Friday, March 28, 2014

Weather Is Part of the Story

Weather plays a part in each of my books. Though a novel may start in one month and end in a another, the weather is a big factor in each story, often providing delightful plot twists. 

My first published book, Sea Of Hope, starts off with a nor'easter. The Company You Keep, set in January, involves lots of snow. For muggy summertime heat, I have Heaven's Blue. I've set three books in the month of March, which I can only blame on a fondness for springtime. 

Since I've lived in New Jersey all my life and my books are set in either New Jersey, Pennsylvania,  or New York, I am very familiar with the vagaries in the climate. Often, I'll write or edit a summertime book in the dead of winter, and I find that a pleasant pursuit because I can close my eyes and dream of all the wonderful things summertime offers. On the other hand, writing about winter when it's miserably hot outside offers a nice contrast as well.

When I wrote The Pirate's Wraith I took a vacation in my mind. That book starts off in October, but quickly switches to the Caribbean for some endless summer. 

What's your favorite time of the year? When you choose a book to read, do you look for one with a particular season in mind? 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Naming Characters

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

William Shakespeare penned those words a long time ago for his play Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare was born in the sixteenth century. When he named his characters, he used names familiar to that time.

The popularity of given names changes. What's popular today was not in vogue twenty years ago. As a teacher of young children, I saw name trends come and go. There was one year when I had three little girls named Jennifer in my class!

When writing historicals, I roam around on the internet seeking names appropriate for the time period. There are some writers who roam through graveyards to find names for their characters, but the internet is quicker. Besides, I'm not really fond of walking through cemeteries.

There are several genealogy sites, which are helpful, but most of them charge a fee. does not charge a fee. It is run by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is an excellent resource.

Currently, I'm writing a romance set in the 18th century. I found the Connecticut State Library has an interesting list of nicknames for the eighteenth and nineteenth century at

Another good blog post on male names for 1800 is at

There's a fun post on oddball names, too, at

For English names of the Renaissance era I found

Of course, there are plenty of names an author can borrow from literature. Take a look at

What would you name your historical characters?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Reading and Exercising

When I'm writing, I sit in front of the computer, but most of the time when I'm reading I exercise by pedaling on this recumbent bike. Last night I went over eight miles--though I wasn't pedaling very fast. I used to have an elliptical machine, but it was too strenuous and distracting for reading.

I like to go outside when the weather is nice. I enjoy walking and gardening, but cycling while reading is a good way to keep the blood pumping.

Do you exercise while you read?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Take One--Please

Tomorrow, I will attend the Liberty States Fiction Writers Conference in Woodbridge, New Jersey. (Address: The Renaissance Woodbridge Hotel,  515 US Highway 1, South Iselin, NJ) There will be a "goodie" table at the conference for authors to place their promotional materials. There will be pens with authors' names, there will be free books, there will be emery boards engraved with authors' names, and there will be sticky notes with authors' names, too. 

I have postcards and brochures. I bought the postcards from Vistaprint, but I made the brochures on my own. I went to the grocery stores and bought four bags of mini-Milky Way bars. The cashier glanced up at me and asked, "Trick or treat?" 

I taped the candy to the postcards. Obviously, there are people who will take the postcards, eat the candy, and throw the postcard away. Such is the life of an author. Promoting is a tough business.

If you are a reader, you should visit the Book Fair. It will be open to the public from 4:30 to 6:00 PM. I will be there with more mini Milky Way bars. Stop at my table if you're hungry.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Tangible Reward

Writing a novel takes time. Sometimes, getting a contract for that novel can take longer than writing the book. Today an author can also self-publish. With all my books, I first tried to get a contract with a publisher. I appreciate having someone else edit the book because I know the end result will be a better product. It's easier to have someone else make the cover for the book, too. Advertising is a major part of marketing. Worthy publishers advertise. Even though authors are expected to be involved in social media to spread the word about their books, a publisher's efforts can make a bigger difference in sales.

Finding the right publisher for a book can be a challenge and dealing with rejections is disheartening. It took me a while to toughen up when I first decided to publish my stories--but I did learn to persevere and continue to submit despite being turned down over and over again.

Publishing can be a crazy business with very little compensation.

I found buying myself a small reward when I finished a book helped me to deal with all the ups and downs of submission and rejection. To me, the reward was tangible proof of my efforts. In the photo above is a punched-tin lantern. I bought it because such a lantern is used by the ghost in The Company You Keep. It's an integral part of the plot. I figured if I didn't get a publisher for the book, I would publish it myself and use the lantern as part of the design for the cover. I did get a contract for the book eventually, but I still have the lantern. :-)

Hubby bought a Celtic cross for me after I finished Irons in the Fire. In that book, the heroine has a Celtic cross as a talisman.

When I finished The Pirate's Wraith, one of my daughters bought a necklace for me with an old-fashioned sailing ship made of pewter.

These are inexpensive items, but each of them mean a lot to me. Finishing a book is a huge hurdle. For me, it's nice to have a tangible reward.

Friday, March 07, 2014

The Irreverent Reverend

Last night, hubby and I went to hear Michael Riley, the Irreverent Reverend, speak at the Middletown Township Public Library. The title of his talk was Scars, Tattoos, and the Funny Bone. It was sponsored by the Widows Helping Widows Group.  There were four other men in the audience besides hubby. He counted them.

Both hubby and I have read Michael Riley's column in The Asbury Park Press. Much of what he said, I had already read in his column and that's okay. After all, I will read a book for the second--or third time. It was quite interesting to hear him, because he sounds exactly like the column he writes. But this was better because instead of reading his column and chuckling to myself, I got to listen to a room full of people join in and laugh with me. 

He spoke of his heart attack, growing up in a trailer park, being raised by his grandmother, and losing the man he considered his father at the age of eighteen. Those were all difficult issues, but he made it funny--and that was the point of his talk. You've got to laugh. It helps--and it heals. 

Yes, usually when bad things happen I don't laugh during the incident, but later on something about it will tickle my funny bone. A positive attitude helps in the worst of times. 

Michael Riley has written a book, Only Human,  a collection of his columns. Those of you who don't read the Asbury Park Press should go right out and buy book. :-) 

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Get a FREE Book During Read an Ebook Week

If you haven't tried an ebook until now, here's your big chance to get many of them for FREE or at very reduced prices! I read both paper books and ebooks. I like them both, but an ebook does have many advantages. If you want a list of the advantages, I found a good one. Read Ten Advantages of E-book Readers.

I have owned many ebook readers, right now I own a Nook with the Glow Light. (It's small and light--big advantage right there.) However, I also download ebooks into my phone and my iPad. I have a Kindle app for my phone and my iPad. I have iBooks on the iPad as well. I actually read a lot of ebooks on my phone. Right now I'm reading Gulliver's Travels on my phone. (Very trippy book.)

At Smashwords,for this week only, you can download for FREE PRINCE OF THE MIST, my wonderful fantasy story about Wildon Forest, one of the Sidhe, who lives in the Catskills. He's a handsome fellow.

So follow this link PRINCE OF THE MIST. Grab the coupon code on the right side of the book page at the Smashword's site. and get a FREE book. FREE is fantastic. :-)

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Blueberry Torte

Yesterday, I wrote 3,225 words and got to the end of my story. In the month of February, I wrote 33,863 words, which is a record for me. There will be a lot of editing on the manuscript. It is a rough draft and will require hours and hours of concentration to get it right.

While I was writing this past month, I ignored the dust bunnies in the house and several other chores. My family got used to leftovers--and nothing gourmet appeared on the table, though I love to try new recipes all the time. However, I had saved one, a cranberry torte. The problem with the recipe was finding fresh or frozen cranberries. I looked in several stores. So I decided to try blueberries.

This morning I wanted to celebrate my incredible word count by making a blueberry torte--instead of writing.

Here's the recipe. It makes one nine-inch cake.

1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for topping
2 large eggs at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 9-inch springform pan.

Cream together the butter and the sugar until fluffy. Mix in the eggs and then the almond extract. Add the flour and baking powder. Beat until combined. Spread the batter in the pan.

Arrange the blueberries on top on the batter in a single layer. Then sprinkle the top with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar.

Bake the cake for 55 minutes. (Your oven may take less time.) The top should be golden brown and if you put a toothpick in the center it should come out clean.

Let the pan cool. Use a knife to loosen the edges of the cake from the pan before unbuckling and removing the ring.

This is delicious. Try it and enjoy. :-)