End of School Brings…Sanity?

What is it about the end of the school year that makes everything crazy? Between proctoring exams, finals, and end of year parties and events that should not really affect me at all (after all, I graduated middle and high school back in the dark ages), work almost stops.
In the case of this blog, it did stop. But Snarky Daughter finished up school on Wednesday, and Scout Son is done next Friday, so oddly, peace will soon invade my life again. And I can’t wait.

You’d think without a day job that I’d have plenty of time to do, well everything. And to a certain extent, that’s been true. I just haven’t focused all my attention on writing. I’ve stripped wallpaper, painted SD’s new room, and as of this weekend, finished moving her in. Phew.

I’ve cleaned closets, looked for work, started learning HTML and am working my way through a wordpress.org class. I’m back to learning Italian.

And I’ve successfully gained 6 pounds. I’m so proud. Now, to be fair, I gained most, if not all, of those pounds while I was on medication after I smashed my hand. And I’m back on some of it since I slipped and threw my back out again. Woo-hoo!

But the pounds have to Go. Away. Now.

That sounds so easy. I mean, I’ve lost weight before. Today I weigh what I weighed the day before I had SD. And a pound less that what I weighed the day I brought SS home from the hospital. What can I say. He craved Cheetos and Twix bars for nine months. It was not pretty.

But when I lost baby weight, I wasn’t injured. And the fact is, I have a life-long injury, so my days of playing racquetball and lifting 15,000 pounds on weight machines a couple of times a week in order to stay fit are gone. No running. No high-impact anything. Zumba? My chiropractor and physical therapist both burst out laughing and started planning early retirements.

But I can walk. And according to the Prevention Walk of Weight program, I can lose weight walking. Of course, that program doesn’t say anything about cake. And I like cake. As a source of frosting, which I’m pretty sure is one of the food groups.

Here’s what I know from the few years that I was working out and learned that muscle feels different than fat. I feel better when I work out. I’m happier. In theory I eat less, although I haven’t seen that in the past few weeks. But I can dream. I can walk. And if I can do both of those, I can probably cross a few more things off my To Do list. Like organize my new office space. Or write a book.


Characters In My Head

Today I remembered what I loved about some of my characters. I’m in the editing stage on Billionaire Bachelor’s Revenge, which means I’ve stepped away from the book for a while. That’s key, because in those last weeks of writing, I’ve lived with those characters in my head for so long I can’t wait for them to get a happily ever after and leave me alone.

By the time I finished The Heiress and Her Fake Fiancé, I never wanted to see Blakely, NC again. Crazy grandmas and over-stepping fathers could take a cruise up the coast for all I cared. The good news is once I’ve been away from a book for a while, I begin to care again. And sure enough, with a few weeks away from the story, I remembered that I love Meg’s determination to right her father’s wrongs, and Evan’s fierce need for revenge is fun to fuel. Hey, it’s not directed at me!

In addition to editing, I’m also writing the third book in the Heiress at the Door series. Like Billionaire Bachelor’s Revenge, this one also takes place in the Bay Area. Now, I fully admit to being homesick, but at this point I’m ready to move for my next book. Luckily, that one’s back in Blakely. And I’ve been away long enough that I’m ready to go back. I’m even looking forward to crazy grandma again, because that woman will mess with anyone’s love life and apparently there are a lot of clueless, lovelorn people in Blakely.

Editing takes three or four passes, so I’m sure by the end of all of that, I’ll be back to being thankful Meg and Evan live 3,000 miles away from me. But right now it’s a lot of fun to watch them work through their issues. And they have a lot of issues! You’ll get a chance to meet them this summer.



Writing Wednesday: Promotion

As some of you know, I had a small…um, large, run-in with a hammer ten days ago. Turns out, you need your hands to write. Since that’s been basically out of the picture, I turned to promotion planning and trying to figure out how to build readership. Most writers became writers to tell our stories, but every one of us wants people to read them. OK, we’d like it if you read them, but we really we want you to buy them.

With that in mind, I pulled up a chair at the virtual coffee table, poured a cup of coffee smuggler Slick Micky’s strongest brew(from Regan’s Tracking Shadows), grabbed a slice of my character, Jessica’s pound cake, and sat down with paranormal romance and urban fantasy author Regan Black to interview media specialist Terry Kate, and find out more about her company Paco Media and the cool things she’s doing for writers today.

Kimberly Hope: Thanks for sitting with us today, Terry. For those new to publishing, what is NetGalley and what are the pros/cons of using it?

Terry Kate: Netgalley is a service that offers authors and publishers a way to get in contact on a larger scale with reviewers, bloggers, librarians, and book sellers. The decisions on how the titles are treated, the format they go out in, whether they have Digital Rights Management, and other options are offered and then the account holder sets their terms. With a membership of 56,000 Netgalley is the place to be in order to build your brand and name recognition.

The downside is that you are giving away a lot of copies of your book. True they are electronic, but it still stings. Emotionally, the downside is that not all reviews are going to be positive. On a large scale that can be a knock, but it is also part of the game and you joined the team the minute you put that first book out to be purchased.

Regan Black: Can you tell us a bit about Paco Media Group, your mission and what you provide to authors?

Terry: PMG is a reflection of all the crazy, mad, and sometimes downright loony things that I have done. I wanted to learn to format for a pub that hired me, so now we can offer services in that area. I found out that writers needed help with this or that and I learned how along the way. HTML, SEO, branding, newsletters, social media, cover design, writing, editing, public speaking… there are more that have slipped my mind, but that starts the list. I get asked often why all of our services are not listed on the Paco Media Group site and the only answer I have is – What DON’T we do?

Every bit of it is to help authors. I get it. I am a reader first, so I want you off and working on the next book too. Every thing we do is important and beneficial, but most of all it’s time consuming and there is a learning curve. So we make it possible for creators to be creative.

Since we are so varied I usually open with a consultation so we can match services to your needs and budget. Custom PR and Marketing.

Kimberly: That sounds fantastic, but can authors who haven’t been noticed yet afford the services?

Terry: We have options for every budget, I do not want anyone to be discouraged. There are always ways to get noticed, some free, some paid, but they often require time. Your book may not have hit its stride yet, but balance that with the desire to write, spend family time, and just live. Then decide what is right for you and take away pressure from your day to day. Writing should be fun and that does not need to be sucked dry by the marketing and promo.

Regan: What is included in your NetGalley program?

Terry: The Basic Package with Netgalley is a two month posting of one title. Then the organization of a press pack. These materials will lead Netgalley members to you. Not only for reviews because we want to offer as wide spread promotion as possible. If the interested blogger can’t find a place in their schedule to review your book maybe instead they will offer an interview. They might be willing to take a press release from you and post that information for their readers.

This can be overwhelming. Dealing with so many blogs, so many requests. So we created a program I am calling the Library. PMG will help you organize materials from posts you have already written, materials that we have found online, and direct you to fast and effective means of advertising yourself and your book with out coming off as a used car salesman. We are your support and allow you to maximize every particle of exposure Netgalley offers.

Kimberly: Where can authors go to get more information or to sign up for the program?

Terry: Details are at Pacomediagroup.com and we have a special going on the cost of the promotion until Sunday so hurry to book your spot!

Kimberly: Terry, thanks for stopping by and giving us some ideas of how we can get into great promo tools like Netgalley!



Kids in the Kitchen: Chicken Marsala

Snarky Daughter: I just finished reading Bet Me. Can we make Chicken Marsala?

Me: Yes, please. But it’s heavy on the mushrooms. You don’t eat mushrooms.

SD: I’ll pick them out.

Me: They’re the best part.

SD: More for you.

Me: OK, but I’ll have to find some marsala wine and that’s not going to be easy.

Two weeks later, I’d finally had the idea to go to the Total Wine store. Duh. They had four choices. You want sweet marsala. I froze what we didn’t use so I could use it later. No idea what that does to the alcohol content, but it can’t hurt the taste.

Photo of Snarky Daughter Cooking Chicken Marsala
A little wine for the chicken

We got the recipe from Jenny Crusie’s website. This recipe is as fun to read as it is to make, and watching Snarky Daughter pound chicken with a frying pan (as directed) was priceless. In the words of Flynn in Tangled, “Frying Pans. Who knew? Right?”

So, we’ve got a recipe with no measurements on it. Which really fits the book it comes from, because in Bet Me, it’s all about getting the taste right. But that was really part of the fun of making this meal with SD. She pounded chicken, I sliced shallots and made jokes about wine for the chicken and wine for the cook.

Photo of Chicken MarsalaAnd we all loved it. I always assumed Chicken Marsala must be a pain to make, but it’s easier and faster than my macaroni and cheese recipe. The only thing we did to speed up the process slightly is mix about a tablespoon of flour with a shot of cold water (this is how you avoid lumpy gravy) and added it to the sauce to thicken it a bit. Yes, I could have cooked it down more, but it smelled fantastic and I’m an instant gratification kind of girl.

With two cups of wine in the freezer, Chicken Marsala just ceased to be a special occasion sort of meal.



Writing Wednesday: Location, Location, Location

I have a problem. I can’t write about places I haven’t visited. No, don’t bother to look at a map. Blakely, NC, the small beach town where The Heiress and Her Fake Fiancé takes place, does not exist. It’s made up of small southern towns I’ve visited over the years, especially the Crystal Coast area in North Carolina.

When it comes to non-fiction articles, I can write about just about anything, whether I’ve been there or not. I can call people, visit websites and do research so I can write 1,000 words about whatever it is. But to carry a book, I need to have a place in mind. I have to have been there.

I know writers who can take that same level of detailed research that I do for an article and write a book that sounds like they’ve lived there all their lives. Not me. I need to see a place, wander around, breathe the air, talk to the locals. Only then can I write about it.

Even having grown up in the Bay Area, when I sat down to write The Billionaire Bachelor’s Revenge, due out early this summer, I had to visit the area. I had to see it through my characters’ eyes this time.

It’s important that I see it because to me location is a character in the book. Heiress wouldn’t have worked in New York. Would Luke Skywalker have saved the universe a long time ago if Tatooine looked like Hawaii? Doubt it. One of the reasons Casablanca is so good is because the location has it’s own personality that permeates the movie.

So, as you sit down to write, whether you need to see a place in person or you can get what you need through traditional research, make sure you give your setting its due.

And while you’re doing that, I think I’ll pack a bag. I feel a research trip coming on!