Saturday, January 26, 2013

Excerpt From Polly Iyer's Mind Games

Here’s an excerpt from Mind Games. Hopefully, it points out the personality of one of my secondary characters.


       Before Lucier could ask any more questions, the unmistakable bellow of Galen Racine thundered from an examining room down the hall.

“I’m fine, doc. I hear the police out there, and I need to talk to them.” He charged past the doctor and headed toward Lucier. “My head’s like a rock,” he said, knocking on his skull. “Nothing can hurt it. Tend to my wife, by God. She was unconscious. Bastard put her to sleep and took my little girl. Now let me the hell out of here. I got things to do.”

“I’m all right, Galen,” Blanche said, in her soft southern drawl. “A little groggy, but I’m fine.”

“Sorry, Doctor,” Lucier said, flashing his badge, “but these people are witnesses to a crime. I need to talk to them.”

“Be my guest. They’re all yours.” The doctor looked as relieved to rid himself of the two Racines as they were to be free of him. “I’ll make sure someone brings the release papers for them to sign before leaving.” He patted Lucier’s arm and said, “Good luck.” As he hurried off, he mumbled something that sounded like you’re gonna need it.

“Don’t you worry, young man,” Galen called after the doctor. “Ain’t nothing gonna happen to me, and she’s a tougher old bird than she looks.”

“Thank you, dear,” Blanche Racine said. “I sure appreciate the comparison.”

“He got her, Lieutenant,” Galen said, grabbing Lucier’s coat sleeve and shaking his head. “Took her right from under our noses. B. D. didn’t have a chance. We never seen him coming. You think he’s gonna kill her? Oh, Lord, if anything happens to her, it’s all my fault. I shouldn’t’ve been so casual ’bout the whole thing.”

Lucier removed Galen’s death grip on his jacket. “Calm down, Mr. Racine. We’ll find her. Let’s sit down in the waiting room so we can talk.”

“Is he gonna be all right?” Blanche asked. “B. D., I mean. He isn’t gonna die or anything, is he?”

“Looks like he’ll pull through, Mrs. Racine. Thank you for your concern.” Lucier asked Beecher to go to Harris’s home and bring his wife to the hospital. “She should be here.”

“I’m on my way,” Beecher said.

Once in the examining room, the cacophony started, both Racines jabbering like magpies, neither ceding the floor to the other.

“Wait! One at a time, please. Every minute counts.

Polly Iyer was born on the coast of Massachusetts. After studying at Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston, she traveled to Italy, lived in Atlanta, and now resides in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina in an empty nest house with her husband, a drooling mutt named Max, and Joey, the sweetest cat in the world. 

Writing novels turned into her passion after careers in fashion, art, and business. Now she spends her time being quite the hermit in comfortable clothes she wouldn't be caught dead wearing on the outside, while she devises ways for life to be complicated for her characters. Better them than her.

And here's a link to all her books.  Enjoy.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Last Friday Recipe - Shrimp and Grits

From the Lowcountry of South Carolina, Ellis Vidler brings you her Shrimp and Grits recipe.

Lowcountry Shrimp and Grits
About 4 servings

There are as many recipes for shrimp and grits as there are cooks in the South Carolina Lowcountry. This is mine, tweaked until I think it’s right. I don’t make this often, and I don’t skimp on calories when I do. Skip lunch if you have to, but enjoy it. This dish is a treat to savor.

The secret is in the grits. Plain grits cooked for a few minutes in water don’t do it. They must be cooked for roughly 30 minutes for quick grits (never use instant) or an hour for stone ground grits. Don’t let the grits set. Use low heat and stir frequently.

I’m a “some of this and a little of that” cook, but I tried to measure for this.

1/2 cup ground grits (not instant)
2 to 3 tablespoons butter
About 2 cups chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream, more if needed
Salt and pepper to taste

5 slices of bacon, cooked separately

1. Cook bacon and save drippings in a separate dish. Don’t wash the skillet—save it for the shrimp. Crumble the cooked bacon and divide into 2 piles, one larger than the other. Set aside for now.

2. Bring chicken stock to a boil in a saucepan and stir in the grits, a bit of bacon drippings, and butter.

3. Return to a boil, and reduce the heat to almost low, allowing the grits to simmer for about 10 minutes, until the grits are thick and have absorbed most of the liquid, stirring occasionally to prevent the grits from sticking.

4. Add about ½ cup of the milk or cream to the pot and turn down the heat, allowing the grits to simmer for another 10 minutes or so. Add salt and pepper to taste.

5. As the liquid evaporates or is absorbed, add more cream or milk, cooking the grits until they are the desired consistency, a total cooking time of 30 minutes to an hour. NOTE: Start the shrimp sauce about 15 minutes before the grits will be done. If you use quick grits, they will thicken a lot faster.

6. Near the end, stir in the smaller pile of bacon bits.

Serve grits hot with the shrimp.

Shrimp, peeled and de-veined
Bacon drippings from cooked bacon
1 tablespoon light olive or other light oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon or so of garlic, chopped
3 chopped spring onions (some people add chopped tomato for color)
1 tablespoon basil, chopped fine
A teaspoon or so of flour to thicken (optional)
1/2- to 3/4 cup heavy cream
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

About 15 minutes before grits will be done

1. In the bacon skillet, pour off excess fat. Heat the oil and butter to medium-hot and then add the shrimp. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Cook for about one minute on each side or until just barely pink. Remove from skillet and set aside. Lower heat. NOTE: If the shrimp are already cooked, sear them in a hot skillet for several seconds—just enough to enhance the taste.

2. Add a little of the bacon drippings, garlic, and onions to the skillet, and cook until onions are transparent. Pour off some of the fat if there’s much. If you want thicker gravy, take skillet off the burner and stir in a little flour.

3. Add cream into the fat and pan scrapings. Use enough to make a good gravy for the shrimp. Reduce to a sauce consistency.

4. A couple of minutes before serving, return the shrimp and half the remaining bacon crumbles to the sauce. Add the basil. Cook for just a minute or two. Salt and pepper to taste and serve over hot grits. Sprinkle with the remaining bacon crumbles.

We serve it with a salad and vinaigrette dressing.
Hope you like it.

LA: Ellis, I can't wait to make this. In Colorado, it's not easy to find good grits, but the search is on. I'll order them if I can't find them. My husband and I love grits! And shrimp! And bacon! So what's not to love about this recipe? Nothing, bon appetite.

Ellis Vidler is the author of mystery suspense books with a touch of romance.

She maintains a blog, mostly about writing and writers, at

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Polly Iyer Talks About Secondary Characters

It is my great pleasure to bring you Polly Iyer.  She's a most interesting character in real life and she has Indie Published all five of her books.

I asked her about her background in illustration, and she told me that she started out as a free-lance illustrator for Women's Wear Daily and all the Fairchild Publications, covering New England. "Then when I moved to Atlanta, I still did some fashion illustration but moved into television story boards for product commercials. I can draw a hand holding a bottle of Spray 'n Wash from memory. :-)"

I'd love to do that, but my drawings are worse than stick figures. Seriously. Ask anyone who knows me.

Polly has done all her own covers with a
BFA from art school and 25 years as an illustrator
I'd say she was her own best choice!

Welcome Polly!


       After the first, oh, twenty or thirty pages of our manuscript (which we go over so many times, we can quote the words from memory), we, as writers, tend to concentrate on our main characters—the hero and/or/ heroine in whatever genre we’re writing.

       But what about secondary characters? In many books and movies the secondary characters are pivotal to the plot and to the main character, their yin to the other’s yang―Watson to Holmes, Robin to Batman, Ginger to Fred, to name a few. Many secondary characters build a following and are rewarded with their own mystery series. John Sandford’s Virgil Flowers and Robert Crais’s Joe Pike come to mind. Television has been famous for spinoffs, some successful, some not. That spinoff character has to be so strong that viewers crave more.

       Many series writers, whether cozy mysteries or police procedurals, create a fictional town or workplace with a continuing cast of characters—think Stephanie Plum, Joe Morelli, Ranger, and Lula; or the cops in John Sandford’s Lucas Davenport series. Those characters are the supporting players. They’re family, a team, and readers know them. Speaking of supporting roles, I bet everyone can name at least two from Gone with the Wind other than Scarlett and Rhett. Great secondary characters stay with us.

       Since I write in multiple points of view, I almost always create multiple storylines. That leaves me free to wander into the heads of my secondary characters. For that reason, I work hard to develop them as fully as I develop the leads. They may take up less space in my books, but I consider them almost as important. If you remember them over my main characters, more important.

       I’ve published five books, with another on the way—sounds like I’m giving birth, and in a way, I am. These books are my babies. They’ve been nurtured and fed everything I’ve learned and am still learning, but though we want readers to love our main characters, especially if they’re in a series, I’m thrilled when someone mentions that I’ve fleshed out the supporting cast.

       One secondary character in my book Murder Déjà Vu is probably my favorite. I knew what was going to happen to him right from the beginning. So does the reader, so I’m not giving anything away. But every time I went over that scene, I sobbed like a baby. I fell in love with him and didn’t really want to do what I was going to do. I was helpless, of course. His fate was cast in stone from the beginning.

       In my Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series―just two books―Diana’s father is really unlikeable. He’s a cocky con artist and a racist who pushed his young daughter into doing things she didn’t want to do strictly for money and notoriety. When Diana falls in love with an African American, old Galen Racine has a conniption. As much as we don’t like him, and I think most people won’t, he loves his daughter and she loves him. It’s tricky to write a character like him and leave some thread of humanity so readers feel what Diana feels. If they don’t, I haven’t done my job. I started to put Diana’s parents in the second book, Goddess of the Moon, but I couldn’t put my readers through him again. Or me. In the same book, Mind Games, the killer is evil incarnate, but readers have told me they actually felt sorry for him in the end. Those two characters made me believe I got them right to create such strong emotions.

        In Hooked, my biggest challenge was creating a woman with a very questionable past—she’s an ex-call girl—so that people didn’t hold that against her. But she’s a main character. Those offended will close the book and never get to Benny Cooper, the ex-hedge fund manager who runs a high-class bordello. He’s―well, there’s no other way to describe him other than a schlemiel. He’s addicted to sex, and that’s what gets him in trouble. Hopefully, he’ll make you laugh. His ex-hooker wife is also a piece of work. What a pair.

        For those of you reading this post who are writers, when you create your characters, do you put as much effort into those secondary characters as you do for the H/h?

        Do you give them tics, habits, and mannerisms? Do some of them speak in an identifiable way? Dress? Walk?

       If you don’t develop these individuals, think seriously about changing your ways. Every book highlights the main characters. A well-rounded book takes all the characters into consideration.

       Happy reading and writing, everyone, and remember:

          Her words were interspersed with nervous coughs. The woman was a basket case.

          He was thinking. She could always tell because he rubbed the back of his
          neck and measured his words.

         If she says “you know” one more time, I’m going to explode.

         Not many women could get away with pink hair, but it suited her.
         Etc., etc., etc.

Polly Iyer was born on the coast of Massachusetts. After studying at Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston, she traveled to Italy, lived in Atlanta, and now resides in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina in an empty nest house with her husband, a drooling mutt named Max, and Joey, the sweetest cat in the world.

 Writing novels turned into her passion after careers in fashion, art, and business. Now she spends her time being quite the hermit in comfortable clothes she wouldn't be caught dead wearing on the outside, while she devises ways for life to be complicated for her characters. Better them than her.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Love In Reality Excerpt

Rand Jennings enjoyed killing his boss, Marcy Edelstein.

He enjoyed it so much, he sometimes killed her twice in a single meeting.

They weren’t hurried affairs, either. Sure, he once capped her twice in the back of the head, Mafia-execution-style, before walking away. Usually, though, he took his time, pairing up cinematic murders with Marcy’s too-thin, too-caffeinated, too-Botoxed body. In fact, he’d researched whether he could kill her with Botox. Unfortunately, as apt as that would be, it took too much of the toxin to be practical.

So Rand settled for the classics. He shot her and let her fall into a Hollywood Hills swimming pool (Sunset Boulevard). He stabbed her in the shower (Psycho)—an awkward, blindly-slashing affair as he really didn’t want to see her naked. He dipped her in gold paint so her skin smothered (Goldfinger). During one of Marcy’s particularly nasty harangues, Rand slipped up behind her and garroted her with her own Hermès scarf (The Godfather, modified).

“Jesus, people, wake up!” Marcy screeched. “I need better ideas. Opposites attract this year, so we have to cast interesting people—of course no fatties—who the audience will understand in a very specific way.”

Rand leaned sideways toward Debbie and whispered, “How about Narcissistic Actor as a type?”

“They’d all qualify,” she muttered.

Marcy glared at them. “You two are like third-graders passing notes. Grow up! The Fishbowl isn’t going to produce itself. I’ve come up with the grand theme. The least you can do is help me amplify my vision.”

“C’mon, Marcy, it’s reality TV,” Rand said. “Let’s not lose sight of the fundamentals. Good-looking people in bathing suits jump around during the day and backstab at night while trying to win a million dollars. It’s not hard to figure out the themes. Greed and competition. This isn’t Hamlet.”

Marcy’s head stilled, the conference room lights deepening the shadows of her angular features. “Hamlet,” she said slowly. “The Lost Boy? No. I don’t think so. Too depressing. Could we do other Shakespearean characters? Puck versus Lear? Romeo versus Juliet? Othello versus Iago?”

Debbie piped up, “How about Lady Macbeth? Instead of fishing out the competition, she could just stab them all in their sleep.”

For a moment, it looked like Marcy might go for the heightened drama and increased conflict. Then her face hardened into scorn. “That’s ridiculous. Legal would never allow us to cast a homicidal maniac.”

“I guess it would drive up our insurance premiums,” Rand said as he mentally duct-taped Marcy to her chair, poured honey over her thousand-dollar hair weave and put her in a box with fire ants.

* * *

Ah, those were the days, when this season of The Fishbowl was still limited to Marcy’s hen-scratching on a whiteboard. Now Rand was crisscrossing the country, looking for her elusive types among the young, sexy and bird-brained people who’d applied to be on the show.

His cab was speeding away from the Philadelphia airport when text messages from Marcy started to make Rand’s phone ping. One called him an “utter waste of time” and then claimed that his work was essential. The next berated him for his uselessness but commanded him to call her immediately and give her an update on his search.

One made Rand laugh.

Why do I even put up with this shit? You couldn’t cast this show, let alone produce it, if I didn’t hold your hand the entire time. Nepotism will only get you so far, dickwad, so don’t think you can trade on your father’s fame for the whole of your career. Now get me a Ditz. I want tape on my desk today!!

The cab pulled up to a South Philly bar and Rand got out. An icy wind helped him slam the cab’s door.

He turned, taking in the bar’s windows, bright with neon. Not the worst place to be on a chilly March night. Inside, The County Cork was warm and redolent of fresh beer over a clean scent. Standard layout—horseshoe bar in the center, tables and booths around the perimeter. The few patrons were clustered close to the bar as though huddled together for warmth and community. It looked like the type of local bar where they really did know your name.

Rand hung up his coat and leaned down to use an antique pub mirror to fix his windblown hair. He needed a haircut. Oh, well. Time to get to work. Five minutes—or less—would tell him if he’d found the Ditz Marcy wanted for the show this summer.

Rand scanned the room for his target, spotting the bartender pulling one of the fancy wood-handled beer taps. Long brown hair, cute figure in jeans and a close-fitting top, nice smile. She passed the bikini test at least. Rand settled on a seat at one end of the bar.

 “Hi. What can I get for you?” the bartender asked him. He looked up. She had beautiful eyes and an interesting nose. She’d look good on TV. But did she fit Marcy’s idea for the Ditz? Rand suspected he knew the answer. She’d think the bartender too cool and confident, and Rand would get another screaming text on the subject. Marcy was like that old TV ad: She hates everything.

Learn more about Magdalen here:
Book Link:


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

My Path to Indie Publishing by Magdalen Braden


Today, I'm delighted to bring you a funny and bright woman, who just happens to be a very talented writer of both novels and screenplays.

Please welcome Magdalen Braden who has an interesting and different path to Indie publication. So my friends, read on.


Eighteen months ago, my husband and I made a deal. If I got rejected by everybody—and I mean everybody!—he and I would start our own publishing company.
I tried hard to get an agent. I wrote and revised and tweaked my query letter, I had what I considered a strong manuscript (Blackjack & Moonlight, Book 3 in The Blackjack Quartet, which went on to be a finalist in the 2012 Golden Heart® competition), and I already had the all-important “platform,” with a blog, a website, and a Twitter presence.

I had even gotten some encouragingly positive feedback from a friend’s agent who passed on Blackjack because straight contemporary romance wasn’t something she wanted to represent.
For three months, I queried everyone on RWA’s list of acceptable agents. When all the rejections were in and tallied, I turned to my husband and said, “Good to go.”
 Okay, I didn’t actually say that. But rarely have five dozen rejections been seen in such a positive light.

One year after Harmony Road Press was launched, we published my first romance, Love in Reality. What I learned in that year was that you can’t please every reader but it’s awfully nice when you’ve pleased any reader, that I’ll read my own manuscript over and over again before it’s published...and even once or twice after that, and that being in business with my husband is so much fun I’m surprised we didn’t do it sooner.
Oh, right, and that indie-publishing is a marathon, not a sprint. But you’ve heard that already.

Here’s the one thing I tell people about indie publishing: write the book you want to read but can’t find. That speaks to the current state of romance publishing: they sell what sells. Which is fine, even sensible, but it results in ever-shrinking types of romance novels.
 Love in Reality is a funny, fast-paced romance about two people who get tangled up in their well-intended deceptions. I like to read about people who are smart enough to mess up their own life even as they think they’re fixing it. It’s just the kind of contemporary romance I like to read.

Which is good because, as I say, I ended up reading it a lot. 

Bio:  Drawing on her experience as a Philadelphia lawyer, Magdalen Braden has written the Blackjack Quartet, starting with Love in Reality. Book 3 in the series, Blackjack & Moonlight, is a 2012 Golden Heart® finalist.

Learn More about Magdalen here:

Book Link:
Magdalen is ready for questions, so fire away.  And don't forget she's going to have an excerpt up on Saturday.
~ ciao

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Excerpt From Capital Bride by Cynthia Woolf

Winners are Tiffinie Helmer and Callie Hutton!


New York City    April 10, 1867

On the other side of the door was her last resort.  Either this or prostitution and prostitution was not a choice.  She couldn’t raise MaryAnn in that environment, nor if truth be told, could she lower herself to live like that.  At least this way there would be some stability in her little girl’s life.
Sarah took a deep breath, turned the knob, and walked through the door to a better future for her daughter and, if she were lucky, for herself.
The office was small and precisely kept.  A single desk with a straight, high backed wooden chair, one in front and one behind, sat in the middle of the room.   She’d noticed the flowered curtains were open on the way in, curtains tied to the side.  The small area was flooded with dazzling afternoon light.  The walls were whitewashed and the desk well organized.  There were several tables with neat piles of files along one wall.  The other wall held several rows of pictures of women and men.  None smiling, as that was the way pictures were taken, but all appeared to be wedding pictures.  Below each picture was a small brass place with the names of the bride and groom and the date of the wedding.
A small, woman in her late thirties with fiery red hair, sat behind the desk.  When Sarah got closer she saw gorgeous dark blue eyes behind the wire rimmed glasses perched on the end of her nose.  Her eyes were so dark a blue they could almost be called violet.  They were striking and clear, honesty shone from them along with a “no nonsense” attitude.
“May I help you?” the woman asked.
“Um.  Yes.  My name is Sarah Johnson.  I saw your advertisement for mail order brides.”
The woman looked Sarah over, taking in her clothes, her hands clasped in front of her and ending at her face.
“First, let me introduce myself.  I’m Margaret Selby and I own Matchmaker & Company.  Please, sit down.  You’re older than the women we usually have.  You’re also better dressed and don’t appear to be hungry.  What would bring someone like you to my door?”
“I’ve been living with my great aunt.  She passed away suddenly two weeks ago and the lawyer says I need to find other lodgings.  My cousin, William, has inherited everything except a small stipend she left for me.  William is selling everything.  MaryAnn and I have nowhere else to go.”
“My daughter.”
“So, you are a widow?”
Now was not the time to be less than truthful, if she wanted this woman’s help.  “No.”
“I see.  How old are you, Miss Johnson?”
“I’m twenty-eight.”
“And your daughter?”
“MaryAnn is five.”
“Tell me, Miss Johnson, how did you come to find yourself with child at age twenty-two without being married?  Surely you knew how those things happened by that age.”
“My fiancé was killed at Bull Run.” 
“I understand.  Many fine men were killed there and throughout the war.”
“Yes, they were.  Lee and I planned on marrying before he left.  He still had two weeks before he was supposed to go back.  He was sure the war wouldn’t last long,” she sniffled and blew her nose into her handkerchief.  “They called him back early, and then he was killed.”

“No need to go into further detail, Miss Johnson.  Let’s get down to business, shall we?”
Sarah sat straight in the chair.  “Yes, of course.”
She was more nervous now than she had been showing up on Aunt Gertrude’s doorstep six years ago, pregnant and unwed.  They’d planned on putting out the story that Lee was her husband but one of the servants overheard and passed the information on to other servants, some of them in the homes of her Aunt’s friends.
Aunt Gertrude took it all in stride.  She actually handled it far better than Sarah had.  She’d cried for days until Gertrude shook her and said to get under control and stop feeling sorry for herself.  So she’d had her beautiful MaryAnn and was raising her with Aunt Gertrude’s help.  She would be missed for so many reasons.
“Miss Johnson?  Miss Johnson.”  Margaret snapped her fingers bringing Sarah back from her memories.
“Yes, Miss Selby.  I’m sorry.”
“It’s Mrs. Selby.  Now, please pay attention.  I have several candidates that might work for you.  Two farmers in Kansas and a rancher in the Colorado Territory.”
“Do you have a recommendation?”
“Well, neither farmer has children, though they are not unwilling to consider a woman with children.  It would be awfully lonely for your MaryAnn with only you and her new stepfather for company.  The rancher, on the other hand, also has a daughter, who is seven, I believe.  They would be able to keep each other occupied while you attend to the work you’ll need to do.  Can you cook?”
“Yes.  Our cook taught me the basics.  If I have a recipe, I can follow it.”
“Then, I suggest you write down all of your cook’s recipes.  You’ll need them no matter which man you choose.”
“I’ve already got the ones I want.  I’d hoped to put them together in a book one day.  These men you’re talking about, how old are they?”
“Raymond Jacobsen, farmer in Kansas, is thirty-two.  Robert Kline, also a farmer in Kansas, is twenty-nine, and last is John Atwood, a cattle rancher in the Colorado Territory.  He’s a widower, thirty-seven and has a daughter who is seven.  I think he would be the best match for you.”
“Have you checked out these men?”
“Of course.  I’m very thorough, Miss Johnson.  I have an associate who travels for me and talks at length to each of our bachelors.  We don’t have any brutes or other disreputable types with this agency.  You can put your mind at rest.”

***  Cynthia Woolf was born in Denver, Colorado and raised in the mountains west of Golden. She spent her early years running wild around the mountain side with her friends.

Their closest neighbor was one quarter of a mile away, so her little brother was her playmate and her best friend. That fierce friendship lasted until his death in 2006.

Cynthia was and is an avid reader. Her mother was a librarian and brought new books home each week. This is where young Cynthia first got the storytelling bug. She wrote her first story at the age of ten. A romance about a little boy she liked at the time.

She worked her way through collegeand went to work full time straight after graduation and there was little time to write. Then in 1990 she and two friends started a round robin writing a story about pirates. She found that she missed the writing and kept on with other stories. In 1992 she joined Colorado Romance Writers and Romance Writers of America. Unfortunately, the loss of her job demanded she not renew her memberships and her writing stagnated for many years.

In 2001, she saw an ad in the paper for a writers conference being put on by CRW and decided she'd attend. One of her favorite authors, Catherine Coulter, was the keynote speaker. Cynthia was lucky enough to have a seat at Ms. Coulter's table at the luncheon and after talking with her, decided she needed to get back to her writing. She rejoined both CRW and RWA that day and hasn't looked back.

Cynthia credits her wonderfully supportive husband Jim and the great friends she's made at CRW for saving her sanity and allowing her to explore her creativity.

Don't forget to comment for a chance at a copy of
Capital Bride or a $5 Starbucks gift cert!!

KOBO -  



Wednesday, January 9, 2013

My Journey to Indie Publication by Cynthia Woolf

Today, I bring you the indie journey of an incredibly prolific author whom I've know for 12 years.  We met at Colorado Romance Writers and it was Cynthia as president in 2006 who handed me my Newsletter Article of the year award!

Saturday I'll post an excerpt from her new book Capital Bride.

Please join me in welcoming Cynthia Woolf.

My Journey

Thank you, Leslie Ann, for having me on your blog today.  I’ll be giving away a copy of my new book, CAPITAL BRIDE, to one lucky commenter and a $5 Starbucks card to another, so be sure and leave me a comment.

I’ve been very lucky in my publishing journey. I was laid off June 17, 2011.  Though I continued to look for a “regular” job, I knew this layoff was an opportunity to fulfill my dream of writing and I grabbed on with both hands.  But, let me back up a bit.

I was in the hospital in April 2011, recovering from a severe anxiety attack.  You see, I thought I’d had a heart attack.  But it was just anxiety, brought on by my current job and soon-to-be lack of job.  I found out in April that I was being laid off in two months.  Though I was unhappy in my job by this point, I was even more scared not to have one.  Hence the reasons for impending anxiety attack.

After the attack, still in the hospital, and I can’t rest.  I have insomnia and with all the tests…I simply couldn’t calm down, so I asked my husband to bring me a pad and pen.  That night I finished my second book, Centauri Dawn.  It was the first one I would publish.
After I got out of the hospital, I was talking to my friend Michele Chambers, who writes as Michele Callahan, and she told me I could publish it myself and told me how.  That was the beginning and I haven’t looked back since.  I also haven’t had another bout of anxiety and my blood pressure is great. I  think that self publishing agrees with me. :)
Michele gave me the resources I needed to publish my book.  She told me about KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) and that I’d need a professional cover and an editor for the book.  I found both a cover artist and an editor and was off to the races.
My books languished in obscurity for months.  I published three more books by the end of the year and was still not selling very many.
What finally broke me through the obscurity bubble was a blog tour arranged by Black Lion Tours.  The book that they were promoting, Tame A Wild Bride, took off like gang busters.  It took with it the other two books in the Tame series, Tame A Wild Heart and Tame A Wild Wind.
I Tweet and Facebook as well.
Tweeting being my most effective marketing tool.  I also blog whenever possible.  I pay for advertising when it’s a venue I know I’ll get a return on, like Ereader News Today but it’s very hard to get onto that one.  They open up for spots in January and are full for the year within hours.

Any venue that is free, I take advantage of.  And to be honest, I’ve got my books on so many venues right now, I don’t remember what all they are.  Several of them have buttons or banners on my website.  That’s how I ‘earn’ free advertising.  I advertise for them and they for me.  It’s a win-win situation. 
I’ve tried Facebook ads (didn’t work) and Twitter ads (also didn’t work for me).  I advertise on just about anything I come across where it’s less than $25 for a reasonable ad.  What is reasonable varies with the site and will vary with what you believe is appropriate for your budget and your books. 
The other thing I do that has given me lots of exposure and a visible increase in sales is to participate in blog hops. 
What happens with a blog hop is that you write a blog about a particular subject.  On your blog you have links to the other blogs in the hop and they have links to yours, so someone doesn’t have to look you up, the just click on the link and go there.  The blog hops usually offer a grand prize like a Kindle fire or Nook.  I also offer several prizes.  The comments increase dramatically with a hop.  It’s not unusual for me to get almost 100 comments from one blog during a hop.
Another thing I do and I highly recommend is that you have your own blog.  My blog hosts guests three times per week.  I may blog myself on Friday of that week especially when I have a new book to promote.  Always leave a day for yourself whether you end up using it or not.  You can always have your friends and critique partners blog on that day as well.
In association with your blog, join Triberr.  It gets you exposure like you wouldn’t believe.  I average more than 1100 hits per day on my blog and have had 1600 in one day during a blog hop.  This leads to sales.

Make sure all your books are shown on your blog with the links to the websites where they can purchase them.
Lastly, though just as important if not more so, is to get reviews of your book.
Submit to every review site you can.  The more reviews you have on Amazon and the other outlets the better.  Amazon does not accept author reviews for books anymore, so you can’t have other authors, even those who bought the book rather than were gifted it, review your books.  Trust me, it’s devastating when they take them down.
I recommend diversifying and listing your book everywhere possible for sale. I get most of my sales through Amazon, that is true and I’ve tried their Select program.  It was not effective for me.  I didn’t have any more sales and more importantly I didn’t get any borrows.  The payment for borrows and the five free days are really what sets Select apart from being like any other sales venue. That being said, several of my critique partners participate in Select with great results so it just depends on you and your books.
The road to publication has not been a smooth one but has had its bumps and rocks and holes I've had to watch out for.  Most of what I do is "trial by fire."  I try something and either burn with it or find myself soaring.
I’d love to hear your ideas and what you do that works for you.  What works for one person does not necessarily work for another as we all know from other aspects of our lives.  I hope I’ve given you a few ideas to help you promote your own work. 

Thanks Cindy for being so candid about your journey.  See more about Cindy at

Don't forget, comment today and on her excerpt Saturday for a chance at her latest book and a Starbucks Gift Cert. Yum. I'll post her bio on Saturday as well, it's really fascinating.