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Tuesday, August 11

On Being Both Writer and Editor

I know I’ve talked about this before, but right now, I’m poignantly aware of how blessed I am to have two jobs. I often forget to be grateful for having work I love–although I consider being a novelist my career, I am also an editor pretty much full time. I love being an editor, polishing other writers’ books is incredibly rewarding. When I used to be strictly a nonfiction editor, my fellow general reference book editors and I joked that our job was to make the authors of the books sound as smart as they probably were. Sometimes it was a challenge, but wow, did I ever learn a lot of interesting stuff from working on those books. Sadly, I don’t remember much of it because if I tried, my brain would explode.

Editing fiction is a whole different ballgame, but one that is often just as challenging and certainly just as rewarding. I love my fiction authors! The stories are fun, sexy sometimes, and always enjoyable. Often, my job becomes sort of a teaching moment, in a way, as I fix common errors and some not so common. I don’t know if authors remember when I’ve put in a note like “never hyphenate an ly modifier,” or if they hang on to the detailed style sheet I create as I edit. They should. It generally includes good information like rules I’ve followed, a timeline and character list and commonly misspelled words that I corrected in their manuscript. I feel better when I can offer an explanation for my edits where I can because I don’t want authors thinking I’m just randomly making changes. There’s always a good reason, I promise, and always, always the reminder that every edit comes with the caveat your book, your call.

The writing continues, much to my amazement because I was stuck for a few weeks. I’m doing another 21-Day Challenge and going back to getting up early every morning and putting in the hour, at least, sometimes longer, depending on when I get started and when Husband wakes up. The stress of the world today is weighing heavy on my mind and for a little while writing wasn’t the escape it normally is. Social media may be my friend for book promo, but it can be dispiriting otherwise. When I write, I need to spend less time there.

The story is coming along, I’m about a quarter of the way through the story, although I stopped to work on deepening my characters, remembering GMC—Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. If you haven’t got a copy of this amazing book by Debra Dixon, grab one. It’s incredibly helpful. I knew in my head what Ryker and Kitt’s story was, but I hadn’t really gotten into why it was happening. What makes Rye who he is—rather a player—and why is this woman, Kitt, whom he’s just met, different from the other women in his life? And why is Kitt, who seems so open and friendly, really so closed up?

A long talk with my editor, the amazing Sinclair, helped tremendously, as did a couple of fabulous author workshops that my publisher is doing with all of us Tuligans via Zoom. Not only have these teaching sessions been incredibly helpful and enlightening, but they’ve also been an opportunity to “meet and greet” with the Tule editorial team and my fellow authors. What a treat that has been—to see their faces and know that we are all in this together.

A quick moment of shameless self-promotion: Meant to Be, Book 2 in the Four Irish Brothers Winery series is currently a free e-book at all retailers, so stop by and grab your free copy. If you haven’t ever read any of the Four Irish Brothers Winery series, here’s a start. All four books stand alone, but it’s way more fun if you start with Book 1, A Small Town Christmas, and go on from there. But however you choose to read them, I sure hope you enjoy them!

In the meantime, mes amies, have a great week, stay well, stay safe, and stay grateful.





Friday, August 7

Coping with Sophomore Syndrome by Jana Richards

Sophomore slump. A sophomore slump or sophomore jinx or sophomore jitters refers to an instance in which a second, or sophomore, effort fails to live up to the relatively high standards of the first effort.

Strictly speaking, what I’m concerned with is not sophomore syndrome since my latest release, TO HEAL A HEART, is the second book in the Masonville series, not the first. But that doesn’t make me any less worried about the next two books in the series.

Here’s the thing: The reviews I’ve received for TO HEAL A HEART have been some of best I’ve ever gotten. Most of the reviewers talk about making an emotional connection to the characters and their situations. I do my best to bring strong emotion to every book I write, but apparently with this book I really hit the mark. More than one reviewer mentioned that the book brought them to tears; one said, “This book wrecked me.”

Now what do I do?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m thrilled readers have connected with this book and have given it great reviews. But can I do it again? Will readers be disappointed when they read the next two books in the series? Will they feel like the series didn’t live up to the promise of this book?

I typically get nice reviews. There will always be some readers that really like my book, but I’ve never had a book that was universally loved by readers. It’s a new experience for me and wonderful one, but maybe that’s why I’m so freaked out.

Was this just a fluke? Will I ever be able to repeat the magic?

When I asked some friends in my writing group if they would be willing to beta read the next book in the series, I told them my fears. One very wise friend told me to simply enjoy the success and then let it go. I should do everything I can to make the next book the best it can be, but if doesn’t reach the success of its predecessor, that’s okay. I’ll always have the success of the previous book.

I know she’s right. I can’t obsess over how the next two books will be accepted or I’ll drive myself nuts and possibly derail the writing. But still …

I would love every one of my books to achieve critical acclaim, not to mention best seller status. But that is likely unrealistic. So I should enjoy my moment in the sun while it lasts.

But it’s easier said than done. I’m the kind of person who worries about things that may never happen.

So fellow Word Wranglers and readers, do you have any words of wisdom for me? How does a writer make each book in a series better than the one before it? Or is that even possible?  As a reader, would you be disappointed if the next book in a series didn’t hit the high notes of the previous one? Would it keep you from reading that author's books again?

Thursday, August 6

The Time for Healing by Ramona K. Cecil #WordWranglers

The Word Wranglers are happy to have author Ramona K. Cecil to the corral today. Please make her welcome.

Hi! I’m Ramona K. Cecil and I live in southern Indiana. I’m a wife, mother, grandmother, and author of historical romance novels for the Christian market. My husband and I have been married for forty-seven years and are now empty-nesters. We have two grown daughters and three young-adult grandchildren. We make our home in Seymour, Indiana, the “small town” made famous in rocker John Mellencamp’s song of the same name. I’ve always loved history, especially the history of my Hoosier state. Like The Time for Healing, many of my stories are set in Indiana’s past. When not writing, my hobbies include reading, gardening, and visiting places of historical interest.

My latest book, The Time for Healing, releases August 7th with Pelican Book
Group. This award-winning story is inspired by a real life event—The Pigeon Roost Massacre—that happened in 1812 about thirty miles south of where I live. Here is a little bit about it:
Winner - Best in Fiction Indiana Faith and Writing Contest 2014

Ginny Red Fawn McLain is determined to hold fast to her adoptive Shawnee culture despite her sudden reentry into her white birth family. She rejects their Christianity, fearing the tenets of the white man’s religion will prevent her from practicing as a Shawnee medicine woman. But her heart refuses to shun her uncle’s young friend and apprentice minister, Jeremiah Dunbar.

Jeremiah Dunbar has never doubted what he would do with his life—he’d follow in his father’s footsteps as a minister of the Gospel. But a mission trip west to the Native American tribes makes him begin to question his future plans. At the discovery of his fellow missionary’s long lost niece living among the Shawnee, Jeremiah is immediately smitten. But unless Ginny Red Fawn McLain joins Christ’s fold—something she adamantly resists—Jeremiah will have to choose between the woman he loves and the work God has called him to do. 

Ginny and Jeremiah struggle to discern the will of God, the Great Spirit, for their lives, and if fitting their love into His plans is even possible. Dreams and cultures clash amid an atmosphere of contempt and distrust, threatening to make their love the last casualty of the Pigeon Roost Massacre.

Purchase links for The Time for Healing:

Pelican Book Group   *   Amazon   *   Barnes & Noble   

Tuesday, August 4

Spectacular Silver Linings – by Janie DeVos


    I called my friend yesterday to wish her a happy birthday, and she shared a most amazing story with me which only served to prove to me, yet again, that every cloud has a silver lining.

Debi lives in my old neck of the woods in south Florida, and we met when we were walking our dogs in our neighborhood one day.  It was one of those chance meetings that has resulted in years of friendship, and one that hasn’t lessened even though I live hundreds of miles away now.

Debi loves going to the beach, but her favorite time to go is in the late afternoon, once the sands have quieted down, and the sun-tanners, volleyball players and people-watchers have gone home.  There, Debi sets her fold-out chair into the shallows and enjoys the water that still has enough of a touch of coolness to it to ease away the day’s heat—both the physical kind and the mental kind.  It’s usually a non-eventful time, which is exactly what she’s looking for, but she became part of a most remarkable event, miraculous really, when she arrived at her regular spot last week.

As with most difficult times in life, there’s usually some good that comes out of it if one will only look for it.  As a result of this pandemic, for example, the waters in the Venice canal have cleared up to the point that you can actually see the fish swimming in it, thanks to far less traffic on the waterway.  I also read that the world’s pollution is down, due to the fact that there are fewer cars on the roads and planes in the air.  Don’t get me wrong, I miss the “good ol’ days”, too, but, in exchange for those things we’re giving up for a while, we’re seeing some amazing silver linings.  Now, back to Debi…

For a long time now, the hatching of baby turtles has been a most difficult, if not downright impossible occurrence on the shores of south Florida.  Where once nests were abundant, now there are masses of people, and though there are laws in place to protect the turtles and their eggs, as well as volunteers to watch over them, the throngs of folks on the beach each day make it extremely difficult.  However, because of the pandemic, there have been far fewer people on the beach, and Mother Nature has taken full advantage of it.

As Debi sat there enjoying the hypnotic rhythm of the waves, she suddenly heard a commotion.  Quickly looking over to where it was coming from, she saw a group of people all huddled around…something.  Curious, she walked over to the group and there, nestled within a small protective enclosure, were hundreds of turtle eggs hatching.  Debi stood there mesmerized as she watched tiny heads and fins push their way out of the fractured eggs, realizing, as everyone else did, that they were the lucky few to be standing witness to something so precious and so rare, and something that they’d probably never have the chance to see again.

Suddenly, a woman from the group of volunteers who watches over the nests began to carefully load twenty hatchlings into a large bucket, and then she walked off toward the water, telling the onlookers to come with her.  Just short of where the water meets the sand, she gently lifted each tiny turtle out of the bucket and instructed the group to help guide the babies into the water, and to gently set them back on course if they began to stray.  Bucket after bucket of hatchlings were set free, and encouraging them on, just like proud parents, were the beach goers, following their charges with outstretched hands to keep them headed in the right direction.  People of all colors, nationalities, religious beliefs, political views and ages worked side by side, and as they did, they forgot how angry they were, or frightened, and how disillusioned and different they were.  For a small moment in time, no one thought about it, or, if they did, it just simply didn’t matter.  What did matter was the importance of working together as one, for only then would the turtles have a chance.  There the people stood, sharing the joy of their accomplishment as they watched the tiny turtles feel the first soft waves splash their little faces, and then excitedly find a rhythm with their fins as they worked to propel themselves forward into the vast blue-green sea.  People laughed together, smiled at each other and felt that deep connection that is created when we're able to accomplish something wonderful as a whole.

As the last hatchling made its way into the depths, dusk descended, and a most glorious sunset ended the day in an exclamation mark of vibrant gold, red and orange.  Not a storm cloud had been seen all afternoon, yet a spectacular silver lining had miraculously occurred, uniting the hearts and spirits of a lucky chosen few with some tiny little turtles whose lives depended on them to forget their differences...if only for a small moment in time.

Saturday, August 1

It's All in the Smolder

by Margie Senechal 

The other day I happened onto Shakespeare in Love and while watching it, I realized one of the reasons I love it is for the smolder. You know that moment that emotional embers burn just before they ignite?

In Shakespeare in Love, Will watches Viola with such intensity, you're surprised they don't spontaneously combust.

Seely Booth had it for Bones even before they became an official couple. Watch the Grave Digger episode when he pulls Bones from her sandy grave. He may have been sleeping with Cam, but he never looked at her like he looked at Bones. 

And all those smoldering moments finally came to fruitation in Season 7.

Dangerous Beauty is one of my all-time favorite movies. It's about the love between a courtesan and a nobleman during Italy's 16th century plague and witch hunt. Nobody does the smolder like Rufus Sewell. Hell, he even does the angry smolder justice--see A Knight's Tale.

It's also why we love Darcy in all his incarnations. Whether it's Colin Firth in Pride and Prejudice or Colin Firth in Bridget Jones. Or Matthew Macfadyen in Pride and Prejudice. 
These days I'm working on mastering the smolder between Ana and Danny in Suitcases. Because honestly, it's those smoldering embers that keep readers reading and viewers watching. 

If you stop by, let me know your perfect smoldering hero. I need all the help I can get to master this skill.  

As always, stay safe and mask up!

Tuesday, July 28

On Paper Planners and Getting Ish Done

For some of you this post is going to sound like a broken record because I wax on about my love of paper planners every few months. I get excited about the planner releases every May (for the Academic year releases) and October (for the Traditional year releases) and I moan and stress about about which one will help me get more done. Or just keep me on task - squirrel brain, she is a real thing. And then I typically go with the same layout I've used for a few years (three box vertical - yay!).  I get excited about new sticker and washi releases, and new pens and highlighters make me feel all floopy inside.

Planner pages filled with quotes I love
This year I did go a different route, although my planner is still a vertical layout. Instead of three big, empty boxes, I'm using an hourly layout from the Passion Planner that has two separate areas at the bottom for to-do lists and one just for ... whatever makes me happy.

I know a lot of you are digital planners but that just doesn't work for me (though it does for RadioMan - he is lost without our shared iCal). I realized in ... 2015, I think, that I was losing things. Doctor's appointments, I forgot about lunch with a friend (I KNOW!!), I got mixed up on a deadline (which I met but the meeting of it was skeery) I decided to try a paper planner and it worked for me. My brain seems to latch on to appointments, birthdays, events, deadlines and the like when I physically write them down moreso than when I type them into a digital screen. I'm not sure why, it's just my brain.

This year, though, has been weird with planning. Starting with the pandemic and shut-down in March, things just kind of stopped and I started wondering why the heck I needed a planner. There were no doctor's appointments, no karate lessons, no lunch dates or movie dates or writer dates with friends. I still had deadlines, but what else was I going to fill in on all those pages.

And then things got really real with the pandemic and all of these people (no one super-close to me, but still) were getting sick and there were fights about wearing masks and suddenly I was a working, writing, homeschooling mom and the overwhelm was real. My basic planner style is to use the hourly areas of my planner for dayjob stuff or appointments, use the to do list areas for wordcount goals and fill in the rest with pretty stickers. All of that empty, hourly space was freaking me out.

So I started filling it in - my thoughts about what was going on, things that were making me happy, things we were doing as a family like playing games or watching movies. I made lists of dinners and recipes I wanted to try, places I want to go with all of this is over, reminders to myself that things would be okay. And as I was filling in all of that space not with appointments but with things that made me happy, I started to feel better.

Writing out gratitude lists didn't give me control over anything to do with the pandemic, but you know what it did give me control of? What I was thinking. I helped me to remember that in the middle of all of this craziness, I have a family and friends who love and support me and who are loved and supported by me. I have this career that I love (even when it's hard). I have hobbies (quilting, photography) that keep my hands occupied and a stack of recipes that I may never make but that make me feel inspired about cooking dinner.

As the world has started reopening, I'm finding more 'things' to fill in in my planner - orthodontist appointments, karate lessons, a few days out with RadioMan - but I'm also finding that keeping a few 'fun' extras is still important. So I think I'll keep writing my gratitude lists and looking for recipe/dinner ideas to write in along with all of the deadlines, daily wordcount goals, overall career goals, and real-life stuff.

Do you use a paper planner?