Exciting News!!

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My two BFFs and fellow authors, Cheryl Yeko, Char Chaffin, and I, have put together a newsletter. The Power of Three Logofirst issue is Monday, February 10th. We’re very excited about this new venture. Our newsletter will have information on our writing life. We’ll share tidbits about our family and the world of a romance author. We’ll also have contests and free stuff!!

Starting tomorrow, you can sign up for the newsletter here: http://www.cherylyeko.com/2014/02/the-power-of-three.

If you want to subscribe now, send your email address to: calliehutton11@gmail.com, and we’ll get you on the list.

‘Hope to ‘see’ you soon!!!

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An Author’s Lament

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‘Twas the night before Christmas,
And the author said ‘damn’
I need to get this book
Into my publisher’s hands

Her children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While she got two aspirins for the pain in her head,

Mama in her kerchief and papa in his cap,
She hoped this last revision would be but a snap
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
She hopped from her laptop to see what the hell happened now!

The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow,
Gave a luster of midday to objects below,
When what to her wondering eyes should appear
But her hero dressed as Santa without any beard−or shirt
His eyes, how they twinkled! His dimples how cool!
His cheeks were like roses, his chest made her drool

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
Fixing the scene where she’d made him a jerk,
And laying his finger under her chin,
He gave her a kiss as wicked as sin,

He sprang to his horse, to his horse gave a whistle,
And left her alone with nothing but sizzle.

But she heard him exclaim, ere he rode out of sight
Get your ass back to work, it will be a long night!

 

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Entangled Halloween Hop!!!

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I’m part of the Entangled Publishers Halloween Hop! Be sure to click on the link near the end of my article so you can follow the other fabulous authors during this Hop.

Halloween makes me think of a new plan to stimulate the economy that doesn’t include bailing any big shots out. On October 31, all adults will dress in a ghost or goblin outfit to go trick or treating. However, instead of carrying a bag to collect candy, they will carry a bagful of their monthly bills. After ringing their neighbor’s doorbells, yelling “trick or treat” (in a high voice, of course—so they sound like kids), they’ll deposit one of their unpaid bills in the mailbox and steal away into the darkness. When all the bills are gone, they get to go home and have a margarita—or sinful beverage of choice. Only past due bills will qualify.

Of course I realize the flaw in my plan. No one will likely pay someone else’s bills (unless they’re less than theirs). But think of the interesting conversations generated by your neighbor knowing who and what you owe. “Harold, do you know the Spencer’s owe there months back payments on Laura’s braces? No wonder the poor child was here Saturday trying to sell her Science exam to David.”

At the very least you would lose your bills long enough to have a legitimate excuse for not paying them this month, and the diversion could be more entertaining than the latest reality TV show. This, my friends, is real reality.

Halloween is, of course, one of our favorite holidays. Surveys tell us (I sound like a TV game host) that next to Christmas, Halloween is children’s favorite holiday. Personally, I prefer Arbor Day, but since I’m no longer a child, I don’t count.

There is something magical for me in this holiday called Halloween. When I was a kid, I spent many hours dreaming up a beautiful, custom-made princess costume with a wand of gold and a long, flowing blonde wig. I was equally thrilled when my mom brought home a Superman costume on special at Walmart.

In those days most of us went trick or treating in the afternoon, right after school. I lived in a neighborhood with roughly eleven thousand children (baby boom era), so it was no small feat to return home with a full bag of candy. But we managed every year.

After dinner on that sacred day, my folks would pile all of us in the car, take a head count—throw out the extras—and to grandmother’s house we’d go. This was probably the best time. Grandma always saved the most favored candy for us, as well as special cookies or cupcakes. In fact, the day was not considered a success unless at least one of us had to throw up on the way home.

My youngest is now a college student of twenty-one, and still celebrates the holiday. She and her friend dress up and terrorize kids who ring the doorbell before they give them candy. She picks out (and buys, bless her heart), her own costume. I wanted to be beautiful as a child, she wants to look as gross as possible. Times change.

I’ll be busy Halloween night. While hubby hands out candy, I’ll be loading my bills into a wheelbarrow.

Now where did I leave the gorilla mask I got on sale at Walmart?

Also: Check out the rest of the blog tour here:  Entangled Publishing
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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A Writer’s Life

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So here I sit, staring at a blank screen, knowing I have to write a guest blog, and not one single thought comes to mind. I hate this computer screen.

Then a song pops up in my head. “I never promised you. . .” I can’t think of the rest of the line. Who cares, you say? Right now with nothing else going on my brain, I do. So I add “a rain barrel.” No, that’s not right. I try “a love life.” Nope. I tap my foot in rhythm to the song. Can sing it almost all the way through until I hit “I never promised you. . .” when it all comes to a screeching halt.

My fingers itch to click onto the internet and do a search. Not going to happen. I need to get this post written. I sigh. Go to the kitchen and put on a fresh pot of coffee. Stare out the window. Run the song through my mind again. “I never promised you a . . .” Maybe it’s “hop in the sack?” Getting desperate at this point.

I notice dishes piled in the sink. Check the dishwasher. Clean, so I put them away. Load it up again, and start it. “I never promised you a . . .” Hmm. “good time?” Pour some coffee and spend five minutes searching every cabinet for my favorite coffee cup lid. Humming this blasted song, I return to my desk.

The screen is still blank, the magic word fairies having deserted me on this one. My index finger hovers over the internet key. I yank it away, and then hold a conversation with my dog. She yawns and lays back down, ignoring my dilemma. I thought she knew her place as my best friend.

My eyes skim the room. The coffee table is coated with dust. I get up and grab a dust cloth and can of Pledge. “I never promised you a . . .” What fits, for heaven’s sake? “clean house?” Ha. Hubby can vouch for that one.

Back in my chair, my hands smelling of lemon, I stare at the internet key. I dare it to draw my finger. I win−I’m a strong woman. “I never promised you a. . .ton of money?” Nah, I know it’s two words, just can’t think of them.

All right, I have to get serious here. Why is it so much easier to write an entire book than it is to write a short guest blog? One of life’s little mysteries it seems. I try to block out the song by singing another one to myself. Then another—and another. Pretty soon I’ve given myself an entire concert, but I still can’t remember the last two words of that line.

My dog lifts one eyelid from her position at my feet. I guess all this singing is disturbing her beauty rest. My daughter enters the room, dressed for dirt digging. She’s decided to take on the job of family landscaper. Just hope she finishes it this year.

“Hey mom, suppose I put in a rose garden this year?”

“Yes!!” I shout, doing a fist pump.

“Wow, you’re really into roses, aren’t you?”

I burst into song. “I never promised you a rose garden.”

I’ve stunned her speechless. The dog lumbers off into the next room. I glance down at my computer screen, amazed to see this little rambling has given me my blog. Ha! Done.

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Who’s Writing This, Anyway?

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            I’m a combination plotter and punster. When I begin a new story, I generally know what it’s going to be about. No exact beginning, middle and end, though.

Then I sit down and start writing, pretty much letting it flow. When I get close to the dreaded ‘middle slump’ I will do a chapter by chapter outline. Nothing definite, but more along the lines of ‘in this chapter, they have sex,’ ‘in this chapter she discovers ‘the secret’’, and so on.

Most times that works. But then there are the books where your characters sneer at your plan and will not cooperate. They won’t do what you want them to do, or they do something so unexpected, even your vague outline will no longer work. I’ve found sitting and arguing with the character rarely helps. Some characters and merely too stubborn.

I ask them what’s wrong, but often I have to guess. One time I was writing a pivotal scene between a retired OSBI agent and a Chief of Police. Very tense moment. They’re trying to figure out who’s after the heroine. She happens to be the OSBI’s girlfriend, and the COP’s sister. The men are stressed, anxious. Looking for answers.

They’re sitting in the COP’s office. Staring at each other across the messy desk. Saying nothing. I was getting a bit annoyed. Come on, guys, this is important. Think of something. The nitwits just sat. I poked the OSBI agent in the ribs. Nothing. I waved a hand in front of the COP. He might as well have been blind.

I pushed away from my computer and paced. Two men, doing nothing to resolve this problem. What the heck’s the matter with them? Then I had an aha! moment. I furiously hit the keyboard and pounded out the scene. I took them out of the office and put them into a bar. Placed a cold beer, dripping ice, into each of their hands.

I couldn’t write fast enough. They wouldn’t shut up.

Men!

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When Your Muse Takes a Vacation

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Ordinarily, my muse and I get along quite well. She arrived when I was quite young, actually. She wasn’t all that helpful during my school career when I had to write those exceptionally boring, and pointless, term papers. Except in my creative writing class when she really jumped front and center.

As a young child, she helped me tolerate long family car trips, where I was always squished in the middle of the back seat between older sister and younger brother. She also helped me fall asleep at night, when she would weave amazing stories where I was the star. Beautiful, smart, rich—all the things a little girl dreams of.

During my various careers she either trudged with me to the office each day—when I worked for corporate communications at Chase Manhattan Bank in New York City, or lapsed into a coma when I sold insurance. But she was always there at night time when my head hit the pillow and we continued with the story of my fabulous (read: pretend) life.

About three years ago, we became BFF when I wrote my first book. God, I loved her. She arrived each morning, glowing with good health. We put our heads together and wonderful things spewed forth from my laptop. We high fived each other on a regular basis.

That lasted about six months. Then I noticed a change in her temperament. The only way to describe it is—grumpy. Sometimes she smiled and shone like a brilliant star, other times she groused about the lack of coffee and needing a nap.

There were days she disappeared completely, but when she returned never gave me a clue where she’d been. Said it was a secret. Ha! Other times she hid in the back of my bedroom closet, arms crossed, and snarled at me, even though I warned her about deadlines. Bribery didn’t work very much either. Eventually, she would dust herself off, work like the devil to reach that deadline and then offer a smug smile.

The worse time, and it’s only happened once, my muse took a vacation. Days and days of the black hole as I stared at a blank computer screen, and wailed in agony for her to return. I called, texted, FB’d, tweeted, skyped. Nothing. She was gone. I pounded the keyboard, paced the room, wrote gibberish, then violently pushed the ‘delete’ button.

She returned. With absolutely no explanation, and merely raised her eyebrows with disdain when I told her how much I missed her. She coolly brushed me aside and wrote up a storm.

Come to think of it, she’d make a great heroine, but she refuses to let me write her.

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Story Ideas and Other Things…

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Where do you get your ideas from? Like most authors, I get this question all the time. Interspersed with the inevitable I have a great idea for a story. You can write it, and we’ll split the money. Sure. Let me check my calendar.

Ideas come from everywhere and anywhere. A line in a song, a movie, a book, something someone says, in church, at the supermarket, bank, post office. As long as there are places and people, ideas will come.

Oftentimes when I rode the train to work years ago, I would make up stories about the passengers. Since I ended up riding with the same people most days, these stories became continuing sagas. Then I would meet one of them on the street and feel sorry because that poor woman’s husband was cheating on her and she didn’t know it. Hmm. Not so – I made that up.

I have a regency novel releasing from Entangled Publishing in April, The Elusive Wife, about a woman named Olivia. Got that idea while sitting in church and a woman in front of me called to her little girl Olivia, come here. I took out my checkbook and outlined the entire story on the back of a check. Sorry, Pastor Dave, I really didn’t mean to ignore your homily.

I love being able to write stories, probably the Irish in me. They’re known for their story telling skills. Blarney I believe it’s called? Creative and artistic juices run in my family. My nephew just signed a contract to write a biography and my cousin is a playwright. Three nieces sing like angels, my son is an artist, my daughter designs jewelry, and another niece makes designer cakes.

So what does this all mean? Absolutely nothing. Just felt like rambling today. Hope you have a super Thursday cause we’re starring at the weekend right now. Or as the duchess said in Downton Abbey “What is a week-end?”

 

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Google It!!!

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Google it has become a common phrase in my house. No matter what anyone wants to know, be it a recipe, a definition of a word, or how the west was one, someone will shout google it.

Since I write historical romance, Google has become a big part of my research life. Like most readers, I have my library of research books, but recently, when editing, I ran across a regency character saying ‘they’re playing musical beds,’ I gave pause. When was the children’s game, musical chairs first played? Was it as early as the 1812 year I set my book in?

Alas, no. Musical chairs was from around the year 1875. So, obviously, raised eyebrows and looks of confusion would have greeted my heroine had she uttered those words.

Speaking of how the west was won, when I did the research for my recent release, Emma’s Journey, I found the internet invaluable. I tracked my characters from Missouri to Oregon, investigating all the places they would have stopped and passed along the way.

How active were Indian attacks at the time? What did Fort Laramie look like? What illnesses plagued the pioneers who took the Oregon Trail? All of this information was at my fingertips, thanks to the internet. Had this book been written twenty or so years ago, I would have spent an inordinate amount of time at the library.

As much as I love the library, and browsing their shelves, getting quick answers helps the muse to stay active, and my fingers busily writing storyline.

I thought about all of this recently when three different companies dropped phone books at my doorstep. I haven’t used a phone book in years. I just Google it.

What about you? How has the information available on the internet changed your life?

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Romance Author Barbara Barrett

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Today, I welcome romance author, Barbara Barrett, who’s going to talk to us about sequels. Take it away, Barb.

Three Potholes to Avoid When Writing a Sequel

I’ve never given much thought to the nature of sequels. I assumed the author typed “The End” on the first book and kept going. That’s the approach I took when I started the sequel to my first published romance novel, The Sleepover Clause. Boy, was I wrong! My critique partners soon set me straight. Since I’m now back at the drawing board, I thought this might be a fitting time to share some of the lessons I learned.

That’s not to say I’ve had this great epiphany and am now all knowledgeable. More like I’ve discovered a few potholes to avoid and am using this article as an opportunity to put them into coherent perspective.

The intended timeline for this second book in my “Clause” series starts shortly after the first one ends.  So I began with essentially the same scene, same location and same assemblage of characters, thinking this would make for a smooth transition. Discovery Number 1, don’t litter the first few pages with too many characters. Someone who read the first book probably wouldn’t be thrown by this. But someone who isn’t familiar with the first book will be thrown with all the names and connections coming at them before they’ve had a chance to acclimate to the time and setting. As in any book, sequel or not, the main characters need to stand out and immediately engage the reader. That’s unlikely to happen when they’re competing with everyone else for space in that first chapter.

Discovery Number 2, Avoid Information Dumps. In other words, don’t give the reader too much information too soon. Not only does it overwhelm the reader with unnecessary details that clutter up the introduction, it slows the pace. And pacing is important. The beginning of a sequel is highly vulnerable to this tendency, because the writer is anxious to bring the reader up to speed as soon as possible so both reader and writer can get on with the new story. Edit, edit, edit to eliminate every nonessential item, every plot point that can be revealed later. Focus on introducing the main characters. Establish their conflicts as soon as possible, not the full extent, that won’t happen until well into the first quarter of the book, but lay out the bones. Not only does that hook the reader’s interest, it also will help set this book apart from its predecessor.

Discovery Number 3, the second book should assume its own personality from the start.  Without realizing it, I started this first draft of the sequel in a fashion similar to the first. I even had one of the main characters echoing dialogue similar to that of one of the characters in the first book. I could argue that I was attempting to establish a common framework shared by the two books, but get real. It’s one thing for the reader to immediately recognize the author’s voice; it’s totally another matter for the author to be perceived as a “one-trick pony.”

I’m off to start the second draft and follow my own advice. Who knows? Once it’s finished, it may inspire a sequel to this blog article, “Three More Discoveries I Made About Sequels.” So what do you think? I am on point or off base?

Barbara Barrett spent her professional career as a human resources analyst for Iowa state government, and that training has stayed with her in her writing of contemporary romance fiction. The theme of her writing, “Romance at Work,” reflects her fascination with the jobs people do and infiltrates her plots almost to the point of becoming a secondary character.

      A member of Romance Writers of America and several of its affiliate chapters, she was first “published” in sixth grade when a fictional account of a trip to France appeared in her hometown newspaper, the Burlington Hawk-Eye. Years later, she was fortunate enough to visit the subject of her essay, although in it she never envisioned that she would trip on a curb near the Arc d’Triomphe and have to limp her way through the Louvre.

      Now retired, Barbara spends her winters basking in the Florida sunshine and returns to her home state of Iowa in the summer to “stay cool.” She is married to the man she met in dormitory advisor training her senior year of college. They have two grown children and six grandchildren. When she’s not writing, she’s busy lunching with friends or playing Mah Jongg.

      Her first book, The Sleepover Clause, was released by Crimson Romance in September of 2012. Her second book, And He Cooks Too, will officially be released by The Wild Rose Press on March 22, but in the meantime, it is available in the Kindle version on Amazon.

      She loves talking about writing romance and welcomes invitations from book clubs to join them via phone calls or the Internet.  Check out her contact information to request she visit your book club.

Barbara has offered a glimpse of her new book, And He Cooks Too

Three men, three lies. Two made her doubt herself and the last nearly destroyed her career. And now, blacklisted by the city’s finest restaurants, Chef Reese Dunbar must put the resuscitation of her battered reputation in the hands of yet another man. The television experience Nick Coltrane’s cooking show offers is her best option. But after giving her heart to him, her trust is put to the test when she discovers that Nick has lied about the real reason he brought her on board – he wants her to replace him before his audience learns he is a fraud; the host of “And He Cooks Too” can’t cook. Reese must not only come to terms with Nick’s deception, she must also reconsider the unhealthy motivations behind her relentless drive for success. Before he can escape the charade he has allowed himself to be party to, Nick must stand up to his aunt, the only woman who has always stuck by him, and risk losing her support. Reese’s parting words, questioning whether the woman owns his soul, help him find the courage and self-knowledge to do that. In return, he helps Reese realize the folly of atoning for a teenager’s mistake through an adult’s misplaced ambitions. Only as they come to trust the other are they able to return the other’s love and pursue the careers that give their lives meaning.

Here’s an excerpt:

The woman, her boss had called her Reese, angled her head, as if absorbing the man’s statement. It was the first real look Nick had gotten of her. Not bad. Not bad at all. “Patrice got the job because of Julian Parker, not because you and she got together?”

He glanced away. “Uh, well—”

“Both of you?” She started for the door again. “I am so out of here.”

Louis clamped a hand on her shoulder. “C’mon, Reese. Cut the drama. I thought if I explained the situation, you’d understand.”

“What I understand is that there is nothing here for me anymore.”

“You know the code, Reese. Chefs don’t leave their kitchens in the middle of service. You’re good, but not good enough to test it.”

She twisted around. “You can thank your new sous chef for the timing. Do you think her telling me just prior to the dinner hour was an accident?”

“Stick around. We’ll work out something,” he coaxed.

“Yeah, right.”

“Nobody leaves me high and dry. You’ll regret going out that door.”

“Let’s see who regrets what.” She ripped a net from her head, allowing a mass of raven black hair to escape, and pushed through the door to the outside world.

************

Website:  http://www.barbarabarrettbooks.com

Email: barbarabarrett747@gmail.com

Facebook: Barbara Barrett

Twitter:  bbarrettbooks

I want to thank Barb for being with us today. Her book sounds wonderful, and I look forward to its release.

 

 

 

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How Much is Too Much?

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As authors, we all know it’s up to us to market and promote our books. Times have changed, and it’s the rare author (except for the big names) who gets much support from his or her publisher. In fact, a lot of publishers are requesting a market plan from the author before they’ll consider contracting the book.

I’m sure most of us follow the same path. We read books on marketing. We sign up for Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, etc. We visit blogs of our friends, invite them to visit our blogs, and watch our numbers on Amazon.

I eventually reached a point where I was forced to ask−how much is too much? Little by little, I found myself spending more time with social media than I was with writing the books that required me to have a presence on social media. I was swallowed up with visiting the same author friends on the same blogs promoting the same books. I mean how many times can you wish someone ‘best of luck with XXX?’

This year will be super busy for me with what I already have under contract, planned to write, edit, and have published. Plus I’m the new president of my local RWA chapter. In addition I give back to the writing community by judging contests and critiquing other authors’ manuscripts and/or beta reading. And I enjoy giving book reviews as a trade for reviews of my books. It was time to take a serious look at how I was spending my time.

When it comes to writing, I’m usually a panster, but a definite plotter in my life. I tore apart my entire marketing strategy for 2012, went over what I did, what I thought worked, what I thought was fun, but generally a waste of time.

Several online groups I belonged to had become no more than cyber coffee klatches. They had to go. Twitter is important, and so is Facebook. Goodreads comes in third, and possibly (for me anyway) not the best use of my time.

Blogging is good. As long as I have something to say worth reading. Constant blogs about my books would become boring and uninteresting in no time. Hence this blog – well, maybe in part about my books, but more about my plans.

I checked out a few new things I’d learned about in my quest for the ‘perfect marketing plan’ and will see how they work out. But for the most part, I’m headed off into a better use of my time this year.

We’ll see how it goes, and I’ll report back next year. In the meantime, I’d like to hear what has worked for you, and what changes you might be making this year.

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