I'm pleased to share the link to the latest review for Watermark! Check out the post at the romance blog Romance Novels for the Beach by clicking here.
I'm thrilled to announce that Clingstone won the Historical category in the I Heart Indie Contest sponsored by the Las Vegas Romance Writers! The official announcement will occur at the Vegas Valley Book Festival on October 21, 2017. The following is the announcement on their website: "The VVBF is also where the LVRWs will announce the winners of the 2017 I Heart Indie Contest. The IHI contest is an international contest of book covers and back cover blurbs that is judged by book clubs all over the world. Stop by and check out the winners!"
The paperback edition of Watermark is now available on Amazon! The full spread turned out to be amazing, and I'm really pleased with it! I hope you will be, too. Click here to purchase.
Watermark is something of an homage to my late teens and early twenties, which were spent having a rollicking-good time with a large group of friends in the Great Outdoors back when life was far less complicated. We regularly camped and canoed on the Mackinaw River in conditions that were often primitive, but always wildly fun. Those experiences helped me appreciate Juno’s attachment to the river and the appeal of a simple life full of simple pleasures; those weekends with my friends lacked extravagant amenities, but nights spent around a crackling bonfire laughing and boasting and telling ribald jokes are some of my fondest memories to this day.
Paired with those memories is an excellent book I came across a few years back in a Barnes and Noble bookstore: Wicked River; The Mississippi River When It Last Ran Wild by Lee Sandlin is an enormously enjoyable historical read. If you love American history as I do, the descriptions and little anecdotes found throughout this book makes for a fast-paced read. I didn’t buy this book as research fodder for my own novel, but after reading Sandlin’s book several years ago, the idea for Watermark began to germinate, and the rest is, well, history, ha-ha!
Sandlin’s book is well-researched and provides rich details that brings that time in the annals of American history vividly to life. His descriptions of the river are exquisite; colors and smells leap off the pages. He describes a way of life both charming and dangerous, picturesque and violent. River towns are described in all their squalid glory, and it’s mesmerizing. If, like me, you relish the unsightly details of the past as much as the appealing ones, Sandlin’s accounting of life on the Mississippi is a must-read.
Wicked River touches on, but is not limited to: Yellow Fever epidemics; upriver and downriver navigation; pirates, notably the Crow’s Nest pirates; gamblers; slave insurrections; voodoo; Mark Twain; transients; steamboats; drunkenness; camp meetings; the infamous Missouri earthquakes of the early 19th century; helicoidal flow; fancy girls; minstrel shows; and descriptions of the Mississippi River Valley landscape that read like the most divine poetry.
Intrigued? Lee Sandlin’s book can be found on Amazon by clicking here.
I’m pleased to announce that the first review of Watermark has just come in!
Click here to read the full review at KDH Reviews!
I’m happy to announce that I’ve just released Watermark! Currently, it’s only available for purchase on Amazon, but it will be available through other retailers in the future. I hope you enjoy Juno and Malcolm’s love story; it was a pleasure to write!
Those crossed fingers worked! Clingstone placed as a finalist in the I Heart Indie Contest sponsored by the Las Vegas Romance Writers! This particular contest recognizes romance book cover art in addition to the effectiveness of the book blurb summary, so it’s really exciting that Clingstone is moving on to round two! That being said, the winners will be announced sometime in August, so I’ll share more details once I find them out next month. Hooray!
The contest results from the Romance Writers of America’s various state and regional chapters have slowly been rolling in. If you’ll remember, these were the various contests I entered back in April and May after coming off my RITA funk. So far Clingstone hasn’t placed in anything, although only one contest has announced their finalists to date. Unfortunately, that was the RWA chapter that I thought Clingstone would really resonate with, that chapter being the Georgia Romance Writers. Since the book opens in Roswell, Georgia, I thought the historical significance of Clingstone alone would have been intriguing for the contest judges. And maybe it was, but as with all contests, it’s difficult to know how close or far one was from placing because the final scores aren’t released to the entrants. Clingstone might have been a hairsbreadth from placing as a finalist. Or it might have been dead last. Who knows?
Alas, it wasn’t meant to be this time around, but chin up, buttercup, I say to myself. I still have Clingstone entered in five more contests, so we’ll see if we can’t get some positive exposure some time down the road. Fingers crossed, folks.
Until then, my little scrapper fists are still a-flyin’!
The world of romance novels is vast and varied, and there's a blog out there for every genre! Click on the link here or on the ribbon in my blog sidebar to see Feedspot's top 100 romance novel blog sites that review, read, and write romance. If you're patient and scroll all the way down the list, you'll see little ole me at spot number 92. Enjoy!
I suppose, like most things, I’m late to this particular game, but I’ve finally utilized the Speak program in Word to edit my manuscript, and may I just say, Hot Damn! Hearing the words narrated aloud—even in cringe-worthy robot voice with almost zero inflection—has done wonders for my editing skills. I’ve already picked up on several typos I had repeatedly glossed over because my writer’s brain was already compensating and changing the word in my head.
To be perfectly honest, I can’t take credit for discovering this very handy editing tool. It was a piece in the March 2017 issue of the Romance Writers Report by Patricia Watters, but it wasn’t until this weekend that I finally followed the instructions in the article and set up the Speak program. I really encourage any writer, but particularly self-published writers, to use this program. Like Watters mentions in her article, “Hearing the words as well as seeing them uses different parts of the brain, and together you have a very powerful editing tool.”
So, for those of you out there who have Microsoft Word (versions 7, 8, or 10), here’s how you set it up. FYI, these steps come directly from Watters’ article.
Open Word and add the “Speak” command by completing the following steps.
1. Go to the Quick Access Toolbar at the top of the page (this is the area highlighted in blue, usually with the save disc icon, the back arrow icon, the undo arrow icon, ect.)
2. Click the Customize Quick Access Arrow (the last icon in the toolbar, which is a little dropdown arrow)
3. Select More Commands
4. Select All Commands from the dropdown list
5. Select Speak command
6. Click OK
7. Now, anytime you want to choose text-to-speech, just highlight your text and click the Speak icon in the Quick Access Toolbar (it’ll look like a cartoon word bubble with a play arrow)
Happy editing, fellow writers!
I’ve been contemplating endings lately—more on that in a later blog—but in relation to writing, the epilogue comes to mind. Romance novelists love employing the epilogue, but I find myself thinking they’re often unnecessary. If an epilogue only exists to reinforce that the hero and heroine indeed grasped their Happy Ever After, well, I don’t think it’s all that essential. The HEA should’ve been a no-brainer in the final chapter. Hopefully, they already raced across that figurative daisy field from opposite directions and the heroine jumped into the hero’s arms and he spun her around and around until she was wicked dizzy. In my humble opinion, you can’t improve on that, so why try?
I didn’t write an epilogue for Clingstone. There was a time when I flirted with the idea of possibly writing one, but from Creighton’s perspective, and it would’ve picked up about ten years after the last chapter. The hardships from the war would’ve been a distant memory, and the reader would’ve received a heartening glimpse that this ordinary couple falling in love during extraordinary times had not only survived, but thrived. Ornery little Owen Scott would’ve almost been fully grown, and the reader could’ve been reassured that he’d learned to compensate for his missing hand. I pictured all of them on a little farm somewhere, very Little House on the Prairie, with a few miniature versions of Creighton and Mae running about to complete the HEA.
In the end, I didn’t think that epilogue—or any epilogue, really—was necessary. I knew my hero and heroine would live HEA and the specifics of how and where that happiness unfolded didn’t really matter. I passed it off to my readers to picture the details, and I’m happy with that decision.
Conversely, I’ve always known I would require an epilogue for Watermark. There’s one big outcome in particular that never gets answered by the end of the book, and so an epilogue is definitely needed to show how everything resolves itself. There’s a few other little nuggets as well that I never had an opportunity to expound on until the epilogue—specifically, the origins of the title, which makes me sigh happily whenever I picture my hero Malcolm explaining it.
[Cue happy sigh here]
Michigan Territory, 1828
In Which Our Hero & Heroine are Stranded Together Following a Pirate Attack...
“Edwin Laurent must be very important to you,” she cautiously phrased, sensing the need to delve carefully. “Do you wish to protect him? Or to see him held responsible for his crimes?”
He cast her a slightly reproving look. “If you believe the former, then you’re not as smart as I thought you were.”
She nearly smiled. It was a compliment, despite its circuitous delivery. She didn’t hear them often enough not to appreciate one when received, no matter how grudging its presentation.
“Why are you hunting him?” she broached, genuinely curious.
“He took something from me.”
It was a simple enough answer. Too simple. “And you’re trying to get it back?”
“No.” His voice calcified. “I can’t ever get it back.” His gaze cut away, but not before Juno witnessed an expression so bitter and unforgiving that it made the small hairs on the back of her neck stand on end. “But I can certainly make him suffer for taking it in the first place.”
The last came out in a menacing scurry of words. It came from the same dark place as where the funeral laughter resided and left her feeling equally unsettled.
Unsettled, but also sympathetic. Tragedy had hardened him. She knew this without asking. The finer details of his features were still indistinct in the dark, but the sharp angles of his face clearly stood out. His skin was pale from the cold and resembled something fashioned by stonemasons, aloof and indestructible and impervious to the ages.
And lonely. Terribly so. She suddenly craved to touch his jaw, to reshape it and watch it transform from architectural frieze to the warm flesh of the man he was meant to be.
Juno knit her brow. She was often guilty of fanciful thoughts, but that was a bit ill-considered, even for her. She prudently laced her hands together to quash any wayward impulses.
“How are you acquainted with him?” she asked, quickly delving back into the mystery of Edwin Laurent.
“You’re meddlesome,” he baldly announced, turning toward her suddenly. “And vexing. I’ve already lost count of the number of questions you’ve asked me tonight. Are you normally this intrusive?”
She did smile then, a quick little grin that she disguised by pretending to swipe at her cold nose. She wasn’t meddlesome, not usually. Usually she was passive and obedient and not at all exasperating. She was only asking so many questions now because…
Her smile vanished. She squirmed with guilt. But then her interest in Edwin Laurent was warranted, wasn’t it? This man had no way of knowing that she had knowledge that could aid his search, but Juno didn’t plan on revealing that important detail until absolutely necessary. Her wits already warned her that some sort of leverage would be required before this night was over.
“I’m simply curious,” she lied.
He slipped her an assessing look, possibly sensing her deception. “Edwin Laurent and I grew up together,” he finally disclosed, evidently finding nothing duplicitous in her expression.
Her lips slowly parted in surprise. That was unexpected. “Is he your kin?” She whispered the inquiry. For some reason, it seemed necessary to speak softly now.
“We’re no more than elbow relations.”
He was lying. Juno didn’t know why she unconsciously knew this, but Edwin Laurent was no distant relation. She would gamble he was someone much, much closer, but instinct also warned it wouldn’t be wise to reach too deeply into this man’s dark secrets.
This man? She was weary of the vague designation. “I’ll have your name now,” she insisted, this from a woman who never insisted upon anything.
His mouth twisted wryly. “Oh, you will, will you? It’s Malcolm Moreau,” he supplied, a heavy sigh capping off the introduction. It was a peculiarly disappointed sound, as if he was disgruntled by his failure to remain anonymous. “I shouldn’t want to disappoint such a meddlesome little tadpole by withholding my name any longer.”
And it was a name she liked immensely. It fit easily into her mind, reminiscent of a seed sowing itself, to be recalled for years hence. A strange notion, that.
“I’m Juno Brock,” she readily offered in turn, even though it hadn’t escaped her notice that he hadn’t asked.
She dissected the expression on Malcolm’s face. It was a strange distortion of disbelief, surprise, and laughter, but not the nice kind. "Jupiter's wife?" His eyes flashed entertainingly. "All this time, the queen of heaven was right here beside me? I don’t see your armor, Mighty Juno,” he teased, his head tilting in a leisurely inspection of her figure. “Where are you hiding it?”
She detected no unseemliness in his gaze, nor did she think he’d intended his words to resonate with flirtatious overtones. It was an unexpected moment of playfulness from a man unaccustomed to levity, but her body didn’t know that.
The surface area of her skin reacted shockingly to the sweep of his gaze. Her exhausted body was no longer exhausted as capillaries heated and plumped with the eager flush of attraction. The force of it took by her by surprise. Malcolm Moreau was a man who knew how to give looks, even when aforesaid looks weren’t meant to be taken seriously.
She pretended a sudden, keen interest in the owl feather. “Very few people are familiar with the reference,” she modestly dismissed. Beyond Cecil, of course, who seemed to think a Roman namesake for one such as she a great hilarity.
“I would imagine not,” he ruminated, still rudely amused. “You’re the first Juno I’ve ever met.”
She ran her thumb down the feather’s contours, finding comfort in the feel of individual barbs fringing and separating. “And now that we’ve met and been properly introduced,” she reflected, petulance creeping into her tone, “you needn’t refer to me as frog spawn any longer.”
“And deprive me of your delightful reaction whenever I do so?” His face had already returned to its customary somber proportions, but that made a small smile cavort along the edges of his too-serious mouth. “I think not, tadpole.”
Author Regan Walker gave me some excellent advice last year on book cover design, advice which I took into account when I designed the front cover for Watermark. You’ll probably notice I carried over some of the same design themes found in Clingstone to Watermark. A portrait of my hero and heroine, for example, and a panoramic scene that reflects the setting or a scene from the book. The band separating the two images is also carried over. There’s a practical reason for doing this, of course: Similar imagery in cover design helps an author’s books stand out for readers. Also, I just think it looks pretty! That’s more whimsical than practical, but there you have it.
Now for the fun stuff! What’s it all mean? The panoramic scene at the bottom of the cover is of the Mississippi River, which is where my novel takes place. The background in the upper section is a pretty wood grain that also doubles as water ripples. Clever, huh? Since I write historical romance, I like the idea of the hero and heroine’s image coinciding with whatever methods were available to capture it at the time the book takes place. In Clingstone, which occurs during the American Civil War, daguerreotypes were popular, and so that was the style of photography I simulated in the cover design. Watermark takes place in 1828, and so I thought a painting of my couple would be fitting, but I didn’t want bold, bright colors. I wanted their image to look slightly faded, much as if it had been painted on a piece of wood nearly two hundred years ago and the grain was now bleeding through the paint strokes. Hair colors are no longer very distinct. Skin tones are mottled. And yet their portrait is still very beautiful and timeless.
As for the couple themselves, there are a lot of great websites out there that offer cover model photography. For both of my covers, I’ve used Jenn LeBlanc/Illustrated Romance. The prices are reasonable and I think her poses are gorgeous.
Last but not least, I’m crazy about that font! I love those blotchy edges and how it looks as if the nib of an old-fashioned quill scratched those letters across the cover. Perfection!
Overall, I’m really pleased with the way it turned out. I hope my readers agree! Come back next week and I’ll share an excerpt to tide you over until Watermark’s release later this summer!
The remainder of my blog posts this month will be dedicated to several special reveals pertaining to my upcoming release, Watermark!
May 15: Watermark book cover reveal
May 22: An in-depth look at the graphics that made it into the final cover art design
May 29: An excerpt from Watermark
I hope you'll check back later this month to share in these exciting exclusives!
Copyright © 2016-2018 Marti Ziegler