Monthly Archives: June 2012

More mystery and romance…


My new release is out now–serial 2 in The Montmoors set. There’s more mystery, danger, and romance awaiting you in Cornwall in 1830. You can read an excerpt at the link below.

I wanted to let you know, too, that if you sign up for an account with Musa Publishing, you’ll receive a $5.00 gift card to use toward your purchase of my books or other books. I’ve had a couple readers tell me how delighted they were to get this coupon. It enabled them to buy twice the books for the money. So, check it out by visiting the site. You’ll see the box/details on the coupon, and you can browse a bunch of good books. Happy Saturday!

In Praise of Musa Publishing

I wanted to share my experience with one of my publishers—Musa Publishing. Many of the authors there are turning the spotlight on our publisher this weekend to give Musa some much deserved attention. It’s a small press that was formed last year and that opened its doors in October of 2011. I was one of the early authors to get in, and I’m so glad I did. What do I love about Musa? Let me count the ways. If you read many of my blog posts, you know I love a list (it’s the ISTJ in me), so I’ll do a little one here. I’m sure I’ll leave something out, but I want to hit the high points for authors who may be looking for a great small press (who publishes a lot of good e-books primarily at this point) and for readers who are looking for high quality books.

1. The Staff and how they do business— Celina, Kelly, Kerry, Elspeth, Coreen, Matt, Jeanne, and so many others are just fabulous to work with. Any time I have a problem, I can email, and I’ll get a quick response—less than 24 hours. That’s amazing in itself. Also, authors get a chance to take workshops with masters in writing and publishing (bestselling and established authors, agents, formatters and more)—free via Skype. If we can’t make the meeting, we can read the transcripts. These seminars are worth gold for writers who want to better their craft.

Also, Musa began with a bunch of books and authors they acquired from another publisher that went under. Many of these books are still rolling out. This backlist of books in queue bolstered the business model and the new publishing company from day one.

2. My cover art— I really like my covers, and I get a large say in them. If something doesn’t work, I can accept or reject a mockup and work with Kelly and her staff until I’m happy and they are, too. I can honestly say that I’ve had a couple covers that they pegged the first time just right! Secrets of Summerspelle was one of those. I also love what they’re doing for my Montmoors serials.

3. Delphi— Musa has a great system that tracks sales on their website in real-time. That is pretty helpful, and it’s great to know how a book is selling. Statements and royalties from other retailers are also online and are updated weekly. I usually know about what to expect when royalties are paid out. Another cool thing about Delphi is that I can see how the company is growing, and I can easily track that I’m making more money on my books from last year to this year. The transparency is amazing! Another awesome thing Delphi does is house all our manuscripts as we edit and upload them. In addition, we can make changes to cover art forms and genre information, blurbs, and excerpts via Delphi. It’s really cool and a lot easier than nagging someone to do it for us all the time. The updates get sent to the writer, his or her editor, and other Musa staff.

4. My editors— I have a really smart editor at Musa. She has helped me grow so much in the past months. She is tough but kind, and my work is the better for it. Thanks, Ang!

And I have to mention Celina Summers, the head editor. She personally helped whip several of my manuscripts into shape, and she has enabled me to see where my serial set needs to go. This sort of feedback is priceless to a writer.

If your publisher doesn’t offer editors who have more acclaim than you do or who are better published or have more books out than you do (or who have other great accolades), may I suggest taking a look at Musa? I firmly believe that good editors will have a track record of their own in writing and publishing.

5.  Book formatting— Coreen Montagna is responsible for doing the formatting for our books, and they are gorgeous. When a character writes a letter, you see letter script. Different fonts abound to make the reading experience fun. Each manuscript has clip art that is unique to the story. Musa makes the prettiest e-books I’ve ever seen in terms of what’s inside! And Coreen makes it easy on us as authors. We get a template document for Musa manuscripts, and it makes the formatting process so much better for a person like me who is not spatially inclined.

6. Print special edition— Since I was lucky and got one of my novels published in March with Musa, I got to get in on a special limited edition print run for that novel—Secrets of Summerspelle. The heads of Musa are wise: rather than run into print publishing (and have to pull back later, go under, or change the rules for how to get your books in print as many, many publishers do), they decided to be cautious and not rush into anything. Now that the company has some stability, a first print run is in progress for a couple dozen books (I think that’s about right as far as the number goes). As the company grows, if all goes well, more print is likely in the future. I think that’s smart business.

I’m really excited to see my novel in print in the next few weeks!

7. The writers at Musa— The writers’ group at Musa is great one. I’ve worked with many, and Musalings are professional and stay focused on writing. They share tons of articles and tips on marketing, craft, and more. We like and tag each other’s work. We promote our fellow authors’ books. In short, Musa is like a family but without a lot of the immaturity and backbiting that often goes with that. The support has been awesome.

8. The innovation at Musa— The head editor and staff have a vision to make Musa a high quality publishing house and to push the envelope. That’s obvious when I consider that they have a speculative fiction e-zine, Penumbra, in addition to all the books they are putting out. Also, Musa is publishing never before seen works by Homer Eon Flint, and classic works by other authors.

In my case, Musa’s head editor approached me a few months back about writing historical gothic romance serials. She knows what trends are going on in publishing now (there is a huge resurgence of serials in Japan, for example) and what the history of the serial format is. I was excited to say the least, and I still am. In fact, the Montmoors set is my primary project these days. And those serials are rolling out right now. The second one is coming out tomorrow, and I have six under contract (so far). Other authors in different genres are doing serials, too. I love the freedom to spread my wings as a writer and innovator, and the support of a publisher in doing so is priceless.

9. The distribution at Musa— Our books are everywhere. That’s what I like most about being with a small press. I have self published some books, and I don’t enjoy doing the formatting and distribution side of things. Musa handles this all beautifully for me so I can spend more time doing what I really love—writing. Recently, they’ve also started putting our e-books into Overdrive which services libraries around the nation and in Canada.

I’m sure I’m forgetting many things I’d like to say, but I hope you’ll check Musa out if you’re an author looking to submit your work. Musa takes works 5000 words and up (another plus!) in tons of genres.

10. And reviews!— I knew I’d forget something, and I did! Musa has gotten me tons of great reviews for my books. Getting reviews in the past has been tough because many publishers don’t have a dedicated promotions person/review coordinator. I really appreciate that, and I’ve seen a noticeable jump in sales each time I get these reviews. Thanks to Elspeth who makes that happen.

More about the Musa team

What I Learned During My Summer Vacation…

I’m very fortunate to have a father who is also a potter. He found his passion for working with clay many years ago, and he has a small business that he’s made out of what he enjoys doing. My dad works full time in a totally different field. Still, around town, he’s best known for his blueberry dishes and more.

But that’s not exactly what I want to blog about. This post is about how life sometimes intersects with art. I’m lucky enough to have that happen because my father is an artist and knows many others like him. I’m learning that huge crossover exists in different art forms: writing, painting, pottery, and more.

One of the artists he’s become friends with is Judy Shillingburg. They’ve been running into each other at art shows and festivals for quite a while, and my dad has a few of his pieces in her shop. I have one of her paintings of pretty birds on a branch. She does amazing seascapes, jewelry, and much more and is a well-known, respected artist in Destin, Florida and beyond.

Since my parents knew about her shop, Special Touch Gallery in Destin, Florida, which opened in 2010, they suggested we go by there this afternoon.

And am I ever glad we did.

I got to see what a successful career artist looks like in action. And boy, is it ever work–and fun! If you are going for a hobby, that’s fine.

But a hobby in the arts looks pretty different from a business in the arts. So, what is Judy doing that makes her shop so great? Well, it was easy to see what a few of her right steps are. As I was walking around in her gallery, this blog post practically wrote itself. While Judy has had amazing success as a watercolor artist and more, taking a few notes from her playbook will help any writer who treats his or her art like a business endeavor.

1. Judy has a huge shop with a lot of inventory, and much of it is work from other artists. That’s right. The gallery has three display rooms that house paintings, jewelry, pottery, wood carvings, and more. There really is something for any taste there. And while Judy’s work is part of it, it is just one aspect of what’s available.

How it applies to your writing business or artistic endeavor: Working together is better than working alone. Do you have writing buddies whom you build up and/or with whom you collaborate? Is your editor kickass? Wonderful. Do these folks inspire you to go to the next level? Good. They should. Do you have a writing friend who might have just started out or who is struggling a bit whom you encourage to move to greater heights? Great. You should. These partnerships make synergy for us all. An important note: Judy picks and chooses the artists whose work will go in her gallery. Not everyone makes the cut. Associate yourself with those who take their craft–whatever it is–seriously and are doing it well.

2. Judy paints–every day. I talked with her about this for a few minutes. I noticed immediately when I walked over to her prints (just one table of her work) how many were there–hundreds. And more on the walls and jewelry she’d made graced tables. I thought. Wow. She makes art, and she makes a lot of it. I felt a frisson of excitement go down my spine at that realization. I couldn’t resist asking Judy about her process. She told me she paints daily and has multiple stations set up in the shop itself so she is always working on a project. How smart is that?

How it applies to your writing business or artistic endeavor: Want to make your art a business? Engage in it daily. Produce it regularly (and quickly if you can). Don’t rely on one book to make your career or business. It will take many books, paintings…whatever your medium. I have proven that with my own writing. The more books I get out there, the better my business does. Funny, that. 😉 Take your art and business seriously, just as you would any job you get paid for, and then go another step. This is your passion after all. Right?

3. Judy has true fans and co-workers–her daughter and her husband. 

Judy’s daughter is a photographer who helps her with digital images of her work. Judy’s husband helps her run the gallery, now that her success has enabled him to retire from his job.

How it applies to your writing business or artistic endeavor: I thought about this on my way home. Do you have a number one fan(s) who helps you out? It might be your spouse who makes sure you have the time to write when you need it while he or she is cooking or playing with the kids, or it might be a good friend. But you need to have a number one fan or a partner, in my opinion–someone wise who will listen to your struggles and joys and who is truly cheering you on in your pursuits just as you do your fan in his or hers. I have found that most of us only have one or two of these folks. Find that person who is sincerely happy for your success–however great or small, and be sure he or she knows what his support means to you. On the flip side, weed out negativity as much as you can and stop spending tons of time talking with people who mainly whine about not reaching their dreams or who have not even attempted to tap in to the talents that you and others can see in their lives. Believe me, it’s better for you and them if you don’t waste your breath sharing your successes. You won’t get much affirmation, and it will only embitter the whiner. Harsh words, perhaps, but sometimes it’s good to be reminded. If the whiner snaps out of it, you’ll have much to share. If not, there will be others you can build momentum with as you work to achieve your goals.



Joanne Troppello: Be Persistent and Don’t Give Up!

Joanne Troppello is an author of romantic suspense novels. She has published three books: Shadowed Remembrances, Mr. Shipley’s Governess and Bella Lucia. Currently, she is working on her new writing project, The Paradise Redeemed Series.

Joanne is married and loves spending time with her husband and family. She enjoys interacting with readers at The Mustard Seed Blog.

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Be Persistent and Don’t Give Up!

Last summer, my husband and I had a pesky little groundhog invading our vegetable garden. Actually, he was not such a little critter; he was pretty fat and I don’t think he needed to eat our tomatoes. Now, I love animals, don’t get me wrong, but I love my tomatoes and other veggies more. But, I did have to give our furry friend some credit because he had been persistent and didn’t seem to want to give up. We have two 8 x 8 raised garden beds and my husband did a great job of setting this garden up and putting wire fencing on the ground underneath the garden beds; he also put 3’ high rabbit fencing all around the garden.

We’ve had this garden for three years now and haven’t had much trouble with animals until last summer. The year before last, the groundhog was around, but he wasn’t so brazen.

During the last two weeks of summer, the groundhog had been coming around and nibbling on some tomatoes that had overgrown the fencing. Yes, we did have to do some reorganizing and plant the Juliet and Grape tomatoes further from the fencing. So, I do understand how our friend came along to eat some tomatoes growing through the fence. One memory of our furry friend sticks out in my mind. One day while I was finishing up on work, my husband called me into the kitchen as he looked out the window and we saw the groundhog literally sitting like a king on top of the wooden gate posts, leaning on the tomato cages eating as if he owned the place. Of course, I charged out on to our deck, with my husband chuckling in the kitchen, as I tried to scare the groundhog away. As he’d done before, he made his way around the other side of the garden and hid there in front of his hole under the fence of the property line, as if he thought I didn’t see him. Yes, I yelled at him again to get away. By the way, we live in a townhouse community and by then after these escapades with me coming out to scare our friendly critter away, the neighbors probably think I’m crazy. Maybe that’s why my husband wasn’t coming out; either that or I was providing entertainment for him.

Anyway, the groundhog dutifully scampered into his hole under the fence until the next day when he brazenly came back to our garden to feast. Thinking about this groundhog has made me realize that as authors, we need to be just as tenacious and consistent in our search to reach our goals in writing great stories and marketing our work. Even if we have editors getting back to us saying our work is not good enough, we need to take the good with the bad and keep going. Of course, if their criticisms are legitimate, we should heed them and make corrections. We need to be tenacious like the groundhog and never give up until we reach our goals and find the publishers we are looking for.

When it comes to marketing, we must keep working at it even when it seems like we are the only author, drowning in a sea of other authors and don’t feel like our efforts are making a difference. If we give up, then we won’t be making a difference in our success. However, every step we take in the right direction, even if it’s only baby steps in writing and marketing, is going to make a difference. Whenever we feel like giving up, let’s remember my furry friend, Mr. Groundhog, and keep hanging on. Success is just around the corner.

Mary Ann Bernal: The story behind “The Briton and the Dane” trilogy

Lisa Greer has graciously invited me to provide a guest blog post for her site and I wish to thank her for this wonderful opportunity before we get down to business. Many thanks, Lisa.

First, a little background about myself and my novels. In addition to being an avid history buff whose area of interest focuses on Ninth Century Anglo-Saxon Britain during the Viking Age, I am also a passionate supporter of the United States military, having been involved with letter writing campaigns and other military support programs since Operation Desert Storm. On the home front, you will find me cheering for my grandchildren at dance competitions and sporting events, receiving “extra credit” when braving the elements.

Since we are now acquainted, I shall get right to the heart of:

The Story behind The Briton and the Dane Trilogy

I fell in love with medieval England after reading Sir Walter Scott’s “Ivanhoe” in my sophomore year of high school, but my interests soon turned towards the Dark Ages when the formidable Vikings harassed the civilized world once Hollywood released such blockbusters as “The Vikings,” “The Longships,” and “Erik the Viking.” Add to the mix “Alfred the Great,” “Prince Valiant,” and “King Arthur,” and an incurable romantic anglophile was born.

As time went on Hollywood changed its venue of period movies, but I found solace with the many British programs being aired on our local PBS station. With the advent of BBC America and History International, I was able to find great documentaries such as “The Dark Ages,” “Life in Anglo-Saxon Times,” “Dark Age England,” and “Viking Exploration,” to name but a few.

During this time, Erik the Viking was hovering in the cobwebs of my creative mind, waiting to escape oblivion, waiting to tell his story, waiting and waiting and waiting, but it was not until 2008 that I was able to find the time to devote to fulfilling my lifelong dream of writing my Erik the Viking novel.

Why did I focus on Alfred the Great and King Guthrum? I chose these two formidable characters because I find them fascinating. This was a time of conflict and change, when Christianity was replacing the pagan religion, and the feared Vikings no longer plundered the fertile country of Britannia but remained and settled the land.

When King Alfred defeated King Guthrum in 878, one of the terms for peace was the Christian baptism of the Danish King. I wondered how this heathen King might have felt about denying the gods of his ancestors as he willingly accepted the Roman Christ God, and also wondered how willing his subjects had been to submit to the rules of the new religion.

In addition to the religious conflict, there were also petty Kings who coveted the throne, not only King Alfred’s crown, but King Guthrum’s as well. Throw into the mix, illegitimate offspring and you have all the makings for a great story.

While Erik started out as my main character, the supporting characters quickly sought to usurp the protagonist role. I had often heard the phrase, “but then my characters took over,” and suddenly discovered that the statement is very true. Erik had to share the limelight with the many prominent figures, and these characters refused to play a minor role in an ongoing saga.

The same holds true for the antagonist; there are many opponents as the story unravels, each with their own agenda, but each seeking power and wealth.

I delve into the minds of the characters as they deal with conflicts that are quite common today: father/son relationships and acknowledgement of paternity, religious confrontation, and warfare. The people who lived in the Ninth Century were flesh and blood as we are flesh and blood. They faced the same problems, made similar choices, and perhaps regretted their decisions, just like us.

I also wanted to reach out to the families of our modern day warriors, and to remind everyone that the only thing that has changed in warfare over time has been its weaponry. What has not changed is the anxiety as one awaits the fate of loved ones; waiting is difficult no matter which century a person lives in.

Since “The Briton and the Dane: Legacy” is the third and final installment of the trilogy, I should be willing to say goodbye…the key word here is should…but there are many stories still to tell, and many characters to meet, and enough passion, intrigue, treachery and betrayal to enthrall an audience…so fear not my faithful fans, the series will continue.

“The Briton and the Dane” trilogy has been a joy to write, and I trust a joy to read. Enjoy the adventure, it only gets better.

Coming Soon:

“The Briton and the Dane: Concordia” – available 2013

For more information, please visit:!/BritonandDane



Sample The Briton and the Dane


Purchase links:


Amazon US


Amazon UK


The Literary Underground

Book Trailer



Mary Ann has graciously offered to give away one copy of “The Briton and the Dane: Legacy.” Just leave a blog comment for her, and I’ll draw a winner by 5pm, June 14th.