Mother of the Groom: A Love Story

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Nine years ago, I swore it could never happen. I would have wagered my life’s savings (okay, so it’s not that much, but still…) that my eldest son (by five minutes—he’s a twin) would NEVER get married. Now, the date is set. Just two days ago, I went shopping with my daughter and the bride-to-be to buy my mother-of-the-groom dress.

Never say never.

“Julian” (not his real name) was living with us after a number of unsuccessful stints along the East Coast. A few years in Florida with his older sister. A few years in Virginia with his older half-brother. Back to Florida for a very short time. Finally, he came north, bitching and moaning the entire way.

I helped him establish a career in a new field (YES, I’m taking credit for that!) and he lived with us, my husband and me, for about eight years. The honeymoon stage didn’t last long. For the first six months, he never complained about mowing the lawn and shoveling snow. We played Monopoly. We were the Hallmark-quality, perfect family.

Reality rapidly took hold.

My son was miserable. He was lonely and frustrated, with little self-esteem (hey, I still live with my parents. I’m a loser). He’d been jilted by a bad, bad girl back in Virginia country. To this day, I swear—if I come face to face with her, I’m gonna slap her silly. He swore he’d never marry. Swore he was destined to hunt, and fish, and hang out with his male cousins. He’d die a bachelor. Not a date in sight.

Eventually, he reached a breaking point. He announced he was moving out to be on his own in an apartment, by himself. I encouraged him to go. Make a life.

“Julian” hadn’t been in his fancy new apartment for a month before he started coming home for dinner. For weekend breakfasts. To mow the freaking lawn. Seriously?

He was lonely. A mom knows these things.

“Match.com. Dating.com. You don’t drink, so you’re not going to meet any girls in a bar,” I said. “Not that you’d want to meet anyone that way, but . . . well, where else? In the checkout line at Price Chopper?”

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“Those dating sites are a scam, Mom.”

A week later, his profile was up, and he had three dates scheduled. I anxiously awaited the results.

All duds.

“Nobody is like me, Mom. I mean, I have two parents who are still married—to each other—after . . . how many years? That’s the kind of girl I’m looking for. Somebody who believes in that. I don’t think they exist anymore.”

“Stay the course, Julian. There’s somebody out there, just waiting for you.”

Date number four was the one.

Parents still married—to each other—after thirty-odd years. Believes in marriage. Believes in monogamy. Believes in true love.

Luckily, this beautiful woman hadn’t found it yet.

Happily Ever After does still exist. I’m quite certain my son has found his forever soulmate. I love her, trust her, and feel completely at ease with her. And I’m pretty sure she will never break my son’s heart.

Disclaimer: if she does, I’ll be forced to kill her. 😉

Romance is not a fantasy. Chivalry is not dead. And dating sites can help (if you’re smart about it) to find the soulmate of your dreams.

So, keep reading those romance novels! Believe in the dream. It may seem like a fantasy to some, but if you stay the course, true love always finds a way.

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Author Visibility by the Numbers by Rebecca Heflin

Untitled design (8)Having an online presence is a given these days. Authors have to be visible to readers. And in order to have visibility, authors have to go where readers go. Your reader demographic influences where you find your readers, and should be used to tailor your online presence.

Website – An author website is definitely a necessity. It’s your home base for everything. At a minimum, it’s where your readers can find all your published (and soon-to-be-published) books and learn a little something about you. Bonus content, like free downloadable excerpts or novellas are a plus, as are a media page, links to social media, your Amazon Author page (see more below) contact form, and newsletter subscriber form.

Amazon – Amazon covers the gamut when it comes to age ranges, and since Amazon is the largest online retailer of books, this is a lot of potential readers. According to a 2017 survey by Prosper Insights and Analytics, an average of one third of U.S. Amazon consumers are spread across the three age groups: 18-34, 35-54, 55 and above.

There are two ways to gain visibility on Amazon: An Author Page and Books pages.

                Author page – Through Amazon’s Author Central, you can set up an author page, complete with an author page URL. The page features a bio, a place to add author events like speaking engagements and book signings, upload videos, connect a blog, and upload photos. Once you’ve “claimed” your books, the books will also display on this page. Be sure to include any awards in your bio. There’s even a follow button that will show up on your individual book pages. Encourage readers to follow you so they’ll receive new release alerts.

                Books page – After you’ve “claimed” your books on Author Central, you can add editorial reviews. I also list any awards under that section.

Social Media Platforms

According to the Pew Research Center, the median American uses three of the eight mostGraph popular social media platforms, including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube, WhatsApp, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. You need only pick one to three yourself, but pick the ones you’re most comfortable with using.

Facebook – Facebook followers are skewing older these days. Seventy-nine percent are between 30 and 49 years old, and 55% of those 50 and older use Facebook. Many may have been Facebook faithful since the early days, thus, they’ve aged along with Facebook (my conjecture – nothing scientific). With over 2 billion monthly active users on Facebook, it is still the social media workhorse, with 68% of U.S. adults using it, according to the Pew Research Center.

Twitter – As of January 2018, Twitter had 330 million monthly active Twitter users, 45% of which are Americans between the ages of 18-24. Interestingly, 79% of Twitter accounts are based outside the U.S. That’s a large international market for your books. With the recent character increase from 120 to 240, you can now say more with your Tweets.

Instagram – There are 800 million monthly active Instagram users, and if you write young adult or even new adult, Instagram is where you need to be. Seventy-one percent of Americans ages 18-24 use Instagram (Pew), 38% of whom are females.

Pinterest – Pinterest has 175 million active monthly users, and is substantially more popular with women, than with men, 81% in fact. The median age of Pinterest users is 40, and Millennials use Pinterest as much as Instagram.

In addition to pinning your favorite recipes, Pinterest is a great place to create inspiration boards for books. When I begin a new book or series, I create a private Pinterest board and pin photos of my characters, settings, cars, clothes, etc. Once the book/series is ready for release, I make the board public.

Goodreads – As of March 2018, there were 65 million Goodreads users. I was unable to find specific numbers for the U.S., but 2018 statistics for Great Britain indicate that there are twice as many female users of Goodreads than men, and the age ranges skew younger (ages 18-44). If you write romance, seems like Goodreads is a place you need to be.

BookBub – I couldn’t find definitive numbers for BookBub subscribers, but they appear to be over 3 million, with 2 million contemporary romance subscribers and 1.5 million historical romance subscribers, according to their pricing list. Also, according to BookBub, 76% of their subscribers are women, and most are middle-aged. Again, if you write romance, BookBub is another good place to hang out.

I get it. BookBub deals are pricey and often difficult to come by. But you can also place paid ads in the newsletters, and claim your author profile and invite readers to follow you. BookBub will send email alerts to your followers when you have a new release or a featured deal. Finally, when new readers sign up, BookBub will suggest authors to follow and send emails to readers suggesting authors to follow.

Where do you find your readers?

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The importance of “in person.”

This blog is late today. I had a busy morning and my local RWA meeting to attend. Lunch and hob-nobbing with my fellow wizards of the pen is always an invigorating time. And the drive home from the meeting got me thinking about the importance of seeing the people you know in person.

We do a lot of “connection” online nowadays. The internet allows us to meet and converse with people from all walks of life and around the globe. I ♥ my Soul Mate family so much, and have gotten to know so many of you right here at the keyboard. The sharing and support of this group is amazing.

And recently I got the opportunity to meet some of you in person at the RWA National Convention.

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Of course I’ve known my editor, Cheryl Yeko, for a long time, and we’ve met on a number of occasions, but this was my first time meeting Collette Cameron and Beth Carter, and we’ve been friends for years, all three of us coming to Soul Mate at about the same time.

Along with all the other wonderful things that happened that week, meeting these two, and so many of the other Soul Mate authors face-to-face, was among the highlights of the conference.

Of course, this was one of the other highlights:

 

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Oh yeah, and I also punched Spider-Man:

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Don’t ask. What happens in Denver, stays in Denver.

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Strangers on a Train

What a novel idea!

Have you ever had that experience where you’ve made an unexpected friend on a journey, because of a series of events or small decisions?

That’s what happened to me yesterday, so I wanted to share it with you all.

LeedsI’d made a journey from my home to Leeds, by train, to find out if I still had a job. The meeting was scheduled to last three hours, and my colleague and I decided that we’d get an earlier train back to London if it finished any earlier. It did.

We jumped in a cab back to Leeds train station, dove into Marks and Spencer to pick up a couple of Gin and Tonics – in a can, needs must – before getting on an earlier train, where we didn’t have reserved seats. We found two empty seats at a table, and there was one other occupant, already in situ, and we asked the usual “Are these seats taken?”

The young woman shook her head no, and our first exchange was brief, and was regarding the broken air conditioning on the train. This wouldn’t normally be a problem but you’ve probably heard about our little heatwave over here in England – nothing compared to the temperatures in America and other warm climes, but for us, it’s skorchio!

As our 2 hour something journey progressed, in addition to the warmth in the non-air conditioned carriage and double-measure G&Ts, I found myself drawn to the young woman, whom I shall name K.S. aka Kindred Spirit.

Born on the American East Coast, K.S. had met and fell in love with an Englishman through a mutual hobby, and their relationship developed, until the virtual became a reality and they became engaged on his second visit to see her.

K.S. was like the perfect romance novel heroine inspiration in mind and soul. She listened to my colleague and I discussing our woes about having to reapply for our jobs. She shared her romantic history and her very emotional and harrowing journey to becoming her ultimate goal, an English citizen.

K.S. talked of her spiritual journeys and we swapped stories of loved ones lost and how families can let you down and hold you up. We compared star signs – Gemini & Gemini – and our different experiences in bringing up children, biological and non-biological.

Our conversation rode up hill and down dale, galloping at times, and then slowing to a thoughtful meander. K.S. kept up with my mercurial thought process – oh, shiny! – and made me laugh, reminisce, and reflect forward.

The two hour something journey flashed by, and I told her how much I had enjoyed the time we spent. We exchanged Instagram names – mine is empty and hers is so full. I admire people who are different and yet so familiar, who are new, but feel connected.

Since a young age, I am awestruck by the talent of others, and still get a little fan-girly to this day. I empathize with people who have struggled, been hurt and mistreated, and yet still move forward towards a future they always wanted.

K.S. has my awe, my admiration and my friendship – there for the taking, should you ever need it. I expected our journey to end there, tied up in a neat little train ride, but imagine my surprise, my pleasure, when she asked if she could tag along with me across London on the Tube, as we were both getting onward connections to the South Coast.

My pleasure – I said. And that’s what it was.

Three something hours of my life, on what could have been a fairly downward day, gone in a flash, but made a little brighter by a stranger on a train.

I aspire to write such well-rounded and inspirational heroine’s like K.S. and I hope one day I’ll brighten – even if only for three something hours – the life of a stranger on a train.

Take care, Tx

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Breathing Life Into Fiction

 

I can’t speak for other writers, but during the month of July, I often find myself oppressed by the sizzling summer heat and fresh out of ideas for books. Maybe that’s why God invented vacations, or as some of you call them, ‘vacas.’ Our family tried something new this year and we rented a house large enough to accommodate six adults and six children. Our two grown children and our adorable grandchildren joined us in Fairview, North Carolina.

The first thing on our list was to visit the Biltmore. Even before we drove there, I knew this would be a tour that would remain etched in my memory forever. I write contemporary romances, but if I wrote historical, I’d put this on my bucket list. As someone who grew up in a middle-class household (as a foster kid I felt darn lucky to even BE in the middle-class range), I’m always intrigued by the lives of the wealthy. What do they do with all that money? Well-here are just a few things one could purchase.

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Our family did one tour each day and then drove back home to sit out on the screened in porch to enjoy looking at the splendor of nearby mountains. We were smack dab in the middle of the woods, surrounded by black bears that we kept at bay by keeping all our trash INSIDE the house-something I highly recommend for a stress-free vacation.

While the three older grandkids tried to get bragging rites as to who was the best one at breathing life into the campfire to toast smores on, the little ones engaged in some ‘Pap’ holding time, creating art with chalk in the driveway, and trying to prove they were big enough to successfully adult-sized shoes. It’s refreshing to sit back an watch the little ones; to remember the things from our own childhoods that pushed us into writing our stories.

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While I’ll be the first to admit that being around six children proved exhausting, I felt truly blessed to be part of such an amazing family-a family that often keeps me grounded and humble-a family that sometimes works its way into the book I’m writing.

If you’re struggling with the state of our world today and can’t seem to get a jump-start on a new project, I highly recommend getting away from it all to gain perspective. While a part of me was star-struck by the beauty of the Biltmore and how awesome the lives of the ‘rich and famous’ can be, in the end, sitting out with the grands on the porch, watching their intrigue as the lightning bugs danced about the screens on the windows made me realize that my life is just fine the way it is.

I wish all of you continued success in your writing and am enormously proud to be a part of this amazing SoulMate family!

Follow Tessa on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/authortessa gray or visit her website: http://www.tessagray.com

 

 

 

 

 

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RWA, A Radio Interview, & Raven Awards, Oh, My!

Question: What do two thousand romance authors have in common?

Answer: They attend the annual Romance Writers of America conference!

How do you like my lame joke? It seemed funny when I was stranded at the airport. At any rate, this year’s Romance Writers of America (RWA) conference was held in Denver, Colorado. The minute I stepped into the elevator with my heavy luggage, a white-uniformed pilot held the door. With all of the hubbub in the lobby, he asked, “What’s going on?” I laughed and told him there were two thousand romance authors in the hotel. After that registered, he proceeded to ask if I was an author, what I had written, and inquired about the most successful romance author (I said Nora Roberts). The pilot took my card so he could order books for his wife. That was a nice start to the conference.

Each year, RWA meets so authors can network with like-minded folks, improve our craft by attending workshops, honor those who’ve received awards at luncheons and the coveted RITA Awards, and participate in a Literacy Signing. I took part in many events and workshops but my favorite part of the convention is the networking. After all, writing is a solitary endeavor. I spend many afternoons writing at Starbucks, so it’s exhilarating to break free, even for five days, and talk shop with anyone and everyone.

Meeting hugely successful authors is always a coup and this year I saw Jane Porter (who actually knew my name), Catherine Bybee (who also knows my name!) and Meg Cabot who didn’t but we still chatted. It was a thrill to meet about twenty fellow authors from Soul Mate Publishing and see editors, Char and Cheryl.

My favorite workshop was on dialogue by Kristan Higgins. She is a wealth of knowledge and a highly entertaining speaker. There were meetings regarding all kinds of marketing and I attended several of those. Audio books were discussed, as was writing a series, making more of your backlist, character development, using body language, happier endings, and there were craft sessions with medical personnel. There were many more sessions too long to list.  It was impossible to attend them all but I wish I had gone to a few more. Last year, I overdid it, and this year, I might have been too low-key. I’ve got to find a happy medium.

RWA 2018 Literacy Signing Photo

At Nationals, I always learn how much I know and how much I still have to learn. On the last day, RWA holds a Literacy Signing with hundreds of authors and readers. All proceeds are donated to literacy. They’ve raised tens of thousands and I was happy to take part by signing my new release, CHAOS AT COCONUTS (Book 2). And, wow, I really should have ironed my banner!

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Raven Awards

To switch gears a bit (but still on the topic of books and writing), while I was stranded at the Denver airport, I received an email from Uncaged Books that THREE of my novels are semi-finalists for the Raven Awards! That exciting, humbling email definitely made my nightmare airport delay/cancellation/and eventual rerouting to another city bearable.

CHAOS AT COCONUTS and THURSDAYS AT COCONUTS are both up for Raven Awards in the “Contemporary” category. MIRACLE ON AISLE TWO is up in the “Holiday” section. Voting is this week only for these two categories.

Here’s the link to vote:  http://uncagedbooks.com/voting/

Note: Raven Awards are selected after receiving high editorial reviews and are then voted upon by readers. Several Soulies are up for this coveted award. Best of luck to everyone!

Radio Interview

Last but definitely not least, my first radio interview about my writer’s life, novels, and children’s picture books was just conducted by Tina Susedik, a fellow Soul Mate Publishing author, and DJ for Authors On The Air Radio.

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If you’d like to listen, here’s the link: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/authorsontheair/2018/07/24/award-winning-author-beth-carter-joins-tina-susedik

The interview was thirty minutes long! I met Tina at RWA in Denver and asked if she’d tell me her questions in advance.  The answer was “no” even after a glass of wine. Well, I tried. Hopefully, the interview came across okay. I haven’t yet worked up the courage to listen.

That was my insanely busy week. I’m hoping for several days of uninterrupted writing before our 20-member family vacation soon. I must carve out writing time. After all, I just signed a contract for two more books in my Coconuts series!

Have you ever attended RWA? If so, what were your favorite moments?

 

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On Writing Book 2

Now that my first novel is out in the world, I’ve discovered the most common question I get from readers is, “When can I read book 2?” Which is a wonderful, flattering question to be asked.

cover for Taxing Courtship by Jaycee Jarvis, depicting a woman in a red sari

In a sultry magical realm, an enchanting Lady ensnares a virtuous tax-collector into her dangerous double life.

It means they didn’t want Taxing Courtship to end, and they are excited to return to the world I’ve created. Since I’m eager to write the next book (and have been busily doing just that) this works out well for me.

Though it also creates a new kind of pressure. Can I make this next one as good? Will it appeal to the same readers?

Writing Deadly Courtship has been different in other ways, too. Now that the world of Destin is established as a place, I have to make sure I keep all my world-building notes in line, with everything from the same favorite watering holes for the characters to the names of officials and exactly how magic works in this world.

Of course, I have a new focus in this book. Deadly Courtship is a second chance at love story, with a murder mystery thrown in. Madi, one of the side characters from Taxing Courtship, is the heroine so I get to explore just what an earth talented fighter can do, while also staying within the limits created by what has happened in book one.

There is also an interesting balance between boring previous readers with information they already know, and confusing new readers by not establishing things enough. And this doesn’t just apply to the setting but to the characters and their relationship with each other. Some of that balance is a matter of strong writing no matter where in the series a book happens to fall.

It’s fun and engaging work, but very different from the unfettered freedom of the first book, where the world could be bent to fit the story when needed. Now there is no rearranging the layout of Madi’s house, because Quintin visited it once, and that settled the matter. And there is a kind of freedom in that too, since I have all these details worked out already, I don’t need to spend as much time on some of the small stuff.

What about you? Are you a fan of books in a series? Do you notice when authors make mistakes from one book to the next? How much detail do you expect to see in an established world?


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Jaycee Jarvis is a Golden Heart® finalist who writes lush fantasy novels with plenty of heart and magic. Book one in the Hands of Destin series, Taxing Courtship, is available now through KindleUnlimited.

When not lost in worlds of her own creation, she resides in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three children and a menagerie of animals.

You can learn more about her and her books at her website www.jayceejarvis.com or by following her on Facebook, Twitter, BookBub or Goodreads.

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