Friday, March 24, 2017

Friday Feature: Chatting with Romance Author Donna Simonetta

Hi Donna! I'm so happy to have you here as my guest today. Tell readers a little bit about yourself.

Like Katie, I’m a New England girl. I was born and raised in Connecticut, went to college in Massachusetts and then moved back to Connecticut and later to New Hampshire. But like Magda, in my new release A Sweeter Spot, I fell in love with a man from Virginia. We ended up in Maryland, because it plopped us in between our two moms, and it’s where we stayed. I worked in the business world for a long time, but my love of reading led me to get my MLS, and now I work part-time in a school library, in addition to my writing. Although, it’s getting harder to find enough time in the day to do everything I need to do for my writing and the library. Something’s gotta give, and it won’t be my writing!

I like a cozy mystery, and I love to read romance! I love the happy endings in romance novels. Real life gives us plenty of stuff to worry about, and reasons to be sad. When I read, I want to escape to a world where I know the mystery will be solved, and true love will triumph. I prefer contemporary romance with some humor…like Katie’s My Kind of Crazy, what a fun book! It’s what I try to bring to my writing as well, humor and heart.


What's your favorite part of being an author?
 
The actual writing! On a good day writing, I can get lost in my work, and forget about everything else. I’ll suddenly realize it’s almost time for my husband to get home and cross my fingers that frozen pizza will be okay with him for dinner – lol! I’ve really liked some aspects of my library work, but that has never happened to me there. You could interrupt me at any point in my day in the library, and I could tell you, to the minute, how much longer I have to be at work.

What's your approach to writing? Do you plot or go with the flow?

I do a little of both. I figure out where to start, where to end, and what the high point is in between those two points. And I spend a fair amount of time before I start, thinking about my characters, their appearance, background, and what motivates them. So when I do start writing, things can flow. And sometimes, they flow in a direction I didn’t anticipate!

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

It would be teleportation. My family and friends are scattered all over the place, and it would be great to be able to just teleport to wherever they are for a visit. I hate the hassle of traveling, but love the opportunity to see loved ones. It would be great to pop to Ireland for a cup of tea with my best friend, and then zap to California for cocktails with my brother-in-law.

I've gotta say, that's one of the more popular superpowers that all of us busy authors would love! Now, let's get to the good stuff... Tell us about your new release!

I’m really excited about A Sweeter Spot! It is the first book I wrote that has no fantasy elements, which was a challenge for me, but I am so happy with the result. It’s set in a fictional small town called Rivers Bend, on the Virginia-Maryland border. The heroine moves there to help her best friend run the library, but also to get away from her wealthy, controlling grandmother back in New York. She expects to be a fish out of water, and just stay until her friend is back on her feet, but ends up falling in love…with the quirky little town and with its favorite son, former NFL player and hunky single dad, Jeff Braden.

A Sweeter Spot is the first book in a trilogy about Rivers Bend and the Braden family. Some exciting Rivers Bend news …I just signed a contract with the Wild Rose Press for book 2 of the series! It’s going to be Heather Braden’s story, and whether or not she finally gets her HEA with her first love, and Jeff’s former NFL teammate, Mick Evans.  I’ll keep you posted on all the deets about it, title, cover, release date, as soon as I know them!

About the Book:
Magda knows a 28-year-old shouldn’t run away from home, but Rivers Bend is the ideal escape. Helping out her best friend will get her away from her uber-wealthy, controlling grandmother and duplicitous ex. She doesn’t expect the quirky little town to feel so much like home. Add in hotter-than-the-sun Jeff and his daughter, and leaving seems as unthinkable as it is inevitable.

Raising Sam alone, Jeff knew he wanted her to grow up in his supportive hometown. The arrival of a feisty new tenant sends Jeff's world spinning. Magda fills a void in his life that he’d like to make permanent.

Will love triumph over the most powerful woman in the country, and can they figure out how to make this happy-for-now in Rivers Bend into their happy-ever-after?
Wow, I love the sound of this story! Think I need to add it to my read/review pile right now! Okay, you’re casting the movie version of your novel – who would you choose for the main characters? We’re talking dream cast.

Fair warning to visitors, I’m going to have a boring answer to this one. As a reader, I never picture characters as movie stars. I always see it in my mind when I read, and it’s vivid and clear. I didn’t realize until fairly recently that not everyone reads that way, but that’s another story. When a movie is made of a book I love, I’m frequently disappointed, because the world looks different. Wrong. At least to me! And the actors don’t look like anything like the characters I’ve come to know.

When I began writing, it sort of happened the same way for me as reading. If you dropped me on Main Street, in totally fictional Rivers Bend, I would be able to find my way anywhere, because it’s that real to me. So, to me, Jeff just looks like Jeff. I really tried to come up with some hot actor’s name to answer this question,  but I honestly can’t think of anyone who looks like Jeff does to me.


Hey, that's fine! We'll cast some hunky unknown and start his career with a bang, lol. Tell us where can readers find your book and where can they find you online?

I’m all over the place online, and would love to connect with my readers there! Here are some links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/donnasimonettaauthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/donna_simonetta
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15422407.Donna_Simonetta
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Donna-Simonetta/e/B06X415TWW/

And my books are available from my publisher, the Wild Rose Press, and from all the usual places…here are some links to A Sweeter Spot:
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Sweeter-Spot-Rivers-Bend-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B01N1S1K06
TWRP: http://catalog.thewildrosepress.com/all-titles/4862-a-sweeter-spot.html
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-sweeter-spot-donna-simonetta/1125338511?ean=2940157374921
Amazon UK: http://amzn.eu/14pwrnP

And here are the links for  Angels Fly:

Amazon: https://amzn.com/B01G46DQQ8
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/angels-fly-donna-simonetta/1123842226?ean=2940158160998
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Angels-Fly-Donna-Simonetta-ebook/dp/B01G46DQQ8/
The Wild Rose Press: http://catalog.thewildrosepress.com/all-titles/4409-angels-fly.html


I would love it if your readers wanted to pick up one of my books, and if they do, and like it, I would really appreciate it if they could leave a short review of it where they bought it, or on Goodreads. Before I was published, I didn’t realize how important that was to the author!

Thanks so much for letting me visit today, Katie!





Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Writing Wednesday: Kilts, Camo & Tuxedos - Oh My! Do's and Don'ts when Writing Alpha Males



My latest romance is available for pre-sale right now with an anthology entitled HUNKS TO THE RESCUE. 15 authors and 15 hot alpha males jumping feet first into dangerous situations. The best part is that all the heroes are different, showing that alphas come in a delicious variety of flavors.

Which reminded me of this magazine column I wrote last March for CapeWomenOnline magazine for my "The Write Way" column. The magazine is currently undergoing transformation, and I'm not sure whether it'll be back up and running any time soon, but I had fun writing these tips and thought I'd share again.



When you hear the term "alpha male" you think strong and in charge. Movie images of ripped Navy SEALs or muscle-bound Highlanders might flit through your mind. Or maybe you picture the powerful billionaire CEO, intense and driven with the "A" type personality.

A for alpha.

Alpha males are a staple in literature as well as movies, and as a writer you should take time to master this stereotype (pun intended) no matter what genre you write. There's a big difference in creating a strong alpha male who might also have hidden vulnerabilities, as opposed to one who is simply a domineering jerk.

Romance author Susabelle Kelmer says, “Who wants to read about a selfish jerk? We sure wouldn't want to date or marry one! There is a difference - a true alpha male has got to have redeeming qualities, or I'm not going to be able to get into the story.”

“I've read some stories where the alpha male was such a jerk I had to put down the book,” agrees paranormal author Karilyn Bentley, who writes the Demon Huntress series. “I like them where they are strong and capable but also have feelings and are kind.”

When reading any genre of novel, we expect our heroes to be strong and stand up for what they believe, but readers also want to connect with characters on a deeper level. Even an alpha male needs something to make him vulnerable, and thus human. He can't just flex his muscles and order women around. In a mystery or tale of suspense, he can’t be right 100% of the time. And in a romance, he needs to give as good as he gets.

So as you’re working on your next manuscript, keep these ideas in mind. And make that Alpha work for our approval.

"Alpha Guidelines"
DO make sure your hero is hot, ripped and ready for anything. No, he doesn’t have to be conventionally handsome (although it helps) but he needs to have self-confidence and a certain amount of arrogance about his looks.

DON’T take that self-confidence over the top into the realm of self-obsessed. No one like a Narcissist.  

DO give him a job or a cause he can believe in, and something the reader can relate to in some way. Whether it’s a fireman who puts his life on the line, a Navy SEAL saving wounded soldiers, or a cowboy working hard to save the family ranch, readers love a man with a cause they can believe in too. The CEO who makes millions for his company just by shipping jobs overseas? Not so much. The CEO with a secret soft spot for disabled kids, who donates millions to the local children’s hospital? Swoon-worthy for sure.

DON’T make everything a cliché. Yes, there are stereotypes for good reason – those are formula characters that work. But that doesn’t mean readers aren’t looking for something fresh and new. From the alpha werewolf seeking a mate to the billionaire who marries the poor girl as part of some deal or to gain his inheritance… Yeah, overdone. The CEO who falls for his formerly shy assistant and dazzles her with fifty shades of kinky sexual situations? We’ve seen (and panned) the movie.

DON’T be afraid to try something fresh. There are all kinds of alphas out there, whether they’re in traditional alpha jobs or not. In LINGERIE WARS by Janet Elizabeth Hendersen, the hero was a former British special forces guy (okay, maybe a little cliché), who owned and ran a lingerie shop in Scotland! A twist to be sure, but it worked. Trust me.

DO give your hero a backstory that tugs at the reader’s heart. What made him the way he is today? A strong loving mom, being raised by a grandparent, childhood in an orphanage, a happy household filled with siblings, high school success or failure… try writing up a character background to see what makes the guy tick. What gives him strength? Why is he fighting for whatever it is he fights for? Eventually, some of this backstory needs to leak into your novel, to let the reader glimpse the hero’s vulnerability. If you totally understand the character and his motivations, it’s so much easier to make the reader fall in love with him.

DO make your alpha fall for the heroine for the RIGHT reasons. Loving her big boobs is NOT a good reason. Being horny is NOT a good reason. Alphas should love and respect women. Perhaps they’ve had a love ‘em and leave ‘em past, but it shouldn’t be misogynistic. Not wanting to settle down at twenty-something is a whole lot different than trying to sleep your way across Manhattan for the sheer sake of gaining notches on the bedpost and bragging about it on Twitter.

There are all sorts of alpha heroes out there, and all sorts of readers to cater to. In the end, you need to write the guy YOU would fall for, whether he owns a comic book store, a construction company or a mansion and a yacht. Alpha is alpha.

Chances are, there will be plenty of readers on that same page.


Monday, March 20, 2017

Monday Book Review: The Sapient Salesman, by Erin Wilson


The Sapient Salesman: Spinning Life into Lessons, One Tale at a Time
by Erin Wilson, Published 2015

About the Book:
The Sapient Salesman: Spinning Life into Lessons, One Tale at a Time is a collection of short stories, based on real-life events, that showcase the salesmanship − or lack there of − present in every-day interactions.

Each story uses otherwise ordinary events to bring into question the sales tactics and interpersonal philosophies we employ and [perhaps] take for granted. Through the introspection they inspire, you will discover opportunities to improve your own sales practices − both personally and professionally.
My Take:

First of all, a disclaimer. This is not my usual fiction fare. This is full-on non-fiction, and kind of self-help as well.

My day job is as a technical writer for a software-as-a-service company. I recently attended their annual sales kickoff meeting, which was held in the home office out in California. It was great to get a chance to meet so many of my coworkers face-to-face, people I'd only emailed with or spoken on the phone with. A conversation with one such co-worker led me to purchasing a copy of her book, The Sapient Salesman, which I promised to read and review for her, because you know, that's my thing. Reading and reviewing books. And yes, I gave her cash for the book because I'm an author too. These things cost money, and while I'm always happy to give books away, it always feels good when someone values my work enough to pay for it.

Except I found myself in the strange position of realizing this is not my usual genre to read by any stretch, and I'm not sure I have a good basis for comparison to write a review. The book consists of 80 short stories which are more like parables -- think Aesop's Fables for salespeople -- but with the author as the protagonist of every tale and telling the story in first person. The tales themselves are just quirky stories like any co-worker might share over beer or wine as you sit in the hotel bar, but then the author ties each one to a sales technique, or lack thereof, like Aesop did with his morals.

Before I even opened my copy, I asked if it was aimed at women - while the cover art looks a little purplish online, in my hands it's actually neon pink. The author said she didn't intend to skew to one gender or the other, she just liked the black/pink combo. I suggested maybe neon green for the second edition (if she goes that route) but after reading it, I'm not sure about that. I think it would be better to embrace the marketing to women aspect and keep the bold neon pink. Just sayin'.

Okay, so armed with that foreknowledge - here's the official review.

 *~*~*

This collection of short tales and vignettes combine self-deprecating humor with focused insight to make connections between our every day actions and the task of selling. Erin Wilson delivers bite-sized coaching lessons on understanding the sales mentality from the perspectives of both the seller and buyer.

Originally written as blog posts, the 80 stories in this book range in length from a scant 2 pages to the longest which is 6 pages (and includes an illustration.) As with most blogs, some of the "posts" are more effective than the others in tying the moral to the story, while others make a cognitive leap from their anecdote to the point the writer is trying to make. Likewise the humor levels vary from story to story, with some that are laugh-out-loud funny, to others that barely had me cracking a smile, but this kind of situational humor can be subjective. She has a sassy tone with a good command of both multi-syllabic words and slang that will resonate with readers.

While the lessons are not aimed specifically at male or female readers, I think women salespeople would probably gain the greatest insights from most of Ms. Wilson's stories, as she does have a unique viewpoint as an outspoken woman in a male-dominated industry. I'm not trying to say that male readers wouldn't benefit from her lessons about listening to what customers are saying, taking their needs and pain points into account, adjusting the sales pitch accordingly for your audience, etc. etc. My point is more that a lot of her situational humor hinges on gender in a way that's not totally obvious at first glance.

For example, one of her tales is of meeting with various salesmen to get estimates for a home project. The first salesperson won't speak to her alone until her husband is home from work, and reschedules the meeting. On the one hand, this is a lesson about making sure to schedule meetings when all the key decision makers are present. But it's also not a situation that too many male readers would be familiar with, so it may not resonate with them or feel authentic. (Contractors in general seem to have few qualms about going full throttle when pitching a husband alone.) That particular parable went on to illustrate an entirely different point, about listening to what your customer needs. As a reader, I was still with her because I could relate to the whole story, but I wonder how many male readers might get lost along the way.

On the one hand, the bite-sized stories are too short and sit and read straight through the book. On the other, reading a few here and there resonated with me and had me thinking about the points she made. Not every story is a winner, but there are enough in there to make me nod my head in agreement.

If you are in any sort of sales-related or sales-tangent position and want insight into how to look at situations from a different perspective, try picking up a copy of this book.

It's available on AMAZON and other online retailers.