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51+AdFU2LmL._SY346_This Romantic Suspense in the first in the Holly Anna Paladin Mystery series by Christy Barritt. I loved this book and look forward to more from this author and this series.

Holly Paladin has recently discovered she has a rare form of cancer, and has been given a year to live. Instead of dwelling on her disease, she decides to “commit random acts of kindness,” volunteer wherever and whenever she can, be a supportive friend and family member, and avoid the calls from her oncologist.

However, in usual Holly Anna style, she immediately gets herself into deep trouble. If the authorities find out where she’s been, she could be implicated with murder and obstruction of justice, to say nothing of ruining her brother’s chances for the senatorial race, and her sister’s upcoming wedding. With all this in mind, she certainly can’t tell them about her cancer.

Holly and her friend Jamie manage to hide their involvement, but when her high school nemesis shows up in town—as a police officer—the stakes go up. If only Chase Dexter weren’t so handsome…and  so nice.

Holly and Chase’s investigations lead them to suspicions including friends and associates, to street kids and even the other senatorial candidate.

I listened to this book on audio, although I also have the ebook, and I couldn’t put it down. Holly’s wild antics, her loveable if flawed reasoning, and her 1960s femininity, combine to give this book flair and fun.

Note: I’ve read a couple of Barritt’s Squeaky Clean Mysteries too, and loved them.

One year ago, I decided to make the leap into independent publishing. Here are some of the things I have learned, in no particular order, along with a few tips:id-100355999

  1. I am capable of launching my own publishing company, including the various forms and fees required. (Print copies of documents so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time, so says experience.)
  1. I am capable of editing, formatting and creating covers for my books. I have carried out each step. However, if I wish to maintain my sanity and the quality I desire, I know I cannot do all these things myself all the time (kudos to those of you who can, and I know a few of you).

img_1237An Aside: I thought of an analogy this morning as my husband and I sat at breakfast contemplating a few upcoming renovations to our home. Three years ago, we transformed our attached garage into an office/guest room (it was too small for our vehicle). We, mostly my husband, did all the work. I helped where I could, including taping and mudding seams and corners after the drywall was up. I can do mudding, but I’m quite bad at it. I don’t ever want to do mudding again. The end result looks better if someone more skilled and patient does it. Just like I can do book covers and formatting, but it’s better for all concerned if I let someone more skilled do those jobs.

  1. Excellent and reasonably priced services are available to help indie authors in areas where we don’t feel competent, or where we can’t manage it all time-wise. Some of these skilled people may already be in our circle of friends/acquaintances. Trading skills is a mutually beneficial arrangement.
  1. Marketing remains my pianissimo (as opposed to my forte). I must continue to ask, read, search, learn. Again, there are people who are good at this, trained, willing to help. I need to reach out.
  1. I love the flexibility and the control that indie publishing offers. I decide the order of projects on my to-do list. I decide on the cover, the size, the interior design, et cetera, together with those I’ve asked to assist me.
  1. I am ultimately responsible for the outcomes, for my promises to my readers, for deadlines.
  1. A Reminder: As a Christian author, I am not my own boss. God is. That adds a much higher lever of accountability to my writing life.
  1. A human accountability partner who knows my writing, at least some of my personal situation, and my overall goals, is an immeasurable asset. We can pray for and support each another.
  1. I must continue to learn, to review, to experiment, to observe, to ask.
  1. I must continue to write so I have something to publish. I must learn balance.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Philippians 4:13.

Tips in a Nutshell:

— Pray for wisdom, guidance and strength daily (or moment by moment)

— Do what you can

— Ask for help when you can’t

— Trade skills

— Count the costs, make a budget, treat this writing like a calling/career/vocation

If you are a self / indie published author, what are some of the things you have learned about the process? I’d love to hear from you.

January 2017 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:

Romance Grows in Arcadia Valley by Valerie Comer, Mary Jane Hathaway, Elizabeth Maddrey, Danica Favorite, Lee Tobin McClain and Annalisa Daughety — Is love possible for a makeshift mom and a handsome widower? What about a bed and breakfast owner and the farmer next door? A curvy jilted bride and a mysterious, handsome chef? Then there’s the real estate consultant and the grandson of her elderly client; a high-powered lawyer and a woman farmer, and a formerly engaged couple. Can love make a difference in their lives? Exploring food, friends, and family in Arcadia Valley, each of these novellas kicks off a three-book series, intertwined with the works of the other authors. This collection is only the beginning of your adventure! (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Restoring Love by Jennifer Slattery — Mitch, a contractor and house-flipper, is restoring a beautiful old house in an idyllic Midwestern neighborhood. Angela, a woman filled with regrets and recently transplanted to his area, is anything but idyllic. As Mitch struggles to keep his business afloat, and Angela works to correct the mistakes of her past, these two unlikely friends discover they have something unexpected in common–a young mom fighting to give her children a better life after her husband’s incarceration. While both Mitch and Angela are drawn to help this young mother survive, they also find themselves drawn to each other. Will a lifetime of regrets hold them back from redemption and true love? (Contemporary Romance from New Hope Publishers)

Historical Mystery:

Murder on the Moor by Julianna Deering — Drew and Madeline Farthering visit the Yorkshire moor to catch a killer and solve a mystery that involves an old feud, a new rivalry and a huge, spectral hound that may or may not be a harbinger of death. (Historical Mystery from Bethany House [Baker])

Historical Romance:

A Note Yet Unsung by Tamera Alexander — A master violinist trained in Vienna, Rebekah Carrington manages to get an audition at the newly-formed Nashville Philharmonic. But the conductor–determined to leave his mark on the world of classical music–bows to public opinion. Women are “far too fragile and frail” for the rigors of an orchestra, he says, and Rebekah’s hopes are swiftly dashed. Nathaniel Tate Whitcomb is Nashville’s new orchestra leader. And despite a reluctant muse–and a strange buzzing and recurring pain in his head–he must finish composing his symphony before the new opera hall opens. But far more pressing, he must finish it for his dying father, who inspired his love of music. Then Tate’s ailment worsens. Rebekah can help him finish his symphony. But how do you win back a woman’s trust when you’ve robbed her of her dream? (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

The American Heiress Brides Collection by Lisa Carter, Mary Eileen Davis, Susanne Dietze, Anita Mae Draper, Patty Smith Hall, Cynthia Hickey, Lisa Karon Richardson, Lynette Sowell and Kimberley Woodhouse — Meet nine young women in America between 1880 and 1911 who have been blessed by fortunes made in gold, silver, industry, ranching, and banking. But when it comes to love, each woman struggles to find true love within a society where “first comes money, second comes marriage.” What kind of man can they trust with their greatest treasure—their hearts? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Two Suitors for Anna by Molly Jebber — In 1903 Ohio, a young Amish woman must choose between the life she has long planned for with her beloved Noah Schwartz, and a new, very different future… But Noah has a surprise for Anna: once they’re married, he wants them to travel and live in other communities. Anna, who loves her home and her job at the quilt shop, is distraught when he takes her hesitation as rejection—and leaves. Daniel Bontrager’s arrival adds to Anna’s confusion. Since taking over his late brother’s farm, the handsome roofer has offered friendship and gentle attentions. Yet the pull of first love is strong and deep, especially when Noah returns. Through each revelation, Anna must search her faith for guidance, knowing she is choosing not just a husband, but a life to nurture and to share… (Historical Romance from Kensington)

My Heart Belongs in Fort Bliss, Texas by Erica Vetsch — Journey to Fort Bliss, Texas, where a battle of emotions versus ideals is about to be waged. When a high-steppin’ eastern fashion artist, Priscilla Hutchens, swoops down on the fort to gain custody of her twin niece and nephew she is met with resistance by their uncle, post surgeon Major Elliot Ryder, who thinks he knows what is best for them. Who will win the battle? Or will a truce be called for the sake of love and family? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Romantic Suspense:

Dead Run by Jodie Bailey — Kristin James’s morning run turns deadly when she’s attacked by a stranger who’s after something her deceased soldier brother stole overseas. Her neighbor Sergeant First Class Lucas Murphy steps in to help her and won’t let her brush the attack under the rug. He’ll do everything he can to keep Kristin alive, but he can’t tell her that he’s under orders to investigate her link to her brother’s misdeeds. Kristin has no idea what the bad guy is after and doesn’t want to believe that her brother wasn’t on the straight and narrow. But as evidence against him piles up, can they catch the criminals without becoming the next casualties? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Justice Delayed by Patricia Bradley — It’s been eighteen years since TV crime reporter Andi Hollister’s sister was murdered. The confessed killer is behind bars, and the execution date is looming. But when a letter surfaces stating that the condemned killer didn’t actually do it, Detective Will Kincaide of the Memphis Cold Case Unit will stop at nothing to help Andi get to the bottom of it. After all, the person who confessed to the crime is Will’s cousin. They have less than a week to find the real killer before the wrong person is executed. But much can be accomplished in one week–including uncovering police corruption, running for your life, and falling in love. (Romantic Suspense from Revell [Baker])

Undercover Protector by Elizabeth Goddard — Undercover at a tiger sanctuary, Special Agent Grayson Wilde is convinced the owner’s involved in a wildlife trafficking ring–until someone tries to kill her. Gemma’s determined to rebuild the tiger oasis she lost when her family died, but someone wants her out of the way, and she’s starting to wonder if her parents’ and uncle’s deaths were really accidental. Grayson says he’ll do anything to protect Gemma, but she can’t shake the feeling that her alluring new volunteer might not be all that he seems. With a vicious criminal closing in, though, she has to trust Grayson…because she won’t survive without him. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Buried Memories by Carol J. Post — A soldier hero suffering from PTSD and a young woman struggling to overcome a traumatic childhood fight for their lives and find healing together. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Still Life by Dani Pettrey — Blacklisted in the photography business over a controversial shot, Avery Tate answered an ad for a crime scene photographer. She expected to be laughed at, but crime scene analyst Parker Mitchell hired her outright–and changed her life. But six months ago, when her feelings for Parker became too strong, she left his employ to sort out her heart. Now, for the first time, Avery is facing the world that rejected her to attend the gallery opening of a photography exhibit and support her best friend, who modeled for the show. But the only image of her friend is a chilling photo of her posing as if dead–and the photographer insists he didn’t take the shot. Worse, her friend can’t be found. She immediately calls Parker for help. As Avery, Parker, and his friends in law enforcement dig into the mystery, they find themselves face-to-face with a relentless and deadly threat. (Romantic Suspense from Bethany House [Baker])

Supernatural Thriller:

Fatal Accusation by Rachel Dylan — Attorney Olivia Murray hopes her life in Windy Ridge will get back to normal after a hard-fought trial. But she soon finds out that the forces of evil have not given up. An embezzling scandal rocks the community church to its core. The New Age groups are ready to declare victory when a high-profile prosecutor files criminal charges against the local pastor. However, Olivia is not willing to give up on the community she’s come to love. She takes on the defense pro bono knowing it could destroy her career, but it’s a case she is called to defend. The battle will be fierce, but she’s not fighting it alone. Her friend and fellow attorney Grant Baxter is by her side. Olivia must use all the tools in her arsenal to combat those who seek to destroy the believers in the community. If Olivia can’t prove the pastor’s innocence, more than her career is on the line. The entire community of Windy Ridge could fall to the forces of darkness. (Supernatural Thriller, Independently Published)

One of the absolute most important phases of creating a piece of fiction is editing.

To edit is to change, improve, re-consider, revise, correct, refine. In my experience as a writer, there is no end to editing. When reading to an audience from one of my published books, I will invariably change words or phrases as I read.

First truth of editing:

It’s not that my published material is bad, but there’s always room for improvement.

Second truth of editing:

It hurts. It’s a bit like having someone tell you that although your child is not bad looking, they could use some plastic surgery. Sometimes I have to cut out bits that are special to me but have no effect on the story. Other times I need to change direction, or make dialogue more realistic, or…the possibilities are endless.

As in writing, so in life.

A quote from Nancy Thayer says it well:

“It’s never too late, in fiction or in life, to revise.”

—Nancy Thayer

Just as our stories are always editable, so are our lives.

I don’t know about you, but I constantly run through areas of my life that need tweaking. Not that my life is bad, but there’s always room for improvement. And it often hurts. There are times when I have to apologize for a hasty word, or admit my guilt in judging, or ask the Lord to pick up my wounded heart and set me on the road again.

Thankfully, I am a child of the God who is Redeemer of lost time, Renewer of strength, Restorer of purpose and confidence and passion. Thankfully, He doesn’t give up on me. He will tweak and revise and refine until my dying day…as long as I allow Him access to my soul.

Instead of being good enough, I’d rather be the best I can be, through Christ who strengthens me.

You can’t please everyone.

That’s a basic truth if I ever heard one (says this die-hard people-pleaser).

The point is, not everything we write will strike a chord with all our readers. Some will hate it, some will remain untouched, but there will be a few with whom our writing resonates.

Some of the different reactions are due to genre and style and other elemental choices, but often, people relate to our words because of some past experience or inner need or common ground. They relate on some level.Book One

For example, one of the readers of my first book was deeply touched by the fact that my female lead had lost her mother and missed her greatly. She could identify. I had not considered that part of my story to be that influential because I didn’t relate to it personally.

The takeaway is that if we keep writing, every once in a while our words will impact a life or two.

1609_TW_Cover_LR-130x169For years I have subscribed to The Writer, which I would recommend to any and all writers. This monthly magazine features a vast array of topics and tips for all levels of writing. That means many writers can relate to it on some level. I would venture to say that in my twenty-some years of subscribing, there are only a couple of issues where I’ve not been able to gather usable information or encouragement from one or more articles. Usually, I read through the entire publication, and often find pieces that offer more than I thought they would.

Again to the moral of this story: the more writing we send out to the world, the more people it will influence, entertain, inform, and encourage.

Just as some of us need to let go of the crazy idea of trying to please everyone, so we as writers need to realize that while we might not reach a crowd, we will reach a few, and our influence in their lives may go farther then we ever dared to imagine.

51qTc22sdVLGreat romantic suspense from author Mary Ellis.

Five stars from me *****

Niki Price, who has recently been promoted to partner in her cousin Nate’s private investigation firm in New Orleans, gets a call from an old friend, Danny Andre. He’s in desperate trouble and begs her to help. She doesn’t take him seriously until it’s too late.

Nate and Niki go to Memphis to investigate the murder, with the help of Danny’s sister, Isabelle. Unpleasant experiences between Nate and Isabelle from high school, and her continued haughtiness, create extra tension. However, Niki and Isabelle get along fine.

Between them, they discover Danny was a sax player in clubs on Beale Street, but that’s about all they can find out. Gradually, the truth begins to come up, revealing Danny as a good Samaritan who would help anyone in need. So why would someone kill him? What really happened on Beale Street the night Danny died?

When Niki oversteps her boundaries with the Memphis police, Nate asks her to stay out of the investigation. While putting in time at the hotel where her rich fiancé has them staying, she unearths another mystery, one from many years ago. Add to that a man who is stalking Isabelle and the tension ratchets up considerably.

Although the book deals with serious subjects, the mood is light, mostly due to Niki’s wacky sense of humor, and the surprising and sometimes unethical situations she finds herself in.

I really enjoyed this book. The humor is an effective offset to the murder and the street life. There are a lot of relationships between opposites. Niki comes from a normal home while her fiancé is wealthy. Niki, young and pretty, loves seniors and takes time to listen to them and care for them. Isabelle covers her fears and insecurities with haughtiness, but Niki finds her heart and helps her through her struggles.

I didn’t realize until I was halfway through this book that it is a sequel. The first book in the Secrets of the South Mysteries is called Midnight on the Mississippi, and I plan to read it as soon as I can. The fact that I didn’t know this was the second book shows the author did a good job seguing into the sequel.

Twists in Terminology

You might say, “I could never self-publish / independently publish my work.” I’ve said that myself, but it’s not true.

pixabay.com

pixabay.com

I think the courage to move ahead into indie publishing came to me gradually. I had created my own website (with the help of a good writer friend) with an About page, a Resume page, a Contact page, and pages about my books. I had also decided to post weekly blogs on my site. Every time I hit the “publish” or “schedule” button, I self-published.

According to Wikipedia, “self-publishing is the publication of any book or other media by its author without the involvement of an established publisher.” So if you’ve written blogs or online articles, you are independently published. If you are traditionally published by an established, no-upfront-fee house, as well as indie publishing your own work, you become a hybrid author.

We have been warned not to confuse self-publishing with independent publishing, but I think the terms are what we make them. As long as we avoid paying for someone to publish our material (vanity presses do that, and we don’t want to go there), it’s valid.

Often, independent publishers are considered those who run small presses, whereas self-publishers are those who realize the entire publication process themselves. However, since launching my own imprint, Tansy & Thistle Press, I feel I have the right to be called an independent publisher. It took quite an effort, as well as time to fill out government forms and pay fees for my press name, so I could publish for other writers if I chose to do so (that’s not happening right now, and the probability of it happening in the future is highly unlikely), but the press is authentic.

pixabay.com

pixabay.com

So let’s not allow naysayers to tell us what we are. We need to own our writing career. Self-publish. Indie publish. Do the hybrid thing. Just keep writing and getting your work out to the public in the most effective and efficient way.

Note: This little rant reflects my current personal feelings, so if you agree or disagree, you can comment below. I’m always willing to listen, and I might even be persuaded to shift my opinions…slightly!

 

 

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