Monday, July 31, 2017

Ten Lessons for Writers from the Tour de France By Karen McCullough

By the time you’re reading this the crown jewel event of bicycle road racing, the Tour de France, will have concluded, but at the time I’m writing this post the outcome is still very much in doubt. 

I’ve never been much of cyclist personally, but I do enjoy sports and watching them on television. A few years ago my son drew us into watching road race cycling and I got hooked on it. At first I watched mainly for the gorgeous French countryside and shots of amazing castles and chateaux along the route. But eventually I was drawn into the complexities and intrigues of the race as well. 

It’s a sport that was besmirched a few years ago by rampant drug use and cheating, but the powers-that-be in charge have made tremendous efforts to clean it up, including developing some innovative methods for tracking normal performances and expectations from each individual athlete. I don’t fool myself into believing it’s all completely clean but the authorities are trying hard to keep it real and do not tolerate any hint of cheating.

As I’ve been watching the race these last couple of weeks, it occurred to me that there were lessons that everyone, but authors especially, could take from the race. 

1.      Road race cycling is a team sport.  That’s not intuitive on the surface, since it’s a bunch of men or women on bicycles, but as you dig down into it, it comes clear why it’s often the strongest individual on the strongest team that wins the race. Due to the effects of wind resistance and slip-streaming, riders in a group working together can generate more power and speed than one individual can on their own. Plus a grand tour event is three weeks long with a ride of four to five hours every day other than two rest days. Those rides frequently involve climbing mountains, negotiating narrow city streets, and surviving inclement weather, problems with the equipment, and various road hazards. Having teammates around a rider is often the difference between losing serious time in the event of a breakdown and being able to be up and running again quickly.

Novels aren’t created in a vacuum. An author pours his or her soul out onto the paper (or screen) but it then takes critiquers, beta readers, editors, copy editors, formatters, and others to turn that story into a published book.

2.      Each man has to peddle his own bike. You can’t be part of the race if you’re not willing to do your part to contribute. It’s a huge effort for even those who don’t get the glory. There are men participating in the tours whose only job is to be a domestique – the person who gets water bottles for the team, guards the team leader and will exchange bikes with them on the spot should the team leader have a problem.

Every author has to write their own book. Some are better at it than others, but every book can be improved by the feedback of beta readers and the work of editors. A team can make your book even better, but it starts with that first draft, and only you can provide that.

3.      Winning comes in different flavors – There are a lot of prizes available during the Tour de France and other grand tour events. The maillot jaune (yellow jersey) goes to the overall winner, but there are also competitions for a green jersey (best sprinter), a polka dot jersey (king of the mountains or best climber), a white jersey for best young rider, and each day there is a prize for the winner of that day’s stage.

As an author you have plenty of opportunities to call your own wins. Of course, we’d all like to be hitting those best-seller lists, but I remind myself how excited and triumphant I felt when I actually finished my first novel, way back when. There was the first time I was a finalist in a writer’s contest; the first time I got a call from a publisher; the first time I won a writing contest… I still haven’t hit any lists and maybe never will. But I’ve had my share of wins along the way, and just finishing close to two dozen novels and novellas counts among those.

4.      You have to be at the top of your game to compete. The Tour de France attracts the best of the best from cycling’s professional ranks. They’re the top of the heap and they still have to be in primo shape to have a chance in this race.

If you’re going to write a story, you want to do all you can to hone your skills and fine-tune your craft. One of the things I love about writing is that I’m pretty sure I’ll never completely master it, but I try every day to get better. You can never be complacent about your ability to create a good story.

5.      And there’s still a large element of luck. Every year a few innocent riders get blind-sided and brought down by another rider taking a curve too tightly or sliding on slick pavement. It’s not their fault but it can still devastate and take out of contention someone who might’ve had a shot. It’s the way of life. Things happen. A solid team around you can help protect you but sometimes lightning strikes. So it is with writing. Many authors who deserve better labor in obscurity because they haven’t hit the right editor with the right thing at the right time, or the book goes on sale at exactly the wrong time, or fails to find its audience for reasons beyond the author’s control. There’s nothing to do but roll with it and try to keep on chugging.

6.      You need recovery time – Riding a bike at high speed four to five hours every day for three weeks depletes the body. Cyclists need time to recover.  Most can only handle doing one grand tour even per year, though occasionally some try to do two since they’re scheduled with a month between each of them (the Giro d’Italia is in May, the Tour de France in July and the Vuelta a España is in September).

Writing an 80,000-word novel (or even a shorter piece) depletes the soul. Authors need time to refill the bucket. To go out and do things, read, experience other media. Everything the writer takes in becomes part of the mix inside that gets churned and comes out as a story, so the more you have in the bucket to draw on, the richer your stories are likely to be. So, yes, go take a vacation. And if you skip a few days of writing because you do, the world will keep on turning and you won’t forget how to put words together in sentences.

7.      You have to give everything you’ve got to the effort. Each day of the Tour de France, the riders put out the ultimate effort they have in them. Nothing less will do in this race. When you’re writing you have to eliminate distractions, concentrate totally and be willing to pour yourself into the effort. In the words of another immortal writer you have to be willing to bleed onto the page.

8.      The team will have a plan – Because it is a team sport and there are so many potential prizes available, most teams have some kind of plan for what they want each of their riders to do at the start of each day. And when I sit down to write a scene, I try to have some idea of where I want it to go and what I want it to do to advance the plot.

9.      And, like most battle plans, it won’t survive the first contact with the enemy. Every other team on the tour has a plan, too, and they can’t all succeed.

And with most of my outlines, when I actually write the planned scene, the characters tend to take over and go the way they want. Sometimes they’re off on a tangent and I have to rope them back in and get them on topic. But there are times when I give them their head, to see where it leads. Sometimes I’ll end up deleting the whole thing, but occasionally allowing the characters their say will add extra dimensions to a story or take it in a wonderfully unexpected but right direction.

10.  There’s always the next race.  Close to two hundred men set out to win the Tour de France, but only a few of them end up winners. What do the others do? If they plan to have any future in the sport, they immediately begin preparing for the next race.  For an author, finishing one book means getting ready to start the next. Whether this book will succeed and find an audience is mostly out of your hands once it’s published (except for all that promo you have to do), but the important thing is that the next book you write may be the big winner if this one isn’t. 

Karen McCullough is the author of more than a dozen published novels in the mystery, romantic suspense, and fantasy genres and has won numerous awards, including an Eppie Award for fantasy. She’s also been a four-time Eppie finalist, and a finalist in the Prism, Dream Realm, Rising Star, Lories, Scarlett Letter, and Vixen Awards contests. Her short fiction has appeared in several anthologies and numerous small press publications in the mystery, fantasy, science fiction, and romance genres. She has three children, eight grandchildren and lives in Greensboro, NC, with her husband of many years.

Author’s links:

Her most recent release is a romantic suspense novel, Hunter’s Quest.

Blurb for Hunter’s Quest: Kristie Sandford's vacation is interrupted when a man jumps out in front of her car. She avoids hitting him, but when she stops to see if he's hurt, he demands she help him escape from the people chasing him. Kristie has an odd "gift" - she occasionally gets warning messages, and she gets one saying he needs her help or he'll die. Jason Hunter is an NC SBI (North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation) agent working on his own time searching for a friend, an investigative reporter who disappeared while tracking down rumors of corruption in the bureaucracy of a small mountain town. Jason is grateful to Kristie for rescuing him, but dubious when she insists she has to continue helping him. Kristie is attracted to Jason, but the edge of danger she senses in him reminds her too much of the abusive family she escaped as soon as she could.

Still, the message said he'd die if she didn't help him, and the messages have been right before.

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Karen McCullough is the author of more than a dozen published novels in the mystery, romantic suspense, and fantasy genres and has won numerous awards, including an Eppie Award for fantasy. She’s also been a four-time Eppie finalist, and a finalist in the Prism, Dream Realm, Rising Star, Lories, Scarlett Letter, and Vixen Awards contests. Her short fiction has appeared in several anthologies and numerous small press publications in the fantasy, science fiction, and romance genres. She has three children, seven grandchildren (and counting) and lives in Greensboro, NC, with her husband of many years.

Author’s links:

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Chaos of July by Diane Burton

July has been a chaotic but delightful month. Last month, I wrote about how our lives were changing. As with most things, we've had the good and the bad. Our house, which is a nice size for two of us, expanded with the addition of our Arizona family--our son, daughter-in-law (5 months pregnant with twin boys), and Toddler Girl, along with a Great Dane and a Labrador Retriever. We haven't had a dog in over seven years. Amazing how loud they are when neighbors dare to walk down the street, or kids play or walk their own dogs. The dogs do help when solicitors come to the door by barking so loud I can't hear, and the solicitor stumbles away from the door.

Within a little over a week, our son and DIL went to work. How fortunate for them, their employers had places for them. DIL is able to work from home. She's taken over my office, which I don't use to write. They've hired a sitter to watch Toddler Girl part-time while Hubs and I fill in. Meanwhile, their house in AZ sold, and they searched for a house here. Last week, they found it. Hopefully, all will go well with the purchase and they'll be able to move in at the end of August. I'm so happy for them. Not that I want them to leave, but we all like our own space.

The good part has been the time with our granddaughter. She's a delight, and she's two. I saw this definition on Facebook. It's right on.

Toddler (n.)
Emotionally unstable pint-size dictator with the uncanny ability to know
 exactly how far to push you towards utter insanity before reverting to a lovable creature.

I could wax poetic about what it feels like when she crawls up on my lap and gives me a big smile . . . then reaches around me for my cell phone so she can look at pictures of herself and her cousins and play games her indulgent grandmother loaded on said phone. Her vocabulary increases daily. Besides "phone" her favorite word is "iPad" (which also has pictures and games). Another wonderful moment was when DIL asked if I wanted to go with her for an ultrasound. Would I? Wisely, she didn't get between me and the car. What. A. Thrill. Seeing those babies in real time is a miracle. The tech was wonderful as she pointed out a foot, a leg bone, a spine (which I kinda figured out), and the appendage confirming gender. Watching the heart beat! On both of them! I can't even begin to describe my feelings. Awe. Wonder. (Where's my Thesaurus when I need one?)

That all has been the good which overshadowed the bad. My computer. When we learned about the changes this summer, I resigned myself that writing would go on the back burner. Even so, I had commitments, like regular blog posts here, on Paranormal Romantics, and my own blog. I limped along most of the month with a laptop that worked then didn't, frequently. I took it to the Geek Squad, who rescued my files and pictures (huge thanks). But after three trips, they told me fixing it would cost more than a new computer. Now, I have a tentative budget for my writing business, and it didn't include a new laptop this year. Last Thursday, the computer wouldn't open at all. What could I do besides research computers on my iPad (when I can get it away from Toddler Girl)? I broke down, "borrowed" money from the family coffers, and got a new one. Thus ends the bad stuff. I hope.

On another note, I thought of Leah last Saturday as we traveled to Chicago for a niece's wedding. I loved her message to her son and thought of that message as our niece and her spouse said their vows and celebrated. At weddings, I think of our wedding ceremony forty-plus years ago and all we've gone through over the years. Like this month, we've had our good and our bad times. And I'm sure we'll have more over the next month and years. Accepting change, going with the flow, trying to keep everything on an even keel will help us through the summer. Writing will come again. The house will be quiet. And I'll miss the chaos of this summer.

Diane Burton combines her love of mystery, adventure, science fiction, and romance into writing romantic fiction. Besides the science fiction romance Switched and Outer Rim series, she is the author of One Red Shoe, a romantic suspense, and the Alex O’Hara PI mysteries. She blogs here on the 30th of each month, on Paranormal Romantics on the 13th, and on her own blog on Mondays.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

How I Spent My Summer Vacation by Mackenzie Crowne

Twenty years ago, when Dad was diagnosed with leukemia, my siblings and I had long since left the nest and had scattered all over the country. With an eye on time, we didn’t want to waste any of the precious moments we had left with him, so we booked a couple houses on the Outer Banks in North Carolina and experienced our first family reunion. The beach in Destin followed two summers later and we converged on the gulf shores of Alabama a few years after that.

Since then, we’ve kept up the tradition, gathering every other summer in various locations across the country like the mountains in New Hampshire or Utah’s Lake Powel. Sadly, we lost Dad several years ago and Mom has since followed. Our beloved brother, Tim, joined them in heaven three springs ago. 

But my parents’ legacy to us all is the abiding love they left behind. My sibs and I still get together as often as possible. Every time we do, the time apart drops away beneath the laughter and fellowship of people with diverse lives who genuinely like each other.

This summer was no different, although we were missing a few faces as we gathered this past week in Branson, MO. We spent the days racing across the lake on tubes, eating too much and sipping adult beverages as the next generation got to know their cousins a little better. As usual, our time together passed too quickly. This morning, we said our teary-eyed goodbyes and went on our separate ways. I’m literally on the road travelling home at the moment, rejuvenated by the time spent with my sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews and all the grands that have sprouted throughout the family, and already looking forward to the next time we’ll be together — which will include a wedding. Congratulate me. I’m getting a new daughter-in-law!

More on that later, but for now, what about you? Have you and your families discovered the joy of reunions and what locations do you like to visit when you gather?

When Mac isn’t spending time with her beloved family, she stays busy weaving HEAs for her characters, like the latest in her Players series, Wyatt and Piper from TO WIN HER SMILE, now available via KensingtonBooks

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Getting Ready to Publish Your Book by Betsy Ashton

I've given a dozen or more classes this year on what it takes to be ready to publish, self or traditionally. I give the attendees my actual release plan, so that they can do as much or as little as they wish. Everyone leaves my class with a game plan and a boggled brain.

Those of us who self publish have to do everything ourselves. Everything. Right now, I'm working with my cover designer. We have a good idea, an image that is close, and  a plan to modify said image. Spooky cover. Hoodie with a pair of eyes following you around. The cover is the fun part. Getting the ISBN, back matter, blurbs all have to be done around the same time. So does asking people to read the ARC, get more blurbs back, and review on Amazon. I think two of the three of the latter points are easy. Getting that darned review up on Amazon, well, a whole different matter.

I talk to the class about housekeeping issues. If they don't have a website, they need a professional-looking site before the book is available. Where else will readers be able to buy a signed copy if they don't live near the author? Goodreads? Wait, I have to be on Goodreads? Sure do, sister. That's where readers hang out. Author Central from Amazon? I thought Amazon did that. Nooo, you, dear author, set it up. How else will you track e-book sales on Amazon and book sales on all other distribution sites?

What about newspaper interviews? Well, you can hire a publicist, or you can develop a press kit with your press release, a brief summary of the book, interview questions, and a list of places where you can be contacted. You do the legwork. No one else will.

What about social media, you ask? Don't sit there and tell me all you have to do is put the book out, and it will sell. That worked in Field of Dreams, but I'm not Kevin Costner and I don't have a multi-million ad budget. How the heck will people other than friends and family know you have a book out if you don't use the tools at hand to spread the word? If you don't want to use all the current apps, pick one or two where you feel comfortable. Also, pick ones where your readers come to share information and play. For example, if you write YA, hang out in Snapchat, Instagram, and several others whose names I can't remember. I don't write YA, but I'm trying to learn how to use Instagram. Pinterest is fun, but it doesn't really drive traffic to my website or Amazon where my books are available.

Did I hear you say you don't want to do all of the work yourself? If you have a kid whose interested, use said kid. If you don't, consider hiring a virtual assistant who can set up posts on your chosen apps.That will cost money, and you might not see a return on your investment immediately. But if you don't want to do the work and you can't afford to hire someone, you should set you mind to selling a few books to friends, colleagues, and family. It will be harder to attract strangers if you hide.

Writing the book is the easy part. Even working with a professional editor is the easy part. Sucking it up and shoving yourself out there in front of readers is not for the faint of heart. We all have to do it. We need to learn to do it well.

Next time, we'll talk about giving a book talk...

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Yep. Elbow deep

I'm 3 chapters in to a new manuscript and having a lot of fun.

As you might remember, I took a week off from writing earlier in the month. Shocking, I know. While I was in "time off" I did some research for the new idea rattling around in my brain so when I started to write, I could get going immediately.

This is a new method for me. Normally I have an overall plot/idea for the book and each chapter is X number of words long with a good idea going into the chapter what it will entail.

Not so with this book. I'm going back to one of my earlier methods: I'm writing almost entirely dialog then going back at the end of the chapter and filling in the details. Each chapter will be as long as it needs to be, and I have an idea for the ending of the book, several major scenes, and that's about it.

My main characters are outside the human realm, I guess you could say, and they're commenting on what the humans are doing to the world (heh heh). I'm having a lot of fun with that. There's a major plot twist at the end that should produce a very satisfying ending.

This may prove to be a book I publish myself, or I may submit it someday for publication. I have 4 or 5 other manuscripts to submit to my editor, so I'll do those first, probably. Plus I have another book that was returned to me (rights-reversion) and I need to think about what to do with that.

But for now -- just writing. If things go smoothly, I think I might be done with this one early. The last time I wrote a book in this fashion, it took me 6 weeks from start to finish. I doubt if this will be that fast, but who knows?

I'll report in on progress -- so far, so fun!


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Love Story vs Romance by Colleen L. Donnelly

Welcome our guest blogger today, Colleen L. Donnelly...ah romance.

Romance – it’s the rally-for-the-heroine and fall-for-the-hero sort of tale that makes hearts all over the world go pitter patter. It’s the genre of fiction that promises we will come away with a smile on our face and a sigh slipping from our lips. 

Romance – it’s not as messy and it’s far less complicated than the love stories other genres weave in, sometimes beneath their main plot, where no happy ending is guaranteed. 

Why would I subject myself to a story where passion may break from what’s comfortable and spill into the uncomfortable, defy a construction I know will make me happy, and take me beyond a ripped bodice to the heart that beats beneath it? A heart that aches to love and be loved, trust and be trusted, or hate and behave despicably in return? A heart that can choose to forgive – but may not. That has every reason to stay – but may not. Or that enters into a relationship which seems so right…yet not. 

Because sometimes the less happy ending makes me breathe a little deeper, haunts me for days afterwards, draws me into thousands of imaginary arguments with characters who should have done things my way. Love stories that retain the right to disappoint reveal the inner throes of loving someone the same way a mirror reveals my outer beauty as well as my flaws. They force me to take a step beyond the dream into the reality of loving, hurting, and hopefully healing. Sometimes the story that doesn’t make me smile is the story I’ll remember. 

“Mine to Tell” is one of those books – Was it adultery that marred the Crouse family’s reputation for three generations, or merely the accusation of it? Was it the fact that Julianne Crouse disappeared for two weeks that brought shame to all of the Crouse family women, or was it the stories told about those two weeks by others? On the cusp of her own marriage, Julianne’s great-granddaughter, Annabelle, has to know the truth. Defying her family’s and fiancé’s wishes, she unboards the house her great-grandfather had sequestered Julianne to, and searches for her great-grandmother’s story. Alone, at first, then with the aid of the quiet man down the road she’d ignored when they were children, and her great-grandmother’s words that begin to slowly trickle in.

Buy link for “Mine to Tell”: 


“Mine to tell,” Kyle said suddenly. It was a jolt. I was yanked from my mental tumble into a pit of unredemption. Alex looked up too, a quizzical expression on his face. “Julianne left a story behind,” Kyle continued. “Some of it speculation and rumors by people who don’t know, and the rest of it by her own hand. It was a love story. One that was countered with suffering.” 

We were all quiet. I looked at him, my heart melting as I heard his masculine voice speak of love and suffering. I wanted to lean across the table and hug him, but I was too afraid. 

Alex leaned back in his chair. “What my father went through didn’t feel like love when we were little.” 

“But maybe it was,” Kyle persisted, his tone smooth and even. “Does love always turn out the way we want it to?” Then he looked at me. “Julianne Crouse was a fine woman. We haven’t finished her story, but she suffered, and she was fine indeed.” 

Tears came to my eyes. “Thank you,” I squeaked. Kyle stood and walked around the table to me. He helped me stand as he thanked them for their time. He retrieved Julianne’s picture, took my hand, and together we went to the door, Alex and his wife following us. 

“I hope you’re right,” Alex said, running his hand through his thin, brittle hair as we stepped outside. “My father had some things to come to terms with, but he was a good man. A better man later in life, when he told us he was sorry. I never knew for what.” 

Other Buy Links:

“Asked For”:

“Love on a Train”: 

Contact me:

Monday, July 24, 2017

Summer? Ugh! by Brenda Whiteside

We've had a few posts this summer about summer. I'm not a fan of the season. Not when I'm spending it in Central Arizona. The temps are high and now that the monsoons have moved in, the humidity is relentless. The good thing about Tonto Basin is we're really almost in northern Arizona. A thirty minute drive gets us to Rim Country. The Mogollon  (pronounced mug-e-own) Rim is pines and cooler temps. It's amazing how the weather changes in that short thirty minute drive.

We leave our RV parked in Tonto Basin. It's our base. This year, it's not moving. Lots of reasons why, but that's another post. The
Half-way done
owners decided to expand our space. We were thrilled, but it sure would've been nicer to do it before the monsoons hit or in October. We won't complain. We have so much room now. It's just been hot working outside to get it looking good. We're part way there, but I have more plans...a little each day. At least the mess is gone.

Getting there
Today we need to empty the storage shed, clean it, and reload. A large bottle of balsamic vinegar exploded...sticky mess everywhere. That's how hot it gets here. See why summer is not my season?

Brenda and her husband are gypsies at heart having lived in six states and two countries. Currently, they split their time between the pines of Northern Arizona, the desert of Southern Arizona, and the RV life. Wherever she roams, she spends most of her time writing stories of discovery, suspense, and the tangled relationships of life. 

Visit Brenda at
She blogs on the 9th and 24th of every month at
She blogs about life’s latest adventure on her personal blog
Goodreads Author Page:

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Summertime...and the livin' is...Well, You Decide, Part II by Margo Hoornstra

Ah yes, the Gershwin song, Summertime from the musical Porgy and Bess. The opening line goes like this. Summertime…and the livin’ is…easy

Last time I wrote on these pages I opened with that, and pointed to those lazy, hazy days of Summer. Warm, tranquil days full of sunshine and fresh breezes. Days, and nights, to sit back, relax and soak in the quiet. Enjoy doing whatever we want, or nothing if that’s our choice.

I championed my Calla Lily blooms...okay bloom...

I mentioned the Adirondack Chairs we purchased for the front yard.

And a glider swing to go with the rocker on the back deck.

Then lamented the fact I only wished I could use them more.

To paraphrase the great Mr. G – I noted, in my world, it’s more like Summertime…and the livin’ is…busy!

With a novella, For Money Or Love...

in the six story anthology, All In For Love...

Promo going on through Author Promo Pal for my own three book anthology, Saturday In Serendipity...

A soon to be given release date for Book One in the Brothers in Blue series...On the Surface...

Nearing completion is Book Two in the Brothers in Blue series...On the Force...


Then....they started digging up our road about a week ago. We live on the very end of a dead end, so getting out and about can be a challenge. What with a ten feet wide, by twelve feet long by fourteen feet deep crater between us and the nearest highway.

This is a picture of the view out my front bedroom window these days.

And that's just the beginning. They are putting in new water and sewer lines. Fun! Fun! Fun!

Then....this morning, we awoke to water dripping, ominously, I must say, down a wall.

To their credit...the plumbers, two of them, arrived within an hour. Diagnostic...estimate...both time and cost. Thankfully a one day, albeit 8 hour+, job and an estimate that won't exactly break us...but...

I'll spare you pictures of their endeavors. Think bathroom sink and vanity removed, drywall as well. More drywall, plus part of the ceiling cut out in the bathroom below. Items under the kitchen sink...didn't know that space could hold so much...gotten out of their way...pipes out...pipes in...pipes out...pipes in. (More in than out, I'm hoping.)

Although I am taking a little time off to attend the Romance Writers of America® National Conference. My husband's going with me. What a sport, huh? I think so.

It'll be nice to get away...

So, tell me. What about you? Are you indulging in a vacation this year? Or are you as busy as the rest of us?

My days to blog here are the 11th and 23rd. For more about me and the stories I write, please visit my WEBSITE

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Message for my son on his wedding day ~ Leah St. James

As this message posts on our blog, my son’s wedding is mere hours away. I tried to think of something else to write about, but my brain is too crowded with the seemingly endless details that even the MoG (mother of the groom) must attend to. More than that, my heart is too full of emotions I’m afraid to let loose. (You might recall how I sobbed just THINKING about the mother/son dance.)

Like many writers, I deal with emotions by setting them to words. So I write this a few days in advance, lying in bed while my husband snores softly beside me, and I think about our wedding day several decades ago. I remember that first joyous kiss as husband and wife, then turning to face our guests and thinking, “It’s us against the world.”

We’ve had our ups and downs and made mistakes (who hasn’t?), but those hills and valleys, joys and sorrows, have made us who we are today--far from perfect, but happy together. 

I hope we’ve set a more positive than negative example for our son as he starts out in his own marriage. Still, if he were here right now (instead of off at his bachelor party!), I’d want to share some thoughts and "learnings" with him.

I’d tell him that marriage isn’t easy, even under the best conditions. I’d tell him that it takes work, it takes trust...and lots of love to pull it off. It takes  biting your tongue and compromise and saying “I love you” when you really want to tell your spouse to go .. well, let’s not go there.

I’d tell him that as of this day, he and his bride are a team, unbreakable by their shared vows of love and honor. 

That means having her back, in public and in private. It means protecting her, being loyal to her. It means cherishing her as if she is the one woman, among the millions in the world, uniquely meant for him.

I’d tell him he needs to be strong for her, but to let her see his vulnerabilities. And to let her be strong for him, too.

I’d let him know that when they argue, as I’m sure they will, he needs to consider her point of view, really consider it, because she is half of their team. And when those hard times fall, because they most likely will, to draw closer together and work on figuring things out, together.

I’d admonish him to work hard for his new family, but to play hard as well. His bride is a young woman, full of enthusiasm for life and the world. Go out together, see that world. Plan day trips. Save for and take vacations. Try new foods and recreate them in your kitchen. Go to local museums, plays and concerts. Go bowling or play golf. 

Enjoy each other. Enjoy life.

Happy wedding day to my son and his bride. May this be the first of many days and years of joy,  together. 

Leah writes stories of mystery and romance, good and evil, and the very real power of love. Learn more about Leah’s writing on her website. Or visit her on Facebook where she posts about life in general. She loves meeting readers!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Going to RWA

I have been busy packing for the RWA Conference in Orlando.
With the new rules on baggage, I'm limiting myself to one bag for five days. sounds tricky, huh? It is. I need three pairs of shoes and underwear along with nice clothes for the conference and one special outfit for when I speak on a panel on Saturday morning.
So here I am writing my speech about an invisible disability. The panel is about giving your characters disabilities and making them real. If you're going to be there, come and listen. We have lots of handouts.
I'm excited about going. I need the enthusiasm. I always learn something new or am reminded of what I've forgotten.
I'm also looking forward to seeing friends I chat with on-line. this year I have an extra task. My local chapter wants to host on-line classes again and I'll be asking for help. If you're interested in doing a class let me know.

Please follow, friend or like me. I love to hear from my readers.
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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Making Promo Fun? by Alicia Dean

So, I think we all agree, promo is a necessity, but sometimes a necessary evil. Like exercise, I think the key to sticking with promo is making it fun. (Don't get me wrong, I haven't figured out a way to make exercise fun :()

But, there are a few ways to make promo fun. I haven't tried all of these, but here are some thoughts about fun stuff to try AND some questions/thoughts about marketing in general.

1) Videos - Let your readers see you live and up close and personal. This is something I haven't done, but a weekly video chat on Facebook with your readers is a great way to promo. You can talk about your writing, read a short excerpt, ask them questions, talk about your life (just a little, not too much sharing). You can announce ahead of time and invite readers to join you.

2) What are you interested in, other than reading and writing? For me, it's Elvis, MLB, TV, NFL. Pick a topic unrelated to writing that interests you and write a weekly blog or Facebook post about it. You'll probably be more likely to write about it each week, because you love it. (Gardening, animals, scrapbooking, hang-gliding, etc)

3) Cross-Promo with other authors. Learning about other authors and sharing for them can be lots of fun.

4) Play games - maybe give away a book to one of the commenters. You can play games like, which of these lines is from so and so book. You can play games with other authors, let them share something on your Facebook or blog that readers can guess. Or, just have readers list their favorite book, movie, food, actor, animal, etc. Give away a book to one lucky commenter.

I wouldn't try all of these, it would be too time-consuming, but they are just some suggestions for potential things to do that might be more fun than pure drudgery. :)

A few questions/comments...

1) I'm starting to wonder about my Facebook Fan Page. It's difficult to get exposure/interaction, although the promo group Jannine and I run has helped to increase that a little. However, I wonder if maybe I should just use my regular profile page. That way, there would be a mixture of personal and book things. What are your thoughts?

2) I recently tried an Amazon ad, and I felt it was quite successful. I took Alison's advice and listed a ton of key words, searching for authors and books similar to mine. I also added key words as I went along. One tip I learned from a marketing expert I met in May was to bid a higher price, like maybe 75 cents per click, for more common key words so that when readers search that, your bid should make you float to the top. Have any of you tried Amazon ads? What was your experience like?

3) I've heard some discouraging things about Facebook ads. I was thinking of trying one, but what I've heard has put me off. I understand that the supposed price you are charged always goes up. You spend more money than you expect, and that your ads aren't necessarily getting the exposure you thought they would. I found it a little confusing with the targeting and such anyway. Do you guys know anything about FB ads?

Would love to hear feedback on any or all...thanks!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Help Us Choose Our First Line! by Jannine Gallant

It's that time of year when the Roses of Prose start thinking about our holiday stories. As we have for the last several years, we will be posting short Christmas stories throughout the month of December. The only common denominator is the first line. That's where we need your help. We've had a LOT of first line suggestions this year, and we want to narrow the pack to the ones our readers think have the most potential before the final vote. Please leave comments telling us which lines are your favorites. Listed in the order they were received:

1) It was done. And she would lead the Christmas Parade down Main Street wearing nothing but a smile before she did it again.

2) She couldn't wait for Christmas to be over. Last night she'd dreamed she was being chased around the kitchen by a diabolical gingerbread man with glowing, red-hot eyes.

3) Pulling this off would take a Christmas miracle.

4) The eggnog was definitely spiked.

5) There was something about Santa no one had ever told her.

6) Stuck in an elevator on Christmas Eve...

7) Red really was his best color.

8) The only Christmas card she'd gotten and it was signed "Your Secret Admirer."

9) Her effort to steal Christmas failed.

10) She never liked Christmas when she was a kid.

11) Naughty and nice were never a problem for her.

12) What would Santa think about her last move?

13) There stood Santa, naked except for his black boots and his hat hanging on...

There are some definite contenders in here that get the creative juices flowing! What do you like in a first line? Long or short? General or specific? Pick your favorite line or two and leave us a comment. We'll announce the winning first line when we get a little closer to Christmas. Above all, don't forget to come back in December to read our stories!

And now for a book plug since it is my day to post... My BORN TO BE WILDE series is still on sale throughout the month of July. Check out my WEBSITE for direct buy links to all retailers.

Monday, July 17, 2017

My Daily Writing Life by Betsy Ashton

We all get the same questions. What is your daily routine? Do you write every day? How do you budget your time? Do you like promotional activities? Wouldn't you rather just write and not do anything else?

In order, my daily routine. I rise relatively early and am at my desk by eight. I put in three or more hours writing or editing, depending on where I am in my book journey. Right now, I'm in the death throes of editing my serial killer novel, which I plan to have out in early fall. I have a big fall festival in mid October...

I work in relative silence, meaning no music or television when I'm editing. Unless it's golf or tennis. I can edit to either sport and only glance up occasionally.  I clear my desk to edit the old-fashioned way. Pen and paper. I can't edit electronically, even when I use Narrator and listen to my book read back to me. Keying my changes is an additional "edit" because I focus on each word. If the word/sentence/paragraph/chapter does not move the story forward, it goes into the parking lot, never to be seen again in the book.

When I'm writing, I can have music on in the background. If music plays an essential role in setting the tone, I note what I'm listening to so that I can go back and recapture the mood during the editing process. When I write a new piece, I push as many words onto the page as possible. I have to get it all out, even the backstory that will never see print. I have to know what my main characters carry in their pockets or purses.

I'm a 10-15 draft editor. Not the entire manuscript, but I rework many sections until I think I have it right. Only, sometimes, to be reminded by readers that I'm still not perfect, but they'll give me a hall pass.

During the final edits, I fact-check, sleep with the thesaurus, and am never move than two inches away from Chicago Manual of Style.

When I need a break, I take fifteen minutes to play on social media. I look at kitty videos, add pictures to Pinterest, transfer a pic or two from cell to Instagram, and throw out snarky comments on Facebook and Twitter. Fifteen minutes could turn into hours if not for the hour glass I keep in the bookshelf next to my desk.

Afternoons are set aside for walking to clear my head, short naps or yoga to refresh body and soul, and setting up and executing promotional campaigns.

I do not work after six in the evening. I don't go on Facebook et al after I leave my desk. My cell is nearby for emergencies, not for playing games or watching more kitty videos. I read at night.

My goodness, that's a boring daily routine, but it works for me. I fancy myself a professional writer and must keep to a regimen or I'll slip back into casual, hobby writer. Can't, because I always see to have a deadline looming, though.

I'm going to skip the promotional question for now. That warrants another post later this month.

Lastly, would I rather write and not have to worry about promoting my books. Who wouldn't? But until I'm as big as Diane Fanning, Patricia Cornwell, or David Baldacci, I'll work every afternoon to promote my books and generate interest. I hope.