Laughter Lifts the Heart
Several years into it, and this blog still refuses to be categorized. It's eclectic and includes everything from writing posts to snippets from my ordinary life.
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Coffee with Linda Newsletter!
Give the Lady a Ride
The Final Ride
Circle Bar Ranch Coloring Book
Coming Home: a Tiny House Collection
The Cat Lady’s Secret
Writing in Obedience
When the managing editor for Smitten Historical (a Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas imprint) asked me to join in a collection of historical romances, I got excited. I’ve always wanted to write a historical. I’ve even delved into it a time or two with Slider, published in The Saturday Evening Post’s collection of short stories and an unpublished short story called Masquerade.
The as yet untitled story I’m working on now fits in with my series of contemporary western romances, except it’s a historical western romance. Things aren’t that different—cows, cowboys, and the girls they give their hearts to—but they’re different enough that I need to research. I was flipping through MSB’s Time Life collection called “The Old West,” and found reference to the Harvey Girls. Immediately I had my story idea involving a cowboy and a Harvey Girl. I’ve never heard of the Harvey Girls, so of course I jumped on the internet and did a quick search until I found a great article about them plus a vimeo of an interview with a latter-day Harvey Girl.
Along with these resources, I found one more. Not long ago, PBS did a series called “Texas Ranch House,” in which 21st Century Californians came to run a 19th Century ranch in Texas. Several folks from all over the US came to join the experience. Everything for this ranch was supposed to be authentic to 1867, after the Civil War, when cattle roamed the ranges free of ownership. But Fred Harvey didn’t start his Harvey House hotels and restaurants until the 1880s, so I have to make time adjustments. Still, the PBS series is vital because it shows life on the 19th Century ranch, and as I said, very little has changed. They still needed pens and chutes, range and water, and the men necessary to work it all in 1887 as they did in 1867.
So there’s my research start: books, internet, videos. From these I can learn setting details; character descriptions; clothing, kitchen items, and everyday articles of use; attitudes of the time; hazards of the time—lands, with these three resources, I can learn everything I need to know to write a romance novella set in the 1880s.
Using the resources I have at hand, I study and observe, noticing everything I can in the pictures and videos and looking up terms I’m unfamiliar with. I went so far as to figure out what an 1880 barbershop looked like and what all a barber did, because one scene takes place in a barber shop.
The trick with research is not using in your book everything you learned. Doesn’t that sound odd? But it’s true—as you study your era, setting, and culture, the temptation is to show off your new knowledge for your reader. This kind of info dump (or research dump, as I call it) bogs down the novel and bores the reader. So use of the information is the same as in any novel: you reveal what you’ve learned through the character’s daily activities.
I learned some fun things about the 19th Century barber shop, but instead of describing them to the reader, I let my character, Cal Hardy, do it:
Walter Neville swept up what looked like a half pound of hair and sent a stream of tobacco juice toward the spittoon. “’Afternoon, Cal. Be right with ya.”
“Ain’t in no hurry.” Cal rubbed his jaw and studied the handwritten sign over Walt’s new National cash register. Walt had gone up two bits on both hair cut and shave—three bits on a bath. And heaven help anyone who needed a tooth pulled.
So, on the off chance someone didn’t know that the barbers also served as dentists, now they do. They can also see the progress of technology through the cash register. NCR was founded in 1884, and one of the earliest Harvey Houses was built in Ladonia, Texas, in 1887, and Ladonia is close to Fort Worth, one of the cattle capitals of Texas, complete with stockyards which were built in 1887. Now we know the era of my setting.
I can know all this about when the stockyards were built, when NCR released its cash registers, etc., but it’s not necessary that my reader does. I want my reader to feel immersed in the time and culture, not educated about it. If she learns while she’s being entertained, so much the better. And if I can convince hardcore Texas history buffs that I did my research, so much the better still! But I’m a novelist, not the author of a history textbook, so my goal is to entertain and enlighten through the stories I tell. Research dumps have no place in Historical Romances.
While I wait for my critique partner’s edits on Ride to the Altar, I’m brain-storming other ideas, conducting research for a western romance, and reading the how-to best seller, Save the Cat: The Last Book on Screenwriting That You’ll Ever Need.
In case you’re wondering: no, I’m not writing a screen play. But that doesn’t mean I can’t find valuable info in this book. Countless novelists have read it and come away the wiser for it.
The first chapter offers the advice I’ve heard before: develop your log line (or one-liner or elevator pitch) before you start writing. Actually, this advice may have originated with the author Blake Snyder and has been passed along ever since his book came out in 2005.
The reason it’s been passed along is because it’s great advice. If you pitch your novel to agents and editors, you’ll need a log line, because the first thing they’ll want to know is what your book is about. And if your experience is true to the reason “elevator pitch” is an alias for “log line,” then you’ll want to whip out your answer before the door goes ding.
The same is true if you sell like I do—to the public at festivals and group book signings. Once people see the beautiful layout I have at my table, they’ll stop and browse. I have seconds to gauge their interest and pitch a book. Seconds before they bore and move on. If I can hook them with my log line, then my time with them is expanded and I can give them a more in-depth reason why they can’t go another day without discovering whether JoJo finally jumped from the plane.
But another reason the advice is great—a pre-writing reason—is that it helps you keep focused. If you determine what your book is about before you write, you’re more likely to stay on track. It doesn’t have to be written in stone, and you can change it as you go along, but it’s a terrific jumping-off point.
Here are some of the projects I’m noodling:
Southern Challenge, Contemporary Sweet/Christian Romance (comedy)—Kayla Mullins spent megabucks on a cutting horse with a heritage of prize-winners but discovers she has no clue how to train it. Can the previous owner’s son come to her rescue?
Untitled Christian Fiction (drama)—After yet another school shooting rocks the nation, one mid-sized city tries an experiment: putting God back in the classroom. Will He make a difference?
Untitled Women’s Fiction (drama)—After her grandmother dies, [Successful City Heroine] returns to the old home place by the river and tastes again life at a slower pace. Will her responsibilities draw her back to [the City], or can she find fulfillment where her heart calls home?
Untitled Western Historical Romance (comedy)—Cowboy Cal Harding stumbles upon a beautiful blonde, far from home and penniless, and gets her a job as a Harvey Girl. Now that she can live as a mature, independent woman, how can he ever convince her to marry him?
Notice I ended each short paragraph with a question, advice I’ve received from outside Save the Cat, but good advice just the same. It puts the conflict out there to hook the potential reader—and to guide me through my writing.
What about you? Do you have/use log lines? Ever pitch a book to an agent or publisher or the general public? Do tell!
I mentioned at the end of “After Revisions: What’s Next” that I might write another post about some of the things I didn’t mention in that one—like distribution. Well, here we go. I’ll let you in on my experiment.
I decided to go wide with Skydiving to Love to see how well it does before committing Ride to the Altar to the same plan and forfeiting my Kindle Unlimited advantages (like getting paid per-page-read).
Fortunately for me, one of my favorite websites gave a blow-by-blow description of how to use Draft2Digital—including a YouTube video. Because I read Kathrese McKee’s article first, I knew what to expect on the Draft2Digital site and had everything ready before I went there. I was amazed at how very easy it was. As of now, my novella is up on Kobo, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Playster, Scribd, and Tolino—through very little effort of my own.
“Why not Kindle?” you ask.
I took Kathrese’s advice from her article:
it may be to your advantage to upload directly to Kindle Direct Publishing and to Kobo so that you don’t give up any of your royalty to Draft2Digital. But as long as you are going “wide,” you may as well use D2D to reach all the other platforms.
Except I don’t have a Kobo account, so I just let D2D distribute there too.
Few things I’ve encountered so far:
- I had an “also by” page in which I listed my other publications and included that they’re “Available on Amazon!” Oops. Apple wouldn’t publish my novella at first until I got rid of the “competitor mention.” (Funny how no one kicked up a fuss about my character wishing for her iPad.)
- I followed their pricing advice, which seemed high for a novella. I’ve already had one person ding me on it when I announced the release (with a link to Amazon). She wanted to know why a 77-page e-book is $3.99. Frankly, that sounded high to me too, but I wanted to see what would happen.
- Advertising the novella with a link is awkward. D2D gave me a generic link that sends readers to one page which lists all the distribution sites so they can choose. But since I have a separate Amazon link, I want that included too. In Monday’s blog post, I listed them both and had the image linked to the D2D page also. But for a simple “ad” I put “Available everywhere digital books are sold”—as you can see in my banner. We’ll see how that works.
- Second point about advertising is that the newsletter services, like E-Reader News Today, Free Kindle Books & Tips, Fussy Librarian, etc. prefer Amazon links because Amazon pays them (per click, I think). I’ve never used BookBub (can’t afford it yet), but it may be the same. Anyway, if I run a sale and promote it with the newsletter services, I’m only using Amazon. For the other distributors, I’d have to use other means to advertise the sale, like askDavid, individual Facebook posts and tweets, and my personal blog and newsletter.
Back to pricing: in general it’s hit-or-miss. Big pubbers release their ebooks for almost as much as the print version. Last I heard, they’re wondering why their ebook sales are down. I wouldn’t pay $15.00 for an ebook, I don’t care who the author is. However, though I made some sales at the current price, this one probably should be less, and I will lower the price soon (keep an eye out!). But I tell ya, pricing is tricky. I just have to keep playing with it to see what the market will allow.
Next thing I’m looking into is IngramSpark for my print versions. I don’t know what Amazon’s doing with CreateSpace, but I’m using them too. The point of using both is that Amazon is a competitor to everyone in the book retailing business, so retailers and librarians are leery of purchasing from an Amazon link. And if you allow CreateSpace to provide your ISBN, it’s even worse. The first three digits in the ISBN are a code, and a CS number is recognizeable by those in the business. So, I buy my own numbers from Bowker and use them in both CreateSpace and IngramSpark. I also have a publisher identification: Canopy Books of Texas.
But Amazon is more author-friendly in a lot of ways. Buying author copies is less expensive through Amazon than IngramSpark, and CreateSpace is considerably more user-friendly than Ingram. Sometimes I get so frustrated with Ingram I have to quit working with it a while. I don’t release books often enough to feel comfortable with either site, but sometimes Ingram can be a booger-bear.
Oftentimes, I feel like I’m muddling things up as I play with my career. As long as it doesn’t go up in smoke, maybe I’m doing okay. Is there a way to fine-tune all this publication mess? I doubt it. Everything seems to change from one release to the next—primarily because there are so many options and so many things to consider. I guess we just have to figure things out as we go along. The point is to get the book out there, and I’ve done that.
Excited to announce my own novella, released for March, Skydiving to Love available today on Amazon and everywhere digital books are sold. Hope to have the print version available everywhere soon, so if that’s your preference, be patient. It’s coming!
JoJo Merritt is a country veterinarian who has never jumped out of anything higher than a hayloft, much less an airplane. But thanks to her friends’ dare, now she must.
What she discovers during her flight to the skydiving school in San Antonio is guaranteed to make her short vacation miserable: She is terrified of flying! How is she going to leap from a plane if she can’t stand being in one?
Mitch O’Hara, her seat mate, keeps her distracted during the flight to San Antonio, but from there, she’s on her own.
Or is she?
If Mitch felt protective of the wide-eyed, white knuckled beauty during the flight, imagine how he’ll feel the next day, when he finds her at the skydiving school, fumbling with the zipper of her jumpsuit.
By now, JoJo is certain of two things: she doesn’t want to fall from a plane, and she doesn’t want to fall for Mitch.
She’ll be in San Antonio for only five days. Can Mitch convince her to take a leap?
New for March 2018:
March 2018 New Releases
More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.
Finally a Bride by Renee Andrews — Her dreams of love haven’t worked out, but veterinarian Haley Calhoun intends to grant an orphaned boy’s wish. She’ll heal Eli’s injured puppy—while resisting his charming counselor, Gavin Thomason, at the children’s home. Still mourning the loss of his wife and baby, Gavin believes he can’t commit again. But in losing their hearts to Eli, will Haley and Gavin discover they’ve found the family they need? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
Love and Roses by Sally Bayless — Looking for a fresh start, former Manhattan lawyer Nate Redmond agrees to arrange the sale of the outdated Rose Park in small-town Missouri, not realizing it has deep sentimental value to his new neighbor, Abby Kincaid—a beautiful widow he’d like to impress. When their plans for the park clash, he learns he’s competing against the memory of her husband, a decorated war hero. With plenty of past mistakes hiding in the in the hedges, can Abby and Nate learn forgiveness and courage in time for love to grow? (Contemporary Romance from Kimberlin Belle Publishing)
Courting Her Amish Heart by Mary Davis — In this first book of the Prodigal Daughters series, Kathleen Yoder comes home after fourteen years in the Englisher world. Practicing medicine means sacrifice—no Amish man will want a doctor for a wife. Widowed Noah Lambright offers a cottage as her new clinic, seeing how much Kathleen’s skills can help their community. But as their friendship deepens, could love and family become more than a forbidden dream? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
The Amish Nanny’s Sweetheart by Jan Drexler — As nanny for her nephew, Judith Lapp is finally part of a vibrant, joyful Amish community instead of living on the outskirts looking in. But teaching her neighbors’ Englischer farm worker to read Pennsylvania Dutch wasn’t part of her plan. And the more time she spends with Guy Hoover, the more he sparks longings for a home and family of Judith’s own. Guy figured he would never be truly accepted by his Amish employers’ community – even though the Mast family treats him like a son. But Judith’s steadfast caring shows him that true belonging could be within his reach…if he and Judith can reconcile their very different hopes – and hearts. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
The Reluctant Groom by Kimberly Rose Johnson — When Ray O’Brien’s world is turned upside down, Katie Fairchild wants to help, but the personal cost is high. Neither desires a marriage of convenience, but when Katie blurts the first thing that comes to her mind Ray can’t dismiss her offer of marriage. It would solve all his problems except for one thing—they aren’t in love. Can these two friends team up for the greater good and perhaps find love along the way, or are their expectations impossible? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)
Anna’s Forgotten Fiance by Carrie Lighte — An accident leaves Anna Weaver with no memory of her Amish hometown’s newest arrival—her fiancé! After a whirlwind courtship, their wedding’s in six weeks…but how can she marry a man she can’t remember? Carpenter Fletcher Chupp takes her on a walk down memory lane, but there’s one thing he wants to keep hidden: a secret that might just lose him the woman he loves. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
Grace Restored by Toni Shiloh — Michelle Thomas has it all. Beautiful and successful, she’s just opened her own law firm in Freedom Lake. What more could she want? When her old flame rolls back into Freedom Lake, she’s intent on ignoring him. But how can she give the widower and his precious twin girls the cold shoulder?
Still reeling from the death of his wife, Guy Pierre returns to Freedom Lake to take over as town sheriff and raise his twin daughters. Alone. Yet, life keeps throwing Michelle in his path and sparks of interest began to rise. Will old secrets tear them apart again or can they find the faith to let God’s grace restore what has been broken? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)
Justice by Emily Conrad — Jake thought he was meant to marry Brooklyn, but now she’s pregnant, and he had nothing to do with it. Brooklyn can’t bring herself to name the father as she wrestles with questions about what her pregnancy means and how it will affect her relationship with Jake. If Harold Keen, the man who owns the bookstore across from Jake’s coffee shop, has anything to do with it, the baby will ruin them both. (General from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])
The Heart Between Us by Lindsay Harrel — When her heart donor’s parents give Megan Jacobs their teenage daughter’s journal—complete with an unfulfilled bucket list—Megan connects with the girl she meets between the pages and is inspired to venture out and check off each item. (General from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)
Sweet Meets by Deborah Raney — From short stories to novellas, from contemporary to historical, all of award-winning author Deborah Raney’s short works have been gathered into one great collection for one low price.
Includes the following novellas and short stories: Going Once, Special Delivery, Haiti’s Song, Prairie Lessons, Finally Home, Circle of Blessings. (Women’s Fiction from Raney Day Press)
Seven Brides for Seven Texas Ranchers Romance Collection by Amanda Barratt, Susan Page Davis, Vickie McDonough, Gabrielle Meyer, Lorna Seilstad, Erica Vetsch, and Kathleen Y’Barbo — Join seven Texas Rangers on the hunt for a menacing gang, who run straight into romances with women who foil their plans for both the job and their futures. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)
A Chance at Forever by Melissa Jagears — In early 1900s Kansas, Mercy McClain serves on the schoolboard, determined to protect Teaville’s children from the bullying she experienced as a child. When Aaron Firebrook, the classmate who bothered her more than any other, petitions the board for a teaching position, she’s dead set against him getting the job. Aaron has returned to his hometown a changed man and is seeking to earn forgiveness of those he wronged. He sets out to prove to Mercy he now has the best interests of the children at heart. Will resentment and old wounds hold them back, or can Mercy and Aaron put the past behind them in time to face the unexpected threats to everything they’re working for? (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])
Ain’t Misbehavin’ by Jennifer Lamont Leo — 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. 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, 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? (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)
A Most Noble Heir by Susan Anne Mason — A young man suddenly thrust into nobility is torn between the servant girl he hopes to marry and the father he’s always longed for. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])
Safe Refuge by Pamela S. Meyers — Wealthy Chicagoan, Anna Hartwell, is about to wed a man she loathes. The Great Chicago Fire erupts, postponing the wedding. After escaping to Wisconsin with her family she realizes she loves Irish immigrant, Rory Quinn, and prepares to break the wedding plans, which are still on. Then she learns a dark family secret that changes her life forever. (Historical Romance from Mantle Rock Publishing)
Husband by Arrangement by Angel Moore — Abandoned by her secret fiancé, the mayor’s pregnant daughter marries the sheriff. Can she overcome her past and help him save the town from corruption? (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
Beneath A Prairie Moon by Kim Vogel Sawyer — Abigail Brantley grew up in affluence, but when she is cast from the social registers due to her father’s illegal dealings, she finds herself forced into a role she never imagined: tutoring rough Kansas ranchers in manners and morals so they can “marry up” with their mail-order brides. Mack Cleveland, whose father was swindled by a mail-order bride, wants no part of the scheme to bring Eastern women to Spiveyville, Kansas, and he’s put off by the snooty airs of the “little city gal” in their midst. But as time goes by, his heart goes out to the teacher who tries so diligently to smooth the rough edges from the grooms-to-be. How can he teach her that perfection won’t bring happiness? (Historical Romance from Waterbrook/Multnomah [Random House])
Beneath the Surface by Lynn H. Blackburn — After a harrowing experience with an obsessed patient, oncology nurse practitioner Leigh Weston moves home to Carrington, North Carolina to leave behind her troubled past. But when someone tampers with her brakes, she fears the past has chased her into the present. Leigh reaches out for help from her high school friend and volunteer underwater investigator, Ryan Parker. But when Ryan finds the body of a wealthy businessman in Lake Porter, the investigation uncovers a possible serial killer—one with a terrifying connection to Leigh and deadly implications for them all. (Romantic Suspense from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing)
Secret Service Setup by Jessica R. Patch — Secret Service agent Evan Novak becomes the target of multiple hit men when someone puts a two-million-dollar bounty on his head. Is it the gunrunner he’s tracking…or a traitorous agent? Framed and wanted, Evan reluctantly accepts protection from bodyguard Jody Gallagher, his former love who lost her Agency career because of him. But then the bounty is raised to include Jody… (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
Fugitive Spy by Jordyn Redwood — A spy with amnesia—and a mission he can’t remember. When Casper English lands in her ER with amnesia, Dr. Ashley Drager learns he has a picture of her…and the same tattoo as her long-missing father. With a dangerous man after Casper, and his memories possibly holding the key to finding Ashley’s father, she secretly whisks him away from the hospital. But can she keep him alive long enough to help him regain his memories? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])