FORSAKEN book trailer is here!

Forsaken, my upcoming urban fantasy release is coming March 18, 2020, and to give you a taste of what’s in store, here’s the official book trailer! (And remember, Forsaken is available for pre-order now for Kindle for only $2.99.)

This book has been a long time in the making, and I’m really excited about finally getting to share it with readers.

 

Fall in Love with February Freebies

Lord, this year is getting away with me already. How is it already the middle of February? Even an extra day tacked on for Leap Year at the end of the month isn’t going to help, if 2020 keeps flying by like it has so far!

At any rate, we’ve almost reached Valentine’s Day, and I haven’t yet mentioned the monthly group promotion I’m participating in for February. It’s your chance to download not only a free copy of Dark Thirst, book one in my Brethren Series of paranormal romance, but also to grab 30 other great paranormal and supernatural reads!

Click on the image below for more info!

(P.S. The beautiful artwork used in the promo ad is by Mohamed Hassan at Pixabay.)

POSTCARD

Agents Mulder & Scully: Best Couple from a Book, TV, or Movie

Making myself take a break from yet another cray-cray week at the day job to share a post for this week’s Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge at Long and Short Reviews. The topic? “Best Couple from a Book, TV, or Movie.”

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Hands down, for me, it’s Mulder and Scully. The original X-Files, in all of its many weird incarnations was one of my favorite shows of all time. It aired during a time when conspiracy theories about both the government and the supernatural were considered avant garde and controversial, when the I Want to Believe poster in Mulder’s office was less of a political statement and more of an innovative train of thought. Today, TV and the internet abound with umpteen bazillion shows about people hunting down ghosts, Bigfoot, and UFOs, and The X-Files seems tame by comparison, I’m sure. Boring, even. But back in the day, it was revolutionary–speculative fiction on TV like people had never seen in the forefront of mainstream media before.

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Still, it could have seemed as ridiculous as its contemporary counterparts, Agent Fox Mulder no more than an early-1990s version of that whack-job idiot on Ancient Aliens with wide eyes and wild hair sticking out in all directions, rambling on about how aliens account for every major architectural, cultural, or socioeconomic achievement in the history of human civilization. Scully could seem no better than one of the female sidekicks trailing along behind the Bigfoot hunters or ghost adventurers, another pretty face and a pair of boobs for nerd men to ogle.

Yet somehow, they weren’t. Credit this in part to the acting skills of both David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, the exceptional writing, and the direction provided by series creator Chris Carter. Whether taking viewers on stand-alone adventures that ranged from eerie to humorous, and even downright terrifying, or leading us episode by episode through epic, twisting story arcs, Mulder and Scully made the unbelievable perfectly believable with intelligence, humor, and just the right amount of sexual tension to keep viewers wondering “will they or won’t they?”

Of course, if you watched the series, you know the answer to that, and you know that answer led to some casting shake-ups and other bumps in the proverbial road that might have otherwise derailed any other show. But X-fans were loyal, and Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish, new leads brought in to join Scully and Mulder in their later adventures, almost made up for any transgressions on the part of writers and producers. Almost.

In the end, the series died, and I think I never followed the movies or the recent reboot because I knew they wouldn’t be the same, wouldn’t be able to recapture the lightning-in-a-bottle that the original X-Files had. Maybe because times had changed, and what had once seemed so supernatural and impossible is now primetime and commonplace. Or maybe it’s because I’ve changed. I’m older now, and more cynical, less likely to believe…despite the urge of Mulder’s poster.

x

 

Writing the Other

Sorry to have missed this week’s Wednesday Blog Challenge. It’s been a crazy week at work, and I’ll probably spend all weekend napping just to recuperate, LOL. I did want to share something real quick, tho.

For my writing friends – I’ve been reading about the controversy surrounding Oprah’s latest book club pick, “American Dirt,” by Jeanine Cummins. It’s the story of a mother from Mexico who flees to the U.S. with her son. The author is white, and according to Latinx authors and readers, the book gets a lot of stuff wrong. You can read more about the growing debate in this CNN article here.

At the end of this same article, I found some great information I can use as a writer:

“Nisi Shawl says the takeaway from the “American Dirt” debate shouldn’t be that authors can’t write about experiences they haven’t lived.

“In fact, Shawl, who’s cowritten a book called “Writing the Other” and also teaches classes on that topic, says it’s something every author needs to be able to do.

‘”In any kind of fiction, you’re building a world. If you’re trying to do that realistically, then you are not just representing people who are actually demographically like yourself. You need to be able to do that,” they say. “It is a skill that writers need. It’s just that you can do it well, or you can do it poorly.”‘

Shawl’s website, Writing the Other, offers online workshops, links for live classes, and more. Definitely worth checking out and bookmarking. 

Weekly Blog Challenge: Books I Can’t Wait to Read in 2020

This week, the topic for the Wednesday Weekly Blog Challenge from Long and Short Reviews is “Books I Can’t Wait to Read in 2020.”

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I’ll admit, I don’t read much these days. For me, it’s a matter of finding time to squeeze it in on top of the umpteen bazillion other things vying for my time and attention. But it’s something I know I need to do, if only because it’s important to me as a writer. Reading not only keeps me up-to-date with what’s popular and selling in the fiction marketplace, but also, I find my writing style shaped and influenced by those of the authors I read and admire. Introducing myself to other writers and their narrative styles helps me to continue evolving and improving my own.

So here we go. Some of these books aren’t necessarily new releases or bestsellers. Most are titles I’ve bought in the past with every good intention of reading, but have set aside and not touched.

  1.  The Outsider by Stephen King. I’ve started watching this series on HBO and like what I’ve seen so far. I used to devour Stephen King novels, staying up all night to finish them in one sitting. After a couple of duds like Cell and Insomnia, however, I pretty much abandoned this habit. Bag of Bones was good, and I liked Duma Key, so I’m willing to give him another chance.
  2. Song of Blood & Stone, Earthsinger Chronicles, Book One by L. Penelope. I don’t read a lot of fantasy anymore, but it used to be my go-to genre when I was younger. I’d never heard of this author or series, but came across her on Twitter completely at random. I saw the cover to the sequel to this book (Whispers of Shadow and Flame) that someone had posted and thought it was simply gorgeous. Cut to me scoping out Amazon, and ordering this for myself because it not only looks phenomenal, but sounds like it will be, too.  
  3.  Drowning Ruth by Christina Schwarz. I’m not one to jump on bandwagons, so when a book is touted as a selection for “Oprah’s Book Club,” chances are, I’m going to feel disinclined to buy it by that popular endorsement alone. However, this one has been sitting on my bookshelf looking at me for several years now, and when I re-read the back cover just now, I remembered why it had sounded interesting to me in the first place. Psychological thriller. Historical novel. Murder mystery. As the old song goes, “these are a few of my favorite things…” so it’s back on my list.
  4. These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly. Psychological thriller. Historical novel. Murder mystery. A handsome stranger meets a plucky, headstrong heroine. See my notes above.
  5. The Physical Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe. Psychological thriller. Historical novel. Hints of witchcraft and other paranormal elements. Anyone else starting to see a pattern here besides me?

Runners up that I may or may not get to, or may decide to read instead:

  1.  Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve. I know the movie version tanked at the box office, but I saw it on HBO and liked it enough to want to buy the book. I gave it to my daughter for a Christmas present and may try to borrow it from her when she’s done. Of course, she’s working her way through the next book(s) first, so it may be awhile…
  2. His Dark Materials – Series by Philip Pullman. HBO is inspiring me a lot, apparently, because my daughter and I also watched the first season of its adaptation of this series and enjoyed it. I’m of the staunch opinion that the book is always better than the movie, so if I like the film version of something, I figure I’m going to really enjoy the book that inspired it.

So that’s my list. I have lofty ambitions, I suspect, but I’d like to at least try. How about you? Any books you’re looking forward to in the upcoming year, or any you may already own that you’re planning to read (or re-read)?

 

You gotta do what works for you

So today, I saw this post on Twitter that felt very relevant to me, if only because I’d been thinking about blogging on the very same topic:

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The author who posted these remarks received some pretty harsh responses, but I, for one, agree with her. The scenario she’s describing is pretty much how I go about my publishing process anymore. I do occasionally use beta readers, and I go through multiple rounds of self-editing, but for the most part, I keep things as simple as possible and honestly, it works really well for me. I’m on a really tight budget when it comes to my writing, because frankly, as the mother of two kids who will be going into college in the foreseeable future, and trying to pay off my own student loans before I need to go into a nursing home, I don’t have a lot of money to spend. Editing, cover art, marketing, and advertising can all be really expensive. I’m not saying you don’t get what you pay for. But I am saying I’m personally unwilling to shell out a lot of money when I don’t have any sort of guarantee of return on those investments.

Please note the use of the words it works really well for me, and personally. I’m saying these things work for me. They do so because I’ve worked as an editor both for fiction and nonfiction over the last 10 years, as well as a professional proofreader and copywriter. My full-time work in the past included graphic design, and I still enjoy dusting off my outdated version of Photoshop and playing around with making my own covers. I admit, I need help with marketing, but one of my author friends tipped me off to a site called Story Origin that offers group promotions and other opportunities for free, and it’s a hell of a deal.

What works for me may not work for you. I saw other folks on Twitter bashing Barbara Avon’s post, pointing out that there are lots of self-published books out with shitty covers and poor editing. And that’s definitely true. I’m not going to lie – I catch typos in my published books and cringe. I know they’re there. I know I can look at my manuscript 150,000 times and still not see a misplaced comma. Sometimes my layouts wind up looking wonky. Especially my paperbacks (and fixing these things are on my ever-growing list of things to-do, if and when I ever get/make/find the time).

I’ll also admit – my covers aren’t spectacular. I look at some of these beautiful, luminescent covers that people have paid top-dollar to professional designers to produce, and I love them. I’d love to have one like that. And there are some really reasonably priced digital artists out there — I’ve used them in the past (the cover for Freak of Nature, which will be out later this year, was made by a professional artist, and it’s way better than anything I could come up with on my own).

But I have fun making my covers. I really do. I felt the same sort of a-ha! moment inside when I finished combining the smoky wing with the romantic young couple for Forsaken’s cover as I did when I typed THE END on the manuscript. And let’s be honest, with the images and artwork available through sites like Pixabay and Shutterstock, it’s hard not to feel inspired!

Do I wish Canva.com had better font choices when I’m building my covers on them? Sometimes, yeah, but if it ever bugs me enough, I’ll pay for their premium service and get access to more. For right now, between my Photoshop and the free Canva services, I’m doing alright. I’m liking what I do. And to me, that’s the most important part.

One thing I learned a long time ago as an author is that no matter how much money you dump into your advertising and marketing, it’s never going to be enough. When my first big, mass-market title (Dark Thirst) released, I bought ads in RWA’s magazine and Romantic Times; I sent press releases and kits to reviewers and bookstores; I attended book signings and conferences galore. I literally spent thousands of dollars, and countless more man-hours on promotion. Did it net me some sales? Sure. Did it introduce my work — and myself — to new readers? Well, of course. But nothing I did compared to what my publisher, Kensington, did for me. They were the real reason that book did as well as it did, and it had very little, if anything, to do with marketing. Or me.

It was because of distribution. Kensington put Dark Thirst in bookstores, airports, drug stores — all over the place, all over the world. I know because I had readers write and tell me so. And they priced it cheap – at $3.99, it was practically a steal in the paperback book world.

That’s what got me readers. Not my name, not my marketing, not my fliers, online ads, blog tours, or anything else. Just good old-fashioned distribution and pricing.

I know I can’t afford to do that for myself. I know I will never achieve those kinds of results on my own. The only way I could ever hope to again is by being traditionally published by one of the big New York houses. And frankly, that’s not likely to happen. I’m a mom. I work full-time. I enjoy writing on my time, my schedule, and when I get too caught up in worrying about querying or making money at it, or mega-marketing it, or paying out the ass for gorgeous, luminous cover art, then it stops being fun for me.

I gave up writing pretty much for more than 10 years because it stopped being fun. I’m trying it again, and I’m doing it my way, and I’m having fun again, goddamn it. I have always said that I would as soon cut off my hand as stop writing, and it didn’t matter if no one else ever read another word I wrote. Writing is a part of me. It always has been. It’s who I am — and no one else gets to decide or define what makes it successful or mine.

I enjoy making my own covers. They’re not fantastic, but they’re not complete shit, either, and even if they are, they’re mine, and I enjoyed the creative process of developing them. I may not be the greatest proofreader ever, but I’m damn sure the toughest editor I’ve ever worked with and I hold myself to a fuck-ton higher standards than any editor at Kensington, Medallion Press, Samhain Publishing, or any other publisher who has ever released my titles did. I’m serious.

If hiring an editor, paying for cover art, and investing in book promotions and marketing works for you as an author, and results in you enjoying the process and feeling good about yourself, then I say more power to you, and I’m happy for you. I wish any author nothing but that — that we find our own ways to define success and not lose ourselves or our love for writing and creating in the process.

This is how I do it. How about you?

 

Question for the Grammar Cop: Family Is or Are?

As I’m writing, it’s not unusual for me to run into situations in which I’m unsure of the correct grammar choice. I’m usually able to solve these dilemmas quickly through an online search, or my handy-dandy copy of The Chicago Manual of Style, but whenever I do, I find myself wondering who else might have the same question. With that in mind, I’m going to start sharing both my questions and the answers I’m able to find on my blog. Who knows? Maybe it will save someone else some time and/or confusion!

For example, which is correct?

  1. My family is coming to see me today.
  2. My family are coming to see me today.

While several sites I found in my research suggested this is subjective, and you could use either, depending on your preference, the gurus at Merriam-Webster have a different response. According to their “Ask the Editor,” the correct answer would be is. 

Family refers to more than one person, true, but does so as a single unit or collection. The same is true with group, class, or team. These are what are known as collective nouns, and in American English,* they use singular verbs.

An exception to this rule is the collective noun police, which uses plural verbs, as in this example: The police are chasing the bank robber.

* In British English, collective nouns can also use plural verbs.

 

 

 

Weekly Blog Challenge: My Goals for 2020

With the chaos of the holidays, I took a brief hiatus from Long & Short Review’s Weekly Blog Challenge. But with the new year underway, I’m back at it again, and what better topic to kick things off than “My Goals for 2020” ?

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I hate New Year’s resolutions. Mostly because anytime I make one, chances are I’m not going to keep it very long. If at all. Don’t get me wrong–I think the idea of New Year’s resolutions is fantastic. Most are undertaken with the goal of improving yourself somehow, whether it be by losing weight, getting back into shape, or quitting a bad habit like smoking. And goodness knows the time period between Christmas and New Year’s Day is crammed with TV and online ads for diet programs, fitness centers, and the like to help get you motivated.

But with that abundance of resources comes improbably expectations about how soon you’ll see results, and how dramatic those results will be. When those results don’t come soon enough for our liking, we lose our resolve and return to our previous ways. And the guilt that comes with this can be tremendous. So, like many people, in order to avoid feeling shitty about not sticking to unrealistic New Year’s resolutions, I simply don’t make any.

Goals, however, aren’t the same as resolutions. Goals give you something to work toward; the word itself, at least to me, implies slow but steady, ongoing progress. There’s not that do-or-die implication you find in a resolution. If you achieve your goal, fantastic. But if not, that’s okay, too, because goals can be partially met, modified along the way, even changed altogether if need be.

With this in mind, here are some goals I’ve set for myself in 2020. I’m going to do my best to try and achieve them to the best of my ability, but I’m not going to kick myself in the ass if I don’t. (At least not too hard.)

  1.  Write more. I want to spend at least five hours per week actively working on new writing projects. While that might not seem like much, I feel like it’s a realistic expectation I can more than likely meet. As the mom of 2 teenagers, my week is jampacked with extracurricular activities, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by my schedule. Not to mention the fact I work full-time. If I can devote more than 5 hours each week to my writing, then that would definitely be a bonus, but in the meantime, 5 hours sounds like something I can feasibly do. (This doesn’t count revising, editing, marketing, working on cover art, or any of the other bazillion tasks writers have to undertake. These 5 hours would be in addition to that, dedicated to only new projects.)
  2. Along these lines, I’d like to follow a regular schedule for new releases, whether it’s for short-stories, novellas, or novel-length work. At least every three months, I want to be able to share something new with readers.
  3.  Eat healthier. In my upcoming January newsletter, I discuss this more in-depth. (subscribe here!). The closer I get to 50, the more I find myself thinking about things that never occurred to me before, like my risk for developing diabetes or cardiovascular disease. Or the fact that my ass is roughly the size of Nebraska and I can no longer distinguish between my waist and my hips. Suffice it to say, I can afford to lose a pound or two (or thirty!), and although I hate dieting, making healthier food choices could really help improve not just my overall health, but my family’s too.
  4.  Think positively. I’m my own worst enemy sometimes, and when I allow myself to sink into the depths of anxiety, stress, and despair, it really adversely affects my entire life. It’s all-too easy to focus on all of the bad things happening in the world these days (because God knows there’s plenty to be found), but I’m still going to try to keep a positive (yet realistic) outlook. Hope floats, as the old Sandra Bullock movie says, and I’m going to strive to keep it on the surface of my mind as much as possible.

So there you have it: my short list of goals for 2020. Nothing too earth-shattering or impressive, I know, but again, I want to be realistic. I want to give myself a fighting chance to succeed, so I’m starting small. Baby-steps, and all of that.

How about you? Are you a fan of New Year’s resolutions? Any goals you’d like to share for the coming year?

Witch, Please! January Paranormal Giveaway

witch please promo

This month’s ebook giveaway features more than 20 paranormal authors. Grab a FREE copy of ONCE BITTEN, my screwball paranormal mystery – now through Jan. 31!

In ONCE BITTEN, private investigator John Harker thinks he’s seen it all. But when a desperate woman begs him to find her missing daughter, John quickly learns some secrets that are best left undiscovered. (Check out an excerpt on my website!)

For more information, visit here: https://storyoriginapp.com/to/r3bZCXg