Category Archives: Book covers

Do you listen to BTR?

For those who haven’t heard of it, BTR stands for Blog Talk Radio, the latest in on-line entertainment and informational programming. Everyday professionals, experts, and entertainers are hosting their own radio shows and being heard by millions. These topic-driven programs allow listeners to hone in on their interests and hear the latest news in whatever industry that floats their boat. So what does that mean for readers and writers? So glad you asked! PJ Sharon here with the latest scoop on how to help writers find their audience and readers connect with their favorite authors.

Writers can share their books and talk about their writing process with interviewers while sitting behind their computer or on their phones, feet up and fuzzy slippers gracing their desks. All while sipping tea and chatting about their favorite things with whomever decides to tune in. Fans or readers can type in questions to be asked and answered in real time, or a link to the show can be used later for promotion and advertising purposes.

For readers who love romance, it’s a chance to hear your favorite authors dish about their characters, read excerpts, and maybe even share a few spoilers about upcoming books. Basically, it’s another way for readers and writers to connect in a fun, user-friendly format.

The really cool thing is that anyone can host their own show. Of course, that means adding consistent content, being entertaining and engaging, and building an audience over time. It’s not for everyone, but those that are doing it appear to be enjoying the up close and personal interaction and sharing it with listeners.

I’ve done several such interviews over the past year or so and I have to say, I love doing them. It means not having to actually be on camera, but being able to hang out as if I’m conversing with a pal on the phone. It’s very non-threatening. My most recent BTR interview was in February with Linda Mooney from Other Worlds of Romance, who hosts mostly sci-fi/fantasy writers and has a decent following.

She asked me to come on the show and read a steamy excerpt from WESTERN DESERT, book two in the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael trilogy. Several listeners showed up to ask questions and I had a blast sharing my story with them, including behind the scenes insights into the third book, the title of which I’ll reveal at the end of this post as promised last month!

After the show, Linda sent me the link to embed into my website so readers can refer to it and listen at any time. What a great promotional tool and something I can definitely add to my press kit. I’m sure if I use it properly it could lead to TV/radio interviews in the future. It’s a way for media types to hear how well you speak about your books and interact with the interview process. You can find a list of hundreds of shows that might be willing to host romance authors here. Or you can go in and search categories for more specific shows that focus on your genre.

Just one more way to connect readers and writers in the digital age!

Now, to reveal the title of the third book in the trilogy…drum roll, please… we had WANING MOON, WESTERN DESERT, and coming this fall…HEALING WATERS, the continuing adventure of Lily Carmichael and friends as they make their way back home to warn the good folks of Stanton of a coming doom. Will they reach them in time…or is it already too late? Can Lily and Will overcome their differences and find their way back to each other as they race against time to save the human race from certain destruction?

Don’t forget to join me on my PJ Sharon Books FB page as I roll out the cover reveal for my next Contemporary YA novel, PIECES of LOVE, set to release June 21st. POL Picture4The big reveal will take place on April 18th, but pop over and “like’ my page now so you don’t miss out on the fun as I reveal a new “piece” of the cover each week along with an excerpt. Leave a comment on my FB post and be entered to win an ARC of the book, winners to be drawn on reveal day, April 18th, when you’ll also be privy to links for the release of my single, PIECES of Love, the theme song to the book.

Tell me, have you ever listened to BTR?

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Return to Downton

Hey, folks, Suze here. I’m deep in the writer’s cave working on book 2 of my mystery series coming next year from Berkley Prime Crime. I hear that the talented folks at Berkley are working on the cover of book 1 (which has a new name that I like a lot!), so I’m super-excited to see what the art department comes up with. Of course I’ll share when I can.

downtonLEGO2_610x519[1]In the meantime, how ’bout that Downton? The season has gotten off to a bit of a slow start, in my opinion. But we’ll see what transpires. Here are my predictions:

Robert and Cora. The Earl seems bound and determined to lose Downton, whether through mismanagement, gambling, or stick-in-the-mud-ism. Is it just me, or do both of these characters seem to be getting dumber? I predict more conflict between Robert and his daughter Lady Mary (see below), and I see Cora siding with Mary on most issues. But I certainly wish they’d give him and Cora a more interesting storyline. Send them off on a trip to the Continent to rekindle the spark in their marriage or, even better, to America to visit Cora’s mother.

Lady Mary. Thank goodness she’s stopped moping around the Abbey, pale and wraithlike. Now she can get down to the business of wresting control from her increasingly dotty father. Now, I’m no expert in British succession laws, but I thought Downton was entailed. So how is it that Matthew could leave his half of the estate to Mary? She will become a savvy businesswoman and somehow figure out how to pay the death duties–perhaps by organizing a Downton bachelor auction! Tom and Thomas (really, couldn’t we have given somebody a different name?) should bring in some nice money, depending on the bidder’s orientation.

Lady Edith. Here’s a character who’s become a lot more interesting to me. Not just because she’s become a writer, but because she seems to be leaving Downton behind for the modern world. I liked her better when she was scheming, honestly. But with her beau trying to get German citizenship (uh, might want to rethink that) so he can get a divorce from his insane wife, she’d be better off just shacking up with the guy until she gets preggers (thanks, Casey Wyatt, for that prediction!). Then she’ll be in a real mess, especially when Michael gets arrested for treason. But no matter. There are plenty of unsuitable men out there, ripe for Edith’s plucking.

Bates and Anna. Angry. Can’t talk about this.

Daisy, Ivy, Alfred, Jimmie. Snoresville. Daisy, you can do a lot better than that big clod, Alfred. Let Ivy have him. Once your dead husband’s father dies, you’re going to come into a cute little farm and you’ll be able to make a nice living on your own terms–and there will be a studly neighboring farmer out there for you. Seriously, I’d much rather get a valentine from Mrs. Patmore than either one of those footmen. Count yourself lucky. Or maybe they’ll be in the aforementioned bachelor auction, and you can take your pick!

Isobel Crawley. She needs to quit whining, play with her grandson (in a dignified way, of course), and find a cause or two or three to support. Or find fault with the way little Georgie’s being raised. Or go visit Cora’s mother in America. That should light a fire under her.

Violet, the Dowager Countess. Still my favorite character. Would love to see a little romance in her life. And she could drop a few quid on that bachelor auction!

If you love this era, you’ll love a couple of book series I read religiously: the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear, about a maid who goes off to become a nurse in the Great War, obtains a college education, and opens her own private investigation company.

And in a more humorous vein, try Her Royal Spyness and the rest of the series by Rhys Bowen. Thirty-fourth in line to the throne of England, the penniless Lady Georgiana secretly cleans houses to make a living and is summoned quite regularly to Buckingham Palace, where Queen Mary assigns her various tasks, including keeping an eye on the Queen’s son David and the dreadful American, Wallis Simpson. Part Downton Abbey and part Jeeves and Wooster, these cozy mysteries are just delightful.

What are your predictions for Downton this season? No spoilers, please!

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Grave Danger by Katy Lee: Cover Revealed!

I don’t think I will ever tire of receiving my book covers. It is such an exciting email to receive. Although, I will admit I open them slowly and with one eye shut. It’s kind of like one of those trick cans that might or might not explode snakes in your face. Do you remember those? When my brother was little he thought “tricking” people, or I should say me, into opening them was the funniest thing. Me: not so much.

But back to the unveiling of Grave Danger. My childhood scars can wait. My point is, when I receive the email with my book covers, I really don’t know what the art department put together to express the story I have written. So that moment of clicking Open Attachment is definitely a breath-holding moment.

It soon becomes a sighing-smile moment, though. I shouldn’t fret. The artists know the market and what the readers like. I can trust that to be so. They have mine and the publisher’s best interests at heart.

And now for the second book that takes place on Stepping Stones Island, Maine, where the lobster traps are always full and romance awaits even the hardest of hearts. Here is Grave Danger.

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BONES OF CONTENTION

When skeletal remains are found on a small Maine island, forensic anthropologist Lydia Muir is sent to investigate. It’s Lydia’s job to determine whether the homicide happened long ago—or more recently. Island sheriff Wesley Grant seems sure the murder didn’t happen on his watch. But when Lydia uncovers the victim’s identity, someone goes to great lengths to get Lydia off the island. Wes vows to protect her, but is the handsome lawman holding something back? To help catch a killer, she’ll have to trust him—or become the next victim.

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

And now to show how the art department at Harlequin carried the seascape scene over from book one, Warning Signs, here is the first cover in the Stepping Stones Island series.

Warning Signs Cover

After these two, I am looking forward to seeing the cover of book three, Sunken Treasure, which will release in September. (I’m sure I don’t need to tell you what that one is about.) Maybe I’ll open that email with both eyes open. Maybe.

Readers, I do hope you will check out Grave Danger this coming May. It is available for preorder, and you can add it to your Goodreads TBR pile now by clicking here.

Thank you for stopping by for the unveiling!

SEEKING CHRISTMAS with Brenda Maxfield

Welcome Scribers and Readers, PJ Sharon here. I have with me as today’s guest, Brenda Maxfield. Her short story, SEEKING CHRISTMAS hit home with me since neither of my two sons has a relationship with their dad. Brenda Maxfield’s perspective from the minds of teen siblings, Courtney and Dennis, truly reflected how I imagine my sons dealing with this situation. And may I also say, I LOVE this cover!

Blurb for Seeking Christmas (an Ocean Mist short story Two):

Brenda Maxfield-SeekingChristmasCover

The Christmas season has eighteen-year-old Courtney crossing the state line with her little brother Dennis to rendezvous with the man who deserted them years ago. Courtney remembers him only as the tall man who ran away. Dennis doesn’t remember him at all.

Courtney is furious, but Denny is curious. Will their meeting result in a happy Christmas memory or another miserable disappointment?

I asked Brenda what made her write this as a short story. Here’s what she had to say.Take it away Brenda…

Thanks PJ!

My first thought is that “Short Can Be Sweet”. But there was more to my decision than simply wanting to write a short story. Here’s what happened.

Open Call for Submissions: Such musical words of opportunity to any writer’s ears.

Except when such writer is buried deep in her latest work-in-progress and stretched thin between a day job, family, and uh, well, trying to stay sane!

That’s where I found myself a while back when my publisher put out a call for submissions. Sometimes emails are ripped open like paper envelopes showing checks through tiny little windows — and that’s how I opened that one. Yet even while my eyes flew downward over the content, censuring comments such as, “Who are you kidding, Brenda? You’re insane. All you need is another project…” coursed through my mind.

You know how it goes, scolding yourself even as you continue with whatever you were doing. (Hmmm, now I’m thinking about that luscious half-eaten piece of dark chocolate cake. But I digress.) My scolding continued until my eyes landed on the phrase, “Short stories only. No longer than 5,000 words.”

I major perked up. That I could do! That I could find the time for!

I’d never considered short stories as part of my writing career. I love the YA novel, the joy of unfolding a character’s crisis, angst, redemption, and growth over the course of chapters. I didn’t realize the fun of writing a short story: the smaller time frame to completion, the opportunity to give readers a taste of your style, and the possibility for those same readers to get hooked and become fans of your novels.

I did answer that open call and send a short story to my publisher. I’ve also self-pubbed two other short stories. The first was Player, which introduced the characters in Buried Truth. (Writing about two-faced Daniela in Player turned out to be a blast. Oy, I couldn’t stand the girl!) And this season, I’ve released Seeking Christmas, dealing with the aftermath of Cornered, which is releasing in a few weeks.

Christmas in September

I couldn’t bear to let the Christmas season go by without a release. So in September, I started playing with the characters from Cornered in my mind. I wondered what would happen if Courtney heard from her jerk of a dad — the guy who deserted her and disappeared like so much water down the drain years previously. Would she want to see him? Could she swallow her anger long enough to hear him out? And what about her little brother? Would taking Denny to meet the guy result in a disaster? What kind of Christmas would it turn out to be?

The characters wouldn’t stay quiet, yet I knew I didn’t have time to write another full. Thus, the short story Seeking Christmas was born. (It’s @ 8,000 words.)

I loved it. I loved the whole process. We writers are fortunate to have many avenues to get the stories out of our heads and onto the page. Short stories are just one of those ways. I heartily encourage all writers to give them a whirl!

And of course, I’d be totally thrilled if you’d give Seeking Christmas a read. During this season, take a bit of time to curl up with a blanket and a cup of hot chocolate (if you’re in the northern hemisphere) and take a trip with Courtney and her little brother in Seeking Christmas.  I hope you enjoy it!

Seeking Christmas Purchase Links:

Amazon:  http://tinyurl.com/ky7oxzu

Barnes and Noble: http://tinyurl.com/jvktfxz

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/373439

Ocean Mist Books:  http://brendamaxfield.com/ocean-mist-series.html

Author Bio:

Brenda Maxfield author PhotoMy passion is writing! What could be more delicious than inventing new characters and seeing where they take you?

I’m a teacher so I spend most of my waking hours with young people. I love chatting with them and hearing their views on love and life. My students are magical, and I am honored to be part of their lives.

I’ve lived in Honduras, Grand Cayman, and Costa Rica. Presently, I live in Indiana with my husband, Paul. We have two grown children and three precious grandchildren, special delivery from Africa.

When not teaching, I love to hole up in our lake cabin and write — often with a batch of popcorn nearby. (Oh, and did I mention dark chocolate?)

I enjoy getting to know my readers, so feel free to write me at: contact@brendamaxfield.com . Join my newsletter at: http://mad.ly/signups/85744/join. Visit me to learn about all my books and some smart and sassy, clean teen reads: www.brendamaxfield.com  Happy Reading!

Contact Links for Brenda Maxfield:

Website:  http://www.brendamaxfield.com

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/AuthorBrendaMaxfield

Goodreads Author Page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6570620.Brenda_Maxfield

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/BrendaMaxfield

Blog:  http://www.brendamaxfield.wordpress.com

Email:  contact@brendamaxfield.com

Amazon Author Page: http://tinyurl.com/psj82bj     

Don’t Miss any News! Join my Newsletter Ganghttp://mad.ly/signups/85744/join

Thanks for joining us today, Brenda! Readers, if you have any questions or comments for Ms. Maxfield, please don’t be shy!

How about you? Do you like to read short stories? Have any favorites you’d like to share? Are you reading any wonderful Christmas stories right now? We’d love to know!

Interview With The Vamp

Hi, everybody. Suze here. Guess what? I’ve invited a new friend to come visit with us today. Let’s give a big Scribes welcome to Chryssie Papadopoulos, secretly known as Eva Prim (shhh! Don’t tell anyone!)

get-attachment[1]Hey, Eva! What’s new?

New? Well, I have a book coming out, finally. You know it really annoyed me to have to wait on Jordan to get her head on straight about this book. Like her other books could ever be as good as mine? No chance. I hate to make her feel bad, but she shouldn’t have made me wait. I do not like to wait.

Okay, so tell me all the yummy details.

I’d love to. Well, it’s sort of a slice of my life. As with any good book there’s drama, highs and lows, romance, sex, vampires, demons and some werewolves. Oh, and chocolate, computers, cell phones, blogging, emails and texting. A court scene (again- so irritating to have to repeatedly defend yourself).

What’s this Snack of the Week Club I’ve heard about?

The Snack of the Week Club is a club for all my closest friends. They get sneak peeks for all my books, snack discounts like Harvard Sweet Boutique. We discuss books, shows, snacks, and life (or death) in general. Every week I interview one of my snacks, I mean friends…friends, definitely meant friends. Anyway, I interview a member because I like to know about everyone. It’s fun. You should join. What’s your blood type anyway?

Oh, I forgot. On that last question about the book– there’s also deception, heartbreak, more deception, some accusations of kidnapping and theft. In the end I conquer all! It’s a damn good book. Wow. I might read it again tonight.

Accidentally released any demons lately?

Um, no. I haven’t released any. I’ve been very careful. Actually, who am I kidding? I can’t find The Book so there’s no way to release any more demons. Not that I’m looking for The Book. I’m just saying I know Stefan hid The Book so that there wouldn’t be any other accidents.

Between you and me I think he’s being ridiculous. Could lightning really strike twice?

get-attachment[1] (2)Stefan is hot. Scary, but scorchin’ hot. How did you two meet?

 

Oh, I love this story. Thank you for asking. It was many years ago–1832, summertime. In Bristol, Rhode Island. I’m from Bristol, was born there. Even turned vampire there. Anyway, I went to the docks with my father to purchase fish. The boats had just returned. While we were making our inquiries about some slimy fish and oysters, actually my father was inquiring. I was trying not to step in anything too smelly. The docks really are a stinky place. Usually I tried not to look too disgusted at the stench of dead fish and dirty men, which I have to say is not an easy thing to do. Have you ever been down to the fishing docks when the ships return? Disgusting. Anyway, on that evening there was some other scent on the wind, something not even remotely disgusting. On the contrary, it was wonderful. Sort of a smoldering vanilla scent, smoky and manly and utterly intoxicating. I had never smelled anything like it.

I couldn’t smell anything else, and I didn’t want to either. I glanced up and my attention went straight to the source. Standing on the deck of a large ship was the most beautiful man I’d ever seen. His black hair rustled in the wind. His long coat flapped. His dark eyes met mine and I could hardly keep from blushing. He looked at me like I was the only woman he’d ever seen. And when he smiled, my stomach flipped. I loved him instantly and it wasn’t vampire influence either.

I could hardly believe he was looking at me, but he was. He followed me home. My father didn’t notice, but I did. I caught him slinking behind trees and scurrying off to hide in doorways so that I wouldn’t notice. There was no way I could miss him. He was the most exotic man to set foot in that town. Ah…

How do you keep him from straying? What’s your best marriage advice for keeping the love alive while the body is dead?

This is an outstanding question. I have to say the most important thing is to spend time together just the two of you, alone, not worrying about crap or people. You have to enjoy your time, unwind, cut loose, get frisky. You know what I mean?

Can I get a V-Mail account? I’d like to be in on all the secret Vampire stuff.

Okay, now you’re going to get me in trouble. You’re not even supposed to know about that. Just forget you heard of that. No V-Mail for you or anyone not already on this side of things. Though, if your status changes and you come over you can have one. We’ll talk.

Halloween is coming. What should I wear for the most authentic vampire look?

You probably don’t even realize there are vampires all around you. You could go like yourself and just fit in. Oh, wait, when you said authentic did you mean shifted, you know, true vampire state? If that’s what you meant I suggest you not go as a vampire because nobody really likes us in that state and we don’t even like ourselves like that. I mean, really? No one likes a gargoyle on steroids. Nobody.

Eva's Friend, Jordan K. Rose
Eva’s Friend, Jordan K. Rose
Thanks for stopping by, Chryssie. Her book will be available on October 3. Here’s where you can find Chryssie/Eva and her friend, Jordan K. Rose:

It’s my second Indie birthday!

Hey Scribblers!

PJ Sharon here. Today I’m celebrating two years since I first published my debut novel HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES. In honor of the occasion, I’m giving away an audio book copy to one random commenter. Chance to enter ends Monday, September 30th at midnight.

So what’s it like being an Indie toddler?very-excited-girl (2013_06_02 00_59_02 UTC)
Believe me, there are days when I want to have fits like a two-year-old. But there are also days when I can’t imagine a more exciting pursuit. It seems like just yesterday I was posting my first novel onto AMAZON, B&N, and Smashwords, taking the giant leap of faith that I had done enough to ensure it was as close to perfect as possible. Five books and a zillion lessons later, I’m still working to improve and streamline my process. Everything from formatting, cover art, editing, and marketing, to managing the business end of being an author, is constantly changing, making me feel like a perpetual newbie.

Here’s a short list of what I’ve learned in my first two years:

1) Relax and Breathe-I really stressed out my first year and a half as an author. The past six months has been about letting go for me. I can’t control it all, I can only do so much in a day, and the to-do list will still be there tomorrow. Making time to write is non-negotiable. It’s what keeps me moving forward and brings me joy. I manage what I absolutely have to do each day, and try to remember that I’m the boss.

2) Hire as much help as you can afford-I’m a big fan of bartering services, but there are some things you just can’t do that with. Figuring out a budget and investing in creating a superior product is worth the effort and money. Hire a good cover artist and excellent editors, and pay for the RIGHT advertisement, and you will make your money back. Caution: BE SELECTIVE. Get references and do your research.

3) It’s good to have friends in the playpen- I would know nothing if I didn’t belong to such Yahoo Groups as IndieRomanceInk, Authors Network, and Marketing for Romance Writers. My local RWA chapter has been invaluable, and the contacts I’ve made through YARWA and the WG2E street team are like family. I am constantly amazed by the generosity of the writing community.

4) Patience grasshopper-  I’m only two, for Pete’s sake! We have to walk before we can run, right? Everything requires a process. In people years, a toddler is only just beginning their journey. I can’t expect myself to know everything, do everything right, or earn a solid income in only two years time. Every business model I’ve ever seen considers a profit after five years, a success. Most businesses will fail in those first five years. I take comfort in knowing that the only way I can fail is if I stop writing books. I’m more and more convinced that money comes with time and persistence. I’ll let you know how that theory works out in another three years when I graduate to kindergarten.

5) Perspective is everything- I originally set the goaI that I would sell 10,000 copies of my collective books in a year. I guess I didn’t necessarily mean the first year…or the second. Well, maybe I was just being optimistic. I could have been disappointed when I didn’t meet my mark in 2012, but it didn’t really phase me. Mainly because I knew that if I had sold 5,000 the first year, the second five would come eventually. I still haven’t quite reached the 10K mark yet (there will be cake when I do!). But I consider every sale, every contest win, positive review, or reader comment a measure of success. Most importantly, my level of enjoyment with the process is my biggest measure of success these days. I keep a copy of each of my books close at hand to remind me of what I’ve accomplished in just two short years.

There is so much more that I’ve learned, but I’d have to write a book to contain it all and my publishing schedule is booked for the foreseeable future. So instead of me blabbering on about my toddler years, why don’t you guys tell me about your journey.

How long have you been writing?  What has it taught you? Have you made the leap into the publishing world? How’s that going for you? Let’s chat!

Pot smoking teens and other family dramas

Hey readers,

PJ Sharon here on a lovely autumn day in the Berkshires. I’ve actually seen a few patches of yellowed leaves on the trees and the star-filled nights here are getting cool.Crane This crane will likely be taking flight to warmer climes soon enough.

It’s also the time of year for the spreading of colds and such.*sniffle…sniffle*

I guess I can’t complain. It’s the first time I’ve been sick in a few years and it gives me some needed downtime to rest and reflect…and write.

As I swim through the murky middle of my current work in progress, PIECES OF LOVE, I’m reminded of my own teen dramas and those of my many siblings. You see, I grew up in a pretty crazy, dysfunctional family. Lots of alcohol, a dash of mental illness, secrets, lies, some seriously scary and frequent catastrophes, and lots of drama! Yes, we all loved each other in our own way, but each person in that house of seven children and three adults, was flawed. As we all are. It’s what makes us human. It’s also what makes us interesting to paint into the canvas of a story.

There’s a reason that I write YA dramas that touch on  taboo topics that encompass everything from grief and loss of a loved one, to teen pregnancy, bulimia, the effects of war, and even sexual abuse. I draw as much as possible from personal experience and from all that I have seen to be true in the human condition.

So when I began PIECES OF LOVE, I wanted to make sure to give Ali’s plight its due. Not that I’ve ever lost someone to an alcohol overdose or been arrested for marijuana possession, but I’ve certainly seen my share of these kinds of family dramas to draw real emotion and conflict from them. Understanding the motivation behind why people do what they do is a key element in making your fiction believable. As is sharing accurate and interesting detail to utilize your setting to enhance your character’s journey. Since I’ve been on a Mediterranean cruise, I have lots of insights into how Ali sees the world anew with each port she visits. It’s been fun and interesting to revisit the places I went and relive it all through her eyes, watching her transformation from self-centered, immature teen trying desperately to avoid dealing with the painful realities of life, to a young woman who learns to appreciate the people in her life who love her.

Here’s the blurb for PIECES OF LOVE:

Sixteen year-old Alexis Hartman wants nothing more than to smoke pot and play guitar. What’s the point in planning for the future? Her world is shattered by her sister’s accidental alcohol overdose at college, and she is arrested for marijuana possession a second time. Her mother’s breakdown is the final straw that forces Ali to spend the summer with her Grandmother in Malibu.

But problems aren’t so easily dismissed. After Ali steps over the line one too many times, she’s certain her life is over and that she’s destined for juvenile detention. Her ‘Malibu Barbie’ grandmother, Maddie, takes desperate measures…a Mediterranean cruise…for seniors. If overwhelmed and motion sick Ali needs further torment, Maddie has decided that her granddaughter’s childish name could use an upgrade and renames her Lexi. Can a new name and a French haircut fix everything that’s wrong with Ali’s life? Maybe when Ethan Kaswell says the name.

Eighteen year-old Ethan, the poster child for being a good son, who is stranded on the cruise when his famous heart surgeon father is kept away by an important consultation, finds Lexi irresistible. Although he’s smart enough to see that there is no future in falling for a “vacation crush,” Lexi’s edgy dark side and soulfully sad eyes draw him like an anchor to the bottom of the sea. As she spirals out of control, will she bring him down too, or was he already drowning? Maybe by saving her, he can save himself. 

Greece2011 224 (2013_02_16 18_14_38 UTC)Visiting such ports as Portofino, Italy; Palermo, Sicily; and Rome. From the Greek Islands to Tunisia, North Africa; and Barcelona, Spain to Dubrovnik, Croatia; you’ll see the sights and walk on sacred ground with Ali as she learns about herself, her family, and what it means to love someone–even when you have to let them go.

Infusing our own experiences, we can create flawed but redeemable characters who are on a journey of self-discovery. The more vividly we can paint that portrait, the more we bring the story to life with their color, depth, and the rich texture of emotional reactionary drama that makes us connect to them in an intimate way. When the character’s fatal flaw forces them to face the consequences of their actions and choices, and we see them grow, it’s satisfying and uplifting. Readers heart’s are touched. It’s what all writers strive for and is so challenging to do, and do well.

One thing I’m sure of is that we can’t shy away from addressing tough issues when writing for teens, but we have to be willing to step fully into their shoes to get it right. Knowing that “pot” is now mostly referred to as “weed” and other such specifics, are important for authenticity, and can only be known if you hang around teenagers and ask questions. It’s been my experience that they are most willing to share their opinions and ideas when I tell them why I’m asking. They seem to appreciate that I’m willing to have an open dialogue and that I’m not interested in judging them. I don’t think any of my teen library group kids are “potheads,” or “stoners” as they call them, but they are fully engaged in the youth culture in a way that I am not.

I’m hoping for the book to be ready for release in the first part of 2014. A cover reveal and the ability to pre-order the book through Smashwords should be coming up at the end of November. I’m also working on recording a theme song for the book–possibly two, written by yours truly!

So if you’re a writer, write what you know, ‘they’ say. I agree. Either draw from your own experiences, or find a way to walk in someone else’s moccasins for a mile or two. Your characters will be so much richer for it! Just be real, and let your characters take the story where it needs to go. You might even experience some healing as you create/or re-create a painful real-life event that still holds you back from being the best you can be–just like your characters.

I often have to remind myself that ‘do-overs and make-believe are not only allowed in fiction writing, but encouraged.’

Today’s unlocked secret: Infuse your personal experiences into your writing to create vivid, authentic, and memorable characters. Don’t be afraid to tackle the tough problems, and keep it real.

I’m heading back to bed for more rest. I have to be better for my trip to Nashville and New Orleans later this week, where I’ll be at my step-son’s wedding and doing some research for book three in the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael trilogy. I hate getting on a plane and being THAT person who gets everyone else sick. I’m also thinking my sinuses aren’t going to appreciate the flight…uggh!

To happier thoughts and my original statement in this post, I really do love it here in the hills. Our town has the cleanest air on record in Massachusetts, and has one of the healthiest ecosystems. I routinely see lots of wildlife, including a host of various birds here. Although with hunting season commencing, and flight of the migratory bird populations, that will likely be less now. Blue heronI am so grateful to live where I live and feel blessed to be part of my small community.

As such, I’m participating once again at the Granville Harvest Fair coming up Columbus Day weekend (October 12-14). I’ll be hanging out in front of the library signing books with a few other authors. If you’re in North Central CT or Western MA, I hope you’ll stop by and say hello. There’s tons to see and do. I swear, we have one of the BEST harvest fairs in New England!

Do you write what you know, or rely on a mix of research, empathy, and experience? I’d love to hear from you about your process and how you make your characters authentic.