Wednesday, May 15, 2013


FYI:There won't be a blog post for Friday, May 17th, as I will be out of town. See you on Monday!

My guest is award winning romance author, Caren Crane. I've known Caren since 2007 when we both entered our books in a contest contest sponsored by Gather and Simon & Schuster. I loved Kick Start, and especially the idea of a heroine who was older than twenty, lol! I thought for sure she'd get it published since she did so well in contests with the story.
Unfortunately, receiving contest accolades or even winning doesn't guarantee being published. I asked Caren  about her experiences with contests, what some of the benefits were of entering and placing well, as well as sharing her journey to publication. 

In romance writing, there has been a lot of emphasis placed on entering, finaling in and winning writing contests. I'll admit, from the time I completed my first manuscript I was hooked on contests. I experienced a good bit of contest love from the start, which boosted my confidence in my budding skills. I'm not one to put much stock in certificates, plaques and awards, but it was nice to have them around as reminders that I didn't actually suck as bad as I sometimes felt I did.

Then I finaled in RWA's Golden Heart contest in with my manuscript Kick Start in 2006. Kick Start got a lot of contest love. Many finals and a handful of wins. I didn't win the Golden Heart, but did have a request for the full from an editor for the then-new Next line at Harlequin. They didn't buy it. They liked it and wanted to, but thought certain story elements were too similar to a book they had just bought. To say I was disappointed is a vast understatement.

In 2007, I heard was having a First Chapters writing competition where the winner would have their novel published. I was in! What I didn't realize was that the competition was a bit like American Idol. It was partially about your talent and the quality of your writing, but mostly about who you knew and how many of those people you could motivate to vote for your entry. I did semi-final in the contest, but only because I was the "editor's pick" and not because I could rally the masses. (I am still unable to rally masses to do anything. J)

By 2009, I had completed seven manuscripts and spoken to countless editors and agents. I had submitted requested (and unrequested) material to every publishing professional even remotely interested in acquiring what I wrote. While I received lots of great feedback, it became clear that what I felt compelled to write—a mix of contemporary romance and women's fiction—is apparently impossible for New York publishing houses to market. Witness Harlequin's now-defunct Next line.

By that time, I was incredibly busy with my full-time day job and trying to do the endless work associated with successfully getting my back-to-back daughters into their colleges of choice. With scholarships. That took three full years. Last fall, when the baby was deposited in her freshman dorm, my writer friends began pestering me about when I was going to start writing again. When? When? WHEN?!?

I looked around and noticed most of my friends, both traditionally published and as-yet-unpublished, were dipping their toes into the waters of indie publishing. I was a bit intimidated by all it entails, but intrigued by the fact that the author has full control of the entire process—writing, editing, selecting a book cover and creating the timeline for the whole process. My life is still quite complicated and unpredictable, so having full control over the publication process (over anything, really) appealed to me. I decided to resurrect Kick Start first, since it had done so well in its contest heyday. I endured the long, sometimes agonizing, learning curve associated with getting it updated, whipped into shape and ready to upload to booksellers.

And I realized something as I was wrestling with formatting, gutting chapters and writing new scenes to satisfy my beta readers. I really love writing again. What had become little more than drudgery and torment by 2009 is once again the thing I am most excited about. I hope people love Kick Start and all the other books I choose to publish, because it's great fun sharing my characters and their stories with the world. But most of all, I love writing them.

Contests can be wonderful to encourage your efforts, boost your spirits or get your work in front of important eyeballs. They are not, however, the be-all and end-all as I found out. 

  • So what has been your experience with contests? I would love to hear the good, the bad and the ugly!


Sometimes when life stalls right in the middle of the journey, all it needs is a Kick Start...

Linda Dowling’s husband traded her in for a younger model, and she clung to the only life and home her kids knew. Easiest thing by far when her heart was broken and her small town was filled with folks who commonly mistook their neighbor’s concerns for their own. But even in Cross Springs, NC, time moves on and heals the most grievous of wounds. Linda shakes things up, goes back to school and—gasp!—starts to date a younger man.
Suddenly everyone in Cross Springs has something to say about her life—and Linda is faced with hard choices. She has tried for years to live up to the expectations of Cross Springs’ society, but now she is remembering the girl she used to be, back before motherhood and self-doubt robbed her of her self-esteem. Should she bow to comfortable roles and old expectations? Or should she give herself a Kick Start and pursue the kind of love she never thought she would find?

All she needs is courage and a good old-fashioned Kick Start. EXCERPT


Caren Crane grew up in Nashville, TN, and as a result does not care for country music. However, she cares a great deal about family, friends and men in boots. She blames her love of reading on a childhood devoid of TV and heavy on amusing oneself. Reading books was a lot more fun than playing with Barbies and playing "library" was far superior to playing "school." When she discovered romance novels, the librarians at her local branch were horrified but Caren was delighted.

She now lives in North Carolina with her tall, handsome husband and a very chatty and irascible rescue cat. She is sometimes visited by her three grown children, who are busy having wonderful lives and only require: beds during college breaks, food, rides back to school (though a bus ticket will do) and sometimes cash. Which leaves her with lots of time to write funny, heartwarming stories set in her adopted home state, North Carolina, and to investigate the Smoky Mountains, from whence her mother's people all came. She plans to set a future series in the Smoky Mountains of her native state, Tennessee, and fill the books full of family, friends and happy-ever-after endings. Which all books should feature, in her opinion. You can find Caren on Facebook, Romance BanditsTwitter, and her website.

Monday, May 13, 2013


Hope all of you had a wonderful weekend and all you mama's had a great day. My Mother's Day was lovely. My husband served me coffee, tulips, breakfast, and a gift that was wrapped in gorgeous blue and silver. The wrapping was eye-catching almost as pretty as the gift. I was spoiled. I loved it.

Lots of mushy texts from my brothers and a few from my sisters and nieces. Spent some time with my son after he got off work and a couple of hours with my girl, Deanna and her two girls. If you've never had a manicure by a 5 year old, you're missing a treat. I did manage to avoid a total make-over, lolol! Barely.  

My mom and I giggled and laughed and that's always fun. 

My next  rose--Cherry Parfait
I had a lovely conversation about roses and lots of laughter with a good friend from Washington.  She had some great suggestion to add to my Rose garden. I love roses that smell like roses and love multicolored roses that don't take a lot of fussy care. 

Barbara Bush rose will look good too!
We also talked death and destruction of Japanese Beetles--I hate their little iridescent, rose munching selves. Death to them all, I say. I learned all about Milky Spore and where to buy it and best of all, it won't hurt the good insects like bees. Muwahaha! Take that you nasty beetle larva!

My husband and I battled lots of baby trees growing where they didn't belong and did lots of trimming of the wild and woolly flowering shrubs and hedges and we got lots of sunshine. We still haven't totally reclaimed the garden beds but we're getting close. It was a good day.

Now, I'm dragging my sorry self off to read a good book and perchance sleep. :-)

Hope you all have a great week!