Scenes From the Cutting Room Floor – ASCH

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I often get asked how long does it take me to write a book. That’s a tough question. Do they mean how long does it take to write the first draft? How long it takes to edit the book? I wrote the first draft of A Second Chance House in maybe four to six months. Honestly, I forget. It spent eleven months in edits. That part I will not forget. I wrote the first draft of the second book in the series The Bridge Home in six months because I started it twice, wrote half and then trashed it to start over. Bridge is in edits now. I wrote the third book in the series The Essence of Whiskey and Tea in eight weeks. No one has seen Whiskey yet except me. Very different process for each. But here’s one thing that is the same in all my books. Some scenes just don’t make it into the finished product – like in the movies.

When a movie is filmed, many scenes are cut from the final version for a variety of reasons. I doubt film makers actually cut the film like they did in the old days, but the process is still the same. Get rid of what doesn’t work to tell the story.

Every word on the page has to count. If a scene isn’t doing it’s job, then it has to go no matter how much I like it. Many times I’ve had to delete cute dialogue, heartfelt confessions, or fight scenes. But I don’t actually delete them. I cut and paste them into another document. I’ve sweated over many of the scenes that don’t get used. I don’t have the heart to rid my world of them completely.

I thought my blog readers might enjoy seeing a scene that didn’t make into A Second Chance House. Think of it as a special treat for being my constant readers. Thank you for taking the journey with me.

 

Nothing good happened when the phone rang at four a.m. Grace pawed for the rattling phone on the pillow next to her. Blaise’s pillow, but he wasn’t there.  She had three weeks before she closed up the house and met him on the west coast. “Hello?”

“Babe? I think I’m dying.” Blaise’s voice was a breathless mumble.

She sat straight up, sleep forgotten. He wasn’t playing a practical joke. Not this time. “What’s the matter?” She switched the bedside lamp on and blinked against the glare.

“I’m sick. I’ve been puking for two hours and my side hurts. I mean fucking hurts. I can’t take it.”

“Do you think its food poisoning?” What was she going to do for him while she was in New Jersey and he was in California? Panic squeezed her throat and filled her lungs like water.

“I don’t know. Colton and I, hang on.” The phone sounded as if it slammed into the floor.

He hurled. She cringed.

“Sorry.” His voice croaked. “Colton and I had dinner around six. By eleven, my insides hurt so badly I threw up right in the kitchen sink. Is that food poisoning?”

“I never had food poisoning. Did you call Colton?” If they had eaten the same thing, then he’d be sick as a dog too.

“No, I wanted to talk to you. I thought I’d feel better if I heard your voice. Babe, this sucks. Hang on.” More hurling. “Sorry.”

“Where are you?”

“Curled up on the bathroom floor.”

She imagined him in a ball on the floor with his cheek pressed against the cold tile floor. “I’m calling Colton and telling him to go over. You need to go to the hospital.” She had to try to help.

“No, don’t hang up.”

“Blaise, I’ll be two minutes. Just keep the phone nearby. I love you.” It broke her heart to do it, but she pressed the end button and dialed Colton’s number. He was a mile away from Blaise and could help him.

She pounded out the numbers on the screen and waited for the ringing. Why did they continue to live on opposite coasts? She’d put her house on the market as soon as this was over. Please, let him be all right.

“Damn it, answer, Colton.”

“Yeah?” Colton’s brusque voice echoed in her ear.

“It’s Grace. Did you eat the same thing as Blaise for dinner?”

“What are you talking about?”

Fear pushed its way up from her stomach and shook her vocal chords. She lost what little patience she could muster. “Did you eat the same thing for dinner as your brother?” She stilted her words so the dumb ass would follow her.

“No, why?” His voice took on a softer tone or had she imagined it?

             Dear Lord, it was his appendix. “I need you to go to Blaise’s. He’s on the bathroom floor throwing up and says his stomach hurts.”

“Are you shitting me?”

“Yes, Colton. I am. I’ve decided to call you at one a.m., tell you Blaise is sick to see if you’re stupid enough to go over and find out. Please go to your brother’s house and call him an ambulance.” She hung up and dialed Blaise.

“Babe?” He wheezed.

“Colton is on his way. Just stay put. I’ll stay on the phone with you until he gets there and then he’s going to get you to the hospital.” Hopefully, in enough time.

 

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How I Chose My Author Brand

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Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

When a writer starts attending conferences because, dear Lord you think you want to be published she hears “you need a brand.” What the heck does that mean? I couldn’t figure it out for years. How could I sell myself as something, especially if I wasn’t published yet.

The experts say, what makes you unique? I’m not an expert in anything. I don’t have a fancy degree in rocket science. In fact, I hated science in school and in college took classes like Writing A Review (we went to the movies!) and Film Form and Analysis, Theater Appreciation, Public Speaking (easy A for me) and stuff like that. I don’t have a strange hobby that I partake in like sword fighting or shark diving. Being the rocket scientist shark diver author was out of the question. Now what?

The first books I published were geared for the middle grade crowd about magical places with talking animals, and three teens running for their lives. Okay, my log line became “Where Fantasy and Adventure Collide.” Until a guy at a bar in New York City pointed out that line sounded like porn. Thanks, dude.

Let me back up a little. When I decided to take my writing seriously for the first time in my life, the book I wrote was a women’s fiction novel about a woman with a secret. I couldn’t get any traction with that one so I wrote another women’s fiction about a family whose child has a serious heart condition. (I think I had read one too many Jodi Picoult books at that point.) After that I wrote a romantic suspense with dead bodies, and ghosts. My heart was in the adult market.

Instead, I published those middle grade books for reasons we’ll discuss another time. I didn’t know what my brand was. Then I wrote A Second Chance House. And my brand hit me between the eyes. (Pardon the cliche. My writer’s slip is showing.)

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At a school visit in 2015. Mrs. R is one awesome teacher. That’s book one in the middle grade series. The cover came out cool. 

The thing all my characters have in common across every one of those books is a dysfunctional family.  In the middle grade books, Gabriel our hero, has two very messed up parents. In A Second Chance House, Grace has a father she never knew. They both are searching for a family to belong to because we can’t pick our parents. As I wrote the second book in the women’s fiction series (the Heritage River series), A Bridge Home, my heroine Harley, was dumped on the doorstep of her aunt and uncle because her mother didn’t want her.

I knew what my brand was without doubt. Family. Home. Second Chances. My log line changed to Family are the people who love you when you need them. You don’t have to be born to that family. Sometimes we pick them up along the way. (Please tell me that doesn’t sound like porn!)

I’m an expert in weird families. I’d rather be a concert pianist playing at Lincoln Center, and maybe some day I will be, but for now, it’s weird families. Lucky me.

I’m still not completely comfortable branding myself. (Makes me think of cattle and a hot branding iron.) Publishers used to need to know what shelf to stick a book on, so it made sense to know where you fit in, but now the shelves are disappearing, and with the aid of technology I can add keywords to my books that are specific to that book. This way, when someone searches, women’s fiction, home, family, second chances, sexy washed up rock star drummer, my books will come up. Do I really need to tattoo myself with a hot branding iron that will leave a scar? That sounds painful, no?

How would you describe yourself if you needed a brand? Maybe you have a brand already. Tell us how you decided to label yourself?

A Second Chance House is available for pre-order in digital format. The print version will become available March 7th from all major online retailers, and here on the website.

I’m hosting a Facebook party on March 7th from 7 – 9 pm in honor of the release. There will be games and prizes.

And since music is so important to me and my hero, Blaise Savage, I’m having a book launch concert at Patrick’s Pub, Neptune, NJ, March 28th 7 pm. I’ll be signing books and doing a reading. And right along side me will be fantastic bands playing awesome music. (I won’t be singing. Don’t worry.)

 

 

 

Release Day – Two Weeks Away

The Second Chance House will be released in print and digital formats on March 7, 2018. That’s only two weeks away! It will be available from all major online retailers, and on my website.

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Sorry about the picture of me sitting in Panera. I’m trying to mess with the Facebook algorithms.

There are so many moving parts in getting a book out into the world. I could write a blog post every day for a month and still not hit on all the things an author has to do to get a book into the hands of her readers.

A friend of mine recently suggested I talk about my process for writing the book. So you can blame Sean for this one. Wink! And then when you’re done here today, jump over to Sean’s blog and read about writing (he has a great book coming out if he’ll ever stop editing it. Joking.), movies, and his nostalgia for New York City. You won’t be sorry. I promise.

Come sit beside me as we talk about writing. I have my tea. You? Great. paneracup

In 2015, in the midst of finishing the third book in my middle grade series, Welcome To Skull Mountain, two characters began talking to each other in my head. Non-stop. No matter what I was doing, they’d show up. They drove me crazy. That’s good stuff for an author. I started putting their story down on paper.

Problem was I had to finish that third book first, and then my daughter became sick. It took a little while before I could really figure out who these two people were. Thankfully, they kept talking to me.

I believe all stories are character driven. In my world, people talk about plot driven stories and character driven stories. In my humble opinion, you could have the best story in the world, but if your characters don’t actually make choices on every page then who cares about your plot? Characters are what stay with us long after the book ends. Characters make me laugh and make me cry. Plot is just an accessory. The most important, like a pace maker, but plot can’t do diddly without character. I’m sure someone else will have a different opinion.

The first thing I have to do when I write a book is get to know my characters. I don’t do character interviews, though that’s a popular technique. I start asking myself questions about what their wounds are. The ugly stuff we hide from Facebook. I need to know what happened to them in their past that makes them the way they are when my reader meets them. I come up with stuff you’ll probably never see, but that’s okay. The better I know my characters the more real they’ll be to you.

We’ll pick on Grace for a minute. Grace Starr is the heroine in A Second Chance House. I like Grace. I can relate to her. She’s middle-aged, has a teenage daughter she can’t communicate with, and a husband who left her for a younger woman. (I can’t relate to the husband part. Good thing for the Coffee King. Otherwise he’d be coffee grounds. Ba-da-bump.) She’s a control freak, and she’s been following the rules her whole life. When you meet Grace, she wants a new life.

First question for Grace is what happened to you that made you this way? I start to build her backstory. Her father left her when she was too little to remember him. Her childhood was filled with chaos. For some people, in order for them to handle chaos in their lives they like to control things. That’s Grace.

So, who would be the worst kind of match for her? Well, a rock star might be a good place to start. We’ve all heard wild stories about rock ‘n roll. I have a vivid imagination. Enter, Blaise Savage. Just his name alone should have Grace shaking in her boots. In more ways than one. Ha! Sorry, Grace.

I’ve sat through countless workshops and seminars on the craft of writing. I learned pretty early on if you want a romance to sizzle on the page you need to pair opposites. The analogy often used is if your hero is a fire fighter then your heroine better be an arsonist. Follow?

Once I know who my characters are I need to know what they want. They must want something they can touch, and they must want something internally. Love, family, a second chance. Those things Grace wants have to be connected in some way to the things Blaise wants. And as often as I can work it in each scene, Grace has to stop Blaise from getting what he wants and Blaise has to stop Grace from getting what she wants. So, if Blaise wants to kiss Grace, it can’t happen. If I can’t get Grace to control herself, (because let’s face it, Blaise is a damn good kisser) then I bring in another character to break up the moment. I know, that’s so mean! Trust me, makes for a page turner.

Now I can build the plot. I won’t go into the details about inciting incident, plot points, black moments, point of view, show don’t tell, etc. Unless you’re a new writer and need to learn it, all that stuff will just pull the curtain back too far. Readers need to be mesmerized by the smoke and mirrors. If you are a new writer, and have questions email me. I’ll get you going in the right direction.

I write the first draft. A Second Chance House is 99,000 words. That’s about 380 pages. I edit that draft with the help of my critique partners. I ask questions, they give me suggestions. I let them read the first fifty or so pages because they understand all the technical stuff and they can tell me if I’m hitting my stride in the right places.

After the third or fourth time through the book can go to my editor. ASCH is published traditionally so the publisher has its own process I will follow at this point. Indie or self-pubbed books follow a slightly different path. But either way, a lot more editing happens over the next several months. Right, Sean?

By the time you read the book it’s been polished to a high shine and in it’s best Sunday clothes.

I am eternally grateful for all the people who help me along the way. My critique partners: M. Kate Quinn, Shari Nichols, and K.M. Fawcett. My editor on this book, Roseann A., is the master editor. I owe her big time. Also have beta readers who I bring in at different stages for help. They read the book all the way through as readers. Readers read like readers. Writers read like writers. My betas give me invaluable feedback so I can fix whatever else might need fixing. Thank you, Robin and Betsy. Love you tons.

I’m hosting a Facebook party on March 7, 2018 from 7 – 9 pm to celebrate the release. We’ll be playing games, there will be prizes, and we’ll be chatting about writing, publishing, and whatever else you want. Hope to see you there.

I’ll be having a Book Launch Concert on March 28, 2018 in Neptune, NJ at Patrick’s Pub. 7 pm. Patrick’s hosts an open-mic night every Wednesday with wonderful bands playing some great music. They were kind enough to allow me to tag along because my hero is a drummer in a rock band. I’ll have books to sign, and I’ll be doing a reading. If you live in the area, please stop by and say hi. We’ll have a good time.

Book Launch Concert March 28, 2018

Some people describe the ’80s as the decade of excess. Big hair. Big music. Big concerts. Big shoulder pads. Van Halen landed in the Guinness Book of World Records in 1984 for making the most money at one show.  Now, that’s big.

I was about fourteen when I decided going on tour with a rock band would be cool. I never did, but I still feel that way. I love to sing, which I can’t do, but that doesn’t stop me. Just ask the Noodges and the Coffee King. An item on my bucket list is to sing on stage in front of thousands of people. Might be helpful to learn to sing first.

So, it’s not all that surprising that the hero in my contemporary women’s fiction novel, A Second Chance House, is a drummer in a washed up rock band. When I started thinking about promotion for this book, I thought rock concert! Problem was pulling it off.

I found the solution thanks to my friend and author colleague, Karen Victoria. She sings (lucky woman) and knows lots of bands. Karen put in a good word for me, and my rock concert became a reality. I can’t thank her enough.

Because of Karen, Carol Barbieri with Patrick’s Pub in Neptune, NJ kindly agreed to allow me to be a part of their open-mic night on March 28, 2018 at 7 pm. (I won’t be singing, so you’re safe.)

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This is Carol. She’s the Queen of the open-mic night. Isn’t she adorable? Thanks, Carol!

But I will be doing a reading from A Second Chance House, and I will be signing books. And there will be fantastic bands made up of some very talented musicians. If you’re in the area, please drop on by for a night of big bands, big music, and little ol’ me.

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Singing at Patrick’s. The woman on the left in the red is Karen. Thanks, Karen!

Signing and Singing

Patrick’s Pub

116 3rd Avenue Rt. 35

Neptune City Shopping Plaza

March 28, 2018

7 pm.

Release Date – A Second Chance House

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I’m very excited to announce the release date of my first contemporary women’s fiction novel – A Second Chance House published with The Wild Rose Press. Drum role please…

March 7, 2018

The book will be available in print and digital formats from Amazon and all major online retailers. I’ll provide links from my books page when the links are live. In the mean time, mark your calendars.

For those of you who reside near me, I will be hosting two launch parties at the end of March at local pubs with live bands. More details on that to follow.

I want to thank all of you for being a part of this writing journey with me. Thank you for your support, and for your visits to the blog. I love interacting with my readers. You are all amazing.

Here’s an excerpt from the book for your reading pleasure:

A pickup truck glided off the road and stopped behind her car. The sun’s glare bounced off the windshield, making it impossible to see the driver. She shielded her eyes with one hand and gripped her keys with the other.

A tall male hopped out of the driver’s side. “Do you northerners make it a habit of running out of gas?”

Grace loosened her grip on the keys, but she looked around for a way to escape. Maybe a tornado would appear and suck her up in its funnel. She’d hoped Blaise would never find out about her stupidity.

“Did Beau make you come?” Her voice wobbled.

Blaise swaggered up to her. “Nah. After he was done yelling about women and cars, I offered. Figured I’d save Pete the drive and Beau the call to bark at him.”

“Beau was yelling?”

“Whole neighborhood could hear him. Where were you coming back from anyway?”

She turned and looked toward the woods. That might be a good place to run and hide. “I’m sorry I inconvenienced you. I’m not the kind of person who runs out of gas.”

“Lighten up, Grace. Ain’t no big deal.” He pumped up his southern accent. “Pop open your gas tank. You know where that button is?” He laughed. “You weren’t trying to get out of dinner, were you?”

He poured the gas into the car, and she held her nose. “It would’ve been easier to call and cancel, don’t you think?” she said.

“Depends.”

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The Bridge Home – Cover Reveal

Hello my faithful readers! I’m very excited to present the cover for the second book in my women’s fiction series with The Wild Rose Press due out fall of 2018.

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Harley Kenyon has guarded a secret for eighteen years. Telling would only hurt her son, and Harley would do anything to protect Knox. Colton Savage—the wild, impetuous rock star—is back in town to clean up a few of his messes. She could never resist his charms. His promises prove empty, and more than once, he’s left her for his seductive music career. But when the high school orchestra needs Colton’s skills, he promises to stick around. He’s not the man he was before and vows to spend his life proving it. Does she dare to believe him? Being with Colton means telling her secret.

Will Harley finally reveal what she knows and risk losing her second chance at happiness, or will she keep her secret and send away the only man she ever loved?

 

The first book in the series – The Second Chance House – arrives in March. Stay tuned for the exact date, book launch party invitations, and a sneak peek at Grace and Blaise.

Why The Gas Cans

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A friend recently asked me if my publisher for my women’s fiction/contemporary romance series would be marketing for me. Common question. As much as I enjoy working with my publisher, and my editor rocks, the majority of the marketing is my responsibility. Doesn’t matter who your publisher is; one of the big five or yourself – marketing your book is your job.

And that’s no easy task. Not only am I not experienced in marketing ( I was a director of special events before I had kids) I don’t have enough hours in the day to write multiple books, and market them well. But I’m trying. Believe me.

What I am is creative. Creative people think outside the box because usually their box looks a lot different than the standard, beige, cardboard, rectangle with four flaps.

I attend many conferences for writers and readers. Often the conference offers a “goody room.” The goody room is a place for authors to display promotional items to get buzz out for their books. I’ve seen everything from pens to candy penises. I don’t know if any of this stuff sells books. Especially the pens, bookmarks, and chocolate. (I love bookmarks. Don’t get me wrong.) Personally, I won’t read your book just because you gave me a nail file for free. I have a nail file.

At the RWA conference in Orlando this past July I wandered the goody room and saw pretty much what I’ve seen before. I even passed over the candy penises attached to a card for an erotic romance. Yeah, I get it, book with explicit sex and a penis made of chocolate. Boring. Next.

Later I thought – if that chocolate penis had been attached to a card for a contemporary romance whose cover had a vase of flowers, a cute dog, and colored in pastels then I might pick up the book and say, “what’s this all about?”

I knew I had to do that for my book A Second Chance House. It’s a women’s fiction/contemporary romance coming out in early 2018. The cover shows a wrap around porch and a porch swing. What could I create to make someone say, “what’s that all about?”

I needed a light-hearted scene from the book. I needed a promo item that wouldn’t cost a fortune and would get people’s attention. My heroine runs out of gas. She’s mortified because the hero comes to save her, which is exactly what she didn’t want. I had to find gas cans. Nothing else would do.

I brought those bright red cans attached to a card with my cover on the front and the excerpt on the back. I heard, cute, clever, I love it, who came up with that for you? (I tried not to be offended. I don’t think she meant it maliciously.) All my cans went. I was very excited.

Will my gas cans sell my books? I don’t know. I can only hope that someone said, this author is creative and when her book comes out I want to read more.

For the second book in the series, A Bridge Home,  I’m thinking a men’s razor. Or maybe a kit for stitches. That chocolate penis might work too. We’ll see. I’ll keep you posted.