances of someone else picking your models, or designing it just the same way, are pretty slim, and yet it happens. For some of my books, I use my own background - and that writing buddy I told you about? She does the same. That option assures us that at least part of our cover is exclusive.

Back in "the day," romance novels all had the same model (well, not all of them, I'm using a broad, sweeping generalization). Remember Fabio? There was a time he was the hero ideal, and his face and flowing locks were on dozens of covers. Yes, I'd like my cover to be distinctive, but the cover is a first impression, something to draw you in. As a reader, once I start reading, I seldom go back to the cover to see if it matches the picture I draw in my mind (although other people might).

Big publishing houses are about the image, what the cover projects, and less about how well it matches the characters in the book. For them, its more about composition. The immediate impression telegraphs the genre, and it sometimes doesn't bear any resemblance to what's between the pages.

So my cover model is cheating on me. Considering my job is to objectify these people to sell books, I guess I'm okay with that. Every time I see this guy's face on someone else's book, I smile and pat myself on my back for my good taste in handsome men.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Merry Christmas (Happy Holidays)

Thank you to those of you who stop by to read my blog every week, and thanks to everyone who supports my writing by buying my books. You are the people who motivate me to continue in my pursuit of happiness.

With EPITAPH scheduled for release in a couple of weeks, I'm taking a breather for the holidays. Working on edits for Epitaph 2, but also stopping to enjoy the season, which means I'm not working quite as hard as I probably should be! Never fear, Epitaph 2 will be ready for its release date.

Let me take this opportunity to wish you a Merry Christmas or, if that isn't the holiday you celebrate, Happy Holidays--which includes a Happy New Year.

"May the new year be blessed
With good tidings
'Til the next time I see you again" -- Amy Grant