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.

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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

writers group

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, Teenagers, Uncategorized, Writing

Spring Break Is Here

spring mountains

I think this picture sums up this Spring in Northern California perfectly. After years of only getting winter from 6-10 am, this year’s winter is lingering. Yet, signs of spring are everywhere (especially my truck, it’s covered with pollen and tiny flowers that blew off my maple tree).

As an educator, I’m ready for a well-deserved and much-needed break. But I’m also a writer, so I’m hoping to make this a productive vacation. I have some research to conduct for a new series, and then I really need to make some progress in drafting the first book in the series.

You’d think that by my eighth book, drafting would become easier, or at least more efficient. Not so much. I’m trying to outline more, and in some ways it is easier. I know what needs to happen, but there’s still a lot of writing that needs to be done between plot points.

I took two days to go skiing with my family. I’m the last one to get into the sport, despite having gone to high school in Tahoe. The rest of them started young. I still remember taking my oldest up to Mt. Shasta when he was about three. At the time they still had a rope tow and he couldn’t get the hang of it, causing a major meltdown. Not good for the snow conditions. So my father-in-law took him back to our cabin and had him ski down the driveway. After a few runs, he was a skier. It’s taken me thirty years to get the hang of it. But if I’m going to spend time with my teenagers, I need to do what they enjoy. And trust me, I’m much better at skiing than video games.

This was from a few weeks ago. My kids don’t actually ski with me. But they’re more than happy to join us for lunch. If we’re buying.

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This is the view from the top. You can see Lake Tahoe, always a beautiful sight, especially when the lake is full.

We’re expecting another storm later in the week. Which will make the last two weekends pretty spectacular.

Then we’ll look forward to spending the summer on the river. We’ll catch a few baseball games. Hopefully we’ll spend some time at our family cabin near Mt. Shasta. And the cool part, is that all of this can be considered research for my books.

 

 

Posted in Baseball, Writing

Baseball Is Back!

I’m listening to baseball on the radio. It doesn’t matter that it’s only a Spring Training game. It doesn’t matter that by the end of the game, I won’t recognize many player names. It doesn’t even matter who wins or loses. Sure, I hope my team wins, so I can feel really good about their chances this year. But if not, it’s only Spring Training. It’s only the second game. There’s still a lot of baseball left.

There’s a lot of baseball left in the season. As in all of it. Excitement, struggle, romance. And there may even be a few tears along the way. No offense to Tom Hanks, but there is crying in baseball. And chills. And thrills. And disappointment. And hope. Always hope.

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Kind of like in a Romance novel. Each book starts out with the hope of a happily ever after. And for the author, hope for a bestseller. Oh, there will be struggles along the way. Can’t make it too easy for the characters, and it’s never easy for the author, despite what you see in the movies. There is no such thing as an overnight success. Just hard work, perseverance,  practice, coaching, mentoring, and a little bit of luck.

But like baseball, writing is something I can’t imagine living without.