North Texas Romance Writers of America President's Letter December

#GiveMas


This week on the Kidd Kraddick in the Morning Show one of the hosts Jenna Owens talked about how she’s at the point in her life where she doesn’t really want presents. If she wants something, she just goes and buys it herself. But what she does value from her friends is time spent together because in their busy lives that seems to get rarer and rarer.
So this year Jenna is spending quality time with each of her friends while they go do something to give back to the community. They decided on working at a soup kitchen for this first year and even coined the hashtag #GiveMas for anyone else who wants to share what they will be doing this season toward less spending, more giving.
This struck a chord with me because the limited time I get to spend with my sisters, my friends, my critique partners (who have become my sisters and friends), and all of you at NT is time I cherish above any tangible gift.
(Not that I don’t like presents. Who doesn’t?)

I’m beyond excited to see as many of you as can make it to our Holiday party. Some of you I haven’t seen for a long time as circumstances have made it hard to come out through the rest of the year.
But whether you make it or not, my “intangible” gifts to you all, besides the giving of my time, are these:
(This is the part where you pretend I’m the #GiveMas fairy, waving my magical wand over your collective heads.)

To you, er, I mean, y’all, I give:

An abundance of creativity and story ideas.
Continued joy and enthusiasm in the day to day craft of writing.
Confidence that what you are writing is good. Really good. Your work has paid off.
Hidden pockets of extra time to pursue your dreams.
The understanding to measure your success by whatever standard you define it for yourself.
Good writer friends to surround you with encouragement and knowledge from their own experiences.
Along with empathy and wisdom to do the same for others.
And finally, the courage and perseverance to continue the journey on whichever path or paths you decide to take.

Have a most wonderful excellent Holiday Season! It’s been my pleasure and honor to serve you this year!
  

Clover Autrey

NTRWA President 2014

Critique Partner Michelle

CPs Jen and Gina

CP Chrissy



North Texas Romance Writers of America President’s Letter November

George Washington's cabinet


George Washington didn’t feel he would make a good president. He’d already been a great general, was a favorable figurehead for the infant country, but he personally didn’t feel like he had the qualities for leadership in a political sense. So he made a wise move and surrounded himself with the brilliant men of the time, filling his cabinet with advisors the likes of Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson.
When I was approached to be the president of our group, I didn’t really feel like I had the qualities for leadership either. I said no at least five times, to little avail. I’m such a pushover, which, hello, isn’t that enough of a clue that I’m no leader?
Since I couldn’t get out of it, I borrowed Washington’s philosophy and made sure our board was made up of people who were not only extremely reliable but knew what they were doing.
And I have never been disappointed.
There hasn’t been one time that I’ve had to nudge or remind people to do their job. Seriously. They just did it. To be honest, being president this year turned out to be fairly easy.  The board and chairs did all the heavy lifting for the conference and contests and our wonderful programs and newsletters.
But the best part I learned about these people, besides their work ethic, is the genuine concern they have for our members. Countless times during our board meetings, one of the board would ask, “Is this the best thing for our members?”  
And each time I’d get a little squeeze in my heart at the genuineness of that question.
These women volunteered their time, their skills, their creativity and their knowledge, sometimes their sanity, and huge chunks of their hearts in the hope that all of us at NT have a great experience and get out of our membership something worthwhile as writers who support each other.
This Thanksgiving, I want the board and all of our volunteers to know how thankful I am for each of you.
The board has done a helluva job and I, for one, am extremely grateful and proud to be in their company. This is me standing up and applauding.
I will miss you all this month. I hope you gathered long and prospered at all your various mini retreats. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and can’t wait to see you all at our Holiday Party!!!
   

Clover Autrey

NTRWA President

Writers Wanted.

Permission to Forward: 


The 2015 Carolyn is open for entries!!!



Early bird price is $20 through December 14th. Fee goes up to $25 on December 15th.

Last year's prize was a collective ad on RT's Daily Blog page. (The banner ad there at the top.) We are planning on doing the same for next year, schedule and cost permitting.

http://ntrwareaderschoiceaward.blogspot.com/p/enter-carolyn.html


Readers: We Want You

It's that time again that The Carolyn Readers Choice Awards (CRCA) from the North Texas Romance Writers Association is gearing up and we need Readers to judge the newest, hottest, up and coming books.

Judge for the CRCA

So if you like free books, and who doesn't?, are willing to read and then fill out a short questionnaire, go to the Carolyn Readers Choice site and sign up. It's as easy as that. 

Happy Reading!!!

K Magazine

Okay so it's here...the big K Magazine article I'm featured in. November's issue.

K Magazine November

Since I don't live in Keller anymore I had to go to a bank in Keller that my chiropractor's wife told me had a bunch of copies. So I helped myself to 3 of them thank you very much.

As soon as I got in the car I opened it up and went in search. It's on page  . And wham, got hit in the face with my huge mug. The picture I'm in takes up half the page. It's not a great picture of me either. My smile is tentative or let's face it, just plain weird, and the scarf I was trying to be all fancy with went wonky, but the photo is huge and it's in a magazine and I have a fairly lengthy quote and am the first author up so all that makes up for the cheesiness! Plus my interview came off really well, like I know what I'm talking about!
I love it!

So what if I'm carrying the magazine everywhere I go and shoving it into people's faces?

The Writers Block K Magazine


You can read it at the Star Telegram site.

Plus, I've decided to take a page from the best-selling author Lilliana Hart and make the first books of each of my series free so more readers can find them. Plus I have enough books out now it shouldn't make a radical dent in my income so I'm able to do that for my readers. I'd love to say it was completely strategic on my part that those books went free right at the same time as the article, but truthfully I wasn't thinking about one thing going with the other, but wow, did it work in my favor that they did hit at the same time and the freebies soared.

Highland Sorcerer (a Highland Sorcery novel Book 1) is sitting pretty as the #1 Bestseller on Amazon's Scottish Historical Romance list. Right across from Outlander. Whoop!



#1 Bestseller Scottish Historical Romance


Ah, sighing. Just so happy about this.

Escorts upon Dying

While writing about the possible ghost in my house, I promised I'd write about the death escort I once saw.

I was eight years old. My older sister, Bekie, was ten. And our youngest brother, Brett was two. He was ill with some type of flu symptoms. He'd already been in the hospital recently, but sent home. Honestly, I was too young at the time to know exactly what was going on, but I felt the sense of my parents' worry.

We lived in a 3 bedroom house with the two kids' rooms right next to each other in the front of the house so that the windows of both rooms faced out in the same direction in our front yard. And these windows were large, expanding across the entire wall.  Bekie and I shared a room while the "little kids" all shared the room next to ours.

Anyway, one night I was in the living room doing whatever when Bekie came out of the hallway where our rooms were and whispered my name. Instantly I knew something big was up by her tone and I immediately felt her fear. "Clover, come here. There's something outside our window."

Usually I'd be the argumentative little sister, demanding, "What? Why?" Because that's just what I did before I ever budged. But just looking at her, getting that immediate onslaught of her adrenaline and that pinch to her voice, I was up and following her immediately.

We went into the hallway... following her lead of doing that spy kind of walking, you know, where you stay pressed against the wall and rush across the open doorways. Well, only one open doorway in our case, but we were small so the distance seemed huge. My pulse was on high alert when Bekie barely poked her head around the doorway to see inside our room. Moving around her I also looked in and got the shock of my life. From Bekie's behavior I knew this was something important but there was no way I was expecting anything like that.

Standing directly outside of our bedroom window, was this guy. I say a guy, but he wasn't exactly. It was dark outside and he was invisible. Well, not really invisible, but like a glowy chalk drawing that you could see the night's darkness through. Every detail, every wrinkle, every fold of his clothing, was lined in. He just stood there as still as a statue, directly in front of our room but his body was angled to face our younger brothers and sisters' room. He had a beard, wore flowy layered robes, and had his arms extended toward the little kids' room in that lowered come-give-me-a-hug type of posture.

I screamed and ran for my mom, Bekie screaming and running right alongside me, telling my mom about it. I honestly can't remember how we described him to her, though we were both descriptive little suckers so we probably told her how he glowed and was just standing there and everything. Mom didn't exactly believe us, maybe because we were generally creative. At least she didn't believe us about it being a ghost or however we described him. Or maybe she did, but didn't want to let on to us when we were already scared. She was already stressed out over my brother. She came up with it being the reflection off of a car (we lived on a busy road) or maybe someone just walking across our yard.

But no, we didn't see anything vague. We knew what we saw and it wasn't a flash of light. This guy/ghost/angel/whatever you want to call him was clear and in detail. Forty years later I still see him clearly.

Regardless of what Mom thought, she knew we'd seen something even though she couldn't see him when Bekie and I both were looking right at him. We were so adamant and scared that she grabbed the flashlight and took us outside to ease our fears. Uh, nope, didn't help. I don't know if he was still there while we were outside because I refused to look. I had my face pressed into my mom's hip, holding on to her for dear life while we three shuffle-stepped right over the spot we told our mom the guy was. I'm not sure if Bekie looked either or kept her face buried as well. I'll have to ask her.

My mom never did see him, but when we went inside and sneaked a peek out the window, he hadn't moved a muscle. He never looked at us or anything, just stood there staring at the other window.

At bedtime, we had both run to our beds and pulled the covers over our heads, and then argued about who should close the curtains. Our curtains didn't have a draw string so had to be closed manually. Neither of us wanted to expose ourselves to the ghost's view (not that he ever looked at us) but I wasn't going to do it. So even as she wailed that she was the oldest so the ghost probably wanted her, Bekie walked across the dressers in front of the window, pushing it closed as she hid behind the curtain as she went.

In the morning we woke up to very large men in our house (paramedics), scrambling, and then rushing out the door, leaving the rest of us kids with some neighbors who were also there. I remember looking out the door, seeing an ambulance pull out.

My little brother died on the way to the hospital.

That night the invisible man was gone.

Afterwards my parents wanted to know every detail of the guy, what they said must have been an angel coming to take Brett home. I know it gives them comfort to believe that.

Truthfully it gives me comfort too and I do believe that. I want to believe that. However at the time, it was scary. And the after effects weren't so great either. I wouldn't go into my room alone. If someone was with me (even one of the younger kids--like they could save me--yes I'm rolling my eyes at the logic) I was fine, but if I had to go in by myself I would run in, grab what I needed and high-tail it out of there. If it was clothes, I changed in the hall or bathroom. Isn't that sad for a kid to be afraid to go in her own room? Not really sure when I got over that.

And then later in life when I had a terminally ill child of my own, I used to glance out the window at night, relieved when there wasn't any invisible being waiting there. Isn't that awful? I think it is. No parent should feel compelled to look out the window to rest assured death isn't coming for their child that night. It was dumb. It was illogical. But I still did it. I don't know what I would have done if I'd ever seen anything. Certainly not be afraid like I was as a kid, but I'd probably run out there and confront him and beg him to go away.

Anyway, moot point. Never saw anything, mercifully.

I don't know why both my sister and I saw this guy when my parents couldn't. Because we were young? To bring my parents comfort? To give me comfort later in life? Just an odd circumstance? I have no idea. And although it was frightening, heck, I was frightened before I even saw him because I drew from the fear coming off my sister. Maybe if I'd seen him on my own first, I'd have a different reaction, then again, maybe it would have been the same jolt as how Bekie came upon him.

What was God thinking? A little warning please? Ease two young girls into it. Come on. I mean seriously. The spirit that came to tell my other sister our brother was going to pass away was much much kinder and gentler. That's another post I guess. But even though it was scary and had some negative effects I had to get over, my belief in something after death, in other spirit realms, in ghosts, in that we don't just die, not really, that, I'll never question. I've seen it.

More House Trauma

I wasn't going to write about this because I haven't told my youngest boys yet, but they NEVER read my blog or facebook so I'll risk it. 

So the air conditioning went out. Figures, right? But the landlord was real nice about it and sent a guy out who he used on this house before.

The repairman comes out. He kind of looked like Humphrey Bogart in a cap. Nice fellow though a bit quirky. Actually he'd fit in as a Stephen King type of character real well. At the front door, he asked, "Do you want me to come through to the back or I can go around?"

I have Southern hospitality so I ask him to come on in. He says, "I'm not a thief so you don't have to worry."

I wasn't worried. Besides we have rental insurance so we'd get new and better stuff to replace our crap. Steal whatever, I just want my a/c back on.

Anyway, out back he gets to work. He says he doesn't mind me watching him work because he likes people to know he's actually doing something because there are a lot of thieves in his business, but he's not one of them. Okay, good to know. Then he proceeds to tell me how he takes the magnet signs off his truck when he comes in this area because there is another a/c man with the same name that is a crook and he's afraid someone will pull him over and beat him up. Wow. He really is fixated on making sure I know he's honest.

Poor little Bogart. He must have been through the ringer at some point. Anyway, we're just having casual conversation while he's switching out the flux capacitor. Okay, there is no "flux" in the capacitor, I just liked saying that. 

Then out of the blue Bogart says, "You know what happened in this house, right?"

Oh crap. My stomach clenched. "Uh, no." We've been living here less than a week.

"The lady that lived here committed suicide. In the house. Yeah, they say she had problems anyway, but one day she shot herself. Was living here with her twenty-year-old son and his kid. The kid was the one that found her."

Ick, ick, ick. But that explains a lot of things. Like why we got the house so cheap. Why it was left so dirty. Like a twenty-year-old guy is going to clean it up after his mom just killed herself here.

Then little Bogey seemed to get worried. His face scrunched, causing more of those Humphrey Bogart lines that are deep enough they look like they might slide down his face. "I was right by telling you this, right? I don't know if you believe in those types of things. But if it was me, I'd want to know." 

"Yeah, I'd want to know." Do I? Um, maybe I don't. Well, too late now. 

He said he'd been in the house right after doing some work and went looking around for any evidence of...you know, blood splatter, but couldn't find any.

Oh. Right. Um, yeah. Why is this my life? I prayed and fasted for this house. Come on. 

Then he leaves and here I am in the house all by myself a little freaked out. What was that creak? Which room? When I washed the carpets, did I see anything? But then I was tired and took a nap and nothing came out to get me so...guess we are good.

Plus I'm proficient in rationalizing. First, I don't think God would make everything work out so well for us if there would be any residual haunting. If you believe in God, which I do. If you don't, then just chalk this up to me and my way of thinking and move on. Second, I've lived with ghosts before and it was fine. They are just people after all. It's when you live with demons that things go wacky, which my grandmother did. I should totally write a blog post about that. I'll link to it when I do. But since I don't invite evil spirits in or mess with Ouija boards or seances, because that's just asking for trouble, we're good on that point too. Third, anyone who is at the point of taking their own life clearly isn't going to be attached to a rental house. She wanted out so why stick around? If anything, she'd be attached to her son and grandson and follow them away from here. And last, I believe that souls get escorts into the spirit world. I've actually seen that happen. (I post about it here..) And I certainly believe that God is merciful enough to souls troubled to the point of ending their own life to send help upon their passing. 

So no way is the house haunted. 

When I told my husband, he was very kind and pragmatic about it, but that's the kind of guy he is.. He simply said, "Oh that poor house. The poor woman needed a peaceful place to die and we needed the house." 

To be honest I'm more icked out that there has to have been blood residue than I am with a possible ghost. But in my imagination and denial I'm thinking she would have done it on her bed, which is gone. Right? That's what I'm sticking to.  I feel like Charisma on the episode of Angel where she stays in her haunted apartment simply for the lower rate.

So, 500 dollars less a month and now only 23 months to go. We can do this. And my plan: Be good to this house, turn the atmosphere toward good and love and family so that the next people who live here will not have to worry about anything either and the poor landlord will be able to say that the previous occupants didn't have any problems. See, that's me, scattering sunshine all over the place. 

Fun huh? Just what you wanted to know right?

Oct NTRWA President's Letter

It’s Fall, the days of cooler weather, and well, for some, a lot of sneezing.
And best yet…Halloween.
I love Halloween. Best pagan celebration tipped on its head and gone commercialized ever. All that spooky goodness and candy galore and let’s face it…plain old fun. It’s when the monster B-movies get overplayed and scary and sometimes hilarious decorations go full-out.
For people like us writers who live in fantasy worlds all the time, Halloween allows the rest of the world to come out and play with us.
So enjoy the month, soak your pumpkin in vinegar so it will last, and let the ghouls out to play!


HaPpY HaLLowEEn! 

House Trauma

We've been renting the same house for 8 years. I like the house, like the neighborhood, like the school district, like the local church community. But we have been "house-poor" for all of these years. We also moved in when when we had five children. The 3 oldest have moved on so now we have this 3500 square foot home that we pretty much walk through to get from one area to another.

So as our lease is coming up at the end of September, enough is enough. I'm so tired of throwing money into a house that isn't even our own. It's time to downsize. The problem is is that our credit isn't where it needs to be. Why? Oh, could it be because all our money goes into rent instead of paying off these few lasting leftover bills from when our family was held hostage by a terminal illness? It's a vicious vicious cycle.

Here's the problem: My junior wants to stay in his high school. Can't blame him. But we're not going to stay in this cycle another two years. Just can't do it. Especially with a missionary out in the field.
But we have been getting a good rate on our house. The same models in the area are going for at least $500 more and all the houses in this area for rent at the price we can manage are 1/3 the size and barely $100 lower in rent. Wahhhhh? Really? That's not even worth it. We're going to be stuck like this forever.

So I prayed and fasted about it. A lot. For many months, worried that we were going to have to move our sons into another school district. And I was very specific because in my experience that works. So I asked for a home within the area beneath a certain price, even realizing that there was no way.

Except, there was. Unbelievable we found a rental that fits all our criteria. The same model a few houses down is renting for $400 more, but it was all painted cute. This one, holy heck, it's a mess. It seriously looks like a flop house. But it's freaking $500 less than what we are in now. That's doable for us. It's a miracle, is what it is. And it's only because the owner doesn't want to do any work into it, or possibly can't afford to, we're getting if for well below the going rate.

So I'm thinking for that much of a break, yeah, I can live with a kitchen countertop that is outdoor slabs cemented on. I can scrub the filthiest bathrooms ever known to mankind. Seriously, I don't know what kind of people lived here or what they were growing. Well since I found weed paper in the drawer I guess I do know what they were growing. And coffee filters on top of the bathroom cupboards. Um, what do you do with coffee filters in the bathroom? I'm thinking it's not for making coffee. My son looked at the tub, grimaced and said, "Can we buy a new bathtub?" It's that gross. I have pictures but hesitate to post them because I don't want a rash of vomiting. They are scrubbed clean now (with The Works toilet cleaner and Mr. Clean scrubbers, and then vinegar and bleach) and since I don't own a hazmet suit, I tossed the clothes I was wearing. Guh. All the while repeating in my head $500 less $500 less $500 less. But dang if I am not buying new toilet seats!

Then the neighbor comes over, sweet guy, and proceeds to tell me about the drug dealer, Roger, that lives on the other side of him who used to break in all the garages and cars, except now that he keeps calling the police and has installed security cameras, and R has been arrested several times, but nothing sticks, at least they no longer steal around here. Don't crap in your own sandbox, that sort of thing I hope. Sigh. This is the house I prayed for? What are we doing?

I seriously envision our family going into a dark cave and licking our wounds while we financially heal for two years. Two years, $500 less a month. We can do this.

But our landlord has allowed me to paint (at our expense of course). I was doing a real good job of it, going from a puse brown to a soft gray from the ladder slipped out from under me and now I have a sprained ankle. Man, it hurts and I have so much to do. The doctor said, "well, keep off of it." Right. I'm moving. I have so much to do.

I am grateful that it wasn't worse. The ladder (and I) didn't smack the floor, but the ends caught on the window sill so that I wrenched on the ladder. I have lovely rung-spaced bruises along my body. Joy.
ladder landing
how the ladder fell
In shock I rolled off when my friend texted seconds later, "hey, how is the painting going? Are you sure you don't need help?"

To which I texted back, "uh, since I'm flat on my back now from falling off the ladder, yeah, maybe I need some help after all." So much for being independent I can do this on my own. Now ladders scare me a little bit.

The next day my friend came over and I had my son skip for the first half of school and we knocked out the paint job in a couple of hours. One good thing about having a smaller house. The ceilings are going to have to stay a yuck yellow. Yes, I said yellow because I can't reach them. So we'll just use it as a way to determine how observant people are whether they notice the one patch of gray on the yellow ceiling or not. Do you think you would notice?






Interviewed for K Magazine

So I got a call from Judy, the president of the Keller Writers Association critique group, telling me about a reporter from the Star Telegram who is interested in indie-publishing and could I tell her a little bit about it.

Well, sure. I'm not one to pass up an opportunity like that. So I emailed Judy over some information. The following day the reporter gives me a call, asking if we could meet, and that she is interested in doing an article for the new K Magazine, Keller's Premier City Magazine, which is part of The local Keller Citizen, which is part of Star Telegram of the City of Fort Worth. And that the article is about National Novel Writing Month which takes place in November. You know, that crazy month where writers all over the world buckle down and try to complete a 50k novel from start to finish in a month?  Have I ever participated in that?

Why yes, yes  I have. I completed the uncompleteable novel during nanowrimo, Extracted. And I live in Keller.

Perfect. Yay, me! I fit all the criteria she was looking for.

My first BIG SHOT interview. You'd think I'd be nervous. But I wasn't for some odd reason.
Anyway, Sandra Engelland, the reporter came over to my house. She was wearing a bright happy blue outfit with cute ballet flats, has curly blond hair, and a nice smile. Very ease-putting. She also used a small notebook and pen to write everything, which for who-know-why made me all happy. Like it fit some stereotype I had in my head of how reporters should do things. Awesome. And dang, she wrote fast.
Sandra Engelland from The Star Telegram photograph


Her questions were great. I felt totally at ease and confident because we were talking on subjects I love and know what I'm talking about, so the conversation just flowed. I felt intelligent and capable and I loved it. I want to be interviewed more. Bring on the reporters!

Then as she was leaving she mentioned that she'd arrange for one of their photographers to take some pictures of me. Squeal! Okay, I didn't squeal. I'm a professional after all, but maybe just a little squeal inside.

So the following day, me and another author she interviewed named Henry met the photographer at The Book Carriage in Roanoke for about 5 minutes and had our picture taken together. Seriously, that's all it took. 5 minutes. Guy knew what he was doing. Well, I guess since that's his career he would. It was fun. I feel great about it...and slightly important and can't wait to see how it all comes turns out.

My nanowrimo book. One month to finish. A year to edit. That's what I get for speeding through it.


Extracted




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 clichés 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

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

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

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

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.



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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

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.  

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




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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.