Halloween Spooktacular Giveaway!

HandsFullofAshes
Contemporary/Romantic Suspense

I’m thrilled to be joining author Angela Scavone on her blog today for her annual Halloween Spooktacular!

I’m offering a great giveaway of a free e-book copy of Hands Full of Ashes in addition to a $5 Amazon gift card to one random drawn lucky winner!

What do you need to do for a chance to win?

Sign up for my newsletter http://www.kimhotzon.com and leave a comment on Angela’s blog!

https://angelascavone.com/

I will contact one winner by email by the end of October 30, 2017, which leaves the contest open for one week! 

Best of luck and Happy Halloween!

WINNER ANNOUNCEMENT!

Rufamous90210 has won a free e-book copy of Hands Full of Ashes and a $5 Amazon gift card! Thank you for following me! Please contact me at kim@kimhotzon.com and send me your email to claim your Halloween Spooktacular gift!

 

Book Nominations and Awards

HandsFullofAshes

Writers face a long road. First, they are consumed with ideas that need to be written down. Those ideas often take switchbacks and curves, coming out the other side after endless rounds of editing and revisions (some by choice, some less willingly). Once a story finally gets published, the writer endeavours to market their book which is an effort that will hopefully result in sales. This whole process can take anywhere from months to years, depending on a few factors: finding the time to write, the amount of editing undertaken, whether or not beta readers were employed to read and make comments, and how long it actually took the writer to get published.

What happens next? Hopefully, the writer gets some good reviews, some exposure and eventually recognition through sales and awards.

Now let’s switch to first person to gain insight into my own journey. For my debut novel, Hands Full of Ashes, I spent a long time, like many others, churning through the windmill of writing, editing, publishing and marketing. Thanks to an editor, who combed through the manuscript, offering suggestions to the storyline, and thanks to Soul Mate Publishing, who published it, my book finally saw the light of day.

Along the way, the book received a handful of reviews, some of them editorial pieces which highlighted Hands Full of Ashes in a favorable light. Perhaps the most exciting development for me (as a new author) was the discovery that my book was nominated for an award. In this case, a nomination for The Romance Reviews as a Readers’ Choice Award (Winter 2015) in the action/adventure/romantic suspense/mystery categories.

The book hasn’t made it to the final round yet, though I am hopeful. Kind of like the ‘little engine that could’, my story began three years ago as I disembarked in the mountainous region of East Africa, a trip which considerably altered my outlook on life. By the time I left the African continent, three weeks after arriving, the plot and characters for my story were taking root. Chug, chug, chug. The little engine that could still has a ways to make it down the tracks, but the important thing is that it (and I) keep on going. I try to remind myself about a famous saying, something along the lines that ‘it’s not the destination that matters as much as the journey’. If I were to be honest, I would say both are significant for me. The journey has involved the process of traveling, writing, publishing, editing and marketing, but I wouldn’t mind a bit of ‘destination’ by having the book win an award.

If you have had the opportunity to read Jan and Olivia’s love story, as they discover each other in a land full of beauty and struggle, I hope you’ll take a moment to pop over to The Romance Reviews website and vote for Hands Full of Ashes, a love story brought about from that trip into the heartland of Africa. http://www.theromancereviews.com/viewbooks.php?bookid=18133

*Voting officially begins September 11th and goes until September 30th. To vote, you must register (for free) with The Romance Reviews and submit your vote.

Exciting News!

Spring is here! With the grip of winter loosening, and the days becoming milder, it seems the days ahead promise new beginnings. Spring is a time of renewal and so it seems like an ideal time to share some wonderful news!

collage of flowers

Many of you are familiar with my recently published novel, Hands Full of Ashes, and what inspired me to write the novel. I had taken a journey to Rwanda in 2012, and my eyes were opened wide. I met people that I would never have crossed paths with in my day to day life. I returned home, full of passion, ideas, and commitment. I had a dream to write a novel, with characters spinning in my mind.

More than that, I promised myself that if I were to find a publisher for the novel, that I would donate a portion of royalties of each book sold to a charity supporting women and girls in developing countries. After what I had seen firsthand in Africa, I was determined to leave some small footprint, however I could, by helping out.

But first I had to get my book published. Done. Then I had to find a great charity to work with. After lots of research, I have selected to work with Plan Canada, by donating royalties of Hands Full of Ashes to their Girl Power campaign. For each $100.00 raised by me, the amount will be matched 11 times by large corporate sponsors. 11 times!! That’s $1,100.00 that can be raised each time I contribute $100.00

So if you’re thinking of buying a copy of Hands Full of Ashes, you can do so knowing that a part of the purchase price will go directly into Plan Canada. So celebrate along with me, knowing that together we can make a difference. I have seen firsthand the difference that clean water, an opportunity to go to school, and food can do. These girls deserve a chance to feel safe, and get an education.

This has been my personal dream – to get published and contribute to charity. Now both of these dreams have been realized.

I sincerely hope that each one of you finds your dreams coming true this season. Continue reading “Exciting News!”

Cover Reveal for Hands Full of Ashes

link for cover for HFOA Release date: January 14, 2015/Soul Mate Publishing

The Publishing Journey Continues

On some of my earlier posts I delved into the nitty gritty aspects of writing, what motivates and inspires me to write, and my desire to keep improving my ability to write. I also mentioned that I was determined to continue to seek publication of my novel, Hands Full of Ashes. Well, at last, I did achieve that goal! I had a handful of literary agents ‘sitting on the fence’ with regards to my manuscript. Their ultimate response of ‘no’ was not without a lot of positive comments about my ‘voice’ as a writer, and their enjoyment of the material. I even received compliments on the strength of my writing. All well and good, but I was looking for more than compliments (nice as they are). My goal was to get published.

As many previously published authors attested, patience and determination are virtues not to be underestimated. I had to keep perfecting my query letter and send it off. Again and again. Just when I thought my manuscript would accumulate cobwebs, there was a flurry of activity in my inbox. Two small, traditional presses showed interest. One big publisher showed interest but was concerned about the genre of my book. No surprise there. Hands Full of Ashes is a cross-genre story, encompassing many aspects, romance, adventure, crime and suspense among them.

After researching the smaller presses, and making some small changes, I chose to publish with Soul Mate Publishing, a small, traditional e-book and print publisher in the U.S. My story seemed firmly anchored in a grey area between women’s fiction and romance. Soul Mate Publishing seemed an ideal match.

So after two years, a story that was born during the long, hot days I spent in Rwanda, is going to see the light of day. The release date for Hands Full of Ashes is January 14, 2015! Over the past few months, I have signed the contract, received the book’s cover art, and joined a wonderful group of authors known as ‘Soulies’.

It has been quite a journey, with many lessons learned – perhaps the best lesson being that fellow writers and authors are the best source of information and support.

Hands Full of Ashes – a novel inspired by my trip to Rwanda

After my trip to Rwanda in October 2012, I had a story brewing in my mind.  I kept putting it off, busy as I was living and working as a teacher.  But the story just wouldn’t go away.  So one day, a few months after returning home, I sat down to write.  I couldn’t believe how quickly the story unfolded.  The characters and the plots were not my initial intention.  They just grew and developed.  I wrote this novel, Hands Full of Ashes over a seven month period in 2013.  It is a romantic suspense/women’s fiction novel and is a love story layered with political intrigue, love, death, and hope and it all unfolds in the region of East Africa.

The initial writing, I would soon learn, was the easy part.  The fact that I knew next to nothing about High Commissioners, or militia groups didn’t faze me in the least.  I just wrote.  And wrote some more.  The easy part was imagining the love between the main character and her love interest and enjoying the development of their passion and love as it grew and deepened. The hard part was the next stage – the editing.  After revising my manuscript and paring it down (significantly), I hired an editor and had the manuscript revised yet again.  The process has thus far lasted just over a year, from the beginning of the writing to the completion of the editing.  I am now in the publishing stage – with queries polished and sent and interest and requests (partials and fulls) from several agents and publishers. But one thing I have learned, interest does not automatically translate into commitment. It is a long road.

Being a writer is an evolutionary job.  I thought I knew all there was to know about writing!  I certainly didn’t.  I began reading oodles of books about writing – books by famous authors, and by unknown authors.  I read Stephen King’s book “On Writing”, which was a little like reading a biography while reading about writing.  At least it was entertaining.

I learned to pare my writing down, even when it felt WRONG.  I chucked out as many adverbs as I could stomach, and made sure that my character arc was consistent.  I carefully determined my genre (women’s fiction/romantic suspense) and lingered over the word count (73,000 words) making sure it wasn’t too long.  I learned more about grammar than I wanted to. Then one evening not so long ago, I sat down and read my story once again.  It was better than I could have hoped.  Powerful, sad, shocking, inspiring.  I wanted to write a moving story that was fictional yet also realistic.  I think I succeeded.  Although the story is a work of fiction, and takes place in Canada, Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC, it was inspired by Rwanda nonetheless.

Remembering the Rwandan genocide and writing about it

I remember watching news footage of the Rwandan genocide on TV when I was in my early twenties.  I was horrified by the images and by the inaction of the world as it stood by and watched the horrors being unleashed.  Many years later, I read a book by one the survivors of that genocide – “Left To Tell” by Immaculee Ilibagiza.  She was the same age I was when she endured the nightmare of that time in her homeland.

In 2012 I saw an article in my local paper seeking volunteers to journey to Rwanda to help the genocide survivors.  I didn’t hesitate.  I got my rounds of vaccinations, took a leave of absence from my teaching job, bought malaria pills and packed my suitcase.   Even though I would leave my husband and two young children behind, I just knew it was a trip I had to make.  And I am so glad that I did make that trip.

Along with my volunteer group (Developing World Connections) and the Rwandan based Building Bridges Rwanda, I learned how to level large stones so they would fit together to form a foundation, pillars and walls.  I mixed and lugged dented metal trays of mortar and I learned how to use a piece of string as a leveller.

I also learned to enjoy sitting under an acacia tree during banana break while the young men danced around us.  I learned how to make  bracelets from hyacinth stalks, and I learned to get used to filling my gut with carbohydrates day after day (plantains anyone?).  I hugged and played with the children of the village, every day.  And every day they smiled and their warmth was genuine.  I interacted with the women, some of whom were survivors of the genocide and I held their babies in my arms.  I watched them weave their stunning baskets and afterwards they neatly piled them on shelves, work done with skill and pride.  I experienced a breathtaking hike into the Virunga Volcanic mountains, to view the mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.  Unforgettable.  Remarkable.  Endangered.

I never quite got used to the accommodations, with the creepy crawlies and the bats in the night.  I gradually adjusted to our ‘neighbours’ – several hundred East African soldiers, with their Toyotas and machine guns.  I will never forget the afternoon while we were busy working and a sudden whomp whomp whomp and swirls of dirt lifting in the air alerted us to an army helicopter as it landed in a nearby field.  The soldiers were always polite to us.  Some greeted us in the morning or as we passed by on the road heading home after dinner.  The rewards of a long day of work and the pleasant company of the people I met made it all worthwhile.  Each day brought a new experience, whether it was the sudden downpour and the lightning that was so much scarier than it was back home, or finding a frog in my ‘bathtub’ (a concrete trough).  There was the blue monkey in the cage outside our rooms and the thrill of riding on the back of a mutatu taxi bike.

There were also reminders of the genocide – the museums filled to the rafters with skulls and bones, their machete and bullet hole marks clearly visible.  Churches which were supposed to be havens and which became graveyards, still housed the bodies of those killed inside – a reminder of how horrible genocide is.  Lest We Forget.  Never Again.  There were the faces of scarred survivors, wearing haunted expressions.  But the amazing thing I noted was  that life was moving along, people were going to school, to university, growing food, and clinics were being built in even the remotest villages.  It seemed clear to me that Paul Kagame was determined to bring his country into the modern world, and to try to bring national reconciliation to the forefront.

I left Rwanda wanting to return.  I will never forget those amazing people that shared a brief moment of their lives with me.  I think about their future and hope for peace for them.  Peace does not come easily, however, as the regions surrounding this tiny country are brimming with rebel armies, some supported by neighbouring governments.  Some of these groups are genocide perpetrators, waiting to strike again.  I hope that the mandate that Paul Kagame has begun will continue to take root and that the ethnic hatred stirred up – first, by the Europeans, then by Rwandans themselves, will dissipate into another time.   Rwanda is a beautiful country, both culturally and geographically.  It has so much to offer to the world.

Kim Hotzon

 

Writing and publishing a contemporary romance novel

I love language.  It is at the heart of everything we do – sending messages, giving instructions, entertaining, elevating or conveying a scene or an emotion for example.  Though I understand this on an intellectual level, it has always seemed to be a difficult task to portray what floats around in my mind, into coherent, knock ’em dead scenes on paper.  I know I can write.  But I wanted to challenge myself, to see if I could write.  There is a difference.

After a humanitarian trip, I had some great material for a novel.  But it’s a big step to transfer some lovely memories in my head and in my scrapbook into a book.  Never one to shy away from an opportunity to learn and to stretch my potential, I finally completed my manuscript after seven months.  The urge to write landed too frequently in the middle of the night.  Or anytime, really.  I can’t explain why, but the characters came to life of their own choice, and it certainly seemed as though this book ‘wrote itself’.  The plot and the ending came out of left field and stayed there.  Trust me, I have struggled to define what genre this book falls into.  I called this story Hands Full of Ashes.

It is a story of love and loss, centering on a beautiful but heartbroken woman, who loses her husband, then finds herself travelling to Africa to spread his ashes.  This woman, Olivia, discovers a completely different way of life, and she learns that what she knew is not what she thought.  Her values, which she had attached to her marriage, her career, nearly every decision of her life up to that point, have shifted faster than quicksand. For Olivia, survival outweighed any quest for luxury. Fear and hunger were felt on much deeper, primal levels.   Life in Africa was violent, stunning, unpredictable, yet somehow fulfilling.   A jungle kidnapping, a bout with malaria, an unexpected affair all lead her to a steep cliff, overlooking the Rift Valley, and it is here where the story comes full circle.  Her destiny is in her hands.

So that is the  ‘arc’ of the story.  How did I create the characters?  The plot, and subplot?  Did I write enough in the active voice, and avoid using the passive voice?  Were my scenes descriptive enough?  As I began to dissect my writing, it became evident that I needed to learn to write better.  Was it too much for me to want to attain the level of a literary writer?  Perhaps.  I ran to Chapters and powered through ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King.  I spent hours researching the use of adverbs until my eyes burned.  I chatted with other writers (self-published and published through houses).  The learning hasn’t stopped.  I am like a giant vacuum, eagerly filling my mind with every grammatical and writing tidbit and self-help tool so that I will never, ever, slip into redundant writing.  Phew.

What now?  Big question.  Wish I could provide a ‘big’ answer.  The answer will have to wait.  After months of writing, months of editing and revising, and then months of tweaking my query letter into a shiny, perfect document, I sent off my query to several agents and publishers. The manuscript for Hands Full of Ashes is being considered by two publishers.  Of course, I would love to attain that coveted contract! If not, I can self-publish again.  In the meantime, the best thing a writer can do is write, and that is my goal.