Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Blogs - guests and hosts


Undeniably, the hardest part about writing is promoting/marketing.

Over the past couple of weeks, I've been doing guest stints at various blogs to talk about THE TWINS and prepare for the launch of THE MIRROR. It has made me stop to think about all the pitfalls and/or benefits to hosting and guesting.

Would you like to see other authors pop in on my blog? Maybe a "Finding New Reads" feature?

For myself, I almost always schedule my blog posts ahead of time. Because I work a day job, anything I can do to plan ahead keeps me from forgetting things. I've noticed some of the bloggers who've hosted me don't do that, and on my scheduled post day, they're suddenly scrambling for last minute information. Others send me the permalink ahead of time so I know they're all set. Most of them provide buy links to the featured book, as well as for connecting with me. I'm always grateful for their hospitality, even if they don't always do things the way I'd like to see them done (like scheduling ahead or hotlinks instead of links you have to copy and paste). I was at one blog recently where the blogger moderated comments. I don't have a problem with that, as long as they DO moderate the comments. I left her a thank you that never appeared, and anyone else who might want to comment might not if they had to be moderated, or wouldn't get a response from me if the blogger never moderates comments. Blogs are about interaction for me. I LIKE responding to people's thoughts and comments!

I enjoy the character interview posts I've read and done. Authors "become" their characters during the writing process, so there aren't a lot of questions we can't answer, and it sometimes gives readers an extra peek into the character's background or motivations. Those types of posts seem more entertaining than your standard blurb or excerpt, although I like the excerpt posts, as well. That gives you insight into what the author's writing style is.

Guesting and hosting on blogs is fun and I enjoy meeting new readers and bloggers, which brings me back to you - my audience. Would you enjoy seeing guests on my blog? Samples and interviews from other authors to help you find new books to read? What are your favorite types of blogs to read? Interviews? Excerpts? A blurb? Inquiring minds want to know!

The third in the Epitaph series is ready for the editor and on schedule for release late July or early August. If you haven't already signed up for my newsletter, there's a tab at the top of the page so you will get notified on release day!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

What did we do without the Internet?

Research can be tedious, and research can be fun.

I'm getting down to the nitty gritty with my editing phase and one of the things I'm trying to do involves shorthand. Anybody remember shorthand? I'm using it sort of like a secret code, or not so secret code, as the case may be. Yes, a million years ago, my mother made me learn shorthand. Yes, I hated it. No, I never used it. So going back at it now, I can step into my character's shoes and say "huh?"

When I wrote my first book, I spent HOURS in the public library, researching and studying and learning about things to make sure my story was authentic. I learned Italian! That was in the late 90's, so we're only talking 20 years ago. Now, much of the information I needed then is readily available on the Internet, in more forms than I could ever want. Instead of reading travel brochures to the Isle of Capri, I could watch a YouTube video and see it. Don't get me wrong, I still visit the library. Still love the library. There is much to be found there, including the fountains of information we refer to as librarians.

Shorthand has gone the way of other lost arts. It still exists, although high school students are no longer able to take classes. Instead of typing classes, now there are keyboarding classes, and those begin in grade school. So where does one go to translate shorthand into longhand and vice versa? YouTube videos are available to people who want to learn this lost art, and there are still textbooks one can use for reference. Lucky for me, I have friends who use it. So I tapped one of them to write me something to see how well I did. High school is a lot of years in the rearview mirror, but I have to say I'm proud that I was able to translate a lot of what she wrote for me! Now, as I near the end of my editing phase, I want to add authenticity to my character, who is struggling to translate what her mother wrote. I have the translation, but I need to see where she would stumble in the conversion of shorthand to longhand.

The Internet has a translator that goes from longhand to shorthand! Is this an amazing world or what? So my project this week is to type in the longhand version and then go back and try to read it in shorthand, annotating what I get wrong along the way (the way my character would). You might think this is cheating. I know what its supposed to say, after all. But with close to 70,000 words in the manuscript, there's no way I will remember the passage verbatim. Seems like a reasonable test of my skills.

Still tweaking, still filling in missing pieces, but I'm on schedule with MAN IN THE MIRROR. I can't wait for you to read it!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

When "The End" means starting over

Yay! I've finished my first draft of the Man in the Mirror, the third installment in the Epitaph series. While I'm excited to have typed those two words (The End), this is where the work really begins. Now I have to go back to the beginning and see what I've screwed up in the process. Continuity errors, inconsistencies, gaping holes where I've neglected to provide missing information.

Writing a novel is about more than telling a story, it's about fleshing out your characters and making their story come to life. Even though I sat sobbing over some of my scenes, I was sobbing before I ever transcribed the words that you will read. The trick is getting that same emotion onto the page. My critique partners and I have a phrase we use, "Read what I mean." Too often, the way we feel inside our heads doesn't make it to the page. The words need to go along with what I'm feeling and seeing inside my head, and that's where the second draft comes into play.

Writing is rewriting. You may have heard that phrase used, and it's right on point. Being an author is about more than getting the words down, it's about making sure you've used the right words, about making sure you haven't left out crucial details (except in those instances where it's important to leave them out!), or in some cases, making sure you haven't included information that isn't relevant and slows down the story. And after you've assessed all of that, it's time to go back with the proverbial fine-tooth comb to look for the obvious errors, typos and overused words, etc.  In all, I generally do a minimum four full drafts before I send it to my editor, looking for different things each pass.

I have a tentative appointment with my editor, and then, in addition to all the corrections I made after looking at it with my own microscope, she'll point out those things that are still missing/wrong/need to be addressed.

So no, writing "The End" isn't the end of the process. That's when the real work starts.

I'm on track for release late summer or early autumn. Can't wait to share it with you! After a false start, I think it turned out pretty well! I hope you'll agree.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

I saw the sign

There are always moments when writing that you wonder if you should abandon the current work in progress, and then the cosmos steps in to give you a nudge. The next project in my EPITAPH series is called "Man in the Mirror." If you've been following along, you know the titles refer to the "ghost" part of the story. I've had several interruptions to my writing process this spring, between the day job and traveling and personal "stuff," and have questioned myself several times as to whether I'm writing "so much nonsense."

Recently, while touring "Laura," a Creole plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana, the first room you step into has a mirror over the fireplace. The guide stops to tell you about Laura, the woman the plantation is named for, and then she turns a switch and a portrait materializes in the mirror. Kind of spooky! Some of the tourists gasped at the eerie appearance. Me? My sign from the cosmos.

Still writing! A tad behind schedule, but the Man in the Mirror will get done!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Dialects, Alligators and Distraction

As a post-busy season retreat, my DH and I took a trip to New Orleans. Yes, the book with the hero from Louisiana is done, but I may have mentioned he was one of my favorites to write.

One of the sticking points while I was writing THE TWINS was getting the dialect right. While my hero wasn't from the city proper (he's from the countryside near New Orleans), I wanted to add authenticity to his vocabulary, remind readers where he was from without hitting them over the head. I was particularly pleased when one of the tour guides mentioned dialect while we were out and about. People in New Orleans don't have that southern drawl you'll hear in other parts of the South. In fact, they're all over the board. One of the tour guides sounded like she was straight out of New York, and indeed, the other guide pointed that out, that the dialect sometimes mimicked other parts of the country. That made it more important for me to find phrases unique to the area, and while I might have laid it on a little thick with my hero (yes, I'm purposely not using his name - read to the end to find out why), I also didn't give him a twang. Just a soft drawl. In the countryside, they have a softer way of speaking. A gentle lilt to their voice that is unique to that area, and that's what I was hearing and trying to convey.

The population in southern Louisiana is unique to most anywhere else in the United States. They still have French schools much the way we have ethnic schools around Chicago because they are still French to their roots. and African. and Spanish. Creoles, born in America with strong ties to the homeland although they are planted on this side of the ocean. I got some fascinating history lessons along the way.

We went on a bayou tour and our guide wasn't what you'd expect, not straight out of those TV shows about gator hunters or swamp rats -- you know the ones I'm talking about. He had a refined, soft lilt to his speech as he told us about life on the cypress swamps, hunting gators, the way of life.

It was a great trip, and it made me miss my characters! Which brings me back to my hero.

As I get back into my writing groove after a long busy season and subsequent time away, I'd like to thank you for sticking with me by giving a random commentor a Smashwords coupon for a free version of EPITAPH 2: THE TWINS. If you know the name of my Louisiana hero (hey, it's easy to find if you check out my home page - there's a tab at the top of the page that will take you there!), leave his name in a comment and I'll put your name in the hat to win a copy. Winner will be chosen May 31, 2017, using

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Author, Cover or Blurb?

The age-old question continues. When you buy a new book, what attracts you first? Why am I rehashing this age-old question?

Starting with what draws me in - I get dozens of newsletters touting dozens of new books, old books, discounted books, etc. So what motivates me to buy? I've got to be honest. It starts with an author I know, who's work I admire. They're the front runners, by far, but after that? I do believe in giving "new to me" authors a try. There are lots of books that don't get the exposure they need in an over-saturated market. A catchy title might intrigue me, and maybe a cover, but those can't do it alone. I need a strong blurb to go with. Many times I've gotten sucked in by a provocative title, an interesting cover, and read the blurb only to run away. A poorly phrased/worded blurb can be the kiss of death. This is the representation of what's inside the book, and if it sucks, well, I don't hold out hope for the story.

And next, wondering what draws my readers in. I've been promoting the Epitaph series, since they are my latest endeavor, but I have to say I find it fascinating when I have something scheduled for a day, say a guest blog post or interview, and someone buys a different one of my books. Definitely not complaining, but it begs the question of what drew you to that book. I have my theories.

First - the Epitaph series, while there are ghosts in the stories, are still romances. Romantic suspense even (moreso the first and third ones). The covers are dark and mysterious to let the reader know there's something lurking in the shadows, but I've discovered from my ARC readers it wasn't the ghosts that drew them in. They were pleasantly surprised that the story was so much more than ghosts. So maybe I'm not marketing them properly, but I can't imagine a cover that represents a walk on a sunny beach when the hero and heroine are hiding out in a potentially haunted house.

Now, let's move over to Cookie Therapy, my "good to be alive" book. This is the first of my novels where I opted for a shirtless male on the cover (enter my adult nephew inquiring why there's a naked fireman on the cover of my book). I admit, I was nervous about that, but it represented the story. Matt, the fireman, has a reputation, earned or not. Funny thing, after it was published, I read an interview with one of my favorite romance authors who does NOT put shirtless men on her covers. She asked her audience what they thought, and they said they'd rather not see that. And she writes STEAMY STUFF (not erotica, mind you, but the heat is definitely turned to high). So when I'm promoting Epitaph and someone buys Cookie Therapy, It makes me stop to think. Maybe there's something to that half-naked fireman. As uncomfortable as I was about taking that step, that shirtless man has gotten a lot of attention.

Which brings me back to that oft-repeated question. Clearly, my readers know what they're going to get when they see a hot guy on the cover of my novels (which was the point, after all). Would Cookie Therapy have gotten the same attention if the cover was more sedate? And then I think of my favorite romance author who puts sweet covers on her steamy romances. Couples walking hand in hand on the beach, heroes holding puppies... Hey, she does okay. Best seller list, Movie deal in the works. Do I need that gratuitous picture to get your attention?

What do you think?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Catching up on my reading?

While I'm restoring my life balance after three months under the gun, I'm glancing through my TBR pile.

I'm overwhelmed.

I'm on ARC reader lists for my favorite authors, and I look forward to those books. I also feel obligated to get them read and reviews written in a timely manner, so those books tend to move up the stack. Then there are the authors I want to try out, or the new author friends I meet who I want to check out. What happens when you find a new author that you like?

I recently met a new author who writes fun romantic comedies. I so much enjoyed her first book that I want to read the rest of them, but I have a long TBR list of books I WANT to read. What to do, what to do! I suppose I could buy the books in question and make my TBR pile even larger, but I'm an organized person. I have a process. I try not to give myself more things to do than I can accomplish. As it is, I have many books from writer's conferences over the past ten years that I've never cracked open (and I'd like to - at least some of them).

I have books from old favorites who aren't writing any more, from authors I've discovered in recent years, and from new authors who are looking for an audience. A lot of my purchases happen when I get notice of a reduced price (yes, I'm a bargain hunter) and some of my purchases are because its a book I really want to read, an author I really enjoy.

Stockpiling it is. Some day I'm going to be retired, and I'm going to want more books to read and maybe my discretionary funds will limit the number of books I can buy. So why not add them now?

Guilt kicks in. These authors need feedback. If the books are new NOW, a review years from now, while appreciated, might have made the difference between whether or not they kept writing in that series or whether they dropped it and started something new.

Did I mention work/life balance? Did I mention I'm working on restoring said balance? Taking a deep breath. The summer months are around the corner. More time to read. More time to relax. By the end of the summer I'm going to be LOOKING for those books that I haven't had time to read over the past couple of months, and likely I'll even pick up one or two of those freebies that were given to me that I keep forgetting about.

What are you reading?