Monday, March 02, 2015

It's March! What are you celebrating?

Hi All! If you've visited Mary's Garden before you know the drill, everyone fill your plates with goodies and have a seat.

March is a big month for me! If you read my blog post a few weeks back you know that it's my big 6.0. birthday at the end of March. And more important I found out that I'm Irish. So all these years saying "I'm adopted I can be what I want, so I'm Irish." Has actually been true.

In honor of my big birthday--I'm trying not to feel older than dirt--and St. Patty's day, I am having a contest. But I am not going to give it away to someone who just posts a comment "I would like to win." or something like that.

I'd really like to hear some feedback about why you follow me on my blog, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or even YouTube. Do you like my books? Do you like my posts? What keeps you coming back? In other words, I'm trying to find out what interests people about me as an author or person.

Anyone who gives me feedback on what they like and what I'm doing right will have their name put in a hat for a drawing for a Book bag full of goodies. Includes: Book bag, A Beckett Series mug, and three signed books; Three Brides and a dress, Four Sisters, and Chick Magnet.

This contest/giveaway will go through March 31st--that's my big birthday. I will announce the winner on April 1!

You can find me at my web site, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, Goodreads, Pinterest, and Facebook.

Check my sites out, discover a bit about me, then enter the drawing by giving feedback. You can email me from my contact page, or comment here on the blog. All people submitting feedback will be entered to win.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Re-post from 2011 - Holiday traditions

This is a re-post from Thanksgiving past...

Traditions. This month is all about traditions, anyway it is to me. I love the holidays when it snows and your mom fills the kitchen with the smell of vanilla.

I'd love to hear what your traditions are!

One of our traditions is Candied Yams. This year at Thanksgiving, I added a twist--well I didn't dare cut out the candied ones or my kids would never forgive me. So I had two dishes. Traditional and Jamaica Yams. I thought I'd share the recipes.

Candied Yams -- Too many calories to count.
4 large yams cleaned, peeled an sliced about 1/4 inch thick
1 bag of miniature marshmallows
 1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
dash of cinnamon
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place a row of sliced yams on the bottom of an oven safe baking dish. Put bits of butter over them, sprinkle with brown sugar and add a row of marshmallows. Repeat until the dish is filled. sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake for an hour.

Jamaican Yams 
4 Yams cleaned, peeled and sliced about 1/4 inch thick
Canola butter
1 1/2 tsp Jamaican spice
Add a row of yams to the bottom of a oven safe baking dish, then add some low cal butter and sprinkle with Jamaican spice, then repeat until dish is full.
Spice:
1/8 tsp Allspice
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/8 tsp Ginger
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp Thyme
1/2 tsp Onion powder
1/8 tsp Clove (Ground)
1/2 tsp Ground Chili's
1/4 tsp Garlic Powder.
Use mortar and pestle to grind until powdering.
After sprinkling you should have some left. Great rubbed into pork and then grilled.

Next week March 2, 2015 I will be announcing my March contest and prize in honor of St. Patty's Day and my birthday!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

It's not about the books!

Welcome everyone. It's unseasonably warm here in Utah, but still chilly so grab a seat, blanket, food, and beverage. and let's get going.

You're probably wondering what I mean, not about the book. I'm an author, so isn't it always about the book? 99.9% of the time, yes it is. But I'm going to share some personal information about me as a person and not an author. If you're not interested, that's okay I won't be offended if you decide to come back another time. If you haven't watched my Meet Mary YouTube, here it is.

I'm sure you got the part about me being adopted? The last couple of weeks, things have been happening. More in fact than the last 30 years. I've been distracted to say the least. I am so close to writing The End for my fourth book of The Beckett's. However, I don't want to just write whatever to get it done. I'm waiting for things to settle and I can concentrate.

Here is a little bit of what has been going on:
I'm older than dirt so I'm not sure if:
1. my birth parents are even alive.
2. if they are alive, are they even looking for me?
3. do my siblings, if any, even know about me to look for me?

Here's my back story. I was born in March 1955 (Yeah, the big 6 0 this year) At that time there was a one year waiting period before the adoption papers were signed. So my papers were signed in May 1956. On those papers it said Baby Anderson. My adoptive parents were very good people and they loved me and provided me with a loving home. But remember the 50s.. They were not huggie people.

I knew they loved me. However, I always felt like I was hatched. Just out of nowhere. It's hard to explain, but just one minute I didn't exist and the next minute I did. No history... Odd. And of course there were always those kids in school who didn't want to play with me because 'even my own parents' didn't want me.

When I was older I started to feel the need to find my birth parents. Not that, that would lesson my feelings for my adoptive parents, but Mom was afraid it would. So out of respect for her, I put my need aside. After she passed away I asked my dad for my adoption papers, which as I said gives me the name Baby Anderson. That's the extent I knew. At the time they had several Adoption Find sites, (it was when we had those Huge computer monitors and it took 20 minutes to log on--you know dial up?) so I registered on all I could find. Not to mention, I didn't own a computer yet so I had to fill out paper work or go to the library. Then I found a woman who tracked down birth mother and she charged $200 for a name and contact or a way to reach out to the person.

Anyway, this woman searched and found that a June Anderson had a baby around the time I was born. In fact, she found four June Anderson's in the Salt Lake City area. Two were ruled out as having lived here their entire life and no breaks for babies, etc. Back in those days girls were shipped to 'Aunt Betty's' for nine months. That left two June Anderson's. One had the baby and one graduated from the nursing program at the University. Both left the area in June 1956. One went west and one went east and both disappeared. She only charged me $100 because she lost track. Since then I've tried other avenues to no avail until I gave up.

I've always wanted to know where I came from, what my background was. Everyone I knew could say "I'm Spanish" or "I'm Italian" "My parents came from Germany", that kind of thing.

I jokingly told everyone "I'm Irish!" Since I could be whatever the hell I wanted to be. There is something to be said for that. But Ireland and anything Irish has ALWAYS fascinated me.

As I revealed earlier, I'm coming up on a big birthday and so I told my husband I wanted to go to Ireland. Now this was probably in 2013 since we have to SAVE big time to go.

And then I heard about DNA testing. I asked my Doctor about it and she didn't know much about it, but she did know about 23andme because until about Nov. 2013 you could get your medical DNA also. Of course by the time I did mine the health part was put on hold. BUT I did find out that I'm 52% Irish / British. Wow!

I started looking through the DNA matches, I was SO excited. I had DNA cousins. But no one knew of any June Anderson's in their family tree and I couldn't answer any of their questions because I'm not even 100% sure that is my mother's name. And I know nothing else.

To double up on the odds I also took the Ancestry.com DNA test and they narrowed it down a bit more. Of that 52%, 41% is Irish. How weird is that? And that I have always felt a connection to Ireland, and I'd also planned to visit Ireland, and while we are there we're visiting London and Edinburgh. My homeland. And people just don't understand why I'm so excited.

My goal for our August trip is to find a connection, something or someone to visit. To do that I needed to really research my DNA relatives. I had no idea where to start. I found a group called Utah Adoptees. There two researchers have gone to work for me building a DNA Family Tree on Ancestry.com. Good grief, I have all these people and they're mostly from West Virginia, the last place I would have thought to look.

My adoption papers being sealed, means I can't read through them or find my health records or anything. I've always been told, I'm just SOL (you know Sh*t out of luck). But, at this group's suggestion, because someone else in Utah did this and won, I have petitioned the court to open my sealed records. I've also sent a request letter to my adoptive father's long time attorney asking if he handled the adoption and if so if he would give me a copy of my file with only non-identifying information.

Now I wait!

And now you know why I am pre-occupied. I've waited all my entire life to find my birth family, my book can wait a month or two. But as the days go by, the dust is settling and I'm starting to get back to doing little writing things and soon Illusion Book IV will be done! Well, I'll have it written, then the round of edits will start.
Thanks for listening!

Monday, February 09, 2015

Welcome Sheri McGathy

Welcome everyone, I'm joining all of you in the audience today. Sheri McGathy will be hosting today. Grab your goodies on the table and pour your favorite beverage and settled in.

A special thank you to Mary Martinez for hosting me on her blog.

By way of a small introduction…my name is Sheri McGathy, and I am an author who also does cover designs, and, I’m a cover designer who also writes. Either or both, the two sides of my creative nature actually compliment each other. Both sides allow me to ask, “What if?”

My creative process towards cover design is much like my approach to crafting a story. I fly into the mist and wait to see what happens. I don’t mean that I have no clue and just toss paint against a canvas. I do have a starting point and a beginning idea, but sometimes, or really most times, the imagination kicks in and expands and I just go with it. Like a story, the cover should tell a tale too, or hint at what is to come once the reader opens the book and settles down to read.

My process is sort of crazy, I guess, or it might seem so to others. I just never know for sure what I
Coming soon...
am going to come up with after all the information is provided. I think that is part of the fun. First, if I am hired to create a cover, then I want to read the blurb, if finished, and I want the author to give me the “meat,” of the story. I like it when the author can convey to me the feel they want. And I do like links to stock art suggestions for the cover. I can’t always use the art. Sometimes it just won’t work on the cover. I don’t know why, but sometimes it just looks great on the stock art site and fails when I try to put the cover together. I use Photoshop almost exclusively. I love the layers and I often use those layers to merge different backgrounds to make new ones! It just depends on the feel I am going for and what the author wants. I usually design with comp art, and buy the real deal once a design is approved.

After I get some input from the author about the story, genre, and art suggestions, I begin. I first have a look at the art suggestions and try to get a feel for the cover. If I don’t quite feel it will work, I go on the hunt looking for other art possibilities. Sometimes that can take days. At least I now have an idea of what the author thinks their characters look like. I’ll download comps and try them on the art board, see what works and what doesn’t (this includes backgrounds) as I try to capture the feel of what the author wants for the cover. Sometimes I get very lucky and my instincts are good. Sometimes it takes a while. And sometimes I simply fail.

Since I can change hair and eye color, I advice we concentrate on the character(s) “look,” and then we’ll doctor them up later. It’s amazing what that doctoring might involve. Hair added, removed, clothes added or changed, tattoos added or removed…the list is interesting. I do what I can.

While I am hunting characters, I am also hunting for the correct background(s) or secondary elements. To me, they are just as important as the characters. And sometimes, many times, you have a great background, a great character, and nope, the two do nothing for each other. Hit and miss. It’s not uncommon for me to tweak the backgrounds or add art that maybe others might not even notice. As an example, I just finished working on a 1950s cover. I could’ve just slapped the old cars in the background and focused on the couple only, but I like to add little details from the era. Fuzzy dice perhaps, a drive-in burger tray? I want it to feel right, if possible. I never know what exactly I might do until I see the cover start to come together. That’s all part of flying into the mist.

Pre-made cover
Once I have something put together, and have figured out the fonts to use, I send to the author and then we start the honing part. The “can we change this or that or add this or that” part. Sometimes I don’t have to revise at all. Those are priceless moments! After I get a final design okay, then the high res art is purchased and the final design is completed and files sent to the author.

I have a lot of pre-made covers, mainly because I love crafting them. I probably spend far too much time on crafting them, but, as I said, I love doing it. Note here, I had a client once tell me she didn’t visit my pre-made page because she didn’t want a cookie cutter type cover. She was under the impression that a pre-made meant I would recycle the design over and over with the only difference being a change of title and author. No, no and NO! Absolutely not what I do…you buy it, it’s yours. I hope they are unique, but who knows.

As with all my creations, since I use stock art, others will have the same photo(s) on their covers, but what I hope is that I have made them look different, or different enough that the author feels happy.

And I do love happy authors.
You can find Sheri's cover design at: www.sherimcgathy.com/sheri/book-cover-design/
PS... Check out my Web Site and Blog banner--Yup you got it, it's a design by Sheri. Along with most of my covers that are lined up down the right side of this blog page. Check them out.

Monday, February 02, 2015

What is in a Super Bowl?

Have a seat, it's unseasonably warm in the garden, but I still have heaters around. Fill your plates and have a glass of wine, or whatever. Find a seat and let's start.

It's all about games. Most the American nation watched a game Sunday evening. Not just any game, but the big one. At the end of the NFL season it comes down to two of the best teams. And during that game there are the best commercials, almost a competition. Some people watch only to see what commercials they have. Some people watch for the big name half-time entertainment, Katy Perry this year.

People lose bets, serious money is lost over a game. There are squares that people buy; first, second, half, third, fourth. Plenty of opportunity to win the bucks. But there are plenty to loose also. In the grand scheme of things, is this life changing?

I've never understood the allure of the bet. I don't like to go to Vegas, I have no desire to go to Atlantic City or any other city that offers gambling or better.

Yet, I engage in the odds every day. I write. Am I going to be a success? Will people buy my books? Will I make money? Will this novel be my break out novel? In a way, aren't I gambling every day?

Do you gamble? If so, what's your vice?

Monday, January 26, 2015

Watching Jenny has a new look!

Welcome everyone! Quick, fill your plate with treats and pour your favorite beverage. Find a seat and let's begin. I'm excited to reveal Watching Jenny's new look.

Watching Jenny began as Peek A Boo, I See You! My first publisher cut it to just Peek A Boo and gave it the most ugly cover I'd ever seen. Then when I received my rights back the next publisher changed the name to Watching Jenny. At least the cover was a bit better. But now I've received my rights back again and the best cover ever! Of course, my cover artist is easy to work with and very talented. Sheri McGathy.

Without further ado... Here is the new look of Watching Jenny.

Known as Blade with wild pink hair, tattoos and piercings, Jenny McGregor works to keep her life private. But her self-constructed barriers are breached after she receives flowers and threatening notes signed by ‘Runner’.

Desperate to stop the threat before she goes on tour, Jenny hires hunky Detective Dan Janson for protection. Unable to catch the stalker before the tour bus leaves, Dan is forced to stifle his attraction to Jenny. They’re carried along on a dangerous game of cat and mouse from San Diego to Memphis the city of Elvis and the blues. Each day the two draw closer together. When ‘Runner’ lures Jenny away from the tour, Dan’s forced to acknowledge he’s fallen in love with the feisty singer.

Hot on Jenny’s trail, Dan soon learns ‘Runner’ is not one of the usual suspects.

To this day, this story is one of my favorites. I wrote it listening to Alanis Morissette and Gwen Stefani. You can check my web site for buy links or go to Amazon.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Reviews

I was going to finish watching the New England vs. Indianapolis game. However, it pretty much was over from the beginning. Anyway, welcome. It's been very spring like weather here. I still have heater's around, just in case. Fill your plate and grab a beverage, then a seat and we'll get started.

I want to talk reviews. I sell books, not as many as I'd like, but some. Way more than reviews I receive. So then I wonder, do my books suck? But the few reviews I've received are, on the majority, good. I've always heard not to have your friends or family give reviews because... I can't remember the exact reason why that's not good. But still some of my friends and family have given me a good review. But most of my reviews are from people I do not know.

Lately, I've noticed a few authors on various social media doing giveaways for reviews. If you give them a review you are placed in a drawing for a basket, or whatever. Is this the way to go? I want an honest review, and granted you hope people give you an honest review even if they do want to win the basket. BUT how do you really know if it is?

I figure if my books sucked, the reviews would all be bad. But they're not. How do you get your readers to give a review?

I've had GoodReads Giveaway's and out of the ten or so books given away only two people, that I'm aware of, have given me a review. Not great reviews, though not terrible ones. I don't know what to do. I've done contests, in hopes people will win my book and give me a review, but to no avail. Is a giveaway the only way to get a review? If it is, I'll try it, but I can't give something away every month in order to get one or two reviews.

But then after saying all that. I want people to give me a review because they liked/loved my book and want to give me one. What do you do? Anything special?