Monday, February 28, 2011

Happy Hour Review Makes Me Happy!

Getting a great review on a Monday morning is always a wonderful way to start the day! I am a happy camper this morning. The editor from Substance, Style, and Soul reviewed "Happy Hour," and Loved it! So, I have to toot my own horn here, because I really love this book, too, (it's that book I wrote from my heart like writers are always being told to do) and am excited to let you know that ZOVA books has picked it up and the new release with some changes to the original book, will be out March 15th! Here is the awesome new cover, which I love. Hope you do, too.

Check out the review.


P.S. You can pre-order a copy now off of amazon at

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Motivation and The Writer

It's funny the things that motivate people. I get asked at writer's conferences a lot of the time what motivates me to write everyday on top of the day job, the family, etc. The answer to that is pretty simple. The first is that I LOVE to write. I love to create stories and characters. My problem is I have so many ideas that my issue is focus! I want to write everything at once and get it out of me and into the world. Patience is not one of my better virtues. It's a lesson I have to really accept.

The other thing that motivates me are my family. I want to be able to help provide for my family and do so while doing what I love to do. To me that is the ultimate. Speaking of ultimate--readers are the ultimate motivation. When a reader e-mails me that they love the book or a particular character, it makes my day like nothing else. Finding great talent is another huge motivating factor. Over the weekend at The Southern California Writer's Conference here in San Diego (which I highly suggest for anyone wanting to write a book, or for those already writing one), I met a young woman who had written a very good story. I turned her over to a publisher who I thought would be a good fit for what she was writing. They connected and now my fingers are crossed for this lady. I love that. The writer was so amazed that someone would do that for her, which blew me away because I have found the writing community is super supportive of each other. We want each other to succeed. There are enough readers in the world for us to all make it at this game.

Finally, Zenyatta motivates me. Yes--the mare who nearly won the Triple Crown. I have a photograph of her taped on my computer and when I get a little down or stuck, I just look at that amazing horse and think, "God, she is a rock star!" That horse has more heart and willpower in one of her hooves than most humans have in their body. She reminds me to keep on writing. It's not a sprint. It's a marathon.

Now, let me ask--what motivates you?

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Call of The Writer

I posted this same blog on the that I also write on. However, I felt it would pertain to those of you who write and are interested in self-publishing.

This weekend I am teaching at The Southern California Writer's Conference. I have done this for the past several years and it's always fun and educational. As traditional publishing is looking at change with the massive growth of e-books and various self-publishing options, this year should be an especially interesting one.

When my first book was published back in 2005 (Murder Uncorked), I was bright eyed and in many ways naive. I was so excited to have finally signed a publishing deal. It was for the first 3 books in the Nikki Sands' Mysteries. I had a lot to learn. Nine months later I signed another contract for my Michaela Bancroft series (aka--The Horse Lovers' Mysteries). Both series did well, but my Nikki Sands' Books took off and that was where the publishers' focus went to. I did sell through (which means I earned back my advances) on all of the Michaela Bancroft Mysteries but "word on the NY Street) was that it's hard to sell horse stories unless it is to kids. I say, "Bull pucky," (well, if you know me,then you know I'd use another word)anyway, the series was pulled. At the time I was sad, but I had more mysteries under contract with the Nikki Sands books, so I had the writing still moving forward. However, writing Michaela and about her friends (both human and horses) was something I really wanted to continue doing. I kept it on the back burner and about the time my rights were reverted back to me, the publishing world was on the cusp of drastic changes. This was a good thing.

What this has meant for so many mid-list authors (myself included) is a great deal if you know how to capitalize on it. Once I got my rights back, I made some slight changes in the manuscripts where I had screwed up. You see when I started writing Michaela I knew very little about reining and working cow horse--and readers pointed out where I had made mistakes. readers will do that. Frankly, I still don't know enough. I like to jump! But my dad convinced me that I should explore those diciplines for my character. Dad is an old cowboy and his idea of jumping comes from going out in the woods and flying over logs. I took his suggestion and it worked. However, I still want to see Michaela out on the cross-country course. (I will get back to this). Okay--so--once I had the rights back on these books I decided to reprint them myself. Amazon has a great program called Createspace. There is no out of money cost and it is pretty easy to use. You get your art work or you can use their templates for a cover, format the book to their requirements and upload. The royalty scale is much better than what I was getting from Penguin. Not to mention--I get paid monthly versus every six months. I also took the books and uploaded them on to Kindle (you can do this and have a book up in 48 hours). This is where I am really seeing a difference. I am selling 150 books a minimum a day right now on the Kindle! And--I also get paid monthly on this. Why am I telling you all of this? Because I am sure there are some of you, like me, who agree that there is not enough adult equestrian fiction out there. We want to read it! I am also sure that some of you have a good book inside of you. You might be asking, well why would I want to share in that? "Oh please, I say--there is plenty to go around." We can all share readers. The caveat here is a couple of things--you still have to have a good book and have it edited. If the book and editing are not decent then no one will pick up the next book. A lot of traditonalists say that the market will become flooded from people who really haven't honed the craft. Maybe at first, but as with anything--the cream will rise to the top. Readers are smart and they will find what they like and keep reading. What do you have to lose?

Now back to where Michaela is headed. I am working on book 4 as I mentioned, and yes--she is going to be headed out on to the cross country course. I am super excited to write this twist into her life and how it comes about and where she will go with it. Besides I don't know if any of you saw this link today--Eventing meets Reining, so I think my timing with Michaela's switch in diciplines might be just right:  Pretty Cool, huh?

If you have any questions about my publishing experiences, etc--feel free to ask away. I am pretty open when it comes to this stuff. I want to see writers and riders succeed!

Right now you can find all 3 Michaela Bancroft Mysteries on Kindle for 99 Cents, as well as Happy Hour (very limited time), El Patron and a Nikki Sands' short story.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Nikki Sands Heats up Valentine's Day

If you read the Nikki Sands' Mysteries (aka Wine Lover's) then you know I like to add recipes and wine pairings. In those chapters of the mysteries where the recipes and wine pairings are included I write a little tidbit about the chapter or Nikki or what she's dealing with. Yes it is author intrusive but it works with these stories. it wouldn't work with my Michaela Bancroft mysteries because Michaela isn't nearly as quirky and nutty as Nikki. Michaela takes a more down to earth approach to life and Nikki is my pie in the sky character.

I picked today's recipe from "Murder by the Glass." I thought if you haven't decided what to make for your honey tonight for Valentine's day, you can't go wrong with burger and a salad. Think I'm kidding? I know--you are shaking your head at me thinking, "A hamburger? That is not very romantic." Wrong! Poor red wine and it is--and add the jalapeno for heat and the strawberries on the salad and you have yourself an easy Valentine's Dinner that is tasty and tasty food is romantic no matter what (at least that's my take). Hope you enjoy!


Jalapeño Burger (turkey if you're going with a lower calorie count or don't eat red meat) with Ravenswood Merlot Sangiacomo

When it comes to making a good turkey burger, it’s all about adding seasonings. There isn’t a better choice than jalapeño to turn up the heat, especially if you have a handsome Spaniard seated across from you. Then again, you probably wouldn’t need any spice—but sans hottie bullfighter, chop up the jalapeño and mix yourself up one tasty lunch. If it’s a middle of the week thing and you find you have to go back to work or take care of some little people, (you know, the kind who don’t think you have a life, other than serving them—that’s right, your children), then imbibing probably isn’t an option. Hell, maybe it is.

However, if it’s say, a football Sunday or a rainy Saturday (or Valentine's Day on a Monday) when you might want to pop in a Gipsy Kings’ CD and curl up with a good book, then, by all means open yourself a bottle of Ravenswood Merlot Sangiacomo. This wine is a delicious blend of summer fruits and earth flavors. It has a full, ripe flavor quality, making it a nice balance with dark plum, cherries, blackberries, tobacco, and spice. This wine will be even better with a year of aging. It’s bold enough for the burger and with a hint of sweetness, a delicious blend with the spicy jalapeño flavor.

2 lbs ground beef or turkey

Salt and pepper

Bleu or feta cheese

4 hamburger buns

Tomato slices, onion slices, and lettuce as


1 clove garlic

1⁄4 cup olive oil

1⁄2 cup chopped jalapeño peppers

1⁄2 cup yellow onion

1⁄2 cup chopped cilantro

1⁄2 cup balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

11⁄2 cups sugar. You can supplement Splenda for a lower cal dish; however, read the sugar versus

Splenda sweetness conversion on the label for accurate amounts

21⁄2 cups water


Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan to medium-high. Sauté the peppers, onion and garlic until soft. Add the

vinegar, sugar, Worcestershire sauce and water, and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat until the mixture is thick and syrupy, about 30 minutes. Season with salt. Let cool, then transfer to a bowl, add the cilantro, and refrigerate until ready to use. Season the meat with salt and pepper and shape into 4 patties. Cook on the grill or pan. During the last minute or so of cooking, top the meat with the cheese to allow it to melt. To serve, place each patty on the bottom halves of the buns and spoon over pepper mixture, then top with accompaniments. Serve immediately.

Gorgonzola and Fresh Greens Salad with Strawberry Balsamic Dressing served with Gloria Ferrer

Blanc de Noi rs

Now if you’re into the Gucci and Prada scene and all about making a statement with your best gal pal (or if you really think hamburgers aren't romantic), then forget the burger dish and mix yourself up a chichi salad. The Gorgonzola cheese with endive lettuce and strawberry balsamic vinaigrette is an excellent fit with Gloria Ferrer’s Blanc de Noirs. This champagne is a full-flavored berry delight. It showcases a mouthwatering blend of black cherry, strawberry, and raspberry flavors. The pretty pink color of the champagne makes it perfect to serve at bridal showers or a ladies’ lunch. The color comes from a special pressing technique that extracts an extra measure of color from the grapes harvested by hand. This wine also has a touch of spice that enhances the flavors of the Gorgonzola in the salad. This is totally an all-girls lunch dish, no guys allowed, because it wouldn’t fill them up and they’d think it too pretentious anyway. It’s perfect for a gossipy good time. Annie Lennox would be the diva to have crooning in the background for this get-together.

1 head romaine or any type of lettuce you prefer. Or, to make it easy, pick up one of those salad bags of mixed greens.

1⁄2 cup walnuts (you can candy these if you prefer by using 1 tbsp of butter and 2 tbsp brown sugar. Melt butter in a pan, toss in chopped nuts and brown sugar, cook until sugar bubbles and caramelizes, take nuts out, let them cool and then break them apart to toss into salad).

1⁄2 cup of crumbled Gorgonzola cheese.

1⁄2 cup of strawberries (optional), also—any berry will do

as well as a blend—blackberry & raspberry, etc., be as

creative as you like.


1⁄4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1⁄4 cup balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp strawberry preserves (you can use sugar free if you like)

Black pepper to taste

Blend dressing ingredients in a Cuisinart or blender. Mix salad ingredients together, drizzle with dressing. Serves 4

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Keep on Writing, My Friends!

OK--I am so going to go on a rant here because I am tired of being the "nice" writer. Well, actually I like being the nice writer as far as my readers go but as far as traditional big house publishing goes, I am done being nice. I am so going the Konrath route. I actually started going that route about 3 months ago--and guess what, my mid-list friends--it is paying off! I have made more at publishing via e-book and through self pubbing through Createspace in the last three months than my first advance. Granted I have a bunch of books available and am writing under a couple of different names, but still--it's working.

I know there are the traditionalists out there who will disagree or say that I am naive or stupid or not legitimate any longer. Really? Guess what--I am writing what I want to write and making money at it for a change, which means my bills get paid and I get to spend more time with my family and riding horses. I'm writing under my own deadlines, which works really well for me since I have a day job and a family to take care of.

I know I sound jaded and I kind of am. I am grateful that I had my start with big house publishing, I really am, (notice I am saying big house and not Indie, as I am working with an amazing small press right now with people who love writers and want to do what is right by writers. Check them out. ZOVA). ZOVA is re-releasing my book Happy Hour and they have done a beautiful job with marketing, the cover, and I am extremely happy with the royalty rate. However, I doubt you will see me go back to small advances with low royalty rates. I will stick to small press and myself.

Since I have kind of blown that door open and made that announcement (as if anyone cares), I just want to add one of many stories I have as to why I am going down a new path with my writing. A storyline that I absolutely loved and worked on was shopped to all the majors. I waited several months as it made the rounds (that is the way it goes). It was a YA piece. I received feedback that it either wasn't old enough, it was too old, there were no vampires, no sexual tension, too much sexual tension (no lie)--can you confuse me even further? Finally an editor said that she loved it but did want me to write it for a younger audience. Ok. I rewrote the first 50 pages, redid the outline, etc--just as I was asked to do. The editor and I spoke on the phone. I thought that we had a deal going. This was a reputable house with many bestsellers. Guess what? Weeks go by. Then two months go by and we hear nothing. Finally word comes back to my agent (not even to me, even though I had a direct conversation with the editor and made the changes that she asked for) that the story is great, but another author with a bigger name had come in at the same time with a similiar submission and they were going in that direction. I cried. I yelled. I said that I hate this business. Then, I pulled my head out, looked straight ahead at the future. Took my career into my own hands and moved forward. I'm glad I did. So, for all you writers out there who are wondering if the e-book, self pubbing route is viable--I say yes it is. It's a steady growth and the keys are 1. Good book. 2. Good Covers (by the way, I need new covers I have decided). 3. Patience. 4. Keep writing! KEEP ON WRITING!!!