Sunday, April 27, 2014

Meet Author and Editor Char Chaffin

It's my pleasure to introduce my new writer friend and fellow Soul Mate Publishing author (and editor!) Char Chaffin. Char has a fun, new release, JESSE'S GIRL, that's set in the sixties and is sure to be a hit just like its namesake song.

Q. Tell us about your new release. What was the inspiration? What’s the genre?

My latest release, Jesse’s Girl, is a nostalgia romance set in 1965 small-town Ohio. So far, all of my novels have been set in small towns, and my current WIP is no different. I usually write contemporary romance but I am certain if I ever went for full-on historical, and wrote something set a hundred or more years ago, I would still begin in a small town. I get an enormous amount of inspiration from small-town life. In the case of Jesse’s Girl, hearing the actual Rick Springfield song on the radio during a trip to the grocery store got my mind humming as well as my vocal chords. By the time I pulled into my driveway, I had all three characters and a skeleton plot. I also live in a small town, so the setting was a no-brainer. It took a bit more planning before I figured out putting my characters in present-day would be a huge mistake.
I'm a seventies girl but loved the music of the sixties. I also love that Rick Springfield song. Who doesn't?! I can't believe you had all three characers in your head as well as a plot on the drive back from the store.

Q. Explain your writing journey. Did you query and pitch or self-publish? Was it arduous or easy?

No writing journey is easy, unless you are very, very lucky and just fall into everything. There might be a few authors in the world that fell into success, but most of us fight for the chance to be read. It’s a long road that ends—if you’re fortunate—with a publishing contract and an agent or editor who understands and appreciates you. I queried and pitched unsuccessfully, attended conferences that taught me a great deal about the writing process; submitted to plenty of agents and editors who rejected my manuscript. Frankly, I never thought of self-publishing. I got lucky when I pitched online during a Savvy Author Pitching symposium, because that’s when Soul Mate Publishing found me and their Senior Editor and founder, Debby Gilbert, offered me a contract for my debut novel, Promises to Keep. Now, in the midst of writing my fourth novel, I’m also an Acquiring Editor for Soul Mate and I pay it forward by participating in Savvy Author’s pitching events whenever they offer one, and taking pitches for Soul Mate.

I didn't realize you and I were both picked up during the online Savvy Author pitch session by Debby Gilbert, although yours came first! It's so cool that you're now a SMP acquiring editor as well!

Q. Give us your best writing tip/advice.

Read everything you can get your hands on. Read other genres even if you can’t imagine ever writing in them. Write every single day. Write in other genres, too. It doesn’t matter if you never do anything with it. At least try. Each time you change genres, you stretch and grow as a writer and that’s absolutely vital. FIND A CRITIQUE PARTNER. You have to get that honest feedback and not just from a family member who thinks you walk on water just because they’re related to you. Learn to accept criticism and grow a thick skin. Above all, remember that in writing a book, you have Put Yourself Out There, which means you face kudos as well as readers who will not like you. Smile through your rejections, embrace humility and let every experience add to you in a positive manner. If you want to succeed, you’ll never give up. If you want to be a published author you have GOT to be willing to learn from your mistakes and improve/reinvent yourself each time you sit down to write. You have chosen one of the most competitive fields in the world to work in and that’s taking into consideration the fact that self-publishing is now easier than ever. It’s still competitive and for every book you write, a thousand authors are doing the same thing and also vying for a spot on readers’ bookshelves.

Q. What is your favorite marketing tip/promotional advice?

I’d answer that if I had one. :)  It’s tricky. Not everything works for everybody, or even from one release to the next. In my experience book tours are a lot of work and didn’t do much for my sales. Many will say the more books you get on the shelf, the better your chances for more sales. Of everything you can do, I think this might be the best promotional advice. More exposure is never a bad thing. Just make sure whatever you write, it’s an improvement over what you have already written. My best marketing tip: make sure everything that goes out under your name is polished like a diamond. Make sure your reputation as a writer includes turning out professionally crafted product.
Q. I’m also a children’s author, so I have to ask what was your favorite book as a child?

I’m probably going to freak you out with this answer. I started reading seriously when I was about eight, and children’s books never interested me. The reason why would be my brothers’ penchant for horror films. Thanks to their habit of sneaking me downstairs with them to watch scary movies on TV when I was very young, I grew up loving horror and sci-fi. So it made sense that when I started reading in earnest, I would want only horror and sci-fi. My favorite book as a child was Alfred Hitchcock’s Stories Not For the Nervous. I was eleven when I read it and I got it new and in hardcover when it first came out, ironically in 1965. When I was nine my family moved across town and I discovered a box of old Edgar Rice Burroughs books in the attic of the new house. I glutted myself on his Martian and Tarzan chronicles.
Yep. That does freak me out! No Dr. Seuss, Boxcar Children, Charlotte's Web or Little House on the Prairie?!!

Q. About editing…do you like it, hate it? How do you go about tackling the beast?

Well, remember I’m also an editor, so I kind of have to like it. :) Actually, I’m an anal editor. It’s so much a part of me that I write and edit at the same time and never think twice. It takes me longer than the average writer to complete a project, but again this is just the way I create. I’m a pathetic loser at NaNoWriMo, that’s for sure! For someone who writes as I do, the idea of completing a book in a month is unrealistic. As for tackling the beast: for me, editing isn’t a beast, so there’s nothing to tackle. I just work until I’m happy with it, then I edit it some more, and call it done.

Not me. I plow through my ms and only edit if it's a quick typo. Otherwise, I tackle the entire beast of a ms at the end! Maybe I should consider your method...

Q. What’s your next project?

As I mentioned briefly, I’m in a small town again for my current work-in-progress, entitled Made For Each Other. This time it’s a small town in Tennessee, about midway between Memphis and Nashville. My hero, Jed Plunkett, leaves his high-powered job in New York City to return to his home town of Sarsaparilla, and help out his family during a medical crisis. Going back also means facing his childhood nemesis, Sophie Wilton, the girl his family and friends consider the perfect match for him. Jed and Sophie have hated each other since first grade. But you know what they say about hate, right? It’s awfully close to love.
Sounds good. Love the title!

Q. I love first lines. Post your first sentence. Hook us!

I can give you all three, and let you decide! Starting with my most recent and going backward. J

Jesse’s Girl:  Something awoke him from a sound sleep.

Unsafe Haven: Hidden was good. She could live with hidden.

Promises to Keep:  Annie Turner fell in love with Travis Quincy on a hot summer day, over a tangled fishing pole line and a bucket of night-crawlers. 

Ooh. Those are all good.

Here's the blurb for Jesse’s Girl: 

In 1965, Tim O’Malley returns to his home town of Skitter Lake, Ohio, to clear his name and get the girl: Dorothy Whitaker, the love of his life since eighth grade. Blamed for a destructive fire he didn’t set, only Tim and Dorothy know the truth; that Jesse Prescott, Tim’s best friend and Dorothy’s boyfriend, did the deed that changed an entire town. But Jesse died in that tragedy and seven years later, Skitter Lake still honors him as a hero, rather than Tim, the boy from the seedy side of town whose father was a drunk . . . and whose quick actions saved six people from perishing in that horrendous fire.

In trying to set the record straight and finally claim Dorothy as his own, Tim—and Dorothy, too—will discover that in some small towns the legend often outweighs the truth . . . and their family and friends will forever see Dorothy as “Jesse’s girl.”
Great blurb. Thanks for letting me pick your brain and good luck with JESSE'S GIRL! Now, everyone, please comment and you'll be entered to win a copy of Char's other book, UNSAFE HAVEN. A winner will be chosen at random and may choose either an autographed print book or an ebook. Good luck!


Book Trailer for Jesse’s Girl:

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Meet Mystery Author Shirley McCann

I can't tell you how pleased I am to introduce and interview my very good friend and fellow writer, Shirley McCann. Welcome, Shirley! Her new novel, ANONYMOUSLY YOURS, is out now! Read all about it below and learn a few things about Shirley that you probably didn't know.

Q. How long have you been writing? Tell us about your typical writing day. 
I’ve been writing for almost 25 years, but not steadily until now. I’ve published several short stories over the years but just now working seriously on novels. I also have started getting up at 5 AM to start writing. That’s on the days I don’t work. On those days, I’m already up at 4 am, but luckily I don’t work everyday.

 Ooh. That's early! I don't think I'll be following your lead but I do need to become more disciplined.

Q. How many books have you written or is this your debut? What genre do you write?
I guess Anonymously Yours would be my debut contracted novel. I have two short mystery collections on Amazon, plus a middle grade mystery. Mystery is my genre of choice, but I also like romance.

You're a really good mystery writer. Your success with Woman's World magazine attests to that! 

Q. Tell us about your writing journey? Did you query and pitch or self-publish? Was it arduous or easy?
Well, I’ve been through a lot of pitches, but I can honestly say now that my book wasn’t ready at that time. I’ve learned so much over the years. Hopefully, it’s made my writing better. As I mentioned above, I’ve self published a few books, and don’t regret it a bit. I’m so glad that publishing has changed so much for the better. I’m discovering lots of new talent that I might not have enjoyed if it weren’t for self-publishing.

Q. Give us your best writing tip/advice.
WRITE, WRITE, WRITE. READ, READ, READ. And soak up whatever you can from speakers on writing. Some day it will all just click.

Q. Tell us something quirky about you that we may not know.
Love this question. There’s probably a lot of stuff to tell if I think about it long enough. But here goes a couple. I love to mix mashed potatoes and spaghetti together. (assuming we’re having a cleaning out the fridge night). And I also wear my watch on my right hand, even though I’m right handed. Screws up all those CSI shows where the mystery was solved because of the watch being on the wrong hand, doesn’t it? I’ve always done that. It’s always seemed the natural thing to do.

I never knew any of that and we're good friends! LOL. How funny. 

Q. Do you use a pen name? If so, why or why not?
I really thought about it because my mom always told me that I’d need to use my maiden name when I got published, so all my old friends would know it was me. But most people know me as Shirley McCann now. Although, I have to admit, using Shirley King might have made people think I was related to Stephen King. Definitely was something to consider.

I think your mom had a good point. I would seriously consider releasing a book under the pen name Shirley King. Are you kidding me?!! Just think about the placement on the shelves/sites alone! And readers might think you're his sister. Do it!

Q. I’m a big six-word memoir fan. Find out about six-word memoirs and the infamous Hemingway backstory here: Describe your writing day using just six words.
Tea. Poptart. Computer. Tea. Computer. Tea.

Why am I not surprised that tea was in there somewhere?! :) 

Q. What is your favorite marketing tip/promotional advice?
Twitter. And visiting blogs, because you’ll make friends that way. You can’t expect people to visit your own site, if you don’t reciprocate.
Q. I’m also a children’s author, so I have to ask what was your favorite book as a child?
Nancy Drew. I think I’ve read them all. Used to collect them, but no room for all the books I love, so just don’t do it anymore. Besides, with all the books out there now, there’s no way I’d have time to go back and read them again.

 Q. What’s your next project? I have a 2-book contract for a YA novel called The Scarry Inn. It’s about four teenagers who end up stranded at a motel of the same name. With all the scary things happening, they finally decide the owners are playing a trick on them to drum up business for their inn. At least until one of them is found murdered. Hopefully, this can turn into a series.

 I love this premise. And the surname of the owners is Scarry, right? Perfect. I hope you give each of the rooms a "scarry" name!  Big congrats on landing a two-book deal. I knew you when...

Q. I love first lines. Post your first sentence. Hook us!  
“Damn it, Miss Thomas.”
Ooh. That's a good one! 
Drumroll, please... Here are the cover and blurb for Shirley's new mystery, ANONYMOUSLY YOURS, under contract with The Wild Rose Press.
Uneventful is the word Denise would have expected to describe her job at Winslow’s Diner. But after the discovery of a dead body during an attempt to return a lost wallet, Denise is suddenly thrust into a danger she hadn’t bargained for.  And to top it off, not only does her boyfriend, Justin, inform her  that the police never found a body at the house she’d sent them to, she also realizes that she is being stalked by someone driving a red Toyota – the same car she’d seen at the house where she’d discovered the body.
In a fight for their lives, Denise and Justin are forced to seek the help of her Private Investigator, Uncle Bob.  Unfortunately, she soon learns that her uncle is not the successful person she’d always believed him to be. Now, not only does she need to solve the mystery of the missing corpse in order to save her life, she also realizes that doing so would help to boost the confidence of her favorite uncle.
Denise realizes their newly devised plan must go as clockwork, or someone else could end up dead.
Sounds great, Shirley! Please leave a comment or ask Shirley a question and one lucky person will receive a free ANONYMOUSLY YOURS ebook! 
Thanks for letting us pick your brain. Tell us where we can find your books and how to connect on social media. And best of luck on sales, my friend!
Anonymously Yours
Got Time? 13 Solve It Yourself Mysteries
A Collection - 13 Short Mysteries
The Necklace - A Middle Grade Mystery
Connect with Shirley McCann on Facebook

Sunday, April 6, 2014


Drum roll, please...It's finally time to share my cover with the world. Without further ado, here's the artwork for my debut women's fiction, THURSDAYS AT COCONUTS! It was created by Soul Mate Publishing artist Christy Caughie. A big thanks to her for a job well done.

It's amazing to see my name on the cover of a novel. Amazing. What a dream come true but don't pinch me! I've seen my name on the covers of my children's picture books (also thrilling) but this novel is something I've worked on since I penned the end in June 2009. I set it aside for nearly three years and turned to kidlit after a horrific family tragedy but got back to it last year. I'm so happy I resurrected it and pitched to Debby Gilbert, Senior Editor of Soul Mate Publishing, last spring. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for believing in me, Debby!

I'm really happy with the cover which represents the three women well. I'd love to hear your thoughts. My women's fiction features Suzy, Alexandra (Alex), and Hope who've known one another since high school and meet over drinks at Coconuts on Thursdays--get it?!--to cope with life's many mishaps and crises. My novel is also laced with plenty of romance, humor and suspense.

As the weeks go by, I'll be sharing behind-the-scenes info, hooks, excerpts, and progress toward a release date. I actually asked that my April release date be pushed back to summer. Horrors, I know. No author asks that. What was I thinking?! But we were in Florida in the middle of a remodeling project, had company for weeks, and most importantly, my daughter's upcoming May wedding. I knew there was no way I could appropriately edit nor market it, so Debby graciously agreed to push it back (even if she did think I was a bit off kilter!)

Here's the blurb, which I tweak constantly and will probably change tomorrow! Please let me know your thoughts in the comment section.
As the go-to wedding planner, Suzy cannot find her own wedded bliss. Her wedding day is a shocker, complete with family betrayals. She deftly coordinates weddings for neurotic brides and a racist, pretentious mother of the bride, while still pining for her high school sweetheart. Oh, and her son brings home a bombshell all the way from Europe. 

Alex, a marketer with a “touch” of OCD, falls for a bad-boy cop who's married and possibly stalking her--but he sure is sexy. She tries to stay at arm’s length after she puts her job—and life—on the line for the officer who isn’t always a gentleman. Will she be able to resist their chemistry and the danger that surrounds him?

Hope hates her name, looks and frizzy hair. As a high school counselor, she dishes out sage advice to students, yet can’t see she’s enabling her deadbeat, stuck-in-the-seventies hippie parents. After tragedy strikes, she reexamines their relationship and discovers a secret that almost went to the grave.

Friends since high school, the thirty-something women meet every Thursday at Coconuts for their own form of friendapy.