Compassion Fatigue: or Why I Didn’t Share Your Post

 

TW/CW for sad things tugging on your heartstrings.

 

 

 

The other day during work I got an email from an acquaintance. A shelter in the neighboring county had posted an urgent notice: they’d been inundated with puppies during the past week and if they didn’t find homes for them by the end of business hours that day, they would have to euthanize them.

Did I know of anyone who wanted a puppy? Like right now? Immediately.

I wracked my brains but couldn’t come up with anyone on the fly.

“Send me the link and I’ll share it when I can,” I offered as a stopgap before delving back into work.

But ultimately, I didn’t share the link. Let me tell you why.

You see, something about that urgent request to spend compassion currency that I have in dwindling supply broke me just a little.

I have to reiterate: it was puppies. Puppies that needed homes right away or they would die. But for the first time ever, getting hit with such a request rang the resentment buzzer instead of the compassion bell.

Whoa. Hold up there. Resenting an impassioned plea to help save at least one or two puppies? Doesn’t that make me some kind of Cruella de Vil?

Sure, I couldn’t do anything directly to save the puppies. But I could share the link, right? How much energy could that possibly take? How could I refuse to put out the word?

Well, there are a couple of reasons. For starters, there was the link itself, which felt very “click-baity” when I read it. “Help us! Puppies will die if you don’t come TODAY!”

Believe me, I know there is probably someone on the other end of that post, hoping against hope that they don’t have to perform the soul-destroying task of euthanizing healthy puppies because some irresponsible person let their dog have them without any intention of raising them and finding homes for them. And my heart breaks for that shelter worker. I know their pain is real, even if they couched their request like so many other posts begging for help.

But practically speaking, by the time I’d put out the half-a dozen or so fires at my job, which also requires a great deal of compassion, it was so late in the day that my sharing the post would have been too late for that litter of puppies. Perhaps it could have raised awareness for someone else out there looking for a puppy that they should check out the shelter, but the puppies in question? Too late.

And that’s when I realized that my compassion bank account was dangerously low.

Because every day we’re hit up with thousands of similar requests. GoFundMe accounts for medical or funeral expenses shared by our friends. Political organizations playing off our justifiable outrage over some restrictive measure that’s just been enacted, and if we don’t donate NOW, warning of the Bad Things coming our way. Just causes demanding we take action. Global catastrophes begging for our financial support. Legal funds for kids in cages, ripped from their families. Egregious acts of racism that deserve investigation and some kind of response. Missing children on milk cartons needing to be identified. And so on.

And yes, I realize that I’m speaking from a place of great privilege because I’m not the one begging for help paying my bills or needing someone to rescue me from having to perform a heartbreaking task.

I think of myself as a compassionate person. Professions that demand compassion tend to attract empathetic people, and I chose my career path years ago because I had compassion to spare. I donate generously to things I believe in because I usually don’t have the time to volunteer in person. I spent years serving as a caretaker to my father because it was my mother’s wish that he be able to stay at home rather than enter an advanced care facility. I trap, neuter, and vaccinate the stray cats that show up around my house on my own dime, finding homes for those that can be tamed and going to ridiculous lengths to take care of the remaining ones (see the expensive catio that I built for these furry freeloaders). I cried when the annoying trash panda, whom I caught three times before trapping the mean tom (who hisses and spits at me every day, despite being nursed back to health), got hit by a car.

I share things. The post about the homeless trans teen who needs help. The post from an internet acquaintance who needs help paying for her cat’s surgery. The posts about fundraisers, many of which I contribute to myself. The posts about organizations raising money to deal with the aftermaths of flooding, fires, hurricanes, and earthquakes. The posts where some mother is asking for likes to show her son or daughter how beautiful they are. I comment with sympathy on the posts of total strangers who have experienced a great loss.

My lack of willingness to share the post about the puppies, and the resentment the request generated, tells me I must draw the line somewhere. None of us are designed with endless wells of compassion. To mix metaphors, we can’t keep overdrawing our compassion accounts to spend on things out of our control. The constant withdrawal of coins to spend on people we don’t know will bankrupt us.

I’m not Cruella de Vil.

I have compassion fatigue.

Put another way, if I’d found a box of puppies myself, I would have taken them into my home. I would have had them vaccinated and dewormed, and tried my best to find homes for them all, while at the same time, trying to socialize them and instill some manners in order to make them the best possible candidates for adoption.

If the local shelter had a fundraiser, I’d volunteer my time, donate some money, and if I couldn’t do either of the above, I’d share the post about it. I’d probably share the post regardless, but in terms of doing something, sharing is the last on the list. I’ve said it before, but sharing posts without taking action is little more than virtue-signaling. It might make you feel good, but for the most part it accomplishes very little.

I wrote a bit about my struggles with social media in general a few weeks ago, and how I think SM breaks are necessary for our mental health. In that post, I mentioned this metafilter thread that my husband had shared with me: What’s Mine to care about and what’s NOT MINE to care about. The original post cited, as well as the discussion thread it generated, is well-worth reading. In the OP, If You Can’t Take In Anymore, There’s a Reason, the poster refers to the need for an emotional circuit breaker because our minds and hearts aren’t wired to care about everything that’s on fire all over the world at the same time, and if we don’t flip that breaker, our whole house will burn down.

I couldn’t agree more. So like the OP, I recommend you pick one fire to put out at a time, and you concentrate on the fire that threatens the things you care about the most. Battle that fire with all your heart and resources. Fight the fire you think you have the best chance of helping to contain, or the one that is the most pressing to you because it’s in your backyard. You can help fight a fire halfway across the world, if that’s the fire that’s important to you, but you can’t squander your limited resources on trying to fight them all.

Because if 101 Dalmatians show up at your doorstep looking for a ride home, you want to have enough compassion in the bank to get them there.

And perhaps if I wasn’t staring down at a compassion overdraft notice, I would have shared the post about the puppies after all. Because that is the sort of thing I care about.

Is it Time to kiss Social Media Goodbye?

Photo by Oleg Magni from Pexels

More and more people I know are discussing leaving social media altogether. Divorcing themselves from Facebook, Twitter, and even the relatively happy place, Instagram.

I’m not surprised, to be honest. Social media has become a toxic swamp, weaponized by those forces wishing to polarize populations and bring countries to their knees. Think I’m exaggerating? Remember the huge hate the latest trilogy of Star Wars movies received from supposed fanboys who hated the fact none of the leads were young, white men?

Welp, a post by Wired in 2018 revealed that as much as half the negative tweets about the film were politically motivated or generated by bots (a storyline worthy of the franchise itself, if you ask me).

It’s not just polarizing people over issues such as diversity and inclusiveness. Social media has become the place most people get their information these days, and the amount of disinformation out there, aimed at creating divisiveness at best and destroying nations at worst, is scary. I don’t consider myself a conspiracy theorist, but when I see well-educated people in the medical profession or education supporting unverified, crazy theories over statistically-backed scientific reports, I’m concerned, let me tell you.

On a personal level, I find the damage it causes something else altogether. We’ve become addicted to doomscrolling, and because clicks are king, media outlets are creating provocative headlines designed to keep us in a perpetual state of outrage. My husband and I had a conversation about this the other day, and I think for many of us, we share these anger-inducing posts because it’s the bare minimum we can do. Most of us don’t have the time, energy, or resources to do anything other than share the outrage because we think people should be angry and upset over these important issues.

(Don’t get me started on the data mining these platforms do… how creepy is it that my husband and I talk about buying a new mattress and shortly thereafter, our feeds get flooded with mattress adverts??)

But the truth of the matter is not only is sharing bad news (and OMG, there’s SO much of it these days) completely worthless in terms of doing something about it, there may be great harm in doing so as well. It fosters a sense of hopelessness about our ability to change anything: from the impending climate disasters, to voter suppression and the march to invalidate any election results the opposition doesn’t like, from politicians who get vaccinated themselves, but tell their constituents Covid-19 is nothing to worry about, so don’t bother with vaccines and oh, by the way, get back to work, please. And when we get sucked into a state of despair and cynicism, then we stop trying to make a difference where we can.

My husband shared this great metafilter discussion thread with me, and I’m sharing it here with you: What’s MINE to care about and what’s NOT MINE to care about. It has some great things to say about limiting your anxiety over the things for which you have no control and what to do about the things you can affect. That you can’t fight all the battles in the world, but you can’t opt out of fighting any. And if all you’re doing is sharing outrage posts, how is that different from virtue signaling? The metafilter discussion was in reference to this post here, which points out we are not designed to handle all the suffering in the world, and that circuit breakers exist for a reason: to prevent electrical systems from overloading.

My friends, the majority of whom I met online, are moving off social media and onto other, smaller platforms, such as WhatsApp and Discord. The main reason? To keep up with each other during the day but avoid getting sucked into the mire of disinformation and ugly rhetoric out there. I can’t say as I blame them. I’ve taken Facebook off my phone. I’m considering eliminating Twitter next. Some of my friends have taken things one step further: they’ve deleted their accounts.

I confess, the idea of doing that fills me with a sense of dread. I’m a writer. I’ve been told over and over again that I must have a presence on social media. And without the backing of a Big Name Publisher, I suspect this is true. I need to keep hustling to remind people my stories exist, to build a newsletter following, to manage groups, to post regularly to all my platforms, to stand on the deck of the Ark amidst limitless seas, releasing doves again and again in the hopes of one of them eventually bringing back signs of dry land out there.

To consider eliminating my social media presence feels a bit like giving up. Like accepting that I’ll never be more than a small potatoes writer releasing a handful of French fries once a year. So maybe I won’t delete my accounts.

But I can be a better steward of them.

You want fries with that?

Photo by Dzenina Lukac from Pexels

What do Romances and Mysteries Have in Common?

The other evening I popped into an online book discussion group being held by the Carnegie Library, hosted by Jennie Ellis. I only found out about the book club at the last moment, and joined because while I hadn’t read the featured book, I had read other books by the author, Julia Buckley, and she was going to be present.

What ensued was a delightful hour in which Ms. Buckley described her writing process, and how she came to create her various series, including the Hungarian Tea House Mysteries. She also fielded questions about the publishing industry, her past projects, and what to expect from her in the future.

Toward the end of the discussion, the subject of cozy mysteries in general came up. I lamented that many publishing houses had dropped their cozy lines, and the consensus was this was an inexplicable decision on their part because like romance readers, cozy readers are voracious.

That got me to thinking about the other ways in which romance and mysteries have commonalities, and it occurred to me during the discussion that one of the biggest things the two genres have in common is their contract with the reader.

There’s only one hard-and-fast rule in Romance: there must be a happily ever after (HEA) or at the least, a happily for now (HFN). That means that no matter what happened during the course of the story, we should have either a declaration of commitment between the couple or some indication they are going to be together in the future. It does not mean there must be a baby in the epilogue, though this is an addendum many authors and readers enjoy. It also doesn’t mean that the entire story must be fluffy and light without any angst or difficult storylines. Sometimes the reward of the HEA is all the sweeter for the suffering that took place before reaching that point.

I was having this discussion with my husband this morning, and he brought up (on cue) Romeo and Juliet. Everyone brings up R&J! Shakespeare’s play is not a romance but a tragedy. I went on to say that one of the reasons people take exception to Nicholas Sparks’ books being labeled as romances is the frequent lack of a HEA. Romances have ONE rule.

“Okay,” my husband said, “but what if the purpose of breaking the contract is to get you to look at something from another point of view?”

“Then categorize it as something else,” I countered. “Put it like this: suppose you bought a sci-fi story based on the cover and the blurb. You had every expectation of reading a military space opera based on these things, but instead, you get a romance. You’d be disappointed, especially if you were in the mood for something different.”

“But the Murderbot books aren’t just science fiction,” he offered. “They explore relationships, what it means to have friends, to be human.”

“Themes science fiction explores all the time. Romance has one rule. HEA. How you get there can vary in a million different ways but you have to get there.”

Which brings me to the rule I believe mysteries–or at least cozy mysteries–have: justice will be served.

Like romances, the route at which you arrive at justice can take many forms. I can recall reading an old Ellery Queen novel once in which Ellery figured out who the killer was, but for various reasons, couldn’t go forward with the conviction. At the time, the ending enraged me so much, I threw the book across the room. As a much older and wiser person, I can see the ending made sense, and that the authors had not broken their contract with me, the way I thought they did when I read the story.

It was the frustration of my expectations that angered me so much when I read that story.

The contract should be sacred in my book.

In a mystery, you’re presented with a crime of some sort (not necessarily a murder, but that is often the case). There may be a romance as well–certainly I was more invested in Lord Peter Wimsey’s investigations when they included Harriet Vane–but the romance isn’t central to the story. The central story is the puzzle, the “whodunnit”, behind the shady activity. A mystery writer should make all the clues available to the reader as well, not holding back vital information that the sleuth has access to but the reader does not. It’s part of the deal: providing enough information for the reader to connect the dots while hopefully obscuring the solution until the very end. 

The one rule of mystery? The good guys win.

I think this is why the mystery genre has its devoted following. It’s the same concept as it is with romance: you have certain expectations when you enter into the story. You picked up the story because you were in the mood for something specific. Perhaps you chose a romance because needed to hear that love conquers all. Or perhaps you went with a mystery because you needed to believe that crooked bad guys would someday get their comeuppance.

When I choose to read genre fiction, I do so because I want a certain kind of story with expectations of it ending in a certain way. Let me tell you, with the stresses I’ve been under the past few years, I select my entertainment carefully these days. I don’t read as much sci-fi as I used to because the storylines are often darker and less likely to end well. Am I coddling myself a bit right now? You bet. At some point, when life doesn’t hurt so much, when my mental health is more stable, I’m sure I will go back to stories and movies with darker themes.

While I fully believe there’s a place for having your beliefs challenged, or your insight expanded, I think that can still be done within the confines of a contract if you’re writing genre fiction. Not writing genre fiction? The sky’s the limit! Torture your protagonists! Throw them off a cliff. Let the bad guys win.

But call it something other than romance if your story ends in sorrow, and something other than mystery if the murder is never solved. Your readers will thank you.

Ooops! I Accidentally Published a Book!

You may have heard that owing to a blunder on my part while trying to upload my first cozy mystery for pre-order, I accidentally launched it instead!

My mistake is your gift, however! An Embarrassment of Itches, (Ginny Reese Mysteries Book 1) is now available for only 99 cents and also on Kindle Unlimited for a limited time.

Ginny Reese returned home to her “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it small town” of Greenbrier, VA to help take care of her dying father. She’s used to seeing her share of the weird and wacky as a house-call vet, but nothing in her experience has prepared her for finding the dead body of a client floating in her pool. When she’s named the deceased’s heir, Ginny becomes the number one suspect–and must prove her innocence to the newly elected sheriff–who just happens to be her old high school boyfriend.

At least she can rely on her trusty German Shepherd, Remington!

Creating a new pen name posed some challenges for me, and I’m currently in the process of rebranding the site. My Twitter and Instagram accounts will share both information from McKenna Dean and M.K. Dean, as will my newsletter, but if you’d like to follow M.K. Dean on Amazon, Goodreads, M.K’s Facebook page, and BookBub, here are the links.

I would appreciate any follows–my new pages are so empty! 🙂

What’s New with McKenna Dean? EVERYTHING!

It’s been a while since I posted. Normally I post at least once a week, but I see now it’s been almost a month since I wrote anything for this blog. It’s not because I didn’t have any pointless musings to share–it’s because I’ve been so busy!

Last week, Bishop’s Gambit won second place in the Daphne du Maurier Awards for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense from the Kiss Of Death Chapter of the Romance Writers of America. This was such an unexpected honor! As a matter of fact, when they called to tell me I was a finalist, I thought sure they were calling to alert me to the fact there was a problem with my entry. 🙂

 

Are you getting a lot of spam phone calls right now? I am! I’d received over 30 spam calls in a 48 hour window when I received a call from an unknown number on earlier this week. Normally, I ignore them (blocking them results in my receiving a notification I’ve received a blocked call–NOT HELPFUL, VERIZON) but for some reason I answered this one. Abruptly. With strong undertones of “What do you want??” in my voice.

Only it was a representative of the Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Romance Writers Chapter of RWA calling to inform me that Bishop’s Gambit was a finalist in the PRISM Awards! Boy, was my face red. That will teach me to be snippy with unknown callers!

 

But wait, there’s more! The main reason I’ve been quiet lately is that I’ve been working like mad on story in a new-to-me-genre: cozy mysteries! I’m a HUGE cozy fan. I love picking up a book and knowing what kind of story you’re going to get, the perfect way to spend a quiet evening or a rainy afternoon–following the adventures of an intrepid heroine as she unravels a knotty puzzle and nabs the bad guy. I love the small town settings and the soothing backgrounds: baking, knitting, hiking, rescuing animals… and all the better if there is a little light romance on the side!

So it’s with great pleasure that I tell you about my new series of cozy mysteries coming your way soon under the name of M.K. Dean. My heroine, Dr. Ginny Reese, is a house-call veterinarian in the small fictional town of Greenbrier, VA. She returned home to help take care of her ailing father and has done her best to make a living in an area where it’s hard to make ends meet. But the fur flies when she discovers that her ex-high school boyfriend is the new sheriff in town–and that she’s the prime suspect in her best friend’s death! It’s up to her to clear her name and find the real killer!

I’m still expanding my platforms to include M.K. Dean but for now, you can follow this blog (link in sidebar) or my (infrequent) newsletters to keep posted. Or you can follow me on Twitter, Facebook (still working on a page for M.K. Dean), and Instagram. Goodreads and Amazon pages for M.K. Dean to follow once I have a release date. Expect An Embarrassment of Itches sometime in July/August of 2021!

So lots of irons in the fire right now! Stay tuned for updates as they arrive…

 

Persistence: When Should You Give Up?

I’ve been thinking a lot about persistence lately. When it’s a good thing. When it’s a bad thing.

I chose persistence as one of my power words a few years ago, and I have strong feelings about the concept. In fact, one of my favorite quotations is Calvin Coolidge’s famous quote on persistence (shared below). Nothing worth achieving is possible without persistence: the academic degree, proficiency at any task (be it art, sports, writing, or competency at work), the successful relationship…

But when is persistence the wrong move? When is it “beating a dead horse” and a denial of reality?

I guess to some degree, it depends on the stakes involved. The higher the stakes, the bigger the consequences of giving up. You have to know in your heart quitting is the right thing to do. Giving up has to bring a sense of relief instead of a sense of dread. Conversely, if the consequences of giving up are so minimal, you might fall into quitting by default without ever declaring your intent to do so. You don’t finish the book you were reading, or the project you started, in part because you had other, bigger demands on your time and energy and it just didn’t matter than you failed to reach a specific goal.

Last summer, someone gave me a potted orchid. My first thought on accepting it was, “I wonder how long it will take me to kill this?” Not because I hate plants and want them to die but because I have so many demands on my time and so many living things that depend on me, it’s easy to let plants take a number and wait a LONG time in line. And even though I read the care instructions that came with it, I managed to get something wrong, and sure enough, that’s here’s what this plant looked like a few months ago.

The planter is set up so that it minimizes the risk of over or under watering the orchid, but it turns out I was putting the water in the wrong slot and I drowned the plant. After six months of meticulously remembering to water it on the correct schedule, I’d nearly killed the orchid anyway. Giving up and tossing the plant out isn’t a big deal because the consequences of doing so are nil. Only a slight guilt on my part for having such a black thumb.

Quitting in this case is an easy call. But what if the stakes are higher? What if we’re talking about a relationship, or your job, or your dreams?

That’s a different ball of wax altogether.

It still comes down to the consequences of quitting, I think. In part because quitting is often the easiest part of the decision-tree. We’ve been taught if we can’t achieve something in two weeks (weight loss, master a new skill, change our lives…) then not only is not worth doing, it’s not achievable in the first place. We’re also taught the value of “being realistic” over being someone who has dreams. If we’ve chosen a difficult goal, it’s easy to get discouraged and contemplate quitting. Being persistent is a character trait that can be both good and bad depending on your point of view.

It comes down to whether being persistent is hurting you–or someone else in your life– or not.

Toxic workplace environment or relationship? Yeah, maybe that is something you should consider quitting. Persistence may not be in your favor in those situations. It may be a situation you need to walk away from even if the alternatives seem super scary (like having no immediate income or place to live). If you remain in a situation or relationship that threatens your mental and physical health, you need to carefully weigh the pros and cons of doing so. Sometimes there are no easy answers. But the questions need to be asked, just the same.

Persisting in following your dreams when everyone around you tells you to “be realistic”? Yeah, don’t listen to the naysayers. If it’s something you want to do and have faith in your ability to do it, keep plugging away at it.

What if your Number One Naysayer is you? That’s a tough one because if you don’t believe in your ability to accomplish something you set out to do, then you will never reach that goal. But if the idea of quitting, of not being a writer, or musician, or artist, or teacher, astronaut, or whatever is more painful than the idea of continuing to strive toward your goals, then you should persist. The world is full of success stories about people who kept trying, who didn’t give up, despite repeated rejections or failures. Like Coolidge says, I believe persistence is more powerful than natural talent or ability.

Even if you never achieve your lofty goals, if you persist in doing something you love, it’s never time wasted.

Three months ago, I came very close to tossing the orchid in the trash. It was mostly dead. I had no great attachment to it. But there was one shiny green leaf among the dry stalks, dead flower heads, and dull, curling leaves. So I left it on the windowsill, didn’t water it for a few weeks, and then began taking care of it, following the directions correctly this time. And that single shiny leaf was joined by another. And another.

I’m not sure why I didn’t pitch the planter in the trash, unless it was because of the persistence of that baby leaf pushing its way out of the soil when all the odds had been against it. It reminded me of how I keep writing, even when I know realistically I am not going to be the Nora Roberts of paranormal romance or cozy mysteries. Though I get discouraged at my lack of progress sometimes, writing isn’t toxic to me, and sometimes is the only thing that keeps me going.

So let’s hear it for healthy persistence.

Brushed By Betrayal by L.A. Sartor: Spotlight and Interview

Please welcome author L.A. Sartor to the blog as we showcase her upcoming release (available for pre-order) Brushed by Betrayal!

Hello! Welcome to my blog and thank you for answering my nosy, I mean discerning, questions. 🙂  First, please tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of stories you like to write. Would you say there is an underlying theme behind your stories?

McKenna, thank you for having me as a return guest on your amazing blog.  Interesting questions you pose. I’ve been writing for a long time, yet only very recently discovered that I am truly a plot-driven writer. I was told this by a veteran of 40+ novels, and at first, I was insulted. Then I stepped back and looked at her criteria and realized with an enormous amount of relief that indeed I was. My stories always revolve around complex plots, at the same time I weave the theme of trust and/or finding one’s real path in life. Usually they go hand-in-hand. But I think of the creating the plot question first, then building the characters to work in it.

There is nothing wrong in either being either a plot or character driven writer, and we authors can have readers who love both. But finding my own true writer calling made a big difference. I write romance into my stories, but they are mostly not “romances.” (I do have a couple of pure romances.)

What part of the world do you call home? Can you tell us a little about where you grew up and where you live now?

Colorado is now home. I was adopted in Germany as was my brother, different birth families. I’ve never thought of anyone else as my parents and haven’t been driven to locate anyone. We moved to Southern California as young children and being a stone’s throw from the ocean created a deep need to come back to it as often as possible. But while Boulder and its massive flatirons are my backbone, the ocean is my soul.

That’s so funny because I was born and raised within sight of the Appalachian mountains and I can’t imagine living anywhere else–unless it was to the Rockies!

How long have you been writing? Did you write as a child or is it something you developed a passion for later in life?

I started telling stories at a very young age. Mom wrote them down and I illustrated them. I still have those which are horrible, but I love them. Then in Jr. High I was writing what is now fan fiction with a friend and loving it. But an English teacher told me and my parents that I was failing because I wouldn’t learn grammar. I immediately stopped writing. I only learned about this (apparently, I totally wiped the incident from my memory) after I told mom I was going to write and book and she said, “finally”. Then revealed the story.  I’m now in the exact right spot for me.

“Writers should write what they know.” What does this statement mean to you as an author?

This statement makes me so frustrated, both when I first heard and even now when I hear folks agonizing over it. So, I’m going to get on my soap box. We all know life’s ups/downs, celebrations/heartaches. We all have experiences. That is what we know.

But for the longest time and still today, authors and pundits say I can’t write a treasure hunting adventure or chocolate making scene or legal thriller because I’m none of those. Baloney. Research, good solid research and interviews will give us that information. Would I write a hospital driven drama, no, because I’m not interested in that kind of writing. But adventure, danger, various treasures, myths, even some courtroom scenes have all been written by me and apparently are doing well.

I agree with this whole-heartedly! I think when people say “write what you know” what they really mean is write about the forces that would drive a character to leave home and hearth to fight for all he holds dear–whether it be a Hobbit journeying to Mordor or a young man headed off to the trenches in WW1. The means by which you tell the story doesn’t matter as much as the authenticity behind the motives.

Most authors admit to feeling uncomfortable with the degree of self-promotion necessary to be successful. Are there some aspects of social media and self-promotion that make you more comfortable than others? Are there some you avoid like the plague?

I really enjoy the self-promotion that is necessary for both the indie and the traditionally published writer to do. For instance, a blog like this is fun to write. I love to teach writing and use my books (after all I know my stories best) as examples, then see the light come on in an aspiring writer’s eyes. I love creating images or memes for my books.

I have a YouTube channel for writers, but I’m getting views from folks who want to know more about how a writer works, not be one. That’s cool!

I’ve done a lot of interviews on camera and now feel comfortable talking about me.  Now if I only weighed 25lbs. less…

It’s part of the business, so I figure I might as well enjoy it and of instead of shy away from it, embrace it.

I will definitely have to check out your YouTube Channel! I confess while I enjoy spending time on certain social media platforms, I have no real desire to get in front of a camera, and I admire anyone who does!

Have you ever been intimidated by reviews?

Yes. At first I was scared to look at them and when I found one that was less than complimentary, I’d be totally crushed. Literally couldn’t write a new word. Then I realized a couple of things and grew up as a writer, maybe even as a person.

Sometimes people will just not like what you write. That’s okay. I may want to please everyone, but honestly know I can’t. Some people are meanspirited. I feel sorry for them. Some people think they’ll make me a better writer if they point out every flaw.

My approach to reviewing is that 90% of the time you can find some aspect of the book to talk about with positivity. You may not give it 4 or 5 stars, but why trash it? If you hated it, don’t buy another one from that author. Life is too short to be mean. Kindness is better. And maybe that’s a Pollyanna way of looking at life, and there are many times when I want to throw something at my TV screen for whatever reason, hey I’m human, but that negative emotion doesn’t go beyond my walls.

Do you miss your characters when you come to the end of their story? Do you find ways to write sequels for them or do you become entranced with a new set?

Yes and yes and yes. I spend huge amounts of time building my characters and their stories, their conflicts, their goals. Series allow me to dig deeper, put them into more revealing circumstances. For instance, in my Carswell Adventure series, I had twins, who after a tragedy became total opposites. One more meek, more comfortable by herself than out in the world. The other became an adventure junkie. Stone Of Heaven is about Tori, the city girl who keeps to herself now having to save her adventurous sister from long forgotten Maya gods. The second book Viking Gold brings in the characters again, but we focus on Abby and her quests and how it’s driving all the people she loves away. Will she survive this last treasure hunt?

What are your writing goals for 2021? Your personal goals?

I’m releasing Brushed By Betrayal May 5th. It’s the second in the Kahuna Group series. Then come Monday I’m settling down to create my new cozy mystery series. A first in many ways for me. Writing in first person. A cozy series, creating a new ski town, Angelcroft and all its peeps and fun stuff like red-herrings and most of all developing a complicated villainous character motivation. After all mystery readers like the puzzle, so …. My plan is to have that first book out this coming Fall, worst case before Christmas, since it’s set at Christmas. Then to write one or two more a year. I still have my other series…yikes, I’m going to be busy.

Personal goals, focus on the important things and say no to the rest. I don’t say no easily, but I’m learning.

That’s interesting what you say about plot-driven stories versus character driven, and how you’ve nestled into your groove as a result. And yay for a new cozy mystery series! I love the genre!

Thank you so much for dropping by for the interview and to share a little about your new release!

 

Blurb for Brushed By Betrayal

“You’re next and the circle will be complete.”

Jade Laurent, art expert and owner of the prestigious Laurent Art Brokers in Boulder, Colorado, is mourning the one-year anniversary of her father’s death when a close associate is killed and that chilling message for Jade is found by his body.

Private Investigator Malcolm Talbot is coming off his latest grueling case when he receives a request that he cannot refuse. To discover who’s put Jade’s life in jeopardy. The problem is that Jade refuses to stand by idly and let him do his job.

The last thing Malcolm needs is an amateur getting in the way and maybe getting dead. The last thing Jade needs is a professional who can’t find an ounce of compassion for her need to be involved.

While matching wits with a killer who is always one step ahead, dark secrets are revealed, putting everything Jade has believed in at risk.

If you like nail biting suspense, complicated mysteries, and characters who find their soul mates, then you’ll love L.A. Sartor’s newest story Brushed By Betrayal.

Buy it today to find new characters to love and revisit old friends from Dare to Believe.

 

Buy: Currently on Amazon  The book will go wide later in May.

 

Bio:

I started writing as a child, really. A few things happened on the way to becoming a published author … specifically, a junior high school teacher who told me I couldn’t write because I didn’t want to study grammar.

That English teacher stopped my writing for years.  But the muse couldn’t be denied, and eventually I wrote, a lot, some of it award winning. However, I wasn’t really making a career from any of this.

My husband told me repeatedly that independent publishing was becoming a valid way to publish a novel. I didn’t believe him, I thought indie meant vanity press. 

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I started pursuing this direction seriously, hit the keyboard, learned a litany of new things and published my first novel. My second book became a bestseller, and I’m absolutely on the right course in my life.

Please come visit me at https://lesliesartor.com, see my books, find my social media links, and sign up for my mailing list. I have a gift I’ve specifically created for my new email subscribers. And remember, you can email me at Leslie@LeslieSartor.com 

 

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Bishop’s Gambit a Finalist in the Carolyn Awards! #MFRWHooks #MFRWAuthor

I have a second email account that I’m bad about not checking on a regular basis, so imagine my surprise when I logged in the other day and discovered Bishop’s Gambit is a finalist in the Carolyn Awards held by North Texas Romance Writers of America!

As such, I’d like to share with you a little about this book and the Redclaw Origins series. The year is 1955. Rebel without a Cause and The Seven Year Itch are playing in the  movie theaters. The Chevy Bel Air is the most popular car in America. Gas is 25 cents a gallon and you can get a hotel room for $4 bucks. This flirty, fun series takes us back to the beginning and shows us how Redclaw Security got started.

In Bishop’s Gambit, Redclaw Origins 2, Bishop and Knight are back again and the fun–and trouble–is just beginning!

Newly minted secret agent Rhett Bishop would rather face down a horde of angry wolf shifters or her father’s former mob contacts than accept her current assignment: pose undercover as a suburban housewife, complete with a husband, slippers, and pipe.

But after the debacle of her previous mission, Rhett has a lot to prove.

To redeem herself in the eyes of Redclaw Security, and to carry out her mission without distractions, she must table her budding relationship with Peter Knight while the two of them uncover the secrets of Forest Grove.

Armed with her trusty ray gun, her unique little dog, and Knight’s brains, Rhett is confident she can handle whatever the suburbs can throw at her.

Until they lob a curveball.

Bishop’s Gambit was named a Top Pick by The Romance Reviews!

Kirkus Reviews describes as “thoroughly entertaining and witty, with a nicely judged mix of genres.”

Available from Amazon and these other retailers.

A short snippet: 

I gave a cursory glance into the tiny bathroom and headed to the end of the hallway for the other bedroom. As expected, boxes labeled “clothing” were stacked alongside the wall. My dresser and vanity took up the space alongside the other walls. Someone had thoughtfully put together my bed, complete with mattress and springs. All it needed was sheets and a blanket, and I could fall into it.

The sound of the front door opening and shutting sent Captain flying through the house to see who’d come in. I heard Knight grumbling at the dog as he came back toward the bedroom where I stood.

“I see she found you, rotten little beast.” Knight’s voice grew louder as he came down the hallway. “I’ve got two words for you: lizard-skin handbag. You back here, Bishop?”

“Yes.” I waited for him to join me.

“What are you—” He paused at the threshold of the door, frowning for a moment, then his brow cleared. “Ah. Looking for the bedding? I expect it’s around here somewhere.”

I placed a fist on one hip. “Is that all you have to say?”

Puzzlement wrinkled his brow again. “I don’t understand. Obviously, you found the dog. I’ll bring the luggage in while you make the bed. It’s been a long day. We should make an early night of it.”

I enunciated every word with crystal clarity. “There’s only one bed. Where precisely do you intend to sleep?”

This post is part of a blog hop, so if check out the other book hooks and teasers in the hop! 

 

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Bishop’s Gambit on Sale for a Limited Time! #MFRWHooks #MFRWAuthor

I participated in a TON of events and book fairs for Valentine’s Day this year, and as such, Bishop’s Gambit has been on sale for just 99 cents! But all good things come to a close, and the discount ends March 14th!

 

So grab your copy at this great price now! And come see what people are saying about this second installment in the award-winning Redclaw Origins Series! 

Click on the PLAY button if the video doesn’t auto-start!

 

 

This is post is part of the BookHooks blog hop so check out the other great stories available on the list!

 


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Winter Duet by Anne Barwell: Guest Post and Excerpt

Please welcome author Anne Barwell, as she discusses her WWII series, Winter Duet!

Thanks for hosting me today.

 

At the beginning of Winter Duet, book 2 of my WWII Echoes Rising series, Kristopher and Michel leave the safety of the convent in Alexanderdorf to head for Switzerland. They are supposed to meet up with the Allied team—Matt, Ken and Liang—who were sent into Germany to retrieve the plans Kristopher now carries.  However, if their journey were straightforward, it would make for a far less interesting story. I debated having them go around the areas where the Allies were bombing, then decided it would be more exciting if they were caught at ground zero.

 

Meanwhile Matt and his team leave Berlin and take an alternate route to Switzerland.  Neither group can ignore a downed RAF aircraft in the Black Forest, and so decide to look for the pilot.  Naturally they each run into problems of their own, and become separated.  When they regroup it’s not with the person they started with, and there is a new addition to the team—an injured New Zealand pilot, Leo Dawson.

 

One of the early decisions I made when I was planning Winter Duet was to have characters working together who hadn’t before.  Also, as two of the men I was throwing together had never met, it would add an extra element of suspicion and uncertainty.

 

With writing an ensemble cast of characters, I try to have more than one storyline although they come together towards the end of the book.  Having all of the characters in the same scene tends to marginalise some of them, and I wanted them to each have a decent amount of ‘book time’.

 

These men are on the run from the SS during war time and behind enemy lines, so they cannot afford to confirm their true identities to someone they’ve just met.  Then there is the language barrier.  While most of their group speak fluent German, Ken doesn’t. He knows enough to get by but as their original mission was supposed to be a simple in and out retrieval of the plans, he realises his shortcomings could be a problem.

 

“I know my limitations, and I’m following most of what you’re saying but not all of it. As long as you don’t speak too quickly I’ll be fine.” Ken grew quiet for a few minutes before continuing. “This was supposed to be a simple mission. We were to go in, get the plans, and get out. I didn’t expect to be in Germany for this amount of time. Matt would have handled most of the conversation with the locals. He sounds like one. I know I don’t.”

 

I’d wanted to play around a bit with those issues in this story, although the men do pick up more of the language they’re lacking the longer they are together. While operatives who were sent into enemy territory as undercover agents were chosen because of their language skills, others—such as Ken who is the radio operator for this team—had different skills. For example a pilot for the RAF didn’t need to speak fluent German, just know enough basic phrases so he could surrender in case he was captured.  And that’s only if his aircraft went down. So…if he meets Michel, who speaks fluent German, but not English, it’s going to be a problem.

 

Winter Duet

Echoes Rising Book 2

 

Who do you trust when no one is who they seem?

 

Germany 1944

 

Fleeing German physicist Dr Kristopher Lehrer and his lover, Resistance fighter Michel, are caught up in an Allied bombing campaign.  Separated from Michel after discovering an injured RAF pilot in the Black Forest, and pursued by the SS for the information he carries, Kristopher is frantic to reunite, unaware that Michel has been recruited by the Allies for a rescue mission.

 

Time is running out. The Gestapo is closing in. How can they decide who to trust, when the dagger pointed at Kristopher’s back could be wielded by a friend? 

 

Author’s note: This is the third edition of Winter Duet. The first and second editions were released by another publishing house.  This story has been re-edited, and uses UK spelling to reflect its setting.

 

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08VL2LQNB

Universal Link: https://books2read.com/WinterDuetAB

 

Excerpt:

Michel parted the bushes cautiously and peered through. One glance at who had provoked the response from the soldiers and he closed his peek hole quickly and stayed as still as he could.

 

“Heil Hitler!” Reiniger returned the greeting. “Stay attentive!” he snapped at them. “Now is not the time for idle conversation. Anyone caught doing so will be disciplined accordingly. Do I make myself clear?”

 

“Yes, Herr Obersturmführer,” both men chorused.

 

If Reiniger had heard any of their discussion, they were lucky to get off with a warning. Someone in their unit at the institute had been caught shirking his duties. Michel shuddered, not wanting to dwell on the details. The man’s punishment had been harsh, without mercy, and far in excess of what was required for his so-called crime.

 

“Our enemy is close by. We’ve already caught one, and I suspect his companions will not readily abandon him.” Reiniger snorted. “That weakness can be used to our advantage, so it is important we are prepared. Do I make myself clear?”

 

“Yes, Herr Obersturmführer.”

 

Caught one?

 

Michel took a sharp breath. Surely Reiniger hadn’t found Kit? Kit was with Leo. If two men had been discovered, Reiniger would have said so. Wouldn’t he? Unless Kit had left Leo and been caught a distance from him.

 

No. Kit wouldn’t… Michel mentally groaned. Of course he would, if he thought it necessary, and especially if he’d decided Michel might be walking into some kind of trap. He’d try to warn him and to hell with the consequences.

 

Reiniger turned, his eyes narrowing as he glanced in Michel’s direction. Michel held his breath, praying, hoping his hiding place hadn’t been compromised. “What are you standing here for?” Reiniger snapped at the two soldiers. “They’re somewhere close, and I want them found.” He gestured in the direction from which Michel had come. “Get on with it.”

 

“Yes, Herr Obersturmführer.”

 

The soldiers saluted and moved off. Reiniger stood for a moment, as though thinking, his face creasing into a frown, and then he headed in the opposite direction. He muttered something under his breath, but Michel couldn’t make out the words.

 

He heard breathing behind him. Close behind him.

 

Merde! He reached for his weapon, but before he could draw it, he felt the barrel of a gun pressed against his back.

 

Author  Bio:
Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand.  She shares her home with Kaylee: a cat with “tortitude” who is convinced that the house is run to suit her; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date, it appears as though Kaylee may be winning.

 

In 2008, Anne completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.

 

She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth. She also hosts and reviews for other authors, and writes monthly blog posts for Love Bytes.  She is the co-founder of the New Zealand Rainbow Romance writers, and a member of RWNZ.

 

Anne’s books have received honourable mentions five times, reached the finals four times—one of which was for best gay book—and been a runner up in the Rainbow Awards.  She has also been nominated three times in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards—twice for Best Fantasy, once for Best Historical, and once for All-Time Favourite M/M Author.

 

Website & Blog—Drops of Ink: http://annebarwell.wordpress.com/

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