A Peek into the Writing life of Author Susan G. Mathis

Susan G. Mathis is my guest today. Her journey from journalist writing to historical fiction is an encouragement to all writers that there is a season for everything. And she has had many seasons. Welcome Susan, let’s get started with one of my favorite question.

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When did you realize your calling to create words on paper to share with the world?

I can’t remember not writing. I’ve taught Language Arts for nine years to 4-8 graders, had my own newspaper column, wrote missions curriculum, and have written just about anything God put in my path.

Before I jumped into the fiction world, I served as the Founding Editor of Thriving Family magazine and the former Editor/Editorial Director of 12 Focus on the Family publications. My first two published books were nonfiction, co-authored with my husband, Dale. I also authored two picture books and am published in various book compilations including five Chicken Soup for the Soul books, Ready to Wed, Supporting Families Through Meaningful Ministry, The Christian Leadership Experience, and Spiritual Mentoring of Teens. 

I swore I’d never write fiction, but never say never! My hubby and I went to a book talk/signing, and after we left, I jokingly said, “I could write a story about a quilt!” I then proceeded to tell him the entire story, and he said, “Well, write it!” Thus, began my journey of writing historical fiction. I currently have two published historicals, The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy and Christmas Charity.

I love hearing the diversity of your writing journey. What is your latest published project?

Katelyn’s Choice is the first in the Thousand Islands Gilded Age series releases March 15, 2019 with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas.

Katelyn's Choice by Susan G Mathis cover

Katelyn Kavanagh’s mother dreamed her daughter would one day escape the oppressive environment of their Upstate New York farm for service in the enchanting Thousand Islands, home to Gilded Age millionaires. But when her wish comes true, Katelyn finds herself in the service of none other than the famous George Pullman, and the transition proves anything but easy.

Thomas O’Neill, brother of her best friend, is all grown up and also working on Pullman Island. Despite Thomas’ efforts to help the irresistible Katelyn adjust to the intricacies of her new world, she just can’t seem to tame her gossiping tongue—even when the information she’s privy to could endanger her job, the 1872 re-election of Pullman guest President Ulysses S. Grant, and the love of the man of her dreams.

Sounds very interesting. I love the idea of adding actual historical characters to your work.

How do you research for your book?

A few years ago, my husband and I visited Wolfe Island, Pullman Island, and Singer Castle on Dark Island. We met some wonderful people who kept the intriguing Thousand Island history deep in their hearts, and I gleaned all kinds of valuable information and made special friends in the process. My historical editor is the president of the Thousand Islands Historical Association and a Thousand Islands author herself. Seeing and experiencing the area as I wrote made my writing come to life, and my historical editor keeps the history accurate.

I love hearing you have a fact checker for you historical details. This is so important for any writer. Even contemporary genres need those go to people to be sure the descriptions are accuate.

What inspired you to write your book?

I grew up in the Thousand Islands and there are so many wonderful stories to tell. The Thousand Islands Gilded Age is full of wonderful islands and characters like George Pullman, Frederick Bourne, and hundred of famous people like J.P. Morgan, Vanderbilt and others. So, I aim to tell at least some of them.

Sounds so interesting. I’ve read about some of these historical celebrities so it will be interesting to visit them in the pages of your books.

Do you have a favorite verse that resonates with you?

Jeremiah 29: 11, “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Quite an inspirational verse for writers. Thanks for sharing.

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

My husband, Dale, is so supportive, loving, and patient. He encourages me, puts up with me spending hours on the computer, and listens to all my crazy creative thoughts. He’s a saint!

Where is your favorite place to write?

I write at my kitchen table overlooking the beautiful Rocky Mountain Front Range. I usually have a scented candle and cup of tea keeping me company.

Sounds wonderful, I’m envious of your view.

Tell us about your next project.

Book two of the Thousand Islands Gilded Age series comes to life in Devyn’s Dilemma. It’ll release in April 2020. Here’s the summary of the story: Twenty-year-old Devyn McKenna is nervous about working on Dark Island in the imposing Castle called the Towers, a 28-room structure complete with dungeons, underground passageways, and castle secrets. Devyn struggles to find the self-confidence she needs to carry out her duties as a housemaid in the summer home of the wealthy president of the Singer Sewing Machine Company, Frederick Bourne. As she serves the likes of Brig. Gen. Cornelius Vanderbuilt III and others, her curiosity for learning grows. But when she is accused of stealing his plans for expanding the NYC subway and learns her brother ‘borrowed’ the plans and the man she loves believes she was the culprit, her faith is tested like never before.

Wow! I’m definitely interested. Thanks for sharing a bit of yourself and your books with my readers. And readers grab a copy of Katelyn’s Choice and if you have a moment post a review for Susan.

Susan’s bio:

Susan G Mathis is a multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands, her childhood stomping ground in Upstate New York. Katelyn’s Choice, The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy, and Christmas Charity will transport you to a time and place few have visited. Susan makes her home in Colorado Springs, enjoys traveling globally with her husband, Dale, and relishes time with her four adorable granddaughters. Find out more at www.SusanGMathis.com.

Buying links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Katelyns-Choice-Susan-G-Mathis/dp/1946016721/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1548078303&sr=1-1

 Barnes & Nobles: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1130536525?ean=9781946016720

Lighthouse Publishing: https://www.shoplpc.com/product/katelyns-choice

 

Connect with Susan at:

 

Website: www.SusanGMathis.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SusanGMathis

Twitter: https://twitter.com/@SusanGMathis

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/susangmathis

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/susangmathisaut

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6044608.Susan_G_Mathis

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/108568340293012416399

 

 

 

 

Katelyn's Choice by Susan G Mathis cover

 

A tip for keeping character details straight

 

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Keeping the details of your characters straight is easy wiht a character list

 

This past week I read a friend’s blog, and she mentioned whiles going through her story she found she’d changed the eye color of her character. I laughed. Then I found I’d changed a secondary character’s name after the first few chapters of my own WIP.  It’s easy to do when you’re a panster. Your writing is more organic, and you can forget some details in the creative moment.  I’ve started writing out character lists in a notebook and recently, after this recent name faux pas I rewrote it in Excel. Because there are times my notebook is on my desk and I’m writing sitting at the kitchen table.

Making the list

I know some of you out their chewing your nails at the thought of using Excel.

It’s so simple.

Open the template and add headings at the top.

Then fill in the column.

 

character list

Here is my list for my current WIP Note minor characters have less details.  This work has lots of minor characters because the story evolves around building a town.

 

My columns headings:

Name

Occupation

Hair hair and eye color

distinguishing physical feature

Their relationship to other characters i.e.. Someone’s mother or love interest.

A few friends keep more extensive lists based on backstory such as education and habits.

Make the list as detailed as you need to keep everything straight as you write.

I keep the excel sheet open on my laptop when I’m writing for easy reference.

If the idea of Excel still sounds too geeky for you organic types, you can create your own Word doc and categorize the characters to your liking.

If you prefer, create a hand-written page for your character that sits beside your computer or for those who are into retro—your typewriter.

Keep it handy

However you choose to create your character list keep it handy. You don’t want to kill off Jared in chapter 15 and he returns to deliver a message in chapter 32. (Unless of course it’s a ghost story.)  You want to be sure Serena’s blue eyes that glisten like sapphires when Juan first meets her don’t transform into chocolate orbs after he kisses her.

Note the different hair colors of my beautiful daughter. Make sure there is a reason your character has a hair color change.

If Juan has a scar, check your notes to be sure it doesn’t switch sides of his face.  Having the list handy will keep Serena’s waist length raven hair from morphing to blond for no logical reason by the books end.

Be professional

I’ve found these very errors in published work. A character named John was Joel. It was only one time, but it took me out of the story and nettled me for the rest of it. For the sake of future readers and to make your editor’s life easier and show the publisher you’re a professional keep a character sheet.

 

Do you have a character list? What do you put on it?

Entitled to Sell Part 2

Today is  the second half of Lynne Pleau’s blog post that gives tips on writng great titles. Part 1 showed us the various types of titles. Part 2 is the how-to portion. Take it away Lynne.

Entitled to Sell, Part 2

By Lynne Pleau

Originally published in the Christian Communicator, May 2006

and on the ACFW Blog, February 20-21, 2019.

Getting Creative

In Entitled to Sell, Part 1, I showed you some different ways titles become memorable. Now let’s look at how do you create them.

Start by defining your theme. In one sentence, capture what your piece is about.

Next, define what you want your title to say about your piece. Jot down anything that comes to mind. This is a right-brained activity, so turn off your inner critic. One idea will spark another.

For example, when I worked on the title for my short story about a middle-aged woman who reflects on the emotional cost of having stolen a gold-toned ring, I wrote down the phrases, “guilt is no bargain,” “guilt is too expensive,” and “paying the cost.” These three phrases led me to “ring of guilt,” which eventually became the story’s title, Ring of Gilt.

        It doesn’t matter when in the development of your story or article you start this process. Sometimes examining the theme of your story or article while you’re writing it can help you focus your ideas. I started the titling process early in the draft phase of Ring of Gilt, and, as a result, came up with an idea that made the ending of the story much more powerful.

And don’t worry if the right title doesn’t come to you right away. Keep your ideas handy. Sometimes when you come back to the list later you’ll see something you didn’t before. For an article with the theme of “how life experience affects how a character speaks,” I came up with the following phrases: “What are they thinking?” “Saying it the way they see it.” “Voicing through experience.” Several days later, I came back to the list, and with a little tweaking, came up with the title “The Voice of Experience.”

Tools of the Trade

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From your expanded list of title ideas, pick out key phrases and look up their synonyms. using a hard-bound thesaurus for this process can give you more options, and scrolling from page to page may give you ideas you wouldn’t catch on-line. Keep an eye out for words that are alliterative or rhyme, and for combinations that echo well-known phrases.51l4qdV0vEL._SX303_BO1,204,203,200_

Define your key words using the dictionary. You may discover something about a word’s meaning you hadn’t thought of, something that will lead you to another idea.

Next, try the rhyming dictionary. This time, look for alliterative possibilities by scanning words that start with the same letter as your key words.

Here’s how I used these tools for the title of this article. The theme is “How to create catchy titles.” Since this is an informative, non-fiction article, I knew I wanted to include the word “title.” I started a list of theme ideas. “Searching for titles.” “Creative titles.” “Creating titles.” “Finding the right title.” “How to create titles.”

Then I worked with the thesaurus, looking for the words related to “title” and “search” and came up with the synonyms: bestselling, signature, query, quest, seek. This lead to a few ideas I hadn’t thought of: Title Search, Bestselling Titles, Creating Killer Titles, Title Quest. Any of these would have worked, but I kept going.

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Next, I used the rhyming dictionary for title: Idol, tidal, idle, vital. Hmm. Not very helpful. Then I went to the dictionary for alliterative possibilities: Tang: Title Tang. Trap: The Title Trap. Tell: The Telling Title. Talent: Title Talent. Terrible: The Terrible TitleTopsy-Turvy Titles, Taming the Title, Down the Toilet Title, Title Bomb. Okay. Got a little punchy.

When I came back to the list later, I had just seen a commercial about a video store, and the idea for Blockbuster Titles came to me.

But I still wasn’t satisfied. I went back to the dictionary and looked up the definition of the word “title,” and under the verb form of that word, I found the definition “to entitle.” Entitle, I read, means both “to give a title to” and “to give a right to demand or receive.” Entitled to what? To sell! I knew I’d found what I was looking for.

The goal is to spark ideas. Write your ideas down. Keep them handy. And always be on the lookout for other writers’ successful titles.

Finding the right title for your writing takes creative effort, but it’s worth it.

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Lynne Pleau Bio:

Lynne Pleau has published over 60 articles, reviews, poetry, and flash fiction in publications like Marriage Partnership Magazine, War Cry, Christian Communicator, Havok, Splickety, and Spark. She is a multiple flash fiction award winner.

I loved her process for creating titles. Thank you Lynn for your expertise. Let’s have a little fun. Share any titles from your recent works. I’d love to hear them. I’ll start.

My upcoming novella that releases in August as part of Smitten Historical Romance Collection:The Cowboy  is entitled Healing Hearts. Now it’s your turn.

 

Sand Creek Serenade author Jennifer Uhlarik shares her writing journey

I had the pleasure of meeting today’s blog guest, in person, last week at the Florida Christian Writer’s Conference. She’s one of my online critique partners. It was such a delight to spend time with her and hug her neck. Welcome, Jennifer. Could you tell my readers a little about your writing journey?juhlarik-HR-3(1)

How far back do you want me to go? LOL I truly believe that I had the writing bug from the time I was a toddler on. There are pictures of me, still in diapers, scribbling on a pad of paper with the most thoughtful look on my face. By the age of twelve, I really realized I wanted to write when “playing pretend” with my friends was no longer cool. I loved to make up stories and act them out, and once I realized I could make up those stories and write them down instead, then the writing bug really hit me. I wrote all through high school, majored in writing in college, but then my writing life hiccupped when I jumped into adulthood. I married, worked various jobs, had a child…and generally lost track of my writing for a while. It was when my first husband and I separated/divorced, and I became a single mom that I threw myself into my writing again to escape the stress at the end of each day. I published a few things during a 5-year span between 1999-2004, but due to circumstances from my lack of money to promote my work to the publishers folding, none of my projects met with any success.

That pattern of work-by-day/write-by-night went on until I took a job teaching school for several years starting in 2006. That was another one of those hiccups in my writing life. I was far too exhausted to write during those three years, but God had made it abundantly clear to me that, for that season, I was to be a teacher. When the teaching season ended, a lot had changed for me. I’d married my real-life hero Dave in 2007, and our financial situation was such that we no longer needed my income to stay afloat. So, my sweetheart gave me the opportunity to stay home and chase my dream. Starting in 2009, I wrote a novel (still unpublished), found an agent, and plotted out and began writing other projects. During this time, I attended writing conferences and entered writing contests. In 2013, I had the great pleasure of winning my category in five contests! My agent was shopping my completed western novel. Surely I was on my way! And I was…but the journey looked far different than I thought it would.

In late 2013 or early 2014, a call for submissions came across my path for a few different novella collections with Barbour Publishing, so I put in a couple of ideas. To my great surprise, both proposals were accepted—one just a few days before my birthday in June 2014, and the second a month later. Both collections came out in 2015. I still hadn’t gotten any serious interest on my novel. So, I whipped out my first two novellas and went back to work on other (novel-length) projects. Since my first two novella contracts came in, I’ve had at least one novella contract per year, and in between times, I’ve worked on a bunch of other projects. There have been a lot of rejections of those longer projects, but I’ve been bolstered by the smaller successes with the Barbour novella collections. And finally, in March of 2018, I received a contract for my first full-length project! It took nearly a decade from the time I was able to come home and write full time to finally see a novel with my name on the cover out in print. It wasn’t an easy road, nor was it a fast road—but it was all worth it!

All those projects made you the stellar writer you are today.

Tell us about your latest published project.

Today is the official release day for Sand Creek Serenade—my first full-length novel. It is a historical romance set in 1864 Colorado Territory. My heroine, Sadie Hoppner, is a female doctor who practices medicine at Fort Lyon. The hero, Five Kills, is a half-Cheyenne brave who, along with the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes, has camped beside the fort while awaiting word of a peace treaty promised to them by the Army and Colorado Governor. But not everything is as it appears, and Sadie and Five Kills’ new friendship and burgeoning love is put to the test when the ultimate act of betrayal is committed against the Native tribes.

Sand Creek Serenade(1)

 

What kind of research was needed for Sand Creek Serenade?

This particular story required a lot of research in several different areas. The most obvious is to know the history of the Sand Creek Massacre—the historic events before, during and immediately after the tragedy. I found a couple of great resources that dealt specifically with that—particularly two books. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown, and Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek by Louis Kraft. Both were hugely helpful in learning the ins and outs of this historical event.

The second area I needed to research was life among the Cheyenne. What they ate, how they dressed. Details of their camps, their tents, and so forth. Again, I found some wonderful resource books. The main one I used was The Mystic Warriors of the Plains by Thomas E. Mails. This book was invaluable for knowing the fine details of Cheyenne and Arapaho culture.

And the third area where I had to do a lot of research was in the medical details that Sadie might have used. I have any number of great books on my bookshelves on Civil War era medicine, but so much of what I needed to know for this story was when a particular procedure came into practice. For that, I used the internet, learning of the origins of the procedures. Then, when it came to depicting my woman doctor doing a particular procedure, I watched YouTube videos to get a feel for how things would be done. (Thank goodness I’m not the squeamish sort!) LOL

Seeing it all written out like this, it sounds like a LOT of work, but the truth is, I loved delving into these areas as I was writing!

I had no idea there were Youtube videos of medical procedures. Ewwww.

On to something less squeamish, I hope. What inspired you to write your book?

I was supposed to be plotting a novella for a collection with the theme of “women doing male-dominated jobs.” Thus, my heroine was a doctor at a time in history when very few women practiced medicine in any formal setting. But I needed some kind of an event that would allow her a big platform to use her medical skills. It was late one evening when I stumbled on a brief mention of the Sand Creek Massacre and thought it would make the perfect setting. Immediately, the hero, Five Kills, began to take shape in my mind. But in the days after that, I dug further into the research of the Sand Creek Massacre and realized just how much history there was to cover. It was not the topic for a novella! And I wondered if it was even a good topic for a novel. But the story called to me, and after praying through the idea, I knew it must be written. So—Sand Creek Serenade was born.

When did you realize your calling to create words on paper to share with the world?

As I said above, I think I was called to write from the womb! LOL I have always loved stories and books, and I’ve long been fascinated with paper pads and writing utensils. I have memories of sneaking out of my bed late at night when I was four or five years old and “writing books” about earthworms and other creatures. (The “books” were not so much stories and pictures with some scribbly lines underneath—but I was young and hadn’t learned to write yet!). But it was that 7th grade year when the writing bug really grabbed hold of me. I had a friend named Holly who I’d often spend time with after school. We’d spend the night at each other’s homes, and we were always together at school. During one overnight stay at Holly’s house, she showed me a spiral notebook and announced that she was writing a book. My competitive streak came out then, and I thought to myself that if she could write one, so could I! And so, I began writing down those wonderful imagined worlds and characters. When I showed my English teacher what I was working on sometime later, I got such praise and encouragement to keep going! Thankfully, that encouragement egged me to keep on in my pursuit, and by the time I reached high school, I’d been so bitten by the writing bug that I couldn’t wait to share my words and stories with people.

Jennifer, do you have a favorite verse that resonates with you?

Luke 1:45—Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.

This verse, originally spoken by the angel to Mary when he told her she would bear the Son of God, always speaks so strongly to me about keeping faith in the things God says. There have been times that God has promised me things—but then the promise tarries, and my faith begins to wane some. That’s when I go back to Luke 1:45 and refresh my faith. God never goes back on a promise. It’s my job to hold fast to faith and wait it out.

What an inspirational thought for all writers. Thanks, Jen.

Now on to one of my favorite questions. If you could go back in time and give one piece of advice for your younger self about writing what would that be?

I think I would tell myself just to be prepared for the wait. The writing industry moves about as fast as a hibernating snail—or it seems so when you’re waiting to hear their answers on a submission. LOL If I could, I’d tell my younger self not to expect anything to happen quickly, but to keep the faith that I would eventually realize my dream of seeing stories I’d written get published. Don’t let the hiccups in my writing life worry me but put on a smile and know that writing is my true calling, and I’ll always return to it, even if a particular season takes me away from it. These are the mindsets a career as a writer requires, and I wish I’d understood that aspect earlier, so I could’ve handled it with more grace at times.

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

Oh, goodness. There are many! But to name the closest ones—my wonderful husband, Dave, who gave me the best opportunity to be a full-time writer and to chase my dream. A friend, Shannon, who I’ve known since my son was just a toddler, and who reads almost everything I write, usually when I’m bleary-eyed from a late-night writing session and mired in self-doubt. She is always full of great encouragement and fantastic constructive criticism. And my critique group, a set of gals who have read at least some of every published story I’ve put out so far (and a bunch of unpublished ones too) and helped me hone and shape the stories into something other people would want to read! I couldn’t do what I do without these handfuls of people. I love them all!

I’d like to ask, what is your favorite genre to read for fun?

Give me a Louis L’Amour western, and I’m a happy girl!

I am not surprised. LOL

Where is your favorite place to write?

One of the things my husband did to bless me when I finally got to come home and write was to help me turn one of our bedrooms into my personal writing space. I’ve got a small desk and office chair for my writing stints, two large bookcases with my myriad of research books close at hand, and a futon for when I want to get more comfortable for reading, researching, or even editing.

I am so jealous. Sounds wonderful. Thank you for joining me today. I am so excited about your novel and it’s next up on my to-read list. Readers grab a copy of her newest release Sand Creek Serenade the link is below the bio of my awesome friend.

Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a pre-teen when she swiped the only “horse” book she found on her older brother’s bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next ten years, she devoured Louis L’Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre. In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West. Armed with a B.A. in writing, she has finaled and won in numerous writing competitions, and been on the ECPA best-seller list numerous times. In addition to writing, she has held jobs as a private business owner, a schoolteacher, a marketing director, and her favorite—a full-time homemaker. Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers and lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, college-aged son, and four fur children.

Social Media Links

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JenniferUhlarikAuthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JenniferUhlarik

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/jenuhlarik/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jenniferuhlarik/

Website: www.jenniferuhlarik.com

Buy Link:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1946016853/ref=nav_timeline_asin?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1

If yoou have any questions for Jennifer post them in the comments.

 

Stress-free flight preparation when flying to a conference

I’ll be leaving for the Florida Christians Writer’s conference tomorrow. I haven’t flown to a conference in over a decade since I discovered the Write to Publish conference a few towns away. God made a way for me attend FCWC, so I’ll be flying and staying in the rooms on the conference grounds.

condor airplane on grey concrete airport

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’ve posted a few times on how to prepare for a conference as far as sell sheets, proposals and business cards. Today I want to talk about preparing your suitcase for the conference. When I drive daily to the location, I can change my mind about my outfit for the day with ease. If the weather changes, I can adjust my wardrobe without thinking twice. But living out of my suitcase is a challenge.

people standing in between trees near buildings during daytime

Photo by Guillaume Hankenne on Pexels.com

I asked a friend who attends FCWC every year for advice regarding wardrobe. It’s Florida, I’m thinking sandals and sundresses. She advised sneakers because I’ll be walking all over the campus. Let’s add a sweater and umbrella because her experience. The weather can change at a moment’s notice.  As far as the banquet goes, formal wear is optional. I’ll bring my teal lace tea-length dress. No heels though. (I hate them. With my own 5 feet 10 inches, heels have never been my friend.) I’ll wear the same comfy flats I’ll wear on the plane to get through TSA quickly.

What to pack:

  1. Always take a sweater and an umbrella or rain parka. If you’re going to a cold region, don’t forget the warm coat.
  2. Read the newsletter or Facebook page connected with the conference you are attending for additional clues on what to bring. FCWC newsletter listed no hair dryers. So that goes in my suitcase along with my curling iron. Information may change daily regarding what to bring so stay connected.
  3. Weigh and measure your luggage ahead of time. Check your airline website for acceptable sizes and weight. Double check how many pieces of luggage you can take on a domestic flight. I’m putting a few of my books to sell at the conference in my luggage. The total for my airline is 50 pounds. I know my books weigh nine pounds that gives me 41 more pounds for clothes, etc. Paying for overweight luggage is not in my budget.
  4. Don’t overpack. If you can combine outfits, i.e. black slacks and two different tops. I’m wearing my flats for the flight and the banquet. Limit your make-up to something that is multifunctional—same eye shadows matches several outfits. Limit your jewelry to mix and match. Guys: an electric razor saves you from carrying shaving cream through TSA.
  5. Check the TSA website to be sure what is allowed in your carry on. I’m making sure all liquids are less than 3.5 ounces, this includes cleansers, moisturizers, shampoo, conditioner, liquid makeup and hairspray. The agents read the labels. Even if your larger bottle is half full, it will be thrown in the trash if the container reads more than allowed ounces. All liquid items must be stored in a quart size Ziplock bag so the agent can check the weight at a glance.
  6. Do you really need all those electronics?

I tend to take notes the old fashion way with pen and paper. I may take a few pictures of overhead notes.  I have a kindle fire to access any documents I may want as well as read my email and social media. I can do that on my phone too. I love to read books in the airport and during a flight, I read fast. My kindle gives me access to my library and takes up little space. I’ll only need to put my tablet, cell phone and shoes in the bins at TSA security. That leaves more room in my backpack for other things like medication and a change of clothes if I get stranded at the airport. (We all know it does happen.) You’ll move through TSA faster with less to remove into bins.

metal money coins finance

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

  1. Guys: reduce your change and put those odd metal things you love to carry in your pocket into your checked bag. Less hassle with TSA.

    colors colours health medicine

    Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

  2. Leave your prescriptions in their original bottles. I’ll be taking my supplements in a pill box in my checked bag. I don’t want to take the chance of having any of my supplements thrown away. Anything they can’t identify will be pitched.

    person pouring plastic tube bottle

    Photo by Moose Photos on Pexels.com

  3. Place your shampoo or any liquids or lotions that you may decide to place in your checked bag in a Ziplock bag too. The decompression in the cargo hold may cause leaking, and lotion all over your clothes is not something you want to deal with at the conference. My husband squeezes the air out of those bottles and when they arrive they are back to their normal size due to the same decompression. I carry my clips and samples in a three ring binder with plastic sleeves.
  4. Leave room in your carry-on for your conference notebook and folder of sell sheets etc. Do not leave them in the checked bag. If…God Forbid, your luggage gets routed to Budapest, you won’t get all your hard work back until after the conference

 

Bonus tip:

Don’t forget to check-in online the night before. Some airlines allow you to choose your seat then. Print out your boarding pass or show the attendant your pass on your email on your phone so they can scan it.  Precheck-in saves time and hassle. I’ll have a driver picking me up. I have his cell number and a meet-up place. If you must provide your own ride, do that in advance too.

Some of you seasoned travels may have other suggestions. Those of us who don’t travel a lot would love to hear them.

Split Personality or Writing under a Pen Name

 

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Donna Schlacter

 

By Donna Schlacter

Leeann, my alter ego, and I were chatting the other day.

She wanted to know why I created her.

“I was writing and hoping to publish in two different genres: historical suspense and contemporary suspense. I didn’t want to confuse my readers by writing in different genres.”

“How did you pick my name?”

“My husband’s middle name is Lee, his mother’s middle name is Ann, and my mother’s nickname in nursing school was Betts.”

“Isn’t making up a name illegal?”

“Not unless I’m trying to avoid a legal claim or defraud somebody.”

She chewed on her bottom lip, a funny habit she has. “How do you keep us straight?”

I smiled at her. “First of all, you’re cute and perky and all the things I’m not. Second, you write different stories than I write.”

 

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Leeann Betts

 

“Such as?”

“Most of my historical suspense are stories about women who have made some bad choices, and now they want to straighten out their lives. Your stories are about stronger, quirkier women who are driven to excel.”

“Sounds like you.”

Now it was my turn to chew my bottom lip. Maybe she inherited that trait from me. “But the women you write about don’t know they are strong. Or quirky. And the women I write about are just like me. Hoping it’s true that God is a God of second chances. And finding out He is.”

“So we’re different but the same?”

I patted her on the head like she was an obedient puppy. “Exactly.”

Question for readers: Leave a comment in response to the following question, and enter a random drawing for a free print (US only) or ebook version of Leeann’s latest release, Silent Partner.

Do you feel that an author who uses a pen name is lying in some way, or do you like the fact that you know what kind of book you are picking up because of the author name?

About the Author:

Donna lives in Denver with husband Patrick, her first-line editor and biggest fan. She writes historical suspense under her own name, and contemporary suspense under her alter ego of Leeann Betts. She is a hybrid publisher who has more than 25 published books under her pen name and under her own name. Donna is also a ghostwriter and editor of fiction and non-fiction, judges in a number of writing contests, and teaches online and at conferences. Donna loves history and research, and travels extensively for both.

You can find Donna online at:

www.HiStoryThruTheAges.wordpress.com

www.HiStoryThruTheAges.com

Facebook: www.Facebook.com/DonnaschlachterAuthor

Twitter: www.Twitter.com/DonnaSchlachter

Books: http://amzn.to/2ci5Xqq

Echoes of the Heart: http://amzn.to/2lBaqcW

And you can find Leeann online at:

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

 

 

Wishing You Love

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

As writers we don’t often get fan mail. Our reviews aren’t always kind, some are even cruel. There is no special day set aside–National Novelist Day or National Children’s Writer Day. Our accolades are often few and far between.

We may hear a condescending tone when they  remark: You’re a writer? Why would you do that? Or I could write a book. Makes us feel unappreciated. Some of us have family members who’ve never read our work. Never attended a book signing or even purchased our book for no other reason than being  kin.

 

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photo from Pexels

 

Today, I send you love.

Good Job!!

 

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phot from Pexels

 

You’re wonderful.

Your words have value.

Even in those times when discouragement grabs you about the throat and chokes out your creativity, know you are loved by a creator who gave you this gift. Who sits with you while you write cheering you on.

 

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Photo from Pexels

 

Saint Valentine was martyred for secretly marrying soldiers rather than allowing them to live in sin, going against the Roman Emperor’s decreed.  I like to think that each writer is following their heart even when those around them  think their time could be better spent doing something else.

I’m proud of your perseverance. You continue creating words, sharing stories and helping your readers to understand truths and concepts. Without you the world would be a dismal place.

I wish you love today, fellow authors. Without us valentine cards would not exist. (You know I had to add that.)

 

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Photo by Pexels

 

Sending you lots of love and encouragement.

Happy Valentines Day to all my readers.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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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Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

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.