Sunday, April 24, 2016

What I've Learned in the Last Three Years

Good morning. It's Sunday, and I'm back. So far April has been a crazy month, and the next two look to be even wilder, but very fulfilling.

Three years ago, Fire Angel, my first novel was released, allowing me to tick off one of the boxes on my bucket list. What an amzing experience, one I'll never have again, although seeing the book in print a few months later was quite a thrill, too. To be honest, I do get those butterfly tickles with each new release, followed by the fear the books won't sell and everyone will hate them. I'm not exactly oozing with self-confidence.

So, what have I learned since publishing my first book? Many things I didn't expect to learn--some satisfying, other disappointing, but life is all about learning and growing, at all ages in all ways.

  1. New authors rarely make a lot of money:
First, few publishers pay advances. Secondly, few publishers put books in brick and mortar stores. Unless you hit on some unique niche, the chances are you aren't going to land a contract with the big four or five. A new author, without a name and a reputation, isn't going to make a lot of money. Royalties from paperback and e-book sales are low, and the only way to make money from them is to sell thousands of copies which new authors rarely do. If you have a publisher, they get the lion's share of the money because they shoulder the upfront costs like editing and covers, but if you self-publish, then you have those costs although you do get bigger roaylties, but it takes selling a lot of books to cover that expense.

2. All Publishers ARE NOT REPUTABLE:

This is a lesson I learned the hard way, being scammed by not one but two publishers. The first one, Front Porch Romance, seemed legit at first, but then payments stopped coming, lies and excuses were made, and in the end, she absconded with all of the money, leaving myself and several other new authors who trusted her, high and dry. The second publisher, Entranced, didn't hurt me as much since the book was in the pre-publication stage when she shut the doors, but she shafted a lot of my good friends out of money due them. I lost a third publisher, but that woman showed class and did everything she could to pay the authors and the rest of her staff. We've remained friends, and I wish her well.

3. Reviews Drive Books Bur Readers Don't Always Review:

It's one of those vicious circles. To get exposure for a book, you need lots of reviews, but even though you may give away 100 copies of the book, you'll be lucky to get five reviews out of it. Why? Because most readers simply don't bother writing reviews. To be honest, until I became an author, I didn't review either, but now, I try to. One thing I won't do is slam another authors work. If I read the whole book then there had to be something about it I liked, and I focus on that.

3. Reviewers Can Be Trolls:

For some reason, which I can't for the life of me understand, some people get off trying to ruin authors. That's right. They post reviews demeaning not only the book, but the author. This happens a lot on sites like Goodreads, but also on Amazon. When you read the reviews, you wonder if they even read the book--in csome cases they haven't since the reviews go live before the ARCS are sent out and the book goes live.

4. A Strong Social Media Presence is Essential:

And I am woefully lacking in that department. I'm not a social person, and if I don't like to socialize in person, you have to understand socializing on line isn't a whole lot easier. Spending hours on Facebook and Twitter is hard for me. I try, I really do, but ... What I have managed to do is create a good, solid base of blog followers both here and at
Thanks to my son, I also have a top notch, regularly maintained, and somewhat interactive webpage. But how much posting is too much? And what to post? My private life is just that, so...

5. The More You Write, the Better You Get At It:

This sin't rocket science. If you have to practice to be the best in spoorts, then you need to do the same in writing. The more you write, the more you learn about your craft. Editors and Beta readers help you focus on your weak spots and improve them, BUT YOU HAVE TO BE WILLING TO LEARN AND MAKE CHANGES, and for many of us, that is by far the hardest part.

6. You Have to take Risks:

For me, I've been afraid to take any new risks. I don't handle rejection well--make that not at all--so I've avoided submitting to new publishers. I'm lucky. I have three publishers who like my work, and while I'm not making any serious money, I'm getting out there. This year I decided I would strike out at least once and try to find a new place to publish my work. I decided to try Kindle Press, the publishing arm of Amazon.

Hello Again, my newest book, a paranormal/suspense/romance based on a Sioux myth, is involved in a KIndle Scout campaign. With only 8 days to go, my winning a contract doesn't look promising, but I'm hoping the people who've nominated it so far will consider reading something else of mine.  You can help with the campaign by going to:

So, those are the truths I've come away with so far. Writing is all consuming. You need to really want to do this to succeed. The biggest thrill I have right now is having someone contact me and say. "Wow! I love your books." That's what Ineed to hear get to work on the next one. Who knows, that one might be the one that makes it all worthwhile.

Have a great week!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Hello Again in A Kindle Scout Campaign, Oh My!

Good morning. Well, the calendar may say spring, but I'm not sure Mother Nature agrees. After an absolutely gorgeous Easter Sunday, it's back to cold, miserable wet, rainy weather. Wait! No snow? It is spring!

I'm in a wonderful mood this morning. I finished my new novel, Hello Again, a paranormal suspense romance that I started as part of the Tuesday Tales group. Instead of trying to sell it to one of my other publishers, I decided to try my luck with the Kindle Scout program. My friend Danielle Doolittle designed an awesome cover, which we tweaked with the help of my beta reader, Iris Blobel, and I submitted it. So...

What does this mean? Kindle Scout is reader-powered publishing for new, never-before-published books. It’s a place where readers help decide if a book will be chosen for publication through Amazon’s publishing forums. Selected books will be published by Kindle Press and as a thank you from Kindle Press and myself for your support, you’ll receive an early, free e-copy of Hello Again if it’s selected for publication.  
Hello Again is set entirely in Canada,primarily in the province of Saskatchewan, and for the most part, on a First Nations Lakoda reserve. If you enjoy Native American flavor to your reading, you should like this. While the story is contemporary, I adapted a Sioux myth to my purposes. I hope you’ll enjoy meeting the book's unusual characters. There’s more to the hero than you can imagine. The grief stricken heroine doesn’t give into her pain, but soars above it, and the kindly old shaman, a feisty old lady with a heart of gold, will win you over.
Live, love, laugh. We’ve all heard the words, but can we always put them into practice? It's my sincere hope this story will make you laugh, cry, suspend your hold on reality, and have you look beyond what you believe to embrace the possibilities. In the end, I hope it leaves you feeling good.
So, what’s Hello Again about?
Can she lift the curse and find love again?
For Charley Winters love means loss and pain. She’s spent the last five years struggling with her grief. Existing, not living. Drawn to Saskatchewan, she isn’t prepared for life’s latests kick in the teeth. Behind schedule, she’s rescued from a vicious tornado by her dead husband’s double, a man who makes her feel things she hasn’t in years. Add to that a native myth, a shaman, a green-eyed wolf, and her husband’s ghost … Can she lift a millennia old curse and find joy and love again?
To nominate my book for publication,  highlight the link, and go to Kindle Scout site to read the first 5,000 words of the book. Hopefully, they’ll leave you wanting more, and if they do, click nominate.
This is a new venture for me, one that has me stepping way outside the box. Thank you in advance for your help and support. Have a great week.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Coming to the End of a Manuscript: What to Do Next.

Good morning. Welcome to the second day of spring. It's a Monday, not a Sunday, but the sun is shining, and even though there's a major snowstorm headed this way later in the week, I know the cold will soon be gone for a few months, and we'll  have flowers and plenty of sunshine.

Yesterday, I typed "THE END" on my latest manuscript, a paranormal, suspense romance titled Hello Again. I'd been working on that story once a week ever since the middle of June 2015, writing scenes of less than 1500 words based on a particular word, for a Tuesday Tales blog, Once a month, the other authors involved and I use a picture and limit ourselves to 300 words--not always easy to do, but I enjoyed the challenge.

At Christmas time, we decided we'd spread our wings and some of us wrote short, short stories with a holiday theme. Mine originally called "Where There's a Will" went on to become the novella, Forever and Always, published by Solstice in February as part of the Adventures in Love anthology. The novella, which went deeper exploring what happens when all your hopes and dreams crash to the ground, was released on its own on March 2, my son's birthday. I figured that would just bring my book baby good luck.

Why did I change from writing a scene a week in Hello Again as I'd planned to do until the end of the book? Quite simply because I hit a block in the book I was working on, Wedding Bell Blues, and was waiting on second round edits for Hidden Assets, my second inspirational suspense romance for Anaiah Press, due out in November 2016.  With nothing to do and unable to get past the roadbloack, knowing I still had to write nearly every day, I opted to go and work on Hello Again. At that point, I had no intention of actually finishing the book, but my muse got the better of me, and the rest as they say...

When I started Hello Again, I wanted to write a story about a woman who'd lost her husband and had to move on. Since women in non-traditional jobs is a big thing these days, and I'd taught with a female mechanic, I decided to make my heroine, Charlotte, aka Charley, Winters one. I've had close friends widowed, and I knew their pain.Some were able to move on, others not. John's heart issues the previous year had scared the daylights out of me, and since heart disease doesn't go away, I wondered how I'd feel if anything happened to him. Because I like suspense in my stories, I decided I needed danger, and since I've always admired the RCMP and their Red Serge, I thought I'd toss one into the mix as my hero. I was determined this story would be set in Canada like Fire Angel and Echoes of the Past. So, I wrote the first few scenes. Trouble with biker gangs in the news gave me my crime and brought in the RCMP hero I needed, Sergeant Bill Murdock.

John and I had traveled across Canada a few years ago, and had visited Regina where one of John's friends lived. We hadn't seen them since university, and had a great time. We visited the RCMP museum while we were there, as well as their cottage, but it was so hot, we couldn't spend the night by the water as planned. We went back to Regina and its AC--hence the heat Charley encounters and the bad storms. We didn't come close to a twister, but communities in the Amrican midwest and farther north in Alaberta and Saskachewan did.

While out west, we visited Moose Jaw, Medicine hat, and a few other places with unusual names and spent the night at a bed and breakfast that was a working ranch. We also saw many signs indicating a First Nations and Metis presence, so I wanted to add that to my story. I'd enjoyed doing so in other books I'd written.

I was sure this personal experience would add to the story, but my muse, who rarely lets me down, had so much more in mind. The weird stuff started. Suddenly, Bill, my hero, needed to resemble my heroine's dead husband, and the paranormal elements were born. Shirley, whom I envisioned as a wise women with a sense of humor, morphed into a gifted shaman with a personal stake in the outcome of the romance between Bill and Charley. She is a beloved and essential secondary character, one who is a catalyst for much of what follows.

So I wrote a scene each week, weaving my story around those elements and those who read the growing manuscript seemed happy with it. When I decided to edit what I'd written, I had no idea how much stronger the paranormal elements would get.  But, since I'm a pantser, that's part of the joy of writing--not only do I surprise you, I surprise me.

I did more research on Sintaluta and the Carry the Kettle Nakoda band. I found an online dictionary that let me translate English into Assiniboine, the traditional language they use, and I found a site with Sioux myths. I'd enjoyed using and adapting the Mohawk myth in Echoes of the Past,, soi I thought I'd do the same here. Unfortunately, I didn't find one that was esxactly what i needed, so I adapted it. The myth about the abused wife and the chief of the wolves is a genuine one, but I changed the ending to add the curse. Just like that, everything fell into place and the story expanded, writing itself.

 I've been asked how much of myself goes into my books, and I'd have to say this one is more me than any other. I'm sad it's finished, but I feel good about it. Now, I have to decide what to do with it. I have options, choices, which for now I'll keep to myself, but  be assured, the book, with its beautiful cover designed by Danielle Doolittle will be released. Right now, I can't say when because there are still edts to do, but before the year is out, Hello Again will be available. Will this be "the one?" I don't know. I can only hope.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Happy Birthday, Ruth!

Every now and then, something absolutely wonderful happens and the world is a better place because of it. A number of years ago, my good friend Ruth was born, and the world is a much better place because she's in it.

Ruth is more than a friend; she exemplifies the expression "grace under pressure," and despite the fact that she's recently been handed a raw deal, with the lemons she has, she's made the sweetest lemonade. 

The only person I know who could've done so well was my mother-in-law, Jean, who would've been 100 years old on Friday. 

Every now and then, we are gifted with kind, beautiful souls, like Ruth and Jean, and for those of us lucky enough to get to know them and be part of their lives, that's a special treat to cherish. 

Ruth has been and continues to be my spiritual guide, my minister, and believe it or not, my inspiration. If you've read some of my more gruesome suspense romance novels, that might be hard to understand, but she seems to say exactly the right thing at the right time. She makes me a better writer because she encourages me to go out there, just a bit farther, in search of the perfect image, the perfect clue, the perfect hero, and of course the perfect villain.

Ruth knew exactly who was the Fire Angel in my first novel by that name because she was privy to an inside joke. If it hadn't been for that faux pas on her part, the villain might've had a different name. 

Today, because it was her birthday, we went out to lunch with a few close friends, after attending church. This was not the church I was used to attending, the church where she'd preached and filled me with inspiration to get through the week, but Ruth suggested I try it, and I'm glad I did. It's very different from the subdued Presbyterian worship I'm used to, but I enjoyed it. The evangelical style is far more relaxed, but the music and the message were uplighting. People were warm and friendly--no one was pushy, and eveyone was willing to say hello and shake my hand. No one appaeared to be judging anyone. Come early, come later--no problem--just come. I felt welcomed. Most importantly, my granddaughters, who came with me, loved the Sunday school program and want to go back.

Will this be my new church home? I don't know. I need to think about it, pray about it, but after three weeks of not going to church, I can honestly say. I feel better for having gone today.

So, in conclusion, thank you, Ruth. My muse is chomping at the bit to write a new story inspired by today's message and Ruth's comment. Picture it--a romance novel about a person who refuses to accept love. The possibilities are endless. So, as I've said before, Happy Birthday. Without you, I'd be Ruth-less. 

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Write, Write, and Rewrite

Good morning. This picture, taken in March 2008, pretty much sums up what I can see out my window today. At the moment, it's snowing, but according to the weather gurus, that's going to turn into ice pellets, freezing rain, rain, and the same thing will continue tomorrow followed by two days of snow.

If this is Mother Nature's idea of a joke, I'm not laughing. We had freezing rain and rain aplenty last Wednesday and the Tuesday before that. My calendar says spring begins three weeks today, but judging by the weather, Nature and I aren't on the same page!

Write, write, and rewrite. Sounds simple, but it can be as frustrating as all get out. Last Sunday, I mentioned how difficult my characters are being in my new wip, and while I've made some progress, it isn't coming along as quickly as I'd like. That could be due to a number of factors including a week filled with interuptions, real-life invading my writing cave, my crisis of faith over the loss of my beloved minister and friend, and my inability to move beyond my anger and grief. It could also be because I'm trying too hard to steer the characters in the direction I want them to go rather than letting them take me where they want to go--a difficult situation for an author who writes character-driven stories. I have written and rewritten the same scene at least a dozen times, and I'm still not happy with it. In my head, the premise works beautifully, but when I try to put it down on paper, it just doesn't feel right.

How am I going to deal with this?

I have options, and one of them is to move around the difficult scene and go on with the story. As a linear writer, I've never done this before, but I'm considering it. Another option is to set the work aside and go on to something else. Maybe I should just stick with my Tuesday Tale and finish it off. It's at the halfway mark and that work doesn't seem to give me issues. Perhaps I should focus on another episode of Eloisia, although Episode Three didn't sell well. It might be time to pull that all together into one book, too, but I was hoping to leave that until after my trip. I could write a short story or work on another novella. I have lots of ideas I'd like to flesh out, and maybe putting these characters back in the imagination drawer to stew and grow is the way I have to go. The final alternative is to actually write the synopsis and plot outline for the story--a truly scary suggestion, but maybe if I do that, it'll show me what my characters are trying to take me if I let them.

The other thing I can do is just step away from the writing cave for a few days--I can clean out my closets, decide what I want to take with me on my trip later this spring--bake cookies and maybe do more reading. It's been ages since I've actually read something new. Maybe it's time for a break.

I can focus on promotion for a day or two, but the reality is I need to write, so ... write, write, and rewrite. Maybe I'll get to work on my A to Z blogs for the month of April. Get a few of them set up ahead of time. Who knows, if I get moving in another directions, my characters just might want to play nice, and we can have another go at things.

Well, that sums up what I'll do this week. How about you? No matter what you choose to do, have fun. Life is too short to spend in regret. Have a great week.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

New Book Challenges: Shouldn't it be Getting Easier?

Wow! What a difference a week makes. Last Sunday, we were freezing our a**es off up here. This week,the temperature is 34 F, and we've had it all.--freezing rain that coated trees in ice, snow, and now we're looking at flooded basements and guess what? More snow.

But the weather isn't the only thing not cooperating this week. My newest work in progress is giving me headaches. At this time last week, I had close to 70K words done in my WIP. Today, I'm down to less than 30K. That's right. I've scrapped more than 40K words because they didn't "feel right" and now I'm wondering if maybe the entire premise of the story is the problem--because, believe me, there is a problem. My characters can't decide which way to go.

This has never happened to be before, and I can't quite figure out why it's happening now. I know people with an outline will say I didn't plan it out right, but since I've never done that before, why would I do it now? Different strokes for different folks. In the past my characters have been focused, striving for a goal and heading there, albeit by circuitous routes, but they knew excatly where they had to be and when they had to be there.

As most of you know, most of my books are suspense novels, but this time I'm trying to write a contemporary romance with humor in If you've read my books, you know this isn't my first attempt at contemporary romance. My two short stories: There's Always Tomorrow and Forever and Always are contemporary as are my Christmas stories: Her Christmas Hero, The Best Day Ever and Come Home For Christmas. My two holiday novels, Holiday Magic and The Perfect Choice fall into that category as does one of my top selling Crimson novels, Just For the Weekend. So, what's different with this one?

Me. That's what's different. I'm the one who isn't as focused as I should be. I'm second guessing myself, something I've rarely done in the past. Why? Because for the first time in a long time, I'm doubting myself and my abilities to bring the story I envision to life. Can this be a by-product of my recent crisis in faith? Maybe. I always thought my ability to write was a God-given talent, and if I doubt some of the things He's allowed to happen recently, why wouldn't I doubt that too?

It feels odd not to be getting ready for church, but my heart is still sore and angry. I spent time with my friend and minister this week, and I wish I could be as forgiving as she is, but I can't. There's still a darkness in me that isn't ready to let go of the hurt, and I think that's the problem. How can I write something "feel good and light" when my mind and spirit are at the opposite end of the spectrum?

So, for today, I'm going to set aside my wip and do other things--groceries, tidying the house, babysitting grandkids, and maybe even attend one of my grandson's basketball games. Hopefully, with time way from the draft, I can  find my happy place again, and when I come back to this wip, I'll be in the right frame of mind to make it work again.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Baby Steps: Getting Used to The New Order Without a Beloved Minister and Friend

Good morning. It's a bright, sunny Sunday morning. With the windchill, the temperature is -41F/C That's right. At this temperature, the scales are the same. How cold is that? VERY!

As you drive along the river, the steam rises from the water--looks nice, but feels frigid. Frost bite is a real possibility after even a short exposure, so it's a good time to stay inside. 

The good news is, the cold is expected to break tomorrow and the temperature is going to shoot up to 21F with 36F on Tuesday and 32 F Wednesday followed by a truckload of snow--as much as a foot if we get the brunt of the storm.
Well, I'm not going outside this morning, but I will be this evening. By then, the temperature will have gone up ten degrees! 

Today is Valentine's Day. So I wish everyone a pleasant time, If you are lucky enough to have a loved one to share the day with, be grateful for it. Many people who've recently lost loved one will be alone for the first time, and the loneliness will be twice as awful as it is other days.

Today is also Sunday, the first time I willfully choose not to go to church. I'm still upset by what I see as the autocratic rule of the Presbytery, not theocratic as it should be, removing a beloved minister from a congregation who wanted her to stay because of the griping and complaining of a small group of individuals with their noses out of joint.

This action has caused me to reconsider a lot of things in my life--most specifically how I will follow my faith from now on. I'm well aware that religion is not faith. It's a man-made construct, a fallible as humans themselves. Different religions have been at war with one another for centuries, and some of the world's cruellest crimes are done in the name of religion. 

Presbyterianism isn't any different. We may say we are theocratic--governed by the rule of God, but when it comes right down to it, we are plain ordinanry people with flaws and we make mistakes. Last week's decision to dissolve the tie between the minister and the congregation was a collossal error.

Let's be clear here. The minister did absolutely nothing wrong. The complaints against her were petty, ranging from something as silly as being a couple of minutes late for something, to forgetting to acknowledge a plate of cookies years ago. Humans are fragile creatures who get their egos bruised easily, but holding a grudge like this--well, that's plain wrong and unChristian. The Presbytery has stated that  the minister remains  a minister in good standing, Her status now is  “Minister appendixed to the Roll of the Presbytery.” But that doesn't help me or the many other people in the church who are angry and feel cheated. I looked forward to going to church on Sunday mornings, hearing her speak to the children, and perhaps entertain us with a song on her mandolin. I enjoyed her sermons, which rarely didn't leave me with a bit of wisdom to carry me through the week. So what if she went five or ten minutes past the hour? I can afford to give God more than sixty minutes a week. 

So what will I do now? This wonderful woman, whose sermon last week was a tremendous example of grace under pressure, doesn't want any of us to leave the church. Out of my deep respect for her, I won't make a knee-jerk reaction. I will step back a bit, give the wounds in my heart time to heal and wait on God's wisdom. If He wants me to keep worshiping there, then He'll send a sign of some sort, and if not, then I know He'll point me in the right way. As a protestant, I have options, many of them, even in a town this small.  

Church is an imporatnt part of my life, one I would miss far too much if I turned my back on it completely, but I will read my Bible and wait for him to tell me where to go. If possible, it will be wherever my beloved friend and minister goes. Maybe I'll become one of the Christmas and Easter people. Who knows? The one thing I will definitely continue to be is a good friend to a woman who is above all else a lady and the best example of a Christina I have ever seen.