Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

I'm lucky I'm scheduled to post on holidays -- so easy!

Hope you're having a great holiday or vacation or Christmas or whatever you celebrate. See you in 2015!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Spider -- Dawn Marie Hamilton

Here is a little Christmas story I hope will make you smile…

When I was young, my mother gave me an ornament each Christmas for my hope chest. Remember those? When I moved out of the family home and into an apartment, she made this ornament for my first Christmas tree. Along with the delicate spider ornament came a story:

Once upon a time, far to the north, snowflakes drifted past frosted windows. Inside, a good mother busily cleaned the house, for 'twas Christmas eve. On the morrow, Christmas day, the most wonderful day of the year, the little Christ child would come to bless the house. When she finished, not a speck of dust remained. Even the spiders had fled their cozy corner on the ceiling to hide in the attic.

Beautiful ornaments adorned the Christmas tree. The children gathered round, clasped hands and sang blessed songs. While the family enjoyed the evening festivities, the spiders became frantic, for they couldn't see the tree, nor be present for the Christ child's visit. The oldest and wisest among them suggested they wait until the family slept then sneak below stairs.

At midnight, the house darkened and fell silent. The spiders crept from their hiding place, crept down the stairs, crept to the tree. Delighted with its beauty, they scurried all over the tree, up and down, over and under braches, viewing all the precious decorations.

The spiders loved the Christmas tree. For the remainder of the night, they danced amongst the branches, leaving the needles covered with webs. When the Christ child arrived in the morning to bless the house, he was amazed yet disturbed. He loved the little spiders, for they were God's creatures, but the mother worked hard to make everything perfect and would be disheartened when she saw what the spiders had done.

With love in his heart and a smile on his lips, the Christ child touched the spider webs. The webs sparkled and shined, turning a shimmering silver, like tinsel.

Thus a legend was born: A spider among the Christmas tree decorations brings good fortune.


Do you have a favorite Christmas ornament? A favorite Christmas tale?


Here is another Christmas tale dear to my heart...

Available at Amazon for Kindle
and in trade paperback.
 FREE with Kindle Unlimited.
Can a determined brownie craft a perfect match in time for Christmas?

Just in Time for a Highland Christmas--a Scottish historical time travel romance with Highlanders, scheming faeries, a mischievous brownie, magic, adventure, and romance set in 16th century Scotland and the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

When the Chief of Clan MacLachlan travels to the stronghold of his feuding neighbors to fetch his betrothed, she is gone. A year later, she is still missing. Making life more vexing, a band of reivers are stealing clan cattle, leaving behind destruction. Archibald MacLachlan determines to capture them and administer harsh punishment.

Though once in love with the man, Isobell Lamont refuses to wed her clan's enemy. After running away, she joins the band of reivers set on revenge.

Can Archibald forgive the raven-haired beauty? Will a journey through time bring them together for a Highland Christmas?


Merry Christmas!

~Dawn Marie

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I Love Christmas

I love Christmas. I mean I know other people love the holiday too, but I REALLY love Christmas time. I always have, from the time I was a little girl, right up to the present. I love the lights, the music, the smells, the food, and the excitement. I love presents, making them, shopping for them, giving them and getting them.

I even enjoy wrapping presents if I have enough paper, tape, and something fun to watch on TV when I’m doing it.

This love I have for this holiday transfers into the stories I write. In fact, of the thirty plus titles I’ve written, five take place during the holidays. Two are contemporary romances, two more are paranormal, and I even have a Christmas on Mars story called "Reflecting The Future" with Ellora's Cave. But I'm going to focus on three of the stories that I have available this season.

includes "Just A Little Christmas"
The first is “Just A Little Christmas”, a short story I put into two anthologies, The Lizard’s Tail and Candy Cane Kisses and EnchantedEmbraces, the cover of which I'm showing here. This is the story of a job-less woman on a budget fixing up her neighbor’s discarded artificial tree so her children can have a nice holiday this year. The result is a new job and a blooming romance with the guy across the street.

Ghosts Of Christmas Past is a paranormal story, part of my Hollywood After Dark series with vampires and werewolves and humans with psychic abilities. In this case, the psychic doesn’t know she has mental powers until the vampire hero literally snatches her from mid-air after she falls off a roof. Both characters have "ghosts", bad memories that spoil the holiday for them, but together they work out a way to banish those ghosts forever. The story is sexier than some of my other work, but it has a nice message to it and is one of my favorites.

The second contemporary story is Christmas With Sarah. This is a full novel I wrote a few years ago set mostly in the Silicon Valley. At the start the Molly is an artist living Big Sur and working as a waitress to make ends meet since her art isn’t selling. She doesn't want anything to do with worthless men with no purpose in their lives, but there is this motorcycle rider, Greg, with a little girl in his sidecar, and while Molly isn't sure she wants to get close to the Greg, she’s fallen in love with Sarah, his daughter. Molly gets persuaded to come back to Greg’s home to take care of his daughter and ends up creating a wonderful holiday for all three of them.

All of my stories have a little humor and a lot of warmth. As my gift to you, all three of the stories will be at the bargain price of 99 cents during the holidays, even the full novel. 

So happy holidays everyone!

Cheers, Janet Miller/Cricket Starr

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Serendipity, A Friend to My Suspense Novels by Rolynn Anderson

Why do fiction authors strain to be authentic?  Seems paradoxical, doesn’t it…but true.  Made up stories laced with accuracy?  You bet.  My brother writes non-fiction books, built brick by brick with carefully researched facts, but I’ll bet I do as much research to authenticate my fiction novels as he does.  We both yearn to have our readers believe that what we say is the truth.

Archives are our bread and butter, but serendipity makes our research exciting, especially to this writer, who composes from the seat of her pants.  Heck, I never know what I’m going to write until I sit down at my computer!

Here’s an example.  I’m surprised to be writing about people caught in a forest fire, an experience I’ve gladly never suffered.  I learn from Google sources that caught in a forest fire, my characters must stay low and head downhill to water.  The thing is, I’d sent my characters to a specific local area that may or may not be a place where a forest fire might happen.   Have I written myself into a corner?  Will I have to change the setting of the whole book, requiring hours of rewriting?

So I check the local fire department records for past fires.  Two years ago, a brushfire swept the exact area I’d chosen for my nail-biting scene to take place-two years ago.  The conflagration burnt more than a thousand acres, with hundreds of firefighters, fire trucks, a helicopter and a fixed wing plane helping to put it out.  Camping grounds had to be evacuated and roads closed as the forest service controlled the fire.

Can you believe my luck? I’d already inserted a helicopter in my scene, but newspaper articles about the event gave me names of roads (I didn’t have to make up), numbers of acres burned, and other details I could use verbatim!

How I love being an author when serendipity sits with me in my desk chair.  Have you got a lucky story to tell about when your made-up facts and reality aligned in such a magical way?

Speaking of magic, my third book in the boutique funeral planner series, will come out early in 2015.  Catch up on the suspense by reading FADEOUT, the first book in the series:

More on my website:

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Time to start thinking about those New Year's resolutions

Mine are going to be pretty much the same as they've always been: keep up the exercise, watch what I eat, write as much as I can, and enjoy myself daily.

Hmm. A self-improvement resolution? Let's see. Okay, I'm going to tackle something I don't enjoy and learn to enjoy it. Promotion, the P word. I'm going to tackle that in 2015 and see where it takes me. With 25 books out, you'd think I'd have some good ideas about that, but no, I really don't.

So there you have it. 2015 resolutions. I'll update you in mid-year and see where we're at. Or not, as the case may be!


Saturday, November 22, 2014

New Holiday Novella! Just in Time for a Highland Christmas -- Excerpt

I'm very excited to announce the release of my new holiday novella from the Highland Gardens series, Just in Time for a Highland Christmas...

Just in Time for a Highland Christmas
A Highland Gardens Novella
Book #2.5

e-Book available from Amazon
for an introductory 99 pennies
until December 1st.

Can a determined brownie craft a perfect match in time for Christmas?

When the Chief of Clan MacLachlan travels to the stronghold of his feuding neighbors to fetch his betrothed, she is gone. A year later, she is still missing. Making life more vexing, a band of reivers are stealing clan cattle, leaving behind destruction. Archibald MacLachlan determines to capture them and administer harsh punishment.

Though once in love with the man, Isobell Lamont refuses to wed her clan's enemy. After running away, she joins the band of reivers set on revenge.

Can Archibald forgive the raven-haired beauty? Will a journey through time bring them together for a Highland Christmas?

Just in Time for a Highland Christmas, a Scottish historical time travel romance, is 101 pages of Highlanders, scheming faeries, a mischievous brownie, magic, adventure, and romance set in 16th century Scotland and the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

Read an excerpt... 

The fae are causing havoc again. Munn, the MacLachlan clan brownie, is determined to bring the unlikely couple together...

Munn entered the council chamber and grinned.

Maids and gillies hurried to and fro, making ready for the wedding feast that would take place after the pledging of vows. He was sure the chief was up to the task of bedding the lass and planting his seed. The third match would be complete. Caitrina would be free to return to Tir-nan-Og—the fae land o’ heart’s desire—and the MacLachlan clan would be blessed.

He was certain the lass would come around and pledge her troth to Archibald along with her love. If she continued to refuse, Caitrina would do something to make the lass change her mind.

Lines furrowed his forehead as his skin started to itch. Caitrina’s unusual fae scent, a combination of peony, freesia, and sandalwood perfumed the air before she shimmered into corporal form in front of him.

“You were wrong,” she said without preamble.

“Dinnae tease.”

“Oonagh returned from the sojourn in Ireland and provided the players for the last match.”

“Archibald and Isobell,” Munn said. “Admit I was right.”


He frowned. “Then who?”

“Nae concern of yours.” Caitrina faded.

“Wait! You must help with Archibald and Isobell.”

“Not my problem.” And she was gone. Vanished to another time and place.

Damn Caitrina. Munn huffed. What was he to do? Archibald and Isobell needed to be matched. ’Twas their destiny.

Munn crossed arms over his chest and scowled. Why was the lass resisting? Archibald was a man with a full head of hair and numerous teeth. Did she think she could do better?

Bah! The chief should drop her into the pit to linger for a long while. At least until she cowered like a proper wife. Munn scratched his chin and scoffed. None of the other wives he kenned were submissive to their men. The Highlanders grew weak. Led around by lasses in skirts.

He shook his head. ’Twas a damn shame.

Ach, he needed to think. Invisible to the others in the hall, he paced from the chief’s table to the aumbry, one end of the council chamber to the other and back, and again.

An argument near the hearth rumbled in the background. Archibald and the Lamont disagreeing yet again on how to handle Isobell’s rebellious ways. Another stubborn lass came to mind—Lady Laurie.

Try the wine. Spontaneous inspiration came over Munn. Why hadn’t he thought of it sooner? He spun in a circle and travelled to another part of the castle.

~Dawn Marie

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Hire me! I'm a novelist.

I am past the halfway point of building a new website for my soup business.

Pitch phrases are easy to call up. I repeat them regularly at craft shows and to interested shopkeepers.
Some sound essential: I can't be too creative with "add to 7 cups of water" without sounding like a nutcase. "Stand on a kitchen chair holding a full pot of water and pour the water into a narrow-necked bottle sitting on the floor," isn't good advice.

I can be a bit more creative with the "About" page. I rewrote that completely, giving a thumbnail history of my gardening-preserving-cooking journey.

Customers have commented that I must have a background in marketing- specifically copy writing.
I don't. I've had no training except for a good education in grammar and literature--and novel writing. The descriptive skills of a novelist are useful. That mental thesaurus, which stores ten choices that mean "tastes good."

Other endeavors benefit from a writer's word-smithing. Have you parlayed your skill with words into useful cash? Does your day job require the ability to construct understandable messages?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

**You can sign up for my newsletter here.**

CMS FB Banner 851px315p Test01

In less than two weeks we will celebrate Thanksgiving. This year, I have so much to be grateful for. The two boxes I offered you last month have become USA Today Bestsellers.
From sweet to sexy, suspense to small town drama, travel from Belarus to Africa to the snowy Highlands of Scotland as Santa delivers our gift to you—love, laughter and happiness this Christmas!

SRR Xmas

Warm your heart with 14 Sweet Christmas Kisses, a bundle of PG-rated romance novels and novellas from USA Today bestselling authors.

preliminary Xmas 2014
And now, back by popular demand.
This holiday season, you'll find the Spirit of Main Street alive and well in a wonderful collection of twelve holiday romances, CHRISTMAS on MAIN STREET Box Set.
Nobody’s Cinderella by Joan Reeves, Award-Winning and National Bestselling Author.
A Snowy Christmas in Wyoming by E. Ayers, National Bestselling Author.
What if...this Christmas by Kelly Rae, National Bestselling Author.
The Christmas Wish by Tori Scot, Award-Winning and National Bestselling Author.
Her Christmas Cruise by Mona Risk, USA Today Bestselling Author.
The Christmas Con by Jill James, National Bestselling Author.
A Light in the Christmas Cafe by Kristy Tate, Award-Winning and National Bestselling Author.
A Potters Wood Christmas by Leigh Morgan, National Bestselling Author.
A Smoky Mountain Christmas by Carol DeVaney, National Bestselling Author.
The Christmas Gift by Pepper Phillips, Award-Winning and National Bestselling Author.
Small Town Glamour Girl Christmas by Stephanie Queen, USA Today Bestselling Author.
A Baby for Christmas by Susan R. Hughes, National Bestselling Author.
Decorating on Main Street is our companion book to Christmas on Main Street boxed set and our gift to you. Here we have gathered our favorite holiday crafts and traditions to share with you.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner and relax with a cozy box of books to read.
And keep in touch at:
Twiter @MonaRiskS
Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving and Happy Reading,
Best Regards,
Mona Risk
USA Today Bestselling Author
OUTSTANDING ACHIEVER, Affaire de Coeur Magazine:
BEST ROMANCE NOVEL: Preditors & Editors.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Building a Box Set

Recently I’ve been trying something new in promotion, the multi-author box set. It started when Mark Coker came to visit my RWA group and told us about an Apple promotion that his company Smashwords was part of, where they were soliciting multiple author box sets, collections of books by several authors with a common theme to be offered for 99 cents. I’m sure anyone who is on a mailing list for Kindle, or any other kind of ebook, has seen ads for these collections. They frequently have a 3-D cover like this one, making it clear that it consists of multiple authors.

Obviously at 99 cents, particularly when split between large numbers of authors, this kind of project is not likely to result in a lot of money per person. What it is supposed to do is appeal to a large group of people, many, if not most of whom, are not familiar with your writing. In this way you should be able to pick up some number of new fans. Also there is the possibility of getting so many people to buy this bargain collection that you can actually get on one of the major best-seller lists, such as Amazon top 100, USA Today or even the New York Time Best-sellers list. Once that happens any author in the collection can legitimately add the title “New York Times Best-selling Author” to their cover. The last, of course, is the brass ring, and unless there are already a couple of NYT bestselling authors in the box set, the chances of it happening are pretty slim.  

The USA Today list is a little more likely. In fact I checked today and found at #133 a box set called “Ten Christmas Brides” by Ruth Cardello, Nina Bruhns, Donna Fasano, Rebecca York, Helen Scott Taylor, Patrice Wilton, Mona Risk, Annie Jones, Alicia Street, Mimi Barbour. I recognize more than a few of those names, but there are a few on there that I expect will now be adding that USA Today Best-seller label to their accomplishments.

This is the reasoning behind taking a novel you are already selling and packaging it for sale with other authors for a bargain price. There is a slim chance you will hit a best-seller list, but you are very likely to get more attention. And since box sets are intended to be bargains there isn’t the stigma of “giving your book away”. Does it make sense if you only have one title out to put that in the box set? Unless you are building a name and are going to release additional books in the near future, probably not. But it can make sense if you have multiple other titles in the same genre.

I’m currently in two such box sets. The first is the Apple promotion that I mentioned first. This was hastily assembled with two other authors who also had fantasy/paranormal romances. I added my futuristic romance, Promises To Keep, and we titled it “Rogues In Time” to link in that the stories take place in multiple time periods, the other two being distant past and modern day.

One of the other authors did the cover and formatted the stories together for Smashwords, I put together an author agreement to cover the length of time the box set was to be in existence, about three months, and we uploaded the book. It got into the Apple promotion, and we all tweeted out the news and mentioned it on Facebook. Sales are coming in, but our expectations at this point are pretty modest. Some of that is with three authors rather than 10 we aren’t quite as attractive as the other sets on the Apple page, and we got into the promotion somewhat later, missing the initial excitement. We’ll see where things are in January.

The second box set has been an interesting experience. First of all it is holiday themed, which is very timely. People buy Christmas and other holiday related stories at Christmas time. Always have, and very likely always will. This is a collection of 10 shorter works by members of my RWA chapter and some other local authors, primarily in the Bay area. I was taking a cover art class and used the box set as a class project so I needed a title to work with. The first title we picked was “West Coast Holidays” but we ultimately opted for Candy Cane Kisses as a more clever title. It got expanded to Candy Cane Kisses and Enchanted Embraces when we added several paranormal stories to the mix. I won’t go into a description of the discussions that were had over the title and ultimately the cover, other than it is interesting how ten different people can see the same project in so many ways. But we finally settled on the title and a cover that we could live with.

And now comes the promotion. It turns out that we have some very experienced people on the team who have run book campaigns in the past. Under their guidance a Facebook page was set up along with the designated hashtag #KissesEmbraces, which has been central in our promotion efforts. We have held a pre-order Facebook party, complete with prizes, we've created daily posts to the Facebook page for the box set, with themes like #MistletoeMonday and #FestiveFriday (the latter was my favorite because it was all recipes!). We even have a Grand Prize raffle that people can enter. Prizes are donated by the authors and we all chipped in some cash to cover the promotion costs.

This Monday, November 17th, is the actual release of the box set, meaning the links that are at the moment pre-order will become order buttons, and everyone who already bought a copy will receive their books.  Once more, we are having a Facebook party from 4:00PM to 7:00PM (I'll be there at 6:30 until the end) to celebrate, again with prizes and a lot of fun, so be sure to check it out!

I check the Amazon rank of the set on a daily basis. At the moment is at #10,220 Paid, which isn’t bad.

Oh and here are the buy links:

I’ll let you know more next month on how the box sets are doing, as well as tell you about my other Christmas books. Right now I have to put together a Facebook post for Monday’s release party and find a picture to use. Never a dull moment when promoting a box set.

Janet Miller