Posted in Books, Education, Writing

I Survived The First Day Of School

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I went back to the day job yesterday. I’m an educator. My official titles are paraeducator and yard duty. I spent my day supervising drop-off and pick-up, assessing new kindergarteners, supervising the lunch tables with a new procedure and making sure the 4th and 5th graders played safely on the playground.

Once the year gets rolling and the placement assessments are completed for the new students and students who have received extra services for reading, I will work with a teacher for “Flex” reading instruction. It’s called Flex because groupings are flexible, students can move up or down a level based on need for phonics instruction. I tell the kids it’s called that because we’re there to flex our reading muscles. I like that analogy because like with any sport, it’s important to practice, and practice correctly.

I will also go into classrooms to support individuals or small groups for reading in Kindergarten, 2nd, and 3rd grade. I’ll also work with 2nd and 4th grade students for math support. Some students I’ll work with all year, others during a specific unit that they may need extra support with, say fractions or fables.

In some ways, the start of the school year is like submitting a book proposal. You have all these expectations and a general idea of how things are going to go. You’re super excited about the possibilities and hope that by the time you get to the end, you can step back, with a sense of satisfaction and look forward to a celebratory beverage when you get home.

But that first day is truly exhausting in a way I can only compare to a weeklong writing conference. You’re excited about meeting new people, happy to greet old friends. You go out of your way to help make first-timers more comfortable. You find out that part of your schedule means you need to get a hold of Hermione’s time turner or figure out some other way to be in two places at once. You may forget to eat lunch. You get asked to take pictures with your fans. The only things missing are your hotel room where you can hide out for a while to decompress, shower, or nap. And the bar.

But with both the first day of school and a writer’s conference, I come home completely exhausted. And then I have work the next day, whether it’s the new book I’m working on, or the kiddos at school who will need me to help them with learning to read, subtract with or without regrouping, open a yogurt tube, or wait patiently for their ride.

I’m going to need more coffee.

Posted in Books, Romance, Writing

Alphas? Betas? Which Heroes Are Greatest?

I didn’t go to RWA in Orlando last week. Every July the Romance Writers of America hold their annual National Conference. I’ve been twice, in San Antonio in 2014 and San Diego in 2016. It’s where 2,000 Romance writers from all over the country (and world) get together to learn more about the craft and business of writing Romance, meet with editors and agents, and celebrate the genre we all love.

I wasn’t able to go this year, but I did follow many of my writer friends who either live tweeted from some of the workshops or set up an alternative online Tweet-stream to enlighten those of us not there.

One of the topics that comes up every year is the Alpha Hero (and to some extent heroine). Love him, hate him, or have no idea what that means, the Alpha male is a stereotype that has long been a staple of Romance. Without going into the psychology of alphas vs. betas, I’ll just sum up. He’s the strong, silent type. The Billionaire, Navy Seal, Bad Boy, Vampire, Police Chief, etc.  They are often powerful, rich, take-charge kind of men, both in and out of the bedroom.

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For better or for worse, he’s the kind of hero most people think of when they think of Romance novel hero (and I suppose for some, the reason they don’t want to read Romance).

But there is a growing segment of readers who prefer a kinder, gentler, man to sweep them off their feet. Betas might be the boy next door who has grown up into a surprisingly sexy man. He might be the guy you’re just friends with until you realize he’s everything you didn’t know you wanted in a man. He could be a co-worker who works with you on an important project rather than competing with you for a promotion. But he’s no less of a man, by any means.

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In fact, he may be more of a man because he doesn’t have to constantly prove himself to the world.

I tend to write more Beta heroes and heroines, but they all have some aspects of their lives where they feel in control. Like Fisher Jones, the heroine of my upcoming book Diving In. She’s kind of an Alpha on the river. She’s confident, strong, and knows what she’s doing. But when it comes to relationships, well, she’s in way over her head.

But that’s the fun thing about Romance. Finding that special someone who can not only see past their lover’s weaknesses, but help them overcome them. While their lover helps them overcome theirs.

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Diving In (A Swift River Romance #3) is available for preorder.

For more information about all my books, check out my website.

Posted in Books, Writing

How Important Are Reviews To An Author?

reviewVery.

No, really. I know some authors say they don’t read reviews, and they are either lying or already famous enough that they don’t need to.

My seventh book, Diving In (A Swift River Romance #3), is up on NetGalley and I have my first two reviews on Goodreads. I know not everyone is going to love or even like every one of my books, but I do appreciate those who take the time to give their opinion. Even the ones who go to the trouble of finding animated GIFs to illustrate just how much they hated my book.

I’m sure some of my readers don’t need to read the reviews before deciding to one-click, but I do believe that if someone is on the fence about a book, the lack of reviews might encourage them to keep looking.

There have been countless posts on rumored algorithms that kick in once a book receives a certain number of reviews. That may or may not be true. I don’t think there is a magic number and once I hit that mark, my books will instantly hit the bestseller lists and stay there, enabling me to hire my husband on full time as my assistant and house boy.

What I do know is that it is much easier to secure a spot on various advertising sites on the books that have more reviews than on the newer books with fewer. I’d like to think the actual quality of my writing improves with each book, but maybe not.

So, I would like to thank those of you who have left a review of my books on Goodreads, Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, or especially on your book blogs. It means a lot.

And if you are someone who’s thought about leaving a review but aren’t sure if it makes a difference, just know that it does. It could make a huge difference for me, and for someone who might be wondering whether or not to take a chance on a new book by an author who isn’t yet famous.

LINK TO VIEW LISTING ON NETGALLEY:

http://netgal.ly/QOAcpo

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Posted in Romance, Writing

Sometimes You Want To Go Where Everybody Knows Your Pain

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I’ve reached the stage of my writing career where I’m no longer a wide-eyed newbie, yet I’m not yet at the point where I can write full time and expect to put out three to four books a year while my assistant handles things like marketing and scheduling book tours.

I’m trying to plan for a new release in September and keep up interest in my backlist. But with each book, it seems harder and harder to stand out in an increasingly crowded market.

So when I first saw the topic for this month’s  Sacramento Valley Rose chapter of RWA workshop, Planning To Set Your Authopreneurship on Autopilot, I signed up thinking this is one area I really need to improve in. But other than the fact that Yvonne Kohano is a chapter member who has moved to Oregon, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to working on a creating a business plan and finding out I’m already behind the curve with a publishing schedule and other dry business stuff.

It ended up being one of the most inspirational meetings I’ve been to in a long time.

It was so encouraging to know I’m not the only one who feels overwhelmed by the ever changing marketing madness. I’m not the only one who finds plotting too much stifles my creative flow. And I’m certainly not the only one with impostor syndrome.

We’re all in this together. We celebrate each others’ triumphs with chocolate and roses. We comfort each other’s disappointments with hugs and (Hershey’s) Hugs.  And most importantly we get it. We get what it’s like to have story ideas crawl out from under the bed in the middle of the night and stalk us in our sleep. We get it that sometimes the best way to get unstuck is to take a shower. And while we all wish we could rent a Villa in Tuscany in order to have a perfect creative retreat in which to write our masterpiece, we’ve all realized that sometimes our work has to be written during our kids’ baseball (or swim or dance) practice or while waiting for an aging parent’s doctor’s appointment or while getting the tires rotated.

The first thing I tell anyone who wants to become an author is to find their tribe. I write Romance so being a member of Romance Writers of America is crucial. But there are other writer’s groups out there. Find one. While the actual writing must be done alone, surviving in this business is a group effort.

Posted in Books, Writing

What’s Next?

I’m working on a new series. It’s a small town standalone series. In case you don’t know what a “standalone series” is, it’s a series of books that can be read out of order, with each book that can be read on its own. The series is tied in some way, by setting,  family,  a group of friends, a band of brothers, teammates, etc. But each couple gets their own story and their own HEA (happily ever after).

My new series is set in a fictional Northern California town near Mt. Shasta. You can see why I’m inspired.

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The town plays a part in the series, the former mill town is experiencing growing pains as a tourist destination. The residents are struggling with accepting the much needed boost to the economy that an influx of visitors brings, but they fear losing the town’s character and becoming too big, too fast. Having grown up in Tahoe, I know that too many tourists can take away some of the joy in living in such a beautiful spot. I’ve also visited small towns where I couldn’t get a cup of coffee on a Sunday morning because the only coffee shop was closed. Shop owners complained of lack of business while posting signs such as “Friends don’t let friends drink Starbucks” next to their limited store hours. The beauty of fiction is that you can have the best of both worlds.

There will be skiing.

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Fishing.

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Maybe kids and dogs. Colorful characters, run ins with wildlife, a snowstorm or two, family secrets, small town politics, enjoying the sunset, skinny-dipping… what else would you like to see in small town romance?

 

Posted in Adventure, Books, Road Trip, Uncategorized

Don’t Get Swept Away If You Find Yourself In Too Deep After Diving In

 

I write Romance. The tagline I’ve come up with for my books is “Adventure Sports Romance.” This describes both my baseball books and my whitewater rafting series.

I feel like I need to write a disclaimer about my rafting books. My books are more heartwarming than heart-stopping. Kind of like rafting in normal years, where you have a few exhilarating moments scattered along with stretches of beauty and peacefulness and fun.

Even though the first book in my Swift River Romance series opens with a rescue as the meet-cute, the creek Lily is plucked from is really just a small creek, swollen from normal runoff in mid-May. Other than a few bruises and adrenaline overload, she can laugh about the experience over a few beers afterwards.

This year, the river is different. Most years on the South Fork, the biggest risks are sunburn, dehydration, or bumps and bruises from hitting a rock when falling out. Oh, and rattlesnakes. After more than twenty-five years rafting with my husband (with a few years time-out when our kids were little) my only injury was a banged up tailbone from falling out on Troublemaker and hitting a rock ten days before my first RWA National Conference. I still can’t do sit-ups, but I’m okay with that.

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Normal mid-summer flow on the South Fork

This year the water levels are high. Very high.


Notice the helmets, wetsuits, and life jackets. Also, even though this was a private trip, we have two trained guides. My husband has thirty years experience, and my son has done several training trips this spring at high water. While many college kids spent their Spring Break on a beach somewhere slamming beers, my son did a refresher safety course and first aid. He also has a food handling card.

His safety training came in handy over the long weekend. On Saturday, we planned to do a full river trip, which would have taken about four hours at this water level. (I couldn’t tell you what it was running, I leave that to my guides). But the first few rapids were big. And in our old bucket boat, we took on a lot of water. There were no eddies to pull to the side to bail and catch our breath before the next rapid. Also, my husband gave our second bucket to some guys who thought they could just use their helmets to bail. Not a good idea.

Anyway, the river finally slowed enough for us to bail and have a picnic on our boat. The rocks we usually park on are underwater now. My oldest son, the guide, decided to boogie board on a smaller rapid so he put on his fins and got out ahead of us a little ways.

Downriver, on our right we saw some guys with a throw rope and at first thought they were training. Then we saw the bright yellow paddle jacket in the water where they were aiming the rope. My husband quickly rowed to the shore and grabbed his throw rope and ran back up the bank yelling for my son to avoid the bushes as he made his way to shore.

A kayaker had become snagged by her spray skirt on some bushes and couldn’t grab hold of the rope. It took a team of experienced guides, ex-guides, and kayakers to finally pull her free and into one of the other boats. Thankfully she was able to walk with assistance to meet the ambulance that met us at the campground downstream. Fortunately, someone had a satellite phone since cell coverage is limited along the river. Only one company has coverage and residents have fought any additional towers.

She was checked out by the emergency medical crew and as far as I know didn’t need transport to the hospital.

So if you are so inspired by reading my books, that you want to get out on the river, please use an experienced commercial company. I can recommend ARTA River Trips, but there are many other companies with experience and training.

Or if you really want to play it safe, get your thrills from the safety of your eReader.

SWEPT AWAY [23795120]

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Posted in Education

The End, Finally

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I just typed “The End” on another school year. Wow. That one went by fast. It seems like we were just at our welcome back breakfast, and settling into the routine of the new year, with new teachers, new students, and new challenges.

Yesterday we said goodbye to our Fifth graders. This class will have a special place in my heart because I started as a staff member with them in Kindergarten. I’ve watched them grow up as a class and I’m proud to have worked with them from when they were just learning how to write their name, on through their state reports. I helped them sound out -at family words and listened to them read aloud from Old Yeller. One girl was so timid in first grade she wouldn’t read aloud or spell phonetic words until she watched what the others responded with. I had her in my small reading group again in second grade, and finally in third. But the end of third grade, she started reading with confidence and expression and by fifth grade she really shines, academically and as a kind, thoughtful person.

I can share similar stories about many of these kids, how they were quiet (or not), timid five and six year olds when they started, and are now confident, smart, funny, caring, and not so-quiet ten and eleven year olds.

I worked with a lot of third graders this year, too. For many of them, their biggest challenge is to not rush through and guess. I call them my auto-correctors. I tell them they are smarter than an iPhone, they don’t have to guess after the first two letters of a word. They can look at the whole word, break it down, using the tools we’ve been working on all year long. And slow down on the hard words.

I’ve got two more years with those kiddos.

We also said goodbye to our Principal. She was my sons’ teacher before leaving us and then coming back to replace our former beloved principal. Her son was also a teammate of my younger son’s in Little League, so we sat through many practices and games together rooting for that team that would not be named. As Giants fans, we just couldn’t say the team in blue’s name aloud, but we cheered like crazy for each kid on the team.

Now it’s time for summer. To rest. For me, I will work on my next book series, and hopefully get a few projects done around the house. And before I know it, it will be August, and the start of a new year, with a new Principal.

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