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Book Launch Parties, The Meaning of Family, & Other Musings

This week has been one heck of a whirlwind. Wait. I mean last week. (See? It’s already gotten  away from me…)

TresLast week, I spent my Wednesday and Thursday driving to & from Massachusetts to bring this sweet girl to her new home. I am so very glad this cat is now living with one of my dearest friends because I’ll be honest. During the time she was with us, she put down roots in my heart. I will never forget how special she is. (And if I didn’t already have two cats and two dogs, she never would have left our house for sure!)

I came back from Massachusetts and immediately started cleaning house because another wonderful friend (and fellow creative) was headed to my house from Brooklyn on Friday afternoon. Why? Because she wanted to support me in my dream and be there for me during my book launch party and signing for A Thousand Years to Wait. 

I know what you’re thinking.

I have superheroes for friends. 

It’s true. I do. They rescue animals and drive hundreds of miles to cheer on their friends’ creative endeavors.

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Speaking of friends, Friday evening, my friends and coworkers at the Exeter Community Library threw a book launch party for A Thousand Years to Wait. As an indie author with my first book, I expected a handful of people and maybe half a dozen book sales. Instead, I spoke to over 50 people and sold 26 books. I hardly had a moment to breathe.

To be fair, about half the people in attendance were friends and family. Some of my friends flew in from California or drove from Pittsburgh or Brooklyn. And my family? My family came from Massachusetts and Connecticut; they drove from Stroudsburg and Bethlehem. I wish I could reward them all for the miles they traveled to support the release of A Thousand Years to Wait and listen to me speak. (Perhaps I need to invent a frequent traveler miles system for my groupies…)

And the party was spectacular. I was surprised with a gorgeous arrangement of flowers, a beautiful cake decorated to look like my book cover, and amazing cookies with my book’s cover in edible ink. Spectacular! I was floored.

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But what was even more spectacular than anything were the perfect strangers who showed up—the people who didn’t know me beyond the library’s advertisements for the launch party. People who wanted to hear about writing, about the process, about persistence, and about the journey I took to get where I am. That was surely the most wonderful surprise of all!

To every aspiring author out there, never think you can’t make it happen. You can. You will. And when you do? Well, I hope you have the same support from friends, family, & community. The journey will never NOT be difficult, but times like this make it oh-so-worth-it!

Birthday Presents

Welcome to June! It’s my birthday month and this year is a BIG ONE. But I don’t care about the numbers. I care about the gifts. No, not gifts to me…

I’m giving away a talisman necklace and signed copy of A Thousand Years to Wait to one lucky winner. All you have to do is:

  1. Follow my Facebook page or my Twitter profile.
  2. Repost or Retweet my announcement of this giveaway on FB or Twitter.
  3. Perform any ONE of the following actions:

– Donate blood at your local blood bank.
– Donate money ($5 or more) to the ACLU.
– Adopt an animal from your local shelter.
– Donate to YOUR favorite charity and tell me why.

(Send me photo evidence of #3 – screenshot, photo of you, etc. You can tag me, @ me, DM me, or email me at writingupstorms@gmail.com.)

I’ll draw a winner at noon on July 1st, 2019. Open U.S. and internationally.

So spread the love! We can make a difference by doing the little things!

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12 Books—Month 5

This month, in my Twitter-Friend Book Review, I chose Katrina Ariel’s Wild Horse Heart. I first glimpsed this book when Katrina and I became friends on Twitter and I was lucky enough to read some of her other work as a critique partner long ago. Since I already knew I enjoyed her writing, I bought a copy of Wild Horse Heart and jumped in.

Given my love of horses, this book was an obvious choice. A light contemporary romance, Wild Horse Heart is a story about taking big chances, starting over, and learning to love yourself. It was an easy read and I finished it in about two days. Plus, let’s take a moment to talk about this gorgeous cover art, shall we? Love.

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Ariel obviously enjoys the outdoors and her love of nature shines through in her work. The descriptions of landscape in particular had me itching to get in the car and start driving westward once more, longing for fresh air and wide open spaces.

If you like romance, enjoy a little Hollywood escapism, and love the idea of stepping out of your own life and into a new one, this is the perfect read.

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My horse is a Standardbred, a retired racehorse. My sister has a mustang, just like those in Katrina Ariel’s book!

Will Rise From Ashes

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook or if you follow this blog, you know I’m a huge fan of supporting other authors, and you’re probably aware that I’ve already supported my good friend and author Jean M. Grant twice this year with two of her releases.

Now join me in welcoming her back to my blog for her third (and final) release of 2019. This lady has been working her tail off for sure, but I have never been happier to see it pay off.

Jean’s latest novel, Will Rise From Ashes, is her first foray into women’s fiction and it’s a gem in every way. I’ve read the first version and I’ve read the finished version, and this story just tugs at a mother’s heartstrings.

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So, without further ado, let’s get into an interview with Jean.

LRS: Can you give us a quick synopsis of Will Rise From Ashes?

JMG: AJ Sinclair is a young widow, on a cross-country journey with her autistic/Asperger’s 9-year-old son in the wake of the Yellowstone supervolcano eruption. Her other younger son is missing after the eruption and she needs to find him. Along the way, her son and a stranger she meets show her a world that she’s almost forgotten…that living is more than mere survival.

LRS: I know you and your love of research. Tell me how you went about it in order to write this book.

JMG: Simply put, heaps of reading, exploring, and travel. My background is in science (microbiology, immunology, biology, and marine science—I spent a lot of time fine-tuning my interests in college and graduate school), and I love traveling and hiking. The idea of Will Rise from Ashes came from a bit of my own life (as a parent with an autistic child) and my love of nature…I asked myself what would happen if the Yellowstone supervolcano erupted? Volcanoes are a constant topic in our household. Bam! My story came. 

Then, road trip time! I’d already visited the lovely national park in the corner of Wyoming as a child and took another trip this time with my family, 4 years ago. This highlight of our national park system did not let me down. I was walking on ground zero—research moments were everywhere! We also toured other geothermal wonders throughout the Pacific Northwest on that trip. The bright sapphire-blue Crater Lake was one of my favorites and meandering through the observation areas of Mount St. Helens gave me shivers. I returned home with piles of books and dug into the story. Along the way, I’d stop to dig deeper with research. And up front, I take careful character development into consideration. My stories tend to have journeys of the body and heart, and this one takes my characters from Maine to Colorado. Talk about a road trip. The experts say “write what you know” and for me that was science, journeys, and parenting. I hope my readers enjoy AJ and Will’s journey in Will Rise from Ashes as much as I do.

LRS: Any quick and easy facts you learned along the way?

JMG: This is where the scientist in me (I have degrees in Biology, Marine Science, and Microbiology) comes out! Yellowstone is a scientist’s Disney World. 

How about a few Fun Facts about Yellowstone National Park? 

  1. It became the first National Park in 1872. Over 5 million people visit it annual.
  2. Yellowstone is a hydrothermal wonderland with over 10,000 hydrothermal features: geysers, hot springs, mudpots, steam vents, and over 500 geysers.
  3. The park is the size of Delaware and Rhode Island combined, covering 2.2 million acres.
  4. Yellowstone is a supervolcano. Two massive magma bodies bubble beneath the park. 
  5. There are over 20 supervolcanoes across the globe, Yellowstone being one of them.
  6. The park is not all geology wonderland…there are hundreds of unique bird, fish, and mammal species in this gem in northwest Wyoming. Some signatures: bears (black and brown/Grizzly), bison, and wolves. Because of extensive programs, endangered species now flourish in the park.
  7. Old Faithful has been very faithful, erupting approximately every 90 minutes.
  8. Sadly, human trash and pollution has caused many of the vibrant hot pools to lose their color over the years. However, Yellowstone has created innovated programs to manage waste and human impact.
  9. Yellowstone has had 3 [2 of them being “supervolcanic”] caldera-forming eruptions over the past 3 million years (2.1 million, 1.3 million, and 640,000 years ago, respectively). Will it erupt again? Yes. Soon, like tomorrow? Not likely. The last eruption: 174,000 years ago, with 60 smaller ones since.
  10. The VEI scale measures explosivity of volcanoes and runs from 0 to 8.
  11. Be safe and read danger signs! To date over 92 people have died in the park, mostly from falling into burning hot springs, off ledges, or tempting fate with a bison.

Where can you learn more? I have piles of geology, volcano, and Yellowstone books at home, but the USGS and Yellowstone National Park websites are great places to get accurate facts. Happy digging, my aspiring geologists!

LRS: Tell me about Will Rise From Ashes and your shift from historical romance into women’s fiction.

JMG: Will Rise from Ashes was by far my hardest book to write. For many reasons, some personal, some technical. I’d been writing romances with HEAs for so long, shifting to women’s fiction with grittier topics took some getting used to. The romantic in me though, did toss in a romance subplot, and I am a sucker for a happ(ier) ending.

A few more facts about this book:

  1. I began writing it in 2015, 4 years ago. The first draft took a year (while working part-time and around kids’ busy schedules). Editing took a few more years…
  2. It underwent at least 8 full-length revisions before I submitted to my editor at The Wild Rose Press. I’ve also written/edited the entire manuscript at least 20 times (that is 400 pages x 20 = 8,000 pages. It’s no wonder authors can be a little nutty!)
  3. It’s my first book written in both first person (AJ, the mother) and third person (Will, the son).
  4. My villain is a volcano!
  5. The book spans over a month of time and over 2,000 miles.
  6. My theme of heartache, healing, and hope dominates this book.
  7. It is the 7th book I’ve written, but 4th published. (Yeah, that’s some funny math. Hint: 3 books are now shoved in drawers as “practice” novels).
  8. The story tackles topics of widowhood, anxiety, autism, and redemption.
  9. I threw everything but the kitchen sink at AJ. I love an emotional journey, but I do enjoy lots of external conflict and roadblocks (teehee, in this case, literal roadblocks).
  10. Its title was changed from the original. And nope, I won’t tell you the first one, but it took quite some convincing from my editor to change it!
  11. This book underwent the most “killing my darlings” (aka scene slicing!) of all my books. All for the better, or course!

LRS: What are some of your favorite things from Will Rise From Ashes?

JMG: 

  1. Experimenting with point of view. I enjoyed writing from 9-year-old Will’s POV for some scenes. This was my first time writing in first person (AJ, the protagonist).
  2. The science. Researching (and traveling to) Yellowstone still makes me smile. I am a scientist, nature-lover, and traveler. Put all three together and I am a grinning fool!
  3. The physical journey. I have printed out maps from online stitched together with tape and folded in a drawer. My master map is marked up with plot points, dates/timelines, and places. I triple-checked it for accuracy each time I wrote another part of the story. The map still sits in my drawer with other plotting and writing pages/charts.
  4. Will’s resilience.
  5. AJ’s perseverance and growth/character arc. 
  6. Reid’s gentle, wise nature.
  7. Harrison’s guiding presence in AJ’s life, even from beyond the grave.
  8. Scene? That’s always hard to choose. The romantic in me likes the camp-fire scenes between Reid and AJ. The mom in me likes the pizza shop scene. The HEA-phile in me likes the last scene.
  9. Writing a strong heroine, who is also emotionally wounded and finding herself while on a road to healing.
  10. And finally, that my editor at The Wild Rose Press totally “got” what I was going for with this story and is my biggest champion.

 

And no interview would be complete without including an excerpt from the book, right? Here’s one of my favorite passages from Will Rise From Ashes, when widowed A.J. and her son Will meet a hitchhiker on the road when their car has blown a tire…a hitchhiker they formerly passed instead of offering a ride.


Excerpt

Even from far away, I recognized the man’s plaid long-sleeved shirt and the large backpack, but now he was walking alongside a bike on his approach. 

“Hey, look! It’s that guy you drove past this morning!”

 I shuddered inwardly. Well, karma just bit me in the butt. 

“How did he catch up with us?” Motherly instinct took over as I rose, my legs wobbly. “Will, stay there. Here, take this,” I said, handing him the tire iron.

 “We already tried that, Mom.” 

“Not for that, Will.” 

He scratched his brown hair, which was overdue for a cut, and looked at me, confusion wrinkling his brow. 

“Be my wizard, Will. It’s your sword.” 

“Wizards have wands.” 

“Will…” 

The circuit connected. “Oh…yes, Mom, I’ll protect you!” 

I smiled faintly. “Thank you, honey.” I didn’t want to explain further that it was me protecting him. I didn’t want to say that if something happened, to run and hide in the woods. Because he would run and hide. Then what? Who would come help? 

I shoved my hand into my front jeans pocket to nestle my fingertips around the pocket knife I had given Harrison for our wedding anniversary. The man slowed his bicycle as he drew nearer. He gave me an understated, yet significant, nod. The nod of understanding, of kindness. I didn’t buy it. 

“Hello, again,” he said. 

Ouch.


Are you hooked? Do you just love Will? (I do!) You can get order a copy for yourself at any of these sites below!

Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble ~ iTunes ~ Kobo ~ GooglePlay

And don’t forget a list of things you can do to help budding authors like Jean Grant!

More on Author Jean M. Grant below. Follow her on social media!

Website ~ Twitter  ~ Facebook ~  Goodreads ~ Bookbub ~ Amazon Author Page ~  The Wild Rose Press

J Grant JPEG squareJean’s background is in science and she draws from her interests in history, nature, and her family for inspiration. She writes historical and contemporary romances and women’s fiction. She also writes articles for family-oriented travel magazines. When she’s not writing or chasing children, she enjoys tending to her flower gardens, hiking, and doing just about anything in the outdoors.

The Release Day Plan

So what does one do on the day their very first book launches into the universe? Here’s a list so you can see how incredibly *unusual* today really is.

In order, I…

  1. Got kids up and ready for school.
  2. Picked up extra kid to take to school.
  3. Did the social media thing.
  4. Picked up older kid and another extra kid from 1/2 day of school.
  5. Cleaned multiple litter pans (we’re fostering, so it’s more than just my own cats).
  6. Cleaned yard of dog poop. (Exciting, right?)
  7. Mowed the lawn.
  8. Did the social media thing.
  9. Picked up younger kid from school.
  10. Took kids to dance class.
  11. Wrote words.
  12. Did the social media thing.
  13. Dinner. (Cooking? Not today, Satan.)

And if we’re really in the mood to celebrate this evening, we just might go for cupcakes… I’ll keep you posted.

My point? My dear friends, launch days aren’t really any different than any other day. There’s still plenty of poop to clean up and lots of words to write.

But am I celebrating anyway? Yes. Yes, I am.

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9:28 p.m. update: Celebratory gourmet cupcakes were had. They were prettier before they were accidentally smashed by 13 y.o. in the car. Tasted yummy anyway.

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Supporting Authors

***This post brought to you by: Anything to Procrastinate Opening my WIP***

With a book set to release in just over a week, I’ve fielded a lot of questions from friends and family, mostly along the lines of “How can we help?” or “What can we do?”

These are fantastic questions to ask any first-time author who’s seeking to build a longterm career in writing. The answers, however, are not nearly so straightforward.

So here’s a quick down and dirty list of things you can do to help an author at any stage of the game.

  1. (The Obvious) BUY THEIR BOOK(S).
  2. Buy a second copy of their book(s) to gift to a friend.
  3. Buy a copy to donate to a school library.
  4. Review their book(s) on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, BookDepository – anywhere you can think of. Reviews get books seen. Books that are seen are books that are purchased. And you don’t even have to do more than give it a few stars and say “I liked this one.” (I mean, more is better, of course, but “I liked this one.” is 100% legitimate!)
  5. Ask your local indie bookstore to carry their book(s). Amazon sales are good, but indie bookstores need our support now more than ever!
  6. Request the book from your library. Libraries rely on their patrons to request books for purchase. Ask your local library if they’ll buy a copy of your favorite author’s book(s).
  7. Come to local signings or meet & greets.
  8. Share your excitement on social media. Does this mean you have to retweet or share every post by your author friends? No. But getting in on the excitement of a new book gets others excited, too!
  9. Add their book to your Goodreads list.
  10. I really wanted to make this list a nice even 10, but I can’t think of a 10th item, so how about text or email or call your author friends and tell them how excited you are in order to keep them from jumping out of their skin with nerves?

Every one of these actions can help launch an author’s career, and at the very least, you’ll put a smile on an author’s face. So on behalf of authors everywhere, thank you to everyone who tackles any of the items on this list!

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Every single item on the list above provides a hand or foothold for a budding author. We can’t possibly climb without the help of family, friends, and readers! ❤

You can purchase A Thousand Years to Wait now. For a list of retailers, click HERE.

Who’s Who? Volume IV

Twitter is a blessing and a curse in one, but following the right people makes all the difference. Here’s a list of some of my favorites to follow. Get them on your list, too!

Maria Stout (@MariaStout) – I’m a writer, so I really enjoy following other writers, especially upbeat ones who give their all, cheer on others, and never let life get them down. Maria checks all three of those boxes. When I met Maria at the Philadelphia Writer’s Workshop two years ago, we blathered on about how excited we were to be there (‘blather’ is accurate for both of us, right Maria?), and we’ve stayed connected ever since. Also, I like to keep up on the buzz. No, not the gossip. The buzz. On top of being a teacher, a writer, a mom, and a wife, she’s also a beekeeper.

 

Piper Drake (@PiperJDrake) – I started following Piper because of her role on Writing Excuses, a writing-related podcast I enjoy immensely. Piper was a guest host for a year and I really related to some of the insight she shared on the show. Plus, her romance books are full of heroes with dogs, and everyone knows the way to my heart is with dog hair and drool. Piper doles out tons of great advice when it comes to balancing a day job with writing, the roles of agents and editors, really beautiful and mouth-watering food, and of course – all things Corbin J. Drake. And who wouldn’t love to follow that?

 

Geraldine DeRuiter (@everywhereist) – Because every good Twitter account needs a healthy dose of feminism, Geraldine should top your list. She’s smart, quick, and covers a range of topics from travel and politics to television and current events. Journalism, feminism, and opinionism at its finest! (I desperately wanted to share one of her wittiest moments, but I think this one already says it all.)

 

Jennifer Lane (@Metal_and_Earth) –  Jennifer is a fellow eastern Pennsylvanian and Indie Author who recently released her second novel, Stick Figures from Rockport. (Yes, I wrote about that one just recently.) She’s fun to follow and when she posts things like this, she makes me feel so much more normal inside…

 

E.K. Thiede (@ethiedee) – A writer after my own heart, Emily is a blast to follow on Twitter. Much like the other ladies on my Very Female list today, Emily’s Twitter will give you a hearty does of feminism. (Insert cheer! We all need more of this.) There’s rarely a tweet of hers that I don’t instantly ‘heart’ and if I manage to refrain, it’s only because I don’t want her thinking I’m a creepy stalker.

 


Don’t see yourself listed here? Don’t despair. There are so many amazing people to follow on Twitter. Hang around! You might be in my next issue of Who’s Who!

Also, if you missed my last Who’s Who? and you want to discover more great people to follow, click here!

12 Books—Month 4

Friends! I am so glad I chose Jennifer M. Lane’s Stick Figures from Rockport as my monthly Twitter-friends read. It was delightful! I’m pretty particular when it comes to women’s fiction, so I always hold my breath a little for the first fifty pages or so.

I like women’s fiction, but as a strong empath, it hurts to read about raw pain too often. And hello, what is women’s fiction, if not a whole lot of raw pain? Good women’s fiction, in my opinion, offers more than just a painful scenario, more than loss and hurt, more than fractured relationships and terminal illness. It offers the opportunity to grow. It offers insight into our own lives. Good women’s fiction allows the reader to peer into the pain of another female, peeling the layers page by page, and emerge with a deeper understanding of oneself. 

And that’s what Lane was able to do in Stick Figures from Rockport. She did what many women’s fiction writers can’t—took me on a journey with a grieving character who was able to solve a mystery by piecing together a troubled past that once seemed perfect. It’s about love…and loss. And how learning a new truth doesn’t make your own truth any less real.

If you like women’s fiction, pick this one up! Lane is a talented writer whose writing flows gracefully and whose prose is poetic without being overly “purple.” Stick Figures from Rockport was a treat, and I can guarantee that I will pick up more of Lane’s work in the future.

Bonus—Lane lives fairly close to me geographically speaking, which means her main character (who lives in a Pennsylvania farmhouse) drives roads I know well and visits towns where I’ve worked in the past. How cool is that? Eastern Pennsylvania girls unite!

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The Little Things

Hey, readers! Be forewarned. I’m about to get really honest.

Books are hard. 

They’re hard to write, hard to edit, hard to pitch, and hard to release into the world. Did I revise my book so it’s the best it can be? Did I revise so much that I lost the essence? Am I ready? Am I marketing my work enough? Too much? Pushing too hard? Annoying all the people who know me? Annoying the people who don’t?

It’s really difficult to be in a mental space that simultaneously tells me I’m doing too much and not nearly enough all at once. And when things get overwhelming, it’s the most unexpected gesture that makes a difference.

I received an email the other day that quite nearly took my breath away. What was in it, you ask? Was it from an agent wanting to represent my work? Was it Hollywood banging on my door for a movie deal? Was it Publisher’s Clearing House telling me I wouldn’t ever have to work again?

No. 

No. 

And no.

affection-appreciation-art-424517It was…a request. A request from someone who doesn’t know me, has never met me, hasn’t yet read my book, but wants a signed copy of it and asked if I would be doing signings. And so, Shannon, if you happen to read this, know you made my day, my week, and maybe even my month.

This debut author says to you, “Thank you.” 

From the bottom of my heart, thank you.


While you’re here: Have you added A Thousand Years to Wait to your Goodreads list yet?