New Year, New Blog!

Resolutions

Happy 2021, everyone! With the new year, I’ve decided to give my blog a little refresher so it better reflects my writing and books. So, Sustainable Writer is now Suspense with A Twist blog. I hope to post more regularly this year and also spotlight a few more of my author friends who have books coming out in the mystery/suspense/thriller genre.

As a second resolution, I’ve gotten more active on BookBub plan to use that platform to recommend one or two books a month that I truly enjoyed. These will most likely be in the mystery/suspense/thriller genre as that’s the majority of what I read. I hope you’ll follow me on BookBub and get some great reading recommendations in the process!

Exciting News from the Past Month

Apart from the holidays, it has been such a busy few weeks. Here are some recent highlights from writing and publishing life:

  1. In December, TWO WIDOWS hit #34 on Amazon out of ALL KINDLE BOOKS and #1 in each of its categories! This was beyond my wildest dreams. I’m happy that it is continuing sell steadily so many months after publication.
  2. My newer release, SHE LIES ALONE, is off to a strong start and has reached its own milestone with already over 200 reviews on Amazon! (As an added bonus, most of them are positive!) I’m thrilled that SHE LIES ALONE reached the Amazon’s Top 100 in the very competitive Psychological Fiction and Psychological Thriller categories.
  3. My self-published suspense novel, TOP PRODUCER, survived the slush pile and was named to the Long List in the 2020 Clue Awards (the mystery/suspense division of the Chanticleer International Book Awards.) My book will now move onto the next round of judging and I’ll let you know in a month or two if it makes the shortlist.
  4. And finally, I’ve just completed final edits to my third book (recently re-titled, THE LAKE HOUSE) to be published by Bookouture in March 2021. I hope you’re not envisioning a posh, glass-walled mansion overlooking a bustling lake, because this lake house is a lot creepier and more remote, and (spoiler alert) not everyone makes it out alive! I can’t wait to share the cover and the back cover blurb with you in a future post!

That’s all I have for now… I’ve started outlining my next novel and will soon be busy writing. Thanks for hanging out with me for a few minutes. Until next time, happy writing and reading!

The Emotional Turmoil of Getting Published

What is Success in Writing?

For so many years, the end goal of my writing was to land an agent, sign with a publisher, and have my fully-legitimized book thrust out into the world with the approval stamp of the publishing house on its spine. After that, I imagined myself throwing confetti in the air and basking in the joy of post-publishing glory. In this idealized vision, publication equaled success. I never thought much about what came after publication. For some reason, the reviews that would follow–both good and bad–didn’t factor into my daydream.

Well, fast-forward a few years. I landed (and fired) my agent. I signed a three-book deal with Bookouture, who recently released Two Widows, the first of three stand-alone suspense novels. My second suspense novel, She Lies Alone, is coming out in less than two weeks. These stories–the ones I spent literally years of my life crafting, writing, and revising–are now out there for people to read and review. It’s exciting, yes. It’s also terrifying.

I’m happy to say that Two Widows has been very well-received by the suspense-reading community. Still, like almost every book, it has garnered occasional one and two-star reviews. As much as the reviews praising my book have injected me with a sense of euphoria (especially the ones that say they would give it MORE than five stars if they could!), the mean reviews hurt equally as much. These critical people do not hesitate to share how much they HATED my book. Some negative reviews are easier to disregard–for example, those written in one extremely long run-on sentence with no punctuation and brimming with misspelled words, or those that state incorrect facts, demonstrating that the reader has zero reading comprehension, or those that are hateful toward gay people and offended that my main character reconciles with her gay son and admits she’d been wrong to blindly follow a few bullies in her small town church. As authors, it is difficult to not be able to respond to these. But we can’t.

The advance Netgalley reviews for She Lies Alone are starting to show up on Goodreads. The first three people who read it left FIVE-STAR reviews. Woo-hoo! (I must have really found the pinnacle of success with this second book.) Then a few four star reviews followed. (I’ll take a four-star review any day.) The last five reviews have been 3 stars. (Can you feel my energy deflating?) Reading some of these new comments about my book being “average” and “predictable” feels like something akin to emotional abuse, to someone berating my child in front of me. I went from having a wonderful day to wanting to jump off the nearest bridge. (Did I mention I’m a highly sensitive person?)

Apparently, some readers are disappointed that the cover doesn’t match the story. I’m wondering why these people didn’t bother to read the back cover blurb. Others are disappointed that my book is not a true “thriller.” That’s correct, She Lies Alone is a novel of psychological suspense, just as it says in the subtitle! Maybe you can see why I’m frustrated…

How to Cope

For my fellow writers who are finding the thrill of publication tarnished by negative reviews, here are some things I’ve found that help:

  1. Look up a few of your all-time favorite books on Amazon or Goodreads. See how members of the general population left average and bad reviews the book that you so loved. You know they aren’t right. Now apply the same logic to YOUR book.
  2. Remind yourself (as my editor often reminds me) that no book is going to please everyone. It has literally never been done.
  3. Look for constructive criticism and use it to make your next book better. As much as I hate to say it, when several people are saying the same thing over and over again, there’s a good chance they might be on to something.
  4. Don’t read the reviews. Okay, I had to say it, but no one believes that is going to happen.
  5. Remember why you write. I write because there is a story within me that needs to be told. I write because I enjoy being creative. I write because I’m good at it. This passion of telling mysterious and suspenseful stories is for me, not to please some twenty-two-old woman with a permafrown who lives in a crappy apartment building in the middle of Arkansas and who’s initials are K. M. and who I’ve never met and probably wouldn’t like if I did meet her. (Too specific?)

Don’t Dwell. Keep Writing.

While easier said than done, I’m striving to let negative reviews roll off my back. I’m going to appreciate and gain energy from the positive feedback. My third book has just been sent to my editor to prepare for the line edits, and that is where my focus needs to be, not on books that I’ve already written, re-written, revised, and edited. I’ve already poured my heart and soul into those books and they can’t be changed now. I like my books. Actually, that’s not true. I love my books. And for a writer, maybe that’s the true mark of success.

Escape to Writing

I’ve always used writing as a way to work through things that are bothering me–hypocrisy, rude people, the current state of the world, etc. With the onset of COVID-19, I’ve found writing has offered me another gift–escapism. No matter how claustrophobic or stir crazy I’ve become inside my house, I can sit down at my laptop and disappear into a COVID-free world for a few hours. Through my characters, I can attend summer camp, go to a concert, or cheer along with a raucous crowd at a sporting event. I’m not sure how my fellow writers of contemporary fiction are dealing with the pandemic in their stories, but my books do not mention it. My stories are set in the current day, but without COVID. I like it that way. For my mental health, I need it that way.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

One of my upcoming releases, She Lies Alone, is set in a large high school. I wrote the bulk of the book in 2019. As I’ve been going back and addressing revisions and copy edits, it is strange to read my descriptions of a COVID-free world where teens travel in packs and gather to eat lunch in a crowded cafeteria without a second thought. These revisions come exactly at the time I’m learning my kids will be attending their school 100% virtually in the fall. Reading my manuscript describing a pandemic-free world that is both near and distant is strange, but also refreshing. Oh, how naive I was! But how happy and carefree! It is wonderful to travel to that safe place, if only for a while. (Okay, maybe “safe” isn’t the correct word because I write mysteries and there is bound to be a murder, but you know what I mean.)

I’m finishing up a first draft of another novel involving a girls’ weekend gone murderously wrong. I’ve written the all 70,000+ words during the pandemic, but the pandemic doesn’t exist in my book. I’m not sure I could write about the pandemic while living through it. That would ruin the escape that writing brings to me.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Do you write contemporary fiction? Do you mention the pandemic in your stories? Tell me why or why not.

Until next time…

Book Release Day! TOP PRODUCER

laurawolfe138_new_Just in time for Summer Reading!

It’s Release Day for Top Producer, my suspense novel set in the world of Chicago real estate. After reading this book, I promise you’ll never look at your realtor the same!

From the Back Cover:

In the cutthroat world of real estate, only one can rise to the top.

Twenty-four-year-old newbie, Mara, can’t believe her luck when Chicago’s star realtor, Jacqueline Hendersen, hires her as her assistant. But Jacqueline’s polished exterior conceals her crooked moral compass and relentless quest to win the prestigious Top Producer Award. Under Jacqueline’s tutelage, Mara earns enough money to pay for her new condo and her sister’s mounting medical bills as she entangles herself in Jacqueline’s unorthodox methods of creating business.

Mara relies on her increasing success to justify her mentor’s illegal behavior. When a competing realtor ends up dead, Mara fears she will be Jacqueline’s next victim. Backed into a corner by her involvement in Jacqueline’s scandals, Mara faces a high-stakes dilemma. Will she risk everything she has struggled to achieve, or play along in Jacqueline’s murderous game? Because there can only be one Top Producer.

 

The Inspiration for Top Producer

Before I set out to become an author of suspense and mystery novels, I had a few other careers. One of those was as a realtor in downtown Chicago, where I sold condos, houses, and buildings for five years, eventually becoming one of the “top producers” in my company. But when the market crashed in 2008 and I had one baby at home and another on the way, my family and I moved out of the city and I began pursuing my passion for writing.

One day, my husband told me his brilliant premise for a novel:  what if a real estate agent manufactured situations that force people to buy and sell real estate? Think of the reasons people move–job loss, divorce, death, robbery, etc. This was how my villain, Jacqueline Hendersen, was born. I had the real estate know-how to write the book and felt a personal connection to my main character, Mara, whose naivety is squashed by the players in the underbelly of big-city real estate.

Top Producer has been a pet project of mine for several years now. It has undergone numerous rewrites based on feedback I received from editors and critique partners. While it is quite different than the kind of dark psychological suspense novels I’m currently writing for Bookouture, I decided to release Top Producer through my own imprint, Blue Pond Press, so it can have its day in the sun. The early reviews have been extremely positive:

Top Producer Review Graphic

Top Producer is a “larger than life” suspense novel that makes for entertaining summer reading. Please note it contains adult themes and language and is intended for the 18+ crowd. Thanks for checking it out!

View Top Producer on Amazon!

 

I Finally Get to Drink this Bottle of Wine!

The Story of the Bottle

IMG_4946When we moved to our new house almost three years ago, my husband and I made a binge-shopping trip to our local big-box store to stock up on groceries and necessities. In my haste to fill our cart and get out of the crowded store, I accidentally tossed in a $40 bottle of wine. (Normally, I purchase bottles in the more reasonable $10-$15 price range.) I didn’t realize my mistake until we were at the checkout, but things were hectic so we went through with it. When I got home, I felt a little guilty about the extravagant mistake, so I made a deal with myself. I told myself I would save the “good” bottle to open when I got a book deal.

One of my long-time goals has been to have my novels traditionally published by a large publisher. I’ve documented some milestones along this journey, including signing with an agent, completing and revising multiple manuscripts. parting with said agent, looking for a new agent, submitting my manuscripts on my own, all while still writing and being a mom to two kids. Well, you might be able to guess where this story is going. While I was busy writing, revising, submitting, and resubmitting, that bottle of “good” wine sat in our wine fridge for almost three years…

Pass the Corkscrew, Please!

About two months ago, I submitted my manuscript for a psychological suspense novel called, The Space Between, to an editor in the UK. Three weeks later, she asked me to make a few changes and resubmit. I did. A week after that, she asked me what else I had. I sent her summaries of my other manuscripts, one of which she asked to read. A few days after that, I received an offer for a three-book deal from Bookouture (Hachette UK!) I’d been hoping for a two-book deal, so a three-book option was beyond my wildest dreams! This past Friday, we signed the contract.

I now have three novels of psychological suspense coming out with Bookouture, The Space Between (August 2020), Where She Lies (November 2020), and The Cabin on Crooked Lane (spring 2021).  The third one hasn’t been written yet (minor detail!), but I’m now feeling validated and extra motivated to get it done. (There is more information about each book on my website, including a fourth novel, Top Producer, which I’ll be releasing through my own imprint on May 26th, 2020.)

I keep pinching myself. I’m so happy to finally get my books out into the world. Over the last several months, I had lost hope of accomplishing my dreams. I was contemplating throwing in the towel on my writing career. I was depressed at all the wasted time and effort I’d invested in writing and publishing. I’m so glad I didn’t give up. And for all of you writers out there with a dream in your heart and the willingness to hone your craft, I hope you don’t give up either.

Because I can tell you one thing–a glass of wine never tasted so good!

 

 

Eco Author Spotlight – Jenny Roman

March Author Spotlight

I’m excited to spotlight this month’s ecologically aware author because we have so much in common. What are the odds I’d run into another person (on Twitter, of all places) who also loves writing, horses, and sustainability? Well, I did! Her name is Jenny Roman, she lives in the UK, and she writes short stories. Here’s more about her.

The Author

Jenny Roman HeadshotJenny Roman has written short stories and articles for a variety of magazines, and is the author of three short story collections. She has had stories published online and in anthologies, and she has readers around the world. Jenny has an MA in Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University. She has been short-listed or placed in a host of writing competitions, and has also acted as reader, short-lister and judge – so she knows what it feels like on both sides of the fence. She is a member of a Writers’ Group and strongly recommends this to anyone thinking of writing creatively. When she’s not writing, you’ll probably find her in the garden, walking the dogs, or mucking out the horses! Please visit her blog HERE.

The Interview

Hi, Jenny! Tell us about a character in your book who fights for the environment. What issue is of main concern to him/her?

My latest short story collection includes a story which was first published in a magazine in the UK. It’s about a girl called Leah who develops an interest in bees as a child. As she grows up, her mum starts to see it as an obsession, and worries about her, especially when Leah falls in love with a postgrad and they end up travelling and campaigning together about the plight of bees. Eventually, Leah goes on to build a university career based around her passion – a career which outlasts the love affair!

What eco-friendly habits or actions do you take in your own life?

We used to live in a rented house with a huge back garden, grew our own veg, kept hens, and tried to be as self-sufficient as possible. Any leftovers went to feed the hens, and any eggs we didn’t need we sold at our gate. The money from the eggs helped to pay for additional hens’ feed, or seeds for the veg garden. We’ve since moved to our own home, and our garden is too small for a veg plot, but we try to source our food from local producers and support our local shops etc. We’ve deliberately bought a small house – sufficient for the two of us – with a spare bedroom which doubles both as my writing room, and a place to put up friends when they come to stay. We aren’t minimalists, but we are attempting to live with fewer material possessions.

What sparked your love for nature and the outdoors?

As a child our garden backed onto a farmer’s fields, in which there were variously horses, cows or sheep. My parents were both keen gardeners, and I always loved playing outside. Our holidays were spent camping – usually staying in wild places such as Exmoor, the New Forest, or occasionally Scotland – beautiful landscapes for walking and spotting wildlife. I started learning to ride when I was about 10. I was desperate for a pony of my own, but my parents couldn’t afford it, so eventually I worked at the local riding school in return for rides, and then rode horses for other people. I was 28 before I was able to afford my first horse!

Is environmentalism the main theme of your writing, or do you write mainly in another genre?

Environmentalism itself isn’t a main theme of my writing. In my short stories, I generally write about domestic situations – the small details of life – so themes might include having less, or how people and relationships are of more importance than the accumulation of wealth and things. I firmly believe that lots of small changes make a big change. I personally hate waste (of money, effort, time, and the earth’s resources) so I think that comes across in my writing. Many of my stories are centered around love – though not necessarily in the romantic sense. They explore the way things can go wrong, or be misunderstood, or the way people behave badly because their nature conflicts with the situation they find themselves in. What I love about a collection of short stories is that they allow you to explore a range of different scenarios within one overarching theme.

Do you have any upcoming book releases you’d like to tell us about?

I’m currently working on a book of horse-themed short stories for grownups. I’m aiming them at those people who used to be avid readers of pony books when they were kids. Perhaps they no longer ride, perhaps ‘real life’ has got in the way of something which used to feel fundamental to them. I’m fascinated with exploring the way our response to a ‘grand passion’ changes as we grow older. I still love horses as an adult, but not in the same, all-consuming way I did as a kid. Now I have a job and a mortgage and a husband and the ‘grand passion’ has to fit in with all these other things. I kind of wish I still had that overwhelming feeling I did as a child, but your perspective changes as you get older and that’s what I hope these stories will explore.

Thanks, Jenny. Your upcoming horse stories for adults sound perfect for me and I can’t wait to check them out! In the meantime, find Jenny’s currently available books of short stories below.

The Books

Find Jenny’s books on Amazon by visiting her Amazon Author Page!

Until my next post, stay safe and healthy, everyone!

Writing in the Time of COVID-19

Change of Planspills on gray background

A week ago right now, I’d finished a full day of revisions on one of manuscripts and was attending my son’s first school volleyball game. Two days later, school had been canceled for the next three weeks, possibly longer, the aisles of my local grocery store had been cleared out in a rush of panic buying, and my kids were fighting over my computer. What a difference a week can make.

I realize I’m not the only one whose life has been set into a tailspin. This virus is affecting everyone, nobody more so than the people who are infected. Of course, my family and I are doing our part to “flatten the curve.” We’re staying inside, except to take long walks or play sports in the backyard. We’ve stopped getting together with friends. We’re working and schooling from home. Sadly, my husband and I had to our cancel our trip to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary in New York City in May. That will have to wait.

The first two days with all four of us home felt long at times. I found it difficult to focus with a steady stream of interruptions and loud noises emanating from around the house. (I’m one of those people who can only write in complete silence.) But we’re slowly getting into a new routine. I’m claiming the morning hours as my writing time. My husband has set up his home office downstairs in the living room. My kids use their tablets to check emails from their teachers and use my computer in the afternoon.

Silver Linings

I have to admit, there have been a few silver linings to the quarantine. It’s nice to eat

landscape photo of pathway between green leaf trees

lunch with my family every day. I usually eat alone during the week, in between revising or writing chapters. My tri-weekly trips to the gym have been replaced with long, hikes in nature or around our neighborhood with my husband, kids, and dog. Thankfully, the weather has been sunny and spring-like. Another bonus–and I’ve heard other writers mention this too–the pages read of my YA mystery series on Kindle Unlimited are WAY up. I agree there’s no better way to pass the time than reading a book! Finally, is it just me, or are people being nicer to each other? I’ve noticed this at the grocery store and while out on walks and also online. People are smiling, saying hi, asking how I’m doing, and simply checking in. The sense of community has never felt stronger.

I hope everyone who reads this is staying safe and healthy. By all accounts, the worst may still be ahead of us, but we are all in this together. We will get through it, and I’ll be back to my silent days of writing in no time. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy the gift of time with my family.

How are these difficult times affecting your writing or reading?

Spring and New Beginnings

yellow tulip flower field during daytime

Spring is one of my favorite times of the year. Today is a perfect example. After months of cloudy skies, slushy snow, and freezing rain in Michigan, the sun is shining, the remnants of old snow are melting, and daffodils are sprouting up. Two Canadian geese have arrived on our pond, as they do every spring (much to the dismay of our dog.) I’m eager for the ducks to arrive and hoping this is the year they have ducklings.

That’s one of the best things about spring; it’s filled with hope. The awakening of animals and plants outside bring forth a rebirth and new beginnings for the rest of us. Doesn’t anything feel possible on a sunny spring day?

I’m feeling spring’s positive energy in my writing life, too. There’s an idea for a new novel percolating in my head (that’s how novels are born.) Hint: It’s about a girls’ weekend gone murderously wrong. I’ve planted the seeds of the story by writing a rough outline. Next week, I’ll come up with character sketches (that’s the water), and maybe April will be the month I try to write 50,000 words in thirty days (the writing version of photosynthesis.)

It’s wonderful to be able to focus on a new project. This past winter, I went through a

book book pages college education
Photo by Victor on Pexels.com

dark period in my writing life. I’d completed major rewrites to two of my suspense manuscripts, Top Producer and All the Tiny Spaces, but my agent dragged her feet on resubmitting the new versions. When I sent her my newest psychological suspense manuscript, Where She Lies, the same thing happened. I didn’t understand her lack of urgency and support. What was I supposed to do with all of these novels I’d spent literally years of my life writing, rewriting, editing, and polishing? The feelings of despair intensified when people would ask me, “Do you have anything new I can read?” I would answer, “Yes, I have three novels, but…” and explain the whole story. It was depressing to know my manuscripts were being held hostage with no viable plan going forward.

With the rebirth of spring, I harnessed the courage to break away from my agent and pursue new representation. It feels like I can breathe again, like I escaped a stagnant relationship. I am now shopping Where She Lies to a dozen or so literary agents who specialize in my genre (my previous agent did not.) Two of them have already requested the full manuscript. Oh, the possibilities of spring! I am submitting my two rewritten manuscripts to smaller publishers and awaiting responses. For some inexplicable reason (maybe because the sun is shining and flowers are sprouting), I am hopeful my stories will soon find their ways into the hands of readers.

What new beginnings are you pursuing this spring? I’d love to hear your stories of hope and renewal!

Eco Author Spotlight – D.G. Driver

February Eco Author Spotlight:  D.G. Driver

Welcome to the first monthly installment of my Eco Author Spotlight Series! Today, I’m interviewing Young Adult Fantasy author, D.G. Driver. Readers who believe in mermaids and are passionate about protecting our oceans from things like pollution and oil spills will want to check out her Juniper Sawfeather series, starting with Book One, Cry of the Sea.

Author Bio

donnadriverpic4152D. G. Driver is an optimist at heart, and that’s why she likes to write about young people making an impact on the world. You’ll find among her books a teen environmental activist, a young girl teaching people about autism acceptance and to stop bullying people with special needs, a princess who wants to be more than a prize for a prince, a boy who wins a girl’s heart by being genuine and chivalrous, and a girl who bravely searches for a friend lost along the shore of a dark lake. She is a multi-award winning author of books for teens and tweens. When Driver isn’t writing, she’s a teacher at an inclusive child development program in Nashville, TN. She might also take a break from writing once in a while to strut the stage in a local theater production. You’re guaranteed to find her belting out Broadway show tunes anytime she’s driving. Her website is:  www.DGDriver.com

The Interview

Tell us about a character in your book who fights for the environment. What issue is of main concern to him/her?

The main character of my contemporary fantasy YA series is Juniper Sawfeather. She’s a senior in high school and the daughter of well-known environmental activists. She has been raised with their intense priorities and values, although, like any teen, she is rebelling against them by wanting to pursue a career in Marine Biology as opposed to majoring in Environmental Studies like her mother. Her involvement with the causes her parents are fighting (oil spills, logging, and ocean pollution) put her in the settings where she ultimately discovers mythical creatures like mermaids and tree spirits and the fascinating history that connects them to each other and her American Indian heritage.

What eco-friendly habits or actions do you take in your own life?

I do try to limit my footprint by recycling and reusing. I make a conscious effort to use a refillable water bottle, for example, and limit single-use products. I am very conscious of my trash when I’m out in nature and often am the one on the beach picking up litter as I walk along during my vacations.

What sparked your love for nature/outdoors/wild animals, etc.?

I’m originally from Southern California, and I loved being outdoors as a kid. Long bike rides, and as I grew older long hikes. I lived where I was an hour from a mountain forest or an hour from the beach, and I loved it all. Now I’m landlocked in Tennessee, but I still like to be outside on my deck whenever possible or take a jaunt down to the Gulf on vacation. Spray all the perfumes you want, but nothing smells as good as real ocean spray on a beautiful sunny day.

Who is a real-life eco-warrior who you admire? Why?

About twenty years ago, I read the autobiography of Julia Butterfly Hill. She is a famous “tree hugger” who saved a redwood tree in northern by living in it for just shy of two years. Her story of survival and fortitude is impressive, and it inspired the plot of Whisper of the Woods, the second book in my series.

Do you have any new book releases you’d like to tell us about?

My most recent release is a YA sweet romance novel called All the Love You Write. It’s a story about a high school couple whose relationship is being both helped and hindered by two ghosts who shared a tragic love story of their own 50 years earlier.

The Books

Check out D.G. Driver’s Juniper Sawfeather series HERE.

juneboxset_1[4154] Cry[4153]

Thanks for getting to know D.G. Driver. Please stay tuned for a new Eco Author Spotlight every month!