Friday, February 28, 2014

This I know for sure...

Nothing makes the time and effort investing in writing a novel more worthwhile than when you hear from a reader how much they enjoyed your book.

I received an email yesterday from a book reviewer telling me how much she enjoyed An Unexpected Gift. She said it reminded her what she loved about reading historical romances. She's going to post her review on her book review blog next week. While I don't know what the review will say or how many stars she's going to give it, it's nice to know that my book has made her want to start reading historical romance again.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Please Welcome My Guest

Please welcome my guest, Contemporary Romance Author Paula Martin. 

Paula lives near Manchester in North West England and has two daughters and two grandsons. She had some early publishing success with four romance novels and several short stories, but then had a break from writing while she brought up a young family and also pursued her career as a history teacher for twenty-five years. She has recently returned to writing fiction, after retiring from teaching, and is thrilled to have found publishing success again with her contemporary romances. Apart from writing, she enjoys visiting new places. She has travelled extensively in Britain and Ireland, mainland Europe, the Middle East, America and Canada. Her other interests include musical theatre and tracing her family history.

Setting my novel in Ireland

I tend to set my novels in places I know, or at least have visited, and as I’ve done quite a lot of travelling, I have a wide choice of possible locations. In a sense, however, I don’t actually ‘choose’ because as soon as I start thinking about a story, it seems to decide its own setting.

That was certainly the case with ‘Irish Inheritance’. Although the original idea came from an article about a Paris apartment that had been abandoned over 70 years ago, I knew my story would be set in Ireland, not in Paris. I even had the first few sentences in my mind: “A house in Ireland?” Jenna Sutton stared over the mahogany desk at the lawyer. “Someone I’ve never heard of has left me a house in Ireland?”

I did then have to make a decision about exactly where in Ireland this house was going to be, but that was fairly easy to decide, as the part of Ireland I know best is the west coast – especially the counties of Galway, Clare, and Mayo. I deliberately kept its exact location fairly vague, apart from saying it was a few miles from the small town of Clifden in western Galway (because I know there are no large Victorian houses in the specific area I was actually imagining!)

In this case, I’ve used the name of a real town, but in my other novels, I have sometimes given a real town or village a different name. This allows me to take some liberties with the topography of the place, and also to move some buildings around!

When Jenna and Guy, my hero and heroine, take a trip across Ireland to the east coast, I was able to draw on my own similar trips, and so they visited some of the places I’ve visited, such as the remains of the medieval Glendalough monastery and the wild area of the Wicklow Mountains.

They explore the small town of Dalkey on the east coast, and I had no problems with this, as I have been there several times. I was delighted when my Irish beta reader (whose assistance I had requested in checking my Irish facts) said she thought I had the atmosphere of the town “just right.”

This comment sums up why I feel happier using locations that I know personally. Not only because it means I can see the place in my mind but also because I have absorbed some of the atmosphere. Hopefully, I can help the reader to experience this too, just like one of the first reviewers of ‘Irish Inheritance’, who wrote, “I felt that I was there with them.”

Blurb:
English actress Jenna Sutton and American artist Guy Sinclair first meet when they jointly inherit a house on the west coast of Ireland. Curious about their unknown benefactress and why they are considered 'family', they discover surprising links to the original owners of the house.

They soon unravel an intriguing tale of a 19th century love affair. At the same time, their mutual attraction grows, despite personal reasons for not wanting romantic involvements at this point in their lives.

A local property agent appears to have her own agenda concerning the house while other events pull Jenna and Guy back to separate lives in London and America. Friction builds over their decision about the house and its contents.
Will their Irish inheritance eventually drive them apart – or bring them together?

Available from Amazon USA http://amzn.to/1gioD1e 
 
You can find Paula at:
Amazon author page: http://amzn.to/KtlU6Y

Monday, February 24, 2014

Writing and Reading

I love to read. Most times, I'd rather spend time with a book than with people. I'm an introvert so that may explain things. In my experience, most writers love to read so I find it disheartening when I hear writers say they're too busy to read.

Most writers started out as readers so I have a hard time understanding how a writer isn't be able to find time to read. Having a hard time fitting in life's responsibilities, family responsibilities, and writing time, I do understand. It's something I struggle with myself.

My reading time was cut down drastically when I decided to seriously pursue publication. I used to read between 8 and 10 books a month, not counting the odd novella or short story here and there. (Maybe I should say here that I watch very little television. While most people like to relax by watching TV, I prefer to read.) Before, I thought nothing of sitting on the sofa on a Saturday or Sunday, or sometimes both days, and reading for two or three hours.

Now I read between 2 and 4 books a month depending on how much writing related things eat into my reading time. Now reading for an hour at a time is a luxury.

I realize we all prioritize things by importance in our lives, but in my opinion for a writer to be successful, reading is almost as important as writing.

Friday, February 21, 2014

This I know for sure...

When I'm feeling stressed, I don't sleep well. When I don't sleep well, things that would ordinarily not bother me, do. It's a vicious circle. I've been trying different things to help alleviate stress -- exercising, writing in a journal, meditating (which doesn't work for me because I have a hard time quieting my mind).

A couple of weeks ago I came upon an article in a magazine that told how celebrities managed their stress. (Yes, I hear you all laughing right now. What stress could they possibly have? At least that was my first thought.)  One model stated she'd developed the attitude that whatever the thing was that was causing stress wasn't worth her time, her energy, or her sanity. Something about that rang true with me.

So now when I'm feeling stressed about something that's beyond my control or that I can't do anything to change, I tell myself, "It's not worth my time. It's not worth my energy. It's not worth my sanity. Let it go." Sometimes it's easy to do, other times not so much, and sometimes I find myself saying it multiple times a day about different things. Strangely enough, it seems to be helping me sleep at night. Try it and see if it works for you.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

What I'm Reading Wednesday

Sorry, it's been hectic at work with extra hours so no review this week. Instead I'm posting a recipe with chocolate in part due to Valentine's Day (yes, I know I'm a bit late) and because chocolate always relieves stress. I can't claim ownership of the recipe though. I received it from my aunt a few years ago.

Hope you enjoy it.

Chocolate Hazelnut Meringues  

5 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 ounces semisweet chocolate
1/3 cup blanched whole hazelnuts, toasted and finely chopped
Parchment Paper

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Place egg whites in a large bowl and beat with a mixer at high speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar and salt, beating until soft peaks form. Gradually add both the granulated and brown sugars, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Add vanilla extract and beat 1 additional minute.
 
Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper. Spoon 24 (2-inch-round) mounds on to the prepared baking sheets. Bake at 250 degrees for 1 hour or until dry to touch, rotating pans halfway through cooking. The meringues are done when they feel dry and can be taken off the paper without sticking to your fingers. Turn the oven off and cool the meringues in oven for an hour. Remove from oven and carefully remove meringues from paper. 
 
Put the chopped hazelnuts in a shallow bowl and set aside. Place the chocolate in a medium glass bowl. Microwave at HIGH for 1 minute or until almost melted, stirring until smooth. Dip side of each meringue in melted chocolate and then in the chopped hazelnuts. Set aside on wax paper or a cookie rack so chocolate can set.

Makes 24 cookies (meringues).

Monday, February 17, 2014

Too Many Books?


I've always believed there's no such thing as too many books, but lately I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the books I have in my To Be Read pile. I have about 15 paperback books I've purchased in the past few months and haven't read yet, about 50 books on my Kindle, even more on my Kindle Fire, and I have pages and pages of books that I want to borrow from the library because there's no way I can afford buy all the books I want to read.

The problem is that they all call to me and I have a hard time picking which one to read first. I've been reading novellas because they're usually 100 pages or less so I can mark them as read and move them off the To Be Read list that seems to grow by leaps and bounds daily. 

Apparently I'm not the only person who thinks I have too many books I want to read, my sister gave me a t-shirt the other day that reads, "So many books, So little time." And you know what, she's right.

Friday, February 14, 2014

This I know for sure...

I am so ready for winter to move on and for spring to move in. With multiple winter storms leaving behind more snow than anyone wanted, ice draped trees and power lines causing power outages, and freezing, or in most cases below freezing, temperatures, I'm certain I'm not the only person feeling this way.  I can't wait for sunny days with any temperature above 50 degrees.
 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

What I'm Reading Wednesday

This week's review is Buried In A Book by Lucy Arlington.

BlurbAfter losing her job as a journalist at the age of forty-five, Lila Wilkins accepts an internship at A Novel Idea, a thriving literary agency in North Carolina. Being paid to read seems perfect to Lila, although it's difficult with the cast of quirky co-workers and piles of query letters. But when a penniless aspiring author drops dead in the agency's waiting room-and Lila discovers a series of threatening letters-she's determined to find out who wrote him off.

ReviewI'm always on the look out for a new good cozy mystery series and the first book in Lucy Arlington's A Novel Idea Series is just that.

I liked that Lila was an older protagonist who had life experience to bring to her amateur sleuthing. I felt that being older and having suffered a few setbacks in her life, such as losing her job and having to start over, made it easier to believe why she became so invested in finding out who murdered Marlette even though he was a stranger to her. I felt she empathized with him because he had also suffered setbacks in his life that changed everything for him.

I enjoyed Lila's co-workers. Each one was  a fully well rounded character and not just a cardboard character inserted into the story as a prop for Lila. At times throughout the book, I was certain at least two of her co-workers were the killer. I was wrong on both counts.

What I enjoyed most about the book was the fact that I didn't guess who the actual murder was and why the person felt it necessary to murder not just Marlette, but another character as well. To me, a well written mystery is one that keeps me guessing who the murder is and Ms. Arlington planted great red herrings that kept me doing just that.

There were a couple of things that I felt detracted from the story. The first was Lila's son moving to a commune with no word to his mother who worried that something terrible had happened to him and reported him missing. It made him seem inconsiderate and heartless. While the commune and one of its members plays into the plot, I felt having Lila's son move there could have been handled a bit better so as not make him out to be such a jerk to his mother.

The other thing that I felt wasn't fully developed was the character of Addison. She was the intern at the literary agency before Lila started. It was hinted at by the agency owner that Addison was a less than stellar employee. When Lila asked Addison about her time at the agency, she said it was a terrible place to work, but no specifics were ever given about why she hated it or why the owner thought she was a terrible intern. Such a big deal was made over it that I wish the author had tied up this subplot instead of just glossing over it.

I enjoyed the book even though there were a few minor items that kept me from giving a 5 Star rating, so I do plan on reading the next two books in the series.

Rating4 Stars

Monday, February 10, 2014

Beta Readers

I've never used a beta reader, mainly because I never really thought about it. Although I suppose you could say my critique partner is my beta reader because she reads the entire manuscript pointing out what works, what doesn't, stilted dialogue, dropped plot threads and the like.

In the past 6 months or so, I've had the honor and priviledge to be a beta reader for two fellow romance authors. Both were great stories that I can't wait to see in print. After serving as one of their first readers, I can see the benefits of using beta readers. Not having any background or knowledge of the stories I was asked to read, I was able to come to the manuscripts pretty much as any reader would who purchased the books from a store. I was able to see things that maybe the author didn't realize were there or not there as the case may be. I was able to serve as a second set of eyes that wasn't biased by previous versions of the manuscript. I also felt like I was paying forward all the knowledge other writers shared with me when I first started writing.

It was a rewarding experience in both cases and has convinced me to use beta readers for my own works in the future. If you  have the chance to be one, take it. You won't be disappointed.

Friday, February 7, 2014

This I know for sure...

I wish there were more hours in the day. I realize I'm not the only one who feels this way. Some days I have so much I want to accomplish and still get a decent night's sleep that I feel like I have to sacrifice one for the other.

Then there are the times I'd like extra time to indulge like on the wicked cold so many degrees below zero wind chill days, I'd really like to have extra time to snuggle under the quilt rather than leave my nice warm bed to get ready for work. I'd like extra time to sit and finish a really good book that I don't want to put down and not have to worry about whatever else that's more important not getting done. I'd like extra time to sit and visit with my mom and not feel like I'm neglecting her.

I'd like extra time to...well I could go on and on but there are only 24 hours in a day so I don't sleep much (about 6 hours a night). I don't ever stay in bed for an extra 15 or 30 minutes or so. I don't read as much as I'd like for as long as I'd like no matter how good the book is, but I do try to make time to spend with my mom every day, it's just not as long as I'd like to.

Someone once told me, "Sacrifice is good for the soul." I wonder.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Please Welcome My Guest

Please welcome my guest, Romance Author Devon McKay.  Today we're spotlighting her new release Cowboy On The Run. Cowboy on the Run is a Contemporary Western about first loves, lost love and secrets to big too hide. It’s about life in a small town and family.


 Now a little about Devon: 
   Devon lives on a farm in Ohio with her very supportive and patient husband, not so patient teenage son, two dogs, three cats, horde of long horned steers, flock of chickens, and a trio of pygmy goats. When she’s not rising with the sun to take care of the daily chores, she’s settling down with a good book or in her writing den typing fast and furiously on her laptop and writing her next novel.






Blurb:
Running from a torrential past, Nate Walker had never planned on returning to a town where the only good thing had been a brunette-haired beauty with more compassion than he deserved. Finding himself on a ranch for boys facing the same issues not only taught him how to be a man, it taught him that there was more to life than running away. However, coming back for what he left behind was going to be anything other than easy.

            Nate always did know how to make an entrance once again turning Jessie Calhoun’s routine life upside down. Unfortunately, he’d also had the same impact when he left her mending a broken heart in a cloud of dust and taillights. But this time would be different. No longer a gullible, na├»ve girl, she’d be a fool to fall under his spell again. Especially now that she had more at stake – two very important reasons.

Excerpt:
Nate Walker pushed his bike to extremes, hitting eighty before the surge of adrenaline he’d been striving for flushed through his veins, scratching the surface of the itch, the need to run.
            Not this time, he told himself, now nearing close to ninety. The reckless speed made him feel more in control, despite the two reasons driving him back to the small town he never wanted to step foot in again. Both affecting him in a no-win, gut wrenching way.
            He toyed with the idea of turning his bike around and heading back the direction he came from – or anywhere else. Although the thought was enticing, it wasn’t a choice anymore. His demons would still chase him, biting at his heels every inch of the way.
            No, after all these years, it was time to face them. Besides, he was tired of running even if the outcome did seem rather bleak. Scowling, he pushed the bike further, taking a sharp corner at a life threatening angle, testing his mortality.
            A morbid satisfaction burned through him as he felt the pavement skin the side of his leather boot. The feeling lasted only a split second before his dilemma returned full force and his thoughts became more demanding than before.
            Of the two reasons, he knew which one would be more challenging, yet was certain neither would be easy – the funeral of a man who conjured up memories of a life better left forgotten, or the woman who haunted his every waking moment and would never forgive him for what he did to her.
            Nate revved the throttle before shifting down a gear, determined to take on the more difficult of the choices first.
            Time to dance with the devil.

You can contact Devon at any of the links below: 
and can be followed on twitter under Devon McKay

You can pick up at copy of Devon's new book at Amazon:

Monday, February 3, 2014

Super Bowl or Super Commercials

Every year we have a small gathering on Super Bowl Sunday to watch the big game. Despite that, I don't usually watch the game. I watch the commercials. Yep, that's right. The commercials. Most of the time I don't even know which teams are competing until the game starts.

When the game is on, I'm usually leafing through a magazine, keeping the snacks replenished, or doing something else in the vicinity of the television so I can keep an ear tuned to the television. As soon as I hear a commercial, I perk up and pay attention. When the game comes back on, I go back to what I'm doing.

Every year I look forward to the inventiveness of the advertisers. Some of the commercials are cringe inducing, some funny, and some are heartwarming. My favorite commercials over the years have always been the Clydesdale ones by Anheuser Busch. This year was no different.

Do you tune into the big game for the game itself? Or are you like me and prefer the commercials? Which one did you like best?