This is my wrap-up-the year (2016) post, and what's-ahead (2017) post.
What happened this year?
I turned fifty. I had a mid-life crisis that went on and on for months. I didn't write anything for almost a year.
I continued to feel like an outsider in Romancelandia...not just as an author, but also as a reader.
Politics gave me insomnia and depression.
On the flip side (the positive, happy place)...I am hugely proud of my kids. I am proud of my husband.
I traveled to Iceland, a beautiful and inspiring country.
I finished my Klaus Brothers series.
I am so grateful to be surrounded by incredible friends...people who are loyal and supportive.
I have an exciting game plan for 2017.
I came to a big conclusion about myself and my "writing career"...I am basically doing this all wrong.
All of the stuff I *should* be doing to have "success" (huge sales, make bestseller lists, etc.) are things I don't want to do...
STUFF YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO DO TO BE A SUCCESS IN ROMANCELANDIA
1. Write a series of full-length books. Be consistent, create a cohesive brand.
Me: I don't want to write a series. I like stand-alone books, and I like shorter stories. I love trying new things. I like challenging myself with every new project. I like switching it up--from women's fiction to fantasy to children's lit to comedy. On the queue for next year is horror and contemporary fiction.
This goes against everything we're taught about making a cohesive, consistent brand for your readers.
My readers know every new book from me will be a surprise. Something new, different, unique. I'm good with that, and my small and merry band of readers are good with that, too.
(Thank you to my SMALLANDMERRYBANDOFREADERS!)
2. Follow the trends.
I don't want to write NA or sports romance or jerky heroes or whatever the latest band-wagon topic is. I like diving into new ideas. Even if they're not popular. Even if I might fail. That's okay.
My new interest is exploring the relationship between man and nature. My projects for next year are focusing on that topic. I'm blending my background/interest in science with my creative writing. Yippppeeeeeee!
3. Be an aggressive promoter.
I'm not begging for reviews or offering bribes or gaming the system. I'm not interested in street teams or asking my readers to do stuff that is not their responsibility. As a result, I'm not one of the authors with hundreds of 5-star reviews at Amazon or anywhere else.
And I'm good with that.
4. Use social media primarily for sales/promotion.
Me: Do I promote on social media? Sure! Sometimes.
Do I also use social media to socialize? Yes. I like talking about plants and glass and my nature hikes and weight loss and dachshunds and cocktails and books I read and films I watch. Sometimes I talk about politics (on Twitter) and often I post pics of my travels and family (especially on Facebook, where I still have an old-fashioned account not a page).
My favorite thing about social media is socializing. I have friends all over the world, and that makes me really happy.
My main goal for social media continues to be chatting with friends, and occasionally using it to promote my own publications. It might not be the best thing to do from a business standpoint, but it's a good thing to do from a personal standpoint.
5. Crank out books as fast as possible to "feed the beast."
Me: Eye roll.
The treadmill for Romancelandia has gotten completely out-of-hand. Cranking out new material as fast as possible is now the norm. That's just not my thing. I want to take my time next year and create something really special.
I'm jumping onto the old-fashioned idea of "one book a year."
In fact, I'm clinging to a bunch of old-fashioned concepts about publishing that may no longer be popular, but they're working for me.
My take-home message following the mid-life crisis and fiftieth birthday and life-changing trip to Iceland...do what makes you happy.
I'll leave the rules to someone else.
I hope all of you have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays and Inspiring New Year and Happy Reading and Happy Writing!
I just discovered the Italian Kitchen Mystery series by Genova this year, and I inhaled all three books within days. It is an adorable cozy series with a writer heroine, a family restaurant, lots of fun characters found on the New Jersey shore, sexy romantic tension, and plenty of delicious Italian dishes. This series is full of win! This holiday novella is a quick festive read. It has the perfect balance of Christmas cheer, tasty Italian recipes (like Nonna's Wedding Soup and Shrimp Scampi), and suspense. Treat yourself to the whole series! (The novella is only 99 cents!)
My friend Julia has released a very sweet Hanukkah novella this season. It includes "mature" characters, an interfering Jewish mother, and an unexpected romance. If you're looking for a lovely Hanukkah story, this is it. I loved it! On sale right now for only $1.99.
3. I read two fabulous books by Barbara Wallace recently, Winter Wedding for the Prince and Christmas Baby for the Princess. These are both part of the Royal House of Corinthia Series. Wallace always does a superb job capturing Christmas magic, and these two novels really got me in a festive mood. Both have plenty of romance and wonderful happy endings. Happy sigh.
This was my first read by Fielding, and it won't be my last. I was super impressed with her writing. She really packs it into this quickie story--gorgeous writing, characters who pop off the page, and vivid imagery. Now I want to read the rest of the series.
Burke is an author who does not get nearly enough attention...I am always impressed with her books. These stories were perfect for the holidays...charming, sweet, romantic, and filled with great historical tidbits. This is an excellent deal for only 99 cents!
About ten years ago, I got an idea for a romance novel that just wouldn't go away. It was weird and wacky and when I queried an agent she looked at me like I had lost my mind.
Which I probably had.
She gave me half a dozen good reasons why I would never publish this book, and why it would never see the light of day.
I thought my best selling point was originality. NO ONE ELSE HAD THIS IDEA.
Also, I was winning writing contests.
She didn't care. In fact, the originality was working against me. She didn't want original. She wanted this book to fit into a tidy little box.
She kept asking me, WHO ARE YOU LIKE? WHICH AUTHORS ARE SIMILAR TO YOU?
I said, "I thought I was supposed to be one-of-a-kind, unique, original?"
I was a dumb-ass. I didn't understanding marketing.
A published author told me to delete the "Christmas" out of my Christmas story. I could sell it easily if it was just a regular contemporary romance.
A big name author told me I had to shave my hero. Big beards were not popular at that time, and she said this would turn off readers and publishers.
My book was too short. It was seasonal, the kiss of death. Newbie writers didn't get asked to join anthologies. Sex and Santa were a bad combination.
Well, the most effective way to get me to do something is to tell me I can't do it.
I didn't pad my word count. I didn't remove the Christmas from my Christmas story. I didn't shave my hero.
I kept querying publishers.
A year later, a small publisher told me they loved the book. They had a special section for holiday books! They loved the length! They thought it was sweet and whimsical and romantic!
A year after that, SWEET INSPIRATION was published.
Here I am, ten years later, and I am publishing the final book in the series. Is it a NYT-bestseller? No. Do I have an adorable bunch of readers who love the sweetness of this holiday romance series? Yes, absolutely yes. The best readers ever!
I learned a lot of good lessons with this series. I learned that there are two ways to approach this writing/publishing business. Neither one is better or worse, they're just different.
Some folks write to market. They see what sells, they write accordingly.
Some folks write the story percolating in their brain, regardless of market. They understand it might not sell a lot. It might not appeal to a publisher.
The Klaus Brothers have been on a rocky road with me. I learned about rejection with them. I learned how to write with them. I had a heart attack with them. I learned how to self-publish with them.
I feel like Santa is patting me on the back and pushing me into 2017, a year for new beginnings.
And HUGE JUMBO GINORMOUS THANK YOU to my readers who have stuck with me on this journey, the bumpy road, the quirky path.
1. Cover Reveal! Huge thanks to Lena Goldfinch for this gorgeous cover. Hey! There's a person on my cover. Where's the fruit?
2. Book Blurb for SWEET DESTINY
Wolfgang Reinhard Klaus, Director of
Charitable Donations for the family business, is the last unmarried Klaus
brother. While his four siblings have fallen in love and started their
unconventional families, Wolfgang has been crushed by his heart-breaking
obligations. The once affable Wolf has become a bitter and tormented man. All
he has left is a nimble vision of loveliness who haunts his dreams. Is she
enough to restore his faith in humanity?
Belinda Kiefer is a one-of-a-kind being,
embraced by the winter forest and the woodland animals. Half-human, half-fairy,
she flits between two worlds, searching for a place to belong. Her secret crush
on Wolfgang is both a blessing and a curse. It will help her to soothe him in
his darkest hour, but the outcome may cost her everything.
When Santa is injured before Christmas, the
Klaus family is forced to take action. The Day of Reckoning is finally upon
them, and one of the siblings must take responsibility for the beloved holiday.
Which brother possesses the true heart of the Weihnachtsmann? Who will be the
one to fulfill this long-awaited destiny?
3. Here's an (unedited) sneak peek at SWEET DESTINY, Klaus Brothers Series #5, coming in December 2016.
His breath was rhythmic and shallow. Like a
metronome, steady, keeping him grounded. His fingers grasped the rough granite
ledge, and he pulled himself closer to the cliff wall.
The wind was behind him. Below him. Beside
him. It started slow like a puff of air, gentle and prodding. And then it grew.
The gusts built to a crescendo until it roared in his ears. Rattling leaves
became percussion, unique to each tree, shaking violently on the branch.
focused on his breath and tried to ignore the thoughts banging around his head.
Thoughts about hungry children and crying babies and the scent of death.
Thoughts about family and obligation. His knee gripped the rock wall, bruising
the skin. This moment required his full and undivided attention, as he searched
for the next crevice, propelling himself higher. One slip—one bit of
distraction—could be deadly.
dripped down the side of his face and into his beard. He licked his lips and
glanced at the ledge. So close to the peak. Would it be enough? Would it banish
the dark thoughts and bring him peace? He’d spent months searching for
tranquility. In the deepest sea, diving into murky waters, finding no clarity.
In the jungle, but the noise there was deafening. On back country roads and in
bustling cities. And now he searched in the dense Vermont forest, free-climbing
a mountain wall into the clouds. Wolfgang knew a million places and a million
people. But no matter where he went, he couldn’t escape the realities of his
life. Those thoughts haunted his dreams and every waking moment.
Reinhard Klaus, third son of Alena and Nicholas Klaus, was Director of
Charitable Donations for Klaus Enterprises. At first, he’d loved his job—traveling
around the world and providing money for needy causes. He’d built schools in
third world countries, raised funds for pediatric hospitals, volunteered his
time at shelters. At first, he saw smiling faces of grateful children. Tears of
joy from appreciative parents. At first, he felt like Klaus Enterprises was making
somehow, slowly, over the years, he began to see another side of his job. Communities
ravaged by war. Children suffering. Families crushed by drug addiction. And
some patients—a little girl dressed in
pink who fought to the bitter end—did not have a happy ending. They never
left that hospital ward. They died there, and with them, so did Wolfgang’s
had taken weeks and months and years, and now his optimism was crushed to dust,
blown away by a forceful gale of wind and replaced by bone-deep cynicism. His
heart had hardened to protect itself from more disappointment. And unlike his
brothers—who had found love and happiness with a partner, joy with their
children, a future with their family—Wolf was alone.
though part of him still loved his family deeply, another part—an ugly part—was
consumed by jealousy. Why were his brothers so lucky? So deserving? Why
were they allowed to find love and he could not?
bent his head and watched a stream of sweat pour onto his shirt. He swallowed
nervously. He needed to focus and pull himself up to the break. His arms
strained with the effort of holding himself in place.
tried to clear his head, to block out everything.
needed to concentrate on this moment. There was no past, no future. No magik.
No elves. No Christmas carols belted out in off-key enthusiasm. No gingerbread
cookies iced with grandma’s love.
at the flat rock in front of him. He searched for the next ridge to clasp. But
instead, he saw the face of a little girl who haunted his dreams, asleep and
pale, and strangely still hopeful until her last breath. He could not escape
her, not even on this craggy wall of granite.
shut his eyes. What would it take to forget? There was nowhere left to go.
in that moment, as his fingers clutched the minuscule ledge that kept him
tethered to the rock and to his life, his hand flexed. His fingers slipped.
with an utter sigh of defeat, Wolfgang dropped from the rock and into a pit of
Here are some updates from the world of Watsonville...
1. ICELAND ADVENTURE
My family went to Reykjavik in August. Here are some highlights from our trip. The weather wasn't great--cold and gray and raining a lot of the time--but we still had a lovely time. The city is festive and welcoming, the geologic trips were incredible, and I highly approve of Viking beer. Hee!
Viking Beer...yum yum!
Hubby enjoying lunch in Reykjavik
Gorgeous architecture at Harpa Opera House
Diverging tectonic plates at Thingvellir. Wicked cool!
My kids at Mount Esja
Overall, I would highly recommend this trip. The city was very walkable and filled with interesting cultural spots. More highlights: The Golden Circle (includes Thingvellir, Geysir, and Gullfoss), a puffin-watching boat trip, and the Reykjavik Cultural Festival. Excellent!
2. BOOK SALES!
I have some specials coming up...
APPLES SHOULD BE RED is on sale for 99 cents in September, A TASTE OF HEAVEN is 99 cents in October, each Klaus Brothers book will be 99 cents in November, and SWEET DESTINY should be out in December. Still working on it!
If you're looking for the perfect gift for a friend, colleague, your mother, old college roommate, check this out! I recommend getting a copy of this adorable and clever book and putting it in a gift basket with a good bottle of vodka, couple of jars of olives, a martini shaker, and maybe a shot glass or two. PERFECTION!
Here are some of Tasha's suggestions for introverts who find themselves at a bar...
1. Do not order a fancy drink...it attracts too much attention.
2. Bring a book, phone, or fake wedding ring to deflect unwanted advances.
3. Do not make eye contact.
All excellent ideas! Order your copy now. Also perfect as a coffee table book.
4. Finally, I'm working on SWEET DESTINY...
And so Belinda drifted between two worlds, like a shadow flitting across the ice.
A world of magik and snow, and a world of human compassion.
And Alexander Skarsgard's dirty, flexing, sweaty body.
5. Sweet antiques...
...at the Quechee Antique Mall in Quechee, Vermont.
If you're looking for a fun summer activity, Quechee Vermont has a lot to offer. Stop at the antique mall for McCoy pottery and antique tins, then watch the glass-blowers at Simon Pearce, and finish off with the best lunch of your life at Simon Pearce Restaurant while overlooking the Ottauquechee River.
I often see authors talking about depression, anxiety, and other issues they are struggling with on a daily basis.
Working at home as a writer can be really difficult. It's isolating. It can be lonely, physically exhausting, and emotionally exhausting.
I have a few personal tips that have helped me, and I thought I would discuss them today.
1. Keep the lights on!
As soon as my husband went off to work, and the kids were off to school, I used to turn out all the household lights to save on the electric bill. I only kept on my office lights. But I noticed something. The darkness was oppressive and melancholy--especially during the winter months when there was very little natural light/sunshine entering the house.
I tried a little experiment. I kept on the kitchen and living room lights. It made a huge difference in my mood. When you're trapped in the house all day writing, your space is very important. If it's cluttered, you feel unsettled. If it's dark, you feel down. I noticed right away that my mood improved when I was surrounded by light vs. darkness. That sounds melodramatic, doesn't it? Hee hee. Well, it really worked. Try it!
2. Put the food away.
If you're trying to diet/stay healthy and work from home, it's tough when the kitchen is always five steps away. Also, food can be a distraction when you're trying to get work done. My kids have bags of chips and cookies everywhere. It's way too easy to grab a handful of potato chips when the bag is lying open on the kitchen counter.
I make a point to clean up the main kitchen island. The only thing allowed on there is a bowl of fruit. All cookies, chips, and other snacks must be wrapped up and put away in the pantry. Out of sight, out of mind. No more mindless snacking.
Just because you are working at home does not mean you need to eat constantly. And when you *are* hungry, it's good to have healthy snacks ready to go. Plenty of fruits, vegetables, and good protein will keep your mood elevated. Having a shelf in the fridge with pre-cut veggies/fruits, cheese sticks, mini yogurts, and other healthy snack foods is a great idea.
3. Add morning structure.
It can become overwhelming to have eight hours of freedom, especially if you are prone to anxiety. I have a to-do list for the morning to get me started. It includes making my bed, starting the first load of laundry, cleaning the kitchen, and walking. The two "W"s on my list are walking and writing. I walk for at least 30 minutes--which clears my head and helps me to percolate about my book--and then I come home and write for at least an hour. Usually, that turns into 2 hours, but as long as I can check off "1 HOUR WRITING" on my list, I feel like I've accomplished something.
The to-do list is really critical for folks who have trouble getting organized and staying on top of their anxiety. That structure makes you feel in control and like you are achieving your tasks. Also, by having "A WALK" on my list, I am forced to get dressed, get outside, and not hide like a hermit in my house all day. The walk is incredibly important for both physical and mental well-being. More about that later!
4. Take a social break.
Living in isolation is not good for your soul. Sometimes we need quiet time to concentrate and work. And sometimes we need to reach out and connect with people. Social media--in theory--can be a great way to accomplish this. However, more often than not, social media can be rage-inducing or depressing or horrifying. Too many disturbing news stories, animal torture pics, etc.
When you need a pat on the back or some support, make sure you have a way to connect with your friends. A private Facebook page where you can vent is fabulous. A group text where you can discuss the latest Tom Hiddleston news is also wonderful. Private emails are good, too. Just make sure you have a way to be in touch with the folks who know you, love you, support you.
One more thing...never underestimate the power of a pet connection! One hug with my dachshund Lucy can change my whole mood. There's a reason that research shows folks with pets are happier. Unconditional love and affection is everything!
5. Get outside and move.
This is a biggie for me, and probably for a lot of other writers. We all remember those deadline days when you never change out of your pajamas, you forget to eat, and you sit in a chair for ten straight hours finishing your book. That's not healthy for mind or body. And probably not that great for your book either!
I make sure to walk every morning. It makes me feel connected to my environment, my neighborhood, and to a larger world than my little office. It's great for your physical health, and it's vital for me working on my book. I walk and think!
I also try to add some errands into each day that force me to get out of the house. It could be something as simple as heading to the post office or picking up dinner at the grocery store. For folks dealing with anxiety, sometimes getting out of the house can feel daunting. Making--and achieving--little goals is a good thing.
Any other bright ideas to combat depression, anxiety, or help with at-home work?
This event runs from April 8-September 11, 2016. I HIGHLY recommend it. First of all, the RISD Museum (Providence, RI) is fabulous. Touring the museum is a refreshingly intimate experience. The Todd Oldham exhibit is stunning. From the smallest button (which he created himself)...
...to the most glorious awe-inspiring gowns...
...the creations make the observer realize each and every piece in this collection is art. Oldham's sources of inspiration are sometimes geographical/ethnic, sometimes pop culture, sometimes pure fun. The piece below is made of pipe cleaners!
Everything is mixed. Patterns, fabric, accessories, inspiration. So many colors, textures, forms...it seems like it would be overwhelming, but everything works. It's delightful!
If you're looking for something fun to do this weekend, head over to Providence. You won't be sorry!
Dachshund-lover, cocktail drinker, botanist, obsessive reader, author of quirky fiction. Titles include The Klaus Brothers Series, Lumberjack in Love, Apples Should Be Red, A Taste of Heaven, and Lucy the Wonder Weenie (children's fiction--W/A Nina Clark).
LUCY THE WONDER WEENIE
Because every dog's a super hero.
Penny On The Dark Side (illustration by Scott Fiander)