Friday, January 01, 2016

Ending the Year With...A Little Bit of Desperation (Plus a Cover Reveal!)

This was the first New Year's Eve that we had no kids in the house. It was anticlimactic. We didn't do anything differently, really. We made party pizzas (tradition) and watched some TV. Talked to the girls, who were together up in Boston, cuddling on the couch while they watched Friends and waited for the ball to drop. (My heart squeezes.)

I did some work after dinner, then tried to write enough to make my goal for the year. Which didn't exist until this month, and then became something I was both determined to achieve and almost incapable of, for no good reason. What I mean is that reaching the goal was certainly doable, but I kept letting other things get in the way.

My local writing chapter holds a 50/50 challenge twice a year. We write 50 words a day for 50 days. I always try to keep that going through the end of the year, and I almost succeeded. October 12 through December 24, I didn't miss a day. And then Christmas. Which wouldn't have derailed me except for the side trip to urgent care for Number One (she's fine) at the end of the evening, and then it was 10:00 and I had to watch Doctor Who and I...forgot.

So I skipped a few days. And then ennui. BUT I am stubborn and competitive, even against myself, so for two days I wrote 500 words or more on five different projects, finishing on the couch as the ball dropped. (Okay. Just after the ball dropped. Those last 200 words, and of course they counted, they always count if I write them before I go to bed.)

It was difficult and a bit desperate for no good reason, but I'm thrilled to be able to say I wrote 150,046 words in 2015. And it gives me a target for 2016, because I only finished two novels in 2015 (plus a novella and a short story, and I did finish revising a few things, and published 7 books, but still) and I want to do more this year.

What else did I do in 2015?

Edited/revised 2,236 pages of my own work. Which is a modest number, since some of those were single spaced.

Edited 856 pages of fiction in a professional capacity.

Critiqued 1,199 pages of fiction for friends.

Read 118 books (Goodreads calls it 100, but boxed sets throw everything off.)

DNF (did not finish) 42 books. Wow! That seems like a lot. Let me check... Yep, previous years were 17, 21, 25, and 27, with one other outlier at 44. There were a couple that just weren't up to scratch, with poor editing or writing, but most were a matter of taste. There are things I don't like to read about, no matter how well done. So that isn't a reflection on anything except that maybe I tried a bunch of stuff outside of my normal comfort zone, and that's a good thing, right?

Saw 30 movies. 15 at the theater, two that I DVR'd when we had free pay cable, and 12 on DVD/Blu-Ray. I also binged 11 TV shows.

So that was a pretty good year. Okay, want a cover reveal? I just got this cover a couple of days ago, and now I'm really excited to release the book, which is good because my goal for January is to get through revisions, edits, and publication. Ready? Here we go!


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Those Birthday Numbers

This is how old I am today.
I have never been bothered by my birthday. Ever. Thirty and forty were kind of awesome, actually. Being bothered by progression of the calendar is so pointless. And everyone does it, and I always have been one who doesn't like to do what everyone does. I hate generalizations. All of them. ;)

So I don't know why today's number strikes so hard. Not in a bad way, really, except that it's an odd number. I realized I hate odd-number ages four years ago. I was interviewed as part of an article in the local newspaper's Sunday magazine. When I read "Natalie J. Damschroder, age 41," something squirmed hard inside me. I did NOT like seeing that number in print.

But it wasn't because OMG I was getting old. It was because it was an odd number. I freaking LOVED being 42. (Also, it amused me that the magazine, NEXT, was for retired readers.)

But I don't like 45.

I get super-annoyed whenever my body betrays my sense of uniqueness and makes me cliché. Like when everyone told me your body starts to fall apart after you turn 30. I scoffed, of course. Like my body knows our arbitrary numbering system and has any clue what date it is. And then of course things started going wrong. Slip on ice and slam my knee to the pavement...and still can't kneel six months later. Tear a labrum in my shoulder that gives me horrendous headaches for two years until I figure out what's wrong and avoid things like carrying diaper bags on that shoulder.

So what does 45 mean? When I look at it this way, it's pretty neutral. I'm the age my mother was when my daughter was born. I'm 10 years away from a senior citizen discount. It would be really hard to get pregnant right now, unless I desperately did not want to, and then it would probably happen in a snap. (It can't, but I did know a woman who got pregnant at 48.) I'm a very analytical person, and I can't analyze this feeling.

OH! I just figured it out. I am no longer "in the demo." You know, the most important people in the world to those who measure consumption. Mostly of entertainment, but also of other products. The upper number is a little fluid. In fact, for TV ratings I think it's 49 now. But you know how when you take a survey and they do an age breakdown at the end to measure demographic data? One of them typically ends in 44.

THAT'S why 45 bothers me. That and it's odd. So no one be surprised if I start accidentally saying I'm 46. (I did that when I was 43, so that made me 44 for two years, but in the opposite of the way people usually do it.)

I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Friday, December 04, 2015

I Don't Know Why They Would Steal the Scanner

Dreams are weird. We all know this. Sometimes they're weird in a make-sense kind of way, or we at least know their influences. Like, Wednesday night I dreamed I was part of the Flarrow team (you know, from this week's The Flash/Arrow crossover). Dreaming about Oliver Queen requires no analysis.

This morning, right before I woke up, I had a head-scratcher.

I was shopping in Kmart. (I never shop in Kmart.)

I was at the checkout, using the self-checkout. (I do always use the self-checkout.)

The scanner unit had a small flatbed scanner as part of it. You know, the kind for home use. That's a little weird, right? I didn't need to use that, though. I was just scanning and bagging stuff. But I'd set a folder and something else, maybe a pad or something, on top of the flatbed scanner part because it was convenient.

At first, the checkout area was quiet, and no one was waiting for me, so I wasn't rushed. (I'm always rushing, though. I don't like to do things slowly.)

This family comes up, and then the lines all fill up around us. The wife shoves my stuff off the scanner. Sends it flying. I'm like, "What the hell are you doing? I'm using this." She gets all belligerent.

So then the father and mother start scanning their stuff while I'm trying to finish scanning mine. The kid is like 10, just hanging around. The guy was short (my height, which is very short) and balding and the wife is dumpy with a bad haircut and a screechy voice. I'm trying to get them to stop and yelling for security. They're all up in my face and aggressive. Finally, I find the help button on the checkout and a manager comes over.

So I tell her what's happening, a couple of women in line say they were witnesses and what I was saying is absolutely true. A couple of other employees come over. They take my stuff and the receipt unit and tell the witnesses to come back to the office with them. They don't say anything to me, the person being robbed or whatever you'd call it.

When I'm like, "why her?" I realize the witness-woman is woozy and they want to let her sit down. I collect other stuff and realize the family is not only gone, they took the flatbed scanner.

Ohhh....kay.

We're all back in the office, and the manager is praising me for not laying down and taking it, and I'm  saying how I hate confrontation but sometimes you just have to do it—and thinking about how the situation will make a topic to blog about later—when I wake up.

WTH was that?!

Thursday, December 03, 2015

An Interview with Madeline from Chasing the Painted Skies by Ryan Jo Summers

Welcome to today's guest, Ryan Jo Summers! She's giving away a free pdf copy of her book to one lucky commenter, so be sure to leave your name!


by Ryan Jo Summers
Buy Link

Raven Koynes is a woman in hiding. Years ago she escaped to remote Gull Island Light Station, nestled far away in Lake Superior. She has carved out a life of peace and solitude for herself. Until famed nature photographer Sebastian Knight arrives--in the height of a nor'easter storm--to document the beauty of Gull Island. Unsavory treasure hunters also blow in with the storm, determined to find missing cargo from a sunken ship. And they are positive Raven knows where it's stashed. A power outage from the storm traps everyone at her keeper's cottage, fellow prisoners of the storm.

Between her attraction to handsome Sebastian and the unwelcome advances and threats of the hunters, Raven is pushed to her limit. Help arrives in the form of a stray German Shepherd Dog, who takes an immediate protective interest in Raven. He becomes her constant shadow and listening ear as she sorts out her growing--and conflicting--feelings for Sebastian.

Meanwhile, Sebastian came to the island looking for treasure as well, in the form of photographs. While he isn't so sure about missing cargo, he only needs to look at Raven Koynes to know he's found his own valuable treasure. One he hopes he can hang on to if she learns about his mysterious secret.

Now that Madeline the resident ghost has found out, it's probably just a matter of time until Raven does too. And with the storm and power outage, no one is going anywhere any time soon.

Interview with Madeline Jane Bissette

What is your full name? And what can you tell us about yourself?

Madeline Jane Bissette. I am seventeen years old, born August 1854 and died February 1871.

Did you just say you died in 1871?

Yes, my youngster sister, Constance, and I were playing up in the light tower. Papa used to get angry with us, but sometimes we didn't care. It was a beautiful day to be up there. Mama had wanted me to milk the cow as my brother, Jacob, who usually handled that, had gone off with Papa and my other brothers to gather more wood. It had been an especially hard winter. It must have been getting late as we heard Mama come out calling for us. Constance raced for the stairs, slipping on the ice on the widow's walk. I grabbed her, but slipped too. She did manage to grab the railing, but I hit an icy section and fell over the edge. (dusts off hem of gown) And that was that.

Yes,...er...I suppose it would be. How tragic. So what have you done since then? Since 1871? It has been a while.

Mainly I just stay out of the way. The people who have come and gone at the house don't interest me much. Not anymore. I like the one who calls herself Raven. She reminds me a lot of Mama. I tried to be her friend and tell her about my mama and sisters, but I don't think she really understood.

What are your thoughts on Sebastian?

He is a handsome man. (smiles wistfully) Chester Douglas—he used come over sometimes from the mainland to help Papa—was handsome like that. When I was younger, he'd bring me penny candy. Then one summer he brought me flowers. Papa wasn't too happy about that, but Mama said it was all right. Then Chester started finding all sorts of reasons to come over that had nothing to do with Papa. (giggles) He'd make my tummy feel like it had butterflies all inside of it. Mama said that was all right for a boy to do. We'd go off into the woods or behind the barn and kiss. After Sebastian arrived, I could tell Raven wanted to kiss him just as I used to like kissing Chester. Sebastian made my tummy feel like it had butterflies in it, even though he was older than Chester, and I could tell Raven felt the same way. And he protected her from those bad people. He tried to at least, doing the best he could.

Yes, Madeline, tell us about the bad people.

Well, they were not the first people to come to Gull Island with bad intentions. Mama had a word for people like that: miscreant malefactors. Mama always liked to use two names for describing people. It was sad and lonely when she and Papa and my sisters and brothers all left our home and Gull Island later in 1871.

However, when these three showed up looking for the ship's cargo by tearing up my island home and getting nasty with Raven, I knew I had to get involved. Sebastian had his own ideas on keeping Raven safe, so I was just helping him actually. Letting him know I was in his corner. (gives big sigh) But I'm not sure he understood that. As much as I liked Raven and Sebastian, I never felt they really understood me. Not until later on, when I really had to work to get their understanding. (gives another wistful sigh) Sometimes adults can be so...dim at times.

Okay, Madeline, our time is closing out. Thank you for sharing your thoughts today. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Just this—it's lonely being what I am; ghost, spook or any of the other names I've been called. I would have liked to spend more time with Chester and maybe take a picnic or boat ride off the island one day. But I never had that chance. (pauses, with somber, faraway expression) I imagine being with someone all the time that made those butterflies in your tummy would be a lovely experience. That is my wish now, for everyone to find that special person, like my Chester, who puts those tickly feelings there and makes you want to smile all the time, and spend their life with them.

Well said, Madeline, and thank you.

~~~~~~~~~~~
About the Author:

Ryan Jo Summers is a North Carolina author who specializes in writing romances with a twist. Love stories blended with inspirational, paranormal, suspense or time travel—or several at once. She also writes non-fiction for regional periodicals. Ryan's dad is a songwriter and his aunt wrote poetry, so she claims she came by her writing skill honestly. Apparently it's in the genes.

Her hobbies include bird-watching, houseplants, poetry and yard work. She loves to gather with friends, hike in the forest with her dog, paint ceramics and canvas, and work on wiggly word find puzzles. She lives in a 1920 cottage with a menagerie of pets. Living in the mountains, she dreams of the shore and frequently uses the water as scenes for her stories. More about Ryan Jo can be discovered at her website or her blog.

Website
Blog
Facebook

What inspired you to write this story?

In 1989 I found a photo in a calendar that resonated with me. It was just a rocky outcropping with an old tree and lots of fog. It was probably taken in the fall, around Minnesota or someplace on the Great Lakes. I still have that photo, matted and framed. Eleven years ago I moved from the Great Lakes to the mountains and yearn for the water. Inspired by that photo, this book was written, over years, in stages, with new parts added with each rewrite. The treasure hunt was added last, about 2 or 3 years ago after I spotted a van at a stop light reading Coynes Plumbing on the side. Koynes=treasure. So the heroine's last name was changed to incorporate the treasure idea.

What are you working on now?

My problem child that I've been working on steadily for two years. It's a whole lot of things, or as I refer to it, a hot mess, Romance, quantum fiction, women's lit. The other thing I am itching to start is a short novella about meeting and falling in love at a dog park. It's going to be a humorous short story.

Typical day?

Up early (I have pets, there is no sleeping in with hungry beasties), work on writing stuff/marketing stuff until early afternoon, then go to "day job," which is a second shift thing. Come home, catch up on emails from the day and things that require immediate attention. Repeat next day. Not a lot of variety in my life, which is okay. For a change of pace, I take my dog to the dog park or go see friends.

Personal question—favorite music?

Lots of stuff. Country, old stuff and traditional mostly, Christian. Orchestra. Jazz is okay too. Old rock on occasion. I don't care for rap or head-banging screaming stuff.

Favorite drink?

Coffee. Herbal tea when it's cold out. Milk, especially chocolate.

Favorite flower and color?

Lilacs and blue. Three of the rooms in my house are painted shades of blue. And I have several lilacs planted about the place.

Thanks again, Ryan Jo, for being my guest today! Remember, one lucky commenter will win a pdf copy of the book. So don't forget to say hi!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Incredible Shrinking TBR Pile

This is not my TBR pile. It's just a picture
of books. I didn't feel like getting my camera
and taking new pictures. #lazy
When I started writing, back in the early 90s, I was targeting Harlequin series romances. But to decide which series I really wanted to write for, I subscribed to several of them. I couldn't read as fast as I received them, so the piles grew and grew.

Eventually I narrowed it down and canceled some of the subscriptions. Then I started attending conferences, where you get free books (and in the case of the RWA National conference, LOTS AND LOTS of free books) and buy books at special booksignings.

And my TBR pile has been massive ever since. Because I keep going to conferences, but also because I don't stop buying books. Authors I love, stuff that sounds interesting...if I have an addiction, it's books.

Every so often, I weed out my TBR pile. Books I got free or even bought to help someone out but aren't things I like to read. (Historicals are the first to be weeded, for example.)

I'll also go on binges where I'll try all the books that I've had lingering because I don't think I'll like them. Sometimes I'm surprised, which is awesome. Sometimes there are personal triggers that override good writing—storylines or characters that I don't care for. So these binges can end up pulling a bunch of books off my TBR.

And then there are the very rare binge-reading-sessions where I plow through book after book because that's my main relaxation activity. I had one of those recently, and it led me to a scary place: a small TBR pile.

My Kindle used to have 6 pages in the "To Read" folder. I'm down to two! That's, like, 10 books! It almost started a panic attack, except I turned to my print TBR shelf and I've been concentrating on that lately. I got a little caught up in the ease of reading on the Kindle. So I have a couple dozen print books, which makes me breathe a bit easier.

But let me tell you, I cannot WAIT for my birthday. After insisting that I don't want anything and being badgered for a while, I give in and say to just get me an Amazon gift card. That's all I need! My wish list has over 40 books on it. I'm also paying a little more attention to the books being promoted all over my social media and stuff.

Top of my "yes, please" list is romantic adventure and paranormal YA (no vamps or shifters, though). So if anyone has any suggestions, please post them in the comments!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Meet the Characters from This Week's Select Contemporary Releases!



My Christmas-reunion-military-hero-small-town-heroine novella got a new cover and blurb for this week's re-release. Most of you who'd be interested in such a story probably already read it. (If you haven't, check it out here!)

So please let me introduce you to my fellow releasees this week! Below, we introduce the characters with some Dating-Game-style questions. You can read the tables turned in my newsletter and see how the guys answer their heroines.

We're also having a Facebook party Thursday evening. Come chat with us and comment to win prizes!








How to Fall
by Rebecca Brooks

Chicago math teacher Julia Evans has always played it safe, but when an impulse trip to southern Brazil introduces her to a gorgeous Australian traveler, she’ll risk her heart for a week in his arms—if his secrets don’t tear them apart.

Blake: If you could incorporate any fantasy into your real life, so you could have it whenever you wanted to, what would it be?

Julia: We come in from outside. We've been swimming, and you smell like salt water and sun. We have places to be—we're supposed to meet friends, or your production team, or whatever. But you don't care. You lay me down on the bed. Do you remember that first time we were in an actual bed, in the hotel in Rio? You kissed me like you'd never been so hungry. As your tongue slid down, you stopped to look up at me and that's the fantasy—the real-life fantasy—that gets me every time. It's the look in your eyes when you know I'm about to be screaming your name.



Second Chance Christmas
by Ellen Butler

Prominent DC attorney Emma Taylor is pulled away from a promising date the week before Christmas to pick up her ex-fiance from the ER after a bar fight. She’s in no mood to re-open old wounds, but it’s Christmas and she can’t just leave him alone and injured.

Colton to Emma:
"All of your suits are at the cleaners, and you have to meet with a new client on the weekend. What do you wear?"
"Seriously Colton, all off my suits are at the cleaners?"
"Yes, all the suits are at the cleaners. What do you wear?"
"Why are all of my suits at the cleaners? I'd never be that disorgainzed, you know that."
"Emma, it's just a game. Answer the question."
"Nope. The question is silly. It would never happen."
Colton rolls his eyes. "Fine, the house burned down. All of your clothes are now ashes. What do you wear?"
"Why did the house burn down? Did you leave the coffee pot on again?" Emma points an accusing finger at him.
"Emma!"
"Okay, okay, I'd call up Linda, my personal shopper at Nordstroms and tell her to put aside a suit, two blouses and shoes. I'd pick it up on the way to the office and change when I got there. Satisfied?"
"You're such a lawyer." Colton sighs.
"I know, but you still love me." Emma gives him a big smacking kiss on the cheek and a satisfied grin spreads across his face.



Hidden Away
by Jennie Marts

The only one on Cherry’s side is the sexy sheriff, Taylor Johnson—but she’s been hiding a secret that could rip their new family apart…
…and secrets have a way of revealing themselves.

Taylor:

What is something no one knows about you that would be a surprise to the people who know you best?

Cherry:
I love to read romance novels. I know I can come across as tough and sarcastic, but inside I'm just a ball of mush when it comes to romantic gestures. I know I've made plenty of mistakes in my life, and I love to read romance stories about second chances, because I really believe everyone deserves a second chance at finding love and happiness.



Priya in Heels 
by Ayesha Patel

Medical resident Priya lives life by cultural expectation, but when she falls for an American heartthrob named Tyler, her entire world unravels, leaving both wondering if love truly can conquer everything.

Priya Patel strives to be the perfect daughter for her traditional Indian parents. With her medical residency underway, she faces the inevitable pressures to marry an Indian man of her parents' choosing. She's perfectly content to do so until the Irish-American musician down the hall gets her attention and destroys everything she has worked so hard to build.

Tyler O'Conner can't stop thinking about the beautiful doctor who treated his sprained ankle in the ER. But between weekend band gigs, an intense workload at NASA, and trying to lower Priya's barriers, he doesn't expect to fall in love...with a woman who is meant to marry another man.

Priya struggles to maintain her relationship with her parents, to be their source of happiness, but falling for an American might be the one thing that unravels their world and leaves her in tattered pieces.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Remembering the Dream

I have been in this business—novel writing, specifically, but all the stuff that goes with writing and publication—for a really long time. Decades. I've written a lot of books, and lived through all the ups and downs of being a published author, with lots and lots of industry changes along the way.

I've also had the opportunity, through my services as an editor, copyeditor, and proofreader, to work with someone special. And I'm so excited that his book is now available for purchase.

Being immersed in the world of romance writing, I've met, mentored, and been mentored by a LOT of authors. Being a part of a community like that makes you feel like anything is possible. And it makes anything possible. It also makes it hard to realize that there are people out there who would love to write but don't have the community. The structured support. The education that seeps into you even when you're not looking for it.

That's why working with Dave has been special. He knew nothing about writing or publishing when we met, and was an absolute sponge. It was so much fun to see his work deepen and strengthen, and to share his journey over the years.

Dave has amazingly unique story ideas, and he has trusted me to give him advice on craft and business as we worked together on five books. His dream has been to share those stories and characters with others, and now he can do that with Diana's Magic, which is now available for purchase.

It's been a long time since I first held a book with my name on it and knew the words inside came from me. It's almost as exciting to share that with someone experiencing it for the first time. :)

I hope you'll check it out!

About the Book
Seeking to inspire problem students and build character, new elementary teacher Sarah Carter seizes upon an innovative class project for the school’s annual spring art show. At the same time, she struggles with a private personal tragedy. While coping with bullies, introverts, vampires, and school bureaucrats, Sarah strives to complete the project, support the encouraging growth of her students, and achieve closure with her impending loss. But the outcome is far different from anything she could have anticipated.