Saturday, September 20, 2014

September NTRWA President's Letter

I’m moving into another house—downsizing in a big way, er, uh, a small way. Which means I have to get rid of more than half of my stuff.
Easy to part with: my fifteen year old couch that four boys played the hot lava game on and jumped over the back ripping out the heavy-duty furniture staples. You know, that couch that the bottom has been gutted out of in multiple searches for missing iPods. And yeah, that odd stitching in the back? Pirate saber wound. Don’t ask. Boys.
The couch is a goner. Buh-bye. Adios.
Multiple Tate

But then there’s the bread machine I’ve used maybe twice in the last ten years. It’s still all shiny and new looking. From non-use. As if I even have a fresh packet of yeast in the house. But I neeeeed that bread machine. What if I get a hankering for homemade bread? Which I’ll have to drive to the store for yeast so I might as well just buy the homemade loaf while I’m there… (Um, don’t look too closely at that last sentence.) But seriously I’m having a hard time parting with that.
Just like when I need to pare down the prose. Tired and clunky clich├ęs are as easy to cut out of a manuscript as getting rid of a hot lava gamed-to-death couch. No problemo. Even though they are so comfortable to slide into.
But those beautifully crafted stellar sentences that have no usefulness in a scene…except they are awesome and I amaze myself with my sheer brilliance and I’m certain I might need them later, but most likely not because then my heroine will have to drive to the store and purchase yeast packets and then wait three hours for a little loaf of bread that maybe has five slices she can get out of it…but, but, they are so shiny and new looking, how can I part with those sentences?
Kill my darlings? Really?
Of course the beauty is is that I don’t have to if I don’t want to. Sometimes I keep my darlings. Yep, you heard me and I’m officially giving you permission to keep your stellar, non-useful sentences if you want to.
Then again, sometimes I get over myself and realize that if it has no use for the scene, toss it out.  
So on that note, would anyone like a bread machine?

Clover Autrey

NTRWA President

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Making of a Book Cover: Extracted

This is the book that took 25ish years to write. It's gone through several incarnations. It began as a short story after I read Tom Brokaw's The Greatest Generation and became fascinated with WWII. My story was about an old war veteran who had a heart attack, traveled through the tunnel of light but was ripped out of it, his soul snatched and put into the body of a dead soldier to keep fighting in an alien world's war. I titled it Do Not Resuscitate.

I loved the concept so years later I once again resurrected the story, but this time twisted it into a teen guy displaced on an alien world. I could never quite get the plot settled comfortably in my head so let it sit while I worked on other projects. It was when I was talking about it with YA author Mari Mancusi and she said, "Why don't you make the hero into a heroine?" and something finally clicked.

So no more alien world, just good old fashioned soul snatching in a scientific way right here on planet earth.

Oh but the cover...how to bring this concept into a cover... I searched long and hard until finally I found the perfect model, mainly because she was asleep and has such an innocent quality about her.

Here's the original picture I purchased from Dreamstime.com.  Actually the original picture had a green background which I had to erase, but somewhere when my laptop died and I switched over to a new one I lost the original.

Next I enlarged and off-centered it and added words. There isn't much contrast in this cover with the white on white words, but I was going for a clean and sterile "lab" type look. Also since I was still writing the book when I found this picture I was able to base Kat's look on this model, so she is an exact look for the character. 





Pretty simple and easy. Then I really started having fun. I thought it would be cool to have her eyes open on the back cover, a kind of awakening to her situation like what happens in the book.

So I bought another stock art from Dreamstime with the same cover model.
What I did next was overlay this picture on top of the other and then erase all of it except for one eye. With a bit of enlarging and tilting I got it overlaid over the closed eye and then did a little tweaking like clone-stamping her skin tone over the dark lashes beneath her closed eye and little touches like that.
Extracted back cover

I'm actually quite impressed with myself at this point. 
Next I flipped the picture so it will be a mirror image when the book jacket is folded over and viola!!!

Paperback cover of Extracted

Available at Amazon

Saturday, August 16, 2014

August North Texas Romance Writers of America President's Letter

I’ve been taking this online course called LiveYour Truth by Carol Tuttle.  It’s frighteningly accurate. It basically identifies four energy movements and then helps you learn which is your dominant type and how to live in a way that you are in harmony with how your energy flows. It’s fascinating. It accurately called how my thought processes work, what my hairstyle I wear now looks like, how I deal with everyday tasks and even what my desk looks like.
Mind blown.
What does that have to do with writing?
More than you’d think.
The movement types are the typical elements of Air, Water, Fire, and Earth. Nothing new there until you really delve into it.
As an example, a Fire person is goal oriented but also compartmental. According to Carol, a Fire’s morning might look something like this: Get up, make the bed but only partway, start the coffee, shower, start doing her hair but only partway, put on makeup but only partway, and then go back to making the bed, pouring the coffee, work on the hair, work on the makeup and then back around again until all the tasks are complete. She has the ability to work on several things at the same time and successfully achieves several tasks at once.
So how that relates to an energy movement in writing is like this: A Fire will carve out her hour but won’t write straight through that hour. She’ll compartmentalize it by writing 10 or 15 minutes and then will get up to feed the dogs or check in with her writer pals on Chatzy orTwitter and tell them where she’s at with her goal, or some other task. Then back to writing for another segment of time and up again to complete another task, then back to writing. That suits her creative energy perfectly.
For me, things like Chatzy drive me crazy. But I’m a Water. Like a slow curving river. When I’m writing, I don’t want any distractions. My course is set. (Heavy plotter.) I even write in longhand because my creative energy flows much better in the movement of swirls and continuous cursive. Like that river. The tap tap tap on a keyboard just doesn’t do it for me. I also have to work from beginning to end. No jumping from one scene to another back and forth like an Air or Fire can both do and pull it all together into something fabulous.
Speaking of Air. These writers are light and fun. I’d guess they tend to have more humor in their stories. They also have a million ideas rapid firing in their brains. They are the ones who have ten manuscripts started, yet have a difficult time finishing one before another idea lassoes their attention. Air energy people need good critique partners and deadlines to hound them to finish. These writers will also tend to be predominantly pantsers because that’s way more fun. They are also most likely the writers who love to make collages of their characters for inspiration.
Then there’s the energy of the Earth. I imagine these writers sitting at the same place every time they write with both feet flat on the floor and posture straight.  They are also the heavy thinkers and perfectionists. They think long and hard before beginning a manuscript and plot everything out and then second guess themselves as they rethink everything. They’ll edit a chapter several more times than the rest of us before it’s deemed good enough for them.  They tend to take much longer to write a full manuscript but the words are extremely powerful when they are done.
As you can tell, I’ve been enjoying learning about my true nature in a lot of aspects of my life. (And secretly trying to guess what each of yours are.)  Writing is just one aspect, but understanding my own energy movement gives me permission to not worry about writing exactly the same way as another or trying to achieve the same word count or  wonder why a process that works so well for someone else totally fizzles for me.  I enjoy my process so much more now that I better understand why I do what I do and appreciate the creative energy flow of what works well for other writers without getting frustrated trying to emulate something that won’t necessarily work for me, or even better, discovering the things that do. 
So did you recognize yourself in any of these processes? Have a little bit of all of them in you?


Clover Autrey

NTRWA President

Saturday, July 12, 2014

North Texas Romance Writers of America President's Letter July 2014

President’s Letter July

I found the old notebook I used from the very first day I walked into an NT meeting until I ran out of pages. Early 2009. Seriously? I’ve been a member that long? Sure doesn’t seem like it. Flipping through these pages brought back tons of memories. From Wendy Watson discussing black moments and Pete the forensics guy lifting our fingerprints to Judi McCoy transfixing us with the force of her personality.  I have pages of notes on Shelley Bradley giving us the rundown on what to look for in contracts and another load of notes with Ron Campbell’s guidance into taxes.  
And who can’t remember Sally Felt’s “Screw the fear, find the fun!” philosophy?
I’ve taken notes from hypnotists, dream analyzers, librarians, bookstore CRMs, a Magician/Medical Examiner, Search and Rescue Dog Trainer, social media gurus, and Editor and Agents galore all from our little room at the side of La Hacienda restaurant.  
I also have little notes for myself stuck in there like “Give Michelle Welch, Jeannie Guzman, and Nancy Connally their PRO pins”  and “New members this month: Gloria, Jamie, Karen, Sasha, Ruby, and Juliet”.  I have names written down of people who walked into our group fresh without a first novel under their belts who are now on bestseller lists.
The funniest quote I found is from Angi Platt (back before she became Angi Morgan) dated Sept. 17, 2009.
“You do have to be present to be there.”

Um? I have no memory what she was talking about but I obviously found it hilarious enough to write down.  I can see us all having a good chuckle over that slip of words as well as Angi’s sheepish grin.
 Man, we’ve had a good time together, haven’t we?   I had no idea that first meeting just how much North Texas would enrich my life or how much I would look forward to coming each month. Or how jazzed up with creative energy I’d be each month with new ideas and techniques I didn’t know before. 
I know I’ve said this before so I hope it doesn’t sound trite, but I really do love you guys. Can’t think of one person from NT I haven’t enjoyed getting to know. You’re an extremely talented and giving bunch of people. Anyway, before the violins really start sobbing in the background, let me just end with this: Thanks for being part of NT. Thanks for always being present so you can be there.


Clover Autrey

NTRWA President

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Making of a Book Cover: Viking Mine

The Killion Group orginalI'm so excited about my latest book. It's totally different than what I usually write, meaning no magic or supernatural creatures mucking about. It's a straight historical, well, as far as what history can piece together on Vikings at any rate. And it was such a joy to write also. I love these characters. Anyway, more on them later. This post is about how I made the cover.

I wanted to go with that classic historical romance style. You know the ones with a couple in a clench in front of some type of historical scene, usually a castle. I just wanted readers to know exactly what it is at a glance.

So the first thing was to find the right couple. Not so easy when I'm using stock photo. First, there aren't that many blond guys. I have no idea why, but they are few and far between. I also wanted the heroine to have dark hair.  And not completely nekkid either. I couldn't find any at my usual stock photo haunt so I went over to The Killion Group and finally found the perfect couple. The leather pants definitely need to be cropped out though. Eew.
Viking ships saturated
Viking Ships original

Next up is the historical landscape behind them. Viking book. Definitely need a Viking Dragon Ship. Dreamstime had just what I needed.

Saturated it a bit to bring out more color and lighten.

Next I put them together. It took a while to get the right placement of the ships. I ended up using the 3rd ship on the right because it fit the best beneath Rovena's the heroine's hair. I also erased some of her gown. It just flared too much. Actually the dress isn't exactly authentic for the time period but with stock photos I have to pick and choose what I can live with. Notice how I cropped out those awful leather pants? And please don't tell me they are really pleather. Gag. As you can see I started playing around with title and author name placement. I thought it looked pretty good until I decided I really wanted to go with the classic historical romance look and make it look like a drawing.
Cover pulled together
 Finding an illustration program took a little bit of work until I found one in Smart Photo Editor and ran it through. It first came out like this, which I actually love, except it made the fonts less readable. It also made their hair color almost the same. What I really liked about this couple was that her dark hair opposed to his light hair.
Well, I still have a few tricks up my sleeve. I played around with the light balance, even tried to slip her old non illustrated hair over this hair, until it dawned on  me to use the clone stamp tool and clone darker spots of her hair over the lighter spots. It worked pretty well although I may have gotten a little carried away. Except Rovena's hair in the book is pitch black and fascinates all the lighter haired Vikings so I wanted it as dark as I could get it.

Dragon Ships cover

Now that's some nice dark hair on her. I'd rather he was lighter but I didn't want to mess with him too much. The lightening I did made his moles stand out on his neck. You can really see them when they are enlarged. I almost went in with the clone stamp and got rid of them, but decided I could use them and go in and write a few sentences where Rovena is noticing the mole at the side of his neck and wanting to press a kiss there or some such.  The next step was getting the words to show up. With the ships, water and her dress there is a lot going on, which I didn't want to smear out just to see the words so I decided to enlarge the title and go with white for most of it. My name still gets a little lost in her dress but I can live with that, especially since Viking is the main theme I want to get across as well as this is a historical romance. I think the classic style of this cover will convey that fairly well.  So here it is! Tell me what you think.



Kindle                    Nook                    Other Devices 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

NTRWA President's Letter for June

My husband was reading an article on screen plays when he asked, “Did you know you should start out and leave a scene with twenty to thirty unanswered questions?”
Scrunching my forehead, I told him I didn’t know that, thinking, “That’s weird, how are you supposed to do that?” Then within hours we watched the pilot for a new show called Believe. From the teaser commercials we didn’t know anything about it except that there is a little blond girl with some sort of powers who is somehow vital to the world as a whole.
Now don’t worry about spoilers since the show has been cancelled already.
So the first scene begins with the little blond girl, Bo, singing songs with I assume her parents, driving down a dark road in a mini van. Except Bo calls these “parents” by their first names. Another car hits them, flipping the van and the woman of that car gets out, swaying, and makes her way to the overturned van, crying and visibly upset that she caused an accident. When she sees that mom and Bo are no longer in the van, she pulls out a gun and shoots the dad. She then tracks the girl and mom and is about to shoot the mom figure when a bunch of do-gooders show up to help with the accident and the woman backs off.
At this point, I know absolutely nothing. No back story or explanations have been given, but boy-oh-boy do I have questions.
Who is Bo? What’s so special about her? Are those her parents? If not, who are they? How did they know to get Bo out of the van to run? Who is the woman after her and why?
It goes right into the next scene with a priest going into a jail cell to give last rites to a man who is going to be executed within minutes. The dead man walking (Tate) shouts that he’s innocent. The priest says he can get him out of there if Tate will agree to do something for a little girl that only he can do. Tate agrees and a special unit goes into action and breaks him out.
What? I still have no idea what’s going on. Who is Tate? Is he really a murderer? Was he framed? Is he a liar? Why is he so special that the unit needs him? Who is the priest guy? What is the unit? Are they good guys or bad buys?
Less than ten minutes in and I literally know nothing. But am I hooked? You betcha. I have to keep watching to know the answers. It’s human nature and a little bit of ego to see if what I’m guessing is right.
But that got me thinking about my own openings. Am I layering question upon question? I don’t think I have been. I’ve been focused on making sure I’m getting all my goals, conflicts, and motivations in place. I’m placing in snippets of who the characters are, where they are from, and clues about where the plot will go, but…questions? I’m supposed to be laying down a trail of questions?
I feel like Heidi Klum in that shampoo commercial where she says, “All this time, we’ve been working on the wrong end of hair!”
Heck, yeah, I want to keep readers on the edge of their seats with anticipation. I want them so curious they have to keep reading. I want them to feel satisfied when they’re right or I want them to think I’m utterly brilliant when they are surprised.
Ugh, all this time I’ve been working on the wrong end of GMC. Okay, back to the plotting notebook. My new technique: In this scene, what questions do I want my readers to ask?
As always, merry writing and have a wonderful summer. For those who will be traveling over the next couple of months, have fun, be safe, we’ll miss you and will be glad to see you upon your return.
Take care,

Clover Autrey

NTRWA President

Saturday, May 17, 2014

May President's Letter

I was chatting with another author about some old books I dug out and was re-reading from years ago. You know, way back in the ice age when ebooks didn’t exist.


Architetto -- Blocco notes by Anonymous - Notebook (or note-block?) by Francesco 'Architetto' Rollandin.She said, “Oh, so you actually read the kind of books you write.”
That took me a bit by surprise. “Well, yeah, of course.” Um?
Sure I began to write toward a trend, but it was a trend I love, have loved for as long as I’ve been reading. But the conversation made me think.
There’s a writerly saying that goes: Write what you know.
Well, I’ve never had magical powers or have time traveled to the past, so that’s a bit out of my experience range. Plus, boring. I don’t want to read what I already know. I want the fantasy of doing things I’ve never done.
Besides, even though writing is hard work, it’s also amazingly fun.
Always Write What You Love.
And then research anything you don’t know. That’s part of the enjoyment.
Let your own joy and excitement lift off the pages of your book. Readers can feel the depth of a writer’s enjoyment, even if you are gleefully taking your enjoyment writing a deranged bad guy. They will feel it. I believe that.

So that’s my hope for all of you this month. Write What You Love. Now go forth and create in this beautiful month of May.  

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Fae Ring

The Fae Ring cover 

She's always been a dutiful daughter...



Janet MacLeod has spent the last ten years dedicated to her clan, acting as the Lady of the castle—at the cost of her own happiness.

She aches every time she looks at her brothers, both happy with their wives, and wants nothing more than a love of her own.

He’s a broken soldier…


Xander, a former Fae Warrior, sacrificed his wings and magic to live in the Human
Realm and became a traitor to his people.

When he finds Janet forlorn on the beach, Xander gives her a ring he’s had since childhood, not realizing it’ll reveal her as his fated mate.

The ring’s magic activates the Faery Stones, and Janet is sucked into the Fae Realm. Her life is in immediate danger, for the Fae sense—and seek to destroy—any human who dares step into their world.

Xander is the only one who can retrieve her, but he too, wears a target.

Can he rescue his soul-mate and return with her to the Human Realm or will temptation of great magic and the rebirth of his wings force him to abandon their destiny? Duncan promises to help Claire get home, even though his desire to have her wars with his vow.
Torn between familiarity of the present and what she wants in the past, can Claire help Duncan find his brother and get back to the future? Will she even want to?
The Fae Ring cover back flap

About The Author:
Displaying photo.JPGC.A SzarekC.A. is my critique partner and I love her to death. I'm thrilled to show y'all her latest book ~~ Highland style of course. She's originally from Ohio, and has made me these to-die-for buck-eye treats. nom-nom-nom. Anyway, I'm so glad she made her way out here to Texas. She is married and has a bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice.

She works with kids when she’s not writing.

She’s always wanted to be a writer and is overjoyed to share her stories with the world. C.A. is just an all around great sweet person and I know you'll love her and her stories as much as I do.

Visit her on her blog, orn TwitterFacebookGoodreads and website. She's everywhere!!!

C.A. Szarek is also author of Collision Force, Chance Collision, Sword's Call, Love's Call and The Tartan MP3 Player.
Twinsie Jo




Also, enter this giveaway for your chance to win some amazing goodies!!


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Monday, April 28, 2014

Prejudice Meets Pride book release

Prejudice Meets Pride
Prejudice Meets Pride by Rachael Anderson
After years of pinching pennies and struggling to get through art school, Emma Makie’s hard work finally pays off with the offer of a dream job. But when tragedy strikes, she has no choice but to make a cross-country move to Colorado Springs to take temporary custody of her two nieces. She has no money, no job prospects, and no idea how to be a mother to two little girls, but she isn’t about to let that stop her. Nor is she about to accept the help of Kevin Grantham, her handsome new neighbor, who seems to think she’s incapable of doing anything on her own.
Fun, compelling, and romantic, Prejudice Meets Pride is the story of a guy who thinks he has it all figured out and a girl who isn’t afraid to show him that he doesn’t. It’s about learning what it means to trust, figuring out how to give and to take, and realizing that not everyone gets to pick the person they fall in love with. Sometimes, love picks them.

RachaelAuthor Rachael Anderson
USA Today bestselling author Rachael Anderson is the mother of four and is pretty good at breaking up fights, or at least sending guilty parties to their rooms. She can’t sing, doesn’t dance, and despises tragedies. But she recently figured out how yeast works and can now make homemade bread, which she is really good at eating.
$25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Giveaway
Open Internationally
Ends 3/31/14
Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Inspired Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

April's North Texas Romance Writers of America President's Letter

Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.
I'm going to tell you an ugly story about myself.

In my childhood it was a common occurrence to have strange kids show up in our backyard. My dad had refurbished our garage into a beautiful Chiropractic clinic, which meant that the kids of his patients could go out back to play while their parents were getting their spines cracked.

When I was around 13, my friends and I went out back to jump on the trampoline. There were these girls around our age just sitting there, staring blankly, not talking.

We tried to talk to them but they wouldn't say a word.

Here's the ugly part. Since they wouldn't talk to us, and well, were beyond weird, we started making fun of them, saying things like "why you so sad?" in baby voices. We were brats. The 3 girls never responded.

When we went inside, my mom stopped us at the door and began telling us how those poor girls just an hour before had been bike riding and saw their friend hit and dragged behind a car, instantly killed.

I've never felt more worthless than I did at that moment.


It's been close to four decades but I still remember that sharp lurch of shame. It taught me two things:

First, I never wanted to be responsible for hurting anyone like that again.
Second, I don't know a damn thing about what is going on inside another person.

Fast forward. The day I first walked into La Hacienda Ranch where the North Texas Romance Writers of America group meets, I had a chronically ill child, mounting medical bills, stupid job I hated, overwhelmed husband, and I just wanted a place I could leave that behind for a few hours. I didn't share anything about my personal life with anyone. I just wanted to be treated like a normal person.

I tell you this because you never never know what that writer smiling and sitting next to you is dealing with. Some of us will tell anybody who wants to listen. Others, like myself, keep it quiet. At North Texas, we have members dealing with divorce, with ailing parents, ailing spouses, health, emotional, or mental issues at home, cancer scares and cancer realities. We have members worried about their children, worried about finances, struggling with inadequacies when everyone around them seems successful.

We have members who have lost their spark for writing and want it back. We have members who are so hopeful their faces shine with it. We have members who have been rejected, rejected, rejected and manage to climb back up that hill.

We have members that for them our meetings are their only few hours a month where they get to feel like a normal person.

I am so inspired and impressed by you. At your sincere willingness to encourage each other. To support each other. You're truly happy for each other's successes and sad when things don't go a writer's way. I love that about North Texas. This group has unknowingly gotten me through some of the worst times of my life. I'm proud to call you friends. Keep it up for each other. Continue to be supportive and encouraging.

Let us always be hopeful and helpful.
May we continue to be kind to each other.
And when we fail in that, because we sometimes will, being human and all that, cultivate forgiveness and allow us a chance to do better. Because like I said, we don't know what is going on inside another person or what they are struggling with.

I love you guys, truly, and am honored to be counted among you.


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