Monday, March 19, 2018

A Weekend with the Authors and Elvis by Alicia Dean

(This has been written in spurts with spotty Internet, which I keep getting knocked off of, so forgive the wording, spelling, boringness, etc :))

I’ve had an exhausting few weeks.  First, my mother was hospitalized, then I came down with the flu, and now I’m on a trip where I attended an author event in Nashville (after a 12 hour drive). It was my first time at this event, and I had a fantastic time. I met up with some authors I hadn’t seen in a very long time and met face to face some of my author friends I’d only known online up to that point. Some of my ‘buddies’ who were in attendance:

My friend, Kathy L Wheeler, who moved to Seattle a year ago, and who I’ve only seen a few times since. I miss her and it was so great to see her.  Marie Tuhart, who I met years ago at a Wild Rose Press retreat, Darcy Flynn, who many of you know. She is so lovely and fun. I’ve edited for Darcy and she has referred others to me, with whom I’ve developed a friendship and who were also in attendance; Jeanne Hardt, a wonderful author and friend, and Jennifer Gatlin.  The event, A Weekend with the Authors, was lots of fun and the coordinators worked hard to put together a fun, interactive event for authors and readers. The only downside was that it appeared to be attended by as many, or more, authors than readers. However, the readers I met there were awesome. They were loyal, voracious, enthusiastic readers. And, isn’t that the best kind? Other than making connections and meeting up with author friends, two of the highlights of the event were the ‘speed dating’ where readers sat down with authors to get to know us. Each reader had 3 minutes. It was really a great way for readers to get a sampling of what we write and who we are. Another fun thing was the charms. Each author had the opportunity to order charms representative of their brand. (I chose a skull, is anyone shocked? 😊) At the event, readers collected charms from each of the authors and put them on a charm bracelet. We authors ended up collecting from each other as well, and I have a nice little keepsake from the event. This pic is a group of us who had dinner at The Cascades restaurant at The Opryland Hotel in Nashville. Left to Right: Jennifer Gatlin, Kathy L Wheeler, Alicia Dean, Jeanne Hardt, Darcy Flynn, and Krysta Scott.

My friend, Krysta Scott, and I drove to Nashville together. On the way, we were passing over the highway bridge through Memphis and I had an epiphany. I suggested that, instead of staying in Nashville through Sunday night, we cancel our last night there and spend Sunday night in Memphis. She was all for it. She’s not a super fan like I am, but she does like Elvis and she’s never toured Graceland. So, the next morning, I got on the computer and, even though I figured the rooms were outrageous, I checked into staying at the new The Guesthouse at Graceland, a gorgeous new hotel right next to Graceland, that opened last October. To my surprise, the rooms were very reasonable. $151, which was slightly cheaper than the Airport Marriott where we were staying in Nashville. (The hotel was fantastic, btw, the staff was great, it was lovely an d wonderful). I booked a room for us in Memphis and bought Graceland tour tickets for Monday morning at 10 a.m.

We arrived at the hotel in Memphis and it by far exceeded both our expectations. It is GORGEOUS. The staff is friendly and helpful. The hotel has a theater where Elvis movies are shown, and we watched most of Viva Las Vegas on the big screen.

This nice lady from the U.K. took mine and Krysta's picture on the gorgeous grand staircase at The Guesthouse at Graceland:

This is our TV in our room:

We met some adorable Tribute artists from Australia. Stuey V is an Elvis Tribute artist and JR is a Johnny Cash tribute artist. I recorded them saying hello to my son, Presley: (Doesn't look like the video went through, sorry ;))

So…not only does staying in Memphis allow us to break up our 12 hour drive into a 3 ½ hour and 8 ish hour drive, we have the added bonus of staying at this glorious hotel and touring Graceland. I’ve been here half a dozen times and I can never get enough. Krysta, as I mentioned, has never toured the mansion, and while she doesn’t think of herself as a ‘super fan’, she’s been getting a tad emotional and excited, suspiciously like a super fan might. I think I might be bringing her out of the closet…

Here's a fun fact, Disney is no longer the Happiest Place on Earth. :)

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Obsessing Over Numbers by Jannine Gallant

I've been wondering what to write about for a few days now as the 18th drew closer and closer. While I stared at the blank page, my nimble fingers opened other tabs to check numbers. Yes numbers! I'm obsessed, so I thought I'd share. Maybe you can become addicted, too!

First of all, I should be writing. Instead, I'm constantly checking statistics to see if there's an actual reason for me to put words on the page. These are the sites I use to feed my addiction. If you're an author, they're pretty darn useful for a number junkie like me...

Amazon Sales: Did you know you don't actually have to go to the Amazon site to see how well you're selling. Sales Rank Express has all those fun facts and figures for every one of your books on a single page. Just pop in your name under author, and you can get your ranking for not only the good old USA, but for all the other countries, too. Info included is a graph with blips for each sale. If the graph isn't there, click on the rank tracker by NovelRank to start tracking. It also tells you how many customer reviews you have. With this handy-dandy feature, I can obsess over not just my sales rank but also my reviews, all on the same site!

Before we leave the subject of sales, I discovered another incredibly fascinating feature on Author Central to gobble up my time. Just when I thought there was no way to know if my print books in stores were actually selling, I discovered Nielsen BookScan under the Sales Info tab. This tells me how many copies of BURIED TRUTH I sold each week in physical stores. It also has a handy geography feature to tell me where I sold them. I was pretty darn worried I'd sold about 10. I was actually kind of freaking out over this. Turns out, I did sell a few. The current count stands at 832, but my graph formed a pyramid point at week three and is currently on the downhill slide. I'm afraid there isn't a long shelf-life for newbie authors in print. But, the geographic map gave me another boost. I sold books in 95 out of the 100 regions! The largest was "combined areas," an amorphous blob made up of all rural/smaller town areas. Coming in at the top of the pack of cities was New York. Go, me! So, while I'm not exactly selling in the millions, it's a start. My editor actually said I did pretty well in Barnes & Noble before he ruined my glow by adding that was only a small part of the overall picture. He said I definitely had room for growth. I'd laugh at that if it wasn't so damn depressing!

Also on Author Central, try clicking on Author Rank under the Sales Info tab. This will give you a graph of how you rank compared to other authors. Talk about a wake-up call. I have a feeling my growth potential in that category is also unlimited.

Moving right along... Sales, rankings, and reviews aren't the only numbers I obsess over. I also check the posts on my Facebook Author Page to see if anyone besides me is looking at them. Then I compare posts that do well to ones that don't. Somehow, I should be able to use this info to reach a broader audience. Unfortunately, I have yet to crack the secret code. I'll let you know if I do.

And since I don't seem to have enough numbers to make me crazy, I finally got my act together and put one of my old, self-published books, WE'LL NEVER TELL, on an Amazon Sponsored Products Ad Campaign. I tried this before and failed. This time I put in way more key words, added a catchier tagline, reduced the price to .99 cents, and am using the awesome new cover Alison made. We'll see if any of that helps. In the meantime, I have all those beautiful impressions and click numbers to feed my addiction. If you're interested in trying Amazon Ads, get started at the Amazon Marketing Dashboard.

Since I'm sure your head is spinning by now, I'll leave you with pictures of my dog in the snow. March came in like a lion and is still roaring! We've had our entire winter in one month. Happy reading! I think I'll go shovel the deck... Ginger likes to help.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Bright Shiny Objects by Betsy Ashton

I was going to call this post, "Bright Shiny Balls," but I thought some people might take offense. Or not, as the case may be.

We live in an Attention Economy, where we are too easily distracted by bright, shiny objects. Try watching commercial television, where a man screams that you must, absolutely must buy this product immediately, but wait, there's more because if you buy right this very instant, you'll get two for the same price, except for shipping and handling. And when the commercial runs again in an hour, you get the same offer.

Our attention spans are shrinking daily. I used to believe that this all started with USA Today, which synthesized news articles to fit on one page. Only the main story in each section jumped to an interior page. Now, we get news snippets on important topics in all the local papers. "World Headlines," "News in Brief," etc. If we want "News in Long," we have to go to a major newspaper or online to read a more comprehensive story.

I'm exhausted with everything that vies for my attention. I don't want to know what's going on in the world every single minute of the day. I don't want to know that someone posted a picture of her dinner on Instagram. I don't care if you took 100 selfies and posted them all on Pinterest. Sometimes, I like being in the dark, quietly writing with all electronic notifications turned off.

For the last two weeks in February, hubs and I were on vacation in Florida, where all the local news was about the tragedy in Parkland. We talked about this and other topics poolside with other guests at the Silver Sands Villas where we stay every year. Deep conversations. Rewarding conversations. Distracting, in a good way, conversations. As we were driving home, hubs commented that one thing he truly enjoyed was talking with and listening to people face to face. I agreed. So often our conversations are bright, shiny objects over Facebook, blogs, or email. God forbid, we have a conversation in Tweets or texts. Still, these bright, shiny objects make up most of our interpersonal communications today.

I vowed to control this Attention Economy by turning off notifications when I write, limiting news viewing to a time of my choosing, and not getting distracted by the myriad voices wanting me to do or buy something.

Oh wait, I have to jump off and buy one of the Slimming Sauna Shorts before the two-for-one special goes away. OMG! I got two pairs! See ya.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Progress by Diane Burton

My last post was such a downer. February was a downer month. Here it is March and, WOW, what a change. Having a pity party (about lack of progress) should never last a whole month! So, I’d like to share what’s changed.

Thanks to wonderfully supportive writers, like you all, the Insecure Writers Support Group, and friends, I feel lifted up and raring to go. My work-in-progress, a romantic suspense that’s had a variety of titles, is coming together. I only wrote 7,000 words in February. Since my goal was 500 words/day, I was behind about 7k. Talk about depressing.

Already this month, I’ve written 3,000 words, and feel great about that. I also had a visit from my Muse (LOL) and came up with what I think is a great title: Numbers Never Lie. Being fellow writers, you know that feeling. I felt like a grinning Hannibal Smith rubbing his hands together and saying, “I love it when a plan comes together.”

Isn’t it (ironic) funny how something as small as a title can change our attitude? That and sunshine. February around the Great Lakes produces gray skies. When I was a kid, one of the Detroit newspapers ran a contest: guess how many minutes of sunshine in February. My mother’s estimate was 7,000 (292 hours; 10 days). Mom’s estimate was too high. We love living near Lake Michigan. The beach, the water. Summer is wonderful. February isn’t.

For the past four years, we’ve gone out to Arizona to visit our son and his family. Not so this year. They moved here. As much as I love them living close by, we don’t have an excuse to leave Michigan in the winter. I told Hubs next year we’ll find some place to go, family or not.

Speaking of family, we’ve seen a lot of the grandkids this year. At least, once a week we see the twins (now 4 months old) and Toddler Girl plus the two older kiddies. Hubs is helping the older two prepare their cars for Pinewood Derby. Grandson’s Cub Scout troop insists this is a family event so granddaughter is participating, too. On another note, we went to Number One (agewise) Granddaughter’s orchestra concert. She plays violin. So proud of her musical talent. And we attended grandson’s karate promotion. He earned a yellow stripe on his red belt. Although he’s eight, he’d determined to earn his black belt be the time he’s twelve. Such determination. Proud grandma here!

I’m chugging along on Numbers Never Lie. My plan is to release it before summer. Here’s the tentative blurb:

A shocking secret brings danger to Jack Sinclair and his sister Maggie. 

As kids, they were the fearless threesome. As adults, Jack's an accountant; Drew, a lawyer; Maggie, a teacher and camping troop leader. Returning from a weekend camping trip, Maggie receives horrifying news. She refuses to believe her brother’s fatal car crash was an accident. If the police won’t investigate, she’ll do it herself. Convincing Drew Campbell to help is her only recourse.

Drew Campbell was too busy to return his best friend’s phone call. Too busy to attend a camping meeting important to his teen daughter. Too busy to stay in touch with Jack. Logic and reason indicate Jack’s accident was just that—an accident caused by fatigue and fog. Prodded by guilt, he’ll help Maggie even if he thinks she’s wrong.

A break-in at Jack’s condo convinces Maggie she’s right. Then her home is searched. What did Jack leave behind?

I’ll be back on the 30th and update you on my progress. BTW, I share snippets from Numbers Never Lie each weekend on the Weekend Writing Warriors' hop.

Diane Burton combines her love of mystery, adventure, science fiction, and romance into writing romantic fiction. She blogs here on the 16th and 30th of each month.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

My Self-Editing Checklist by Alison Henderson

Today is my self-imposed deadline for finishing the first draft of UNDERCOVER NANNY. I don't think I'm going to make it, but I'll be close. The wrap-up is a little more involved than I'd expected, but I don't want to cheat readers out of out of a fully satisfying ending. 

As I've approached the end, I've been jotting down notes to myself about things I need to fix, change, amplify, etc. during my first editing pass. Some of these are plot points that have evolved as the story unfolded. Some are characters that have changed as I've gotten to know them better. You know the kind of stuff I mean. 

I've always considered myself to have a very orderly mind. This is the first time I've felt the need to write down a self-editing checklist, but 2017 was an ugly year for me, and I don't trust my memory. Looking over my list, I realize I'm much more scatter-brained than I give myself credit for. Just for laughs, I thought I'd share this part of my "process" with you. We might as well laugh together.

Here it is, in no particular order:

  1. Cut info dump in Chap. 1 and weave it into the rest of the chapter.
  2. Have Casey (heroine) tell Alec (hero) about Peter (former fiance) early on.
  3. Have Carolyn Chiang (mother of Alec's niece's best friend) tell Casey about Alec's financial success with book and TV appearances.
  4. Have Casey put on slippers or shoes when she goes downstairs to confront the villain.
  5. Reminder: she's a psychologist and tends to overthink things. Use it!
  6. Include ALL senses.
  7. Beef up details re: clothes and settings. It's cold out there. These people are not all naked all the time!
  8. Add emotion everywhere!
  9. Replace cliched body language descriptions with something more creative.
  10. Reconsider Fermin's comments and behaviors. (This is necessary because I didn't decide that he was going to be the ultimate villain until I was at least 2/3 of the way through the book.)
  11. Ditto for Maria. (See note above. I knew she was a part of the villain's plan, but not whether she was an actual co-conspirator, until quite late.)
  12. Increase the humor! (As I said, 2017 was not a funny year for me, so this book is lacking some of my trademark humor.)
  13. Copy and save good quotes to use later. (I hate going back through a manuscript, hunting for quotes to use in ads, etc.)
Does this garbled mess look familiar to anyone? It's okay to say no. I wouldn't claim it, either, if I didn't have to.


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

I Love Mountain Men by Christine DePetrillo

So if you've read any of my Maple Leaf Series books, you know that I love mountain men. One of my favorite heroes is Orion Finley from More Than Cookies, the second book in the series. Orion is a chainsaw artist/lumberjack who just wants to get his daughter back from his witchy ex-wife. He also takes care of his father who suffers from Alzheimer's. When he meets Sage Stannard, he finds out there are a few more things he wants out of life too.

Orion is very outdoorsy and skilled with a chainsaw. He makes great pieces of art out of stumps. Here's a handy guide for you about the Anatomy of a Lumberjack.

And of course, what good is a mountain man without his canine companion?

Let's end with a little excerpt from More Than Cookies.

The July sunshine filtered through the maple trees and white pines, casting warm, golden streaks on the lush greenery beneath Orion Finley’s booted feet. He absolutely loved summertime in the Vermont woods. Everything smelled fresh and alive. Huge dragonflies hovered in place as they checked on a leaf here, a branch there, then landed on a rock bordering the path leading deeper into the woods. A few hawks circled overhead, letting loose screeches every now and then to make sure Orion knew they were keeping an eye on him.
Only two things were missing to make this trek into the forest perfect. His dog, a Greater Swiss Mountain dog named Ranger, and his six-year-old daughter, Myah Rose. Both were currently held captive in his fire-breathing ex-wife’s lair.
He had to constantly remind himself that it wouldn’t be this way forever. He would get both of them back. Soon. Orion didn’t care what he had to do, but Ranger and Myah belonged with him and he wouldn’t stop until everything was as it should be. He had plenty of room at his farmhouse for a small girl, a large dog, himself, and his father, Ian Finley, a retired fisherman who Orion now cared for. He could handle it all. He knew he could. Proving it—when his opposition was a she-beast lawyer he used to love—was turning out to be the biggest challenge of his life, but he wasn’t one to shy away. Especially not when the reward was getting to see Myah every single day.
Damn, he missed her blue eyes and her black hair—two features she shared with him, only her eyes were bigger and her hair longer. Her smile was definitely better than his too, because she still remembered how to smile. His lips, on the other hand, were reluctant to take on that shape since The Divorce. Since Adriana Whitfield-Finley, his once true love, decided being married to a chainsaw artist and living in the woods of Vermont wasn’t what she was “put on this stinking planet to do.” She wasn’t supposed to be “wasting her time and intelligence on someone like him.” Her words. Her razor sharp, dice-a-man’s-heart-into-pieces words.
Whatever. He never should have gotten involved with her in the first place. He knew as well as his father did that sophisticated women didn’t settle down with men like them. Men who liked to spend their days outdoors, making things with their own two hands. Men who were more comfortable wearing sawdust than cologne.
Men who weren’t rolling in money.
Orion’s mother had skipped out on them when he was ten. Adriana hadn’t made it to Myah’s tenth birthday before she had to get away from the “stifling squeeze” Vermont—and apparently he—had applied to her metaphorical throat.
He hated metaphors.
He also wouldn’t be getting into any situations remotely resembling a relationship with a woman. They were all sweet smiles and passionate kisses… until the claws came out.
No thanks.
Sighing now as he continued farther into the woods, Orion pushed aside thoughts of Adriana, Myah, Ranger, and his father. This morning was about finding the perfect trees for his next sculptures. The order was for three life-sized black bears—one of his most favorite things to carve. A zoo in New York had requested the carved critters for a display to be erected near the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center in December. They wanted them now so they could build the rest of the display around his bears. This one customer would bring in some good money. Hopefully it would be enough to convince a judge that he could support his daughter.
After taking a swig from his water bottle, Orion followed a brook toward a grove of suitable pines. Tall, straight, and healthy, they were perfect for this project. He reached into the pocket of his cargo shorts and produced three lengths of bright orange rope. He tagged three trees to mark them for his buddy, Adam Rouse, who would come in with the heavy equipment, cut those babies down for him, and tow them to Orion’s workshop. Then he’d get to hack away at the logs until the bears emerged from the shavings.
He couldn’t wait.
Carving always made him feel… free. As if he could give birth to absolutely anything he wanted out of that wood. As if it were just waiting for him to breathe beauty, creativity, and art into it. As if, without him, the wood would not have fulfilled its true purpose in this life.
He ran his rough and scarred hands over the trunk of the nearest pine. The bark scraped across his fingertips—except for the pinkie fingertip on his left hand. He’d lost from the first knuckle up to the tip during one carving project, making the entire cast of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz for an obsessed Frank L. Baum fan. If Orion had “only had a brain,” he would have been extra careful carving around the lion’s mane, but he’d still been developing his techniques. Still experimenting with which angles created the right effects, which tools did the job best. He’d made a rather important note to self on that job. Under no circumstances should one’s pinkie finger come into contact with the grinder’s blade. Not good. Lots of blood. Lots of swearing.
Looking at that abbreviated finger now, he shook his head and pulled out his cell phone.
“Hey, Adam,” he said when his buddy answered, “I’m west of the brook, about two-thirds of a mile in. Tagged three trees.”
“Got it,” Adam said. “I’ll grab those for you tomorrow.”
“Thanks, man.” And that ended their conversation. Vermont men didn’t need a lot of words to get jobs done. Orion liked it that way.
Carrying his phone, he turned to retrace his steps back to his workshop. As he walked, dog barks and a few gunshots echoed somewhere closer than he would have liked. Damn hunters were always parading through his land with their bloodhounds, cornering bears, and calling it a sport when they put a bullet into the trapped creature.
As far as Orion was concerned, there were much better ways to spend one’s time.
He continued on his way but stopped when a deer bounded across his path. Its big brown eyes connected with his for a moment then the animal was gone. While Orion stared down the path the deer had taken, another shot rang out.
Something hot and painful bit into his right thigh. He immediately clamped a hand over the aching area, and his stomach did a sick flip-flop when his hand came away wet and red. His vision got spotty. His ears rang and not in the this-is-an-awesome-rock-concert way. No, definitely more like the I’ve-been-shot-and-am-going-to-pass-out way instead.
This was so not the morning he’d planned.

See where Orion ends up after being shot in More Than Cookies and enjoy Book One in the series, More Than Pancakes, for FREE in ebook!


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

#amwritinginbetween I hope

I am not a full-time writer. I have a full-time job, I volunteer (a lot), and Life occurs, so I don't consider myself a full-time writer. But I am a professional writer, both in my Day Job and in my fiction job. I'm a business person and I am a professional in that I know my craft and I do my job and I think I do it well.

I have to #writeinbetween everything else that goes on in life. This is true for most authors unless you're like Nora or others who can block out their day to write and have minions handle the rest of life. It really doesn't matter if you work a day job like I do. That sucks up 50 hours of my week, but other writers have other activities that suck up their lives, too.

This month was a lesson for me in #writinginbetween, because I had to write in between pain. I had a hip replaced and that's a Big Surgery. I was mostly inert for 2 days, used a walker for 4 days, a cane for a few days, then a week after surgery, I was up and moving pretty much okay, albeit slowly.

I'm a naturally active person. I normally score 10K-15K steps a day, no problem. But this recovery has sure make 10K steps a goal, not a reality. I'm getting 6-8K a day and I strive for 500 steps an hour. If I sit for long periods, I get stiff, so that's a good goal.

I found that probably through a combination of drugs and pain, I didn't do any writing, which was expected. But it's been surprisingly hard to sit down again and focus on writing now that I'm really in recovery with no drugs and pain that's manageable. I'm working on a book that I want to finish my mid-year, so I need to write a chapter a week. I'm reviewing the 10 chapters I wrote before I was sidetracked and I'm ready to launch into new work.

I need to find that rhythm again for writing, get back into that headset of "let's sit down and get some work done. Forget about the pain and the stiffness, let's do this." The words are coming, but boy, is it slow.

So here's to all of us who have lives that get in the way. Keep chugging away at it, a word at a time. We'll get there; it's a marathon and we're in it for the long haul. Take plenty of breaks and know that you can do it.

#amwriting and #amwritinginbetween