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Putting Your Best Foot Forward

Putting Your Best Foot Forward

 

Happy Thursday everyone, Winnie Griggs here. I was cleaning out an old file cabinet the other day and came across an article from the company magazine of a place where I used to work. It was titled Some Suggestions to Make a Fresh Start on the Job.  I’m not sure why I held on to it – I haven’t had a regular day job for over a dozen years so it’s at least that old. And it was really just a list of bullet points. But as I glanced over the article I thought, with a bit of tweaking and expansion, it might actually have some application to the writing life. So here is what I came up with.
(FYI - It was published in the month of September which is why you'll see several references to the start of a school year.)

 

  1. Look back over the past year and pick out one thing you would like to do better. Make it a priority to improve in that area.
    The takeaway for writers on this one is pretty obvious. The trick here is to take the time to do an honest assessment. What is an area for improvement that you can focus on? Is it in some area of craft like dialogue or pacing – dissect books that do it well to learn what works. Is it in marketing or promotion – find a class or mentor that can point you in the right direction. Is it in the area of work/life balance – set up a plan to address whatever issues you have with this. Whatever the area for improvement, proactively focus on finding a way to improve it. And you’ll get better results if you target one issue at a time rather than using a scattershot approach.



    Putting Your Best Foot Forward

  2. Establish a new habit of leaving for work earlier so you do not have to rush through traffic to make it on time. This will give you a safer and less stressful commute. 
    This one I related to respecting your deadlines. When you start a new project you normally have a deadline, either editor-imposed, project-imposed or self-imposed. Set intermediate goals at whatever level works for you and be mindful of them. To paraphrase the bullet point, pacing your writing with an eye toward deadlines will give you a less stressful writing experience.

  3. While driving, reduce your speed and increase your awareness now that school is back in session. Watch for school bus stops and children playing near schools.
    I related this one to focus. Protect your writing time and minimize your distractions, either those imposed by others or by your own procrastination. Turn off social media and limit research if possible. Find an environment that works for you and then jealously guard your scheduled time there.

  4. Plan your week’s work. Even if your work is organized by another and closely supervised, take advantage of the control you do have to arrange your workdays more effectively.
    This one is pretty easy to relate to writing. Having a plan, whether you plot it out on a daily, weekly, monthly or some other basis will definitely keep you feeling in control of the aspects of this business within your purview. But don’t just make a plan and forget it – make sure you check your progress against it on a regular basis and adjust as necessary.
     

  5. Clean up your workstation at the end of each shift. That way it will be ready for the next shift or for you again the next day. Put away tools, discard scrap and remove clutter. Arrange your station so you can start to work efficiently next shift.
    I know when you’re deep in the middle of looming deadline mode the last thing you’re thinking you have time for is cleaning up your work area. But if you make a habit of doing this at the end of your normal day-to-day writing sessions it’ll make coming back to your workspace more pleasant and will lend to the feeling of being organized and in control.

    Putting Your Best Foot Forward
  6. Consider going back to school yourself in your time off… Training in computer use or trades related to your work can help you do your job better or advance to another position. Adult education courses generally start later than the children’s school year, so you may still have time to sign up for a fall or winter semester. Don’t overlook the possibilities of learning at your public library or on the Internet.
    Of course we all want to keep learning our craft – after all there is always ways to sharpen our writing skills, even if it’s just to take refreshers on the basics. But in addition we should keep up to date on industry trends and changes. And look into tools that help make our life easier, either by automating some of our tasks or helping us in some area of craft, tracking or organizing. 

  7. Put safety first, always. Continue to learn about the hazards of your job and how to protect yourself and others.
    The work we do as writers is mostly sedentary which can be harmful to our health. Make sure you slot time into your schedule for breaks—even if it’s just to get up and move around for 5-10 minutes every hour or so. Stay hydrated and keep the unhealthy snacks to a minimum. And invest in setting up your workspace as ergonomically as you can.

  8. Consider some of the things you like about your job -- besides your paycheck -- when you plan your new priorities this fall.
    This one also translates well to the writing life. Since there is no guaranteed paycheck in what we do, the other things you like about writing need to be key components to keep you engaged. So what is it that brings you joy in your writing? Is it the need to share those wonderful stories and characters that live in your head? Or do you enjoy the company of other creatives? Or is it the challenge of developing an entertaining and engaging story that truly touches readers? Whatever it is, lean into it and focus on that aspect rather than monetary gain or in comparing your career trajectory with that of other writers.

There you have it, some tips for making this coming year a more focused and fulfilling one. Do you have some other items you’d add to this list? Did any of the above items speak to you more than the others?  Leave a comment and you’ll get your name in the hat for the giveaway noted below.

 

Putting Your Best Foot Forward

Harlequin has been gradually reverting the rights to some of my Love Inspired Historical books back to me and I’m repackaging and reissuing them as I can. I’ve also renamed the series from Texas Grooms to Turnabout Hearts.

In December I released His Christmas Matchmaker (formerly titled The Holiday Courtship) and on Jan 3rd I released Her Tailor-Made Husband (formerly titled A Tailor-Made Husband).

I still have several copies of these books under the old titles and with the older covers that I’d like to find a home for. So leave a comment to get your name in the hat for one of these.


Her Tailor-Made Husband

Putting Your Best Foot Forward
What she needed was a clean break. what she got was a fake engagement.

Hazel Andrews has been in love with Ward Gleason since she was an adolescent. Her admiration and attraction for him have only grown over the years as she sees his dedication and integrity in action. Ward, however, continues to see her as only a friend. Frustrated, Hazel decides it’s time for a change and accepts her aunt’s invitation to join her in New York. But fate has other plans…

Ward Gleason had to grow up quickly. Man of the house by age ten, he took on all the responsibilities of a grown-up, including guilt over a family tragedy. Now serving as sheriff, Ward is determined to do the people of Turnabout proud. When he finds an abandoned child, he knows he’ll need help caring for the five-year-old until her situation is resolved. Hazel seems the perfect person to watch little Meg during the day, but when he learns of Hazel’s plans to leave Texas, it’s more than disappointment that settles in Ward’s gut. Could his feelings toward Hazel have deepened without him realizing it?

AMAZON LINK


 

 

 

Do You Hear What I Hear

 Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.  I love Christmas carols – in fact I’ve been known to sing them year round.  When my children were young, a bedtime practice was for me to go to each of their rooms and tuck them in with a song.  I’d let them pick the song and among the ones frequently requested were Christmas carols.  Many's the night I would get requests for The First Noel, or Away In A Manger or Gloria in Excelsis Deo. 


Do You Hear What I Hear


Today, however, I wanted to focus on Do You Hear What I Hear. Not only have I always loved this song but I was also curious to learn its history.  What I discovered when I dug in surprised me.

 

I’d always assumed this was a long standing traditional carol with European roots.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  In fact, it wasn’t even written as a Christmas song at all. 

 

Here’s a little of what I learned.  A Frenchman named Noel Regney penned the lyrics (how’s that for an appropriate name!).  Born in 1922, he was trained as a classical composer.  During WWII Noel was drafted into the German army.  But he hated the Nazis and in fact joined the French Resistance in secret.  The horrors he witnessed during the war would continue to haunt him throughout the remainder of his life.

 

After the war, Noel worked in French Indochina for the French Overseas Radio Service and then in 1952 he moved to the United States.  There he met his future wife Gloria Shayne who was working as a pianist in a hotel dining room.  During the 50s and 60s the pair wrote several successful songs.  Gloria usually wrote the lyrics and Noel composed the music.  But during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, Noel was moved to write the lyrics of this song as a plea for peace.  In a later interview, he made this statement “I am amazed that people can think they know the song and not know it is a prayer for peace. But we are so bombarded by sounds and our attention spans are so short.”

Noel’s favorite version was the one sung by Robert Goulet.  You can hear it here
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xABgIBUaWrE

 

My favorite is this one, sung by Bing Crosby
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9f5cyiTH3KI


  To all of you out there I’d like to wish you a very peace filled and joyous Christmas!

 

Do You Hear What I Hear

And now for a recipe. This is a corn dish called Cajun Corn Maque Choux. It makes a great side dish for both a down home family meal and a festive holiday meal. This recipe is one a friend gave me many years ago but I’ve modified it a bit over time.

 

Ingredients

  • Butter - 1 Tablespoon
  • Onion - 1 cup chopped
  • Red Bell Pepper - 1 med chopped, about 1 cup
  • Jalapeno - 1.5 tblsp, chopped
  • Bacon - 6 slices, crisp cooked, crumbled
  • Corn - 4 ears fresh or 3 cups frozen
  • Tomato - 1 large, chopped
  • Green Onions - ¼ cup, chopped
  • Cajun seasoning - 1 tblsp
  • Milk or chicken stock - ½ cup

 

Directions

  • Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion; sauté 5 minutes, or until onion begins to turn translucent. Add bell pepper and jalapeño pepper; continue sautéing for 3 minutes.
  • Stir in corn, bacon and tomatoes with the onion mixture. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 10 minutes longer, stirring frequently to prevent sticking, adding small amounts of liquid if needed.
  • Add Cajun seasoning. Lower heat, cover the skillet, and cook, 5 to 10 minutes longer, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.
  • Add the milk (or chicken stock). Let it warm for about 2 minutes, stirring a bit, then remove from heat and serve.

 

New Release, Sort Of

 

New Release, Sort Of

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.  I’ve recently gotten the rights back to two of the books previously published by Love Inspired Historicals and have been doing my best to figure out the ins and outs of converting them and reissuing them as self-published works.  I think I finally have things ALMOST figured out – just one or two more things I need to figure out and I’ll be done. 

One of the things I never realized before now was that it’s much more difficult to format for a print copy than an eBook copy. Amazon makes it really easy to upload your eBook from your manuscript but print is, as they say, a whole ‘nother ballgame. For the few other books I’ve self-pubbed before now I actually hired a professional to take care of it. But besides being a bit pricey it also means you need to go back to that person every time you want to make a change.

New Release, Sort Of

So I decided it was time to roll up my sleeves and learn to do it myself., and that’s where the learning curve came in. I purchased Atticus and it’s a really nice package for formatting print, except I had some custom things I wanted to do (naturally!)  so I had to check out helpful videos and join an author group to draw on their experience. As I said, a couple of tweaks and I’m there.  The next one should go much faster.

Since Harlequin holds the rights to the cover art and blurb I had to replace these elements. Because I’m not as good at design as Pam and some of the others here, I hired a cover designer I'd worked with before to make my new cover for me. These two books were part of the original Texas Grooms series set in Turnabout, Texas.  I was never very fond of that series title so now I’m rebranding it as Turnabout Hearts. I also have plans to retitle some of the books to give them a more cohesive feel as a series. And I asked my cover designer to create a series logo and give the covers within the series a cohesive feel.  

This first one was originally titled The Holiday Courtship and it will be reissued on Dec 1st as His Christmas Matchmaker.

Below is the original cover and blurb followed by the new cover and blurb.


THE HOLIDAY COURTSHIP

New Release, Sort Of
He Wanted A Wife by Christmas... 


As Christmas approaches, Hank Chandler is determined to find a wife to mother his sister's orphaned children. When schoolteacher Janell Whitman offers to help him with his niece and nephew, she seems to be the perfect match—but she won't accept his proposal. Instead, she insists she'll find him another bride before the holidays.

Janell moved to Turnabout, Texas, to put her past behind her and focus on her future—one that doesn't include marriage. But while she plays matchmaker and cares for Hank's children, she loses her heart to the two youngsters…and their adoptive father. If Janell reveals her secrets to Hank, will he still want her to be his Christmas bride?

 

 


HIS CHRISTMAS MATCHMAKER


New Release, Sort Of
A guilty secret…

Vowing to put her past behind her, schoolteacher Janell Whitman has resigned herself to spinsterhood and she's erected walls to guard her heart from all but her pupils. 

A solitary heart…
Hank Chandler is quite comfortable with his uncomplicated bachelor life. But when he suddenly finds himself the guardian of his orphaned niece and nephew he knows all that that will have to change. Not only do the children need a mother’s love, but he’s not fit to be a single parent. So he’ll need to marry quickly, whether he wants to or not. 

A Christmas bargain…
Seeing their need, Janell impulsively reaches out to help the hurting Chandler family. But when Hank proposes a businesslike marriage she draws the line at becoming his wife. She softens her refusal, however, with a counteroffer – she’ll take care of the children after school and help him find an appropriate wife in time for Christmas. After all, how hard can it be? 

But as the holiday grows closer, it seems increasingly difficult to find a suitable candidate––not to mention even harder to deny their growing feelings for each other. It might take a miracle for these two hearts to become one, but Christmas is the season of miracles––and love.

          Preorder HERE

New Release, Sort Of

So what do you think about the new package for my book?  I still have several copies of this book with the LIH cover so I'll be giving some of those copies away - leave a comment for your chance to be one of the winners.



The Value of Family Reunions

 

The Value of Family Reunions

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.
Earlier this month my hubby’s family had their annual family reunion. It was the first time we were able to hold it since 2019 and it was soooooo good to see everyone again. We always look forward to this gathering -  it’s an opportunity for him and all his siblings, cousins, everyone’s extended families, including in-laws and out-laws, to come together and get reacquainted or acquainted for the first time.

There is table set up at the front of the room where photos of loved ones we’ve lost hold a place of honor. There’s also a place to set out other family photos, family tree info and other memorabilia. There are always groups clustered around these, enjoying the look at times past and adding the names of new family members to the genealogy.

The Value of Family Reunions

Then of course there’s the meal. Oh. My. Goodness! Everyone tries to outdo themselves by cooking up everything from repeats of family favorites to new experiments in food decadence. There’s always much more than our group can possibly eat, though we all do our best to try!

In the afternoon, once the meal is cleared everyone has to pose for pictures. Of course the cameras have been snapping all day but these are the posed groupings in every combination imaginable - born Griggs, siblings, individual families, etc.

When the cleanup is done and folks have started drifting away, my hubby and his siblings, along with their own families, have another reunion of sorts. They make a trip to the cemetery where his parents are buried and then take a trip out to the old home place, which is still very much in the family, though no one lives there currently. One of my daughters has bought a large chunk of it and runs cattle on the place and has gradually been making improvements. So here as well there are lots of opportunities to reminisce and talk about what’s changed and what has remained the same.  

It was fun to hear my kids and their cousins share memories about the old tree swing (the chain is still there since the tree branch has absorbed it), about digging in the dirt under that same tree, playing in the barn and learning to ride bikes on the country road that runs in front of the house. Their own kids were all wide-eyed as they listened to these stories and tried to imagine their parents as children.

The Value of Family Reunions

 
As the day ended I took a moment to think about how very valuable these type of family gatherings are.  While my own family doesn't do family reunions per se, we traditionally all gather at my Mom's house during the days leading up to Christmas. Since we are now counting great-grandkids among our group, the holiday gathering can number into the 30s or 40s. And it is the same pattern - lots of food, reminiscences, vigorous but ultimately friendly debates, games and laughter. So I am lucky to have these sorts of gatherings on both sides of my kids family tree.

So what are some of those valuable takeaways?

They allow us to keep in touch with family that has moved away and who we might never see otherwise. While, texts, emails and social media postings can help, there is nothing like being face-to-face to remind us of all we share.

They give the newer generations a feel for where they come from – the people, the values, the heritage. They learn about family lore, places, history and personalities.

They allow us to create new memories and new traditions that knit the newer members in with those who have been around much longer, they let us form stronger connections between the generations.

And to bring this around to something writing related, if you open yourself up to these kinds of wonderful experiences, you can draw on them later to add another layer of richness and texture to the backstory of your characters.

 

The Value of Family Reunions

So, does your family do reunions, either formal or informal? Can you think of any benefits I left off?

Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for one of my backlist books.

 

Playing With Acrostics

 

Playing With Acrostics

Hello everyone,

Winnie Griggs here. Today I wanted to talk about Acrostics. And just so everyone is on the same page, an Acrostic is a poem or verse, either structured or free form, where certain letters in each line, when read vertically, spell out a word or phrase. And the word that is formed refers back to the verse itself. For instance if the word formed is clock, then the verse itself would be about some aspect of clocks or time.

Now, don’t confuse an Acrostic with an Acronym. While similar, there is a key difference. An acronym uses the first letter of each word (sometimes excluding prepositions) to form a shortcut word. For example NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), and Scuba (Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus). An Acrostic, on the other hand, is a verse where certain letters from each line have significance but are not intended to be taken as a substitute for the whole. 

Of course I’ve known about acrostics since my schooldays. But what I didn’t know until recently is that there were so many different forms of acrostics.  So today I thought I’d give quick description and example of each

There is, of course, the Conventional Acrostic.

This is the one you usually have in mind when you think about acrostics. In a conventional acrostic, it is the first letter of each line that forms the word. For instance, here is an acrostic I worked up on one of my favorite flowers. (Caveat, I’m by no means a poet)

Tall and splendid

Uniquely bell-shaped

Lovely to look at

In the words of Mary Poppins

Practically perfect in every way

Playing With Acrostics

 

 And just because I was on a roll, here's one I did using my name

Wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend

Informed by these precious relationships

Notes from songs of love and laughter

Necessarily tinged with droplets of pain and loss

Inspiration is born in these moments

Eventually emerging in the pages of a book 

 

Then there’s the Telestich Acrostic

This one uses the LAST letter of each line to form the word or phrase. Again, I tried my hand at writing one (and I found this one much more difficult than the other!) and here is what I came up with:

When I’m down they’re therapeutic

I’ll have one, no make it two

Chocolate chip and peanut butter too

But oh there’s shortbread and macaroons—it’s so hard to pick

Especially when you throw in gingersnap and biscotti

Who am I fooling by saying just two, certainly not me

My willpower’s no proof against their siren calls

 

A third type is the Mesostich Acrostic

For this one, letters from somewhere in the middle of each line are aligned and used to form the word or phrase. For example:

                   A harbinger of spring
              With a rosy red breast
And a short thin beak
               Your bright blue eggs
Have a beauty unique 

 

Playing With Acrostics


 

Adding more complexity is the Double Acrostic.

This one requires that both the first letter of each line AND the last letter of each line form words.  My attempt at this one is a bit convoluted, but here it is.

Ride along as if on a magic carpet
Over hill and dale, past trees and a river
Accompanied by friends, sipping on a chai
Destination aside, it's fun riding with pals in my Jeep

 

The last two forms don’t actually form words with a single letter. They take the Acrostic in a different direction 

You have the Abecedarian

Like a Conventional Acrostic, you focus on the first letter of each line. But instead of those letters forming a word, they are successive letters of the alphabet. So, if the poem were written in English, there would be 26 lines moving through the alphabet, starting with A and going through Z. I did not try my hand at this one. But you can see an example here: https://www.poetrysoup.com/poem/alphabet_games_1484213

Other examples of this can be found in Psalm 119 and Provers 31. Of course it’s only in the Hebrew version that you can see this progression in the Hebrew alphabet.

  

Then there's The Golden Shovel

Playing With Acrostics


This is a much more recent version of the acrostic. It was created by National Book Award winning US poet Terrance Hayes in 2010. In a Golden Shovel you take a line, or lines, from someone else’s writing, and use each of their words as the end-words of each line in your poem. In the example below, I used a line from Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken, one of my favorite poems. 

Once when it was just me, myself and I
I dug out a box of pictures I took
back in my college days, and thought over the
choices I'd made and how this one or that one
would have changed things more or less.
Then I happily realized the road I’d traveled
brought no regrets – and I’m ready for whatever else might come on by

 

There you have it - my short overview of acrostics. What do you think? Were any of these formats new to you? Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for a chance to win a book of your choice.

And if anyone wants to try their hand at writing their own acrostic, I'll give a $10 gift card to one of the authors of those as well. 

 

A Checklist For Writing Your Happily Ever After

 

A Checklist For Writing Your Happily Ever After

Hi everyone, Winnie Griggs here. Today I want to discuss one of the components that is absolutely essential to any romance story - the Happily Ever After ending (HEA). And for this discussion I’m going to lump Happy For Now (HFN) endings under the same umbrella.

From the outside looking in, this element of your romance seems simple enough to write. After completing their story journey, the hero and heroine discover they truly do love each other, they profess this sentiment in a heart-tugging, romantic manner, and then—figuratively or literally—thy ride off into the sunset with the blissful intention of never parting. Easy-peasy, right?

Wrong—at least not if it’s done right. As with most things, getting it right is much harder than it looks.

So how do you make sure your ending is satisfying and memorable? Below are some things you should take into consideration when crafting your story’s HEA

A Checklist For Writing Your Happily Ever After


Don’t rush the ending.
There are certain scenes, even in the fastest paced stories, that have a huge emotional payout for your reader - these are the scenes you most certainly DON’T want to race through, that you want to dig into in order to provide depth and texture and sensory richness. These scenes are the heart and soul of your book, the emotional lynchpins that, when structured well, can land a book on many a reader’s keeper shelf. In a romance, the HEA is one of those scenes.  This means that you should take the pains to immerse the reader in whatever emotions are applicable - hope, joy, anguish, poignancy, rage, passion, or a deep and abiding commitment, or some combination of these.
Just one note of caution here. While you don't want to rush your ending, you don't want it to drag on either. Make sure you give it the emotional depth it needs and then wrap it up.

The HEA should never appear to be cookie cutter or generic.
An ending that has nothing to do with the characters and their story journey will always fall flat. Rather, your HEA moment should be informed by these specific characters and the specific growth and healing they experienced throughout the story. This is their payoff for all of that angst they endured (and the payoff for the reader as well) so make it fit!

Don't make the HEA moment feel like it comes from ‘out of the blue’.
We’ve all read at least one book where the characters had a relationship that went something like “I hate you, I hate you, I hate you, oh wait-I love you.”  Not very realistic and also not memorable (except in a bad way). For the HEA to be satisfying the reader needs to feel it came about over time and as a result of personal growth and the recognition of qualities in their .

A Checklist For Writing Your Happily Ever After


Your protagonists should show that they’ve earned their HEA.
They do this by exhibiting growth through overcoming obstacles both external and internal throughout their story journey. It should be clear that the people they were at the beginning of your story could not have made the commitment necessary to grasp their HEA, that it is only by undergoing the changes experienced through their story journey that they are finally ready to make the necessary leap of faith.

 

There should be a sacrifice of some sort on the part of both protagonists.
Again they need to show they deserve this reward. The sacrifice they each make won’t be the same or even carry the same weight. Instead the sacrifice will be tied to who they are and what their wound is. And a good rule of thumb is, whoever has the biggest problem with commitment should be the one to sacrifice the most, to make the biggest leap, to make himself/herself vulnerable in order to reach for the HEA in the end.


There should be indications that this HEA is truly a new beginning for a rich and fulfilling life to come.
Now that they’ve committed to each other the reader wants some indication that this commitment will stick, especially if one or both fought really hard against it for a large portion of the story. In many romances this is done with an epilogue, but that’s not the only way to do it. It can be shown in the depth of the sacrifice, in the willingness of a proud protagonist to humble himself.

A Checklist For Writing Your Happily Ever After


So that’s my HEA checklist. If you've reached this point in the writing of your story, you've invested a lot of blood, sweat and tears in its creation - make sure you don't fumble the ending. Give your readers an ending that makes them sigh with satisfaction and think about your story long after they've closed the book.

Can you give an example of a book or film that you thought had a particularly memorable HEA? Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for any book from my backlist.

Talulla

 

Talulla

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. I’m so excited - the release day for Talulla, the ninth book in the multi-author Love Train series, is almost here - it releases on August 1st.

As I posted last month, multi-author projects are always fun. The chance to bounce ideas off of each other and do some collective worldbuilding, even when the books are standalone, brings an extra layer of excitement to a project. One of my contributions to the worldbuilding aspect was to speak to a curator at a railroad museum and get a copy of a timetable that showed travel times and stops along the Union Pacific route in the 1870s. Others dug out information on Pullman cars, dining options, how sleeper berths were set-up and stored away and many other little details that went into making the train travel portion of our stories as realistic as possible.

As for the stories themselves, other than details about wordcount and other administrative issues, each of the ten participating authors were given the following set-up for the books:    

  • The books will all be standalone
  • Each story will have the hero and heroine encountering each other while traveling on a Union Pacific train, engine number 1216. The train travel will happen on page for at least part of the story.
  • The time frame will be 1869 or later.
  • A matchmaking conductor will be featured in each book. (character sketch provided).

Given these identical parameters, it was really interesting to see how VERY differently each story turned out. 

When I started brainstorming the story for my book, Talulla, I started by reading through my idea file.  You know, that place where an author stores those ‘someday’ ideas, snippets of character sketches, plot points, what-ifs that are intriguing enough to grab your attention, but not fully formed enough to earn a story just yet. And the one that tugged at me was an idea I had pitched to my editor in my early days of writing for LIH. It was rejected, and rightly so, it wasn’t developed enough at the time. But that was over a dozen years ago and with the advantage of a little more experience under my belt I could see the weak spots and figure out how best to rework it.

I was very excited to be able to finally breathe new life into this story and get it ‘out there’ in the world at large. I know this may sound silly, but whenever I develop a story to the point of having a proposal pulled together, I get invested in the characters and feel I’m letting them down if I don’t get the story written.

 

Here’s an excerpt. For context, Tally and Max were childhood friends but a tragic accident that resulted in the death of her brother changed all that. She went away to boarding school and it’s been twelve years since they’ve seen each other. Max is now a widowed father and he and his seven-year-old daughter Bonnie are traveling home on a train in the crowded coach car when Bonnie falls prey to travel sickness. The conductor finds a passenger with extra seating in her Pullman section who agrees to share her space with the sick child. Here is how the first meeting goes.

 

A split second before Henry made the introductions, recognition kicked Max in the gut. Tally!

Henry waved to the woman. “Mr. Maxwell Wallace, this is Miss Talulla Alden. Miss Alden, this is Mr. Maxwell Wallace and his daughter Bonnie.”

Max saw her stiffen, as he was certain he had. He gave a short nod. “Tally.”

“Max?” Her tone conveyed shock, as if she’d just bitten into something that was unexpectedly sour.

Henry looked from one to the other of them in obvious delight. “So you two know each other?”

Max nodded. “We do. Or at least we did, many years ago.” Tally Alden—the flesh and blood reminder of one of the lowest moments and biggest regrets of his life. No wonder she’d seemed familiar out there on the platform and that he’d thought of her earlier.

The conductor rocked back on his heels looking very pleased with himself. “Well this is excellent. You can get reacquainted and there won’t be any of that awkwardness strangers experience when meeting each other for the first time.”

Max barely managed to keep from rolling his eyes. If Henry only knew.

Then Max shifted, settling Bonnie more comfortably in his arms. Tally seemed to collect herself at that. She waved to the upholstered seat across from her. “Please, lay your little girl down. And have a seat as well.”

She glanced from his daughter to the conductor. Anywhere but at him it seemed. “I know you’re not a porter, but would it be possible to get a blanket for Bonnie?”

The conductor touched the brim of his hat. “I’ll see to it right away. And if there is anything else I can do to make this new seating arrangement more comfortable for the three of you please let me know.”

Max hesitated, not sure he was truly welcome. But another fretful movement from Bonnie settled the matter. He took the seat across from Tally, laying Bonnie gently down with her head in his lap. “I know you and I didn’t leave things on the best of terms when we were last together.” A definite understatement. That eyes-blazing declaration that she hated him had been the last words she’d spoken directly to him before today. “But I’m very grateful that you’re doing this for Bonnie.”

She folded her hands in her lap. “Your daughter is an innocent and she’s suffering. I wouldn’t be so cruel as to turn her away.”

Her tone and cold look said that the characterization of innocent didn’t extend to him. It seemed she still hadn’t forgiven him.

“You look good Tally, all grown up. I wouldn’t have recognized you as that gangly, freckle faced girl I remember.” This poised, graceful, fashionable woman was nothing like the little tomboy who used to follow him and her older brother around with sometimes annoying persistence, wanting to be included even when her presence wasn’t welcome.

She smiled, though it didn’t extend to her eyes. “No one’s called me Tally since I left Windflower.” A shadow crossed her face. She was no doubt remembering Jamie, the one who’d given her the nickname.

“Would you prefer Talulla?” he asked quickly. “Or Miss Alden perhaps?”

She waved a hand. “Tally’s fine.”

He leaned back, careful not to jostle Bonnie, and studied her a moment as she fiddled with a chain at her neck, her gaze once more focused elsewhere. Max finally decided it was up to him to carry the conversation. “So what takes you home after all these years?”

She tucked a tendril behind her ear, her expression closed off, just short of hostile. “There’s an heirloom I’m supposed to inherit on my twenty second birthday, which happened this week. My father is holding it hostage until I come to personally collect it.”

Good for Rupert. “Then let me offer you a belated happy birthday. And I’m sure your father will be happy for the opportunity to see you again, whatever the reason.” He couldn’t resist adding “It’s been some time since you were last home, hasn’t it?”

Tally’s eyes narrowed at that.


I hope you enjoyed this sneak peak into
Talulla. Leave a comment with your thoughts to be entered in a drawing for a copy of Talulla, to be delivered once it goes live.

 

Talulla

TALULLA

Talulla

Will returning home bring Talulla the peace that’s eluded her for half her life?

Ten-year-old Talulla watched in horror as her beloved brother fell through the ice while trying to save her. Thanks to the quick actions of Max, her brother’s closest friend, she survived. Her brother didn’t. 

When she overhears Max and her father discussing that she’s to blame, Talulla feels betrayed by those she thought she could most trust. A boarding school becomes her refuge, and she never looked back. Until now.

Widowed father Max is traveling home with his young daughter. Unfortunately, a bad case of travel sickness overtakes the little girl, and Max turns to the conductor for help. When the man finds a passenger willing to share her Pullman section, Max is relieved—until he discovers their benefactor is Talulla, a woman whose last words to Max were an impassioned I hate you.

Can these two find a way to push past their mutual distrust to regain the friendship they once shared. And perhaps something more…

To pre-order, click HERE



Multi-Author Projects with help from guest Pam Crooks

 

Multi-Author Projects with help from guest Pam Crooks

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. I just finished setting up the pre-order for my book Talulla (yaaayy!!) This will be Book 9 in the Love Train Series, a 10 book multi-author project or MAP. And while things are still fresh in my mind, I thought I’d talk a little bit about MAPs.

First, MAPs are a collection of stories written by multiple authors around a unifying thread. This can be a concept, a location, an event, a season, a trope, or some other element. They can be author led or publisher/editor led. And they can be any length from short story to novella to full novel.

Over the course of my career I’ve participated in several of these.

For example I’ve done author-led short story collections, one with a recipe theme (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1942505000) and one with a Christmas theme (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B076DCWMPD).

I’ve done Editor-led novella collections, one based on Thanksgiving (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005HRPY1G) and one whose theme was merely Journeys (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00YMEE2D6)

I’ve participated in an editor-led novel collection with an Irish Brides theme (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B074C68VV2

And also some author-led novel collections, one with the theme of Bachelors and Babies (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07SYD3BKF) and the current Love Train series (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09TRM31MK)

But as many of these as I’ve participated in, I’ve never served as admin/coordinator on one. So for some insight into how to step into that role, I turned to writer friend and one of the most organized people I know Pam Crooks. So take it away Pam.

 

Multi-Author Projects with help from guest Pam Crooks

  • How many of these projects have you coordinated/managed either alone or as part of an admin team?
    I was invited to participate in my first MAP back in 2018, the Widows of Wildcat Ridge series, the brainchild of Charlene Raddon and Zina Abbott.  I was thrilled and honored and even more excited!  By the time my invitation came, the project was already underway, and my book was the 8th one, right in the middle.
    Since I came in late, I had very little to do with the organizing, but I have learned since that WoWR was different and more difficult in that there were a lot of moving parts.  Maps, flora, wildlife, characters, the same town and villain, and so on. It took a lot of coordinating, a lot of emails, a Drop Box account for files, etc.  It was a fun series, though, and I loved being a part of it.
    I was then invited by Charlene to do another series, Bachelors & Babies.  Somehow, I ended up being much more involved, and we kept the series much simpler.  Then came the sequel, Cupids & Cowboys.  Finally, my current MAP is Love Train, of which I’m pretty much the head honcho. 
    You could say organizing is my thing.  😊

  • Do you believe in using any kind of formal agreement for participants to sign? Why or why not? 
    We had a contract with WoWR, and we eventually found it was difficult to enforce.  By the time the next series came along, we decided against having a contract, and everything has worked perfectly fine.

  • How do you select which authors to invite to participate?
    Charlene and I worked together on the earlier series inviting authors, mostly her friends. Most of them were new to me, or I hadn’t worked with them before, so when we decided to do Love Train, I was much more selective in who to invite.  We researched the authors, checked their rankings and reviews, how active they were online, if they were diligent at promoting, that sort of thing. 
    Of course, the bigger name of the author, the busier she is, so I got a couple of ‘no’s’ initially.  But I’m so proud to have four of my sister fillies from Petticoats & Pistols in the Love Train MAP with me – Shanna Hatfield, Kit Morgan, Winnie Griggs, and Linda Broday.  I’ve known these ladies for years and know I can depend on them.  But more importantly, I know they are popular historical western romance authors, and that’s huge.

  • Besides the connecting thread, which parts of the project should the coordinator(s) control, if any (for example: wordcount, cover design, heat level, release order & frequency, titles, consistent formatting, etc.)?  
    That was all determined before we ever issued our first invitation, and I included all the information I had, including who had already agreed to participate, in my invitation letter.
    Never did we ask for input from an author.  Too many opinions, I’m afraid.  Much simpler to present the final idea and roll with it.
    An author needs to know what she’s getting into and if she’ll have time for the project.  In our case, since Charlene has been a cover designer for years, she handled the covers, chapter headers, scene breaks, etc., and charged us a fair price.  She was wonderful about giving us a nice selection of models to choose from and allowed us input on her designs.
    Once all the authors were in place, I composed a formal document of Guidelines and a few character sketches of the recurring characters and posted them in our Google Sheet.  Everyone had access to this document, and it contained a wealth of information besides just the Guidelines.  Things like h/h names, preorder dates, release dates, buy links, order of release, that sort of thing.
    NOTE: Winnie here - two other things that the coordinator specifically provided on these projects were platform and pricing info.

  • What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered in working on these projects?
    The biggest challenge is keeping all the authors on schedule.  Some authors are involved in other MAPs or their own standalone books, so they don’t always pay attention to where they are supposed to be and when in my series.  Also, a few authors are not techy and need more help with formatting, planning their release parties, working with Google Spreadsheets, etc.

  • What lessons have you learned over the course of your experience with these projects?
    I have learned that one person (not necessarily two unless you really, really work well with each other) needs to keep her thumb on the pulse of things.  That means keeping track of preorder dates, release dates, and staying in touch with each author.  Which entails lots of behind-the-scenes communication! 

  • What do you see as the benefits of participating in these projects as opposed to writing your own stand-alone or single author series?
    The obvious benefit is sharing the project with other authors.  Lightening the load, so to speak.  As long as every author promotes her book, generously mentions other authors and helps to promote them as well, enthusiasm for the project will stay high.  Assuming the books are written (and edited) well, sales are about guaranteed.  Ditto with a higher number of reviews.  And that means more profits for everyone.

  • Other information you’d like to share?
    For anyone who is thinking of starting their own MAP, run, don’t walk, to buy “How to Run Successful MAPs: An Author’s Guide to Multi-Author Projects and How to Make them Profitable” by romance author Cheryl Wright.  The book just came out earlier this month and is chock-full of information presented in an easy-to-read, quick-to-read format.  You’re guaranteed to learn something new and important!

 Thanks Pam, that's really great info.

Pam and I are in the Bachelor & Babies series together - her Trace is  Book 1 and my Sawyer is Book 6. And I'm excited to announce it's going on sale for three days. 

Every book in the series will be reduced to 99¢ starting this Friday through Sunday, Father’s Day!  Three days isn’t very long, so you’ll have to hurry to take advantage of our sale! 

Multi-Author Projects with help from guest Pam Crooks

To see every book in this series, click the Bachelors & Babies Series Link on 
Amazon

Multi-Author Projects with help from guest Pam Crooks

So let's talk about Multi-Author Projects. 
As a reader do you enjoy them? What do you think are the optimum number of books? What sorts of connecting threads do you like to see?

Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for your choice of any book from my backlist.

Multi-Author Projects with help from guest Pam Crooks

Multi-Author Projects with help from guest Pam Crooks

Bestselling romance author Pam Crooks grew up in the ranch country of western Nebraska, so it was inevitable she’d eventually write lots of books about cowboys.   Pam still lives in Nebraska with her husband (who is not a cowboy), four married daughters and a whole slew of perfect grandchildren. 

Over the course of her writing career Pam has written 30 romances, most of them historical westerns, but she's proud of her contemporary sweet romances as well!  Stay up on the latest news from Pam at
www.pamcrooks.com


 

 

 

It’s Almost Here! New Release and a Giveaway

 

It’s Almost Here!  New Release and a Giveaway

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. I’m so excited - the release day for Her Amish Springtime Miracle, the second book in my Hope’s Haven series, releases on Tuesday May 24th.

Her Amish Springtime Miracle features Hannah, the youngest of the three Eicher sisters, as the heroine. When I developed her character I looked to her biblical namesake. Hannah Eicher is a young Amish woman who has learns from her doctor that she will likely never be able to bear children. When an infant girl is abandoned in her family’s barn with a note pleading with Hannah to raise her, Hannah knows it’s an answered prayer. Now, a year later, Hannah is on the cusp of finalizing her adoption of baby Grace.

The hero, Mike is an paramedic with unwanted ties to the Amish. His parents were Amish but when he was a young child his mother died and his father left with bitter feelings toward  the community and embraced a more worldly lifestyle. This meant Mike was raised in the English world from age seven so for all intents and purposes he is an Englischer. But now he has to go back to his childhood community to find a lost-to-him nephew, the last member of his English family.

Both Hannah and Mike are seeking to build family ties in an unconventional manner but this commonality is only one of the things that draw them together. Their differences, though, are more profound. Because neither is ready to set aside the lifestyle and beliefs of the world they inhabit.

When I first conceived this story I never imagined the difficulty I would have in writing the final third of the book (It would have helped if I was more of a plotter and less of a pantser ). Trying to give Hannah and Mike their HEA when they had so much to overcome was definitely not easy. I did eventually manage to resolve this in an organic and believable manner (I hope!)

Here’s an excerpt (slightly modified for space and to remove spoilers). For context, Hannah is a baker and Mike, who's trying to get back in her good graces after they find themselves at odds over somehing, has offered to help her with one of her orders

 

Mike turned to Hannah. “What can I do?”

She waved dismissively. “There’s no need for you—”

He raised a brow. “Don’t you think I can be of any use?”

Hannah didn’t answer for a moment, and he wondered if this would be one of her stubborn moments. Then she nodded. “All right.” She retrieved a roll of parchment paper and stack of sheet pans. She set the pans down and handed him the roll of parchment paper. “You can line each of these pans, edge-to-edge, while I prepare the work surface.”

“Starting me off with the hard jobs I see.”

That earned him a grin.

While he worked on lining the cookie sheets, she cleaned and dried the table. Then she grabbed a canister of flour and dusted her work area.

A few minutes later he’d finished his task. “All done. What’s next?”

Hannah tilted her head and met his gaze. “You’re sure you want to keep going?”

“I am.”

She gave him a mock-warning look. “Don’t say I didn’t give you an out.”

Good, she was relaxing.

“If you’ll get two discs of cookie dough from the refrigerator, I’ll get the rolling pins.”

Once that was done, Hannah went into instructor mode. “We need to roll out this dough to a uniform thickness of about a quarter inch.” She demonstrated. “If the dough begins to stick, you can sprinkle on more flour.”

He enjoyed watching her when she was in her element, confident and relaxed. Standing side by side as they worked was nice too. Was she even aware that she hummed softly when she worked?

“How’s this?” he asked when he had it rolled out.

Her mouth scrunched to one side as she focused on his dough. “The center seems a little thicker than the edge. Otherwise I think it’s ready.”

Mike studied his dough critically, then rolled gently from the center out.

This time Hannah nodded and gave him an approving smile. “You’re doing so much better than I did on my first attempt.”

“Why, thank you. I have a good teacher.”

“Of course, I was six my first time.”

That surprised a chuckle out of him, and he saw an answering grin on her face. Promising. “So what’s next?”

She checked her ever-present notebook. “These are for a graduation party and I’ll use three different shapes” She retrieved the appropriate cookie cutters and handed him one. “You can work on the rectangles.”

Did she know she had a smudge of flour on her cheek? Even though he thought she looked absolutely adorable, he couldn’t resist reaching up to brush it away.

As soon as his hand touched her face, sensations jolted through him with the force of a flashover—sudden, overwhelming, undeniable.

She felt it too. He could see it in the way her eyes widened and darkened, in the sound of her breath catching in her throat. For that moment in time everything shifted.

They weren’t rivals any longer.

They weren’t Amish and English.

They weren’t Ohioan and Missourian.

They were just a man and a woman.


I hope you enjoyed this sneak peak into my plotting process (or lack thereof) and my story. Leave a comment with your thoughts to be entered in a drawing for a copy of Her Amish Springtime Miracle.

It’s Almost Here!  New Release and a Giveaway


HER AMISH SPRINGTIME MIRACLE

It’s Almost Here!  New Release and a Giveaway

An orphaned baby brings together an unlikely couple who learn the true meaning of family

When Hannah Eicher discovered sweet baby Grace in her barn last spring, the adorable infant seemed like the answer to her prayers. The young Amish baker has always wanted a familye of her own and now that she’s fostered Grace for nearly a year, her adoption application is almost certain to be approved. But an unexpected visitor to Hope’s Haven could change everything . . .

Englischer paramedic Mike Colder is only returning to his childhood hometown to locate and adopt his late sister’s baby boy. But when the trail leads to Hannah and Grace, Mike’s determination falters. With Hannah, the simple life he left behind suddenly seems appealing. Despite their wildly different worlds, can Mike and Hannah give each other the greatest gift of all: a life together?

For more information or to purchase, click  HERE

Writing the Book Blurb - Part 2

 

Writing the Book Blurb - Part 2

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. Back in January I posted about writing book blurbs (you can read that post HERE) and promised you a Part 2. So today I'm delivering on that promise.

First a caveat - this is just my thoughts on what makes up a good blurb. There are likely other methods that are as effective if not more so.

 

First let’s talk about what goes into a blurb.
I consider that these the four components are the minimum of what you need.to create an effective blurb. 

  • The Tag Line
  • The Characters:
  • The Conflict:
  • The Close:

 

For the purposes of this series of posts, I’m going to use the blurb from the first book I had to craft a blurb for all on my own. We’ll look at what I did right, what I did wrong, and what I might do differently today. It’s for my book The Unexpected Bride, an April 2019 release. It reads as follows: 

 

Writing the Book Blurb - Part 2
Fleeing an arranged marriage, socialite Elthia Sinclare accepts a governess position halfway across the country. But when she arrives in Texas she finds more than she bargained for - more children, more work and more demands. Because Caleb Tanner wants a bride, not a governess. But marrying this unrefined stranger is better than what awaits her back home, so Elthia strikes a deal for a temporary marriage. She says I do and goes to work—botching the housework, butting heads with her new spouse, loving the children.

Caleb isn’t sure what to make of this woman who isn’t at all what he contracted for—she’s spoiled, unskilled and lavishes her affection on a lap dog that seems to be little more than a useless ball of fluff.  But to his surprise she gets along well with the children, works hard to acquire domestic skills and is able to hold her own with the town matriarchs.

Could the mistake that landed him with this unexpected bride be the best thing that ever happened to him?

 

 

So today I want to dig into the first component.

The Tagline.

Technically, the tagline is optional, but I think having one adds a little extra punch to your blurb. The Tagline, also called a log line, is a very short teaser, designed to hook the reader and introduce the tone of the book. There are several different ways to approach this.


  1. You can do the A meets B format. Here’s an example
    Jane Austen meets Sherlock Holmes in this new Regency mystery series
    (from Erica Vetsch’s Jan 2022 release The Debutante’s Code)

    Another version of this format is to simply reference to the genre/tropes you’re mashing together – i.e. A regency era female turns detective in this new mystery series. (My apology to Erica if I didn’t properly capture the tone of her book)

  2. You can pose a question, as in this one
    As her plans unravel, can she give her children what they truly need?
    (from Mindy Obenhaus’s Nov 2021 release Their Yuletide Healing)

  3. Then there’s the contrast method.
  4. She mixed danger, desperation, and deception together. Love was not the expected outcome.
    (from Mary Connealy’s March 2022 release The Element of Love)

  5.  And lastly, you can simply showcase the heart of the story as was done in the blurb for my upcoming May 2022 release Her Amish Springtime Miracle.
    In this delightful and heartwarming novel, an orphaned baby brings together an unlikely couple who learn the true meaning of family.


Unfortunately, I didn’t include a tagline for The Unexpected Bride (shame on me!). So if I were to try to craft one today, how would I go about it? Well, let’s see how it might look using each of the four methods above.

Using method one:  A runaway heiress must serve as housekeeper and nanny in this accidental Mail Order Bride story

Using the second method:   Can a klutzy socialite who ends up far from home provide the care and love six orphaned children and their determined uncle so desperately need?

Using the third method:   She ran away from home to escape an unwanted engagement. So how did she end up agreeing to marry a disagreeable stranger?

And using the last method:   In this heartwarming story, an inept runaway socialite must build a loving home for six orphaned children and their much too serious uncle.

So which one would I actually use? The test would be which one I thought provides the best hook while remaining true to the story.  Right now I'm thinking it would be the third one.

A couple of tips:

  • Just because the tagline appears at the top of your blurb doesn’t mean it needs to be created first. If you’re having problems figuring it out, craft the rest of your blurb first and then come back to it. Hopefully the key tone and story essence you want to convey will pop out to you then
  • To figure out what part of your book would make the best hook, ask yourself what is most unique or interesting about your story. 

 

Writing the Book Blurb - Part 2
 

There you have it, my notes on how to craft your book blurb’s tagline. Next time we'll look at the second component, the characters.

So do you have any questions? Do you agree with this approach? Would you have chosen (or crafted) a different tagline for TUB than the one I chose? 

Leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for a book from my backlist

And if you're interested in learning more about The Unexpected Bride or ordering a copy, click HERE

 

 

 

 

 


Putting Your Best Foot ForwardDo You Hear What I HearNew Release, Sort OfThe Value of Family ReunionsPlaying With AcrosticsA Checklist For Writing Your Happily Ever AfterTalullaMulti-Author Projects with help from guest Pam CrooksIt’s Almost Here!  New Release and a GiveawayWriting the Book Blurb - Part 2

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