Friday, June 8, 2012


My guest is western romance author Joanne Kennedy. She shares with us her recent battle with Chronic Painhow she's coped with it and distractions that have helped.

Sometimes when the going gets tough, the tough need a little escape from reality. That’s why I love romance novels. There’s nothing like plunging into the glittering world of the Regency era, joining hunky Navy S.E.A.L.s on a stateside mission, or riding the range with a hot hunky cowboy to take your mind off your troubles.

Once in a while, I hear from a reader who says my books helped them through a difficult time. Writing stories that offer solace when someone is ill or dealing with loss gives my work a whole new purpose.

But this year, the roles were reversed: It was knowing that there were readers out there waiting for my stories that kept me going through my own tough times. Because last year I joined the estimated 35 million Americans who suffer from chronic pain. 

It’s not easy to admit to this. I feel like I’m coming out of some dark closet, or admitting to alcoholism. Though there shouldn’t be a stigma surrounding something you can’t help, we instinctively keep pain hidden, like an injured animal who crawls off and hides so no one will see his vulnerability. We don’t want to risk being dismissed as neurotics or hypochondriacs. Besides, we all know the surest way to end a conversation is to answer the question “how are you” honestly.

In some ways, I was lucky. The source of my pain was obvious—jaw joints severely degenerated from arthritis, and two discs in my neck that protruded into my spinal cord. So nobody dismissed my pain, and there were concrete solutions. But millions of people, especially women, suffer from illnesses like fibromyalgia that are more or less invisible. In addition to being in pain, they have to deal with the fact that some folks—sometimes family and friends, and even doctors—don’t believe their suffering is real.

That’s why those of us who deal with chronic pain need to talk, not about the problem but about the solution. And the first solution is the talking itself, because it’s hard to solve a secret.

The best solution I’ve found is distraction, and the best distraction is creativity. The only really bad days were the days when I couldn’t perform the physical task of writing. For two weeks after my neck surgery, I couldn’t type; I could barely hold up a paperback book and read. All I can say is thank God for podcasts and audio books! They kept me sane.

Once I could write again, I could escape reality and lose myself in my characters and their world. My heroine in Cowboy Crazy is a little troubled and angsty, probably because of how I was feeling when I wrote the book. But rodeo cowboy Lane Carrigan helped her through her tough times, and he helped me, too.

All things happen for a reason, and I learned a lot from this experience. I learned that it’s important to have balance in your life—to get up and walk rather than spending eight straight hours at the computer. I learned that it’s important to listen to your body, and make adjustments when it gives you a little twinge to remind you you’re not taking care of it. I learned to keep trying, to persevere and never give up. Recently I found a doctor who’s able to help me, and I feel like I’m finally on the road to recovery.

Most of all, I learned to appreciate what I do and the people who allow me to do it. Thank you to all my readers for keeping me going. You have no idea how much it means to know you care about my stories. Because of you, the characters I love actually live out there in hearts and minds, and bringing them alive for you is what kept me going through some very difficult days.

  • What keeps you going through the hard times? Do you treat yourself to something special, lose yourself in a good book, or take off on flights of creativity? 


Sparks fly when sexy cowboys collide with determined heroines in a West filled with quirky characters and sizzling romance. Acclaimed for delivering “a fresh take on the traditional contemporary Western“ Joanne Kennedy’s books might just be your next great discovery!

From stable to boardroom…

Sarah Landon’s Ivy League scholarship transforms her from a wide-eyed country girl into a poised professional. Until she’s assigned to do damage control with the boss’s rebellious brother Lane, who’s the burr in everybody’s saddle. He’s determined to save his community from oil drilling, and she’s not going back to the ranch she left forever. Spurs will shine in this saucy romp about ranchers and roots, redemption and second chances.  EXCERPT

To purchase Joanne’s latest release, Cowboy Crazy, please visit

Joanne Kennedy is the author of four contemporary Western romances for Sourcebooks: Cowboy Trouble One Fine Cowboy, Cowboy Fever, and Tall, Dark and Cowboy. She brings a wide variety of experience, ranging from chicken farming to horse training, to her sexy, spicy cowboy stories. She is a 2011 finalist in the prestigious Romance Writers of American RITA© Awards, for One Fine Cowboy. Joanne lives in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where she is working on her next book, Cowboy Tough (Fall 2012). 
For more information, please visit

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


It's my pleasure to welcome back Donna MacMeans to Over Coffee. I thought it quite interesting to find that there were personal ads for finding companions and mates as early as the 1800's. Precursor to dating sites in our day. A lesson in the more things change the more they stay the same.
One commenter has the opportunity to win an autographed copy of Donna's latest release, The Casanova Code

A few years back, a friend sent me an article about Victorian personal ads:  man seeks woman, woman seeks man...yes, they had those sort of things back then, only they were more eloquent in their phrasing.  Here’s an example:

B.78 Middlesex – Age 25; fair, slight, fond of music, and a lively temperament; would like to make the acquaintance of an educated, refined man not under 30; not necessarily for marriage; wishes to correspond with a gentleman who is cultured and of a sympathetic disposition, either a business or professional man, but must be at least 30, and not more than 50; not a clergyman; a man of broad views and fond of music.July 1898

The ads make perfect sense when you think about it.  The industrial revolution brought people into the cities, expanding the population and changing the methods used to find a life partner.  Personal ads came into being about fifty years after newspapers began to widely circulate, but it wasn’t until the Victorian period that the ads became common.

Which got me thinking...(always a dangerous development)...what if someone knew that a notorious rogue was behind the placement of an ad for a quiet, unassuming female, and what if that someone felt obligated to warn any respondents of the danger they faced.  Thus my group of women determined to save other women from unscrupulous men was born - The Rake Patrol.

I discovered something interesting in my research of personal ads that helped shape the first book in my Rake Patrol series.  Sometimes the personal ads were written in code because the two correspondents didn’t want others “eavesdropping” on their otherwise public conversations. I gave my heroine, Edwina Hargrove, the ability to break code and read some of those secret conversations.  That particular talent gets her in more trouble than she ever imagined possible.


“A refined gentleman, age 25, of wealth and education, seeks the acquaintance, with a view to matrimony, of a high-minded, kind-hearted lady who prefers an evening of quiet conversation to the lively demands of society.”

Edwina Hargrove knows that this “gentleman” was, in fact, Ashton Trewelyn, a rake notorious for seducing the young and naive. In fact, five decent women have already been tricked and bundled off to the continent for scandalous purposes. There was a way to thwart his scheme though—by shadowing this devilishly handsome Casanova and warning his prey.  If only it were that simple.

Wounded and weary, Ashton Trewelyn returns home to London from the King’s Royal Rifles but soon discovers a coded message that has implications for the Crown and his family.  His only hope to unravel the mystery lies in the enigmatic Edwina’s ability to recognize patterns.  Even as he leads her on a path of secret societies and risque temptations, he discovers she arouses his jaded soul with temptations of her own.  Must they risk everything to decipher Casanova’s Code? EXCERPT

Secret Codes, secret societies, sexy heroes - what more could you want in a romance?  I had a great time writing THE CASANOVA CODE and I’m hoping your readers will enjoy it as well.  Someone leaving a comment on the blog today will win an autographed copy.

I suppose the modern equivalent of personal ads are the online dating services.  
  • Have you ever tried one?  Would you ever try one?  What attributes would you advertise for in a partner?  Would you be honest about yourself or take creative license (grin)?  Let’s chat!

(BTW, the first personal ad came from a book called “Classified, The secret history of the personal column”  written by H.G. Cocks, which according to the copyright page, stands for Harry Cocks  - Yup, you read that right.  Poor man!)

Before beginning her writing career in earnest, Donna MacMeans kept books of a different nature. A certified public accountant, she recently abandoned the exciting world of debits and credits to return to her passion: writing witty and sensuous romances. Her debut novel, The Education of Mrs. Brimley, won the 2006 Golden Heart for Best Long Historical. Her second book, The Trouble with Moonlight, won the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice award for historical love and laughter. Originally from Towson, Maryland, she now resides in central Ohio with my husband, two adult children and her kitty keyboard companion, Shadow.
Visit her website 

Monday, June 4, 2012


If you missed Part One, you can read it here.

One of my pet peeves is an author putting out a product that isn’t professional. Your name is your reputation and it’s hard to build a name and brand that represents good quality and all too easy to damage with shoddy work. 

There should be certain expectations that come with the name on the cover of the book. The reader has the right to expect to get as good a story as they would if the book was traditionally published in both content, copy, and cover art. Content editing: does the story work, does it start in the right place, is the POV correct, is there enough tension, conflict, and motivation to carry the story? A good story is so much more than having a manuscript written without errors and in perfect English (copy editing). It’s about writing to entertain a reader and that’s much more difficult. Content is everything and that’s true whether you’re a small indie publisher or self-publishing a book.

In part One, Judi spoke about the whys of self-publishing and the need for self-published authors to put out a professional story and some of the downside.
 self-publishing isn’t all wine and roses. Self-published authors now take on the role of publisher as well as author. That means no advances and all the up-front costs: Editing (story, copy, line…), a cover, formatting, ISBN, copyright, marketing. You have to be your own editor, art department, publicist, and marketer in addition to being a writer and businessperson.”  

Judi Fennell continues her thoughts on producing a professional looking product. Especially when it comes to the cover art and the technology of producing a high quality book to sell. 

Covers are arguably the best marketing tool you have after word-of-mouth. If the cover is appealing, people will “pick it up.” How many times have authors complained that their cover looks nothing like the book? I actually had to change my heroine’s hair color based on a cover because the Marketing Department loved the image they’d selected for the cover. Okay, I went with it (heck, she was a genie—she could change her hair color at will if she wanted), but guess what?

They changed the cover.

Luckily, they used another model with the same colored hair, but there you go. My vision altered. (I do love the cover, though, don’t get me wrong. And I’m fine with the hair color change; it’s just part and parcel of the TP business.)

But when I set out to do my cover for Beauty and The Best I knew there were elements I wanted on there. Definitely the hot guy. He’s headless because, sadly the face doesn’t always match the body… But I got to choose him. (And, yes, it was tough. Seriously. Think about all the hours I spent scrolling through pictures of half-naked guys. It was rough.)

I wanted to show the humor and the guardian angel element. That would be the cat with the cockeyed halo.

I wanted a white background. My work has been compared to a lot of contemporary authors whose TP covers are white, and even though this book has the guardian angel slant to it, it’s essentially a contemporary romance.

I wanted to capture Todd’s art and the paint-splattered drop cloth that plays a nice part in the story. But I couldn’t put all of these elements together.

Enter my cover artist, Kim Van Meter.

I’d done research, looked at different cover artists’ work and their turnaround times, and Kim was the one I went with, but there are others out there who do work that is just as amazing. I love the cover and have gotten awesome feedback from readers.

And it looks FABULOUS in print.

Print, you ask? How do you print books if you’re self-publishing? Doesn’t that cost an arm and a leg? Don’t you need to store thousands of books in a warehouse somewhere?

No. You don’t.

I use Createspace for my print versions and, while the books are a little more expensive than TP print books, readers who want the books in physical form are getting an awesome product (if I do say so myself). It’s gorgeous.

So how does one actually self-publish?

Write the story. I can’t stress that enough. You can spend hours, days, weeks, on the other aspects, but if you don’t have the story, you’re wasting your time. Use beta readers to get the story as best as it can be. Then hire an editor. Edit your book. Make it the best it can be. Those people who do no promoting and their books skyrocket? That’s because they’ve done their homework on the most important aspect of this business: they wrote the best book they could.

Get a cover. Whether you do it yourself or you hire someone, make this cover PROFESSIONAL looking. I can’t stress that enough. Nothing says “cheap product” than a sub-par cover. Research other books in the genre you’re writing. Take a look at the best sellers. What is it about their covers that grab your attention? Who are the cover artists? What elements do you want on your book?

Deal with the technology. Or, if you don’t want to figure out formatting and uploading and ISBNs and Bowker’s site, and whether to do KDP Select or Nook First, or free books, or giveaways… hire someone.

*** Full disclaimer: I have a formatting site: Check me out. Many satisfied REPEAT clients and reasonable prices. Referrals for other services. Excellent turnaround time. And hand-holding all the way. ***

Self-publishing is a business all on its own in addition to the writing business. That’s very important to remember. You have to switch hats from the comfortable creative author hat to something that’s maybe outside your comfort zone. Join some indie and self-pub loops; the information you can find there FOR FREE is priceless.

But most of all, write. Having one book up is nice, but it’s the multiplier factor of having more than one, especially if it’s a series, that will bump up your sales to where you might be able to leave the Day Job and focus solely on your writing. I’m not there yet, but I’m hopeful.

Am I still pursuing TP? Yes. Why, if self-publishing can be the way to Day Job and artistic freedom? Because, as with anything else, having all your eggs in one basket might not be the best thing. Publishing is constantly changing; no one knows what will happen next. I’d hate to ditch the security of a Day Job for the Wild West of Publishing only to have a tornado come along and turn that Wild West into a dustbowl. But that’s my path; it might not be yours. I know other authors who say they’ll never traditionally publish again. Why give away 64% of their royalties? It’s a compelling argument and may change my mind as I bring the next books to market. (Look for If The Shoe Fits, book #2 in the Once-Upon-A-Time Romance series after Beauty and The Best, and Through The Leaded Glass, a RenFaire time travel romance coming soon!)

You can read a short excerpt Here.

Judi Fennell has had her nose in a book and her head in some celestial realm all her life, including those early years when her mom would exhort her to "get outside!" instead of watching Bewitched or I Dream of Jeannie on television. So she did--right into Dad's hammock with her Nancy Drew books.

These days she's more likely to have her nose in her laptop and her head (and the rest of her body) at her favorite bookstore, but she's still reading, whether it be her latest manuscript or friends' books.

PRISM and Golden Leaf Award winner and ARe best-selling author, Judi loves to hear from her readers. Check out her website ( for excerpts, reviews, contests and pictures from reader and writer conferences, as well as the chance to "dive in" to her stories.