Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A preview of Epitaph 2

Working on edits to Epitaph 2: The Twins. Thought I'd share a piece of it for you.

     Siobhan set the new charts on her desk and checked on her virtual patients, reviewing incision photos, making sure their word clouds were within appropriate positive/negative parameters, checking for patient-added notes or other triggers that required attention. Most patients didn’t bother sending anything more than the app requested. Answer the questions and be done with it. One patient left daily notes, thinking she had to chart the way doctors did. She detailed her food and water intake every day and the amount of time she spent doing her physical therapy. Siobhan sent push notifications acknowledging “nice job.”
     And then there was this new guy. Released from rehab this morning. He’d been keeping up with his progress, but Siobhan hadn’t done much with his file while he was in-patient. He’d added words to his “how are you feeling?” cloud like “aggravated by maternal attention” and “planning a jailbreak.” He was good for a laugh, but she pictured a grown man-child who spent his days playing computer games. From the way he used his app, Siobhan judged Jared Pierce to be a grumpy patient. Some people didn’t do well with slowing the pace of their lives while they recovered. While she checked his progress, she found he’d written a note.

     “Who the hell cares if I have an erection when I wake up? Isn’t that kind of personal? You going to send a nurse over to jump into bed with me?”
Siobhan laughed out loud and checked his word cloud. He’d highlighted that yes, he indeed had an early morning erection. She sent a push notification through the app. “An erection indicates good circulation and is normal and healthy. If you didn’t have one, that would be an indication of a problem.”
     She continued through her charts and checked off three more of her patients when another note appeared from Jared Pierce.
     “You mean there’s a real person on the other end of this godforsaken app?”
     She laughed again. Definitely a grumpy patient. Behind the technology, her job was to monitor and report. Despite years of coddling patients face to face, in her present position, Siobhan was instructed to point them to their primary physicians with any questions. Personal involvement with the PHM users would diminish her ability to do the rest of her job, and yet she couldn’t ignore his question.
     “I will be monitoring your recovery and coordinating with your primary physician.” As soon as she sent the message, the cell phone dedicated to PHM [Patient Health Monitoring] rang.
     The number was the one associated with Jared Pierce. “And who, exactly, are you?” His voice was deep, with a hint of New Orleans.
     Credit him for reading through the app screens and finding the number. “My name is Siobhan. I’ll be checking your progress a couple of times each day,” she told him in her most officious voice.
     “So I can call you anytime I start feeling lonesome?” His voice reverberated like a cat’s purr.
     “I’m a transition care nurse. If you have any critical health issues, you should call 911,” she said.   “Do you have family helping you during your recovery?”
     “Well, now, they’ve just left me on my own for the remainder of my recuperation period. I feel at a disadvantage, Miss Siobhan. You sound like a pretty girl, and you already know more about me than I know about you. That hardly seems fair.”
     She’d dealt with flirty patients before, but it concerned her that he had no help for the next couple of weeks. “Are you in contact with your primary physician? Do you need help coordinating home health care?”
     “It’s all good. I’m fine by myself. I’ve got a visiting nurse coming tomorrow, and at-home physical therapy, but I am a long way from home and they tell me I can’t travel until I’m healed. Sure would be nice to have a friendly voice say hello every now and then.”
This was new territory for her. Was it unprofessional to call the app patients? Her contact was supposed to be minimal. “But you do have family?”
     “Well, sure…”
     “Is there anything else I can help you with today?” she asked.
     He chuckled softly, a sound that woke up long dormant nerve endings. “I do apologize for my crass note, Miss Siobhan. Knee jerk reaction. Not too many people ask me if I wake up with morning wood, and I guess I responded poorly.”
     “It’s a standard question,” she said, growing uncomfortably warm. She was a nurse, used to clinical discussions about bodily functions. So why was she flustered talking to Mr. Pierce? She cleared her throat. “The words in the cloud are typical symptoms that accompany both your condition and your medications and are designed to ferret out any potential issues that might hamper your recovery.”
     “Understood. But I do like the sound of your voice, ma’am. I believe it might go a long way toward speeding my recovery.”
     “This is a business phone, Mr. Pierce, and you may not always get an answer.”
     “Fair enough. I thank you for your time, ma’am, and I do believe my meds are kicking in so I’ll say goodbye and close my eyes now. It’s been a pleasure.”
     “Have a good day.” Siobhan disconnected the call with a cheek splitting grin. Pain meds did funny things to patients. Jared Pierce would likely wake from his nap and forget all about their phone call, but she wouldn’t. The timbre in his voice was well suited to a phone sex operator, although the way he drawled his folksy Southern “ma’ams” was a bit much. Still, it was good of him to apologize for requesting a nurse in his bed.

When two trees grow together...

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Recharging those batteries

As my schedule amps up for busy season at the day job, I took a long weekend with some friends to recharge my batteries. What with all the craziness in the U.S. right now, it was a welcome escape from social media and doomsday scenarios and conspiracy theories, etc. No, I'm not turning a blind eye to the things that need to be fixed in this country, but when you are bombarded with real news/fake news every day, it can be very overwhelming. Especially to someone with a fertile imagination.

We walked around Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, and watched artists competing in a snow sculpture competition. Funny thing - we recorded 0.6 inches of snow for the month of January this year where I live, which is considerably short of the norm, and as Lake Geneva isn't all that far away from "home" in Illinois, they had to ship the snow in for the sculptors. Big cylinders of snow. The weather cooperated temperature-wise over the weekend, remaining cold (below freezing), but today, we are above freezing, and tomorrow will be spring-like, as well. The sculptures won't last long!

Much like an author uses an outline to create a novel, the sculptors used clay models to work from. The models were inside little plastic boxes with holes poked into a grid, so while we were watching the forms come to life, we could see what they would ultimately become.

After four days of R&R (and more or less unplugged), I re-entered life Sunday afternoon to catch up on everything I'd left behind. By the end of this week, my editor will be done with Epitaph 2 (guess what I'll be doing this weekend?). By next week, the pace at the day job will pick up. My work is about to increase exponentially. I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to wander around through the snow, to watch the ice skimmers and para-skaters gliding over the ice on Lake Geneva, and the company of friends I can laugh with. Laughter really is the best medicine, doncha know?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Writing Contests - when you don't win

One thing editors always tell me - enter your book into contests. Find out what you're doing well, what you might improve on. And if you win, its a feather in your cap.

Last year, I made the rounds with COOKIE THERAPY, and I thought I'd share with you what it looks like when you don't win. The feedback overall was very positive, and my reviews have also been pretty great (thank you to all my fabulous readers!). While I'm not posting this week to brag on myself (after all, I didn't win these contests), I thought you might be interested to see what kind of feedback we get from judges.

I made it into the semifinals of Publisher's Weekly's BookLife Prize for Fiction.  This is what they had to say:

Plot/Idea: 9 out of 10
Originality: 9 out of 10
Prose: 10 out of 10
Character/Execution: 10 out of 10
Overall: 9.50 out of 10
This captivating, heartwarming contemporary is perfect blend of romance and poignancy as a couple effectively addresses the aftereffects of tough choices from their past. Timely and relatable topics elevate the story above ordinary. This well-crafted novel is supported by deftly crafted secondary characters, small town charm, and consistent pacing, while sensitive issues are handled with grace. While this book works very well as a standalone, readers will be interested in reading the entire series.

The Writer's Digest Ebook awards came back with these remarks. I'm not sure what all the percentages are about, but the comments made me feel like a winner anyway.

I like this cover boy so much better than all the ripped ab covers. Much more original. Pretty funny opening! Kind of sad, too. Poor old lady. I appreciate the brevity of your backstories (Audrey, 11%). You’d be amazed how many authors get stuck in those things.

His job provides a lot of adventures and opportunities. Good choice, 21%. “If you’re going to kick me in the balls, I’d say no.” Ha! 21%. ... Interesting sidenote, this passage about dealing with death as part of his job. Very thoughtful. 39%.

“Damn that man and his adorable child.” 48%. I love her cynical trains of thought. “One more person who would be disappointed.” 60%. You’ve done some good research into firefighting techniques, 68%. Kind of interesting, this thing about Dad being a ladies’ man, 76%.

...Shannon is an intriguing sort of villain, 92%. You’ve worked some provocative subplots into your story. Excellent job. Really enjoyable.

I think editors like the contest thing because it provides feedback, something all authors need/crave/ desire in order to do better and sometimes just to keep going, something reviews are also valuable for. Not all contests provide such thorough feedback!

Meanwhile, I'm plugging away on Epitaph 3 so that I can have it ready for you by the middle of summer. Epitaph 2 is with the editor and on schedule for an April release. Have you read Epitaph 1? Thumbs up or thumbs down on the new series?

And oh, hey. I hang out with a bunch of authors over at Booklover's Bench, and we're celebrating our "friend-aversary" with a giveaway. Want to win a tablet?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Pampered pets

It was wash the blanket day. The cat was "elsewhere." So I grabbed her blanket, threw it in the washer and sat down to write.

As she is wont to do, she came looking for me to sit beside me. On her blanket. She jumped onto the sofa and stood there. Staring at the spot without the blanket. Staring at me.

I walked into the laundry room, took a load out of the dryer. Walked back into the living room where she was still standing on the sofa, in the same spot, staring at me with that "where's my blanket?" look on her face.

Okay, okay. I grabbed an afghan. Stuck it in her corner of the sofa. Immediately she walked over and laid down. Cats can be so bossy!

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!