My first dog was a Golden Retriever. I got her when I was twenty-eight years old, not long after I bought my house. She could spend hours hunting flies. I often took her down to the nearby Mackinaw River because she was one of those glorious dogs that never wandered far from its owner’s line-of-sight. I could sit with my legs in the water and not worry that she would run off and get hopelessly lost in the brush, or run out onto the road. Sometimes I would go swimming or take photographs while she stalked those elusive flies, her feathery tail lashing back and forth, translucent beads of water sweeping the air. Other times I would listen to my headphones or simply lay on a sandbar and watch the clouds pass by, the sounds of her happy panting a comforting background to my daydreaming.
It was during one of those trips to the Mackinaw with my Golden Retriever that I photographed the cover for Clingstone. I didn’t know it at the time, of course. At the time, its staging had nothing whatsoever to do with my book. I was experimenting with the new camera I’d bought and planned to frame some of the photographs as artwork. It was only much later that I came across that particular photograph again and realized it flawlessly represented the scene in which Mae’s bonnet flower is torn away (well, maybe not flawlessly—it’s actually a Gerber daisy, and not a common daisy, but I cheerfully allowed myself the inaccuracy because the staging was otherwise picture-perfect).
Additionally, I wanted my book cover to contrast with all the other romance novel covers out there. I don’t mean that to sound disparaging. I love the many gorgeous covers gracing romance novels right now, especially the ones with the heroines in their stunning dresses, but they tend to run together when viewed collectively. I think the simplicity of my cover with its sepia photograph and calm green background catches the eye. I love the font, how it almost looks etched or carved because of its distinctive serifs. In hindsight, I’m becoming more and more grateful that a literary agent or publisher never picked up my book. I don’t know how much creative input I would have been allowed with the cover art, but self-publishing has freed me from any potential constraints.
And so a Golden Retriever’s love of the water, and my love of photographing nature inevitably produced the cover of Clingstone. Below are several other photographs I took on that long-ago day down at the river.
The blog Midnight Attic Reader has posted a review for Clingstone!
Click here to read the full review!
"ENGAGING HISTORICAL READ!" -mIDNIGHT ATTIC READER
I was off of work all this week. It was lovely, lovely, lovely. I exchanged a few emails pertaining to my book, but otherwise I floated along in a swirling perfumed cloud of idleness. Work never even crossed the neural pathways in my brain. “This must be how the rich live,” I murmured often to myself, not caring what day of the week it was, barely registering the time. AM? PM? I didn’t care. I was a lady of leisure. I was only jolted back into reality when I realized my natural gas bill was overdue. My credit card had the audacity to rear its ugly head the day after that. I muttered briefly to myself, cannoned off my payments, and then floated happily back into my swirling perfumed cloud of idleness. I doubt the rich are ever bothered by payment notices; they have people for that.
Well, in all truthfulness, I wasn’t exactly idle. I vowed to finish some of my neglected DIY projects around the house and bravo for me! I actually did! I finished the ceiling trim in my living room—it’s not fancy enough to warrant the term “crown molding”—but I think it turned out nice! I installed knotty pine tongue-and-groove plank ceiling two years ago but, true to my procrastinating nature, never finished the trim (unfortunately, I have the terrible habit of getting distracted by bright and shiny things; I rarely finish things, except books, of course!). So, lots of wood putty and tubes of caulk later, and I have a completed living room! And I also finished my kitchen’s trim too, so I’ve gone above and beyond this staycation! My back is sore from all of this congratulatory self-patting.
I also made time to take a little road trip and visit friends in Iowa. They live in one of those small towns where people putter around in golf carts instead of cars. If you've never zoomed downhill in a golf cart while a neighborhood dog joyously runs after, you don't know what you're missing! Aside from the bugs pinging off your face, of course. That aspect I wouldn't recommend to anyone. At home, I spent my mornings drinking coffee on the back porch and pondering what recreation I would indulge in that day: movies, reading, maybe some shopping? I ate too much and slept in. It was glorious.
Alas, all good things must come to an end, and I'm back at work. Oh well. I'm sure I would discover that being a lady of leisure isn't without its drawbacks.
Sure. That's what I'll keep telling myself.
My thanks go out to Molly at the blog Molly Lolly // Reader, Reviewer, Lover of Words for posting me in the author spotlight today! Check out the exclusive excerpt at Molly's blog by clicking here.
It’s that time again: another foray into the delightfully quirky vocabulary of Clingstone. How do you think these sayings would hold up in our modern world? Enjoy these examples from my book paired with their contemporary variations!
Bully for you- congratulations; good job
EXAMPLE: The limpid expression in his eyes abruptly vanished as he quickly seized the garment. He smiled broadly and actually had the boldness to wink at her. Clearly she’d been duped. “Bully for you,” she grumbled.
EXAMPLE: “The kale I was going to eat for dinner has surpassed its expiration date. Luckily I have an emergency package of breaded mozzarella cheese sticks in the freezer. Bully for me!”
Cream of the crop- the best of the best
EXAMPLE: “It’s the bridge. Our battalion burned it this morning. You’re surely not the cream of the crop, are you? Even someone like you ought to be able to put two and two together,” she goaded.
EXAMPLE: “I tripped over my own two feet while running last week. Literally. I tripped over my own two feet and did a header across the pavement. When it comes to athleticism, I am not the cream of the crop.”
Lickety split- very fast
EXAMPLE: “Here’s my guess, / Don’t have a fit; / I think he ran home, / Lickety split!”
EXAMPLE: “Yesterday, I had to buy four new tires for my car. Just like that, my paycheck was gone, lickety split!”
I finally finished my quest. Amazon’s top 10,000 reviewer list didn’t know what it was in for when it met me. I came, I saw, I conquered…well, not really that last one. More like I loitered. Or pestered. Yes, I definitely pestered. I wasn’t so much a conqueror as I was a pesterer, waiting to pounce on the next reviewer profile to upload.
So how did it all turn out for me? Firstly, I want to reiterate my earlier post about running the gauntlet: I truly enjoyed ferreting out all those blogging sites and email addresses. Research has always appealed to me, and I’m perfectly happy rummaging through massive heaps of information in order to find a few precious useable nuggets. Yes, I’m the weirdo who actually likes searching for the proverbial needle in the haystack.
That being said, the end result was not a very prolific one for me. I’m not sure if my experience was typical, but let’s break it down by doing the math. I didn’t religiously chart statistics, but I can dredge up a fair estimation. Out of 10,000 reviewers, I estimate 1000 were receptive to receiving book review requests, or 10% of the total. Of those, half were nixed from the get-go, either because they didn’t supply contact information, or their contact information was no longer valid (expired websites, blogs, etc.). My potential pool of reviewers then dropped to 500, or 5% of the total available. Of those, about half were eliminated because they were not interested in reviewing historical romance or self-published authors, and another round was jettisoned after taking into account those no longer accepting reviews due to overloaded TBR piles. And so the final count of blogs or individuals amenable to accepting self-published historical romance for review was about 100, or 1% of the top 10,000 reviewers on Amazon. Of those 1% I queried for an honest review, ¼ responded, and of those, another ¼ accepted my book for review.
So there’s my experience soliciting Amazon reviewers. I started out with a pool of 10,000 and ended up with a narrow bottleneck of potentials. I fear that sounds ungrateful, but the exact opposite is true. Even though most reviews of my book won’t come out for several weeks yet, I’m extremely appreciative of those rare souls who are so willing to give of their free time, and merely for the pleasure of reading. Everyone who responded was polite and friendly, including those who declined, and that was very refreshing. In a world where social media interactions can sometimes leave much to be desired, my experience was a pleasant reminder of the many helpful, gracious people out there willing to help someone get her jumpstart.
So, in summary, I didn’t really conquer, but I came and I saw! Hooray for me! And hooray for everyone I met along the way willing to put Clingstone in their TBR pile! You have my thanks, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts!
On a separate note, I’ve added new Life Picks to my About page, so pop on over to check it out. There’s a harrowing piece about my encounter with a hideous serpent…
The winner of the May paperback book giveaway is Lynsey Crawford ! Congratulations, Lynsey!
I'm going to change things up a bit for our June contest. Two winners will be selected to receive a free e-book copy of Clingstone (provided as an Amazon gift). The contest runs throughout the entire month of June and is open to all participants. Simply submit your information via the contact form. The winner will be announced in my blog post on July 1. Good luck!
* Names and emails are for contest purposes only. All contact information will be deleted after the contest ends. The winners' contact information will be deleted once I receive confirmation from Amazon that the e-book gifts were collected.
As someone who writes novels clocking in at 130,000 words, it should probably come as no surprise that I don’t do well with tasks that require me to whittle down information. I’ve always struggled with book titles in particular and can spend hours agonizing over the right handful of words to properly convey the essence of a particular story. Usually I end up with a rambling, grandiose title that doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. Even now, I’m a little bit amazed I was able to arrive at a single-word title for my book; I’ll admit, brevity is not my strong suit.
As for chapter titles, I never gave them much thought until I published my book. In fact, I hadn’t originally intended to title my chapters. Most romance novels don’t utilize them, but with the advent of the e-book and its indispensable Table of Contents, I feel like chapter titles are becoming more popular. They plant these wonderful little kernels of dread or excitement, and all based upon a solitary word or clever turn of phrase. After all, if I’m reading a book well past midnight and am toying with the idea of reading just one more chapter, I’m much more likely to do so with a chapter heading vividly shouting “Prison” versus boring old “Chapter 10.” Prison?! How dreadful! How intriguing! I must keep reading! Sleep is for the weak!
Better still, my experience creating chapter titles for Clingstone wasn’t the torturous quagmire I’d feared. Each new chapter was an opportunity to keep my prospective readers engaged and anticipating the next arc in the story, and it was a relatively simple matter of plucking out a favorite line or keyword that best encapsulated the twists and turns to come. Below are all the chapter titles from my book, which begs the question: Did the chapter titles help enrich Mae and Creighton’s story? Did reading a particular title propel you eagerly forward and promote the overall flow of the book? Are there ones that make you wince a little when you read them, anticipating the worst? Better yet, do you have a favorite, or is there one that makes you laugh aloud when you read it? My favorite is always changing, but I’d probably pick “A Dream, as Told by Mae,” simply because it conveys Mae and Creighton’s story coming full-circle.
But “The Extraordinary Miss Sadie Levine” is a very close second because of the antics that ensue in that particular chapter. Reading that title makes me grin and cackle every time!
Chapter 1: “Lasting Impressions”
Chapter 2: “Gossipmongers”
Chapter 3: “Inspection”
Chapter 4: “Wrath of a Yankee Officer”
Chapter 5: “Eviction”
Chapter 6: “Treasonous Acts”
Chapter 7: “Coralie’s Latest Boon Companions”
Chapter 8: “Georgia Military Institute”
Chapter 9: “The Extraordinary Miss Sadie Levine”
Chapter 10: “Prison”
Chapter 11: “An Unforeseen Outcome”
Chapter 12: “Mercy from a Harridan”
Chapter 13: “To the Things That Matter”
Chapter 14: “A Momentary Reprieve”
Chapter 15: “Hopping Off the Fence”
Chapter 16: “Eviction II”
Chapter 17: “Indigents”
Chapter 18: “Smoke and Mirrors”
Chapter 19: “Cost of a Stolen Toy Horse”
Chapter 20: “Mr. and Mrs. Branagan”
Chapter 21: “Eyes the Color of Fine Wedgwood China”
Chapter 22: “Strangers in the Woods”
Chapter 23: “Revelations”
Chapter 24: “The Moss Family”
Chapter 25: “A Dream, as Told by Mae”
My workplace tries to get its employees to submit fun little facts about themselves and post them on the employee spotlight page of our agency’s intranet. Naturally, the willful side of my nature plugs its nose and refuses to do this. It seems a little too much like a meddlesome interrogation to me. I don’t want to say what my favorite restaurant is! You can’t make me! I figure my employers already own a good portion of my soul; they don't get to be privy to my innermost thoughts. And yet I’m always quick to notice the newest profile that pops up. I metaphorically unplug my nose and rapidly consume the personal details my fellow employees are more than happy to impart to the masses.
Recently a book blogger asked me to send her my media kit (for those out there unfamiliar with this terminology, this is a document that contains relevant information about my works as an author). I intended to copy my author bio information straight from my “About” page on my website when I was struck by how uninteresting my profile is. Uninteresting and stagnant, and that just will not do. I decided to add a few more details, mostly silly little asides about hobbies and such, but it led to the larger realization that I just don’t like my author bio page very much. It’s frozen, a petrified lump of humdrum facts that don’t reveal a whole lot about myself. I don’t want someone to read it once and never revisit it again. Instead I want it to always be a work in progress.
As much as I hate to admit it, maybe my employer is on to something with that whole employee spotlight thing. That being said, I encourage those of you who have visited my website before to take a second look at my author bio page. I’ve added a new section tentatively titled, “Life Picks of the Week.” It won’t be anything too world-shattering, just some observations and fun facts. I’ll change up the themes every now and then. Should any of you have a question you’re dying to ask me, just fire it off via the contact page and I’ll add it to the next roundtable of tidbits. Hopefully the responses will make you laugh and contemplate the things we all have in common, or, if nothing else, be comforted by yet more evidence that the world is full of weirdos, and we’re all in great company.
It’s that time again: our monthly dissection into the unique sayings found throughout Clingstone. What if these words still lingered in our modern ethos? The first example of each is a quote directly from the book; the second is a glimpse of their usage in a strange alternate reality.
An albatross around one’s neck-burden, a liability
Sit-down-upons-pants or trousers
To go boil one’s shirt-an expression that encourages someone to go away, to get lost
I've shared on Goodreads how I found my source material for Clingstone, but I wanted to share it here on my blog as well. For those of you who enjoy history, particularly the American Civil War, Ms. Cook's historical nonfiction book is still available on Amazon (print only).
I am constantly astounded by history’s blunders. I discovered the source material for my novel by happenstance over a decade ago in an Alabama bookstore. I was browsing the American history section and read the spine of an unassuming volume entitled, “North Across the River” by Ruth Beaumont Cook. It chronicled the ordeals of Georgia millworkers imprisoned during the American Civil War. I read the description on the back and immediately realized the potential was there for an interesting novel. Over the next couple of years, I piecemealed my own research with what I had learned from Ms. Cook’s history book and came up with the first draft of Clingstone. American history is riddled with conflicting testimonies and poor record-keeping, and so I dedicated a couple of more years to editing, a second draft, more research, copy-editing, and eventually a final draft. History truly is stranger than fiction, and I consider myself fortunate that I stumbled across that unassuming paperback in that Alabama bookstore all those years ago; Clingstone would not have existed without “North Across the River.”
I’m halfway through that daunting rite of passage all self-published authors must commit to—combing through Amazon’s top 10,000 reviewer list—and thought now would be an ideal time to share my thoughts on the process, and the practice of self-promotion in general.
I knew the downside of self-publishing was getting lost in the thousands of other titles that share my genre, and the struggle for distinction among my fellows would be a long and methodical process. I am absolutely up to that challenge. I think some authors would find it dismaying to spend weeks sifting through vast quantities of online profiles to find the occasional book blogger receptive to their genre, and subsequently receptive to reviewing their work, but it doesn’t bother me. I think it appeals to that academic part of my brain that loves searching for lost things. And I realize there’s an easier way to comb through those thousands of names than manually clicking on each profile, but I’m in no particular hurry to reach the end of the list, and so I’ve chosen to prolong what some might interpret as undue suffering. The part of me that loves a challenge gleefully rubs its hands together every time I reload the list, and the search begins anew through an elaborate warren that often leads to dead ends, but sometimes rewards persistence with a favorable reply.
I’ve had some minor success securing reviews, or at least promises of reviews to be posted at a later date, but amassing reviews is an extensive process that doesn’t favor the faint of heart. I’ve read about other self-published authors’ frustrations regarding this, but I find I don’t share the feeling. I never expected this to be easy. I like that stubbornness is necessary to get anywhere. Rejection has never cut me off at the knees, to wallow in self-pity. No, I am one of those willful creatures who grow more and more determined with each rejection. Rejection is my fuel. I would have collapsed in a puddle of despair years ago if rejection, or even simple indifference, could cause me to throw my hands up and quit. After all, one’s self-esteem has to be powder-coated in Teflon and Kevlar to futilely send off manuscripts to publishing houses and agents for nearly twenty years. Either that, or have some very serious delusions of grandeur.
As for my marketing skills, that area admittedly needs work. I haven’t taken full advantage of the many avenues out there available to self-published authors. I could certainly do more to promote myself. I could advertise more, be a more visible presence on social media; instead, I’ve limited myself to this blog and website, and the occasional book giveaway. Not very industrious of me, now that I think about it. Hopefully I can expand my horizons in the coming weeks and utilize some fresh ideas to creatively market Clingstone to a broader audience.
But until then, I’ll smile and boldly plug onward, zigging and zagging through my gauntlet of 10,000 names.
Congratulations goes out to Joanna Starnes! Joanna, you're the winner of the April paperback book giveaway of Clingstone!
Since there was such interest in the contest, I will give away another autographed paperback of Clingstone this month. The contest runs throughout the entire month of May and is open to participants in the continental United States. Simply submit your name and email address via the contact form. The winner will be announced in my blog post on June 1. Good luck!
*Names and emails are for contest purposes only. All contact information will be deleted after the contest ends. The winner’s contact information will be deleted once mailing information is received and book is confirmed delivered.*
Here's more good news for those of you who like freebies (and who among us doesn't like freebies, am I right?)! In addition to the paperback book giveaway of Clingstone I'm promoting from my website, the e-book version of Clingstone will be available for FREE from Amazon for five consecutive days, beginning this Thursday. Those dates are April 21-25, 2016, so get to Amazon and download it in anticipation of a lovely spring weekend reading beneath the flowering trees. Enjoy!
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