PEEK BEHIND THE CURTAIN: Why Do Writers Use Pen Names?

I get asked this A LOT: Why do you write under two names, especially if those names aren’t a secret? Why do famous authors like Nora Roberts and J. K. Rowling do this?

Well, lots of reasons! I have author friends who go by their pen names and only their pen names, like, all the time. It can be years before I even learn the name they were born with. Isn’t that crazy? What’s weirder—that person is known as Mary to the rest of her family and friends outside of writing, but I only know her as Angelica. It’s the strangest thing!

Good advice.

So, why would a writer use a pen name?

1. Confidentiality: Some of my friends write stuff they don’t want their coworkers, kids’ teachers, other kids’ parents, neighbors, bosses, or even life partners to know about. That can include everything from scary vampire to gory horror to steamy, off-the-charts erotica. Some writers want and/or need to keep their writing life completely separate from their day-to-day life, so that’s where a top-secret pen name might come into play. It’s very freeing to know you can write about something naughty or scary, and it won’t come up at a board meeting or in your employee review with an ultraconservative or snobby boss.

2. Anonymity: Sometimes fans can be a little scary. (Not you guys! I love you guys!) With today’s technology, it’s super easy to find where someone lives with just a few keystrokes. I’ve heard of writers going off the grid and only coming back up to put out new work under a completely different name after experiencing threats or other harm to their person or families. Also? Some writers want to make sure their kids or partners are protected from outside attention. Not everyone is an attention-seeking werido like me.

3. BRANDING: This is why I write under two names. I write young adult (YA) fiction under my legal name, Jennifer Sommersby, and the romantic comedy/women’s fiction books under Eliza Gordon. This is so, say, a 14-year-old reader who’s read my young adult novel, SLEIGHT, decides to check out my other books. She goes and picks up MUST LOVE OTTERS because (hypothetically) it’s under the same name (which it’s not), and then I get an email from her mom because she had to explain why a heart condition + Viagra + single malt scotch didn’t turn out so great for Batman Jerry. Sommersby is kid friendly; Gordon is intended for a 16+ audience because I like penis jokes. Having two names keeps my brands separate. It is also VERY confusing when I do a book signing—I have to remember who I am that day so I don’t sign the wrong name.

RIP Batman Jerry. #MustLoveOtters

Think about Nora Roberts vs. JD Robb, though. Same author but two VERY different styles of books, right?

4. Gender respect: Believe it or not, the name on the front of a book can have an impact on a buyer’s choice. The powerhouse author behind Harry Potter had this to say in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour: “My publisher, who published Harry Potter, they said to me, ‘We think this is a book that will appeal to boys and girls,’ so they said, ‘Could we use your initials?’

“Because, basically, they were trying to disguise my gender. And obviously that lasted about three seconds, which is wonderful.” Weird, but true!

In her private life, J. K. Rowling—who, BTW, also writes the terrific Cormoran Strike detective series under the name Robert Galbraith—is known as Jo Murray (Jo = short for Joanne + her married name).

I hope this sheds some light on the practice of employing pseudonyms. It’s a time-honored tradition for MANY writers, often out of necessity. Did you know George Eliot, acclaimed novelist and poet who wrote Middlemarch and Silas Marner, was actually a woman? Her real name was Mary Anne Evans. Mind blown!

I am in disguise.

Pretend you don’t know me.

Have a great Tuesday, friends.

xo

My Favorite Thing to Talk About Besides Books: MOVIES!!!

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It’s the weekend—and it’s the first weekend of SUMMER, for those keeping score. For some that means running out to rent a canoe or kayak or maybe climb a local hill for an inspired hike into nature or maybe take the mountain bike off the rack in the garage, grease up the gears, tighten the brakes, and find a local tree to crash into (if you’re around these parts, take the bear spray!).

Or perhaps your job, your tendency toward vampirism, or your incessant and not-heedless worries about skin cancer precludes any of this outdoorsy adventure, and you, like me, prefer the indoors. No mosquitoes, no SPF 100, and certainly no bears. (Well, depending on where you live. Just don’t leave cookies in your car and you should be fine.)

When all other avenues of productivity have been exhausted for any given day (read: when I’m too tired of looking at words to look at another word), I gravitate toward my darling friend Netflix. She never lets me down, even if we just spend another late night together watching The Office for the 84th time. (That episode where Jim proposes at the gas station—no, no, no! Wait! When Pam sprains her ankle in the volleyball game and they’re at that little hospital and then Jim calls Dwight to send in the subs because the doctor has just delivered Most Excellent News and the genius is that they never say the words YOU’RE PREGNANT, they just show Jim’s teary-eyed, ecstatic face … awwww!)

But if the most romantic episodes of The Office are not your jam, Netflix DOES offer a decent selection of romantic comedies. If you haven’t guessed already, I do enjoy a good romantic comedy.

Give these a try:

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Always Be My Maybe

Romcom.

Netflix.

Super cute.

 ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE (2019): Ali Wong, Randall Park (and Keanu Reeves as himself! No! Seriously!):

From IMDB: “A pair of childhood friends end up falling for each other when they grow up.”

Okay, that was the lamest summary ever—there’s so much more going on here! Ali Wong is famous for her hilarious, topical, biting standup act (check her out—two specials also on Netflix!), and her fans will be pleased to see that her turn in a longer theatrical narrative, as Sasha Tran, is heavy with the relevant wit that has made her a star. (She’s damn funny, you guys.)

Randall Park (Fresh Off the Boat) is perfect as Marcus, the boy next door and maybe even the one who got away—especially when Sasha shows up years later a HUGELY successful celebrity chef, engaged to the hyper-handsome Brandon (Daniel Dae Kim … purrrrr). The perceived perfection of Sasha’s life brings about an instant vulnerability, and even defensiveness, for Marcus—he compares his low-on-sparkle life working HVAC alongside his dad to Sasha’s blazing star. Seeing her again stirs up the proverbial pond in his chest, and while he spends a lot of screen time denying he still has feelings for Sasha, we all know it’s just Marcus needing to get straight in his head.

Because, duh, he still has feelings for Sasha.

As in any good romcom, Sasha and Marcus have to get twisted into knots and find a way to untie themselves—from other relationships, life complications, and personal demons—before they can move forward as anything resembling a couple with a future. I loved how the film offered a view of the Asian American community that stretched beyond the stereotypes perpetuated by Hollywood (and books); I loved how the filmmakers strayed from the Crazy Rich Asians vibe that pushes that fantasy narrative that every Asian is rich and driving Bentleys; and I love that part of it was filmed in Vancouver, BC, because we truly are a gorgeous city!

For a great review from an Asian American perspective, check out Diana Lu’s take from Plan A Magazine: https://planamag.com/we-love-everything-about-always-be-my-maybe-407d80ae92f9

NEXT: 

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Set It Up

Delightful.

Funny.

Watch it.

SET IT UP (2018): Zoey Deutch, Glen Powell, Lucy Liu, Taye Diggs.

From IMDB: “Two young assistants in New York City realize they can make their lives easier by setting up their workaholic bosses to date. While trying to perpetuate this romantic ruse between their nightmare bosses, the assistants realize they might be right for each other.”

What a fun premise! Sure, you know before the film even starts that Harper (Deutch) and Charlie (Powell) are probably going to stumble into one another at some point in the story—that’s why we watch and read romcoms, after all; there is comfort in predictability. It’s the journey that titillates and engages us! And this journey doesn’t disappoint. It has those beats we’ve come to expect—the meet-cute, the snarky back-and-forth, the near-misses, and the building sexual tension that will ask the main characters to explore those darker parts of themselves that have prevented them from maintaining successful, long-lasting romantic relationships in the past.

I loved Lucy Lui’s turn as Kirsten, a hard-hitting, career-driven, winner-takes-all character—her ferocity makes those moments of vulnerability so much more believable. And Rick (Taye Diggs)—handsome, charismatic, successful—well, there’s not a lot of depth there, and pretty quick we see that he’s a bit of a scoundrel.

But none of that matters because the FUN is in the witty (and sometimes bawdy) banter and very-real-sounding dialogue (seriously, dialogue is so hard to nail both in films and books), as well as the manic chemistry that unfolds between Harper and Charlie as they scheme to get their bosses to hook up JUST so these two weary assistants can have a night off.

And news flash: the story isn’t about Kirsten and Rick—it’s about Harper and Charlie.

For those unfamiliar with the common tropes in romantic comedies, these stories are almost exclusively focused on the lives of the primary main characters, which means character development of secondary and tertiary characters are not the objective of the overall story. Think about Bridget Jones’s Diary—we see the most development in Bridget Jones. It’s her story. Sure, we see a wee bit of development with Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) and even less so with Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant)—but that’s because THIS IS BRIDGET’S STORY, not Darcy’s, not Cleaver’s.

Same goes here—this is primarily Harper’s story. We see some stretching and reshaping on the part of Charlie, but less so. Whereas a straight-up romance will bounce between points of view and will likely focus on development of BOTH leads, romcoms tend to have a central focus. And some funny shit. That’s what makes it a romantic comedy.

Also, that tagline: “Finding love takes some assistants.”

See what they did there? So clever.

If you’re looking for a romcom that ticks all the boxes, have a go at this one. I’ve watched it too many times to count!

Now — how about some historical romance without the comedy?

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THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY (2018): Lily James, Michiel Huisman, Glen Powell (Again! I love this guy!), Matthew Goode, Penelope Wilton.

From IMDB: “In the aftermath of World War II, a writer forms an unexpected bond with the residents of Guernsey Island when she decides to write a book about their experiences during the war.”

Reviews on this were mixed, and I’m not going to give light to the more negative ones that picked apart acting chops or chemistry on the part of the two main actors because I really, really enjoyed this film. I’d had the novel on which the film is based (written by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows) sitting on my shelf for a couple years and neglected to read it, but after watching the film, I wanted to do my own comparative study. That’s the first complaint you get after a movie-based-on-a-book comes out: “It was so different from the book.”

Yeah. Because movies are 90-120 minutes long and they can’t possibly include everything. Screen time is expensive.

Adapting screenwriters are tasked with the ridiculously tough challenge of extracting all the biggest threads from a novel and then weaving those threads into a cohesive narrative that will glue viewers to their seats. Critics of this film have whined about the omission of one particularly poignant plot line, but to have included it would’ve made the movie two or more hours long—not something Netflix can afford from a production standpoint, plus including this thread might have changed the overall tone of the movie. You’ll see what I mean if/when you read the book.

But I loved this cinematic presentation—I think it does a lovely job showing North Americans how residents of London and surrounding islands had to rebuild after the carnage of WWII (something we didn’t have to grapple with here because, while we sent our soldiers overseas, our cities weren’t bombed into oblivion* and Nazis didn’t show up to restrict our everyday lives**). The Second World War was different for those folks; this story gives us a glimpse into how. The attention to detail, from sets to costuming to the onion-skin paper Juliet Ashton (Lily James) types on, gets high marks from me.

And of course, the focus of this film is twofold: firstly, on the unfolding mystery the Guernsey cast is hell-bent on protecting; and secondly, on the building romance between Juliet, a smart, beautiful young writer, and Dawsey Adams, a handsome pig farmer charged with the care of four-year-old Kit. The Guernsey “family” that Juliet finds herself a part of is full of heart, heartbreak, and love for one another as they endeavor to protect that little girl and the story around how she came to be.

From a more character-focused perspective, as Juliet grapples with her private losses (she’s an orphan), she also faces the realization that the romantic relationship she’s involved in with brash-but-dashing American officer Markham Reynolds (Glen Powell), while idyllic to the onlooker, feels more like a hollow iceberg—pretty on top, not a lot going on under the surface. Plus those dreaded professional demons faced by so many writers—What if I’m terrible? What if what I’m writing doesn’t matter? Naturally, I related to young Juliet on those counts.

I have few complaints about The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Sure, like I said, it’s different from the book, but I have zero hesitation in recommending it as a worthy expenditure of your movie-viewing time.

What movies/TV have caught YOUR fancy lately? Pop a comment below. Always looking for awesome recommendations!

 (*Yes, I know about Pearl Harbor.)

(**Experiences of those forced into Japanese internment camps on US soil excepted here.)

 

What Music Do You Listen to When You Write?

Oh man, playlists—when I do blog tours, inevitably one of the bloggers will ask me to share my playlist for the book we’re promoting. Apparently I’m supposed to have hip, cutting-edge lists plucked off pop charts and indie radio to narrate the stories I write, to prove how in tune I am with today’s music scene.

Confession: I am not in tune with today’s music scene.

Unless we’re talking about today’s MOVIE music scene. Then I’m queen of the castle, baby.

I don’t typically listen to pop music. When I drive, it’s either silent so I can think, or I listen to a CD (yes, my car is old enough to have a CD player), but the majority of time I spend listening to music is when I’m writing, and when I’m writing, I can’t have the distraction of a singer crooning at me. Otherwise I sing along and it stirs the bats from the attic and scares Rosie Cotton.

It’s accurate to say that one hundred percent of my writing music is from movies, and nearly all of that is the instrumental score. But for music that involves artists singing? I’ve discovered tons of bands through movie or TV soundtracks. I love Imogen Heap, Birdy, Muse, Woodkid, Ingrid Michaelson, Florence + The Machine, Sigrid, Rae Morris, Iron & Wine, Ellie Goulding, and Sia. (OH, I love Sia.) Pretty much all the music I “discover” wiggles its way into my iTunes library because it was played as accompaniment to a story unfolding on the screen. Because if you haven’t figured it out—I LOVE MOVIES.

Of course there’s going to be an image of Superman on my blog. <3

Of course there’s going to be an image of Superman on my blog. <3

So, in the spirit of introducing you to some Really Fantastic Movie Scores, here are my top ten favorites, as of today:

1.     MAN OF STEEL, Hans Zimmer

2.     MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 6, FALLOUT, Lorne Balfe

3.     GAME OF THRONES, all seasons (but 7 & 8 have some killer themes), Ramin Djawadi

4.     TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON, Alexandre Desplat

5.     KING ARTHUR, Daniel Pemberton

6.     WONDER WOMAN, Rupert Gregson-Williams

7.     WELCOME TO THE PUNCH, Harry Escott

8.     MORTAL ENGINES, Tom Holkenborg

9.     THE IMITATION GAME, Alexandre Desplat

10.  THE LEGEND OF TARZAN, Rupert Gregson-Williams

11.  THE HUNGER GAMES, James Newton Howard

12.  TERMINATOR GENISYS, Lorne Balfe

Oops. That was 12. And I forced myself to stop. Sometimes a movie will actually suck, but the MUSIC is glorious. Don’t judge a movie score by the pictures on the screen, kids.

I get super nerded out when we start talking about movie composers. From my list, you can see my favorites include Hans Zimmer, Lorne Balfe, Rupert Gregson-Williams (and his brother Harry!), Alexandre Desplat, Ramin Djawadi, Tom Holkenborg/Junkie XL—but here are a few others you should DEFINITELY check out if you’re a cinematic music freak like I am:

  • John Williams, of course (JAWS, STAR WARS, HARRY POTTER, JURASSIC PARK, INDIANA JONES—Mr. Williams is the preeminent composer of our age)

  • Alan Silvestri (a legend)

  • Pinar Toprak

  • Benjamin Wallfisch

  • Brian Tyler

  • Alexandra Harwood

  • John Paesano

  • Patrick Doyle

  • Olafur Arnalds

  • Bear McCreary (Not just OUTLANDER, folks!)

  • Andrew Lockington

  • Henry Jackman

  • Danny Elfman

  • Trent Reznor

  • Rachel Portman

  • Carter Burwell

  • Michael Giacchino

  • Howard Shore

  • Clint Mansell

  • John Debney

  • Craig Armstrong

  • Marco Beltrami

  • Steven Price

  • Mark Isham

  • Twelve Titans Music

I’ll admit how hard it is picking my favorites because seriously, I love multiple scores from all these composers. When friends need good writing music, they email and ask for recommendations because they know I’m cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs when it comes to movie music. I’m always on the lookout for inspiring, powerful instrumentals that can serve as the framework for whatever book I’m working on.

And HEY — IF YOU’RE INTO DOCUMENTARIES, check out Score: A Film Music Documentary (2016) for a look at how these magicians transport us into new worlds via our ears. Click on the image below to watch the trailer.

Next time you’re at the movies, close your eyes for a second and listen to the magic going on behind the pictures. Music is powerful, no matter what shape the playlist takes.

Got any to add to the list? Anything I HAVE to listen to? My headphones and I are standing by.

xo

A PEEK BEHIND THE CURTAIN ... Ask the Writer!

Folks who aren’t writers (and even some who are) love to ask about the writing life—writers are so mysterious! Do we really sit in wee cabins in the woods with a one-eyed cat named Victor Hugo and sip coffee and whisky all day whilst writing the next Great Award-Winning Novel?

No. No, we don’t. Well, maybe some of us do. Not me. I wish. I have too many kids for that. And both of my cats have both of their eyes and said felines are VERY NEEDY CREATURES indeed.

Rosie Cotton (also known as Rosie Chicken because she loves chicken), 7 months, and Nuit the Naughty, 6.5 years.

Rosie Cotton (also known as Rosie Chicken because she loves chicken), 7 months, and Nuit the Naughty, 6.5 years.

One question I get asked quite a bit: What does your writing schedule look like? “Civilians” ask this question because they’re genuinely curious if writing is a real job or if it’s just an excuse to collect cozy pajama sets; other writers ask this question because they’re desperate to find a schedule that works better for them than the one they’re on now. (We writers are always looking for better methods and practices. It’s part of the madness.)

I often cringe at this question because, unlike Stephen King who writes every single day, seven days a week, at the same time, in the same place, so he can crank out his required 2000+ words, my writing schedule is all over the place. SURE, I’d love to have a set schedule. In fact, my ideal schedule would be like Dr. Diana Gabaldon’s (yup, she’s a doctor—PhD in behavioral ecology!). She writes from, like, 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. every night, toiling away while the rest of the world sleeps. I LOVE THIS. I so wish I could make this happen, because I’m way better at night than I am in the morning.

But until my kids are out of the house, I’m relegated to hours that will still enable me to get up with them in the morning. It’s AMAZING how teenagers cannot hear their alarms, even though everyone else in the neighborhood can.

So when you get the teenagers up, start writing then! Better yet, get up two hours before them, with the sun, and try morning writing, Jenn! It’s super effective.

I did. And it was. Sort of. And then I was just too tired and the words felt forced and hollow. Maybe it was my brain’s way of telling me I should still be asleep? Sleep is basically my favorite thing. Other than going to the movies. And brownies. And Superman.

I keep promising myself I will:

1. Get up.

2. Eat a nutritious breakfast.

3. Exercise.

4. Shower.

5. Write and be wonderful until I hit that Magical Word Count.

6. Dance with the neighborhood fauna in celebration of the day’s success.

This is the reality:

1. Get up, likely exhausted from sleeping weird because Nuit the Naughty Tuxedo Cat likes to sleep against my calves so my hips are jacked and my feet are asleep from lack of movement.

2. Get the kids up.

3. Put toast in the toaster.

4. Go back upstairs at least two more times because the teenagers won’t get UP and their alarms are screaming.

5. Deal with some on-fire email.

6. Peel Rosie Cotton (the baby tuxedo cat) off the curtains. Repeat as necessary.

7. Attempt to butter cold toast.

8. Chase teenage children out the door, even if they’re whining about the oppression of having to learn algebra.

9. Sneer at the wad of exercise clothes because it’s now almost 10 a.m. and nothing has been accomplished.

10. Answer a call from the school because someone is sick. Or someone’s got a doctor’s/dental appointment.

11. Realize I haven’t had coffee yet.

12. Discover I am out of coffee.

13. Curl into the fetal position on the kitchen floor until someone discovers me and/or buys more coffee.

14. Check Facebook to see everyone else’s VERY PRODUCTIVE DAY or WONDERFUL AMAZING NINE-FIGURE BOOK DEAL or GLORIOUS AWESOME VACATION. Feel like crap.

15. Stare at blinking cursor until a teenager arrives home, likely in need of deodorant, and asks what’s for dinner.

You think I’m kidding. Don’t you.

A special note to fellow writer parents: Yeah, if you can’t be one of those 1000+ words/day writers, it’s okay. If you’re working a job AND working at home to take care of a family, it’s okay. If your workday is ALL about taking care of your family and there’s not a lot of time to write, it’s okay. DO WHAT YOU CAN. Always try to move forward.

Stephen King and Dwayne Johnson get so bloody much done in a day because they have wives, nannies, housekeepers, personal assistants, accountants, drivers, and chefs. We have us. Which makes us Super Awesome because we’re doing the work of at least seven other people.

So to circle back and answer the original question? No. I don’t have a set writing schedule. I don’t even write every single day. I just pray to the Word Gods that I find a spare few hours when no one needs anything, when the freelance work is managed, when the cats have plenty of cardboard boxes and catnip to keep themselves occupied, and then I write like there’s a fire under my butt. Because usually there is.

What about you, fellow writers? What’s YOUR daily schedule like? Do you have family or fur babies that demand your undivided attention? When you get to your job, are there 1001 interruptions that make you want to shoot everyone with a paintball gun as soon as they cross the threshold of your workspace?

Remember to take care of yourself. I’m gonna go make some brownies.

xo

Summer Is Imminent: MUST STOCK UP ON BOOKS!

Maybe you have an exciting trip planned — somewhere the involves white-sand beaches and turquoise waters and hot cabana boys. Or maybe you’re heading somewhere more historical involving castles and lochs and cobblestone streets and turbulent pasts.

Or maybe you’re like me and summer is just another season that passes by without you stuffing your passport into your handbag.

NO MATTER WHAT YOUR SUMMER PLANS ENTAIL, they are always more delightful if you have something awesome to read.

And may I make a most charming suggestion?

How about THREE books for ONE low price? Yes? Woohoo! Glad we’re on the same page. (Pun intended.)

Three books + one low price = winner winner, chicken dinner.

Three books + one low price = winner winner, chicken dinner.

Check out the feel-good, laugh-out-loud world of Revelation Cove. Meet Hollie Porter in Must Love Otters, and follow her madcap adventures into the sequel, Hollie Porter Builds a Raft. Though set at Revelation Cove for part of its story, F-Stop can be read as a stand-alone (Hollie and her beau Ryan are side characters in this third book).

Summaries:

Book 1: Must Love Otters – Emergency call operator Hollie Porter is saddled with a job she hates and a boyfriend who’s all wrong for her. Reaching breaking point, she cashes in a gift certificate and heads to Revelation Cove in British Columbia.

Flying solo and newly single, Hollie hopes to reflect and discover her purpose among the beautiful surroundings but instead ends up unintentionally providing comic relief for the staff and guests alike. Even concierge Ryan, a former hockey star with bad knees and broken dreams, can’t stop her from stumbling from one (mis)adventure to another.

Book 2: Hollie Porter Builds A Raft – After relocating to Ryan’s posh resort at Revelation Cove, Hollie Porter embarks on an all-new adventure as the Cove’s wildlife experience educator, teaching guests and their kids about otters and orca and cougars, oh my.

When darling Ryan gets down on one hockey-damaged knee and pops the question of a lifetime, Hollie realizes this is where the real adventure begins. It’s all cake tasting, flower choosing, and dress fittings until a long-lost family member shows up at the Cove and threatens to hijack her shiny new life. The unexpected reunion forces Hollie to redefine what family means to her and question what she willing to sacrifice to have one of her very own.

Book 3: F-Stop – Frankie Hawes is happy to shrink into the background and play personal assistant to her superstar photographer father and prodigy older brother. But when her brother breaks his leg, and her dad is off on vacation, Frankie must step up to the plate and fill in for the Meyer-Nelson wedding.

Held at the picturesque Revelation Cove in British Columbia, Frankie is more than a little nervous about playing photographer for the weekend. Other than a few snaps of canines here and there, Frankie is inexperienced, underprepared, and overwhelmed at the prospect of dealing with an incessant and irritating bridezilla who just so happens to be an old school bully.

Available now from your favorite online retailers (Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Indigo, Kobo, and Scribd). If you prefer a paperback, we’ve got you covered.

Happy summering, my friends. Send photos of your faraway adventures!

xo

New Release! It's OFFICIAL: F-STOP HAS LANDED!

Hello, fellow bibliophiles!

Wanted to take a moment to let you know that F-Stop, a stand-alone romantic comedy that fits into the Revelation Cove world, is AVAILABLE NOW, without a prescription. :) They say laughter IS the best medicine, and lately, who couldn’t use a healthy dose of laughs …

In case you didn’t read what an f-stop is in my prior post, it’s a camera term, a measurement rating used to describe the size of the opening in the lens shutter, which determines how much light gets in to expose the photograph (known as aperture). In THIS case, it’s the nickname for our lead character, Francesca, given to her by her dad, a world-renowned photographer.

Isn’t that cover ADORABLE? Click for buy links!

Isn’t that cover ADORABLE? Click for buy links!

Official summary:

Sometimes, love just clicks.

Frankie Hawes is happy to shrink into the background and play personal assistant to her superstar photographer father and prodigy older brother. But when her brother breaks his leg, and her dad is off on vacation, Frankie must step up to the plate and fill in for the Meyer-Nelson wedding.

Held at the picturesque Revelation Cove in British Columbia, Frankie is more than a little nervous about playing photographer for the weekend. Other than a few snaps of canines here and there, Frankie is inexperienced, underprepared, and overwhelmed at the prospect of dealing with an incessant and irritating bridezilla who just so happens to be an old school bully.

Enter wedding guest Sam—a childhood friend turned handsome bachelor who helps Frankie see that her black and white existence in the sidelines has the potential to snap into full high definition color. If only she’d see it. As feelings grow between the pair and Frankie juggles dealing with the business during a family emergency, Frankie begins to realize that maybe it’s time for her to pull focus in her own life.

F-Stop is the third book in the hilariously romantic Revelation Cove series, perfect for fans of laugh-out-loud romps, sweet and passionate romance that gives you butterflies, and feel-good stories with a happily ever after.

Available RIGHT THIS VERY SECOND at all your favorite online retailers, including Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Indigo, Kobo, and Scribd!

For those interested in a paperback or hardcover, you can order from Amazon OR at your preferred bookstore. Talk to a bookseller and they can help you order it right there on the spot! Folks local to me, I’ll be talking to my home Chapters location to get F-Stop (and her newly redesigned siblings) on store shelves!

Have a great weekend of READING!

xo

Looking for a fun summer read? DEAR DWAYNE, WITH LOVE, on sale for all of June!

Dear Dwayne, With Love, a stand-alone romantic comedy from Lake Union Publishing, is on sale this month for a cool $0.99. Are you a fan of The Rock? How about adorable British personal trainers?

Or maybe you’re looking for a fun story with a lot of HEART and a few laughs that will inspire you to go after your dreams without worrying what everyone else has to say about it?

Summary:

Wannabe actress Dani Steele’s résumé resembles a cautionary tale on how not to be famous. She’s pushing thirty and stuck in a dead-end insurance job, and her relationship status is holding at uncommitted. With unbearably perfect sisters and a mother who won’t let her forget it, Dani has two go-tos for consolation: maple scones and a blog in which she pours her heart out to her celebrity idol. He’s the man her father never was, no boyfriend will ever be—and not so impossible a dream as one might think. When Dani learns that he’s planning a fund-raising event where the winning amateur athlete gets a walk-on in his new film, she decides to trade pastries and self-doubt for running shoes and a sexy British trainer with adorable knees.

But when Dani’s plot takes an unexpected twist, she realizes that her happy ending might have to be improvised—and that proving herself to her idol isn’t half as important as proving something to herself.

* * *

This is a work of fiction. While Dwayne Johnson p/k/a The Rock is a real person, events relating to him in the book are a product of the author’s imagination. Mr. Johnson is not affiliated with this book, and has not endorsed it or participated in any manner in connection with this book.

Donuts and dumbbells for everyone!

To review, or not to review ... that is the question!

REVIEW, I say! REVIEW!

But Eliza, why? Why are reviews so important for authors?

One simple reason: sales. When an author reaches a certain threshold for reviews (the magic number starts at 10; at 50 reviews, even more promotional doors open), they can engage the advertising machine. Here’s how it works:

—> Readers write reviews.
—> Authors qualify for ads.
—> Ads help sell books.
—> Selling books means the author and/or publisher recover costs of producing the product (book).
—> Selling more product (books) and reaching more readers means the author/publisher can continue to write/publish books to entertain people.

Because the bottom line here is about entertaining our readers.

Sure, some authors are bathing in Benjamins in their gilded tubs, but heads up: most are not.

And getting paid for our work is not a big ask. How many people do you know will work for free? Will you? Who’d be so crazy?

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Which is why we ask for reviews. Think of it like a book report, but not the yucky, laborious things that your sixth grade teacher made you write. And if you Google “how to write a review,'“ those answers can be just as intimidating. You do not have to be an expert in the Hero’s Journey or commercial vs. literary fiction to write a great review.

Instead, think of it like this — when you finish reading a book, ask yourself:

  • Did I like this book? Why or why not?

  • What was my favorite part of the story? The setting? The dialogue? The characters?

  • Could I relate to the characters?

  • Did the story make me FEEL anything? Did I laugh, cry, want to throw the book across the room?

  • Was the mystery/romance/puzzle what I’d hoped from this kind of novel?

    A review can be something as simple as:

“I loved how the author made me fall in love with these characters.”

“This story was exactly what I needed for an escape from day-to-day life.”

“This was a great story that kept me guessing until the end. Can’t wait for more!”

See? Easy-peasy! And if you’re still not sure what to say, click on the number of stars you want to assign the book, 5 being the BEST (and 1 being the worst), and then leave a line in reference to that. Example: “5 stars — I loved it!” Boom. Done.

SO — Leaving your review — what you need to do:

Like I said, to be able to take advantage of promotions and advertising opportunities to give the book a boost when readers start to notice it, authors need reviews on the sales pages as soon as possible. This is a vital part of a successful launch.

In this case, I’m going to give you the universal link for my latest book, a romantic comedy called F-Stop. You can choose your preferred store that way:

books2read.com/u/bpKJX9 

And if you’re looking for a GREAT DEAL on three books, pick up the REVELATION COVE BOXSET (MUST LOVE OTTERS, HOLLIE PORTER BUILDS A RAFT, and F-STOP) :

books2read.com/u/3kvyXg

Next: Read the books. Then leave a review! Handy tip: The more stores you leave reviews on, the better for sales and visibility. And more sales means future books!

What does “verified” mean?

Verified means the book was actually purchased, rather than gifted through the author (or acquired through other nefarious channels). This step is entirely optional (and never feel under any obligation to do so—your review is more than enough and the most critical part). But if you PURCHASE the book before you leave your review, your review will be given a “verified” tag.

Readers take verified reviews more seriously, and other authors are reporting that Amazon has been removing reviews lately that are not verified. Every sale adds to the book's rank and makes it more likely that your favorite authors can hit their goal of reaching as many readers are possible.

Here are the steps on how to make all of this happen if you’d like to leave a review for F-STOP:
1: Click the Amazon link below, depending on your country:

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA
Amazon AU

2: Sign in to your Amazon account if prompted.

3: Scroll down the page and click “Write a customer review.”

4: Select a star rating and leave a review (remember, it can be as long or as short as you wish. Length isn’t important in this situation).

(For non-US readers: It’s REALLY helpful if you copy and paste your review and add it to the US Amazon page too. It’s the page promoters and marketing companies look to when deciding if we’re eligible to advertise with them.)

5: If you have accounts at other online retailers, leave your review with them too. The more places you leave your review, the more impact it’ll have. Some of the stores may not allow reviews to be left yet — this happens when a book isn’t released yet and/or is still in preorder phase. If that happens, feel free to post your review on release day! Other retailers include:

  • iBooks

  • Kobo

  • Barnes & Noble 

  • Google Play 

  • Goodreads

6: You’re done!

See how easy that is? Your favorite authors thank you for your time and energy—me included!

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F-STOP IS ALMOST HERE!

But first … what the hell is an f-stop?

In photography terms, the f-stop is a camera lens aperture setting indicated by an f-number. The smaller the f-stop number, the bigger the lens opening—which seems counterintuitive, I know. For a beginning photographer, understanding that f/1.8 is way bigger than f/22 can be VERY confusing. F-stop also determines “depth of field”—you know how some photos are focused very tightly on the subject but then the background is fuzzy (also called “bokeh”)? That is depth of field.

And in contemplating the next Eliza Gordon book, I felt that the idea of lens opening and depth of field were metaphors ready for their close-ups.

I’ve done some photography, mostly as a hobbyist but then as a kids’ headshot and portrait photographer. While it was fun, I couldn’t commit the time or resources to getting REALLY good at it. And dealing with clients … any time you’re dealing with art, it’s tricky. Just like people asking me now for free books, a lot of parents had no problem in expecting I’d just hand over every single shot I’d taken. They didn’t realize that I was barely covering expenses by giving them such an affordable session fee. The camera and lenses and flashes (called speedlights, if you’re using Nikon), strobe lighting setups and softboxes and strobe umbrellas and backdrops and backdrop stands, plus my time to take the photos and then edit them later to erase their kid’s zits or bad dental habits? Yeah. Hug your next photographer. And if you or they are not a hugger, at least don’t be a jerk about their fees.

Photography is an expensive, addictive pastime. There’s always a new camera coming out; there are always beautiful, fancy lenses calling your name. The trick is to find the camera body that works for your hand, your budget, your comfort level in terms of bells and whistles, and then find three core lenses that really achieve everything you want. My favorite is my 50mm prime lens—it’s called “prime” because it doesn’t have a zoom. It’s a fixed lens. BUT I get the sharpest images with that little sweetie. I use it for everything now.

Enough about photography, Eliza. About the new book, or Why I Wrote Another Book at Revelation Cove That Wasn’t a Hollie-and-Ryan Story: First, don’t give up on me with those two. I’m sort of stuck on where I should drop them at the moment.

But Frankie—her photographer dad calls her F-Stop—she just popped into my head one day while I was undoubtedly doing something less interesting than writing. (I get the best ideas while showering! Don’t you? Why IS that?) Frankie Hawes is a young woman who’s trying to figure out her place in the world as it relates to those who’ve come before her. Sounds like an Eliza book, right?

Readers often ask writers if stories are autobiographical in any way—usually, less so than you think. I’m pretty sure your favorite thriller and horror writers aren’t sociopaths or serial killers.

But my Eliza books usually have a stripe of me in there somewhere. I’ve worked at a hotel and then (very briefly) as a 911 operator (like Hollie Porter, Must Love Otters, Hollie Porter Builds a Raft); I’ve spent some time as a writer *wink* (Jayne Dandy, Neurotica); I am a failed actress who worked at an insurance company (Dani Steele, Dear Dwayne, With Love); and now with Francesca, I get to pull my photography background out of storage and give it a solid shake.

I have a Super Awesome Up-and-Coming Project with a new publisher where the character is a housewife—something I know a little about, for better and for worse—though her other talents are something I only WISH I knew more about. *hint hint* Then the next Eliza book after that will be set in a hospital (Wish Upon a Rosie), out in late 2019. Yes, I’ve also worked in a hospital. I hate that old adage that says “Write what you know,” so I try to find settings that I know a little about and then expand from there.

Which is why I haven’t written the third Hollie and Ryan book yet. They need to go to Scotland. I haven’t quite made it there. Yet.

But when I do, I’ll be sure to take my camera.

Newsletter update ... Are you in, or out?

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Shiny new book covers

Available now!

Hello, Raftmates!

This morning I sent out my latest newsletter installment detailing info about the NEW COVERS and the NEW BOOK and a few shots from our trip to NYC for the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, which was fun and super crazy. I’m trying out MailerLite, which is a different email/newsletter provider than I’ve been using, since a lot of my friends use it and rave about its functionality. We shall see how that goes over the next little while.

With that said, this ALSO means I am doing a major scrub of my email list. If you received my newsletter today, then cool — you’re still on my list. If you DIDN’T receive it and you WANT to receive future emails, then please go and sign up/opt in again.

If newsletters aren’t really your thing, but you want to stay in the loop about what’s coming up for Eliza Gordon, you can always check out our closed Facebook Group called Love & Cake. Your call!

I’m looking forward to having some really cool news here shortly regarding the next Eliza Gordon release (F-Stop), a collaboration project that I think you will TOTALLY adore, and possibly even a box set of the Revelation Cove books (fingers crossed!), which would include Must Love Otters, Hollie Porter Builds a Raft, and F-Stop. Wouldn’t that be cool?!

I hope spring isn’t beating the crap out of your daffodils.

Until next time, stay afloat.

Eliza xo

Good morning from almost springtime BC!

Oh man, the SUN, you guys. THE SUN. It’s out there. The sky is blue and there are no snowflakes on my weather app—

Wait. I lied. There are snowflakes Thursday and Friday. Which will change. Because this is Vancouver. And we don’t really know what snow is. That’s one thing folks don’t get about the West Coast — everyone hears “Canada” and they think we live in igloos and ride moose to work. Well, I can tell you we do NOT live in igloos but moose ARE a very effective way to travel. (Not really. I’ve never seen a moose in real life. Just bears. And they are not effective ways to travel unless you are wanting to travel to the afterlife.)

Welcome to the new website. Not sure how often this blog will be updated, but I will try my best!

Also, if you want insider info, Join the Raft! Newsletter link is in the sidebar.

Have a great week, even if your week is filled with snowflakes. Just means you need to stay indoors and READ MORE BOOKS.

~ Eliza xo