Cover Reveal!

It’s time to reveal my new cover for Concealed Love! This romantic suspense is a thrilling, contemporary romance set in San Francisco.

E-book versions will be releasing in March 2018.

Cover design by Melody Pond.


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Twenty-five year old Brooke Anderson has spent a lifetime searching for love. As her relationship with Carlos, her live-in boyfriend spirals out of control, Brooke encounters her childhood sweetheart, Adam. Daring to hope, Brooke attempts a fresh start with love and an exciting new career as a designer but first she must confront Carlos.

When she discovers Carlos has ties to the criminal underground in San Francisco, she knows he won’t let her go easily. As events turn violent, Brooke learns Adam is also a target for Carlos’s revenge.

After the city of San Francisco is rocked by an earthquake, only one man in Brooke’s life will remain standing. The fog of San Francisco threatens to conceal more than her love.


 

InD’Scribe Tribe

 

Whew! I made it out of LA and landed home with a bag full of books, new connections and a whole lot of inspiration. As a first-time attendee at the 2017 InD’Scribe Author/Reader Con, I was apprehensive, curious and completely excited to be a finalist and participate in a live convention with other authors and readers.

So, did I win? Nope. But making it as a finalist was pretty darn thrilling nevertheless. I had a fantastic weekend, dressing up as a Renaissance princess, getting books signed by authors, and meeting countless industry professionals. What fun!

I enjoyed the workshops of course, learning plenty along the way. The evenings were a hoot, mingling with other costumed party-goers, and the red carpet? Oh. My. Splendid.

I plan to attend next year (hopefully as a finalist/winner) and re-connect with people I met and make new acquaintances.  To borrow InD’Scribe’s tagline, I really did ‘Fall into the World of Extraordinary’.

RONE 2017 AWARDS!

Yippee! I am thrilled to share with you the news that my latest release, A Time for Love in Paris, is a finalist in the prestigious RONE Awards! Join me and several authors at the reader/author con/RONE Awards Gala, happening October 12-15, 2017 at the Los Angeles Burbank Marriott Airport hotel. This event is sponsored by InD’Tale Magazine.

I’ll be offering signed books, and gifts, while I hob-knob with readers and other authors. This 3 day event promises a whole lot of fun and excitement for writers and readers alike, culminating in the final gala on Saturday, October 14th.

You can purchase your tickets at http://www.indscribe.com.

 

 

Are My Characters Based On You?

happy people

 

Readers expect stories to include heroes and heroines. Naturally, in order to make things exciting, antagonists are also required. I’m often asked about the characters I create, and whom they may be based on. They want to know, for example, if a heroine is based on a friend, or perhaps a relative. They ask if my antagonists are actually colleagues, employers, or neighbors, in disguise. Chuckles and sardonic laughter aside, that is an intriguing question!

Let me first state that, as a rule, I do not create any character from one individual.  I draw certain behaviors and characteristics from a myriad of people I’ve known in my life —and somehow mash them all together like a pot of potatoes—and the end result winds up as a character with real, multidimensional aspects.

My characters are motivated by their goals but they must be well-developed, with likes and dislikes and quirks. In other words, I strive to portray my characters as believable as possible. This is sometimes challenging when conceiving dangerous antagonists, as I’ve (fortunately) not had the experience of spending lengths of time with hard-core criminals. With the exception of a tour to a maximum security prison while I studied Criminology in college, I’ve avoided gaining insight into the mind of a psychopath or sociopath.

But I’ve witnessed plenty of unruly (and sometimes violent) antics of people in the past: maniacs on the road who resemble Hannibal, fingering randomly as they weave in and out of lanes; shoppers engaging in hair-pulling and fist-fighting over a parking spot; rowdy drunkenness and drugged ranting at a bar or festival; and long-ago neighbors who demonstrated manic tendencies with alarming regularity (how many times a day does the lawn need to be cut?). I’ve known people who’ve shown narcissistic behaviors— wanting attention and making choices that never benefited anyone other than themselves, and so on. I think we’ve all had similar encounters. I’ll admit, I prefer writing about my heroes and heroines, but the bad guys/gals can be fun to dream up and cultivate.

If my antagonist must be made more frightening than annoying, then my imagination must be stretched. I’ll watch a particular movie, read a certain book, research criminal histories online, etc. I don’t have to pull from direct experience if it involves a person I have no familiarity with.

I glean specific traits for antagonists from behaviours I’ve witnessed somewhere. Such as the baffling and frightening antics of a parent who screeches continuously at their wayward child in a store (maybe the kid has finally tuned out the yelling parent or he/she is hungry or tired). I’ve also observed rude behavior of people in line-ups at airports or restaurants. On the (mostly rare) occasions I’ve seen these disappointing displays, I make a mental note, filing it away in my memory bank. I should point out, however, that while I may forget the specific location or name of the person in question, what registers is the emotion I’m feeling while bearing witness to these interactions.  As a writer, I’m aiming to capture the mindset behind the misbehaviour and the impact it leaves on people. To enrich an antagonist’s believability, I’ll strive to keep his/her behavior consistent (speech tone and pattern); drinking or eating habits; routines, etc.

Either way, dreaming up malevolent, murky characters is an engaging part of the job. I like to wink at those who invariably ask, “So, you’re not writing about me, are you?” and remind them to buy my book to find out.

So You Think You Want To Write?

10 Things Writers Should Know

books at home

People have a misconception that writing, in general, is easier than it is. Pardon me while I burst the proverbial bubble here. I’m going to set the record straight (buckle up your pants or your seatbelt and get ready). I’ve included some helpful links as well.

Following is a list I’ve drafted of ‘things to keep in mind’ if you decide to jump headfirst (or continue) into the game of writing. Trust me, it’s an axe-grinding, balloon deflating, uphill job. Until it isn’t. More on that later.

HARD WORK IS REALLY PERSISTENT LOVE

1. Do you like mowing the lawn? Washing the dishes? Cleaning out the garage? Didn’t think so. Remember this: writing is not a hobby if you’re serious about it. It’s a JOB! And jobs require time and work. If you don’t LOVE writing, now might be the time to reassess your commitment.

THERE’S NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESS

2. First off, writing is a business. Sure, it involves creativity and a well-developed imagination. But if you’re going to succeed you’ll need to understand the difference between creation and remuneration. Very different sides of the brain operating here. Obviously, you should avoid vanity publishers like the plague. Check Predators & Editors and Absolute Write. Don’t go in blind and foolish. Legit publishers should pay you for your work, not the other way round, unless you’re big into charity. Or working for free. You’ll need to pay for a domain name, business cards, spend money on giveaways and print books. It adds up! Keep your day job if you have one.

OWN UP TO YOUR WEAKNESSES AND LEARN

3. Your manuscript is perfect, I know you think that (we all do). It’s a shining jewel. A masterpiece. You may wonder why the world hasn’t discovered this fact yet. Ding dong. Anyone home? You probably think you’re the best driver and housecleaner too (if you are, lead the way). There are very good writers in existence. A few excellent writers. But there are more mediocre writers and certainly crappy writers abound. You may have a knack. You may not. How to know? Have you taken any writing courses? Did you flunk English in high school? How long have you been working on your novel? Has anyone read your WIP? All great things to keep in mind.

Kind of like other aspiring greats. Remember Gustave Eiffel? His creation was abhorred by the citizens of Paris in the beginning. But he knew he was on to something. So, if you really believe you’ve got the goods, make sure you do a damn good job of it before you send it out to the masses. Start by reading oodles of books. Take writing classes. Google writing tips. Learn all you can up front about writing and publishing. Spend time editing your WIP. Not a grammar scholar? This site is a lifesaver for grammar rules and tips: https://www.grammarbook.com/.

MINGLING IS REALLY IMPORTANT

4. There seems to be a prevailing belief that writers are solitary, weird people. Well, I’m sure some are. I’m not pointing fingers at anyone but the truth is that’s a myth. You need to put on your smiley face and work at networking. There we go, that word work again.

Socialize, socialize, socialize! That means attending book signings, conferences, plugging in to various social media platforms, blogging, etc. Don’t be shy. Comb your hair and come into the light. A good mantra: time to sparkle, time to shine, time for another glass of wine!

PUT ON YOUR PROFESSIONAL HAT

5. Maintain a professional image. Get rid of your ‘lucyloveslarrydotcom’ domain name. Unless that’s the title of your book. Establish a brand and keep it consistent. If you happen to write erotica on the side, maybe use a pen name and a separate site. Consider getting a professional head shot and make sure your social media sites are similar and recognizable.

During emails and communications with publishers, editors and other authors, be mindful of your tone. Slinging accusations or bad-mouthing people is a bad idea in general. People talk, emails can be shared. Be yourself; just not your sloppy self when you’re lying in bed in pyjamas drinking beer and eating popcorn.

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

6. Just as when you learned to drive, or cook or change a tire, your parents, spouse, and teachers lined up to tell you how wonderful a job you did. Or how you screwed up and ‘need to do it all over’. When you finally get that query letter sent off, or finally get a contract or land an agent, be prepared for a whole bunch of feedback. Consider yourself lucky if you do. Unless you’ve been writing for decades with dozens of well-paying books under your belt, you’ll need feedback. Probably lots of it. This is where it’s a good idea to remember those tips I mentioned on professionalism.

You may discover your writing needs a lot of improvement. Embrace the criticism. It means someone has spent time looking over your work. You’re ahead of the game already. Then move on to the task of improving your skill based on that feedback you just gained.

BALANCE IS A FENG-SHUI, YIN-YANG SORT OF THING

7. So now you’re in the groove. You’ve got a website, a WIP, a blog, an offer on a finished manuscript. Celebration time! No rest for the wicked. This is when it’s time to get your game on and roll up your sleeves. Writing is full-time, all year long. Morning, noon and night. In fact, things can speed up quickly at this point. You’ll be so busy working on edits, building your social media and responding to emails you’ll barely keep your head above water. Don’t fall apart and decide now’s a good time for an extended break. You’ll need to keep focused for a long time. That cover reveal needs to be announced, those blogs need to be written, edits must be done by . . . you get the picture.

Avoid crash and burn-out! Early on, you’ll need to balance writing with the mountainous task of maintaining social media. Pick the ones you like the most, don’t fret over the rest. You’ll be most effective if you enjoy what you’re doing. This is when family and friends will wonder if you’re ever going to stumble out of your cave. Please do, once in a while. Writers become absorbed and enmeshed in their literary worlds but real life needs to continue. Don’t neglect your closest relatives and friends. Parcel in time for non-writing endeavors. Breathe in. Breathe out. Then get right back in the saddle.

SAVE YOUR PENNIES FOR A RAINY DAY

8. What’s life without dreams? Not so great, I’d say. We all have ’em. Dreams are important but they don’t always come true. Still, it doesn’t hurt to try. If you expect to hit the jackpot like JK Rowling or EL James, you’re going to have a hard landing. I don’t know the exact percentage, but let’s roll the dice and say . . . maybe 1% of writers become rich and famous. Not great odds.

Most likely, you’ll need to have money in your pocket and view writing as something that takes hard work that just might pay off big in the long run. It’s a strange concept to absorb. I emphasized earlier that writing is serious and it should pay you. That’s true. But I didn’t say all jobs pay well.

MIND YOUR MONEY

9. On the topic of money, once you earn some through writing, you’ll become part of a select group. However, plenty of people are waiting in the wings to make money from your slave labour. You may suddenly find your inbox filled with requests from all sorts of business people. Some will want you to buy their (numerous) self-help books about writing. Be wary of publishers seeking submissions from you directly—in exchange for subscribing to their newsletter. People will offer to review your books for free, so long as you pay first to be on their ‘list’. Reviews should not be bought and while it is difficult to get them, keep searching before you hand over money for a review. Contests abound. Some are prestigious and legitimate. Others aren’t. Research online contests before you pop a check in the mail. Here is a great link offering tips to avoid contest scams http://www.wikihow.com/Avoid-Writing-Contest-Scams.

Finally, companies who offer workshops will be calling. Check  your local writers’ groups first, they may offer free courses on the same subject. All in all, it’s your decision where your money goes. Just be aware that the doorbell will ring constantly with those seeking to take some of it.

SHARE AND SHARE ALIKE

10. Remember that chocolate you found in your lunchbox at school? Your friends peering over your shoulder wearing bright, expectant smiles? Don’t be the kid who doesn’t share a piece of chocolate.

Writing and publishing may appear as a cavernous, world-wide-web of authors with no end. Yet in some ways it’s a small nation like other industries. And similar to other careers, it’s a good idea to help out other writers when the opportunity arises. Inviting fellow authors to guest blog on your site is a great start, as is offering to provide a critique for someone’s WIP. Tweet their new releases, vote for their books, provide helpful answers to questions they have. Helping another person will not be forgotten and their appreciation, knowing the time you took out of your day to help, will rebound when it’s your turn.

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.

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.