An Optimist on 2016 – A Year in Review…It Sucked. Bring on 2017.

Posted by on Dec 31, 2016 in News | 0 comments

An Optimist on 2016 – A Year in Review…It Sucked. Bring on 2017.

As an optimistic realist (yes, you can be both), I’ve always preferred the view out of the windshield to the one in the rearview mirror. To be honest, though, on a personal and political level 2016 set new depths of suckage.

⇐⇐⇐Yeah, it was like that.

I’m so glad it’s behind us now.

2016 started out okay. I had and have a great marriage and was working my way through a new story after a dry spell. Yay me!

I’d been typing a lot – often with a cat in my lap – so the lower back pain when I took my husband to the airport for a business trip wasn’t a surprise…until it didn’t go away.
*laughing* It wasn’t the kidney stone that did me in (it was hardly my first time at bat there) it was the pain medication. The bottle said ‘may cause dizziness’. Dizziness, my eye. It took the knees right out from under me. Which wouldn’t have been as much of a problem if I hadn’t been carrying a basket of laundry down the stairs when it did. Poor Skeledog ⇒
broke my fall, and died yet again. (No, he’s not real, and my husband fixed him. Skeledog lives again!)
I was bruised from knees to shoulders so badly I was almost unable to move. Weirdly, stuff like that always happens when my husband is away. But I survived.

Somehow, though, I had lost connection with the story, but kept plugging.

Then came the shocker.

My brother died. I was stunned.

I knew he suffered from what I’ve come to call the ‘family disease’ – NASH, NAFLD. Liver disease. (I’m Stage IV.)

Our family isn’t close.

Like many if not most families we were a bit to more than a bit dysfunctional. With my brother even more so. The funny kid who always wanted to become a police officer and achieved his dream transformed into the kind of person I wasn’t sure I liked. As I said, I’m an optimist, and a bit liberal. He wasn’t either. We no longer had much in common and had stopped talking.

So I hadn’t known was how sick he was or that he’d developed liver cancer as a result of NASH.

Did I mention he’s my younger brother? (I do have to say that I heard he wasn’t sticking to his diet, the only way to control the disease.) He left a wife and daughter.

I kept trying to get back to the story I’d been writing, but just couldn’t. It wasn’t that the story wasn’t good, or that I didn’t want to write, it just wasn’t right.

The election was weirder than I thought it could ever be. And it kept getting worse. A level of nastiness that was astonishing – filled with anger, racism, bigotry and misogyny. Even more strange was the lack of thought, research and the profusion of lies. It was mind-boggling.

Like everyone else, I got caught up in it. In the interests of full disclosure, though, I have to admit I’ve always been political. If you doubt me, I have a couple of books for you to read.

Two weeks before my birthday I learned through a cousin that my mother was very ill, but there was nothing direct. I’d heard that my youngest brother, who’d been estranged from the family for years, had moved in with her to help, but there were no details.

Under the best of circumstances, my parents and I never got along – I was too smart, too cheerful, too independent. Too much a dreamer.

More so with my mother, who never really knew what to do with me.

The reverse was true, too. I didn’t know what to do with her.

My mother had always suffered from an inferiority complex. She never met a person she wouldn’t bad mouth, including or especially family.  She would take experiences that happened to others as her own or make up things from whole cloth. Over time she’d alienated me, my twin, as well as almost every friend and neighbor. Everything to her was a trauma – often of her own making. You were never really sure what was real and what wasn’t. And often it was just a way of getting attention. (She’d once claimed to be having a stroke, but drove home to drop off the dog first.)

So when I heard third-hand that she was ill, I wasn’t sure whether it was real or not. I expected some kind of contact from my brother if it was serious. Nothing. Until a phone call from my uncle that she was failing. I called my brother for confirmation.

She passed even as my husband and I were getting in the car to see her for what I thought was likely the last time.

Per her wishes, according to my brother, there was no service. No opportunity to say goodbye.

There are some who probably think I was a bit cold or distant about my losses, but I’m not big on sharing that kind of thing. First, who needs to hear it? Most have their own grief and pain to deal with, why add mine? The people closest to me know.

And in reality, death is another part of life.

On top of everything else, I broke my leg in one of the sillier things I’ve ever done – breaking up a fight between my existing cats and the new indoor/outdoor kitten.

The break was pretty creative I must say. It put me on crutches for two and a half months, unable to drive or move around easily. For someone like me, being restricted like that was incredibly frustrating. The simplest things were difficult, if not impossible.

Just before the holidays, I lost a cousin who’d been incredibly supportive of my writing in ways my own immediate family had never been.

I have to admit that I have a problem with the fascination so many people have over the death of some celebrities. To a certain extent, it did seem a lot, but how much of that was thanks to social media? After a certain age, or when suffering from disease, every day you live well and to the best of your ability is a blessing.
Zsa Zsa Gabor’s death at 99 after being on life support for years wasn’t unexpected and might have been a relief.
One the other hand, the loss of Anton Yelchin was truly tragic, he was only 27 and just proving his talent.
My mother had been ill for years, so her death wasn’t entirely unexpected. My brother died too young. He was old enough to have retired from police work, had a grown daughter but he never got the chance to truly enjoy his retirement and he’ll never dandle his grandchildren on his knee. That is truly sad. In the process, I lost half my family.

(By the way, have I said thank you, honey, for sharing your love and life with me?)

Sometimes I wonder if some of that grief is in response to the decisions we made as a nation.

A contentious election turned into one of the biggest shockers of all time by anyone’s standards and a good portion of the country mourned.

Then came Thanksgiving and with it the reminders of what had been, as well as the same kind of stresses everyone has to deal with, coupled with trying to fit in with my new family and trying to figure out the relationships. Anxiety, an old friend despite being an optimist, was a nearly constant companion. I was constantly having to navigate new waters while missing those childhood moments that were now gone forever.

Like Christmas Eve. My husband agreed to marry me on that day, on the same day my grandparents had married and my family got together for the holidays. Now I have something else to celebrate. And while I wasn’t looking, found a new family with his.

That’s what carries us all through coming good times and bad – love and family.

Add to everything else I suffered another loss between Thanksgiving and Christmas, a cousin who’d been incredibly supportive of my writing in ways my own immediate family had never been.

Did I say I’m an optimist?

So, 2016 sucked. Royally, and in so many ways. (I’m an optimist, but c’mon, let’s be realistic here…)

An old curse says ‘May you live in interesting times’.

I have the feeling that 2017 is going to be very interesting.

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The Best Christmas Present – a sweet erotic romance

Posted by on Dec 15, 2015 in News | 0 comments

The Best Christmas Present – a sweet erotic romance

*laughing* I can just hear it – a ‘sweet’ erotic romance? How is that even possible? To tell you the truth, I just wanted to write an erotic romance with a Christmas theme. The holidays for me have always been a celebration of love, romance, etc. (I was married on Christmas Eve in a reformed Catholic Church, in what had been a chicken barn before family, friends, and the homeless people the church served. Yeah, I’m like that.) So it was important to me for it to have a positive theme – no bad boys with bad attitudes. There is a bit of the paranormal about it.

It is sweet and sexy. Yeah, there’s a lot of sex. *grins* For most men, sex and romance are pretty much interchangeable, at least for a while, and that’s true for Travis. He’s a little lost, too, the life he thought he had has come apart.
Mikaela is a cockeyed optimist, despite a rough background, but she does have trust issues.

In dreams, though, anything is possible.

The Best Christmas Present – release date 12/18/2015

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Why new cover art?

Posted by on Jun 8, 2015 in News | 0 comments

Why new cover art?

Well, the easiest answer is this one – sometimes what seems to work great for a particular book just doesn’t. And sometimes your vision of the art for a cover just doesn’t work.

A case in point was the self-created cover art for Song of the Fairy Queen, an action-oriented epic fantasy, for which I was delighted to win an Arianna award. However, I found that men weren’t reading it – the heavily pink cover was putting them off. So, I hired a new cover artist, and sales improved significantly among both sexes.
It’s even more important for a series, though, to have cohesive covers because it ties the books together. As in the covers for my Coming Storm and Servant of the Gods series.
With romances, though, it tends to be a bit more crucial. One of my favorite romance authors – Nora Roberts – has a number of series. Her Chesapeake Bay books are still my go-to books when I need to escape. The same is true of her J D Robb novels.
That was what I was looking for with my Millersburg Quartet series. The cover artist I hired had done

New covers

some great work for other writers, and I thought I had communicated that the books were part of a series. The cover for the first book was great…but the others had no link to the first or the others in the series. If nothing else, I would have liked to have a banner, or at least a mention on the cover that they all were related in some way. The badge she created, though, was easily overlooked rather than

something that linked the books together. It also tended to make the covers look too busy, especially the last one.

I kept thinking about it, particularly when it came to my readers. The series is different, the heroines aren’t the usual women looking for a man – they’re strong, capable women. Although they got good reviews for the content, the covers just didn’t seem to match. Then a friend saw a review of the series and was inspired to create new covers, with an eye to have elements that tied all the books together – the fonts, position, and each one has the name of the series on it, yet each suits the individual book, with an emphasis on the romance.

Irish Fling – the first in the series

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The Indie Author Group

Posted by on Jan 17, 2015 in News | 0 comments

The Indie Author Group

Thanks so much to Preditors and Editors, and all the members of the Indie Author Group!

When I first started the Group there really wasn’t much information on Indie/Self-publishing out there. Amanda Hocking was the Indie/Self-publishing phenomenon. Joe Konrath and David Gaughran were the gurus. I made a lot of mistakes.

What information was there wasn’t to help folks on this journey – to provide support and information. Oh, the information was out there, but you had to spend a lot of time hunting it down.

I didn’t want people to go through what I did, make the same mistakes, and/or have to search through dozens of pages, or through endless threads, for what they needed. I wanted to create a site where all that information would be in one place and there would be a reference library of sorts where people could go to find lists of promotion sites, editors, cover artists, etc.

With the help of Kai (Donna) and few others, we created the Indie Author Group, to share our experiences.

I started out by trying the traditional route. I learned to write query letters, and attended cons. One local con brought me in contact with an editor who liked the premise of the book I was pitching for their new line. Then… nothing. No response. Checking out their site, it was clear that their general offering wasn’t what I was writing. Reading a few, though, I thought, I can do that. So I did. To put it kindly, it didn’t work out. I didn’t like the lack of control in the editing and cover art process, and they wanted to make changes to my novel I had difficulty with. Then everyone started talking about Amanda Hocking.

In those early days Smashwords was the primary game and I put one of my books there.
(Song of the Fairy Queen) Then another. Within a few months, I was making about the same amount as I was making in my day job. Not a lot, but nothing to sneeze at.

I also discovered one of the truisms of writing – nothing sells Book One better than Book Two, and so on.

So I quit to write full time. Then Amazon created Kindle Direct Publishing and I started making real money. Several of my books were in the top 10 or top 50 of their category.

I also nearly made a critical mistake by getting involved with a so-called ‘Indie Publisher’ that was really a vanity press focused on print books, and I learned very quickly that they couldn’t do anything for me that I couldn’t do better on my own. (I only gave them one book, and thankfully got it back fairly easily.) I also found Pred-ed – the site created to warn writers about bad publishers, editors, promotion sites, etc.

When Amazon added Kindle Select, I was one of the early ones to jump on that bandwagon. Within the first month I was making thousands of dollars and my books were hitting the tops of their categories. Not free but paid.

As time went by, and the initial euphoria wore off, the maxim ‘it’s not a sprint but a marathon’ was proven. So I and others hunted down promotion sites, tested some, tried others, and other methods.

Everything learned was shared with the Group.

A ‘reference library’ of services and service providers was created in Files so members who needed a service like cover art or editing, or the people who provided them, could find one list to reference (or add themselves to). Another was created of proven promotion pages. Each would save people time and leave the main page free for questions about writing. It would also allow the service providers to reach all the members, not just the one on a single thread.

At first we allowed people to promote but rapidly discovered that some people joined the group just to promote themselves. So it was decided by the members as a whole – they were polled – to not allow promotion.

Over time the Group grew. Moderators were picked based on experience and/or personality. Some were removed for various reasons, but the core group has remained the same.

We had to set some rules to make certain the Group would remain true to its original intention – helping writers produce a professional product while helping to give them information that would help them become more successful writers. It seems to have succeeded.

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