April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, so I thought it would be a prime time to tell you about a fundraiser I’m doing for a charity that serves abused and neglected children.
The charity is called My Stuff Bags Foundation. They provide duffle bags filled with new, necessity personal care items and comfort “stuff” like blankets and stuffed animals, to young ones who arrive at crisis centers with little or zero of their own personal belongings – nothing they could call “my stuff.”
These children often have to leave their homes quickly, so they usually don’t have time to grab even their own beloved toy or clothes. My Stuff Bags Foundation serves kids who have been abused, neglected or abandoned, and are entering crisis centers, foster care, or battered women’s shelters.
In order to raise funds to support this charity, I am no longer selling autographed print book copies of my Christian contemporary romance novel Love, Texas – Population 2. Instead, I’m offering these books as a way to raise money for My Stuff Bags Foundation.
So, you can still get a signed copy of my novel if you make a minimum donation of $15 per book. ( Click this link to donate via PayPal or with any major credit. ) I will then autograph the book and address the novel to whomever you want before shipping it out. The book should arrive to your home within one week, and they’ll be no charge to you for shipping and handling. (United States mailing addresses only, please.)
All profits, yes 100% of the profits, will go toward supporting My Stuff Bags Foundation.
Please show your love for abused, neglected, homeless, and traumatized kids by donating to my fundraiser to support the fantastic charity of My Stuff Bags Foundation.
The holiday of LOVE is less than two weeks away. How are you going to say, “Happy Valentine’s Day” this year?
One way to express our love for those dear to us is by giving gifts. There are the traditional ones, like chocolate, candy, flowers, jewelry, and stuffed animals. Those items are nice to receive, but a lot of people would think it would be wonderful to get something that’s not an “ordinary” V-Day present. What would that be? A book!
What’s the best kind of book to give on Valentine’s Day? One that shows LOVE in a variety of ways: between lovers, friends, family, and God and his children. Do I have a book in mind that fits the bill? You bet!
My Christian contemporary romance novel Love, Texas — Population 2 is the perfect gift to give to not only your sweetheart, but to your friends, family, coworkers, church parishioners, neighbors, you name it! Although most romance novels are geared mostly toward females, Love is meant to be enjoyed by both women and men, as there are plenty of “non-mushy” action scenes depicting the heroine performing her job as a newspaper reporter; these chapters will keep the guys flipping those pages to see what happens next.
To give the gift of LOVE (as in my novel Love) would be really sweet – so I’ve got a SWEET! deal for you. In honor of one of the LOVEliest days of the year, I’m going to run a Kindle Countdown Deal for seven days, starting next Friday the 9th, and ending at midnight Wednesday the 14th, which of course is Valentine’s Day.
Next Friday and Saturday, the Kindle version of LOVE, will be on sale via Amazon for … 0.99 cents! That is not a typo! Yes, 0.99 cents! That is an 86% discount from the regular ebook price of $6.99. WOWEE! See how much I love all of YOU?
That Sunday through Monday at 11 p.m., you can still get my book at a discounted rate, with a sale price of $2.99, which is 58% off the full-price. From late-night Monday until midnight Wednesday, you can purchase Love for $4.99, which is a discount of 28%.
You know two things that make this sweet deal even sweeter?
First, you can purchase Love on Amazon by clicking on the “Give as a Gift” box (bottom right of your device’s screen), and your loved one will receive his or her gift almost instantly, via an email link in their Inbox. That means you don’t even have to get out of your pajamas to give the gift of LOVE.
Second, a Kindle e-reader or Kindle Fire tablet is not necessary to read a Kindle ebook. Simply download the free Kindle app, then the Kindle book can be read on an iPhone, iPad, Android phone or tablet, PC or MAC.
So, mark your calendars for Friday, February 9th, as the day to get Love, Texas – Population 2 for only 0.99 cents. Wouldn’t you just LOVE to get shown some LOVE for giving Love?
Going out of your mind … waiting in line … for that perfect Christmas gift find?
Don’t sweat it! I have a better way to get what you need, and you won’t regret it.
Want to be all cozy in your PJs, drinking hot cocoa, relaxing on your couch — AND be able to send a lovely Christmas present to arrive within minutes to your BFF, mom, grandma, or aunt? Or how about an awesome gift for yourself?
You can! How? By using Amazon’s Kindle book gifting delivery via email option.
You can order my Christian contemporary romance novel Love, Texas — Population 2 for a loved one (or yourself) this way. Simply go to Amazon, look up the Kindle edition of my book , then scroll down (on your phone or tablet) or down and to the right (on your computer), until you get to the “Give as a Gift” box.
Click on the box, and the next screen that pops up will look something like this:
Fill out the boxes, make your payment online, and voila! Your work is done! You’ll have one smiling recipient moments later. If your recipient has already read my book (wahoo!) or she / he doesn’t want to read it (gasp!), then the recipient can exchange the Kindle ebook for an Amazon gift card.
“Melinda, that’s just great if my loved one owns a Kindle e-reader or Kindle Fire tablet. But, they don’t, so now what?”
No worries! A person doesn’t have to own a Kindle to read Kindle-formatted ebooks. The recipient just needs to download the free app, then she / he can read the Kindle ebook on an iPad, iPhone, Android phone or tablet, PC, or MAC. SWEET!
Guess what? You can even send the email to yourself right now, and later forward the email to another person to give to them at some other time. So, if you want to go ahead and make a purchase now for a Christmas gift for Aunt Sara, and a birthday gift for later for your friend Delyla — go ahead! You also can set the delivery date to up to a year after you purchase the novel.
Go on! Gift away — in the comfort of you own house, and with a few simple clicks.
Fun Friday is a day for … FUN! I’ll post a variety of pictures, quotes, facts, etc., about characters and places – both real and fictional – that are in the novels I write. I will then have you either guess something about what I posted, such as what is the name of this location or why do you think a character said this or that in a scene, or I may show pictures of “the real people” for some characters mentioned in my books, or … just whatever floats my boat that Friday!
Let the fun begin!
Whenever I read a book or watch a movie that is inspired by / based on a true story, I always want to know what the “real people” looked like, and compare them to the way characters looked in my mind when I was reading the novel, or the way the actors looked who were cast in the film.
My Christian contemporary romance novel Love, Texas – Population 2 is inspired by the true story of … moi! It’s inspired by my reunion with my high school sweetheart; my life as a small-town newspaper reporter and photographer; and my dynamic faith journey.
In the book, I’m portrayed by character Rebekah Stone. One subject that comes up a lot in my novel is Rebekah’s strong bond with her family members, especially her older brother Steve. Now, Steve also happens to get along fantastic with Rebekah’s first love Joel Foster, who is the hero of Love, Texas – Population 2.
Character Steve is based on my real brother, Chris Kasper. I’ve been missing my big bro something fierce these last couple of months, as he passed away a little over a year ago from complications from chronic pancreatitis and diabetes.
Although I get quite sad thinking about him being gone, at the same time I have several moments of joy when I laugh to myself thinking how silly Chris was most of the time, and what fun I had hanging out with him. Since this is FUN FRIDAY, I thought I’d post a picture of the real person behind character Steve Stone, and post a scene showing Steve’s teasing, goofy, loving side.
This scene is the night before the wedding of Steve and his fiancée Monique. Everyone is in the Stone family’s kitchen helping to prepare food for the reception. Rebekah was daydreaming about getting married to Joel, so she accidentally stuck her hand in a pan of hot grease and got burned—and cursed when she did. This is what happened after that.
As soon as Callie left my side to return to the adjoining dining room to continue working on the decorations, my mom put her arms around my shoulders.
“Now, Becky,” she started slowly. All three guys tried to hide their laughter because they knew what was coming. “I understand you burned your hand and it hurt so much it prompted you to not watch your language.”
“My hand really hurts.” I giggled as I tried to pull away from her, but she held tight.
She smiled and gave me the Evil Eye at the same time. “I know it hurt, but I can tell you the next time you cuss like that, regardless of the circumstances, something other than your hand will hurt.”
“Oh damn,” my brother Steve said as he stirred the meatball sauce in the crowded kitchen. “Mom sure told you!”
All the guys started snickering, and it was obvious my mom also wanted to laugh, but she decided instead to put her arms around Steve’s shoulders.
“Looks like you’re the one in trouble now,” Joel said as he scooted away from my mom and Steve at the stove.
“Rebekah isn’t the only one I don’t want to hear cuss around here young man,” my mom told her oldest child lovingly, but sternly. “You may live in your own place tomorrow, but tonight, you’re still in my house and are subject to the hard slap of my hand.”
My brother yelped in a mock scream as he held his hands up in defense. “I’ll behave. I swear I’ll be damn good!”
My mom rolled her eyes, but chuckled—like I’m sure Steve assumed she would. Steve and Joel then leaned forward and whispered to each other, and when my mom asked what was going on, they both mumbled, “Damn, damn, damn, damn.”
“Oh, you guys!” My mom pretended to spank them. “You two in the same room together is worse than having a hundred little 3-year-olds running around the house putting finger-paint on all the walls.”
“Hey, now that’s an idea,” Joel said, then grinned mischievously at Steve. My brother nodded in agreement.
“No sir! Back in the kitchen boys,” my mom ordered as Steve and Joel pretended to leave the room.
“I’m sorry I have such a dork for a boyfriend, Mom.” I shook my head. “Steve is your son though; he’s only my brother because I have no choice in the matter.” My mom laughed at my remark, and before I could continue, my brother jumped in.
“Well, maybe we’re dorks,” he countered, “but at least neither of us was blonde enough to stick our hand into a pan of hot grease.”
“Oh, shut up!”
“You know what they say about people who have blonde hair, don’t you?” Steve asked.
“No man, what?” Joel grinned. He knew a joke would soon follow.
“The saying goes, ‘Blonde: It’s not just a hair color—it’s a lifestyle.'” My brother cracked up at his own joke, and Joel followed suit. Both guys gave each other a high-five.
“You two just wait,” I warned. “I’m going to trip you,” I said pointing to Steve, “as you walk down the aisle tomorrow, and I’m going to trip you,” I said pointing to Joel, “any and every chance I get!”
“Oooh, I’m so scared.” Steve made his whole body twitch. “I’m shaking in my shoes.”
“Dork!” I held my hands up in the air.
Once you read Love, Texas – Population 2, make sure and leave a reply and let me know if this photo of the “real” big brother Steve stayed in your mind as how he looked while you read the book, or if you pictured him differently.
Every Fourth Friday of a month I will post a book review. Sometimes it will be a book I read years ago, other times I will have just turned the last page of the novel and feel like writing a review about it.
Last month my review was about a novel that involved hiking – this month it will be hiking again, but a nonfiction book. Why so much hiking? Because it’s hot, hot, hot where I live right now, and sometimes it was hot, hot, hot in these books on the hiking trips.
I’m also about to go on vacation – driving 19 hours one way – with my mother-in-law Jane. That made me think about good books to read while driving, and about going on trips, and about my mother-in-law, Jane. What? Ha! I got to thinking about Jane because I recommend this month’s book to her after I first read it five years ago. She immediately read it—and loved it just as much as I did. I gave this book 5 stars on Goodreads, which means “It was amazing.”
WILD by Cheryl Strayed
The memoir WILD by Cheryl Strayed is heartbreaking and inspiring. The author’s writing is poetic and profound, and at other moments no-holds-barred frank and then even at turns educational, demonstrating Strayed possesses a writer’s voice that is unique, refreshing and outright exquisite.
This story chronicles the author’s hiking excursion—all 1,100 miles of it—along the Pacific Crest Trail, known as the “PCT.” This is a path that goes from the Mexico/California border all the way up to just past the Canadian border, and the trail crosses through numerous mountain ranges.
At the age of 26, Strayed resolved to hike the PCT without taking along a hiking partner and with a goal of finishing the trip in around 100 days—even though the amount of experience she had with overnight backpacking was … zilch.
Strayed herself called this an “arguably unreasonable decision.” It came after a series of emotionally devastating events that caused the author to react with destructive behavior. The inciting occurrence was four years prior when her mom died at a young age from cancer, which then led to the unraveling relationship between herself and the remaining family members, and the beginning of the end of her marriage. Strayed’s feelings of deep pain and emptiness drove her to sleep around—with several men and while she was married. One of the lovers introduced her to shooting heroin and also impregnated her; the outcome of that was an elective abortion.
The author believed trekking solo through “the wild” on the Pacific Crest Trail would be a way to “save” her.
The “pre-PCT” upheavals are introduced at the beginning of the memoir to show the reasoning behind the “why” of the hike, and they are explored further in various chapters via short flashback scenes or sometimes by just one or two sentences. Memories of these loved ones and incidents would be triggered when the author would come to a particular spot on the trail, either one of surreal serenity and beauty, or a destination that had required an extra-super physical challenge to get there. Strayed would then endure the heartache, anger and regret from the previous years all over again, but she would also at times arrive at an “Ah-ha!” moment of understanding and acceptance about her life—which in the end did indeed lead to the author’s “saving” as she had hoped.
Some of the passages in WILD that hit home on the author’s discoveries during her hike or that highlight Strayed’s fantastic writer’s voice are:
“He broke her nose. He broke her dishes. … But he didn’t break her.”
“The loss of my family and home were my own private clear-cut. What remained was only ugly evidence of a thing that was no more.”
“He hadn’t loved me well in the end, but he’d loved me well when it mattered.”
“Now my backpack had a name: Monster. … I was amazed that what I needed to survive could be carried on my back. And, most surprising of all, that I could carry it. That I could bear the unbearable. These realizations about my physical, material life couldn’t help but spill over into the emotional and spiritual realm. That my complicated life could be made so simple was astounding.”
“I went to the river and squatted down and splashed my face. … Where was my mother? I wondered. I’d carried her so long, staggering beneath her weight. On the other side of the river, I let myself think. And something inside of me released.”
“Another toenail looked like it was finally going to come off. I gave it a gentle tug and it was in my hand, my sixth. I had only four intact toenails left. The PCT and I weren’t tied anymore. The score was 4-6, advantage trail.”
Strayed’s memoir WILD is a book I’m definitely wild about and one that I will encourage all my friends and family to read. Her writing style is truly wonderful, and I eagerly look forward to enjoying her novel TORCH.
You say po-tat-o, I say pa-tot-o. Either way, you know we’re talking about a food. On that note, you can call it an association, organization, league, guild, society, or many, many other terms, but for simplicity’s sake, today I’m just going to refer to all of them as writing “groups.”
My first idea for this post was to write a long list, in bullet-point-format, and type side by side, the pros and cons of belonging to a writing group. But … I could only come up with two negatives! One, most all groups do cost money to join/be an active member, and two, if you have a busy schedule already, you might have a tough time finding a group that fits into your “available” time slot.
Just two cons! Since two will do, then the rest of this blog post will be a Plethora o’ Paragraphs about Pros for being a Part of a writing group.
There are hundreds of writing groups out there, and almost all of them will offer classes and workshops to help hone your craft; give you writing critiques if you ask; hold events that are a blast; provide support and encouragement that is unsurpassed; and help find other writers with whom you can make friendships that will last. (Okay, so this whole paragraph only sounds like it all rhymes if you say each section really fast. Ha!)
I won’t write about a hundred groups today, but instead only about three I’ve been a member of: a national one, a state one, and local one.
Romance Writers of America is no doubt one of the largest nonprofit writing trade associations in the United States, boasting over 10,500 members—yes, that’s correct and not a typo!—and 145 local and online chapters. It’s been around for almost four decades, and I’ve been a member for probably 15 years.
A definite pro to belonging to RWA is having access to their high count of members and chapters, as this contributes to RWA’s ability to offer authors so many networking opportunities, both in the business and personal (make new friends J) realms. This is highlighted in part of their mission: “To advance the professional and common business interests of career-focused writers through networking and advocacy and by increasing public awareness for the romance genre.”
Part of this networking can be done through RWA’s PAN and PRO communities. I recently transitioned from PRO to PAN. PRO is for writers who have completed a romance manuscript of at least 20,000 words, but not yet published it. Rather than craft, the business side of writing is focused on in PRO.
The Published Authors Network (PAN) helps promote and protect the interests of published authors, and it opens channels of communication between authors and other professionals within the publishing industry.
Other chances to network include participation in multiple forums both online and through email that cover a wide range of topics. Some forums are: RWA Industry (to discuss news within the romance publishing industry, such as publishing houses and agents); RWA Research (ask research questions like, “How would one keep stabled horses warm during a bitterly cold winter in the Regency Era?”); and the Self-Publishing Forum (“self-pubbed author seeks help on foreign pub deal”).
A super big networking opportunity is given to members by taking part in RWA’s annual conference and the associated Literacy Autographing event. (Members receive way discounted tickets.)
The conference will bring attendees in contact with writers, bloggers, editors, agents, publishers, librarians, and booksellers. There will be many chances to meet these people – at workshops, luncheons, the awards ceremony, publisher-specific book signings, receptions, mixers, and appointments with agents and editors.
The #READERS4LIFE fundraising event for literacy organizations will bring authors in contact with so many readers! Over 300 romance authors will sign their current releases at this event (free and open to the public), and the proceeds from book sales will benefit ProLiteracy Worldwide and a local affiliate organization.
Other than networking, there are many pros to be a member of this national association. One of the member perks I really enjoy is receiving the monthly Romance Writers Report (RWR) in the mail. This trade magazine presents useful and interesting articles on a variety of subjects, from perfecting your craft to getting smart with business practices to becoming savvy with social media. There are also items included every month, such as listings of contests, conferences, and online workshops; names of new PRO and PAN members and debut authors; as well as monthly columns like “Writers on Writing” and “A-Game Advice” which gives tips on author promotion.
Another member bonus I receive is access to RWA University, which supplies free or super-cheap on-demand webinars, online classes, PDF files, and audio recordings. Some free webinars are: “A Day in the Life of a Firefighter” (learn from an expert in the field about a fireman’s life so a writer can portray this accurately and realistically in her novels), and “How to Use BookBub to Promote Your Romance Titles.”
The ability to enter two contests that are recognized world-wide by name is definitely a plus point to holding the title of “RWA Member.” Winning these contests? Free and extensive promotion of your novel and name will be granted! The Golden Heart is for members who have not yet accepted a publishing contract or self-published their work of 20,000 words or more. The RITA is for members who have published their work.
Advantages abound when you’re a member of Romance Writers of America, and I haven’t even covered all of them! For a detailed list, go here: RWA Member Benefits
This group has also been around for quite a while. It was founded in January 1981 as the Austin’s Writers’ League, then changed its name in 2000. I think a line from the WLT’s website describes them quite well, as it states the league is “a vibrant community that serves to educate and uplift Texas writers, whatever stage they may be at in their writing career.”
One of the pros of being a member of this group is in that above statement, and that is the WLT offers classes and workshops on multiple levels – they have lessons for writer newbies all the way up to lessons for well-seasoned, multi-published authors. There are classes online and in-person, such as:
“The Novel Hatchery: Moving a Novel Into Its First Draft”
“Mastering PR and the Media”
“Better Prose Through Poetry: Using Rhythm, Repetition, and Other Poetic Tools in Your Writing”
A full-day class I enjoyed taking was “Self Publishing: How to Do It Right with Rhiannon Frater.” This class was informative, especially since Rhiannon had experience with both self-publishing and traditional publishing. I’m thankful for what I learned in this class, as it propelled me toward deciding to be an Indie author.
Other than going to classes and workshops, another positive to being a WLT member is attending their interesting and fun Third Thursday programs. A panel of four talk about a specific topic of interest pertaining to the craft and business of writing, and the discussion is moderated by WLT’s Program Director. The discussion for July 2017 was “The Secret to Great Picture Books,” and children’s book authors and illustrators were panelists.
This program isn’t just for members; it’s open to the public (no charge), and it’s held at BookPeople, the coolest independent bookstore in Texas. (BTW-my novel is on its shelves and on its webstore right now!) Love, Texas — Population 2
The WLT has over 1,300 members that come from all over the state, so this large number makes networking possibilities a big positive to being a member, just like with Romance Writers of America.
One occasion that is superb for networking is WLT’s annual Agents & Editors Conference, a three-day event that covers publishing and writing topics via presentations, panels, receptions, and luncheons, where the speakers are agents, editors, booksellers, librarians, writers, and other publishing professionals.
The big pull for this conference is in its name: there are about 25 agents and editors on hand with whom writers can schedule a free! one-on-one meeting to pitch their manuscript. Attendees can also have informal chats with agents and editors at the receptions, and not only get their name out there to people in the publishing world, but also receive from the agents and editors up-to-date, honest, information about the publishing industry, including information about current publishing trends.
Another WLT member perk? Free promotion! You can submit all kinds of news, like your most recent novel release, upcoming events, or awards and honors, to be published in this group’s bi-weekly, e-newsletter, Footnotes, which has over 4,000 subscribers. More great promo openings exist in WLT’s blog Scribe, which reaches over 5,000 people. There’s a “Meet the Members” section where you can request an interview that will be posted here, and there’s also a “Members Review” section where the WLT staff writes book reviews about publications by members.
The WLT also helps you with promo by letting members reserve a spot at the WLT table to sell and sign the member’s recent releases at The Texas Book Festival, which is held at and around the State Capitol. The festival was founded in 1995 by First Lady Laura Bush, and it’s recognized as “one of the largest and most prestigious literary festivals in the country.”
Before I end this post, I want to add that of course!!! LOCAL groups have lots of pros. I won’t go into detail like I did with the national and state groups since local groups are aimed at a very specific, smaller segment of the population.
However, let me tell you I think probably the greatest pro to being a member of a local group is … well, that they’re local! This means you usually don’t have to drive far to go to meetings, workshops, or critique groups; the members live around you and are familiar with the people and places in the area; and the smaller size of the group usually allows for faster turn-around time and more detailed opinions on critiques.
Speaking of critiques, the ones I received from the San Antonio Writers’ Guild were phenomenal. I brought passages of my manuscript to them several, several, times to be critiqued, and SAWG really helped me shape my manuscript into something so much better than it was in the beginning. This manuscript turned into my debut Christian contemporary romance novel Love, Texas – Population 2. (https://melindafreeland.com/books-2/ )
So, there you have it folks! Like I said in the beginning, negatives to joining a writing group – about none! Positives? Plenty!