Posts in Category: Uncategorized

Swag

swagHave you seen the posts from my social media? I’ve recently been enraptured by the amount of swag that can be personalized. I went online simply to purchase new business cards, and the merchandise they offered me at a discount for being a new customer sucked me in. I didn’t go totally crazy, but I started to dream. I mean all of this started by dreaming, why not think bigger?

I am now the proud owner of several mugs, pens, stickers, magnets, and tote bags with my logo on them! My social media coordinator, Michelle, is finally happy. We can start doing giveaways and prized and contests. She’s never had a problem thinking big, but I’ve taken a little urging to come along. Okay, a lot of urging. But as I told her, I can be taught!

Stay tuned for more exciting things to come!

Writing Erotica

JM & MFIf you have followed my blog at all, you’ve probably heard me mention Marie Force a time or two. I started as a HUGE fan of her work – I even went to her first Reader Weekend in Rhode Island where I got to meet her. I was a total fan girl! I had just started my journey on becoming an author. My goals at that time were to write and publish one book in that year…you’ve heard me talk about how that went…

Fast forward to today. Marie recently gave an interview on what it’s like to write erotic novels for a living and in addition to being a fan girl and reading it, I also related as an author. Now, I’m far from an erotic author – in fact, by most standards, I’m really tame. But I could definitely understand the reactions she encountered from people who knew her when she published her first erotic novel (Virtuous – in the Quantum Series – an excellent book/series). I was born and bred in the Bible Belt – we simply don’t talk about such things. And we definitely don’t admit to reading them! Imagine the surprise from the people who know me when they picked up the first Tip of the Spear book!

I published my first romantic suspense novel, In the Shadows, in March of 2015. This was the first of what will be six (possibly seven) books in the Tip of the Spear series. I will admit that I had to be totally alone to write the first sex scene of my career. I’ve yet to progress to being able to dictate one… When it was finished, I re-read it and thought it was not too bad. There wasn’t anything too graphic. I avoided all the weird words for body parts that drive me nuts as a reader. Overall, I thought it walked the line between too much and leaving you wanting more.

Then my family read it…

My aunt was the first to call me. Thankfully this conversation took place over the phone. All she said was she had gotten to “that part” in the book. She was surprised that something like that came from me – the good girl of the family. I think I turned five shades of red. Really, I don’t know why I was embarrassed. I mean everybody has sex, don’t they?

Then my mother called. Thankfully I live in a different state. She said, “Julie Louise (in the south, pulling out the middle name is dangerous…), I cannot believe chapter sixteen!” We now use “chapter sixteen” as a euphemism to warn about upcoming questionable content. I’m just thankful that she hasn’t read the Devil Mountain Shifter series!

I’m still not sure why they found it so shocking. But I do know that if I ever venture into anything more steamy, I’ll be using a pen name!

Top 5 Things I need to Write

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Every writer is different. We all have our own system in place to be productive. For me, I start with a time limit on social media! Most days, I come home from work, eat dinner, and then start writing. My Saturday mornings consist of grocery shopping – followed by writing. Sunday mornings consist of laundry – while writing. Working full-time means I have fewer hours in the day to write. I sacrifice a lot to be able to give my characters a voice. For this system to work, here are five things I can’t do without.

1. My note pad. I’m old fashioned. I love to hand-write notes. This actually comes in handy when I’m at my day job. I can keep a notebook on the desk and when an idea strikes, I can write it down before I forget it. I also carry pen and paper with me to various appointments – like the doctor, or getting my oil changed. I use it to map out characters or plot lines. I’ve got a great new series being plotted right now. Of course, I’m keeping that on the back burner until I have all of the Tip of the Spear novels finished! I don’t think I can handle more than two series at a time! It’s very rare that you will find me without a means of writing something down.

2. Mac Book. I generally write on my Mac Book Air, though I also have an iMac in my home office. The screen on it is bigger, so I generally use it for edits and the more tedious aspects of writing. But usually you’ll find me in my recliner with my laptop propped up on a blanket, usually surrounded by at least two of my three dogs. Maybe I should have added the recliner and dog cuddles to this list….

3. Scrivener. I discovered this software on an author forum that I subscribe to. It has a unique layout that authors either love or hate. It’s not without its idiosyncrasies, but what it lacks in user-friendliness, it makes up for in formatting. This program has saved my life (or rather, the life of my computer) when formatting frustrations threaten to get the best of me. I don’t do well with electronics that don’t cooperate – just ask the last poor DVD player that malfunctioned on me!

4. Dragon Dictate. I heard so many complaints about dictating software that I was hesitant to purchase any. Then I flipped out of my hammock in the back yard and injured my wrist. For an author, not being able to type is a death sentence. My solution? Dragon Dictate. It took me a while to admit that I liked it. In fact, it wasn’t until I started using the transcription functions on it, instead of dictating, that I found it was worth the cost. The “How to Train Your Dragon” facebook group has also been a lifesaver. I doubt I would have come so far without the support and encouragement.

5. Books. Yes, you read that right. Books play an important part in an author’s life. To be a good author, you have to love to read. For me, reading is a way to escape, to live another life – even if only for a few hours. I usually take a week to binge read the books that I’m saving up during my deadlines. It serves as a reset button on my brain to enjoy someone else’s words instead of my own.

So, there you have it – just a small peek into my world. I’m sure if I put my mind to it, I would have no problems coming up with another 20 items I could list here…

Five Inspirational Women

2016 has been a rough year for celebrities. We’ve lost so many. Additionally, I recently lost my beloved grandmother. It got me thinking about women who have shaped me into the person I am today. First, let me say I love women who are the first in their field – those who break out of the mold that they are forced into. Women who dare to go where no woman has gone before are truly inspirational. That’s where I chose to start my list of women that I find inspirational. I originally called this the “Top 5,” but I’m not sure that I can truly quantify a top 5. So, here are my thoughts on women I look up to.

Hurston-Zora-Neale-LOC 2Zora Neale Hurston. Who is that, you might ask? Ms. Hurston was an African-American woman who came to prominence during the Harlem Renaissance. I first discovered her work while taking an African-American Literature class in college. We had to read her book Their Eyes were Watching God, and I thought it was amazing. I read the book in several other courses after that first time, and it had no less of an impact with each re-read. Ms. Hurston detailed the struggle of a black woman in the south who overcame several obstacles, but it was so much more than that. She wrote at a time when there wasn’t a platform for African-American women, or their works of art. In fact, she is said to have died penniless. I’d like to think that she knows of her impact on the world of literature once her books were rediscovered.

earhart 2Amelia Earhart. Have you ever wondered how many times she was told that a woman couldn’t fly? Think about it. She flew across the Atlantic Ocean in 1928 – just 8 short years after women were given the right to vote! I’ve spent a lot of time imagining her conversations with people who doubted her or tried to convince her that she couldn’t achieve her dreams. I’m glad she proved them wrong!

 

Summitt 2Pat Summitt. Her death at the end of June is really what started me thinking about this blog post. I wrote a paper on her for my Master’s program and discovered how inspiring she was. The winningest coach in basketball history – men OR women! Think about that!! I’m a HUGE basketball fan – as any of you who followed me on Twitter during March Madness know. I was born and bred on UK Basketball – it’s practically a religion down here. Though I was never a UT fan, Pat Summitt stood out. She represented grace, strength, power, humility, eloquence, and so much more. Her attitude was inspiring, both on and off the court. Google her – some of her more popular quotes will bring tears to your eyes.

 

Force 2Marie Force. Of course I couldn’t go without listing the one person who has made self-publishing into an art form. This woman went from a working mom and wife to an author who has published 50 books! She has established her own business, helped other authors begin to achieve their dreams, and still manages to keep in touch with her fans. I am exactly 10 years behind her in this adventure, and I hope when I reach the mark she is at now, I have a quarter of her success, and 100% of her character.

 

C Mellon 2Connie Mellon – my mother. I know, I know…she isn’t famous… But what she has in common with all of the women above is her support. I am sure that there was one person who supported each and every one of the women I listed in #1-4. I’ve read that Earhart’s husband published a book lavishing praise on his wife after her death. Pat Summitt had a family, both related by blood and by sport, that stood beside her during her final years. Marie Force has often talked about the support she receives from her family – namely her husband and father. For me, that support has come from my mother. She never fails to encourage my dream or to believe that it’s possible (p.s. I should say that if this was a list that included men, my father would be on it, too!).

My lesson to you by including my mother is that word do mean something. Look around at the people you love – support their dreams. What would have happened if Amelia had never taken off the first time? Or if Pat had never accepted a job as head coach? Women are making strides to accomplish their dreams. There aren’t many fields that haven’t felt the impact women bring to the table. Now, it’s time to build higher – go further –dream bigger.

Argh! Pirates!

pirate-47705_640Ahoy, Mateys! I am using humor right now because I am so angry! Warning: this post will be full of exclamation points!!!! I just found out that a few of my books have appeared on illegal sites – they’ve been hijacked! Wow, do I feel violated!

I’ve been reading about this happening to authors ever since I decided to self-publish and joined a few author groups. But I didn’t think I had to worry about it yet. I mean, I’m just little old me…a newbie, an unknown. Why would someone target me? I have now learned a hard lesson – you’re never too lowly to be ripped off…

The music industry has been fighting this for years. I remember thinking “they’re just $0.99 songs, what’s the harm?” Now I know the harm first hand! I’m still trying to build a fan base and attract new reader. But that doesn’t mean I should be turning a blind eye to this. My books are not my primary source of income (thank goodness, or I’d be homeless…), but they are still valuable to me. Every penny I earn on these books ensures that the next one can be published. I literally live book-to-book in the publishing world!

So I ask you – PLEASE, PLEASE do not give these sites your business. If you run across pirated work, don’t download it. Email the author the link you’ve found. Most of us self-published authors would be so grateful to know we are being ripped off! This is uncalled for, illegal, immoral, and just down right dirty.

Memorial Day Weekend

flag-958343_1280Hey all! It’s a holiday weekend here in the USA. Memorial Day weekend is a day to celebrate those who gave their life while serving in the armed forces. To many, it’s also the unofficial start of summer. Last Memorial Day, I had just put up the hammock in my backyard and enjoyed quite a lot of time out there. There was also a comical moment when I flipped out of said hammock – luckily I rescued the laptop and didn’t land on top of it…(go ahead and laugh, my mother did…)

While sitting in my hammock last year, I wrote a draft of The Only Wolf. It was just a story that was in my head after spending hours watching coverage of the 70th anniversary of the Holocaust. It wasn’t ever supposed to amount to anything, but those who I let read it loved it. So it became a trilogy.

This Memorial Day weekend, I’m planning to spend some more magical time in the hammock, this time working on Free to Believe, book 4 in the Katie Freeman Mysteries. I’m hoping the story turns out to be as enthralling as the Devil Mountain Shifters were. Hopefully, I can remain in the hammock this time. 🙂

’tis the season…

I know you think I’m crazy, but I’m truly not. It’s still snowing out, even though the groundhog says spring is coming. However, the reason I say “’tis the season” is because Lent is upon us. Now, I’ve never been one for making New Year’s resolutions. I think they borderline on the ridiculous, and one never sticks to them. How many times have you made a New Year’s resolution and neglected to follow through on it? Yeah, that’s what I thought. But, for Lent, I try to do a little bit better. I’m not Catholic, but I do think that doing something to improve yourself is admirable. We are always changing, so why not work on making those changes positive? And what better way than to have a specific number of days in which to do this? I’ve always heard that establishing a new habit takes 30 days, so Lent gives you an extra 10 to reinforce any new goal.

So this year I’ve been going back-and-forth on what to do for Lent. When I was in college, the obvious thing to do was to give up cursing. Well, that’s just not gonna happen! I’ve outgrown that notion… I’ve done the whole exercise ‘every day for 40 days,’ or ‘I’ll do this diet for 40 days,’ but really, it kind of gets treated just like a New Year’s resolution – meaning it goes out the window within the first week. Last year I did a challenge that involved my writing. I decided that for the 40 days I was going to write a certain number of words every single day. And I did it too! This year however, I think I’m going back to an old standby: I’m give up sugar for 40 days! For those of you that don’t know me, you don’t understand what a big deal this is. My two biggest addictions are sweet tea and bite-size Snickers bars. Lately, the Snickers is kind of a ruling my life. So I decided that for the next 40 days I’m gonna work to change that. Wish me luck and here we go! Happy fat Tuesday everyone.

One year and counting…..

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Oh my goodness! I can’t believe it’s been a year since I published my first book. This has been a rollercoaster ride of fun, stress, learning, and frustration, but has been overall rewarding. I started 2014 with two goals: write one novel, and publish one novel. I started 2015 with the goal to publish four books. So far, I have published three books and three novellas. My fourth book will be released at the end of the month!

Katie Freeman is going to make an appearance in her third book, Free to Live, December 29.

Special Agent Katie Freeman has a secret, one she has only shared with her partner, Michael Powell. While looking at the files of a cold case, Katie discovered a possible personal connection. Is her mother the woman who disappeared twenty-six years ago? And did she kill Katie’s father? 

If her mother is the missing woman, how will that affect Katie’s career with the FBI? And, now that she has dragged her partner into this mess, will the calls come tumbling down on him, too? Adding to the stress is Katie’s new relationship with a fellow FBI agent. She is keeping secrets from him that impedes their ability to move their relationship forward. 

Can Katie resolve this situation before she loses everything she has worked for?

For all of you who have fallen in love with Katie and Michael, I hope you enjoy their newest adventure.

Thank you for sticking with me as I have explored the self-publishing world. I look forward to giving you many more books in the future!

I accept bribes

I have struggled this week with self-motivation. I have always been a procrastinator – the one who waited until the night before a paper was due to write it… the one who waited until the final deadline to submit a project. Honestly, it drives my mom nuts! Which, of course, is why I originally liked to do it.  But there comes a time to break the habits formed in youth. Unfortunately, I am a creature of habit and I detest change. How do I manage to complete a book, you ask? Well, mostly through determination, bribery, external influences, and character persistence.

First, is my determination. I have always enjoyed writing. I have an overactive imagination and can easily get lost in a daydream for hours. Now, I make myself write down those daydreams. They become the stories that you will hopefully one day read.

Next is bribery. Sometimes, it’s a matter of ‘finish this chapter and you can have a brownie.’ Other days, like today, it’s ‘write 500 words and you can have a gummy bear.’ My bribes are not always food related. Sometimes it’s watching television, or going for a walk, or going out to dinner with friends. My goal today is 10,000 words. When I’m done, I get to have dinner and see The Martian at the movies (and let’s face it, Matt Damon is a reward all his own!). Great motivation, except that it’s taking the gummy bears to get me there.

External influences help as well. I can tell myself, “You have to have this book done by Oct 15, or else.” But that doesn’t always work. So I usually make a reservation with my editor to have the book to her (or him…) by a certain date. Of course, it needs to go through the beta readers first, so I try to leave a little room for that – sometimes that gets close. Having someone else waiting on me keeps me motivated to hit that deadline.

Finally, my characters tend to be persistent. Once I have dreamed a character to life, they aren’t happy being left to languish in whatever state I previously left them. They like their HEA and are downright demanding that I get them there as quick as possible. Sometimes, I have dreamed several characters at once and I have to take a little time to write down the basics of one while I develop the other into a story. But I know if I don’t write it down, the character will pester me until I go slowly insane…

That’s pretty much how my books get written. Of course, I am supposed to be writing a story now, instead I’m writing this blog… do these 500 words count toward a gummy bear? I think so!

Finding an editor

In all the research I did for self-publishing, one thing was repeated several times: look for an editor in time to get on their schedule. The recommended timeframe for this was two months. I started looking four months before I needed an editor. What I discovered is that most editors have a six-month waiting period. Oops! What is a new author to do? I knew that my book couldn’t be published without a professional editor getting their hands on it. The last thing I wanted was to put something out there that would cause the reader to cringe. I have read those book – the ones that have so many mistakes that it distracts from the story. I just finished a book where one of the two characters in the scene kept switching names. In that same book there was a scene where one minor character was given two different names. It happens! And it is easier than you might think for these things to get through the rereading and beta reader process.

So, I contacted the first editor. I was told that she had no availability until March…MARCH!! Well, since I want my book published in December, March is simply not going to work. I thanked her for her time and moved on.

Then I contacted three more with the same results.

The third of these had availability! Imagine my excitement! We emailed back and forth, clarified her process, talked pricing and payment options; it was great! Then the moment of truth: she asked for a sample from me so she could edit it and we could see if her process worked for me. I had editing samples ready that had been sent to all the other people. I thought this was the easy part. Oh, how wrong I was. I mistakenly thought that those who edit did so because it was their job. In my naivety, I attached that little sample to an email and sent it right off. To my surprise, I received an email a scant two hours later with an, “I’m sorry, but I cannot do this.” My heart sank. Was my book really that bad?

It turns out that the editor wouldn’t work with the subject matter contained in my book. Admittedly murder can be a touchy subject, but that wasn’t the issue here. We exchanged a few emails back and forth; I thanked her for her time; we wished each other luck…and I was back to square one with only three months left until my publishing goal…

Then my life was saved! I was referred to Mike Spring. Mike is a published author (both print and audio), a voice coach, and runs his own company. This man can do it all! And did I mention that he was available?!? Mike literally saved my dream. He was professional, courteous, quick, and responsive. He responded to all my concerns and questions. He never made me feel discouraged, and even better, he said he liked my book! I think that was the moment my nerves calmed down some about actually putting my work out there for the public.

I am still nervous about people reading what I have written. These are thoughts in my head, it’s almost like walking into a room naked. Everyone is going to see everything – yikes! But I am slowly coming terms with this. But working with an editor that has confidence in my work has done a lot to boost my courage.

The lesson in all this: surround yourself with the right people. That doesn’t mean these people should be like-minded. They need to be strong in their opinions and they need to be able to express them in a way that demonstrates how your work can be better, but without making you feel demoralized. I have a great team around me and I would not be where I am on this journey without them.