The Christmas Bike: pre-order!

I am excited to announce that my third novel,

The Christmas Bike,

is set for release on October 11, 2016 and available for pre-order! (click on link)

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Here is a brief synopsis:

Christmas is already going to be tough for Marie and her family. When a series of events is set in motion long before a Christmas Eve tragedy, she is too occupied to notice God’s grace. An emergency letter to Santa sets her on a quest for a Christmas miracle. With time running out, she prays for the first time in a long time. A miracle does happen, but it is not what she expected.

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This story is true and it happened to me. I wrote this little novella beside the fireplace and twinkling lights of the Christmas tree, while the rest of the house slept. The inspiration to write this story was because of another author who had a similar situation happen to her during the holiday season. I will write about that experience in a later post.

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I also wrote The Christmas Bike as a Christmas gift to my mother and sisters.

I had no intention to seek publication because, to me, it wrote more like a journal entry and less like a structured book. My feelings were raw, my memories thick. It’s the kind of story that was written in a blur of magic.

I hope it feels like magic when you read it. I hope you in turn notice the little miracles in your life, connect the dots, and know that you are not alone.

My publisher and I have been collecting endorsements from people. But my favorite endorsements are personal ones that came from my sisters and mother who encouraged me/forced me to seek representation.

Here are a few professional endorsements:

The Christmas Bike is a tender and sometimes heartbreaking story, told with a rare authenticity; a real, behind the scenes view of motherhood, of struggle, and miracles. Sugar doesn’t fix everything.Angie Fenimore, NYT bestselling author of Beyond the Darkness.

The Christmas Bike broke my heart, then mended it. I love this book!
– Tonya Vistaunet. Owner of A Happy Vista and author of the Color Land series.

Charming narration and a heart-warming journey—I laughed, I cried, and then I went back and read it again.
Laura Rollins, author of Shadows of Angels

The Christmas Bike is more than just another Christmas story—it’s one of resilience, of hope, and of finding the grace we long for.
Emily Wing Smith, author of The Way He Lived and All Better Now.

You are welcome to follow more of my journey writing this novella by viewing my hashtag on Instagram #thechristmasbike.

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Thank you! I can’t wait to get this book into stores and into your hands! And with a price tag that costs less than a gourmet cup of hot cocoa, The Christmas Bike is a perfect read for a winter’s night. 🙂

  • Tara

To view my other books you can click here.

 

 

Heat Ratings in Romance… should it be like the ratings in Rock Climbing??

I have been thinking about the different levels of heat in Romance novels lately.

There have been times that people told me I needed to add more heat into my novel Broken Smiles. There have also been times that critique partners told me I need to tone down the steam. Where is the balance? I decided to delve in and discover all of the levels of romance and what certain target audiences expect. This is mainly for my reference, and I am glad to share and hope that it will help some of you.

As I was thinking about what rating system I wanted to compare this to, I thought about rock climbing. I love rock climbing and had many friends growing up who were hard core climbers.

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(photos of me, Tara, in Rock Canyon and Mystery Canyon)                                       

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As romance novels become more and more mainstream, there needs to be a definite rating system. I don’t mean to throw the climbing community under the bus by referring to them, but the rating system they use is genius.

By going into detail and explaining each romance category in terms of 1-15a,b,c,d, the guessing game of heat level would be out in the open. There wouldn’t need to be a board of directors or big debates on what should go where when it comes to levels of sizzling heat in romance. We could simply look at it through the eyes of a child. And so that is what I have done…

*No Romance at all would be comparable to the rock climbing ratings of Class 1 to Class 4. These rock climbing ratings begins with:

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Class 1 – Walking on an established trail

Children’s books, picture books

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Class 2 – Hiking up a steep incline

Early Reader, Middle grade reader

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Class 3 – Climbing up a steep hillside

Upper middle grade or Young Adult. Platonic interest between boy and girl.

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Class 4 – bouldering or following a ledge. Sometimes a rope will be used for help.

Young Adult mild swearing or love interest. Internal emotions, but no follow through.

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***The tricky bit is when we get to Class 5 in climbing. This is when ropes are used and technical rock climbing begins. Past Class 5, the climbs begin to become subdivided into categories.***

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Class 5.0-5.4- climbing up a ramp or steep incline with good holds.

Super Sweet Romance – An innocent look, an internal feeling by one or more of the characters. No swearing.

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Class 5.5-5.7 – steeper, more vertical. Still good holds and easily protected.

Sweet Romance – Maybe a brief touch or a steamy look. A walk around a garden alone (in historical fiction) Realistic sexual tension.

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Class 5.8 – Vertical climbing on small holds

Mild Romance – Hand holding, a quick hug. Internal thoughts and feelings of love or lust.

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Class 5.9 – Rocks might be slightly overhung, or smaller hand holds. With practice, beginner climbers can climb with confidence

Clean Romance – A brief kiss. A warm hug. More internal thoughts and feelings described in detail.

***Get clipped in, because it starts to get more intense!***

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(My good friend Emily Ernst “rockin'” American Fork Canyon.

She told me this was about a 5.11a – I don’t believe her 🙂 )

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Class 5.10 – This is where it becomes more intense. A beginner rock climber does not feel comfortable in this range unless they go often or have natural talent. The classifications break down even more into a,b,c,d.

Spicy Romance – a) A more intense kiss, closed bedroom scenes, b) maybe some swearing. c) If lovers do make love, it is implied and not graphically depicted. Much is left to the readers imagination. d) The focus is still on the emotions rather than the body parts.

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Class 5.11 a,b,c,d – Steep and difficult routes with powerful and technical moves. Above average skill.

Steamy Romance –  a) Open door bedroom scenes, some nudity. b) We get heated feelings from the characters, but not in graphic detail. c) Maybe one or two mild love scenes in the novel and they tend to be longer scenes. d) Infidelity.

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Class 5.12 a,b,c,d – Overhanging climbs. Requires delicate footwork on thin holds or long climbs requiring a great deal of balance. Expert level.

Hot Romance – a) Nudity and intimacy in detail. Authors start to use funny words to describe the intimate parts. b) Internal thought and dialogue are meant to make you feel that you are the one experiencing the sensations. c) The focus throughout the book are sexual feelings and desires. d) More description, but nothing wild or kinky.

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Class 5.13 a,b,c,d – Very difficult climbs. Elite athletes.

Erotica – a) Hard core. b) Explicit language and bedroom scenes. There probably isn’t much of a story line at this point. c) The focus is mainly on sex. It probably takes a very gifted author to have a storyline beyond sex. But this is a Billion dollar industry, so there is a demand. I don’t think people read this genre for literary purposes!

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Class 5.14 a,b,c,d – These climbs are among the hardest in the world and very few can even attempt them.

Graphic Erotica, a) Extremely explicit scenes and language. b) BDSM, c) rape, all explained in full detail with all of the feelings described. May include what others consider kinky. This is unlike rock climbing in that this genre is becoming mainstream. It is front and center in grocery stores and gas stations. Movies are being made.

***Often I have seen personally where girls have gone from reading Class 5.0-5.4 to Class 5.14 with no preparation or maturity in between. Imagine the years, the hours, and the training a climber dedicates to this level of skill. You can’t stick a beginner on an over hanging ledge and say “climb.” Nor should you. They would fall, they could die. Why then, is there no rating system to prepare or caution early readers?***

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Class 5.15 – Very few people can climb on this level. I think Spiderman skills are needed.

Beyond Romance and Erotica- Think of the worst or most graphic thing you can think of, combine them all, and this would be there.

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(My awesome sister Traci Stewart rock climbing on Moon Hill in China.

Climbs range from a 5.10b-5.14a)

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In Rock Climbing, when new harder climbs are found, a new number is made. It is impossible to imagine someone being able to find and climb a 5.16. Just as it is impossible to imagine what will be acceptable and written in the literary world. This rating system leaves it open to both. Incomprehensible, but possible.

The thing I have found is that romance in novels can be very subjective. Everyone has different lines they will or will not cross. I have found this as I have been exposed to the romance writing community. There is a definite line that I will not cross in my writing and what I feel comfortable reading. The frustrating part comes when you don’t know what to expect when you pick up a book and then you invest in a story line and it takes you to a place you are frustrated or become uncomfortable with. Much in the same way that a cliff face might look climbable from below, but once you get half way up, you realize you are stuck.

Rock Climbers, I love you! You are genius (and hot!) May us romance writers use or borrow or steal your rating system??

Thanks for “hanging” with me and happy writing –

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Tara

Social Media is a Waste of Time for Writers—Hmmm, Think Again

I have posted about my path to becoming publicized here and how I have battled over the years between plugging in and unplugging. I didn’t have an e-mail until maybe five years ago, and I had my first flip phone only months before that. Strange, I know, especially for someone my age. Most all of my friends started blogs over a decade ago and have a huge following, while I avoided it all, thinking it strange that you’d want complete strangers to see into your life.

That all changed when I began to write seriously. Actually it changed when I went to my first critique and read my query in front of a bunch of strangers. I had completed a novel, written a screenplay, and had boxes full of poetry. Did I want to share it, or keep it to myself? This was a very tough question for me, as I wondered if people even cared what I had to say.

It still surprises me when writers now-a-days don’t embrace social media. I am going to be brutally honest and say that I don’t like it, but I have embraced it. This blog post has really helped me and my approach to social media.
If you have any tricks you use when it comes to social media, I’d love to hear about it.
Thanks,
Tara

Kristen Lamb's Blog

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We’ve been talking a lot about social media lately and I am always grateful for your comments and thoughts. This kind of feedback not only helps me improve my blog, but my also books, because I get a glimpse of your worries, weaknesses, fears, loves, and strengths.

As a teacher/mentor/expert, it’s my job to address those fears and put you at ease or reinforce when you’re headed the right direction and give you tools and tips to take what you’re doing to another level.

There’ve been some comments that have piqued my attention lately. Namely this notion to give up on social media completely to write more books (out of vexation for the medium and the task).

Oh-kay….

Social Media is a TOTAL Waste of Time

Write more books instead of tweeting or blogging. Social media is a giant time-suck better spent writing great books.

I don’t know how to…

View original post 2,020 more words

Find Your Tribe

Sorry I haven’t posted about anything other then my book launch over the past week or so. It has been a tornado. I fast paced, all-encompasing tornado.

Synchronicities have come into my life regarding the meeting of amazing people. I have thought a lot about if this tornado of self-promotion and marketing my book is worth it. I can always write for myself, never share anything, and hoard it like a treasure chest full of jewels. But like jewels, what good do they do sitting in a box that will age over time and eventually turn to dust?

But what if someone doesn’t like my jewels? What if what I write is crap?

The answer is Find Your Tribe.

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It’s interesting, because when I began to push my toe into the world of writing and making author connections, I thought I had found my tribe. These, these are my people. This broad group of individuals, get me.

And yet…

There are families within tribes. They may be writing in a similar genre. They may have similar backgrounds. They may be in the exact stage of writing as you. Whichever the case, they should lift you. Families should lift one another, cheer each other on, and offer critical feedback when needed. Writing is a lonely business, so make deep, satisfying connections that can withstand the tornado.

When I had a couple projects under my belt (some that will never see the light of day), I began searching for a critique group, then more groups, then conferences, then a publisher. This was kind of like extended family for me. It was still my family tribe, but bigger.

Now the circle is extended to readers… Whoa, scary.

Now it becomes they find you. They are looking for a tribe that fits their needs. Some will not get you, some will even be mean. Accept it. If you don’t fit into their tribe, don’t worry. You have a family unit, remember?

My publisher has a closed group where us authors can go and receive support for bad reviews, where questions are answered quickly, and where a huge cheering section celebrates along with you.

If you don’t have a tribe, start small. Try to find a critique group that likes your work. There are many online groups. I’m sure there are some even in the city where you live.

Thank you for following me on this blog. See, we are part of the same tribe, you and I. 🙂

– Tara

The Importance of Setting in a Novel

UPDATE: This blog post won an award for “media post” at the 2015 LUW writers conference.

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Write what you know. How many times have I heard that? Oh man, probably at every conference I have ever gone to, multiple times.

I know setting.

Long before I was ever an author, I would surround myself in settings which filled my soul with wonder. I would cover my limbs and face with autumn leaves to feel the smell. I would spend many nights under the stars, listening to the scurrying of little animals and the sounds of wind applauding my appreciation through the trees. The stillness would settle in my heart and when I began to bring pen and paper with me to different settings, my world became magical.

To me, setting should breathe like a character. It isn’t just streets, buildings, and names of towns — it is the lifeblood which weaves your characters and plot together. It shouldn’t be tacked in, but rather an integral part of the story. It grounds the reader.

It should also ground the author. The author carries the responsibility to bring details that are often overlooked. Especially, in my opinion, when it comes to nature.

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Pilot and Index Peak – Cooke City, Montana

Recently, I returned from a long trip through Montana and Yellowstone. I have visited many times and even lived there at one point. Those wild, rustic places are some of my favorite spots in the world and I felt the heavy burden to show my love for it in one of my novels. I hadn’t been up there for over a dozen years and I started creating the setting for my novel through memory. When I had finished my book, I was satisfied. But something tugged at me to visit those places again. Either my wild heart, or the pull to immerse myself in those mountains.

Arming myself with laptop, pens and journals, I was ready to take my story to battle and add details that were missing and change a few things. I was surprised when I came home and realized that I had never even written one word when I had surrounded myself in the nature I so dearly love. Why? It wasn’t a conscious decision by any means, but looking back, my body and soul yearned to feel the lifeblood of the setting. I didn’t need to muddle it with words, I needed to experience it and let the setting wash through me.

In this world where setting and placement are so often overlooked or replaced with handheld devices that capture our attention, authors need to work harder to ground the reader. We need to scream at our readers to notice detail. It breaks my heart every time I see someone surrounded by stunning scenery and their faces are aglow with the pale light of a handheld device.

Here are a few ways you can bring your setting to life in your novel, followed by some examples I have written.

*Be specific – it isn’t only a flower, describe the details. example: The vibrant purple petals stretched beneath an indigo hat which drooped over a white lip and a yellow bearded pouch. (Calypso Orchid)

*Sprinkle in similes and metaphors to connect – example: His temper was like a loose cannon. It could explode at any given time and I would be the set target.

*Use the senses; sight, sound, smell, taste, feel – This one is huge! I love to incorporate the senses. – example: My stomach was empty, which was good, because the smell hit me, and I heaved once more against the vacant remains of my belly. The putrid, decaying stench of rotten flesh made my eyes water.

*Show, don’t tell – instead of stating that its raining, describe the dripping trees, the puddles gathering in the crevices of rock, and the pattering on tin resembling tinkling bells.

Here is an excerpt from my novel Broken Smiles. The setting is in China, another one of my favorite places. I hope you can feel my love for it as you read my words.

Here and there rocks were covered with ancient moss. Orchids blossomed spontaneously upon the trees. Vines hung like ropes and twine, twisting upon the rubber and the banyan trees. Bamboo stood proudly against the moonlight, casting shadows that had been the same for thousands of years. Away from big city lights and pollution, it was easy to be transported back in time to ancient China. This land had managed to remain untouched throughout the different emperors and dynasties. As they walked, they passed a small ancient graveyard built against the hillside. The limestone shrines glowed mysteriously in the moonlight. Chinese characters and mini-sculptures were carved in the pale rock. Incense smoldered on the top of an old gravestone…

Thanks for stopping by –

Tara

Broken Smiles coming September 23rd!

I feel like I did when I was six months pregnant and people would ask “when are you due, you look huge, when’s the baby coming?”

Well, I finally have a “due date” for my novel Broken Smiles – September 23rd 2014!

Six months pregnant, that’s where I’m at in my book publishing… only three months left! I need to have this fetus of a book gestate a bit more. I need to feed it, nourish it, care for it, and yes, keep it all to myself for just a little longer. This book has grown inside of me. It has made me nauseous, sick, and yet elated.

This novel used to be only a concept. It has grown, matured and I’ve even taken it to be put under a microscope or ultrasound for inspection. I have been pregnant with it for years. So it’s about time it breaks free!

Am I ready? No… yes… I don’t know. Are we ever truly ready for parenthood? Gah! The responsibilities. The doubt. The fear. The unknown.

This is a novel of my heart. I have written many other novels and short stories since Broken Smiles. But this was my first. I love all of my “babies” but there is something about the first of anything.

I hope you celebrate with me on it’s birthday, come mid-September!

Tara