Saturday, December 13, 2008

Visit My Friend

I feel so lucky to be surrounded(cyber surrounded) by so many talented and generous authors. One of my newest acquaintances is Jennifer Turner. You must visit her beautiful website and read about her latest work. Jen definitely fits the adjective of generous. Even with her own books to promote, she has given room on her blog to feature my novel, THE GREATER GOOD, and is posting an excerpt you can't find anywhere else.
So thank you, Jennifer, and please friends and readers, stop by and visit Jen's blog.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Upcoming Book Giveaway

On December 9th, I will be one of the featured authors giving away a book at The Romance Studio's book-a-day giveaway. I'll be giving away my first book in The Solonian Chronicles, The Greater Good. It's a chance to introduce new readers to my series right before the release of my third book in the series. In January, I'll be giving away a copy of The Lesser Evil, also in print format. My third book in the series, A Ruthless Good, will be released by New Concepts Publishing in late December or early January. I hope the readers signing up for the book giveaway will hope over to my website and read some excerpts from my all three of my books. If you're not a member of TRS, this is a good time to sign up.
And visit me for excerpts and other interesting tidbits.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Gift Giving

I hope few of you were swept up in the mob of shoppers today. I refrained as I have for many years. I do have my shopping lists compiled and they're much smaller than many other years. And I've picked up a few small items over the course of the last few weeks. But I'm not feeling the pressure yet. I have two sons in their early twenties, one working, one in college, and they claim money would be the best gift. What fun is that on Christmas morning?
I love Christmas when I can find the perfect gift for everyone. Price has nothing to do with it. A perfect gift proves intimate knowledge of the receiver by the giver. I can remember the times I found those wonderful perfect gifts and the times I received them. And none of them were expensive or even rare items. So though my lists are mostly complete with things my children and spouse have intimated they would like to have, I'm still searching for those 'perfect' gifts from my heart to them.
What gifts have you given or received that were perfect? Do you have any planned for this year?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Updating my Website

I’ve spent the morning updating my website. What a chore for a novice like me. I long for the day I can hire a professional to do that job. I have friends who employ others to create and maintain their sites. I envy them their gadgets, clever designs and gimmicks. But I am learning little by little how to make my site more user friendly and easy to navigate. Each time I spend a few hours on it, I figure out how one more thing works. I’ve also learned a few things about drawing people to me site. One of the things I did today was to put links to some of my friends on the front page. Hopefully, that will help create those invisible lines that also bring more people to my website.
Check out:
I’ve also divided my website into my two identities, Susan Gourley and Susan Kelley. By clicking on either name, you can visit the romance author or the fantasy author. It will be even more effective if I ever get my cover for The Keepers of Sulbreth from Medallion Press.
I have further plans for my website but I must get back to my WIP, the fourth book in The Chronicles of Solonia. Visit my website to learn more about the first three.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Taking a Break

Recently I finished edits for two different books and sent them off into the wilds where hopefully someone will love them as much as I do. I have numerous projects waiting my attention. My website needs updated first and foremost. I have the third book in a series plotted and waiting for the prose to flow and create a novel from my chaotic outline. I have another book half done that I had to put aside for other projects and I left my poor hero and heroine in grave danger. The decision of which project to dive into first haunted me for the first day after I sent off that last manuscript. What to do?
I decided to take a break and ponder my dilemma. I baked, cleaned and read three books from that endless pile I purchased in vain hopes of leisure moments. The raspberries I froze after picking them from my backyard this summer made delicious muffins. I moved those shelves in the pantry and snared those wild dust bunnies making homes and babies in their formerly safe den. I laughed, shivered and even grew a bit warm while reading the creative works of my talented fellow writers. I pulled out my precious Jane Austen leather bound collected works and indulged in reading again about poor Mr. Darcy. I almost picked up the cross-stitch masterpiece that sits in half-finished misery in a corner of my office, but I resisted. I stretched my daily exercise routine to an hour instead of thirty minutes.
What has this to do with being a writer? Everyone needs a break from their work so they might approach it again with eagerness and renewal of creativity. Though I didn’t sit at the keyboard during my mini vacation, my thoughts often turned to my waiting projects. Reading the clever story telling of writers more famous, more experienced and more successful than myself, I considered how I might improve my own craft. One can do lots of thinking while jogging, baking and hefting furniture. I would rather have spent my break on a distance, tropical beach, but a vacation from writing doesn’t have to be going away somewhere. I’m confident I can now go to one of my other projects and have my characters speak in voices not identical to the ones I just sent on their way. Plots have thickened while I chopped sausage for in a casserole. Tragedies have come to light while I cleaned the last of the screens. I figured out what’s around the river bend for my poor heroine. I have one more day on my break before I sit down at the keyboard and strap in for another visit to one of my fantasy worlds. This was not a time of procrastination, but rather of recharging. I’m eager, refreshed and in possession of various skeletons of ideas. I know where I’m going to start. Just as soon as I rearrange my office.
How do you take your breaks?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Wish Me Luck

I finished those edits. Finally. This was the third time the editor asked me to make changes. She's taught me so much and even if she doesn't offer the contract this time, I know my writing is the better for my contact with her. I cut nearly 4, 000 words from the manuscript and one entire scene as well as parts of others. I killed off a character at her request and that added a depth of emotion the novel didn't quite reach in its original form.
So, I'm quite excited to send it out and dare I say, very hopeful. I really want to write for this publisher and work more with this editor.
On another issue, I'm expecting my cover for my December release from New Concepts any day now. A Ruthless Good, is the third installment in my Chronicles of Solonia series. One more book in that series is in the works and I think it will be the last. I have another series in mind I hope to sell to NCP also.
Keep me in mind when you're looking for something to read in December. Heart break, adventure and love is what I promise to deliver.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Search Is On

I've decided to take the time to do it all again. I'm searching for an agent. I haven't tried for over three years. In that time I've published two romances with a third due out in December and have a fantasy novel under contract. I have two more books in the hands of editors and have good hopes for both. When last I threw my lure out there for an agent, I had no publishing credits but now I have a few successes to prove I'm a serious author. So I'm trying again to employ one of those magic workers. My latest completed novel is the first book in new fantasy series. The series is called, Dragons and Gods, and this first book is titled, First Dragon.
I'm very excited about it. I think it's the book to get me in with the big boys in New York. Okay, call me a dreamer but at least wish me luck.
I'm interested to hear opinions from anyone out there about your experiences trying to get an agent and finding the right one. I really think it's the right spot in my career to not only get one, but because I need one. Wish me luck and share your own experiences.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Dreadful Synopsis

I've learned not to fear writing a synopsis as I did early in my career, but that doesn't mean I like it. I worked on one today for my latest WIP. I'm confessing to writing the most horrible example of the darned things of my entire career. It was so dry and skipped so much yet was almost nine pages long. The book is the first book in a new fantasy series and there are a lot of things happening, numerous important characters and an entire world to build. I had so much trouble deciding what to include and what to skip. After finishing it, I decided I'd made a wrong decision at almost every opportunity.
So tonight I'm going to delete the entire thing and start over. Yuch!
On another note, our book signing was a bit of a bust. I'm calling it an act of God. I'm talking monsoon like rains and wind. We're going to try again near Valentine's day. Stay tuned.
I'll be posting some reminders starting next week about December's release of A Ruthless Good. I'm still waiting for my cover art. I can't wait.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Book Signing

I'm very excited about my upcoming booksigning with a number of my colleagues from my local chapter of RWA. Central Pennsylvania Romance Writers, CPRW, has many talented authors with publishing credits in various types of romances. Vicky Burkholder, Natalie Damshroder, Jacki King, Misti Smith, Vicki Smith and myself will have our books available for purchase and personalization at the One Good Woman Coffee Shop in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania from 10 am to 2 pm. We hope for a good turnout at this lovely cafe with specialty drinks, lucious pastries, and warm welcomes.
I will be giving away a unique book thong with every purchase of my either of my two futuristic romance novels, THE GREATER GOOD and/or THE LESSER EVIL. I know most of the people reading this blog are not local to this area, but I hope it reaches someone that could make the trip. Gas is between $2.30-2.65 around here so you can fill up while you're here. LOL
Hope to see you.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Coming Soon!

I've been through this before, but there's no excitement quite like seeing your book on the 'coming soon' page at your publisher. And then you get to see a bump in hits to your website that you can only speculate is caused by eager fans trying to get the scope on your newest release. I was prepared for that with a never before seen excerpt from A Ruthless Good. I hope I picked a very intriguing scene. Feel free to tell me if I did.
The bad news is, I don't yet have my cover. I can't wait for it. The artists at New Concepts Publishing are second to none. I've been extremely pleased by both of my previous covers with them and expect the same this time. The cover for The Greater Good was even better than my suggestions. I've heard lots of authors complain about their book covers so I consider myself blessed.
A Ruthless Good will be released in December. In celebration, I'll be doing some book giveaways and run some contests. Stay tuned for a chance to win a print copy of The Greater Good or The Lesser Evil. I had a great response on my last giveaway and hope for the same this time.
Gotta go and check for my cover art. Can't wait.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Weather for Writers

I teach school so that means I have a number of weeks off in the summer. You would think I get lots of writing done during those months. The opposite is true. Too many things tempt me when the sun is shining and the flowers are blooming. I take care of the yard and landscaping around our house. I love it but it's still a time consuming chore. Then there's all my kids activities. When the sun is out the kids will play.
And or course, fall is back to work and all the things that entails. I've found that I get the most writing done when it's cold or rainy outside. Today is an overcast, cool day here in the northeast USA, and I did one scene already this morning. I expect I'll do another ten pages before evening. Something about those clouds and a hot cup of chai gets my creative thoughts rising to the surface.
Winter does the same thing. Getting snowed in is a perfect time to put on some music and hit the keyboard. I often wonder what would happen if I could retire from my day job and write full time. Would I get anything done on a sunny day?
I'm off now to work on part three of my fantasy series I started with, The Keepers of Sulbreth. I'm waiting to hear from my editor on the second book in that series titled, Beyond the Gate. I haven't titled book three yet, but maybe it will come to me on this stormy day.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Stop and Smell the Chicken Fried Rice

A few days ago I had the pleasure of going out for an evening with some beloved family members and their spouses. My husband and I always enjoy those rare outings but we seldom find the time and opportunity to indulge ourselves. Between all our children's athletic endeavors, my writing and our mutual exhaustion on weekends, we are as likely to stay home on rare nights off than go out. So even though tired, we commited to dinner at a local Japanese restaurant where the chef cooks on the grill right at your table. The talented young man was quite the entertainer and the food was delicious, especially the rice. Best of all was the company. We caught up on family happenings, had a chance to see pictures of someone's newly constructed home, shared laughs and warm memories. It was completely relaxing. I had a writing goal for that night. I didn't write a single word but the next day I approached my writing refreshed from a day off.
I know many writers try to write every day even if only a little. I know others who only write during the week like a 9-5 job. Others insist on at least one day off. But all those writers break their own rules for a deadline or if the story is really flowing and they can't type fast enough to keep up with their creative flow. For many like me with full time jobs during the week and full time parenting to do, every minute is crucial. I seldom take a day completely off. But after the enjoyment of this wondeful dinner, I've decided I'm going to take some mini vacations of 24 to 48 hours every now and then. I'm going to tackle some of those household projects. I'm going to try some of those receipes I've saved from magazines and newspapers. I'm going to read something from my TBR pile and I'm not going to feel guilty. I'm going to fight that self imposed pressure to work every free minute. I'm going to stop and smell that chicken fried rice.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Ruthless Good: December Release

I received the wonderful news recently that my third installment in THE SOLONIAN CHRONICLES is due to be released by New Concepts Publishing in December. A RUTHLESS GOOD continues the series with the same mixture of humor, dangerous action and bittersweet loss. Of course it ends happily ever after but not for everyone. Yes a character from the first two books, THE GREATER GOOD and THE LESSER EVIL does loss his/her life in this third book.
The evil the hero and heroine encounters is so vile and repugnant for many reasons but one of the core issues is the belief by this merciless person that he is doing good. I'll explain that further at a later date.
For now I hope all those wonderful readers from my first two books head over to my website and check out the very first excerpt I've posted from this latest book. THE GREATER GOOD and THE LESSER EVIL sold so well with online ebook retailers I'm hoping to see a lot of sales to the faithful. I'm busy updating my readers list and thinking of running a contest in October for all those fans. Keep you eye here for soon to come details on A RUTHLESS GOOD and the contests I'm running to celebrate its birth.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Importance of Goal Setting

As a teacher, I often speak to my students of the importance of setting goals. I believe having a target is important no matter your career or your age. I've heard writers speak of writing only a line per day or their writing plans being set aside for other issues.
Granted we all have emergencies that interfer with our writing time, but how often do we as writers make the effort to squeeze that time out of another chunk of our lives. My local chapter of RWA started the monthly and annual goal setting thing a few years ago. At first I gave it little attention. I thought myself too busy to hold myself to some plan when I never knew what the next day would bring. Well, one of those next days fortunately brought me a book contract. Suddenly I had many demands on my time not the least of which was to get that next book completed. All those promotional ideas I'd stuffed in a folder to deal with later were now due. Past due!
For a few weeks I felt completely overwhelmed. Then one day I sat down and made a list of exactly what I needed to do. And one by one, I did the things on that list and then crossed them off. I set deadlines for such things as updating my website, getting promotional material ordered, finishing a synopsis and the multitude of other things I had to get done. I set goals. I wrote them down.
I read a thriller a few years ago and a line from that book comes back to remind me when I don't take the time to write down what I've done and what I yet need to tackle. "If it isn't written down, it never happened." I like to add if I don't write it down it may never happen. So write those goals down. Share them with a fellow writer, a critique partner or even your spouse. Hold yourself accountable and make it happen.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

In the Fall, I Write

When my third son was in first grade he became my first child to have his writing deemed worthy to be published in the school media magazine that comes out twice per school year. He wrote a very simple free verse titled, The Leaves Fall in the Fall. It was very good and we all loved it. (I have no less than six copies in the treasury chest.)
For the first time this fall, I'm not a football mom. My oldest son has graduated from college and finished his football career. Watching him play occupied most of my fall weekends for the last four years. I miss it. I'll miss seeing the colors of fall in different parts of the country and the noise and excitement of college football. It was a great thrill. But every fall, my writing production slows down. Between coaching field hockey and watching my children play, I had very little weekend time or evening hours to spend at the computer. This year I gave up coaching field hockey and as I mentioned, no longer have a reason to attend college football games. So I'm writing.
No excuses this year. I have four different series I'm working on to either sell the first book or sell a third or fourth book in a series. It's so much sometimes I wonder how I ever did anything in previous years. And it's exciting to have so much going on with my life. I love watching my kids play and witnessing their accomplishments, but the writing is about my goals and my achievements. So this fall and right into the winter, I'm going to try and take my career to the next level. Stay with me for updates and wish me luck.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Raising the stakes

After writing about vampires on an earlier blog, I thought it was important to mention I'm not talking about the kind of stake you drive into someone's heart. I'm in the process of editing a manuscript with some requested changes. The editor has asked me to raise the emotional stakes in the novel by having a secondary character die. Currently the book ends with everyone alive and happy or heading toward happiness. There have been bumps and bruises along the way of the physical and emotional kind, but everyone heretofore has survived. Well, not after tonight.
Tonight someone is going to sacrifice it all for the betterment of the book. It's not a scene you can just write in and then leave the rest of the book the same. Every scene thereafter will have emotional aftershocks of loss and grief. The happily everafter will be a little less joyous. The ride into the sunset will be a bittersweet.
Will this make my book a better a story? First of all, it's what the editor whats so it's going to happen. I'm going to trust her on this one especially if she then offers me a contract. Second, I know that many books I love do have the bittersweet element combining loss and enduring love.
When I write under the name Susan Gourley in the fantasy genre, I do add those bittersweet elements. Even if the good guys do win in the end, it won't be easy and they won't all see the peace after the war. My fantasy series that starts with The Keepers of Sulbreth, will see the loss of many lives before the series reaches its end. On the other hand, my romance series with New Concepts Publishing has all the main characters surviving their tribulations on their difficult way to a HEA. But in my newest in that series due to come out in 2009, A Ruthless Good, will see the death of a beloved secondary character. This character appeared in The Greater Good and The Lesser Evil.
I'll be interested to know what fans think of that. I guess I'll have to wait and see. Right now, I'm off to off someone. I already decided who it will be, I just haven't told the character yet.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

"Classic" Books

As my children prepare for their school year, they're both finishing up their required summer reading and writing papers. I'm not surprised my son has let this go until the last minute, but my daughter is such a voracious reader, I expected her to have her completed long ago. Though I actually know why she put it off.
The book she had to read, not to be named here, is BORING. It was written half a century ago by an author from a dysfunctional upbringing who grew up to be a bitter, cynical adult. He writes about the darker nature of man and all the nastier things people do to each other. The world he creates is sinister without even one character possessing any redeeming qualities. Such a glum outlook on the world does not make a book a work of literary art. Yet if you ever see which books school require students to read, they mostly fit into the description above.
Why do we do this to our children? One of the things I loved about Harry Potter was the entertainment it provided young people. It was fun to read. Fun! Interesting! Good won out over evil! And millions of youngsters read all those books cover to cover and often more than once. How can we expect children to love reading when the books we force them to read leave them with the impression that all people are inherently bad and the world is without hope? Why can't we ask them to read something that will have them begging for more to read?
This is a huge peeve of mine when it comes to schools and their reading lists. The books are dry, boring and seldom connect with students. If we must force the students to read such grim fare, can't we update their choices to something written in their lifetime?
At least as adults we can be selective in what we read. I try to make my characters as realistic yet entertaining as possible. I hope you'll check out my previews and blurbs. The Keepers of Sulbreth has many characters who are people doing the best they can against great odds. And in my books, no matter how grim it becomes, I promise the good guys will win. They may have to sacrifice and of course not all of them make it, but evil will not prevail.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Casualties of Fiction

I'm working on some manuscript changes suggested by an editor in the hopes I'll get offered a contract. She asked me to kill someone. Not a main character of course, but a close relative of my beloved heroine. It hurts. These people are important to each other. It's going to change all their lives.
And that leads me to the challenge of writing in this change. Such an emotional toll will echo through the rest of the book. An undercurrent of sadness and loss must now mute the final victory. Feelings of guilt and failure will need to be shared and expressed. The stakes are higher now. The happily ever after will only be won with a price.
Why ask me to do this? Why kill that good person? Why kill that innocent? Must my heroine suffer so much?
The answer is yes. When I first saw what this editor wanted me to do I fought against it mentally. I took a few days to think about it before agreeing to make the changes. Deeper emotions will be explored. The bonds of love will be forged in the hot fires of grief and shared hardships. It will not come easy. And for that, this novel will be a better book. The characters will have added layers of ties to each other and the secondary characters in the book. The good guys will be less perfect. They're going to make a mistake and someone will die because of it.
It's difficult to change so much after a novel is completed, but by working with this editor, I have learned so much about creating internal and external tension.
I promise to tell you more about this novel should I get a contract. I can tell you, I think it's going to be good.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Back to School Sales

It's so tempting! All those sales ads from Office Max and Staples, rows and rows of school supplies at Walmart and even Borders has a back to school table. All those cheap notebooks, pens and pencils of every type and color and the folders are enough to overwhelm a poor writer's sensibilities.
Now I don't need any pencils. I have enough paper clips for my next reincarnation. I never use spiral notebooks. I only have two children left in school and they no longer need those really cool, mutlipocketed trappers. Pens tend to last me forever so I have enough to last me until some of them dry out. I already have a pair of colorful scissors in every room. Okay, I really do need some paper for the printer but there's no excuse for buying the 12 pack of legal pads. It's way too early to purchase a new date book. I know they'll be on sale when I really need to get one.
So what am I doing out cruising around the school supplies? What writer can resist? Post-it notes in every color and size. Sharpies for those envelopes. Of course, get those hand santizers from Bath and Body works. I might never use those pink highlighers but they are so cute. And I better get a new pencil holder to match the new letter trays I bought. I have those stacked so high on my desk I can hide from all views for complete privacy.
I know so many writers share my weakness. I really didn't need a single thing but somehow I ended up with two bags of supplies. I tell myself the deals were too good to pass up but really I probably could have waited for the same ones to come around next August. For now though, I have to rearrange my storage cabinet to fit in all those really clever tools of my trade.

Monday, August 18, 2008

So much about writing is the waiting for a reply. You hope for that contract but often what you get is a rejection. I feel like I spent the last two months checking my email three or four times a day in hopes of receiving those replies. It's been my greatest single method of procrastinating.
In the last two weeks I finally heard from two of my hopes. One was the release date for my third novel in The Solonian Chronicles. A Ruthless Good will be released in January of 2009. This third book in my futuristic romance series from New Concepts Publishing carries on with the story of a futuristic earth and man's struggle to rebuild and survive. You'll revisit the heroes and heroines from the first two books, The Greater Good and The Lesser Evil, and meet some new interesting characters and their story of love and sacrifice. I'm still waiting on the cover art for that one.
The second reply I received was from an editor at Samhain about the first book of a fantasy series I hope to sell to their fine company. She asked for more edits. That's my next project. I'll be starting tomorrow and hope to finish those within four weeks.
The third reply I'm still waiting for is from Medallion Press on the second book in the fantasy series I have with them. The first book in that series, The Keepers of Sulbreth, will be released in 2010 under the name Susan Gourley. I use that name for my work that is not romance. I'm waiting to hear if they want the second book, Beyond the Gate. If you haven't read anything released by Medallion Press you should give it a try. Every book I've read from them as been excellent.
As all writers know, the way to wait for those replies is to not wait. Get busy working on the next novel. So, I'm going to work on my edits for Samhain and then take that rough draft I just completed for another fantasy series I've started. And I will be checking my email for word from Medallion but maybe only twice a day.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Summer Ending

Can't believe the summer is winding down. My children started the fall sports seasons last week and they have their first scrimmages later this week. I love many things about the fall but I miss those hot days of summer. I always make big plans in the spring for some painting that needs done, some landscaping that needs revitalizing and even plan to increase my exercise programs. Well, summer almost done and the painting isn't. The weeds have taken over large parts of my flower beds. I won't even confess how much I didn't exercise.
I did finish writing the first book in new series. I did edit a book for Samhain. I did have a book signing. I did rearrange my office and shampoo that carpet. Does that count as writing work? I did update my website a few times. I did start this new blog(at the last minute before the leaves turn).
So with fall I must set some new personal and professional goals. I'll be back teaching again in a few days so I'll be visiting my favorite blogs less and having fewer hours to write. But sometimes being really busy keeps me more focused during the times I have to write. So tomorrow I'm starting the next round of edits on that book for Samhain. I'm giving myself four weeks and three gallons of coffee to get it done.
And I'm going to remove the wallpaper in my bedroom during that time too. That might take a gallon of wine.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A New Blog

Okay. I did it. I went off the reservation and decided to create a daring blog where I can actually link to other people. I'm sitll feeling my way around, but I hope to link up with my friends and soon. Give me a few days.