Friday, September 28, 2012

First Page Friday

Today is the last day to enter Debra Erfert's drawing for a $10 Amazon gift card.  Click here and leave a comment and you are entered!  (Plus you can read her review of my novel.  Sneaky I know!)

I was so interested in today's critique because it talks a lot about the hook which we can all work on for sure.  Thank you so much to Angela and Brian for today! 

The Entry
by Brian Henkels

When the iPhone buzzed to life at seven minutes to eleven that evening, it scared the sh** out of Dale Gibson. He had forgotten about the small contraption that he carried in the breast pocket of his tweed overcoat. These days it had become more of an accessory than necessity.

Fumbling to retrieve the goddamn thing, Dale feared his trip to Erma’s All-Night CafĂ© for a corned beef sandwich, side of fries (with mustard for dipping, not ketchup), and slice of pecan pie was going to be put on hold, if not totally cancelled. Only a select few had this phone number and those who did wouldn’t use it to discuss petty issues or smalltime bullsh**. And it wasn’t that long ago, prior to the tragedies of September 11th, that anyone seeking Dale at this hour would have received anything but his voicemail. Those were the good old days for the Bureau. They functioned with near autonomy, they showed up at the crime scenes when they saw fit, collected any and all evidence and intelligence they deemed important, and were sure to take as much credit for arrests and seizures as possible. But those days were a thing of the past. Nothing more than an icebreaker a crusty veteran might tell a greenhorn about while sucking down a few pints of ale at Mickey’s Pub.

Dale ran his fingers through his disheveled hair and his sunken eyes peered back at him in the rearview mirror of the department issued Buick Regal. Working six straight fourteen-hour days had taken a toll on one of the more handsome men to wear the badge. An incoming e-mail icon marked URGENT alerted Dale to its presence. Logging into the classified account, a jumbled mess of letters and numbers dominated the message. 

Angela's Comments

First impressions

This opening has nice atmosphere. The reader gets a sense of the character and the setting. However, it’s a lot of information to take in (and a bit wordy with the details in the opening paragraph—consider splitting sentences or trimming a bit on the details). A reader trying to navigate the information from September 11 to Erma’s diner to the good ole days of the Bureau without the anchor a more solid hook provides may end up feeling a little adrift. (More on the hook later.)

There are also some conflicting signals being sent. To start with, Dale’s tweed overcoat. This gives the impression of a nerdy college professor. So later on, when the reader is told that Dale is “one of the more handsome men to wear the badge,” we suddenly have dueling images. Is Dale handsome (fills his dark suit well, looks good in dark glasses, square jaw) or is he slightly rumpled around the edges? Age seems too vague given these potential discrepancies as well.

Another area of conflicting images/messages is Dale’s response to his iPhone in light of his law enforcement background. Here’s the inconsistency: if you have an iPhone and you are getting your email on it, it implies you are at least basically tech savvy. However, Dale is portrayed otherwise. That’s not necessarily a problem. Except that given his line of work (Bureau implies FBI or some other large jurisdiction government agency), it would be expected that he is quite familiar and up-to-date with the latest technology. Now I realize you may be trying to go for the John McClane angle (Live Free or Die Hard) where you’ve got the tough, lone wolf veteran that can kick A with the best of them but doesn’t know an IM from a hard drive.  But in that case, he probably wouldn’t have the iPhone at all. And this scenario works for McClane as an NYPD detective, but for an FBI agent, it doesn’t quite ring true—or at least won’t to many potential readers.

Getting to the heart of the story

The details – down to the meal that Dale plans on eating at an all-night diner – provide textual interest. However, at this point, we have little context to place it in. Perhaps give us more of a hook first, if you can, and give us an idea of the story-worthy problem, and then details won’t be a problem. Details are good; just make sure they are in the right place at the right time. As it stands right now, the reader doesn’t get the sense of any concrete conflict. Ideally, you want to hook us in the first paragraph, but at least in the first page. Dead bodies, bombs, car accidents, even getting fired for mouthing off at your c.o.—or something else personal—might all qualify, but a ringing phone may not quite do the trick for many readers. Granted, it is a curiosity-piquer, and then we do have some interesting writing as you nail down Dale, so it could work. Genre expectations will play into this heavily, so you could get away with it; but at the same time, if you aren’t an established writer, the competition is much stiffer if you want to break in. So if you want to up the ante, make your hook more solid on the first page (perhaps more personal or more dramatic or just more intriguing because we have the right info framing it).

Another reason the hook sort of dissipates is likely because the phone is buzzing in the first sentence, but Dale doesn’t get around to checking it until the second to last sentence (aside from losing our attention on the hook, this can be a jarring moment in trying to re-find our place in the story). Even then, all the reader knows is that it is classified and possibly coded. It would be more exciting if the reader actually knew what the message was about (unless it’s just a reminder to pick up the dry cleaning). So go ahead and reveal the message, because I’m assuming that’s the inciting incident that’s going to get the momentum of the story going full-force. Put it in the first paragraph, and you’ve ratcheted up the stakes right away.

Hot and he knows it

The point of view is handled well – right up to the part about him being handsome. It’s not his good looks (or former good looks) that are the problem. It’s that you’ve established the beginnings of a good third-person limited pov, where the reader perceives the narration as Dale’s own thoughts and feelings, and this phrase breaks that stride. Unless Dale is rather conceited, he isn’t going around thinking of himself as handsome. This line actually jars the reader out of the story, clashing with the mental picture of the protagonist they’ve been building. Depending on the tone and direction of the story, you can still mention Dale is handsome, but you’ll want to try it from a different angle. I’d recommend going more low-key here. “There was a time when he’d  turned a few heads, but working six straight fourteen hour days had taken a toll on his looks.”  

To swear or not to swear, that is the question

Even in today’s language-permissive society, there is no consensus. Some of your readers will be fine with swearing, but just as many will not be. The thing is, the readers that are fine with swearing will probably be just as fine without it, but it doesn’t work the other direction. So I’d temper the swearing if you’re unsure of audience. For a hard-bitten cop, thriller, or spy novel, I think you’d be fine with some swearing – enough to give it some flavor. But if the reader notices the swearing rather than the story, it’s a sign you need to dial it back. If Dale is cussing about something as mundane as the phone, what does he do when he gets to the crisis? Overuse of profanity dilutes its effectiveness. So if you really feel compelled to let the reader know Dale’s stance on cussing, put one on the first page (but try to keep it to one). Of course, you may lose some of your readers, so maybe you want to do a sneaky and tuck it in a little later, after you’ve hooked the reader. As author, part of your job is to act as a translator—you are describing one community to a different community which means you must use language that best resonates with the bulk of your readers. Obviously your genre may make the swearing quite expected—assuming it fits in the standard slots—but if you’re thinking of breaking genre lines or drawing in a broader audience than just genre readers, the notes above are something to consider when deciding on how much swearing to include.  

Small changes, big results

To sum it up, you’ve got solid POV, interesting details, and the possibility of an even greater hook. Just consider tweaking this page in a few places and your story will be off to a great start.

Thanks again.  We'll see you next week!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

It's a Happy Day--Five Stars & Kiefer Sutherland Who Could Want More?

Do you ever have those days where everything is going right and you just feel happy?  Today has been that sort of day for me.

First, I noticed on Goodreads, that a Meridian Magazine reviewer that I respect and admire gave my new novel All Fall Down FIVE STARS and said, "Exciting from start to finish."  Just those five words and those five stars really kicked my day off on the right foot.  (I'm still happy dancing from that.)

Then, I got an unexpected email from an old friend that I haven't talked to since high school.  It was fun to reconnect.

And my children woke up happy today, too, so I didn't have any morning grumbles.  We turned up the music and danced which made everything funny, so we laughed a lot, too.

Another thing that makes me happy today is that my basement is almost ready to carpet.  We've been working hard to declutter it and we are so close to having it done. It feels so good. Woohoo!

For those of you who know me, you know I loved the TV show 24.  This commercial stars Kiefer Sutherland acting like Jack Bauer as he pursues his secret passion of making cupcakes.  It made me laugh so hard, so I want to share it with you, in case you are also 24 fans.  Click here to see it.

To top it all off, the sun is shining and it's a beautiful crisp fall day---my favorite time of year.  What could be better?

Are you having a happy day?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Word Count Wednesday and a Question

Well, my word count this week was zero.  I think I've burned myself out or something.  And it's been raining and cloudy and dreary which makes me feel less like writing.  I think I need a pick me up.  Do you ever feel that way?

I've been kicking around an idea to do a Halloween short story "contest" for the Word Count Wednesdays in October.  Wouldn't it be fun to do a flash fiction every Wednesday and put it in the comment trail for everyone to comment on?  It would boost our word count and be fun at the same time.  What do you think? Would you participate?  I could even scare up some prizes.  (Although I have noticed that people don't claim their prizes lately even after I beg them to.  I wonder what to do about that.)

Anyway, how did you do this week?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Review of Castle, Hawaii Five-O, and a Book: The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back

Well, my friends, last night was a mixture of awesomeness and head-shaking.  Let's start with the awesomeness of Castle.

The new dynamic between Castle and Beckett is cute and fun.  After the dark of last season, we needed it as viewers I think.  I love the smiles and the hiding in the closet.  It was funny.  Although I am sort of sorry in the fact that I usually watch this show with my older kids and there seems to be a lot more sexual innuendo which wouldn't be appropriate, so a part of me is sad they're going this route on the show with the jokes etc. (i.e. the last elevator scene and pretty much the entire preview for next week) because it makes it cringe-worthy when you watch it with kids, you know? *sigh*

But there were things to love about the premiere.  I love Castle's grasping at straws speech to her and I love him offering to take her somewhere safe while she's cuddled in his arms.  I love how protective he is with her.  On the other hand, when they were in that almost demolished office building I said to the TV, Maddox is following you, you idiots.  And he was.  It makes Kate look like an inept detective when they do that.  I wasn't expecting the bomb, however, so I really liked that part.  And Ryan bringing over the pieces was funny.  That would be some puzzle.  I also liked Kate going after the senator, but if I had been playing a drinking game (or was a person who drank) and hypothetically took a shot every time they said file I would have most likely been drunk in the first fifteen minutes.  Or less.  (I think I would have anyway, but since I've never tasted alcohol I'm only guessing).  The point is, I think they said file four hundred times or more.  File! File! Who's Got the File!

So, overall, a good episode, a fun premiere, and in my opinion the season is off to a good start.

Hawaii Five-O

Christine Lahti is a great actress.  I love her mannerisms and her straightforward, sort of in your face, take it or leave it attitude.  Her scene with Danno was funny.  Although, I have to say when she was in the bedroom confronting Wo Fat, I sort of thought, since she's come back from the dead and Steve mentioned she knew Wo Fat's dad (and "killed" him) maybe Wo Fat is her love child.  Wouldn't that put a twist on it for Steve.  Ha!

I missed the McDanno this week.  The discussion in the car about Grace's custody felt like Steve was all, meh, just go to Vegas.  Follow your flighty ex-wife all over the country, it's okay.  Don't let the door hit ya on the way out.  It was odd.

Also, I had to shake my head at the shootout.  Would they really just start shooting with so many people in the line of fire?  That seemed so odd to me.  And I would have thought there would be a lot more pandemonium when a gunfight breaks out in traffic like that.  People were just sort of ducking and shrugging, like, wow, I could die in the middle of the street here.  Weird.

The highlight of the premiere was Chin Ho.  Daniel Dae Kim does emotional stuff really well.  The anger and grief, the heart-pounding action when he goes into that house and finds the bodies and his final confrontation with Delano were really well done.

And I am glad Catherine is on board now.  That should be interesting for Steve.  (Plus, I love the chemistry between these two actors.)

So, overall, a good episode for Chin.  The rest was okay.  Hopefully the rest of the season will help find its groove.

The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back

Sariah Wilson's new book, The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back, is hilarious.  It's about a high school girl with pink hair who has a beautiful stepsister.  The stepsister is also beautiful on the inside, does charitable work, everyone loves her, she's nice.  It's easy to count the wrongs when you're the ugly stepsister.  But it also sets up some really funny dialogue.  I laughed out loud too many times to count.

Matilda hates her name and is madly in love with Jake, her stepsister's boyfriend.  The book opens with Mattie going to detention for saying mean things about Mark Twain to her Mark Twain-loving English teacher.  Jake, the boy she secretly loves is also in detention and the events that happen there give Mattie pause to think she has to change some things about her life.  So she does and winds up running for class president.  What follows is a story of fun and romance with some good non-preachy life lessons thrown in.  The voice in the main character, Mattie, makes the whole thing.  I thought it was definitely a book I'd recommend to anyone with teenagers or who just want to read a good teen romance.  (And don't let the cover fool you.  It may look juvenile, but the writing is exceptional).

Here is the back copy:

Everyone knows how all those fairy tales go. The princess gets beautiful, nabs her prince, falls instantly in love, lives happily ever after and leaves her evil stepsisters in the dust.

But what happens when you’re the ugly stepsister and your obnoxiously perfect—read pretty, smart, and, worst of all, sickeningly nice—stepsister is dating the charming, tall, devastatingly handsome guy you’ve had a thing for since you were nine years old?

Quirky, artistic and snarky Mattie Lowe does not lead a charmed life. Her mother is constantly belittling her on Skype. Mercedes, the school mean girl, has made it her personal mission to torment Mattie. But worst of all? Her stepsister Ella is the most beautiful, popular girl in school and is dating Mattie’s secret longtime crush, Jake Kingston.

Tired of being left out and done with waiting for her own stupid fairy godmother to show up, Mattie decides to change her life. She’ll start by running for senior class president against wildly popular Jake. 

Ella can keep her Prince Annoying. Mattie’s going to rule the school.

And no one, not even a cute and suddenly flirty Jake, is going to stop her.

Monday, September 24, 2012

I'm So Excited I Just Can't Hide It!

Well, if you didn't see my post over the weekend about my first review of All Fall Down and your chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card, scroll down and look at it  I mean, who couldn't use a gift card right?  And plus, it was a great review.  Thanks, Debra!

And if you know me, you know I've been looking forward to tonight since last May.  We have the season premiere of my two favorite shows---Hawaii Five-O and Castle.  I've watched all the spoiler vids for Castle and am so excited for tonight.  Hawaii Five-O looks good, too, and I can't wait to see Christine Lahti in scenes with Alex O'Loughlin.  This ought to be good.

I'm also going to tune in for Dancing with the Stars All-Stars.  I know, I know, why would I do that you ask?  Well, they're bringing back some of my favorite dancers like Olympians Shawn Johnson and Apolo Anton Ohno.  Who wouldn't want to watch them?

So, I have to ask---when you are invested in a show do you read/watch the spoilers?  Or do you like to remain spoiler free?  Anyone else watching Castle or Hawaii Five-O with me tonight?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

My Book is Reviewed and You Can Win A Prize!

Debra Erfert reviewed All Fall Down on her blog and she's offering a $10 Amazon gift card for just leaving a comment!

Go here to read her review, comment, and win!

Thank you so much, Debra.

Friday, September 21, 2012

First Page Friday

Well, after yesterday's comments, I just want to post the link to where you can get a hardcopy of All Fall Down.  You know, in case Jon was talking about me.  So, if you want a hardcopy of my book, click here  As soon as I see it available in stores, I'll let you know.  :)

On to First Page Friday and it's a good one!

The Entry

The Raven 
by Jericho McKraven

     Bathed in the light of a half crested moon, the Raven sank back into the shadows and waited.  Nightfall beyond the edge of the forest was aglow with the flickering light of freshly lit lanterns, yet darkness crept slowly across the village, unheeding of the fragile glow that glimmered softly from each tiny flame.  Soon, all would be drenched in night and the Raven would emerge.
     He watched at a distance from his perch in a tree and remained there until well after sunset. He was waiting for his prey.
     The Raven was not a creature that craved attention.  He preferred the solitude and comfort of the dark.  Rarely did he ever find a reason to grace the day with his presence, and today was no exception.  The Raven found that he was much more suited for night and was less conspicuous as a hunter when clothed so deeply in shadows.
     Easing away from the thick tangled branches of a gnarled old oak, the Raven grinned wickedly as he caught sight of his target. 
     A tall, lean, middle-aged man who stank of ale, stepped clumsily onto the cobblestone lane and fumbled arrogantly with the over-sized jewels that garnished his fingers.  Rubies and emeralds shown brilliantly in the flickering lantern light and seemed to take on a life of their own as he twisted and tugged at their settings. 
     Finding the situation quite irresistible, Raven left his post at the edge of the forest and drew dangerously near the object of his interest. 
     As his prey made its way casually down the streets and lanes of the village, Raven followed.  Keeping always to the shadows, he stalked in silence, remaining unnoticed until deciding that it was time to end this most simple of hunts.

Ms. Shreditor's Comments

What I really like about this first page is that the narrator isn’t human. The Raven observes the scene silently from his perch, and we hold our breath as his focus narrows to his prey. In the absence of dialogue, the suspense builds quietly. 

Perhaps most chilling is the Raven’s use of the pronoun “its” to describe his drunken target. With just one word, we understand something fundamental about this narrator: He operates according to a different code than humans, and he has no qualms about the hunt. He is bucking his place in the food chain, reducing a human to an “it” and an “object.” This raises some interesting questions about the story that follows. Does the entire story take place from the Raven’s point of view, or is this merely a prologue? I’m not a huge fan of prologues as a general concept, but if this is one, I’m willing to make an exception because it leaves such a strong first impression.

Mood can be one of the trickiest intangibles in a story. If a writer strings words and images together carelessly, a story can feel hollow. Here, we can readily envision the foreboding darkness. What gives this piece a cinematic feel, though, is the effective use of lighting. In just one page, we experience the moonlight, the glimmering lanterns, and the gleams of light reflected on the prey’s gemstones. These shards of light illuminate only the most important details. When contrasted with the darkness (in which our narrator lurks), it creates a sort of literary chiaroscuro.

The page is quite clean. It’s clear that the author did some polishing before submitting this. There are a few minor issues (“clothed” in shadows instead of “cloaked,” “shown” brilliantly instead of “shone”). I’d also recast the second sentence so that it doesn’t contain both “aglow” and “glow.” Otherwise, though, there isn’t much to fix here. This feels submission-ready to me. 

Thank you to Jericho and Ms. Shreditor.  See you next week!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Three Marketing Mistakes Authors Make

As an author with eight published books I have learned a lot about marketing and what works for me and what doesn't.  Today I wanted to share with you three mistakes authors sometimes make when they're working their marketing plan.

1.  Waiting until you are finished to start marketing your book.  

If you wait to start marketing until your book is finished and on store shelves then you've waited too long.  The period right before your book is released is a prime time for marketing.  Give your audience peeks into your process, show the cover, post the first chapter on your blog, give out advanced reader copies, and just talk about your book.  Get your website and blog primed and ready for the big release BEFORE the big release.  This is one of your biggest marketing tools.

2.  Don't be annoying on social media and ONLY talk about your book.

When people on Twitter or Facebook constantly link me to their Amazon page it bugs me.  People don't want to feel like you're selling to them all the time.  Think of it like a friendship---you don't want to be thought of as that annoying friend who can only talk about one thing and everyone smiles politely and tries to get away as quickly as possible.  I try hard to let people get to know me as a person so they'll want to know me as an author.  Use social media to reach out and talk about what makes you interesting.

3.  Putting your marketing eggs in one basket

I can't tell you the number of authors I've met who don't have a multi-faceted marketing plan.  Granted, there is no magic marketing plan that will work for everyone, but at least consider doing more than a blog tour.  You can do print media (and that doesn't necessarily mean just putting out a press release of your book launch.  You can use your platform. For example, I did a Skittles for Soldiers campaign that sent 900 lbs. of food and hygiene materials to our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan because my books are about military men and women serving in those countries.  During my research I interviewed soldiers there and they told me they missed eating Skittles most of all.  So, not only did I feel wonderful helping our servicemen and women, I also got some great publicity for my novels.)  You can do radio (I was part of a storytelling radio program) You can do TV appearances if you have a platform.  You can do blog tours, book bombs, and contests.  Use Goodreads and Amazon author pages to their full extent.  Use your newsletter to provide behind the scene stuff or deleted scenes and give your fans what they want.  But again, don't do #2.  Don't be annoying.  Be well-rounded both in your marketing approach and in your online presence.

Marketing is a fine line between letting people know your book is available without overkill where people get sick of hearing about your books.  It can sometimes be a steep learning curve, but avoiding the big pitfalls is a step in the right direction.

What marketing mistakes have you seen authors make?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Word Count Wednesday

I have some exciting news and a secret.  I have started drafting again on my Super Secret Project.  It's something totally different than I've ever done before and it is really exhilarating to pick it back up again.

So far I have written 2436 words.  Woohoo!  Don't you love that first flush when you fall in love with your project and you want to be with it, you think about it, and can't wait to get back to it whenever you're away?  Yeah, me too.  It's a great feeling.

How did you do this week?  

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Book Review: Paige

First of all, let me apologize for being late with the blog.  My son had oral surgery this morning and there were complications that required I be at his side to take care of him today.  But I knew you were all waiting on the edge of your seats, so I got here as fast as I could.

Paige is the third installment in the Newport Ladies Book Club and written by Annette Lyon.  At first I was worried because we are going over the same events from the other two books, but I worried needlessly.  It definitely sucked me in right from the start.

In this book we delve into Paige's background, a woman who has recently divorced when she caught her husband cheating on her.  It is an emotional journey as Paige tries to carve out a new life for herself and her boys.  There were scenes that were so gut-wrenchingly emotional to read, like when she has to turn her boys over to her ex and his new wife for the Christmas holidays that just make you want to cry right along with Paige.  There were also heartwarming moments when she makes friends with the ladies in the book club and starts to understand herself in a different way the closer she gets to them.  I like the background of the book club.  It's familiar and fun and the center that ties everything together throughout all the books.

I thought Paige felt very real as she reached deep inside herself to be a good mother and a good friend.  She begins a journey of self-discovery as she struggles and it was like the reader was right there along with her.  I liked that a lot.  There were a few places where it felt a bit repetitive, but that's only because we are reading the third perspective on essentially the same events.  Other than that small thing, however, I really enjoyed this book and while the ending is not exactly happy, (it kinda sorta is, depending on how you look at it) but it is satisfying and I'm looking forward to the next installment in the series.

Here is the back copy:

After a bitter divorce from her unfaithful husband, Paige moves from Utah to California with her two little boys and vows to make a fresh start. She finds a job at a dental practice that helps her get back on her feet, but it’s the friends she makes at her new book club who help her realize how strong she is and who give her support to carry on as she faces the challenges of being a single mom.

She also meets Derryl, a wonderful, kind, attentive man who treats her right, something her ex never did. Yet Paige struggles to figure out who she is as a woman rather than a wife, how to help her boys adjust to a broken home, and whether she can ever trust a man or love again.

As Paige leans on the book club ladies and Derryl’s everpresent care, one thing becomes clear: healing from the past requires more than a change of address.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Traditional Publishing vs. Self-Publishing---Where Do You Stand?

First of all, let me say I am so humbled by the amazing response I've received over the weekend.  All Fall Down has only been available on Kindle since Friday and I've had so many people tweet and Facebook about it.  Thank you all for helping me spread the word.

Over the last month or two I've been involved in discussions with other authors about traditional publishing vs. self-publishing.  Since I'm an author with six traditionally published books and two self-published, I feel like I've seen both sides of the fence.  People ask me which one I liked better---traditional or self, and I find that question hard to answer because there are good (and not-so-good) to both.  To me, it's sort of like asking which parenting style you like best.  There's no perfect way to be a parent and as such, there's no parenting style that will work for each child.  Just like there is no perfect way to publish a book, there is no perfect publishing style that will work for everyone.

There is an interesting article in the Huffington Post this morning about whether traditional publishing is becoming the new vanity press---just a way for authors to validate their worth as an author.  (You can read the article here)  I agree with the article in that new avenues are opening up to authors.  The advent of the e-reader has enlarged the book market by leaps and bound.  (It's funny, I consider myself a fairly prolific reader, but when I got my Kindle, I noticed I read a lot more books because it was so convenient.  I was carrying around a library in my purse and if I finished one book during carpool, I could start another one right away.)  But this new avenue of e-readers has also brought a set of unique problems as well.  Pricing becomes an issue and brick and mortar bookstores are taking large hits.  Authors seems to be caught in the middle of it all, no matter which avenue they choose for publication.

The one common thing for both self-published authors and traditionally published authors is that you have to have a quality product to start with.  I have heard authors complain that they uploaded their dusty manuscript to Kindle and were surprised they hardly got any sales.  When I went to their Amazon page and downloaded a sample, I could see why.  The cover looked like my fourth-grader did it and there were at least eighteen grammar and spelling errors in the first two pages. People don't want to pay for something that looks like a first draft.  It seems obvious to me that self-published authors wear a lot of hats---they do cover design (or hopefully hire it out), editing (content and line), and are the marketing team for the book when it's out.  Yet some authors don't want to do that work, they just want to collect a paycheck and seem stunned when it doesn't happen.  Which brings me to the reason why I still like traditional publishers.

No matter what anyone says, traditional publishers have their place.  When I was an editor at a traditional publishing house I saw the slush pile grow by the hundreds each week and as we went through, it was easy to tell which authors had done the work and honed their craft, and which authors needed polish and guidance.  While it's true, that good authors don't make it through the slush pile because of budget restraints, I think a large percentage of rejections were just that---rejections of manuscripts that needed a lot of work, but there were the few which were more like veiled pleas to the author that has talent to go back and try again because the elements were there.  Traditional publishers can still be a gatekeeper of sorts when we are spending hard-earned money and want a quality product.

Not to say that self-publishing doesn't have wonderful writers and great gems to read.  There are, and I know because I've read them.  But sometimes it can be hard to wade through the mounds of not-so-great self-published books to get to the good stuff.  It can feel like an online slush pile at times.  However, when you do find the good stuff, it is worth the effort.  I always try to pass along the ones I find as well, to save others the trouble.

Traditional publishing has great things about it.  I loved having a marketing person to get me on TV and set up book tours and signings.  When I self-published I was the one calling my contacts to get me on the radio and into bookstores for signings.  I had to set up my own book tours and while it wasn't hard, it was time-consuming.  If you are thinking of self-publishing, be prepared for that.  Traditional publishing made it easy for people to find me because there were large book displays of my book and store employees had read it and promoted it.  With self-publishing, I've been lucky to get into some of the same stores that loved my traditionally published stuff.  With traditional publishing, I had content editors, line editors, and typesetting people to make me look good.  With self-publishing I've had to get that all done myself by hiring it out or climbing a steep learning curve.  It's been an eye-opener for me, and I've learned a lot.

There are some great things about self-publishing, too.  I don't have to wait two or three years for my book to be released---I can release it when it's ready.  With my terrorism subject matter, time is an issue because it's relevant to what we face in our world, so I love that aspect.  With self-publishing, I also get to choose my titles and keep them.  I love that because I usually get attached to the title while I'm working on it.  I love being able to have say in my covers and what they look like.  I also love owning all my rights and retaining a majority of my royalties.  But is self-publishing hard work?  You bet.  For me, though, the returns have been worth it.

So to sum up, I am glad to have choices.  I have enjoyed my traditional publishing experience and I have enjoyed my self-publishing experience.  To me, the more avenues there are for getting books out there, the better, because, as I said at the beginning, there is no one perfect way to publish.  However, there seems to be paths opening up now to help every writer find what works for them.  And as someone who's done it both ways now, that makes me grateful.

Where do you stand?  Do you read self-published books?  Does that matter to you as a reader in the end?  As a writer, does a traditional publisher validate you as an author?  Would you consider self-publishing?

Friday, September 14, 2012

First Page Friday and My Book is Available on Kindle Today!

I am so excited!  My new book, All Fall Down, is available on Kindle today!  You have to go check it out, if nothing else to just celebrate with me.  Click here to go straight to the page.

It's a happy day.  :)

On to First Page Friday!

The Entry

The Heart of Nimble Woods
by Joey DeLeen

Jack had dragged his friends in and out of trouble so often they had worn a groove there, one they knew by heart. So when he asked them all over, with that blithe tone in his voice, just to hang out, you know, like old times, each of them suspected that he was up to something, just as Jack knew they were suspicious.

But work is boring. School is boring. They were ready for a little bit of trouble.

And all Jack had to do was keep them there, in his room, long enough for the magic to happen.

He wasn't exactly sure what the magic was going to look like. But, he did know that it was going to be awesome. Better than that incident last year with the homemade explosives. Better than the time they’d filled the school swimming pool with frogs. Way better than Rick-Rolling the entire student body during the principal’s address.

It was going to top all of that. And it was going to happen at exactly 3.42pm.

Unfortunately, when he called Steve and said, let's all hang out at my place, Steve said, lunch, you reckon? And Jack thought, sure, why not, a late lunch will do and said yes.

Somehow lunch had turned into a barbecue, when Zac mentioned wistfully that he hadn't been to one all summer and Daiki agreed to bring a salad.

Which was fine, except that everyone arrived early to help. They'd all been lolling around his room since they'd stuffed themselves at noon after Steve announced he couldn't wait any more and threw all the sausages on the grill at once.

They'd played a few games on Jack's Xbox. They'd teased Steve about his girlfriend. Zac and Steve had bitched about a recent rugby game. And Daiki had casually mentioned his acceptance to some fancy overseas art school at least twice.

The talk was quieter now, winding down, and Jack was worried. It was only 3pm.

He studied his friends as he sat cross legged on his bed, toying with a roll of paper and trying to think of a way to keep them there for another half hour.

Ms. Shreditor's Comments

I like the opening sentence of this piece. It establishes a clear dynamic between Jack and his friends, and it piques reader interest enough to lure them deeper into the story. However, why would Jack’s friends be suspicious of his invitation? This isn’t immediately clear to me. Have they not spent time together in a while (as “like old times” might suggest)?

Another strength here is the 3:42 p.m. element. What kind of “magic” is going to happen at that time? How does Jack know it’s coming? These are the kinds of questions that a reader should be asking at the beginning of a story—ones that demand further reading for answers.

The sequence of events toward the end of the piece confused me a bit, though. Steve invites his friends for lunch, and the story mentions that “lunch turned into a barbecue.” The details that follow don’t illustrate clearly enough how the lunch becomes a barbecue. Do several different phone conversations take place? First we have Jack on the phone with Steve, then mention of someone named Zac, and then mention of someone named Daiki. It’s a lot of new characters to introduce in a very tight, three-sentence space.

While we’re on the subject of this section, the dialogue that segues into the barbecue is a bit hard to follow. We have two pieces of dialogue (Jack’s and Steve’s) in the same paragraph without quotation marks, and then we get Jack’s inner thoughts about the late lunch. I’d recast this paragraph to eliminate the dialogue.

Speaking of dialogue, I’d love to see more of it. The story goes to great pains to set up the barbecue, and the reader experiences so little of it. I know that the story needs to get to 3:42 p.m. rather quickly, and this creates a nice measure of suspense. But I fear it hurtles toward its chronological goal at the expense of character development. We could learn a lot about Jack, Steve, Zac, and Daiki at a barbecue. What’s so tease-worthy about Steve’s girlfriend? Are Zac and Steve rugby players or rugby fans? And what kind of art school has accepted Daiki? A summer program or university? Details like these would make the characters much vivid to the reader. Right now, the story tells us a lot without showing us much. Instead of bringing the story to a halt at 3:00 p.m., nearly an hour before the mysterious event, you might want to use the window of noon to 3:00 p.m. to your advantage.

When I’m editing a manuscript, I generally advise authors to avoid references that will “date” a story, unless said story takes place during a concrete moment in history. Most of us know and love (or love to hate, or hate to love) the Rickroll meme from a few years ago, but twenty years from now, it will likely be a faint memory. Even now, the reference is somewhat dated. The young adult readers of the future won’t be able to connect with an obscure flash in the pop culture pan. So give your story added staying power by dodging such references. The cheap chuckle now isn’t worth the “dated” feel that will come later.

Lastly, there are some syntax-level issues that a good copyedit would resolve. There’s one instance of tense inconsistency (a brief shift to present in the second paragraph) and some choppy phrasing here and there. The text is in pretty good shape overall, but copyediting would put some added polish on it. And that’s the name of the game: polishing your story to give it the best possible chance of success.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Book Review: Reforming Lord Ragsdale

I know, I know, I'm reviewing another historical this week.  I'm just on a historical kick these days and Carla Kelly is my author of choice these last two weeks.  She really weaves history in with deep characters and I enjoy her writing style.  Reforming Lord Ragsdale was no exception.

We are introduced to Lord Ragsdale, a second son who is nursing both physical and emotional wounds from a war that made him hate the Irish.  When his American cousins arrive with an Irish indentured servant, he loses his temper and lets his hatred be known.

Emma is bewildered by Lord Ragsdale's behavior, but is an indentured servant, so she tries not to let it bother her.  When her "employer" puts her up as collateral in a card game, she is stunned when Lord Ragsdale comes to her rescue.  Although she wonders if she's gone from the frying pan into the fire when she realizes she is now indentured to Lord Ragsdale.

The story goes from there with these two emotionally damaged people trying to heal from past events as well as deal with the present.  I loved how Emma was written, so down-to-earth and with real feelings about what has happened to her.  Lord Ragsdale also has his good qualities and it was definitely a page-turner to see how things were all going to turn out for the two of them.  The book had a slow build with a satisfying ending, and yet, I hope we see more of these two characters in another book someday.

Here is the back copy:

The infamous Lord Ragsdale is as rich as sin, as sinful as he is rich, and as heartless as he is handsome. But after he saves Emma from a life of indentured servitude and shame, she decides that it is her personal duty to save him from his wicked ways.

Step one: stop his drinking, his gaming, and his wild revelry.

Step two: make him break up with his mistress, the superbly sensual Fae Moullé, and transform him into a suitable suitor for the ideal wife that prim and proper Lady Clarissa Partridge would be.

Step three: don’t fall in love with him.

In this book, bestselling author Carla Kelly has woven a beautiful story of love, transformation, and living life to the fullest.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Word Count Wednesday and the Blog Hop Winner!

I apologize for being late today.  Mommy duty has been a little chaotic this week!  But that's what makes it fun and interesting.

While I was waiting for my daughter's dance class to let out, I had an idea come to me for a spin-off to All Fall Down.  It was so out of the blue it caught me off guard, but I'm getting excited about it.  The more I think about it, the more I see potential.  But I have this other manuscript to work on (the sequel to Ribbon of Darkness) so it's hard to know which one to do first!  It energizes me to think about drafting, though.  I need a break from editing.

I also realized I didn't announce the blog hop winner.  Sorry!  I had SO much fun reading the paragraphs. What a great range we had, from dragons, to moms and daughter, to fairies.  Thank you all for participating. You did great!

The winner that was chosen at random was KAYLEY!  Congratulations!

Kayley if you will email me your snail mail address ( I will get your Book Lover's Basket out to you.

How did you do with your word count this week?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Taking Time to Remember

I just wanted to suspend my usual blog post to take a step back and remember those who lost their lives on September 11th.

As you all know I write books that deal with the military fighting against terrorists.  I've had to do a lot of research and I have met a lot of incredible people along the way.  I've talked with retired military men, active duty soldiers, detectives and policemen who walk our streets every day as I tried to make my books more authentic.  But what those experiences did for me beyond that was make me appreciate how many people in our world work hard, every day, to keep our world safe for us and for our children.

A teacher at the school my children attend lost her mother and aunt when the second plane crashed into the tower.  She can hardly speak of it without welling up with tears.  But she is so grateful to the men and women---both in uniform and just regular people---who tried to save others who were in the towers.  There were so many heroes that day and I believe their legacy lives on.

I think the greatest lesson that horrible day eleven years ago taught me was to make sure I tell my loved ones that I love them.  Never let them go out the door without knowing that.  Today is no different.  I told them when they left this morning and I'll tell them when they get home.  Because love will overcome evil every time.  I know it, and I think everyone affected by 9/11 proved it and continues to prove it every day.

When you think back to 9/11/01 what do you remember?

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Fun Part of Being a Writer

Last week I had the opportunity to go to a dinner my publisher had put on for its authors.  I went, not for the food, but for the company.  I love being in the same room with other writers.

I got to be appropriately awed by authors like David Woolley who spoke to me while we waited for our food (and remembered me from Six LDS Writers and a Frog blog!) and Jean Matthews who talked to me about her research for her historical fiction novels.  I also sat at a table with a new author, Frank Holdaway, whose first book will be out next month.

I got hugs and great conversation from Angela Eschler and Kelly Schumacher and I got to tease Nancy Campbell Allen and Josi Kilpack at the dessert table.  Now I know why Josi makes such great culinary mysteries---her taste buds are impeccable!  (Plus, I like her even more since she saved me from the humiliation of accidentally knocking an entire cheesecake to the floor.  She has quick hands!)

I laughed with Julie Wright and Jeff Savage's wife, Jennifer, and in general just basked in the amazing feeling of being with people who love to do what I do.  We always have so much to talk about, I think those events could go on all night.

I was sorry to see the evening end, but it did make me look forward to the next time I can rub shoulders with such inspiring people.  It is one of the fun parts of being a writer for sure.

Who inspires you?  And do you ever get to talk/associate with them?

Friday, September 7, 2012

First Page Friday

Just a reminder that you have until midnight tonight to enter the Back to the Books Giveaway Hop.  Just click on the pic in my sidebar to enter. On to First Page Friday!

The Entry
The Light of Dawn
by Kale O'Connor

The night was cold and the wind blowing through the keep made the guard’s eyes water. He was not a large man, though he wasn’t small either, he was young despite the weathered lines around his eyes. He was mid-twenties, with dark brown hair, bright green eyes and strong jaw.

On the outside, it seemed as though he had everything: a beautiful wife, food on the table, which was hard to come by these days, the weather being how it was, trade was slow.

However on the inside, he felt empty, as though he was destined for something more…”Greatness is something every man should strive for, it’s better to rise and fall than never to take the chance”, these words rang in his mind constantly on these long watches, something his father had told him when he was a boy, something he felt he had never done.

The sound of rain began to ring inside his plate helm as he peered into the darkness that surrounded him, “how could it get any worse” he thought to himself, it was still hours until his watch was done and he could join his wife in bed.

He thought of his wife, she was a truly beautiful woman. She had deep brown eyes he could stare at for hours, caramel skin and a smile that could bring him out of any stupor.
At least it once could, lately it seemed as though nothing could rouse him from this feeling, like an endless weight upon his shoulders.

As the night dragged on there was nothing happening. As it was night after night, though his Captain always insisted they maintain their duty. The population depended on them, he understood it, but at times like these he didn’t like it.

Just as his watch was coming to an end, he thought he saw movement in the trees just to his right. Though he tried to focus his eyes in the darkness, he couldn’t get a clear view of what was there, if anything at all.

He gestured to one of the archers to focus on the area where he had seen the movement. The archer took aim and waited…nothing; he replaced his arrow in his quiver and gave a slight smirk towards the guard, “seeing things Lori?”

Maybe he was seeing things. Then again maybe he wished he had seen something, if only to give his job some semblance of meaning, some kind of feeling that he was making a difference. 

Ms. Shreditor's Comments

Before I dive into my critique, I want to comment on the length of this piece. At 421 words, it’s about to run onto a second page. The average narrative book runs between 250 and 350 words per page. (The only books I’ve worked on with higher per-page word counts were dense, academic nonfiction.) So, while this sample technically fits on a single page, it would run onto a second page if the manuscript were double-spaced as per Julie's submission guidelines. Make sure to pay close attention to submission guidelines before submitting to an agentor editor. You don't want to miss your big break on a technicality!

What I really like about this piece is the amount of introspection the author jam-packs into such a small space. By the time I finished reading, I felt like I was getting to know Lori. The ending in particular was quite powerful for me: “...if only to give his job some semblance of meaning, some kind of feeling that he was making a difference.” This establishes clear motivation. It helps me to understand what drives Lori as a character.

One suggestion: Introduce character names to readers earlier to forge a more immediate connection. Until the very end, we know Lori only as “the guard,” which makes him feel somewhat remote. We also don’t learn the wife or the archer’s names. All of the ambiguous “he” and “she” references distance the reader from the characters at a time when forging a connection is most crucial.

Be particularly careful when establishing secondary characters. Secondary characters can be a story’s lifeblood, but only if they’re multidimensional. Otherwise, they’re little more than a mouthpiece, cheerleader, or foil for the protagonist. Here, the narrative makes brief mention of the wife, addressing only her physical beauty. This, along with the fact that we don’t learn her name, makes her feel more like an object than a living, breathing character. Is she meant to be a mere decoration in the story, or is she to play a larger role? If
it’s the latter, her introduction needs to establish more than her good looks.

Also, make sure to avoid what I call “laundry lists” of descriptors. In one place, Lori is described as “mid-twenties, with dark brown hair, bright green eyes and strong jaw.” In another, his wife is described as “truly beautiful,” with “deep brown eyes . . ., caramel skin, and a smile that could bring him out of any stupor.” While laundry lists can squeeze a lot of description into a small space, they tend to ring hollow on the page. Instead of creating vivid images with imaginative turns of phrase, they essentially instruct the reader how to see a given person or place within pretty rigid parameters.

Lastly, this piece will need to undergo a good line edit before it’s ready for submission. There are a lot of punctuation issue and comma splices. For example: “He was not a large man, though he wasn’t small either, he was young despite the weathered lines around his eyes.” There needs to be a period or semicolon between “either” and “he.” When a comma separates independent clauses, or phrases that could stand on their own as complete sentences, this is called a comma splice.

A little cleanup on this front will go a long way in preparing this piece for submission. There are some larger issues to tackle in terms of characterization and plot details (i.e., explaining Lori’s role as a guard and defining the “duty” to which the story alludes). But these are all common issues when a manuscript is in its developmental stages. This story succeeds where even published books sometimes fall short: From the beginning, the text establishes vital details about the protagonist to help the reader connect with him immediately. This is no small feat, so be proud of the work you’ve done on this piece.

Thanks to Kale and Ms. Shreditor for their time and effort.  See you next week!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The First Chapter of All Fall Down

I am so excited about the release of my new book, All Fall Down this month, I wanted to share the first chapter with you today!  I hope you like it.  :)

Chapter One
Something was wrong.  Rafe could feel it.  He’d opened the door to the building that housed his family’s business, but hesitated before going in.  The hairs on the back of his neck stood straight up.  With a cursory glance into the lobby of the building, he couldn’t see anything wrong.  Chalking it up to being in Afghanistan too long, where he relied on his senses to stay alive, Rafe went in, tugging on his collar.  Maybe that was it.  He was reacting to the civilian uniform of a shirt and tie when he’d rather be in his Navy SEAL gear.  It’s not like I could have shown up in desert cammies and boots, he thought.  But it might have been worth it to see the look on his brother’s face if he’d walked into the meeting dressed like that.  Vince was always a little obsessive about appearances.
Glancing up at the second floor landing where people could enjoy the atrium, Rafe swept the area for anything out of the ordinary and saw a man intently watching him.  Stepping forward to get a closer look, the man noticed his interest and turned, disappearing.  Rafe went to the elevators, all of his senses on alert now.  Should I go to the second floor?  Am I over-reacting? 
With a grimace, he tried to loosen his tie, just a little.  It felt harder to think when he was buttoned down with a tie, but as he quickly mulled it over, he decided it was an over-reaction.  Some guy watching him didn’t mean anything was wrong.  It could simply be his subconscious urging him not to go in because he'd been battling himself all morning about coming.  Ever since Vince had been made acting-president, he’d been making demands on everyone and Rafe planned to say no to anything Vince asked him.  Their father would be on his feet soon and Rafe would be back in the field as soon as his knee healed.  There was no point in starting anything with Dad’s business.  Rafe wasn’t planning on being here longer than he had to be.  He pulled on his tie again, definitely regretting the choice of attire. 
He took a deep breath and ran an impatient hand through his longer-than-normal hair.  The air was humid, and from the looks of the pewter gray sky on his way in, Rafe knew they’d have rain before the afternoon was out. And rain will make my knee ache, he thought with an inward groan.
 Realizing how much his injury had taken over his thoughts, his actions¾his life¾he made a promise not to dwell on it any more today. Men wearing shirts and ties just like him strode through the lobby, getting to their jobs where they belonged.  Will that ever be me?  Could I be happy working inside all day?  With how ugly the last mission in Afghanistan had been and how slow his knee was healing, he knew he might have to think about that in the near future.  But not today.
He got into the elevator, the hairs on the back of his neck prickling again.  Stop it. Nothing is wrong.  He looked around the elevator, just to reassure himself.  Two men in suits and a woman in the corner, watching him.  Nothing dangerous.  Rafe gave her a smile and turned back around.  Everything is fine.  I’m going to meet my baby brother and get the you-could-help-me-around-here routine.  I’m going to say no.  Then I’m going to visit Gary.  There’s nothing to worry about. 
The elevator dinged as they reached his floor and Rafe put a smile on his face.  At least he could look forward to seeing his old friend Gary Holman.  Gary had gone through SEAL training with Rafe from start to finish and they’d served together in Afghanistan.  When Gary was wounded in combat and sent home, Rafe had recommended him to his father because of his computer skills.  The rest was history.  From what Rafe could see Gary was happier than he’d ever been.  He couldn’t wait to kick back and relax with him like old times. 
Rafe got off the elevator and headed toward his dad’s office.  Axis, Inc., had grown a lot.  It had started out as a corner office and small reception area, and had now expanded to fill the entire eighth floor.  Computer forensics was a booming business these days, apparently.  Rafe stopped mid-stride to look at the receptionist desk, trying to hide his surprise.  Instead of the familiar receptionist his father had employed for years, there was a young woman with curly blonde hair down her back.  She looked up at him with a large smile on her face, her long, obviously fake lashes nearly touching her eyebrows.  Rafe couldn’t turn away, but knew it was rude to stare.  “Can I help you?” she finally asked.
“Uh, no.” He watched her give him the once-over.  Her lashes seemed to have a life of their own as she blinked rapidly.  “I have an appointment.”  He walked toward the door that led to the offices, but found that it was locked.  “New security?” he asked, turning back to the mini-me of Tammy Faye Baker who was now standing at her desk.   Why didn’t I take my father’s private elevator from the parking garage?
“What was your name?” She smoothed her skirt down, calling attention to the length of material.  Or lack thereof. 
“I’m Rafe Kelly.  I’m meeting my brother Vince.”
“Ohh.” She came around the desk, her impossibly wide smile even wider.  “Are you the Navy SEAL?  Vince told me about you. I’d be happy to swipe you through.”
She wobbled a bit walking toward him and Rafe’s eyes slid to her ankles.  Her heels had to be at least six-inch platforms.  It was a wonder she could walk at all.  As she drew near, she wobbled again and he reached out an arm to steady her. 
“Thank you.” She stared up at him, her blue eyes as calculating as an accountant at tax time.  “I’m so clumsy sometimes.”
She pressed herself against his arm and Rafe politely stepped back.  With a wink, or maybe a long eyelash blink, she grasped the card hanging from her lanyard around her neck.  Leaning over to the door’s security panel, she swiped it, practically posing for Rafe as she did so. 
Rafe wanted to roll his eyes at her blatant attempt to flirt with him, but he maintained a polite smile.  Maybe if I don’t react . . .
Nope.  “My name’s Penny,” she said, her voice a little more breathy as she straightened and took his arm again.  “You know, I always show up, just like a shiny new penny.”
Rafe raised his eyebrows.  “Isn’t the phrase a bad penny always turns up?”
“Well, if you put it that way,” she practically purred, running her hand up his arm, stopping to squeeze his left bicep. “I’d be happy to turn up to show you my bad side.  Or even turn up somewhere you’re going to be.”
Rafe kept his smile pasted on his face, but moved his arm back an inch to free it from her manicured grasp.  He wasn’t unused to female attention¾being a SEAL got him his fair share, but he wasn’t looking for it right now.   And she definitely wasn’t his type.  Trying to imagine her hiking, or swimming, or doing anything he liked to do was nearly impossible.  High maintenance. 
He reached for the door handle that now had a flashing green light to the side of it, anxious to be out of this awkward situation.  “Thanks, but . . . I don’t think so.” 
She stepped toward him, cutting off his ability to escape unless he wanted to knock her off her high heels.  “If you change your mind, you know where to find me.”
Rafe resisted the urge to be rude.  Does she treat everyone this way?  Is that why Vince hired her?  He made a mental note to at least ask Vince what had happened to Genevieve.  She was professional and had worked for Axis from the beginning.  His father wouldn’t have fired her.   
He opened his mouth to say ‘I have to go,’ when the elevator behind them dinged, announcing an arrival.  They both turned at the sound and Penny moved away from him to head back to her desk.  “Thank you,” Rafe said on a sigh of relief, glancing back to see who had saved him from that uncomfortable situation with Penny.  The hairs on the back of his neck stood up again and with a start of surprise, he recognized the familiar figure that walked out of the elevator, looking around as if he were lost. 
“Gary,” Rafe called, turning toward his friend.  “Are you just getting back from lunch?”  He stretched out his hand.  Gary’s burns had faded a lot more in the last few months, the grafts making his injured face look so much better.  Everything was looking up.
Rafe was about to pull him into a hug, but Gary reared back, his eyes darting to the people around them.  He wiped sweat away from his brow, putting his other hand into the pocket of the very large jacket he was wearing. “Gary, what’s wrong?”
At that second, Gary drew out a gun and when he did, his jacket parted.  Strapped to his chest was what looked like the weapon prototype they’d been testing in Afghanistan just ten months ago.  “Rafe, I need you to come to the roof with me. Right now,” he choked out. 
Rafe held out his hands, hoping he was coming across as conciliatory. Is this a PTSD episode?   “Gary, let’s talk about this.  Whatever this is about, I can help you.”
Gary shook his head.  “I don’t have a choice.”  He waved toward the bomb. “You’ve got to come with me now or the bomb will detonate.” 
            Turning back to Penny who seemed frozen at her desk, Rafe said sharply, “Call 911.  Now,” and then he headed for the stairs with Gary.  Looking at his friend’s desperate face, Rafe sucked in a breath.  It hadn’t been an over-reaction after all.  Something was definitely very wrong.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Word Count Wednesday

Well, once again my word count was low, (I was replacing all the nods, felts, wondered, and looked in my WIP) but that's because I have been getting ready to launch my new book, All Fall Down!  I have some fun ideas and contests coming up, so I hope you'll check back.

Also, if you haven't entered my Back to the Books Giveaway Hop, you totally should.  There are a ton of great prizes, including mine.  I'm offering a Book Lover's Box with my new book, gourmet hot chocolate, and a hand-tied blanket.  All you have to do is write me a first paragraph in the comment section of the Hop post (click on the Book Hop pic in the sidebar to go right to it.)

If you haven't read through some of those first paragraphs I've gotten already, you should.  They are great!  Go look, seriously.  I'll wait.

All right, now that you've read the paragraphs, and entered yourself, how did you do in your word count this week?  Was it awesome?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Book Review: My Loving Vigil Keeping

When I started My Loving Vigil Keeping I was thinking it might be the old cliche of a poor girl trying to get as far away from her mean rich relatives, so she spontaneously takes a job in the boonies.  Of course she'd fall in love with the town and maybe a gentleman or two and get her happy ending.

I was both wrong and right.

Della Anders is no stranger to tragedy.  Her father dies in a mining accident when she is small, her mother abandoned them when she was a baby, so she's sent to her rich uncle Karl and his family.  They treat her no better than a servant, but Della perseveres and puts herself through school to get a teaching certificate.  From there, she takes an advertisement for a job in a mining camp and becomes the teacher there.  The author, Carla Kelly, actually intertwines real historical people from the Scofield mines with her fictional characters and she does a fantastic job of making the events leap off the page.  I thought Della had real depth and I laughed and cried right along with her as she experienced finding herself, finding love, and then facing the fact that she could lose it all.

If you ever wanted to know more about mining and Utah at the turn of the century, all while wrapped in the fictional world mixed with real people, then this is the historical romance for you.  Sweet, clean, realistic, and one you'll want to read again.

Here is the back copy:

Della's giving up all the comforts of bustling Salt Lake City to teach school in a rural coal mining camp. Little does she know, she may soon be giving up her heart as well. But when tragedy strikes in the Scofield Mine, Della's life will be changed forever. Based on true events, this thrilling new romance from award-winning and bestselling author Carla Kelly is a must-read!

Monday, September 3, 2012

I Was Interviewed!

First of all, I hope you're having a wonderful Labor Day!

Second, I was interviewed by Tanya Parker Mills today.  (So, that means I'm having a wonderful Labor Day.  Ha!)  Tanya is offering some great book prizes in her contest so you should check out the interview, to see if there's anything you didn't know about me on it, and then enter her contest.  Just sayin'

You can read the interview here

Also, don't forget the Back to the Books hop I'm doing.  There's more great book prizes being offered on that.  You could totally hit the book jackpot today!  (Details are in the post below.)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Back to the Books Hop

I love fall.  I love the cooler temps, the leaves changing, the crispness in the air.  I love snuggling under a lap blanket with my favorite book and a mug of hot chocolate.  Or, even starting a fire in the fireplace just because.  It's a great feeling of starting a new season, a new school year, and getting back to routines. So, in honor of that, I thought I'd participate in a back to the books hop.

Here's the deal.  Tons of great blogs are offering incredible book prizes and I am one of them!  All you have to do for an entry is to write an opening paragraph for a novel using the phrase "back to the books," somewhere in it.  Leave it in the comment trail.  Be as original, silly, or as serious as you want.  It's only a paragraph.  This will be fun!

For an extra entry you can:

Become a follower of this blog

Like my Facebook page here

What will you win, you ask?  I will give you a Book Lovers' basket including a copy of my brand-new novel, All Fall Down, a hand-tied lap blanket, and my favorite hot chocolate mix.

So, hurry.  Think of a great opening paragraph and post it in the comments!

Contest closes at midnight on September 7th.  And here is a list of other participating blogs.