Romancing the Romany

First, my novella Sweet Melissa is free for five days here. Melissa’s is the story closest to “true” of all my novels. I did hitchhike across the country when I was about Melissa’s age, ran into some shady characters, was almost raped, and that ghost of my grandma saved me on a concrete set of church steps about a million miles from home.

Oh and just like Melissa I lost my virginity to the man I loved. Okay, maybe not just like her. I had to add that in because it seems to me people pretend teens don’t have sex anymore at least in the YA I read (I love YA except come on you know they are doing it!)

Some other things are true–like my Romany heritage,which I didn’t know much about beyond my great-grandmother got her family through the Depression by reading tea leaves. And there were, like, rumors. My own mom claims to be psychic. I read tarot cards but I am not particularly intuitive. The cards are symbols and you read them in patterns. That’s not magick to me. Interesting, but not strongly influenced by my Rom descendants.

I’ve always been interested in Gypsies, though, so I did my homework and that part of the ritual and lore of my people in this book is correct as I could make it with the help of many experts. That said, the time/space travel is not for real. Even though in his song “Sweet Melissa” Greg Almond does claim “the gypsy flies from coast to coast.”

I love Almond’s song and having a free book for you this week. Hey and it has zoomed up to #40 on the New Adult charts in just a day. Lucky Gypsy lady.

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Sweet Melissa has a new cover…and it’s #FREE for five days on Amazon Go here:. https://www.amazon.com/Sweet-Melissa-Traveling-Girls-Book-ebook/dp/B00KMXE484

Melissa is the character whose teenage journey most resembles my own. (That photo is vintage me btw) In fact, it’s memoir wrapped in magic. The magic parts didn’t happen but I for sure felt the heavenly presence of my grandma angel when I sat late at night on those church steps. Far from home, knowing nobody, no money, no place to sleep, nasty boys wanting to do bad things to me.

How I got through it, and how Melissa did, too, is part of that story. I hitchhiked my way across the USA same as Melissa and other parts of the journey, including the junkie mom with a car she made me drive across several state lines, is true. Hope that baby of hers turned out okay.

Anyway, I have a few books on Amazon KDP, indie titles, and I don’t pay too much attention to them. I made them indies because I wanted to be able to give them away free as part of the KDP exclusive program. So I’m going to get better about doing that. And about a thousand other things. For some reason the steroids are really ratcheting up the marketing ideas! Just donated a set of up print books to the local library and introduced myself there yesterday. What will tomorrow bring?

#1 Question Writers Ask

I was at a writing conference last weekend and had a fabulous time. The workshops were inspiring, the food was delicious, the keynote speaker’s jokes made me laugh. He had a serious message, too, as all keynote speakers do. He’d been hearing the same question all day.

“How Can I Make Money From Writing?”

Seriously, there are so many ways. And once you actually write the book, (and it should be a well-written book with a subject people want to read about it, even if they don’t know it yet) and get it published, you will find the ways that suit you. We call that marketing.

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I’ve been writing a long time, with 10 published books and number 11 on its way, and what I think about that big question new writers (or maybe some not so new writers) ask is probably the wrong question. It depends, really, on your goals in writing. What do you want out of this gig? If the first answer that pops into your head is fame and fortune, you need to move to New York or L.A. and you should also be young and beautiful and work in publishing or become a celebrity. Those people get book deals all the time.

But if you write because you love the process, and the way to tell if you love it is to ask yourself “would I still write if I never got paid?” Answer yes and I can tell you how you might find your way into a happy writing career. Obviously, you’re going to need a day job. At least for awhile. That’s fine. You’ll find the right day job that will help you write better books and even help you publish and sell them. Work for a university and their press may print your books. Self-publish a book for your creative writing class and your dean might make it required reading and sell it in the bookstore. I know because that’s how I published and sold my first book in 2008. It’s in second edition and remains my best-selling title.

It takes a lot of time, though, from dreamy poet to college professor. I not only had to acquire a couple of college degrees, I became a mother. Twice. Best writing decision I ever made. My first published essay in an anthology was about being a single mom. I later wrote a novel with the same theme. But that first story was a true one, and my boys were at the center of it.

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What I’m really saying here is that the writing life–any life–is like a safe and you have to crack the code. You do that by listening like a safecracker with his ear to the combination, listening to the tumblers until you hear the click. Inspiration is a first click. Daily practice is another. Finding what brings you joy in life and going for it even if on the surface it seems to have nothing at all to do with writing is the final click that will open the door to the treasure inside. Or as the keynote speaker, Detroit poet ML Libeler, put it so well “Do what you love and the money will come.”

 

Compelling Minor Characters

Lily White, the protagonist of my WIP, lives in Detroit and works as a P.I. She used to have a very different life, in Blue Lake, my fictional tourist town on Lake Huron in northern Michigan. Lily started as a minor character in my first Blue Lake novel, Blue Heaven. Even in that book, she threatened to take the story over. She was a little brat, just 17 years old, a damaged runaway. The way I tamed Lily for that story was to tell her someday she’d have her own turn.

Then I forgot Lily until I began writing Love and Death in Blue Lake. Searching for a subplot, I thought, wouldn’t it be fun to bring Bob and Lily back after they’d graduated college? I wanted to see what would happen to them. I kind of figured they’d get their happy ending. Sometimes plots don’t go the way you plan, but I was pleased with the way Love and Death ended. It felt right somehow. Lily got into a whole lot of trouble, and she settled some old scores. When she rode out of Blue Lake leaving a broken-hearted Bob behind, I had no idea where she’d end up.

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Sorry for the spoiler about Bob, but it is a very minor one. He gets his own story in my upcoming (November 2016) release Blue Lake Christmas.

Lily of course couldn’t let Bob have his own story without demanding a bigger, better one of her own. Well, to her it’s a bigger city, Detroit, and a better mystery, because she’s the one solving it. I’ll be working on Lily’s story for the next several months. If not years. Lily has layers and I’m taking my time uncovering them.

And yes, she’s already insisting that she should have her own series. I’m not sure about that, but what I do know for sure is compelling minor characters can take your stories further than you’d ever imagined.

 

 

Mystery & Me

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Blame it on Nancy Drew. She was my first love (but far from my last) in the mystery genre. In the 1960s, as a young girl, I collected her books and began a life long commitment to binge reading. Which led to writing, which led to writing a mystery. My first mystery, Love and Death in Blue Lake, releases worldwide today.

Love and Death in Blue Lake didn’t start out as a mystery. I’d written several romance and women’s fiction titles and I thought for sure this book, about high school sweethearts who reconnect, would be another in the same genre. But no. Stories often take unexpected turns as this one did when I wrote a gun into someone’s purse.

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What began as a small subplot came to be an equal plot to the romance story. It constantly threatened to take over the book, but I had my heart set on writing a rekindled love story. Eventually I found a way to get the thwarted lovers to reconnect over the mystery and that’s when I realized that this book would be different.

Love and Death in Blue Lake is the third in my Blue Lake series, and brings back several characters from the first book, Blue Heaven, to expand and deepen their stories. I love writing a series…I just hope readers like the new direction mine has taken as much as I do.

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To celebrate the season, I am giving away two autographed print copies of Love and Death in Blue Lake to commenters #2 and #5 in U.S. only. The first commenter, US or UK, will receive free Kindle editions of Blue Heaven and Love and Death in Blue Lake.

Update: I opened contest on Facebook too and added a few more books:) Contest now closed. Congrats to all winners and I will get your books out soon!

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Contest winners: Anita Dawes, my U.K. winner, plus Lynn Cobb (from DWW!), Tom Edwards, Louise Martin, and Cindy Springer-Holsing, three Facebook friends. Love sending people books!