About Sandra Hutchison

Indie author and publisher of THE AWFUL MESS: A LOVE STORY and THE RIBS AND THIGH BONES OF DESIRE.

What happens when you run out of novels? Kathryn Craft on starting from scratch

Sandra Hutchison interviews published women’s fiction novelist and writing retreat leader Kathryn Craft about that moment when you’ve seen all your book babies published and have to start from the very beginning.

Novelist Kathryn Craft

Kathryn, you’ve told me that your first two novels, THE ART OF FALLING and THE FAR END OF HAPPY (which I found riveting), were projects you’d had cooking for a long time, and then you faced some challenges getting to the next one. Can you elaborate on that?

Sure, elaboration is my jam, lol. Thank you for your kind words about THE FAR END OF HAPPY!

Some writers claim to have a spigot of ideas they just can’t turn off. Not me.

No doubt this is due to the long gestation for my first two novels. It took me eight years to learn how to tell my debut, THE ART OF FALLING, which was built on my platform as a dance critic and choreographer. THE FAR END OF HAPPY then sold quickly on proposal. Although I only had ten contracted months to write, I’d been drafting the memoir material it is based on—my first husband’s suicide standoff against police—on and off for seventeen years. Once that work was turned in, I had no idea where to head next with my writing.

Still, selling on proposal is an act of faith on the part of the publisher (mine was Sourcebooks), and with an open option, I would not squander a repeated opportunity to submit one. My agent had always loved my practice novel, about a renowned horse therapist whose ten-year career is brought into question when the boy who inspired it is jailed for his mother’s murder and retreats into mutism, so first we spiffed its opening 85 pages and synopsis and submitted. The sales and marketing team did not see a great sales hook. Onward.

Next I combined an ancient myth and an original fable with a Yangtze River cruise disaster and came up with another proposal. My agent was excited about it, but the feedback from the publisher was that it wouldn’t reach the same market as my other books—it seemed part women’s fiction and part thriller. My editor’s exact words: “It doesn’t feel like a step up in brand.”

“Excuse me, but I have a brand? What is it, and how do I step it up?” - Kathryn Craft Click To TweetAt this point I wanted to raise my hand and say, “Excuse me, but I have a brand? What is it, and how do I step it up?” My agent was willing to go out on wide submission with the Chinese cruise novel, but what my editor said resonated with me. I felt my “step up” had slipped sideways. I’d worked too hard to achieve the readership I had and I did not want to abandon them. It was time to figure out who I was as a novelist and how to step up my game.

As someone long involved in local writers’ organizations, the Tall Poppy Writers, and Women’s Fiction Writers Association, as well as leading your own workshops and retreats, were you surprised to hit this moment in your career, or had you expected it?  Did having writing pals and an agent help you resolve it, or do you think this is something a writer pretty much has to solve for herself?

If it took me by surprise it was because I hadn’t thought about it for a moment. I was driven to share the story about my husband’s suicide with the fervor of a calling, and was so focused on achieving its publication that once I emerged from my tunnel vision into my current reality, I could only blink as I realized that after seventeen years, I’d done it!

Kathryn Craft and her sons and her book based on events they survived in real life

I did ask my agent, Katie Shea Boutillier at Donald Maass Agency, what she thought my brand was. Her thoughts: high stakes that are immediately apparent, psychological tension throughout, and the use of back story threads to add depth and mystery. While Amazon can get a lot wrong—for some reason they had listed THE FAR END OF HAPPY as #1 in American Literary anthologies for many weeks, lol—even they helped, because for the most part, they categorized my novels as “psychological women’s fiction.” That resonated with me as well, as I am endlessly fascinated by what makes people do the things they do. When I added in my own desire to continue to explore issues like body image and suicide, which are rich with possibility for further thought, discussion, or debate, the notion of a brand started to form.

But how to step it up? I mean, I already had three women facing shameful secrets as they tried to cling to hope during a loved one’s suicide standoff—did I now have to hold an entire country hostage? One of my writing friends suggested that instead of thinking of “stepping it up” as a linear progression, I could think of it in terms of new challenges that would help stretch my growth as a writer.

Upon being moved to tears in answering a question from my weekly writers group about things I feel deeply about, I realized I wanted to write about the sense of belonging to a specific geographic place. Combining that with questions always asked at book clubs about how my sons and I healed after my husband’s suicide, a piece of my own story not yet addressed in my fiction, I came up with a new idea, which I soon titled THE ONLY HOME I KNOW.

I believe I stepped up my game with a romantic element, which I hadn’t previously done; with a recurring structural element that will keep readers guessing; and by putting one major character on scene only in the opening and the ending, yet having her drive the action throughout.

A problem, though: I lost faith in my ability to write a proposal. I didn’t enjoy it. I felt like a plotter, not a writer. I wanted to do what I knew how to do—go write a novel, fleshing it out and adding depth over many drafts. With my agent’s blessing, over the past year-and-a-half, that’s what I have done. It’s now finished, and she is planning to read it mid-September.

So how are these for high stakes? I have no idea if Katie will like it. Have I wasted my time? Even if she loves it and a sale goes through immediately, when it releases, I will have been out of the market for a possible career-ending four years. Will my readers even remember me? I am sixty and my parents both had dementia. Who knows how long I have to continue working at this.

But something happened this past year that gooses me forward: I fell in love with the characters in this new novel with a depth of attachment that surprised me, and their specific situation opened my mind to a new way of thinking about something I’d thought I was very clear on. The power of story is still strong within me. I’m not done yet.

I’ve heard some published authors say they wish they’d realized how quickly they’d need to produce the next book. As a self-published author, I’m also conscious of the clock ticking on the next pub date. You managed to put that aside for this project. What’s your best advice for handling that pressure?

  1. Be proactive. If you want to avoid this type of career hiccup, before you even start querying, come up with at least a half-dozen story ideas you believe are strong enough to pursue.
  2. As I wrote in my Writers in the Storm post, Managing Deadline Stress, your challenge is not acclimating to high levels of stress. We need to become more sensitive to it so we see its ill effects before succumbing to its undertow.
  3. Self-acceptance. Our main stressor is feeling we can’t live up to expectations, whether others’ or our own. We have to accept that we are biological beings who can break down, that it’s only feasible to work so many hours in a day, and that we must tend to other details of life. These are tough realities for the type of addictive personality that tends to succeed in such a competitive business, who’d much rather swipe everything else off the desk, dig in, and get ’er done. In the final weeks of a project, that’s what you might have to do—I got up at 4 a.m. and wrote until 8 pm every day during the final three weeks of revising THE FAR END OF HAPPY—but that’s no way to live on a daily basis.
  4. When dividing the days until deadline into a daily word count, build in a couple weeks for things to go wrong. Note “biological beings” in #3 above—and chances are, there are other biological beings depending on you who might break down, as well.

Given all that involvement, do you have any advice for writers on striking a balance between networking with other writers, writing, and the demands of daily life?

The balance will be different for everyone, so I guess my advice is to know yourself. Watch what does and doesn’t work. For example, I am both an introvert and extrovert by nature. My volunteer activities in the writing world, on boards, etc., have helped me span long periods of career disappointment, especially during the querying years. It helped that I believe I am playing a bit part in a much larger story, and did not believe the Great Creator would save me from the suicide action only to fail. I thrive on being around other writers, but after several days of being “on,” such as presenting at a conference, I need to hole up and recharge. Yet as one of five children I am socially motivated, often to the point of doing things for others that I won’t do for myself, so leading groups for other writers helps me achieve my own goals, send good karma into the world, all while supporting the industry I hope will support me. Win-win-win.

Time is at a premium. Always try to come up with scenarios that offer at least a triple win.

Try to come up with scenarios that offer at least a triple win. - Kathryn Craft #amwriting Click To TweetYou mentioned your column, “Turning Whine into Gold” for the Writers in the Storm blog, which focuses on finding positive solutions as a writer. If you had to distill your top three pieces of advice for writers, what would they be?

Most of these are contained within my first post there, “10 Writer Affirmations to Bolster Optimism.”

  1. Have faith that the process will hold rewards beyond those you seek.
  2. Use your writing to create a life you love. Love is the only reason to choose such an uncertain pursuit.
  3. Cast the word “rejection” from your life. No one is rejecting you, or even your ideas. They just aren’t suited to be your best advocate—and why wouldn’t you want to keep looking until you found your work’s best advocate?

Tell us about your writing for Writer’s Digest.

I love the way life happens sometimes. While I was floundering around for my next novel idea, Therese Walsh asked me to come on board at Writer UnBoxed (you can find me there on the second Thursday of each month with my craft column, “Mad Skills.”) Very quickly she also asked me to contribute a chapter to a book she was compiling for Writers Digest Books, AUTHOR IN PROGRESS. My chapter, “A Drop of Imitation: Learn from the Masters,” was a lot of fun to write. At the same time, another friend, Janice Gable Bashman, had pitched an interview with me for the 2017 NOVEL & SHORT STORY MARKET on how structure supports meaning in my novels. The interview was accepted, published, and then reprinted earlier this year, bundled with essays by writing luminaries such as Khaled Hosseini, Donald  Maass, and Jodi Picoult, in THE COMPLETE HANDBOOK OF NOVEL WRITING. That was a real thrill, and a boost as I sorted out my fiction writing.

About Kathryn Craft

Kathryn Craft is the award-winning author of two novels from Sourcebooks, THE ART OF FALLING and THE FAR END OF HAPPY, and a developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com specializing in storytelling structure and writing craft. Her chapter, “A Drop of Imitation: Learn from the Masters,” was included in the writing guide AUTHOR IN PROGRESS, from Writers Digest Books. Janice Gable Bashman’s interview with her, “How Structure Supports Meaning,” originally published in the 2017 NOVEL & SHORT STORY WRITER’S MARKET, has been reprinted in THE COMPLETE HANDBOOK OF NOVEL WRITING, both from Writer’s Digest Books.

About THE FAR END OF HAPPY

Ronnie’s husband is supposed to move out today. But when Jeff pulls into the driveway drunk, with a shotgun in the front seat, she realizes nothing about the day will go as planned. The next few hours spiral down in a flash, unlike the slow disintegration of their marriage—and whatever part of that painful unraveling is Ronnie’s fault, not much else matters now but these moments. Her family’s lives depend on the choices she will make—but is what’s best for her best for everyone? Based on a real event from the author’s life, The Far End of Happy​ is a chilling story of one troubled man, the family that loves him, and the suicide standoff that will change all of them forever. You can arrange to get a signed copy by calling in your order to the Doylestown Bookshop. All other buy links are at Kathryn’s website.

Learn more:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KathrynCraftAuthor
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kathryncraft/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/kcraftwriter

Niagara Falls, book research, wrong turns, and bucket lists

By Sandra Hutchison

This summer I took a 3,000-mile road trip inspired by…

  1. The need to do some research for my next novel;
  2. The desire to bring home some bulky items left over after I helped my mother clean out my grandma’s house (you would not believe how excited I get by free power tools I will probably never use); and,
  3. The desire to check a few places off the bucket list.

That last one had felt more urgent after my last (plane) trip to my parents’ house. My folks  now refuse to travel serious distances. (Ocala, okay. Tampa, no.) They also refuse to get on a plane. Dad isn’t comfortable sitting in one place for any length of time. But it’s not just that. At one point during lunch in Crystal River I suggested a visit to their recently renovated park, which was apparently a good place to see manatees. Their response: “If you’ve seen one manatee, you’ve seen them all.”

That’s when you know your parents are really getting old.

This suggested to me that someday I, too, might not be interested in manatees, or in getting out and doing anything that doesn’t revolve around a good cheap lunch. And you never know how soon that moment might arrive. So it was time to get cracking!

My first destination on this road trip was Niagara Falls. I always love waterfalls, yet had never gone there. Hadn’t even really thought of it. If anything, whenever I heard “Niagara Falls” I thought of what my ex-husband would immediate quote. (And he did it again, when I told him my plans.)

But because of the novel I was writing I wanted to better visualize a scene set there, when hero and heroine accidentally cross into Canada.

While it’s possible to google a location and read about various people’s experiences with it  and maybe do some interviews and then fake your way quite through a lot (God knows I do plenty of that), there’s nothing like actually being there.

Also, I was puzzled by the number of people who claimed to have accidentally crossed the Rainbow Bridge to Canada. (That’s the real bridge to the real country, not the metaphor for pets who’ve died.) How, really, could that happen?

So I drove off to Niagara Falls as the first stop of a very long road trip west and then south and back — about 3,000 miles over 10 days. This first half would include one night in Canada, one with a friend in Pittsburgh, one with another friend in Berea, Kentucky, and one in a hotel in Tifton, Georgia, mostly because I didn’t want to arrive at my parents’ after their bedtime, which has moved earlier at the same pace as their interest in manatees has shrunk.

The trip did not start out well. I was not even halfway along I-90 towards Buffalo when I noticed a cloud of vapor billowing behind my car. Luckily, an exit appeared just then and I was able to coast through it to a gas station, where I discovered a long trail of liquid behind my car. Two hours later, after negotiations with my insurance company for a tow to a local garage that lasted nearly as long as the transmission hose replacement that followed, I was back on the road, hoping that was the last car problem I’d have.

I was pretty frazzled at that point, which may be why I didn’t even attempt to ask the officer on the Canadian end of the bridge if a lot of people REALLY arrived by accident. She wasn’t the least bit friendly, for one thing. (When I got to the hotel, I realized I’d left a big scary garden knife just under the front passenger seat — after telling her no, I had no guns and no knives. It can really pay to be a harmless looking white lady.)

Anyway, I was tired, but I walked down the hill anyway before the light was gone and, yes, the falls were amazing.

 

They tasted better than they looked.

I walked around, but it was getting late, and I was hungry, so I hiked back up to the hotels, hoping for a little comfort food before bedtime. Almost every restaurant in Niagara Falls, Ontario appears to belong to a huge tourist chain. I finally settled on oddly disintegrating pancakes at IHOP for $15.99, which was, apparently, the minimum you can pay for anything in that area unless you go to Tim Horton’s, which I hadn’t found yet.

The next morning I went down the hill early, before breakfast. It was worth it because of the beautiful morning light.

After a couple of hours of exploring and having a long conversation with a lady from Singapore who just wanted to talk and eating breakfast at Tim Horton’s, I checked out and hit the road and the Rainbow Bridge again.

I didn’t even try to ask the very friendly American official at the end of the bridge about people accidentally crossing. I’d already figured I’d need to change my plans there. Really, who could accidentally cross that bridge? There were plenty of signs. Even if it sometimes happens, people wouldn’t think it wasn’t plausible. (There are A LOT of things in real life that don’t seem plausible when you put them in a book.)

I figured I’d at least stop in at the Niagara Falls State Park, since it was easy enough to drive in and park. You don’t even have to pay parking if you stay for less than twenty minutes. And the falls are RIGHT THERE, so it’s easy enough to pop over and take a look.

This park has been renovated recently, apparently (renovations are still under way in some places), but it’s AMAZING. I had so much fun. I stayed half the day. The falls are one thing, but the river streaming towards them is beautiful in its many various sections, too. The park is beautifully laid out with walking trails and overlooks and, if you want, the Maid of the Mist and other attractions. The people-watching is great, too.

I decided to forego anything that would drench my shoes and leave me blinded by spray on my glasses for long stretches of time. Still, at moments I felt overtaken by sheer awe. It’s amazing to stand RIGHT THERE next to all that pounding power.

Time was passing, and eventually I needed to head for Pittsburgh. Once there, I told my friend Ann that I was going to have to change my plans for the book, because there was no way anybody was really going to go over that bridge accidentally.

She said, “Well, I’ve got a story to tell you.”

Turns out a few years back Ann was hosting an exchange student from Thailand when she and another host, Peg, rented a van and took a load of exchange students up to Niagara Falls. Just the American side, because the students were here on visas. Crossing the border would be way too complicated. So they left their passports at home.

After a fun day at the park, they decided they wanted to go eat dinner, and voted on pizza. (Or Chinese food. There’s some disagreement between Anne and Peg on this.) So they put that in their GPS, followed its directions and suddenly realized they were already on the approach to the bridge and could not back out (literally, their tires would be punctured if they tried).

So they drove into the duty-free shop, where the woman said oh yeah, it happens all the time, the Canadians will give you a sheet of paper to say you didn’t really enter, and send you back.

But what about all those students who might be denied re-entry without their papers?

Oops. So Ann walked them to an ice cream shop just off the bridge, while Peg went ahead and drove across with the van. The Canadian officer laughed and responded just as the duty free clerk said she would. The American officer, however, was suspicious. Peg got questioned at length, with the same questions over and over, and then he searched the van before finally letting her go on her way.

Oh, man. Never have I been so glad to hear someone’s GPS horror story.

So, Kathy and Diego get to accidentally cross the Rainbow Bridge after all, and will have to cope with all that follows.

It’s just the power of suggestion, probably, but I see Niagara Falls everywhere now. On the way back up from Florida, they were in a painting in Juliette Gordon Lowe’s birthplace in Savannah (that city was a bucket list item), in Jefferson’s dining room at Monticello (another bucket list item), at the Farnsworth in Rockland, Maine (a stop I make every year), and at the Albany Institute of History and Art (couldn’t believe I’d never been there before!).

I’d love to take this as a sign I’m being carried on to something good with this book. It could just as easily mean I’m heading for a fall. More likely, I’m just noticing something I hadn’t noticed before. And that is good enough for me.

If you’d like, comment with your own GPS horror story, or some of your bucket list items.


Next month’s blog post will feature another author interview (and a chance to win a free copy of THE FAR END OF HAPPY) with the talented women’s fiction author Kathryn Craft.

 

 

 

From nun to novelist: An interview with Linda Anne Smith

Sandra Hutchison interviews the debut author of the indie-published TERRIFYING FREEDOM, a novel about a woman whose past as a nun is holding her back from new possibilities in her life. It’s a rewarding read for anyone fascinated by the anguish that can result when sincere faith collides with the inevitable human frailties of religious organizations.

A quick note — next month’s post will catch you up on my writing, rather than offering yet another author interview, much as I enjoy them. (Just in case you’re getting impatient!)

Linda, your author bio suggests that there are a fair number of commonalities between you and your heroine. Am I right about that, and if so, can you explain your decision to fictionalize this story rather than, say, write a memoir?

Yes, I do have extensive experience in religious life—30 years, in fact.

TERRIFYING FREEDOM, while drawing from this experience, is not autobiographical. However, the context of the story is based on fact, so the central part of the novel could be considered historical fiction.

So why not write a memoir? And pass up on the opportunity to spin a tale? From the start I wanted to write fiction. I felt impelled to give life to Rebecca, who, when the beliefs on which she founded her life begin to crumble, must navigate through the murky, rough waters of uncertainty.

I believe fiction gives me a broader range to explore and expand the characters and the reality in which they live. I am able to draw not only from my own experience but from what I’ve learned from others. For example, the central part of the novel is situated in Appalachia. Throughout my life I’ve been drawn to Appalachia: its people, its history and its beauty. The research I did for the novel deepened my own understanding of the Appalachian people. Initially Appalachia was a location for the story, but as the novel evolved it became a character. Fiction can open horizons. I love it.

'...fiction gives me a broader range to explore and expand the characters...' Click To Tweet

The novel interested me with its serious attitude towards economic justice and education. The heroine clearly takes teaching very seriously, and the quietly rebellious sisters do good work in Appalachia despite serious institutional barriers. Did you experience a similar path?

I work with at-risk and special needs children. Over the years I have seen how essential it is to provide early intervention for these children and their families. As a society we need to bolster our educational programs with lower class sizes and teacher aides; we need to provide vibrant and relevant after-school and preschool programs as well as outreach to parents. When we as a society demonize addiction, poverty, etc., rather than examine the roots and provide adequate support, we limit many people from living out their potential as persons and from engaging in an empathetic and productive manner in society.

While the purpose of TERRIFYING FREEDOM is to tell the story of Rebecca, I am thrilled when readers are made more aware of the issues that Rebecca and her community grapple with. I love reading novels where my perception of reality is challenged and I set off researching for more information and a deeper sensitivity of the issue or event discussed. Through his novels, Charles Dickens revealed the underbelly of English society that shocked and evoked change. I believe stories can be powerful conveyors of insight and empathy.

Your novel also features a slow-building romance with a sympathetic human resources manager. This is not one of your typical romantic hero’s jobs! What inspired that?

As the song goes, “Love is in the air, everywhere I look around!” I can also say that throughout my life I’ve been blessed by relationships that began as chance encounters: our lives just intersected at the right time and place. These persons believed in me and because of their honesty and compassion my life took turns that may not have happened otherwise. I’ll always be grateful to them.

Tell us how you came to write and publish TERRIFYING FREEDOM. Did anything about it surprise you? Do you have any advice for others?

As mentioned above, I felt a burning drive to write this story. Having said this, not everything was clear from the beginning and I had many moments of self-doubt. As I approached the end of Part One, I considered wrapping the novel up quickly. But after consideration, I decided to plunge into Part Two and am glad I did. In all, it took six years to write.

When it was completed, I embarked on the route of traditional publishing. But the more I trekked down this path, the more my eyes were opened. Several conglomerates control most of the publishing in the US and Canada. To get even the slightest consideration (not to mention an offer), one must first have an agent. So I hunted and send out queries to many agents who I thought might be interested in my genre. If an agent expressed interest, then I had to give a few months for that agent to read the manuscript and decide whether to take on the book or not. This process takes months and the manuscript hasn’t even begun to be seen by a publisher.

So while pursuing the traditional route, I began to research self-publishing through Ingram Spark and Createspace. I discovered that while I would have to put out for the editing, interior design and cover, I also would also have more control over the final product. And from what I’d read, even if a person is traditionally published, the author remains the primary marketer of their book (unless they are a celebrity).

At one point, a smaller publishing house expressed interest in TERRIFYING FREEDOM  and I sent off my manuscript to its reviewer. When I did not hear back after a number of months, I decided to self-publish with both Ingram Spark and Createspace. I was well into to this process when I heard that the reviewer had been quite ill and had since recovered. She liked the novel and gave me some great editing tips. By then, however, I decided to continue with self-publishing rather than wait any longer.

To authors-in-the-making, I would say concentrate above all on writing and completing your book. Be ready to edit, then edit, and edit some more. The best book I read on writing was ON WRITING: A MEMOIR OF THE CRAFT, by Stephen King. This book transcends genres as King offers examples from a wide range of authors. He is honest, practical and encouraging. I recommend this book to anyone who asks me about being an author.

I would happily second that recommendation!

Also, if you decide to self-publish, I would suggest investing in a professional editor and cover designer. Read current blogs on the self-publishing (this industry is constantly evolving) and move forward step by step. I would have been overwhelmed if I focused on the entire process. Lastly, be willing to promote your book. If someone expresses interest via social media, keep in touch with the person. I met you, Sandra, through a comment you made on a blog. Through our communication, you gave me a marketing tip and have now given me this wonderful opportunity to promote Terrifying Freedom.

My first novel, which features an errant priest and explores different approaches to faith, was at least partly inspired by thoughtful novels with religious themes by Tim Farrington, Gail Godwin, Anne Tyler, and John Irving, among others. Were you inspired to write yours by any particular works, fiction or nonfiction?

I love reading, both fiction and nonfiction, and I’m sure that various authors have influenced my writing without me being aware of it. I love Jane Austen for her insights into the society of her time and her keen perception of others. She has written enduring novels with the stuff of day-to-day living.

Books have opened me to worlds and experiences I had no idea existed. The books I love give me at least one character I deeply care about, increase my awareness of a particular a reality, give me another angle to view history, and/or break through stereotypes.

What’s next for you as an author?

I am currently writing a sequel that tells Andrew’s story (that sympathetic human resource manager!).

Linda Anne Smith lives near Calgary, Alberta, enjoying the beauty of the Rocky Mountains. For 30 years, she was a member of a community of religious sisters. She currently volunteers in an organization that is dedicated to assisting and advocating for traumatized and neglected children and their families and works in a school assisting children with special needs. Learn more about her and her work at terrifyingfreedom.com, or follow Linda on social media at Facebook or Twitter.

About TERRIFYING FREEDOM

In the Midwestern offices of Secure Star Insurance, Rebecca, efficient and distant, seeks only to survive another day. Sally, earnest and devout, views the workplace as a fertile mission field. Into the agency comes a new employee, Gladys, gregarious, unorthodox and twice divorced. When an intuitive HR manager arrives, veneers begin to crack.

Back track four years. Rebecca’s mysterious past is explored in a convent replete with younger members and garnering the support of an increasing number of bishops and conservative Catholics. When an older nun has a heart attack, Rebecca is abruptly sent to a backwater mission in Appalachia. Distanced from the enclave of the mother house and embedded in social realities of the missionary outpost, Rebecca is thrust into uncharted waters.

You can purchase TERRIFYING FREEDOM at…

Amazon/Kindle

Barnes and Noble

Canada—Chapters, Indigo/Kobo

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Steve Vernon leverages Kindle Scout and his sense of humor

Sandra Hutchison interviews the ever-entertaining multi-genre author Steve Vernon about his experiences with Kindle Scout, the challenges of publishing across genres, his reviewing habits, and more.

Steve, you used Kindle Scout to successfully win a contract for your book KELPIE DREAMS, but I know that wasn’t your first try. What are your tips for those who want to try that?

First, write the very best book you can write. Try to make it marketable. Kindle Scout is simply a thirty day pitch to the world’s largest digital publisher – Amazon. Kindle Press (which is the publishing arm that actually publishes winning Kindle Scout novels) wants a book that is going to sell. So, if you have decided that you want to write something that is intense and personal and complex and damn near unreadable – DON’T BOTHER TRYING TO PITCH IT TO KINDLE SCOUT!

Or, maybe you should.

Why?

Well, really for me the very best way to think of Kindle Scout is like this. Kindle Scout is the a thirty-day extension to your book launch. Think of it as a pre-pre-order.

It works this way: You enter your book into Kindle Scout. You then have a thirty-day window to try to draw as much attention, in the form of nominations and views, to your book. If it’s selected, you get a $1500 advance and a chance to sell a whole lot more copies. The readers who nominated your book receive free copies – which can lead to a sudden boost in reviews.

BUT – if you AREN’T selected for Kindle Press publishing, you still have a note that you write ahead of time to your readers that can be used to notify them when you actually release your book. If you release it as a KU release you have the ability to set a free giveaway on your first few days of release and thus you have the ability to give away a whole lot more copies, boost your ranking and (hopefully) boost your initial flow of reviews.

I could talk a whole lot more about Kindle Scout – but let me just sum it all up by saying YES, I would do it again. The experience has been a good one for me and it continues to be good.

You’ve been publishing a long time, including some early traditional deals. At various times you’ve gone all-in with Kindle Select and recently I noticed you mention that you were planning to go wide again. A lot of self-published authors have spoken of a more challenging market lately. What are your thoughts about the indie publishing terrain right now?

The indie publishing terrain is getting tougher by the minute. The obstacles are rising up before us indie authors like a gigantic mountain range, but there is STILL gold in them thar hills. Sure, it has gotten tougher. But the opportunities for an indie author are still out there, better than ever. You just have to work a little harder, is all.

Most of your books are horror, but you also have some Christian humor and your Kindle Scout winner, KELPIE DREAMS, is a romance. Do you have any useful insights to offer as a cross-genre author?

As a cross-genre author I would say this.

DON’T DO IT!

I have undermined my effectiveness as a salable author every time I release something that is a little off of my usual stomping grounds – but the simple truth is, I have to do it. We can’t always do what is smart and/or profitable. I get bored writing the same darned thing.

You came to my attention with what I still consider the single most entertaining review of one of my books. Your blog is usually funny, too. Is it safe to say broad humor is consistent across all your work? Do you have any particular recommendations for marketing humor?

Good humor is necessary for any genre. Nobody wants to read about somebody crying all day long. Even Romeo and Juliet had a giggle or two. Even Mercutio, when facing death, remarked “Look for me tomorrow and you shall find me a grave man.”

Can you dig it?

That said, I tend to giggle a little more in my prose than the average writer.

How do you see the relationship between your work as a reviewer and your work as an author? Advantages? Dangers?

A writer has ALWAYS got to be careful what they say in print. I haven’t ever had a review blow up in my face, mostly because I rarely review something that stinks. If I can’t say anything nice about it – like, “It was a good book. It had pages and words and everything,” then I don’t say anything at all.

You’re also a Canadian. Can you speak to that experience as an indie author? Do you face special challenges because of it? Any special opportunities?

We Canadians are natural-born storytellers. I make a fair bit every year as an oral tradition storyteller. The one thing I do regret is that living here in the Maritimes leaves me without any sort of horror conventions. We do have a couple of science fiction conventions, but no horror conventions at all in Nova Scotia.

What inspired KELPIE DREAMS

It sprang from a single moment in which I looked out from the window of our gold Toyota Echo and saw a woman standing on the shoreline of a quiet cove, knee-deep in the water. She was just gazing out into the distance, like she could see something out there that was calling for her.

By the time I got home I could not shake that vision. I kept wondering what kind of person would do this sort of thing. I thought about every wild and untamable woman I had ever met and talked to and heard about and I tried to capture these memories and sew them up into the woman who became known as Lady Macbeth.

That’s the protagonist in KELPIE DREAMS. She has a bone to pick with the world and she isn’t afraid to let that out. I had always wanted to try to write this sort of novel. In a lot of ways I believe that I succeeded. There are an awful lot of things about this book that I wish I had done better, but all in all I am very proud of it and I am very pleased and grateful that the folks at Kindle Scout saw fit to accept this novel for their line of books.

What’s your number one hope for what your readers will get out of reading KELPIE DREAMS?

Oh, there’s nothing deep or meaningful in this answer, I’m afraid. My number one hope for what a reader will get out it is nothing more than a bit of fun. When it comes right down to it, there are always going to be books out there that move and shake you deep down in your very being. I can think of two or three books that hit me hard and left me thinking for years to come – but primarily I read for the simple need to escape the day-to-day humdrum of existence. It is why I read on the bus to my day job. I work as a cubicle dust monkey for the Canadian Federal Government, and believe you me, I dearly need me a little honest escape. So I read books that make me giggle. I read books with a lot of gun play and a few explosions and heroes saving damsels and single-handedly defeating rampaging hordes of bad guys and politicians.

Tell us about how it came to be written and published.

KELPIE DREAMS was my second attempt at a Kindle Scout campaign. I wrote that book like all of those scenes in all of those old action movies, where the hero gets ready to go and kick the bad guy’s butt. When he loads his six shooters and strings his bow or sharpens his sword. When he does a billion one-armed push-ups and runs to the top of the library stairs and yells “Yo, Adrian!” I wrote the novel focusing on how I wanted it to win Kindle Scout. Every word and every line, I kept thinking to myself, I want this book to win.

I could talk all about the power of creative visualization if you wanted me to. I don’t know if that works or not. But what I can say for certain is that I wrote KELPIE DREAMS and I wanted it to win and, son of a gun, it won.

Learn more about KELPIE DREAMS

Meet Lady Macbeth – a high school librarian, ex-assassin, and part-time kelpie, whose mother wanted to name her Hemorrhoid at birth. Now she has to take on a Sea Hag – eight legs of Godzilla-ugly poured into a bucket full of meanness – with the help of a one-woman army named Rhonda, a 200-year-old sea captain, and a hunky lighthouse keeper who won’t admit that he’s dead as well. KELPIE DREAMS is a funny, action-packed, shoot-em-up paranormal romance novel for folks who HATE to read romance novels. It can ONLY be found in e-book format on Amazon. It is also available in paperback as well. You might also want to try a taste with its short sequels KELPIE CHRISTMAS (which is perma-free) and KELPIE SNOW.

STEVE VERNON has been writing fiction for the last forty years or so. He has released seven regionally-published books, as well as fifty independently-published releases and a dozen or so small-press releases. He says, “If you want to picture me, just think of that old dude at the campfire spinning out ghost stories and weird adventures and the grand epic saga of how Thud the Second stepped out of his cave with nothing more than a rock in his fist and slew the saber tooth tiger.” Or, as Bookgasm put it, “If Harlan Ellison, Richard Matheson and Robert Bloch had a three-way sex romp in a hot tub, and then a team of scientists came in and filtered out the water and mixed the leftover DNA into a test tube, the resulting genetic experiment would most likely grow up into Steve Vernon.”

You can learn more about (and from) Steve at…

His Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Steve-Vernon/e/B002BMD282/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1

Twitter: https://twitter.com/StephenVernon

 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stevevernon007

After an indie start, Nicole Blades transitions to traditional publishing

Sandra Hutchison interviews Nicole Blades, a Montreal native who moved to New York and found success writing across a variety of media, including a first novel with a small Canadian press, followed by one with traditional publisher Kensington’s Dafina imprint — with a second novel to follow this fall.

Do stay tuned if you’re a writer with a novel in a drawer. You’re likely to find the story of Nicole’s next book especially heartening. (Note: This post contains Amazon Affiliate links — for an explanation of what that means, please see the bottom of the post.)

Author Nicole Blades

Nicole, what inspired THE THUNDER BENEATH US?

About six or seven years ago, I read this magazine story about these three brothers who went duck-hunting as part of their Christmas get-together. But it all turned tragic when the family dog accidentally punched a hole in the lightly frozen lake. While trying to save the dog, all three brothers were sucked down into freezing water. Two of the brothers drowned and one survived.

The story never left me. I kept thinking about the level of guilt, pangs of what-ifs, and probable shame that the one surviving brother faced; and how that psychological torment could inform and influence how he sees himself moving forward. These men were in their 30s at time of the ice accident, but I started wondering how that heaviness of what happened would translate to someone who was just a teenager when their entire world was forever changed.

What’s your number one hope for what your readers will get out of it?

Compassion. I hope readers come away from this story with a fortified sense of compassion for each other. We have no idea what’s happening beneath the surface of someone’s life—no matter flawless or fabulous it may appear to on social media. We all need to feel valued and heard and supported as we make our way through this life. I’ve said this a few times, but it’s still true: The human condition can knock the wind out of you. It’s vital to know and believe that we can make mistakes and get back up, and that we are all worthy of love and acceptance.

I hope readers come away...with a fortified sense of compassion for each other. -- Nicole Blades Click To Tweet

How did you come to publish it?

My debut novel, EARTH’S WATERS, was published back in 2007 by DC Books—a small, indie publisher based in my hometown of Montreal. I dove right back into writing the next thing, another novel. After querying agents with Book No. 2 for a while, there were no bites and it never got picked up, so I did what I do: started working on the next story. That third novel became THE THUNDER BENEATH US.

Now, the second novel—the one I thought I had finished back in 2010—went through many changes and revisions and recasts as well as time on the shelf or in the desk drawer. But I didn’t want to throw in the towel on it because I still liked the story; I still cared about the protagonist and what could happen to her. Since the heart of the story always remained the same, I was able to build a brand new world around it and still stay intrigued with how it could unfold. And—sound the horn!—that Book No. 2 became HAVE YOU MET NORA? and will be published October 31.

All tallied, I have been living with and working on this NORA story for nine years. This writing/publishing world can be a roller-coaster ride, right?

That’s for sure! As a now traditionally-published author, what advice would you have for aspiring authors?

My advice is, first, be wary of advice! Sort of joking there, but the truth is there is no shortage of people popping up to tell you what you should be doing or (worse) what you’re doing wrong.  But as is often the case, you really do need to figure out what makes sense for you and your writing.

That said, I do have three suggestions to offer: First, read. You have to read to be a writer. No way around it. Read different genres and styles and quality of writing, because it’s all going to help your own writing and develop your storytelling. Second, you have to write. It’s a craft and you have to practice it, work at it. It doesn’t come magically to anyone. (No matter what they might want to tell you!) So, commit the time, sit in the seat, and write. Lastly, find your voice and use that. Don’t bother trying to emulate your favorite writer or the latest bestseller. That’s their voice. Use yours to tell the stories you want to read. Focus on one goal: telling a really good story in your voice.

First, read. You have to read to be a writer. -- Nicole Blades Click To Tweet

About Nicole Blades:

A novelist and freelance journalist who has been putting her stories on paper since the third grade, Nicole Blades was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec, by Caribbean parents. She moved to New York City and launched her journalism career working at Essence magazine. She later co-founded the online magazine SheNetworks, and worked as an editor at ESPN and Women’s Health.

Nicole’s articles and essays have appeared in Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, NYTimes.com, WashingtonPost.com, MarieClaire.com, SELF, Health, and BuzzFeed. Her next book, HAVE YOU MET NORA?, will be released November 2017, and her latest novel, THE THUNDER BENEATH US, is available now wherever books and ebooks are sold. You can hear Nicole and her sister Nailah on Hey, Sis!, their new podcast about women finding their focus and place in business, art, culture, and life.

More about THE THUNDER BENEATH US:

Ten years ago, on Christmas Eve, Best and her two older brothers took a shortcut over a frozen lake. When the ice cracked, all three went in. Only Best came out.

People said she was lucky, but that kind of luck is nothing but a burden. Because Best knows what she had to do to survive. And after years of covering up the past, her guilt is detonating through every facet of her seemingly charmed life.

Best is quick-witted and headstrong, but how do you find a way to happiness when you’re sure you haven’t earned it—or embrace a future you feel you don’t deserve? Evocative and emotional, THE THUNDER BENEATH US is a gripping novel about learning to carry loss without breaking, and to heal and forgive—not least of all, ourselves. Buy it on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2p7i4h4

Want to learn more? Nicole’s social media links:

Website: http://nicoleblades.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/nicoleblades

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WriterNicoleBlades/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nicole_blades/

Amazon Affiliate links give Sandra Hutchison a tiny percentage for any purchases made from this site without adding any cost to you. They also help people in other countries like, say, Canada, get the Amazon store that works for them. (Please let Sandra know if you’re not in the US and the link didn’t work for you! This is a bit of an experiment.)

Frustration and hope: An interview with self-published author Lisa Marie Latino

Sandra Hutchison interviews an indie author whose romantic comedy debut was written to give hope to anyone who feels they’ve fallen short of their dreams.

What inspired Ten Years Later?

I went through various periods of self doubt in the years after college. I, too, was single, still living at my parents’ home, and went through some very trying times that all entrepreneurs do while forming their own businesses. As I opened up to others about my frustrations I realized that nearly everyone, no matter their circumstance, was dealing with the same insecurities. That theme — visions of what one thinks life SHOULD be versus reality — really inspired me, and since I’ve always wanted to write a book anyway, I channeled that angst into writing Ten Years Later .

A lot of readers assume Carla and I are the same person because we share a similar background and common interests — we’re both New Jersey-based sports fans of Italian descent. Obviously, I drew on a lot of my life’s experience in shaping a relatable fictional character, but Carla has her own set of unique circumstances that represent the plight of driven millennials everywhere trying to claim their stake in the world.

The book was originally written for women in their twenties and early thirties who are struggling to find their way; I wanted Ten Years Later to be their beacon of hope and motivate them to accomplish their heart’s desires. But as I’m getting to know my readers, I’m realizing that they come from all walks of life. High schoolers to middle-aged men have read and loved it. To write a book that can touch a wide variety of people is very fulfilling.

How did you come to publish it?

I did the blind-pitch dance to about fifty literary agents…and got rejected by all of them. I have built my career by creating opportunities for myself that no one else would give me, so I figured I would add one more to the list! I enlisted an editor, proofreader and illustrator to craft an ultra-professional final product. I published through CreateSpace and they were very helpful in guiding me through the process. It’s another “business” to worry about but I wouldn’t want it any other way!

What most surprised you in the writing and/or publishing of your book?

My experience as a business owner alleviated a lot of the “shock” in my new career as a self-published novelist. I knew the work was going to be hard and the reward not so instant. But I’m still learning something new everyday, from distribution tips to new blogs or online book communities to tap into!

What’s been your best experience so far as a published author?

Getting feedback from readers. I am so humbled by the fact that people chose to spend their time in my little world I created. Professionally, there is no better feeling.

What comes next?

The ultimate goal for Ten Years Later is to turn it into a movie. In my humble opinion, I think it would smash at the box office as the next great romantic comedy!

As for the future, I have many ideas for books; some in the same lighthearted vein, some in a much darker voice.

As an indie-published author, what advice would you have for aspiring authors?

Find a subject that absolutely consumes you with passion and run with it! That passion will take you through the writing, editing, tweaking of the final product, and marketing yourself.

Find a subject that absolutely consumes you with passion and run with it! -- Lisa Marie Latino Click To TweetAbout Lisa Marie Latino

The CEO and executive producer of Long Shot Productions, a full-service media production company based in Fairfield, New Jersey, Latino has produced numerous commercial, corporate, and entertainment programs that have taken her throughout the United States as well as Europe. In 2014, Latino co-launched HipNewJersey.com, an online lifestyle program featuring the latest trends around the Garden State.

Latino has appeared on a wide variety of local television, network cable, and radio shows, including TLC’s Cake Boss, SNY’s Oh Yeah, and WFAN Sport Radio’s Boomer & Carton and works in-season for the New York Giants Radio Network. She has also served as an adjunct broadcasting professor at Seton Hall University. Latino graduated from Montclair State University in 2006 with a degree in broadcasting and speech communication.

Learn more about Lisa Marie Latino on Facebook or her web site, lisamarielatino.com, which has more social media links.

Ten Years Later
Carla D’Agostino is not your typical heroine. Stuck in a seemingly dead-end job, single, and still living with her overbearing Italian-American parents, Carla is thrown for a loop when she realizes her ten-year high school reunion is fast approaching. True love, a career as a sports radio talk show host, the perfect body–every dream remains frustratingly out of reach no matter how Carla strives and schemes. Out of reach, that is, until unexpected events lead her right back to where she started, and Carla discovers that all she ever wanted was right in front of her the whole time. “Ten Years Later” is a witty, unpredictable tale of one ordinary young woman’s race for the top as she throws caution to the wind and decides to go for her dreams.
WHERE TO BUY IT:
Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Smashwords / iBooks

Published every way: An interview with author Denise Deegan

Sandra Hutchison interviews multi-published Irish author Denise Deegan (who also publishes women’s fiction as Aimee Alexander).

Denise, in terms of being published you’ve moved from traditional to indie to Lake Union (as Aimee Alexander) and back to indie again. Quite an adventure! Can you share some of your ups and downs?

So, I had seven novels traditionally published, four contemporary works of women’s fiction, followed by a YA trilogy. By the time the last YA novel was published, the rights to my women’s fiction works had reverted to me. I thought that self-publishing would be an adventure, so I renamed myself Aimee Alexander (my children’s names combined), edited my books afresh, renamed them, hired a cover designer, and uploaded to Amazon. One of those novels, The Accidental Life of Greg Millar, was spotted by Amazon imprint Lake Union Publishing and then republished by them. My latest novel, Through the Barricades, is self-published.

Being traditionally published and having your novels translated into other languages is exciting. However, I love the control that comes with self-publishing. You choose your own covers, you do your own promotion, you see the results of that promotion immediately, and you can adapt with great flexibility. Importantly, you have a much higher royalty rate. You are an entrepreneur as well as an author. Having run my own PR business, all of this appeals very much to me. I like juggling different roles, working with different people, being creative in lots of ways, not just writing.

Being picked up by Lake Union Publishing was tremendously exciting because it came out of the blue. They approached me unexpectedly. I was aware of them; I had seen their books on Amazon. I loved their covers and their books. Mostly I loved their rankings! Being published by them was a treat. Their editing was wonderful, as was the cover they designed. They have been a pleasure to deal with. And they know their business.

I still have an agent and a manager in LA for my children’s and YA books. The market for children’s books is still very traditional.

I self-published my latest novel, Through the Barricades. 2016 was the centenary of a revolution that changed the course of Irish history. I wanted to get my story out before the end of the year. The fastest way was self-publishing. I just about made it. The book was published December 8. One of the highlights so far has been the cover, which I adore. That my daughter Aimee graces it makes the book all the more special to me.

As you note, you’ve published in multiple genres. Do you have any wisdom to impart on that?

Traditional wisdom states that authors should stick to a genre to build an audience. I had written four novels of contemporary women’s fiction. I didn’t plan to change. However, the next story that arrived to me was a teenage one. When I say arrived, I mean that I began to hear the characters’ voices in my head (which is how I’ve always written). The first conversation I heard was between sixteen-year-old Alex and her father. Alex’s voice was filled with rage, sarcasm but also a vulnerability that I couldn’t ignore. I scribbled that first dialogue onto a napkin in a coffee shop. Alex’s story became And By The Way, the first of The Butterfly Novels, a contemporary YA trilogy. I have since written a historical novel of love and revolution that is suitable for both adult and teenagers. I also have two novels with an agent, a YA thriller and a middle-grade pirate adventure.

The first thing I would say is that my novels are very strong on voice and emotion, no matter what genre they are in. That is because I hear and feel my characters. I become them as I write. If I ignored that process and stuck diligently to a genre, I would lose the realness of my stories. It would all become clinical and prescriptive, and my novels would, too. Then I would lose the desire to write.

A wonderful thing happened when I followed the teenage voices of Alex, Sarah, and Rachel. They really touched people. Girls began to get in touch on social media to say how they had connected with the books and characters. They spoke of how much they had learned from the issues that arose in the stories. They told me that they had read them over and over, wanted them made into movies, movies in which they would star. The reaction of teenagers to my books has touched me hugely and reminded me of why I write. I love what I do. If I changed how I do it, a little part of me would die. And I like living!

What advice would you have for aspiring authors?

The absolute thing I would say is: get your stories out to the world. Make them the best they can be. Hire professional editors. Learn the craft. Because it is a craft. Then get your stories out. Do not be stopped by the middlemen. If you can’t get an agent or publisher, do it yourself. The New York Times bestsellers list always includes self-published books. These are books that were not picked up by middlemen. Therefore they don’t always know a winner when they see it. And they will admit that themselves. Still Alice and The Martian were self-published, picked up by traditional publishers, and turned into movies. Why? Because the authors got their stories out to the world.

...get your stories out. Do not be stopped by the middlemen. -- Denise Deegan Click To Tweet

 What inspired your most recent novel?

Through the Barricades is a story of love and revolution. I’m a rebel at heart. If you want me to do something, tell me I can’t do it. I wanted to write a story of rebellion. Being Irish is an important part of my identity. My country’s history is one of oppression and a very long struggle for freedom. I wanted to tell that story through the eyes of Maggie, an idealistic girl who is prepared to sacrifice everything for what she believes in, and Daniel, a boy who is prepared to sacrifice everything for Maggie. I’m proud of my country’s history – its fight, not just for freedom, but to hold on to its identity, its stories and culture. I love this novel. More than any other, it is who I am.

What’s your number one hope for what your readers will get out of it?

I hope that people will connect with my characters, not just Maggie and Daniel, but their families and friends. I want them to feel as if they are right beside these ordinary people as they struggle in extraordinary circumstances for what they believe in.

I also very much want to share the story of a regiment of Irish soldiers that was stationed in Gallipoli in WWI. Researching (and writing about) this, I felt an incredible connection to the young men who fought and died in the trenches in Turkey.

What most surprised you in the writing of your book?

  • The connection I felt with soldiers in WWI, especially as I hadn’t originally planned to write about the Great War
  • How history is interpreted differently by people
  • The unplanned characters who stole into the book and built roles for themselves: a little orphan girl, Lily; Patrick, the rebel with a tough shell but soft center; and Michael, Daniel’s happy-go-lucky friend who grew up fast in Gallipoli but whose humor was so important in the trenches.

Tell us more about you and your book and where we can find it.

I’m an optimist. I find good in bad, light in darkness, and humor in difficult times. There’s something very Irish about that and it filters into the book. Though life in the trenches was appalling, humor was ever-present among the Irish soldiers. In a way, it defined them.

Family is hugely important to me. This comes across in all my books. Author Martina Reilly, who kindly attributed a quote on Through the Barricades commented: “The pieces written about the trenches in the First World War were really moving, as was the devotion Maggie’s family had to each other.”

I started life as a nurse. Medical issues always find their way into my books. Through the Barricades was no exception.

You can find Through the Barricades in paperback and ebook formats on Amazon.

About the author

Denise Deegan lives in Dublin with her family where she regularly dreams of sunshine, a life without cooking and her novels being made into movies.

She has been a nurse, a china restorer, a pharmaceutical sales rep, a public relations officer, an entrepreneur and a college lecturer. Her most difficult job was checkout girl, though ultimately this ‘experience’ did inspire a short story.

Denise’s books have been published by Penguin, Random House, Hachette and Lake Union Publishing. Her novels for Young Adults include The Butterfly Novels: And By The Way, And For Your Information, and And Actually.

Denise writes women’s fiction as Aimee Alexander. Her titles have become international best-sellers on Kindle and include: Pause to Rewind, The Accidental Life of Greg Millar, and All We Have Lost.

Learn more at https://denisedeegan.wordpress.com/about-denise/

Book Blurb

She was willing to sacrifice everything for her country. He was willing to sacrifice everything for her. 

“Make a difference in the world” are the last words Maggie Gilligan’s father ever says to her. They form a legacy that she carries in her heart years later when, at the age of fifteen, she tries to better the lives of Dublin’s largely forgotten poor.

“Don’t go getting distracted, now,” is what Daniel Healy’s father says to him after seeing him talking to the same Maggie Gilligan. Daniel is more than distracted. He is intrigued. Never has he met anyone as dismissive, argumentative… as downright infuriating.

A dare from Maggie is all it takes. Daniel volunteers at a food kitchen. There, his eyes are opened to the plight of the poor. It is 1913 and Dublin’s striking workers have been locked out of their jobs. Their families are going hungry. Daniel and Maggie do what they can. Soon, however, Maggie realizes that the only way to make a difference is to take up arms.

The story of Maggie and Daniel is one of friendship, love, war and revolution, of two people who are prepared to sacrifice their lives: Maggie for her country, Daniel for Maggie. Their mutual sacrifices put them on opposite sides of a revolution. Can their love survive?

Sandy’s note: It’s also very affordable right now if you buy it for Kindle at amazon.com.

Follow Denise Deegan on

Twitter: https://twitter.com/denisedeegan

Website:  https://denisedeegan.wordpress.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/denise.deegan.3

Happy New Year!

If you’re local, hope you can join me and Christian women’s fiction author Elaine Stock at the Sand Lake Town Library this Saturday, Jan. 7, 1-2:30 pm.

two-authors-1-correct-date

Elaine and I are both members of the Women’s Fiction Writer’s Association. This is a young and welcoming group that embraces both published and aspiring authors, traditionally published or self-published. You get access to courses, contests, feedback, and discussion, including opportunities to network with agents and published authors. I think it’s a great organization to belong to if your fiction falls into that genre at all.

Also, you might enjoy a blog post I recently wrote for Women Writers, Women’s Books, called “Why Won’t (Insert Name Here) Read My Book?” It’s about the inevitable painful realization all published writers have that not everybody they know and love wants to read their books. (I know, shocking, right?)

This coming year I plan to interview a number of other authors, and will also poke my head in occasionally with new stuff on my own front, but mostly I’m challenging myself to write the next novel a whole lot faster than I have in the past.

I need to, since after this winter it will be time to go back to full-time work. As I contemplate a future without Obamacare, I don’t see any responsible way around it — and that’s okay, since there are plenty of other things I like to do besides writing — and, frankly, every single one of them pays better.

Hope this finds you well. I wish you a wonderful year of reading and (if it’s your thing) writing! Onward!

Goodreads giveaway: Signed ARC of Bardwell’s Folly!

This is a pretty short giveaway, so don’t put off entering, US peeps. Enter to win today!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Bardwell's Folly by Sandra Hutchison

Bardwell’s Folly

by Sandra Hutchison

Giveaway ends November 30, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Here’s a short tidbit from later than the first five chapters:

Joe and Dori stood awkwardly in the great room, listening to distant squeals of admiration from Lisa. Robert returned quickly. “She said she wanted to grab a quick shower.”

“Great,” Joe said. “That’ll be at least another twenty minutes.”

“Anyone want another beer?” Robert asked.

“No thanks,” Joe and Dori said in unison. Joe gave her an annoyed look. He didn’t want them to suddenly get along too well, Dori concluded. She withdrew to peer out of the giant bank of windows.

“Something else?” Robert said, head in the refrigerator. “I have water, soda, iced tea. White wine. Red wine.”

Neither she nor Joe responded.

Dori looked at her watch. Now that it was finally growing dark outside, the windows were reflecting the yellow-lit interior of the house. In the reflection she watched Robert open an iced tea, check his own watch, then flounce down on the massive sofa that sat in front of the fireplace. “Anyone want a fire?” he asked.

Joe said, “Don’t you have the air on?”

Robert shrugged. “I can keep it low.” He picked up a remote and flames leapt up, quickly dialed down to embers.

Joe frowned. “So where’s the mood music?”

Robert cocked an eyebrow at him. “You want me to get you in the mood?”

Dori asked, “Do you have another bathroom?”

Robert said, “You’ll find a couple of bathrooms just down the other hall there, between the bedrooms.” He pointed towards the other side of the house. Dori couldn’t help noticing that while he’d escorted Lisa, she was on her own.

“Thanks,” she said, and took off. But as she passed the kitchen and front door she noticed a tiny half bath that was closer and ducked in. She sat down, noting the funky wallpaper with its rainbow trout motif, and realized she could hear the two guys talking quite clearly.

Which meant they could hear her, too. She’d have to try to pee softly. There were some drawbacks to the great room concept. She stealthily unrolled toilet paper, reluctant even to broadcast the clunk-clunk of the roll turning.

She heard Joe say, “You’ve got quite a reputation.”

“Hey, it’s not my fault women throw themselves at me. I don’t know if it’s my stunning good looks, my charming personality, or all that money. And, frankly, I don’t care. I enjoy the ladies, and I make sure they enjoy me. I make no apologies for any of it.”

Damn. Joe was right, Robert was a skank. That was the vibe she’d been getting from him all along, of course, but it was a little disheartening to hear him own it so wholeheartedly.

On the other hand that part about ensuring the ladies enjoyed it intrigued her a bit. No doubt there was something to be said for all that practice.

Also, the size of his instrument bore consideration.

Joe didn’t sound impressed. “Have you shared this philosophy with Dori?”

“I follow a don’t ask, don’t tell policy in regards to my philosophy. But you’ve already warned her off, haven’t you?”

Joe didn’t answer, unless it was some visual response Dori couldn’t see.

Robert continued: “What I like about Dori is that she clearly has a mind of her own. She’s more than capable of making her own decisions about what might be fun. I find her very appealing, actually. She might even be a keeper.”

As opposed to the old catch and release? Dori eyed the trout motif on the wallpaper and decided she felt vaguely flattered. She knew she could not compete with Lisa or half the other eligible young women in the world in terms of physical attraction, but apparently all a woman really had to do to fascinate Robert was be unusually uncooperative. She could do that.