Celebrating the Good Stuff

SoulMate_MiaKay_Souvenirs_Kindle_2400x3600Usually I’m frantically scavenging for something to write about on my blog day. Today is not that day.

I am thrilled to tell you that Souvenirs, my first release with Soul Mate Publishing, is scheduled for March 16. I’m even more thrilled to reveal the cover. Isn’t it beautiful?

Late last month I had lunch with a friend who was one of the first to read this novel. Through all my subsequent tales of new plots and new adventures, she kept asking, “What about ‘my friends’ on the train? What happens with them?” So at lunch I surprised her with a picture of this cover – and she promptly burst into tears. Happy tears. So we sat in the middle of this busy restaurant on a sunny day, and wiped our eyes.

I will always think of that reaction when I see this cover, which makes it more special.

Much of the time writing is solitary – we all talk about it all the time. However, I think all of us have carried our friends  with us on the journey. They hear about struggles with plots, about slogging through submissions and rejections, they read our work because they love us. And they celebrate with us when good stuff happens.

It’s easy to forget about celebrating. Our writing career is that weird hybrid of craft and business. We are, for all intents, self-employed, and it’s easy to get tied up with deadlines, promotional schedules, networking, next contracts, balance sheets, and obligations. For me, at least, it becomes another set of hurdles. Another worry – Now what? What if no one buys it but my mother? What if I never get another contract? What if …

Rather than worrying about “what happens next,” maybe I should celebrate more.

So this month I’m celebrating my favorite souvenir. :-)

A reclusive writer … Grace Donnelley’s successful sci-fi novel is about to become a movie. She wants a vacation with her mother before filming starts, but fears her name will cause a geek riot. So she creates Grace Ward, sometimes schoolteacher and doting daughter of Sunny.

A hounded actor … Bennett Oliver escapes London for a vacation with his mother. He wants to hide from the paparazzi and his brooding reputation. He takes the role of Ben Brady, successful businessman and overprotective son of Camille.

But they never counted on each other … An immediate attraction, aided by their matchmaking mothers, gives Ben and Grace a vacation they never expected — and one they don’t want to lose. Upon returning to their everyday lives, they work to maintain a relationship while trying to find a way to say “by the way, I’m famous.”

When the secrets and lies catch up with them, Ben and Grace struggle to open their lives and re-open their hearts to see if love can be their most treasured souvenir.

Have a great February, a happy Valentine’s Day, and be sure to read something you enjoy!

Mia KayMia 
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Posted in Happy Days With Mia, Writing, Writing career | 5 Comments

Sexy Sexless Romances – Elle Hill

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Instead of ripping my expensive bodice, perhaps we could consider some Netflix and cuddling?

As I’ve written before, I really, really don’t enjoy writing sex scenes. I have zero issues with other writers who do; in fact, I have been known to feel the slightest nibble of envy toward those brave authors who so effortlessly leaven their romance with the erotic.

With each romance novel I’ve written, the amount of sex slumps ever-so-slowly downward, till my last novel, The Tithe, only includes one brief glimpse, and it’s not even between the main protagonists.

And then. And then, the other day, I stumbled across a website that featured a top-ten list of sexless romance books. Sexless. Romance. Books. I knew not all romances had sex in them, but… but was sexless romance a thing?

Maybe I’m not the only one who prefers the sweet to the salty.

Upon reflection, sure, I can imagine some folks who might prefer a little less saucy in their literary fare. Conservative readers, for one, although some studies suggest (albeit inconclusively) conservatives are likelier to access porn than non-conservatives. Younger readers, for sure — well, at least if they’re anything like young Elle. Readers of Regency, inspirational, and historical romances, at least in theory – or perhaps in stereotype.

And, you know, asexual readers. If you’ve never heard the label before, it kind of speaks for itself. Asexual peeps don’t experience sexual desire; well, some do, but only under very specific circumstances. They may or may not have sex, but they don’t tend to seek, or even often want, it.

Asexuals, also called aces, might seem like a tiny blip on our romance radar, but some experts estimate the number of asexuals at 1% of the population, which is the same occurrence as (naturally) red hair. I’m a teacher, and just within the last year, three separate students have come out to me as asexual. One complains to me often about how unhealthily obsessed Americans are with sex; I’ve spent a lot of time chewing on her concerns.

Asexual individuals may or may not eschew romance. They may be, for example, heteroromantic (feel romance toward the other sex), homoromantic (feel romance toward the same sex), or aromantic (no desire for romance). Many, however, simply treasure the cuddly, if not the sexual, aspects of l’amour.

On a more cultural note, some argue we’re experiencing a shift toward sexless romances because porn and erotica pervade pop culture, and many of us have reached the saturated, ho-hum stage. Sex is just so jejune, doncha know?

Between you and me, I prefer that explanation to my secret concern that maybe, just maybe, I’m a bit of a prude.

Regardless of why a minority of romance readers want to consume more sexless romance novels, the fact is they do. And for people who, like me, whether ex-Pentecostal prudes or world-weary cynics who have cycled all the way back around to literary sexlessness, prefer sugar to spice, I am willing to step up and satisfy the romantic version of their sweet tooth.

Posted in Excerpts from Elle!, Soul Mate Publishing | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

In which I talk about the day job: By Rose Lange

 

cnawladyMost, if not all, my posts are about my writing, the craft, contracts, etc. I thought I would switch gears, and introduce the day job. I’m an author by day, and nursing assistant by night. I care for the elderly nuns in my community, in an Assisted Living home.

I enjoy what I do, and I like to think it shows. I’ve been caring for them, going on five years now in July. I tend to basic needs, as necessary needs, and whoa-wasn’t-expecting-that-needs. It keeps me on my toes, and active that’s for sure. My role as a nurturer, is one I wear 24/7/365, because whether I’m taking care of my family, or the sisters, there is always a person in need. Most nights I come home, exhausted, tired, sweaty, sometimes happy, sometimes crabby, because the night was that rough. The other night was such a night, and falls under the wasn’t expecting that category. Whew.

Besides the cares I perform, these interesting, often times surprising group of women have become like grandmothers to me. Through the years, they’ve surprised me, like going to a sister’s room, and she has a beer sitting on her nightstand.  I’ll admit it gave me an amused giggle. Or some of the things they say, because they surprise me at every turn. Each day is like a present, as Forest Gump’s mom would say, you never know what you’re going to get. :)

The most difficult part is the loss, whether by death, or them re-locating to a nursing home, the attachments you’ve formed make it hard to let go. The connections are a blessing, as each woman is unique, and special in her own way. Each loss gets harder, and some have stayed with me. Whether it’s been a few months, a year, or two, I still remember her, I miss her, and I smile. I recall the special moments we shared, something as simple as watching five minutes of Wheel of Fortune, excited to see if that person would win the million dollars. Or having a heart to heart talk in her room, sharing things, and knowing she’ll offer sound advice each time. Or a sister sitting on the edge of her bed, sprinkling Holy Water, and offering a blessing. Where you hear “God bless you,” at least ten times a day. It makes me happy when they ask when they’ll see me again, because I know the connection is reciprocal. Those days X out the not so great, want to pull my hair out days, because like any job, it has its stresses, but it also has its joys. Little things, little these moments, have remained with me.

The comfort these women have given me is priceless, and it makes me thankful everyday, that I’m there.

Posted in Rose In The Garden!, Soul Mate Publishing | 11 Comments

Book One,Two and Three. Writing a Trilogy

I am just about to start the third book in a trilogy and thought it would be a good time to discuss some of the factors you need to consider when you write trilogies.

Madness, exhaustion, foolhardiness to mention a few.

Vertical stack of three red books isolated over white background. Trilogy
The truth is writing a trilogy can be a wonderful experience. When we write a book we want our readers to fall in love with the characters. We all know what it is like to get to the end of a book and want more. When they know there is a second and a third book they can live with their favorite characters a bit longer.

Some things to be aware of when writing a trilogy

1. Have a book bible. Each of my books is at least 80,000 words in length and I cannot remember everyone’s name or places they visited. Having a list of names is good to make sure you don’t have some that sound similar or they all begin with the same letter. In my first book, all the couples’ names started with the same letter. I had not even been aware I was doing it.

2. Two arcs. You have one arc for the story in the book you are writing. There is a second arc that goes over all the books. Something that happens at the beginning of book one may have a consequence in book three.

3. Plotting. I am a plotter so I tend to write out a chapter plan for a trilogy before I start to write it. Unfortunately, for me, my characters decide to do things that are not in the plan. I was sure in one of my books that someone had died in book one, only to have him still alive in book two.

4. Foreshadowing. I mentioned the three book arc earlier. Remember that it is important to not add something completely new in book three that will solve all the problems you have created. Your readers will feel cheated if you suddenly bring in a something you have not mentioned before. They have been reading your books and trying to put together all the puzzle pieces. If you throw in something else they will want to know why you did not mention it before.

5. Each books job. Book one is the teaser to get them into the story. Book two is the connection between book one and two and fills out the background and worldbuilding. Book three is the conclusion and the way to wrap everything up.

So how do you go about writing a trilogy?

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Book Three, Lost Protector is a work in progress at the moment.

Posted in Soul Mate Publishing | 5 Comments

January Blahs?

January is an uber-productive time for me. Something about the calendar turning over to a new year always gives me a swift kick in the butt and gets me out of those holiday hangover blahs. This changing of the year was particularly so. I left 2015 fifty pounds lighter than I entered the year and have been totally invigorated by the change.

But for some inexplicable reason, writing hasn’t followed the same pattern. Maybe because I’m at the very end of a novel (2 chapters to go!) when the seasonal version of my Circadian rhythms want to be starting something new. Or perhaps it’s the distractions of all the other new directions. We’re not naturally creatures of change, and although a little is welcome, too much is-well, it’s too much.

Whatever the case, January has been a writing slog.

OK, but guess what? Come Monday morning, it won’t be January any more. And when February hits, when much of the rest of the Northern hemisphere is snowed in or rendered lethargic by the winter chill, here in Houston it’s already shirt sleeve weather.

So unless on Tuesday Pungroundhogxsutawney Phil sees his shadow and ushers in 6 more weeks of January blahs, I expect a dramatic turnabout.

Bring it on, February! Let’s finish this draft and start something new!

 

 

Posted in On The Blog Rhoad With Rusty!, Soul Mate Publishing | 8 Comments

Combat Your Writer’s Block

writers block woman

All writers, from time to time, experience the dreaded block. I’m not referring to the chopping block (though it may as well be) but rather  ‘writer’s block’. This is a condition otherwise known as a withering, about-to-be dried up landscape once it descends upon a writer’s corpus callosum, kind of like a dust cloud. Writer’s block is a loathsome annoyance, and there are plenty of images of the greats (think Hemingway) who’ve demonstrated various coping skills by swigging unlimited bottles of wine or whisky to dredge up something from the recesses of their dusty skulls.

If you find yourself suffering from this malady, don’t stomp on your keyboard just yet. I’ve devised a list that may assist you (and myself for that matter) in keeping that pesky condition at bay.

  1. Switch your routine

People who write tend to be creatures of habit. A certain time of day may normally fuel your productivity but let’s face it, we all need a change once in a while. Leave your table, couch or desk behind. Find a nice park bench or cubicle at the library. Do you find that sentences and paragraphs come flying at you just as your head hits the pillow? Maybe your most creative sparks fly at night when you’ve been writing during the day. Switch your schedule as much as possible and net those wandering thoughts when they appear.

  1. Engage with people

Books come alive with characters. If you’re having difficulty with dialogue, or with the advancement of your characters’ relationships, spend time interacting with people. Writing can be a solitary pursuit but sometimes you’ll need to do a bit of research before your writing can continue. Because characters are often inspired by someone you know, engage him/her in conversation and learn more about his/her personality traits. Details go a long way in making characters three-dimensional and believable to your story.

  1. Imbibe in one of your vices (within reason)

Maybe you’re developing a hum-drum mood, or stuck in stagnation. Loosen up. It’s okay to have a glass of wine (just not a keg, mind you) to ease your mental straitjacket. Go buy a decadent dessert. Do something to reward yourself. You should avoid criticising yourself and your work. All work and no play is never a good idea. Just don’t get lost in your playground every day.

  1. Read in the genre you’re writing in

If you’re plowing through a science fiction novel while trying to write historical romance, your linguistic word building may lead you in the wrong direction. Read what you’re currently writing to get a sense of vocabulary and setting details. If you find you keep reading certain genres and the one you’re writing never evolves, you might want to re-consider switching to a new genre. Your story, if you’re passionate about it, will not leave your head. If it does, you may not love it as much as you want to.

  1. Recall your past angst

Delivering powerful, emotional scenes requires the ability to convey emotions into words. That’s where your own recollections of exciting or traumatic events will help. Tap into a time that made you feel fear, anger or joy. What caused those feelings? Who was involved? Taking a trip down memory lane may ignite a chain reaction of memories that could serve you well in constructing that next chapter.

  1. Plot your story

Okay, you’ve got a rough storyline idea with characters meshed out. You’re 20,000 words into your manuscript and then . . . the cobwebs resume clogging your skull. This can be frustrating and cause you to toss your work into the trash pile or at the back of a drawer. This stage of writer’s block can be overwhelming. Take a step back and plot your storyline out on a piece of paper. You had a great idea to start with and your idea is still a good thing. Sometimes a visual marker or graph can help you strategize and construct further plot points. Think of this approach as being similar to following a recipe. Once you see how far you’ve moved along in your manuscript you may feel your motivation resume. Or, as an old familiar saying instructs us, “it’s easier to see where you’re going if you’re eyes are open”.

  1. Keep notes handy

A while ago I finished a time travel manuscript. Moving between time periods and getting different historical facts correct was dizzying. I found keeping a notebook handy for all my spontaneous reminders and fact building came in handy. Sometimes I need a reminder when to include a landmark detail or when my character is going to say something specific to move the story along. With so much information swirling in an author’s mind small details can quickly be forgotten. Write stuff down as you think of it.

  1. Apply humour

Humor is one of the best strategies for coping with anything in life. Writing requires so much internal, right-brain thinking it can become exhausting. Humor, either for yourself, or introduced in your writing, can unleash a floodgate of ideas and a new perspective. A good belly laugh is always appreciated – by the writer and the reader.

  1. Visit local writing group/classes

Beyond engaging with a neighbor, store clerk or random person, spending time with people who ‘do exactly what you do’ is a proven winner. Who else knows better the issues you’re dealing with? Need motivation, inspiration or advice? Your fellow writers will provide a support system with tangible and constructive feedback. Can’t get to a local writer’s group? Join one online, there are several. Google your options and reach out to other writers.

  1. Think of writing as a job and not a hobby

All people with jobs have tasks to perform and most have deadlines to meet. Writing is no different. Begin with a schedule and set a goal. Even if you only manage to carve out 250 words a day, you’ll have a thousand words completed in a few days. Keep an eye on your word count, but don’t become a slave to it. The purpose in moving forward and being productive is to form a writing habit that works for you. Don’t compare yourself to other writers who seem prolific with their daily word count. Seeing something on paper, or computer screen is far better than staring at a blank page. You may consider joining NaNoWriMo or engaging peer support. Instituting challenges will help you achieve your writing goals.

Writing is one of the most rewarding jobs in the world. It is also one of the most difficult. Without a doubt, writing a novel requires talent, effort, and perseverance. The most successful writers are the ones who don’t give up. So assemble a notebook, your laptop, pick a time of day, a location, and begin plotting out your next chapter.

 

Posted in A Bit of Catch-Up With Kim, Soul Mate Publishing | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Author Newsletters … Yay or Nay?

Wang WPYears ago (or, as my grandchildren say ‘back in the stone age’), I had a newsletter. I put it together on my Wang word processor, added clip art, printed it out (usually on fancy colored paper at the Kinkos), folded it neatly, stapled it shut, added address labels for my 70 or so followers and then affixed a 32¢ stamp to it and dropped it in the mail.

The year was 1997 and while Lotus mail and a few other upstarts had infiltrated the work place, email was not readily available to the home user. Consequently, signing up for my four-page newsletter was even more involved than actually producing it. Most authors had sign-up sheets at conferences, or postcards the reader could complete and mail back to the author to get on the list. Authors kept P.O. boxes rather than give out their home address. All of this so we could keep the reader on top of what we were doing.

As email progressed, more and more authors began developing their fan base electronically. And, while the author was quick to jump on the technology bandwagon, it wasn’t always so for readers. Which meant, you kept two different mailing lists. One electronic and one the old-fashioned (stone-age) way. Unfortunately, though the email delivery was faster, without the fancy newsletter services we have now, there was no way to assess whether or not people were actually reading your email.

flying moneyWhen I think back, I cringe at the thought of how much money I spent trying to boost book sales with absolutely NO idea whether or not the newsletter helped at all.

In the early 2000’s my writing career dwindled, more because of time-constraints and that dratted outside job, than because I’d stopped writing. I was still writing, just not in the same hectic way I had earlier. Without a new book to promote, it seemed like a huge waste of time and money to continue my newsletter. So … I stopped. To this day, I often wonder how many people even noticed.

Fast forward to 2014. I’d now been actively writing and publishing for six years with twelve new books under my belt, but still no desire to dip my toe back into the newsletter pool. In June, 2014, one of my publishers hosted a get-together for their authors and the guest speaker was the head of one of the online promo magazines. As a conference special, she was offering 50% off her usual annual rate … a really good deal for what you got in the way of promo. I set up an appointment.

Her first question? How many newsletter subscribers do you have? Uh … none. She then point-blank told me not to waste my money advertising through her. Without a “captive” audience to promote to, I wouldn’t see the return I’d hoped for, or that she guaranteed. I walked away scratching my head … wasn’t the exposure to an audience the product she was supposedly selling?

She did get me thinking though … maybe it was time to put together a newsletter and develop a new audience. Especially since I jump from one genre to the next, it’s hard for my readers to know where I’m at in any given month. The romance industry has grown so large and so diversified, word of mouth no longer does the trick.

So, my decision made, I set out to put my plan in motion. While doing my research, these are the three constants I discovered:

  • There are a variety of newsletter delivery methods ranging from services like Mail Chimp and Graphic Mail to maintaining your own database through Google Forms.
  • There is a huge diversity on what authors include in their newsletters. As part of my research, I signed up for a dozen newsletters from other authors in the romance field, and was blown away by some of the detail in the content.
  • It’s not easy getting people who don’t know you well to sign up for your newsletter. Every author I spoke with had a horror story about getting started.

Here are my suggestions for those starting out:

  • Use a newsletter delivery service. It’s far easier and less time-consuming than keeping your own database. Their basic models are available for free and that includes stats like opens, discards and unsubscribes. I found the last statistic of the most interest and, even though I’ve only had two unsubscribes since I started, I sent both an email asking them if there was a specific reason for leaving. Was there something I could do to enhance my newsletter that would bring them back?
  • Maintain steady content. If you like to cook, include a recipe each issue. It will be something your subscribers will look for when they open the email. Include something informative. In my first edition, I regaled my readers with the history of the middle finger, or how ‘giving the bird’ originated. In my next edition, I listed some fun facts about the Roaring Twenties (since the book I was promoting was set in that time period). Finally, I promoted my current release, although I did my best to not go overboard. I also touted my award for my Soul Mate book, Home is Where the Hunk is (it never hurts to brag a little bit).
  • Size matters. Don’t write a small novella. Keep your newsletter to one page, three columns. Quality over quantity.
  • Sign up requires some sacrifice. I run a Rafflecopter draw every other month. One of the requirements for entry is that the reader sign up for my newsletter. Any time I do a blog tour with an associated drawing, sign up is an entry requirement. I recently did a Facebook party with a bunch of other authors and one of my timeslot contests was newsletter sign up. Fourteen people signed up that night and I drew from those names for a $5 gift card.
  • Loyalty promotions are a good thing. Both unsubscribes I mentioned earlier admitted they’d only signed up to earn a Rafflecopter entry. Now I’ve instituted a loyalty program. I send out a newsletter in January. Everyone who was subscribed at the time has their name put into a draw. If they’re still around in April, when the next issue goes out, they’re eligible to win a prize. Since April will be my first time doing this, I haven’t decided on a prize just yet.

I have seen a slight upswing in sales since starting the newsletter last fall, I’m just not sure if it was due to the newsletter itself, the FB party and blog tour, or a combination of all three. I figure it will take at least 18 months to two years to decide whether or not there is value in this type of promotion.

With all of the avenues of promotion available to us nowadays, a new author starting out might want to wait awhile before committing to a newsletter. I’m not convinced a newsletter is of value until you have a book to promote. However, like anything else in this business, it is definitely an individual decision.

funny-cartoon-question-mark-awesome-487x550I would love to hear from those of you who have newsletters. Do you think they’re a valuable promotional tool? Also, I’d appreciate feedback from readers. Do you subscribe to author newsletters? If so, what do you enjoy most? Least?

Until my next turn on the Wednesday blog, stay healthy, stay happy, and stay warm. Most importantly, stay well-read.

Nancy

 

Posted in Nanobytes From Nancy!, Soul Mate Publishing | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments