Behind the Scenes with LeeAnn Betts

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Today I welcome Mystery writer Leeann Betts to Jubilee Writer. We are  celebrating her newest release Silent Partner, number nine in her cozy mystery series By The Numbers.

Silent Partner – The Story Behind the Story

By Leeann Betts

Readers often ask where I get an idea for a story, and my answer usually is, “I don’t know.” Which is usually correct. I don’t know. Most always when a story comes to me, it’s because of the crazy way my brain combines three or four separate incidents, characters, stories, or a combination of all three.

The idea

The idea for Silent Partner began about four years ago when my husband and I talked about taking an Alaska cruise. Seemed like the perfect setting for a cozy mystery—a captive audience, so to speak, as well as a contained pool of suspects all forced into close proximity to each other. Exactly what an author looks for in a mystery novel.

The Title

At the time, I played with the title Cold, Hard Cash because of the Alaska location, icebergs and glaciers, and because the body would be found on a glacier or a larger iceberg floating past. However, two things happened: I came out with an unplanned book because the cruise was delayed, and the title of that book was Petty Cash, so I didn’t want two books with similar titles; and I went on the cruise and learned that during this time of year when the story is set, in May, the icebergs floating south are too small—more like ice chunks, really—for a body, plus the only access to a glacier is by helicopter, which few people would do.

The Setting

So, as I spent seven glorious days aboard the Amsterdam, I looked around for alternatives to where the body would be found. And one day, hubby and I were out walking the deck, and a crew member came out through a door leading to a part of the ship we hadn’t seen before, leaving that door ajar. Hubby headed for the door, but the crew member turned around and said he couldn’t go through there. Despite hubby’s protests, we were denied entry until a couple of days later when we sailed into a bay and sat before the impressive Hubbard Glacier for about three hours. Then we were encouraged to go onto the bow, and to eat pea soup at 3:00, and to wander around. And I learned there was nothing there but the bow of the ship. Not too interesting.

The Cover

However, the next day as I passed the same spot where we saw the crew member exit the bow, I saw water on the deck and footprints leading toward the door. The perfect cover shot!

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The Suspects

As I worked through my plot, the characters came to life. I had run a promotion where one winner won the opportunity to be named as the killer, one of the suspects, or the victim in this book, and that person wanted to be a suspect, which I wrote in.

The backdrop

I use much of the itinerary, the staff, the crew, and the events from our cruise as backdrop for the mystery, changing some names but leaving others intact. I’ve had help in research from a cruise ship law attorney, and from a man overboard detection system technician.

The Main Characters

And as much as Carly and Mike are like me and my husband, they are still very much their own “people”. I am not nearly as quick on the comebacks as Carly is, and my husband has never said I’m a full-time job. Apart from that – well, I’ll leave it to you to figure out where the imagination begins and ends.

The Back Cover of Silent Partner:

Carly and Mike take the vacation of a lifetime–an Alaskan cruise. Unfortunately, Carly can’t turn off her nose for trouble. Or mystery. Pretty soon she’s embroiled with a series of allegations, innuendoes, overheard conversations, and even a shoving match. And before she knows it–a body. Can Carly figure out who the killer is before she ends up floating on an iceberg—or worse?

The Author

Leeann Betts writes contemporary suspense, while her real-life persona, Donna Schlachter, pens historical suspense. Silent Partner is book 9 in her cozy mystery series. In addition, Leeann has written a devotional for accountants, bookkeepers, and financial folk, Counting the Days, and with her real-life persona, Donna Schlachter, has published two books on writing, Nuggets of Writing Gold and More Nuggets of Writing Gold, a compilation of essays, articles, and exercises on the craft, as well as a contemporary suspense, In Search of Christmas Past. She publishes a free quarterly newsletter that includes a book review and articles on writing and books of interest to readers and writers. You can subscribe at www.LeeannBetts.com or follow Leeann at www.AllBettsAreOff.wordpress.com All books are available on Amazon.com in digital and print, and at Smashwords.com in digital format.

Website: www.LeeannBetts.com Receive a free ebook just for signing up for our quarterly newsletter.

Blog: www.AllBettsAreOff.wordpress.com

Facebook: http://bit.ly/1pQSOqV

Twitter: http://bit.ly/1qmqvB6

Books: Amazon http://amzn.to/2dHfgCE  and Smashwords: http://bit.ly/2z5ecP8

The Giveaway

Question for readers: If you could take a cruise anywhere in the world, where would it be and why? Leave a comment for the chance to win a free print (US only) or ebook version of Silent Partner.

Readers, if you don’t comment you’ve no chance to win.

 

 

 

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The Birth of a Series and a Giveaway

I am excited to have Author Elaine Marie Cooper back as a guest. She has a wonderful new series Dawn of America. I am fascinated to learn how a series comes to be.  Elaine is going to share the birth of her Historical romance with us. Hope you enjoy this peek into the creative process of a skilled wordsmith.

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A “chance” discovery while I researched online revealed a historical incident that occurred during the American Revolution in Connecticut: The British troops attacked three towns along Long Island Sound in 1779. I had never heard of these battles before and was amazed by the significance of them. Yet the stories of the residents of New Haven, Fairfield, and Norwalk, Connecticut, seemed buried in the annals of history.

I couldn’t wait to unearth the past, set in fictional format!

Thus was birthed the idea for Love’s Kindling, a love story set in the backdrop of 1779 Fairfield and New Haven. My characters came to life for me as I created their stories. Zadok Wooding, a blacksmith frustrated with his ordinary life, finally has a chance to become a hero, until an accident thwarts those plans. Aurinda Whitney, who lives a Cinderella existence with an unloving father, struggles to keep her faith in the midst of war. The two meet and the adventure begins, fraught with terror, bravery, and, of course, love that kindles in the midst of war.

The back story of Zadok and Aurinda is featured in the prequel, War’s Respite. It is set in 1763, at the very end of the French and Indian War. War’s Respite is a short novella and is an introduction to the entire 4-book series entitled Dawn of America.

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When I signed my contract with Burnett Young Books, the publisher wanted Book 1 to be a Prequel to Book 2, Love’s Kindling. I’d never written a prequel before and I found it completely enjoyable to go deeper into the back story of my characters. It required minimal changes to Love’s Kindling, except a few lines between the characters. It almost seemed as though Book 2 was written to have a prequel! I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I took pleasure in writing it.

In the works are Books 3 and 4, Winter’s Ravage and Courier’s Return. I hope this new series blesses you and touches your heart.

 

                                   Back Cover Copy, War’s Respite

In 1763, the war with the French came to a close. While most Connecticut colonists breathed in relief, others are faced with unexpected conflicts as battles of a different nature ensue at home.

Veteran Abijah Whitney regrets leaving his pregnant wife behind when he was called away to war. The news of her death during childbirth as well as the ugly brutalities of war have left their mark. His only comfort is the knowledge that his daughter survived. But his plans for her upon his return will cause an uproar in many lives, including the aunt who raised her.

Primrose Allan’s sole consolation after the death of her sister in childbirth is the baby girl who lived. The aunt raises the girl as her own, fearing that one day the girl’s father might return for her. But Primrose never imagined the nightmare that would ensue.

Dr. Isaac Northrup is a friend caught in the middle of the turmoil. Always desiring to bring healing, he feels helpless in the events that cause pain and heartache to others, as well as himself.

Jonas Wooding, the town’s blacksmith, is caught in the strife, made all the worse by a serious epidemic. Bound by constrictions of local law and forced to face his own grief, Jonas’s trust in God is stretched beyond endurance.

When all seems lost, will faith endure? loveskindling_cover

      Back Cover Copy, Love’s Kindling

During the American Revolution in 1779, Aurinda Whitney lives with her cold and calloused father, an embittered veteran of the previous war. Aurinda’s life changed forever when her father returned for her after that war, taking her away from the only place she’d ever experienced affection. Since her father blamed Aurinda for the death of his wife in childbirth, Aurinda is convinced she is unworthy of love.

Zadok Wooding believes he is a failure as he tends the smithy at home while others go to battle against the British. Just when he has an opportunity to become a hero, he is blinded in an accident. Now he fears he will never live up to the Biblical “mighty man of valor” for whom he was named.

When the couple meet, they are both challenged to overcome adversity as well as their inadequacies. Unexpected secrets of their past emerge that can change their lives forever. But can they look past their present circumstances to heal—and find love.

Author Bio

Elaine Marie Cooper has two E-book releases January 18, 2019: War’s Respite (Prequel novella) and Love’s Kindling. Paperback version of Love’s Kindling will follow. These books are the first two novels in the Dawn of America Series set in Revolutionary War Connecticut. Cooper is the award-winning author of Fields of the Fatherless and Bethany’s Calendar. Her 2016 release (Saratoga Letters) was finalist in Historical Romance in both the Selah Awards and Next Generation Indie Book Awards. She penned the three-book Deer Run Saga and has been published in numerous magazines and anthologies. You can visit her website/ blog at www.elainemariecooper.com

Elaine is giving a way a copy of both e-books to one lucky commenter. Let me know in the comments on this blog that you’d like to be entered in the drawing. Comments on social media are not eligible. I’ll draw a name on January 31st. Elaine will contact the winner.

 

 

 

 

Five Ways to lose your WIP on your PC

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Recently, I lost an entire chapter of my novel. A stupid mistake that caused me precious time and lots of angst rewriting. It was agony to redo, when I couldn’t remember those great phrases and dialog I’d labored over weeks before. I remember a few other times I lost documents.  So here is my list of how to lose your manuscript in ten seconds.

  1. Never save. This is the curse of older computers. Most PC save automatically. Even if they shut down, there is a temporary save option. If you’re not sure, go to settings to choose how often your word program saves.
  2. Don’t save on the Cloud. Fear of the unknown or new technology can keep you away from a great place to store data. I use One Drive, it’s Microsoft’s piece of the cloud. I can access that from any device. If my computer dies all my docs are secure in the Cloud.
  3. Don’t save on a flash drive. It takes a few extra minutes to save work on a flash drive. Again, if your computer dies, you have a back-up. If you’re worried someone will steal your manuscript, then plug in the drive and write to the flash drive only. You can carry your words around on a keychain hooked to your person.
  4. Write when your exhausted That is the prefect way to increase your chances of overwriting your latest draft. Exhaustion is an evil taskmaster. I saved chapter 20 as chapter 12 and when the warning message came up, do you want to replace chapter 12 I clicked yes. Then I shut my laptop lid and walked away. If I had left my work up and not shut the lid, my computer nerd peeps could have rescued it. Once you shut the lid on a laptop, the computer finalizes the replacement. Only some heavy-duty cyber skills can retrieve those words, you risk losing some important files while they deep dive for it.
  5. Don’t heed the battery low light.

It is so easy when the low battery message flashes to think I have enough time to finish this one line before I plug it in, then it’s the paragraph or the page. Then blackness fills the screen and if your computer has no autosave, you are doomed.

 

Can you add another tip for losing your manuscript permanently? I need someone to commiserate with.

 

Ten Tips for Early Conference Preparation

conference word cloudOne area I feel writer’s fall short is preparing ahead for conferences.  I mean way ahead. We’re too busy writing and marketing. So, we wait until the last minute to get our act together leaving us anxious and worn out before the opening day. This is January, let’s see if we can’t change that. It’s possible I’ll be attending three this year when one is my average. So, I’m preaching to the choir here.

I’ve put together my ten-point checklist. If you can sprinkle the months leading up to your conference with time to get these things done. It leaves the weeks before for fun stuff, like shopping for a new outfit. Your conference experience will be so much more enjoyable.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

  1. Choose the conference you plan to attend.

You’ll base it on affordability and distance from home.  Perhaps there’s a dream conference you’ve had your eye on, and this is the year.

  1. Fund it ahead.

Set money aside each payday or paycheck from a writing assignments or royalties. Don’t be shy about applying for scholarships. Some conferences offer work scholarships.

Watch for flight deals. Sometimes the earlier you book the sweeter the deal. The same goes for hotels.

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  1. Prepare your Manuscript.

Start now to clean it up and tweak it. Ask for others to go over it. Trade critiques with another writer. Run it through Grammarly or ProWritingAid or both.  Make sure it’s the best it can be.

  1.  New headshot

No one should use an old photo. We age, our hairstyle changes and we don’t want an editor to not remember us because the business card photo does not look like the person they met. Photographers often have a reasonable price for headshots. Having a copy on your computer allows you to put it on business cards, bookmarks and sell sheets. Paying for a bit of touchup is a good idea.

  1. Get your swag on

Buy new business cards if needed to reflect changes in your writing status. Some authors add the book titles to the back of their card or use a folded card for any additional information. Create new bookmarks, notecards and sell sheets early. It gives you time to have a reprint if you find an error. It also spreads the cost over months instead of weeks.

I carry my clips and samples in a three ring binder with plastic sleeves.

  1. Gather clippings throughout the year.

As you receive bylines put them in a clip file. Put your favorites together in a folder to show an editor. No one wants to see them all. Make sure whichever clips they choose to read are your best work.

  1. 7. Put out the word if you have a need

Well in advance of the event request roommates or a need to carpool. It gives you a better chance of finding the right match.

  1. Set aside spending cash

Decide what your spending cash goal is and try to save that ahead of time. Throw change in a jar. Cut your grocery spending by $10 and put that in an envelope for the conference. Use cash only or a prepaid debit card for on-site conference purchases. This keeps you from overspending.

  1. Bath the event in prayer.

Pray for the conference and seek God’s direction months before the registration day arrives. God’s peace will rest on you before, during, and after the event.

  1. Request the days off now

Ask for the time off now. Add a day before to get things in order, and a day after to rest, and recover. Waiting until the last minute usually ends in fewer days off or too much going on at work to use your PTO. Request the time now before anyone else takes those dates.

This is my checklist. What other things would you add?

I know you’ve thought of something I’ve missed.

 

 

My thoughts on Endorsements

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I’ve got a bee in my bonnet I thought I’d shared today. I love getting endorsements for my books, and I love giving them. But the thing that bugs me; fake endorsement.  Readers may stop trusting the endorser. Not what I want as a writer and blogger.

The Bee

It is acceptable among authors and publishers for writers to ask for an endorsement by sending a line or two they have written themselves. The celebrity, authority or author whose name appears on their book cover adds clout. So, they call or send a note. “I know you’re busy. You mentioned endorsing my upcoming book. To save you time I’ve written one for you. If you’re comfortable with the wording, may I add your name?”  Or something along those lines. Many are happy to do it.

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Not me. I know people are busy, and it’s hard to set aside time to read a book. But for me, it is putting words in their mouths and I won’t do it. I ask for endorsements and send the person the pdf and the summary. Then let them write it in their own words. If they don’t finish the book and still write the endorsement then they’ve read enough to feel comfortable adding their name to the cover.

I always read the books I endorse. If I don’t have time, I decline the opportunity. Just as I give an honest review, I want to give an honest endorsement. I consider being asked an honor, and I don’t take that lightly.

The Sting

I was appalled to read the words “well-written” by an endorser for a book that wasn’t. It was amateurish and lacked professional editing.  Apparently, the individual endorser didn’t read the book. Some writers think readers don’t know what a well-written book looks like, so it doesn’t matter. Oh, but they do. Readers who trust the endorser for an honest assessment will be disappointed if their expectations aren’t met. I’m referring to terms like well-written or excellent wordsmith. Granted we all have our own opinions. If the endorser found it riveting, I may not. That’s different.

My Caution

In our effort to get a well-known person to endorse our work, we may find them more receptive if they don’t have to write the endorsement. Then you have a big name singing your praises on the cover. It may have little to no effect on your sales. Or your sales may skyrocket, but if your words are not well-written, the buyers will not return for your newest release. And if they trusted the endorser and were disappointed, the next book endorsed by the same person may be rejected out of hand by potential readers.

There now, the bee has escaped from my bonnet and I feel better.

What are your thoughts on getting and giving endorsements?

 

I’ve Gone and Done it for 2019

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I’ve finally went and done it. Done something I hadn’t planned on doing and avoided for years. Something to encourage me through 2019.  I dropped the new year’s resolution thing long ago. We all know we break those by February, a few hangers-on by summer.  I’m slow to comply and resistant to making promises I may not keep. The latest craze that has caught on over the last decade is a word for the year. I didn’t take that too seriously either. I lumped it in with writing down everything you eat before you start a diet. Not something I want to do. This year I can’t help it. I  believe I have my word for 2019. It’s BRAVE.

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Not the kind of brave that requires swords or donating a kidney. Instead this next year I will be brave enough to be who I am. I will not compromise my faith. I will finish the two novels I need to by bravely stealing time each day to get my word count done.

It takes bravery to say no to stuff I shouldn’t be wasting as much time on -like TV. Saying No to things others should be doing for themselves.  Saying no to other’s ideas of how I should be spending my time.

I’ll need bravery to continue to market myself. I’d rather help others get noticed. But I must be willing to put myself out there more. Bravery will hold me up as I continue to learn new ways to market and arrange more venues to sell books.

 

As a mom and grandmother, I often give over my time to others. Bravery puts guilt aside. Without guilt plaguing me I’ll take time for myself and enjoy it.

I’m looking forward to seeing how brave plays out in my life in 2019.

What is your word for the year?

If you’ve not subscribe to jubilee Writer why not start out the year with me. I’ve got some wonderful authors guesting on my blog this year. And I’ll give you periodic updates on how brave I’m being. I always try to provide helpful writerly information and book reviews.