Talking pastry and new novels on Jean Grant’s blog

Hey All,

Please check out my guest appearance on Jean M. Grant’s terrific blog today. Hear more about my forthcoming novel, “Arborview,” and why I LOVE pastry so much; and learn that my desk looks like a mess!

—Karen

A little blog fun, and a release date coming soon…

Hey!

Author DV Stone was kind enough to feature “Arborview” and me on her blog, in a fun feature, today. Take a peek. Looks like I’m going to have a September release! I’m waiting on the date…
Cheers,
Karen

Take a Peek Through the Window with Karen Guzman


‘Stop making excuses and start making plans’

The road to publication took debut author Belinda Scott from a love of reading to writing advanced review copy critiques to, finally, penning her own story. The moral? Follow that dream, even when the path is long and uncertain.

Please welcome Belinda, more formerly known as “Elisabeth,” to Write Despite.

Thank you, Karen, for having me on your blog. I’m really excited to be here. Honestly, it makes me feel like a “real” author. Sometimes I still find it hard to believe I actually wrote a novel. I have been a homeschool mom for the last decade and was a substance abuse counselor before that. I don’t think I’m exactly in the ballpark of what most people think about when they hear the term author—actually, I’m not even what I think about when I hear the word author—yet here I am. 

My path to becoming an author started out with just a love of reading. As a child and teen, our small-town library couldn’t keep up with me. Every week I’d walk out with a stack of books until eventually I’d struggle to find anything I hadn’t read. Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden were my favorites and sparked my love of mysteries and danger. 

As an adult, I continued to read at the rate of almost a novel per day, and the cost of my reading habit began to rival the car payment. Well, not exactly, but it was expensive. Thankfully, I found an online site that linked reviewers with authors and publishers who needed advance readers. My world opened up, as I found so many new and interesting authors, and my book shortages were no more. I was happy, and my budget was, too.

Through writing reviews, I began to interact with authors and receive personal requests to review new books. I joined ARC teams and eventually was asked to become a beta reader for an independent author. She and I became friends over the course of several novels, and I eventually ended up becoming her amateur content editor. Working with her was some of the most fun I’ve ever had. Editing spicy scenes can certainly lead to some hilariously inappropriate conversations. 

My friend encouraged me to pursue my dream of writing my own novel, and when the pandemic caused us all to be shut away with nothing else to do, I gave it a try. Twelve weeks later, Thirteen Scars was born. I started out by sending a query, synopsis, and sample to my top seven publishers. Two sent rejection letters, but then my editor with The Wild Rose Press contacted me asking for a bigger sample and eventually the whole manuscript. A contract followed, and this week I was given my official release date: July 7, 2021.

I am a classic example of how following your dreams can lead you to some surprising places. I had no budget, no connections, and no real knowledge of what I was doing. All I had was an outdated computer and a dream. I never expected to have a published book or to be halfway through writing a second, so for those of you who are still dreaming, I say stop making excuses and start making plans. Tackle those dreams and see where they take you!

Connect with Belinda:

https://www.facebook.com/EScottauthor

https://www.instagram.com/escottauthor

Video game wisdom and the road to publication

Breaking into the publishing business is no small feat. Perseverance and strategy are key, but video games—of all things—can offer unexpected insight, as Steven J. Kolbe discovered. Steven’s debut novel, How Everything Turns Away, is forthcoming from The Wild Rose Press. Please welcome Steven to Write Despite. Find him on Instagram @stevenjkolbe.

Some years ago, I became rather discouraged about my writing life. I read voraciously, wrote even more voraciously, and even chose creative writing as my college major. While I published a poem in high school and an interview with a U.S. poet laureate my freshman year of college, my accomplishments dwindled from there. A few years out of college, I began to doubt if this writing thing was going to happen.

Then my wife Susan did me a great favor. She convinced me to get a Wii. Now, I am not a gaming person. I played video games as a kid, but quickly my interests diverged. By middle school, I only played one if a friend really wanted to play—and then they would beat me miserably, of course.

However, as an adult, it was fun to return to the old world of Mario and Luigi, this time with fancy motion-sensor remotes. Around this same time, my friend Geoff, a New Orleans poet, introduced me to a website called Duotrope. This website catalogues different literary journals and magazines. It organizes them by genre, print or online, pay, and, most importantly, acceptance rates. Immediately, I realized my error. All the journals I’d been submitting to had less-than one percent acceptance rates. 

I had a revelation: What if I approached my writing career the same way one approaches a video game—not with the hardest level first, but the easiest? Looking through Duotrope and thinking about Mario Brothers, I had a paradigm shift. I decided to send my recent stories to journals with only high acceptance rates. It worked. I placed nearly all of them within a few months. After that, I took on slightly more selective journals, and so on. 

When it came to finding a home for my debut mystery novel, How Everything Turns Away, I checked out a copy of Writer’s MarketI chose a wide variety of agencies and publishers to send my manuscript to. In this way, I found The Wild Rose Press, an independent publisher with a wide range of authors and a stellar reputation. I began working with Kaycee John, who has been a lifesaver for my manuscript. She gave me copious notes on my sample chapters and has been working with me over the last year to take How Everything Turns Away from a manuscript to a novel.

‘Show Australia Some Love’: anthology aids wildfire victims

Please welcome author Sydney Winward to Write Despite. Sydney was among a spirited and caring cadre of writers from The Wild Rose Press who took part in an amazing fundraiser to benefit the victims of the 2019-20 wildfires in Australia.

It’s always inspiring to see writers–and publishers—using their talents to help others. Please check out the anthologies and lend a hand.

From Sydney:

Hi, Karen. Thanks for having me on your blog! Today’s topic is one filled with heavy loss and grief, and has broken the hearts of many. The Australian wildfires affected many people, even those not living in Australia. To see both people and animals lose their homes is heartbreaking. Thousands of homes burned down. Koalas, kangaroos, and other animals alike couldn’t find shelter or water, not to mention the millions of animals that lost their lives to the fires. It was awful and saddening, with a devastating, continuous impact on the country. It pulled on the heartstrings of not only the Australian people, but the entire world. 

Although most of us couldn’t be out there with the brave firefighters in their efforts to put out the raging wildfires, we found our own way to give back with our own unique skill sets. Stephen B. King, an Australian author at The Wild Rose Press, came up with the idea of putting together an anthology, whose profits would go toward the fires. The idea received such an overwhelming response that there wasn’t enough room to put everyone’s stories into one anthology, and had to be broken into three anthologies.

women’s fiction, thrillers, and mystery

My own story, Born of Fangs, is in volume three, a short paranormal story about two of my favorite characters, Willow and Adam, and the romance they share when love between a vampire and a human is frowned upon. It’s a bonus chapter after Bloodborn that I hoped my readers might enjoy.

I am humbled to be a part of the Australia Burns Anthology project with so many talented and compassionate writers. It warms my heart to have seen many people step up and come together to provide relief for those affected by the Australian fires. It’s amazing to see how much love the human race has for each other and animals!

Novel Cover Reveal!

My publisher has just revealed the cover for my forthcoming novel, “Arborview.” I really and truly love it. The designer captured the spirit of the book so well.

It’s a little nerve-wracking waiting for your cover, hoping that the publisher’s vision meshes with your vision, especially since the publisher — who’s paying for all this — has the final call! I couldn’t be more pleased.

Publication date coming soon, stay tuned…

Cheers,

Karen

A debut novel finds a home

Please welcome debut novelist Jacquie May Miller to Write Despite. Jacquie is a businessperson who’s now embarking on a second career as a novelist. She’s an inspiration for everyone trying to land that first book deal, and her novel’s got a killer title!

–Karen

Take it away, Jacquie…

Thank you, Karen, for inviting me to your blog. I am so excited to share my story with you and soon with the rest of the world. My women’s fiction novel, The Price of Secrets, will be released April 7, 2021.

My journey to publication took a little longer than most—I’m over 60 (not saying how far over)—but I’m as excited as I was when I published my first article in the Nosy Neighborhood News at age eleven. Perhaps that’s an understatement—I’m over the moon! It only took about fifty more years to land a contract with The Wild Rose Press. 

To be fair, I wasn’t trying for the first forty, I was using the left side of my brain managing my business. But about ten years ago, after spending most of my life making a living, I decided to make a life. I started putting words on paper, or cyber paper— scratches in a notebook, notes on loose scraps of paper, ramblings on my computer—that seemed to be forming a story.

With the help of my critique group, various writing classes and some wonderful writing conferences, my first draft was transformed into something worthy of publication.

Or was it?  After knocking on many doors, i.e., querying by email and pitching in-person, The Wild Rose Press answered the door. My editor opened it juuuust wide enough to ask me to consider a few changes, then gently closed it again. Her suggestions were correct and after a few revisions, I tried again, and the door swung wide open.

I am now a “Rose” in a garden full of welcoming authors. I couldn’t be happier to share my publication journey with the wonderful people associated with The Wild Rose Press, Inc. Thank you again for inviting me to your blog.

If you’d like to know more about me or my path to publishing The Price of Secrets, please check out my blog, www.jmaydaze.com.   

Wondering what you’ll find inside my book? Here’s a teaser:

When Jamie Crandall left Seattle for college twenty-five years ago, she was pregnant. Her mother demanded she have an abortion or get the hell out of Seattle and never come back. Jamie chose the latter, using her scholarship to UC Berkeley to disappear with the son she refused to abort. But now, twenty-five years later, everything has changed. Her mother has died, and Jamie is coming home to face the father of her son. Reuniting her son and his father will come at a high price though…Jamie has one more secret left to reveal.

Inspiration anyone?

Please welcome novelist Julie Howard author of the Wild Crime series, who’s new novel Spirit in Time debuts today. Julie is a former journalist and editor who has covered topics ranging from crime to cowboy poetry. She is a member of the Idaho Writers Guild, editor of the Potato Soup Journal, and founder of the Boise chapter of Shut Up & Write. Learn more at juliemhoward.com.

From Julie:

Ask a writer where their ideas come from, and most of the time they’ll shrug their shoulders. I often find it difficult to backtrack and discover the source for a book’s plot. More often than not, I point to a glimmer of inspiration, something so faint that only I can see it.

My new release, Spirit in Time, is set in 1872 in Sacramento, California. I lived there for about ten years and loved this historical and vibrant city, the heart of the nineteenth century Gold Rush and a terminus of the Intercontinental Railroad. Great wealth flowed through Sacramento and this time was the dawning of what came to be known as the Gilded Age. California had only recently become a state and Sacramento was a swampy area of land caught between two rivers. The city fell victim to frequent fires and floods in its early years. Ingenuity and fortitude were key in making the land livable and today a metropolis of 2.5 million people.

I had already established a series that features ghost-hunting blogger, Jillian Winchester. I knew I wanted the setting for the next book in the series to be Sacramento’s Gilded Age. But then, where did the plot come from?

It’s difficult to walk around the older part of the city without seeing glimpses of the past. Victorian mansions, old brothels, decommissioned rail tracks, a cemetery both eerie and beautiful. Maybe a ghost whispered: Pick me.

Usually, with a plot or character, something sticks in my mind and won’t leave. The story demands to be written – sort of like a song that lingers in your head no matter how you try to shake it out. In the case of Spirit in Time, the old Crocker mansion was this inspiration. Now a museum, the Italianate Victorian structure was built by the wealthy and powerful Crocker family in the late nineteenth century, along with a massive art gallery to house artwork they accumulated over the years. And yes, there are those who say the place is haunted.

The rest was easy. A ghost. A little time travel. A mystery to be solved.

Here’s a blurb for Spirit in Time:

“Time travel isn’t real. It can’t be real. But ghost-blogger Jillian Winchester discovers otherwise when an enigmatic spirit conveys her to 1872 to do his bidding. Jillian finds herself employed as a maid in Sacramento, in an elegant mansion with a famous painting. The artwork reveals another mystery: Why does the man within look exactly like her boyfriend, Mason Chandler?”

Morality and sin live side by side, not only in the picture, but also within her. As her transgressions escalate, she races the clock to find the man in the painting, and hunt down a spirit with a disconcerting gift. But will time be her friend or foe?”

Cover Reveal!

Friends,

We’re happy to share this Cover Reveal for author Shirley Goldberg’s new novel, Eat Your Heart Out, the second book in her “Starting Over” series.

–Karen 

From Shirley:

Two foodies, Dana and Alex, banter, sauté and tiptoe around each other. Except for the occasional smooch. What’s with that?  

I’m sharing more of Eat Your Heart Out’s details on my blog. Read the blurb and click this link https://midagedating.com/to read an excerpt. Too soon for links, but I’m looking for ARC readers, so please keep in touch. Publication date coming soon! 

Thanks to Debbie Taylor for her cover and the team at The Wild Rose Press for all their hard work! 

Blur for Eat Your Heart Out:

“When a tyrant in stilettos replaces her beloved boss, and her ex snags her coveted job, teacher Dana Narvana discovers there are worse things than getting dumped on Facebook. Time for the BFF advice squad, starting with Dana’s staunchest ally, Alex—hunky colleague, quipster, and cooking pal extraordinaire. But when the after-hours smooching goes nowhere, she wonders why this grown man won’t make up his mind. 

Alex Bethany’s new lifestyle gives him the confidence to try online dating. What he craves is a family of his own until a life-altering surprise rocks his world. He knows he’s sending Dana mixed messages. Alex panics when he thinks he’s blown his chance with his special person. From appetizers to the main course will these two cooking buddies make it to dessert? 

Funny and bittersweet, Dana and Alex’s story will have you rooting for them.”

Are beta readers worth the trouble?

Hello and welcome to the newly updated Write Despite. Cathy and I have finally given our blog a facelift. Yeah, it was long overdue. Please poke around the redesigned pages, take note of our tweaked mission statement, and share your feedback.

To kick off the redesign, novelist Randy Overbeck shares his take on the care, feeding, and invaluable contributions of early-stage readers.

–Karen

Take it away Randy:


I’ve spoken with a number of authors who have raised questions about beta readers. To clarify, when we say beta readers, we’re referring to readers who read an early manuscript, either in part or whole, and provide feedback. Some writers find these early readers unreliable, unhelpful, or sometimes even distracting.

For me, beta readers have been an integral part of bringing my manuscripts to fruition. Over the past several years, I’ve developed a process involving beta readers that has provided insights about my work I could never have gotten on my own. Along the way, I’ve learned a few lessons about what works—and what doesn’t—when it comes to beta readers:

You’re going to need more than one. I’ve found it helpful to have several individuals respond to my early work. Over the years I’ve cultivated a cadre of 10-12 readers. Since I want to learn how different readers might respond, it’s helpful to solicit multiple readers. I often get different perspectives and varying insights. I’ve also learned that some beta volunteers don’t end up actually reading my manuscript; life gets in the way, and I understand that. Recruiting several betas insures I can get the feedback I’m looking for.

Beta readers don’t substitute for a writer’s critique group. My beta readers are not writers; they’re readers. I don’t ask my beta readers to check my grammar—though there is usually one grammar Nazi in the group who likes to do this—improve my style or check on my voice or tense. I ask them to respond as readers, to aspects like plot and character or setting. Did anything catch their eye or stop them in their tracks or interfere with their reading?

Beta readers need to know what you expect of them. When I share a section of my manuscript, I try to be very specific with what I want betas to respond to. Along with the pages, they receive a set five to six questions. (As a long-time educator, my habit of giving homework lives on.) Of course, one of these questions is always very open-ended, so betas can share whatever they want to say. My betas seem to appreciate the direction, and I usually get the feedback I’m looking for.

Like everything else in life, beta readers do best with a set timeline. I’ve learned that my beta readers respond better when I give them an expected date to complete their review, usually about two weeks. Some will read the manuscript in a day or two and respond immediately, while others will wait until the “deadline” to finish their reading and respond.

It’s important your readers aren’t simply “yes men.” (Please forgive the gender blunder.) When I recruit beta readers, I try to make sure I have readers who will not be afraid to give me bad news. “That scene did not work.” “That description was too much. I found myself skimming to get to the action.” I’m careful to receive their responses, especially critical ones, in a positive manner. I encourage my betas to be candid and let them know that’s why I’m giving them an advance peak at my writing.

When possible, I try to give beta readers a chance to come together and discuss their reading and responses. (This was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, of course.) Over the years, I’ve tried to arrange a get-together—usually after work at a quiet restaurant—for local betas. They seem to enjoy comparing responses and, once they start discussing aspects about the narrative, they often provide me more than what they’ve written down. Also, some betas simply like to tell me some things face-to-face.

I’m confident that insights from my beta readers have helped make my writing clearer, more engaging and more accurate. I acknowledged their contributions at the start of both my published novels. I wouldn’t dream of writing my next mystery without their feedback. And… I’m always looking for new beta readers, so feel free to reach out.

www.authorrandyoverbeck.com

randyoverbeck@authorrandyoverbeck.com

@OverbeckRandy

FB: Author Randy Overbeck