Release of A SPY UNMASKED and the things I’m thankful for

Today is the release day for my historical romance, A Spy Unmasked. It’s the first book In The Crown’s Secret Service Series about sexy spies and the feisty, independent women who capture their hearts. At The Spy’s Pleasure will be released in April 2015. It’s always an exciting time when an author has a new release. But instead of blogging about spies in the Regency period, I want to write about all the things I’m truly grateful for.

A Spy Unmasked Cover - Tina Gabrielle

My Writing Organizations

I can easily say I wouldn’t be published if it wasn’t for Romance Writer’s of America and my local NJ Romance Writer’s Chapter. I believe I was born a writer, and I fondly remember writing my first book when I was sixteen. Needless to say, it was not publishable and it sits in the back of my file cabinet. But these two organizations taught me how to write professional, commercial fiction. A huge difference for me. They also taught me about the business side of being an author. I still religiously attend workshops with my notepad. It’s an ongoing learning process. I’ve also met my closest friends—including my fellow Femmes—writers that aren’t scared when I say “I hear my character’s voices in my head.” And the conferences that NJRW and RWA held are where I met my agent and editors.

The Readers

Where would any author be without the readers? I cherish each one. I’m also thankful for reviews. I value the time readers spend writing them.

My Critique Partners

I’ve had several critique partners over the years. All of them have helped make my books shine. I think of finding a good critique partner like dating. You have to find the right match for you. I’ve been lucky and will always be grateful.

Volunteering

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m grateful for volunteering. I’m on the NJ Romance Writer’s board as the hospitality chair, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. At meetings I hand out milk chocolate kisses for authors who are brave enough to submit their work and white chocolate hugs for authors who received rejections (a regular part of being a writer). I enjoy handing out flowers to celebrate each member’s good news. I also volunteer and run a monthly critique group at my local library. Every month aspiring writers get together in the library and read their work. I organize the dates and times with the library, and even though I don’t always get time to read my own work, I’m thankful for the group. Many people have helped me on the way to publication and I feel a deep sense of satisfaction helping others now.

Family Support

I know of writers who gave up on their dreams because they didn’t have family support. Many of us have kids, day jobs, and/or elderly parents, and we all need a support system. I’m thankful for mine.

James Bond

Ok, I have to say I’m thankful for Ian Fleming. In A Spy Unmasked,  my hero, Robert Ware is a safecracker and an expert in the fine art of finessing open safes. He’s also a master spy for the Crown. I grew up watching the Bond flicks and I love them still. Spies are mysterious and dangerous. They often have close calls but somehow they always end up escaping unscathed. And when the intrigue surrounding the spying is interwoven with the romance, the result is a sizzling read. So who’s my favorite Bond actor?

Daniel Craig in swim suit

KINDLE GIVEAWAY!

I can’t depart without some type of shameless promotion for A Spy Unmasked. I’m offering a prize of a new Kindle Fire HD6 to a winner who reads the book and leaves an honest review at Amazon. I’ll pick one winner on Sunday November 16, 2014, from all the reviews posted. See my website for details!  Here’s a quick blurb of the book:

London 1820

The mission did not go quite as Robert Ware–known in society as the new Earl of Kirkland–planned. A spy in the service of His Majesty, Robert is a “guest” at a masquerade party as he retrieves vital information for a murder investigation. Until he’s quite unexpectedly interrupted by an exquisite, masked woman with glittering green eyes. And a pistol she has cocked and aimed right at him…

Lady Sophia Merrill has defiantly taken up justice’s shining sword, determined to expose the brigand who murdered her eccentric but brilliant father, and stole his latest invention. Now she must masquerade as Robert’s betrothed in order to infiltrate the Inventor’s Society and find the killer. But the undeniable potent attraction between them not only imperils the investigation, but Sophia’s reputation… and both of their lives.

 So what are you most thankful for? And who’s your favorite James Bond actor? I’d love to hear your views, so please share!

Tina Gabrielle

A SPY UNMASKED – Out Now!

You can find me at:

 www.tinagabrielle.com

 http://twitter.com/tinagabrielle

 https://www.facebook.com/TinaGabrielle

In The Barrister's Bed InTheBarristersChambers Original Artwork A Perfect Scandal LADYOFSCANDAL Cover

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Dealing with the Walking Dead

I’m going to put this out there. I am not a nice person. I can be pretty ruthless. When I no longer have use for someone, I have no problem throwing him out.

Sherlock idiot

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If I don’t like something that happens, I can easily tuck it away so that I forget it ever occurred. And if somebody says something that doesn’t make sense, I readily say “That’s stupid!”

Such is the life of a writer.

Oh, you thought I was talking about real life? Did you forget this is a blog about writing? Silly!

Let me first say, I’m a Capricorn. We Capricorns are known for being loyal to a fault…until you cross us. Still, I’m inordinately proud of the progress I’ve made in being able to disassociate myself from something that is no longer working in my manuscript. It isn’t easy. Writers become attached to their words in ways that are incomprehensible to most people.

I’m sure I’m not the first person to say this. Writing a book is like pregnancy, and can take just as long (or longer!). Sometimes, it can be just as painful. There’s this surge of joy when you come up with a new idea for a story, much like the feeling you get when you first discover you are pregnant. Your mind starts racing, you picture scenes and plotlines, characters and settings, you decorate and embellish the story in your mind’s eye just as you plan out the nursery for your new bundle of joy.

As you go through your book “pregnancy”, your baby gives you growing pains. Suddenly, a scene isn’t working and you have the worst case of indigestion. What do you do?

Your first course of action is to medicate with a handful of M&M’s, which are always at hand for any serious writer. M&M’s make everything better, at least temporarily. Then, you attack the offending scene with gusto, working and reworking it until it makes sense. Unfortunately, sometimes the reworking serves only to suck the life out of the scene completely. If that is the case, you chop it out. Cut off its head. Put it in solitary confinement in a file marked “Save for later” that you hopefully will remember you created when you realize that the scene actually DOES work, just not where you had it. Maybe it belongs in a different story entirely. Maybe it will never get used. Still, it’s there, waiting for that moment when you recognize its value.

Yet for every discomfort, for every pang you get as your “baby” grows, there is a moment of sheer joy, that feeling a mother gets when she holds her child for the first time. It’s that thrill you get when you laugh out loud when you’re writing a scene. The tear you get in your eye when everything seems hopeless for your characters’ happily ever after. The rush you get at the possibilities for your story’s success, because you know, you just KNOW, you got it right.

Here’s the thing. Writing is hard. It’s a solitary job with lots of rejection. Life often gets in the way. Hardly anybody writes their first book and sells a million copies of it. Practice makes perfect…or at least, perfect enough that an editor wants to buy it.

And here’s another truth…if you stop writing, you get rusty. I’m learning that firsthand these days. My writing has hit a dry patch. My baby has stopped growing, and there’s that fear of miscarriage, that the manuscript I’m working on will never reach its full potential. What I find, though, whenever I return to the story, is that it is just sleeping. Sometimes it takes a little while to wake it up, but eventually, it springs back to life.

I never, ever discard anything I write. That isn’t ego talking. It’s common sense, and yes, attachment. Just as I couldn’t discard one of my own children, so I couldn’t discard even a paragraph that isn’t working out the way I want it to. At every conference I’ve ever attended, one of the key speakers has referred to that first offending manuscript, the one that didn’t sell, that nobody wanted, that sits in a drawer at home as a reminder of how far the author has come. Because if you keep writing, you will get better at it. Your first book isn’t going to be as good as your fifth, or even your second.

I have a huge graveyard of unused writing, waiting to be resurrected when its usefulness is clear. It will be the Zombie Apocalypse of (Jaye Marie) Rome.

*********

How do you deal with wayward words?

 

Jaye

 

 

 

Review of the OUTLANDER Premier on Starz

Property of Starz Entertainment, LLC. Outlander @2014 Sony Pictures Television, Inc.

Property of Starz Entertainment, LLC. Outlander @2014 Sony Pictures Television, Inc.

Alright, so I can’t resist. I can’t even claim for this to be a “what do series adaptations teach us about our writing” post (or maybe I can).

There are folks who can’t quite get into (or through) the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon series, someone, even a couple of people on this blog (ahem, I’m not naming names). But those of us who do love the series, LOVE the series. We’re talking totally obsessed, fan-girl-type obsession.

Because, oh, the deeply-drawn characters, the vivid descriptions, the unexpected twists, the rich setting, not to mention drama, history, politics, adventure, and of course the love story that spans decades!!! See? And I’m telling you, I am not one who has time to obsess over anything. But I’ve been excited about both Gabaldon’s newest release Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (Bk 8), and the Starz series. And so, intending to tell my daughter where the good stuff really started, I re-read the beginning of Outlander (Bk 1), and determined to reread An Echo in the Bone (Bk 7) in order to fully enjoy the new one. Except, oops, my “browse” of A Breathe of Snow and Ashes (Bk 6), turned into a full read… Meanwhile, the power of promotion was hard at work. A fellow restaurant patron overheard the cashier ask what I was reading and commented “yeah, they are making a series.” I gushed, of course. Then, wow, when I saw that there was a YouTube video of the cast on a Comic Con panel. I saw Diana Gabaldon, Caitriona Balfe (Claire) and Sam Heughan (Jamie) on CBS morning news. So, when—eeek!—Starz offered the first episode free on demand a whole week ahead of the official premiere? Well, I finally took time for me, and did something completely out of character—I sat myself down in front of the tube in the middle of the afternoon! I can’t tell you how psyched I was as I hit play, and again, at each new scene.

[To access the Starz episode: http://www.starz.com%5D

And man, did Starz and Executive Producer Ronald D. Moore deliver! All the leads are cast perfectly. The only supporting character who might not have been (IMHO) was Murtagh, and that had nothing to do with acting. It’s only that Murtagh is supposed to be quite ugly…and this actor was certainly not. (Murtagh is not named in the episode but he’s the one who saves Claire from Black Jack Randall and delivers her to the Scottish outlaws.)

Truly, Balfe was brilliant, it was so cool to see the actor Tobias Menzies switch between Frank Randall and Black Jack Randall, and seriously, five lines from Sam Heughan and I was in love with Jaime all over again. The Scottish brogue, the teasing glint in his eye, his wise words. And, yeah, there’s the fact that he’s smokin’ HOT. The adaptation is very close to the beginning of the book. As far as I noticed, the only thing left out was the pub scene where Claire meets the elderly plant collector who then takes her out looking for specimens. Hardly important. But even the little things were thrilling, like hearing the correct pronunciation of “Sassenach.” I will say, I never pictured the highlanders in those cute little caps. What I wonder are they called? Truly, my only disappointment was that there were no preview scenes for the next episode! Because I wanted more.

So—yes, I can relate this to writing—why is it that, optioned for the big screen or no—readers so love a book series? Is it the chance to dive deep into character and stay there? Learn more about a certain world in each subsequent story? Watch a relationship flare, steady, and thrive? Is it the comfort of returning to a setting we love, like coming home? To embrace again characters that feel as familiar as family?

Tell me, why it is you love series? Which are your favorites? And, most importantly, are you writing them?

[As a sidenote: yes, I’ve changed my pen name, from Jenna Blue to JB Schroeder. Expect a future post about it…]

(Photo)journaling as inspiration

When I was around thirteen years old, like many teenagers, I went through a period of journal writing. I wasn’t very good at it. I never knew quite what to write, and it went very quickly from something I thought of as fun, to something I considered a chore. If I didn’t write in my journal at least every other night, I considered I was failing at journaling.

I guess I felt like I didn’t have much to say. I wasn’t a typical angst-ridden teen. I had a great life, and I knew it. My biggest complaint was having to do housework on the weekends. I didn’t really like boys at that point, thanks to having two relentless older brothers who teased me mercilessly. Why would I voluntarily add another boy into the mix?

Drawing came much easier to me than writing words. I spent hours in my room, listening to my stereo, sprawled out on the floor with sketchbooks and pencils.

Image

Mostly I used pictures in books or on album covers as my inspiration. I drew Dennis DeYoung, Linda Ronstadt, George Michael, Frank Sinatra. I copied an album cover onto the back of my brother’s denim jacket, and painted it (New Riders of the Purple Sage). I drew my feet, my hands, my dog, a self-portrait.

Drawing is a great hobby for a writer. It forces you to really observe. I soon went from drawing in my room, to getting outside and drawing from nature. It’s amazing what you see when you lie on your stomach in the grass. There’s a whole new world down there. Once I turned seventeen and got my driver’s license, I headed down to the beach, sketching everything from lighthouses, to fishermen baiting hooks, to windsurfers preparing to hop on their boards. The Jersey Shore has its own culture, and it has always fascinated me.

It was about that time that I became friends with a guy I worked with. Tony Gonzalez was (and still is) a photographer (see http://tonygonzalezartist.com), and I soon added photography to my list of journaling tools. Tony and I would head down to Long Branch and shoot under the boardwalks, using black and white film.

 

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I love the nuances in grey scale. It makes the subject’s details obvious to the eye, adding light and shade, highlight and depth, texture and mood. Take, for example, this photo of an ant on a daisy.

 

IMG_9112IMG_9112 b&w

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The color photo’s story is cheerful, a happy little ant tooling along on a daisy stem, the yellow of the daisy’s center like a ray of sunshine. The black and white photo, however, tells a different story. The wilted flower now looks harshly dead, and the ant appears more sinister. It’s as if he sucked the life out of the flower, and is marching on to attack his next victim.

Whoever said “A picture is worth a thousand words” was a wise person, indeed. Not only do my photos remind me of details upon which I can draw in my writing, they are also the jumping-off points for stories. Take this photo of the Duomo in Milan.

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If you don’t know the Duomo, it is the second largest Catholic cathedral in the world, and it took nearly four hundred years to complete. That last fact, alone, is fodder for a writer. Imagine the lives of the cathedral builders, artisans, craftspeople! In fact, Ken Follett did, in his amazing novel, The Pillars of the Earth.

I love to take photos of people, as well as places. Aren’t you just dying to know the story behind this violin player on the streets of Rome? Or to make one up for him?002

 

Is he really a poor man looking to make a few euros to get him through the day? Or is he laughing behind that big smile, rolling in dough and just enjoying his retirement, playing a part? Is he married? How many children does he have? Grandchildren? What is his house like? Since my stories always start from the human element, often my photos give me ideas for stories I want to write in the future.

Whenever I travel, my camera goes with me, along with a little notebook to record details about certain photos, or tactile experiences. What was the air like on that day when the mist hung over the water? Did my skin taste salty after walking in the fog at the shore? Did I twist my ankle walking down that winding cobblestone road in Orvieto? How cool was it to use only a golf cart for transportation in Costa Rica?

If my pictures are good enough, every little detail of my experiences, including tactile ones, can be recorded with a click of a button, to use at a later date when I’m back in the confines of my office, working on my next story. They help flesh out the people, places and things. For me, characters and settings rich in details are what make a story worth reading.

Do you journal, with words or pictures? What do you get out of it? Dish with me.  🙂

Hugs,

Jaye

 

Lesson Learned From Frozen: Write To Your Own Trend

Sisters, Elsa and Anna

Sisters, Elsa and Anna

Last week I stepped outside the 5% of the US population who has not seen the movie Frozen. I had been wanting the see the movie for a long time. With my background in Musical Theatre, this type of movie is within my personal category of MUST SEE.  Unfortunately, my daughter initially saw the movie without me, and she fell into the minority of children in the United States who didn’t feel the need to see it again. We live busy lives, and at a certain point I realized I was destined to see the movie once it came out on DVD. Even then, I BEGGED her to watch the movie with me, and when begging didn’t work, I moved into the phase of motherhood I’m really good at. I tortured her with the promise I would not stop singing Let It Go until she agreed to watch the movie with me.  As a former professional singer, the threat initially fell flat. I sang the song a few times through while doing chores around the house, and while maybe my singing proved a distraction from her current focus (reading The Fault In Our Stars) I transitioned into singing Let It Go BADLY, changing as many words as possible to capture her attention.  When I started to incorporate some truly horrific dance choreography into the performance, she put the book down and raced me to the door to rent the DVD. Even an 11 yr. old has her breaking point!

I was expecting a typical Disney love story movie musical in Frozen. Perhaps my love of another Disney movie, Brave which I blogged about years ago (Brave: Tackling the Complex Mother/Daughter Relationship) should have told me to expect much more than your typical Boy-Girl story. Yes, there is an adorable dancing and singing snowman, and while love and relationships between a man and a woman is within the story, it resides within a subplot. The main focus of the story is the love found within a family, in this instance, the strong bond of love and friendship between two sisters.

The focus of family in this movie sensation caused me to take a look at my own writing and the writing industry in general. When it comes to market trends, we are told not to write to trends but to write ahead of a trend. Study the industry and figure out what might be the next big thing. If you want to jump on the werewolf, shape-shifter craze, you better have written it already because writing it while that market is hot, only means by the time you’re ready to bring your story to the world, you will have missed the trend. So what is an author who is trying to write a break out novel in the industry supposed to do? One of our Femmes, Michele Mannon, wrote ahead of a trend. She had the idea to write Hot Alpha Male MMA stories before it really became a trend and took hold in the market. This stroke of brilliance it has paid off in spades for Michele. Another Femme, Diana Quincy, paved her own trail or trend within the popular Historical Romance genre with her Accidental Peers series. Both wrote from their hearts stories they were destined to tell with unique hooks. So what then about a contemporary writer like me who writes humorous, sexy, family driven contemporaries? I’m not about to write a shape-shifting story in the hopes of making a market splash. It just isn’t in me. My writing time is so limited, I have to write something this is true to my soul otherwise the time spent on a project will feel empty and the story will fall flat.

The explosion of the movie Frozen with the focus of true love and sacrifice residing within the family structure has given me hope. This has reminded me that, regardless of current or past market trends, the trend or the importance of Family within our society will never die out. I will continue to write from my heart and produce funny, family centric stories. My next romance series will focus on more than one family and how all their lives intersect and impact one another within a community. I’m planning to explore more complex family relationships while keeping the focus on one couple’s messy journey to a happily ever after. I started to explore this a bit in the third installment of my Brothers of Audubon Springs series, The Right Chord, which releases on August 6th. Could this be the next trend? I don’t know, but I do know I’m excited to tell the stories within this new series set. As a writer, motivation and excitement for a project are half the battle.

I’m wondering if anyone else was surprise by the twist in the focus of Frozen? Also, what do you believe will be the next big trend and what current trends in the writing, movie, or television industries have captured your attention or surprised you?

Happy reading and writing!

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Publishing a Series Out of Order & Other Adventures in Publishing

UnderwoodKeyboardThe one thing all newer authors learn pretty quickly is that there is no blueprint, no “how to” guide, to publishing.

We kind of have to feel our way around, gleaning what information we can from conferences and loops while being careful not to ask our editors or agent too many questions for fear of being a pest or looking stupid (at least in my case).

I’m a new-ish author.  Even though I’ve published three books in the past year, I remain a novice in many ways and how I handled my first series certainly attests to that fact.

My debut novel, published in April 2013, was not the first manuscript I wrote; it wasn’t even the first book I sold. The first title I sold was Tempting Bella, the third book in the series. My fabulous agent went to bat for me right away, asking my editor to publish the second book in the series, Seducing Charlotte, first.

Why not the publish the first book in the series first? After all, that would make the most sense as reviewers have certainly pointed out.
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Why Readers Read, Why Writers Write

Why Readers Read

ReadA few years ago I took April Kihlstrom’s Book in a Week online course.  As part of the prep work, April has writers explore WHY we want to write a specific project.  What about the project is important, what message do we want to communicate, and to whom? In order to answer that question, the first step was to explore why readers read.  Here is a short list of why I read:

Escape – Sometimes I just want to be swept away to another time or place in the hands of a capable author with fully realized characters and setting. Over the years this has become my best form of therapy during stressful times.

Read a powerful love story – Going back to my number one reason of escape during stressful times, nothing warms my soul and puts me in a happy place more so than watching a couple fall in love.

FEEL something intensely – Watching others solve their problems, compromise, explore their humanity, go on an adventure, avert danger, and yes – fall love is highly cleansing. This emotional catharsis takes me away from my own struggles for a moment.

Why Writers Write

WritingJoanna’s post last week helped me own my guilt, but it also had me question (louder than I have before) WHY I write. Are the rewards worth the sacrifices (see: Author Ass, Sleep Deprivation, Dirty House, and Neglected Family). Then it occurred to me I need to write as much as I need to read and for the same reasons. In the last few weeks, I’ve been mulling over things about my writing career specifically in regard to Marketing approach and Brand (a buzz word that truly pisses me off – another topic for another day), but I’ve been distracted, unable to focus on these topics because my family is going through a difficult time right now.  At the height of stress the number one thought that runs through my mind right after “I want my mommy!” is “I NEED to escape into a good book.” Thanks to my little, Divergent is sitting on my end table. I’ve seen it beside my keyboard. I have found it on top of my cookbook during meal prep, and on top of the dryer while dong the wash. Think she’s trying to tell me something? My girl seems to know I need this escape. What better place than a YA Dystopian world?
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