Monday, December 9, 2013

Social Media and the Writer

I have a facebook account. I have a twitter account. I even have a pinterest account, although my password is locked and I haven't bothered to unlock it. Goodreads scares me a little because I love the book giveaway function and I would love to talk about books with other book lovers, but I've been warned by other authors to stay out of reader discussions (even about books outside my writing genre) or risk lash-back and drama. I am not sure what that's about entirely, but I am too old for drama and I don't have time for internet fights with strangers.

It's not that I'm a technology-phobe. I'm not. Case in point: I have a masters degree in computer science.

My reason for not using social media more is that I don't have time for it. At least, not the time required to use it in a way that I find meaningful and productive.

Not to start off the firestorm of "what does busy really mean?" and "why can't you just log in throughout the day?", let me explain.

I have two small children, not school aged. I am not on social media / the computer much during the day. I try to check my email in the morning. Other than that, I'm hanging out with my children. Reading to them. Playing at the park. Cleaning up mess. Changing diapers. Making meals. Fixing drinks. Creating fun games. The list is endless.

The one lull in my day is naptime (sadly, not MY naptime). When I get both children to sleep at once (a near-miracle), that is sacred, quiet writing time. Writing time means that my word processing software is open on my computer, internet browser is closed and my fingers are tapping out my novels.

When I log in to social media websites at night, after I've finished chores, writing and other work (I also consult part-time for a super awesome IT company), I've missed most active conversations on social media. I may click "like" for posts I enjoy or attempt to follow conversations on twitter, but for the most part, I'm not engaging with others. I'm not forming e-relationships or chatting about news and personal posts.

Because I am not getting this real-time interaction, it's hard to connect with readers and writers. I love it when a reader or writer reaches out via e-mail. It's a slower form of communication, which means I can keep up with it.

What does this mean for me as a writer?

From a connecting with readers perspective, I'm missing out on chatting and e-meeting some cool people.

From a business and book sales perspective, I have no idea.

I've seen authors with 50-visit blog tours and reading/reviewer clubs and a thousand followers on twitter and dozens of facebook posts daily. I've seen authors drumming up book reviews and facebook likes. I am sure these authors love the all-day-long interaction and I assume they are full-time writers. When I had a Monday-Friday 9-5pm office job, my boss would have been less-than-thrilled if I had been cruising around on social media all day. I have no idea how these social media moguls are getting words on the page for their books, but I imagine they are awesome multi-taskers.

I'm not clueless. I'm tuned into the buzzwords: discoverability, sell-through, hybrid author. I am aware a writer needs some promotion/marketing plan.

Here's mine:
1. Write books. Write the best books I can. Repeat.
2. Read a select number of blogs about publishing and/or run by readers/writers. Just the ones I actually enjoy.
3. Keep my website up to date. If anyone wants to know anything about my books, it's there. Or, there's a place where they can ask...via email.
4. Respond to everyone who emails my author account.

Simple. Perhaps not as effective as others, but it's the best I can do for now. Maybe if I ever turn Full Time Author and my children are in school during the day, I'll get to connect in more. Although by then, I imagine facebook and twitter will be archaic and there will be some new way to connect.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Author Speaking Engagement and a New Project

It's been a little while since I posted, but I haven't been resting on my laurels. I have new books in the works, edits on other books and some news! But first, I wanted to post about my first author speaking engagement. When I was asked to speak at a local women's club about being an author, I wasn't sure what to talk about.

Most readers don't want to hear about the nitty-gritty of publishing, but I wanted my talk to be informational and interesting.

Here's the basic outline I used:
1. Thank the hostess! A speaking engagement is a great opportunity to reach out and talk to readers and gain a few new readers.
2. Brief description of who I am. The mini-bio
3. How I got started writing and the road to publication
4. My favorite authors
5. The hardest part of writing for me
6. Writing groups and critique partners
7. Why I write for Harlequin
8. Where I get my ideas
9. What I write - what genre, how graphic, etc.
10. How I do research
11. How I write : where, when, how often
12. A little bit about each of my books
13. General Q&A

I bought along some copies of my books and offered them for sale. I sold every single one I'd brought.

The way I handle the sales was to:
1. Buy copies ahead of time (hard to gauge how many. I didn't want to be stuck with 2 dozen more copies of my books)
2. Offer them for the price I paid (the cover price is $5.50, but I sold them for $5.00 so I didn't have to deal with change)

The women were welcoming and kind and despite being nervous about speaking in public, I had a great time! The questions asked were informed and since I love talking about books, writing and publishing, it was very cool.

Now for the news I mentioned.

I've been asked to be part of a Harlequin Romantic Suspense continuity to be published at the end of 2014. The books will be a spin-off of the 2013 continuity The Coltons of Wyoming.

I don't know which authors I will be working with, but my fabulous editor will be editing the books, so that part should work awesomely. I'll be getting more information in the coming days about the specifics, but I can't wait to get started!

Monday, October 28, 2013

FAQ What do you do?

I get this question a lot. It's an easy getting-to-know you question. I am never sure how to answer.

I'm a stay-at-home mom by day and a freelance IT consultant and romance novelist by night. Each of these jobs comes with a series of preconceptions, but since this blog is about books, I'll stick to the last on the list: romance novelist.

I get follow up questions to this.

Q. Have I heard of you?
A. Depends. Do you read romantic suspense? If you're a casual reader and you stick to the big names - Grisham, Roberts, Patterson, King - then no, I am not one of those authors. But if you haven't heard of me, I'd love for you to give my book a read.

Q. Can you give me a free book?
A. I keep some copies of my novels around the house for myself and my family, but I earn my living from royalties, meaning I get a percentage of each book sold. Just like you wouldn't ask your mechanic to fix your car for free, or ask a musician to play at your wedding for free, or ask someone to fix your computer for free, you probably shouldn't ask me for a free copy.

Q. Is your book in the store / library?
A. Again, depends. Most bookstores do not carry every single book available and Harlequin Romantic Suspense novels are available on the shelves of most major book retailers for about a month. If you are looking for a paper copy of Hiding His Witness (published in September 2012), you'll have a hard time getting it from your local Walmart or Target. If you are looking for a paper copy of Protecting His Princess, you'll find it November 1st. All my books are available in e-book format at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Next time someone asks me this question, what should I lead with? The writing? The mom gig? What do you think?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Book Spotlight: The Wild Life by Stacy-Deanne

When Albany Detective Brianna “Bree” Morris learns that Cuban crime lord Milan Varela wants her estranged father dead, she heads off to Miami to find out why. With Homicide Detective Jayce Matthews and her ex-lover Detective Steven Kemp she devises a plot to get close to the Varela organization.

Brianna finds herself attracted to the older Milan and falls deep into his web of seduction while fighting to keep her mind on her mission. Milan is equally drawn to Brianna and vows to win her trust and her heart.

Is Milan really the villain when it comes to Brianna’s father? Or is he the victim?

Is Brianna’s father really in danger or is there more to the story than anyone could ever imagine?

Brianna risks her life to save her father’s but will she end up losing her own?


Background on the Bree and Steven Interracial Romantic Suspense series:

Albany Detectives Brianna “Bree” Morris and Steven Kemp originate from my ’08 novel Melody. I fell in love with them instantly and I knew there was more I wanted to explore with these characters. I also got feedback from readers who enjoyed them. Bree is black and Steven is white which brings in the main interracial aspect. They are also ex-lovers and Steven is still pining for Bree. Whether she takes that step with him again, who knows? Throughout the series the two have different romantic adventures with others but their friendship remains strong.

Upcoming plans for the series:

Aside from The Wild Life, I’ll definitely be releasing two more books in the series. The next, Harm a Fly comes out December 2014 and the fifth installment hopefully will be released in 2015. I love these characters, but I am not sure if I will continue the series after the fifth installment. I am starting new series with new characters so I have to see how much time I still wanna devote to Bree and Steven. So other than the next two releases, it’s hard to say what will be in store for Bree and Steven. Whatever happens, I listen to my muse in order to make the right decision.

Why The Wild Life stands out from the current books in the series:

In The Wild Life readers get a glimpse into Bree’s childhood and her strained relationship with her father, George. When people see what Bree went through because of her father it will give them a better understanding as to why she is the way she is. Bree has some issues committing and that’s one of the main reasons she continues to push Steven away. Her behavior is a direct result of her nonexistent relationship with George.

Do you think fans of the series will be happy with The Wild Life? Why?

I hope so. From the feedback I’ve gotten from advanced reviews I think they will like The Wild Life better than the previous installments. Everyone who’s read it says it’s the best book in the series. The story is quite different from the other two because it takes place in Miami, and this installment focuses on Bree and her upbringing.

What personal growths or challenges does the main character go through in The Wild Life?

Bree struggles with the fact that her father was never there for her. What hurts more than that is when she finally realizes he will never change, and that who he has been is just who he is. Bree wanted a father and she never got that in George. It’s heartbreaking when she confronts those painful feelings about how he abandoned her. Bree becomes a woman all over again in this book. She has to accept that when it comes to George, she will never find a happy ending. So she learns to accept her father for what he is even though it hurts.

If The Wild Life became a film, who would you cast as the main characters?


I created Steven’s character because of my obsession with the actor Stephen Dorff. I would love for him to play Steven. There are other talents that would work such as Jude Law, Jeremy Renner, Simon Baker, etc. But I patterned Steven after Stephen Dorff. The only difference is that my Steven is taller. LOL! I’ve always had two women in mind for Bree. Gabrielle Union and Sanaa Lathan would be perfect as Bree.

Why should existing and potential fans check out the book?

People familiar with my books have come to know me for bringing out some knockout twists and I hope I don’t disappoint with this book. Readers seem to enjoy my style so those who’ve read the other installments will wanna read this one. Also, if people want a taste of something different such as suspense with interracial romance subplots, look no further.

Excerpt:

“What do you expect me to say, Steve?” Brianna sat beside Jayce. “I don’t even know what’s going on.”

He bent over her. “Can’t anything go well for you, woman? Why do you keep getting yourself in these predicaments?”

“Oh excuse me for coming home and finding a man in my kitchen!”

Jersey tugged on her ears. “I have a huge headache and one of my officers has just been attacked. The last thing I need is for you two to argue.”

Steven and Brianna made faces at each other.

“We’re worried about you, Morris. Tell us what’s going on so we can help.”

“I don’t know if you can help.”

Davis slunk into the room and rested at Brianna’s feet. She scooped up the brown feline.

“The guy that tried to kill me…” She scratched Davis’ ear. “Well he worked for Milan Varela.”

Steven gaped. “What the f*** did you just say?”

Brianna shrugged.

“Are you f***** kidding me? A man who worked for the head of the Southern Cuban Mafia was here? Here?”

“I was telling Bree that a friend of mine in the FBI might be able to help her,” Jayce said. “It’s about her father. They’re looking for him.”

“George?” Jersey’s green eyes beamed from behind her glasses. “What the hell would the Cuban Mafia want with George?”

“No telling. You know the life my father lives. It’s full of risks and he makes no apologies for it.”

Jersey touched the back of her neck. “How the hell could he even get close to Milan Varela in the first place?”

“So this is the type of stuff your father’s always into?”

“Jayce my father has never been a father to me. He stays gone for decades at a time and pops up probably once every ten or fifteen years when he wants something. I wonder if he even remembers he has a
daughter half the time.” She kissed Davis’ head. “Right now what’s important is this mess he’s got going with Milan. Why would he want my dad dead?”

“I just can’t believe this. I mean your dad has been involved in some shady things during his life but nothing like this. What are you gonna do, Morris?”

“As much as I hate him, I can’t let anything happen to him. I gotta find out where he is.”

The Wild Life is available in print and e-book.

Nook

Kindle

Stacy-Deanne's Website

Facebook

Twitter

Mailing list

Thanks, Stacy-Deanne for stopping by to tell us about your book!

Friday, September 27, 2013

FAQ: You just use a formula to write your books, right?

This is a question I get from time to time: So, you use a formula to write your books, right?

I've heard other romance writers address this question before by saying, "no, there is no formula." I think writers feel insulted when someone tells them their craft can be copied by using a formula.

But I'm going to let you in on a little secret: I use a formula.

And I'm going to share it with you.

If you want to write a good romantic suspense novel, all you need is:

A hero

A heroine

A romance

A plot

A conflict

A setting

A happily ever after

I won't overcomplicate the formula, but here are a couple notes in case that brief list is too vague and you're less an addition person and more into algebra.

A hero: compelling and worth reading about. the reader should care about him. he needs something at stake. provide enough backstory to give him depth, but not too much to slow the pace. the book is taking place in the present - not the past. don't make him perfect. perfect is boring. know his motivations. what makes him tick? what does he want? what is keeping him from getting it?

A heroine: ditto.

A romance: after an initial attraction or chemistry, the characters should fall in love over the course of the novel. they need a reason to want to be together and stay together despite the problems that threaten to pull them apart and the murkiness of the future. they can't be completely in love with no issues because it's hard to keep the tension when this is the case.

A plot: what happens in the book. not a series of unrelated events, each scene should build on the one before it. don't resolve conflicts too quickly. start the scene with a hook and end with a cliffhanger. make the reader turn the page.

A conflict: you need an internal conflict for each character, an internal between them, and an external conflict which may take the form of a villain or a disaster or anything else that causes a problem for your characters.

A setting: should be an active part of the book. where the book takes place should affect the plot and the characters.

A happily ever after: tie it all up with a bow! if you have any secondary characters who are loose threads, that's a great opening for your next book.

See? Simple.

Now: get writing!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Amazing Benefits for the Workforce

I read an article in Working Mother magazine about the benefits that the best companies in the United States offer to their employees. I've worked at some nice places and some not-so-nice places, but these benefits amaze me!

- mentoring programs
- paid maternity leave
- paid volunteer time
- on-site fitness centers and classes
- massage therapy services at work
- prepared take home meals
- backup childcare

Since I work from home, I can't expect to be offered these benefits, but kudos to the companies on the list!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Protecting His Princess Giveaway

My advanced reader copies of Protecting His Princess arrived today. I'm thinking about fun giveaways, like offering copies if a reader sends me a picture of one of my other books in a cool place (poolside? on the beach?) that I could post to my website/blog. What do you think?

To everyone who's written a review or emailed me about my other books, thank you so much for your support. It means a lot to me.

I am working on line edits for Traitorous Attraction (book 4) now. Connor's story has a tentative pub date of May 2014.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Wounded Warrior Project

Brady Truman, the hero in SHIELDING THE SUSPECT, is injured and unable to return to active duty as an Air Force pararescueman. He has lost his career and his goals for the future are destroyed. He feels adrift in confusion and hurt and bitterness. By the end of the novel, Brady gets help from a great organization.

While there are many organizations who do wonderful work for veterans, I wanted to highlight the Wounded Warrior Project. The Wounded Warrior Project helps wounded soldiers to adjust life outside the military. I encourage you to visit their website (waiting on approval to post the link). It's a thank you to all that our country's servicemen and servicewomen have done to protect freedom, democracy and the pursuit of happiness.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Things I thought would change when I became a writer (but didn't)

FANTASY #1: I would be asked a lot of about my writing because the person asking wants to publish their book too.

REALITY #1: Family and friends occasionally inquire about my books.

I receive the occasional email from readers about my book.

I haven't had anyone who has written a book ask about my experiences. I have had people say they've thought about writing a book, but don't have the time.

I could talk for hours about my books and publishing in general, but I try to temper how much I say. Not everyone wants to listen to me endlessly gush about make-believe characters or being an author. At the same time, I need to work on self-promotion. I am never sure how to respond to, "you're a real writer? like with a book?" Uhm, yes and yes.

I also believe everyone has at least one book in them. All they have to do is get it on paper.


FANTASY #2: I would be recognized while out and about.

REALITY#2: Nope. Hasn't happened. I am glad for that. Although I predict the first time I am recognized, I'll be wearing yoga pants and a stained shirt, sneakers, with messy hair and running low on caffeine and sleep.


FANTASY #3: Writing would be easier and somehow I'd have less revisions.

REALITY #3: This is partly true. I make fewer 10,000 word mistakes, like letting my books veer off in a strange direction. I also know immediately when what I'm writing is totally off the mark. I still make revisions, usually several rounds worth.


FANTASY #4: Everyone I know will friend/like my author facebook account, write reviews, and buy copies of my book.

REALITY #4: Some do, some don't. Some tell me they'll buy the book and don't. Some buy the book and never read it. Some buy the book, read it and write a review. Any and all support is appreciated. I have a warm place in my heart for every reader who's contacted me to let me know what they thought of my book. It feels great to know someone has read and enjoyed it.


Ever had a dream come true? How close was it to the picture in your head? Was it ever better than you imagined?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Goodreads Giveaway



Goodreads Book Giveaway


Shielding the Suspect by C.J.  Miller

Shielding the Suspect

by C.J. Miller


Giveaway ends September 09, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.


Enter to win

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Letting my RWA membership lapse

I've decided to let my RWA (Romance Writers of America) membership lapse.

Many authors advise new writers to join RWA for the information, the industry connections and the support from other writers. I get better information from industry and author blogs/websites and I've made more connections and gotten more support from writers I've met through social media.

It's not to say that RWA doesn't provide benefits to its members. But I don't have time to engage with the organization or participate in a meaningful way. I skim the RWR (Romance Writer's Report, a monthly publication from RWA), I don't have time to read the online classes (free to members) and I don't have the resources to attend the yearly conference.

I'm juggling two young children, another job, my writing, and life. It doesn't leave much room for other things. My writing time goes directly into writing new books. If I get an extra ten minutes here or there, I do promotional work.

I hope to rejoin at some point in the future when I have more time.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Monday, July 15, 2013

How long does it take to write a book?

I've been asked how long it takes me to write a book. It's hard to answer in an hour amount. I've never tracked the total time. Below are my best guesses. I haven't included plotting time, but before I start typing a book, I have usually done a fair amount of thinking about it and have discussed it several times with my husband. I also don't know how much time I spend on research. I read a lot about the Middle East before writing Protecting His Princess, but Hiding His Witness didn't require as much research.

Draft: I can write a rough draft in a month (70,000 words). I write 6 days a week for 1-4 hours each day. That means it takes me between 24 and 96 hours for a first draft.

1st revisions: The number of pages I revise in a day varies depending on how much work the pages need. I'm thinking in the range of 10 pages an hour. My manuscripts are around 250 pages, so I can estimate another 25 hours to revise.

Additional revisions: My critique partner and my husband read my work at this point. Depending on their feedback, I can add another 25-30 hours for these revisions.

Final read through: I read the entire manuscript before sending it to my editor. 6 hours if it reads smoothly, but 24 hours if it's a mess.

Query letter and synopsis: I need to submit this to my editor so she get the idea of what the book is about. 6 - 10 hours.

Editorial content edits (feedback from my editor): This can take me as long as writing the draft, so somewhere between 24 and 96 hours.

Editorial line edits: I've never timed this, but I think it takes about 2 weeks of my writing time, so 12-48 hours.

Author alterations: After the copy editor at my publisher takes a pass at the book, I review the book again. This takes about a week of writing time, 6-24 hours.

Art Fact sheet: inputting some information about the book into my publisher's computer system so that a good cover can be created takes me 4-8 hours.

Dedication: 1-3 hours.

Summary: The short answer is that is takes me between 133-364 hours to write a book. I recently discovered that Microsoft Word has a feature that tracks the total editing time on a document. I don't know if the timer is running the entire time the document is open or only if it's the active application. For the proposal I turned in yesterday to my editor, for the first 100 pages of a new book, I spent 9776 minutes working on it, or about 163 hours. Those pages were revised several times and I am not always working on a document when it is open on my laptop.

Authors: how long does it take you to write a novel? How long do you spend each week writing versus promoting a book (book tours, social media)? Any other big time expenditures I've forgotten in regards to writing?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Protecting His Princess back cover copy

In this kingdom, not even the royals are immune to danger.

With a sexy FBI agent posing as her suitor, Princess Laila of Qamsar is home for the wedding of her brother the Emir. In truth, the beautiful royal and Harris Truman are on an undercover mission: to find the infamous terrorist her brother is suspected of aiding.

But once the festivities begin, Laila faces a bigger threat than Al-Adel. Her secret meetings with Harris pose a danger to her safety­—and her heart. To gain his love and live in freedom as his equal is her ardent desire. But will she betray her traditions for a man whose kisses are part of a charade?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Hiding His Witness in the UK

I am excited to share the news that Hiding His Witness is being released in the UK as a Mills & Boon Intrigue.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Shielding the Suspect Cover Reveal



She woke up on her ex-fiancé's boat with his blood on her hands. Is it possible that Susan Prescott killed Justin and didn't remember it? When the artist is accused of murder, the only one who will believe and protect her is Brady Truman. Brady, her former lover. Brady, who must dispel his agonizing self-doubts if he hopes to help anyone else....

To find the real killer - and the hitmen gunning for them - Susan and Brady have to deal with their still-simmering desire. It all hinges on Susan's memory. Will returning to the boat trigger her recall...or plunge her deeper into danger?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Boundaries

I don't like for my books to make political or religious statements. While I may mention a character's political leanings or infer they practice a certain religion, I don't think romance readers want any soap-boxing from an author. In the past, I've stopped reading an author when her books became a hammer to drive in points about her personal beliefs regarding those oh-so-polarizing topics.

In my current work in progress, my characters are undercover as religious figures and as I'm writing, I'm starting to worry it will offend some readers. Religion in any context is a difficult topic to broach. I've tried thinking of another way for them to be undercover ---- the situation they are investigating has nothing to do with any church --- but religious figure makes the most sense.

Risk it or edit to a cover story that's safer... but maybe less interesting?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Hiding His Witness and Copy That Book Duo

Look what arrived today!



The UK release of Hiding His Witness (it's a book duo with Copy That by the amazing HelenKay Dimon). It will be out in the UK in June.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Princess Tropes

I look for my books on Amazon. It was how I first saw my cover for Hiding His Witness and it's where I can read the back cover blurb for my upcoming books.

When searching for Protecting His Princess (Harlequin Romantic Suspense, November 2013), I noticed three other "Princess" books available in 2013 from Harlequin.

Protecting the Pregnant Princess (Harlequin Intrigue, February 2013)
The Princess Predicament (Harlequin Intrigue, March 2013)
Temporarily His Princess (Harlequin Desire, May 2013)

I love a "royals" story. It's one of my favorite romance tropes. I think Prince William and Kate Middleton are adorable and now that she's pregnant, their love story is even more exciting!

What are your favorite romance tropes? Can you recommend a good royals romance novel?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

e-Book convert

5 months with my kindle and I've converted from a must-have paperback reader to all e-books. It wasn't easy to get me to read e-books. I resisted buying a kindle for years. I worried I would never use it. I thought it was a waste of money. I thought I could use the kindle app and read on my laptop, which I rarely did because it felt like work.

In the end, I didn't actually buy my kindle. My husband gave it to me as a gift for Christmas. He said it was something I needed for my job and as a writer, I should know more about e-books.

He was so right. As usual.

I don't go a day without using it. I love it. LOVE it. I can read in the dark. It fits in my diaper bag. My children cannot rip the bookmark out of it (they haven't figure out how to turn it on yet). I can get more books with a few clicks when I run out of things to read. Genius in every way.

My one gripe is e-book pricing. I will NOT buy a book at all if the e-book is more expensive than the paperback. I've had my eye on a *certain* book for a long time, but can't justify paying extra to have the e-book and I don't want the paperback. As much as I've learned about publishing, I don't understand why an e-book would be more expensive than the paper version. *shrug* Book budget gets spent elsewhere.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Busy Writer Mom solution: The Fresh 20

I've been looking for a way to cook my family fresh, healthy dinners. I don't have a lot of free time, I go to the food store once a week (sometimes less often) and the meals need to be suitable for my entire family (aged 2 years - adult). I don't mind making slight modifications - like say, leaving pepper off something my younger child will be eating. I have at least a dozen cookbooks. With the exception of my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, most have been opened and used less than 5 times each.

Enter the Fresh 20.

I read an article in Shape Magazine introducing the Fresh 20. What drew my attention was the shopping list. It was succinct and were ingredient I like and have used before. I don't make recipes that require a small amount of a rare / difficult to find ingredient because I end up spending too much money on it and then I (1.) don't enjoy it or (2.) it spoils.

What I liked about the Fresh 20:
- easy to follow instructions
- meals were planned for me. I knew what I was making for dinner each night. No last minute scrambling.
- food smelled good when cooking (enticed the family to the dinner table) and tasted great.
- the food was fresh. I felt like I was putting a healthy meal on the table for my family
- the variety was good. I didn't feel like we were eating the same thing every day.
- the "pantry" items were items I had on stock.
- Only 5 nights a week? Some families might have had leftovers or choose to eat out the other two nights of the week. We had enough ingredients to repeat and cobble together 2 more meals from what I'd purchased.

What I didn't like:
- the meals took longer to prepare than the recipe stated by 5-15 minutes. Part of this could be constant multitasking and the interruptions that are part of my life.
- one of the meals left me a little hungry (Mediterranean Lettuce Cups with Mint Yogurt Dressing). Easily solved by supplementing with more veggies and carrots I had in the refrigerator. When I make this week's food again, I will likely make chicken along with the lettuce cups.

Totally SOLD on the Fresh 20.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Busy Writer Mom: moving and looking for a new house

My husband and I have sold the house we've lived in for the last eight year and we're looking for another house. I thought the selling process was difficult - keeping the house spotless, leaving at a moment's notice for house showings, and negotiating a contract.

Finding our next house is proving challenging as well.

We have a great real estate agent, but I'm having flashbacks to when I bought our first home. I think I repressed some of the memories because the process was so traumatic :)

1. Please don't call it a bedroom if it's really a closet. The ability to jam a camping cot inside a space does not suffice as a bedroom. If I can't fit a twin bed in it, it's not a bedroom.

2. Is it an unwritten rule that if it's a foreclosure or short sale, the previous owner must trash the house to the point that it is unlivable? What are they proving by ripping the front off the kitchen cabinets? Putting out cigarettes on the wall? Punching drywall? Kicking in doors?

3. If the listing says it "needs some TLC" or "has great potential", all I can assume is that it has four walls and a roof, but either or both probably have holes in them.

4. If the listing says it's "convenient to/easy access to", it means the backyard IS the six-lane interstate I-95.

5. As we're packing, I'm wondering how I collected so many things. On the plus side, I have several large bags of household items to donate. My rule is : if I haven't used it in 5 years, I don't need it, and someone else can make better use of it.

Have you bought or sold a house? Had any problems? Commiserate in the comments.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Pay It Forward

I'm currently writing my 4th book under contract with Harlequin.

When am I in a position to help other writers? After the 5th book? The 10th? I know more now than I did when I put fingers to keys six years ago and wrote my first romance novel.

Do I have enough experience to advise someone else? Enough knowledge about the industry? Can I provide a critique of a query letter or of a chapter that another writer would find useful?

And if I do reach out to help someone else, could I be putting myself in a difficult legal situation? I've heard of writers suing authors for ideas or breech of copyright, and while many of those cases are tossed out or the judgement sides with the author, I don't want to put myself and my wallet in a legal dispute.

How to help? Post in the Harlequin Community and find out if anyone would like a free critique or for me to answer any questions about my publishing experiences?

What do you think? What are the best ways to pay it forward?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Busy Writer

I noticed today it's been over a month since my last blog post. That's not to say I haven't been hard at work. I have two books coming out this year from Harlequin Romantic Suspense : Shielding the Suspect (September 2012) and Protecting His Princess (November 2013). I've been working on revisions, line edits, and the front matter for those books.

Those books will complete the Truman brothers miniseries. The Truman brothers are based on my brothers and it was so much fun to write about them. I'd love to write a blog post featuring my brothers, maybe do some Q&A about their reading habits and thoughts on romance. I'll have to run it by them! I can call it : 'My Sister is a Writer' series. Or maybe 'Real Life Alpha Males on Romance.'

Monday, March 11, 2013

Writing on Proposal

I am an organic writer. On writing loops, some call it being a "panster." This means while I have a basic outline for my book (in my mind), sketches of my characters (on paper), and some idea about the beginning and end, most of the text between the first chapter and the last are formed as I write.

This means I do a lot of revising, rewriting, and layering.

I was given the opportunity to submit books to Harlequin Romantic Suspense on proposal. That is, I don't need to submit the full manuscript, synopsis, and query. I provide the first 50 pages and synopsis and HRS may purchase the book based on that.

On the plus side, if the book isn't what they are looking for, I haven't spent the time writing 70,000 words. If the editor asks for revisions to the plot, I have a chance to write the story closer to what they'd like the first time and not rewrite it. In the long run, this should save me time.

Writing on proposal was a challenge. I wrote the first hundred pages (that was how much of the story poured out before I was able to get a strong idea of the characters) and then I outlined in detail the remaining story. Using this method, I identified plot holes before writing. In the past, plot holes would need to be filled by making extensive edits. Time saver.

On the minus side, part of creating the story as I write makes the plot interesting to me. The parts flow logically and what drives the words is my curiosity about what will happen next to the characters. With my current work-in-progress, I know.

I plan to have the first 50 pages and synopsis polished and ready to submit in a few weeks. I haven't decided if I should keep writing this book or wait to get editorial feedback. If I wait to get feedback, I can start the next book - again on proposal.

Switching between books might be difficult. I don't want to get out of the flow of one book while working on another.

Can you work on multiple manuscripts at one time? Do you have any tips for organizing plots, characters, and details?

Friday, March 8, 2013

A Writer Friend

I have an amazing friend who is also a writer. As yet unpublished, I suspect from the quality of her work and the feedback she's received from editors and agents that it's a temporary situation.

One of the things that makes her so amazing is that in spite of life's occasional medical problems, day job work concerns, and here-and-there family hiccups, she still writes. And she still writes great books. She writes in the car, she writes in a notebook, she writes, writes, writes.

I won't out her identity on this blog. I have a feeling she would be embarrassed by all this praise, but she's absolutely a wonderful person to have in my life.

What spurred this post? After all, I've known this person for many years.

This week, after several back-and-forths with a publishing company over several months, she was given a rather... unprofessional... response from them. Details not important, her reaction was to say that the back-and-forth made the manuscript better and she planned to move on with her submissions.

That's another reason I know she'll be published soon. She doesn't give up. She works hard. She's the consummate professional.

I'll post details here when her book is released so you'll know where to purchase it!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Manuscript Format

How I format my manuscripts for Harlequin Romantic Suspense in MS Word:

1. Margins: one inch on all four sides
2. Line spacing: double
3. Indentation: Special - first line, each paragraph starts indented
4. Under Paragraph, check the box for "Don't add space between paragraphs of the same style."
5. Font: Times New Roman
6. Font size: 12
7. Word count (as of 2/2013): between 70-75,000. This comes out to around 250 typed pages.
8. Header: Last Name / Title on the left, page number on the right.
9. Chapters: type the word chapter and the number centered on the page. No extra carriage return between the last paragraph of the previous chapter and the first paragraph of the current chapter.
10. Scene breaks: use # between scenes. No extra carriage return between the last paragraph of the previous scene and the first paragraph of the current scene.
11. Sentences: one space between sentences

How I format my synopsis in Microsoft Word:

1. Margins: one inch on all four sides
2. Line spacing: double
3. Indentation: Special - first line
4. Under Paragraph, check the box for "Don't add space between paragraphs of the same style."
5. Font: Times New Roman
6. Font size: 12
7. Max pages: 5
8. 8. Header: Last Name / Title Synopsis on the left, page number on the right.

I worried about formatting when submitting my first manuscripts. It's important to follow the guidelines listed on the agent or publisher's submission guidelines, but making a small mistake, like putting two spaces between sentences instead of one, won't make an agent or editor reject a good story with strong writing.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

e-book pricing

Since receiving a Kindle Paperwhite for Christmas, which I love and have been enjoying so much more than I thought I would, I am much crankier about e-book prices. I get irritated when I see a paperback version of a book (purchased new) is more expensive than the e-book.

I have found I prefer to buy the e-book (thanks to my ever-growing family of readers, shelf space is at a premium around here) and when deciding between two books, I will choose the book I can get for the Kindle less expensively.

I cannot be the only reader who feels this way. It makes me worry when I see my e-books listed at the same price or higher than the paperback version. I don't set the prices and I have no say in how my books are priced. But I think competitively pricing Harlequin e-book could help drive sales.

FWIW.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Before I was a writer...

- I had never heard of the RITAs or RWA
- I didn't read book reviews
- I didn't check agent or editor blogs
- I didn't have a twitter account
- I didn't "friend" authors on Facebook
- I didn't use Goodreads
- I didn't pay attention to banner ads for books on websites
- I didn't write reviews for books online (I am still leery of writing reviews or rating romance novels.)

* I was/am a BIG romance reader, sometimes reading a book a day. Since becoming a parent, the number of books I read has decreased.

How I found new authors:
- Amazon.com's recommendations based on my buying history
- my local library's "new books" section and librarian referrals section (a librarian is a writer's best friend!)
- word of mouth
- cover quotes by an author I love recommending the book... "Oh, so-and-so read this and loved it? Awesome!"
- Some amount of random selection based on title and cover art (I rarely read the back cover blurb)

It makes me wonder if putting effort into social media helps readers find your book. Most of my twitter followers and facebook friends are writers and editors.

At the present, I do very little on social media. Most of my writing time is devoted to just that : writing.

How do you find new authors and books?

Monday, January 21, 2013

RITA books arrived

I received my box of RITA books last week. To my delight, they are all books in romance subgenres I've read and have enjoyed. I have six books to judge over the next couple of months, which is totally reasonable. I've already started one and it's by an author I've never read. It's a great way to discover new authors.

While reading and judging the books is a job I take seriously, I am trying not to overthink the scores. I've read hundreds, of not thousands, of romance novels over my lifetime. I know what I like and while it's subjective to give a score, I can give a fair and honest rating.

I can't wait to find out the winners. Maybe it will be one of the books in my stack!