Sunday, November 23, 2014

NaNo Much?

November is National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo. It's an annual ritual where writers exorcise their creativity by saying goodbye to their families and retreating into their imaginary worlds. Most, like me, give up their bustling social lives (yeah, right) to write in seclusion; however, some NaNo-ers have been known to convene at coffee houses and libraries, where they simultaneously open their laptops and race to pile up the word count, while agreeing to ignore each other. Can't imagine how fun it must be having a bunch of goal-driven introverts in one place (*sarcasm*).

The goal is to write at least 50,000 words by November 30th. In one month. That averages out to 1667 words per day.

Why??? you say? To be that much closer to having written a book.

Yes, there are some writers out there (I'm looking at you, Stephen King!) who can expel 10,000 words a day just by waving their fingertips over the keyboard. Actually, I'm pretty sure he can sneeze and whole novels appear in his hard drive.

I am not one of the prolific ones. I labor over every page. And if you give me an opportunity to procrastinate -- the laundry/mopping/closet-cleaning MUST be done -- I will usually take it, simply because mindless tasks are much simpler than completing a novel. During NaNo, however, I make no excuses. I just sit down and write. Sometimes for 14 hours a day.

You know what's even crazier? Last year I did/won NaNO and trained for a marathon, which my husband and I ran in December. That month, I was either writing, running, or sleeping. I did take a few hours off for Thanksgiving dinner.

This year on November 19th, I completed my 50,000 words to 'win' NaNoWriMo for 2014. If all goes as it should, Say That Again, the sequel to Say No More, will be available in March of 2015.

"But I can't wait that long for another book?" you say? Don't fret. Memories and Matchsticks, the first in my new Sam McNamee cozy mystery series will be available for pre-order very soon and on sale in late December, 2014. More news on that  very soon!

Meanwhile, back to the keyboard for me. Only 30,000 more words to go.

Until later,

Friday, October 10, 2014

Discovering My Past

Isabeau will be released in the German Amazon store on Oct. 14th, 2014 by Amazon Crossing.

Imagine how exciting it would feel to discover that many years after you’d written a historically based series of novels that several of the people you’d written about were your very own ancestors.
For weeks after I saw the movie Braveheart in 1995, my thoughts kept drifting back to two of the characters: Robert the Bruce, the eventual King of Scots, and Isabella of France, the wife of Edward II, who later became the King of England. I couldn’t stop thinking about them and wondering about their role in history. I didn’t know why Isabella and Robert were more fascinating to me than any other historical figures. They just were. They became like an itch I had to scratch.  I had to write about them.
I had no clue then what an ambitious undertaking that was going to be – or how many hours in my day and years of my life it would eventually consume. I became obsessed with research, taking enough notes to write a doctoral dissertation. I even went so far as to visit England and Scotland on two different occasions.
And on odd thing happened to me on those trips. Several times, I would stop, look around me, and get this strange sense that I’d been there before. Like I knew this place, these hills, this castle, that road in the distance.
After my books came out on Amazon, readers began to ask if I was descended from any of the people I’d written about. I honestly didn’t know. I had a family tree on paper that went back to the 1700’s, when some of my mother’s family came to America, but that was it. There were some Gordons in it, who I knew were Scottish.
It took me awhile to get around to checking further. I began to research my ancestry online, tracing each branch back as far as I could – and hitting a lot of dead ends. Sometimes the records just weren’t there, or they’d been lost along the way. So I’d dabble in the genealogy in my spare time, not really expecting to find anything notable.
Then one day, I traced a Scottish family branch all the way back to Robert the Bruce. It was absolutely surreal. It made me feel like all those years of writing in obscurity were worth it. I kept digging and eventually discovered another line that traced back to English roots. My jaw hit the ground when Edward III, son of Edward II and Queen Isabella, turned up. Hah. I did have royal blood after all.
I’ve since had a lot of readers e-mail me to tell me that they, too, are descended from the characters in my books and that reading about them brought special meaning to their own ancestry. It thrills me to know that my stories have inspired others to investigate their own ancestry. I still find it hard to believe that long after I’d written about Isabella and her contemporaries that many of them were actually my ancestors. Maybe there was a reason I felt called to write their story after all?

Until later,

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Positive Power of Readers

Most readers have no idea how much power they have to affect the literary world. Individually, a reader is like a drop of water. Cumulatively, they can create a tsunami.

The internet has placed power in the hands of individual readers, but most of them don't know how much they can affect what others will read. Think about it. You trip across a great book on your e-reader, devour it in a few days, then look for more from that author. How many of you use those nifty little icons (FB, Pinterest, Twitter) that Amazon has on the book's page, or at the end of the Kindle book to review the book or share about it with others on social media? Too shy? Too busy? Don't think it'll make a difference? Think again.

You, The Reader, have ALL the power. YOU MATTER!

In days of yore, publishers and brick and mortar bookstores determined what books got publicity. Subsequently, those were the books that sold copies. LOTS of copies. Thousands, sometimes millions. How did they determine which books got top billing? Who knows? It came down to the personal tastes of a few individuals and their past experiences with similar books.

Then along came self-publishing. Many, many times, the editors at the big publishing houses passed on books from unknown authors, books that were too different from what was selling currently, books outside the popular genres. Slowly, readers began to discover these hidden gems through digital publishing. Over time, sales on some of those self-published books began to rival the traditionally published books. New voices emerged. Genres expanded. Whatever readers craved, self-published authors were able to create more of more quickly.

Nowadays, many self-published (SP) authors make a comfortable living writing what they love. In fact, they get far more per book sale than traditionally published authors, who have to share a portion of a book's earnings with the publisher. But traditionally published books still get the store shelf space that SP authors don't - and that is very powerful marketing.

But what is more powerful than store placement? Word of mouth.

Think about it. What holds more sway in your final decision if you're shopping for a plumber: an ad in the Yellow Pages, or a recommendation from a close friend? Aren't you more likely to go see a movie if everyone you know is talking about it?

So next time you read a great book, tell someone else about it. Click 'share' on FB. Tweet about it. Pin it to your Pinterest board. Talk about it over coffee. Tell people what you're reading and who it's written by. If you tell 20 people, maybe only 2 will go on to buy that book, but if those 2 people tell 20 more, well...

Even in the digital world, the more a book sells, the more it's seen by fresh sets of eyes. And the more it sells. Until other newly discovered books come along that gradually displace it.

Momentum builds. Share your enthusiasm about the books you read. Write a quick review. Tweet, post, share, like, pin. Help the authors who've carried you away and brought you hours of entertainment. Make a difference in the world of publishing.

Happy reading,

Monday, October 6, 2014

What to Read Next - Oct. 2014, #2

Have a look and be sure to share your favorites with friends on social media. Word of mouth is powerful!

One Good Dog, by Susan Wilson

"Adam is escorted from the building. He loses his job. He loses his wife. He loses the life he’s worked so hard to achieve. He doesn’t believe it is possible to sink any lower when he is assigned to work in a soup kitchen as a form of community service. But unbeknownst to Adam, this is where his life will intersect with Chance.
Chance is a mixed breed Pit Bull..."

I read this right after I posted about dog books to read. This is now one of my top three favorite dog books, along with The Art of Racing in the Rain and A Dog's Purpose. Loved the narrative voice in this book, the arc of both Adam and Chance, and the bond that forms between them. Heartwarming.

Where Petals Fall, by Melissa Foster

"On the surface Junie Olson's life looks idyllic, from her handsome husband and beautiful daughter to her successful business, the bakery she'd always dreamed of opening. But in the past few months her world has slowly unraveled. Her precocious child is withdrawing, showing unexplainable signs of emotional regression, a condition that frays the bonds of Junie's once impenetrable marriage."

Melissa Foster writes great romance novels, but this one is more Family Life with a dose of Suspense or Mystery. An intriguing read. I should mention that I shared Foster's book, Sisters in Love (which is FREE, btw), with my daughter and she promptly used up her Amazon Christmas gift card on the rest in the series.

Once A Runner, by John L. Parker, Jr.

"Once a Runner is the story of Quenton Cassidy, a collegiate runner at fictional Southeastern University whose lifelong dream is to run a four-minute mile. He is less than a second away when the political and cultural turmoil of the Vietnam War era intrudes into the staid recesses of his school's athletic department. After he becomes involved in an athletes' protest, Cassidy is suspended from his track team.
...This book is a rare insider's account of the incredibly intense lives of elite distance runners; an inspiring, funny, and spot-on tale of one man's quest to become a champion."

If you love running or want to know what it's like to be inside the head of an elite competitive runner, Once a Runner is a fulfilling read foll of luscious prose and beautiful descriptions. 

Happy reading!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

What To Read Next - Oct. '14

Besides finishing my ninth book recently, I've been immersed in some wonderful stories. There are so many great emerging new writers out there, it blows my mind.

More on my upcoming release soon! It's in the queue for editing and cover art. Meanwhile, I've started plotting two more contemporary novels. Yay!!!

1) The Park Service, by Ryan Winfield

"What if the plan to save Earth includes the extinction of humankind?

Sometimes the best intentions ultimately lead to evil ends. That's what fifteen-year-old Aubrey VanHouten learns when he stumbles onto a post-apocalyptic paradise where the few remaining humans live on the run from deadly drones controlled by a mysterious Park Service."

Action-packed dystopian fiction. I read and enjoyed Winfield's contemporary romance Jane's Melody awhile ago, but I thought this book was even better because the world-building allows Winfield's descriptive talents to come to light. The second installment of the series, Isle of Man, is on my TBR list.

2) Crazy Little Thing, by Tracy Brogan

"If Sadie Turner is good at anything, it’s putting stuff in order. So when she finds her “perfect” life in disarray, she hopes a summer vacation at her aunt’s lake house will help her piece it back together. She wants to relax, reboot, and heal the wounds left by her cheating ex-husband. And that requires time away from men. All men.

Or so she thinks.

With two slobbering dogs and two cousins living there—one a flamboyant decorator intent on making over Sadie—it’s hard to get a moment’s peace at eccentric Aunt Dody’s house, especially with everyone so determined to set her up with Desmond, the sexy new neighbor."

This is my new favorite romance - EVER!  Intelligent, witty, and downright hilarious at times. Brogan had me cracking up on almost every page, but still emotionally invested in Sadie and Des's story. I auto-bought the next Bell Harbor Book, The Best Medicine. That says a lot!

3) The Plagiarist, by Hugh Howey

"Adam Griffey is living two lives. By day, he teaches literature. At night, he steals it. Adam is a plagiarist, an expert reader with an eye for great works. He prowls simulated worlds perusing virtual texts, looking for the next big thing. And when he finds it, he memorizes it page by page, line by line, word for word. And then he brings it back to his world.
But what happens when these virtual worlds begin to seem more real than his own? What happens when the people within them mean more to him than flesh and blood? What happens when a living thing falls in love with someone who does not actually exist?"

Another great story by the SciFi Master, Hugh Howey. This novella pulled me in immediately. It makes you think a lot about how intensely real our imaginary worlds can seem, to the point where you start to wonder. It brings to mind the saying, 'There is no reality; only perception.'

Happy reading!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Genre Hopping

This post has been a long time coming. I've started it, erased it, and started it again. It's time to come clean.

I'm often asked when my next book will be coming out. Of course, there is always a story (or two or three) in the pipeline. Most recently I've finished my ninth book, Memories and Matchsticks, a romantic mystery, the first in my planned Sam McNamee Mystery Series. Right now it's in the queue for editing and cover art. If all goes as planned, it should be out in November sometime. It's a contemporary novel, a quirky romantic mystery that will, hopefully, make you laugh, cry, and have you rooting for the heroine, Sam McNamee, an accident prone romance writer who ironically avoids dating, until fate throws a wayward mutt named Bump into the path of her car and she meets veterinarian, Dr. Clint Chastain.

In the near future, I'll also be following up with a sequel to my first dog story Say No More which, although it had a slow start, has gained a steady following and rave reviews.

Some have asked if I'll be releasing any more historicals. The truth is, I don't know. Not soon, certainly, but in the future, who knows? Never say never, right? Some readers have even suggested historical figures I could write about. While there is an endless list of interesting people from the past I could explore, the reality is that my interests are leading me in a different direction. And I'm more excited about writing than I've been in a looong time, because now I'm writing stories that come purely from my heart and my imagination. There are no limitations.

The onus of writing historical fiction is that there is a great deal of responsibility that goes along with it. It is a VERY research intensive endeavor. I've often stated to friends that I could have researched and written an entire PhD dissertation with every historical novel I wrote - and I am not exaggerating. I spent two years digging up obscure scientific articles for a Biology masters degree, so I know.

Putting together a historical that is honest to the events of the time and people who lived it is not unlike academic research. When it comes to facts, you have to cover your a** -- or suffer the scrutiny of the Accuracy Police. In many ways, writing HF is like piecing together a puzzle. You have names, dates, places, events, and some details about each of these. Then, as a writer of fiction, you have to fill in the blanks and provide plausible motivations and reactions. You have to make the one-dimensional into three-dimensional. In that regard, few things have pleased me more than bringing people like Robert the Bruce, Isabella, and Owain Glyndwr to life and I am grateful to every reader who has reached out to me, left a review, or shared the books with friends.

Those stories came from a time in my life when I was in search of heroes. People in places of responsibility who fought against tough odds, who had the courage to lead, to fight, to stand against injustice, whether personal or political. I started writing about Owain Glyndwr first over fifteen years ago. I was a stay-at-home mom, who had the luxury of taking 2-3 years to write a book. I wrote five historicals while waiting for a publisher to discover me. And when efforts to find a traditional publisher fell through and the (better) opportunity to self-publish arose, I jumped at it. I was able to release my first several books more quickly because, for the most part, they were already written. They found readers and all was good. For a while.

It would be impossible for me to release new biographical historical fiction at a rate of more than one book per year, if that often. Putting out HF faster than that would, for me, compromise the integrity of the facts -- something I am not willing to do. Another bummer about writing biographical fiction is that you can't resurrect already dead characters. If you follow their story all the way to the ends of their lives as I have, you're at a dead end (pun intended).

To feed the beast, a writer must keep writing. And release frequently. Over time I've seen sales (and subsequently income) slip due to my slow release rate. The algorithms at Amazon are unforgiving, but they keep us writers on our toes. So about a year ago I started struggling with whether or not I was going to keep writing Historical Fiction. I even renewed my teaching certificate (gasp!), thinking I'd stop writing altogether in lieu of a regular job. It was a sobering prospect and a low time for me.

It took me awhile to realize that I still wanted to write, very much so, but my heart was leading me in a different direction. Circumstances in my life are vastly different now than ten years ago. I'm happier, more focused, and feel a deep need to connect to other human beings. Writing is also more than a hobby now; it is my career. I've brought to life the lives of a handful of real people that I was interested in, and I feel very fulfilled about that. But history also has its limitations. I wanted the freedom to create characters from scratch that just about anybody could relate to, in situations that are relevant to a wider audience.

Several years ago I joined a writer's site called Authonomy. One thing that being there did was open my eyes to a lot of new genres. I used to only read Historical Fiction. Now I read Romance, Science Fiction, Dystopian, Young Adult, New Adult, Cozy Mysteries, Literary Fiction,  General Fiction ... I never run out of books to read and I love that.

So when I sat down to write Say No More during the 2013 NaNoWriMo marathon that is November, the words gushed out. I LOVED writing from Halo's perspective as a dog. I couldn't wait to get the whole story down and out there. My passion for writing had returned. Soon I had a notebook full of new story ideas. Enough to keep me busy for the next five years.

Many writers explore new genres at different times in their careers. Some juggle them simultaneously, like Stephen King or Denise Grover Swank. Others, like Debora Geary, finish one series or genre and move on to something entirely new. 

New readers will continue to discover Robert, James, Isabella, and Owain. The fantastic thing about e-books is that they never have to disappear from the virtual shelf.

I am excited about the future, about Halo's story and Sam's, and hope you'll follow me. The possibilities are endless.

Until later,

Monday, September 22, 2014

Isabeau: German Edition

Look! It's almost here!

I am proud to announce that the German language edition of Isabeau will be released by Amazon Crossing in mid October at

Click here to view it in the German Amazon store.

I am truly grateful for this opportunity to reach new readers. The journey to bring this to fruition  has been virtually seamless, from acquisition to translation to cover art. The folks at Amazon Crossing are simply the bomb. And the best part is that all this took less than a year - lightning speed in the world of publishing.

This is something I wouldn't have imagined a year ago. And to think, just five years ago I was pretty sure the chances of Isabella's story ever being read were slim to none. Then I learned about Amazon's self-publishing venture, KDP (then DTP), Kindle Direct Publishing. So I released it into the world, hoping for the best, expecting nothing. And, to be cliche, the rest was history. What I thought was the low point of my hopes to be a published author was actually the beginning of a new leg of my journey and the chance to reach even more readers than I ever dreamed possible.

This is so surreal, but ... squeeee! Isn't that cover GORGEOUS?!

Until later,