Thursday, May 3, 2018

Keeping My Coconuts Series Fresh


Readers and reviewers are happily writing rave reviews for CHAOS AT COCONUTS, Book 2, in my Coconuts series which all began with double award-winning THURSDAYS AT COCONUTS. Trust me, authors hold their collective breaths when their book babies enter the world. We never know how they'll be received, so I'm breathing a little easier now.

As I endeavor to pen Books 3, 4, (and probably 5), I continually strive to keep the characters fresh, engaging, intriguing, and compelling.

As background, my main POV characters are three thirty-something best friends since high school. Suzy’s a newly married wedding planner who creates fun, themed weddings; Hope is a high school guidance counselor who deals with both at-risk and honor students; and Alex is a bank marketer who dates a sexy bad-boy cop. The threesome enjoy Happy Hour at their oasis, Coconuts, an island-themed bar, in land-locked Crystal City. 

Secondary characters such as neurotic brides, an intern from hell, crazy exes, and hippies create gleeful havoc along the way.

In CHAOS AT COCONUTS, I introduced a newcomer, Cheri Van Buren, a wealthy New York socialite and celebrity chef. You’ll have to read my novel to see why she makes a splashy visit to Coconuts. At first, Suzy, Alex, and Hope aren’t too keen about having a beautiful, filthy rich woman as competition, and they may or may not befriend the stranger.

I also introduced Izzy, a lazy, disrespectful teen stepdaughter for Suzy, who her new husband forgot to mention during his whirlwind proposal!

Alex is dealt a job-stealing marketing intern and stalker ex-wife who both unleash mayhem.

Hope has a couple of major issues to deal with at Hilltop High. One is a spoiler and the other is a devastating tornado. This was my first attempt at a tornado scene and it wasn’t easy. The fact that I’m from Missouri and saw the destruction after an EF5 tornado made this a bit easier to construct but still gut wrenching, even if on paper.

Here are some tips I used to keep my series fresh:
  • ·         I added several new characters.
  • ·        Characters are from other states with unique professions and vastly different backgrounds.
  • ·        A monster tornado barrels toward the high school.
  • ·        There are two very different weddings for two totally opposite couples.
  • ·        Bits of backstory was added (mainly using dialogue).
  • ·        Plenty of plot twists with old and new characters is guaranteed!
  • ·        The unique “flavor” of the island bar, Coconuts, remains the same.
  • ·        There's plenty of humor, suspense, and romance like the first novel in the series.
  • ·        Both novels may be read as a standalone.
  • ·        The same font was used on the cover for branding purposes.
Want to read the blurb? Here it is:

To most, Coconuts is simply a bar. But for three best friends, it’s their oasis. That is, until everything comes crashing down.

Socialite Cheri Van Buren makes a splashy, paparazzi-filled visit to Coconuts. Secretly dabbling in disastrous online dating, the wealthy caterer desires normalcy away from the society pages. A few girlfriends would be nice too.

Hope’s life is routine, if not dull. The most exciting part of her day is counseling students until a monster tornado heads toward Hilltop High. Now she’s in shock—and not just from the devastating twister.

Alex oversees a marketing intern from hell who appears intent on stealing her job. Her relationship with her sexy cop boyfriend isn’t so sexy, especially after his ex-wife stalks her.

Suzy’s new marriage is challenged by her surly teen stepdaughter, a unique Halloween wedding, and her son’s ever-changing nuptials. If that isn’t enough, the family discovers an astonishing revelation requiring a giant leap of faith.

Will the women overcome the chaos or will it tear them apart?

Amazon buy link: https://www.tinyurl.com/chaosatcoconuts
 
Do you prefer books in a series? I also write standalone novels and novellas.  I’d love to hear from you!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

How The Reality Show The Voice Helps Writers

I was thrilled to be asked to write an article for Southern Writers Magazine. They asked me to write "The Last Word," which is a standing advice-type feature in their bi-monthly literary magazine.

I pondered what to write, and as I watched my favorite reality television show, The Voice, it hit me! Read a portion of the article below to see what I mean. Here's my article in a nutshell: Emmy-winning coaches on the show tell singers to "find their lane." Of course, they mean country, rock, blues, gospel, hip hop, or rap. I realized this advice could easily apply to writers because readers expect us to stay in our lane, otherwise, they would get whiplash if we penned a heart-wrenching contemporary romance only to follow that with a western, and the next year, wrote a time travel sci fi for good measure.

The other similarity between The Voice and writers is the very premise of the show. Coaches do not see the singers until they've been selected. Much like writers who toil away in their offices or at Starbucks and submit their work to agents and editors online (behind the cloak of their laptop.) Our submissions are selected based upon the quality of our work--not on our appearance, which is a lot like The Voice, right?

This was a fun piece to write. I hope you enjoy it.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

New Release: CHAOS AT COCONUTS

Hi everyone!

I'm thrilled to tell you about my new release, CHAOS AT COCONUTS, which is book 2 in my Coconuts series. Book 1, as most of you know, was double award-winning THURSDAYS AT COCONUTS. Both are romantic women's fiction with plenty of humor and suspense.

Without further ado, here's my cover and an Amazon pre-order link. I'd greatly appreciate pre-orders. My release date is April 11.

I think you'll enjoy catching up with Suzy, Alex, and Hope again, as well as meet the wealthy socialite, Cheri Van Buren. I had great fun creating havoc--and satisfaction--for  them. *evil author laugh*

Amazon pre-order link: https://tinyurl.com/chaosatcoconuts


Sunday, December 17, 2017

Holly Jolly Chick Lit Hop Winners

I thoroughly enjoyed participating in the 2017 Holly Jolly Chick Lit Hop with over 60 authors and tons of readers. We had creative holiday contests daily, each author awarded individual prizes, and we collectively contributed to three $100 Amazon gift cards, just in time for Christmas shopping! This was a great way to meet new readers and authors. What a fun, festive win-win.

Big congrats to my seven winners, six of whom will receive an eBook of my new holiday release, MIRACLE ON AISLE TWO.

  • Denise Haworth Barry
  • Kim Ryder Trask
  • Robinrl Martin
  • HiDee Silverwood Ekstrom
  • Mary Carole Irvine
  • Jayme Sharp Williams
Drum roll...my $25 Amazon gift card grand prize winner is: Essence Mustian! Happy shopping, Essence.

Thank you for the can't-wait-to-try holiday recipes and for telling me what toys you requested from Santa as a child. I found it interesting that several of you requested the same gifts as my five-year-old character, Betsy! 

I really enjoyed connecting with all of you. Happy reading and Merry Christmas!

Monday, November 6, 2017

New Release: MIRACLE ON AISLE TWO

I am thrilled to tell you about my newest release, MIRACLE ON AISLE TWO. First of all, it's a Christmas novella (right at 25,000 words). Secondly, I adore the cover. Once you see it, you'll immediately understand the sweet, heartwarming tone of my story. Ready? Drum roll, please...




See what I mean? Too cute for words. I can say that since I'm not the designer. However, I did find the scrawny tree and angel while perusing photo sites and the tree is exactly how I pictured it. One of my characters, Betsy, who is in kindergarten, picked it out. :) It's just slightly bigger and prettier than Charlie Brown's Christmas tree, but not by much.

I'll share my blurb below but wanted to tell you how this madcap, hard-core writing adventure began. After I wrote, edited, and submitted my Coconuts Book 2 (it was accepted and I got a contract, by the way, which I'll discuss in another post), I plodded around the house wondering if I should immediately dive into Coconuts Book 3 or try my hand at writing a novella with entirely different characters for a change of pace. Since I love holiday books and movies, you know what I decided.

While reviewing several of my short stories and half-novels on my computer, I discovered 6,100 words for a Christmas tale I had completely forgotten about writing. As I read it, I fell in love with the characters and the story. I knew I had to finish it--and fast since it was already October! For any chance of a holiday release, I also knew I'd have to indie publish, another first for me. I'm very happy with my publisher, Soul Mate Publishing, but let's face it, they represent over 300 authors who are all vying for their attention, have their own tight schedules, and cover art needs. There wasn't any way I could get this story out before fall of 2018 if I traditionally published, so I jumped in with both feet, rolled up my sleeves, and went to work on figuring out the indie side of the publishing business.

I researched cover artists and checked on their timelines. I sought out beta readers and editors who could turn the work around in a few days. Then, I hunched over my computer and pulled several 9-11 hour days over three weeks. By focusing solely on this story, eating out a lot, skipping housework, and a few(!) showers, I managed to add 18,100 words in three weeks! That's a record for me. I can't say I'd do that again because my back and wrists hurt, plus my eyes looked like a road map. I ended up penning THE END while wearing my trusty wrist braces. Don't worry. I'm fine now but it was a grueling schedule.

Thanks to my cover designer and beta readers, the whole project was finished and released on schedule on November 1 while I was in California visiting my daughter and grandson. I had tech issues on release day, talked to eight Amazon representatives, and got so worked up my daughter had to take the phone. Whew! I'm glad that's behind me. Now, I have to market it. I'll be having several contests in November and December, as well as a launch party in December. More about all of that later.

As promised, here's the blurb for MIRACLE ON AISLE TWO:



Fired two weeks before Christmas, distraught single mom Madison wonders how she’ll afford to pay for her young daughter’s Christmas gifts and still keep a roof over their heads. Sleigh bells and twinkling lights are the last thing on her mind—until a handsome stranger intervenes.

Successful architect Adam Donovan dives into his work by renovating an elaborate hotel after his wife leaves him. He barely notices it’s Christmastime until he overhears a young mother’s tearful plea. Stepping in makes Adam feel like Old Saint Nick himself.

Will Madison and Adam find holiday joy—and possibly love—after discovering Adam’s secret or will it tear them apart?

Amazon buy link:


My novella is available as an eBook and also in paperback. I'd love to hear if you enjoy Christmas stories or have written under extremely tight deadlines. Happy reading!


Monday, October 2, 2017

RAVEN Award - Favorite Contemporary Runner-up

Boy, am I behind. Since receiving runner up in the "Favorite contemporary" category for SLEEPING WITH ELVIS, I've attended two major conferences and just realized I hadn't updated my blog.

A big thank you to UnCaged Book Reviews for nominating SLEEPING WITH ELVIS based on reviews and to the readers who voted for me. It was a huge honor to be named runner up. See my pretty badge?

 Have you read SLEEPING WITH ELVIS? It's set on charming, secluded Key Lime Island and my hero is an Elvis impersonator who happens to have a cursing parrot (with impeccable timing!) I always infuse plenty of humor and suspense, along with romance, of course!


As background, my mother loved the King and so did I. I've been to Graceland twice and even saw Elvis perform when I was a teen. It was a thrill. Sadly, he died two months later. I've also watched several Elvis impersonators/tribute artists. While watching one perform in Florida, I had a light bulb moment and SLEEPING WITH ELVIS was born.

Below are my cover, tagline, and Amazon buy link. Thank you for your support!



A dream vacation turns deadly. A hunky Elvis impersonator is on the island. Pepper is stranded, 
her rogue boyfriend is irate, and the parrot curses. 
Now what?

Amazon buy link: