Writing retreat…then and now…

Me & CP, Emily McKay

Me & CP, Emily McKay

Sometime in 1998 I formed a critique relationship with another unpublished romance writer. She wrote short category romance, something I’d not read up until we started working together, and I wrote historicals. We didn’t know each other well initially, but slowly we forged a bond and together found magic. In the beginning neither one of us knew much about what we were doing, so we learned how to write, we studied craft, we found our writing styles and our strengths and weaknesses.

the beach house we used to visit - lost in Hurricane Ike

the beach house we used to visit – lost in Hurricane Ike

In those early years we would go, with two other writer buddies that we worked with, to one said writer buddy’s beach house. We’d go for a long weekend and we’d work and plot and laugh and have more fun than you can imagine while also accomplishing a ton of work. The first night there we’d set our goals for the trip and the rest of the time it was work, work, work, with the occasional nice walk on the beach.

Flash forward to now – 4 kids later (2 for each of us) and we’re back at the beach together, just the 6 of us and we’ll see how much work we can actually get done with a 3, 4, 5 and 8 year old with us. We haven’t set goals, though we’re both on deadline. Instead we plan to spend time together – which is more difficult now with our families – let our kids play together and hope to get work done in the down time.

100_1892I bring all this up not so much to brag on my amazing relationship with my critique partner, though really y’all should be jealous because we work so well together (and she just won a RITA, Go Emily!) but instead to discuss the merits of writing retreats. They’re quite popular these days. I know RWA chapters plan them and host them periodically and lots of critique groups get together for writing retreats.

There’s something quite magical about getting together and spending time focusing on your writing with other writers. Especially when you can do it with a lovely bit of nature near by – the beach, mountains, a lake or forrest. And you know it’s good for our kids to see their moms working and having co-workers, even if our jobs are more unconventional than some of the other parents.

So how about you? Ever been on a writing retreat? What are yours like or what would make the perfect one for you?


August Preview!

We’ve got some great releases coming up this month!

First up, Immortals (Runes #2) by Ednah Walters – Releases August 5
Immortal_couple_Huge_with_logoNothing can stop Raine Cooper when she wants something
Raine finally knows that her gorgeous neighbor, Torin St. James, is a legend straight out of Norse mythology, and that her feelings for him are strong. Torin is crazy about Raine too, breaking the one rule he lives by: Never fall for a mortal. The problem is he no longer remembers her, his memories erased by Norns—Norse destiny deities—to punish her for defying them.

So Raine comes up with a plan…

She will make Torin forget his one rule a second time and fall in love with her all over again. But she quickly learns that well-laid plans do not work when dealing with deities and supernatural beings. Desperate, Raine makes choices that could not only tear her and Torin further apart, but
lead to the destruction of everything and everyone she loves.

Robyn DeHart’s A Little Bit Scandalous – Releases from Entangled’s Scandalous August 12
A Little Bit ScandalousA woman in search of a gamble…

Mathematics prodigy, Caroline Jellico, plans to support herself by winning big in the gaming hells of London—while dressed as a boy. She’s tired of waiting for the elusive Roe to notice her. She’ll marry him or no man.

A gambler in need of redemption…

Monroe Grisham, Duke of Chanceworth, needs to marry off his beautiful young ward and ensure she attaches herself to the right man, not an irresponsible cad like him. But all grown up now, Caroline’s presence is an utter distraction. One he can neither act on nor deny.

A game of seduction…

But when Roe and Caroline meet across the gaming table, all bets are off. Seduction is in the cards and the winner will take all…or lose everything.

Kelly Hashway’s Stalked by Death – Releases from Spencer Hill Press August 13

Jodi knows that any slip-ups made by the Ophi–a special group of necromancers born under the 13th sign of the zodiac–will fall on her shoulders… and that Hades is just waiting for them to screw up so he can wipe out the Ophi line.

Unfortunately, Jodi has only convinced one Ophi to join her school: A hot guy named Chase who jeopardizes her relationship with Alex. Jodi loves Alex, but Chase can enhance her powers with just a touch—making her stronger than any Ophi has ever been.

Her mixed emotions send her powers surging out of control, and the dead start rising without her conscious summoning—exactly what Hades doesn’t want! If she chooses Alex over Chase, she may lose the battle to Hades, leading the Ophi race to extinction. If she chooses Chase, she might be able to stop Hades for good… but lose everything else.

Jodi needs to figure things out fast–because death is stalking her at every turn.

Ellen Booraem’s Texting the Underworld – Releases from Penguin/Dial Books for Young Readers August 15

texting the underworldPerpetual scaredy-cat Conor O’Neill has the fright of his life when a banshee named Ashling shows up in his bedroom. Ashling is—as all banshees are—a harbinger of death, and she’s sure someone in Conor’s family is about to require her services. But she’s new at this banshee business, and first she insists on going to middle school.

Even as Conor desperately tries to hide her identity from his classmates and teachers, he realizes there’s no way to avoid paying a visit to the underworld if he wants to keep his family safe.

Fortunately, he has a cell phone, and his computer-geek friend, Javier, will be holding down the home front.

“Got your cell?”

“Yeah . . . Don’t see what good it’ll do me.”

“I’ll text you if anything happens that you should know.”

“Text me? Javier, we’ll be in the afterlife.”

“You never know. Maybe they get a signal.”

Discover why Kirkus has called Booraem’s work “utterly original American fantasy . . . frequently hysterical . . . smart, earthy and thoughtful.”

Dominus by Christine Fonseca – Releases August 31
(Cover Tease)

DOMINUS teaser bookcover
Sometimes death is the only way to save a life.

Nesy knows who she is now, knows what she’s lost. Determined to save Aydan from his fate, she confronts the only one she blames for everything – Azza. But how can she fight the devil when she is nothing more than human.

The fate of Celestium, Infernum and humanity rests in Nesy’s hands. Can she find the strength to confront demons she’s never imagined, face fears she’s never voiced, and release the one things that has held her world together – her love for Aydan. Some sacrifices should never be made…even for love.

Author’s Note:
Each character’s decisions, each twist of fate has led to this – a time when confusion reigns supreme, when up is down and down is up. And when the fate of humanity rests in the balance. In this final installment, the decisions of the past have come back to haunt the future, and the fates of Nesy and Aydan, Zane and Cass, Celestium and Infernum, hang in the balance. The only question is, who will survive?

This story is filled with anguish and betrayal, love and sacrifice, as I bring the series to an end. It’s a story that has been part of my life for many years. Saying “goodbye” to these characters will be a profound experience for me. I hope all of you have enjoyed their stories as much as I have enjoyed writing them.


Another exciting month coming up for the Scene 13ers!

This month’s posting theme is a free choice, so each author will post whatever crosses their fancy 🙂

Be sure to check out our Blog Tours tab for ongoing blog tour links!

Once upon a summer day…

In a perfect world I would be able to spend a few weeks this summer doing nothing but lounging around reading. But I have books to write and two small children and a husband who teaches summer school so I won’t have that luxury. That being said I will take the time to indulge in some books. Here are the top 5 titles currently sitting on my Kindle waiting to be devoured…

12929918Somebody to Love by Kristan Higgins. I really can’t wait to dive into this one if for no other reason than it takes place in the same town as Catch of the Day and rumor has it Maggie and Malone make an appearance. I’d read just about anything to spend a bit more time with Malone, that being said I’m a big fan of Kristan’s so I know I’ll love this one.

Instant Mom by Nia Vardales. This is actually a non-fiction all about her experience with foster-adoption. This is the same way my husband and I became parents and I love that she’s getting the word out about this invaluable way to build your family.

Something in Death by JD Robb. Okay so that’s not really the title, but I’m somewhere in the middle of the series and can’t really remember which book is next. This is a go-to series for me though because I know that all it takes is one page and I’m immersed in Eve Dallas’s world and ready to catch the bad guys.

GraveDanceSomething by Suzanne Enoch. Another go-to author for me. And again, no specific title, but only because I have a handful of hers that I haven’t yet read and so I’m not sure which one will come next. I love her heroes, they are always to-die-for and she writes great heroines with wonderful humor.

Grave Dance by Kalayna Price. I read the first in this urban fantasy series, Grave Witch a while back and I so loved it. I loved the world and especially the protoagonist’s voice. It was refreshing and irreverant and just plain fun.

Since I have a book out right now I’ve got to pimp it out a little in case y’all are looking for some summer reading suggestions.

releases June 18th

releases June 18th

A lone witness finds her protector… 

Since losing her sight in a childhood accident, Mia Danvers has resided in a small cottage on the vast Carrington estate. Thought to be dead, Mia lives a life of virtual seclusion—until one night, while walking home, she happens upon a horrendous crime.

Alex Foster, Eighth Duke of Carrington, lives according to society’s expectations for him. He’s never met the woman who lives in the cottage at the edge of his property. But when she arrives at his door in the pouring rain terrified and claiming she has witnessed a murder, she seizes his attention.

Mia is determined to help the authorities track down the culprit, even though the only person willing to accept her aid is the handsome, arrogant duke. Working closely together proves difficult as Mia’s beauty and independence tempts Alex to ignore convention and follow his desire. But what neither of them know is that this murderer has struck before in Whitechapel, taunting the British press only to vanish—a ruthless killer who knows that Mia is the only living witness to his crime…

Through the looking glass

signing my first contract

signing my first contract

We’ve already reflected on many of transitions you can go through in life. I thought I might blog about the big transition I made a couple of years ago when I became a mother overnight. But I’ve blogged on that at great length at one of my other blogs – Peanut Butter on the Keyboard. So instead I decided to tackle the transition from aspiring author to published author.

It’s been a while since I was unpublished, I sold my first book in June 2004. To that point I had worked for seven years writing pretty seriously, in pursuit of publication and the book I sold was my 5th manuscript. Wow has the industry changed – there are so many options for authors these days, transitional big NYC publishers, smaller boutique publishers, digital only books and self-publishing is now seen as a viable option and not looked down upon as it once was.

When I sold, I expected that once published everything would be different. That somehow with that contract would magically come success and a deeper knowledge and respect and a slew of other things. And some of that certainly happened, but I wasn’t any smarter the day after I accepted that deal than I was the day before.

releases June 18th

releases June 18th

There was a transition to become a published author, but it was not so much what I expected. Instead of making things easier, taking away all the angst that came with rejection, it came with new challenges, bigger and scarier ones that frankly don’t seem to ever go away. It’s much more difficult to write a book now than it was when I wrote those first books as a fledgling writer.

All that said, it was a good transition and I’m glad I made it. There are plenty of writers out there who have chosen different paths and while mine has been fairly rocky, I’m thankful for all of my transitions because they’ve strengthened me as a person and a writer.

So how about you? Have you ever faced a transition that turned out to be not what you expected?

June Preview!!

We’ve got another great month of releases coming up!!

Michelle Pickette’s PODs releases June 4th from Spencer Hill Press:

podsSeventeen-year-old Eva is a chosen one. Chosen to live, while others meet a swift and painful death from an incurable virus so lethal, a person is dead within days of symptoms emerging. In the POD system, a series of underground habitats built by the government, she waits with the other chosen for the deadly virus to claim those above. Separated from family and friends, it’s in the PODs she meets David. And while true love might not conquer all, it’s a balm for the broken soul.

After a year, scientists believe the population has died, and without living hosts, so has the virus. That’s the theory, anyway. But when the PODs are opened, survivors find the surface holds a vicious secret. The virus mutated, infecting those left top-side and creating… monsters.
Eva and David hide from the infected in the abandoned PODs. Together they try to build a life–a new beginning. But the infected follow and are relentless in their attacks. Leaving Eva and David to fight for survival, and pray for a cure.

Dorothy Dreyer’s My Sister’s Reaper releases June 18th from Month9Books

sistersreaperSixteen-year-old Zadie’s first mistake was telling the boy she liked she could bring her dead sister back to life. Her second mistake was actually doing it.

When Zadie accidentally messes with the Reaper’s Rite that should have claimed her sister Mara, things go horribly wrong. Mara isn’t the same anymore—Zadie isn’t even sure she’s completely human. To top it off, a Reaper is determined to collect Mara’s soul. Now Zadie must figure out how to defeat her sister’s Reaper or let Mara die … this time for good.


PJ Hoover’s Solstice releases June 18th from Tor Teen:

solstice_cover_275_411Piper’s world is dying. Each day brings hotter temperatures and heat bubbles that threaten to destroy the earth. Amid this global heating crisis, Piper lives under the oppressive rule of her mother, who suffocates her even more than the weather does. Everything changes on her eighteenth birthday, when her mother is called away on a mysterious errand and Piper seizes her first opportunity for freedom.

Piper discovers a universe she never knew existed—a sphere of gods and monsters—and realizes that her world is not the only one in crisis. While gods battle for control of the Underworld, Piper’s life spirals out of control as she struggles to find the answer to the secret that has been kept from her since birth.

Kimberly Ann Miller’s Triangles releases June 18th from Spencer Hill Press:

kim coverA cruise ship. A beautiful island. Two sexy guys. What could possibly go wrong?

In the Bermuda Triangle – a lot.

Hoping to leave behind the reminders of her crappy life–her father’s death years ago, her mother’s medical problems, and the loser who’s practically stalking her–seventeen-year-old Autumn Taylor hops on a ship with her sister for a little distraction. When she wakes up in the Bermuda Triangle, she fears she’s gone nuts for more than one reason: that loser is suddenly claiming they’re a happy couple… a hot guy is wrapping his arms around her and saying “Happy Anniversary”… and suddenly, she’s full of bruises, losing her hair, and getting IV medication. Autumn visits the ship’s doctor, hoping for a pill or a shot to make the craziness go away. Instead, she’s warned that these “alternate realities” could become permanent.

She just has to ask herself one question – how the hell is she going to get out of this mess?

Robyn DeHart’s The Secrets of Mia Danvers releases June 18th from NAL:

600149_10200771614755067_1586137962_nA lone witness finds her protector…

Since losing her sight in a childhood accident, Mia Danvers has resided in a small cottage on the vast Carrington estate. Thought to be dead, Mia lives a life of virtual seclusion—until one night, while walking home, she happens upon a horrendous crime.

Alex Foster, Eighth Duke of Carrington, lives according to society’s expectations for him. He’s never met the woman who lives in the cottage at the edge of his property. But when she arrives at his door in the pouring rain terrified and claiming she has witnessed a murder, she seizes his attention.

Mia is determined to help the authorities track down the culprit, even though the only person willing to accept her aid is the handsome, arrogant duke. Working closely together proves difficult as Mia’s beauty and independence tempts Alex to ignore convention and follow his desire. But what neither of them know is that this murderer has struck before in Whitechapel, taunting the British press only to vanish—a ruthless killer who knows that Mia is the only living witness to his crime…

Jennifer Allis Provost’s Copper Girl releases June 25th from Spence City:

CopperGirlsFRONTcoverFINALSara had always been careful.
She never spoke of magic, never associated with those suspected of handling magic, never thought of magic, and never, ever, let anyone see her mark. After all, the last thing she wanted was to end up missing, like her father and brother.
Then, a silver elf pushed his way into Sara’s dream, and her life became anything but ordinary.

For more info on all these amazing releases, check out the author’s pages above.



This month’s theme is Transitions, so be sure to check in each day for each author’s interpretation 🙂

The numbers game

Once upon a time I was a fledgling young writer with dreams of multi-book contracts and booksignings in my future. I worked very hard to hone my craft (still do) and become the best writer I could. And still the rejections came. I know I’ve blogged here before on the magic combination of getting published, but it’s a whole ‘nother ball of wax to STAY publish.

In order to sell that first book my writing had to be in tip-top shape and I naively believed that that is what would keep me selling. It’s not that writing skill and talent don’t have anything to do with longevity in this career, but in addition to those elements is one that perhaps you might not be expecting. I know I wasn’t. Perhaps that was foolish of me, but when I realized that publishing is more a game of numbers than it is of words, it was a shocker.

I’d done my job as far as pleasing readers – I had fan mail to prove it. And I’d done my job with my editor because they loved my work. Yet, I had first one and then another contract not get renewed. And I was left wondering what the hell was I doing so wrong? I still take responsibility for part of my slow-growing career, but the truth is much of it is out of my hands and always will be. I can’t make readers buy my books with the kind of velocity that most publishers deem as successful. I can’t make readers love my books and want to share them with all of their friends – though I certainly hope that happens, it’s never a guarantee.

There are numbers everywhere in this business – print runs, advances, royalty rates, sell-throughs, bestseller lists…its enough to make you send hate mail to your high school algebra teacher. Even Amazon uses some kind of magic algorithm to figure their bestseller lists and which books get shown where. Feeling dizzy and a bit depressed yet?

Okay so now that I’ve depressed everyone, let’s talk about how to keep working in the face of all this gloominess. The first thing you have to do is figure out what success means to you – it will be a different answer to each of us. The next thing you have to realize is there’s really only so much you can do. Promo efforts are a crap shoot, some things work beautifully for some authors while they fail miserably for others. Decide what you are and aren’t willing to do to reach that level of success and be willing to work your butt off. And then do your level best to ignore everything else. Stressing about reviews, stop looking at them. Comparing yourself to another writer, stop it. Fretting about your sales rank on Amazon, walk away from the browser. Every writer out there wishes they were doing a little better. #2 wants to be #1 and #1 wants to do it again with the next book and the next…. So yes, the numbers are depressing, but try, try, try to stop worrying about it all so much. And if my words aren’t enough to encourage you, I’ll leave it to Bob Newhart.

At the end of the day this whole writing gig needs to be a labor of love. Be prepared to be more frustrated and defeated than you ever have been in your life (unless you’re a mom, then you’re already golden cause that gig is WAY harder). So how do you keep sane in the midst of the numbers game?

Of misery and springtime

A-Little-Bit-Sinful-800-166x250It’s spring. For some of you that might mean that you’ve still got snow, but here in Central Texas everything is blooming. The world is green and it’s beautiful and I’m miserable. Spring means allergies, at least for me. I’m itchy and sneezy and wheezy and drippy – really the worst of the Seven Dwarfs. But y’all probably don’t want to hear me describe my allergy woes, so instead I’ll talk of new beginnings because that’s what spring is, right?  (this is my new book so I have to stick it in here so you’ll get my subliminal message & go buy it – go ahead…I’ll wait…)

Well, for writers we get new beginnings all the time. They come in the form of new books, new story ideas, first chapters and the like. Like spring, the beginnings of books kinda make me miserable. I know lots of writers who love beginnings. They love them so much they have 40 manuscripts started and they never finish any of them because they get a rush out of that first blush of a story. For me, the beginning is like wading through molasses, I know I’m going somewhere, but it’s murky and slow and sticky and really uncomfortable. But I keep going because just around the corner is my favorite part….ready for it?

The middle! Okay I know some of you writers out there are scratching your heads thinking I’m totally nuts. You’re probably right (on so many levels) but hear me out. The middle is where the characters start falling into place, the plot starts moving and all the exciting (and sexy) stuff happens. If there’s a villain then he (or she) is causing all kinds of trouble and the hero and heroine and stuck together trying to solve a problem, find a treasure, catch a killer or just trying not to kill each other. It’s all the good stuff. We read the beginnings of books to get to know the characters so we can get to the middle cause that’s where the story is at. (how’s that for great grammar?!)

So how about you? Are you a fan of Spring or are you suffering with allergies like me? And if you’re a writer, what’s your favorite part of the book?