Exploring Russell Cave National Monument #writerslife #history #caving #research

Have you ever driven past a historic site multiple times yet didn’t take the time to find out what the significance of the place might be? I’ve lived in the Tennessee Valley for almost 15 years now and have driven the highway that passes the Russell Cave National Monument countless times in that span. I wanted to visit to see what northern Alabama/southern Tennessee caves looked like since, in The Touchstone of Raven Hollow, Grant and Tara end up in one. My hubby and I almost stopped in on a return trip from Virginia a few months ago, but it was a rainy day and we decided to keep going. But we finally had a free Saturday on a beautiful day in June to make the short trip to investigate the monument.

We decided to make a day of it and packed a picnic and our books to read under a shady tree. We set out mid-morning and arrived at the National Park a little after 11:00. On the way in, I saw a sign that read, “Historic Shelter Cave,” and wondered what that meant. I would soon find out.

IMG_2358The cave is named after a Revolutionary War officer, Colonel Thomas Russell, who once owned the land known as the Russell farm where the cave is located. We browsed through the museum in the visitor’s center, learning about the people who once lived there. We saw a likeness of what a man of that period looked like as well as the kinds of weapons and tools they would have used. They mentioned the atlatl, a kind of leveraged spear that increases the speed and force of the thrown weapon. I was reminded of reading of the same kind of hunting spear in Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear series and wondered about the linkage. IMG_2362A quick search online revealed the history of the device. According to quart.us, they were first used in Europe (where the Clan books take place) during the Paleolithic or Stone Age around 17,000 BC. People migrating across the Bering Land Bridge brought them around 15,000 BC. The atlatls were used in North America during the Paleo-Indian and Archaic periods. I like to know the linkages between places and times to have a better grasp of the flow of history and how people moved about.

IMG_2366A stream flows into and through the sheltering cave where people lived and worked for thousands of years. That’s a ready supply of water without having to venture out of the cave. There seems to be some uncertainty as to whether people lived in the cave year round or only during the fall and winter, but thousands of artifacts have been IMG_2361found. Including the Russell point arrowhead which is a style only found in this cave. Baskets, pottery, spear points and other cutting and scraping tools, jewelry as well as the charcoal remains of fires were found inside during the archeological dig conducted by first the Tennessee Archeological Society and then by the Smithsonian Institution with support by the National Geographic society. Most if not all of the tools were made using limestone, an abundant kind of stone in the Tennessee Valley.

IMG_2369The cave itself seems to have some structural concerns as there are large bolts spaced across the ceiling to keep it from falling. Indeed it appears some erosion and rock fall has occurred. We saw swallows darting in and out of the shelter but no other wildlife. Overall, it’s a very peaceful place with the merry sound of the river flowing gently by and the birds calling to one another.

We ate our lunch out front of the visitor’s center where picnic tables were situated under several large deciduous trees and pines. We were surprised to be joined by an unexpected companion, an old black dog IMG_2371we later found out is named Scoot and is 17 years old and visits from a neighbor’s property. Scoot looks an awful lot like our Sierra dog, which was rather startling when I first saw him. He kept us company for a time, which was rather sweet of him.

After we’d finished our picnic, we packed up and headed on into Tennessee to the Franklin-Marion State Forest. Why? That’s another story I’ll share next week.

So what historical sites are in your area that you haven’t visited – yet?

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Also, I’ll be sharing one chapter each month in 2017 of a new historical romance novella, Elizabeth’s Hope, the prequel to my A More Perfect Union series, with my subscribers. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit my Website for more on my books and upcoming events.

The_Touchstone_of_Raven_Hollow_600x900He dug for the truth and found her magic…

Tara Golden has hidden her healing power all her life. But occasionally, she uses her abilities on people passing through town, sure they’d never figure out what saved them. Now a tall, sexy geologist is asking questions she doesn’t want to face, and he isn’t going to take no for an answer. There’s no way she would reveal her abilities and her gifted sisters for a fling.

The latest medical tests divulge geologist Grant Markel’s fatal condition is cured, but the scientist within him won’t accept it’s a miracle. When he meets the sexy, mystical witch who may hold the answer to his quest, he’s determined to prove she’s full of smoke and mirrors despite their mutual attraction.

When they are trapped in an enchanted valley, Tara must choose between her magical truth or his scientific beliefs. Can she step from the shadows to claim her true powers before it’s too late?

Amazon: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-kindle

B&N: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-BN

Kobo: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-Kobo

Amazon AU: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-Amazon-AU

Amazon CA: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-Amazon-CA

Amazon UK: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-Amazon-UK

iBooks: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-iBooks

Google: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-GoogleBks

Heart of Dixie Luncheon & My Big Surprise #writerslife #mentor #award #HODluncheon #grateful

I had a huge surprise at this year’s annual Heart of Dixie Romance Readers’ Luncheon in Huntsville, Alabama. My chapter celebrated 20 years of luncheons with the fabulous author Brenda Sue Novak as keynote speaker, and she didn’t let us down with her inspiring and touching speech.

As always, we had a room full of readers and authors getting to know each other, talking about their lives and their love of reading. Maybe about a few hunky book boyfriends here and there. Or about books we’ve read, life events that are touched upon in writing Everyone having a good timesome stories, and so much more.

I was happy to share hosting a table again with the awesome contemporary romance author Linda Joyce. She’s a dear friend as well as an award-winning author. Without consciously coordinating our efforts, our gifts for the Me and Lindareaders who shared lunch with us complemented each other. Perhaps we think more alike than I’d realized!

This year I had a few fans return from previous years at this and other reader events where we met and shared a good time. It’s a very flattering statement to have people who have read my stories want to sit with me, to get to know me better. I count those readers as more than fans, but as friends. A few ladies even squealed and hugged me when they saw me, which was a first for me. What a moment for me, to be “fan-girled” by a reader. Makes me smile even days later to think about.

Brenda Novak-Keynote SpeakerBrenda Novak’s speech touched on the lasting and universal feelings you’ll find in the Cinderella story. Specifically a desire to overcome obstacles to be a better person, or to reach your true potential, despite the naysayers in our lives. She emphasized the need to have dreams and to work to make them come true. She also shared the reasons for why she became a writer (her family’s financial crisis), where she gets her ideas for her stories (everywhere), and a few humorous anecdotes related to missteps as an author (her skirt hiked in her undies at one event, for example). Through it all, she showed just how human and down-to-earth of a person she is despite her acclaim as an author and her fundraising to benefit diabetes research to the tune of $2.5 million to date.

Me and Amy-receiving awardThe biggest surprise though for me was when the president of Heart of Dixie went to the podium to announce this year’s Mentor of the Year recipient and called my name. Who me? I couldn’t believe it, let me tell you. Tears threatened as I made my way to the podium to accept this beautiful award. People congratulated me all the way to the front of the room and back. Chapter mates told me how much I deserved this award, for being there to help them whenever needed. I’m honored and humbled as a result.

HOD Mentor of the Year AwardIn truth, helping others comes naturally to me. One of my mottoes has always been, ever since a little girl, “I’m here to help.” I believe in paying it forward by reaching back to give a helping hand, or a shoulder to cry on, or an ear to listen. Whatever I can do, I will.

Next year’s luncheon, our 21st, will feature as keynote speaker the NYT-bestselling author Lilliana Hart. So mark your calendars for June 9, 2018, to journey to the Rocket City, home of NASA Marshall Space Flight Center and the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, among other fun attractions. Destination: Huntsville, Alabama, my new hometown. See you then!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Also, I’ll be sharing one chapter each month in 2017 of a new historical romance novella, Elizabeth’s Hope, the prequel to my A More Perfect Union historical romance series, with my subscribers. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit my Website for more on my books and upcoming events.

The Touchstone of Raven Hollow (Secrets of Roseville Book 3) is available now! Grab your copy today!

The_Touchstone_of_Raven_Hollow_600x900He dug for the truth and found her magic.

Tara Golden has hidden her healing power all her life. But occasionally, she uses her abilities on people passing through town, sure they’d never figure out what saved them. Now a tall, sexy geologist is asking questions she doesn’t want to face, and he isn’t going to take no for an answer. There’s no way she would reveal her abilities and her gifted sisters for a fling.

The latest medical tests divulge geologist Grant Markel’s fatal condition is cured, but the scientist within him won’t accept it’s a miracle. When he meets the sexy, mystical witch who may hold the answer to his quest, he’s determined to prove she’s full of smoke and mirrors despite their mutual attraction.

When they are trapped in an enchanted valley, Tara must choose between her magical truth or his scientific beliefs. Can she step from the shadows to claim her true powers before it’s too late?

B&N: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-BN

Kobo: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-Kobo

Amazon: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-kindle

Amazon AU: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-Amazon-AU

Amazon CA: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-Amazon-CA

Amazon UK: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-Amazon-UK

iBooks: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-iBooks

Serendipity related to writing The Touchstone of Raven Hollow #writerslife #newrelease #paranormal #romance

Do you believe in serendipity or coincidence? Do we have a brand new idea, or have we just picked up on a subtle repetition of a word or image that then wiggles into our conscious thought? I’m always intrigued how once you focus on a new topic or area of interest, you start seeing it everywhere. Was it there already surrounding me, or did the new word or image start appearing after the fact?

It’s also true of new places, I have found. As in, if I, out of the blue, need to go to a town or take a different route to go to a familiar place, suddenly I need to go back that same way or to that new place two or three more times in quick succession. I don’t know why, or how that happens, but it’s been true for me all of my life.

For example, when my daughter joined the local Pony Club, the leaders suggested a site for a new competition they wanted to start hosting. I was invited along to visit and assess the suitability the place, a new-to-me part of the area we lived in that was far out in the country northwest of the nearest town. Within a week or two, I had to go back through that same area on an errand. And then I made a friend who happened to live in the same vicinity. I discovered new roads and ways to get from one place to another. After a while, though, I rarely go through there as I have few reasons to do so any longer. Things just seem to come in clusters for me.

The same kind of thing happened while writing my latest release, The Touchstone of Raven Hollow. Once I chose to use ravens in the title, and then in the story as a symbol and allusion to Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven,” suddenly ravens were everywhere!

One day, while writing Touchstone, an email popped into my inbox from the Audubon Society. Now, I’m not a member and did not subscribe to their mailings, so this was rather surprising to me. Even more so was the fact that the lead article included how to tell the difference between crows and ravens! Naturally, I had to go find out what they had to say, and they even had the sound of the raven’s croak. If you’re curious, you can listen to the difference yourself here. Useful details for my story!

When I settled on the title of The Touchstone of Raven Hollow I didn’t think about whether the state park where the story is set on the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee would have a population of ravens. I figured I’d have to make one up as part of the enchantment of the hollow. But then when I was researching the wildlife and birds of the state, I came across the fact that ravens do live there. And in the area of the plateau where Grant takes Tara hiking. How cool, right? I thought I’d have to invent an “unkindness” or flock of ravens living up there. But nope! Hubby and I will go hiking up there this summer when the weather is nicer. I wonder how closely my descriptions match the real hills and vales, based on my memory of hiking in other forests and the online pictures and descriptions. Should be interesting to find out! I’ll probably blog about that trip, so stay tuned.

I know a lot of people do not believe in coincidence. I do to an extent. We open ourselves to a new possibility and then we see/hear the themes and symbols around us through a new filter. How about you? Have you experienced this phenomenon I’m talking about? Do you believe in coincidence?

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Also, I’ll be sharing one chapter each month in 2017 of a new historical romance novella, Elizabeth’s Hope, the prequel to my A More Perfect Union historical romance series, with my subscribers. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit my Website for more on my books and upcoming events.

The Touchstone of Raven Hollow (Secrets of Roseville Book 3) is available now! Grab your copy today!

The_Touchstone_of_Raven_Hollow_600x900He dug for the truth and found her magic.

Tara Golden has hidden her healing power all her life. But occasionally, she uses her abilities on people passing through town, sure they’d never figure out what saved them. Now a tall, sexy geologist is asking questions she doesn’t want to face, and he isn’t going to take no for an answer. There’s no way she would reveal her abilities and her gifted sisters for a fling.

The latest medical tests divulge geologist Grant Markel’s fatal condition is cured, but the scientist within him won’t accept it’s a miracle. When he meets the sexy, mystical witch who may hold the answer to his quest, he’s determined to prove she’s full of smoke and mirrors despite their mutual attraction.

When they are trapped in an enchanted valley, Tara must choose between her magical truth or his scientific beliefs. Can she step from the shadows to claim her true powers before it’s too late?

B&N: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-BN

Kobo: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-Kobo

Amazon: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-kindle

Amazon AU: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-Amazon-AU

Amazon CA: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-Amazon-CA

Amazon UK: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-Amazon-UK

iBooks: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-iBooks

On Birthing a Book #writerslife #newrelease #paranormal #romance

Releasing a new book for sale, which is often likened to a book birthday, involves quite a few moving pieces and many more decisions. When I decided to indie publish my paranormal romance series, Secrets of Roseville, I did so knowing this fact. I’d researched the process, the options, and then discussed the overall concepts and the associated costs involved with my loving hubby.

What I didn’t know was that the choices and decisions never end! <grin> I thought I’d share a bit about how I work through the entire cycle from writing to release. And a few ah-ha moments of my own. Here goes!

The first step for me when beginning a new story project is to create the premise, the characters’ GMC (goal, motivation, and conflict) statements for both internal and external GMC. At this point, I also contemplate the title as a focus for the writing. For The Touchstone of Raven Hollow, it took a working lunch with an author friend to nail down the keywords and then the title. I also decided to retell an Irish myth as part of the core to the story, which helped focus the telling of Tara and Grant’s romance and the situations they would face and have to conquer.

With the premise and GMC and title nailed down, then it was on to drafting what I call scene beats, but actually is much more than that. I create a Word document that is an extensive table with columns for Chapter/Scene, Action, Characters & Setting, Relationship & Emotions, and Timeline. The first entry, including the Inciting Incident, for Touchstone looks like this:

Touchstone Scene Beats ImageI drafted the scenes I knew had to be included in the story, and then moved them around to make sense, adding others as I slowly built the story logic. This is not set in stone, however. As I write, the action changes, other scenes are added, some combined. Once I’m satisfied with the overall story, then I ask my critique partner for her opinion and suggestions on upping the tension, the motivation, the action, etc. Then I start writing, one scene each morning until the first draft is completed. Then I start again at the beginning, fleshing out the motivation, the emotional connections, and setting details to weave in the back story and its impact on the characters as they face their challenges.

Then it’s off to beta readers, those handful of readers I ask to be guinea pigs as far as what they like and don’t about the story, the characters, whatever feedback they care to give me. I pick my betas based on whether they are readers only or writers also, choosing some of each. I make sure the people I ask to read enjoy the genre in general, so they have a feel for what is expected in the story. Once I have all their comments, then I do another revision pass before sending it off to my editor.

While the story is being edited, I focus on the business side of the story. For The Touchstone of Raven Hollow, I actually failed to do my normal routine because of the interfering household move from Tennessee to Alabama. A fact I realized while writing this blog, actually. So now that it’s launching this week, I better get busy! So I pulled out a blank Book Launch Checklist and quickly started figuring out what I have done and what I need to do. I’ve done some of it, from memory, but here’s the complete list. The generic checklist is one I created based on a class I took on how to do a book launch, and also from other tips and hints I’ve learned from reading and talking to other indie pubbed authors over the last year. Here’s my list, and if it helps another author prepare for a launch, then that’s cool with me. You’ll note that I’m behind on this schedule, but I’m getting there. I still have a few days, right?

When to Complete Task Completed Notes
6 months prior Establish goals for this book launch 1/5/17
6 months prior Brainstorm what makes this book unique in the marketplace 1/5/17
6 months prior Create the budget (money and time) for this launch 3/19/17
6 months prior Research and schedule advertising opps 1/5/17
3-6 mths before release Create book cover – hired out to cover artist 3/20/17
4 months prior Review and update as necessary online profiles 4/1/17; 5/9/17
4 months prior Query book reviewers 1/5/17 Part of book tour with BPIC Promotions
4 months prior Schedule online book blog tour 1/5/17
4 months prior Schedule a launch party or online event 4/1/17
4 months prior Assign ISBN to digital and print editions 1/5/17
4 months prior Create media kit 1/5/17; updated as info available Include book cover, blurb, description, pre-order/buy links; author pic, author bio, social media links; excerpt
2 months prior Order swag for prizes and giveaways 4/10/17
2 months prior Upload file to IngramSpark and Amazon 5/4/17
2 months prior Format digital and print editions of book 5/4/17 Include teaser scene at end for next/another book at end; also link to newsletter and/or website
1 month prior Create a list of tweets and posts
1 month prior Send out newsletter to announce cover and preorder link 5/10/17
When preorder live Pin cover and buy links on Pinterest 5/11/17
1 month prior Plan a contest or giveaway 4/10/17
3 weeks prior Promote your launch party, blog tour, and/or contests/giveaways 4/6/17
1 week prior By launch day, review and update online profiles again
Release day Send out newsletter to announce release
Release day Celebrate release day!
After release As book goes live on retailer sites, add link to master list, verify book page information accuracy
1 month after Continue launch efforts for up to 30 days
6 months after Monitor book sales or ranking
After release File copyright with LOC

This release is coming quicker than previous ones due to several factors. The primary one is that I had not anticipated moving when I decided to release the book, originally in June. See, hubby and I had thought to put the farm on the market in May, not February, so I had made my plans based on having time between January and May to do all the book launch tasks as laid out. Then we listed the farm February 1, and it sold in 6 weeks, and we moved 6 weeks later. So much for my carefully laid plans, right?

Additionally, my intent to release the first week of June moved back to May 20 so I could make sure to have print copies of Touchstone for the Heart of Dixie Romance Readers’ Luncheon which had originally been slated for June 10 had to move to June 3 due to hotel luncheon room availability. I’m in the process of ordering my table gifts for the readers who join me for this annual event in Huntsville, Alabama. It’s always a great time and I hope my table is filled by my readers, so I hope to see some of there!

I managed to finish writing The Touchstone of Raven Hollow before we sold the farm, so at least the creative part was done. The business and marketing tasks fell before and during the move. We sold the farm on April 28, and then on May 5 we took a week’s vacation in Maryland. A working vacation, since I had to continue with the release day promo and planning for the Facebook party on May 20. I hope you’ll come join the virtual party and help me celebrate my book’s birthday! The other authors and I are doing 12 Days of Giveaways leading up to the event, and you have time to like and comment and share the posts for a chance to win some pretty cool swag and books in addition to the games and giveaways on the event day itself this coming Saturday afternoon.

Keep in mind that the release tasks are only part of my writerly life. I also have some fiction editing to do this week, and contest entries to judge, as well as my other writing projects and research to get back to. Oh, and I have to organize my new office, which currently is a mess of boxes and piles of swag and miscellaneous other items. (I plan to share more in a future blog on what it looks like after the redecorating and settling is done.) Then there’s the house to clean, and more boxes to unpack, and books to read. <grin> One day at a time. One priority at a time. No matter what else, Touchstone will release on Saturday, and for that I’m very grateful and excited!

Do you have any tips for me on how to juggle multiple priorities? How do you balance work and personal chores and goals? How do you set your priorities?

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Also, I’ll be sharing one chapter each month in 2017 of a new historical romance novella, Elizabeth’s Hope, the prequel to my A More Perfect Union historical romance series, with my subscribers. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit my Website for more on my books and upcoming events.

The Touchstone of Raven Hollow (Secrets of Roseville Book 3) is available now for pre-order! Grab your copy today!

The_Touchstone_of_Raven_Hollow_600x900He dug for the truth and found her magic.

Tara Golden has hidden her healing power all her life. But occasionally, she uses her abilities on people passing through town, sure they’d never figure out what saved them. Now a tall, sexy geologist is asking questions she doesn’t want to face, and he isn’t going to take no for an answer. There’s no way she would reveal her abilities and her gifted sisters for a fling.

The latest medical tests divulge geologist Grant Markel’s fatal condition is cured, but the scientist within him won’t accept it’s a miracle. When he meets the sexy, mystical witch who may hold the answer to his quest, he’s determined to prove she’s full of smoke and mirrors despite their mutual attraction.

When they are trapped in an enchanted valley, Tara must choose between her magical truth or his scientific beliefs. Can she step from the shadows to claim her true powers before it’s too late?

B&N: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-BN

Kobo: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-Kobo

Amazon: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-kindle

Amazon AU: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-Amazon-AU

Amazon CA: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-Amazon-CA

Amazon UK: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-Amazon-UK

iBooks: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-iBooks

Surprising Inspiration for Haunted Melody #paranormal #romance #WritersLife #IARTG

Sometimes a story is inspired by true life events. Sometimes by a “what if” pondering. Haunted Melody* sprang into being when my editor at Liquid Silver Books asked for a Halloween story.

At the end of Undying Love**, Paulette is pregnant and expecting a child to arrive around Halloween. So I decided to tell her story as she approached delivering her baby. How she had become somewhat depressed after her boyfriend dumped her and she had lost her joy, expressed through singing.

She needed a nudge to make her realize that she’d stopped singing during her daily activities. But how? Or rather, who would give her the hip-bump toward her happiness? She needed to face her past as she planned her future, so one day she’s exploring the attic and discovers a book of spells. When she reads a “poem” from it, she is surprised to confront her grandfather’s ghost. The spirit refuses to leave until she figures out why she’d summoned him.

Enter Zak Markel, a chemist who is desperate to save his brother Grant’s eyesight. Desperate enough to try a mystical alchemical recipe for the Elixir of Life from an ancient journal even as he knows there’s little hope of succeeding. Then he catches an eyeful of Paulette and his pursuit turns more personal as he endeavors to get to know her despite her reluctance and his brother’s annoyance. <grin> Together they rediscover what’s missing in her life and his, and find their happiness together, though not without a few struggles along the way!

The fun part of telling Paulette and Zak’s story was including an actual play list, which I’ve shared in this earlier post. But also in imagining a fun and chaotic costume party with costumes and themed food. I even tried some of the recipes when the original book* first released in October 2014. Now you can read Haunted Melody (March 2017), to see what fun is had at the party, and the ensuing chaos her grandfather’s ghost causes.

Have you read Haunted Melody yet? I hope you have! But if you haven’t, you may want to before the third book in the Secrets of Roseville series releases on May 20, 2017. The Touchstone of Raven Hollow tells the story of Tara, the midwife/healer, and Grant Markel, Zak’s brother, as they learn a few lessons about life and love. And ravens, too!

Keep an eye out for info about a Facebook release day party I’m throwing with the help of several author friends! Lots of fun, prizes, giveaways, and book talk. More details coming soon…

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and opinions!

Betty

*Haunted Melody originally released as Remnants (October 2014, Liquid Silver Books) and is an updated/revised edition of the story.

**Undying Love originally released as Traces (April 2014, Liquid Silver Books) and is an updated/revised edition of the story.

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Also, I’ll be sharing one chapter each month in 2017 of a new historical romance novella, Elizabeth’s Hope, the prequel to my A More Perfect Union series, with my subscribers. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit my Website for more on my books and upcoming events.

haunted_melody_600x900Paulette O’Connell needs to build her home decorating business in order to give her unborn child a stable home. While exploring the mysterious attic of the antebellum plantation where she lives, she accidentally summons her grandfather’s ghost. But he won’t leave until she figures out why she needed him in the first place, putting her plans in serious jeopardy.

Zak Markel has been searching for the last ingredient to create the Elixir of Life he hopes will save his brother’s eyesight. But he discovers the woman of his dreams in the smart and beautiful Paulette, distracting him from his focus at the worst possible time, even though she staunchly refuses to allow him past her defenses.

Can he convince Paulette to open her mind to possibilities and follow her heart to true happiness before it’s too late?

Amazon USA: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody

Amazon AU: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody-AU

Amazon CA: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody-CA

Amazon UK: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody-UK

B&N: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody-BN

Kobo: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody-K

iTunes: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody-iTunes

Putting Together Gift Baskets for Readers #writerslife #readers #romance #books #readerevents

One of the fun aspects of being an author is attending reader events. I’ve traveled to several over the last few years and met so many avid readers who come out to say hello and talk about books. I especially enjoy seeing my fans and meeting my readers! One annual event I attend most every year, either as a reader or as a hosting author, is the upcoming Heart of Dixie Romance Readers Luncheon on June 3 in Huntsville, Alabama. I mentioned a few weeks ago that I need to put together the baskets, but what I didn’t talk about was how I go about doing so.

There are two kinds of baskets featured at the luncheon. Raffle baskets and author door prize baskets.

Golden Owl 2017The raffle baskets each have a unique theme associated with them. Tickets are $1 each, or 6 for $5. This year, I’m doing two. One is the Golden Owl Books and Brews basket, containing items related to the fictional bookstore in my Secrets of Roseville paranormal romance series. Obviously, I’ve included several books including Undying Love and Haunted Melody, but also tea, coffee, hot chocolate mix, a decorative owl, and some shortbread. A talented friend donated some notecards she made using her photos and some wire jewelry she made, items also found in the fictional store in my stories. Of course, you get the basket, too, which is made from pretty gold wire and I’ve used a soft pashmina to line it.

Old Tyme Xmas-2017The other raffle basket has the theme of an Old Tyme Christmas and includes several historical romances set during that holiday as well as some old-fashioned types of decorations, a snowman votive candle holder, the Christmasy basket, a crocheted scarf I made as a liner, and some hard candy in stick form and lemon drops. A few items to kick off your holiday season a bit early.

Those two were easy to decide to do, but then I had to figure out what my door prize basket’s theme would be. Stumped, I turned to my fans, Betty’s Novel Ninjas, for inspiration. (If you too are a fan of my stories, you’re welcome to join the Facebook group!) They didn’t fail me, either! This group of people who have read and enjoyed my stories listed several possibilities. Two ideas—Irish basket and a cooking related basket—combined to make my ultimate theme: Irish heritage. I took a white wicker basket, lined it with a shamrock scarf, and filled it with everything I could think of related to Irish cooking, history, Irish Heritage-2017symbols, and foods. Including copies of the first two books in my Secrets of Roseville series, Undying Love and Haunted Melody. See, the O’Connells and Golden families both have Irish ancestors. And I blog on Tuesdays about cooking, so the two ideas merged into one and I’ve put together a jam-packed basket of goodies as a result!

One lucky attendee at the luncheon will have their name drawn to win my door prize basket. There’s no additional expense after you pay the $35 to attend the luncheon. The ticket price includes a $5 coupon you can use when you buy a book at the public signing after the luncheon. Additionally, you get to have lunch with the author of your choice (you can choose up to five, ranked by preference). Each hosting author also will give the people at their table a gift or two for coming out to chat about books and answer any questions you may have. It’s a lot of fun for readers and authors alike!

By the time of the luncheon, the third book in the Secrets series will be available. I’ll have copies of The Touchstone of Raven Hollow among other titles there for purchase and signing, so come on out and see me if you’ll be in the Huntsville area on June 3. I’ll be hosting a table this year, so sign up to come eat lunch with me, too! It will be a fun day all around!

Have you attended reader events like the Heart of Dixie Romance Readers Luncheon? What was the highlight of the event? Or would you like to attend one?

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Also, I’ll be sharing one chapter each month in 2017 of a new historical romance novella, Elizabeth’s Hope, the prequel to my A More Perfect Union series, with my subscribers. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit my Website for more on my books and upcoming events.

Writing Space Reality versus Vision #writerslife #amwriting #amediting

Moving day is quickly approaching. Only a couple of weeks until the big day. Like many people, I’m not looking forward to the actual move. All the disruption, decisions, questions, and mess associated will go on for weeks, I’m sure. It’s the endgame that I’m looking forward to most. In particular, the fact that I’ll have my own office for the first time in 17 years.

My Writing Space-TaftFor the last 14 years, I’ve done my writing on a laptop, either on my lap (which ended up being a very bad idea, by the way) or in the configuration in the picture. For at least seven of those years, I worked either at the desk in the family room which my husband eventually commandeered to do the finances or at an office when working full-time as a technical editor/writer for SAIC in support of NASA’s Space Launch System Program Office in Huntsville, Alabama. I resigned from SAIC in 2013 and returned to working from home.

I bought the laptop desk after years of using my laptop on my legs, looking down, which caused severe neck and shoulder pain my chiropractor has corrected for me. The wireless keyboard sits on my lap, my wireless mouse and pad on the arm of the recliner. It’s been fairly comfortable, although recently my upper arm has started to rebel against the height of the mouse. I imagine after we move, I’ll still write in a similar position most of the time, but I’ll also have an actual office with a door and a window I can retreat to when necessary.

My New Office-PinkIn reality, the room is a bedroom and apparently was used by a little girl. Or at least someone very fond of pink. I’m not fond of pink. Especially Pepto-Bismol pink. So when we have the entire interior of the house painted by a professional before we move in, the color will change in my new office. He’s going to paint everything, too, including the ceilings and closets and trim. I’ve chosen Solaria, which is a pale yellow with gold tones. A cheery, warm color to surround me with to write and edit, research, transcribe. Whatever I need to do. I’ll need to find some pretty curtains, hopefully in navy, gold, with a splash of red? I’ll see what I can find that appeals to me after we move in. That’s one decision that doesn’t have to be made right away.

Why am I so excited about having an office? I’ll have space to spread out reference materials, or manuscript pages as I revise and edit. I’ll be able to more easily transcribe my father’s correspondence in a place where the piles and stacks won’t interfere with other family activities. I may even set up my keyboard to play while I let my imagination play with a scene or two. Keep in mind I haven’t had access to my keyboard because it’s been set aside to make room for the exercise equipment in the room it used to be in. So pulling it out again is another positive I’m seeing in this move. Decluttering is another!

I’ll share pictures of my new office once I get it arranged and workable. With luck, my vision will come to be. I want a place that inspires and comforts. Only after everything is transported and set up will I know for certain. Either way, I’ll have my own space and my husband will have his own office next door. Our living room will be used for relaxing and not work for a change. I like that, too!

Do you have an area or space all your own? Or if you could have one, what would it look like? What would you be sure to have in it?

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and opinions!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Also, I’ll be sharing one chapter each month in 2017 of a new historical romance novella, Elizabeth’s Hope, the prequel to my A More Perfect Union series, with my subscribers. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit my Website for more on my books and upcoming events.

Juggling Personal and Professional Obligations #WritersLife #moving #familyfirst

I know I’m fortunate to be able to work from home. It’s a comfortable place where I can relax and focus on what I need to do without having to dress up and drive to an office. Only when we’re moving, it becomes difficult to concentrate on my writing and the business side of publishing books. See, we sold our farm last week and so started the paperwork to buy the new house we hope to move to the middle of April. We had not planned to move so soon, though. After we put the farm on the market, I pushed through finishing writing The Touchstone of Raven Hollow (Secrets of Roseville Book 3) by the first week in March so that I can stay on track to release it in May. I will send it off on Tuesday to my editor to help me polish it.

Then my focus almost entirely will shift to sorting and discarding, donating, or packing. In addition to our upcoming move from a farm into a neighborhood near my father-in-law’s retirement community, we also have to clear out his assisted living apartment. He’s needing more care now, so will move into skilled care. Thus his other apartment needs to be vacated for another resident. So two moves over the next one month. And all the decisions and disruptions that comes with making such moves.

I’m grateful to have my book nearly done so I’ll keep on track, but I also rather long for the escape of slipping into the story world for a few hours. Ignoring all of those decisions for a little while.

IMG_2173Another task that has taken priority is putting together the raffle baskets and my author basket for the upcoming Heart of Dixie Romance Readers Luncheon on June 3. I’ll hand them over to the ladies in charge of the baskets so they don’t get damaged or worse lost during this transition. Which means gathering the goodies to put in them. I’m waiting for a few more things to fill them out and then can check off that task from my to-do list.

Easter Sunday falls between when we expect to close on the new house and when we close on selling our farm, so I’m not sure if we’ll gather for the holiday, or if we do which house it will be in. Another decision looming!

I may or may not have time during the month of April to write my weekly Monday post, but I will try. I enjoy touching base with my readers. Tasty Tuesday posts will continue as those are provided by some of my authors friends for your enjoyment. Starting in May, I’ll be sharing some historical recipes adapted to modern tastes, cooking techniques, and healthy eating options. More on that to come later.

For now, it’s only one more week until Haunted Melody releases on March 28. Have you ordered your copy yet? Links are below for your convenience.

Now I’m off to figure out what to do with all the stuff in my china hutch. Talk to you later!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Also, I’ll be sharing one chapter each month in 2017 of a new historical romance novella, Elizabeth’s Hope, the prequel to my A More Perfect Union series, with my subscribers. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit my Website for more on my books and upcoming events.

haunted_melody_600x900Paulette O’Connell needs to build her home decorating business in order to give her unborn child a stable home. While exploring the mysterious attic of the antebellum plantation where she lives, she accidentally summons her grandfather’s ghost. But he won’t leave until she figures out why she needed him in the first place, putting her plans in serious jeopardy.

Zak Markel has been searching for the last ingredient to create the Elixir of Life he hopes will save his brother’s eyesight. But he discovers the woman of his dreams in the smart and beautiful Paulette, distracting him from his focus at the worst possible time, even though she staunchly refuses to allow him past her defenses.

Can he convince Paulette to open her mind to possibilities and follow her heart to true happiness before it’s too late?

(Updated and revised edition; originally published in 2014 as Remnants.)

Amazon USA: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody

Amazon AU: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody-AU

Amazon CA: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody-CA

Amazon UK: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody-UK

B&N: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody-BN

Kobo: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody-K

iTunes: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody-iTunes

Getting to know V-Mail #writerslife #research #WWII #letter #writing #familymatters

img_2120I have begun transcribing my dad’s V-Mail letters, which is very interesting. I talked about the mass of correspondence I’ve begun sorting and working my way through here. I decided to start with the V-Mail because I’m curious about what my grandmother and other wrote to my dad while he was in the U.S. Army during WWII. I think there must be at least 100 of the letters that my dad punched holes in and bound together with a metal clasp. The clasp left some rust marks on them, unfortunately, but they are still legible. Even after 70+ years.

As I’ve deciphered and typed the contents, I wondered about how the Victory Mail system worked. What did the original look like? How did each letter get transformed into a picture? So to the internet I went!

The history of this efficient and inventive system proved fascinating. The U.S. Postal Service created a standardized form that served as both letter and envelope. The letter writer filled in the To and From address within designated sections on the form, and then wrote a short letter within a specific box. You can see an example of a blank form here. Then the letter writer would fold and seal the paper and write the address again on the outside of the paper, or the envelope. Then affix 3 cents postage and pop it into the mail.

V-Mail was routed to specific stations in the United States where a new machine would convert the paper letter into a microfilm image. Based on the British Airgraph system, Kodak invented the Recordak machine that would take a picture of each standardized letter and save it on a synchronized 16 mm movie film. The rolls of film were then put into a mail sack and transported by the military planes to their destinations, where they were “blown up” to their original size as pictures and sent to the recipient. You can find out more about the entire system at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum site. If you visit New Orleans, Louisiana, you can also stop in at the National WWII Museum to see an exhibit about the war and V-Mail. The Museum is a great place to learn about life at home as well as the fighting.

img_2121The contents of the letters I’ve transcribed so far, which includes only 4 of the approximately 100+ V-Mail, are filled with what my grandmother was doing, what my dad’s siblings were doing, what she got for Mother’s Day, what she made for dinner, etc. Everyday happenings that gave my dad a sense of what life at home was like while he was away. As I read up on the need and use for V-Mail, I realized my grandmother was basically following the guidance from the War Department and the Postal Service regarding keeping the soldiers’ morale up by maintaining close connections to home and family. By giving the men a nuanced reminder of what they were fighting to protect. Home and hearth and all the people in our country and allies’ countries.

Grandmother often told Dad how much she loved him (“My dearest Murray”), how she looked for letters from him and worried when she didn’t hear from him, and often closed with “Be sweet”. She also frequently told him she’d send an “air mail” soon. I found the terminology interesting as well. She didn’t say she’d send a letter, but an “air mail” which cost twice as much as the V-Mail, at 6 cents postage. So, just like we send an “email” she sent V-Mail and air mail (two words back then).

img_2119See, for me, it’s not just the words on the page that is of interest, but also the methodology of how the overall mail system worked during war time, the innovations that enabled that system, and how people used them. One interesting side note, is that enclosures were not allowed at first. But then they did permit a picture of a baby under one year old or that was born after the father had gone back to his unit. Morale was all important during those terrible, trying years.

I’m sure our men and women in uniform today are ever grateful for email and cell phones that enable them to communicate much more readily than via the mail. But I’m so grateful to have this historic record to delve into, something that future and present historians don’t have access to with email and phone calls. Trade-offs always exist as technology morphs and improves.

I’m really looking forward to discovering what new information to me all the hundreds of letters contain. I should be entertained for quite some time.

One more thing. Three of the four books in the A More Perfect Union historical romance series are discounted through the end of January at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Amy’s Choice is only 99 cents, Samantha’s Secret is $1.99, and Evelyn’s Promise is $2.99. If you haven’t gotten your copy yet, now is a good time to do so.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and opinions! Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Also, I’ll be sharing one chapter each month in 2017 of a new historical romance novella, Elizabeth’s Hope, the prequel to my A More Perfect Union series, with my subscribers. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit my Website for more on my books and upcoming events.

Unveiling My Family History One Letter at a Time #writerslife #research #family #history

 

rms-letters-2016
Letters to/from my father spanning 1940-1950

How well do you know your parents’ family history? My father lived with me and my hubby and children for 17 years before he moved into assisted living. That gave me plenty of time to hear his tales of growing up, of surviving bombings during World War II, and more. I’m fortunate to have inherited my father’s correspondence after he died in 2011. This year I’ve decided to transcribe all of his letters for posterity, which means reading each and every letter and typing what they say, along with the notations on the envelopes and postmark information. As I’ve started perusing a few of them, I’m amazed at how much is written on the exterior of what I’ve read to date. I’m also anxious to get to the letters to and from my parents during their courtship. What new insights will I gain from those love letters?

 

First, there are other aspects of the correspondence to ponder. Consider the postmarks for example. They vary somewhat by city and state as to what they contain. Some have the day of the week including the date. Others do not. The earliest letters start in 1940 and the postmark doesn’t include a zip code. Curious, I had to find out when the U.S. postal service began using them. Turns out it wasn’t until after I was born! Not until 1963 did they begin to appear and even then not uniformly. Click here for more information if you’re curious like I was.

Another curiosity regarding the envelopes was the stamps. Or more specifically the missing stamps on many of the letters, though not all. I figured my dad must have cut them out, but why? I didn’t recall him collecting stamps. Maybe he tried to reuse them? Or gave them to someone else? While I was pondering this mystery, I happened to have a phone conversation with my oldest sister. I mentioned the missing stamps and she fessed up. Apparently Dad had given her permission to cut out the stamps she wanted for her collection! So that little mystery was solved quickly. The stamps themselves are also interesting, especially the price. It cost 1 cent to mail a “postal” or small postcard (left), and only 3 cents to mail a letter (right) in 1940 and 1941. And yet, the lady writing to my dad had to borrow a stamp from a friend in order to mail her letters because she didn’t have the money to buy one herself.

The stationary used is also varied and revealing at the same time. Lined note paper, folded pages written on like a booklet, letterhead from the nursing school where one of my dad’s girlfriends, or rather fiancée, attended (before he met my mother). Often the pages are numbered which was a necessity since the contents didn’t necessarily flow left to right as we’re accustomed today. The first letters are all handwritten, but some of the letters from my dad to his mother are typed on a typewriter while he was in the U.S. Army during World War II.

rms-letters-sorted-nov-2016

I’ve sorted the letters by year, except for the biggest collection which all were written the year my parents married in 1948, the two tall stacks in the back center of the above picture. Sometimes two letters a day from/to each of them! Those are sorted by month since my rubber bands had limits as to how far they’d stretch.

I wonder what I’ll learn about their courtship, about my family history, and about their plans and hopes for the future after their marriage. Obviously, this is a long-term project which will keep me occupied for months to come as I won’t be able to work on it every day. After all, I have books to write and research to do, trips to take and other family obligations. But my curiosity is truly piqued!

I may share some of my dad’s letters written during the war if they appear interesting. I imagine family doings would not be of interest, but his descriptions of where he was stationed and what happened on Guadalcanal would have more potential I think. We shall see as I go through them over the upcoming year.

Wish me luck! Tell me if you ever wonder about your parents’ courtship and how they met, etc. How much do you know about them?

I’m off to start typing!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Also, I’ll be sharing one chapter each month in 2017 of a new historical romance novella, Elizabeth’s Hope, the prequel to my A More Perfect Union series, with my subscribers. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit my Website for more on my books and upcoming events.

Tomorrow is the official release of Undying Love! I am happy to share Meredith and Max’s story with you. Happy reading!

undying_love_600x900When architect Meredith Reed inherits her family’s plantation after the devastating loss of her own family, she must choose how to move on with her life. Keep the plantation? Not a good idea. Sell it? Better. Turn it into a memorial park? Better yet. But can she go against her family traditions and the hunky but irate lawyer?

Max Chandler needs two things to complete his life plan: become a senior partner and find his soul mate. He’s due a promotion once his legislation to protect the county’s historic properties is approved. The wife part he finds more challenging, having never met the right woman. If only the talented, attractive, aloof Meredith didn’t want to destroy the very property he cherishes.

While Meredith struggles to reconcile her past and future, will she learn a lesson from the spectral Lady in Blue in time to save both her family and home from destruction?

B&N: http://bit.ly/2fF4QTf

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2fnRyHK

Amazon CA: http://amzn.to/2fOyEdQ

Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2eYDp5w

Amazon AU: http://amzn.to/2eYzWUS

iTunes: http://apple.co/2fF4mfT