Updates

Well, summer is almost over and it feels as though I’ve accomplished nothing. I’ve barely blogged at all, and my son and I never managed to make it to the zoo this summer. I only went swimming once, which is really unusual for me.

My older kids are heading back to college in a few days, while my youngest is preparing himself for the fourth grade. He’s worried because some of his best friends are going to be in the other fourth grade classroom, but he’s also happy that he got the teacher he had hoped for. And he’s also thrilled because he knows that fourth graders at his school get to go on the school’s most talked-about field trip in the spring: a day at the dunes in Saugatuck.

As for me, I made the monumental mistake of trying to work on two books simultaneously over the summer. Both are nearly complete and almost on schedule for their planned release dates at the end of September, but I never ever want to do this to myself again. Sure, My Mirror Lies to Me has been fun to write, and Love, Charlotte has veered off in directions I never anticipated, but my brain feels slightly fried.

However, I did manage to accomplish a few things this summer that had nothing to do with those two books, and I want to bring everyone up to date.

First of all, I want to let all of you know that Her House Divided is now available on Audible.com as an audiobook. I was lucky enough to be able to work with Wendy Almeida, who does a fabulous job of bringing my story to life in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Audible offers a free trial of their service, including a credit to read any book of your choice at no cost. To learn more about Audible, click here.

This summer, I also combined the three books in my Beach Haven series (plus the short prequel) into a single volume at a money-saving cost of only $5.99.

And of course, as I mentioned before, I also took time this summer to revamp and re-release Have a Goode One as Faster Than a Whippoorwill’s Ass, and I’ve been very happy with the results of that. If you enjoyed that book, I’m sure you’ll get a kick out of My Mirror Lies to Me when it is released next month.

In short, it’s been a very busy summer here in Michigan, and I hope you’ll all forgive me for letting things slide on my blog for the past few months. I promise lots of good things coming in the near future!

Until then, I wish everyone a very happy autumn with a smooth and calm back-to-school time.

 

Advertisements

Happy Summer!

 

You know how sometimes you just feel the need to go back and re-read a book that you’ve read many times before?

That’s where I’ve been lately. I don’t know why, but I recently had to sit down and read Janette Oke’s Love Comes Softly and all its sequels. They are sweet, easy-to-read stories that I discovered during my first pregnancy when I became obsessed with tales of the American Frontier.

I also watched the movies “based on” the first three books in the series and laughed my ass off over some of the worst book-to-movie adaptations in the history of book-to-movie adaptations. Really, Hallmark? Did any of you folks actually read any of the books?

At any rate, re-reading Janette Oke’s books has sent me off on a reading spree of romantic fiction set during that era. I’ve discovered authors like Shanna Hatfield and Annie Boone. I’ve become addicted to the  Cutter’s  Creek and Pendleton Petticoats series.

Now, I don’t know about any of you, but when I discover some new favorites, I tend to go a bit overboard. Housework suffers. I stay up too late at night reading. I get lost in the fictional world I am reading about.

And because I’m a writer, something else happens.

I get inspired.

So .  . . I am writing my first historical fiction. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do but have been afraid to try because I worry that I’m not smart enough to get the historical details right. But if I’ve learned anything in the past few years, I’ve learned that the only way to conquer fear is to face it head-on and tell it to go to hell.

It’s going to be a squeaky-clean romance, without any descriptive sex. Hey, I want to write something my mother-in-law can read without leading to any uncomfortable conversations between us!

Never fear, I’m still finishing up my Beach Haven series, and I plan on continuing to make folks smile with the sequel to Fat, Fifty, and Menopausal. I’m just taking a little detour. So please be patient with me and understand if things stay quiet here for the next few months. I promise, I’m still going strong. I’ve got books to read, books to write, bonfires to attend, and a great big lake to swim in.

What about all of you? What are you reading this summer?

Happy summer, all!

 

 

 

What’s Next?

One thing I’ve learned about being a writer is that my ideas all seem to hit at the same time, usually when I’m buried in one project and struggling toward the finish line. I may be in the middle of a romance novel, flying toward the final chapter, when all of a sudden — BOOM! I get an idea for a great short story. My brain goes, “Hey, what if you wrote about this?”

I could blame it on having ADHD, or I could try to psychoanalyze myself and say it’s a self-destructive urge to distract myself from completing my current project. Or I could whine about it, sort of like I’m doing right now.

But when my project is done and I’m ready to start on something new, I tend to find myself in a completely different situation. I fix a nice hot cup of coffee, put on some comfy clothes, and sit down at the keyboard with every intention of diving headlong into my next idea. I am a writer, I tell myself, and I’m gonna kick some literary butt with this next one!

And then . . . nothing happens.

Nothing.

All of those great ideas that swarmed me a few days or weeks ago? Nowhere to be found. Even though I jotted down notes to remind myself of the fabulousness of everything zooming around inside my head, nothing really grabs me.

Nothing.

That’s where I’ve been for the past several weeks, since I finished Their Love Rekindled. I’ve been floundering along with Love & Destiny, but I’m having a hard time hitting my stride. Just not feeling it.

So I took some time off and did some reading. No writing. I read a lot of romance, of course, because that’s my favorite. Besides, it’s always a good idea to check out the writers in my field. I discovered (and loved!) the works of Cindy Kirk, Staci Stallings, and Gail Gaymer Martin. But I also decided it was time to step out of my comfort zone and read things in genres I don’t usually explore.

I finally read the rest of the “Grace” series by M. Lauryl Lewis (and didn’t sleep well for a week afterward). I fell in love with the “Ruby Danger” series by Rickie Blair. I snickered all the way through Essa Alroc’s The Apology, and I got a whole new outlook on historical fiction from Old Fashioned Values by Margaret Brazear. I read One Silent Voice: The Jeannie Singleton Story by Nicole Du Shane, which is a fascinating and disturbing true story despite some really disappointing editing and formatting issues with the book itself.

And the strangest thing happened: my ideas started flowing again. Just not in the direction I had planned.

I didn’t think I was ready to start the fourth book in my Beach Haven series just yet, but apparently I was wrong because it is basically writing itself. I’ve finished almost half of it in less than two weeks. Those of you who have read the series might be surprised to learn that the hero of this one is attorney Ben Jacobs, who is sort of the anti-romance hero. He’s balding, not traditionally handsome, and a classic “nice guy.” I think you’ll all be stunned when you find out who he’s falling in love with!

I know I was.

I’ve never really tried to work on more than one book at a time, and I’m sure it’s not the wisest decision I’ve ever made. But I’ve got another project in the works right now, one that’s not a romance novel. It’s a lot more personal, and I am having perhaps a little bit too much fun with it. I’m calling it Fat, Fifty, and Menopausal.

I’ve thought about subtitling it: I Have No Filters.

It’s all about staring down the spectre of my upcoming fiftieth birthday and finding humor in the fact that I am not where I thought I would be at this point in life. It’s about dealing with hot flashes and saggy boobs and dating after fifty, with a little bit of empty nest anxiety thrown in. I am hoping to reach an audience of women at a similar point in their lives, and give them a reason to laugh even on the days when things seem the darkest.

As some of you know, I am coming out of a very dark period in my own life, and I’m not sure I would have survived these past few years without a sense of humor. Blogging has helped me discover my “voice” and a sense of humor that I never knew I had, so I’m trying to put that experience to good use in this new book.

In the next few months, I’ll share some excerpts from Fat, Fifty, and Menopausal with you all. I’m also working with an artist who is creating some amazing original art for the cover, and I plan on sharing a few sneak peeks at the progress as it all comes together. This is huge for me, and I can’t wait to share it with you.

So that’s where I’m at right now as I face the first “snow day” of the new year. It’s finally a little chilly in my overheated apartment (until the next hot flash, anyway), and my kids are snowed in at their dad’s house. It’s just me, the coffeepot, and my beat-up laptop with the missing keys.

If you’re a writer, how do you handle it when your muse disappears?  Or better yet, when your muse dumps a truckload of ideas on you all at the same time?  I’d love to hear from some of you!

Books and More Books

I’ve been arguing with some old friends lately about the future of books, and I’ve got to say that I’m getting sick of it. My friends, who are the scholarly type, swear by “real” books and regard my collection of ebooks with disdain. They prefer the feel of a real book, they say, and they argue that the easy availability of ebooks somehow cheapens the industry.

Hey, I love books. I’ve been reading since I was four years old, and there’s still something breathtaking and beautiful about cracking the spine of a brand new book. The thought of spending an afternoon inside a Barnes & Noble leaves me weak-kneed and gasping. Given the choice between a stack of brand new books or a night on the town with the man of my dreams, I just might choose the books.

Unless the man was Randolph Mantooth, of course, but that’s a subject for a different blog post.  

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t read everything and anything that was put in front of me. Cereal boxes, newspapers, Mom’s Reader’s Digest Condensed Books . . . you name it, I read it. I devoured it. Absorbed it. It didn’t have to have great literary merit or staying power. I didn’t always have to enjoy what I was reading; if I started it, I finished it–even if I hated every word of it.

Image result for image stacked books

On a few rare occasions, Mom had to step in and snatch one of my sisters’ books out of my hands before I got to the “good” parts. I really didn’t see the problem then, but now I can sort of see her reasons for not allowing a second-grader to read My Darling, My Hamburger or Forever.

We didn’t really have a TV at my aunts’ cottage during the summers, so I remember reading coverless paperbacks from boxes my Aunt Noni would bring home from her beauty salon. Now I understand that there was something a bit shady about the fact that the covers had all been removed, but at the time I just considered them to be a bounty of summer reading. I drooled over those boxes the way most kids would have drooled over boxes of candy.

Once in a while, the whole family would get caught up in a trendy book, and we would take turns reading the same copy. My sisters and I would get impatient and read it together, with one of us reading aloud to the others while we sunbathed in the back courtyard.

I seem to remember attracting an audience a few times the summer we were all invested in Flowers in the Attic and its sequels.

It was a little over a mile from the cottage across the bridge and into town. We could cover the distance in a matter of minutes when we wanted to go to McKenzie’s Bakery for cookies or to Captain Nemo’s for ice cream, but that mile seemed to stretch out forever when I was on my way to Arkin’s, the only bookstore in town. I’d save all my money for that day and then spend hours searching through the few shelves of books they kept at the back of the store, hidden away behind the more tourist-friendly Hallmark items in the front.

I always tried to ration the books I bought from Arkin’s. I’d tell myself I was allowed to read two chapters per day, or maybe three. Then I’d end up turning on the tiny reading lamp by my bed and staying up into the early morning hours to finish reading what I’d started.

During the school year, I fed my appetite at the book exchange hosted by my elementary school. Kids could bring in their used books in exchange for tickets. Then, on a chosen night, all of those used books would be spread out on tables throughout the school, and we could go “shopping” with our tickets. One ticket per book, and I’d come home with grocery sacks full of them.

Embedded image permalink

I was reminded of that years later as an adult, when one of my clients offered me some of her old books. She was a retired school teacher, moving from her house into an apartment, and she wanted to give her books to someone who enjoyed reading as much as she did. I was expecting scholarly tomes, so I was stunned when she handed over two bulging sacks of paperbacks and romance novels. Harlequins, Silhouettes, Mills & Boon, plus solo titles by the likes of Debbie Macomber, Nora Lofts, Mary Stewart, Danielle Steele and more.

The next two months are a blur.

When I was recuperating from my car accident in 2011, my husband’s mother and brother went together to buy me a Nook and a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card. I wasn’t sure if I could ever get used to reading a book on a tiny electronic device, but let me assure you that no one in history has ever stretched a $25 book budget farther than I stretched that little card. I found freebies and public domain books and splurged on .99-cent specials, and I burned out that first Nook in less than a year.

I still love bookstores. Money is tight, so I can’t buy as many “real” books as I used to buy. I simply can’t afford it. Besides, I have moved so many times in recent years that I simply don’t have room for all the books I wish I could own. I’ve been through three Nooks and I’m currently in the process of wearing out my first Kindle Fire. (Sorry, Amazon, I still prefer the Nook.)

So, what’s my point?

I love books. I always will. It doesn’t matter if they are on a blinking electronic screen or a tattered paperback. A book is a book is a book.

I can shop for ebooks when insomnia hits at three in the morning. I can load up on free samples or 99-cent specials and experiment with genres and authors I might not be able to try otherwise. (I know, I know; there’s a long-running argument among writers on the subject of freebies and 99-cent specials, but I’m taking off my Author Hat here and strapping my Reader Hat firmly to my head for the moment.) I’m not usually a big fan of change, but in this case I’m embracing it.

It doesn’t have to be one or the other, as long as we keep reading.

It’s 2016, guys. Whether you get your books on paper or delivered electronically, don’t ever stop reading. Teach your kids more than how to read; teach them to love reading, no matter what the format.  Today’s pre-teen reading on a Kindle is the natural evolution of yesterday’s pre-teen reading under the sheets with a flashlight.

Step out of your comfort zone this year. Make a resolution to try something new. Read a new format, try a new author, read something in a genre you’ve never tried before.

Grow a little.

Have some fun.

Try something new.

Isn’t that what reading is all about?

***

For the record, I am taking my own advice on reading new things right now. I just finished Dangerous Allies by Rickie Blair, and I’m about to dive into the next one in the series. I’m not usually a fan of thrillers, but I am so glad I tried this one. Check it out!