Three new opportunities for down-home reading

Rye's Reprieve WR rank 2017-05-08My friend Debra Holland emailed me a couple days ago to say Rye’s Reprieve climbed to #41 on Amazon’s prestigious Top 100 Western Romance ebooks list, lingering among the latest works of leading historical romance authors of the day, including Debra. My historical novel is currently #1 in Kindle World Westerns, #3 in Romances.

I have many of you to thank for buying Rye’s Reprieve and for the more than 75 reviews received to date. Book One in the Harper Ranch series will be on sale for 99 cents for the month of May, a savings of $3. Look for an announcement in eReaderNewsToday on May 15. This is my first historical romance: In 1886 Montana Territory, Rye, a gifted surgeon, hides his healing gifts working as a gold miner. Veterinarian and horse rancher Missouri Harper, the sole support for her three sisters and ailing aunt, must fight her attraction to the handsome miner, whose secrets are cause for hesitation and whose bravery puts her in his debt. http://amzn.com/B01BLWL8X8

Rye's Reprieve (3) Final - Copy  rebel-love-song-final-300dpi  Together on sale for $4.98 through May

Rebel Love Song, Book Two in the Harper Ranch series, will appear on http://www.BooksButterfly.com May 24-26. http://a.co/7XQ5LX2  Intrigue, jealousy, and ambition bring suffragette Jessamine Harper, talented metalsmith Bethesda Janes, and a determined government agent to a dramatic stand-off.  Book Three, Rose of Redemption, launches July 18 and features a third Harper sister, Susan, who expects to remain a spinster because of an earlier serious mistake in judgment, and Rye’s older brother, shipping magnate Joseph Rawlins.

Night Sky Stars Clouds Northern Lights mirrored Sale June 4 – 11

The best-selling Mail-Order Mate will be on sale June 4 through June 11, also at 99 cents, regularly $3.99, and will be advertised on http://www.RobinReads.com. Don’t miss this tale of romance, deception, and danger in the wilds of Alaska. http://a.co/3C9Fsao

Delle Jacobs created the covers of Mail-Order Mate and Rebel Love Song. Erin Dameron-Hill designed the cover of Rye’s Reprieve. The interiors of all three books were designed by Amy Atwell at http://www.AuthorEMS.com.

Best-selling Author Parlays BookBub Ad to Bigger Sales

how-i-sold-more-series

On March 8, 2017, book-promoter BookBub Partners featured a post by guest blogger Glynnis Campbell titled “How I Sold 100x More of My Book Series.”

For my writer friends, this post by the USA Today best-selling author is helpful for planning a promotion campaign to boost sales and add interest for a new-book launch. The article offers tips and, step-by-step, what Glynnis did to gain more mileage from a BookBub upcoming promotion. Here’s a teaser:

“I opted strictly for email blast–style promotions with a good ROI history. These included Bargain Booksy, Choosy Bookworm, Free Kindle Books and Tips, Friday Freebies, Fussy Librarian, Robin Reads, and The eReader Café.”

friday-freebies-newsletter

Glynnis also offered her book and its description and buy links for publication in well-known newsletters such as that by historical author Lauren Royal, who generously features free and on-sale books by other authors as well as recipes, mini-stories, and promotions for her own novels.

RhysReprieve (3) FinalLast year Lauren featured my own Rye’s Reprieve when Amazon put the book on sale. I also had success with eReaderNewsToday and other email-blast entities. See my blog post “Making Ads and Amazon Rankings Work for You.”

So check out this easy-to-read and very helpful article by Glynnis Campbell: https://insights.bookbub.com/how-sold-100x-more-book-series/

For my readers, here is what BookBub is all about:

“BookBub is a free daily email that notifies you about deep discounts on acclaimed ebooks. You choose the types you’d like to get notified about — with categories ranging from mysteries to cookbooks — and we send great deals in those genres to your inbox. BookBub doesn’t actually sell books.”

Also check out eReaderNewsToday, another author-approved free service for book-lovers. To sign up, “Choose your genres, enter your email, and start reading your new books today.”

Authors feel it is prestigious to be selected for a BookBub or an eReaderNews promotion. In Glynnis’s case, she qualified by her status as a best-selling author and the many reviews she had already gained on the novel that BookBub was about to promote. In my case, it was my best-seller status as well as timing: eReaderNews had an opening, and I grabbed it, with very satisfactory results. I’m waiting for the stars to align for a BookBub ad to rocket my books into the arms of new readers.

Art is Not a Thing. It is a Way.

rainbow-fan

An Editorial by Louella Nelson

In February 2017, the New York Times cut many of its popular categories of best-seller lists—including the lists for mass market paperbacks, a bastion of the romance novel—upsetting many in the arenas of publishing and reading. “Among the lists that appear to have disappeared are the graphic novel/manga and the mass market paperback lists as well as the middle grade e-book and young adult e-book lists,” Publishers Weekly’s Calvin Reid reported on January 26.

I prefer to follow up with good news: I thought this comment by the editor and publishing manager of Romance Writers of American (RWA) based in Houston, Erin Fry, was a beacon to authors who strive so long and hard to reach a pinnacle in publishing. “Thankfully,” Fry writes, “there are a number of other ways members can achieve Honor Roll outside of the NYT list: appear on the Publishers Weekly Top Ten bestseller list or any other PW best-seller list based solely on format, genre, or region; appear in the top 50 of the USA Today bestseller list; or have sold at least 100,000 copies in a single language” (which is the category I fall into).

Fighting back, RWA National sent this open letter of objection to the Times and also posted the statement on its own website:

As a trade association representing more than 10,000 writers of romance fiction worldwide, Romance Writers of America (RWA) is deeply disappointed by the decision of the New York Times to change its bestseller criteria.

Romance authors, most of them women, have dominated the best-seller lists in mass market and e-books for years. To dismiss these authors and the millions of readers who buy their books is to ignore what “bestseller” truly means. Each year, consumers buy more than $1.3 billion worth of romance fiction. If the New York Times eliminates the mass market and e-book lists, they are proving that they are out of touch with what consumers actually buy. Further, the dismissal of two formats dominated by women can’t help but feel sexist.

RWA strongly urges the Times to reconsider its decision.

_____________

Reid doubts they will, and that’s a shame. Literally. Art–and there IS art evident in mass market fiction–is not a thing you can toss away on a whim or a concern about a bottom line. Art is the thread that binds a culture and makes it strong, vibrant.

I believe the move to cut back lists of popular fiction signifies the ongoing killing off of creative arts in favor of the flourishing of financial interests in our culture, if “cultural” we’d be when our arts dry up.

At the end of January, one blog post on a site called The Passive Voice announced a snide headline: “Panicky NYT circles the wagons around 1%-ers, throwing the rest of traditionally published authors to the wolves.” The 1%-ers are the big-name authors who hit the best-seller lists every time they launch a new hardcover. Pretty much the entire reading world knows their name. If a publisher mostly publishes 1%-ers, they’re playing it safe and not trusting that an investment in a new author will pay off. That’s been going on for a while.

Thus, new authors flock to publish their own books. However, the NYT shut another door in their faces. If the new author does everything right and sells a ton of copies, expect no recognition from the NYT: The organization dropped e-book lists. Looks like the NYT is playing to the 1% market, cutting costs, risk, the hopes of new authors, and the pleasure of millions who seek a new voice to read.

Without data to back up my claim but with life-experience guiding my opinion, I suspect that, like other major papers, the NYT suffers its share of money woes. As is so often the case when the financial picture darkens for a corporation or a country, funding and notice for the arts get cut back. For example, following the 2008 financial meltdown, the University of California Extension in Irvine, where I was teaching beginning through advanced novel-writing courses, cut all arts classes from its catalogue. They kept the computer-related courses that filled to capacity every quarter and that strategy no doubt helped the Extension program survive the financial crisis.

The ivory tower creative writing degree program at UCI only allows in about 8-10 students from all over the world, each year. So the closing of the Extension writing courses meant a good deal of Orange County and beyond went without a place to learn to write, publish, or produce. That was 11 years ago.

Even though the economy has rebounded, not much has changed at my local Extension. A quick scan of the catalogue I checked today shows business management, instructional technology, process improvement, finance, law, leadership—a host of valuable courses that can earn my neighbors some cash flow working in the businesses in Orange County. But not one course is offered in creative writing, screen writing, play- or poetry- writing, never mind singing, painting, dance, and so on.

I try to stay positive. And most of the time I can rise above that tug of disillusion that stems from chaos at the national level, mayhem in countries that offer rich culture and rare antiquities, and a community institution that delivers “university-level learning solutions by leveraging the expertise of the  campus and community” but completely ignores the need of the human spirit to renew itself in its arts (quote from UCI website).

Instead of advertising “solutions” and “leveraging,” let’s hear them yell out loud, “Creativity encouraged here!” Creativity is a friendly animal who lives quite well alongside capitalism, as successful romance writers know well. Instead of cut-backs in national lists of the books people love, let’s add lists for the new genres birthed by creative minds. Let’s open the doors of learning once again to the singing of souls through literature, music, and art.

It’s not just the number-crunchers at the New York Times or the local college or university that pluck at my positivity, but also the surging mood in Washington to do away with funding for the arts. Greed is more ubiquitous now than it used to be. Greed kills art.

The grand opera singer Beverly Sills believed, “Art is the signature of civilizations.” In this age, what are we leaving to posterity? A narrower view of what books to read? A business-only agenda? I ask this not just as a published writer but also as a college writing teacher and as a sole proprietor, a businesswoman serving the editorial and mentoring needs of best-selling and aspiring writers. What will we teach the next generation, those fresh young minds who feel a soul-deep longing to create—not just in computer science, for example, but in computer-generated art? That their dreams are not valid? That financial and engineering professions are more important?

Let’s just stop. There is another way to live, a way that arrays our many-faceted talents like a rainbow fan.

Elbert Green Hubbard was an American writer, publisher, artist, and philosopher who was born before the Civil War and unfortunately went down with the RMS Lusitania in 1915. He said, “Art is not a thing; it is a way.”

Collaboration Between Writer Friends

In 2016 we wrote together, did speaking engagements, and supported one another through the loss of a beloved pet.

lou-deb-at-kindle-worlds-panel-rwa-2016

New York Times best-selling author Debra Holland and I spoke on a panel in July 2016 at the Romance Writers of America National Conference. The topic was writing for Amazon’s Kindle Worlds. About 100 attendees asked questions about the financial and marketing side of writers developing stories in a famous author’s fictional “world.” In the case of Debra’s Montana Sky Kindle World, authors may have their own characters interact with Debra’s already created and established characters, they may link their World books to other series the authors have created via traditional or independent (self) publishing, and they may spin off new series within Debra’s Montana Sky towns, Sweetwater Springs and Morgan’s Crossing. Other World creators have their own rules for participation. Amazon must approve World books before they are released.

In my case, as many of you know, I began a new series on a ranch  I created in the mining camp of Morgan’s Crossing. Rye’s Reprieve, set in 1886, features a doctor with a secret and a veterinarian who has come west with her sisters to make the family-owned Harper Ranch flourish. It was my first historical novel and rose in Amazon rankings to #7 in Historical Romance in August. The next in the series, due to release by Amazon December 15, 2016, features a suffragette being tracked by a federal agent and a miner with secret gift and a mysterious past–Rebel Love Song.

Debra and I will do a second panel discussion on Kindle Worlds, with other authors, at the March 24-26, 2017 California Dreamin’ Writers Conference at the Embassy Suites in Brea, CA.

On October 13 we spoke to Professor Karen Felts’ class on Sexuality and Gender at Orange Coast College and fielded questions about romance writing, the writer’s journey, publishing, and the link between imagination and life-experience in writing fiction.

These collaborations emerge from 15 years of working together.  Debra came to me in the late 90’s because she wanted to augment her work counseling stars in Hollywood; she wanted to become a published fiction writer.

I was already teaching writers through classes I developed at UCI Extension, and I was mentoring a women’s writers group on Fridays in my home. I took Debra on as a client.

After a series of one-on-one consults focused on the basics of scene and story design and character development, Debra joined the Friday group. Wild Montana Sky was the result of a prolonged association with this critique group; the book went on to win national awards and Debra spent the next ten years trying to be traditionally published. It was a disappointing ten years.

However, when she self-published Wild Montana Sky on Amazon for Kindle, over the next 11 months the book sold nearly 100,000 copies. Suddenly the big houses who had rejected her were calling to ask her to choose them to publish her Montana Sky series. She turned them down and went with Amazon, publishing several sweet historical novels in the series, self-publishing spin-off novels, collaborating with a sister romance author on a series, and releasing fantasy novels as well as a text on grief and grieving and a chapter in an anthology on self-publishing. For all her titles, visit her Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/Debra-Holland/e/B004XXKZH8

I remain Debra’s developmental editor, making suggestions on the flow of the narrative in her fiction, on the consistency of characters, on logic, on dates and weather and opening hooks and all the myriad complexity that makes a successful piece of fiction.

In 2015, to help keep each other motivated (because writing is very hard, lonely, draining work even if exciting at times), Debra and I began to write together at my dining room table. We continue to do so. She just completed An Irish Blessing, book 2 of The O’Donnell Sisters Trilogy, related to the Montana Sky novellas. It releases this month. I have been working on book 2 of the Harper Ranch series, Rebel Love Song.

The collaboration goes beyond writing, though.

lou-n-tux-9-18-16-jLast month I had to put down my 18-year-old kitty pal, Tuxedo, who was approaching kidney failure, and Debra, as both friend and a doctor of psychology, was just the right kind of support: loving, expressing condolences, backing off on the writing regimen while I grieved, and checking on me. I was grateful–as I was for all the wonderful notes I received on Facebook from my followers.

I won’t go into details, but I was able to support Debra through a house-move and a personal challenge or two.

When I was ill this summer and unable to write, Debra graciously released me from a pending Montana Sky release date and kept in touch on a friend level.

That’s what we do as friends: encourage, support, guide. Communicate, even on the tough issues. Defend. And above all, create. We create both a friendship and our own rich life,  like close sisters.

Making Ads and Amazon Rankings Work for You

This article is directed to the many writers I mentor and teach who are interested in promoting their books and stories via Internet advertising. The main focus for my own initial experience in book advertising was when Amazon, my publisher, put my first historical romance, Rye’s Reprieve, on sale for 99 cents without warning.

Rye's Reprieve (3) Final - CopyAmazon in its publishing role effectively uses email blasts to promote the works of its authors, so immediately my novel began climbing in the Top 100 of various lists: Historical Romance, Western Romance, Inspirational Romance, Kindle Worlds, as well as Westerns and the Romance category under Westerns.

Even after the advertising I’m going to talk about below lost its influence, today, September 19, 2016, the book is #97 on the Western Romance list, which could mean Amazon is still doing a modicum of promotion, or my own humble ad campaign combined with theirs has residual effect, or there is some mysterious force at work. It’s too much to hope that the book has a following, a life of it’s own. That would be too exciting for words.

Even more importantly, Rye’s Reprieve, which had only 13 reviews before July 2016, currently has 54 reviews on Amazon (79 % are 5-star reviews) and 80-plus ratings on Goodreads. And finally, I enjoyed seeing my new readers find and buy my other books and stories.

Here is the report I wrote in late August (with updates today in red):

Yesterday my book Rye’s Reprieve hit #7 on the Kindle Historical Romance Best Sellers list. Perhaps you are jaded by all the wonderful best-selling authors who regularly hit #1 on all the major lists and don’t think #7 is all that much.

But consider: Rye’s Reprieve is my first historical and my first novel-length fiction to release in more than two decades*. Reestablishing a writing career equates to pushing a two-ton boulder up Mt. Baldy. So seeing your new book hit #7 is about as good as eating homemade blueberry ice cream made with blueberries you picked on the hill behind your house just that morning.

*In May 2014, my period short story “Cora Lee” achieved #6 in Literary Short Fiction, following behind stories by Stephen King and Lee Child. For that launch the only promotion I did was to mention the book on Twitter & Facebook and in a newsletter to my email list of about 1200. I reissued my Harlequin titles and put out several short stories. My Amazon author page shows all fiction.

I didn’t achieve this recent modest success on Rye’s Reprieve without friends’ advice and a bit of luck. Here’s how I did it.

Decoding the rankings

On March 9 after my initial email promotion, Rye’s Reprieve went to #6 in Kindle World Romance. In contrast, this go-round, August 7-11, with the 99 cent sale and some low-cost promotions, the book hit #1 in Kindle Worlds Romance and Westerns (and at this writing, it’s still #1 in Kindle Worlds overall.) It achieved #3 in Kindle Western Romance and held there, which, together with #7 in Historical Romance, is more prestigious because the competition is huge. This “little engine that could” is still #97 in Western Romance!

Screen Capture by Snagit

Screen Capture by Snagit

How do you begin for your own promotion? Make a study of Amazon’s ranking structure. It’s complex—more complex than what you see beneath your title’s descriptive data on the book’s Amazon page. Here is the link to see all the lists available under Best Sellers Kindle Store eBooks: https://www.amazon.com/Best-Sellers-Kindle-Store-eBooks/zgbs/digital-text/154606011/ref=zg_bs_nav_kstore_1_kstore . You can see the list above, with Romance and then Western Romance highlighted. From there, click on your genre and drill down until you find the various lists where your book exists.

Under ebook subcategories, Romance is the umbrella topic. I then checked Historical Romance as well as Western Romance. Clicking Westerns takes you to Western Romance.

Another ranking, Westerns, can be found by clicking on Literature & Fiction/Genre Fiction. Strangely, under Genre Fiction, Romance is not listed!

I found Kindle Worlds rankings in the Ranking area on my book’s page.

But also, if your book is on sale, think seriously about placing relatively inexpensive ads on websites whose sole mission is to promote free and 99 cent ebooks.

What worked in promotion

First, Rye’s Reprieve was released in February 2016 in Debra Holland’s Montana Sky Kindle World. For all its Worlds releases, Amazon controls when price-reductions occur; they put my book on sale without warning at the beginning of August. I’m assuming they did multiple email blasts that included my book, but even those didn’t keep the book up in the rankings for long.

In addition to my own Facebook and Twitter announcements of the 99 cent sale, a member of OCC RWA and Novelists, Inc. (NINC), Lauren Royal, opened her Friday Freebies & 99-Cent Bargain Books and her weekly newsletter featuring historical novels to NINC members, so I submitted my book cover and blurb. She also mentioned my title on Facebook and Twitter. The promotion at www.LaurenRoyal.com hit on August 5 and was free.

Debra Holland recommended I try for an ad in eReader News Today (ENT) and I was lucky to be chosen to participate. The fee for an ad on a specific day for historical romance is only $60. You can pay by PayPal or credit card (as most of the sites I mention allow). The morning the ad appeared at www.ereadernewstoday.com, August 7, the book shot to #1 in the Kindle Worlds mentioned above and #5 on the Western Romance list. Unfortunately, I did not think to check the Historical Romance category, but when I did a couple days later, the novel was ranked #22, rising to #7 in the past few days.

ent-ad-8-7-16I credit Amazon emails, the ENT ad, and Lauren’s newsletter for Rye’s Reprieve’s initial rise in rank.

Meanwhile, I contacted colleague Linda Carroll-Bradd and asked her advice about advertising. She recommended I look into www.JustKindleBooks.com and www.Ebookshabit.com. The ad at Just Kindle Books costs $20 plus Add Ons (keep the book on their homepage for extra 3 days $20; Facebook post to 26,000 followers, $10) for a total of $60. The fee includes cover image/link on Pinterest, Tumblr, and other main social media.

That promo hit August 11. The book rose to #7 in Historical Romance, # 3 in Western Romance, as well as #1 in Westerns, and #1 in KW both Romance and Western. This is a pretty good indication that Just Kindle Books is worth the money. In contrast, I did not get the bump I was hoping for from a $10 ad with eBooksHabit.

After reading a chapter email and attending the Published Authors Workshop at RWA on Saturday, I gathered the following advertising ops for ebooks that are free or 99 cents from Kitty Bucholtz, Vicki Crum, Shelley Bleackley, and others.

I had spent $120 so far. With a remaining budget of about $250, I placed ads here:

Robin Reads (August was closed when I checked but I wrote to them about the success of the initial advertising efforts, they encouraged me to submit my book, and voila! A spot in their calendar opened up: Aug. 25. If they select me, the cost will be $45.)

Choosy Bookworm accepted me and will advertise Rye’s Reprieve on Aug. 18. Yay! The Rush Premium Feature costs $70 and the cover will remain on their Featured eBooks Page for a week.

Book Sends is pricey at $90 for the spot on Aug. 18 and just about ate up my budget—I have only $25 left to spend.

However, when you’re making pennies per book, money can’t be your main motive for promotion. It has to be gaining new readers, racking up a few more reviews and even cross-over sales to your other books and stories, and seeing your efforts pay off in a rise in rankings that you can share with followers. Some authors also experience a bump in sales when the book returns to its normal price, which in the case of Rye’s Reprieve is $3.99.

Did I mention BookBub? If they agreed to let me advertise with them—a slim possibility—the cost would be $500 and they anticipate I’d have roughly 2500 sales. If that happened, I’d clear $375 after costs, and the ranking would no doubt shoot Rye’s Reprieve to single digits on most coveted lists, plus bring a whole bunch of new readers to my author page.

I did not yet advertise with eBookWorth, Bargain Booksy, or Fiverr’s BKnight with its $5 price tag and 50,000 readers, because I needed to meet Marianne Donley’s deadline for A Slice of Orange. However, I will at least check out their sites.

I probably don’t need to mention…most of the authors and professional newsletter editors want the authors they feature to put the newsletter link in their social media announcements.

I would appreciate having an email from anyone who wants to share their promotion/ranking journey, and if things really jump by the end of August, I may give a follow-up report in a future blog post.

Contact me at lounelson@cox.net or this website. Follow on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/louella.nelson.1 and Twitter: @LouellaNelson


This post first appeared in the Orange County Romance Writers of America blog machine, A Slice of Orange, in August 17, 2016, and has been updated here.

Mercury retrograde could affect your writing—and more

 

moon

2000mm exposure in Florida in March 2016 by Steve Matchett

If writing is more challenging recently, it may be the fault of the planets. And things may  get dicier if you blunder forward without considering the influences hurtling by at 465 meters per second or 1000 mph (or thereabouts) above your head. To whit: Currently (September 2016), as the planet was April 28-May 22, Mercury is in retrograde. Other planets have been retrograding since January. You know how the moon and sun affect the tides? It stands to reason the other orbs affect different aspects of life-as-we-prefer-it. Some of the back-spin may actually be positive!

“Retrograde” doesn’t mean the planets are actually moving backward in orbit, although that’s a convenient image. They appear to regress because of their relative positions in relation to Earth and how all of them are moving around the sun. So sayeth NASA.

I can only attest to the magnetic pull of the planets-in-retro by saying I’ve spent the last two weeks avoiding any serious research or writing on my next historical novel, Rebel Love Song, by bingeing on Netflix series, and by pretending I have nothing to do with the outside world. Yes, even the first in my historical series, Rye’s Reprieve, featuring a doctor with a tragic secret in 1880s Montana Territory, has been waging war in the marketplace without my leadership.

But can I blame myself for the absenteeism? Really?

How influential are those planets? I think of the twenty-foot-plus sweep between high and low tides at certain phases of the moon, and I wonder. I don’t make this stuff up. The largest vertical tidal sweep in the world is, arguably, in the Bay of Fundy, edging Nova Scotia, natal home of my grandmother, with tides ranging 47 to 53 feet.  If our most well-known planets could make tides run like that, nipping at your front steps and flooding your garden, what could a bunch of retro planets do to your psyche? Your writing plans?

Of course, being a story-teller, I may exaggerate a tad. Today in nearby Laguna Beach, the tidal sweep is about four feet. However, the up-coming Mercury retrograde is a notorious relationship trouble-maker and project-discombobulator, made worse by the planetary chaos that began earlier this year. Thus I can blame the heavenly bodies for my procrastination. So there.

The good news? Now that I’m back in writing mode, I can move forward without concern for the plethora of planetary pulls, because I started the current project several weeks ago.

Getting stalled isn’t the end of the world. Never getting back to writing is, in a writer’s universe. Forward, ho! Meanwhile noting a few cautions:

With Mercury regressing (so to speak), sages say communications may be glitchy, so be extra clear and gentle in your disagreements.  If you have a new project to start or finish between April 28-May 22, at least write a few words or pound a few nails now—get a start on the work before April 28.

Those with more wisdom than I (soooo many people!) recommend you don’t sign contracts or start new projects during Mercury retrograde. Just sayin. It’s a time for contemplation and review. And for making headway on an in-progress writing project. Maybe getting in a little word-polishing, too.

Here are some upbeat thoughts on all the retrograding, with more available via the link, written by writer-teacher-bookseller Maddy Foley  a day ago on Bustle:

Recently, I was talking with a co-worker about planets going retrograde, and we both agreed that while, ha ha, we are strong, independent women who don’t need the planets to tell us what to do, we also, like, just mark our calendars just to be, um, careful and cover our bases. Well, my sweets, five planets will be retrograde in April 2016, so here’s how to celebrate — because the only thing to do in the face of topsy-turvy-ness is to dance. Duh.

Jupiter was the first planet to turn retrograde this year on Jan. 7, followed by Saturn on March 25 and Mars on April 17. Pluto turns retrograde today, actually (April 18), and on April 28, Mercury, the retrograde-iest of all planets, will turn as well. Hardcore, am I right?

Each planet has its own characteristics; as such, they’re all supposed to have an effect on a different aspect of your life. Honestly, this particular retrograde season is just like one giant tough love seminar: Jupiter, for example, deals with personal growth and expansion, so when Jupiter turns retrograde, a lot of your support systems and crutches have a habit of disappearing. This sucks and is the worst and makes it seem like you’re stalled out, but it also forces you to find your internal strength. See? Tough love.

Kind of makes you want to yell, “Oh my God, FINE, I GET IT” at the universe, doesn’t it?

The other areas of your life that may be affected by this retrograde-tastic period are communication (Mercury), love and relationships (Pluto), emotions, particularly anger and aggression (Mars), and karma (Saturn), so… yeah. Things may be a little weird, and some self-care amazingness is definitely in order. Here are some ways to celebrate all the learnin’ you will be doing about yourself, because rewards are important. I’m going to be the best parent.

For more, click on the Bustle link. And Maddy—love love love your perky “voice.” Thanks for the insights.

Rye’s Reprieve, featuring a doctor with a secret in 1886 Montana

RhysReprieve (3) 72 66 reduction

After many years as a best-selling contemporary author, developmental editor, and writing instructor, it’s a great pleasure to announce the release of my first historical novel. I hope you will enjoy the Wild West adventure storyline and find a moment to post a review on Amazon. Rye’s Reprieve falls into the category of “sweet” or G-rated historical romance. Following the synopsis of the novel, you will find how the book came to be, a map of the fictional town, and, finally, acknowledgements and research notes.

About Rye’s Reprieve (The Harper Sisters Book 1), a Montana Sky Kindle World release:

In 1886, gifted surgeon Rye Rawlins is trapped by a tragic secret so painful that he denies his profession and buries himself in a gold mine in Montana Territory. But saving people is second nature, whether it’s doctoring a man mauled by a mountain lion or battling a wolf to save a child.

Veterinarian and horse rancher Missouri Harper suffers through the worst winter in Montana history to provide for three beautiful sisters and an ailing aunt. Dangerous storms, privation, and wild predators make survival precarious.

Rye comes to Missouri’s aid, putting his life in danger and Missouri in his debt. As they fall in love, his secret and her promise to remain a spinster to protect the land for her family force them to look within to discover the cost of love.

How the story came into being:

The fictional town where the novel is set, Morgan’s Crossing, was first conceived by New York Times best-selling author and close friend Debra Holland. As her developmental  editor, familiar with her settings and characters, bringing her town and three of her characters from Mail-Order Brides of the West: Prudence into being in my book was fun. During the writing of Rye’s Reprieve, we sat at my dining table working on our separate projects, and I alternated between writing my novel and editing a novel and a novella she was releasing. Other authors writing in Debra’s Kindle World can be discovered here.

Map of Morgan’s Crossing

Map

Acknowledgements & Historical Research Notes

I would like to thank my close friend and colleague Debra Holland for inspiration, for making this novel better by her suggestions, and for the opportunity to write a book set in the world she established through her best-selling Montana Sky series. The setting for my novel, Morgan’s Crossing, Montana Territory, was first invented by Debra. Since writing is a lonely endeavor, of particular pleasure is that we spent many hours at my dining table writing together and encouraging one another on our separate projects. For more on her book titles and background visit her Amazon Author Page at: http://www.amazon.com/Debra-Holland/e/B004XXKZH8.

Thanks also go to the wonderful authors who wrote books in this Kindle World series. We shared historical research, encouragement, and character exchanges so readers could enjoy seeing their favorite characters in other books. To learn about the authors who launched books in Debra’s Kindle World series along with Rye’s Reprieve, go to: http://debraholland.com

I must thank my copy editor, Adeli Brito of FourEyesEdit.com, my formatter, Amy Atwell of Author E.M.S., both of whom came through for me at the eleventh hour, and my cover artist, Erin Dameron-Hill of EDH Graphics.

In addition, thanks go to Dr. Janis Thereault for help with the scene in which Albert is injured; Christine Ford, Integrated Resource Program Manager of the Grant-Khor’s Ranch in Southwest Montana, now a national park; Brian Geiger, PhD, MILS, Director, CBSR, University of California, Riverside; Lori Cassidy and John Dale of Orange Coast College Library; Erin Eldermire of Vet Library Reference, Cornell University; and Randy Thompson, Senior Archivist, The National Archives at Riverside, California.

Finally, I would like to thank my cheerleaders: my daughter Stacee Nelson, my sister Grace MacMillan, my sister-in-law Anna Marg Rear, my nephew and niece Ken and Debbie Rear and niece Shannon Rear, my current students, my former students now published—Alexis Lusonne Montgomery. Frances Amati, and  Janis Thereault—and my dear friend Carl Baggett, Jr.

The lyrics from “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” that open this novel are attributed in several sources to the Rev. Edmund Hamilton Sears (1810-1876).

The snap fasteners you see on the clothing of the cover model were apparently not in common use for American clothing in 1886 but were patented approximately that year by a German inventor. Other sources suggest the snap was used in stage clothing for quick changes.

“Thou art in Rome” is a quote by Samuel Rogers (1763-1855) that appears in the skating party chapter.

The origins of lyrics from “Blow the Man Down,” an English sea shanty, are obscure. The title may refer to the act of knocking a man down. “Contemporary publications and the memories of individuals, in later publications, put the existence of this shanty by the 1860s. The Syracuse Daily Courier, July 1867, quoted a lyric from the song, which was said to be used for hauling halyards on a steamship bound from New York to Glasgow.” More can be read at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blow_the_Man_Down.

The most helpful sources for weather conditions and the ravages of the worst winter in Montana history, 1886-1887, can be found at: http://www.nps.gov/grko/learn/historyculture/winter.htm; for a vivid depiction at: http://theweatherforums.com/archive/index.php?/topic/21388-the-winter-of-1886-87-in-montana/; and at: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/record-cold-and-snow-decimates-cattle-herds.

For sources on the American land grants of the 1880s—most of which conflict as to acreage—which nonetheless are interesting reading, go to: http://history.nd.gov/lincoln/land8.html; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desert_Land_Act; and to pour through the various codes of the Desert Land Act of 1877, which modified the Homestead Act to allow more land to homesteaders in the west, go to Cornell Law and with great patience consult their archives. Here is a start to your investigation: https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/43/1303

A non-traditional medical technique for lowering heart rate by massage is found here: http://www.wikihow.com/Slow-Your-Heart-Rate-Down

For early veterinarian practices, see Vets in 1880s: http://www.commercevillagevet.com/historic-hospitals-veterinarians-share-stories-of-three-practices/. Although I’ve owned horses, I needed to reacquaint myself with the parts of a horse and used this site: http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/identifying-horse-parts-and-markings.html

A truly excellent source for lists of items pioneers often brought with them in wagons crossing the territories is here: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/frontierhouse/frontierlife/essay2.html

I took Rye’s middle name from a Civil War hero and claimed the man as his uncle:

John Aaron Rawlins (February 13, 1831 – September 6, 1869) was an officer in the Union Army during the American Civil War. A confidant of Ulysses S. Grant, Rawlins served on Grant’s staff throughout the war, rising to the rank of brevet major general, and was Grant’s chief defender against allegations of insobriety. After the war, he was appointed Secretary of War when Grant was elected President of the United States, but died of advanced tuberculosis five months into his term. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Aaron_Rawlins.

Books I consulted from my library are listed here by title and author and are available currently online:
Days on the Road: Crossing the Plains in 1865, the diary of Sarah Raymond Herndon
Bright Star in the Big Sky by Mary Barmeyer O’Brien
Doc Susie: The True Story of a Country Physician in the Colorado Rockies by Virginia Cornell
Pioneer Doctor: The Story of a Woman’s Work by Mari Grana
Doctors of the Old West by Robert F. Karolevitz
Medicine: A History of Healing, Ancient Traditions to Modern Practice, consulting editor Roy Porter (lent to me by Colleen Fliedner, a member of my plot group)

If you would like further information, contact me through my website: www.LouellaNelson.com

Keeping the Love Alive (in your writing career)

christmas advice

 

This article first appeared in the December 2015 issue of The Romance Insider. To subscribe, please scroll to the end of the article.

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season can stop creativity dead in its tracks. With such busy lives, how do writers keep the goal in front of them? How do they sustain momentum?

If you’re the writer’s bestie, a romance reader, I’m guessing you wonder, too. How do writers overcome injury, death of a loved one, switching careers, jobs, or passions, committing to a major project, moving house, or raising a family—all this to stay on track with the dream? My own writing went underground from my mother’s death in 1991 to about four or five years ago. I met my then-contract obligation to Harlequin Books in summer 1992, but it was a struggle. So I can talk about loss, trauma, staying the course (or not) and coming back to writing when the brain isn’t as young. But let’s be positive.

How do we overcome all hesitation and crisis to sustain that haunting dream of being a published writer?

“Learning to write in a world where I am the sole provider and have multiple demanding obligations is a huge challenge,” says Frances Amati (“Heart Hound” in the anthology Romancing the Pages).  “I had to learn to carve out niches of opportunity and to quiet my mind to listen when the universe speaks to me.  It’s about being organized and effective with the little time I have. I can’t feel guilty about what I didn’t do; it is a waste of energy. I need to focus on what I can/did do, no matter how small.”

Here’s a list of focus aids (must be done regularly to keep up the spirit):

  • Frequent walks on the beach or in the woods, prayer, or listening to music.
  • Luxurious weekly bubble baths, with or without the drinkable bubbly.
  • Writing daily positive statements such as “I’m writing and loving it every day!” “I’m paying for my house on the Pacific with my writing!” “I’m expressing my misery through my writing—and loving it!” or “I’m writing. How can it get better than this?”
  • Counseling therapy. Chocolate therapy. Shopping therapy. All three, once a week!
  • Writing out your woes in a diary or to a fictitious person; mine is a letter to grandma, though both grandmas are gone.
  • Long showers. Meditation. Creative cooking. Working with animals.
  • Setting an “easy” writing schedule. A realistic one, even if it’s a half-hour a week.
  • Doing timed writings, sequential 15-minute blaze-writing sessions to get the juices flowing.
  • Allowing yourself to write crap. Every day. Thanks for the tip, Anne Lamott.

Although there’s no sure answer, the most powerful insider trick to staying motivated is to belong to a positive, driven, professionally-oriented support or critique group, even it’s one other writer. Although I was teaching and mentoring authors back in ’91-92, I did not have a critique group that I could go to for criticism, support, and encouragement. If I had, perhaps I’d be onto my 40th book instead of my 7th.

Thankfully today I have best-selling author Debra Holland (the Montana Sky series and others) as well as several other of my brightest students available for feedback. The Brontë sisters, Charles Dickens, in fact many in the literary cannon had critique groups—letter-writing, home visits, luncheons in London, and periodic discussion/critiquing get-togethers. Famously, the Algonquin Roundtable in New York in the 1920s featured meetings with writers, artists, and critics who played cribbage and poker and enjoyed daily luncheons and discussions. We have an offshoot today called the writer’s conference, where we learn craft techniques, stay up on market trends, and network with our fellows.

In year-round writing courses and critique groups, I do as much as humanly possible to keep writers motivated, but ultimately the drive has to come from within. “The support will help but the drive must be there no matter what,” asserts Alexis Montgomery (Seducing Susan). “I always think back to Karen Robards saying she wrote her first book during bathroom breaks at work, balancing a yellow legal pad on her lap…it doesn’t get more driven than that.”

One of my Wednesday-night-group writers has been in the group since the 1990’s; Dennis Phinney has written six books, has a top agent, and hasn’t sold. A full-time engineer, he’s still producing amazing work, coming to meetings, and submitting his novels and stories to criticism. It keeps him motivated; it keeps him constantly improving.

There are lots of ways to stay on course. Setting butt in chair is the first step. But like Frances Amati and so many of us, quitting the day job isn’t an option. “Thomas Hardy was an architect,” Phinney points out. “Herman Melville worked in a customs office. Today many work as teachers.” As babysitters, physicians, homemakers, scientists, therapists. As pilots, stage directors, managers, and singers. As explorers and tinkerers.

“So the dream becomes to share epiphanies and to create a work or two of excellence, or maybe even just one really great short story,” Phinney adds. “The goal is to help [readers] to think, to ask questions, to laugh, to love, to see the miracles in everyday existence; it’s also to set forth your own truth in all its damnable ambiguity.”

I couldn’t say it better.

Two closing pieces of advice: 1) Don’t do it for the money. (It may well come.)  2) Quitting is not an option.


Best-selling author Louella Nelson is an award-winning writing instructor in Orange County, CA. Her next novel, Rye’s Reprieve, will release in February 2016. www.LouellaNelson.com Graphic image by the author.

This article first appeared in the December 2015 issue of The Romance Insider.

Romance Insider MastheadTo subscribe to The Romance Insider, click here: http://lararwa.us9.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=29cb9d556d4c84408d2f70843&id=7d8372aba9

 

An Exciting, Atmospheric New Mystery

book cover

Cameron Harvey’s first novel

The Evidence Room is a debut police procedural mystery by my former student Cameron Harvey. Her prose is rich, evocative, and full of the nuances and subtexts we expect from someone who loves the written word and has the prodigious brainpower to raise language, image, and character above the mundane and into the realm of great fiction. The author is particularly bold in her characterizations, especially of the scratchy workaholic medical examiner who opens the book but also in the cherry supporting roles that linger in memory like a fine Bordeaux. Readers who anticipate being swept into a maze of unexpected twists and turns in pursuit of whodunit won’t be disappointed. Above all, setting is where the author deploys her paint box of metaphor and atmospherics, making the bayou a place where terror and the sublime coexist and where the artist’s brush plumbs the depths of our emotions. My prediction: If Ms. Harvey keeps on the way she has begun, she will end up in the ranks of the finest mystery writers of our time.

“This atmospheric and beautifully written police procedural is set in Florida where a murder of a young mother shook a small bayou town to its core,” reads a description of the work on Amazon. “Twenty years later, the victim’s daughter returns to the scene of the crime and learns that the tragedy of her past has very real consequences for her future.”

Cameron graduated from Stanford University and UCLA Law School. She completed novel-writing coursework with me at UCI, was a long-time member of my Tuesday night critique group, and not that long ago, she won the Editor’s Choice Award at the San Diego State University Writer’s Conference. The awarding editor from Minotaur Books (a division of St. Martin’s), Kat Brzozowski, saw the book into print-and-release today in both hardcover and electronic editions. P.S., Ms. Brzozowski, the cover art is stunning!

I wish Cameron phenomenal success with this book and many more. I’m exceedingly proud of her accomplishment.

There’s Something Healthy about Cats

Edited from an online post by Kit Sudol. See her awesome blog posts at http://www.upworthy.com/kit-sudol

So … cats are basically magic. And this can be proven. With science.

visual about cats

This visual appears with Ms. Sudol’s post. Graphics by Gemma Busquets.

FACT: Cats can help you live longer.

But science says that in studies about pet owners versus non-pet owners, folks who owned cats had significantly fewer stress symptoms. Dog owners were #2 in low stress. And in last place? People without any pets.

And here’s the kicker: Owning a pet (cats and dogs) in general reduced stress-related blood pressure more than medication designed specifically to do that (aka ACE inhibitors).

Now, having way lower stress because of an adorable little fuzzball in your life is actually a really big deal health-wise because…

FACT: Cats can reduce the likelihood of having a heart attack! By 40%!

The University of Minnesota found that owning a cat might actually be good for your heart, and not just in an, “Oh my gosh, I am just so overwhelmed with love for this animal!” kind of heart stuff way.

In their study, they found that folks who did not own a cat were 40% more likely to have a heart attack and had a 30% higher chance of dying from heart disease than cat owners did. Which is just like … what?!

So, why is this? Well, researchers at the University of Minnesota said this:

“If we assume that cat ownership is directly responsible for the benefits, then the most logical explanation may be that cat ownership may relieve stress and anxiety and subsequently reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.”

See? Less stress, less anxiety = fewer heart and blood pressure issues. Also, probably more tripping over cat toys at two in the morning, but I couldn’t find anything about that in the study. Oops.

From http://www.upworthy.com/here-are-a-few-brilliant-ways-cats-are-secretly-helping-their-owners-live-healthier-lives?g=2&c=reccon1

Thanks for the heads up on this article, Debra Holland.

To pay them back…

Give your kitties fresh water every morning, quality food morning and night–food with no corn or other fillers and no “meat by-products” or “chicken by-products”–and lots of hugs and kisses and playtime every day. If they look lethargic, try to hide, or seem grumpy when you try to feed or pet them, they may not be feeling well. If this continues for hours, take them to the vet for a quick check. You may save their life, just as they are saving yours.

cat eating

Tuxedo likes to eat solo.

cats eating

Some like to eat together and others like their own bowl.

My cats get 8 drops of colloidal silver suspension in their morning water; this keeps their immune system boosted and seems to prevent fleas (See earlier blog on this topic). I also give them pro-biotic powder from the pet food store to help prevent digestive issues that crop up from eating commercial cat foods for years and years.

They get supervised visits outdoors in a protected yard, where they can bird-watch, eat grass,  and roll in the catnip.

cat i catnip

Tuxedo cozies up to the catnip.