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 

 

Social Media 

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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/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/anne.barwell.1

Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/annesbooksandbrews/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/annebarwell

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4862410.Anne_Barwell

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/anne-barwell

Queeromance Ink Author Page:                       

https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/anne-barwell/

Sign up for my newsletter: https://mailchi.mp/39edaba3e3ad/annebarwellauthor

 

 

February is for Lovers: Valentine’s Day Book Fair and Winter Games Reader Challenge

Oh my!

February is a CRAZY month for romance authors because there are so many parties, special events, and book deals to be had! I may have gone a bit overboard this year, promising to take part it too many events all coinciding together, but YOU are the winner here!

From Feb 14-21 you can take part in the Valentine’s Day Book Boyfriend Bonanza–all books listed are less than $2!

BOOK BOYFRIEND VALENTINE’S DAY BONANZA
BOOKFAIR AND GIVEAWAY
ENTER FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN!
Check out these hotties and super fun reads all for under $1.99 … social distancing this
Valentine’s Day couldn’t be hotter!

 

Prizes include a Kindle Fire HD and an ebook prize pack of more than twenty romance novels, including award winners and bestsellers! All you have to do is follow me and these other awesome writers on social media. The more authors your follow and like, the more times you’re entered to win.

 

To celebrate having Bishop’s Gambit nominated in the 2020 Paranormal Romance Guild’s Reviewer’s Choice Awards and to participate in these fests, Bishop’s Gambit is only 99 cents on Amazon for a limited time!

And it’s not too late to sign up for the Winter Games Reader Challenge–the clock started today, but you can catch up! What are you waiting for?

If you love to read, Winter Games is for YOU! A one month reader Challenge with parties, prizes, signed print books, and what you love best––FREE BOOKS.

PLUS, you’ll meet some amazing authors and party with them in a live Q & A!

WE promise to give you an amazing experience.

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Sign Up Now––It’s FREE!

Join Winter Games on the official sign up form today and be ready for an amazing ride! Simply Click on the picture for the Reader Sign-Up Form…

 

 

 

READERS––Sign up for your chance to win $200.00 in our 2021 WINTER GAMES READER CHALLENGE!

A Switch In Time copy

To participate as a Winter Games Reader, you MUST fill out the Official Sign up Form.

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Bishop’s Gambit is up for an award and YOU’RE the Winner! #MFRWHooks #MFRWAuthor

 

Goodness, what is it about the month of February! So much love in the air, right?

Bishop’s Gambit is up for an award in the 2020 Paranormal Romance Guild’s Reviewers Choice Awards in the Romance/Paranormal/Fantasy/Vampires & Shifters category and the competition is FIERCE. Voting closes Feb 12th, so you should check out the list of fantastic nominees! You’re sure to see your favorites there!

To celebrate, Bishop’s Gambit is currently on sale (Amazon only) for 99 cents for a limited time! Been waiting to try out one of my books? Here’s your chance to grab a story Kirkus Reviews describes as “thoroughly entertaining and witty, with a nicely judged mix of genres.” Bishop’s Gambit has also been named a Top Pick by The Romance Reviews and was given a 4.5 rating by InD’Tale Magazine.

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.

They’re back and the fun–and trouble–is just beginning! Join Bishop and Knight as they must pose as a married couple to root out the strange disturbances occurring in an upscale suburban neighborhood! 

This post is part of a blog hop, so be sure to check out the other posts in the hop! Link below.

 

 

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I’m Not Okay, and I’m Not Alone

No one in my immediate family has Covid-19.

As an essential worker, I’m close to getting a vaccination soon.

I have a job that pays my bills. I have an extremely supportive husband, whom I love very much. In two days, we’ll usher in a new president, and we’ll finally have adults in charge again.

My health is relatively decent, all things considered.

But I am not okay.

Because the problems that have come to a head in the last four years aren’t going to magically go away overnight. We’re on the verge of civil war, and the ugly specter of white supremacy, given praise by the outgoing president, has come out into the open and is not afraid to show it. The pandemic is still out of control, and even once vaccination becomes available to all, I know far too many people who will refuse to be vaccinated. We’re running out of time to affect climate change, if we haven’t already.

We’re in a new year, with a new administration coming, and the winds of change are blowing, but that weather vane is still stuck pointing toward fear and hopelessness, and I don’t know how to make it swing in any other direction.

And I’m one of the lucky ones. I know I’m one of the lucky ones. It makes it hard to share my feelings with anyone else because what the heck do I have to complain about? Almost everyone I know has a much harder situation than mine. So what right do I have to be so down, so depressed that I’m seriously considering giving up writing? Why? Because it seems so freaking pointless right now. Every word is like pulling teeth with a pair of rusty pliers and no anesthesia, and every sentence reads like it was drafted by a middle-schooler. I used to look forward to my writing time. Now I avoid it in lieu of doing almost anything else: laundry, baking brownies, watching hours of Murder She Wrote.

(Why Murder She Wrote? Because the overly dramatic acting typical of the era and the improbable scripts don’t require anything of me, and are definitely not going to hurt me in any conceivable way. Also, there’s the fantasy of Jessica Fletcher, who became a bestselling novelist late in life, and can now jaunt around solving mysteries. Perhaps I’m not running out of time after all.)

Now, I recognize that I’m burned out at work. That the inability to get the regular services I used to do in order to manage my pain means I’m dealing with a higher level of it than usual. I was burnt to a crisp emotionally before 2020 began, and 2020 has asked a lot of us all. I can even look in the mirror and realize at least part of my disgust with my appearance stems from my own decision not to get my hair cut for the time being, and that’s not a good look for me. I trimmed my own bangs recently, and now I look like Maria Von Trapp after one too many servings of schnitzel with noodles.

But teetering on the edge of quitting writing… that’s new for me.

I know what I’d tell someone else. I would point out how important it is for the creators of this world to continue offsetting the destroyers. How we are our own worst critics, and that it’s understandable to find yourself without the ability to create if the emotional well is dry. I’d advise myself to take a little break, give myself the benefit of the doubt, do something different but still creative to get the juices following. I’d say lay off the junk food, get to sleep at a decent hour, and go outside and take a walk.

But it’s been months since I’ve really written anything, and it’s starting to feel like this is the new norm.

Some friends of mine met online today, and I almost didn’t join them. I have nothing cheerful to say and I didn’t want to bring down the group with my unhappiness. But when someone asked how I was doing, and I told them honestly not too hot. I also expressed my feeling that I shouldn’t complain because nothing that bad is happening to me right now.

One of my friends said she was glad I said something because she’d been feeling the same. She wanted me to know I wasn’t alone.

So I’m telling you: you’re not alone. Things really do suck in a big way right now. And it’s okay to be anxious, depressed, and afraid. We’ve been living with these emotions for practically a whole year now (and a lot of anger too) without a clear endpoint. It’s okay to long for haircuts or to get your nails done. It’s okay to miss doing things with your friends and family, and to wish for more from life than to go to work each day. It’s even okay to set aside the things that used to bring you joy for the things that bring you comfort instead.

I do believe things will get better. But I also think they are going to get worse before they do. I think we have a very long, hard row to hoe to make things better for the generations that come behind us. That’s a tough realization when you’re already as tired as you can be.

I believe I’ll return to the things that bring me joy some day. Perhaps even some day soon. But until then, there’s still Murder She Wrote.

 

 

 

Ten Ways to Cope with Toxic News Cycles

I went back and forth over how to title this post.

“Unsettling” seemed too anemic a term to describe the insurrection that took place in the Capitol just four days ago. I rejected “apocalyptic” because while it may be true, it felt like hyperbole. “Revolutionary”, while also accurate, is a term most often used to describe the good guys.

But “toxic” fit the bill.

I’ve written about distraction before. A lot, actually. And inability to focus or to find the energy to be creative is nothing new for me. I’ve been struggling with these issues for the last several years–the last four years, to be exact. But the stark reality is this:

Nothing is going to change.

You read that right. I don’t mean that everything is going to remain static; that things will neither get better nor worse. Given our current trajectory, things are probably going to get much worse before they get better, if indeed, they still can. What I mean by this harsh statement is that things are always going to be in turmoil, the news is almost always going to be terrifying, the year that we look forward to with hope as being better than the last is almost certainly to disappoint.

We’re going to have to adapt if we want to live our best lives.

I saw a question making the rounds on Twitter this morning asking if those over 30 could remember so much crammed into a single news cycle. After all, this week brought us both Bean Dad and a violent takeover (at the instigation of the current president and others) of the Capitol while Congress was preparing to certify Biden as the next President of the United States. Yes, both these events happened in the same week. I mention Bean Dad because that already seems like months ago. Life comes at you fast these days.

The response of the over-30 crowd on Twitter was interesting: it’s not just that the news cycles have become shorter with more horrific events. It’s that we can never get completely away from them either.

So the real question is what are we going to do about it?

I took this quote from a post I wrote last February

But I’m noticing a greater tendency on my part not to want to do anything but mess around online. Stay home in front of the laptop or with the phone in hand. If I could order my groceries and do all my banking online, I’d never leave the house on my days off. It’s an effort to put the dogs in the car and take them out for a run in the national forest or go horseback riding–things I used to love doing. I keep looking at my watch and thinking, “I have this block of time I need to use for writing!” only I pick up the phone, and four hours later, I haven’t typed a single word in the WIP.

A few days after posting that, because of the pandemic, my husband and I made the decision to split our households into those who could WFH and those who could not. And now I do order my groceries and do all my banking online. I’ve stopped riding because I didn’t feel comfortable going to a public boarding barn where I was leasing a horse. And while I can still take the dogs out for a run in the woods, I don’t do that nearly as often as I could.

I waste my precious available time doomscrolling.

And again, rather than stating the obvious, the question is what am I (and you) going to do about it?

I snagged this bit of advice (that I should have taken!) from the previous post:

Just in time for this post, I came across this old Twitter thread from former CIA personnel, Cindy Otis. (I know, right? The irony…) In it the OP talks about toxic news cycles and how to cope. She doesn’t advocate ignoring the news–and she’s right, it won’t go away. But she outlines positive steps to take to make yourself feel better. You can check out the link or follow the tips here:

  1. Take Action: Volunteer. A hard one for me, I admit because I’m already on compassion burnout as it is. But that’s why I give money when I can’t give time, and why I focus on local rather than national or international efforts. You need to see the benefits of your kindness. Do it. (I should add here that I participated in a small way in Romancing the Runoff this year, which generated over $400,000 to support getting the vote out in Georgia, and helped flip the Senate–so even small efforts can make a difference!)
  2. Accept Your Limits: The flip side of the first, true. But critical. Remember, if the O2 mask drops down on the plane, you have to put YOUR mask on first before attempting to help others. You can’t do anything if you’ve passed out from lack of air.
  3. Research before Panicking: particularly important in this age of disinformation. Check your facts before sharing that post. For all you know, the crisis you’re sharing may have already been resolved by the time you hit ‘send’. Or it may not even be true.
  4. Get up and Move: that’s right. Unplug. Turn off the phone, go outside, play with the dog, call a friend. Your body and brain needs a break from stressful content but also you need to release that negative energy. Even if you don’t feel like taking a walk, do it. You’ll feel better afterward.
  5. Set Rules: I like this one. No Social Media after a certain time. Only fiction reading at home. Whatever works best for you. Shut out the negative so you can recharge.
  6. Avoid Dark Holes: Don’t go down the rabbit hole of one bad news story after another. Don’t succumb to clickbait. Deal with one thing at a time. Don’t get yourself wound up about the coronavirus and then leap to climate change and then hyperventilate about how unprepared we are for all of this and how the next thirty years is going to break us as a society and species… Ooops. That was kind of specific, I see. You see what I mean, though.
  7. Have Fun, Darn it: Another tough one. It’s hard not to feel guilty having dinner with friends or enjoying a movie when the world is on fire. But the thing is, enjoying those little things is what life is all about. And sharing our fandom squee, or a beautiful photograph, or the joy of bringing home a new puppy or kitten doesn’t mean we’re shallow, terrible people because the world is going to hell in a handbasket and we’re not screaming about it. It’s all part of recharging. It’s all part of making sure we’re rested for the next fight.
  8. I added this one myself: Celebrate Your Wins: No matter how big or small. Because that’s what life is about too. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for sharing about your new book or your concert tickets or pictures from that awesome vacation (pre-pandemic). Because that’s what life’s about too. The things that make us happy.
  9. Adding this one today: Treat doomscrolling like any other addiction.  Because that’s what it is. And believe me, it’s hard to cut yourself off from your phone when you’re supposed to be staying at home because of the pandemic. But if you find yourself unable to stop bingeing on potato chips, perhaps the answer is to stop buying chips. My life seems full of mostly bad habits right now. I’m trying to cope any way I can, and most days I feel like the character from Airplane! You know, “This was the wrong week to give up <insert escalating vice here>. But the only one who can stop me from indulging is me.
  10. Adding this one too: JUST START. If you want to write, knit, paint, do a puzzle, regain fitness, journal, learn a second language, get a degree, whatever. Just. Start. A word after a word after a word is a sentence. If you are stalled out creatively by the endless toxic news cycles, throw out the idea that it must be perfect or that you must complete it by such-and-such date. You may have heard the advice you can’t edit a blank page (Jodi Picoult) or that the water doesn’t flow until the faucet is turned on (Louis L’Amour). Well, it’s true. And if that faucet has been off a long time, at first the water will be tinged with rust and may only trickle out, but given enough time, it will run clear again. But only if you turn the valve.

Now excuse me while I go walk the dogs. I said that in February 2020. I’m saying it again today. Because it’s always the right answer.