photo of champagne glasses and 2024 numerals

Doing More of What Works

by Sparkle Abbey

Wish for it, hope for it, dream of it

Happy New Year from us to you! Since it’s the beginning of a new year everyone’s talking about resolutions or goals. It appears that there’s a bit of a divide on whether New Year’s resolutions are considered a good thing or not anymore.

On the one hand the beginning of a new year seems like the perfect time to take stock and see how you’re doing. It’s a fresh start, a clean slate, and perhaps good time to set some goals. Or at least establish some better habits.

A recent Forbes article states that according to their survey 62% of us feel pressured to set a new year’s resolution. With 87% feeling optimistic about keeping it throughout the year. Most goals revolve around improved fitness, finance, or mental health. In the writing community, we find that there are usually similar goals being made around writing, publishing, and reading.

We’re big fans of goals and in previous years we’ve shared our views on making your goals specific and measureable. As well as on planning your path to reach them and tracking your progress.

This year we’re taking a little bit different approach and the simple version of what we’re doing is focusing on what’s working and doing more of that. A recent read “Getting More of What You Want” by Margaret Neale and Thomas Lys focuses on the latest advances in psychology and economics to negotiate well. In short, to get what you want. You can read more about that here: Getting More of What You Want by Margaret Neale and Thomas Lys | by Margaret Neale and Thomas Lys

But isn’t achieving your goals really about negotiating with yourself?

Our previous approaches to goal-setting weren’t wrong. SMART goals are smart, right? (The letters stand for: Specific-Measurable-Achievable-Realistic-Timely.)  But this approach can fall a bit short when you’re reaching for a creative goal. You see, some of those things are outside your control.

Another recent read, “Start More Than You Can Finish” by Becky Blades also provided food for thought. And who can resist a book named MUST READ by the Next Big Idea Club.  An excerpt and more about the book and the Next Big Idea Club here: Start More Than You Can Finish

Because for us this is always an evolving process, where we’ve landed this year on setting goals is this:

  • Make a list of what’s working and figure out a way to do more of that.
  • Make a list of what’s not working and stop doing that.

At its essence, it’s still about defining what you want and planning how you’re going to achieve your goals. But it also acknowledges those things that you’ve accomplished. Things that are going right.  And it also defines what got in your way and how you’re going to eliminate those things. Because maybe the most important thing about achieving your dreams in 2024 is getting started.

What are your thoughts? Do you set goals at the beginning of a new year? Do you pick a word or a thought to focus on for the year? Or are you in the anti-resolution camp?

We’d love to hear your thoughts.

book cover for Desperate HousedogsSparkle Abbey is actually two people, Mary Lee Ashford and Anita Carter, who write the national best-selling Pampered Pets cozy mystery series set in Laguna Beach. Their series features former Texas beauty queen cousins, Caro, a pet therapist and, Melinda, a pet boutique owner. The most recent installments (book nine) BARKING WITH THE STARS and  (book ten) THE DOGFATHER continue Caro and Mel’s murder-solving adventures. And PROJECT DOGWAY is a short that brings the cousins together – sort of.

But here’s some great news, if you’ve not yet started the series (or would like to share the series with a friend) the first book, DESPERATE HOUSEDOGS, is currently on sale for 99 cents in all ebook formats!

Find it at your favorite place to buy books! 

Believable Characters and Fearless Creating

By Donnell Ann Bell

Happy Monday, Stiletto Gang and readers! I was notified that my third published novel is going on sale June 16 through June 30, 2023, which of course  I find exciting. It also made me think about the story and all that went into it. Research, check. . .Mysterious characters, check . . .Conflict, check . . . Romantic tension, check . . . Interesting settings, check. . . Plot problems . . . .AHEM. Unfortunately, that part of the book received a big red X before I could check off Believable Plot.

The novel I’m talking about is called Betrayed. To date, my publisher has changed most of my working titles. Truthfully, I worried about this title because if you do a search for “Betrayed” you will find a long list. Back when I submitted the book for editing, I thought about changing it altogether or adding an adjective so it might stand out more from the myriad novels bearing the same name. But as one reviewer wrote in her headline:

“Wow! BETRAYED Sums up this One Nicely.”

I couldn’t agree more, which is when I left the working title “as is” and sent it off to my editor. I do admit to crossing my fingers they would keep it. BelleBooks/Bell Bridge Books agreed and Betrayed has been one of my bestselling novels.

It’s the story of Irene Turner, a trap shooting champion from Oklahoma City who discovers the stillborn she delivered twenty-eight years earlier is still alive. Irene is damaged so I did my best to slip into the mindset of a woman who’d recently lost her fifteen-year-old son, then receives the shock of her life—the daughter she thought dead is alive and and residing in Denver.

When creating characters, I do my utmost not to intrude on their story. For instance, Irene may be a gun expert and has no fear of them, but her daughter Kinsey despises them and is a proponent of gun control. I wanted to include both points of view, rather than take a stance on a highly volatile issue.

I often enlist beta readers after critique and before I submit to my editor. I was pretty confident when I asked  my 2010 Golden Heart sister and fellow Sisters in Crime member Author Rochelle Staab to give me her thoughts. I expected accolades. What she came back with was, “You know better than this. This would never happen.”

Did Rochelle glitch on the gun issue?  No. Did she glitch on another plot point? You know it.

SPOILER ALERT:  In the story Kinsey is kidnapped by drug dealers. I have a healthy respect for what drugs (particularly illegal ones and what side effects can occur even after a single dose.) Knowing this, I disregarded what would likely happen in reality and intruded BIG TIME on the story. From the beginning of my writing career, I have heard the phrase and abided with MAKE YOUR CHARACTERS SUFFER. 

But @#$# I didn’t want to give her a drug that could potentially kill her!  My intentions were good, honest!!! So I cheated. Instead of a deadly drug the gang members had ready access to, I had them give her a sleeping drought. Yeah, that’s believable. NOT.  Was Rochelle right and did I take her advice and fix this plot problem? What do you think 😉

If you like, you can find out for yourself. Betrayed is available wherever books are sold in trade paperback and digital format.  Also, don’t forget, the sale is ongoing through June 16-30, 2023.  Links on my website:  https://www.donnellannbell.com/books/romantic-suspense-thrillers/betrayed/

In closing, I wonder several things.

  • Do my fellow authors reading this blog enlist beta readers?
  • Have you ever had a plot hole in your novels, you knew intrinsically would be a problem, but you thought maybe you could get away with it?
  • Do you work to avoid author intrusion in your novels?
  • Do you consider yourself a fearless creator?

By the way, here’s Rochelle’s final thoughts followed by the blurb:

“Absorbing and fast-paced from the chilling opening chapters to the shocking denouement, Donnell Ann Bell proves once again to be a master of suspense with Betrayed, a tale of consequences from a woman’s long-ago indiscretion that dominoes into a nightmare of deception, bitterness, greed, and murder. A compelling must-read!” ~ Rochelle Staab, bestselling author of the Mind for Murder Mysteries

About Betrayed:

A mother told her baby’s dead was a lie.

A daughter rocked by her true identity.

A detective risking his life to protect them both.

When Irene Turner learns the incomprehensible—that the stillborn she delivered 28-years earlier is alive, she takes the evidence to Major Crimes Detective Nate Paxton in Denver Colorado. Nate can’t believe that the daughter stolen at birth is Kinsey Masters, a world-class athlete, raised by a prominent Denver family, and the unattainable woman he’s loved for years.

Irene, Nate, and Kinsey discover a sordid conspiracy, one that may get them all killed as they face past betrayals and destructive revenge.

https://www.donnellannbell.com/books/romantic-suspense-thrillers/betrayed/

About the Author:

Multi-award winning Donnell Ann Bell knows statistically that crime and accidents happen within a two-mile radius of the average residence. For that reason, she leaves the international capers to world travelers, and concentrates on stories that might happen in her neck of the woods.

Over the last few years, Donnell has fallen in love with writing multi-jurisdictional task force plots, keeping close tabs on her theme SUSPENSE TOO CLOSE TO HOME. Her single-title romantic suspense novels, The Past Came Hunting, Deadly Recall, Betrayed, and Buried Agendas, are Amazon bestsellers.

Traditionally published with Belle Books/Bell Bridge Books, Black Pearl, a Cold Case Suspense is her first straight suspense and book one of a series. Her second book in the series, Until Dead is also available wherever books are sold. To learn more, sign up for her newsletter and follow her via www.donnellannbell.com Facebook https://www.facebook.com/donnellannbell and Twitter  @donnellannbell