12-16 Mary Buckham

Monday, December 18, 2017

A Hallmark Christmas Tradition by Kristin Wallace

Christmas is all about traditions. Every family has one, and it centers around Hallmark. We started collecting the Hallmark dated ornaments in 1976 and bought one every year since. I don't think we meant to start a tradition. My dad picked one up and then we got one the next year...and the next year...and the next. Since I’m not married I still get to decorate the family tree at my parents’ house.
The original 1976 ornament

It’s always such a treat to open the boxes and take them out every year. There are so many memories to uncover. There’s a Santa carrying an Olympic torch to symbolize one of the Olympic games. Santa is featured is featured a lot, of course. There’s a Santa on a train, in a plane, in a hot air balloon, in a car. Santa is featured with his wife a couple of times, too. There’s one on an exercise bike because someone was trying to lose weight that year. We’ve got a few singing angels because my entire family sings. I have some personal ones featuring books because I’m always either reading or writing a book. There’s a “Baby’s first Christmas” from the year my niece was born.
A more recent addition

It’s my dad’s job to take the ornaments out of each box while my mom and I hang them on the tree. We always joke about how he stops for each one, marveling at how the early ones were so inexpensive, and of course, there are a lot of “Oh, I remember this one.”

A box filled with memories…literally. My favorite part of Christmas. Does your family have any traditions when it comes to decorating?

Kristin Wallace is the USA Today Best Selling Author of inspirational and contemporary romance, and women’s fiction filled with “Love, Laughter and a Leap of Faith”. She is the author of two best selling series, Shellwater Key Tales (sweet contemporary romance) and Covington Falls Chronicles (inspirational romance). Look for her latest holiday romance, LOVING YOU AT CHRISTMAS, part of her Shellwater Key Tales series.

For info on all of her books, visit: Kristin Wallace Author 

Sign up for Kristin’s newsletter and download Finding You At Christmas FREE. Plus, updates about new releases, contests, giveaways and more!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Plan for Success with Mary Buckham

A  New Way to Approach the New Year as a Writer

I know it can be easy, too easy, to set aside our writing during the holiday season because of all the other demands on our time. And that’s okay. It’s to be expected. But here’s a secret I want to share that might make it a whole lot easier to jump back into your writing once you come up for air again.

Plan for success.

Planning means incorporating the breathing spaces in our schedules. Those ones that always happen, whether we want them to or not—extra work in our day jobs, a child or significant other having a rough patch, heck, even a common cold can wipe out a week and make us doubt our abilities to shoehorn writing into our schedules again.

Every time we stop, for any reason, it can undermine our determination to get the next manuscript completed, the next project envisioned, the next chapter started. But stopping happens. So what’s the fix?

There must be a way to keep moving forward.

Back to that planning idea. Plan for the downtimes, when they happen, either by choice or life slamming us upside the head.

Downtime planning means we don’t make a hard, full stop, but rather a shift in our expectations. Instead of being frustrated, or beating ourselves up over what we’re not doing, or about to do if it’s been a while since actual writing time, think in terms of filling the creative well. Have some great new books on hand, just for downtime periods. Getting lost in another book can remind us of what we want to accomplish ourselves. Have a few non-fiction books on hand, too. The craft books that we never seem to have time for when we’re deep into a story, but that can act as a great jump starter to creativity when we’ve been temporarily derailed.

And don’t forget about letting your inner creative child out to play, even in small ways, while you’re juggling life. Adult coloring books help overworked, overstressed, adults take a breather. Try a new craft, or study a new skill that has nothing to do with your current project. Or even driving a new route home can help you refocus on the here and now, all means to bring a smile to our creative self.

Don’t panic if alternative creativity sounds like one more to-do item on an already full list.  Ask yourself a few key questions to access your own solutions.

Instead of ‘why’ as in why can’t you [fill in the blank], think in terms of ‘how’ as in how can you be or feel more creative, or have fun, or enjoy yourself, even in small doses? Why questions keep us focused on what’s not working, but how questions focus us on possible solutions.

Planning, even a little, to embrace our non-writing gaps, can go a long way to refresh us, as well as get us excited to start writing again.

It doesn’t matter if we stop, by choice or non-choice, but it can be challenging if we use the time to get frustrated, angry with ourselves for not doing more, or create obstacles to picking up where we left off.

Here’s hoping that this Holiday season you give yourself the gift of planning for YOUR success. You’re worth it!

Ok, it’s your turn. I’d love to hear from you!

What are your favorite ways to refuel your creativity? Are there any that should be added to this list? Do you have a down time process you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below!

Learn more about Mary's fiction and non-fiction books on her website

Friday, December 15, 2017

Making Christmas: New Traditions

Hi, I'm Pippa Jay, author of scifi and supernatural stories with a romantic soul. The video above might be a little creepy for some (sorry), but The Nightmare Before Christmas is one of my family's favourite holiday films and one that comes out for Halloween and Christmas alike. But the principle behind the film and indeed this song - of Jack Skellington becoming entranced by the whole idea of Christmas and wanting to make it his own - definitely struck a chord with me (though I'm not about to go kidnapping Santa Claus and taking his place, lol).

Christmas as I was growing up was always a big family affair and not a religious one, and the same for my husband. But mine ended when I was eighteen with my parents' divorce, and shortly after that my mother's death. By that point I'd met my husband to be, and his family were quick to take me in and share their Christmas traditions with me. Again, a death brought that to an end. By this point, we were expecting our first child so everything was already due to change. As our own family grew, we brought in new traditions of our own to create our very own version of Christmas.

Each year we take our three children to buy a new decoration each so we can gradually replace old and broken ones. We set up the tree on the first weekend in December, with Christmas music playing, a box of chocolate or biscuits to eat while we work, and hot chocolate afterwards. My two eldest are now tall enough to reach the top of the tree so hubs and I only put on the lights and let them do the rest. The tradition of buying their own decorations means each year they pull out their previous ones and reminisce. It's both amazing and cute how they can remember when and where each one came from and who bought what!

In the days leading up to Christmas, we watch Christmas DVDs like the Polar Express, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, and various versions of A Christmas Carol. This year we have the added bonus of it being the anniversary of The Muppet Christmas Carol and our local arts centre showing an upgraded version on the big screen, and a special Christmas Eve reading of A Christmas Carol to add to the festivities (plus a new Star Wars film - yes, I know that isn't Christmassy but that's also become a bit of a Christmas tradition now thanks to Disney).

And last year, this creation of our own personal traditions and what Christmas really means to me finally gave me an idea to write a scifi Christmas story of my own for my main fictional couple, who faced a similar dilemma. Both had lost family and friends along the way, and given up the traditions and holidays of their worlds, and with children of their own the concept of creating a celebration of their own came to mind. I'd planned to do an official release next year, but for a limited time I'm going to make the original version available to read again if you click HERE. But it'll only be up for a week (until the 22nd) so if you want to read it you'll have to be quick!

 While 2016 sucked on the political and celebrity front, 2017 has been hard on a much more personal scale. Fortunately we seem to have put the worst behind us now and I'm hoping to have a very good Christmas with my immediate family. May the holidays bring you happiness too, whether you celebrate something different or nothing at all.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Writing YA/NA Historical Romance

You may recall that Romancing the Genres celebrated New Adult novels in August and September, and I explained then how my books could be considered both Young Adult and New Adult. (See my post at

I’ve learned a lot about writing YA/NA historical romance over the years, including these points:

  • A writer can’t just take a modern young woman and throw her into past centuries.

  • The historical information must be woven into the story without slowing down the plot.

  • The romance has to be organic and appropriate for the characters involved.

For more tips and tricks, you can sign up for “Writing YA/NA Historical Romance,” an online workshop I’m leading through Hearts Through History Romance Writers on January 3-31, 2018. Here’s the course description:

Can you just throw Bella or Katniss into the nineteenth century to create a historical romance? This four-week workshop will provide the skills an author needs to write a historical romance with young characters. In this course, we will practice writing romance grounded in historical fact. We will consider setting, character, and plot points, and ensure the language is appropriate for the story. Part of our discussion will include how young women had more limitations in the past, sexuality has changed over the years, and that adolescence was seen differently way back when. We will also discuss researching and weaving in historical information. While Lynn will provide lectures and short homework assignments, participants will be encouraged to add to the conversation with their own ideas and knowledge.

Lynn Lovegreen has lived in Alaska for almost fifty years. She taught for twenty years before retiring to make more time for writing. She enjoys her friends and family, reading, and volunteering at her local library. Her young adult/new adult historical romances are set in Alaska, a great place for drama, romance, and independent characters. See her website at You can also find her on Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Long and Winding Road Part 2 - Promotion

Hi everyone! I am YA, and now MG author Barbara Binns , writer of contemporary and realistic fiction for adolescents and teens. My tagline tells you what I am about - Stories of Real Boys Growing Into Real Men - and the people who love them.  My newest book, Courage, is middle grade fiction that will be coming out next summer from Harper Collins.

If you are running a business, you know that promotion is a must have part of your overall marketing plan. And being an author is like running a business.

The problem is, I am a die hard introvert.  Among other things, that makes blowing my own horn borderline impossible.

But that is a requirement for marketing and promotion. That's one of the messages I received during the Prairie Writers and Illustrators Day (PWID) conference in October.

I learned about things authors should begin doing in the months before their book is published:
  • Aggressively build a social media platform (being sure to focus on “you” and not your book) 
  • Connect with other authors (social media, online communities, new author publicity groups, associations in common, etc.)
  • Get involved with author communities (i.e., volunteer to be a judge in writers contests, to become a mentor, etc.)
  • Brainstorm marketing ideas like holiday or seasonal tie-ins and different methods of outreach. Click HERE to take a look at a prior RTG post on the outreach efforts of one group of authors a few years ago.
  • Sign up for writers conferences or other types of professional conferences occurring after your publication date at which you can sell or promote your book.
  • Reach out to book clubs or other groups who might be interested in your book and/or in hearing you speak.
  • Coordinate with your agent or editor about submitting your book to eligible awards.
As with any other product, name recognition is critical to consumers. Experts explained that for the most part, readers buy books from authors they feel they know or have a connection to.  Or an author/book that someone they know or care about recommends. That's why name brands are important and why companies have learned to Trademark valuable product names and jingles. When a customer recognizes you by name not just by product type, that name has monetary value.

Having readers know an author by name is practically a holy grail. Nora Roberts, JK Rowling, James Patterson, Jodi Piccolt - these are all name brands to their readers who feel like they know these authors personally. They actively seek out new books bearing these author's names. Finding one is like being invited over to a friend's home for dinner.

The library market can be a big boost to any author. Public and school libraries are big purchasers of both physical and eBooks. But you have to go after that market. Do not assume that having a "library edition" on Amazon will entice any library to want your book, especially if you are self-published. Two things drive library purchases - award wins and patron checkouts.

Get your fans to go to their local libraries and request your books. Many libraries listen to patron requests. After all, librarians want books that will circulate, and a request means the book will go out at least once. Use your news letters, blogs and other venues to recruit volunteers to help spread the word. Sometimes we authors call them "street teams", people who love our work and will spread the word about our new books. Make them feel a part of your family with special news items just for members, treats and give-aways. In return, their enthusiasm can get their friends and relatives to become your fans.

Side note, you should also get your fans to check your books out of libraries. The more an author’s books circulate, the more likely they are to believe future books will do the same, and therefore will more likely buy your next book.

That brought the next lesson - Authors need to have marketing plans that include actively promote themselves. We have to communicate our product and brand...ourselves to potential readers. This is different from the "buy my book" advertising too many authors sometimes flood social media with. That kind of thing does not promote a feeling of friendship, it turns people off.

So, have a platform, something you are passionate about and are willing to spend the time and effort to share. Then find like-minded groups and do so.  Today, social media, twitter, facebook, instagram, etc., have groups and societies for almost any area. Get active. Post original content once or twice a week to show your expertise and opinions.  Also share the content of others. Comment on them early and often, but don't get sucked into controversies that could make people remember you for the wrong thing. Friend people, respond to comments on your posts.

Build a community, so when you do begin posting advertising and information about your new release, people who see you social media will know who you are. Because they know and care about you, you increase the odds they will want to get your book.  (It's kind of like not telling a lot of backstory until after readers have learned to care about your characters.)

I had a private consultation that included personalized advice from Hannah Ehrlich, Director of Marketing and Publicity at Lee & Low Books. You may have noticed I have changed my opening picture for my posts. Those were her first words, to have the new cover out front and center everywhere. Her next piece of advice was that I needed to do more with my personal blog - The consultant told me I had information that others would want to know about, my knowledge of diversity and multiculturalism in the publishing and educational arena. Show people what I know. Transfer what I speak about to short blog posts. Twitter is actually more fun for me, I like twitter where I have to condense. I am not a fan of the longer length. Nevertheless, I have begun doing more blogging recently, and will try to pick it up. My consultant reminded me that twitter does take time to build an audience. Hence that cycle is another of the list of things that needs to begin long before the publication date.

As an author of young adult and middle grade books, I also market to schools, and gleaned some extra tips about that. The first is that the library and school market are different and need different approaches. Librarians are primarily interested in what is new. Schools want to see what fits into curricular needs. They can be interested in a book years after the publication date if it appears useful to them and their students. That means it is feasible to continue marketing backlists to schools, as long as it fits what they are looking for.

And that means this introvert has to start planning for even more school visits and conference presentations for next fall.  Please pray for me.