Posted in Books, Romance, Writing

My First and Last RT Booklovers Convention

Since it was just over the hill (if you can call the 7k foot summit of the Sierras a hill), I had to go to this year’s RT Booklovers Convention. It’s a fan-friendly book convention for Romance authors and readers. I haven’t attended in the past since it’s held in May. Anyone who works or has children in public schools knows that May is a crazy month.

I made it up a few days into the conference, driving up Thursday morning. Except for getting stopped for construction/tree removal, driving Highway 50 without traffic is fun. There were times when I had the whole road to myself, as opposed to a Sunday afternoon during ski season.

I ran into my friends from Sacramento Valley Rose chapter of RWA. Actually, I sought them out. Anna J. Stewart and Melinda Curtis write for Harlequin Heartwarming, so I stopped by the end of the Speed Dating with Harlequin Authors. I also met Heatherly Bell and Reese Ryan, both who felt like dear friends by the end of the conference.

And that’s the main thing about going to writer’s conferences, is the connections made with other writers. I finally got to meet Ida Louise Johnson, who I “met” on Twitter because we’re both huge San Francisco Giants fans. I met Jannine Gallant, a fellow Kensington author.

I reconnected with Rochelle French, Cyndi Faria, Virna De Paul, and Stacy Finz. I met Tess Thompson, Tamsen Schultz, Claire Marti, Jenni Marts and so many others.

I went to a workshop from Maisey Yates, and I swear, she could read my mind as to exactly what I needed to hear.

I took some photos, and I apologize to anyone who viewed the video of me dancing.

With Heatherly Bell.

Ida Louise Johnson and me sharing a love of Romance and #SFGiants.

Getting ready for the Giant Book Fair.

Hit the jackpot!

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Posted in Adventure, Baseball, Books, skiing, Whitewater rafting, Writing

What Season Is This?

Yesterday was Major League Baseball’s Opening Day. Every few years it falls during Spring Break, so I get to enjoy it as the National Holiday it should be. I watched parts of at least four games. I was very excited to see my beloved San Francisco Giants beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in a pitching duel that was somewhat unexpected. Oh, everyone expected a close, well-pitched game between top Lefties Madison Bumgarner and Clayton Kershaw. But when Bumgarner was hit in the pitching hand late in Spring Training, his Opening Day start went to Ty Blach instead. He outdueled the multiply Cy Young winner, at least on this day.

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And that’s what I love about baseball. It’s never what you expect. At least, the best moments never are.

But it’s also ski season. Finally. Here in California, Winter took her sweet time coming. December was cold but one of the driest I can remember. Several of the high school ski races had to be postponed or combined. The teams to the north of us had to come 250 miles or more to race on the last day of the season so they could qualify for the state championships. We finally got a lot of snow this month. The local resorts are calling it Miracle March.

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But now the weather is warming up and we’re torn between getting up early to hit the slopes before it gets too slushy or sleeping in and taking on the river. My sons did a midweek trip on the South Fork of the American River, so my oldest could sharpen his skills before he makes the transition from ski instructor to raft guide.

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As an author, I’m often working on books that take place in different seasons. It’s always a challenge to try to get the details of sun-ripened blackberries on the river in July when I’m sitting in front of the fireplace in December. Or trying to describe the way the snow swooshes under my skis when it’s 98 degrees in August.

But that’s the wonderful thing about books. They can take you to another time and place, whether you’re reading them or writing them.

Posted in Books, Writing

A New Year, A New Hope

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At the start of a new year, a lot of people make resolutions, set goals, and reflect on the accomplishments of the past year. I’d like to reflect on a little more than just the last twelve months, as the years seem to fly by faster than I can type.

2017 wasn’t the year I had hoped for. I could write a whole list of things I hadn’t accomplished, but I don’t want to dwell in negativity, which is why there aren’t many blog posts from last year.

My day job is going well. It is very rewarding to know that I do make a difference in the lives of the children I work with. Especially for those kids I’ve worked with over several years. I get to see their growth from wide-eyed and wiggly Kindergartners just learning their letters and sounds to fourth and fifth graders who get out of their cars with a book they just can’t put down.

I got my first season pass at Sierra-At-Tahoe, the local ski resort that has become our winter weekend home. With my youngest son on the ski team, my husband a coach, and now my oldest is a ski instructor, I figured it’s the only way to see my family in the winter. I started skiing with a few of the other ski team moms and it’s actually more fun than terrifying now. I’ve learned to work with gravity instead of fighting it, so that helps.

We spent another summer on the river. It started out pretty intense, with the high water levels on the South Fork of the American River. We did a five day trip on the Grand Ronde in Oregon, but our oldest had to stay behind and work his second summer as a whitewater raft guide for ARTA and AO. We ended the summer taking a nice trip down the Middle Fork of the American with our oldest son and his friends. It’s a pretty good feeling to have your child not only take charge of organizing and guiding a great trip, but to invite his parents along.

I published my seventh book. Wow. Seven novels out there in the world that I wrote. Sometimes I need to sit back and let that sink in.

It was only five years ago that I was about to give up on my first novel. I had submitted Better Than Perfect to several agents and publishers who accepted un-agented manuscripts. I had found yet another rejection in my spam folder, with my name spelled wrong, so when I entered an online pitch session on Savvy Authors, I wasn’t feeling too confident. Even when I got a message that an editor wanted me to send my manuscript, I almost didn’t send it.

But I knew if I didn’t, I’d never forgive myself, always wondering if that could have been the one.

So when I got the email from Piper Denna at Lyrical Press, I almost didn’t believe it. I ran out to the driveway where my husband was about to drive off to work. (Well, not run,  actually. I don’t run. Ever). I had to show him the email that said she wanted to add me to their list, an ask him if it said what I thought it said. He said it did, so I signed my first publishing contract in May of 2013.

In January of 2014, Lyrical Press became an imprint of Kensington Books. I signed my second contract for Better Than Perfect, which came out in April 2014.

My second book, Worth The Trade came out in July of that same year.

Making A Comeback was published July 2015 and Earning A Ring, the fourth book in the More Than A Game series was released in January 2016.

I launched a new series, Swift River Romance, with Swept Away in July 2016. In Too Deep followed in December 2016. The third and final book, Diving In, was released in September 2016.

In 2018 I’m planning on attending the RT Booklovers Convention in Reno in May. It will be my first time at RT and I’m looking forward to meeting with other writers AND readers. I hope to have a new series ready by then and possibly get an agent to help me further my career.

Until then, I’ll just keep writing, and hoping that my next book will find its way to even more readers.

 

 

 

 

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.