Mystery Thriller Week Author Spotlight: Cheryl Lane

Today I welcome author Cheryl Lane to my blog. Her novel, Starlight Wishes, is sure to appeal to anyone who prefers a hefty dash of romance with their mystery and suspense! And to make things even more exciting, Starlight Wishes is FREE on Kindle today so there’s never been a better time to read it!

While interviewing Cheryl, I discovered that both of our families accuse of us cheating whenever we play the board game, Clue. Maybe mystery writers are just really good at playing Clue…Did our families ever consider that? In any event, here’s more about Cheryl:

cheryl-lane-headshotAuthor Bio:  Cheryl R. Lane was born and raised in Tennessee and went to college at East Tennessee State University before marrying her high school sweetheart and moving to Virginia Beach, Virginia. She started writing as a hobby when she was in college after purchasing a couple of Southern Heritage cookbooks, which were filled with pages of beautiful old plantation homes. She used to sit outside in her backyard and type on a manual typewriter at a picnic table under the trees.  She continued writing after moving to Virginia Beach and visiting beautifully restored homes in Williamsburg as well as plantations on the James River. She has worked as a medical transcriptionist for over 20 years while writing on the side, and finally decided to self-publish “Wellington Cross” on Amazon in December 2012. Since then, she has published more in the series to include Wellington Grove, A Wellington Christmas (a novella), Wellington Rose, and recently Wellington Belle. She has also started writing a modern-day paranormal romance Angel Series, set in Virginia Beach, which includes Starlight Wishes and Sunrise Kisses. She is still married to her sweetheart after 28 years, and they have one son and a Havanese bichon. Her website is www.cheryllaneauthor.com, and you can also connect with her as Cheryl R. Lane on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, Pinterest, YouTube, and StoryFinds.

starlight_wishes_cover_for_kindlejpg2135Starlight Wishes Back Cover Blurb:  What would you do if you fell in love with your guardian angel?  Only you didn’t know he was your guardian angel.  You just knew he was a handsome, mysterious guy who helps you get your life in order and who has incredible blue eyes.  That’s just what happens to Cassie Callaway who, at sixteen, gets herself into some trouble in her hometown of Virginia Beach.  A guy named Skyler saves her from drowning in the ocean and she ends up falling in love with him.  He has many secrets, however, including the shocking revelation that he is actually her guardian angel, and that their love is forbidden…

See more of Starlight Wishes on Amazon.

 

Interview with Cheryl Lane:

Hi Cheryl! Thanks for taking part in my Mystery Thriller Week Author Spotlight series. If your book was made into a movie, who do you envision playing the leading roles?

I envision Britt Robertson as Cassie, Stephen Colletti as Skyler, Jennifer Aniston as Jen, and Keith Urban as Luke.

When did you first know that you wanted to become a writer?

I think when I first saw The Waltons as a kid.  I loved John-Boy.  He was my favorite character, and I loved how he wrote (typed) by the window.

What attracts you to writing in the mystery/thriller genre?

I have always loved reading mysteries since I was a child reading Nancy Drew Mysteries, Sherlock Holmes stories, and Agatha Christie.  I love trying to solve a mystery, trying to figure out who did what and when.  One of my favorite board games was Clue.  I’m pretty good at it, too.  My husband and son say I cheat – I don’t!  I just take lots of notes!

What time of day do you prefer to write?

I try to write from 3:00 to 5:00 in the afternoons and/or from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m.  I would write more if I had the time – see next question.

Is writing your full-time job? If not, what else do you do?

No, not yet.  Right now, I am also a medical transcriptionist and work from home.  I hope to quit this job someday and write full-time.

What are your hobbies outside of writing?

I do some kind of exercise every day, in the form of run/walking, yoga, Zumba or Cize dance classes, strength training, P90X and Boot Camp classes, bike riding in the neighborhood, or kickboxing.  I have participated in 10 half-marathons and countless other shorter races like 5Ks, 8Ks, 10Ks, and a 14K.  Other than that, I read every day, and on occasion, I do a little knitting.

Thank you for joining us Cheryl. It has been a pleasure! Post your comments to Cheryl here or email her at:  Cheryllaneauthor@gmail.com.

Stay tuned for my next interview with mystery author Judy Sheluk on Feb 1st!

 

 

BARN SHADOWS COVER REVEAL!

I’m so excited to share the cover of my new YA Mystery, BARN SHADOWS (Dark Horse, Book Two) which will be released March 14, 2017! Many thanks to Caroline Andrus who is a cover designer with my publisher, Fire and Ice. Her design captures the essence of my story while tying it in perfectly with the first book in the series–TRAIL OF SECRETS. I also love, love, love the color scheme! So without further ado…

 

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Does the cover make you want to know more? Here’s the back cover blurb:

The darkest secrets can be found in the most innocent places…

Brynlei returns to the prestigious Foxwoode Riding Academy determined to work through her condition as a “highly sensitive person” and win the Top Rider Award. When she stumbles over an antique doll near the construction site of a new barn, a series of inexplicable occurrences force her to confront another one of Foxwoode’s long-buried secrets.

Meanwhile, swirling rumors of Foxwoode’s strained finances, the arrival of a strange new girl in her cabin, and a brush-off by Brynlei’s former love-interest contribute to the troubled atmosphere and distract her from her riding. After a suspicious fire threatens her life, Brynlei realizes someone close to her is lying. But who? Could a decades-old tragedy and the dangerous happenings at Foxwoode be more closely entwined than she ever imagined?

For those of you who haven’t read Book One yet–don’t worry! There’s still time… In the meantime, thanks for stopping by and let me know what you think of the new cover!

Clear the Clutter and WRITE!

Happy New Year! It’s that time of year filled with hope and possibility when people make long lists of resolutions which they may–or may not–keep. I’m happy to announce that I’ve already accomplished one of my goals: DECLUTTERING my writing space! Over the last six months, my home office has fallen into a state of utter chaos. It was the room where my family stashed all of the items that didn’t have a clear place of their own. My desk had become hidden under piles of half-written manuscripts and book order forms. My extra books lay stacked in the corner. My husband’s old work papers overflowed in an unorganized heap, leaving almost no room for my computer. My daughter’s art supplies invaded every nook and cranny. Don’t believe me? Check out this “BEFORE” picture of my office. And, yes, that’s a bag of Mrs. Pastures horse cookies in the background (my bad.)

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I’m a big believer that the state of one’s surroundings is generally a reflection of their life as a whole. Amid the claustrophobic atmosphere it became almost impossible for me to create anything new. There was simply no room to think! It’s no surprise that during the last 2-3 months of 2016 I did not write a single word (other than making some edits to an already completed manuscript and sending out a few query letters.)

But have no fear-I have retaken control of my writing life. It took several hours of lugging old papers, folders, and envelopes to the recycling bin. I filled two trash bags with, well, trash. I delivered a carload of random office supplies and picture frames to the Salvation Army. I dusted. I vacuumed. I moved my riding equipment to the basement. And here is the result…

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What you can’t see are the empty drawers. Yes-EMPTY DRAWERS! Oh, the possibilities! In case anyone was wondering, the dog bed stays because of my writing partner, Milo.

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One more view of my clean desk. I can’t wait to get started on my next novel!

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Have you recently decluttered your workspace? Tell me about it!

The Emotional Stages of Editing

heart-touching-feelingsRecently, I’ve been working with a copy editor to put the finishing touches on my YA mystery, BARN SHADOWS (Dark Horse, Book Two). Our mission:  to identify and correct all typos, grammatical errors, inconsistencies, and overused words/phrases in my novel. Thankfully, we’ve almost reached the end of this back-and-forth editing process which has been successful (yeah!), but also a roller coaster ride of emotions. Because I experienced a similar set of emotions when editing my first novel, I’ve outlined my own Emotional Stages of Editing below in order to help other writers going through this harrowing ordeal–or at least to make them laugh.

Emotional Stages of Editing:

  1. Fear–Your publisher notifies you that the copy editor has your manuscript. She’s probably reading it right now. Will she like it? Will she hate it? Will she understand your jokes? You break out in a cold sweat and lie down in the fetal position while repeating positive phrases in your head.
  2. Anger–A few days later, you click open the Word doc entitled, First Round Edits, expecting to see a few extra commas and comment proclaiming “WELL DONE! BEST BOOK I’VE READ ALL YEAR!” but what you see instead is a blur of red typing and strikethroughs. As your eyes focus on the specifics, the heat rises to your face and your hands shake. Why has the word “that” been added to the third sentence of the opening paragraph? Why have those two short sentences been combined into one long run-on sentence? Where is the joke about the baby llama who works at the cheese factory? This editor is trying to ruin your book! You’re sure of it!
  3. Despair–After exchanging a livid email voicing your displeasure with the suggested changes, the editor sends you a point-by-point outline of why she made each change. You slump into your chair and suck in your breath as you realize she was right–an em dash does work better than a comma in that sentence, and the word “that” is sometimes grammatically necessary. How could you have made so many mistakes? Your book must be horrible. Once again you curl up in the fetal position, only this time no positive thoughts pop their way into your head.
  4. Determination–After several martinis and a good night’s sleep, you open your “motivational phrases” Pinterest Board and realize that no mountain is too tall to climb and everything worthwhile is worth fighting for. You determine to get through these edits, one by one, word by word, sentence by sentence, chapter by chapter. You sit down at your computer and start re-reading your book for the 803rd time.
  5. Hope–The editor looks through your responses and sends you round two edits. Hey! There are only a few comments this time. And she added that joke back in–the one about the baby llama and the cheese factory! She probably realized how funny it was the second time she read it. You can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
  6. Joy–All edits have been approved by both parties. The work is done! You jump up from your chair and wish you had a co-worker to high-five. Your dog will have to do. Soon your publisher will present you with the most dazzling cover ever created. Oh, the joy of all this hard work coming together! Editing isn’t so bad after all…o-book-wrapped-gift-facebook

Book Marketing (that Works!)

Those of us who have authored and published a book, whether through traditional means or self-published, have experienced the initial elation at seeing our book sales take off on release day and riding the tide of the “new release” designation for the first few months. On the flip-side, we’ve probably experienced an equal measure of despair when our books have been out for a while and those sales start to dwindle. Since Trail of Secrets was published last August, I’ve tried numerous marketing techniques. Some were expensive and turned out to be complete scams (I’ve learned not to pay companies whose only marketing angle is to tweet about my book. It doesn’t work!) Others have produced better results. This summer, I’ve taken a more creative approach to marketing, and I’d like to share what has worked for me in the hope it might help you too.

  1. Library Postcards

After my book was named as a Finalist in the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, I decided to capitalize on the award and send postcards to libraries in my home state of Michigan. (Note: my book also takes place in Michigan so I thought it might have double-appeal to Michigan Librarians). Lists of libraries in your home state are easily accessible online through websites such as http://www.50states.com. The post card I created looked like this:

library postcard

Obviously, you will want to personalize your postcard to promote the selling points of your own book. Postcards such as these can be ordered cheaply through companies like OvernightPrints or Vistaprint. The back of my postcard displayed my name and website in the top left corner. I left space to write a short note on each one. My note said something like, Trail of Secrets makes a great addition to your teen library collection!”

A few weeks later, I noticed an increase in my print sales on Amazon from locations in Michigan where people had not bought my book previously. For example, someone in one Michigan city bought nine copies at once! Not surprisingly, when I later checked that city’s library catalog, my book was listed as being available in every branch. I’ve also done a cursory check of few other libraries where I’d mailed my postcard and found my book available at over half of them!

Before sending the postcards, Trail of Secrets might have been available for checkout at three or four public libraries in MI. After the postcards, I believe it is now available at somewhere around twenty public libraries (and counting). Well worth the investment.

2. Magazine Articles

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My article in the July 2016 issue of Practical Horseman Magazine

 

Another fresh approach I’ve taken toward marketing, is submitting articles to “horsey” magazines and listing my name and website at the end of the article. Trail of Secrets is set at a horseback riding academy so my target audience includes people who ride horses.

What subjects does your book touch? Is it set at a winery? Submit articles to wine magazines. Is the main character a beautician? Submit to cosmetic magazines. Believe me, there are magazines having to do with just about every subject under the sun and most of them welcome new content from people who can write. Having an article published in a magazine related to your book’s subject matter has multiple benefits. First, most magazines will pay YOU for the article (EVEN BETTER THAN FREE ADVERTISING!) Second, the magazine provides you with a captive audience of people who are interested in the subject matter of your book and, therefore, will likely want to check it out. Third, having articles published in magazines adds additional credentials to your writing resume.

3. Group Sales

I’ll admit my last tip on marketing is not that innovative, but it is effective. Place your book on sale for a limited time if your publisher will allow it. Even better, group your book with others that have a similar theme and do a group sale. It’s always better to have six or eight authors promoting a sale than one. The digital version of my book is currently marked down from $4.99 to $2.99 as part of Fire and Ice’s “Beach Reads” sale. I’ve noticed a boost in my Amazon ebook sales since the sale began.

It also helps to have a graphic all the authors can use to promote the sale:

Beach Read Sale

What effective marketing strategies have you used to boost book sales? Please share!

A Night to Remember

As I may have already told you, I was shocked and elated when I found out Trail of Secrets had been named as a Finalist in the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards (First Novel). I read about the upcoming award ceremony at the Newberry Library in downtown Chicago, but wasn’t sure I wanted to take the time to attend. My husband, on the other hand, REALLY wanted me to go. He convinced me it was important to be recognized for my hard work and even took two days off work to go with me. The event also happened to fall close to our eleven year wedding anniversary, so we decided to make a weekend out of it. I’m so glad we did.

We dropped our kids with grandma and drove five hours to Chicago where we spent a whileBook Awards 3 shopping on Michigan Avenue and visiting our old haunts. (We lived in Chicago for many years before moving back to Michigan.) After cleaning ourselves up, we walked to the Newberry Library for the ceremony. Having never attended a book award ceremony, I was nervous and had no idea what to expect. The people who ran the event did a terrific job making us feel welcome as we walked through the front door. A smiling woman handed me a name tag and goody bag filled with extra award stickers and information on all the other winners and finalists’ books. Someone else escorted us into the room and introduced us to several of the judges. Dozens of authors and their guests mingled, each author holding a copy of their book. Waiters and waitresses circled the room with glasses of wine and champagne and appetizers. It was like being at a wedding where the books were the stars.

My nerves subsided, as I fell easily into conversation with a group of authors and judges. Everyone seemed genuinely interested in everyone else’s books, and with seventy categories of winners and finalists, there was a quite a variety of books. I was amazed by how far people had traveled to attend the ceremony and what a big deal being there actually was.

At last, the Awards Chairperson began announcing the Finalists and Winners in each category. Only the people who attended the ceremony had their books announced. When it was my turn, I walked up on the stage (focusing very carefully on not tripping) with my book cover on the screen behind me and lowered my head to receive the medal. I shook hands with Awards Chairperson and Coordinator and exited the stage. That was it–my fifteen seconds of fame!

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The top three winners gave short speeches and there were a few more photo opportunities. I left the award ceremony feeling happy and reinvigorated by all of the positive energy. After two hours of conversation, speeches, and clapping, my husband and I were ready for a quiet dinner in the big city. We caught a cab and made it to our eight o’clock dinner reservation right on time.

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Trail of Secrets is an Award Finalist!

IndieBookAwards2Several months ago while searching online, I happened to come across the website for the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. I perused the site, checking out the categories and last year’s winners. A category for First Novels under 80,000 words caught my eye. I had a first novel under 80,000 words! I thought, “Why not?” A couple of hours later I was standing in line at the post office to mail off a few copies of Trail of Secrets to Seattle, Washington. Then I got busy with life and completely forgot about this book award competition.

Fast forward to yesterday. An email from the Next Generation Indie Book Awards waited inCover with Sticker my inbox, promising “exciting news.” I still didn’t let myself get my hopes up. Perhaps the exciting news was only to let me know who the winners were. It didn’t mean anything. Then I read the first word- “Congratulations!” and I started to realize maybe this really was “exciting news.” As I read further, I realized Trail of Secrets had indeed been selected as one of five Finalists in the First Novel (under 80,000 words) category!

For all of the lonely, depressing, and frustrating moments that writing can bring, it can also provide the highest of highs. I know because that’s how I felt yesterday after reading that email. I’m so glad I took the chance and entered my book. I’m not sure if I’ll attend the award ceremony in Chicago in May. Regardless I am basking in the glow of unbiased validation of my book. There’s no better feeling!

Five Things I Learned at #WOTRC16

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the annual Write on the Red Cedar writing

Business seminar.

conference in E. Lansing, MI. The keynote speaker was Bob Mayer, author of over sixty published novels. Many other talented writers and presenters were also in attendance.  Friday consisted of a four-hour workshop with Mayer, while Saturday I hopped around to various break-out sessions on subjects that interested me. I left the conference feeling inspired and motivated to achieve my writing goals. Not everyone lives near areas where writing conferences are readily available, so I thought I’d share a few of my top takeaways:

1. Every story needs an antagonist.
This might sound obvious, but as I listened to Mayer speak about the conflict that must be present in a novel between a protagonist and an antagonist, I realized the novel I’m currently writing is lacking a clear antagonist. (I made major changes to my draft as soon as I arrived home!)  When identifying your antagonist, ask yourself “What is the climactic scene the entire story is driving toward?” The goals of your protagonist and antagonist must directly conflict and prevent the other from achieving his or her goal. Removing the antagonist from your novel should cause the story to completely collapse. If it doesn’t (as mine didn’t) there is a problem.
2.  The big idea of your book should be easily summarized in twenty-five words or less.
Trust me, this is harder than it sounds. Mayer recommended condensing your original idea into one sentence before you begin writing the book. Referring to your focused sentence while writing helps you stay on track and eliminate trajectories not meaningful to your overall story or theme. Later, this focused sentence will likely help you write a blurb and form a tag-line for your book.
3. Agents and best-selling authors are regular people.
I attended a question and answer session with international best-selling author Lori Nelson Spielman. While I had tons of questions for her, I hesitated to ask them in front of a large group. I worried my question might be too specific or would somehow annoy her or others attending the presentation. When I finally got the nerve to approach her (after the session ended), I was surprised by how friendly, down-to-earth, and genuinely interested in me she was. She not only answered my questions, but encouraged me. I’m so glad I took the risk of approaching her, which is not easy for many of us introverted writers. Next time you have a similar opportunity, please take it!
4.  A character’s most positive characteristic, if pushed too far, becomes their most negative characteristic.
On some level I already knew this, but I’d never heard it spelled out so clearly before. For example, a character who is tolerant might also have little conviction. A character who is idealistic might also be naïve. When assigning positive traits to your characters, think about the correlating negative traits and how to work them into your story.
5.  Characters who look in the mirror are cliché.

Wait. What? Uh, oh. I’m pretty sure I’ve had a character look in the mirror in every story I’ve written so that I can describe her to the reader. My bad.

I hope something in my five takeaways was helpful. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned at a writing conference?

Happy writing!

Writing and Marketing in the New Year!

2015-2016The new year brings a sense of renewal and hope–something most writers can always use! I kicked off my 2016 with several writing resolutions, including completing (and perfecting) my latest YA novel, Barn Shadows. I’m continuing my quest for an agent for my recently-completed thriller, Top Producer, and thinking of new and exciting ways to market Trail of Secrets. I plan to attend at least two writing conferences. Finally, I strive to read at least five books on writing in 2016.

I’m on track in the reading department. This month I read Stephen King’s highly-on writing stephen king tenth anniversaryacclaimed book, On Writing, and loved it! It was not what I was expecting, especially the first half which was more of a memoir and less of a “how-to” book. The second half covered the nuts and bolts of the writing process, as it applies to Stephen King. I found the whole thing engaging and difficult to put down. I don’t often read books more than once, but this is one that I may revisit in the coming year.

As for revising my work in 2016, I plan to make more use of a tool I discovered through my publisher called EditMinion.com. This fun website allows writers to paste one chapter at a time of their writing into its screen. The program identifies common mistakes, such as over-used words, clichés, adverbs, and so on.  The best part? It’s free! While the program may not replace the use of a human editor, it is a great way to get an extra set of (virtual) eyes on any work-in-progress.Minion_Coloring_Pages_03

Now for marketing in the coming year…I plan to win awards. Many awards. But if that doesn’t work out, I’m going to check out BookBub — a website which compiles free and deeply discounted books for its readers based on their interests. Authors may list their books when they have a sale or if they’re willing to give away their book for free for a limited time.  One word of warning, listing a book on BookBub takes some planning, as the website approves each book individually and coordinates posts with the book’s sale dates.

So that’s me. What writing tools and marketing ideas do you plan to use for 2016?

Be sure to check back in a couple weeks, when I’ll report back on the top five things I learn at the upcoming Write on the Red Cedar conference in Lansing, MI!

Gearing Up for NaNoWriMo!

PrintIt’s that time of year again. The leaves are falling, a chill whips through the air, aging pumpkins sit on every doorstep, and grown adults take on the personas of interesting and outlandish characters. No, I’m not talking about Halloween. I’m talking about National Novel Writing Month! For writers, November can be the most exciting and challenging month of the year. What could be more motivating than accepting a challenge to write a novel in thirty days?

This will be my third year participating in NaNoWriMo. I consider my first two NaNoWriMo years successful, even though I did not reach my 50,000 word goal in thirty days either time. In 2013, I ended up with a great starting place for what would later become my now published YA mystery, Trail of Secrets (Dark Horse Series, Book 1). In 2014, I wrote the bulk of the first draft of my adult thriller, Top Producer, which I recently finished revising (for the 800th time) and am currently submitting to agents. This year, I’m diving into NaNoWriMo with high hopes of writing the first draft of Book 2 in the Dark Horse series.

In order to prepare for the challenge, I’ve drafted a rough outline of my general storyline. I’ve fired up my Scrivner software. I’ve created my profile on NaNoWriMo.org to track my word count. Now all I need is for my kids to go away to boarding school for thirty days and to move Thanksgiving to the month of December. Oh yeah–I’d love to connect with some other NaNoWriMo participants for mutual motivation and support. Find me on NaNoWriMo.org under my username, LWolfeWrites, and add me as a writing buddy. LET’S DO THIS!!

Stay tuned for my NaNoWriMo mid-month update and end of the month results.

Do you have NaNoWriMo success story? Tell me about it!