An Embarrassment of Itches Spotlight and #Giveaway

What a whirlwind of events this month! The Dog Days of Murder had a smashing release day, and I’m thrilled at the reception it has received! I also found out that An Embarrassment of Itches has been nominated for a RONE award, and I’ll be doing a post later this week about how the voting process works to make it to the next round. As a debut author under a new pen name, I’m not holding my breath for moving forward, but it is a great honor to have been nominated! Voting for my category opens the first week in May, so stay tuned for more instructions!

 

In the meantime, Itches is being featured at The Mystery Section! You can enter the Rafflecopter to win a copy of An Embarrassment of Itches! Check it out here.

 

 

 

 

 

The Dog Days of Murder is available for Pre-order Now!

You’d think I’d be better at this book launch/new release thing by now but nope, not really. 🙂

It dawned on me that I hadn’t made a formal announcement regarding the upcoming release of the next Ginny Reese mystery! *dopeslap*

That’s right–The Dog Days of Murder is coming out April 2 (because I didn’t want to release it on April Fool’s Day) and you can pre-order it now from Amazon and these various retailers

Life for house-call vet Ginny Reese should be smooth sailing, right? After inheriting a significant estate from a client, she’s in the process of buying a practice from her longtime mentor (and rekindling her relationship with Joe, her ex) when an outsider–a hot young vet with ties to Joe–sweeps in and scoops the sale out from under her. Well, you know Ginny’s outrageous mother won’t take that lying down! When the newcomer winds up dead after everyone heard Ginny’s mother threaten her, it’s up to Ginny and Remy to find the real killer before her mother goes down for murder!

You can place your order now!

Romancing the Vote: The Most AMAZING Auction ever!!

Whew! Have you checked out Romancing the Vote’s auction to raise money for Fair Fight yet? If not, why not?

You won’t BELIEVE the amazing items up for grabs! No, seriously, if you haven’t gone to look yet, run and do so now! Facetime with your favorite authors! Manuscript critiques by industry leaders. Copy editing, cover art, consults with scriptwriters and show runners! Autographed books, gift baskets, HOMEMADE COOKIES, jewelry, embroidery, and more. You can donate directly to Fair Fight, or you can roll your sleeves up and dive into a bidding war for your coveted item! There’s something for every desire and budget, so check it out!

I’m offering a Redclaw Origins package, which includes signed copies of the award-winning Bishop Takes Knight and Bishop’s Gambit, as well as some swag and a mystery surprise gift (hint: jewelry).

But the auction ends soon! You only have until 8 pm CST on Feb 18 to fight for your prizes! So run, don’t walk, to the auction and get your bids in! Good luck, and happy bidding!

It Wouldn’t Be Valentine’s Day without a Party!

Photo by Kristina Paukshtite from Pexels

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that an author of romances will overbook herself for Valentine’s Day.

But my ambitious scheduling is your boon! (How’s that for a nice, old-fashioned word?)

I’ve got so much going on right now! The Dog Days of Murder (Ginny Reese Mysteries Book 2) is in edits. I’m busy working on Bishop’s Endgame, the final installment of the Redclaw Origins series. An Embarrassment of Itches (Ginny Reese Mysteries Book 1) is up for a year-end award in the PRG Reviewer’s Choice Awards! The category is CONSPIRACY/THRILLER/MYSTERY/ACTION ADVENTURE/DARK COMEDY/HISTORICAL/FANTASY/EPIC FANTASY and the competition is FIERCE. I would be thrilled if you could help me make a decent showing by voting for Itches. You can only vote once, so read through all the categories and make sure you vote for all your favorite authors! (Or just look for Itches and vote for it! 😉 ) Voting ends 2.12.22 so be sure to get your vote in while it counts!

The link for voting is here. I really appreciate your support!

The next thing is starting Feb 14, I’m participating in my third Winter Games on Facebook. Over 60 authors are banding together to offer books for the biggest, best, reader review party on Facebook. Love to read? Join the reader’s group and get in on the fun and games! There are regular giveaways, as well as free books for you to read and review. The person who reviews the most books in the two week time period is in the running for the Grand Prize, which gets bigger every year! So check out the Winter Game Reader Challenge Group and join in the fun! The party hasn’t officially begun but there are already lots of run-off events leading to the big day.

I’m also participating in the Romancing the Vote auction raising money to support voting rights. Last time the auction was held, we raised an incredible amount of money to donate to the run-off races in Georgia. Writers from all walks (but especially romance authors) donated their time, expertise, books, and more to the auction. There truly is something for every level of participation. Some of the big ticket items are one-on-one time with your favorite authors, critiques of your manuscripts, annotated copies of your favorite novels, consults with TV/movie producers and more. But there are also autographed books, gift baskets, embroidery, sticker, you name it! You have to check out the list of items up for auction–they are AMAZING. Auction opens 2.14.22.

I’m offering a gift package of signed copies of Bishop Takes Knight and Bishop’s Gambit (Redclaw Origins 1&2), as well as some swag and a mystery gift! I don’t think you’ll be disappointed! From the auction website:

We are romance authors, readers, and fans who care about the future of this country and are inspired by fellow romance author Stacey Abrams to do what we can to preserve the right to vote. Democracy only thrives when every vote can be cast and counted, and we are fighting to help dismantle the legacy of voter suppression both in Georgia and across the country.

All funds raised through our project will go to Fair Fight.

Romancing the Vote is the sequel to Romancing the Runoff, which was coordinated by Alyssa Cole, Courtney Milan, and Kit Rocha in 2020 and raised almost $500,000 for voting organizations in Georgia. They are joined in 2022 by the same amazing group of volunteers, and their official “Take Care of Yourself” wrangler, Tessa Dare.

Direct link to my gift basket is here.

Yep. Valentine’s Day is going to be stellar! I hope you’ll join me!

Am I TikTok Famous Yet?

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

I first heard about TikTok in 2020. It seemed to be a place where people made short videos (not in my skill set) where they danced (so not me!) or make-up tutorials (interesting but how many can you watch?). I had ZERO interest to start an account or even watch more than one or two cute animal videos that friends sent to me.

I had a lot of concerns about the format:

  1. Did I REALLY need to be on yet another social media platform?? Especially one that seemed to rely heavily on putting your face out there? Sure there are accounts where people managed to make entertaining content while not showing their face, but did they get the same following? Probably not.
  2. Did you see the part about “entertaining content”? I’m a writer, not an actress, producer, or sound editor. There’s a reason I live mostly behind a keyboard.
  3. The format seemed to be similar to tumblr, which I hated. A constant flow of bite sized posts with little way of tracking the ones you liked (or so I thought). 
  4. I have a LOT of reasons for not wanting my face on social media. I’ve had a stalker. I’m concerned my place of employment would take exception to the fact I’ve written a few racy romances (even though most of mine are fairly tame).
  5. I kept hearing concerns about the security of your information, given that TT is a subsidiary of a Chinese-based company.
  6. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to come up with more than 1-2 videos before running out of ideas.
  7. Almost everyone I saw on TikTok was gorgeous, and I’m not. I’m old, frumpy, and at least 40 pounds overweight. I grew up hearing how homely I was, and that the worst thing a woman could do was show her age and gain weight, so naturally, I did both. I absolutely loathe looking in the mirror. I’m not kidding. 

So I resisted the urge to join. I kept hearing what a great place BookTok was, however, and the FOMO was strong. Then too, I kept seeing these hysterically funny videos by Alisha Rai showing up on my Twitter and Instagram feeds, where she depicts little conversations between Satan and one of his minions. They are utterly brilliant. Still, I held out. TikTok wasn’t for me.

But then authors kept saying what an AMAZING place TikTok was for discoverability, especially for smaller authors or your backlist. And I was mightily tempted. Maybe I could make some vids without showing my face? Mark Dawson did a five day challenge in his Self-Publishing Formula group, and I decided to create an account and make a few videos. Shabby efforts at first. I had no idea what I was doing.

But then I got snowed in for a 3-day weekend, and I watched a LOT of TikTok. I tried out recipes, started Tai Chi, laughed over cute animal vids, considered side hustles that would let me quit the day job, began watching makeup tutorials aimed at my age group (so frustrating that makeup tends to look TERRIBLE on me now), and got really, really frustrated with the poor quality of my videos. It reminded me of when I first joined livejournal and I didn’t know how to code or embed images and I wanted to play SO BADLY that I taught myself.

So I began watching a crap-ton of TT tutorials. And then I discovered that Canva had a mobile app that allowed you to upload your creations directly to TT! I learned out to change the font, color, and size of my text, and how to make it appear at exactly the right time in the video.

And then, God help me. I discovered the filters. I began playing with filters, wigs, makeup, and transitions  I saved sound clips to use, got ideas from watching others, and became the queen of lip-syncing. I learned how to do the clever transitions, and have had a blast making short vids. Me, who rarely took videos and hadn’t the foggiest idea how to edit ANYTHING before TT. I was doing something I haven’t done in a very long time–probably not since the beginning of the pandemic–I was having fun. Okay, so not TikTok famous, and haven’t make a single sale as far as I can tell. And my friends were quick to point out that the filters and wigs weren’t disguising me–anyone who knew me would recognize me. I discovered then that I’d truly run out of f*cks to give. I didn’t care. Might my coworkers run across my videos? Yeah. Could I get fired? Maybe. But the thought of that doesn’t terrify me as much as it used to. I used to believe I was trapped, that I didn’t have the skill set to do much of anything else if I lost my job and jobs in this area are few and far between. A few weeks on TikTok, and suddenly I’m not afraid of that anymore.

BUT….

 

I haven’t written more than 100 words in the last two weeks. I’ve drafted over 30 TikTok videos, however. Sounds good, right? Only that’s about 10 days worth of content, according to the algorithms for getting notice on TT. I had the day off yesterday, and instead of writing, I made TT videos all morning long. I wasn’t sleeping well before I joined TT, but I was at least attempting to go to bed at a reasonable time. Now I’m often up past 1 am when I have work the next day. I’m hearing 15 second sound clips in my head all the time. My ability to focus, a little shaky already, has gone in the GUTTER. I also find myself picking up my phone and checking TT every couple of minutes. It feels like an addiction, peeps.

I suspect it’s like anything else when I first discover it–I dive in headfirst and become completely absorbed until I master the skills I want to use, and then my obsession will settle down. Moving forward, I’ll have to practice a little self-control. I’m doing a lot of things wrong, too. My posts don’t have any call to action, and I’m not staying in my niche/lane. I probably have more writers following me than readers. I’ve gained over 700 followers in 2 weeks, but at least half (if not more) of those are bots or men looking for a good time (seriously, you think TT is a dating app??). And sadly, I am not TikTok famous. Yet.

But that’s okay because, for now, I’m having fun.

 

What’s New in 2022: It’s a Party and You’re All Invited!

I don’t know about you, but somehow the end of the year snuck up on me without my realizing it. Life got crazy there for a while, and I never got around to making my EOY post, which is fine because I hate doing those kinds of reflective summaries anyway. I never seem to have been as productive or as successful as I might have hoped, you know?

Most of you who follow this blog know I like to create a power word or phrase for the coming year, and that looks like it will be a bust this year as well. I chose fearless for 2019. It was audacious for 2020. Resilent for 2021. I think maybe it’s time to retire power words for a while, don’t you?

I had a Tarot reading done for 2021 heading into 2022. The Tower and Judgement cards were major players in my life in 2021 (sadly, this could apply pretty much to every year since 2016), with the Devil and the Fool being factors in the upcoming year. I can overcome if I play to my strengths and ditch my issues with self-confidence and self-sabotage. Sounds ominous? I think so, too. 😉

I was recently exposed to Covid through the workplace, which led to a scramble to get tested. I’m negative at the moment, but isolating from my high-risk family members to be on the safe side.

All in all, I’m surprised I’ve gotten anything accomplished this month!

But the good news is I finished the draft of the second Ginny Reese book: The Dog Days of Murder! It’s off to editing soon. Look for a release date late winter, early spring! If you are signed up for my newsletter, you’ll get a sneak peek at the cover before everyone else! The gang’s all there: Ginny, her dog Remy, Ming the Merciless, the Siamese cat, as well as the cast of characters living in Greenbrier, including her mother, the indomitable Julia Reese! Ginny’s plans to open her own vet practice go awry when a newcomer swoops into town with mysterious financial backing AND a connection to Joe. Of course, this new veterinarian winds up getting murdered, right? 🙂

I did a fun interview with Marcia James about pets in books and why I include them. Be sure to check it out and see some great pictures! 

Tomorrow, I’m participating in a big release day bash for Kerry Blaisell’s latest release, Damning the Dead. There’s going to be a Facebook party with 13 other authors, with games and prizes galore. Not only are you invited, but you should invite your friends too! It’s Jan 5 from 4-7:30 Pacific Standard Time, so be sure to join us!! Join the group now so you won’t miss a thing!

Here’s the schedule:

Schedule of participating authors:
  • Jeff D. Ellis ~ 4:00 PM PACIFIC TIME
  • Bob Herold ~ 4:15 PM PACIFIC TIME
  • Tena Stetler ~ 4:30 PM PACIFIC TIME
  • Dan Rice ~ 4:45 PM PACIFIC TIME
  • McKenna Dean ~ 5:00 PM PACIFIC TIME
  • Hunter Skye ~ 5:15 PM PACIFIC TIME
  • Pamela Thibodeaux ~ 5:30 PM PACIFIC TIME
  • Shelly Chalmers ~ 5:45 PM PACIFIC TIME
  • Theresa Finn ~ 6:00 PM PACIFIC TIME
  • Augustina Van Hoven ~ 6:15 PM PACIFIC TIME
  • Janet Raye Stevens ~ 6:30 PM PACIFIC TIME
  • Anna M. Taylor ~ 6:45 PM PACIFIC TIME
  • Sally Brandle ~ 7:00 PM PACIFIC TIME

 

And now that I’ve finished the second Ginny Reese book, it’s time for me to go back to Bishop and Knight’s story. When we last left them, Rhett and Peter had become very close, but they’d also been fired from Redclaw and hired by the competition: Rian Stirling! We all know that Rian has his eye on Rhett as well, so this doesn’t bode well for our intrepid duo. Sometimes, however, you must form an alliance with an enemy to defeat a more powerful adversary. No spoilers, but we’ll find out the source of all those mysterious artifacts and why the planet has been seeded with them…

 

Maybe I should chose a power word after all. How does confidence sound? 🙂

 

 

What to Do When the Spirit of Christmas Ghosts You

I don’t know about you, but I’m having a hard time getting into the spirit of Christmas this year.

Oh, who am I kidding? It’s not just this year, though for some reason, it feels even worse than usual. Normally by this time of year, I’m happily working my way through holiday romances and mysteries on the e-reader, as well as indulging in my love of cheesy Christmas movies on Hallmark and Netflix. I’ve picked a night to do my annual re-watch of the Muppet Christmas Carol, and I’ve decided which of my other beloved favorites to add to the list. Will it be Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer or How the Grinch Stole Christmas? It’s a Wonderful Life or Christmas in Connecticut? I rotate these favorite classics to keep them fresh but also to make room for new movies, like A Cinderella Story: A Christmas Wish or Last Holiday with Queen Latifah.

I normally hide presents all over the house (sometimes to the point of forgetting to recover and wrap them in time for Christmas), though we’ve begun to scale back on that too. Most years I become possessed by a seasonally driven urge to bake. Completely ignoring my lack of skill in the kitchen (oh boy, do I have a post to share with you about THAT at some future date), I try my hand at dozens of different kinds of cookies, filling the house with the scent of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Co-workers and neighbors are the recipients of anything edible that my family can’t finish, though I eat far too many of them myself.

We haven’t done the elaborate holiday dinner for some time now. The family is smaller, its members scattered. Most of us have so little time off from work that travel isn’t feasible, even if the pandemic hadn’t made it impossible or unwise. We’ve never been big on outdoor decorations, either, and when you have pets, Christmas trees with ornaments can be problematic.

So we’ve been scaling back on Christmas a little each year for a while now.

Last year, while the pandemic still raged and vaccination wasn’t on the horizon yet, there was a desperation to my attempts to get into the holiday mood. This year, there is just apathy. I haven’t been able to muster the enthusiasm to watch more than one or two of the new holidays movies out there, and haven’t watched any of my old favorites. I have dozens of holiday books on the reader, and keep scrolling past to read something else. The weather isn’t helping, either. It’s been a balmy 70 degrees here recently with nary a snowflake in sight.

But in a conversation with one of my friends this morning, she said that though she and her husband feel the same, they put up a few decorations, and were glad they did. She planned to watch a cheesy movie and drink some hot cocoa, and suggested I should do likewise.

You know what? I’m going to take her advice.

Scaling back doesn’t mean going all out Grinch. Maybe finding the Christmas spirit is a little like writing when the Muse has left you. 

Sometimes you just need to sit down and do it. Don’t wait for the feeling to come. Go out and grab it.

Or put another way, if you open your heart to the spirit of Christmas, it will come.

Tonight we took a chance on a new holiday movie, Single All the Way. Lately the newer holiday movies have been a little hit-or-miss with me, but this movie was one of the best, most satisfying holiday movies I’ve seen in some time. It perfectly nailed the goofy, strange dynamics of a loving family. The writing and acting was top-notch. It took the fake boyfriend trope and turned it on its head. Best of all, there were no bad guys, unless you count demanding bosses who expect you to work over the holidays. Highly recommend.

Making it Rain Cozy Mysteries: Black Friday Sale!

Hey there! If you celebrate Thanksgiving here in the US, you know the day after T-day is called Black Friday, due to all the pre-Christmas sales that kick off the crazy shopping season.

I’m here to suggest a better idea: stay home. Enjoy a quiet day on the couch with a cozy mystery! Making it Rain Cozy Mysteries is a fabulous collection of over 20 cozies each only 99 cents for a limited time! There’s a little something for every cozy lover (and I’m about to do a little shopping there myself)!

You can grab a copy of An Embarrassment of Itches–still only 99 cents. It’s the first book in the Ginny Reese Mysteries, featuring a house-call vet who finds herself stumbling over death more often than not. It’s Diagnosis Murder meets All Creatures Great and Small in the first books of this fun, new series. InD’Tale Magazine awarded An Embarrassment of Itches a Crowned Heart of Excellence and described as “nailing the perfect cozy mystery.”

The next installment of the series, The Dog Days of Murder, is coming soon! Look for it just after the New Year.

So come along and join the fun! Shop for yourself or the cozy mystery lover in your life. This deal ends Nov 30th!

Holiday Gift Guide for the Writer in Your Life

Photo by Monstera from Pexels

It’s that time of year again–when we start thinking about holiday shopping and what the writer in our lives might want as a gift. Okay, that writer is me. Just kidding! Okay, maybe I’m only kidding a little.

See, most non-writers don’t have a clue what kind of gift to give to the authors in their lives. They want to show their support! They want to give something useful. But if you’re not a writer yourself, it’s hard to know what to get. That’s why I’m going to recommend a few things myself but I’m also opening the door for YOUR suggestions. Tell me what you’ve been longing for, what you have on your wish list, what you’d dearly love the most. I want to know about it! Who knows, someone you love might stumble across this list and get you the one thing YOU’VE been hoping for!

Let’s start with the easiest kinds of gifts to shop for: books on craft! There are SO many out there, and many are targeted to genre as well. I know a lot of people who recommend Anne Lamont’s Bird by Bird and Stephen King’s On Writing. For romance writers, many consider Romancing the Beat an invaluable tool. I’m also a big fan of The Emotion Thesaurus (and the other books in that line).

But as a mystery writer, I also love books on forensics and police procedure, as well toxicology, poisons and the other means by which you can kill someone. Keep in mind, books on craft aren’t necessarily about writing per se; they can also include books and courses on marketing, advertising, and so on. 

What about planners? I would be lost without my Author’s Planner by Audrey Hughey!

It’s more than just another notebook or calendar. SO MUCH MORE. You can track your daily and weekly goals, your expenditures (to make doing your taxes so much easier!), plan your marketing and social media campaigns, newsletters, you name it! What I love about it is it’s large enough for me to work in without cramming tiny notes everywhere, and the coil-bound cover allows it to lay flat while you’re working on it. It’s a bit like having an organizer, an accountability partner, a cheerleader, and a coach all rolled up into one.
 
The 2021 Author’s Planner is designed to be your all-in-one day planner and writing-career coach, helping you organize your writing life and get on a clear path to reach your goals.
 
Have you thought about editing software? I bet you haven’t! But there are some great programs out there. I like ProWritingAid the best, but there are lots of services out there. Right now, PWA is having a Black Friday sale until 11/30/21 so you can get a year’s subscription up to 50% off!
 
Online courses are also wonderful! There are all kinds of courses on mastering Amazon ads, writing blurbs, or just writing in general. I got a lot out of Inkers Con last year, and the best part is you have access to the materials for three years after the conference! I’m toying with attending live versus digital in 2022, but to be honest, it’s FAR more economic for me to attend digitally–no airfare, no hotel, no boarding the dogs… and I can attend in my PJs if I want! You can still get access to the 2021 Conference if you want to start there. I believe it’s discounted right now!
 
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been toying with looking into such software as Scrivener, Vellum, and Atticus for formatting to take my self-published books to the next level. Unfortunately, Vellum is for Macs, but sometimes I’m tempted. I’m very tempted…. 
 
Likewise, the author in your life might be jonesing for some graphics programs, such as the premium services offered by Canva or Bookbrush. Sure, we can use the free versions, but the paid services allow us to take our publications and social media graphics to that coveted next level of professional design.
 
If all else fails, offer to gift your writer the funds to cover the purchase of cover art or professional editing! Those two items right there represent a huge chunk of investment, and something most indie authors would love a little help with.
 
So what about you? What’s on your wish list? What have you been eyeing for yourself or someone else?

Have You Written a Holiday Romance or Mystery? Tell Me About It!

Last week I posted about my love of holiday movies and books. I’m particularly fond of holiday romances, but I’m partial to holiday mysteries too. In last week’s post I asked for your recommendations, and I certainly want to hear about your favorite books and holiday movies, so drop in at that post and tell me more!

But this week I want to hear all about the holiday stories you’ve written! Doesn’t matter if they were published this year or in years past, I want to know all about them! Drop your links, share your blurbs and teasers. SHOW ME THE STORIES!

I’d love to make this the ultimate 2021 Holiday Book Shopping List!

 

As much as I love holiday romances, I haven’t actually written one myself. Maybe next year! The closest I’ve come is my snowed-in paranormal romance, Ghost of a Chance. She’s a fangirl with a dark secret. His inner wolf isn’t speaking to him. Pitted against each other for an valuable inheritance, cut off from the outside world, they must learn to work together when a series of increasingly dangerous events threatens their lives. When it becomes clear that these incidents aren’t accidental, who can they trust?

Like snowed-in stories? Then check it out!

But PLEASE leave me your holiday book links!!