Oh, Loretta


What seems like a long time ago, but is really only about six years, I was part of a writing group that met every Wednesday at the local library.  I lived in a semi-rural area, kind of like I do now, and the library was a great gathering place.  It had been built in an old grocery store that backed up to thick woods, and sat in a plaza with a very authentic Mexican food restaurant, and a Shell gas station.  That’s how it is in rural areas – things are tucked in the strangest places.

Our group was small – a couple in their 40’s who drove from the city out to our meetings, a 30-something woman who had just been published by The Wild Rose Press (my publisher, who I was contracted with in 2014), myself, and Loretta.

Loretta was by far the most interesting person in our group.  She was 84 years old and “finally living her dream of writing.”  She had wanted to be a writer all her life.  She was full of stories.  She was working on a “true” story that involved people at the local VFW hall bar, aliens, mad cows, swamp gas, and murder.  She would read excerpts to us at our meetings, and it didn’t take long for me to look forward anxiously to the next chapter of her story.  It was fantastical stuff, written in awful format, but the story was enough to keep you interested.  She even wrote a “short” story for our non-juried anthology, in which we published stories from our group and from another writing group in the area.  A Tongue in Cheek History of Jefferson County was published the summer before I moved from Missouri to Colorado.

One of the things we did as a writing group was to give ourselves challenges.  I wasn’t fully invested in my novel-writing at that point, but the writing challenges gave me some inspiration to work with.  Sometimes, I provided a prompt from my Write-Brain book, which had a lot of prompts to work with.  We wrote to “the first thing I noticed was the splotch of catsup on his white shirt,” and “Down in the swamp,…” But Loretta’s favorite writing challenge was the six-word challenge.  All of us would provide six words that needed to be used in a story, giving us 30 words to work with.

Loretta’s favorite “word” was “cobalt blue.”  Yes, that’s two words, but we’re talking about Loretta, and no one ever had the heart to call her on “cobalt blue.” Any time we did this challenge, that would be her first contribution.  She loved that phrase. And to be honest, it made is be really creative about our stories.

I was able to use cobalt blue, along with all the other words, in a story I wrote that deserves to be a whole novel.  I love that story, and the main character, Bernice.  If it weren’t for Loretta, I wouldn’t have that story.

I am pretty sure Loretta is no longer on this earth.  I have no way of checking, as I’ve lost contact with the people in that writing group.  But I will never forget Loretta.  Every evening when the sun goes down, and the sky turns that deep, colorful blue you get at twilight, I think of Loretta.  Any time I see a blue dish, or a young lady with blue hair, I think of Loretta.  When I think of writing fantastical stories with aliens, or I pass a VFW hall, I think of Loretta.

And when I read my short story, called “Bernice,” I think of Loretta.  The story is published online, and maybe you’ll take a click over and read it.

As always, I’d love to have your comments.  And is there someone in your past that you will never forget, where certain sights or smells or sounds will bring that person back to life in your mind, even though they are long gone?

***

Fairest of the Faire

Fairest of the Faire book coverBlurb:

Schoolteacher Connie Meyers is suddenly a young widow, her husband killed in a horrific car accident. Heartbroken to find out he had gambled away everything they had, she moves to her sister-in-law’s Midwest home to rebuild her life. A trip to the local Renaissance Faire with her nieces leads to a summer job as a costumed storyteller.

Avowed bad boy and fair performer Gage Youngblood is infatuated with Connie at first sight. Despite his deliberately commitment-free life, and Connie’s don’t-touch-me attitude, he soon has her in his arms, realizing quickly she is also in his heart.

When she is threatened by her late husband’s bookie, he steps into the role of protector, his fate forever sealed with hers.

Available NOW!

Buy at Wild Rose Press:  (eBook and paperback)

Buy at Amazon (Kindle and paperback)

Buy at Barnes and Noble (Nook)

Taking the Bad With the Good


Who told you you could write, anyway?When you’re new at this author game, you are sure you can “take it.”  You will tell yourself that you can take the criticism, and say, “how bad can it be?”  You believe that you are mature enough, have had enough life experience, that this should roll off your shoulders like water off a duck’s back.  It won’t hurt you, much less make you bleed.

But I’m here to tell you, you are never really ready for the criticism.

It starts with your beta readers, who come back with blunt comments about what needs to be fixed.  Then you sell your manuscript but wait, there’s an editor, and she will be ruthless.  Absolutely ruthless.  The beta readers were like walking on stinging nettles, compared to the daggers the editor will throw at you.  Much bleeding will occur, mostly in the form of red ink (or in this case, “track changes”) on your manuscript.

Then there are the reviews.  Some less than stellar.  Ouch.

As a debut author, with my first novel now out there for the world to see, I now have a much better understanding of the process it takes to get to a published book.  There is a process I went through in each of these three stages.

Beta readers

The comments came back, and I anxiously read them all.  Prick prick prick went the needles in my ego.  Prick prick prick…tiny drops of blood ink.  One reader picked out all my weird…grammar.  She caught all the sentence splices, the incomplete sentences, the improper use of contractions.  Another picked out a glaring plot hole in the first third of the book.  Another took me to task for the first sex scene of the book.  And my writing companion found a weird plot thing, not a hole exactly, but something strange, towards the end.  Tiny drops of red ink.

Editor

When the first round of edits came in, I was so excited that I immediately dived in to take a look.  Boy, was that a mistake.  Every mark was like being stabbed in the heart.  I only got about half-way through reading them before I had to stop, completely demoralized.  She was asking me to chop off the toes and fingers, and dig out the spleen.  I had to put it away for a few days, when I could look at it with a much clearer head.  It was painful.  But I made the changes, seeing where she was going with things, and felt happy with that version that I turned in the second time.

Well, we weren’t done.  The second round of edits came in.  This time, we were chopping off legs and arms, and doing a brain transplant.  Copious amounts of blood ink.  The opening chapter needed to be removed completely and re-written.  The agony!  I agonized for days before editing anything, arguing in my head with my editor about the changes.  I tried to come up with a good way of arguing my point with my editor.  Surely, we didn’t need to be so drastic.  Surely, not the whole beginning!  Agony.  Pure agony.  I finally gave myself a stern talking to, packed up my laptop, notes, and printout of that first chapter, and took a short retreat to the mountains.  I sat in a coffee shop by a little river, watching it snow, while I scribbled and scratched and came up with a new beginning.  It was the best thing I could have done.  I was able to focus completely, hand-writing a rough draft, then typing up the final draft.  It took four hours.  I’m surprised the other people in the coffee shop couldn’t see the blood ink dripping onto the floor.  I had never worked so hard on a story.

I sent it back to my editor, holding my breath.  The third round of edits came back, and they were so minor that I nearly cried for joy.  I had made it!  I had survived the blood ink-letting, and my story was the better for it.  I wondered momentarily why the editor hadn’t given me those big edits on the first round.  But I know now that she was being very smart.  If I’d gotten back he big edits the first time, I’d probably have dissolved into defeat, and never touched the story again.  She started with the easy stuff.  In my case, weird phrasing and filtering words, which I’m particularly bad at.  Once she saw that I could handle those relatively minor edits, she knew I could take the bigger ones.  And she was absolutely right.

Critics and Reviewers

There are always going to be people that don’t like my book.  I did actually have a reviewer make a comment about my cover.  I didn’t design the cover, that was handled by the publisher, so it didn’t hurt too badly to hear that.  But there were others who thought my heroine was too naive, that the bad boy wasn’t bad enough, that the story was too “soft.”  I got good reviews too, so I can’t complain.  But those little pokes of criticism still hurt, still set me back a bit.  As they should.

You see, it really does take all that criticism to make me a better writer.  If I can’t take those criticisms, I will never be able to improve my writing, and sell a second book, a third book, a fourth book…

I’m a big girl.  I can take it.  And if I say it often enough, it will be true.  Or, as I like to say, BRING IT.

How do you take your criticism, and how did you survive your editing process?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

 

Five Things to Include in Your Promo Tweets


I am by no means an expert on Twitter.  But as an author with a small publishing house, where we do much of our own promotion through cross-tweeting and other social media, I’ve learned a few things in the last several months that might help others.

Tweets, by their very nature, are supposed to be short and eye-catching.  But they also need to include all of the information you want to convey to the follower.  Since tweets flash fast and are quickly lost, you only have a short amount of time to catch someone’s attention.  So your tweet has to be effective.

So first, be sure you are identified in your tweet.  If you’re asking people to share your tweet (via a mailing list or facebook), your name needs to be in that tweet or the reader won’t know who you are.  So always start out with your twitter name.  In my case, @SusabelleKelmer goes at the front end of any tweet I’m expecting people to share or retweet.

Second, what are you trying to get people to do?  Want them to read your book or your blog?  You need a catchy tag line or a blog title to go with it.  In my case, I am usually tweeting blog posts, so mine would say Why is That Ladder on the Side of the Cliff?” If I am posting about my book, I’m going to be trying to get a tagline that gets people’s attention.  It has to be short.  A few words.  A short sentence.  “…those hips, just made for a man to hold.”

Third, what’s the name of your book?  Make sure that’s in there.  In my case, Fairest of the Faire.

Fourth, don’t forget those has tags!  What are you doing that you want to share?  Are you reading, writing, sleeping, cooking?  Hash tags help people search for things, and hashtags for me help to categorize where I’m going or whose attention I’m trying to grab.  For writers/authors, there’s a great list of writing hashtags you can use.  There’s a great list of hash tags every writer should know at the Aero Gramme Studio website.  I use #amwriting or #amreading quite a bit, but there are plenty of others.  Also, don’t forget to tag your publisher as well.  In my case, #TWRP for The Wild Rose Press.  Your publisher will retweet your tweet if they are tagged, and that gets you a ton more reach.

Fifth and last, where’s that link?  Not every tweet should have a link that leads somewhere else, but if you are trying to sell your book, you need a link for people to go buy it.  Twitter does something great with links, too – it shortens them so you only end up using 20 characters for that link, even if the link is way longer than that.  Every looked at your Amazon link to your books?  That thing is like 4,000 characters long!  Okay, not really, but it’s definitely more than four!

Extra Credit Points:  How about adding a picture?  You can add a picture of your book cover, or some scene that shows what you are talking about in your tweet.  If I am talking about making peach jam, then I’m probably going to add a picture of peach jam on a slice of bread to catch people’s eye.  If I’m posting about my book, I’m going to post my book cover.  Or if I’m posting about something nifty I just bought, I might include a picture of that thing.  Sometimes pictures will catch someone’s eye when the words don’t.  So don’t be afraid to add this element.

So, to conclude…here’s what a tweet from me about my book would look like:

@SusabelleKelmer …Those hips, just made for a man to hold. Fairest of the Faire #amreading #romance #TWRP http://www.amazon.com/Fairest-Faire-Susabelle-Kelmer-ebook/dp/B00XCXYLSO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1431812679&sr=8-1&keywords=fairest+of+the+faire

And this tweet still has 10 characters left I could add, which means I could add another writer hashtag, and still be within my 140-character limit.

Do you have tips to share as well?  I’d love to hear them!  Leave me a comment!

Fairest of the Faire – available now!

Fairest of the Faire book coverBlurb:

Schoolteacher Connie Meyers is suddenly a young widow, her husband killed in a horrific car accident. Heartbroken to find out he had gambled away everything they had, she moves to her sister-in-law’s Midwest home to rebuild her life. A trip to the local Renaissance Faire with her nieces leads to a summer job as a costumed storyteller.

Avowed bad boy and fair performer Gage Youngblood is infatuated with Connie at first sight. Despite his deliberately commitment-free life, and Connie’s don’t-touch-me attitude, he soon has her in his arms, realizing quickly she is also in his heart.

When she is threatened by her late husband’s bookie, he steps into the role of protector, his fate forever sealed with hers.

Available NOW!

Buy at Wild Rose Press:  (eBook and paperback)

Buy at Amazon (Kindle and paperback)

Buy at Barnes and Noble (Nook)

 

I Make No Apologies


blushing emoji faceA few weeks ago, I listened to a podcast interview with author Marlow Kelly. She and the podcast host talked about why we apologize, or feel we need to, for being “just a romance writer.”  Readers, too, often apologize for reading them.  A shrug of the shoulders, an embarrassed smile, a redness in the face.

But the fact is, the romance genre sells somewhere between $1.3 and $1.5 billion a year.  That’s billion with a “B.”  Romance novels comprise about 17% of the fiction market, bigger than any other genre.  It is about the same sales as all sci-fi and mystery sales combined.

Yeah.  We’re here.  We’re reading, and we’re writing.  Why should we feel embarrassed about that?  We make the publishing world go around.  We earn publishers a lot of money.  Arguments are made all the time about romance being “just for women” and “junk food.”  This may be more a matter of the marginalizing of women than anything else, but the truth is, romance novels are consumed regularly and voraciously by women all over the world.  And women buy and read more books than men.

Thus, the thriving market for them!

I used to apologize for my writing.  I could be found saying, “oh, it’s just a contemporary romance” when people would ask me what I was getting ready to publish.  It is not “just” anything.  My novel took as much work to write as literary fiction.  There was research to be done to create the right setting, create believable characters, and write a plot that (in my case) contained a bit of mystery and suspense along with a standard love story and a Happily Ever After ending.  Writing is not easy.  Writing a believable story is not easy.  Writing characters that a reader will care about is not an easy thing.  Editing is not an easy thing.  Getting a publisher to look at a manuscript is hard.  Getting published is even harder.

I didn’t publish “just” a romance novel.  I published a romance novel.  Let me repeat that in my big-girl voice:  I WROTE AND PUBLISHED A ROMANCE NOVEL.  My novel will be read by women in many walks of life, with many different life circumstances, and for a few hours, I will have given them a romantic escape with my characters.  I didn’t JUST write a contemporary romance novel.  I WROTE A NOVEL.

I am proud of that, and all of my sister-writers should be proud of themselves as well.  No apologies, no blushing, no “just” anything.  Read what you want proudly.  And write what you want, proudly.

Fairest of the Faire – available now!

Fairest of the Faire book coverBlurb:

Schoolteacher Connie Meyers is suddenly a young widow, her husband killed in a horrific car accident. Heartbroken to find out he had gambled away everything they had, she moves to her sister-in-law’s Midwest home to rebuild her life. A trip to the local Renaissance Faire with her nieces leads to a summer job as a costumed storyteller.

Avowed bad boy and fair performer Gage Youngblood is infatuated with Connie at first sight. Despite his deliberately commitment-free life, and Connie’s don’t-touch-me attitude, he soon has her in his arms, realizing quickly she is also in his heart.

When she is threatened by her late husband’s bookie, he steps into the role of protector, his fate forever sealed with hers.

Excerpt:

“Who said anything about a relationship?” he said, standing up so he could tower over her again. “I’m just trying to have a little fun. You know, fun?”

If he’d been an animal, she was sure he’d have had hair raised on the back of his neck, he seemed so angry, and it struck her painfully. She hadn’t wanted to anger him or hurt him. She turned away from him and closed her eyes to tamp down the tears she knew would come if she let them. She crossed her arms over her chest, to hold in the pain. Being tired made her much too vulnerable.

“Yes,” she finally said. “I know about fun. Life isn’t always fun, though.”

“Princess.” His voice was soft, tender. “I won’t hurt you. It’s not in my plan.”

Despite herself, she felt the shivers of desire race down from her shoulders, down her arms and legs, and back up to that secret, soft place at her core. She bowed her head and gritted her teeth, hoping for the feeling to go away.

“And what is your plan, Gage?”

“It’s a simple plan. I want you to feel good. I want to feel good, too.”

Available NOW!

Buy at Wild Rose Press:  (eBook and paperback)

Buy at Amazon (Kindle and paperback)

Buy at Barnes and Noble (Nook)

And The Thunder Rolls…


Fairest of the Faire book coverThere are better times for tornado sirens and severe thunderstorms to happen.  I’m sure there is.  But here it is, the night before Fairest of the Faire’s release, and we are getting sirens, hail, rain, and wind.  We’ve had to evacuate to the basement twice when the sirens went off.  Tornadoes have touched down just north and west of my home along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains in northern Colorado.  We never get tornadoes this far west. There is understandably a bit of freaking out going on right now.  Even though I’m from the Midwest, and have only lived here four years, I have not forgotten the power of the tornado.

But I thought, between thunderclaps and sirens, I’d better get this blog post written about Fairest of the Faire.  So I’m sitting here in my basement, laptop on my knees, tapping this out.

I’m so excited to finally see my book in print, and scared to death that no one will like it.  This has been a long and winding road, with plenty of ups and downs, to get to this place.  Maybe the thunder is an appropriate accompaniment to this momentous event in my life.  I have always loved storms, and was the crazy kid standing on the covered patio watching them roll over the hills toward my childhood home.

So with thunder and lightning and everything exciting, I welcome this new chapter in my life.  If you buy my book, and like it, please leave me a review on Amazon or on Goodreads (no matter where you purchased the book).  I promise, I’m working on a second book, so there will be more of my work to read in the future!

I would love to hear from you – comment here, or look me up on facebook (links below).  In the meantime, here is my book blurb, and an excerpt, to whet your appetite!

Back Cover Blurb:

Schoolteacher Connie Meyers is suddenly a young widow, her husband killed in a horrific car accident. Heartbroken to find out he had gambled away everything they had, she moves to her sister-in-law’s Midwest home to rebuild her life. A trip to the local Renaissance Faire with her nieces leads to a summer job as a costumed storyteller.

Avowed bad boy and fair performer Gage Youngblood is infatuated with Connie at first sight. Despite his deliberately commitment-free life, and Connie’s don’t-touch-me attitude, he soon has her in his arms, realizing quickly she is also in his heart.

When she is threatened by her late husband’s bookie, he steps into the role of protector, his fate forever sealed with hers.

Excerpt:

“Who said anything about a relationship?” he said, standing up so he could tower over her again. “I’m just trying to have a little fun. You know, fun?”

If he’d been an animal, she was sure he’d have had hair raised on the back of his neck, he seemed so angry, and it struck her painfully. She hadn’t wanted to anger him or hurt him. She turned away from him and closed her eyes to tamp down the tears she knew would come if she let them. She crossed her arms over her chest, to hold in the pain. Being tired made her much too vulnerable.

“Yes,” she finally said. “I know about fun. Life isn’t always fun, though.”

“Princess.” His voice was soft, tender. “I won’t hurt you. It’s not in my plan.”

Despite herself, she felt the shivers of desire race down from her shoulders, down her arms and legs, and back up to that secret, soft place at her core. She bowed her head and gritted her teeth, hoping for the feeling to go away.

“And what is your plan, Gage?”

“It’s a simple plan. I want you to feel good. I want to feel good, too.”

Buy at Amazon.com in Kindle or paperback format!

Buy at The Wild Rose Press (my publisher).

The Long Road to Paradise


I don’t know if it will be paradise, but right now, it’s the closest thing I can come to.  After singing a contract with Wild Rose Press in October, and surviving and thriving through two rounds of text edits, a galley edit, and approval of artwork, Fairest of the Faire is about to be published.

I am alternately excited and ready to see all my hard work in print, and half-scared about the whole process.  There is much to be done before the book comes out.  Updating this blog in new space is one of those.  Lining up promotional rounds, both virtual and in person, creating marketing materials and writing a media kit, writing blog posts to put on other people’s sites, figuring out how to do Twitter effectively, making connections with other writers within my publishing house and outside of it.

It is a lot of work.  I’d almost say it is more work than writing the book and editing the book.  But it isn’t.  It is just different.  I understand writing, and editing.  I don’t understand promotion and marketing.  But I’m learning.

Being published has been a lifelong dream.  It was the kind of dream that I worked toward, without really ever believing it would happen.  But it happened, and now I’m up to my ears in it, and isn’t it just fantastic?

Stay tuned…release date to come soon!  And just to whet your appetite, here’s the cover art.  Isn’t it pretty?

Fairest of the Faire Cover art