Monday, November 11, 2013

Happy Veteran's Day!

Official seal of the United States Department of Veterans AffairsIn November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…"
Did you know we've been celebrating this holiday for nearly 100 years? I don't think a lot of people do (know it). I think it's become one of those holidays you wait for because it means "big sales" at the department stores or a day off from work (especially if you're a government employee). Like most of the holidays, Veteran's Day has also become 'commercialized'. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to celebrate and support our nations military...I was a military spouse--my husband retired in 2000-- and a soon to be military mom. I know what our service people go through and what the families have to deal with daily. As a military spouse you're suddenly thrust into single-parenthood. You become both mom and dad to the younger children. You have to learn to split your time equally...which can be difficult if you have more than one child...and multitask like a maniac and hopefully squeeze out a little bit of 'me' time in the evening. 

When my husband and I married, he'd already been in the Coast Guard for ten years (yes, the Coast Guard is part of the military). In those ten years we had four children, moved four times. The first move was in Alaska, when our son was 4 and our daughter was nine months old. My husband was on a Cutter for two years and in those two years spent a total of 6 months at home...long enough to give us another child. haha After returning to the lower forty-eight, we had another child and moved three more times, but luckily within the state of Texas. The last year and a half, my husband lived on-site in south Texas while we lived six hours away....all for financial reasons and because child #2 had special needs and needed to be closer to Houston's Children's Hospital. So I was a single mom of four for 18 months. But, for me, it wasn't much of a chore.  I was used to doing things on my own and taking care of a large family. The hard part came when my husband visited because he messed up our routine. haha  But, being with him, serving with him, made us a stronger unit than we could have ever hoped for. And I'm very proud to have been a part of his first career.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Moving On

If you read my last blog post you probably walked...or rather clicked away thinking....Whine Much??  Or something less flattering. But, whatever. I'm over it.

So, now I'm going to post something writing related. This is actually a repost of an article I did a while back on another blog...with some minor adjustments. Why am I reposting?? Well....cuz I need to post something and my mind is a bit of a blank and lately I've had a few people make that irritating comment "I always wanted to write a book". 

Anyway....writing is as easy or as hard as you want to make it, but, truly, not everyone should try it without learning the proper technique....yes, there is one and then some. And, once you learn it then put your own spin on it. How do you learn technique? By READING! Me, I love to read, doesn’t matter the genre—mystery, thriller, suspense, romance, and I tend to fall in love with the characters, especially if they’re recurring.

One of my favorite characters is Lee Child’s Jack Reacher. Lee is eighteen novels into this character and every book takes you on a pulse-pounding adventure and you can’t wait to grab the next book to see where he goes next. But, I have to admit, the first character I fell in love with wasn’t so much a single character as it was a family of characters.  

One of the first romance writers I ever read was Nora Roberts. My kids gave me one of her books for my birthday back in the early 90’s…okay, I bought it and said it was from them…they were still babies. Haha  Anyway, after devouring that book I tried to get my hands on as many of her books as I could find and that’s when I came across the Macgregor's! If you’re not familiar with them, look for them at your local library or on Amazon. Love her or hate her, Nora knows how to bring a character to life so much so that you just want to adopt them.

Building a character isn’t really as hard as some seem to think. There are workshops and blog posts galore about how to build a character using worksheets and graphs and whatever. More power to you if that’s how you do it, but like plotting….I just can’t go there. It’s not that I don’t know anything about my character when I start writing because I do, they are generally a part of me and some members of my family—Hispanic, lower to middle class, everyday people---so I don’t need to chart it all.
In my novella, Her Will His Way, I started the story knowing only one thing about my character Anita Perez—she didn’t speak Spanish. Why is this a character trait? Because Anita has just moved to the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, which is predominately Hispanic, to run a flower shop. She’s too stubborn to admit she won’t succeed, especially when her sexy state trooper neighbor Antonio Hernandez tells her she can’t do it. (you’ll have to read the book…heh)

So anyway when I sit down to write a new novel the only information I need to know about my character is “What traumatic event happened to her/him as a child to make her/him the person s/he is today?” The rest—back-story, goal, motivation, conflict— will fall into place as I write.

But, I will say....though I find it easy to write a character, I sometimes have trouble naming them. So, I should do a contest or something, huh? Comment below, and I'll use your name in my next book as either a character or something else. We'll have to see where the book is going. haha

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Poor Poor Pitiful Me

(get that song in your head?...No?  Try this) heh

Okay, if you hate whining or pity might want to stop reading.  

Maybe it's the change in and sun summer to short days, cold nights autumn, or could be all the news I hear about other authors making it to #1 with a first book or a previously published book (not that I'm not happy for them, this is a tough business), but I'm starting to feel as if, maybe this whole writing thing isn't in my cards.  

I completed my first book ten years ago, after spending five years studying and learning everything I could find on how to write and sell a novel. It took eight years to get that baby published, although I had published a novella three years before. When I got that call I thought....this is it. I'm going to be famous (in a Nora Roberts kinda way)....believe me I'm not the only author to think that...delusional as it is. I didn't get too discouraged when it didn't happen, I figured, it's a short story, not many people will buy it but maybe I'll get enough of a fan base to want more work. Then, in 2011, I sold my novel, Forget Me Not. Since I'd barely made enough money to put gas in  my car with the novella, I wasn't expecting much from the new book, so I was very pleasantly surprised by my first royalty check. I figured, hey, people actually want to read my work. So I got to work cleaning up book three so I could get it published while I was also completing book four and beginning book five.  In 2012 I published Dark Obsession with a new electronic publisher who had a major publisher backing them. Then I really thought....okay....I should start making enough to pay off my credit card and put gas in my car. Needless to say, after being on sale for 16 months, that didn't fact I never surpassed double digits with any of my royalties.  Is the publisher to blame? Partly. Am I to blame? Partly.  Are my readers to blame? Definitely! Hah, just kidding.   

On the advice of another author who is raking in the dough self-publishing, I self-published my fourth book House of Cards. And while reviews are amazing and it even WON best book in the mainstream suspense category with RomCom, sales haven been....horrible, for lack of a better word.  

The thing is, I feel like I've done everything I can to get my name and books into the hands of readers. I've lowered the price, I've given them away, I've bought ads, I'm on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and several other social sites....I've done everything short of begging (okay, maybe some begging)...and still, readers don't even know I exist. It's very disheartening (to me and my muse and makes me feel like a child again) and I have to wonder, is it worth it? Am I deluding myself thinking my books are worth reading? That I can even write another book?  I mean, surely readers aren't being too subjective when they put books like 50 Shades of Grey or Dinosaur Erotica at the top of the charts....should I just start writing that kind of crap?  Tell me. What do I need to do to get my work in front of readers? my books really suck and people are just being nice? 


Well....this blog didn't make me feel any better.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Ten Years and Four Books Later, I'm still in awe

It's hard to believe that ten years ago this year I completed my first and second novels. When I was writing them, I had no idea they'd ever get published....I'd hoped they would, but it wasn't really a big goal. I was just thrilled to have written, and finished, them.

This week marks the five year anniversary of publishing my first book....although not the first book I wrote...that took another three years to happen.

Since that first day I put the kids to bed and sat at the computer, I've published four books (total), and although I'm not at the level of success I had begun to hope I'd be, I'm very happy with how my work is received. Reviews are wonderful and I rarely get something snarky from a reviewer who just wants to rain on my parade. My work has even won a few awards, given by readers, which is much better than being judged by other writers. haha

Anyway, writing four books over the last ten years doesn't seem like a lot, but it really is. Believe it or not, writing is hard work...especially for me because I don't plot my work. I come up with a title, the characters and a basic..."what if" sentence, then I start writing. For the most part I'm just "throwing up words on the page", which wouldn't be so bad if I didn't have to go back to previous pages and fix a plot point because it changed when I threw my smorgasbord together.  But....annoying as it is sometimes, that works for me. It doesn't get the work written any faster but it makes for a fairly clean first draft (story-wise, not punctuation-wise. Haha)  Of course if I were a more prolific writer, I'd be Allison Brennan.  Yeah....not a bad dream to have.

Eventually I'll get faster at writing. I almost have to or I'll lose the ideas for the other stories in my head. And, knowing that there are people out there, waiting for new work from me and enjoying what I've written so far is very humbling. I wouldn't be celebrating anything if it weren't for my readers, so Thank You!!

Oh, and in case you hadn't heard, I made a change to my novel House of Cards. It's a new cover, to better reflect the romantic suspense element. This novel also won the Reader's Crown for Best Romantic Suspense at RomCom.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

"Let's do our taxes" is no longer a euphemism

"In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." Benjamin Franklin.

I don't think Ben expected that quote to become as famous as it did when he penned it in a letter a hundred years ago, but it still rings true today.

When I was younger, and first started working full time, I couldn't wait for tax time, because it meant I'd been getting back a couple of hundred dollars from the taxes I paid in. Once I got married, the refunds got a bit larger. Although, now when the sidekick says “lets do our taxes” it’s not a euphemism for escaping behind closed doors.

This year, like the past ten before (when he retired from the military), he’ll gather all the financial statements and try to figure out, if any, how much money we’ll get back. Yes, my husband prefers to do the taxes himself. No, he does not have a degree in accounting. Like most men, he does not like to ask for directions but would prefer to circle the hemisphere looking for the interstate. Okay, so far he’s not gotten lost amongst the 1040’s and 1099’s and we’ve been lucky enough to get a refund, but I still think it would be better to have a professional look at it and see if he can find more deductions. (Now that all the kids are grown, we lose those tax breaks.) But that’s not a debate I wish to have. For some reason, it gives him a sense of accomplishment to do the paperwork, as if he’s thinking to himself Those bastards aren’t gonna wear me down! And, he does get us a refund each year which we use for vacation.

Anyway, doing the taxes isn’t really that hard, just time consuming. This year I did the taxes for my kids....they have their own jobs. Their taxes are easy to do because they don’t make much money, so it’s the EZ form. And, sadly, they don’t get much back either. This year, my son had to pay into state, which is the fault of the company he works for because they didn’t do the paperwork correctly. His federal refund wasn’t anything to jump for joy about either....of course he only makes $24000 a year....which is horrible for a security guard who has to put his life on the line as much as the local police do. (don’t get me started)

So....before this turns into a rant....have you done your taxes yet? If you’re getting a refund, what do you plan to do with it?

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Reacher Movie...Hit or Miss?

When I first heard that Lee Child's book "One Shot" was optioned for a movie I became somewhat excited. After all it's a great story and a super hot hero (on the page at least) and it would make a really good action flick. Then I heard Tom Cruise was going to take the lead and like every single one of Lee Child's fans, I outwardly cringed. Aside from not being a fan of Cruise, the Jack Reacher character is described a 6'5 and 250 pounds of lean muscle mass.  I mean...come on, are you really that vain Mr. Cruise to think you can pull off such a 'larger than life' character? 
Needless to say, I decided to go see the movie and try to keep an open mind. My son, who has read all the books as well, saw it a few days after it released and, according to my daughter and his girlfriend, he liked the movie. So I expected to be pleasantly surprised. I mean, even Rolling Stone magazine said Cruise "nailed" it (not that I read Rolling Stone magazine).
Well, I just got home from the theater and I have to say, I was not pleasantly surprised or impressed. I tried to keep an open mind, really, I did. But, I just couldn't get my head around Cruise as Reacher. Aside from the fact that Cruise could fit in the palm of Reacher's hand, he just doesn't carry the macho attitude or deliver the dry quips in the same wry manner that the character does in the books. I found the screenplay to be a bit choppy and felt like it was moving from point A to point C without connecting to point B. Although I guess I felt that way because I reread the book over the weekend so the full story was fresh in my mind. I guess you could say the book ruined the movie for me...although I'll take the book over the movie, anytime!  Granted, they had to squeeze a nearly 500 page novel into a two and a half hour movie, but they really could have done a better job.
As for the acting, Cruise was Cruise...he has no real range as an actor, in my opinion and again, for Reacher's character, he just didn't work. He tried too hard to be blasé and laidback and it came across forced. The woman, whom I'd never heard of, who played Helen Rodin always looked like she wanted to jump out of her skin. She was just too deer-in-the-headlights for me.
Anyway, my sidekick enjoyed the movie, but he doesn't read the books so he had nothing to compare it to.
So.....would I recommend this movie? Well, if you're not an avid fan of the books/character, then sure...spend your money. You'll probably enjoy it. But, if, like me, your a'll tolerate it.... as long as you don't reread the book first.  I will say, I did get a kick out of seeing Lee's cameo.

The Romance Reviews

The Romance Reviews