J’nell Ciesielski stopped by to share her debut novel success and her writing journey

J'nell Ciesielski official

LPC, Smitten Historical Author J’nell Ciesielski is my special guest. Her novel Among The Poppies is a wonderful tale set in World War I. I’m so excited to learn more about this talented author and how her debut novel stayed on the top of Amazon ratings on release day.

J’nell, let’s start with a little about your writing journey.

From an early age I was creating stories, but it wasn’t until college when it became serious. My first novel was riddled with beginner’s mistakes and will probably never see the light of day, but I kept at it. Kept writing, taking classes, studying the craft, and entering contests. Years later, after my third finished manuscript, I landed my wonderful agent. Another four years later and I got The Call on Palm Sunday. My first contract! Now life is a bit of a whirlwind, but at the heart of it I just want to write good stories.

I love your commitment to writing good stories. That is truly the key.

What is your latest published project.

My debut novel, Among the Poppies, was published only last month! It tells the story of a female ambulance driver who falls in love with a duty-bound army captain on the front lines of France during WWI.

I love historical romance, I find few set in World War I. Tell us how you did research for your book?

Since I was tackling an era somewhat unknown to me, I had to do a ton of research. No problem for me because I love research! It’s my favorite part of the writing process. I read every book I could get my hands on: fiction and non, biographies, diaries, first-hand accounts. I watched every movie pertaining to the period, listened to music of the age, and even spent a day watching videos on how to change a model-T tire. There’s nothing I won’t do to be as accurate as possible. Though I do leave room for fiction flourishes J

Research is always fascinating to me as well. What inspired you to write your book?

Like many people the world over, I got swept up in the whirlwind that was Downton Abbey. The elegance, the estates, the manners, and, of course, the clothes. Oh, to wear fancy hats again! Season two plunged the audience into WWI and there I saw it, Lady Sybil the nurse and her world-changing chauffeur love of a man, Branson. I had to be a part of this world! Gwyn Ruthers became a chauffeur’s daughter longing for adventure beyond the garage doors, and William Crawford is an army captain who, above all, desires order. But Gwyn is anything but orderly J

I have to  ask when did you realize your calling to create words on paper to share with the world?

Like most writers, I grew up with a passion for books. I’d gobble them up as fast as I could then sit down to pen my own. My first novel was in kindergarten where I wrote a love story between an apple core and a trash can. It wasn’t until I read Kathleen Morgan’s Embrace the Dawn where I finally thought yes, I can do this! No surprise the book was about Scotland J It was a turning point because I wanted to create stories and characters for myself and have it play out in a way that satisfied my imagination instead of waiting around for someone else to do it for me.

I love your honest answer. We’re shifting gears a bit now. Do you have a favorite verse that resonates with you?

Romans 8:28 We know that all things work together for good to those who love God.

It reminds me that God is still in control.

If you could go back in time and give one piece of advice for your younger self about writing what would that be?

Don’t stress so much. I’m a notorious worrier which I think lends itself from my being a planner. Things will work out exactly how and when they’re supposed to because God’s got this.

Amen, sister!

Who is your best support system to keep you focused on your writing?

My husband. He gives me all the time I need to sequester myself in my office while he keeps our daughter occupied (which is a full-time job J ) and never ever complains. I bounce ideas off him, and he gives great advice on battle scenes and the inner workings of the male mind. He helps me remember why I love writing.

 You’re are truly a blessed woman.

What is your favorite genre to read for fun?

Historical romance is my favorite! I can’t get enough of it. Highlanders, pirates, world wars, and once in a while a revolutionary tale. I’ve read a few contemporaries, but I’m really picky about those. When I read I want to escape, and modern-day life that I see every day is not an escape for me.

Where is your favorite place to write?

Since I don’t live on the water I have to say the second best place is my office. It’s pink, dotted with flowers, black and white pictures, and over the top girly. I love it!

The thing I am super interested in knowing is what steps did you take before your book was released to get your book at the top of Amazon ratings?

Let me just say that I am not business minded. Me and numbers make about as much sense as toothpaste and orange juice so when my publishing house started asking me about a marketing plan I froze like a deer in headlights. That being said, let me tell you what I did in hopes of helping others out there like me J

First, I wrote the best book I could. Without that nothing else matters. Long before that elusive contract fell into my lap, I joined writing groups and started mingling with people on social media. As an introvert I really had to push myself out of my comfort zone, but you know what? Writers are a pretty friendly group who are more than happy to help and lend advice. Here’s the important thing: I didn’t go into social media with the intent to advertise myself as a writer or my work. I simply talked to people, sometimes about writing, sometimes about what crazy thing my daughter did at school, or the latest book I’d just read, or favorite movies. It didn’t matter because the point was to get my name out there and make connections on a personal level. I can’t stress this enough because when it came time for release day, all the people that I had made connections with in the months prior were more than happy to help me out with.
Months before release day, I set up interviews and requested endorsements from other writers that I had become friends with via social media. Then, I set up a launch team to help get the word around about Poppies with Advanced Readers Copies. I’m blessed enough to have a very talented husband who happens to be a whiz on the computer so he designed a few graphics for me to share on social media, and gave a facelift to my website.

That’s basically it. I don’t have a big secret that I was just waiting to reveal on release day. The preparation started years before. First, by writing the best book possible, and then getting to know people, writers, bloggers, reviewers, and readers who could help put my book and name in front of an audience much larger and farther reaching than I could ever accomplish on my own.

I can see why that makes a difference. These are all musts for a successful launch but what was the key action on release day that made the difference?

I think this goes back to laying that foundation of personal contacts and making sincere connections. Other writers, bloggers, reviewers, and readers are some of the nicest people you could meet. They genuinely want to help and see you succeed and they were instrumental in promoting Poppies when release day came. Word of mouth spread like wildfire, so much that it took me by complete surprise! Poppies sold out twice within two days of release!! I believe that you can have all the fancy graphics and ads you want, but it’s word of mouth from fellow readers that gets books into the hands of readers.

Great tip J’nell and it definitely worked like gangbusters for you. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your story with my readers.

Who is J’nell?

Believing she was born in the wrong era, J’nell Ciesielski spends her days writing heart-stopping heroes, brave heroines, and adventurous exploits in times gone by. Winner of the Romance Through the Ages contest and Maggie Award, J’nell can often be found dreaming of a second home in Scotland, indulging in chocolate of any kind, or watching old black and white movies. Born a Florida girl, she now calls Virginia home, along with her very understanding husband, young daughter, and one lazy beagle.

Among the Poppies FINAL cover

Among the Poppies blurb:

Gwyn Ruthers longs for adventure far beyond the stifled life society restricts her to as a chauffeur’s daughter. With the war to end all wars exploding across the Channel, Gwyn signs up to drive ambulances on the Front. Rambling over bomb blasted roads and living in mud bogged trenches is far from the exotic travels she had in mind. A simpler life doesn’t look quite as bad as she once thought. Especially when a handsome captain has her rethinking her objections to settling down.

Links for J’nell.

Social Media links:

http://www.jnellciesielski.com/

https://www.facebook.com/jnellciesielski

https://twitter.com/JnellCiesielski
https://www.goodreads.com/jnellciesielski

https://www.pinterest.com/jnellciesielski/

Order link:

https://tinyurl.com/ybg76f66

 

Grab this inspiring book and if you want to encourage J’nell in her writing journey leave a review.

Did you enjoy this interview? Would you like to read more? Subscribe before leaving this page and you’ll receive this blog in your e-mail every time there is a new post.

 

Advertisements

Tips for Getting Endorsements and Why you need them

Endorsement cloud

By the time my first book was contracted, I had several endorsers willing to come on board. The same with my second novel.  Endorsements are an additional encouragement to readers that your book is well-written and worth reading.

Who should you ask for endorsements

Endorsements however lose value if it is your mother or any other family member. They need to be from other authors or people in the field you are writing about.  My second book has an endorsement from a women’s life coach, Darlene Larson. She helps wounded women begin afresh. My heroine Isabella is healing from an abusive marriage. Darlene’s endorsement was crucial.

I write for women, but I got male endorsements for both novels. That extra atta-girl from the male gender lets prospective readers know the storyline will appeal to men.

Where does one get endorsements?

I am going to assume you attend writers’ conferences, critique groups and other writing classes. You have found friends and kindred spirits in these places. I review lots of books for many authors as well.  I emailed a lot of these friends to get the half-dozen I have in each book. Many turned me down for various reasons: they were too busy at the moment or because of their affiliation with my publisher, they couldn’t.

Don’t be afraid to ask

It’s like getting published. If you never submit, you’ll never get a contract. If you never ask, you’ll never find yeses. The more you ask the more chances of getting more than one. Send out twenty or so requests, and if you get four you’re doing well. Be sure the twenty aren’t all best-selling strangers, but people you’ve spent time getting to know. Especially those who’ve read portions of your book or critiqued it. They will give you a glowing endorsement. Perhaps they can’t endorse but might be willing to do a review when it comes out. That’s golden.

Some authors ask busy people for endorsements by giving them three or four prewritten endorsements to choose from. I personally have never done this.  I won’t endorse something until I’ve read it. Prewritten endorsements are permissible in writing circles, if you can get more endorsers that way go for it. Some people want to read the synopsis and the back cover and then a bit of the book before they write an endorsement.

Be sure these are people who read your genre, have some credibility as an author or in their field of expertise before you ask them.

When do you ask?

As soon as you finish your book. You can tell them you’ll send a copy once it’s edited and you receive a contract. That way you can add who has agreed to endorse your book in the proposal. But after the contract is signed is also good.  You’ll have plenty of time before it is published to secure them. And your ARC copy will be available to send out once you get a yes.

Now, go forth and get endorsements.

Share what you do to get endorsements.

Don’t forget to subscribe to continue to get writing tips, author interviews and other writerly things

Historical Suspense Writer Peggy Blann Phifer Visits

Today I welcome Peggy Blann Phifer to Jubilee Writer. This is the kind of guest blog I look forward too. I started writing novels when I was fifty thus the blog name Jubilee Writer. Peggy is a great model for my theme. Hello, Peggy, let me give you a cyber hug and offer you a seat at my kitchen table. Let’s get started.

Peg-Primary-2016 400x400

Tell my readers a little about your writing journey.

I was a late bloomer as far as this writing thing goes. Unlike many others, I didn’t always want to write or be a writer. I didn’t start this journey until age 50. That happened when, while on a lunch break at work, I finished a book I didn’t particularly like, put it down and commented to my friend, “I can write better than that.” And she said, “Then why don’t you?” So, I did. But it wasn’t quite as easy as I thought. Ha! Many false starts, giving up, starting again, but I found that once bitten, I couldn’t NOT write.

 

What is your latest published project.

“Whispering Hope” is my third published book, released in early May of this year. It’s a historical romantic suspense set in 1930 during the Prohibition years. It’s a story that formed in my mind many years ago, but I was hesitant to start it. I knew it would take a lot of work and a ton of research. But it kept bugging me. I’d work on it, set it aside, pick it up again, and so on. Then, about a year ago, after learning there weren’t many novels out there set during this time in American history, I determined to dust it off and finish it.

Whispering Hope -final

 

How do you research for your book?

It took a ton of research. I bought books dealing with bootlegging, illegal liquor coming into Wisconsin from Canada and smuggled down to Chicago. Books about Al Capone and the others making a fortune from it, and the efforts of Federal Agents attempts to shut them down. I even bought a used copy of the book “The Untouchables” written by Eliot Ness from which the TV show of the same name was based on. It was a fascinating search through this era leading up to the Great Depression.

To See the Sun Final

If you could go back in time and give one piece of advice for your younger self about writing what would that be?

Start sooner!

 

What is your favorite genre to read for fun?

My reading tastes are rather eclectic, but I generally like to read what I write, which is romantic suspense. But I also like political thrillers.Somehow Christmas Will Come Final

 

Peg is giving away an e-book version of Whispering Hope to a lucky commenter.  Ask Peggy any questions you may have about her writing. Please comment on this blog, not on other social media where this will appear if you wish to be part of the give-away drawing.

 

Other books by Peg:

“To See the Sun” – contemporary romantic suspense set in Las Vegas.

“Somehow, Christmas Will Come” – women’s fiction with a touch of romance.

 

Bio

Author Peggy Blann Phifer, a retired executive assistant after twenty-one years in the Electrical Wholesale Industry, lives in the ‘boonies’ of NW Wisconsin. A late bloomer, Peg didn’t start taking writing seriously until age fifty.

Her debut novel, To See the Sun, a contemporary romantic suspense, released in January 2012. A second novel, Somehow, Christmas Will Come, contemporary women’s fiction with a touch of romance and mystery, released in November 2014, revised and re-released in late 2015. A new work titled Whispering Hope, an historical romantic suspense, set during the years of Prohibition, released in early May 2018. Her work has also appeared in numerous anthologies over the past five years.

 

Peg is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. When she’s not writing, Peg enjoys reading, blogging, and sharing her home with her daughter, son-in-law, and a Border Collie mix dog named Rocky.

Social media and buying links

Blog/website: http://whispersinpurple.blogspot.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/pegphifer

Twitter: www.twitter.com/pegphifer @pegphifer

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/pegphifer

Google+: http://plus.google.com/+AuthorPeggyBlannPhifer/posts

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/pbphifer

Email: pbphifer@centurylink.net

Purchase link for Whispering Hope: https://amzn.to/2KURU8x

Purchase link for To See the Sun: http://amzn.to/1ikiBEc

Purchase link for Somehow, Christmas Will Come: http://amzn.to/1MeSpok

 

If you enjoy these author interviews subscribe to Jubilee Writer and get the latest ones in your inbox. Also don’t forget to comment on this blog to enter the giveaway for an e-book of Peggy’s latest release Whispering Hope. Winner will notified by email on Friday.

 

Writer’s Conferences have evolved

Last week I attended the Write To Publish conference. And I’ve watched it evolve over the decade plus I’ve been an attendee. Most conferences have followed the same pattern of evolution according to some friends who attend various ones across the country.

Then:

Back in the day everyone brought paper copies of proposals and articles along with ready pitches memorized. I had a three-inch notebook with sleeves to hold all my clips and proposals. Before that, I had six copies of my proposal, each in its own thesis binder.

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

Now:

This past week I had three folders. One had one-sheets and the other two were copies of my proposal. Two publishers requested my proposal to be emailed to them. And every magazine I pitched to did not even want to look at clips. Instead they’d prefer emailed articles.

Then:

Two contests

Now:

At this year’s conference there were more contests to enter for several genres—for both published and unpublished writers. Contests are a great way to support a conference and give authors and would-be authors wonderful accolades. Entering contests for unpublished authors challenges entrants to polish their work and practice submitting according to guidelines. For those of us who are published and win, it adds credentials to our by-lines that open more doors for future publication.

Then:

Ninety-nine percent of the classes offered were about writing in a variety of genres including articles and poetry. One class on proposals and query letters.  Another on marketing and over time one on marketing using the internet which evolved into social media. A class or two on a speaker’s platform usually rounded out the schedule.

Now:

Classes on website building, blogging and successful marketing on a myriad of platforms are offered alongside fiction and nonfiction writing classes, including articles both for the web and periodicals but no poetry. Speech classes cover more than live talks, adding podcasts and YouTube videos. A writing career is more than putting words on paper, and conference class offerings are reflecting that more and more.

Always the same

One aspect of conferences that hasn’t changed is the kinds of attendees. You will see the alumni who network with faculty and conferees alike with grace and encouraging words. Among them are the returning unpublished alumni showing more confidence from their experience in the past, anxious to reconnect with friends who get-them as a writer. And the first-timers whose faces are overshadowed with a bit of terror as they look around at a room of strangers.

 

20180615_191953

Jodee Starrick and I became BFF after meeting at a conference a few years ago.

 

By the end of the conference those newbies have found friends and made valuable connections and those of us who attended every year are encouraged and refreshed with a notebook full of notes and requests for our words.

How have you seen conferences change? How are they the same?

 

 

Book signing and a Class Reunion

When my husband first signed us up to attend his 50th class reunion, he suggested I do a book signing at the local library. I was hesitant because library things can often be a bust. People go to the library to borrow books, not buy them. But I wanted to honor my husband’s request. He announced it on his class website and kept them in the loop. I was listed as an event for the class along with other activities that day. I’d placed a press release in the town paper to be sure others knew about it.

 

20180602_104642

My book signing visitors.

 

The library is a transformed school. My wi-fi connection for my square wouldn’t work in the old structure. We arrived early and set up, book trailer playing on the laptop, nice table cloth, bookmarks and posters. My table was in an out of the way place. That concerned me. As I said libraries are not the best places for book signings.

 

20180602_104611

Signing books

 

At the start time people came. To my surprise and delight my husband’s cousins had driven up from Arkansas to participate in the book signing.  Salem, Illinois is four plus hours from their homes in Arkansas.

An 80-year-old from a neighboring town had seen my press release in the paper. Judy Trader had never been to a book signing and decided she was coming. Two of Charley’s classmates came as well.

 

20180602_114416

80 year old Judy Trader at her first book signing

 

I did a reading from both books, and we had a wonderful time of discussion. Everyone bought both my books, which is always a plus.

 

20180602_104702

Reading from New Duet

 

That evening at the reunion festivities, the MC announced I was there with my books, and I sold several more sets. I guess being a woman in her sixties achieving her dream made me a celebrity. A strange feeling indeed. I sat at our table and classmates would come up and purchase signed copies. No special table covering, no fanfare. Another new experience. And thankfully my square found a connection in that location.

 

Cindy and me

Charley and I at the pre-reunion gathering where they insisted I needed to bring my books to the reunion festitivties the next night.

 

Everyone signed up for my newsletter because they wanted to keep up with my writing journey.

I almost refused to do it because I didn’t want to distract from Charley’s reunion festivities. But he was as excited as I was over the response. Visiting with his cousins later after the book signing was an unexpected treat.

I plan on taking other opportunities to present my books in new and different venues. Maybe my own 50th reunion, five years from now.

 

Where are some unusual places you’ve had book signings?

An Interview with the Hero of New Duet Dan Sweeney

As promised, I have Dan Sweeney, the hero of my latest novel New Duet. And once again we’ll be talking about some interesting factoids that may not have made it into the novel.

NewDuet_1400(1)

Welcome Dan, or should I call you Daniel?

No ma’am, the name is Dan. Dad never liked long names. Then Uncle Paul told me an Old Testament character was named Dan. I had a heck of a time convincing teachers and the army that Dan was my legal name.

If you hadn’t mentioned the army, I’d have guessed it by the ma’am address. Is that where you lost your leg?

No, ma’am. I left my fingers in Afghanistan and shards from an IED explosion cut my cheek. I lost my leg in the good old USA. You’ll need to read the novel to get the whole story. God only knows why I’m not dead and only lost my leg. I’m grateful for the second chance. I’d planned a career in the army so it’s taking time to readjust to civilian life and my disability. It’s harder than anything I did while in uniform.

Tell us a bit about Brutus.

Even though I tell myself I don’t need a service dog, I do. Brutus keeps my panic attacks at bay reducing my need for meds. He helps me if I fall. Super dog, Brutus knows how to perform tasks beyond my needs. Which is at times annoying. He was trained for a boy with severe disabilities who died. Brutus has bonded with me. He seems to know my thoughts. He’s a great companion but his manners around women need work.

DSC_0614crop

I understand you have a home in Aurora you’re fixing up. Why Aurora?

My uncle lives in Aurora. I’m not close to my sister, and my folks passed. I graduated from East Aurora High School, so it made sense to find a place there. I’ve been working on it every leave I had for three years. Then I had the accident. My buddy Steve and a few friends rehabbed the bathroom and some doors to make my ranch home handicap accessible. I won’t let them do any more. It’s my house, my project.

How’s your social life?

You sound like Steve. He grilled me on it hard one day. Tried his hand at matchmaking. And I’m not saying anymore, ma’am. Any further reference to my social life is on a need to know basis. Only those who buy New Duet will be upgraded to need-to-know status.

Clever, Dan, very clever way not to reveal too much of the plot. What’s been the hardest thing for you since you got out of the service?

Adjusting to a lost leg and a lost career. I’m back in college with a bunch of kids and it’s not easy. But good friends, a supportive family, my goofy dog and a special someone makes the adjustment easier.

 

Thanks for giving us a peek into your world.

Here’s the link to the book trailer.

New Duet is available in e-book and paperback on Amazon. You can request it at any bookstore and it’s also available to order online at Barnes & Noble. Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss future posts with interviews of real people and information on other writerly stuff.

 

 

An Interview with My Heroine Isabella Wilson from New Duet

NewDuet_1400(1)

Today I’m welcoming Isabella Melinda Wilson to my blog. If you’ve read New Duet, you know she is the heroine. I thought it would be fun to learn a little about her. A morsel or two of trivia that may not be in the novel. So, welcome, Isabella.

I’m surprised you wanted to interview me. As surprised as I was in the reporter from the Beacon News who came to my mural reveal.

Take a seat on the couch, and we’ll begin.

Isabella, tell us a bit about your background.

I was born in Nicaragua and spent time as an orphan on the streets. I can’t recall my mother, but I do recall a sweet voice that made me feel safe. I was six when the Wilson’s adopted me. My sister Ming was adopted from China. She was part of the Wilson family three months before I joined them. There was a mix up with my paperwork, and it looked to my parents like the adoption wasn’t happening. They applied for Ming. And when my paperwork was sorted out, they had two daughters the same year. Ming was three. We spoke a combination of Spanish and Chinese the first year. When I was in junior high, my parents went on a mission trip to Haiti and fell in love with a young teen. They adopted Henri when I was in eighth grade.

He was my age. The three of us always got funny looks from students when my dad’s job moved us to a new school. Ming told everyone she and I were twins. She sounded so sincere, people believed her. She is the humorous one and the most caring. I have two older siblings, Ken and Carla. They are my parent’s natural born children. Carla was a great big sister and Kenny was your typical big brother—a pain. My parents encouraged all of us to follow our dreams. Mine was to be an artist so I attended the American Academy of Art in Chicago. Not until I moved to Aurora did I really come into my own as an artist.

That brings up another question. Why did you move to Aurora?

Well, it’s complicated. Much of that story is in the novel. Briefly, as a widow I needed to start over in a new place. My sister Ming had moved to Aurora a few years earlier at the suggestion of a friend. I moved in with her and started over. It was hard finding my true self again. Exploring the art community in Aurora and with help from some great friends, I found my art muse and grew in my faith.

DSC_0166edit

What was your first impression of Aurora?

Paraphrasing Dorothy form the Wizard of Oz, I’m not in Iowa anymore. Although my family moved a lot growing up, the three of us would spend the summer with our grandparents. They lived in a small farming community. I have fond memories. My late husband and I lived in Indiana, but the atmosphere was quite different from Aurora. It has a population over 200,000 and lots of interesting things to see and do. Ming took me on a tour and showed the sights. I loved exploring the downtown on my own. There are museums and art galleries and fun restaurants.

Sounds like you have adapted well to your new hometown. Now we’re shifting directions a bit. What is your biggest fear?

Not being good enough. When I was first adopted, I felt unworthy of these wonderful people. It took me years before I believed all their words of affirmation. After I married Ron, he reminded me daily how I fell short.  His sudden death fed that feeling of unworthiness. It took me a longtime to release all the guilt others had put on me, not to mention the guilt I put on myself.

I can see by your smile that isn’t the case anymore. Do you have someone special?

Yes. But you’ll need to read New Duet for all the details.

Cool segue there, Isabella. Tell my readers why they’d want to read your story.

New Duet is about broken people finding love. A simple statement with a powerful message of hope and renewal. God loves healing broken people. It’s more than a simple love story because life is complicated. But complicated is much easier to unravel with the right person. It’s available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and your local bookstore. Just ask the clerk to order it. It’s also available in e-book.

DSC_1315

Thanks for stopping by. Thursday it will be Dan’s turn to be in the hot seat.  

 

Click here for link to trailer.

If you’ve not subscribed to Jubilee Writer, then please do so before you exit this blog so you don’t miss meeting the adorable hero of New Duet, Dan Sweeney.