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News and author-stuff, Writing

Can you believe it’s November??

Can you believe that it’s almost December? I’m having a hard time even considering it – or that the year is almost over. Yet on Monday we received a big reminder of what time of year it is: SNOW! And yes, it deserves excess capitals because there was a lot of it!

For the most part, I confess I’m not the biggest fan of the white stuff. But there is something magic about it, especially that hushed quiet of the first real snowstorm of the year, as everything is blanketed in white, tucked in until, in many cases, spring arrives.

I’m trying to focus on the magic part of it, and not the having to drive in it part (although did that yesterday too – whoo-boy, that wasn’t fun!) I’m trying to see it the way my girls do, so excited that today was the first Snow Day of the year since buses were cancelled. Or maybe to look at it with wonder the way that our young kittens, who’ve never seen a winter before, look in wonder at the white fluffiness coming down from the sky. I wonder what they see – or what they think it is.

Maybe that’s where the magic of it lies. In looking at it with different eyes that are less jaded by having driven or been stuck in it one too many times. Instead, seeing it as this magical unknown delight, like a kitten or very young child would. Or like my girls are looking it: all about the possibility of getting out and playing in it. Maybe for most of our experiences that’s where the magic is.

What do you think?

Other than (occasionally) staring out the window at the snow, I’ve been working on book two in the Shades series, Shade to Measure. So I’ve been thinking about sirens, and gender-reversal fun, and a women-owned-and-run construction company. Fortunately, my husband has been in construction for some time now, so I have a ready source of information should I need it. 🙂

I’ve also been getting ready for the holidays, which seem to be sneaking up quicker than anything, and this year I’d like to just enjoy it instead of only seeing the stressful part. There’s so much holiday magic too, with memories and gatherings and rituals… but I think I’ll save that for next month’s post.

And if you’re looking for a book set during the winter to shiver along with (the furnace never seems to kick in enough when temperatures are still supposedly “mild” in fall / shoulder seasons!), check out Must Love Death. I know, it sounds kind of dark – and parts of it definitely are – but it is at its core hopeful and full of both love and loss, since I was experiencing them both while writing it. There’s also plenty of humor, as this Death has an attitude and isn’t afraid to use it. 😉

As always, I love hearing from you – please comment or drop me a message. 🙂 Until next time, may your toes stay warm, and may you too be able to find the magic in your everyday world.

News and author-stuff, Writing

Welcome Shade for Love!

Yay! I can finally say that the Shades are really out in the world. 🙂

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This series has been a long time coming. If you’ve been around for awhile, you might have seen promises of the Shades of Beckwell back in 2019. Which was when it would have appeared, except… life. I am definitely a “planner” – I love checking off boxes and scheduling things. But with a combination of factors, 2019  – and the of course, 2020 as many people experienced – became swallowed by a void of “well that didn’t go to plan!”

Here, long at last, we have Shade for Love. Plus, since I felt I owed readers for having to wait for so long, two novellas as well! That’s the plan for this series, to alternate longer books – like Shade for Love – with shorter pieces, like Alchemy and Trolled. It means you get more content more frequently, and I’ve found that I love the variety of getting to play with these shorter stories. Plus, more stories! The shorter pieces focus (so far at least) on characters that might be a bit outside the central story line, kind of a “what else is happening while the world is ending?” kind of pieces, and some alternative perspectives. It also allows me to flesh out and play in the world of Beckwell, and I hope you enjoy them as well.

Click here to find the buy links for Shade for Love.

Have you signed up for my newsletter yet? You can sign up here. That’s how you get a hold of Alchemy. 🙂

Did you know that I also love hearing from readers? You can always reach me here, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on the books, the characters – and maybe who you think MUST get their own story. Trust me, there are lots in the works!

Thank you for celebrating with me today. Here’s the full cover for Shade for Love, and I look forward to touching base with you here again soon. Until then, wishing you a wonderful week and the ability to find the everyday magic in your world.

Sincerely, Shelly

News and author-stuff, Writing

The Shades Series is finally here!

With the release of the novella Trolled today, the Shades of Beckwell series has finally entered the world!

Just why is this so exciting you ask? Well (and here, picturing me looking a bit sheepish), the series was supposed to come out back in 2019. But, for lots of reasons (among them burnout) that didn’t happen. Then there was those little speed bumps otherwise known as the pandemic and 2020… (insert *eyeroll*)

BUT, we are finally there!

Where did this idea come from?

I always knew that the magical town of Beckwell was bigger than what I could explore in just the Sisters series. The Seniors Center in particular became a place that amused me and many readers.

Then three things in particular happened that created THIS series.

First: at an author reading for my very first published book, Must Love Plague, there was a lovely gentleman who I don’t think had intended to be there for the reading at the library… but since there was an event and a small audience, felt almost obligated to attend (he said he’d give the book that he then also bought, sweet man, to his daughter.) But he also said something about how he’d seen someone and commented to his wife “look at that guy. He’s just so old.” And his wife reminded him they were pretty much the same age, and he’d thought how strange it is to look in the mirror one day and realize you’re not as young as you feel anymore… yet you’re still you.

Second: when visiting my great-uncle in Minnedosa, Manitoba (that’s two provinces east here in Canada), he took us to meet his men’s supper club, the AOTS, a church group who did good things for their community, like hold pancake breakfasts, support activities at the local school. Women were rarely allowed at these dinners, where they’d take turns cooking the dinner and cleaning up, then enjoy the evening together, teasing each other and making comments as only a group of friends who’ve known and cared for each other for a long way can. Most of them were retired, but still very active in caring for their community.

And finally, then I lost my own beloved grandfather, a man who I saw at least once a week every week, pretty much all my life. Grandpa was a man with a twinkle in his eye when he’d tell a story that inevitably had a joke or a twist. He was always there to play, actively be part of our lives, even getting down on the ground to play with my own children, no matter how difficult it was for him to do so. He’d hold the baby dolls, listen to the stories, let my youngest hold his hand to make sure she didn’t fall. There is rarely a day that I don’t miss him.

And from all of this, the Shades were born.

I wanted to ask the question: what does it mean to age, especially when so often, as we get older somehow it’s like we’re no longer the same capable people we always were? When our bodies can betray us… yet our minds and our soul are still fully present, want to still be the same person we’ve always been?

I wanted to recreate those friendships and bonds, that gentle teasing between men who have known each other so long, they’ve been through good times and bad. But they are still there for each other, still determined to make a difference.

And I wanted to honor Grandpa. A man with a twinkle in his eye, a plan, and sometimes a plot. 🙂 Who never let his age stop him from helping in ways he felt necessary, who was sometimes frustrated by the limitations age attempted to place on him… but who loved well and loved hard, and always made a difference.

I hope you enjoy this series and this world as much as I have returning to it.

And I hope I always portray the men who make up my Shades with the dignity and love that inspired them.

Thanks for reading, please do tell me who inspires you to make a difference, and as always, I hope you find the magic in your day today.

News and author-stuff, The Journey to Publication, Writing

Cages

A pig face looking frankly at you and telling you that you don’t belong in a cage!

How often have you experienced the kind of overwhelm that comes from feeling that there are so many things you “should” be doing, and that list is so long, you end up paralyzed and end up doing nothing?

I recently finished reading Untamed by Glennon Doyle. She talks about how the cages that society creates for us leave us trapped and stifled, often trying to live definitions of ourselves that come from outside of ourselves. (This is definitely paraphrasing. Go read the book yourself to see what I’m trying to get at. )

Anyway, today after reading something from a friend who’s definitely feeling that overwhelm, it made me think: how many of those cages, especially as writers, are we creating for ourselves?

I mean, yes, there are definitely things that we have to do as writers – write books or write something for other people to read being, likely, the number one thing. But other than that, it feels like so many of the definitions of things we “must” and “should” do is a proscribed list that if we actually obeyed it, we’d have no time whatsoever for a life outside of work… and probably no time to write either.

I do wonder if this is perhaps worse among female author-preneurs, or if it’s prevalent everywhere, but if you’re a writer looking to publish and sell your books, you’ve probably heard of some of the things I mean.

  • You have to be on every social media account that has and will ever be (come on, aren’t you signed up yet for the one that won’t exist until 2023??)
  • You should be active on all of those social media accounts too (but be fresh! Just be you! Keep it real… as you force yourself to follow all of this advice.)
  • You must be constantly building relationships with every person out there (forget actual relationships … or, like, family. Nope. No time for that if you’re doing what you “should” be doing.)
  • Make sure you’re making ads for all of those social media accounts, sell, sell, sell, … but gentle sell, not spam sell.
  • Plus make sure you’ve got ads running on all the platforms (because if you’re making less than $2k a month, you’re a failure!)
  • Have you spent thousands of dollars on classes that promise you THIS is the right answer to make you a millionaire and selling millions of a books a day? (Come on, you didn’t think you actually had time to do things, like, write, did you? And wave to your family through your office doors… if you still have one.)

On and on it goes, and you know what? I’m going to stop, because it’s stressing me out.

And it’s driving me nuts. All of it. And I know it’s driving lots of other authors nuts too.

You want to know the real secret?

There is NO secret.

Nope. Sad, isn’t it? Yep, I was looking for it too… along with possibly the drafting or editing fairies that help get books done when things aren’t going well. But, they don’t exist any more than the perfect formula to sell all those books – no matter how much that workshop costs. Game the system? Sure, you can follow those examples, buy up case loads of your own book and “buy” your way onto the lists. You CAN do a lot of things. But what works for Lizzy P. Author may not work the same for you.

You’re not her.

You’re YOU.

And yes, let me pause and insert here that not all advice is bad advice. Do I take workshops, try to keep learning, try to keep improving in both my writing craft and the business side of my career? Absolutely. Is there lots of great advice and information out there? Yep. That too. Are there many things we can do to tweak our marketing / get better at the business / get better at our craft? Yes, indeed, and there are a few specific ones on my list all the time.

My objection comes when all that advice, when all the things you “should do” stretch into the bars of a cage. When you’re so hemmed in by all those “shoulds” that you feel like you can’t breathe, let alone write the next word, the next sentence, or hardest of all, the next book.

I’ve been there. I fall into that cage every so often. Was there yesterday, as a matter a fact, when all my emails seemed to be screaming at me to “just do this to double your sales” or “just keep up this to guarantee search engine results” and so on. These were legit blogs I follow too, because I usually appreciate their advice. It got me so depressed, I did the bare minimum of words, but tried nothing else, too exhausted by all the “shoulds” that I had to focus on the “could.”

That’s what I usually come back to. What could or CAN I do? What do I WANT to do? And what do I really NEED?

Yesterday, I needed to recharge so I don’t get burned out. I needed to remember there is more to my life than writing.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: sometimes we get terrific advice, but we need to be wise enough to recognize when it isn’t the right advice for us. Perhaps it won’t ever be right, perhaps it just isn’t right because of where we are financially / personally / emotionally / whatever. But it’s up to you to stand up for YOU. To recognize that feeling when your chest tightens, your shoulders tense, and the whole world is demanding more and more, or something is telling you that it just isn’t right for you… just tell that advice “no.” (You’re welcome to use stronger language and swears. Swears are fun. 🙂 I’m just trying to be polite.) 😉

Sometimes maybe you’ll need to sit with that feeling for a little while, think about where that resistance to the advice or next “should” is coming from. Maybe it’s child-you deep inside that’s stubbornly insisting “No, I don’t wanna!” And sometimes you need to tell child-you inside that it’s okay, we can still do scary things that will just make us stronger. So sometimes you try some of those things. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t.

But you pick and choose which of those things you try. Ignore the others. Cut down on the blogs and other input you take in that feeds into that stress and fills your head with Shoulds. Connect with people in your field and outside of it, people who care about you, that can help pull you back from the madness of trying to do all the things all the time. You don’t let the Should-Army flatten you down and stop you from doing what you need to do.

And if you’re a writer, you need to write.

You’ll do that too at your own pace, in your own way. You’ll find ways to reclaim and hold tight to the joy of pure creation that is the work, that is writing, because there are days when it won’t feel that way. But you, you will write.

Because you are a writer. And you are free.

News and author-stuff, The Paranormal

New Urban Fantasy Paranormal Romance!

Look, it’s only a week later, and I’m back!! (Yes, I’m impressed too, lol!) Anyway, I have good reason to be back, because I get to tell you about an exciting new book that’s out Oct. 22, 2019. It’s another fun read, an urban fantasy romance, and I’m super excited to read it too!

Without further ado, here’s the blurb and info so you can go one-click it yourself:

Hell has come to collect, but Gisele Walker has no plans to pay the debt.

Being a paranormal bounty hunter in Baltimore is flirting with death, even for a half-demon like Gisele. An orphan with no memories of her childhood, she’s spent the last decade working for the foster father who saved her from the city’s streets. But when he partners her with Shade, an infuriatingly handsome demon who’s keeping secrets, all of her jobs start mysteriously going sideways.

Determined to ditch Shade, Gisele takes a contract to steal a magical curio and accidentally opens a portal to Hell. As a nightmarish ghoul hunts her for the curio, and parts of Baltimore burn to the ground, she finds that joining forces with Shade may be the only way to undo the mess she’s unleashed.

But just as a white-hot attraction between them ignites, Shade’s secret is exposed. The contract is nothing more than a ploy to lure Gisele to Hell’s royal court, where her devilish brother and aunt lie in wait. It’s a family reunion that has her wishing she’d remained an orphan with missing memories.

To save herself and Shade, Gisele must face her past and venture into the twisted, dark heart of the demon court where she nearly lost her life so long ago.

Fans of Ilona Andrews and Nalini Singh wont want to miss this spellbinding urban fantasy debut by Writers Guild of America nominee and RWA Golden Heart finalist Megan Starks!

“Starks doesn’t waste a moment launching readers into the heady, paranormal world of her action-packed debut. The complex mythology and feisty characters will hold readers’ attention. This is an enjoyable fantasy from an author with a lot of promise.” —Publisher’s Weekly

“Haunting. Original. Addictive.” —Emily Colin, New York Times bestselling author of The Memory Thief

“House is a smoldering, sexy thrill ride from start to finish.” —Angela Ku, Goodreads reviewer

 

Doesn’t it sound amazing? I definitely look forward to this one. 🙂

Here’s the buy links so you can check it out yourself:

News and author-stuff, Writing

Update for September 2019 (aka: not dead!)

What a title, huh? Same goes for the pig. I like his face, and I otherwise have no idea what to include – this is somewhat indicative of my current state of mind, lol!

So, yes, I seemed to have fallen off the proverbial blogging cart again. But I have lots of reasons, fantastic ones, actually!

  1. It has been a very busy year thus far. June and July were kind of bonkers with my hubby being away on the other side of the world, plus RWA National Conference in NY, plus, you know, family life and actually trying to write books and such. I am super, super behind, which means bad news: the first Beckwell Shades book (about the Beckwell seniors who protect the town, the Shades, who are off to play matchmaker and find their own replacements) will be delayed from coming out Fall 2019…and likely won’t be out until early 2020. 🙁 But I am so excited about that series and I can’t wait to be able to share it with you.
  2. Other big news: I now officially have an agent!! I am super excited to announce that I am officially represented by Courtney Miller-Callihan of Handspun Lit, who has been my dream agent for some time (we’re talking years.) Anyway, this is the start of some new and exciting things, as I want to continue my indie-pub stuff (like the Beckwell series) but I’d also like to become a hybrid author and be traditionally published as well. In light of this, my space opera is getting a face-lift and becoming a sci-fi with romantic elements (rather than sci-fi romance.)
  3. I’ve been revising that space opera and making it all shiny and be-yoo-ti-ful. (And yes, it’s 2am and I’m currently avoiding said revisions, so I totally get to make up words.)
  4. I have revised what was my Golden Heart book, the Regency paranormal romance, which has now become “the Keepers series” about Regency paranormal detectives. It’s definitely not ready for you to see yet, but ooh, it’s a fun world! That revision still needs lots of work, and I need to get back to it after, you know, I finish revising the space opera and get the Shades books ready.
  5. I will be working on a short story in the Shades series just especially for you – and it’ll be free! At least, that’s the plan. More soon. 🙂
  6. I have been trying to get down to the craft room as often as possible and just play, since it’s good for my creativity, and, you know, sanity. 😉 I continue to work on the fantasy dollhouse which now also has a name (you can see more about that by visiting my other blog, Craft Room Chronicles) or just catching up with me on Facebook, where I tend to post quite a few pics of my miniatures.
  7. I am looking at creating a wiki on this website for my books and series. I’ve recently started using one for my writing, and it’s been amazing, especially keeping things organized. Of course, I can’t show you that one (too many spoilers, who’s actually who / what they’re up to / they’re eventual fates), BUT I am looking at creating one for the current series that is spoiler-free and hopefully some fun for us to share. What do you think? Does it sound like something you’d like to see?

Okay, so that’s generally what I’ve been up to recently. What about you? What has you excited and fired up lately? (Or in avoidance mode…ahem, better get back to those revisions.) 😉 Plus, what do you think of the wiki idea? Is that something you’d take a peek at? As always, love to hear from you.

Wishing you a great week ahead, and as always, the ability to see the magic in your life.

News and author-stuff, The Journey to Publication, Writing

Back Again, Reflecting and Moving Forward

Did you know that I started this blog way back in 2010? Nope, me neither. I’ve just finished going through all of those posts weeding out things from when I was a super-clueless baby-writer…although I’ve also found some advice that I still believe (like being good to other people and author karma, along with writing strength-training) along with advice that my past self was either trying to tell me, or maybe I needed to hear now.

So…I also find that I haven’t been any more regular with my posts than I am now. Or rather, I used to be much more regular with the posts early on, but I’ve taken a tumble or two off the cliff and, for example, this is the first post I’ve done for 2019 (oops!)

I find retrospective interesting in what it tells us about where we’re been, and in many ways, where we’re headed too, sometimes for better AND worse. What’s changed for me since 2010?

  • I now have two children, both lovely daughters who are creative and wonderful (except when they’re bickering, because ugh!)
  • I’ve published FOUR books. Yes, I can hardly believe that either. Back in 2010, Indie Publishing definitely wasn’t on my radar, and even when it finally got there, I always wanted to go traditional first, then maybe indie to become hybrid (and not just because going hybrid sounds a bit like some kind of super-cool werewolf-shifter.) 😉
  • Back in 2010 I’d only been part of RWA (Romance Writers’ of America) for two years, and just attended my first Conference. Since then, I’ve attended almost one a year since 2014, and every second year before that. I’ve become part of now only an RWA chapter, but I’m currently chapter president, which is something I’d never have dreamed of back then, especially the benefit of all the connections and friends I’ve since made in the industry.
  • I’ve had the opportunity in recent years to begin to pay back some of that author karma I talked about way-back-when. I’m still a little fish, but what I didn’t realize back then is that little fish can still make waves, still make a difference, and that’s what I try to do.

What hasn’t changed all that much?

  • I still believe in magic, and I want to believe that there’s more in the world than meets the eye. I’ve expanded my personal definition of magic though, as I also try to see – and appreciate – the magic in the everyday world that all too often dismissed or forgetten.
  • I am still probably more stubborn than is actually healthy for me. When I was looking up tags for this article, perseverance is one of my most used tags, and for good reason. I wrote my stories and this blog even when no one was reading (it is entirely likely that no one is reading this one either, but let’s just keep that between you and me, hmm?) Perseverance and tenacity have kept me going when I have done revision after revision. When I almost completely rewrote my first book in edit to get it into the kind of shape I could put out there for public consumption.
  • Conference is still one of my favorite events of the year, it still exhausts me, but I still try to make the most out of every day, every experience, no matter what. This means that even when things go wrong (as things inevitably try to do) I still keep the mindset to enjoy myself, to not let myself get down. I’d love to say I can maintain this same mindset in all areas of my life, but that’s not so easy. Which leads to the next point…
  • I am still a work in progress. And that’s okay. I’m not perfect, I never will be, but that won’t hold me back from continuing to grow and improve (or at least, I try to make sure it doesn’t.) 🙂
  • I will still promise to try to blog regularly…and there is every likelihood I will try but possibly fail. 😉

Now this comes to you, since it’s rude if I do all the talking. If you look back – to 2010, further or perhaps closer in your past – how have you grown, changed and evolved? Are you reading? If you are, come on, keep me company and leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you. 🙂

Writing

Death is coming…

Hey there!

I know, it’s been forever since I’ve written anything here. I have been writing – Must Love Death will be available October 31, 2018. Plus, in case you missed it, the second book in the Sisters of the Apocalypse Series, Must Love Famine, released April 4, 2018.

If you’d like a blurb and the link for Must Love Death check it out in my book pages here.

That said, it’s been a challenging year, and writing Death was especially challenging. Don’t get me wrong – I love Nia and Mal. But last July we lost my grandfather to cancer. Then, barely six months later, this April – 2 days after Famine released, to be precise, we lost my grandmother much more unexpectedly.

I’ve always been very close to my grandmother. We still made a point of visiting her every week, and enjoyed the time we had with her. The last time I saw her, we celebrated and had a mini-baby shower for my best friend and her new son. It was a lovely time with both my daughters there, an impromptu little party. Then by the next week when we were to visit, we heard instead that Grandma was on her way to the hospital.

The woman who had always been there for me and my family was suddenly…gone. I wondered if that last time I’d hugged her long enough, if I’d told her enough times how much I loved her, how much she meant to me. I was fortunate enough to have her read my first book, and having a photo with her holding my first book was one of the best parts of having my book finally in print. So the fact that she wouldn’t be able to read my second book, that she wouldn’t be there for so many things, dimmed my joy. Because at heart I’m still a little kid who just loves showing her new creations to her grandma, who always loved to see them.

So why am I telling you all of this? Partially to explain why it’s probably like I’ve fallen off the edge of the Earth this past year. In some ways, I have. This book was written for Grandma. There’s a lot of feminine wisdom, and yes, grandmothers and mothers feature strongly. It is also about death, and what dying and death means – or could mean. Because in the end, I realize that grief is all about love, for we grieve in direct proportion to how much we loved and were loved. But nor do I believe death is the end. It’s a pause.

I wrote and dedicated this book for my grandmother, and I hope in the end that it’s worthy of the remarkable, strong woman she was. I hope you’ll take the opportunity to read it and let me know what you think. And I hope when you do read it that you’ll maybe see the hints of the woman she was, as my memories of her and of my other grandmother are embedded in this book, so through your reading them, they’ll never be lost, never be forgotten.

In the end, I’m sure she probably will read this book too. After all, what kind of heaven would it be without books?

Thank you for reading, and keep searching for the magic that’s out there.

Uncategorized

Must Love Famine – Coming April 4, 2018!

Okay, so this is kind of a good-news, bad-news kind of post. Good news, Must Love Famine is almost here, yay!!! Bad news? It’s going to be a week later than anticipated. But only a week! 🙂

To get you excited about what you’re waiting for, I made a fun little video about the book. Life is all about the magic of learning new things, right? Hope you enjoy!

It’s also up for pre-order everywhere except for Amazon (but it will be available there too!) books2read.com/u/bOaDlA
News and author-stuff, The Journey to Publication, Writing

Visiting over at the Raisin Chronicles

Hey all! So, yeah, I know…no post for such a long time. In my defense, 2017 was a bit of a rough year, and then the end of the year was spent revising book two, Must Love Famine. But, I have good news: 

I’m interviewed by the lovely Jeanne Estridge over at the Raisin Chronicles today, and there’s a sneak peek of the brand new cover for Must Love Famine, not even available on my website yet!! So please, head on over and visit. It’s a fun interview. 🙂 

 

https://raisinchronicles.blogspot.ca/2018/01/fiction-friday-interview-with-shelly.html