Thursday, December 29, 2011

Happy New Year 2012 Giveaway Hop

2012  New Year Giveaway Hop
One Winner will get a $10 Amazon gift card!
Two runners-up will each get a Kindle copy of my new book,

To enter, please leave a comment with your email address at the bottom of this post.
You must follow this blog to enter!

Montana native, Rachel Saunders, is looking forward to her all-expense paid weekend trip to New York. But, when her luggage is lost and she is accosted by an infuriating Homeland Security agent named Dawson Tate, events take a dangerous turn. Now, can she and Dawson elude their enemies and prevent a terrorist attack before the bomb in their possession is detonated in the center of Manhattan--all while keeping their obvious attraction to one another in check? Find out in this Romantic Thriller.

BAGGAGE CLAIM is Book One in the TRU EXCEPTIONS series

Thursday, December 22, 2011

All I Want for Christmas is a Memorable Book!

The week before Christmas is insane in my life.  Christmas cards, presents, wrapping, baking, insurmountable projects . . . all in addition to the normal craziness.  And then there's the constant:   What am I forgetting?  Lists are running unceasingly through my mind.  Did I remember all the presents?  Will my son really like the new toy I got him or will he be disappointed?  Did my sister really want THAT?  Husband didn't ever say what he wanted.  How many days do I have left?
So, why am I putting myself through such misery?   The short answer is that I want to make this Christmas special for my family, especially for my two young boys.  I want it to be memorable.  Following this train of thought, I found myself reflecting on what makes something memorable.  What Christmases do I remember most from when I was a child?  Surprisingly, I don't remember the toys.  I can recall very few of the toys I got for Christmas growing up.  I know there were some I absolutely had to have at the time and toys I thoroughly enjoyed, but years later I don't remember them.
I do remember what Christmas FELT like.  The times I cherish and remember most are when I saw my other family members happy and enjoying things.  I remember being together:  playing games , lighting the candles for our advent,  eating a big meal, laughing.   I remember loving the feeling of giving a gift to someone I loved and seeing them enjoy it.  I remember loving that my grandparents got to come stay with us.  Christmases weren't perfect, but I the warmth and love I felt from my family is what I cherish and remember most.
Maya Angelou is credited with saying, "People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel."   I've heard a saying often applied to teaching, but I think it's actually broader than that.  I don't remember the details of Christmases past, but I do remember the feelings. 
Surprisingly, the same is true with the other major train of thought running through my life right now:  books.  When I think about the books I've read in the past, which ones do I remember?  I may not remember the full plot lines, but I do remember the feelings associated with a book.  Was it exciting?  Was it romantic enough to make my heart pound?  A good book is one that makes you FEEL.  It draws you in so you either feel what the characters are experiencing or feel the message the book is trying to convey, maybe both.  I've read a lot of books that are boring.  I never really connected with the characters enough to feel their experience.  However, I've also read books that I couldn't put down until I was sure the main character was going to be okay.
I try to be conscious about this as a writer.  I want to spin a web with my words that creates a different dimension in which a reader can escape.   My characters are never perfect, but they're believable and easy to relate to.  I try to draw the reader in to their lives and problems, sharing their struggles and emotions within a strong, exciting plot.  With each sentence, I try to make the reader feel.  The delete button is usually my best friend when writing.  I'll repeatedly change a sentence just because the word choice or order doesn't convey the right feeling.
I want to be the kind of author who writes good books--books that make the reader feel.  I want the reader to almost become lost in the world I spin with words.  They need be invested in my characters, to see the actions with their eyes and feel the emotions painted on the page.  I want my readers to have my world become theirs for awhile.  And when they're done reading one of my books, I want them to remember how it made them FEEL.
So, besides reading a writing a memorable book, what kind of Christmas do I want this year?  I want my sons to feel loved.  I want them to see their mommy relaxed and happy, not running around trying to make sure the last gift has the perfect bow.  I want us to enjoy being together as a family.  I want to play games, read the Christmas story together, and laugh.  And when my sons grow up, I want them to remember how they felt at Christmas.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


There is usually some element of truth in my writing.  I adhere somewhat to the mantra, "Write what you know," with plenty of poetic license, of course.  I start with some character or event that is true in my own life and then weave a wild web of fiction around it  That way, I can more easily relate to the character or circumstance.
So, what in my new book BAGGAGE CLAIM is true?  Well, to start with, I have an incredible knack for losing my luggage when I fly.  Maybe it's just really bad luck, but an obscene percentage of the time, I'll arrive at my destination without my luggage.  Thankfully, I've never permanently lost it and never had any unexpected packages placed inside, though I've had to wait until the following day for it to be found.  Yes, like the main character, I have notoriously bad luck.  Unfortunately, it isn't just reserved for luggage.
Though I can relate to Rachel's bad luck and frustrating circumstances, she is not based on myself.  She is actually based on my younger sister, Janna.  Though not an exact replica, Janna definitely inspired the character of Rachel.  Janna is smart, sweet, beautiful, spunky, independent, and she could probably beat up any guy who had the audacity to be offensive.  When initially writing this book, I would think, 'Now how would Janna respond in this situation.'  Before long, though, Rachel took on a life of her own.
Finally, the details.  Believe it or not, scary as it is, all of the details including the fight scenes and the technology are accurate.  I am very blessed to have my dad as a technical advisor.  He is a ninth degree black belt and teaches karate around the country.  He has also taught firearms and close combat to various government agencies.  He also happens to be a computer geek and very knowledgeable of current technology.  His resume is so impressive it's unbelievable, and, added to all this, he is a fount of sometimes bizarre facts.  There isn't really a topic that he doesn't know something about.  I wrote or changed many of the details to be more accurate based on his recommendation.  Imagine asking your dad, 'Now how would I get out of a hold if someone had a gun to my head.'  And then have him actually have the answer and show you how to do it!  Hmmm, maybe I'm not so unlucky after all.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Now Available!

Now available for $0.99 on Kindle or Nook!

Montana native, Rachel Saunders, is looking forward to her all-expense paid weekend trip to New York. But, when her luggage is lost and she is accosted by an infuriating Homeland Security agent named Dawson Tate, events take a dangerous turn. Now, can she and Dawson elude their enemies and prevent a terrorist attack before the bomb in their possession is detonated in the center of Manhattan?

Monday, December 5, 2011

What Kind of Books Do You Devour?

Sometimes labeling a book with a standard genre can be tricky.  I've written one such book that is a on the border between literary and commercial fiction.  It's a romance, but it's also a suspense with a little paranormal / sci fi / fantasy and subtle Christian themes.  Trying to stick such a beautifully complex book in a narrow genre box is difficult and trying to pitch such a project near impossible.  I would like to share my own personal system for classifying books.  Although it is much less confusing, much more entertaining, and extremely easy to understand, I somehow doubt the publishing industry is quite ready to adopt the Tru Genre Classification System for Fiction.

1.  Health Food   
This genre includes all of those books that you had to read in high school and hated, but, hey, they were good for you.  These are well-written, literary reads meant to make you think and broaden your knowledge or perspective.  In short, they're like health food.  The sugarless, tasteless morsels specifically engineered to be healthy.  You eat them because you have to or think it will be good for you.  Now, that's not to say these books can't be enjoyable.  Some people love their tofu.  I like to eat healthy too.  I can appreciate a good stir fry.  But, I'm certainly not going to eat stir frys and tofu for every meal, every day!  Frankly, I enjoy my food too much, and in terms of literature, I don't like to always have to stretch my brain when I'm reading.  However, there is a benefit to health food (besides the waistline).  After you've choked the stuff down, you feel fabulously proud of yourself.  You almost want to congratulate yourself and shake your own hand.  And, trust me, if you finish a book like War and Peace, you deserve more than a handshake.  Don't they give out medals for that?

2.  Vegetables  
This genre includes most of today's literary fiction. Its purpose is not to entertain as much as it is to make you think or feel.  The actual writing is the art, an underlying message the focus.  Unfortunately, for me, the literature can sometimes get in the way of the enjoyment.  These are books that can get rave reviews as the next great American novel, yet as a reader, I may have trudged through the whole thing only to feel stupid for having completely missed the message others obviously so appreciated.  These are books that can be nutritious. Vegetables are good for you and come in an amazing variety. Also, they can be considerably less tedious and more enjoyable than Health Food.

I can't leave this genre without a word about the Onions.  These are books that are beautifully written and make you ball your eyes out.  They are tragic, sad, heartbreaking, and touching.  They are so moving that, after having read one,  you either feel like a better person or feel very depressed.  Nicholas Sparks is a master of Onions.  It amazes me that a lot of people love Onions so much, they don't consider a book to be good unless it makes them cry.  Some people like Onions in everything they eat.  They don't even want to read something unless it's an Onion.  Personally, I'm not terribly fond of Onions.  Reading to me is an escape.  Life has enough sadness that I don't want a book to make me feel bad.  I get so emotionally involved in books and characters that I go through a depression should it end tragically.  Now, my dislike does not mean that I will never write an Onion book.  I don't like to cry myself, but I kinda like making other people cry.  How sadistic is that?
3.   Meat and Potatoes
These are books that you really enjoy but have deeper themes or meaning.  Some people feel like the ultimate meal includes Meat and Potatoes.  Likewise this genre aims to be the best of both worlds:  entertaining yet meaningful.  I would classify The Help by Kathryn Stockett as a Meat and Potatoes book.  Fun to read but deals with deeper issues.  I would also classify the Harry Potter series as Meat and Potatoes.  So entertaining, fun, and imaginative, yet there are deeper themes of love, friendship, and the battle between good and evil.  I'm an Idaho girl, I love my Meat and Potatoes!

4.  Potato Chips
These books are fun.  Their main purpose is to entertain, possibly give a small dimension for escape.  There isn't a focused deep message or meaning, although there definitely can be subtle themes.  Potato Chips aren't healthy.  This isn't literature, friends.  It is just plain yummy, and, yes, it's difficult to eat just one.  Sometimes, I'm tired of thinking.  I read to relax.  I don't want to deal with heavy issues and messages that may or may not be resolved in the end.  I just want Potato Chips!

Again, I can't leave this genre without saying a word about the Cheesy variety of Potato Chips.  Let's be honest, not all books are well-written or realistic.  The characters, plot, or emotions of the book are unrealistic, sickeningly sweet and well . . . Cheesy.  This is the type of book that makes you want to stop reading and roll your eyes.  As much as I like Potato Chips, I really have a hard time with the Cheesy variety.  In fact, I have a real-life food allergy to cheese, and I really think it must apply to books as well.  I may read a Cheesy Potato Chip book, but it's really tough for me to read all the words in between rolling my eyes and giggling at the silliness of it all.

5.  Pork Rinds  
Finally, we have the books that are not healthy at all.  These are the books that you really don't want anyone to know that you snuck off and read.  Maybe poorly written, maybe not.  No real underlying message, just pure entertainment.  This may be the book you have guilt over even reading or feel disturbed about when it's over.  It's not meant to be Health Food, gourmet, or even Potato Chips.  I don't really care for Pork Rinds at all.  Now I understand some people love their Pork Rinds.  They sit down and eat the whole bag if no one is looking.  I personally find them pretty disgusting.  But how would we appreciate the other genres without a few Pork Rinds around?

So, there you have it.  The Tru Genre Classification System.  Easy, understandable, and so much fun.  I would add that this system is a continuum and very subjective.  A book that I classify as a Meat and Potatoes, might be a Vegetable to someone else.  For instance, I love Pride and Prejudice.  For me, it is Meat and Potatoes.  For someone else it would probably be a Vegetable or even a Health Food.  But, the beauty of this system is, if I call something a Potato Chip book, now everyone knows exactly what kind of book it is!

Now, the obvious question is, what kind of book is my new novella, BAGGAGE CLAIM.  I'm not going to lie.  It's definitely not Health Food or Pork Rinds.  It's not even a Vegetable.  I would classify it as a high end Potato Chip.  It's extremely entertaining and exciting.  You may not be able to put it down.  It's romantic, smart, and action packed.  It's everything you want from entertainment, minus the gore and R rated features.  But, there's not a strong message or even deep complex themes.  There is definitely some deeper meaning, but it's subtle, only becoming more pronounced in the second and third book.  So, bottom line, it's a Potato Chip.  Close to Meat and Potatoes, but not quite there.  And, really who doesn't love Potato Chips?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Baggage Claim

Coming Soon!

My new book is a romantic suspense
and will be available for Kindle and Nook on or around December 9th!

Montana native, Rachel Saunders, is looking forward to her all-expense paid weekend trip to New York.  But, when her luggage is lost and she is accosted by an infuriating Homeland Security agent named Dawson Tate, events take a dangerous turn.  Now, can she and Dawson elude their enemies and prevent a terrorist attack before the bomb in their possession is detonated in the center of Manhattan?
BAGGAGE CLAIM is Book One in the TRU EXCEPTIONS series

What authors can learn from the Bestseller Lists


The gold standard for success as an author is to make the New York Times Best Seller list. That’s the big brand banner that publishers, authors and readers want to see on the front cover.
It shouts “Read Me! I’m certified!”
How does an author accomplish this feat? What does it take for a book to become a bestseller?  Some of the answers are right there in the list. So let’s drill down and and see what can we uncover about writing, getting published and appealing to readers.
♦ What’s the single most important thing an author can do to get on the list? Scroll down for the answer from a writer whose book has been on the coveted list for 117 weeks.

6 lessons from the New York Times bestseller lists
1. The list is widely diverse
The New York Times now publishes 23 separate bestseller lists. The lists range from Combined Print & E-Book Fiction and Non-Fiction, to Hardcover, Advice, Political, Business,and Children’s books. They include everything from literary novels to thrillers, memoirs, romances, mysteries, sci-fi paranormal books, YA and middle-grade, self-help and how-to, religious, inspirational books, and many others.
The lesson:
Don’t worry about following any so-called trends. There’s tremendous variety and no dominant category of successful books. Put away the notion that if you’re story doesn’t have a vampire or get-rich quick scheme, it’s going to die on the vine. Trying to anticipate what category of book will be selling by the time your book is written or published is a waste of time.
2. Book length varies
In my work as a developmental editor, authors ask me frequently “How long should my book be?” or “I’ve heard no book can be over 300 pages.” My response has always been that a book should be as long as it needs to be and no longer.
What the New York Times lists reveal is a broad range of lengths in both fiction and nonfiction. Kathryn Stockett’s best selling novel The Help is a heavyweight at 544 pages, while Blind Faith by CJ Lyons is 392. On the nonfiction side, Heaven is for Realby Todd Bupo is only 192 pages, but Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand is 496.
The lesson:
Don’t pad or cut to fit any arbitrary length for your book. If you have nothing else to say – stop. If there’s more essential story or information – keep going. I always do recommend, however, that a book should include nothing that will be never missed, so avoid any self-indulgent tangents or digressions.
3. E-books are the future
Earlier this year, the New York Times began running four new bestseller lists that include e-book sales, and it’s about time. The Association of American Publishers (AAP) and the Book Industry Study Group of Bookstats show unit sales growth of e-booksincreased a whopping 1039.6% between 2008 and 2010, with 114 million units sold last year. This number only includes those reported by traditional publishers, not all e-books sold by self-publishing authors, so the actual numbers are even greater.
The lesson
The old days when hardcover was king are over. You can sell large quantities of your book in a virtual e-book format that’s either self-published or traditionally published. Authors can pick their own formats and channels.
4. Self-published books can compete
Here’s an astonishing fact: Three books on the top ten titles on the Combined Print and E-Book Fiction Best Seller List are self-published: #4 Blind Faith by CJ Lyons, #5 The Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan, and #6 The Abbey by Chris Culver. Wow. The speed with which self-published books have risen in acceptance and success is something traditional publishers never anticipated.
The lower cost of e-books have made waiting for mass-market reprints of higher-priced hardcover or trade paperbacks increasingly obsolete. AAP and Book Study Group reports show that mass-market paperbacks are down 13.8% during same period.“The people who used to wait to buy the mass-market paperback because of the price aren’t going to wait anymore,” says Liate Stehlik, publisher of Morrow and Avon at HarperCollins.
The lesson:
Think about self-publishing as an honorable and attractive option to the frustration of trying to find a literary agent and traditional publisher. Self-publishing is increasing exponentially. It’s not easier. You still have to write a good book and sell it largely on your own. But it’s faster, you have more control over it, and you get a bigger share of the profits.
5. Film and TV tie-ins are changing
The #1 hardcover fiction on NY Times Combined Print & E-Book Fiction list is The Helpby Kathryn Stockett, the 544-page blockbuster novel about African-American maids working in white households in Jackson, Mississippi during the early 1960s. Originally published in 2009 it has spent 107 weeks on the Hardcover Fiction bestseller list. The film based on the book was released in August of 2011 with what these days is a modest budget of only $25 million. It’s a big hit, grossing more than $123 million to date in the US alone.
The lesson:
Think film, and not only if you’re writing a conventional thriller, mystery or romance. Don’t assume your book has no chance of becoming a major motion picture.
6. Bestselling authors are avid self-marketers
The top ten combined print & e-book fiction and nonfiction authors are able self-marketers, including famous writers with big track records, like Lee Childs, Kathy Reichs, James Patterson, J.A. Jance, John Grisham, and Johanna Lindsey. The newcomers are also at it, including Rebecca Skloot, Chris Culver, Darcie Chan, Alexandra Fuller, Erik Larson, and others.
The lesson:
No one can sell your book as well as you can, whether you already have a big platform or not. Publishers have finally realized that readers want to have direct contact with authors, not with publishers. They don’t really care who published the book but look for reading advice from book bloggers, online reviewers, websites, blogs, tweets and Facebook posts from people they know and trust.

What’s the single most important thing a writer can do to make it to the list?
For an answer, we turn to Garth Stein, whose novel Racing in the Rain has been on the New York Time Trade Paperback Fiction list for 117 weeks, this week at #8.
“Well, not to sound simplistic or anything, but the single most important thing has to be having a good book, doesn’t it?  I mean, I’ve heard there are clever ways to spend a lot of money to get on the list, and once on the list, there’s a little bit of self-sustaining momentum.  But that doesn’t last unless it’s a good book and people want to read it and they buy extra copies for their friends and family and so forth.
I’m all about marketing and social networking and rah, rah, rah!  And it takes a lot of work from a lot of different people, like the publisher, sales force, booksellers, and the author to land on a (or “The”) list.
But if the emperor has no clothes, the readers will see it right away. So write a brilliant book first.”
Thanks Garth.  Easy to say, right?
What about you?
Do you monitor the bestseller lists?  Or do you avoid them entirely?  I’m interested in your own observations and insights as writers, which I hope you’ll share here in comments.

Friday, December 2, 2011

From the Desk of Livingston Hall Publishers...


Welcome to Tru Stories online book store, where you can come in and browse, sit a while, and enjoy Tru Stories...

But please be patient with me as it's still under construction!

Happy reading...
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