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Featuring The Extra Squeeze Team

February 21, 2021 by in category Featured Author of the Month, The Extra Squeeze by The Extra Squeeze Team tagged as , , , , , , ,

Each week in February we’ll be featuring The Extra Squeeze Team.

Ever wonder what industry professionals think about the issues that can really impact our careers? Each month The Extra Squeeze features a fresh topic related to books and publishing.

Amazon mover and shaker Rebecca Forster and her handpicked team of book professionals offer frank responses from the POV of each of their specialties — Writing, Editing, PR/Biz Development, and Cover Design.

 

Have you a question for The Extra Squeeze Team? Send them to us by using this handy link.

Dear Extra Squeeze Team, How do you prepare for a new book release?

Robin Blakely | The Extra Squeeze Team | A Slice of Orange

Robin Blakely

PR/Business Development coach for writers and artists; CEO, Creative Center of America; member, Forbes Coaches Council.

You need a PR plan to succeed. Straight up, any plan is better than no plan…and even if you are working with a traditional publisher, your plan may be the only plan that is ever created with much concern about building your long-term career. Accept early that your success as an author is not your publisher’s concern. Their business is centered around the products they have curated for their brand; it includes the book you created–not you.

The reality is, take care of yourself and build your own business.

Phase One is prep time.

 

Build or refresh your website. Connect your social media platforms to your website. Make sure that you use one author picture across platforms so that your brand has a singular face. Establish a media page to create and post your downloadable press kit. Include links to downloadable high-resolution images of your book cover and your author photo. Make sure you have a landing page for book sales.

Prepare a press release that offers the announcement of your book to share with your local paper, bloggers, industry influencers, and reviewers. Don’t know who they are? Figure it out. Clearly define the top four niches of your audience and start building a database of contacts to help you reach each target. In Phase One, fully create the day-by-day choreography for book launch week.

Phase Two is book launch week.

 

Synchronize your PR efforts to reach every corner of your world with news about your book in the seven days of the week that your book is first released. Everyone you can imagine needs to know now, all at once. Either plan a parade of activity or nothing will happen.

Phase Three is steady-to-the-course season.

 

PR efforts must be sustained. That means shift your message from new book announcement to relevant reasons to discover your book, reasons to peek inside, opportunities to read and buy.

How does a blog tour figure into all this? Up to you. The key is to decide when, how, and if you want a blog tour. It is hard work with lots of moving parts. It is a godsend for some authors and hellish for others.

Jenny Jensen | A Slice of Orange

Jenny Jensen

Developmental editor who has worked for twenty plus years with new and established authors of both fiction and non-fiction, traditional and indie.

Marketers say someone has to see your book 7 or 8 times before they buy. I’m not a marketer, so I can’t vouch for that but all the on-line exposure of a blog tour must be good. It can’t hurt – or can it? Just as a poorly written book will not sell, a poorly presented blog tour will turn off your audience before they even turn on. You need to leave a positive, compelling impression.

 

Prepare Several Blurbs

 

Since the content should be unique to each site you’ll need to prepare several blurbs – those enticing peeks at your story – not to mention tweets and whatever other social media is on offer. You can approach a blurb in different ways: lead with the most startling action element, lead with the dilemma, lead with a spotlight on character or setting, but lead with a sentence that hooks.

 

Describe Your Story Well

 

However you describe your story it’s critical that it be well written. This is, after all, the reader’s first taste of your voice. I’ve read choppy, unstrung blurbs that show what might be an interesting plot if you overlook the way the words are strung together. Regardless of how intriguing the plot sounds my immediate reaction is: This person can’t write. I won’t be reading this one.

 

Edit. Edit. Edit.

 

Of course, you’ve written a great book. It’s been carefully crafted, closely edited for errors in all respects from plot and character development to syntax and grammar. Your beta readers love it. Now you have to craft the words to sell the story without a single spoiler and with the same silver voice of the book. Craft your blurbs and interview responses with the same care you gave your book. And edit, edit, edit.

Rebecca Forster | Extra Squeeze

Rebecca Forster 

USA Today Bestselling author of 35 books, including the Witness series and the new Finn O’Brien series.

When I published my first book over thirty years ago I assumed the publisher would have all sorts of glittery, fantastic promotions planned that would shoot me to literary stardom.

Not!

In those days – just like these days – the author is responsible for launching their book and establishing their brand. The good news is that now the opportunity for promotion is controllable. I maintain a new release plan that has proven manageable and effective over the course of more than thirty books.

1) Write a good book: professional, exciting, as error free as possible and packaged beautifully. All the promotion in the world will not support an inferior product.

2) Set up your pre-orders and then create excitement with a sneak peek of a few chapters on your website (don’t forget buy links at the end of these chapters).

3) Alert interested parties starting with distribution channels. Smashwords, for instance, has an alert for author’s running BookBub ads. Once they know your ad date, they will pass the information along to their bookstores, those bookstores will consider your book for further promotion. BookBub Partners has an automated per-order alert for your followers. Amazon has the same. Read the distributor’s newsletters and find out what free opportunities are there for the taking.

4) When your manuscript is ready, start submitting it for reviews (I love PRG and InD’Tale).

5) Continue to nurture and grow your social media followers and plan affordable advertising geared toward look-alike audiences. Try sites like LitRing (have loved the 4 promos I’ve done with them). Many advertising sites won’t take pre-order advertising but purchase spots for immediately after your launch while your book is new. I am not a fan of blog tours. I have only paid to do one but I couldn’t quantify the results so for me this isn’t part of my strategy.

The bottom line is this: write well, be aware of what is available, be as genre specific as possible in your target marketing and remember that the launch is the beginning and not the end of your marketing efforts for your book and your brand.

H. O. Charles | A Slice of Orange

H.O. Charles

Cover designer and author of the fantasy series, The Fireblade Array


I wish I knew the answer to this one because if I did, I would be a ££££££££££££-ionaire by now! I can tell you what NOT to do. When I launched my first book, I did little more than list it on Amazon and submit it to Smashwords. I had no idea about advertising (still learning on that front), and I published in secret, under a pseudonym, so had no friend or colleague network to exploit.

 

Tip 1: Don’t go it alone – if you know people who can help, use them. This applies to other authors. If they see your work and like it, they might team up with you to do a newsletter promo or similar.

 

Tip 2: Don’t do what soooo many authors do and sign up to a forum, then post once about your amazing new book. It won’t get you sales, but it will get people’s backs up (may have done this <coughs>).

 

Tip 3: Don’t list your pre-orders at full price. If you’re unknown, no one will take a chance on you anyway so you may have to lure customers in by being cheap!

 

Positive tips:

  • Do look at advertising opportunities, and check out writers’ forum reviews on their effectiveness.
  • Do make sure all of your pages are set up nicely – web page, Goodreads page, Facebook page… etc. so that readers can look you up, contact you and leave reviews easily.
  • Try to get on a few blog interviews.
  • Do be careful with your PR and the claims you make. It’s perfectly okay to brag about your past achievements, as long as they’re verifiable. I’ve noticed a few writers recently who claim to have sold 200,000 books in a month – you go to their Amazon page, and their book is ranked #100,008,282,212! It’s very easy to see through such fabrications, and once a writer loses trust from their readership, it’s unlikely to be regained.

Last of all, I would say to keep your expectations low. I know that sounds dreadfully pessimistic, but realistically, very few authors do well on one book without the backing of an expensive PR agency. It’s only once you have a good body of work out there and plenty of positive reviews that more readers will start to notice you.

The Extra Squeeze | A Slice of Orange

Ever wonder what industry professionals think about the issues that can really impact our careers? Each month The Extra Squeeze features a fresh topic related to books and publishing.

Amazon mover and shaker Rebecca Forster and her handpicked team of book professionals offer frank responses from the POV of each of their specialties — Writing, Editing, PR/Biz Development, and Cover Design.

Send us your questions! 

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Featuring The Extra Squeeze Team

February 14, 2021 by in category Featured Author of the Month, The Extra Squeeze by The Extra Squeeze Team tagged as , , , , ,

Each week in February we’ll be featuring The Extra Squeeze Team.

Ever wonder what industry professionals think about the issues that can really impact our careers? Each month The Extra Squeeze features a fresh topic related to books and publishing.

Amazon mover and shaker Rebecca Forster and her handpicked team of book professionals offer frank responses from the POV of each of their specialties — Writing, Editing, PR/Biz Development, and Cover Design.

 

Have you a question for The Extra Squeeze Team? Send them to us by using this handy link.

Dear Extra Squeeze Team, I have a story I want to tell that is loosely based on family and friends. How do I tell my story without hurting anyone?

Robin Blakely | The Extra Squeeze Team | A Slice of Orange

Robin Blakely

PR/Business Development coach for writers and artists; CEO, Creative Center of America; member, Forbes Coaches Council.

Begin by writing the complete story—beginning to end—the way you truly imagine it. Write with precision honesty without the fear of hurting anyone.

When done writing, evaluate what you have created. It is in the editing stage where you will objectively be able to decide how to share the story publicly without hurting anyone. If the finished story is meant to be fiction, you can go back and make sure physical identifiers that link to nonfiction people (like a skull tattoo on the left arm above a knife scar) are changed to protect the innocent or the not-so-innocent.

If someone has inspired you to recreate their character in a fictional world, rest assured your depiction of their internal thoughts, feelings, and motivations won’t be the tipoff that the character is loosely based on this real person; it will be the physical attributes that you choose.

Most people don’t recognize themselves in someone else’s writing unless they are told the character is modeled after them or the physical facts are eerily the same: age, body build, hair color, scars, name, physical location, profession, relationships with others, or facts from exact encounters are replayed in the work.

If the story you are telling is meant to be nonfiction, you have a different issue. In a biography or a memoir, you need to tell the truth as you know it, but you must also share your truth in a way that can be formally substantiated by the research of others. If you are afraid you might hurt someone by telling the truth in your work and you are naming names across your work, you need to consult an attorney before publication because hurting feelings may result in a lawsuit.

Jenny Jensen | A Slice of Orange

Jenny Jensen

Developmental editor who has worked for twenty plus years with new and established authors of both fiction and non-fiction, traditional and indie.

 

Cue dramatic music:

Deep Voice Over: The names in this story have been changed to protect the innocent.

That’s a start. Every writer works from what they know — even if they’re writing about elves and spaceships and unicorns. Our own experiences are what we draw on to launch our imagination. And it’s the real-life situations that often give a writer the rich soil for a gripping tale.

Just write the story. When you’ve laid it all out, step away for some distance then read it with fresh eyes to spot what might be so obvious as to be hurtful. If you find the narrative is obvious, even though it is based loosely on family and friends, then consider what the compelling idea is in this tale. What was the single most gripping element that made you want to write about it in the first place? Take that compelling idea and re-write from that prospective.

Or just start with that single compelling idea rather than with the cast of friends and family. Stories have a way of charting their own course and it’s very likely, that with that shift in perspective your story will be unique enough to withstand the scrutiny of sensitive family and friends.

Rebecca Forster | Extra Squeeze

Rebecca Forster 

USA Today Bestselling author of 35 books, including the Witness series and the new Finn O’Brien series.

 

I have used family and friends for inspiration in many of our books. For the most part if I didn’t tell the individual who inspired me, they did not recognize themselves. If I did tell them I was going to do it, most of them were thrilled.

Then there came a time when I happily told my sister I had used our age differences as the foundational inspiration for my story. (she is fourteen years younger than I am and we were born on the same day). She was thrilled­–until she read the book. She asked, “Is this really what you think of me?” To be fair she was the bitchy, beautiful sister accused of murder, and I was the smart but downtrodden attorney who saves her.

It had nothing to do with real life other than the span in our ages. Still, when she asked that question, I understood that there was a difference between inspiration and hitting close to home including the perception of hitting close to home.

The answer was, no, the character in no way was my sister. Their physical characteristics were the same, not their character.

What you’re talking about is even more delicate. You are going to be exploring actual things that happened to you and your family. If this is an honest memoir you need to be ready for the fallout. If this is fiction, you’ll need to be very skillful when you write to navigate the hurt feelings—or worse— that might arise. Ask yourself a) is this book is necessary to your well-being and b) if you are strong enough to face any and all consequences that will come with writing it. You are the only one who knows the answers.

H. O. Charles | A Slice of Orange

H.O. Charles

Cover designer and author of the fantasy series, The Fireblade Array


Ooooh *eyes widen* “awaits gossip*
I think the only way to do that is to write under a pseudonym and don’t tell them about it. People aren’t always as stupid as we hope they are. They’ll figure out it’s them in no time!

The Extra Squeeze | A Slice of Orange

Ever wonder what industry professionals think about the issues that can really impact our careers? Each month The Extra Squeeze features a fresh topic related to books and publishing.

Amazon mover and shaker Rebecca Forster and her handpicked team of book professionals offer frank responses from the POV of each of their specialties — Writing, Editing, PR/Biz Development, and Cover Design.

Send us your questions! 

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Living in Colors by Diane Sismour

February 13, 2021 by in category From a Cabin in the Woods by Members of Bethlehem Writers Group tagged as , , ,
Diane Sismour | A Slice of Orange

This month in From A Cabin in the Woods, we have the short story Living in Colors by Diane Sismour.

Diane has written poetry and fiction for over 35 years in multiple genres. She lives with her husband in eastern Pennsylvania at the foothills of the Blue Mountains. Diane is a member of Romance Writers of America, Bethlehem Writer’s Group LLC, Horror Writers Association, and Liberty States Fiction Writers. She enjoys interviewing other authors and leading writer’s workshops. You can find Diane on Facebook and Twitter.

Living in Colors

by

Diane Sismour

The last person leaves the gallery carrying an unframed painting wrapped in an oilskin sheath. The sole purchase of the evening, a painting of Mount Rainier at Sunset. Of the larger artwork hanging, only one holds a sold sign. A canvas I’ll never sell.

Tonight’s sales present a bleak outlook for my career. The prospect of continuing to paint, to doing something that brought such pleasure through my life is fading—fast. I throw the latch to secure the entrance door and draw the thick velvet drape closed across the storefront window before walking to the center of the room. From this vantage, each piece should give some glimpse into the emotion experienced when my brush stroked the canvas.

I feel nothing when looking at them now. I’m not surprised they didn’t sell. They’re colorless. The past year held no joy for me, and my art reflects the void. What was I thinking, exhibiting this trash? The piece that did sell hardly provided enough revenue for the booze everyone swilled.

Gathering the opened champagne bottles, I manage one glass more-empty-than-full from the dregs left by the customers. The smell of wine aerated too long and crab at the marginal time still allowed for consumption almost turns me away.

Who am I kidding? My morning toast and coffee burned off hours ago. I’m starving. In one swig, I down the flat vintage, and shovel the few remaining crab Rangoon through the Thai chili dip and into my mouth. The cleanup can wait until tomorrow.

The ever-present anxiety of whether to paint until morning or to spend time talking with Jeromy ultimately weaves an invisible door that closes me off from the studio upstairs. My friends’ condoling voices barrage my thoughts: “Julie, you’ll feel better in time.” He died over a year ago. The pain is still as deep today as then. “He’ll always be in your heart.” Yes, he will. “You’re young. Before long, you’ll find someone new.” I don’t want someone new.

Painting can wait until tomorrow, again.

Carefully, I remove the wire off the hook to carry him downstairs to the basement apartment. My sleeve catches the sold sign and rips the paper off the heavy frame. The tag flutters like a kite lost on the wind to the ground beneath the life-sized portrait.

The face I memorized is inches from mine. I can almost smell his scent of fresh air and salty sea above the oil paints. His mouth, a slant of the lips he greeted me with every morning. His skin tone, a perfect fleshy tan with sun-reddened cheeks from working the docks compared to the last time I saw him prone in the hospital bed.

The day he died held bittersweet memories forever etched in my mind. Often times I painted through the night, my muse freed from the everyday annoyances of running a gallery. That morning, I had just finished the last strokes on the canvas, the wisps of sun-bleached hair highlighted in Jeromy’s portrait.

He brought coffee up to the studio as sunlight drenched Mount Rainier at daybreak. The mountain effectively framed by the large bay window. The snowcaps glistened.

“A good looking guy. Anyone I know?” he teased.

“Just someone I found roaming the pier. Why don’t you pick a frame while I clean the brushes?” Turpentine fumes wafted in the small room overtaking the rich coffee aroma from the cup he had set beside me.

He placed several moldings alongside the canvas. “How about this one?”

The six-inch wide thick-ridged boarder didn’t overpower the image. “We’re going to need a forklift to help hang that thing,” I teased, and removed my smock.

Pulling me into his arms, he said, “I’ll carry the frame wherever you want.”

Hip to hip, our noses almost touched. We stared into each other’s gaze. Flecks of gold sparkled when he smiled. They sparked then. He smoothed a stray curly lock back behind my ear, and kissed me softly, tenderly, the black coffee flavor blended with his sweetness.

He bent on one knee, and removed a small velvet jewelry box from his jacket pocket. Inside held a marquise cut diamond. The engagement ring refracted the sunlight creating prisms of light around the room creating a surreal and magical moment.

 “Julie, do you remember when you were little, and how you wouldn’t go to sleep because you were afraid of missing something? I don’t want to close my eyes and miss spending a minute without you. Will you marry me?”

Why did I tease him by saying, “Let me think about it?”

Hours later, a fishing boat pinned his body against a piling and crushed him below the waist. If I had said yes and he stayed with me ten minutes longer, the dock handler’s rotation might have changed, and someone else’s husband-or-fiancé-or-brother would be dead instead of him.

When the dock chief called to break the news about the accident, he gave me hope, reminding me how strong Jeromy could be. The moment the nurse walked me into the room, his injuries appeared much worse than described­­.

Heavy dried blood splatter covered his face and arms. Antiseptic pierced the air. Multiple monitors cast a blue hue to his face and the pale yellow walls glowed a sickening putrid color. His broken body lay strapped to a gurney twisted in directions not humanly possible. My heart broke knowing he wouldn’t survive.

I intertwined our fingers. My thoughts reeled. How happy we were together. His proposal uttered only hours ago. He never heard me say, yes.

A doctor droned on in the background about the multitude of injuries Jeromy sustained. All I heard—he possessed an organ donor card, and he didn’t have much time.

Surgeons hovering outside the surgical room peered in at us from above through a wide window, waiting. They gleaned for each vital organ still functioning. None of them made eye contact with me.

My soul fractured, as crushed as his body. Tears fell onto his cheek off mine.

“I’m here, Jeromy. I love you.”

I rocked my body in distress and stared at the finest in modern medicine from the person who needed them the most. None of them would make eye contact with me.

“Can’t you help him?” I screamed. “You’re just letting him die?” His mangled body looked so…broken. “Please, somebody,” I begged, sobbing. “Fix him. Please, fix him,” I pleaded, my appeal ended in a whisper.

His lips paled with each passing minute. I kissed him, his mouth unmoving and cold. The coppery taste of blood mingled with the taste of him. The man I’d always love.

The numbers and chart lines fluctuated erratically on the monitors. Buzzers and alarms sounded. More nurses and technicians rushed into the room and they shouted orders to one another above the din.

“No,” I wailed. “Jeromy, don’t leave me.”

A nurse pulled me away from him. The moment I stepped back from Jeromy’s bedside, someone else pushed me from the room, into a hallway, and onto a bench opposite the doorway. A door blocked the view, but I knew the surgeons leeched to him and kept him comatose only long enough to retrieve whatever organs they could harvest.

They were vultures, the lot of them.

I waited, and prayed to the gods for mercy, refusing to acknowledge the brush of Jeromy’s soul against mine until his presence shifted. Air filled my lungs in a whoosh. With my next breath, I knew he was gone.

Through hiccupping sobs I whispered, “Look for me through the next door.”

An attendant brought two plastic hospital bags to me when they finished. One with Jeromy’s personal effects, and the other with the clothes they cut off him.

The trauma caused my hands to tremble when I returned the sack with bloodstained garments back to him. “I can’t.”

Without a word, he turned and carried away the carnage.

The remaining bag held a wallet, a watch, and a small jewelry box. How could I accept a gift so symbolic when he never heard me say yes?

I never looked at the ring again. The box sets beside Jeromy’s urn on the highest shelf in the closet.

I push the memories from the present and carry the painting to the rear of the gallery. The lack of sales has me irritable. The heavy clicks from my heeled boots on the polished concrete floor echo my mood in the large bare room. The champagne on my empty stomach takes effect, and the effort to move him this short distance exhausts me. I should remove the boots before managing the stairs, but carrying both Jeromy and the shoes down to the apartment seems an impossible task.

In order to open the door to the basement apartment, I place Jeromy on the floor and lean him against the wall. The stairwell’s motion light flickers on. Stale air envelopes us as we descend the first few steps into the windowless basement.

After we’re both through the doorway, I stop and balance him on the top of my foot before pulling the door closed behind us. I maneuver him in front of me and manage two more before having to rest the forty-plus pound replica on my foot again.

“You need to go on a diet.” I struggle to regain enough arm strength to complete carrying him the remaining steps to the apartment. Transporting him back and forth from the basement to the gallery, from the gallery to the studio, or from the studio to the apartment is the only exercise I’ve managed since he left that morning.

Such a different lifestyle from the long walks we took through Seattle to listen to bands playing around the square, or the strolls through the marketplace—the fish flying between sure-handed clerks at the wharf market, bountiful flowers piled into baskets, and crafts made by the Indian tribe from across the Sound.

“Maybe I should get out more.”

No, I would do anything to avoid seeing those knowing looks. What I can’t buy online, the corner grocer delivers with everything paid by credit card. People expect quirky from artists. Becoming a recluse didn’t take long.

“We didn’t do too well tonight, Jeromy,” I say. “Only one small piece sold. There’s only enough money for another year of mortgage payments. Should we sell and find another place? We could rent out the art studio,” I suggest.

The words barely leave my mouth before I’m regretting them. I can hear him. “You’re so talented. I can’t even draw a circle and you create art.”

How can I just give up so easily?

Exhaustion from masking my feeling for the public all evening wavers my resolve to stay strong. Tears well and I struggle to find the next stair tread through the emotional haze. Blindly reaching with my foot, I get down another step before stopping again.

“Tomorrow I’m building you a different frame out of balsa wood. Eight more steps—we can do this.”

I lift him higher. My arms are shaking under the strain. “One step, two steps, three…” The painting tips forward pulling me and gravity does the rest. We tumble, cartwheeling down the stairway and crash into the apartment.

Thankfully, Jeromy breaks my fall.

In a panic, I realize the absurdity of this thought, and hurry to remove my leg from the painting. At the same time, I’m trying to twist the wood into some semblance of a rectangle. He appears as contorted now as the day he laid bloody and mangled.

I run my hands over his limbs, and smooth the wrinkled canvas. He lay on the floor with rips shred up his neck and across his face. The hole punched through his body appears irreparable. A hollowness seizes my heart. Keening shrieks and crying fills the void for a long time before I realize the mantra of “I killed you” is coming from me.

Pain radiates up my leg. My ankle won’t support me to stand. On the floor beside him, sobs choke me. I trace his face, his lips, and rest my hand on his unbeating heart.

I wake on the concrete floor, stiff, sore, and cold, with the torn canvas clutched in my grasp. The painting lies in ruins beyond repair. “You will live again, my love.”

My ankle throbs in pain, but my toes wiggle on command supporting the theory that the injury is a sprain rather than a break. Nothing a good night’s sleep and some ice won’t fix.

Sorry, Jeromy. Wincing, I pull the broken wood off the canvas, and feel the last connection to Jeromy slip away. The void more painful than any injury sustained tonight.

Tears fall unchecked as I push myself off the floor using the support as a crutch for balance, and hobble to the small kitchen nook to assess my wounds and gather all the supplies needed. No cuts, just some scrapes. I grab three Ibuprofen for pain, use scissors to remove my leather boot, fill a plastic bag with ice, and hold the pack onto the ankle with painter’s tape.

The bed beckons only a few feet away. Jeromy’s broken body left just beyond. I shuffle and hobble my way to the rumpled sheets.

Three days later, the ankle is purple and black, but supports my weight without the makeshift crutch. I don’t want to chance destroying Jeromy any further by moving him up two flights to the studio. After several trips, I manage to carry enough art supplies from the studio to the basement to repaint Jeromy.

Every artist paints differently. My preference is to apply oils from top to bottom by overlapping my wrists to stabilize the brush hand. The focal point grows in small, finite strokes. The final details touched into place at the end.

The ultimate luxury of a windowless apartment, time becomes irrelevant. Unless I watch the clock, days can speed passed. I eat when hungry, and sleep when exhausted, my muse controlling my focus. At one point, I shattered the bathroom mirror to avoid seeing the haggard, half-starved woman reflected.

In tiny caresses, his proportions emerge onto the canvas. The pigments color a burst of brightness against the stark white. Days turn to weeks and weeks to months. The image before me expands to full height, the background, a hazed ocean scape. Finally, I step away. Before me stands a perfect portrait of Jeromy’s doppelganger, but not one of him.

What’s missing? I study the first portrait—his eyes, his mouth, the jut of his jaw. The painting, even fragmented, exudes his personality. He’s alive.

His twin doesn’t compare.

“I failed you. I can’t bring you back to me.” The croaking in my unused voice sounds foreign.

Tears don’t fall. A calm replaces the ache, cloaking my soul from the pain endured for too long. For the first time in months, I notice the piles of takeout boxes, and laundry heaps on the floor. A stench equally bad emits from me.

After a massive housecleaning task, and a long necessary shower, I climb the stepladder to remove the velvet box. The jewelry box shakes in my hands as I open the lid. The diamond band slides onto my right hand ring finger, very loose after my depression and weight loss, but still shimmering.

“Let’s put you on a chain, just in case.”

When the paint dried the next morning, I fit a thin frame and string a wire to the canvas to hang the portrait in the highlighted area centered in the storefront window. The idea of having people gawking at him as the surgeons had, almost forces me to return to the basement. Instead, I affix the for sale sign on the upper corner and open the heavy velvet drapes.

Sunlight spills into the room. The diamond refracts prisms over the art and over me. The color sweeps across all the canvases, brightening each piece, bringing them to life. I unbolt the lock and flip the sign to open, ready to resume living.


Some of Diane’s Books

A READABLE FEAST

Buy now!
A READABLE FEAST
FIRST IMPRESSIONS SECOND CHANGES
FUR, FEATHERS AND SCALES: Sweet, Funny, and Strange Animal Tales

LET IT SNOW

Buy now!
LET IT SNOW

ONCE AROUND THE SUN

Buy now!
ONCE AROUND THE SUN

ONCE UPON A TIME

Buy now!
ONCE UPON A TIME

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Story Ideas by Kat Martin

December 17, 2020 by in category Guest Posts tagged as , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
woman using a typewriter with crumpled up paper around her and a cup of coffee next to her. Title of the post Story Ideas and author Kat Martin are place over the image.

People often ask how I come up with ideas for my novels.  Sometimes I have no answer—it just seems to pop into my head.  Best guess, the kernel of an idea probably came from a newspaper or magazine article or something I saw in a movie.  It was probably just so far back I don’t recall.

Before I started to write THE ULTIMATE BETRAYAL, Brandon Garrett’s story, the third book in my Maximum Security Series, I had decided to set a book in Colorado, maybe even a new series.  I ran across an article about the Army Chemical Weapons Depot near Fort Carson and started thinking…  wouldn’t it make be interesting if someone stole chemical weapons from the depot?  I wonder if it could be done?  How would the good guys catch the thieves?  And so off I went on a story that turned into The Ultimate Betrayal

Having written over 70 novels since I began way back when, it’s harder and harder to come up with fresh ideas.  I do a lot of research for my books.  This novel, set around a military base, was particularly difficult.  Lots of stuff I didn’t know.

In the story, when investigative journalist Jessie Kegan’s father, a colonel in the army, is accused of treason, Jessie is determined to clear his name.  Reluctantly, she turns to former Special Ops soldier, Brandon Garrett, her late brother’s best friend–a true heartbreaker, according to her brother. 

With danger coming from every angle, time is running out and the game being played is deadly.  Working together, Bran and Jessie must risk everything to solve the riddle and confront the threat–before it’s too late.

I hope you’ll give THE ULTIMATE BETRAYAL a try and if you like Bran and Jessie as much as I did, you can also find them in THE CONSPIRACY, Maximum Security book #1 and THE DECEPTION, book #2.

Till next time, happy reading and all best, Kat 


THE ULTIMATE BETRAYAL

Kat Martin

When investigative journalist Jessie Kegan’s father, a colonel in the army, is accused of treason, Jessie is determined to clear his name.  Reluctantly, she turns to former Special Ops soldier, Brandon Garrett, her late brother’s best friend—a true heartbreaker, according to her brother.

With danger coming from every angle, time is running out and the game being played is deadly.  Working together, Bran and Jessie must risk everything to solve the riddle and confront the threat—before it’s too late.

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Kat Martin Bio

Bestselling author Kat Martin, a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara, currently resides in Missoula, Montana with Western-author husband, L. J. Martin.  More than seventeen million copies of Kat’s books are in print, and she has been published in twenty foreign countries.  Fifteen of her recent novels have taken top-ten spots on the New York Times Bestseller List, and her novel, BEYOND REASON, was recently optioned for a feature film.  Kat’s latest novel, THE ULTIMATE  BETRAYAL, a Romantic Thriller, will be released in paperback December 29th.


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Coming Soon by Jenny Jensen

November 19, 2020 by in category On writing . . . by Jenny Jensen tagged as , , , , , ,

Every writer is subject to the influences of their time, influences that shape their work in some way. From Stephan King’s brand of horror—which he’s said was influenced by the pervasive fears of the cold war — to the oh so mannerly and delicately choreographed plots of Regency era literature, a reader can feel the spirit of the author’s era. I think that’s why I love H. G. Wells and his manly adventurers whose waistcoats and stiff collars are never out of place despite the monsters and hazards that beset them, and they always have time for a full service tea.

Covid is the strongest influence on us at present, changing behavior at a really basic social level, and I am eagerly anticipating how that will be reflected in contemporary fiction. Each genre presents a host of different affects to play with. How will full dress PPE impact the mystery and crime genre? With my mask in place, my sunglasses on my nose and a cap on my head, I am hard to recognize. Add gloves to that, and I don’t have to sweat over fingerprints. And if you’re not short and a touch chubby like me, it would be easy to quickly blend in with the (6 feet apart) crowd and make a smooth getaway. Does anyone want to get near enough to grab a suspect?

Science fiction, viewed through this lens, might use the long-lasting effects of a worldwide pandemic in interesting ways. The population has been decimated, but the disease is at last eradicated. Does the population retain a fear of personal distance? Does it become ritualized? Do they formalize ways of washing their food, like futuristic raccoons? Has public dining or public attendance at an event become distasteful, and if it is replaced, what with? That could be really fun.

Fantasy always gets a lovely reality pass. That’s part of why we love it. Fantasy isn’t required to reflect anything about the real world. But again, every writer is working through the lens of their own reality and all these new behaviors and social concerns are bound to be reflected somehow. Maybe it’s a race of creatures that are forever shunned—The Cooties. You can’t ever get close to them or they will sicken you, but the hero requires the help of those outcasts and so the taboo has to be overcome. It could be that a virus has been locked in a magic cave and as the ultimate weapon, it must be guarded by the heart of a dragon. The influence of this pandemic will be in there somewhere.

Then there’s Romance! I am especially eager to see how this genre deals with our current reality. One of the hallmarks of Romance fiction is its timeliness. We never tire of boy meets girl stories set in the shared here and now. These are tales that reflect our contemporary social and moral norms with the clarity of a mirror image. How will masks and gloves and 6 feet apart influence a love story? How will a chance meeting play out? Is love at first sight possible?

I have complete faith in Romance authors to create inventive and realistic approaches to this current social reality. I haven’t come across any yet. I may not have looked hard enough, but if you know of a romance in the time of Covid, I hope you’ll share it with me. I can’t wait to read it.

Jenny

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