Growing Season is what I like to call a "quiet" feel-good story. Some feel-good books are very dramatic, and don't get me wrong, I love that. Sometimes, though, a book comes along with subtleties that make the reader think and feel, more than anticipate. (Again, nothing wrong with anticipation!) I was happy to just be in the story with Melinda Foster, who was laid off from her job in Minneapolis and returned to her home town in rural Iowa to nurse her wounds while helping her family. I thoroughly enjoyed watching Melinda learn how to bring her rented farm and garden back to life, with the help of new friends and neighbors. The rhythm of small town life is enchanting, and the author does a great job of evoking a rural setting. Yes, everyone was very nice in this story, but in these dark times in our nation--a global pandemic and civic unrest--nice goes an awfully long way. There are seven books in this series, and I can wait to read the next one.
A typical day of being a full-time author when I am about to release one book and start another:
7 am: Rise and shine; feed the dog (husband walks the dog!)
8 am to 6:30 pm: Edit the Summer manuscript (again!) before it goes to the editor/proofreader. A few breaks during that time. I have to eat, stretch and take the dog out!
6:30 pm: Social media; listen to music; watch news; dinner
8 pm: Update the Finch’s Crossing Style Guide
8:30 pm: Continue to plot Winter
9 pm: Brainstorm ideas with hubby over a glass of wine.
9:30 p.m: Read
10:00 pm: Lights out!
I use a mini-binder planning system, with planning pages that I have customized over the years, based on what I'm doing at the time. Currently my planner includes a monthly overview of daily word counts and other milestones; a weekly overview and daily tasks list, plus a weekly social media action plan. The mini binder and tabs come from Russell+Hazel stationers.
This weekend I started writing letters to residents of senior care homes in North Carolina as part of a pen pal initiative I saw on Facebook. This made me reflect on how much I love to write notes and letters. When my husband and I moved away from his family 7 years ago, I started writing weekly letters to his mother and aunt. Now I probably average 40 letters a year to each of them. It has helped us stay connected across the miles. A letter that comes in the mail enriches a person's life far beyond opening and reading it! My stationery box is one of my most loved and revered possessions. I inherited it from my mother (also a prolific letter writer) when she died in 2012. It's pictured here. Enjoy!
PS I also made a video about this box and all its treasures!
I can't believe another three months has passed since I updated my Kanban board with my 90-day goals. (Kanban is Japanese for sign board and is used to manage systems and projects--see visual example) I updated it yesterday for June 1-Sept. 1.
(1) Complete Finch's Crossing Book Three, Summer, and publish on all platforms. (It's currently available for pre-order). You can read an excerpt here.
(2) Write 12,000 words on Finch's Crossing Book Four, Winter.
(3) Write 12,000 words on my new series (Shh! It's a secret for now) and do cover design research.
4) Run three special promos and giveaways,
(5) Continue Facebook ads and audience/demographics research.
There...now it's all out in the open and I have no choice but to meet the goals! :) Please heIp me keep it real people!
I am forever indebted to the amazing Sarra Cannon of Heart Breathings for sharing how she uses a Kanban board to steer her writing career.
I released Spring, the second book in my Finch's Crossing series, in a pandemic. Somehow, it didn't feel right to promote it, so I'm giving away free ebooks on May 2 and 3, 2002. Get your copy today!
Spring Hamilton is a born planner with one foot in the exciting future she’s creating for herself. Gabe Vignarolli lives in the moment. Oh, and he broke her heart two decades earlier. If Spring gives him a second chance, it will also be his last.
On the way to a new life in New York City, Spring detours to Finch’s Crossing for a quick visit with her sister Autumn. But a chance encounter with Gabe changes everything. As Spring and Gabe rekindle their love, one week turns into two and then three. Spring postpones her move to New York to be with Gabe and help with Autumn’s unexpected wedding. The coziness of small-town life begins to take root in Spring’s heart. But when she is unwittingly launched into reckless circumstances she never could have predicted, she packs her bags to get as far away from Gabe as possible.
To further complicate matters, a faceless bully is wreaking havoc on the town with a flurry of poison pen letters, threatening to reveal the residents’ darkest secrets. Is it too coincidental that the letters began as soon as Spring arrived? And Gabe, hiding a stunning secret of his own, hopes no one, especially the cruel letter writer, discovers it.
If you’re inspired by second-chance love stories, then you will love this second book in the Finch’s Crossing small-town fiction series.
Read an Excerpt
Buy the Book
Those Summer NIghts, book five in the Oyster Bay series, is the first Olivia Miles book I’ve read, but it won’t be my last. And I certainly want to go back to the beginning of the series and start with book one. I was immediately drawn in by the quaintness and home-town vibe of Oyster Bay, situated on the coast of Maine, where this story mostly plays out. The town is cozy, with rich and vibrant descriptions of the community and geography. There is also a compelling plot line taking place simultaneously in California, which only serves to strengthen the overall story. Readers will love the main characters in this romance, as they are well developed and likeable. Evie, an advice columnist, and Liam, who Evie thinks is just visiting Oyster Bay, are highly relatable and behave in ways readers will find familiar. Miles explores human relationships—relationships between family members, love interests, and friends—in a delightful way. The author’s ability to incorporate humor adds another pleasing dimension to the book. Even the stodgiest curmudgeon will laugh out loud at some of the scenes.
Olivia Miles also does a great job of placing dramatic elements throughout the book, making it an exceptionally pleasant reading experience. Many chapters have a surprise you never saw coming (at least I didn’t), and there are some mini-cliffhangers in there, too.
The characters are all subject to internal struggles, less than ideal circumstances, tragedy, and suffering. But what makes Miles’ characters special is that readers will get the sense that they can all overcome—that they can rise to any occasion. Which means her characters can also experience great joy and happiness, as they should in a novel of this genre. If you love cozy and clean romances as much as I do, you will love this book. I know I did.
Connect with Olivia and learn more about her and her books!
Discouragement may seem like an odd choice for the first post of a new year and a new decade, but I have found that sometimes looking at a dark time helps me remember the light.
But first, a story.
I recently read the book Chop Wood Carry Water, by Joshua Medcalf. In it the author tells the story of a witch who is retiring and selling her “tools” at a garage sale. Towards the end of the sale a man tries to purchase the last remaining tool. The witch takes it from the man, inspects it, and tells him she had mistakenly put it out to be sold, and because it is the most powerful tool of all, she can never sell it. That tool was discouragement.
There were several months last year when I was so discouraged I didn’t write or tend to any of my writing-related tasks, such as promoting my books, writing blog posts, reading about my craft and encouraging other indie authors by buying and reviewing their books.
Discouragement is indeed an all-powerful force, and for me it was truly paralyzing. As I went through my funk I tried to ascertain the source of my discouragement, and this is what I came up with: Amazon had changed its algorithm for how it places book advertisements, and because I relied so heavily on Amazon ads, my sales took a hit. It was hard to watch other indie writers crank out books and sell them faster than they could write them. With fewer sales and fewer reviews, I felt like I was writing into a black hole. Was anyone listening? Was anyone even reading my books? I felt alone. But I knew had the choice of what I could do with my discouragement. I could either prolong the pity party, or I could do something about it.
It took me two months to get back on the wagon and whip myself into shape. I wish it hadn’t taken me so long, but that sentiment serves no purpose. The important thing is I’m back on track and going full speed ahead. I found other places to advertise and continue to educate myself about book promotion and sales.
And while I was pulling myself up, this happened.
A reader found me on Facebook and sent me this note via messenger:
“I love love Finch’s Crossing Book One: Autumn. I haven’t even finished reading it yet. Meanwhile, I’m hoping to read your Finch’s Crossing Book Two: Spring, soon. When is it coming out?”
We corresponded for a while and she continued to tell me that when she finished reading Autumn, she cried on the train ride home from work, which in turn made me cry.
Someone was reading.
It was wonderful to receive this jolt of appreciation, and the idea that I had touched at least one person with my writing was truly a gift. I thanked my new fan and she responded:
“Just know that there ARE people like me reading your books and find immense joy in your stories. The book Autumn really moved me and I can’t wait for Spring to come out.”
And if some days it feels like I’m only writing for this one, wonderful reader who reached out to me, that’s fine. The important thing is to keep moving forward. I’ll release my second Finch’s Crossing book in a few months. The third in the series will be out in July, and I’ll release the first book in a spin-off series around the same time.
That’s the thing about taking action. The more you do, well, the more you do.
And when I find myself dipping again into discouragement, I remind myself:
And of course, I’ve saved screenshots of the messages from my Number One Fan. They are a powerful reminder of why I started writing in the first place. And no algorithm can take that away from me.
One thing I love about the holidays is that I can share my love of reading and all things book-related through gift giving. In my holiday message to readers I share information about the presents I'm giving this year, plus some tips for gifting ebooks. Click here to read more!
I wish you and yours the happiest of holidays filled with stories that inspire and delight you.
Sara When She Chooses is a book about a young girl, her ties to a mysterious heritage and a choice that has the potential to change her life. The novel is written for readers ages nine to twelve, but I enjoyed it as an adult reader.
Every summer, eleven-year-old Sara is sent to spend a few weeks with her grandmother in the deep, deep bayou where there is no electricity or other links to the outside world. World building is obviously a strength of author Cat Jenkins, who creates a lush, mysterious environment that slowly begins to reveal itself to Sarah in unexpected ways. It is thus that Sara realizes she has special gifts, and that her visits to her grandmother are not mere social visits. She is there to learn and grow her unusual talents. She is there to choose the path she will take for the rest of her life.
The author skillfully leads the reader until we willingly suspend disbelief and enter the main character’s fantastical world, comprised of a crew of imaginative, mythical creatures, each with its own quirks and purpose.
I particularly enjoyed the dialogue, especially that of Sara’s grandmother. It is authentically homespun—not an easy achievement, especially because the author carries the thread very well throughout the entire book.
I really hope there will be a sequel because at the end.... Well. You’ll see what I mean when you get there!