Tuesday, May 31, 2016

How This ADD Writer Thrives

A lot of writers, other creative types, and even parents worried about their children have asked me about my experience with ADD/ADHD/ADHD-I. It's past time that I put more of my coping strategies in one place.

I first blogged about my ADD experience about two and a half years ago. (That's where I also explained the difference between ADHD and ADHD-I, and how what most people call ADD is actually classified as ADHD-I.)

More than a year after that, I posted a follow-up about one of my favorite tools for getting work done in spite of my ADD: my DIY tread desk.

If you haven't read those posts but are interested in coping strategies, symptoms, and so on, I definitely recommend reading them. I won't go over all of the information in them here.

Rather, I'm assuming you or someone who know has ADHD or a variant, and you know those terms.

For those who have asked, I've compiled a list of things that have helped me and my children in our ongoing battle with ADHD-I:

Yes, I'm listing this first. Not because it's the one and only solution, or even a solution at all. Because it's not. No one thing is a magic bullet that will fix the part of the ADD brain that's broken. But medication is something that many parents won't even consider, and that's unfortunate. Many options exist beyond Ritalin-type medications (although don't rule them out either; keep an open mind to find out what works best for your and/or your child).

What I can tell you is that on my first day of medication, I went to accomplish something, and without a struggle, I simply did it. Then I dropped onto a chair at the kitchen table and burst into tears, thinking, This must be what normal feels like. Medication has been a huge help for two of my children as well. We've changed up medications and dosages over the years, and we're all very aware that meds are just one piece of a much larger game plan.

I'm not a doctor, so I can't give medical advice. What I can say, though, is that from my experience and from the experiences of several immediate and distant family members, starting on the mid-to-lower end of dosages is a good idea. That helps you see if you're prone to any negative side effects, and it give you a baseline for how the medication affects you.

You can always go to a higher dose to see if it helps or go back down to a lower one. But it's not necessarily wise to start at a really high dose. For starters, you'll have nowhere to go if you build up a tolerance, and on a high dose, you'll probably build up a tolerance faster anyway. Plus, high doses are more likely to cause unwelcome side effects.

Our doctor wisely suggested that my kids take medication vacations, breaks from meds when they don't necessarily need to concentrate. That helps their brains have a chance to relax, and they're less likely to build up a tolerance. Then, when they do take their medication, it works even better. During the school year, that meant not taking meds on weekends or during other school breaks unless there was a special need to focus (such as on a Saturday when taking the ACT or on a Sunday when accompanying a musical number at church).

I like to focus on things I know have a scientific basis for actually helping the brain. The following supplements directly aid brain function. Literature backs that up, and so does my family's experience.

L-Tyrosine: This is an amino acid found in many animal protein sources, and it's available in both powder (hard to take) and capsule (easy to swallow) forms. It doesn't keep you awake like prescriptions or caffeine can, but it does a great job helping the brain focus. You can take it several times a day, although 2 capsules at breakfast has done the trick for getting my teens through the school day.

Vitamin D: In addition to helping with mood (especially depression), it's a good brain booster too. My children and I are all very much of northern Europe (mostly Scandinavian) descent, so we have pasty white skin and don't absorb much Vitamin D from the sun even when we're in it. The whole family takes significantly higher amounts than is supposedly typical. After personally tripling the standard dose for six years, my blood work finally came back with a normal Vitamin D level. It took that long to get it up from being painfully low.

Fish Oil: The brain is made up mostly of omega fatty acids, and that's what fish oil provides. It's brain food!

Caffeine: For genuine ADD folks, caffeine aids in calming and focusing the brain. Really. It's kind of amazing, actually. I'm not a huge cola fan, so for years my caffeine source has been primarily Diet Mountain Dew (the regular stuff is just too sweet for me) (plus: hello, drinking sugar). Recently, to cut down on my carbonation intake, I've starting drinking Crystal Light with Caffeine. They've got some delicious flavors. I avoid grape simply because I'm a klutz and don't want to risk the purple coloring getting on my clothes or elsewhere.

Actions and Behaviors
Everyone is different, so I make no guarantees about whether these will work for you. They have been very helpful for me and my ADD kids, though.

Exercise: In my tread desk post, I explained how much it's helped me focus (and how I put it together). Sometimes I'll use the tread desk to deal with email, edit, revise, etc. For some reason, I still prefer to draft off the tread desk. And if for some reason I'm not on the tread desk for a day, I still go out of my way to get in 10,000 steps on my Fitbit, whether that's taking a long walk, strolling around the house with a book, or something else.

Other Movement: This may sound really silly (and I know full well it looks silly), but I have a yoga ball chair, and sometimes in the mornings, I'll knit while bouncing on it. I get in the movement my brain needs to focus, combined with knitting, which also helps focus and calm the brain. (I understand that crocheting has a similar effect as does, of course, actual yoga).

My Accountability Partner: I've been partnering with Luisa for somewhere around six (or more?) years now, and our partnership may well be the single biggest thing that's helped keep me going. The short version: Each weekday (sometimes the night before, sometimes in the morning), we email each other our to-do lists for the day. Then as we finish items on the list, we text our accomplishments to the other. And yes, we even text mundane things, like "showered," and "sorted a load of laundry," because who are we kidding; some days, every accomplishment counts. It's motivating and encouraging in so many ways. (Read more about our partnership HERE, or get the short book we wrote about it, Done and Done.)

Tracking Daily Energy and Focus: I've seen some ADD writers say that their key to being productive is to write first thing in the morning before anything distracts them. That is GREAT. For them. For me, that simply wouldn't work. I am the farthest thing from an early bird. I literally cannot think clearly in the mornings. If I were to try to write then, the resulting story would look like nonsense, and I'd likely ruin my keyboard because of all the drool dripping from my zombie mouth.

I know from a lot of experience that my brain is most likely to be creative and productive between about one and three in the afternoon. If I really want/need to have a big writing day, I might be able to get a decent start around eleven in the morning, but absolutely no earlier than that. I plan my days accordingly: exercise, housework, errands, and other brainless tasks are always for the mornings. Early afternoon is for writing. And sometimes, late night is for writing too. (Although sometimes I curse the late-night second wind.)

Point being, do what works for YOU. Figure out when you're most productive (morning, afternoon, evening?) and under what circumstances (Do you write better at home or elsewhere, like a library? Do you need to change up your surroundings regularly,  or do you write best in the same place every day because cues your muse to step up and get working?).

To pinpoint what your ideal writing conditions are, you may need to keep a writing journal or spreadsheet. Record the date, day of the week, what time of day, location, length of writing session, what you worked on ("Drafted chapter three."), and how many words you got in. Be sure to include other information of relevance, such as if you wrote alone, with a writer friend, with the family buzzing around you, etc. After recording all of that for a month or so, look over the data you've collected. Chances are, you'll find patterns.

When you've zeroed in on your most productive times, places, and circumstances, set yourself up for success!

Apps, etc.
With today's technology, ADD-ers have tools no generation before ever had! Below are a few simple things that have made a big difference for me and my kids. Best of all, many are probably already on your phone, and others are free.

Reminders: This app is far more powerful than a lot of people realize. In addition to making a to-do list, you can set up a reminder to pop up when you arrive home or elsewhere, or to remind you on a certain date and time. I've made it to many an appointment because reminders popped up when my brain had gone on the fritz.

Timers and Alarms: I don't hyper-focus nearly as well as I used to, but it does happen occasionally. Most often, though, I get distracted by various shiny things that need to be done for "just a minute," and I get off track with what I was meant to focus on. Setting an alarm to go off when you're supposed to be doing X activity, can help bring you back to planet Earth. Similarly, for me, it's easier to focus on writing if I set a timer to go off in 20 minutes; somehow I can fight distractions for a short burst if I know the timer will go off soon. Sometimes I'll set timers for when I should start dinner or do other action items.

Evernote: This app has so many features, and I know I'm not utilizing many of them beyond clipping research articles and the link. My current favorite feature is creating to-do lists for the next few days as things occur to me throughout the day. If I suddenly remember that I needed to call the dentist, I might pull out my phone and add it to tomorrow's to-do list right away so that the call is already there. Otherwise, chances are, I'll forget to add it when sitting down to make a list.

White Noise and Ear Buds/Headphones: Blocking out distractions is HUGE. After using white noise with ear buds for so many years, you'd think I'd remember just how effective it is in helping me focus, but no. I tend to not use them for weeks, then plug in the ear buds out of desperation, and discover that WOW, I just had a monumentally productive writing session! My favorite white noise app (and website) is Simply Noise. They have three types of white noise (in addition to rain and other sounds): white, pink, and brown. For my ear, brown is the soothing one, while white and pink are grating. Everyone is different. I like setting the high oscillation feature, which turns the volume up and down in a wave-like pattern. Somehow that aids in concentrating too. The app has a timer, too, so you can set the white noise to run for, say 30 minutes, and then shut off. That's been very helpful in keeping me from staying so deep into the rabbit hole that I forget carpool duty or other crucial things!

Music: This works much like white noise. I prefer to listen to movie soundtracks, especially ones that have a feel that matches what I'm working on. Soundtracks provide the extra benefit of not having lyrics that your brain finds shiny and latches on to. So while I enjoy jamming out to Billy Joel, that won't be happening while I write. Instead, I'll start my Ennio Morricone station on Pandora (have you heard the soundtrack to The Mission? DUDE).

Wordly: This is an app specifically for writers. It has a free demo version that works for one project, but you do need to upgrade to access all of the features. Wordly tracks your writing stats, from average words a day and week, to average speed in words per minute, and more. But to create those stats, you have to tell it when you're starting a writing session. For me, the extra motivation to get good stats is remarkably helpful in keeping me writing for a short burst. I'm less likely to drift off because I know that every second I'm not writing, the app still thinks I'm writing, and my rate of words per minute drops. Silly and juvenile? Yeah. But who said the inner writer wasn't a toddler you can bribe? Having Wordly up for hours on end wouldn't work for me; I find it most helpful for writing sprints no longer than 45 minutes, also known as the max I can realistically concentrate without my brain crumbling.

(Edited to add: I've added a link to the app above, because for some odd reason, it's pretty hard to find the app in iTunes. Also, after you've downloaded it for free, the premium upgrade is only $2.99.)

Games: I'm serious here. No, I don't mean letting yourself get sucked into a Candy Crush addiction. But my brain really need a chance to decompress after a period of intense focus. If it doesn't get that rest period, it rebels. Big time. So after getting in a 30-minute sprint, a thousand words, or whatever other goal I've set for myself, I'll sit back and play a few games of Trivia Crack, Word Streak, or Sudoku on my phone. It's a small (non-fattening!) reward that helps me relax so I can then dive back in to work. Which leads to . . .

The Internet: Okay, yes, I know this is a potential black hole and time suck of mammoth proportions. Duly noted, and I totally admit to losing time to the interwebs. That said, sometimes reading an article, watching a goofy YouTube video, or answering a dumb Buzzfeed quiz does the same thing that playing a game on my phone does: It gives my brain just enough of a reward for focusing and reaching a goal that can I then go back to work mode.

To keep myself from surfing all over the internet, I'll deliberately allow ONE video or ONE article, or whatever (okay, sometimes two). I tend to open new tabs when I see a link I find interesting. And then I LEAVE the tab ALONE. This means I end up with a crazy number of tabs at any given time, but it also means I have interesting diversions waiting for me as a reward whenever I've earned a break. It also means I'm not seeking out diversions, so I'm less likely to get distracted by brand new shiny things. If I do find something new, I'll open it in a new tab but not even look at it, not during this break.

There you have it: My biggest tips and tricks for managing ADHD for my kids as for myself as their mother and as a writer!

Monday, May 16, 2016

What's Wrong with Using "THERE"?

Over the years, I've often done recap posts after the annual spring LDStorymakers Writers Conference, which is always a highlight of my year. In my opinion, it's THE best conference in Utah, and likely well beyond. That's saying something, because Utah has an unusually strong writing community that puts on a lot of conferences.

I hope to do a full recap at some point, but today I want to talk about something I posted on Instagram during the awesome Chris Crowe's 2-hour intensive class about micro-revision.

For those who haven't followed me and my blog ramblings over the years (or as a refresher, seeing as I'm not here as often as I once was), I've been editing professionally almost as long as I've been writing professionally. I've worked on books ranging from first attempts by beginners to pros' books that went on to win awards and become best-sellers. (I could totally name drop but won't; you'll just have to trust me on that one.)

Whenever I'd had returning clients, they mention how much they learned from the previous edit. That is hugely satisfying! It also means that their next book is better than the last one because they've learned new skills, and in turn, that means that my edit can take that next book to an even higher level.

(Important side note here: I'm not taking on new clients right now. I have a few friends and one old client I'll still work for, but typically, if you ask me to do an edit for you, I'll probably have to refer you to someone else. It's a matter of time, balance, and priorities. First and foremost, I'm a writer, but I reached a point where I was an editor who sometimes managed to sneak in a little writing, and I had to change that!)

Above you'll see a slightly cropped version of the picture I posted, which shows a portion of Dr. Crowe's class handout.

The responses to my post varied from those who cheered Dr. Crowe's advice to those who were genuinely confused as to what the problem is with using THERE. And thus this post was born.

The most important thing to keep in mind about writing is that there are no hard and fast rules. For every so-called rule, you can find exceptions. If someone ever says ALWAYS do this or NEVER do that, you can safely assume that they're wrong at least part of the time.

About the only guiding rule I follow as a writer is this: 

Anything that separates my reader from the deep experience of being immersed in my story—anything that holds them at a distance, pulls them out, or otherwise reminds them at they're reading a book—defeats my goal.

In my two-plus decades of professional experience, stronger sentences are one of the best ways to reach that goal. Words and sentences are the tools we use to create a story world and make it come so alive that it immerses the reader.

For those wondering about my passion for grammar and how that fits in, consider this: 

A big part of creating stronger sentences includes all of my grammar, usage, and punctuation rants from Word Nerd Wednesdays.

Why? Clunky, ungrammatical, ambiguous, and otherwise troublesome writing automatically makes for weak and confusing writing that pulls the reader out, making for a shallow reading experience.

All of that leads to my main point: 

The vast majority of the time (note I didn't say always), sentences beginning with THERE WAS, THERE WERE, and variations, are weak. Such sentences tend to TELL instead of SHOW. Other times, they end up wordy and redundant. They may even have a strong verb, but it's buried inside the sentence.

The Good News Is Two Fold: 
  • You can easily do a search for phrases like there were and there was to find those weak sentences.
  • Strengthening those weak sentences is almost as easy as finding them.

There Were: Weak Examples

I made these up on the spot, and I make no claims about their brilliance, but they should do the job:

  • There was the teacher lecturing at the front of the classroom. 
  • There were many streets leading to the cemetery.
  • There were dozens of couples waltzing around the dance floor.

None of those sentences is grammatically incorrect. None is wrong from a technical standpoint. But none is great, either. They could all certainly be stronger, and stronger writing should be every writer's goal.

Okay, so we've figured out how to identify the weak constructions. Now what?


Just cut off THERE WAS/WERE from the front of each sentence. Using the example sentences above, let's see what we have left:

  • . . . the teacher lecturing at the front of the classroom. 
  • . . . many streets leading to the cemetery.
  • . . . dozens of couples waltzing around the dance floor.

Check it out: Each sentence already has a strong noun we can use as the subject instead of the weak THERE. Plus, the verbs are already a whole lot stronger than WAS or WERE: 

  • teacher lecturing
  • streets leading
  • couples waltzing

So if we already have strong subjects and verbs, why on earth would we want to fall back on something that will water down the image? The phrase there were is so bland on its own that it literally requires an explanation to be understood.

Yet chances are good that the explanation already following the THERE opening is pretty strong. In which case, simply cut the dead wood before the explanation and let it stand alone.

To show just how weak THERE can be, try this: Imagine your eyes are closed and you hear someone begin a story with, "There was . . . "

The storyteller pauses. What do you picture?

I'd wager that your mind would be blank. You couldn't picturing anything, because those words don't tell us anything. We have to wait to hear more before becoming part of the story. We've started with garbage words. They do nothing.

Just Cut to the Chase

Let's take the strong subjects and verbs we already have. The only real other change needed is tweaking the verb so it makes sense, and that's easy:
There was the teacher lecturing at the front of the classroom
The teacher lectured at the front of the classroom. 
BOOM. See how we're immediately in the classroom, listening to a lecture? Before, we were being held at arm's length as someone else points out what we're supposed to notice. (Over there is a classroom . . .)

We can then expand on the image and experience, building the rest of the scene with other writing building blocks.

Here's another take on that same sentence: Flip the order and start with the location to orient the reader right away: 
At the front of the classroom, the teacher lectured.
Depending on the context, tone, pacing, and other factors of the scene, that might work even better.

You could come up with a hundred other ways to change it up, and almost all of them would be stronger than starting with THERE WAS or THERE WERE.

Another One of Our Example Sentences: 

Original: There were many streets leading to the cemetery.
Deleting first two words: . . . many streets leading to the cemetery.
Changing the verb tense as needed: Many streets led to the cemetery.

See? So easy, it's almost like a game. Let's Fix the Third Sentence: 
Original: There were dozens of couples waltzing around the dance floor.
Deleting the first two words: . . . dozens of couples waltzing around the dance floor.
Changing the verb as needed: Dozens of couples waltzed around the dance floor.

This kind of revision is one of my favorites to make: it's very effective and oh-so-easy to implement! 

Tightening sentences by cutting the dead wood such as THERE makes a huge difference, especially when you're talking about a novel-length work.

Don't make your reader slog through wordy, meandering sentences. Experiment with cutting THERE, then see how much stronger your scenes become.

Monday, February 01, 2016

From the Archives: The "Danger" of Copying

The other day, I stumbled across a post from January 21, 2013, almost exactly three years ago. as I read it, I relearned some things I'd forgotten. So I've decided to re-post it today both for readers who weren't following my blog back then, and for anyone like me who can use the reminder. 

The "Danger" of Copying

I've been going to the same medical clinic for our family's needs for over 18 years [ETA: now, make that over 21 years], so the staff know us pretty well. Our doctor and his long-time nurse especially have followed our family from the time I was expecting my first child, through all my subsequent pregnancies, kids' bouts with RSV and croup, and so much more.

As a result, Dr. S and Nurse T have also followed my writing career from almost the beginning, when I liked to write and tried to get publish, along the bumpy road of lots of rejections to finally being accepted, and today they always ask what's coming out next and when.

The last time we saw Nurse T, she asked something different that has stuck with me, and I realized it's a question many readers may have, so I thought it worth addressing in a post here.

Paraphrasing her, she asked, "Isn't it hard to find new things to write about so you're not copying other writers?" She added that it's probably hard to ever read much, because of the fear of copying someone else's style or story.

Is reading a danger for writers? And is it hard to find new ideas? The short answers: No and no.

The longer one: Writers by their nature tend to be curious people. We see a news report about a natural disaster and picture the victims or even put ourselves into the situation and wonder how we'd deal with it. We hear about a horrible crime and wonder what made the criminal do it, and what the victim was thinking. We get story and character ideas from places like songs, newspaper advice columns, and old cemeteries (check, check, and check on each of those for me).

So no, writers generally don't worry too much about being totally original. We're always seeing the world in new and interesting ways, and almost by definition, our perspective is original. On the other side, there's the old saying that there are no new stories, just new ways of telling them. That is what a good writer tries to go after: telling a story, familiar or not, in a new, fresh way. Think of how many great fairy tale re-tellings there are today. Take that number and multiply it by all the writers and stories out there.

The real meat of the issue is this: Nurse T was wrong in assuming that reading will cause a writer to be unoriginal, because the exact opposite is true.

Turns out that writers who don't read much are the ones who end up writing the same old hackneyed plots that have been done to death. I've seen such writers pump out book after book, not realizing that not only are their books cliche, but they're basically writing the same book over and over again. They write cliched characters and worlds and conflicts.

These writers are missing out on an amazing universe of creativity that's out there for the taking. It's almost as if the universe has layers of cool fiction, and we all tap into it on some level, and that the deeper you go, the broader the options become. So the more you open your mind to literature, the deeper into those layers you travel, and the broader your potential scope for story fodder. Stay in the shallow areas, and you stay where every other writer has waded at some point: in the totally unoriginal, cliched mass of washed-up stories.

I've also seen how reading a lot can teach a writer what has been done before, and that means both what's been done well, and what's been done poorly. A young fantasy writer unfamiliar with the tropes of the genre is far more likely to do a veiled copy of Tolkien (trolls and dwarfs and elves!) than someone who's been reading a wide range of fantasy for years.

It may sound counter intuitive, but the more literature you read, the more you fill your mind and imagination with images and ideas, and therefore the more likely your brain is to come up with brand new possibilities to throw together.

It's like taking apart several cool Lego creations and then dumping the pieces into a bag, shaking them up, and then removing the blocks one at a time to make something new. Sure, the blocks all came from other sources, but your creation is totally different and fresh.

So to answer Nurse T (I didn't give her this long of an answer at the time; I swear), I don't worry about copying other writers. Not at all. I worry about plateauing in my skill, about not out-doing myself with my next work. I worry about not staying fresh, about not reading enough, especially of the really good stuff out there, because I know good literature will get into my subconscious and make me a better writer.

Even when I read a book with my writer/editor hat on, it's a fantastic thing. I can read a powerful scene and analyze it: Why is this scene so effective? How did the author create that effect? What can I learn?

Did you read a book that knocked your socks off? Can you figure out why it knocked your socks off?

I remember my good friend Heather Moore saying that every time she reads Anne Perry, she notices an improvement in the quality of her own descriptions. I don't know too many writers who are so keenly aware of the effects of their reading, but whether you notice them or not, the effects are there.

Even reading bad books can be useful, so long as you use them as lessons to learn why a book isn't good, what the writer did wrong. And so long as bad books are the minority of what you read.

The fact is, writing is part talent, part art, and part science. Plus a bit of luck thrown into the mix. It's not some ethereal, unknowable thing (although I admit that it feels magical at times).

To be a better writer, I believe you must do two things, neither of which are ethereal and unknowable:
  • Read often and broadly. 
  • Write often.
I could add a lot of other things to the list: study the craft, attend writers conferences, find a critique group and other trusted readers. And all of those are important; all of those things can help immensely. But those two thingsreading and writingare the ones everything else hangs on. They are the cornerstones your writing house is built on.

As Stephen King has said, if you don't have time to read, you don't have time to be a good writer. 

I'd add that if you do have time to read a lot, then as long as you're also writing a lot, you're on your way to being a better writer. Not the kind that copies or create cliches.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

SO MUCH FUN: Writing in Another Person's Sandbox

So check out this gorgeous cover:

I'm sorry, but isn't it one of the prettiest things, in about forever? That's my new novella, and I'm so grateful it has a pretty wrapper!

This novella came about in a way totally different from anything else I've worked on. I've mentioned before how putting yourself into a specific box can actually be good for your writing; it defines the parameters and sparks your creativity.

It's a lesson I learned first with the Newport Ladies Book Club series, which I co-wrote with three of my closest writing friends.

I learned it again with the Timeless Romance Anthology series. In fact, with each new novella I write for the series, I'm given a new challenge, whether it's a time period or theme to tell my story around, so in a sense, I re-learn this lesson several times a year.

Well, this new story came from a different kind of box, one entirely of someone else's making, but where I found plenty of sand to build my castle with. Here's how it came about:

We've all heard of fan fiction: stories based on movies, TV shows, or books like Star Wars, Star Trek, and the Twilight books.

Most people know that any average Joe person out there can't write and sell a story featuring Han Solo or Spock or Bella without the owner of the intellectual property granting a license to do so. (Try selling a Star Wars story of your own and watch how fast Disney's lawyers knock your door down.)

But licensed (legal) fan fiction does exist, of course. Some writers are hired to write in a specific universe, for example. In many respects, comic books are the ultimate fan fiction; today's young writers at Marvel and DC carry on a legacy that began with characters and worlds someone else came up with decades ago.

Most fan fiction seems to be in the realm of science fiction, and seeing as that's not what I write, I never in a million years thought I'd ever step into the fan fiction sandbox.

Then, a few months ago, a really cool opportunity presented itself.

Some of my readers will be familiar with novelist Sariah Wilson (at one time, we had the same publisher). She wrote a fun contemporary romance set in a fictional kingdom in the Alps (sort of like how The Princess Diaries has an invented a country).

Her book, Royal Date, was picked up for publication through the Amazon Scout program and has gone on to sell very well. Amazon had already been licensing various properties they published for fan fiction stories (such as Veronica Mars, The Vampire Diaries, Pretty Little Liars, and many others), and they chose Sariah's fictional kingdom of Monterra to be the basis of a brand new Kindle World.



Seeing as Royal Date is contemporary romance, I assumed I'd write a contemporary story. I had a phone call with one of the people running the program. After looking at my body of work on my author page, he said, "It looks like you have a lot of experience with period fiction."

Period fiction means historical fiction.

And why yes, I do have a lot of experience writing that.

So he suggested I write a story set in Monterra's past. That possibility hadn't even entered my mind, but his suggestion kept bouncing around in my brain until a story showed itself.

Sure enough, my novella ended up being historical.

As part of the Royals of Monterra Kindle World, 12 total stories launched today, including mine.

Tailor Made is set in 1883 and is just shy of 30,000 words. To give you an idea of the size, that's twice the length of my Timeless Romance novellas, or about a third the size of a typical novel.

What Tailor Made is about: 

Sofia’s mother desperately needs medicine, and Sofia will do anything to get it—including working for a month at the royal palace, where she'll knit silk stockings from sunup to sundown. Yet if she can do it, Sofia will have the ability to get the medicine her mother needs, with money to spare.

But Sofia’s safe world of knitting needles and thread is turned upside down when she finds herself in the middle of palace intrigue. Head tailor Antonio and Sofia uncover a plot to sabotage the royal wedding and plunge Monterra into war. As they work together to save their country, she can’t help falling in love with the unassuming and attractive head tailor, even though she knows she can’t have him. Her country and her family need her. As they race to stop the traitor, the battle in her heart intensifies, and she fears that the victor won’t be love.

* * *

Then check out the rest of the stories that are part of the Royals of Monterra.

As part of launch day, there's a big Facebook launch party going on from 5-10 PM EST today (3-8 PM MST). I'll be on deck chatting with attendees and giving away prizes from 6:00-6:20 EST (that's 4:00-4:20 MST). 

Join us! Here's the Facebook Event Page

You can hang out and simply lurk, or you can join in the fun and comment away and have some fun.

It's been a whirlwind of busyness and excitement, especially getting everything pulled together over the holidays, but launch day is finally here. 

I'm thrilled to have been invited to be part of the launch and to have my work reach new readers!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Unlikable Characters: My Take on Craig Mazin's Take

I recently subscribed to yet another podcast, Scriptnotes, which describes itself as a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters.

If you've followed me on social media or here on my blog for any amount of time, you know that I'm not a screenwriter. (The screenplay I wrote with my high school friend Sam doesn't count, but it sure was fun and a great learning experience.) I'm a fiction writer. I primarily write novels and novellas. Yet I love this podcast and recommend it to writers of all kinds.

Scriptnotes is hosted by Hollywood screenwriters John August and Craig Mazin. After listening to a few episodes, you can't help but like these guys, even if Craig is full of umbrage (and disdain for religion).

Episode 223, from November 10, had a section about the least helpful notes screenwriters get. Turns out that Craig's least favorite (read: most despised) note is to be told that his characters aren't likable.

Craig argues that movies are filled with characters we don't like, and that characters are supposed to change anyway, so it's okay if we don't like them at first. Plus, we like curmudgeons! Unlikable quirks can make a character more interesting anyway. So stop telling us to make our characters more likable! (Totally paraphrasing here. Listen to his rant; your mileage may vary.)

And he has a point . . . to a point.

He's right that flawed and/or curmudgeonly characters are interesting. We enjoy watching characters like that, while characters who seem too perfect feel flat or fake. Even if we don't like a character, we'll hang on to watch more because we're entertained. We often start liking them as the movie progresses.

Besides, a movie is only a couple of hours long, and chances are, you paid to see this show, so you'll probably stick it out to the closing credits to see how it all turns out anyway.

In other words, Craig's advice clearly works for screenwriting.

Alas, that wisdom doesn't carry over into formats like the novel. I've learned this the hard way. Over and over and over again.

Consider this: A novel takes much longer to read than a movie takes to watch. While some people can devour a novel in a day, most readers read a chapter or two here or there, often before bed. They end up spending days if not weeks or more with the same book.

As the author, you don't have the luxury of assuming the reader will hang on until the character is sympathetic, or that the reader will trust you at all to go beyond the first page or two, that eventually, they'll see that they were in good hands all along. (An exception exists for really big names, who can pretty much break every rule and still sell millions because their name is a trusted brand before word one.)

With novels, readers may well toss a book aside if they hate the characters after a few minutes of reading. Not so with a few minutes of a movie. Readers simply won't devote hours and hours (or days) of their lives to your story. No way. They'd rather re-watch their most hated movie and get it over with in two hours or so.

That said, readers don't want perfect characters either. They want flaws and they want growth, just like moviegoers do. (Two groups with a ton of crossover, of course.)

The result is that fiction writers face a double challenge: Create characters who are human and flawed but still likable enough for the reader to hang on and care enough to keep reading, and make all of that happen on page one.

Oh, and be sure to open at precisely the right moment. Starting a even a few minutes (or, heck, seconds) earlier or later in story time could kill the opening.

No pressure or anything.

If you've hooked your readers with the opening, they'll likely turn the page. If you've managed to carry them to the 25% mark, they've invested enough time that you've got a good shot at carrying them to the end even if the characters start making really unlikable choices. Which they often do, of course.

To get to the point where you've earned a reader's trust, you must somehow get them pretty far into the story. And you get a page or two to hook them initially. That's it.

For me, one of the biggest challenges I've faced is beta readers and critique group members telling me that they hate the main character because she's acting so mean or hateful or whatever. And then I sit back and wonder where they got that from, because in most cases, that's not how I meant to write the character at all. I unravel what made it to the page compared to what was in my head in an effort to figure out what's missing and how to get it to the page.

But in some cases, I did mean to show the main character in a harsher light, although I still hoped the reader would sympathize. In one case in particular, the main character has been through a lot of raw, bitter stuff. The book opens with her being angry and upset. She has open emotional wounds. To make a long story short, I needed to open the book at a certain point in her life, show X, Y, and Z, and then get out of that situation, all by the end of chapter one.

Turns out that "wounded" is really hard to write without coming across as witchy (keeping the blog family friendly . . ). I must have rewritten that chapter fifteen times. In each version, she felt weaker and weaker to me because I had to keep softening her edges. But readers were slowly starting to connect with her.

Even though I wanted to show her realistically angry and pissed off in chapter one, I couldn't. Readers had no way of knowing enough about her at that point to have any kind of sympathy for her. You read vitriol and assume the character is a pretty awful person. So anger and even depression in that context only made her look bad.

My theory is that closing a book after two pages and tossing it to the side is far easier than standing up and walking out of a movie theater two minutes into a film, when you haven't even seen the opening credits. No one walks out that early, and few people walk out ever.

Lots and lots of people give up on books, though.

I could have left the chapter as it was, I suppose, but I can guarantee that by doing so, I would have lost a lot of readers in short order. They wouldn't have held on until they sympathized or even empathized with her.

I've been writing for a very long time (writing seriously for over two decades now), so when I first heard Craig saying that this particular note was pure crap, I wanted to cheer. Oh, how I wanted to. But I couldn't, because for a fiction writer, his opinion doesn't apply. (I wish!)

Sometimes I think I've learned how to write a flawed yet likable character who works from word one, yet far more often than I want to admit, I get the rug pulled out from under me yet again. Betas (had-picked readers I trust) point out why the character isn't working. After initially pulling on my hair and muttering things under my breath, I return to the keyboard and revise yet again. Because when everyone is saying the same thing, they're probably right.

I suppose in some ways, reading about a character in a new book is a lot like meeting someone in real life. You don't tell a new acquaintance about every skeleton in your closet, every bump in your road, every emotional injury. Rather, we get to know people a little at a time, and their personalities and characters are revealed gradually through actions and words. The same goes for characters, even those we've got a tight POV on.

Watching a movie is more like people watching; it's easy in real life to watch completely awful people interact and be nasty. We don't walk away from boredom. (Heck, we'll probably pull out our phones and start taking a video so we can entertain our friends.)

I'll continue working on making my characters just likable enough in the beginning for readers to agree to go on the ride.

But I confess that I'll forever envy Craig Mazin and his fellow screenwriters for their ability to ignore that note, even if the note drives them nuts.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Arm Yourself Against Data Loss

They say there are two types of writers: 

1) Those who have lost work


2) those who will. 

That's the truth. And that's why I'm writing this post, as a plea to protect your work. I'm writing this now because in the last six months, I've had three friends who are professional writers and/or publishing professional s lose or almost lose huge amounts of data because they didn't have the proper safeguards in place. 

In one case, everything the writer had worked on for decades was on his laptop. He needed some kind of service on it requiring the hard drive to be wiped, so he backed up the entire thing on an external hard drive. So far, so good. But the backup failed. The data wasn't retrievable after all. He was absolutely sick over losing his life's work until a tech support person was able to dig deep enough to realize that this writer had installed a backup service, and that it was backing up his entire computer remotely all along without the writer being aware of it. He ended up losing only a week or so of work instead of decades's worth. 

In another case, the writer did make occasional backups, but it's easy to forget and put off doing a backup, from a day to a week, to months. And that's the situation she found herself in when her laptop was stolen at an airport. She lost a year's worth of work (hundreds of thousands of words) as well as priceless and irreplaceable family photos. 

The third case also involved a robbery, this time when thieves broke into her home, taking her laptop along with many other items. The other things can be replaced. Her personal creative work cannot. 

Each time I heard the news of a friend losing data, I ached inside. Having your creative work taken from you forever is soul-crushing. 

It's even worse when you know that you could have done something to prevent it. 

I know of what I speak of. I'm not talking about losing a page of two if the power goes out or the time when my son was a baby and he crawled over to the computer tower, turned it off, and I lost a chapter or so.

I've experienced worse, and I refuse to ever again. Think you're immune? You're not. 

As a preteen, I wrote a fantasy novel. Rather, I wrote most of a fantasy novel, and I typed it as in, on an actual typewriter. Because I'm that old. Writing that book was my happy place. 

The fall I entered 8th grade, Dad ended up helping a tech company with a side job using his linguistics background, and as part of that, a computer entered our house for the first time. 

Recognizing the future when I saw it, I promptly started transferring my (still unfinished, but sizable) fantasy novel into the computer. In the process, I revised and expanded what was on the page. Day after day after, I came home from the misery of junior high and slipped into the zone of my happy place. 

As I finished typing up each page of my original typewriter draft, I happily threw it away, an act that felt like an accomplishment in some way. 

Shortly after I finished getting it all written and saved in digital format, and before I finished the story, someone suggested that I get a backup copy of the file because you never knew. It was always a good idea to have a backup, just in case. 

Dad agreed, and he promised to get a floppy disk (again, yes, I'm that old), and we'd make a copy. He came home from work one day with the promised floppy disk. But my file had somehow become corrupted. Out of probably 60,000 words, I had 14 measly lines left. 


I stared at the screen. That couldn't be right. Murphy isn't that cruel with his stupid law, is he?

The techie guy working on my dad's project thought he might be able to find the rest of the file or figure out what had happened. He tried. He failed. 

And then the reality sank in. What amounted to my life's work (at the age of almost 14) was gone. Erased. Wiped out of existence. I hadn't even saved the typed rough draft pages. How could I not have at least saved the pages until I got the file onto a floppy disk? 

Ever since, I've been almost maniacal about having backup copies. I used to print out hard copies of all of my manuscripts too, just in case. 

Marrying a computer scientist turned out to be particularly helpful in my quest to never lose large amounts of work ever again. This is the man who got me an e-mail address before I really grasped what the Internet was, when I asked, "Why will I ever want this?" to which he replied, "Trust me." (He was right, of course.) 

He kept me well stocked with floppy disks, followed by zip drives and other backups as technology developed. 

Today I have a external hard drive that's a copy of an old computer, but what I rely on most is an off-site backup service. 

External hard drives can be helpful, but they can also fail. If your house burns down, or there's flooding, an external drive will do you absolutely no good. 

Thumb drives are notorious for failing. They're great for transferring files from place to place. I use them a lot when speaking at conferences in case my laptop won't connect to a projector. I can always plug the thumb drive into another laptop. But I won't rely on one of those things as my primary backup. No way. 

Here Are Four Ways to Cover Your Bases:

Have your computer automatically back up every few minutes. 
You can tell Word and Scrivener how often to do that; in Scrivener, you can make it a matter of every few seconds. 

Use E-mail as a Backup.
I know many writers who e-mail themselves their own files; some do so after each work day, some less often. Either way, your files are in a safe place in your computer fails. 

Use a Cloud Service.
You've probably heard of Dropbox, OneDrive, and Google Drive. They (and others) offer free accounts with a limited amount of space (but plenty of room for text documents, if you're a writer). In many cases, you can work offline, and the file syncs next time you're online. They're a great FREE resource with an easy user interface, and even if you fill up your space, you can pay a small amount for more. 

Have an Automated Backup System. 
As long as your computer is connected to the Internet, these systems will make a copy of any change in your computer, and do so daily without your ever having to remember to do it. They keep a month's worth of copies, so you can drill down to any version of a file you need form the last 30 days to find the exact one you're looking for. If your laptop is stolen, dies with a gasp, gets taken over by a virus, or whatever, you can download everything to a brand new laptop, including your programs and directories. At most, you'll only ever lose changes since the last backup, which is always within the last 24 hours. (Another reason why using e-mail or something like Dropbox is a good idea on top of this.)

Because these services are so thorough, the first backup can take days, but it works in the background, and you can still use your computer like you would any other day. After that, a backup is quick and again, always in the background. 

We used Mozy for years and recently switched to Backblaze, which we found to be more intuitive and more affordable. They have backup systems of their own, so your data is pretty darn safe.

I never worry anymore that I've lost data because I haven't. It's always retrievable. And I know that because I've had to retrieve files from the backups, several times. 

My Plea

Whatever you do, don't rely entirely on your own computer's internal backup or on an external drive. 

With so many cloud services, including free ones, and with free e-mail services, you have no excuse to not have backups of your work. 

I guarantee that the ones and zeroes that make up your writing are incredibly fragile. Something will happen to them at some point, whether that's a virus or something else. You will lose some work. We can hope it'll be a only a few hundred words, but what if it's an entire novel? 

When you lose data (because you will), be sure you can restore it. 

And in the meantime, you can rest (and write) easy, knowing that even if hardware fails, even if thieves ruin your day, even if you get a Trojan horse, you'll always be able to get your work back. 


An Unexpected Proposal, my first novella to ever come out with the Timeless Romance Anthology series, is now available as a single for 99 cents. 

And my second novella, Chasing Tess, from the TRA Spring Collection, is up for pre-order as a single, also for only 99 cents. Order it now, and it'll download to your device on Christmas day! 

I have other novellas that will be going live soon, plus a really fun project coming in January that you'll want to keep your eyes open for! 

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Holiday Sale with a $200 Cash Prize!

The authors of Echo Ridge decided to organize a multi-author sale during release week and invite our favorite authors to join us. All the books featured on this sale are only $.99 and they are all amazing!

Don't forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for $200 in Christmas Cash.

Happy book shopping!

Christmas Kisses: An Echo Ridge Anthology
Christmas Kisses is a collection from five bestselling and award-winning authors. Set in the snowy town of Echo Ridge in upstate New York, these inspirational romances are sure to delight while you sip cocoa by the fire and listen to Christmas carols.
Amazon * iTunes * Barnes & Noble * Smashwords * Kobo * Goodreads

Brownies & Betrayal by Heather Justesen

Pastry chef Tess Crawford thought moving from Chicago to quiet Silver Springs, Arizona would simplify her life. That was before she found the body of a woman with whom she had traded heated words the previous night, left her fingerprints on the murder weapon, and came under attack for trying to clear her name. When her cheating ex-fiance shows up, intent on convincing her to come back to work for him, Tess—armed with an extra batch of éclairs—decides to take control and solve the mystery herself, with the help of friends and frenemies alike.

But will that be enough to save her when she gets too close and the killer decides it’s safer to get her out of the way?

Simplify & Savor the Season by Connie E. Sokol

Ready to enjoy the holidays again? Use this two-part holiday organizer to help you savor the celebrations. In the first half of the book, brainstorm the Big Four; then, detail the To Dos including menu, gift-planning, etc. with success tips on how to eliminate the unnecessary and focus on the essential. Wrap up with "5 Holiday Juicers" to make life joyful. Keep your notes handy in the companion Simplify & Savor Take-along Planner.

With the second half of the book. curl up with a cup of cocoa and read "Savory Suggestions and Stories," a collection of laugh-out-loud anecdotal stories including "Let Go of the Cookie Cutter Christmas" and "Thankful for Turkey Warbling". Make this holiday season one you remember and enjoy!

Diamond Rings are Deadly Things by Rachelle J. Christensen

Adrielle Pyper knows how to plan a wedding, and she's especially good at pleasing bridezillas. But when her biggest client and best friend is murdered just three days before the wedding, Adri's world falls apart. She moves to the resort town of Sun Valley, Idaho, and starts from scratch. Thanks to Adri's impeccable taste and unique style, she lands two celebrity clients, and her business seems headed for success—until someone vandalizes the specialty wedding dresses she imported from overseas. Adri must race to uncover the secret hidden within the yards of satin and lace before she becomes the next victim.

With a delightful blend of mystery, toe-curling kisses, humor, and spine-tingling thrills, Diamond Rings are Deadly Things will keep you turning pages long into the night. 

A Baker's Dozen by Lucy McConnell
Tempt your sweet tooth with 13 delicious, easy, and beautiful dessert recipes. Each recipe has been time-tested and found irresistible. You’ll horde the Lemon Brownies but you might be willing to share the Rock and Roll Cake—with a good friend.

Recipes include: Chocolate Chunk Peanut Butter Cookies, Pumpkin Bunt Cake, S’mores Cheesecake, No-Fail Lemon Bars.

Impress your coworkers, family, friends, and even the guys at the car repair shop with these recipes. They’re sure to become favorites in your recipe box, lunch box, and ice box. 

An Unexpected Proposal by Annette Lyon

While working at a wood camp in the Logan canyon during the winter of 1880, Caroline Simpson is forced to thwart the aggressive advances of Mr. Butch Larson, and in the process discovers that her long-time friend James has genuine affection for her. But as stubborn as Caroline is, she minimizes the emotions James has awakened in her, and it takes almost losing him to admit her true feelings.

An Unexpected Proposal was introduced in the first volume of the bestselling and award-winning Timeless Romance Anthology series Winter Collection, which was Amazon #1 Bestselling *New Release* in Clean Romance, Top 10 in Regency Romance, Top 5 in Victorian Romance.

Amazon Barnes & Noble *iTunes *Kobo * Smashwords

The Colony by Cami Checketts
To protect her sons from the mistakes of her past, Brinlee Trapper escapes to a secluded mountain home. But there are dangers lurking in the mountains she has never encountered. The little family is saved from injury by Jed, a mysterious hunter. Brinlee is drawn to him, but she worries about his involvement with a peaceful commune hidden deep in the mountains behind her property.

Lance, Brinlee's attentive neighbor, has his own troubled history. Between his obvious attraction to Brinlee and his developing love for her children, Brinlee finds it more than difficult to guard her heart against this tender intrusion.
While Jed offers a life of excitement and freedom, Lance holds the key to the family Brinlee always wanted. When it comes time to choose, she learns that both men have secrets that could shatter her fledgling trust in men and the wrong decision could leave more than her heart exposed to danger.

Torn Canvas by Donna K. Weaver
Modern-day pirates took more than Jori Virtanen’s friends; they stole his face. Not only does the twenty-four-year-old former model have to confront months of reconstructive surgery, he discovers his previous life was as superficial as his looks. Up-and-coming talk show host Olivia Howard wants an interview. She, like the rest of the press, expects a hero, but Jori knows the truth. His beauty masks a beast.

In seclusion and evading the press, Jori struggles to make a new life as an artist. But he can’t hide from himself; more than his face is damaged. How can Jori possibly make amends for all that he’s broken? When Olivia finally tracks him down, he must decide if he can trust her. Could this unlikely woman be a key to freeing his heart and healing the beast?
The audio book is only $1.99 with the purchase of the e-book.

Son of War Daughter of Chaos by Janette Rallison
Aislynn is accustomed to watching for the enemy. Her parents instructed her from the time she was young to look for people with the signs: greater than normal strength, eyes that can glow green, and the ability to jump long distances. Over the years, Aislynn has come to view her parents' fears as quirks-things that get in the way of having a normal high school life. When Aislynn's mother dies under suspicious conditions, her father doubles his restrictions. But all his precautions can't stop the boy with glowing green eyes from finding Aislynn. She realizes too late she's been drafted into an ancient Egyptian war, whether she's prepared or not.

Vocal Crush by Lisa Swinton
Can you ever out run a broken heart?
Lexi Court spent seven years traveling the world, living the nomadic Broadway life, in an attempt to outrun the broken heart Nick Rivers gave her. Now, there’s nowhere left to go.

When she accepted a position as a high school drama teacher in Las Vegas, Lexi hoped to get over Nick, find a nice guy, and settle down. But what should be a quiet summer gets turned upside down when Lexi's best friend, Taffy, drafts her to be an emergency replacement coach on a televised vocal competition.

Feeling out of her league among the other three celebrity coaches, Lexi fights for the most promising contestants to be on her team. One note from a single voice shatters her summer. Nick unexpectedly auditions and joins Lexi's team. With her vocal crush on him raging as strong as ever, she has nowhere to run from Nick’s dreamy looks or siren voice.

Lexi has no doubt that Nick can win the competition. The question is does he want to win her heart as well or will he damage it beyond repair?

Think television reality show The Voice meets Jane Austen’s Persuasion.

Picture Perfect by U.S.A. Today Bestseller Heather B. Moore

Gemma has never done anything out of the ordinary, until her boyfriend Randy starts to ignore her. But even cutting and dyeing her hair doesn’t get his attention. She decides to join her old high school friends for spring vacation, only to be faced with Drew, her best friend who suddenly seems interested in her as more than a friend. Gemma must determine if her heart is on the rebound or if it’s finally met its true match.

Endless Modern Cinderella by Jaclyn Weist
Sydney lives her nightmares every night. While other teenagers are dreaming of boys or traveling to exotic places, she must run a staircase with no beginning or no end, or a terrible debt will never be paid.

Just before her seventeenth birthday, the dreams change. She is no longer alone.

But her nightmares don’t end when she wakes up. Her stepmother and stepsisters threaten to ruin everything she holds dear. She must protect the secret that both she and her father have magic or they will use it to their advantage.

As Sydney learns to control her magic, what seemed impossible before—escaping her stepmother and those ever-present stairs—is now at her fingertips. When she learns the ultimate plan of her evil captor, Sydney must stop her at all costs, or she will forever be trapped inside her nightmares. 

Cookie Girl Christmas by Christene Houston

Molly Hayes has one more job before Christmas and then she can put her plans for a storefront bakery of her own in motion. What she doesn't bargain for is the handsome young Scrooge who insults her cookies and makes her blood boil. Toss in a heaping helping of snowstorm and a pinch of romantic old Inn and you've got yourself the perfect recipe for a not-so-silent-night.

And Something Blue by Paige Timothy

Bridal consultant Laurie Fletcher spends all her time helping others prepare for the most special day of their lives. Logan Reese is easily the most irritating man on the planet, and for some reason, he's made annoying Laurie his mission in life. Will true love ever come Laurie's way, or is she doomed to watch others get their happily ever after while she sits on the sidelines?

Six Days of Christmas by Kaylee Baldwin

When Natalie goes home with her best friend for Christmas, she expects plenty of quiet time to work on a winning ad so she can turn her dream internship into her dream job. Instead, she gets time-consuming Christmas festivities, a house full of children who seem to be multiplying, and Jimmy, her best friend’s brother—someone who makes her question everything she’s always thought she wanted. 

Ring Around the Rosie by Julie Coulter Bellon
As the ex-wife of a law enforcement officer, Sarah Reed has known loneliness and loss. In order to cope, she makes a life for herself that's full of routine while building a wall of ice around her heart. Everything about her is as predictable as she can make it until a tiny detour for her ex-husband, Ron, changes her life forever. Caught in a bomb crisis, Sarah is taken hostage by a man who wants Ron and everyone around him to suffer—and his idea of suffering is more terrible than Sarah had ever dreamed.

Captain Ron Reed has seen the worst of humanity in his job with the Hostage Negotiation Team, but he never expected his past to come back with a vengeance—literally. Aaron Starks, a criminal explosives expert, has stolen next-gen bomb technology. He uses it to force Ron to bargain for the lives of his team and his ex-wife, Sarah, the woman he still loves. But the situation escalates when Ron discovers that Starks has an even bigger objective in mind—using the bomb to show how vulnerable America and her people truly are.

Ron is willing to risk everything to save his country and those he loves, but when negotiations break down, will his sacrifice be too little too late?

Yesterday by Amanda Tru
Her yesterday was five years ago. What will her tomorrow bring? 
When Hannah Kraeger saves a family injured in a car accident, she has no idea she has changed events in the past. Waking the next morning, Hannah discovers her yesterday was really five years ago.

Each trip Hannah takes through time changes the timeline and her own life. With help from Dr. Seth McAllister, Hannah must unravel the mystery of why she time travels and who she actually is before the strange ability costs her future, the man she loves, and even her life. 

YESTERDAY is a thrilling Christian Romantic Suspense filled with unexpected twists, mystery, and romance. 

My One and Only by Shannon Guymon
Meredith Jensen has seen her share of ups and downs. She’s found love twice already and lost it in spectacularly traumatic ways. Now? She just wants a peaceful life, free from love and drama. Meredith’s plans for the future center around planning other people’s weddings and her new online dating website. Just because she works to help other people find love doesn’t mean she wants any part of it though. Unfortunately for Meredith’s plans, Asher Murphy is determined to get her to give love another chance. But then again, so is Pule Matafeo. Meredith has never denied that she’s stubborn and feisty so it might take the combined forces of all their friends in Fircrest to get her heart back on track in time for Valentine’s Day. 

Stealing Adda by Tamara Leigh
WRITER’S BLOCK, NIBBLED NAILS, PLAGIARISM, OH MY! AND DID I MENTION ROMANCE? Life for Adda Sinclaire, New York Times best-selling author and historical romance writer extraordinaire, reads more like a country song than a breathless, bodice-bursting affair. For starters, she has no romance in her own life. That might have something to do with the fact that her husband—correction, ex-husband—ran off with Stick Woman, whom everyone knew would never be more than a mid-list author anyway. To add insult to injury (and another verse to the country song), her ex not only took their dog but gave it to Stick Woman. If that isn't enough, Adda has come down with a horrible case of writer's block, finds herself gifted with a Bible that is determined to speak to her, and is the unwitting target of a romance cover model's misdirected advances. Just when she catches her breath—and quite possibly the eye of a certain fabulously good-looking man (ahem…her new editor)—her arch-nemesis gives the pot one final stir.

Spy by Night by Jordan McCollum

After watching her parents’ marriage crash and burn, CIA operative Talia Reynolds doesn’t believe in “happily ever afters.” Besides, her job entails eighty-hour weeks, juggling a dozen covers and disguises, and tracking down a dangerous Russian spy ring. She hardly has time for romantic entanglements, even if she could let her guard down enough to get close to anyone.But all the rules she lives by could be broken when she meets aerospace engineer Danny Fluker.

Danny moved to Canada for a great job — and a chance to start over after a bad breakup. Dating definitely isn’t in his plans . . . until beautiful and enigmatic Talia throws a perfect storm right in his flight path. When he catches a glimpse of the real woman behind her façade, he has to get to know her better.

Talia has to find a Russian spymaster before he figures out she’s not who she claims, and failing to keep her two lives separate in the process could mean the death of more than just her budding relationship. Danny has to decide if a future with Talia — and facing the past — is worth the risk of getting hurt again. If they can break through the barriers keeping them apart (and avoid a major international catastrophe), they just might have a chance at being happy together.

Saving Grace by Michele Paige Holmes
From #2 Amazon Bestselling Historical Romance Author and Whitney Award Winner, Michele Paige Holmes, comes SAVING GRACE, a regency romance from the Hearthfire Romance series: 

After the death of her grandfather, the Duke of Salisbury, Grace Thatcher wants nothing more than to live quietly in the country with her younger siblings. Her father’s debts thwart those plans, and to protect her sister, Helen, Grace must marry a man of her father’s choosing. 

As each suitor proves less than desirable, Grace comes up with clever schemes, causing each to reject her. While staying at the mysterious Sutherland Hall, a middle-of-the-night mishap sends Grace into the arms of a stranger, Nicholas Sutherland—and provides inspiration for her grandest plan yet—one that will leave her reputation in tatters yet free both her and Helen from all possibility of marriage. 

Too late Grace regrets her rash actions when her father’s last choice, Mr. Samuel Preston, proves to be a gentleman and a friend. But Samuel is the sworn enemy of Nicholas Sutherland, the man responsible for her “ruin.” Now instead of being free, Grace is caught between two men—each with his own agenda.


Paris Cravings by Amazon #1 Best Selling Author for Clean Romance, Kimberley Montpetit

Can life really turn on a dime, a missed bus—or a stuck pastry shop door?
Chloe Dillard's life has always been complicated. Her mother is a neurotic romance novelist and her boyfriend, Mathew, has been pressuring her to go "all the way."

But after The Worst Night of Her Life, Chloe escapes on her Senior Class trip to the swoon-worthy city of Paris which takes her mind off her troubles—temporarily. On the final leg of her dream trip, Chloe squeezes in one final run for a last-minute box of decadent pastries. Add a broken shop door, subtract a broken four-inch heel from her cute strappy sandals, and Chloe ends up one stuck girl on the bakery shop floor with a sprained ankle.

Rescued by the shop owner’s dreamy son with chocolate-syrup eyes, the beautiful city of Paris suddenly becomes Chloe’s personal secret adventure. And even though Jean-Paul, the oh-so-kind La Patisserie shop boy is the gentlemanly guy Chloe has always dreamed of, even he has a girlfriend.
The police are tracking her down as a run-away, Mom’s having a nervous breakdown over her daughter’s “disappearance”, and Chloe’s just trying to have a Happily-Ever-After even as her dreams with Matt are swirling down the drain.

What’s a girl to do in the most romantic city in the world?
Easy Pastry Recipe in the back of the book!