Fact into Fiction

Novelists often turn the facts of their lives into fiction. For me, there’s always some truth along with the fiction, and depending on what book, it can be more or less. My first novel started with the idea of what kinds of things happen when you find yourself, at a young age, with a new step-parent (or two), and sometimes siblings from the step as well.

That idea alone is rife with conflict, something I’m always searching out to make my stories juicy. No conflict, no story. So here’s how I mined a situation of my own for the emotional truth in my story. When my two sons were very young (the little guy was only three, his big brother five), their father and I divorced. I’ve had endless guilt about that ever since, but that’s not what I chose to drive my story. Instead I wanted to use the adult childrens’ point of view.

My novel is about two sisters with issues, and one of the issues is that Cher, the older sister, never really accepted to her step-dad or half-sister into her heart. Her own father dies when she is young, and through flash back I show how it made Cher feel to lose her dad, and then lose her mom to another man (of course Cher was part of the family, but it felt like a loss to her). When her baby half-sister came along, things just got worse. Ariel tagged along with ten years older Cher, Cher babysat every weekend, Cher practically raised her little half-sister. And Cher, right up to the present day, resents Ariel for this (and a few bigger present day problems). This fuels an important plot point for Cher and for Ariel as I tell it from each of their point of views.

Now I’ll tell you the truth about how my ex and I blended our families. We both remarried, and our sons from day one accepted and eventually loved step-mom and step-dad. The transition that was difficult for them was the divorce, not the new marriages. Then came two half-siblings on their dad’s side and I never once have heard my kids call their new brother and sister anything but that, brother and sister. They had all the usual family stuff, as we did at our house, but the blending families went pretty smoothly, mostly due to my boys’ step-mom, who is a wonderful person and loves my boys like they are her own. My husband Al was good with the boys too and my three guys talked me into many a sporting event and camping trip.

So there you have it, fact turned into fiction. While I don’t use the true story, I use some of the emotion behind it. I kind of put myself in my sons’ place, but with the different sister twist, and that’s my story. And if blending families is something you are interested in, or you just like a good sister cat fight, you can buy Sister Issues for 99 cents on Kindle.

So This is Christmas

These days, I live my life with a soundtrack from my younger years. And this month, it’s John Lennon. I remember his Christmas song, and the background vocals “War is over, if you want it…war is over, now.” I love the hope in those words, and all Lennon did for peace.

This is the time of year when soldiers lay down their arms, when enemies cease fire, when peace and love prevail. One of my favorite things to do this time of year is read Christmas stories. I have a few favorite authors who have Christmas themed books out now, Shirley Jump, Anne Perry, Mary Balogh. My own novel, Sister Issues, is set partly during the holidays, probaby because I love this time of year and love reading about it.

Today my daughter-in-law, Jessica, who lives in Seattle but is in Buenos Aires now, commented on my Facebook page that she loved the Christmas chapters because they reminded her of Christmas in Michigan. I could not be given a higher compliment. If you are an author and have a Christmas themed book out now, or if you are a reader with a favorite Christmas author, please let me know. I’d love to add more Christmas stories to my reading list this month.

Indie Cover Adventure

Many bumps and blessings down the road to indie authorship, one of the things I put the most effort into was my cover. The absolutely brilliant finished product bears no relation at all to my first efforts. I must have shot 20 covers before the final result, which was delivered right on time, with a wink of cosmic mirth.

The title of my novel really says it all. Two sisters have some serious issues to iron out. So then why did I use this as the first cover shot?

It made perfect sense to me. The older sister runs a coffee shop (called Sugar Shack, hence the name) from what used to be her grandmother’s house. When I put it on Facebook, one of my more blunt pals said “Reminds me of an old granny who smells like cat pee.”

He was right. I love old things, but the book has a chick lit meets wome’s fiction feel. There’s the chick lit sister and the women’s fiction sister. So parts are funny, parts are serious. I never know exactly what to call it. It’s not a romance. It’s not a literary novel. Not exactly a domestic novel either, but that comes closer. So my next concept tried to marry these different tones.

In case you can’t tell, that’s a martini glass and a tea cup. Because Ariel, the younger sister, wants Cher, her big sis, to turn her quiet little coffee shop into a full service restaurant. And since Ariel owns half the house, Cher has to pay attention to her. I thought this idea had potential but whatever title fonts I tried, nothing looked right. So then I thought, well, maybe something generic, without pictures. And I got this:

I really liked this cover, but neither it or the new title conveyed the sometimes irreverent tone of my novel. There was a cat in the book, an orange cat, much like my own dear Rusty. So that’s how this one came to be:

At this point, I had become desperate. So I asked my daughters-in-law for help. Alicia is a behind-the-camera type, but Jessica was game. I found the perfect picture of her, too. Drinking coffee:

I did some color shots of this too, but they felt too busy. Picnik will let you make any photo into a pencil sketch, but this felt a little light. Finally the title was right, but not the cover image. Which really didn’t matter because I received edits for another novel right in the middle of this project. So I put the whole thing on hold. After I finished my revisions for the other novel, my husband and I flew in to Ventura, California to visit our son Tim and his wife Alicia. We rented a car, drove the PCH1 through Big Sur and beyond, finally landing in Seattle, where Mike and Jessica live.

At some point we talked about the indie novel and my troubles with it (Mike had already coded it for me, I just couldn’t figure out a couple other simple things, like how to make quotation marks stay quotation marks. That won’t make sense to you until you upload your novel on the KDP platform.) Jessica had just returned from visiting her sister and she looked at Mike, and I swear there was a twinkle in her eye when she said “What about that picture of Meghan and me…” I immediately asked to see it and the rest is history. Well, the history of my first novel’s cover.

I returned from vacation, everything fell into place, the first font I tried from Picnik looked perfect, this was the cover I was meant to have and I’d had so many delays because it hadn’t existed yet. So if you’re currently struggling to DIY  the indie author way, don’t let frustration get you down. Take a vacation instead. Oh, and ask for help.

Sister Issues


2 sisters + 1 husband = trouble. That’s my tag line for Sister Issues, finally for sale for $0.99 on Kindle and Amazon. Also now available on Nook.

Thanks to so many people who helped me along the way. Karen McQuestion who first asked “why not do an e-book?” (I read Karen’s novel on my husband’s phone because I didn’t have a Kindle yet!) Becky who did it first and send me her tutorial. My son Mike who coded the book. My friend Shirley, who recommended Guido Henkel for formatting advice. My daughter-in-law Jessica and her sister Meghan, who found the perfect cover shot and allowed me to use it.

Guido and Mike held my hand through the day yesterday until the book was up! You wouldn’t believe the stupid questions I asked them both, but they were sweet and patient with me. Now I sort of know what writers being interviewed mean when they are asked why they decided to become a writer. “I suck at everything else.”

I was a good teacher, but I am hopeless with tech stuff. Lucky for me, other generous people are not. Thanks everyone for your help and support! If you’d like to read the process it took (starting in 2004!) to get from there to here you can see it on this page.

Not Even One

Juggling multiple book projects this past year has been a real learning curve. Last month, was amazed and annoyed with myself because I didn’t manage to publish even one novel this September after my firm belief and often repeated vows that I’d have several out by now. Not. Even. One.

But soon! I finished my last pass for The Wild Rose Press, who are putting out The Paris Notebook. I can’t believe they let me keep that title. It’s not very romancy. (That’s because it wasn’t a romance, not really, until Tori got her editorial teeth into it.)

As for the Kindle novel, now titled Sister Issues, that’s been waaay on the back burner while I dealt with TPN. However I am taking baby steps toward getting that in shape again. It’s almost funny how much trouble I’ve had getting that book into digital form. Every time I got close a new dilemma would pop up. Even now, I’m thinking, should I publish it on Create Space as well?

And then there’s Gypsy and Traveling Girl, my paranormals. On Twitter, I’m “Gypsywriter”(because that was the novel I was writing when I joined) so every time I tweet I think about those books and want to get back to them, to read and revise and pubish them.

Also there’s the new novel. Still just taking notes on that one, thank stars.