Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Out and About

While I was out and about this week, I visited a pumpkin farm with my little pumpkins. We had a beautiful fall day, and the older girls roamed the field looking for the perfect pumpkin. We also had apple cider donuts and taffy apples and lots of walking in the sunshine. Cute pictures with all the babies and the moms and dads. Wow. MY kids are the moms and dads, now! I always enjoy time with my family, and I love getting outside when the weather is so nice.

Back to listening to progress on the audiobook and editing the upcoming release.

Saturday, I'll be doing an author event at one of the local libraries. These events are always fun ways to connect with readers and other authors. If you're in the area, stop in to say hello!

Click for more information

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Coming Soon in Audio!

I'm working toward the finish line with the new book - BREAKING THE MOLD - tediously working to remove unnecessary words and phrases from the manuscript, polishing my writing, checking for those dangling modifiers and passive voice and run-on sentences. (Yes, that's a perfect example of a run-on sentence.)

I'm taking breaks to listen to chapters from the new audiobook! THE MIRROR (Epitaph 3) should be ready by the end of the year (fingers crossed!) and BREAKING THE MOLD (yes, the new book!) should be ready when the book is ready. Both narrated by the talented Vicki Pierce.

 Want a hear a sample?

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

History repeats itself

Every time I finish a book, it's the same thing. History repeating itself.

This post might get a little rambly, so apologies in advance. 

The good news - I've finished the first draft of my next book (due out next year. Watch this space for more information). I have a date with the editor and I've contacted my cover artist. 

The bad news - this is when the real work starts. My editor doesn't want a sloppy first draft. She wants a "clean" version, which means the self-editing begins in earnest. The usual passes for continuity, filler words, overused words and phrases. Also keeping a sharp eye out for comma splices and dangling participles.

Finishing the writing part means I feel less guilty about taking reading breaks, and I have several books sitting in my TBR pile that I'm falling behind on. One series in particular has three books waiting for me. So I dug into the first one.

And here's some of that rambling. As an author, I've struggled a bit during the last year and a half thanks to the news cycles and isolation, as have many other authors that I've spoken with. Somehow, I'd like to believe the big names aren't having issues with lockdowns and social issues since they continue to produce, but based on the book I just read, that doesn't appear to be the case. As I enter my own self-editing phase, I am more aware of structure and format, and generally I try to turn that editor off when I read for leisure. 

The book I just finished reading, by one of my favorite authors, has again proven that rules are meant to be broken--rules that I don't want to break myself. I guess the reason I'm making this point of reference is because in seeing what she's done "wrong," I sympathize with the struggles we all go through as we put our stories together for consumption. The writing clearly reflects the same lack of focus we're all struggling with right now. She can get away with a lot more because she is a "big name," but along with the hiccups that might jar, she gets all the details right, which makes the story more grounded. Both of these things are lessons to carry with me into my editing process. Stick to the rules (except where it makes sense to break them, and don't be lazy) and pay attention to the details. 

So off I go to clean up the story I've created! 

Tell me, what books are you reading right now?

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

What's going on with book covers?

As I near completion of my next book (due to come out at the beginning of 2022), its time to think about cover art. Since this is part of a series, I have to consider the other covers. Here's the thing. The Hoffman Grove Series didn't start out with a series map. It started out "accidentally" at the advice of my "then editor." 

The covers don't look anything alike. 

  A | BN | iB | K      A | BN | iB | K     A | BN | iB | K   

They're all small town (Hoffman Grove), and they all revolve around a family of friends. That's the unifying theme. Since it's been a while since the last Hoffman Grove was written (I got swept away with the Epitaphs, and then with the Hillendale novels), I thought I ought to check to see what covers for romance/romantic suspense currently look like for inspiration.

Holy cow. My options appear to be: 1) Shirtless man. 2) Cartoony. 3) Some sort of vague nothingness that doesn't really say anything about the book. Ugh.

Stepping back. Okay. I can work with this. I found an image that I like that could work, especially given the choices above. It is NOT 1) a shirtless man. 2) Cartoony. I wouldn't exactly describe it as vague nothingness, but it is more "moody." 

Except I also need a title. So far? Nothing. My critique partner suggested "Breaking the Mold," which might work. What's it about? 

Kayleigh returns to Hoffman Grove for her ten-year high school reunion, eager for a reboot of her life. She’s breaking away from family expectations and chasing her own goals now. But some things never change. The false friends she had back in the day are eager to repeat old patterns. She’s onto them this time, and new friends rise to the occasion— including Rafe, who volunteers to be her pretend boyfriend for reunion weekend. We all have to carry our own baggage, and if Rafe wants to move out of the “pretend boyfriend” zone, he'll have to let Kayleigh carry hers.

Spark any ideas with you? 

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Ego versus Constructive Criticism

I recently read a post in one of my groups from someone who was concerned about balancing Ego with Criticism. She confessed to having "thin skin" when it came to criticism and asked for advice on how to deal with some she'd gotten recently. She has a few unpublished works, and admitted her education isn't necessarily as advanced as it might be. She asked another author for feedback on her current work, and when she got the comments back, she was "gutted." Her question? Is my work that bad? Is it my ego that's bruised or are my skills that deficient?

I've been at this job for 20 years professionally, and I can't tell you how many people over the years have commented on how easy writing must be. You just sit down and write a story and voila! You're done. Nope. Not quite that simple.

Taking a story from a point of inspiration to a finished product takes lots of hours and hard work. It means understanding sentence structure. Character goals, motivation, and conflict, as well as plot. Sometimes the stories are easy to write. They flow easily (despite the inevitable muddle in the middle), although there are some that require a lot more thought and craft. 

When I first started out "seriously," I did a lot of studying, took some extra classes. Thought I knew it all. Joined a critique group. Lovely people in that group. They were all very supportive and complimentary. Here's the problem with that. I didn't learn anything. I still remember a woman named Glee pointing out my "ing monster." But she never explained what that meant or why that was a problem. 

After a couple of years, a "real author" joined the group and immediately took me to task on one of my chapters over dialog tags. Well heck. Everything I'd ever learned told me to use descriptive dialog tags. Now, someone comes along and tells me they're too flowery? That I should use "said" because it's "invisible?" I didn't respond well at first, but then I considered the source. This was a published author. Published by a house I'd hoped to get into. She must know what she's talking about, right? So I reached out to her to learn more. Unfortunately, my knee-jerk negative response to her critique burned my bridges with her. She quickly realized she was in a group of amateurs. 

The good news is I met another author through that group and asked her for advice. That was the beginning of a years-long association, and I have learned SO MUCH from her and the other authors she introduced me to. The criticism was much more intense (read "ouch!"), but focused, and as much as I didn't like hearing that I'd screwed something up, that group also taught me what to look for and what to fix. I learned that "the ing monster" was a signal to check for passive voice. I learned to focus on filler words (like just) and common errors like "That vs. Who." I didn't lash out at the criticism I got, even when I didn't agree with it. I set my ego aside and actually learned something. As a result, I now have some well-written and professionally edited books that I can be proud of. 

I still get abrasive comments on my writing at times, and it still stings, but I now have enough experience behind me to understand when those comments are constructive and I should pay attention. For those comments I don't agree with, I now rely on my editor as the "final say" on whether they're valid or not. At the end of the day, you need a professional you can trust who knows what they're talking about, with industry and genre experience, to be the deciding factor on what is ego and what is a valid criticism. That, in and of itself, can be a challenge. My first attempt at finding an editor garnered one whose biggest criticisms were the names I'd chosen for my characters. For THAT reason, it's a good idea to have a sample edit before you sign a contract to make sure the editor will balance what they can do with what you need. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Books & Cookies

I read a blog post recently about newsletters and what makes people sign up or not sign up for them. Aside from the obvious lure of "FREE," once people sign up, there has to be something that keeps them coming back.

For my part, I seldom sign up for "Get 30 books free, plus an e-reader!" type promotions. But that's just me. I have an e-reader and I have a tablet, both of which serve me well. Given the chance, I probably wouldn't invest in another dedicated e-reader, and my TBR pile is pretty healthy as it is.  To some, the free part is irresistible. The catch is always that you have to sign up for newsletters for the participating authors, or follow them somewhere that will help them get more visibility. Hey, we all need that. I've participated in a few of those, myself. The problem is that once you've hooked your fish, you have to be able to hold onto them. For a lot of "freebie" subscribers, they unsubscribe with the next newsletter. 

I hope to make a connection with my readers. That means I need something beyond the freebie to keep them interested. Not a problem for people who love my books, but if they haven't read my books before, and don't read the free one for a month (30 other books to compete with, you know) or even a year, they might not pay attention to a newsletter from me. 

What keeps a subscriber interested beyond knowing when an author's next book comes out? I'm subscribed to some very personable authors, but I have to say even they get on my nerves if I hear from them too often. What makes for good content? How often is too often?

Back to that blog post I read - one commenter mentioned something that triggered an idea, a good way to keep touch with my readers--or at least I think so.


Hey, we're headed into the holiday season, and for me, that means cookies, so I thought I'd share my love of cookies. And books. Beginning October 1, I plan to test the idea of a monthly newsletter with a book recommendation -- a book I've read that I think my readers might like -- and a link to a cookie recipe. I'll also include writing news and new release information, and for people who don't want the more frequent contact, they can subscribe to "new release" information only. Good idea? Bad idea? 

This is where I'd love to hear what you think. What kind of content would keep you opening newsletters, and what makes you unsubscribe? Do you want to hear from your favorites more regularly, or only when they have a new book to share?

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

The quest for knowledge

One of the fun parts about writing is learning knew things, or relearning old things. I get to go new places, meet new people and talk to them about their jobs, or their hobbies, or the things that excite them - which is... exciting!

Writing inspires our natural curiosity. What's it like to live in someone else's shoes? 

Take, for instance, my EPITAPH series. It started with a vision of a woman walking in a cemetery. For fun. So when Bluff City Cemetery hosted a cemetery walk, away I went, and I learned about all the different types of grave markers and monuments. I also enjoyed a beautiful day outside, walking a park-like cemetery. Later, as I was developing the story, I walked into a monument shop across the street from the cemetery and learned about making headstones, a process most of us take for granted. We order, they make it, enough said. I really enjoyed seeing behind the scenes, and it made my stories richer.

Let's not forget COOKIE THERAPY. Interviewing firemen? What's not to like? Not to mention it was the perfect excuse to call an old neighbor and catch up. And interviewing an indie bookshop owner? That was a fun one to write.

Some stories are helped along by friendships. I talked to one of my friends while I was thrashing around for an occupation for Kathleen McCormick, and it occurred to me she could be THE ARCHITECT--like my friend. Sarah assured me architects are boring (many of us find our day jobs boring), but the more I poked her for job details, the more she started seeing it from an outside point of view and remembering why maybe it isn't always so boring. 

My most recent "job interview" was with the owner of a ceramics shop. When I'd chosen that idea for my latest heroine, I was worried it might be a thing of the past--making your own ceramics--and was happy to find they still have ceramics studios around for people to go and explore their creative side. Years ago, I spent evenings with my sister cleaning greenware and painting bisqueware that turned into my kitchen soap dispenser, or Christmas decorations, or an Easter candy dish... well, you get the idea. So off I went to talk to Johanna. I wish I'd recorded our interview for a podcast! We had a great conversation, and I got all the details I didn't know or had forgotten that I'll need for the story (Thank you, Johanna.)

"Those who read live many lives," and I'm here to tell you those of us who write are honored to share those lives with you, even if it's only for a few hours.