How to Make Lemonade

The day after husband’s oncologist used the ‘C’ word at his 4-year followup visit, he got up early to go fishing. (A common occurrence in our household, as our friends and acquaintances know well.) When he returned, he was mumbling to himself as he walked in the front door, but I caught only the tail end of the conversation as he headed through the house and to the shower.

“Just need to figure out how to make lemonade. That’s all.”

But making lemonade isn’t something you do with rotten lemons, and I’ve been pondering his words ever since. So I did something new today. I wrote an essay and submitted it for publication.

An essay.

Me.

I wrote an essay. Something that didn’t involve fictional characters, magic, and dragons.

I haven’t done that since my college days. But today, as my fifteen-year-old slogged through a 500-word essay on The Scarlet Letter (which, for the record, she hated, and let’s be real, who doesn’t?), I, too, tapped away at the computer keys, crafting a story of all we’ve been through in the past four years since Nate’s initial cancer diagnosis. Before I knew it, I had almost 1600 words of love, fear, support, uncertainty – pretty much everything that sums up life with a secondary cancer diagnosis in the middle of a worldwide pandemic.

Maybe it will go nowhere. Maybe it doesn’t need to go anywhere. Maybe I just needed to write it.

But I hope it’s accepted somewhere that will reach thousands of people, not because I want recognition, but because if my words can somehow help others who are also struggling through dark times, then I’ve succeeded in making lemonade out of some pretty nasty lemons. And that’s something.

Try

Have you ever wanted something in your life so badly you can’t imagine living without it? Have you ever felt that if someone just gave you a chance, you know you could succeed?

This?

Is every writer I know. Every dreamer.

We write, we create. We make real our fantasy worlds, give breath to characters who live only in our minds until our words bring them to life. We pursue our love of storytelling, of words, of poetry, of sound – all without ever knowing what success, if any, our words will bring.

I watch writers around me succeed. (And I cheer, my friends. I cheer!)

But more often, I watch them fail. Then I watch them fail again. And again. Some shove the words away into a deep, dark drawer, never to be seen again, thoroughly convinced they aren’t “the chosen” writer or they haven’t produced “the chosen” work the world wants to see.

More often than not, they are wrong. More often than not, there are simply too many ways to stumble when it comes to publishing, and it has nothing to do with the writer at all. How many Harry Potters never made publication? No, I don’t mean how many times was Harry Potter rejected. I mean how many other stories are just as marvelous, just as fantastical, just as ready for the eager eyes of excited readers? Dozens. Hundreds, maybe. Perhaps even thousands.

Thousands of manuscripts with talented, good-hearted authors behind their fiery pages, and marvelous minds behind the creation of their worlds. But these stories may never be seen, may never be known. Because in the end, publishing is a business and business is about money.

Oh, how much art has been lost to money!

My heart weeps for the number of manuscripts I’ve known (both my own and those written by friends) that may never make an editor’s desk, and, therefore, may never see the inside of even the smallest bookstore or library.

But, writers.

Do not walk away. Failure is only failure if you stop trying. So, friends?

Try.

The world needs your words.

The Cold Hard Truth

In a recent post, I wrote about critiquing others’ works and getting feedback on my own work. In the last few days, I’ve been talking online with fellow querying writers, writers whose works I critiqued years ago, writers in my critique group, and writers whose work I continue to critique.

And all of this has really brought one cold hard truth to light.

I…am not a sugar-coater.

Like, for real.

I am not an easy-to-please reader. It’s not that I don’t want to love the things I’m reading. Truly, I want to.

But I also want to help make those things better, whether they’re novels, novellas, single chapters, poetry, or short stories. And if something I can say, a random thought in my head, can influence how a writer views their story’s structure, a character’s motivation, or the relatability of character arcs, then wouldn’t I be remiss not to share that thought?

And so, I have made many a writer friend cry.

But it’s not all bad.

I’m also the first to cheer on my friends and tell them when they’re on the right track. And I’m quick to remind them that my opinions aren’t “industry standard” and ultimately…THEY MEAN NOTHING!

Yes, that’s right. I just said it. My thoughts mean nothing. (Don’t tell my husband.)

Just yesterday, I had to say these very words to one of my newer critique partners who was exposed to my straight-shooting critique methods for the first time and left our session discouraged. Which means…I’ve failed as a critique partner. My goal is always to lift others up, not to cut them down.

Sometimes, just sometimes, a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. I’d do well to remember it.

I promise I try to be sweet while dosing my brand of medicine. It just doesn’t always work out the way I plan and not everyone gets my kind of humor. Future critique partners beware.

On a side note, a fellow writer I beta-read for four years ago is an agented author and the manuscript I critiqued is headed to print shortly, available later this year. He reached out today to ask how I wanted my name printed in the acknowledgments section. And if that’s not the highest praise ever, I don’t know what is.

2019 Wrap Up

Welcome to December! I should be working on my WIP right now instead of tallying up numbers from this year, but what is a writer if not a procrastinator, right? So I bring you my 2019 writing stats. People often ask me how long it takes to get a book written and what a writer does (besides the actual writing part), so here’s a little peek into what 2019 looked like for me.

2019 Writing

Books published: 1
eBooks published: 1
Audiobooks produced: 1
Signing events attended: 5
Independent Book Award Entries: 4
Independent Book Award Finalist: 1
Independent Book Award Losses: 1
Independent Book Award Unknown Outcome: 2
Manuscript words written: >90,000
Manuscripts finished: 1
Manscripts queried: 3
Query rejections: 40
Requests for partial: 1
Requests for full: 2
Total accumulative completed manuscripts (2011-2019): 5
Online pitch contests entered: 2 (if you count tomorrow’s #PitMad on Twitter)
Blog posts written: 26
Number of new SCBWI critique group members discovered: 3
Writing friends made: too numerous to count

Happy Holidays, friends! I wish you a happy, healthy, and successful 2020!

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If I’m Dreaming, Don’t Wake Me Up

So a little thing happened today.

A Thousand Years to Wait was listed as an Award-Winning Finalist in the Fiction: Fantasy category of the 2019 Best Book Awards sponsored by American Book Fest!

Someone pinch me.

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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!

A Hundred Breaths

It’s time to celebrate another lovely author’s book release! Please join me in congratulating author Jean M. Grant on the release of A Hundred Breaths, a historical 13th century romance featuring Scots, Vikings, and the paranormal. The book is a prequel to her debut historical romance A Hundred Kisses. So since we’re celebrating another fabulous historical romance, I thought now would be a great time to get some answers on Jean’s creative process and how she came up with the concept for her Hundred series books. (She anticipates the release of book 3 in 2020!)

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LRS: Congratulations on the release of A Hundred Breaths! What made you decide to write a prequel to A Hundred Kisses and not a sequel?

JMG: When I wrote A Hundred Kisses it was set to be a standalone book. In fact, I had been writing stories set in 12th century Scotland for over a decade. After three practice novels, and much learning of the craft and business, I decided to leap forward to the 13th century and sprinkle in paranormal/mystical elements. Therein I found the magic! From that exploration arose Deirdre and Alasdair’s story in A Hundred Kisses: a ruthless baron, a dark past, a curse, deep secrets, and the mystical power of the Ancients. Not bad for a first book! (A little plug for Rosalind Ashford who narrated the audio book — her voice swept me away.)

I felt compelled to dig deeper into the mystical Silver Veil because Deirdre’s mother, Gwyn, also had a story to tell. And it so happened to be a pivotal time period for the [end of the] Norse (Viking) reign. The stars aligned and what came forth was a story about a merciful Healer, a scarred man hellbent on vengeance, and several unrelenting Nordmen. 

What next? I’m writing the final book in the trilogy (hint: it’s about Deirdre and Alasdair’s child). Each story in my hundred series explores the powers of the Ancients: Healing (water), Feeling (fire), Seeing (Wind), and the grounding force of Earth. Each book is steeped in Scottish-Norse-English history. I’m looking forward to wrapping up my medieval Scotland adventure and excited to see where the next inkling takes me!

LRS: This sounds awesome! (And since I’m one of your beta readers and critique partners, I know just how awesome it really is…) Tell me more about this Silver Veil.

JMG: The Silver Veil is my primary paranormal element in the series. Loosely based on ancient Scottish culture and lore books, I delved into the world of The Silver Folk, or Ancients. I created a culture that could have very well existed, that utilized natural powers accessed across a veil between this world and the next. Healers harnessed their ability by their conduit of water. Feelers heightened their aura-sensing and emotion-feeling through fire. Seers experienced visions whispered on the wind. All three gifts found root in Mother Earth.

The Ancients of the isles are written as having been present in the isles for centuries. They pray at the circles of stones, but who or what built them is still a mystery. Heavily influenced by the Norse raiders, over time they have assigned Norse god names to their powers of Water, Fire, Wind, and Earth. Who has these abilities? Some, but not all. How strong are their powers? It depends on the person. The abilities are inherited, but who, what, and how intense the power is up to the gods.

In all three of the books of the soon-to-be trilogy, there is a clash and blend of cultures and religion: Christianity in the Scots (along with a hefty dose of superstition), the gods of the Norse culture, and lastly, the spirituality of the Ancients.

With any special ability, there are those who wish to do harm, though all the Ancients I’ve written (so far) use their gifts for good. However, there are drawbacks to these abilities —curses and “side effects.” You’ll need to read on in each of the books to see how our protagonists overcome these deficits and harness the inner power within them…


And of course, what kind of blog post would this be without a teaser? Here’s a bit of interaction between the hero and heroine…see if you don’t get swept away.

EXCERPT FROM A HUNDRED BREATHS

“I’m your wife, and still I am guarded?”

Simon shrugged though she couldn’t see. He’d given up on excuses. “What must I do to prove I won’t flee? I signed your marriage contract. I said my vows.” Her voice broke on those words. 

Was she crying? He laid the tray of food on her table and approached. He didn’t touch her, as much as he wanted to link his arm within hers as they’d done during their walks. He reached inside his ganache and withdrew her small, simple dagger. Unadorned with jewels or carvings, it possessed a bone hilt and a blade worn from use. Likely from tree limbs, flowers, and household use. His smith had sharpened it and cleaned the hilt. 

“Here,” he said, placing it in her lap. Gildy had retrieved the sheath from Gwyn’s laundered gown. 

Gwyn stared at it, her fingertips dancing butterfly wings hovering over the hilt. After a moment, she drew her hand around it and pulled it from its leather sheath. She rose and whirled on him, the dagger pointed out before her, barely pressing into his chest. 

He didn’t retreat as he met her fiery, misty gaze. 

She made no move to remove the dagger’s tip.

“A smidge to the center, Gwyn, and you’ll be square over my blackened heart.” He held her glower. The heat blazed in her entrancing blue eyes like the devil. He fought a smile.


Ready to order your own copy of A Hundred Breaths? You can find it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, The Wild Rose Press, iTunes, Kobo, or Google Play.

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Jean’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.

A Thousand Years to Wait Cover Reveal

It’s here! It’s here! It’s finally here!

One of the most highly anticipated moments in any author’s journey is getting to see their cover art. My story is no different. I’ve been anxiously awaiting this beauty for months and I am not disappointed.

So without further ado, I present to you…my cover.

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Like what you see? Me, too! I love, love, love it! A huge THANK YOU to my cover artist, Jess Bieber!

Now, squeal with me! Eeeeeeiiiiieeee! Stay tuned for info on when you can preorder a copy and promotional giveaways. I’ve got tons of fun stuff coming up soon.