Celebrating Secret & Charades One Year Birthday and a Giveaway


Today marks the first birthday of my debut novel Secrets & Charades. She had a long gestation period. Twelve years from concept to publication. Ten years in the writer’s womb doing rewrites, submitting proposals and receiving about 20 rejects. (The exact number escapes my memory. All new mothers forget the painful parts.)

Cindy's Editor's Choice Award-2

My award. I am so blessed.

Labor began when I won the Editor’s Choice Award in 2014. This resulted in two more years of laborious rewrites and editing with two wonderful book labor coaches Molly Really and Andrea Merrell.


Before my baby arrived, I had to wait for the Cover Design and do marketing to announce its release. I post the ultra sound photos of famous actors and models who represented my characters.

Talked about the historical content.


When the Cover Design was finished, I posted it on my social media so everyone could see the cute outfit my novel would be wear.


The big day came, March 15th, 2017 we had a wonderful launch party where I gave gifts to my guest to celebrate the arrival of my baby. A few weeks later I had a live launch and my guest cooed over my darling.  Recently, Secrets & Charades won the Maxwell Award. A proud mother moment.


A year later it still has decent ratings. A sibling will arrive in May. My Contemporary Romance, New Duet is different from my Historical Romance. They will compete for my marketing time. Although we all know the newborn gets the most attention. Hopefully, by 2019 there will be some more Historical Romances joining my book family. I imagine a few contemporaries as well.

Oh, Secrets & Charades is being cloned as an Audio book coming soon. I am so excited. (More on that in another post.)

Thanks for stopping by and helping me celebrate and reminisce.

The Giveaway

I am giving away one autograph copy of Secrets & Charades and a $10 Amazon card to one lucky winner. Share this blog on your social media and post in the comments on the blog that you did, and you’ll be entered in the giveaway. Be sure to leave your email written as myname at my server dot com. I’ll contact the winner next Friday.

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Conference Tips that Lead to Publication Success

Over the years I’ve attended a lot of conferences. And I’ve decide to share my secret for getting notice by the right people. You may be disappointed. Because my secret is not a fast food design but rather a slow cooker approach.1320642_Red

  1. Volunteer to help. Some conferences give you discounts for picking up people at the airport and helping set up the day before the conference. Even if they don’t it’s a great opportunity. While you serve you meet speakers and other authors.


  1. Be friendly. Encourage other attendees. Talk to the girl in the corner who looks about ready to run like a scared rabbit. She could be the next JK Rowlings or Karen Kingsbury and she will remember your kindness.


  1. Be respectful to the speakers and your fellow-attendees. Don’t monopolize an editor or agents time if a group is waiting to ask questions. Don’t complain loud and long if no one jumped at the chance to publish your work. Negativity tears down any potential bridges to future publication.


  1. Attend classes and workshops. Ask questions, interact. Be the one who gets the instructor a glass of water or passes out papers. Your servants heart will get noticed.


  1. Ask how you can help others. Share what you know with other authors. Introduce them to agents, editors, publishers you know if you think the authors work might fit their needs. This is not a step on others to get a head business.


  1. Engage during meals and break times. Invite lost conferences to seat at your table. Ask them about their writing, their goals and their family. Exchange business cards.


  1. Follow directions. Read all the conference information and abide by the rules. Submit manuscripts to contests exactly as requested. Take only the 15 minutes you are allowed for your appointment and be on time.


  1. Don’t be an appointment stalker. You know what I mean. The conferencee who rarely attends any classes because they are trying to squeeze in as many extra appointments as they can. They hang around the room and wait to fill canceled appointments and empty seats. Agents and publishers will recall their name but not in a good way.


  1. Friend other attendees on social media. Those contacts may be the golden goose as they too get published.


10.Promote others. Pass along their success on your social media. Volunteer to do book   reviews. If you have a blog asked them to be your guest.


Final Words of Wisdom: As my aunt would say, “Cast your bread upon the water and by and by it will return to you.”  In other words, you will reap the benefits of the good things you sow. Publication will come your way.


Extra tip: Attending classes and workshops is more valuable than appointments in the long game. First you learn great stuff to improve your writing craft and marketing skills and second the teachers are often agents, editors and publishers. Make it a point to be attentive and thank them for their time and you will gain friends. Before I signed with my agent he asked around the faculty. He told me how pleased he was that so many knew me.

This crock pot method took years, but it was so worth it. I’ve got a second novel coming out soon. Another finished, another in process that editors are interested in and I was just asked to be in a novella collection.

Anyone else care to share their secrets to success at conferences that lead to publication.


Cozy up with three of My Favorite New Releases

If you’ve been following this blog for a while you all know I am a verocious reader. As such I am on occasion given an ARC copy and asked to post a review. I am happy to do it. Recently I reviewed two new releases and Michelle Shocklee and Jennifer Lemont Leo are now on my favorite author list. The third book I read was a novella collection with one of my favorite novella authors Pegg Thomas. Below you’ find my reviews, the back cover blurb and a buy link.

The Widow of Rosehill

I received an Advanced Readers Copy of the Widow of Rosehill. I am under no obligation to give it a good review. Which made me feel comfortable checking it out. I loved the first book in the series The Planter’s Daughter. But I didn’t care for the secondary character of Natalie. She was spoiled and spineless. She is the main character in the Widow of Rosehill. Six years later with the Civil War just ended and her horrible husband dead Natalie has grown up a lot. Her focus is raising her son. Being informed by an official decree that the south has lost the war and her slaves are free was an awakening for this southern belle. I loved Natalie’s willingness to change, work alongside the slaves who decided to stay and help her. Enter an abolitionist Colonel and the sparks fly between Natalie and Levi. Each learning that the other is not the enemy. It was fun to envision the hero with a full beard. Very much in keeping with the era. Michelle Shocklee has a gift with words. And her historical accuracy brought the story to life. I stayed up too late reading it and the plot haunted my dreams until I finished it. I look forward to more books by this author.


Widowed during the war, Natalie Ellis finds herself solely responsible for Rose Hill plantation. When Union troops arrive with a proclamation freeing the slaves, all seems lost. How can she run the plantation without slaves? In order to save her son’s inheritance she strikes a deal with the arrogant, albeit handsome, Colonel Maish. In exchange for use of her family s property, the army will provide workers to bring in her cotton crop. But as her admiration for the colonel grows, a shocking secret is uncovered. Can she trust him with her heart and her young, fatherless son?

Natalie Ellis is everything Colonel Levi Maish loathes: a Southern slave owner. When he and his men arrived in Texas with the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing slaves still in bondage despite the war having ended, he feels little concern for the trail of plantation owners left in its wake without workers. But the plight of the beautiful Widow Ellis stirs to life his compassion and the heart he’d thought cold as stone after witnessing the carnage of war. While the army camps on her land, Levi finds himself contemplating a future with Natalie and Samuel. But when he learns where her husband perished during the war, he knows a life with Natalie is impossible. How could she ever forgive him for what he’d done in battle on the banks of the Bull Run?

Buy links:


Ain’t Misbehavin’ is the sequel to You’re the Cream in My Coffee. Sequels are not always easy to write, and they need to be every bit as good as the first one. I found Ain’t Misbehavin’ as engaging as the first book. I loved looking back to a by gone era. Jennifer Lemont Leo has sprinkled tidbits of culture, inventions and history throughout the story of Charlie Corrigan and Dot Rogers. We were introduced to them in You’re the Cream in My Coffee.

The characters struggle with their own versions of low self-esteem. Charlie was injured in World War I, feeling unworthy of any woman’s love.  Dot had a father who verbal abused her and she’s made some bad decisions leaving her convinced she is unworthy of true love. Many of the characters from the first book help frame Charlie and Dot’s story. Some giving great advice, others causing trouble. At one point I found myself saying “Oh no, Dot don’t do it.” When I’m talking to the characters then I’m totally hooked on the story.  The setting may be 1929 but the heart of the story is timeless.

I was given an Advance Reader Copy in exchange for my honest opinion. I can honestly say this well-written, well-researched novel is well-worth the reader’s time.



In Jazz Age Chicago, Dot Rodgers sells hats at Marshall Field while struggling to get her singing career off the ground. Independent and feisty, she’s the life of the party. But underneath the glitter, she doesn’t believe she’s worth the love of a good man. Why would a strong, upstanding man want to build a future with a shallow, good-time girl like her?

Small-town businessman Charlie Corrigan carries scars from the Great War. After all he’s been through, he wants nothing more than to marry and start a family. But the woman he loves is a flamboyant flapper with no intention of settling down. She’s used to a more glamorous life than he can offer. As his fortunes climb with the stock market, it seems he’s finally going to win her love. But what happens when it all comes crashing down?

Buy link

Bouquet of Brides.

This novella collection spans from colonial times to the early 1900s. Every heroine has a flower name. Every hero has to win his flower. The backdrops of each story is very different. But the basic dilemma remains the same—finding love and declaring it amidst what appears to the characters to be insurmountable odds. Nice historical research and characters to root for.


Meet seven American women who were named for various flowers but struggle to bloom where God planted them. Can love help them grow to their full potential?

Holly and Ivy by Mary Davis (1890, Washington State)
At Christmastime, Holly Harrison accompanies her impetuous younger sister on her trip across the country to be a mail-order bride. But even as she tries to persuade her sister that loving a stranger is foolhardy, Holly loses her own heart to a fellow traveler.

Periwinkle in the Park by Kathleen Kovach (1910, Colorado)
Periwinkle Winfield is a hiking guide helping to commission a national park. But a run-in with a mountain man who is determined to keep the government off his land may place her in great danger.

At Home with Daffodils by Paula Moldenhauer (1909, Oklahoma)
When her childhood sweetheart returns to town, will Dilly Douglas accept the worthy heart he offers, or will the old wound he opens keep them apart?

A Song for Rose by Suzanne Norquist (1882, Rockledge, Colorado)
Can Patrick O’Donnell, a tenor disillusioned by the performance industry, convince Rose Miller that that there is more to music than her dream of joining an opera company?

Beauty in a Tansy? by Donita K. Paul (1918, South Dakota)
Tansy Terrell was named after a weed. When she opens shop next door, Arthur Blake recognizes Tansy’s need to be valued as a beautiful flower but fails to see his own worth as a maker of instruments and music.

A Prickly Affair by Donna Schlachter (1885, Arizona)
A rough-and-tumble cowgirl, “Cactus” Lil Duncan longs for true love, but is afraid to let down her prickly exterior when a city slicker from New York City, with less-than-honorable intentions, tries to win her heart and her hand.

In Sheep’s Clothing by Pegg Thomas (1702, Connecticut)
Peter Maltby might be all good looks and charm, working in the new mill fulling wool, but Yarrow Fenn fears he is the Crown’s agent in disguise who will destroy the only livelihood she has.
Buy link

I obviously love Historical romance. But I do read in other genres. And I will be blogging about those in the future. If you’d love to read more reviews don’t forget to subscribe so you can receive each new post in your email.


Toilet Paper, Corn Cobs, and More

The Most Necessary Invention. That was the title on the email a friend sent me.  He’d found an article that listed the most important inventions in each state. New York is credited with the invention of toilet paper.Gayetty

As a historical fiction writer, I was intrigued by the date. Joseph Gayetty created the product in 1857. It was made of manila hemp dipped in aloe. Advertised to heal hemorrhoids. Later the advertising declared it the proper thing to use on that delicate part of your body. Seth Wheeler in 1871 patented an improved version that wrapped around a cardboard tube and was perforated for easy tear-off sections.

I was amazed it had been invented in the mid-1800s. After all, I’d heard people used the Sears catalogue and other printed pages while in the outhouse. I was surprised at the date because my uncle in the 1960s still used corn cobs in his outhouse. Although, he also had a roll of toilet paper in there.

At a dollar for 1000 sheets, I imagine only the rich could afford toilet paper back then.

The friend who sent me the article is a Civil War reenactor. He has a variety of period items on display near his tent. One of those is a packet of Stansfield’s Supreme Fine Ragg paper product. Toilet paper without the tube or the perforation. All you Civil War writers out there might want to place that in your soldier’s rucksack.

Joseph Gayetty was one of the few commercial toilet paper manufacturers until 1898. In 1935—seventy-three years after the first toilet paper was made—the Northern company presented the first splinterless toilet paper.Toilet paper.img

Thinking about toilet paper reminded me, I have my heroine standing in an outhouse at the beginning of my yet unpublished novel Bride in Disguise. My mind reviewed outhouse descriptions. Newer versions are still around today in camp grounds, national parks, the Amish and survivalists.

Then my mind went to all the outhouses I’ve experienced in my life. My great-aunt lived in a small town. She had running water but no indoor toilet. Her outhouse was a pristine two-holer. One hole for children and one for adults. A good housewife prided herself on keeping the outhouse immaculate. My great-aunt May’s was spotless white and reeked of bleach.

My uncle’s on the other hand wasn’t as pleasant. It had spiders in the rafters. That experience helped me describe outhouse unpleasantness in my novel.

When my father was stationed in England in the late 1950s, we found several people in town had outhouses. While our house had indoor plumbing, I remember very clearly the cute little house outback with windows and curtains.outhouse

A few years ago, my husband and I took our third trip to the Philippines. We were presented with some memorable experiences we had been able to avoid in previous trips. Most Asian toilet are squatters. And although there are western toilets in the Philippians, this community in the jungles had no indoor plumbing. The outhouse didn’t even have a roof. And technically, it didn’t have any walls. Instead, blue tarp was draped around a small area. There was a handle to hold while you squatted over a porcelain tile buried in the ground. Not accustoming to squatting, I held my hubby’s hands while I did my business. As long as I was squatted, I was hidden from view. The tarp protection reached only waist high.

Thanks for putting up with my mind wondering from toilet paper to outhouses across the world.

What unusual piece of research took your mind to unusual places? Did it end up as part of your novel’s setting?






A Few Natural Disaster Memories

After following the news regarding hurricanes, earthquakes, forest fires and recent blizzards; I thought about my own experiences. We write what we know. Natural disasters come to life on the page if you’ve experienced them.  I’ve been around several decades and have been in a few natural disasters.

earthquake road

The truth about Earthquakes

I was in minor earthquakes a few times. Unlike movie depictions an earthquake only lasts a few moments. I remember my mother’s china cabinet rattling violently against the wall as a child. While on a treadmill at the gym a few years ago the earthquake was undetectable.

My husband recalled one sounding like a low flying jet.

My son mistook a more recent quake for a car crashing into the side of his house.

Dust Devils

Let me share a few more of my childhood memories. If you’ve lived in desert areas of the U.S., then you’ve been in at least one dust storm and seen a few dust devils. While my dad was stationed at a base in New Mexico, I was in second grade. I walked through a dust storm a few times on my way home from school. I would place my notebook in front of my face and watch my feet as I headed home. Peeking occasionally over my notebook to get my bearings.  I often saw dust devils form and spin across our playground. A dust devil is a tornado mini-me. It can cause damage but rarely does. My classmates liked to throw paper airplanes at them and watch their planes lifted far into the sky.devil

Lightning storms.

The flat plains of the New Mexico desert is a scary place during a thunderstorm. The lightning appears larger and longer in the wide sky. Ominous clouds span from horizon to horizon. Riding in a car on the flat terrain with clouds that seemed to touch the ground had my sister and me squatting on the floor boards to hide from the monster chasing us.

High Desert Lightning


My husband and I and our children experienced the 500-year flood (referring to a similar occurrence in the area 5 centuries earlier) that hit Aurora, Illinois back in 1996. This flood brought four feet of water to our basement. A basement that had never flooded since it was first built in 1910.  My teenage son waded in trying to rescue tools and the like from the waters.  My children’s baby books and many precious things were ruined beyond redemption. Styrofoam peanuts from an empty packing box clung to the walls marking the last stronghold of the water before it receded down the drain. Aurora and surrounding communities took weeks to clean up after the unexpected disaster.flood

Can any of you recall how painful a Tetanus shot is.  They were given out free to everyone who waded in sewer water to clean up the devastation. My older home had the water drainage go into the sewer drain. Which reversed directions into my basement during the flood. Yes, EWWW!


I’ve hidden from tornadoes, but they always pass another direction. My sister’s friend lives in Oklahoma where tornadoes are common. She has a storm cellar in her backyard. She sends a text to my sister (who lives in Illinois) whenever she, her husband, and their pets need to hide there. And another text when it is all clear. If my sister doesn’t get a second text, her friend has asked her to call authorities to notify them of a need for a rescue.


Monsoon season

On a mission trip in the Philippines, we experienced the cold powerful winds of a monsoon. The palm trees bending almost in half. Chilly water pelting me. While people continued about their business despite the rain.


Growing up in the Midwest, I’ve seen and experienced more than my fair share of blizzards.  Snow like hardpacked ice stings your skin. Snow can’t be shoveled fast enough. Garage doors frozen.  And if your electricity goes out we wait. Shivering in blankets or snuggling near the fireplace waiting for power to be restored. Have you ever used a Kerasun heater? You can warm water on the top while heat fueled by kerosene warms a room.

Ice and Hail

Ice storms and hailstorms leave their marks on homes and yards. Some ice storms carve lovely designs on your windows. Large hailstones break them.


I’ve not experienced a forest fire but, on a trip out of state our car caught on fire. I was driving. Heart pounding fear doesn’t begin to describe what emotions slammed into me while I pulled the car over to the curb. Hubby and sons poured every can of pop and all the ice in our cooler on the engine and had the fire out before the fire department came. I didn’t realize how fortunate we were until years later we watch a car park alongside a curb in our neighborhood dissolve quickly by the hot flames. Only a skeleton remained by the time the fire department arrived.forest fire

Disasters of yesteryear

As a writer of historical fiction, reading about natural disasters in years gone by, present a different picture. Here are a few fascinating facts about earthquakes. Logs were placed across cracks formed by a devastating earthquake in 1906 Los Angeles. They hoped the logs would give residents something to hang on to when the next earthquake occurred. In the early 1800s an earthquake was so powerful it reversed the flow of the Mississippi River.

Because there were no weather reports and special gauges and satellite images to warn people of impeding natural disasters death tolls were higher. Tornadoes came in unannounced and people were swept away never to be seen again. Blizzards trapped families on their homesteads for weeks with no chance of rescue until the spring thaw.

All my memories can aid in creating believable scenes as I craft my stories.

Share with me some of your natural disaster experiences or those that occurred in the history of your community? Have you added any of those memories into your own novels?




Writing through Pain


The past few weeks have been pain filled. I know I’m not alone in this. Writers spend a lot of time sitting. Some pain is expected. Getting up and moving around, taking breaks help. But that becomes a lot harder when your pain has a medical name.

Once it’s named following a  doctor’s visit, a sort of permanence settles in. That’s different from just a little back pain or wrist pain that leaves when you step away from the keyboard and do other things that exercise different muscles. Those minor pains can be lessened through new activities such as cleaning, taking long walks, even taking a short nap can set you back on track to write again.

After years of writing and doing data entry at my job, I’ve developed carpal tunnel and sciatica. Add to that a diagnosis of neuropathy several years ago, a simple change of activity doesn’t always set things to right.


My right wrist gets over used at my job because my hand uses the mouse more than the keyboard. The sciatica makes it difficult to sit for long periods. And the neuropathy that has been dormant for years has suddenly ( I suspect with this particularly harsh winter) morphed into mega pain.

Combined with stresses in life, the pain can be unbelievable.

I’ve found some things that help me keep writing. Acupuncture did wonders to minimize carpal tunnel pain. The chiropractor also recommended hand exercises. Over time, I no longer needed a brace. Heat helps too.


Heat and medications help my neuropathy and sciatica. Walking and stretches reduce the pain.

Fortunately, I am left-handed. So, I write long hand on a tablet while my right arm rests.

I take a few days off from typing and then resume. During my times away from the keyboard I take time to pray, read the Word, read things that inspire me. This energizes my soul and reduces my emotional stress.

I know when I retire form my job, it will be easier. At my office I sit in the same spot all day. Taking a few walking breaks.

At home I can move my laptop to a countertop and type standing. To a couch and put my feet up. And I have a desk that fits over my bed where I can place a heating pad on my legs and keep working. New positions relax my muscles.

Dragon software

Some people use Dragon to dictate their stories onto the page. I need to learn that program. Some writers dictate to their spouses so they can rest their typing muscles. That might work because my hubby types much faster than I.

Being an author is a dream fulfilled.

Pain wants to rob that dream.

 I’ve shared the ways I work through my pain. I’d love to hear what others do.  Together we can encourage and help one another.






Reading Submission Guidelines: Your Gateway to Publication

SUBMISSION CLOUDI’ve had this blog since 2006. And the last few years I’ve opened it up to more guest posts and author interviews.  Two reasons: I love to give other authors exposure, and I often learn useful things from my guests. Another reason is I don’t have to write every single blog. 😊

I want my blog posts to bring value. The same way publishers of magazines and books want their content to. Which is why magazines and blogs have submission guidelines.

Why I added submission guidelines

This past year I created submission guidelines for Jubilee Writer. My goal was to make it easier for guest bloggers to supply me with the things I need. Over the years, I’ve sent additional emails to upcoming guests requesting headshots and cover art or missing bios. My guidelines are intended to eliminate unnecessary emails. Instead, make my needs very clear from the get-go. There’s a list of possible questions in my guidelines for new author interviews. A time saver for both the guest and me.

And yet

There are times I still need to ask for missing items. Authors sometimes send me their media kit, which makes more work at my end. I would need to cut and paste, change fonts and in the end request they resend photos and book covers as attachments because I couldn’t pull the pictures from the word document.

Now that I have guidelines, I’ve stopped doing the extra work. My instructions are clear. Photos must be attached. I ask the guest to do the work and I explain why. For new authors, it’s a learning experience. I’ll take the time to help newbies get the components right. But magazines and book publishers won’t bother. They may not have time to request missing parts of your submission.  It will more than likely end up in the trash file.

But I have a media kit

If a publisher requests a media kit—send it. If not, please don’t. I recall taking pains to create a job resume only to have to fill out a handwritten application. Every blank had to be completed. No “see attached resume” was allowed.  That’s the same philosophy with guidelines. Give them what they want, how they want it.

Many job resumes and submissions are online where every space must be filled in. No attaching a media kit. You can’t cut and paste from your media kit into blanks. If you don’t know what a media kit is and didn’t read Tuesday’s guest post from Paige Boggs on Media Kits, click here.

I repeat

Always send what the publisher, editor, or agent wants IN THE FORMAT they want it. I was surprised when Women’s World magazine’s guidelines required a hard copy of a short story mailed with an SASE. They refused to take emailed versions. Chicken Soup for the Soul is an online submission form only.

Most guidelines contain a disclaimer like: “if you do this instead of that, we will delete your email without opening it”. A retired literary agent told a story at a conference I attended about a persistent author. Guidelines on the agent’s website clearly stated he only took proposals and manuscripts via email. He had very specific steps involved in creating the kind of proposal he wanted. This particular author hand delivered his manuscript to the agent’s door. Without skipping a beat, the agent wrote across the manuscript a rejection note and handed it back.

And Again, I Say

Read the guidelines, then read them again. Follow every step. If you aren’t computer savvy when it comes to attachments, ask someone to teach you. Unless a publisher states they want your submission in the body of an email—always send it as an attachment. (Side note: clearly title the attachment i.e. Short Story Title, by Authors name and make sure your email subject line is clear as well.) When you think you have all your ducks in a row, count them again. It’s embarrassing to send off your email and forget to attach your manuscript, catch the mistake and send another email. Some publishers may glance at the subject line and think you are violating the guidelines of not sending a corrected manuscript after submitting. They may push the delete button without opening the email and miss your cute “Oops! I forgot to add the attachment.”

Get in the habit of reading submission guidelines thoroughly even for lowly blogs like mine. That habit will improve your publishing chances and show you as a professional even if it is your first ever submission.

What are some unusual submission guidelines you’ve run into as an author?