Cover Poll update

I’ve received about 100 responses on the covers, so far, and it’s neck-and-neck.

There is still time for you to register your preference and influence the final decision.

Tillie is drawn into an adventure that ends up being more than she bargained for while rooting out the truth about a supposedly accidental death.

BONUS: Recipe Included!
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Matilda Thistlethwaite revisits a youthful dream and joins the local community choir.

She is pleasantly surprised when she is chosen as the new soloist and dismayed when she becomes a target of jealousy and soon finds herself embroiled in yet another mysterious crime.

When the choir director deviates from the chorale’s annual program and chooses new music, as well as a new soloist, the resident diva is incensed.

As a newcomer, Tillie remains unaware of the dangerous undercurrents swirling around her until she hears the shocking news of the lead soprano’s accidental death.

When making a condolence call on the woman’s stepson, her detective instincts kick in and she is convinced the death is no accident. She is soon on the trail of a killer.

Despite her crime-solving track record, will Tillie get in over her head, this time? She soon discovers that justice isn’t as simple as it had seemed.

A charming page-turner, perfect for fans of Jan Karon, Agatha Christie and Dorothy Gilman.
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I’d love to have your comments on the covers and the book blurb.

And let me know if you would like to be considered to receive an Advance Review Copy when it becomes available.

Chasing the Muse

Every writer is inspired by different things. The ancient Greeks ascribed various muses to the arts;  Thalia was for comedy and pastoral poetry, Terpsichore was dance, and Erato was for love poetry. Lately, my personal muse seems to be Melpomene, the muse of tragedy, because, tragically, I can’t seem to write, at all.

I am in the midst of unpacking after a household move and, although things are beginning to take shape, I’m one of those unfortunate souls who requires balance and order in my work space before the ideas begin to flow. I’m getting closer to having my writing nook set up to my liking, but as I work, I feel the urgent nudging of the characters in my work-in-progress telling me to stop neglecting them and get the show on the road. Judy Falls is eager to know all about the body she discovered in the ruined chapel in the woods and the rest of the Bannoch First Ladies are anxious to know more about the wife of the new pastor at First Baptist. It’s a lot of pressure added to the stress of a move, believe me, but enough whining.

Next week is the second Saturday of the month and we are in for a treat as we visit with that brilliant and clever writer, Julie Seedorf. It should be a fun time as her irrepressible character from Fuchsia, Granny, has promised to join us.  I’m not sure who the Greek muse of hilarious cozy mysteries is, but Julie must be very familiar with her.

I’m hoping some of her inspiration rubs off on me! See you next week.

 

Distractions

images writerBefore I retired from my day job a few months ago, my weekday hours between eight and five belonged to my employer. I was forced to be organized and focused in order to write in the small amount time belonging to me. I longed for the day when I could retire and devote myself full time to my writing.

When that glorious day came and I cleared out my desk and said good-bye to my coworkers, I gave myself a couple of weeks to relish my newfound freedom, then, when I was through decompressing, I tried to approach my writing desk like I had my old office; sitting down around 8 a.m. with plans to work until noon, break for lunch, then get back to it. I repeat: that was the plan.

I soon succumbed to the seductive idea of unlimited time. I didn’t need that strict organization or laser-like focus, anymore, so I cut myself some slack. While I simply couldn’t afford to be distracted in my former schedule, now I found myself available to socialize, to start household projects, to stand and chat with the plumber while he fixed a faucet, to linger over my lunch, or take an extra walk when the day was fine. My manuscript grew at a snail’s pace, but my burden of guilt doubled by the day.

Most beginning authors, especially indies, struggle to balance time spent networking on social media and doing promotions with producing more and better content. Surprisingly, that balance is even harder to find for the newly retired. At least, it has been for me.

I’ve discovered two things: one, I don’t need to feel guilty when I don’t write. I write for the joy of it. No one but me is making any demands upon me. (Well, blessedly, some of my precious fans occasionally urge me to hurry up and produce the next book. Thank you!)  My second discovery is that there is no such thing as limitless time. I must set priorities and goals and work on them on a regular schedule, blocking out segments of time off along with the daily word counts.

Of course, these rules don’t just apply to writers.

 

 

 

It’s a poor writer who blames her tools…

This has been an interesting week. I’ve spent a lot of time watching webinars on improving my skills and craft, and keeping up on world news.

My activities intersected when I read this quote from Carly Fiorina (posted on Townhall.com, 11/20/15, from a speech following the Paris terrorist attacks)

This Is a War We Must Wage and Win

…ISIS is becoming increasingly technologically sophisticated. They are utilizing encrypted communications that allow their recruits to disappear. They have established a 24-hour help desk to help fighters evade law enforcement.

How does this quote relate to my time spent learning the tools I need to become a better writer? It shows how important it is to keep current on technologies as they become available to us.  We can be more successful, whether for good or evil, by utilizing new skills and processes.

tools1One of the tools I had been dragging my feet about is the writers’ software, Scrivener. I continued to struggle with all the complicated formatting issues of Word because I was afraid of Scrivener’s learning curve, even though fellow writers raved about it.

When I asked my son, here on a visit from Italy, to help with a problem I was having formatting a Word file, he suggested I use Scrivener. He uses it in his translating work.

I finally bit the bullet and downloaded the free trial. It looked just as complicated as I’d feared and seemed to dry up my creative juices as soon as I opened the program. However, after walking through the help files, followed by watching a webinar, I’m flying through the outline and first draft of my current work in progress, A Corpse in the Chapel.

My latest book, A Body in the Belfry, releasing in all formats 12/1/15, is the last I will produce the old way. I’ve become a confirmed Scrivener fan.

This year, my list of things to be thankful for, as we sit down to Thanksgiving Dinner, will include the Scrivener program and all the wonderful training videos out there.

Wishing you a blessed Thanksgiving.

 

Progress Report: A Body in the Belfry Launch Update

In response to the generous, encouraging fans who have asked about my upcoming release in the First Ladies Club series, I am happy to report “A Body in the Belfry” is on track for an early release.

Thanks to hard work by my beta readers and editors, I am reviewing the proof copy this weekend and anticipate publication of the print version to happen mid-November, just in time for Christmas gift-giving ;-).

The digital version for Kindle and other ebook-readers will be in pre-order until December.

There is still time to join my launch team and receive a free Advance Review Copy (ARC) in exchange for an honest review.  If you would like to participate and are willing to read and post your review when the print copy releases in November, drop me an email, telling me a little about yourself, to: jbhawker@jbhawker.com and I will send you a PDF copy of the book.

Besides posting reviews on Amazon, members of a launch team are encouraged to promote a book on social media and share with family and friends.

No writer can be a success without the generous support of fans like you.

Thanks so much.

 

Progress Report on “A Body in the Belfry”

Just a short post, since we are all still tired from this week’s Back-to-School Book & Blog Block Party and the big Facebook Mystery Writers Revealed event last weekend.  I had a blast at both celebrations and hope you did, too.

In spite of all the partying, lately, I’ve managed to finish the “Body” manuscript and get it into the hands of my proof-readers/editors. Did you hear my huge sigh of relief?

When the manuscript comes back, I’ll get busy with the revisions, but we are on track for December publication, so I am now able to shift gears and begin to outline the next First Ladies Club installment.

Now, my question to you, dear reader, is: Which of the First Ladies would you like to be the star of this one?  Judy Falls has been after me to write about her and her precocious twin daughters, but before I let her wear me down, I want to hear from you.

Should the next book center on Judy, Elizabeth, Eskaletha, Olivette, Gwennie or Peggy? Or maybe a newcomer to Bannoch?  Here’s your chance to tell me what you think.  Just enter a comment below to become a contributor to my future book.

Thank you!

Rave Reviews Back-to-School Book & Blog Block Party

Hi! Sadly, the party’s over, but wasn’t yesterday fun?

So nice of you to stop by to help me clean-up the mess. You can always tell a successful party by the after-glow you feel and the amount of clutter to clear away.

If you will grab those balloons, there, I’ll sweep up this graffiti…careful not to step in the spilled cider.

Did you hear? We have Five lucky winners of the door-prizes:

Nonnie Jules, S.M. Spencer, Joy Nwosu Lo-Bamijoko, Robyn K,  and Shirley Harris-Slaughter will soon receive a personal email letting them know which prize each has won.  But, I was the big winner. What a blast!  I can’t wait for next time.

If you don’t want to forget what fun we had, just read my conversation with Bunny below and all the super comments from my other guests.

Thanks for coming!

[9/16/15 post follows]

Welcome wonderfBlock Party Badge(1)ul readers! I am thrilled you came to my party. I’m so pleased, in fact, that I am giving away door prizes to five (count ’em, 5) lucky guests today. Leave your comment below and tomorrow you may be notified that YOU are the winner of the signed paperback of your choice from my published works or the winner of a $10 Amazon Gift Certificate. In addition, three lucky guests will receive a digital copy (in your preferred format: Kindle, ePub or PDF) of the Bunny Elder series book of your choice.  How do you like those nifty party favors, just for showing up today?

It may still be warm where you live (here in Northern California it’s downright HOT), but September holds the promise that autumn is on its way. So, pull up that comfy wicker rocker on my shady veranda, sip some spiced cider (okay, a tall glass of iced tea may be substituted, since you asked so nicely) and settle in for a friendly visit.

Some of you may have read the Bunny Elder series books, but whether you’ve heard of her, or not, I’m sure you will enjoy meeting the woman herself.

Bunny, come on over here!

Bunny: Here I am, J.B. I was out back picking an apple from your tree. See how pretty it is?

JB: Yes, that tree is bearing a bumper crop this year. Be sure to take a bagful home with you. But, right now, look! We have company.

B: Well, hey, I didn’t see YOU sitting there. Hi, I’m Bunny Elder Banks. Would you like an apple?

JB: I thought we might have a chat and let our guest get to know a little more about you, Bunny. Would you mind if I ask you some questions?

B: Ask away!

JB: Bunny is a rather unusual nickname. Can you tell us how you got it?

B: My older sisters, Jean and Linda, gave it to me when I was about six. When my two front permanent teeth came in they were too big for my mouth. My sisters said I looked like a little bunny rabbit and the name stuck. I was more than happy to leave “Leveline” behind.

JB: I can understand. But where in the world did your parents get that interesting name?

B: I was told it was the middle name of a favorite great-aunt of my mom’s, but I never met her. I always figured my mother just made it up after hearing Chuck Berry’s song “Maybellene” and she was too embarrassed to admit it.

JB: You grew up in Northern California, is that right?

B: Yep. In a little mountain community called Clark’s Hallow. You’ve probably never heard of it, but I loved it, from its quaint old-west style downtown to the quiet lanes overshadowed by tall pines and cedars.

JB: Where do you live today?

B: My main residence is in Bannoch on the Oregon Coast. I also maintain a condo in Houston, Texas.

JB: How do you support two homes, if you don’t mind my asking?

B: My late husband, Max Banks, was a well-to-do business man and a savvy investor. He left me very well off. I’ve discovered managing wealth is a huge responsibility, but I try to use the money for God’s glory.

JB: So you don’t work?

B: Not so much work, but I do write and I’ve published a book which has gotten some nice reviews. I manage to keep busy with my writing, my church work, trips to Houston to oversee things there, and occasionally I take trips with friends or my sisters.

JB: That’s right! You had quite an exciting trip to Italy with your sister, Linda, a few years back. [This adventure is recounted in “Vain Pursuits”-ed.]

B: That was almost too exciting. Most of my travels have been much more restful…well, except when Max and I were captured by those nasty pirates on our honeymoon in the Indian Ocean. That was not restful, at all. [Read about it in “…and Something Blue”-ed.]

JB: Um, no, that doesn’t sound very nice, but tell us, if you have a place in Texas because of your late husband’s business, what made you decide to settle in Oregon?

B: I have so many wonderful friends in Bannoch. I’ve even been made a sort of honorary member of the First Ladies Club. [Bunny moved to Oregon in “Seadrift”- ed.]

JB: Is that a group of past presidents’ wives?

B: (laughing) No! In some churches the pastor’s wife is called the First Lady. The group is made up of the wives of some of the pastors in Bannoch.

JB: Your first husband, Eustace, was a pastor, is that right?

B: Eustace was a pastor, but he wasn’t my first husband. Max was both my first and last husband. Eustace was a rather unpleasant interlude between.

JB: I believe he died in a car crash, is that right?

B: Yes. Can we talk about something else? [You can read all about it in “Hollow” – ed.]

JB: Of course!  What are your plans for the future?

B: One of the first things I want to do is make certain Max really did die in that plane crash in Eastern Europe.

JB: I’m surprised. Is there any reason to think he didn’t?

B: Probably not. But his body was never found and Max’s daughter, Marki, insists she saw him alive, not long ago. It’s been bothering me ever since she told me about it. Most likely she’s simply indulging in wishful thinking, but I need to make sure.

JB: Well, that is certainly intriguing. Please let us know if you find out anything. I see that our guest has finished her drink and is ready to say goodbye. She has several more Block Party stops to make. Thank you so much for joining us, Bunny.

B: Thanks for inviting me… and thanks for the apples!

JB: Any time. Watch out for that loose step! Goodbye, Bunny.

Thanks for joining Bunny and me today at our Book & Blog Block Party.  Before you go to the next stops, be sure to leave a comment, then watch your email tomorrow to see if you’ve won. Come back, again, anytime. Look out for the loose board on that step, there.

Goodbye!

Launch Team Volunteers Wanted

My current work in progress,  A Body in the Belfry, the second book in The First Ladies Club series, releases in mid-December, so now is a great time to join my Launch Team.

Members of the launch team will receive an Advance Review Copy (ARC) of the book (ePub or Mobi) in exchange for posting honest reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble or other outlets of your choice on the release date, as well as spreading the word to all your friends, neighbors and far-flung relations in the meantime via word-of-mouth, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

If you blog, post a review on your blog, or post an interview with the author (that’s me!)

Send an email to jbhawker@jbhawker.com with the Subject: Launch Team and I will add you to the list.  As soon as the completed manuscript is available I will email you the ARC.

In the meantime, I will keep you up-to-date on the progress of the book, including the final cover reveal and promotional snippets to help you increase interest in the book.

Thank you for all your support!

Writing to the Review is like Teaching to the Test

Working in the education field, I sometimes hear teachers lamenting about how the Federal regulations have them teaching to the tests, rather than teaching children the love of learning. They say this is taking much of the joy out of their job, since they aren’t free to be creative, spontaneous and remain true to their gifts as educators.

For writers, there is a temptation to remodel our writing style to fit the comments of reviewers, in essence, to write to the review.

While we certainly need to pay attention to constructive criticism, using reader feedback to improve our craft, if we try to please every reviewer there is a risk of losing the joy of writing and of transforming our unique voice into a counterfeit, or even losing our passion for writing.

When the criticism is about the quality of my writing, I try to take it to heart and keep honing my craft.  But, when a reviewer comments on the content of the story or the personalities of the characters, I try to remember they are simply expressing a personal preference.

I recently began reading a book by a new author, planning to provide a review, but the author’s style and subject matter were so personally off-putting, I couldn’t finish reading the book. Since I was not the person this author was writing for, I chose not to post any review. I didn’t think it would be fair.

Rather than removing the essence of who I am, in an attempt to please everyone who picks up one of my books, I’m going to try to target readers who will appreciate my style by being as clear as possible about that style in every book’s description.

Someone once told me, “Follow your passion, whether anyone follows you, or not.”  If you are one who writes from the love of writing, that sounds like good advice.

Nonfiction

I currently have one weekly Christian devotional guide published and am working on a daily version. These are written under my full name, Jonna Hawker Turek, and are taken mostly from my weekly inspirational blog, Power Walking with Jonna, on WordPress.

devotional guideWriting and promoting nonfiction is completely different from producing my novels. In the novels I can try on and discard one persona after another, but nonfiction calls for authenticity and transparency. With one genre I exercise my imagination and with the other my character.

Publishing anything makes a writer vulnerable, but I am learning to take the critical reviews of my fiction without flinching; looking for the helpful within the hurtful. I haven’t promoted my devotional guide since publishing it a few months ago and I haven’t received any reviews, yet, but I’m afraid I will be completely defenseless when the unflattering ones inevitably do arrive.

This writing game isn’t for sissies.