Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Culture Bonus

If you're turning eighteen and you live in Italy, you've got a bonus coming to you. I know. Right? Sheesh! As if living in pasta heaven with all those Italian hunks of men and, oh yeah, let's not forget all the wine, isn't bonus enough, eh? But yes indeedy, as of September 15th Italian citizens will get a "culture bonus" on their eighteenth birthday.


The money, about 500 euros, is supposed to be spent on books, concerts, theaters, museums, movies and trips to national parks. I'd probably blow it all on tiramisu and prosecco, but hey, that's just me. The rational behind this government program is that terrorism and extremism need to be fought not only by police and guards and intelligence, but by a strong affirmation of Europe's cultural values.

What an interesting idea. Not that I'm for the government doling out cash for something like this, but what if company's chose to fund a love of reading? Or writing? Or music, for that matter? In the current Pokemon Go culture, what a revolutionary idea.

If it were me, I'd visit independent bookstores in the area and clean out the Regency and Victorian era shelves. Then I'd move on to young adult and maybe peruse the cookbook and gardening sections.

What about you? Pretend you've just been given $1000 to spend on books. Where do you go? What do you buy? Ready . . . Set . . . Dream!

Monday, August 29, 2016

4 Areas of Soul Care for the Writer

"One of the most neglected areas of a storyteller's world is the internal arena of the soul. Nothing has a greater impact than soul-care on an author's identity."
~ Allen Arnold

I sat in on a great workshop last weekend that talked about the 4 areas of soul care for a writer. But even if you're some other kind of artist -- or just plain human -- this is good advice for anyone.

The care of your spirit is spending time alone with God. Spend time enjoying God's presence via God's word and prayer. Your characters cannot have more depth than you do, so practice being still with God.

The soul is the seat of affections and will. What do you feed your soul? What you put into your soul affects what will come out.

"Whatever their bodies do affects their souls." 
~ Screwtape (from C.S. Lewis's Screwtape Letters)
Simple reminders but very important:

  • Drink water
  • Remember to stretch
  • 1/2 hour exercise EVERY day

Writing is a solitary pastime but no man is an island. Your soul is meant to be in community (even Adam had his Eve). Jesus didn't spend the majority of his time ministering alone in the dessert. Community keeps you connected to what God is doing and has done.

How are you doing in these 4 areas? Balance is key.

Conference Aftermath

Writer Off the Leash reader Tama Fortner, a brave, brave soul.
ACFW Conference Highlights . . .

See this cute chick in the red sweater? I had the privilege of meeting one of my Writer Off the Leash readers and just had to share her with you other readers. Introducing the awesome Tama Fortner. Woo-hoo for readers!

Speaking of readers, I had a lovely bathroom experience with one who fangirled me right there in front of God and country and other restroom occupants. Super fun!

I got to fangirl on some of my favorite authors. Sarah E. Ladd and Jaime Jo Wright just to name a few.

Meeting with editors and agents and other writers is always a highlight, but the thing that really makes this conference special is the worship and the focus on God in writing.

But let's flip this coin over because yes, my friends, there was a down side to all this conference frolicking . . .

Here's a handy dandy travel tip for you. When you go through airport security and you're wearing a jean jacket vest, take it off. Better that than getting to know your TSA agent in a very intimate way. Or rather them getting to know you.

Next year's conference is in Dallas. For all you wannabe writers out there, even though this is an expensive trip, it's worth it to further your career.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Writing 21st Century Fiction

Agent Donald Maass
Ever wish you could pick the brain of a New York literary agent about writing fiction in the current market? Today I had the opportunity to sit in on a workshop led by Donald Maass and gleaned some info for you . . .

Be Real

It takes courage to expose truth. Powerful stories tell us something important and you know something important. Take the risk. Be real. Take your personal experience and transform it into story. Use the hard material of your life.

Be Full Range

Sure, stories are about trouble, but there is room in your novel for bliss. You need the full range of emotions. Let the reader enjoy some of that happiness. This isn't plot specific so don't worry about what genre you write. Just capture the human experience.

Be Personal

Great fiction causes us to feel that we are in a real place. The author must draw on their own experience to make the unreal world real. Have the grace to give your characters what you feel and the reader will connect at a human level.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Writerly Wisdom From Ane Mulligan

Starting out the writer's conference with my crit buddy Ane Mulligan. Well, that and a glass of wine, but let me tell ya, sparkling moscato or not, this author is a powerhouse of writing wisdom. Here's a nugget from Ane . . .

God whispers to our hearts
and our hearts whisper back in stories.

She'll be teaching a workshop on critiquing. Here are a few highlights: 

To find a good critique partner, start by joining a few groups. You won't click with everyone in the group, so pay particular attention to those you do. Then start building relationships with a select few. You have to trust your critique partners and that takes relationship building.

Don't be afraid to partner with someone who's at your level of writing. You can grow together. You don't need an established author, you just need to find someone who's serious about the craft. Finding mistakes in others work is a step to spotting it in your own.

Iron sharpens iron. It's truth given in love. Push each other for the best work possible. 

Like what you heard? There's more. Check out Ane's blog at SOUTHERN-FRIED FICTION.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

What it Feels Like to Go to a Conference

Tomorrow I'm leaving for the ACFW Conference, and with that comes a whole host of emotions . . . most of which every other writer that's going will feel and try to deny or ignore. Not me. I figured I'd whip open the curtain so you can see the scared little peon that works all the bells and whistles of every great Oz who writes books.

So, in case you're not attending, have never attended, or would just like a peek at what it's like inside a writer's head, here are an assortment of random feelings in no particular order . . .

I'm not nervous about flying, but there is a certain amount of stress about the unknowns, like will I get groped by the TSA? How far is it from the Starbucks to my gate? Will I be sitting next to Chatty Cathy or Salami-smelling Stewart? And what if I get on the wrong shuttle at the airport and end up in Memphis instead of Nashville?

I'm rooming with my buddies, but even so, sweet mercy, what if my nose plugs up and I snore like a buzzsaw all night? What do we do if we all decide to take a shower at the same time? Draw straws? Institute a lottery? Did I pack enough chocolate to last us the entire long weekend?

I'm an introvert. How long can I really manage holding coherent conversations with others before I crack? Will people judge me if my friendly face falls to the floor and I have to hightail it back to my room? Can I pass notes instead of talking?

Big name authors will be roaming the same halls as I am. What if I run into one? Like literally? And I soil my pants? Or what if the needle on my fan-girl-ometer dips into the red zone and I slip into stalker mode just to get an autograph and I don't have their book and I whip out a Sharpie and say, "Here, sign the back of my neck." Is that too creepy?

What if when I'm meeting with an agent or editor I fumble? Or babble? Or freeze frame with a deer-in-the-headlights look?

What if people know who I am? What if they don't know who I am? How do I know who I am?

Did I pack enough deodorant? Underwear? Cute little headbands in case my hair decides to frizz into a topiary?

These thoughts are a sampling of the bajillion that are running through my mind right now. Tomorrow they'll kick into warp drive. You'll probably spot me. I'll be the hot mess sitting in aisle 17.

The point of all this ridiculousness is that I am not the only self-doubting writer who will be attending a conference this year. Pretty much everyone there will be just as angst-filled as you are because artists are most critical of themselves. The beauty of that is honestly you don't have to worry about what others are thinking about you because they're too focused on themselves. So go ahead and embrace your inner freak. You're among friends.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Bronco Riding Reviews

As if menopause isn’t bad enough to mess with a girl’s psyche, the crazed rollercoaster of reviews has me flying high one minute, and the next sucking my thumb in the fetal position. Whimpering. I know, I know…what kind of egotistical shallow shell of a woman am I?

Apparently a very human one. Every author on earth, no matter how hard-shelled, still feels the highs and lows while visiting Reviewsville. What’s the secret to leveling out those feelings?

Don’t read reviews.
Several authors I know, even big name ones, don’t read their reviews. Ever. I’m too curious to go that route, but I do see the value in not knowing the good, the bad, and the ugly that others may be publicly broadcasting.

Glean one nugget of truth.
Good or bad, every review has some ounce of wisdom that can aid you in your writing. Take one, ONLY one, nugget from every review. If you wallow in all the cutting remarks from a negative post you’ll get depressed. On the flip side, if you suck in all the glowing admiration from a five-star, you’ll get a big head.

Look at the big picture.
Just like you must consider a Bible verse in light of the context of the entire chapter, so should you consider a review from a particular reviewer. It helps to read what the reviewer has written about other books. So maybe you earned a sucky two-star review from that person, but when you look at their other reviews, you find out all their other posts are one-star. See what I mean? Context is everything.

Reviews for authors are like bronco riding for cowboys. It can be exhilarating and/or skull crushing. The trick is to hold on tight and remember you’re in this for the long haul.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Why You Should NOT Go to a Writing Conference

Last week I filled you in on the pros of going to a conference. You can check that post out HERE. But it's not an absolute requirement that you must attend one. In fact, there are a few reasons you shouldn't go to a writing conference . . .

If cash is an issue, then don't go. And don't get all mopey and poor me and throw an uber pity party. Suck it up and move on. Maybe you'll have the moolah next year. If it comes down to a choice between attending a conference or paying your rent, the rent should win every time. Conferences are a luxury, not a mandatory requirement to be a successful author.

Going to a conference does not make you a "For Real" writer. Writing makes you a writer.

Unreasonable Expectations
Just because you attend a con doesn't mean you're going to land a contract. The opposite might happen and you'll be told your writing sucks. Reasonable expectations would be that you intend to make new friends and learn more of the craft. Anything else is unreasonable. Do not go to a conference expecting to be the belle of the ball.

Peer Pressure
I know. It's hard to skip out on something just cuz all the cool kids are doing it. But if you're only going because your friends are, then don't bother. Not that hanging with your peeps isn't an essential activity, but if that's your only reason, then it's not worth it.

If you've got deadlines galore, or family events, or school's starting or whatever, put some margin into your life and just say no to the conference. Adding a conference onto your heap o' busy adds stress. If the needle on your crazy-o-meter is currently in the blow up zone, then don't go.

Don't get me wrong . . . conferences are great. I'm just saying don't freak out if you can't or aren't able to attend one.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The 3 B's of Conference Etiquette

It's that conference time of year. All the newbie writers, chomping at the bit, straining at the leash, starry-eyed and yada, yada. Yeah. I can spot a rookie in a writing conference auditorium seventeen rows away.

Then there are those who've been around the block a few times. Okay, too many times. Knuckles dragging on the carpet, saggy baggy eyes, a perpetual gaze of disillusion. These, too, are easy to find.

But whether you're a novice or an old pro, there are certain rules of etiquette that everyone must follow . . .

Be Friendly
Close your yap now and then and listen -- really listen -- to others. Believe it or not, you shouldn't be a walking, talking billboard advertising your latest piece of literary brilliance. Even though you're at a conference about writing, life is more than writing. Look past yourself to connect with others.

Be Kind.
This should go without saying, yet here I am, saying it. If you see a sniffly author wannabe who crashed and burned in the hallway, even if you're on your way to a high-powered editorial meeting, be the good Samaritan and lend a shoulder to cry on.

Be Polite.
Elbowing a fellow writer out of the way while you tackle the agent of your choice is wrong on so many levels. Okay, so that's a little extreme, but seriously. . . look for opportunities to let others go first, get the biggest muffin from bread basket, or even hang back when it looks like the elevator won't fit in two more people.

It's easy to slip into the mindset of hey-I-paid-a-bajillion-dollars-for-this-conference-and-I-wanna-get-my-money's-worth, but that kind of thinking will turn you into the writer everyone wants to avoid. Keep these 3 B's in mind to make your writing conference a success for you and those around you.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The 5 W's of Writing a Pitch Line

Next week, along with a bajillion other writerly-type humanoids, I'll be jetting off to Nashville for the ACFW Conference. We'll all have one thing in common. Besides stalking the keynote speaker Ted Dekker, that is.

We'll all be pitching our little hearts out to agents and editors. And that means we all need to craft a fantastic hook, or log line, or 1-sentence pitch -- pick your poison, they all mean the same thing. How exactly does one do that?

The 5 W's of Writing a Fantastic Pitch Line

1. Who is the main character?

2. What is the conflict (usually the inciting incident)?

3. What are the stakes?

4. Where is the story set? Note: This one can be optional.

5. Why is the action taking place?

Once you've got those 5 questions answered, then it's time to flesh it out into a 25 word sentence. Sure, you can write more at first, but then whittle it down to only 25. Here's an example of the one I wrote today . . .

When a prim and proper governess returns to England from abroad, she expects to comfort her dying father—not fall in love with a smuggler.

Can you identify all the answers?
Who = prim and proper governess
What Conflict = must leave her position to travel back home
What Stakes = falls in love with a smuggler, a big no-no
Where = England
Why = she's going to comfort her dying father

And yes, if you count it, that's exactly 25 words.

Writing a pitch line takes a LOT of thought and effort to condense your story down to the barest essence. You won't get it right the first time, or the second, or possibly the third or fourth. But here's a nugget of advice . . . it's better to put the thought into it now before you're face to face with an editor or agent, because then you'll really be tongue-tied.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Grammar Gaffs and Typos and Formatting Errors, Oh My!

Available September 6.
Currently I'm freaking out because my next release is due to hit the ol' bookshelves in 3 weeks. Not that that's a bad thing, mind you. The problem lies in the fact that I haven't done a final read-through yet. But good news! I can quit biting my nails. Even if there are a few bugaboos, that could just make it a collectors item. If it works for J.K. Rowling, why not for me? Here's what I'm talking about . . .

The first print run of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's stone contained about 500 books with an error on page 53. Yeah, I'll give you a moment to go snatch up your copy and flip open to that page.

Okay, ready?

Now then, the mistake lists "1 wand" twice in an inventory of first-year wizarding supplies. Not that big of an error, but big enough for one of these boo-boo editions to hit the auction at Bonhams Fine books and Manuscripts Sale for a whopping $33,500.

Does your copy list it twice? If so, you stand to make some serious bank.

As for me, I'm not sweating it anymore. One typo could make all the difference.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Feast or Famine

The thing about writing is that sometimes you go long stretches with nary a contract in sight. You stumble around, hands outstretched like a blind man, groping for the merest hint of someone--anyone--who might want to purchase your pithy stories. Weeks, months, years pass and you got nothing but dreams.

Then blammo! The clouds break and streams of glorious sunshiney contracts fall from the sky and land on your head.

Seems like it's one or the other, and currently I'm soaking in the sun. Besides the Dickens-type Christmas series, I just signed another contract for a new novella, due out next summer. The book will be titled OF RAGS AND RICHES ROMANCE COLLECTION. Here's a general blurb:

The Gilded Age in America (1870-1900) 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. This collection features nine stories set between 1870 and 1900, exploring this exciting time in American History.

And here's a blurb for my story, A HOUSE OF SECRETS . . .

Ladies Aide Chairman, AMANDA CARSTON, resolves to clean up St. Paul’s ramshackle housing, determining to demolish the worst of the worst: a “haunted” house, but when she enlists the aide of her fiance, attorney JOSEPH BLAKE, they uncover secrets neither expects—which may mean the end of their relationship . . . or her life.

Since this one is due before the Christmas series, I'm immersing myself in the gilded age. Want to see some pictures of characters and settings? HERE's the Pinterest page. Have at it.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Why You Should Go to a Writing Conference

In a week and a half I'll be jetting off to Nashville, where it's hot and I'll get moist and drippy and I don't even like country western or the Grand ol' Opry. There. I said it out loud. Don't judge me.

So why leave the cool north for the sweat-laden south? The American Christian Fiction Writers Conference, of course. I don't always attend, but when I do, it's always valuable . . . but not necessarily in ways you'd expect. Sure, landing a contract is a possibility for anyone who goes, yet there are other pros for coughing up the cash for a conference.

Let's get this horse out of the stable right away. This is the number one reason in most people's minds to hurtle their fannies across the country and land at a conference. There are agents. There are editors.  There are publicists. There is opportunity. Getting your face in front of other publishing industry faces is a great way to make a memorable impression. That impression, of course, is up to you. I suggest you leave your tiara and sequined leopard leggings at home.

By virtue of its nature, writing is a solitary profession. Only one pair of hands will fit on a keyboard, no matter how hard you try. Stepping away from that keyboard and developing relationships with other humanoids that have hands is a healthy thing to do. Besides, no one understands the freakish quirks of a writer like other writers.

Workshops. Panels. Appointments with editors and agents. These are all prime opportunities to learn first-hand tips and tricks that will benefit your career. Don't spend your time at the hotel bar (though I'm not gonna lie...that's a great place to learn some insights as well). Take advantage of gleaning what you can the whole time you're there.

Okay, so, yeah, I've been known to stalk my favorite authors to snag an autograph. Is that wrong? Besides that, though, big names and little names attend conferences. This is your chance to rub shoulders with them.

Sure, it costs a lot of coin to go to a conference. Save your receipts. The whole gig is tax deductible. You'll be glad about that come next April 15th.

And those are just some of the benefits of going to a conference. This year I hope to spend time hanging with my buddies who I only ever get to chat with online. I'll probably be sniffing around the agents, since I'm currently a lone wolf. And even though I do have deadlines galore, yeah, I'll pitch a new story, because hey, who doesn't need a little more crazy in their life?

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Instagram for Booklovers

Instagram is my favorite social media. Well, that and Pinterest. Probably because I work with words all day long and need a photo break. Even if you aren't a penmonkey, though, Instagram is the place for you. There's something for every booklover, but here are a few of my faves . . .

A daily fix of witty or snarky or quotes that just make you go ahhh.

This account asks strangers on the subway what they're reading and what they think of it.

Coffee and books. Win, win.

Clean cut, awesome book pix.

A combination of fashion and books.

Nature. Books. Beautiful backdrops.

Travels, textures, things that inspire. . . a view of the world by moi.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Now is the Time

When people find out I'm a writer, I usually get one of two responses . . .

#1. Can you get me an autograph from Ted Dekker or Francine Rivers or Fill-in-the-blank-favorite-author?

#2. Oh, I've got a book idea that I'm going to write, too.

To which my response is . . .

#1. You'll have to do your own stalking. Ted, Francine and Fill-in-the-blank all have court orders against me. It probably had something to do with the flamingo pants I was wearing at the time. 

#2. Really? What's stopping you from writing that book right now?

To which their response is . . .

#1. A slo-mo gasp of horror followed by a quick, "Geez! Is that the time? Gotta run."

#2. "I'm too busy right now."

Obviously #1 is tied-up in a neat bow and there's no more to discuss. But #2 . . . ahh, number two. You better believe I have one more response left in me for good ol' numero dos.

Here's the deal -- if you have a book you want to write, then write the dang thing. Do not wait until you're retired, your kids are grown, you have enough money to live off of, the planets are all aligned, whatever. Just do it. Now.

Life is short. There are so many people in my life who are currently battling cancer, facing their mortality, unsure how many days are left. Yes, that's sad and depressing, but guess what, Hoss? Every single one of us is going to die and we don't know when. The only breath you can count on is the one you're breathing in right now. If you have a dream of something to accomplish in this life, now is the time.

Don't let fear stop you from writing if that's a dream of yours. Will you get it published? I don't know. Will you even finish it? Beats me. You might fail spectacularly. But that's not the point. You will never know the satisfaction of pursuing a dream if you never try.

So here's your official wake up call from me to you . . . go hard after your dreams today. You're not guaranteed a tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Christmas in August

I've never been a fan of Christmas in July. Who even came up with that in the first place? It's just wrong on so many levels, but here are a few . . .

-  It's way too hot to think about roasting 
    chestnuts when my own chestnuts are sweaty.

-   I haven't lost the 12 pounds I gained from 
    last year's Christmas cookie extravaganza.
    shouldn't be played any month of the year.

So for all those reasons and a plethora of more, I vote there will be no Christmas in July. Ever. Period. And amen.

But I heartily lift a mug of eggnog in honor of Christmas in August, especially since I just signed a contract for the Once Upon a Dickens Christmas series! Yes indeedy, 3 brand spankin' new books coming at you in 2017, 2018 and 2019. Here's a blurb:

On a stormy night 2,000 years ago, a baby was born and a coin was forged—both the bearers of a second chance. The God-man returned to heaven, but the coin yet roams the earth, passing from hand to hand, hope to hope. THE ONCE UPON A DICKENS CHRISTMAS series follows the path of that coin as it touches three different lives in Victorian England.


Imprisoned unjustly, BENJAMIN LANE wants nothing more than freedom and a second chance to claim the woman he loves—but how can CLARA CHAPMAN possibly believe in the man who stole her family’s fortune and abandoned her at the altar?


Pleasure seeker WILLIAM BARLOW needs a wife immediately to gain his uncle’s inheritance, and MINA SCOTT is just the girl to make him look respectable—too bad she turns him down. Ought he give her a second chance?


Recently widowed BELLA WHITE is finally freed from the domination of the overbearing men in her life, but when she enters into a business partnership with the handsome EDMUND ARCHER, she begins to wonder if marriage is worth a second chance.

Thankfully it's not July because I'll be yanking out my Christmas tree and tinsel, decking my halls, and blasting Jingle Bells for inspiration as I sit down to channel my inner Dickens. Stay tuned for updates as I have them.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Readers Live Longer

Of course I spout the benefits of reading because, hey, I want you to buy my books. But turns out there's a less self-serving used-car-salesman kind of schlocky reason to read . . .

You'll live longer.

No, really. I'm not making this up. A recent study published in Social Science & Medicine backs this up with facts.

A group of 3,635 people (all over the age of 50) were split into one of three groups:
     - non-readers
     - readers who read books for up to 3.5 hours every week
     - readers who read books for more than 3.5 hours per week

Collecting data from those groups, here's what they found out . . .

Those who read up to 3.5 hours a week were 17% less likely to die over 12 years of follow-up.

Those who read more than 3.5 hours were 23% less likely to die.

On average, book readers lived almost 2 years longer than those who did not read at all.

But if books aren't your thing, there is still a longevity benefit (albeit less) for those who read newspapers and periodicals.

So there it is in print . . . your official permission to run out and buy a new book today.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Meet Katie Morton

Writer / Author / Storyteller
And now for something completely different . . . drum roll, please, and an excessive amount of clappy-clappiness as I welcome a former student of mine to Writer Off the Leash.

Meet the awesome Katie Morton!

Back in seventh grade, my writing teacher assigned a short story essay over spring break. Since I loved writing stories, my mind went wild with the idea of a princess, caught up in a war, who had to flee her home when her country was attacked. I wrote the essay, submitted it, and then tucked away the idea. 

A year later, I discovered a fiction novel writing contest for teenagers hosted by a small publishing company. The prize would be publication of the winner’s novel. I immediately jumped at the idea, as I had always wanted to be a published author. I began searching my story ideas for the perfect novel plot, and stumbled upon my 7th grade writing class idea. There was my story! 

I took that summer to write my manuscript, and then submitted the final product to the contest. Weeks later, however, I was crushed to find that the contest was canceled due to a lack of entrants. Even though that door closed, I still had a completed manuscript, and my parents and I still wanted to see it published. 

My dad began searching for a publisher who could publish me, and about two years later, he found WestBow Press, a publishing company that would turn out to be the one to turn my manuscript into a book. From there, my little story idea, started all the way back in a seventh grade writing class, blossomed into a published novel. My dream of becoming a published author had come true!


When King Maurice of Alandar launches a surprise attack on her kingdom, seventeen-year-old Princess Lorelle—crown princess of Aundria—is forced to flee for her safety, leaving behind her country and her beloved parents King Norman and Queen Isabel.

She escapes the fortress and boards a ship traveling across the Jasmin Sea to the beautiful island of Julinar. On the journey, she meets Sir James Wellington, a young knight who will stop at nothing to protect her. Yet even hundreds of miles away from the fray, she is still not safe from the dangers and horrors of war. As Alandar closes in on her, Lorelle must sacrifice everything to defend her country, find her way home, and fight for those she loves.


KATIE MORTON grew up filling notebooks with stories and ideas. Now a 19-year-old sophomore in college, one of those stories has been published as The Edge of Redemption, her first full-length novel. A lover of traveling and the outdoors, Katie splits her time between a home with three brothers in Minnesota and a university full of adventures in California. She is forever thankful for God’s love and grace. Catch her next adventure at

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Big Buck Authors

You've heard my mantra . . .
Writers don't make a lot of money. Keep your day job. 

Yeah, well, some do. Want to know who and how much? Recently Forbes released a list of the highest paid authors.

1. James Patterson $95 million
2. Jeff Kinney $19.5 million
3. J.K. Rowling $19 million
4. John Grisham $18 million
5. Stephen King $15 million
6. Danielle Steel $15 million
7. Nora Roberts $15 million
8. E.L. James $14 million
9. Veronica Roth $10 million
10. John Green $10 million
11. Paula Hawkins $10 million
12. George R.R. Martin $9.5 million
13. Dan Brown $9.5 million
14. Rick Riordan $9.5 million

Kudos to these big time writers. They can, officially, quit their day jobs.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Free Books Until Midnight

There's a few hours left on a free book sweet deal . . . and one of them is my critique buddy Ane Mulligan's! HERE's the link.

And here's my buddy's book . . .


With a friend like Claire, you need a gurney, a mop, and a guardian angel.

Everybody in the small town of Chapel Springs, Georgia, knows best friends Claire Bennett and Patsy Kowalski. It's impossible not to, what with Claire's zany antics and Patsy's self-appointed mission to keep her friend out of trouble. And trouble abounds.

During an early morning discussion at Dees 'n' Doughs bakery with their ladies group, all Chapel Springs entrepreneurs, attention is drawn to the slackened tourist trade. With their livelihoods threatened, they join forces to address the town's revitalization in hopes of drawing back the tourists. No one could have guessed the real issue needing restoration is their marriages.

Claire, a pottery artist, stumbles through life with her foot in her mouth. When she became a Christian, she thought life and her marriage would be included in the new creation part. But her thighs are just as big and her husband, Joel, is as ornery as ever. She's become nothing more than a sheet-changer, a towel-folder, a pancake-flipper. Her life is humdrum and she's tired of being taken for granted.

Patsy has plans for her empty nest, plans that include a cruise ship. However, her husband, Nathan, continues to work long hours, and he's not talking about slowing down. In fact, he's not talking much at all. She's asleep long before he comes home each night. At first she thought it was just because of tax season, but now she's not so sure. Something other than work seems to keep him late at the office every night. With the lines of communication closed, she'll have to find another way to reach him.

With their marriages as much in need of restoration as the town, Claire and Patsy embark on a mission of mishaps and miscommunication, determined to restore warmth to Chapel Springs and their lives. That is if they can convince their husbands and the town council, led by two curmudgeons who would prefer to see Chapel Springs left in the fifties and closed to traffic.

What Influences a Reader to Buy a Book?

My next release, OUT OF THE FRYING PAN, comes out on September 6th, so currently I'm hot and heavy into panic mode. Happens every time. The pre-release panic causes night sweats and eating excessive amounts of chocolate as I struggle with the same question yet again . . .

What influences a reader to buy a book?

If I can answer that question, then shazam! Instantaneous sales and gobs of fame, right? Uh...yeah...not so much. Because as I've found out by researching this question, a lot of what influences a purchase is out of an author's control.

Turns out that readers really do judge books by their covers. That's the number one influence. Dang it, because authors have little to no say in what goes on the cover.

But lest I sink this boat into an ocean of depression, it also turns out there are other reasons potential readers snatch up a book, and here they are:

  • Book reviews
  • Genre
  • Who the author is
  • Blurb on the cover 
  • The first page
  • A friend's recommendation

So obviously I'm stressing over nothing, because most of the things on that list is--again--out of the author's control. Not that marketing isn't important, it's just not something to get all bent out of shape about.

What influences you to buy a book?

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Post-Mortem Publishing

Some authors are so dedicated, they don't let a little thing like death stop them from publishing. Michael Crichton died in 2008, a huge loss to the literary world, probably best known for Jurassic Park (though my favorite is Timeline). So you would think that means no new books from him, right?

Wrong-oh, Bucko. Recently, his wife, Sherri Crichton, discovered a manuscript of his and Harper Collins snatched it up.

DRAGON TEETH is slated for an April 2017. Here's a blurb from Amazon:

DRAGON TEETH follows the notorious rivalry between real-life paleontologists Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh during a time of intense fossil speculation and discovery in the American West in 1878. 

The story unfolds through the adventures of a young fictional character named William Johnson who is apprenticed first to one, then to the other and not only makes discoveries of historic proportion, but transforms into an inspiring hero only Crichton could have imagined. 

Known for his meticulous research, Crichton uses Marsh and Copes' heated competition during the 'Bone Wars,' the golden age of American fossil hunting, as the basis for a thrilling story set in the wilds of the American West.

I'll be pre-ordering this little gem because he's one of my all-time favorites. But no need for you to wait to snatch up some literary greatness . . . here's a sweet contest for you from BOOKSWEEP.

Celebrate the summer with a chance to win more than 40 inspirational romances from award-winning, NY Times and USA Today bestselling authors, PLUS a Kindle Fire.

You've got a week to enter by clicking HERE.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Movie or Book: A Story's a Story

I admit it. I watched 3 entire movies this weekend. Go ahead and call me lazy. But (and I've always got a big but) while my sluggish behind was parked in the back of a van (went to a drive-in) and a plush, extra-wide seat (because they all are at the theater), I was working by dissecting plots. No matter the format -- movie, book, spoken word, theater -- a story is a story is a story. Here's what I gleaned . . .


This movie had so much potential. With an opening sentence like that, you know exactly where this mini-review is going, eh? And if you've seen the preview for this animated film, you also know pretty much the entire story of this movie.

In a nutshell, this is a day in the life of two dogs, who are enemies. They end up getting lost and have to work together to get back home. It's always good to stick two incompatible characters together, so on a basic level this story totally works. Kids will love it because there's a certain amount of butt sniffing and potty humor.

But where it fails is to engage the adult half of the audience, which is a must for today's market. Not that it has to be raunchy humor, but at least something super witty or sarcastic to hold a parent's attention.

Should you go see it? Nah. Wait until it's out on video.


How many Bourne movies are there now? 72? 83? It seems like it. Actually, I loved the first two in this series, but now the story is just tired. This one has your requisite car chases, fight scenes, and assassinations.

The premise of the story is that Jason Bourne is suffering from flashbacks of when his father died. Wrestling that demon gives him no peace. . .until he finds out who did it, because clearly revenge will give him peace. Wrong-o, bucko. Which is what he semi-figures out by the end I think???? Not really sure. Yeah, there's that much non-disclosure leaving you hanging at the end, and not in an oh-my-gosh-can't-wait-to-see-the-next-one kind of way. More like I-am-so-done-with-Bourne.

This plot is a fail because there's no grander thing, no more glorious ideal, that Bourne is reaching for other than revenge.

Should you go see it? Nah. Not even on video.


It's a rare plot that has me wondering what the heck is going to happen. This is one of those rarities. The story is about a family that's chosen to live off grid in the forest. The mom dies in a hospital and the dad and kids go to the funeral. Two words: culture clash. Big time. And that's all I can tell you without giving anything away.

What I liked about this movie was coming away with a lot of thoughts. What's the right way to raise kids? How much culture is too much? Why do we blindly follow without questioning?

Should you go see it? Well . . . allow me a disclaimer. If "F" bombs make you cringe or full-frontal nakedness (not gratuitous) makes you blush, then no. Or if you're a Christian who's easily offended by opposing viewpoints, then stay away.

Otherwise, this is a thought-provoking movie that will stick with you for awhile and cause you to examine your core beliefs.

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