Friday, September 30, 2016

Sneak Peek at The Captive Heart

My 8th book comes out on Saturday, October 1st. The Captive Heart is my first novel set almost entirely in America. I know, right? What's up with that? Beats me. The story was just a whim of an idea that the publisher happened to like.

Though it's still the day before the book comes out, here's a little treat . . . the first chapter, just for y'all. 

Chapter One
London, England, February 1770
My precious Lord;
My only hope;
My Saviour, how I need You now.
Eleanor Morgan repeated the words, over and over, scrubbing her fingernails more vigorously with each repetition. Prayer was always better than blood. Perhaps if she focused on the simple child’s verse she taught her charges, she wouldn’t feel like heaving. She bit her lip, trapping a scream behind her teeth. A merciless idea. Better had she cried out at the unfairness of it all, for now blood wasn’t merely under her nails. Saltiness warmed the tip of her tongue.
A rap on her chamber door stopped her scrubbing. The nailbrush clattered into the basin, her heart into her stomach. Before she could think, she turned and snatched one of the brass candlesticks off the bureau. Hot wax spilled onto her skin, the pain barely registering. Duke or not, this time she’d do more than scratch the man’s face. Lecher. Beast. She raised the makeshift weapon, the flame extinguishing as the door swung open.
A tiny woman in a lace wrap entered. Eleanor choked. The candlestick slipped from her hand and crashed to the floor.
My precious Lord;
My only hope;
Duchess Brougham’s gaze darted to the rolling candlestick, then back to Eleanor’s face. One of her brows lifted.
Eleanor rushed forward and sank to her knees in front of the woman, not caring to grab a dressing gown to cover her shift. Why bother? Humiliation was cloak enough. “Your Grace, I swear I did not encourage your husband’s advances. Please, you must believe me. I would never—”
“Rise, Miss Morgan.” The lady waited until Eleanor stood on shaky legs, a single furrow marring her forehead. Was that compassion on her face. . .or resentment?
Duchess Brougham sighed, long and loud, as if she might expel whatever demon anguished her soul.
Eleanor knew she ought say something, but all her words dried up and blew away like the last leaf of autumn.
Slowly, the lady’s mouth curved into a fragile smile. “Did you not wonder, Miss Morgan, why we have had four governesses in the space of a year?”
 Eleanor grimaced. She would have inquired had not pride muddled her thinking. The position of governess in a duke’s household didn’t seem nearly as prestigious anymore. La, what a foolish dolt she’d become.
You’ll never aspire to anything higher than a trollop, girl.
The sting of her father’s prophecy slapped her with more brutal force than she’d dealt her employer. She lifted fingertips to her own cheek, coaxing out a whispered confession. “I assumed lack on the part of the other women, Your Grace, and for that I am woefully repentant.”
Duchess Brougham’s eyes glinted with an odd intensity. “The lack is in my husband. I had hoped that this time. . .for you see, the children dearly love you—” Her voice cracked, and she shook her head. “It is a sorry business, but there is nothing to be done for it. For your sake, Miss Morgan, you should leave. Now. Walk out the door and do not come back.”
Leave? The word made as little sense as finding the undressed duke in her bedchamber earlier. Eleanor wrapped her arms around herself, gaining what comfort might be found in the action. If nothing else, perhaps it might hold together her grip on reality. “But it is the middle of the night, Your Grace. Where am I to go? I have no relations, no one to—”
“You do not understand the severity of the duke’s anger.” Though a head shorter than Eleanor, the lady grew in stature as she lifted her chin. “You have done more than rebuke him. He shall have to account for the scratches on his face at the club tomorrow. The passions grafted onto wounded pride are the most inveterate, and my husband’s appearance is his pride. At best, the duke will see you never again work in England. At worst . . .”
She didn’t finish the sentence. She didn’t need to. Just last week, Eleanor had heard the downstairs help gossiping about the fate of young Joe. For naught but a cross look at the duke, the lad now resided in a holding cell at Newgate on a trumped-up charge of thievery.
Eleanor retreated to the side of her bed and sank onto the counterpane, grateful to the mattress for holding her up. All her dreams of becoming London’s finest governess had just been yanked from beneath her, the unfairness of it staggering. Fresh tears burned tracks down her cheeks.
“There, there, Miss Morgan.” The duchess took a step toward her, then stopped and clasped her hands. Though Eleanor longed for a comforting touch, the woman would approach no closer. She had already breached propriety by coming to Eleanor’s chamber.
Drawing in a ragged breath, Eleanor gave in to a moment of self-pity, hating how weak she was in light of the lady’s strength and dignity.
“Do not despair so.” The duchess’s words were quiet. Intimate. As if she were speaking as much to herself as to her governess.
Eleanor looked up, surprised to see the lady’s eyes glistening with unshed tears. Indeed, the woman’s face was a portrait of misery, and why not? How awful must it be to live with an unfaithful husband?
“Now then.” The duchess sniffed, her shoulders straightening with the movement. “I have a cousin in Charles Towne, Mr. William Taggerton. I shall send him a missive, posthaste, recommending you. Lord knows his children could use a proper education in that uncivilized land. Book yourself passage, and I shall have him meet you with the fare once you land. The Colonies are the best I can manage on such short notice.”
The Colonies? Eleanor swallowed back a sour taste. The tales she’d heard! The sideshows she’d glimpsed of savages and ruffians and wild animals. This was where she would spend the rest of her days? A shiver charged across her shoulders, leaving uncertainty in its wake. But besides a beggar’s cup—or debtor’s prison—what choice did she have?
None. For a moment she nearly gave in to opening the cage door to a wild hysteria. But truly, what would that accomplish other than possibly attracting the duke back to this chamber?
Sucking in a breath, she stood. So be it, then. If that were her fate, she’d do her best to not only embrace it but to conquer it. Mayhap across a sea, in a land of foreigners and anonymity, she’d finally be successful at blotting out her father’s words. Indeed. She would be a success or die in the trying.
“I thank you for your kindness, but,” she paused and angled her head for a clear view of the lady’s face. “Why? Why do this for me?”
The duchess smiled. “You are a rare one, Miss Morgan. I have appreciated your candor, spoken with such grace and humility. An exceptional trait in a servant. You, I shall remember.”
Blinking, Eleanor fought another round of tears. Had anyone ever been so kind? “Thank you, Your Grace. Neither shall I forget you.”
“Pack up your things and ready yourself to leave. I will return shortly with a note of reference.”
The duchess departed before Eleanor could think how to reply. In truth, though, what more was there to say? She relit the candle and tucked her two spare dresses into her traveling bag. By the time the lady returned, Eleanor had dressed haphazardly, slipped into her mantle, and tied her hat ribbon tightly beneath her chin.
“Here is the note, and also some money.” The duchess stood in the doorway, holding out her hand. Creased and folded, a single banknote rested atop her palm along with a small parchment. “I grant ’tis not a large amount, but it should at least keep you fed on your journey.”
Eleanor hesitated. She wasn’t owed any wages for several more months. It didn’t seem right, taking money from this lady. Still, her own paltry coins would get her nowhere.
Duchess Brougham stepped into the room only so far as to set her offering down upon the bureau. Before she turned to leave, she reached toward Eleanor, then slowly let her hand drop. “Godspeed, my dear.”
With the closing of the door, the candle sputtered, fighting for life in the shadows left by the lady’s departure. Eleanor stood, dazed, knowing she should move, should breathe, should. . .something. How had her life come to this? And worse, what did the future hold? Gooseflesh rose on her forearms, and she fought the urge to whirl about and dive beneath the bedstead. She hadn’t realized that allowing self-pity to enter her thoughts also invited fear to tag along, hand-in-hand.
Bear up. Bear up!
Despite her inner rallying cry, her heart skipped a beat. Too bad the silly thing didn’t quit altogether, sparing her the horrors of traveling alone, unprotected. Bowing her head, she closed her eyes.
My precious Lord;
My only hope;

My Saviour, how I need You now.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

What Makes a Romance Sizzle?

My next release comes out this Saturday, October 1st, and early reviews frequently mention The Captive Heart has some "sizzling" romance in it. Yikes. What pops into your cartoon bubble with that word? I'm seeing a buxom gal named Destiny pole dancing like there's no tomorrow. Definitely a negative connotation.

But does it have to be?

Sizzling romance is way more than writing about inserting part A into slot B (sorry for the visual). It goes beyond mere physical attraction. Here are some key items to incorporate if you want to ramp up the romance in your story . . .

Everyone wants their name to be defended. Everyone also wants to be protected from the big, bad ugly world. When someone sticks up for you, it's endearing. Same goes for your characters.

Little things connect with a reader's heart in a big way. Think chivalrous on the part of your hero, like throwing down his coat across a mud puddle so the heroine can cross without getting her feet dirty. Or in her case letting the fella sleep in the middle of the night while she takes care of the baby. Granted, neither of those make your heart pitter patter, but when the characters notice each other dying to self for their benefit, it attracts them even more.

Think of your characters' relationship as a dance. Sometimes they're in step together, sometimes not. It's that tension, the wondering when they'll get together for good, that holds the interest of the reader.

Sizzling romance doesn't have to be about sex. Creating a deeper connection at an emotional level is almost a novelty nowadays, which will make your story stand out. . . leastwise in the inspirational market. If you're pitching to erotica publishers, you'll have to throw in some skin, but make sure to add in these other 3 qualities for a well-rounded romance.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Excuses, Excuses

It's tempting to focus on the product launch, on the interview, on the next thing. Tempting, but ultimately a waste.

Finishing a book is a lot more important than starting one. Why? Because lots of people start books but never see them through to completion. There are lots of reasons why, but here are the most common.

The Big Stall Out
You rewrite and you edit and you tweak and tweak and tweak the first few chapters, aiming for perfection. Not that perfection is wrong, mind you, but when it causes you to not make any forward progress, then it is wrong. Stab the inner editor in the heart and finish the dang thing.

It's Too Hard
Writing is work. Hard work. It's easier to say you're a writer, to dabble in a paragraph here and there, than to sit your butt in a chair and complete a manuscript.

Too Focused on the End Result
Dreaming of publication, hanging out with authors, scheming out your launch party, these are all fun to think about but if you don't actually write the book you won't attain them.

If you never finish your story then you won't have to show it to anyone. It's frightening to think about exposing your words to the world because the world is a scary place. Now's the time to buy a pair of big girl/boy pants and suck it up.

"No" Isn't Part of Your Vocabulary
In order to say yes to writing a book, you have to say no to a host of other "fun" activities. Writing takes time -- time away from other things you might want to do. Ultimately it's up to you to schedule your writing time and guard that time like a beast.

Do yourself a favor and finish your book. You'll feel like a champion even if it never makes it to publication.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

3 Ways to Manage Social Media Time

Today I saw for sale an off-the-grid, completely self-sufficient homestead in northern Idaho, and for a split second, I was intrigued. How cool would it be to go off grid and become invisible? To not have to listen to the blather about Donald Trump's hair or Hillary Clinton's hacking cough? To run around naked with a gun just because I felt like it? Oops. Sorry for the visual.

But the idea of the homestead did intrigue me -- until I remembered there'd be no wifi. How would I post on Facebook or Tweet or pin or instagram? As an author I have to be in the public eye but must authors or other artists souls be drained by social media?

Of course the answer is no, but that's easier said than done. So here are a few tips to properly handle social media without frazzling your brain and your schedule to smithereens. 

#1. Set a timer.
I'm guilty of frequently pulling out my phone at a moment's notice and checking email or Facebook or whatever. It becomes addicting. I propose we all set a timer, whatever amount of time is right or you, be it a half hour or 45 minutes or 10 minutes, then abide by that time each day. Sure, you can break it up to do some in the morning and evening if it freaks you out to think you might be missing something, but when that timer dings, you shut down.

#2. Limit the venues.
Newsflash: you don't have to be on every conceivable social media site that's out there. Choose 3 -- only 3 -- and spend your time and effort on those. Which 3? The ones you adore, silly rabbit. Life is too short to waste time on something you don't love. Except for laundry. There's no get out of jail free card to avoid that.

#3. Tighten your content.
No one has time to read lengthy posts, and frankly, they don't care that much about your life or what you think. Here's your chance to use your tight writing skills. Get to the point immediately, stay on point, and finish that point in the least amount of words as possible. Limiting how much you post is a great way to limit how much time you spend posting.

Social media is a valuable tool, but that's all it is -- a tool, not a monkey on your back. Use it wisely so it doesn't use you like a fool.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Creating a Mystery Book Launch

Here's how an author plans a book launch from start to finish . . .

First find an appropriate venue. My latest release I co-authored is Out of the Frying Pan, which is a snarky mystery with a dose of romance tossed in. Because the story is filled with quirky characters, I searched for a quirky place to hold the event. Once Upon a Crime is a small, local shop that only sells mysteries. Score!
Kelly Klepfer and Moi

After arranging a time and date, I started planning what we'd do besides simply signing a book. We also wanted to do something a little more original other than flip open our book and start reading. So, we wrote a newsletter as if it came from the community that's the setting for the story. We embedded an easy to solve mystery in the articles, then we read the articles aloud. Afterwards, guests got to guess who did it and enter a drawing for one of three gifts.

Of course you can't have a party without food. We created appetizers and drinks that tied in with one of the main characters.

Here's how the schedule went:

6:30-7:00  Arrival and milling about, partaking of the snackies and drinks. Also you could get your book signed during this time.

7:00-7:30  Authors read and prize giveaway.

7:30-8:30  Loads of visiting and more book signing.

It was a super fun launch. This could be tweaked to work for any genre of book release. The point is to make it fun for the readers and to give them a little something extra for their effort at coming.

Friday, September 23, 2016

5 Quirky Sites

In honor of the release of my quirky mystery, OUT OF THE FRYING PAN, here are some quirky sites for you to check out . . .

This sounds super easy, but it gets harder as the game goes on. All you do is click on the square that is a different color. Simple, right? Yeah, well the shades start looking all the same after awhile, Bucko.

Amaze your friends with upside down text. No, really. Check this out:
¡ʇxǝʇ uʍop ǝpısdn ɥʇıʍ spuǝıɹɟ ɹnoʎ ǝzɐɯɐ

Tired of stupid emails but you really want to sign up for that sweet deal at a store? Pop on over to 10 Minute Mail and you'll get an email address that's good for 10 minutes. Then it disappears. That should give you enough time to get your deal, without having a bajillion sales emails being sent to you afterwards.

Want to see how many airplanes are in the sky right above your little piece of paradise? You'll be surprised.

Do you have an inner naughty child dying to do something rebellious? Here's your chance. Break the fire alarm.

Okay, so those were pretty ridiculous, but here's something that's got some value. Click to enter the Goodreads giveaway of 2 signed copies of OUT OF THE FRYING PAN.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Out of the Frying Pan by Michelle Griep

Out of the Frying Pan

by Michelle Griep

Giveaway ends September 30, 2016.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Thursday, September 22, 2016

We Can All Do Better

Here's a fun fact: you will never arrive.

Okay, maybe that wasn't so fun. Sue me for false advertising. Really, go for it. You might be able to finagle out of my estate the forty-three cents underneath my couch cushions, if you don't mind diving through the dog hair to get it. And even that's kind of iffy. Might be only thirty-eight.

Anyway, my point is not to discourage you but to encourage you to always strive for more. You'll never be the writer you want to be because you can always grow in the craft.

Every new story is your opportunity to write better than your last one. How?
     - Try a new plot technique
     - Incorporate one quirky character
     - Toss in some powerful verbs
     - Edit like never before
     - Give every scene a cliffhanger
     - Make every first line memorable

The saddest thing I've ever seen is an author who stagnates, whose writing stays the same instead of continually becomes better, even just a little. Okay, I lied. The saddest thing I've ever seen is a kicked puppy, but this is a close second.

Don't give in to complacency. Take risks with your art. Grow, you little budding flower. Grow.

Oh yeah, and enter the Goodreads giveaway of one of two signed copies of OUT OF THE FRYING PAN.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Out of the Frying Pan by Michelle Griep

Out of the Frying Pan

by Michelle Griep

Giveaway ends September 30, 2016.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

How Long Does it Take to Write a Book?

I'm frequently asked how long it takes me to write a book. That depends, of course, on how long the book is, but for an average 90-95k novel, I can do it in about 9 months. That includes my excessive editing and some research, assuming I have a basic knowledge of the era. If I don't it takes longer. How does that match up with other authors?

Here are a some famous authors and their even more famous titles, along with the time it took them to write the dang thing.

GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell
10 years

12 years

16 years

A CHRISTMAS CAROL by Charles Dickens
6 weeks

9 months

TWILIGHT by Stephanie Meyere
3 months

THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgeral
2 1/2 years

6 years

So, as you can see, there is no standard time for writing a novel.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Winners and More Winners

**steps up to microphone**

**horrific ear-bleeding reverb and an instant jump back**

**shading eyes with one hand, squinting into the darkened auditorium, giving the sound man a pathetic whimper**

**timidly reaches out one toe, an inch, two, sets down foot and nears the microphone once again**


"Ladies and gentlemen and awesome Writer Off the Leash readers, I am proud to announce the winners of the OUT OF THE FRYING PAN signed-copy giveaway. And the winners are --"

**excessive drum banging and crashy-crashy cymbal slams**


WOO-HOO! A huge round of applause for our intrepid winners. 

And before your pouty lower lip drops to the ground because you didn't win, you get another chance to snatch up your free signed copy of OUT OF THE FRYING PAN. This time there's a giveaway over on Goodreads. Here's your chance . . .

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Out of the Frying Pan by Michelle Griep

Out of the Frying Pan

by Michelle Griep

Giveaway ends September 30, 2016.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Emotional Journey of Writing a New Book

I sat down to write a new book this week. Sounds easy enough, right? Park your booty on a chair, whip open a laptop, and start pounding away. It used to be like that when I didn't have deadlines looming over me like a great black cloud of doom. But the writing process changes when you're no longer doing it simply for fun. Here's an infographic to explain it (and as always, feel free to steal it you like) . . .

Friday, September 16, 2016

Pros and Cons of Small Press Publishing

Listen up, class. We've covered traditional and independent publishing, but don't zip up your backpack yet. There's more to talk about before you're dismissed.

Yeah. School started.

But since I've had experience with small presses also, I figured I'd throw them into the mix.

The Pros of Small Press Publishing

The competition is less fierce.
The biggest advantage of signing with a small press is, well, that you get to sign a contract. Smaller publishers are more willing to take chances and risks by signing no-name or lesser recognized authors. It gets your foot in the publishing door.

They cover the up front costs.
All the expenses of producing a novel are covered by the publisher, not taken from your piggy bank.

The bragging rights to say you've been published.
While it's true that indie publishing doesn't have the stigma it once did, it's still somewhat of a badge of honor to say you've been published by a traditional press.

Royalties could be higher.
Not every small press offers this bonus, but a lot do. Smaller publishers are more apt to share the profits with you.

The Cons of Small Press Publishing

Little to no advance.
The flip side to perhaps getting a larger royalty is that there is usually no advance whatsoever.

Low budget often means a cover you might not be proud of.
Because a small press has smaller operating funds to draw from, top designers are beyond their budget. That means you might not get the quality cover you were hoping for.

Little or nonexistent marketing.
You're more than likely going to have to toot your own horn in the marketplace.

Sometimes small presses go out of business.
The risk in going with a small press is that who knows how long they'll stay in business. And once your book has been published and dropped, a bigger press will not pick it up again. You'll be forced to self-publish if you want that title back out in the public arena.

There you have it, folks. The most information I can give you based on my experiences. I've done all three, and honestly, traditional publishing is my favorite. Not to say that the other two choices are bad. I'm just saying what works for me. Your needs and desires could very well be different.

But here's something that's still the same . . . your chance to snag a free copy of OUT OF THE FRYING PAN!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Pros and Cons of Indie Publishing

Yesterday I tackled traditional publishing, so it's time now to kick the ol' pigskin down toward the indie publishing goalpost. Slap on a helmet and some kneepads. Here we go . . .

The Pros of Independent Publishing

You da boss man.
You call all the shots, from the cover design to the price. Go ahead and parade around in crown, oh king of the publishing realm.

You own the timetable.
You want to put your book out next week? Go for it. You don't have to wait for a marketing department to meet.

There's no one to tell you no.
Goodbye rejection. There's no one to tell you that your book isn't good enough.

The money is all yours. You don't have to share it with anyone. Okay, that's a lie because Uncle Sam will still have his palm out, but the rest is yours.

A sense of accomplishment.
Putting together a book from start to finish is a feather in your cap because it's not a small thing. You get it done and you feel like a champion.

The Cons of Independent Publishing

You bear all the risk.
If that book doesn't sell, you're the one who takes the hit, right in the pocketbook, depending of course on how much you put into this little venture in the first place. And speaking of that, to put out a serious product, you need to invest some cashola in editing and cover design.

There are more decisions to make than you realize.
Where's the best deal on a cover design? How do you know what the best design is? What's an isbn? Where are my socks? These and a bajillion other questions relentlessly pound you over the head.

Formatting can be a headache.
There's a trick to formatting for Kindle and Nook and iphones and whatever other electronic devices are out there. Don't ask me how to do it. I passed that hot potato off to someone else.

Marketing is all on your shoulders.
You are the marketing team. Yeah, so you got your book on Amazon, you and 3 million other titles. How is a reader going to find your book? How are you going to get your book in front of readers?

Quality is all yours, baby.
I cannot emphasize this enough . . . perfection is key. Do NOT put out a book that you will be ashamed of years down the road, one with a schlocky cover and typos galore.

The last thing I want to mention about independent publishing is that very likely you're not going to sell more than a hundred or so copies of your one and only book on the market. Indie publishing is a numbers game, meaning the more books you produce, the more you will sell, especially if you do a series and the first book is put out there for free. If you're not planning on whipping out a book every three or four months, then you might want to rethink the whole indie scene.

But here's something that's a no-brainer . . . enter to win your signed copy of OUT OF THE FRYING PAN, a zany romantic mystery.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Pros and Cons of Traditional Publishing

Occasionally people walk by my cage and rattle the bars, which is generally followed by either:
    A) Throwing me some food despite the
         don't-feed-the-writer signs
    B) A blinding light of a flash from an iphone
    C) Asking me a question

And today we're going with "C" because I was recently asked:
"I'm doing a lot of research regarding publishing independently or traditionally. 
I was wondering if you had any advice on publishing?"

So pull up a stool, Grasshopper, and let's have at it, shall we?

There are no quick answers to this whopper because there are pros and cons to each. I know because I've done both, garnering me the hybrid badge on my Girl Scout banner. I can fill you in on what those pros and cons are but ultimately it's up to you to decide which path is best for you.

Today we'll tackle the traditional route. Stay tuned tomorrow for an indie discussion.

The Pros of Traditional Publishing

You don't foot the bill.
Big publishers pay big money to edit, hire a cover designer, figure out a marketing plan, and dole you out an advance. They take the monetary risk, not you.

Stress free, baby.
You don't have to worry about isbn's or formatting or what the best price to offer the book should be. Quality control is handled (for the most part) by the publisher because their name is riding on this little venture every bit as much as yours.

Yes, you still have to do some marketing, so don't get all giddy on me. But the thing about traditional publishers is that they're usually well established in the industry, getting you in to bookstores and such.

You feel like a rockstar.
Signing with a big deal publisher is, well, a big deal. Like it or not, it's still seen as a validation of your writing skills.

You're not alone.
You work as a team with your editor and marketing and sales directors. They're great sounding boards when you need advice.

The Cons of Traditional Publishing

It's super freaking hard to land a contract with a traditional publisher.
There are gatekeepers with big pointy teeth that wield a huge rejection stamp. More often than not writers are turned away based on their writing or what's hot on the market or what the acquisitions editor had for breakfast that day.

You have to share the profit.
Remember when I said the publisher takes the hit on covering all the upfront costs? Yeah, before you go all happy-ballistic-jumpy-feet over that, the flip side is they'll also take the lion's share of the profit. Usually you'll get 15% of every sale.

Lack of control.
While you sign away all your anxiety because the publisher is handling all the decisions for you, you also sign away your control. Oh, you don't like the cover? Too bad, buttercup. think the copy is a little lame on the back? Yep, that's a publishers final call as well.

You could seriously turn gray before your book hits the shelves.
There are long lead times with trad publishers because of volume and quality control. My manuscripts go through 3 edits before the green light sends them on their way. My book coming out in October was signed in July, as in last year, which makes it nearly a year and a half before becoming available to the public.

And that's the skinny on traditional publishing. Love it or leave it. Personally, I love it. I've got a great relationship with my current publisher (Barbour). But that's not who put out OUT OF THE FRYING PAN, which was a small press . . . and that's a whole different list for another time.

But don't miss out on your time to enter the drawing for Frying Pan here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A Writerly Pep Talk

Here are a few nuggets of writerly wisdom for you to savor . . .

Take risks with your writing. Just make sure you run it by some critique partners before showing it to the world. Sometimes you'll crash and burn. Other times it will be awesome.

Write the best you possibly can. Sure, over the years this will change, but today just write the best you can for today.

You can't edit a blank page. Write something. Anything. You can always go back and fix it later.

Enjoy where you're at right now, be it rookie wannabe writer, a mid-list author with questionable sales, or a rockstar of the publishing industry. There's always something to strive for no matter what level you're at, so take a deep breath and live in the moment.

Write like you because you are you. You're not J.K. Rowling or Vince Flynn. Be you.

Those are ll the things I did to write Out of the Frying Pan. Snatch up your $7.95 copy at Amazon or take your chances and enter the Rafflecopter drawing.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, September 12, 2016

How Average of a Reader Are You?

I just spent a long weekend in the North Woods of Minnesota. I packed 5 books to read. You know how many I got to? About a quarter . . . of one. How pathetic is that? I thought it was pretty schlotzy of me not to devour more pages because surely the average reader in America would’ve gone through that pile, right?

Actually, no. The average reader in America finishes 12 books a year, according to a report from Pew Research.

So far this year I’ve read 8, but one of those was a 3 in 1 book dealio, so really I’m at 11. It’s only October so I figure I’m going to be above average.

How about you? Will you hit that goal? And may I make a recommendation for you to read?

Out of the Frying Pan released last week (you saw that one coming, right?). Pop on over to Amazon to snatch up your copy or try your luck here on the Rafflecopter Contest.

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Friday, September 9, 2016

5 Tips to Craft a Mystery

Writing a mystery doesn't have to be mysterious. There are some elements that are clear and non-negotiable. Here are 5 of them.

1. Craft an interesting sleuth.
We've all read mysteries with the quintessential gumshoe. He wears an overcoat and likely a fedora. There's a cigar involved. And he's probably cranky. Why not mix it up? Think of the most unlikely sleuth in the world and jazz that character up a bit. In OUT OF THE FRYING PAN, my co-author and I used two retired sisters-in-law.

2. Create an interesting story world.
Mysteries don't take place in a vacuum. They take place in a place. That's known as your story world. Make it unique and memorable. Tweak all of the reader's 5 senses. In OUT OF THE FRYING PAN, the story is set in a retirement community next to the Shady Rest nursing home, not to be confused with the Shady Rest cemetery five miles farther south.

3. Suspects that are suspected.
For a mystery, you need at least three suspects. Each one must fall into one of two categories:
       - someone who wants the victim killed
       - someone who had the capability of killing the victim.

4. Spreadsheets are NOT just for nerds.
To write a mystery you must have an outline, and a very detailed one at that. You've got to establish and keep track of your red herrings and your real clues, then dole them out like breadcrumbs throughout the story. To do that you need a plan.

5. Your sleuth has to fail.
Failure is a must. Your sleuth's first, or even second solution, must be wrong. He's got to hit rock bottom before the killer is discovered, otherwise your reader will feel cheated.

Readers of mystery love to figure out who the culprit is but don't make it too easy or they'll get bored.

And there's nothing boring in my latest mystery release OUT OF THE FRYING PAN. Pop over to Amazon to snatch up your copy or enter the drawing here:

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Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Quirk Factor

Charles Dickens was a master of quirky characters. Miss Havisham in Great Expectations is the woman who's never taken off her wedding dress . . . in decades. Mr. Smallweed is carried around on a litter and shouts to be continually "shaken up." Even Scrooge has a miserly quirk. Why did Dickens use such oddities?

Because quirk makes for memorable characters.

Next time you craft a character, make sure to add in a trait that stands out. It will set your story apart from the norm. That's what Kelly Klepfer and I did in our newest release. Meet the quirky cast of OUT OF THE FRYING PAN:

Fern Hopkins
A spry, sixty-three-year-old artist with a love of simple beauty, Fern adds elegance to the community by teaching art classes and reining in Zula’s creative impulses. As much as she appreciates the creation around her, intimacy with God is a struggle, so she keeps spiritual things confined to Sunday mornings.

Azulabelle “Zula” Hopkins 
At sixty-one, Zula is a southern lady with a flair of her own involving big hair and plenty of make-up. Living with Fern is difficult for Zula, but she fears loneliness. Though she’s a staunch believer, she often puts too much importance on this side of heaven.

Detective Jared Flynn
New to the homicide division, this lanky six-footer, combined with his marital status—single—excites the ladies of Sunset Paradise to match him up with any available granddaughter. He figures if God wants him married, He’ll send the perfect woman. Fern and Zula are pretty sure that’s KC, and once KC arrives, Jared thinks so as well.

Katherine Cecile “KC” Hopkins
Spinster at age thirty-something according to her aunts Fern and Zula, KC lives with Mr. Wright, her cat. She’s recently broken off an engagement and sworn off men—forever.

Irma Benton 
She’s only in her late fifties, but with her list of health complaints and sour attitude, she seems at death's door. Irma-sighting reports abound during meal times, turning avoidance into a fine art. The only one who talks to her is Mr. Simmons, but from their red faces and flying spittle, their conversations don’t appear to be pleasant.

Philippe AuClaire 
Silver-haired and mysterious, he’s new to the community. He spends his time writing poetry and claims to dabble in international sales. He speaks fluent French-Canadian, is a gourmet chef and professes that the zinnias are not pink but a variegated shade of raspberry sorbet. Fern’s heart doesn’t stand a chance.

Robert Fenway 
Zula always has palpitations whenever Bob is around, but since his wife’s death, she just might need a pacemaker. Fern is suspicious of his amazing rebound from his recent bereavement and his attraction to Zula—or maybe it’s to her bank account.

Intrigued? Snatch yourself up a copy at Amazon or enter the Rafflecopter drawing for a chance at a signed copy . . .

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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

How to Co-Author a Book

It's no secret I co-authored Out of the Frying Pan with my writerly buddy Kelly Klepfer. We had a hootenanny of a time. She's ridiculous. I'm insane. Win, win, right? But even though it was a great experience, there were a few new tricks I learned to put into my writerly bag. Here are some tips if you're considering co-authoring a book . . .

Don't edit the other person's voice to death.
This was my problem. Big time. I'm the sicko who happens to love to edit. Soup can labels, dog food bags, you name it and I'll edit it. Generally this skill comes in handy, but not so much when I red-inked my buddy's scenes. The beauty of having 2 authors in one book is that you get distinct voices. Resist the urge to make it sound like one.

Transitions are your new best friends.
When we finally put all of our scenes together, some of them didn't mesh so well. Segues are a must, especially when there are 2 different voices. Just a sentence or two will do it at the beginning of each scene.

Have one main plotter.
Kelly worked out the big picture for Out of the Frying Pan. Good thing, because too many authors ideas can spoil a novel. Not that we didn't brainstorm together from time to time, but someone has to ultimately be in charge of steering the writerly ship.

Have loads of grace and buckets of mercy.
Sometimes I screwed up a scene. Sometimes Kelly did. We both had to go back to the drawing board when our scene didn't work for the other person. Know that's part of the game ahead of time so tempers don't flare.

Divvy up the marketing chores.
Just because you finish writing the book together doesn't mean the work is over. That's when marketing begins. Don't weigh down your partner with the bulk of getting the word out. Do what you learned in preschool: share.

Would I do it again? Sure. Writing a book together is a fun adventure. Just make sure to do it with someone you love.

And if you love a sweet deal, there's still a chance to enter the OUT OF THE FRYING PAN giveaway . . .

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Tuesday, September 6, 2016


Slap on a helmet. Buckle up.
And three . . . two . . . one . . . BLAST OFF!

Welcome to a week of launch craziness for the zany mystery OUT OF THE FRYING PAN.  Here's a blurb:

Murder in Paradise whips life into a froth for FERN and ZULA HOPKINS. When the retirement center’s chef is found dead, the two ladies get folded in with the case. Their zany attempts to track down the killer land them in hot water with Detective JARED FLYNN. Should he be concerned about their safety—or the criminal’s?

But there are deadly ingredients none of them expect. Drugs. Extortion. International cartels. And worst of all…broken hearts, especially when the Hopkins sisters’ niece KC arrives on the scene.

Life at Sunset Paradise Retirement Village will never be the same.

I know exactly what you're thinking right about now -- "But Michelle! You write historical fiction. What's up with this nonsense?" Valid question. Here's the dealio . . .

My faithful readers know I tend to have a snarky side to my humor, and that comes out no matter what genre I write. The opportunity to team up with my authorly buddy, Kelly Klepfer, was just too hilarious to pass up. This girl is seriously nonstop laughs and giggles. So when she asked me to co-author a contemporary mystery (her chosen genre) I figured I'd give it a whirl.

And you can too. OUT OF THE FRYING PAN is now available at Amazon in paperback and e-book formats. Go snatch yourself up a copy -- or you can try your hand at winning one of two signed copies by entering this Rafflecopter:

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Monday, September 5, 2016

Happy Grill-O-Rama Labor Day

What are you doing here? It's Labor Day. Time to kick back and grill before winter smacks you upside the head.

But come back tomorrow. It's launch week for OUT OF THE FRYING PAN and it will be a book launch wingding of a week.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Podcast Bonanza

Long car rides and/or being stuck in traffic are great times to blast a podcast -- and here some to check out if you have writerly interests . . .

Tips on grammar and storytelling from Mignon Fogarty.

Language as seen through the lens of culture and history, sponsored by National Public Radio. Here's a fun one: Writerly Insults.

Love their tagline: 15 minutes long, because you're in a hurry and we're not that smart. These are quick tips hosted by 4 different writers.

Podcasts by author Joanna Penn about everything and anything writing related.

Conversations with professional writers.

The hosts of this show share personal stories and practical tips for anyone interested in self-publishing.

There. That ought to keep you busy for awhile.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Of Rags and Riches

Next week is party time here at Writer Off the Leash for the release of Out of the Frying Pan, a zany cozy mystery I wrote with the talented Kelly Klepfer. 

But that doesn't mean this week can't be just as much fun.

Pull out your floozle horns and bang your dingbeaters as I draw back the red velvet curtains to reveal a release headed your way next summer. Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you the OF RAGS AND RICHES ROMANCE COLLECTION . . .

Here's the back cover copy:

Love Flourishes during America’s Gilded Age

The Gilded Age of the late 1800s was a time of opulence, growth, and great change for all aspects of American life. Modern conveniences and improvements paved the way for western expansion and leisure activities. The rich became richer, and the poor worked hard to make a better life for themselves. Nine couples meet during these exhilarating times and work to build a future together through fighting for social reform, celebrating new opportunities for relaxation, taking advantage of economic growth and new inventions, and more.

And here's a blurb for my story:

A House of Secrets
St. Paul, MN 1890

Ladies Aide Chairman, Amanda Carston, resolves to clean up St. Paul’s ramshackle housing and determines to demolish the worst of the worst: a “haunted” house that’s secretly owned by her beau—a home that’s his only means of helping brothel girls escape from the hands of the city’s most infamous madam.

The collection releases next July. Yikes. I'd better get busy writing.

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