The Romance Reviews Banner …Ta Da!

90x120_TRR_AnimatedBanner Sometimes I wish I had a split personality and the other half of me was a teenager with computer skills! Then, whenever I came across a tricky task (tricky for me, anyhow), I’d invoke my teenager-self to figure it out. Like today. I wanted to put “The Romance Reviews” banner on my blog. The Romance Reviews a great site if you want to find out about a romance novel, and whether you’d enjoy it. Since they help promote romance authors, including little old me, I’d like to promote them. Honestly, how hard should it be to put up a little banner? Apparently for me, very hard. And alas, I have no teenager to call upon.

Apparently, WordPress.com doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of WordPress.org. You can only do certain tasks if you are a WordPress.org member. I didn’t know this. So I spent over two hours trying to upload the banner to a sidebar. Nope. Not allowed. I’m sure any teenager would have tried once, twice at the most, and would have known it couldn’t be accomplished. But, because I flounder on a computer like a flounder at a computer, I just assumed I was doing something wrong.

We all know that saying, “If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got.” But that didn’t stop me from doing the same wrong thing over and over again. Of course, I checked for assistance on google several times. Nothing made sense. I hit the help button on WordPress. I hit my head against the wall. But I couldn’t get that little banner to upload.

If not for my Crimson Romance friend, I’d still be cursing! Terri Herman-Ponce, sweet girl that she is, suggested I put the banner in a post. So I did. See it? Nifty, isn’t it? Here’s the link! http://www.theromancereviews.com Maybe a teenager lurks within me afterall.

Airport Security and Me

Going through airport security always makes me nervous. I have nothing to hide, but I worry I’ll do something wrong or say something stupid and a guard will hold me back from my flight. Let’s face it, those guys and gals are serious. They have an opportant job and I appreciate what they do. But they intimidate me terribly, so when they tell me to do something, I do it immediately and without question.

A few years ago, I wish I had questioned a bit more.

The morning of the flight, I double checked everything. Bottles of liquids in clear plastic bags. Check. Luggage dimensions and weight. Check. Travel documents and meds in carry-on. Check. No aerosol cans. Check. Nothing shaped like a knife or a gun. Check.

Next I checked my clothing. My sweater had a zipper, but that shouldn’t cause a problem going through security, because the zipper in my jeans never had. My shoes were easy to slip in and out of.  There was no change in my pockets and nothing in my purse that might look like suspicious.

I was going to whiz through security.

Still, as I got closer in line to the scanner, my anxiety increased. I took off my shoes and put them in one of the totes they provided. I set my carry-on and my purse in the tote, too. Then my cell. And my watch. Anything else? No. I was good to go.

When it was my turn, I walked through the threshold and it beeped. The guard asked me to step aside.

My mind scrambled. What did I do wrong? Then I remembered my belt. “I’m sorry,” I said. “It’s my belt buckle.”

“Undo the belt and undo the zipper,” he ordered. He reminded me of a dictator.

So I quickly complied. I undid my belt and began to undo the fly of my jeans.

Suddenly the guard shook his head wildly. “No, not that zipper! The zipper in your sweater. ” And then he began to laugh. He told the neighbouring guard and he, too, began to laugh. Soon all the security guards were laughing. It seemed such a happy place, I laughed along with them. Eventually the gaiety passed and they cleared me of any terrorist activity.

That incident left me with one burning question: Do I come by my stupidity naturally or is it a skill I have honed over the years without even knowing it?

PS. In less than ten hours, I go through airport security again. Wish me luck!

Gotta Love Febuary’s $1.99 Crimson Romance Sale

Happy Valentines Day

Happy Valentines Day

If you’ve been thinking about love, you’re in the right month. Not just because this is the month to give Valentines, but because this is the month that love is for sale–er, that didn’t sound quite right! What I mean to say is that for the month of February, you can buy a whole stack of e-book romances for a $1.99 each. Yup. Crimson Romance’s are on sale!

Whether you like sweet, spicy or something in between; historical or contemporary; time travel or paranormal; werewolves or vampires; or a combination of several genres, there is probably a book –likely more than one–that would satisfy your reading needs.

So it’s time to stock up on some great books at great prices. And that’s not all! If you phone in within three minutes you will receive, absolutely free, a …. oops I was going to include a hot hunk for your entertainment, but the shipping would be too much. Sorry. But I’m sure you can find someone on your own. ;)

If you’re not sure where to begin you can always start with my historical novel, Stubborn Hearts. It’s sweet, but a little sexy. You can check it out here: http://www.amazon.com/Stubborn-Hearts-Crimson-Romance-Ritten-ebook/dp/B008O8JYY8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1391308225&sr=8-1&keywords=stubborn+hearts

or you can go to http://amzn.to/1hOhqY2 to see all the books.  Happy reading!

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Now the Scary Part Begins

I’ve just finished writing my second novel. As my critique partners scrutinise the manuscript for errors, it’s time for me to find someone to publish it. I have great confidence in this book, but the thought of sending it out to a publishing house terrifies me. There is so much competition with other hopeful writers all vying  to catch the eye of an editor. The chance of rejection is high.

I remember, that before I found a home for my first book, STUBBORN HEARTS, I nearly gave up on writing. Waiting months to see if my book would be accepted for publication and then receiving a rejection letter … well, it felt like my writing confidence was punched right in the face.  I threw the manuscript in the back of my bedroom closet. Stupid me, why did I think I could write? But my characters drew me back. They deserved to have their story told. So I would haul the manuscript out, work on it some more and send it out to another place. It was a depressing cycle. And then acceptance came.

It’s hard to describe my feelings when I read the email saying they loved my story and wanted to publish it. First of all I let my doubts and insecurities surface. Really, they want my story? They loved it? Are they talking about my book? Then it hit me. I’m about to be a published author. OMG. Who do I call first? My husband, my mother, my kids? What a wonderful high that had been!

That high was short-lived when I was told I should be on Facebook, develop a blog, and network and promote like crazy. I had never looked at Facebook, and barely knew what a blog was. Promoting? Wasn’t that my publisher’s job?

Welcome to the new world of publishing, Carol. If an author wants her books to succeed, she better be out there getting them and herself noticed. It’s not about writing the best book you can anymore. That of course is top priority, but coming a close second is your committment to make it succeed. My committment is strong, but the know-how is sadly insufficient.

And now I’m faced with trying to entice a publisher to like my new manuscript. Wish me luck!

***

Okay, I put this blog post into a draft and then got busy and forgot about it. So here’s an update. I’m signing a contract for the above said book with Books To Go Now. Yeah! It is tentatively titled, HEARTS RACING.

Now I must get back to work on my next story! Will this insanity ever end? I hope not!

Making Dialogue Work for You

Proper dialogue will bring your characters to life, but poorly executed dialogue can kill your characters, and no amount of clever exposition or narrative can revive them.

Because dialogue in a manuscript is easy to spot, a potential reader can quickly skim your story and judge your writing skills. If you want to sell your book to that reader, you’d better make your dialogue work for you. Here are some pointers.

1. Use incomplete sentences. When we speak, we often use clipped sentences. Listen to other conversations and you will see what I mean.

2. Eliminate chit chat. Check out this piece of dialogue.
“Hi, Jane. It’s good to see you. How are you?”
“Good thanks. You?”
“Oh, can’t complain.”
“Anything new in your life?”
“No, just the usual.” Blah, blah, blah.

BORING! Yes, we often speak like that, but it will make a reader slam your book shut and put it back on the shelf. Chit chat words are empty words and they take up valuable space and time.  Good dialogue is purposeful. It reveals and helps move the story forward

3. Long dialogue speeches usually don’t work. Unless the speaker is giving a lecture, it is nearly impossible for the second party of the conversation not to cut in and add his own opinion. And doesn’t it drive you crazy when one person talks and doesn’t let you get a word in edgewise, sideways or upside down? I does me.

4. Even when the dialogue is simple, there is always a way to add interest and a hint of conflict (which also adds interest). Compare the following two dialogue snippets:

“Did you hand in your assignment?” Mr. Ericson asked.

“Yes, I put it on your desk this morning,” Mark answered.

“Oh right, I remember now. I hope you edited it,” he said.

“Yup, I always do” Mark said.

“Good then,” Ericson continued marking papers, while Mark waited. “Was there something else?” Ericson asked.

“Yes, I was wondering why you gave me such a poor mark on my last essay.”

AND now the second snippet:

“Did you hand in your assignment?” Mr. Ericson asked.

“I put it on your desk this morning,” Mark answered.

“Edited well?”

“Like always.”

Erickson continued marking papers, while Mark waited. “Was there something else?”

“Why did you give me such a poor mark on my last essay?”

THE second piece is more interesting because:

a. some of the cooperative words (“Yes”, “Oh, right” and “Good then”) were eliminated.

b. a question was answered by asking another question.

c. some dialogue tags were removed.

DID you also feel a wee bit more tension or conflict in the second passage? Conflict keeps the reader reading. It doesn’t have to be an out-and-out fight.

5. Dialogue tags (he demanded, she murmured, he pleaded, etc.) can often be eliminated. Tags should only be used when it is unclear who is speaking. There are ways to get around using tags.

a. Use an action to show which character is speaking, but be sure the action suits the dialogue. If a character throws a pot across the room, he isn’t likely to say, “I love you.”

b. When there are only two people talking, just by starting a new paragraph, the reader will know there is a new speaker.

c. A character’s style of speech will reveal who is talking. “Aye, he was a mighty fine lad.”

6.The best dialogue tag to use is “said.” It disappears on the page, unless the page is peppered with it. That would be a no-no.

7. A character cannot laugh dialogue. “And then he fell off his chair,” he laughed. “I knew he was drunk.” This needs to be changed. How’s this? “And then he fell off his chair,” he said, laughing. “I knew he was drunk” Or: “And then he fell off his chair.” He laughed. “I knew he was drunk.”

8. If you want a character to hiss something, you’d better have some “ss” sounds in the sentence. It’s pretty hard to hiss this comment. “That man killed my uncle.”

9. Don’t overuse proper names in dialogue.  Here’s an example of name overuse.

“Tell me, Jim, what were you thinking?”

“To tell the truth, Bill, I wasn’t. I just reacted.”

“Then may I suggest the next time you get yourself into such a predicament, Jim, think first.”

“Bill, you’ve got my word on it.”

THIS might be a good time to do a little name dropping. Really, as in drop the names from this dialogue!

EMPLOY a few of these techniques and you will soon be a dialogue dynamo!

Are There Degrees of Perfection?

I’m a professional picture framer and my job requires me to be fussy.  Everything has to be just so: frame corners joined precisely;  mats even and cleanly cut; glass without fingerprints or scratches; assembly without lint and specks. It’s fastidious work. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great job, but trying to do everything perfectly–which most customers expect–can be very demanding.

And I let it get to me.

I took every tiny criticism personally.  After all, I had worked to make their framing as perfect as possible so any negative comment felt like a personal attack. I had become obsessed with perfection. With every piece I would fuss and worry that  the customer was going to say that this wasn’t perfect enough.

I became a pressure cooker. And one day I exploded.

I decided, that very day, I had to take time off. My staff was more than capable of handling the business. For six months, all I did was come in to pay bills and write paychecks. Eventually I returned to work.

But here’s the thing I learned while I was away. I learned that there had to be a point where my best had to be good enough. Was it perfect? Pretty darn close, but no. I’m not after perfection anymore. I’m after excellence. Only God does perfection.

That’s how I approach my writing, too. I do it to my best ability. I try to learn and improve my craft everyday. Is my writing perfect? Nope. There will always be sentences that could have been improved. Stronger verbs could have been chosen. But eventually, I have to tell myself it’s the best I can do at this time. Then I send it off to a publisher. I get rejections like every writer,but I don’t take it personally anymore. I’m disappointed, but not beaten. I have accepted my limitations and my strengths.

Where Did The Years Go?

My husband and I recently celebrated our fortieth wedding anniversary. I’ve spent some time thinking back over the years we’ve been together. I’m almost as surprised as probably half of our wedding guests that we made it this far. Who would have expected a naive seventeen year old woman, a girl really, and a young twenty year old man just barely on his own two feet to ever make their marriage work? But by the grace of God, we did. It was wonderful, tragic, easy, desperate and every other emotion imaginable.  We were friends, farmer and farm wife, lovers, father, mother, photo technician, picture framer, carpenter, artist, backhoe operator, and writer, but mostly we two birds flying with and against the wind. In our journey we were blessed by two wonderful children and now grandchildren.

Many people say they wouldn’t change a thing in their marriage. Oh, that I could! I wish I could take back the arguments we had, the hurt and pain we caused each other. I wished I had enjoyed my children more when they were young. I wish I had worried less and trusted more. But there is no going back. Only moving forward.

Soon we will be approaching retirement. What then? Travel? Take on a different job? We don’t know, but if we jump in with both feet like we did on our wedding day, it’s sure to be exciting!

Pull Up Your Pants!

I don’t often rant, but seeing young men walking around with their pants hanging halfway down their butts with their colorful boxers showing, well quite frankly, it drives me nuts! I mean really, do you have to? What is the point of this fashion trend? If these guys think they look cool, they’re delusional. I have found myself tempted to step on the ratty tatty heels of such pants to see if they’d stay up. Hey. I bet you’ve had the urge to do the same thing! I swear those pants defy gravity.

And please, don’t say they wear it that way because it’s comfortable. I’ve had elastic go out of a pair of sweat pants and believe it is not a comfortable feeling. And to have the crotch so low must surely chaff the insides of their thighs as these dudes stroll along, hands in their pockets. Maybe hands in their pockets help to hold their pants up.

Not that long ago I saw a guy dressed in his saggy, baggy pants and he was pushing a baby carriage. It was all I could do not to go over there and tell him to grow up. If he is old enough to father a child, he should be old enough to know how to wear a pair of pants properly.

I did some research. Apparently, the saggy pants trend may have started in prison. No belts are allowed in prison because of the risk that they made be used for suicide. So the pants often sagged. But it is also reported that it was a way of stating that you had been “claimed” by another inmate as a receiver. And I’m not talking football here!

So, does this mean that guys who wear baggy pants are “receivers”? I don’t know. and I don’t care. But I do care about what I see when I’m walking down the street. I do not want to see some guy’s ginch, no matter how colourful. It’s insulting.

Pull ‘em up, boys. Thank you. Rant’s over.

Welcome, Author Mary Schiller

Dear Readers: Today, I am thrilled to introduce M.J.Schiller, author of TRAPPED UNDER ICE. I had the pleasure of reading her book and it was a real page turner. It kept me up late at night and if any of you know me personally, you know I love my sleep!

I asked Mary to send me a bio and photo of herself so that you might get to know this talented writer better. She kindly obliged.

I was born in the heart of Tornado Alley, and I’ve been a bit mixed up ever since. Not really, but I’ve always wanted to use that line. The medical community has established no solid connection between the place of my birth and my off-beat personality.

I grew up in St. Louis and graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a degree in English education. I left the workforce, however, when my kids were born. Unbelievably I now have an eighteen year old and sixteen-year-old triplets! Yes, I write to escape teenagerdom. Although I love them dearly. I also escape via rock concerts and karaoke. My first book, TAKEN BY STORM, was published by Crimson Romance last fall, and my next book, the second in the ROCKING ROMANCE COLLECTION, titled ABANDON ALL HOPE will be coming soon!

Wow, four teenagers in the household. I’m impressed that you have time to write. I look forward to reading your third book, ABANDON ALL HOPE!

But right now, I want to concentrate on TRAPPED UNDER ICE. Before I read the blurb on the back  cover, I thought the novel might be an outdoor adventure. I was surprised to discover that it’s about a rock star in a band called Trapped Under Ice. His name is Chad Evans and … Okay, I’ll just post the blurb about the book because Mary can say it so much better than I can.

Rock star Chad Evans’s tortured past hides just beneath the surface. Even fans screaming out his name in ecstasy can’t drown out the screams of his childhood. He can usually keep it under control, but not always. Tonight the alcohol doesn’t seem to soothe.

Part of the crowd, Beth Donovan smiles, really enjoying herself for a change. But her smile isn’t usually this bright. It is the kind of smile that masks sorrow.  Three years just isn’t long enough to get over losing Paul. 

When a vicious attack behind stage brings this unlikely pair together, something changes inside of them both. But can a jet-setting superstar and a Midwestern lunch lady ever manage a real relationship? And even if they can, will the person sending Chad death threats take it all away? Or is it their fate to remain forever trapped under ice? 

Boy, such a great blurb … one of the reasons I picked this book to read.

They say that some people judge a book by its cover (please excuse the double hit–a cliché and a pun both at the same time), and others go by the blurb on the back, but I’m certain most of us like to flip through and read excerpts here and there to get a feel for the story and also for the author’s writing voice.

Let’s see what Mary sent as a teaser for her book. She tells me this scene is right after the first kiss. What I want to know is why didn’t she send me the kiss scene so I could post it for you? I guess that’s why it’s called a teaser!

 “Beth, I…” He could find no words to speak to her. This was all so different for him. He had never felt a kiss like the one he had shared with her—one that pulled from the inside out, originating in his core, not igniting on the surface and finding its way down. He pulled her close again and she laid her head on his chest. He leaned down to rest his cheek on the top of her head, and clasped it to his chest with one large hand. He wanted this woman in a way he wanted no other woman. But, for the first time in a long time, he was at a loss as to how to achieve what he needed.

            As he tried to sort through the jumble of emotions interwoven in his head, he slowly became aware that the shoulders of the woman he was holding had begun to shake and tears were dampening his t-shirt.

            “Beth. Beth. What did I do?” he queried, trying to lift her face. That voice in his head bounced out of the shadows, you’ll wind up hurting her in the end, and then danced off to some other deep recess of his mind.

            “You didn’t do anything,” her muffled voice came from his chest, where she was trying to bury her face in her hands. “Dammit,” she blurted out, pounding him suddenly in the chest. “What the hell is wrong with me?”

            “Wrong with you? There’s nothing wrong with you.”

            “Oh, so you often have women who break down sobbing when you kiss them?” she cried bitterly.

            “No.” He had to laugh. “This is a first.”

            She raised her head from his chest, the tears still shining on her cheeks, and began to laugh, too.

            “Oh, there you two are.” Roger crossed the threshold onto the deck. Beth turned away from him, and although Chad’s arms were around her, the bassist could tell he’d interrupted some sort of conversation. “I just thought you’d want to know, the band’s playing one of our songs.”

            Chad and Beth started laughing. The idea of an orchestra playing Trapped Under Ice was absurd, and pretty soon the three of them were in hysterics.

            Roger was glad to see her laugh. If she was crying, like he thought she was when he’d come out on deck, she needed the pick-me-up. She was a nice girl, and he really wished she weren’t getting involved with Chad. Chad was his best friend, but he was also an emotional basket case, and that wasn’t good for anyone.

Sounds great, right? So, reader, now that you know a bit about M.J. Schiller and her book TRAPPED UNDER ICE, allow me to recommend this book to you.

TRAPPED UNDER ICE available at Amazon, BN.com, Smashwords, Kobo, the I-bookstore, Diesel, and other ebook retailers.

You can find MJ Schiller at www.mjschillerauthor.blogspot.com, MJ on FB, twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

I want to thank Mary for taking time out of her hectic schedule to send me this information!

Old Fashioned Christmas

Sometimes I think it would be wonderful to travel back 100 years and celebrate Christmas the way it used to be. It was less about shopping and more about a baby boy born in a manger. On Christmas Eve, people bundled up in heavy coats with scarves, mitts and blankets. They placed foot warmers in the sleigh and enjoyed a nippy sleigh ride to the little white church with the tall steeple for the candle lit service. The church walls seemed to expand with sounds of Christmas Carols. The pews were packed with families. These were the people you’d known throughout the year: the ones you visited with in the general store, the neighbors you helped during the harvest, the ones you invited to share a meal and the ones who welcomed you into their homes.

Can you feel it–the warmth and love shared by friends and loved ones? Can you feel it–the hope for the world delivered with the birth of a child?

My wish for you is to experience an old-fashioned, Christ-filled Christmas this year. Spend time with those you love. Share with those less fortunate. And give thanks for The Savior born in a manger. May your upcoming year be filled with blessings.

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