Friday, March 21, 2014

The Lilac Hour--The Story Behind the Stories

When I read The Lilac Hour, I wanted to slow down, pull up an Adirondack chair on a front porch overlooking some sleepy New England harbor and drink in every word slowly, deliberately. I find the writing of these stories to be lyrical and alluring. I think you will, too. I asked author Ute Carbone to share with us the story behind the stories of The Lilac Hour and take us all to that front porch in that early evening sunset to introduce us to three ordinary, yet amazing women.

(Photograph provided by author. Please enjoy but do not copy.)

It all began with a sunset. I was in the tiny town of New Harbor, on the Pemaquid peninsula, one of the many rocky fingers that reach into the Atlantic in mid-coast Maine, running a writing retreat.

To say Pemaquid is pretty is a lot like saying the Duomo is a nice building. The small town of New Harbor is surrounded by water, with quiet coves tucked into grassy knolls, a few miles downroad a lighthouse perches on jutting rock pounded by surf. It’s the sort of place where time seems to stand still, lobster traps bob in the distance as they have for generations, old salt-stained cottages line the waterfront.

(Photograph provided by author. Please enjoy but do not copy.)

The sun set on the quiet cove right in front of the rickety antique house we’d rented (a story for another day).  The sky put on quite a show, pastels smeared into the horizon—soft blues, lilacs, salmon, rose, apricot—softening everything around it in ethereal light. My friend and fellow writer, Kathy Pyle, mentioned she’d always thought of the wondrous time between daylight and dark as ‘the lilac hour’.

A few months later I got the idea for a story about an elderly woman and her undying love for the husband she’d lost when they were both young. I knew New Harbor would be the perfect setting and Kathy’s phrase came into my head. I had the opening line—“We called it the lilac hour.”

I wrote the story, a short piece with a slight magical realism flavor, and looked for a place to publish it. Turquoise Morning Press was open to short story submissions and they had a line call ‘After Happily Ever’, which seemed the perfect home for the story. I sent it to them and Lola DelSol, the editor of the After Happily Ever line, wrote  me to say she loved the story and wanted to publish it. Only one problem, it was too short to publish as a stand-alone. She suggested several options, one of which was to write another story to compliment it.

In the original story, Sarah, the main character, mentions her daughter and her granddaughter. They must, I thought, each have a story of their own. I pitched the idea to Lola who told me to go for it.

An interesting thing happened when I sat down to write about Sarah’s daughter Maggie and her granddaughter JoAnne. It was as though they had been there all along, waiting for me to ask them for their own stories of true love. Maggie, in her fifties, had a wish to reconnect with her husband, Jake. JoAnne needed to examine her past in order to understand how much she loved her present—and her husband, David. The stories came quickly and, miracle of miracles, they all fit together, one complimenting the next. And it all started with a sunset.

The Lilac Hour

Three Stories.
Three generations of women.
Three loves meant to last forever.

The Lilac Hour: Sara has been widowed longer than she was married. Now in her eighties, she
discovers that anything is possible in the lilac hour.

Love Letters: Maggie rediscovers the letters that her husband Jake wrote long ago. Can she rekindle the passion that was once theirs?

The Road Not Taken: JoAnne meets an old love at Target. Has she made the right choice in choosing her husband David?

About the author:

Ute (who pronounces her name Oooh-tah) Carbone is an award winning author of women’s fiction, comedy, and romance. She and her husband live in New Hampshire, where she spends her days walking, eating chocolate and dreaming up stories.

Books and Stories by Ute Carbone:

For more about Ute and her books, Please Visit:

Saturday, March 15, 2014

How Is Self-Publishing Like Sex?

Well, that got your attention. And I’ll explain that title in a minute.

A lot of writers have jumped onto the self-publishing—or indie publishing—wagon lately. (I recently read a discussion where the term ‘indie publishing’ is replacing ‘self publishing’. The term indie presses used to refer to small independent publishers but, according to the discussion, these are now referred to as small presses. Just a point of clarity.) I’ll use the terms self-publishing and independent publishing interchangeably here. Some authors are previously published or simultaneously published with small presses, while others venture directly into self-publishing their works. I recently joined the fray by independently publishing my new romantic suspense novel, Protection. Call me Miss Independence!

For those who view the independent publishing process as being a, “I did it all myself” process—don’t be mistaken. I could never have done this all myself. I should say, I couldn’t have done it well and, in the end, still had a hair on my head. And I do not recommend publishing a book without having it go through an editing process with a separate pair of eyes that belong to a skilled author/editor. Some of you might have the talent to create your own cover art. Those of us who don’t, have to rely on those who do. An attractive cover is important for any book. As for the process as a whole, I have a friend who says, “Anyone who can read a recipe can cook.” That’s true. And so, it would make sense that anyone who can read instructions can publish their own book to Amazon/Kindle and even put it in print on a site like CreateSpace.

I’ve been published for over seven years with three small presses. And, don’t get me wrong—I love my publishers. Wings ePress gave me my start. Champagne Books welcomed me to my Canadian publishing family. And, most recently, Turquoise Morning Press opened their arms to my writing. And they’ve all done justice to my work. I’m not venturing off into independent publishing and turning away from my publishers. Rather, I’m expanding my publishing market.

It was a daunting venture at first. But I can’t stand it when I let fear stop me from doing something. When I first thought about publishing a book myself, the negative messages rolled through my brain like a freight train: “You don’t have a clue how to do that.” “You’ll screw it up.” “You don’t know the first thing about formatting.”

Then I took a deep breath and examined those messages. No, I did not have a clue. There was the potential to screw up and do it badly. And I knew a little, but very little, about formatting for publication. I talked to a few fellow authors who are published both by small presses and independently. Most of them said the same thing, “If I can do it, you can do it.” I wasn’t sure if this was a vote of confidence in my abilities or a critical assessment of their own.

I sat down one Saturday and wrote out my fears or concerns about this venture and, much like experimenting with a new recipe, made a list of ingredients—the things I needed to have in place before I could proceed. Writing the book was the easiest part. Cover art! I needed someone who had the ability to create an attractive cover. Photoshop and I have a very adversarial relationship. I turned to Trisha FitzGerald, a fantastic cover artist who won an award for the cover she created for one of my Champagne books, Next Time I’m Gonna Dance. I knew I could trust her work and her fees are very reasonable. Editing! As much as we authors would like to believe we know enough to edit our own work—we don’t. Fortunately, my pal and fellow author, Kimberley Koz, graciously offered to critique and edit the manuscript for me. And she did a smash-up job, catching big plot issues and smaller copyediting issues.

I decided to publish through Amazon for Kindle and use CreateSpace for trade paperbacks.

My first point of technical advice if you are going this route is: #1. Download Building Your Book for Kindle and read it. This became my holy grail for formatting the manuscript for upload to Kindle. Save yourself a lot of grief and follow the directions. Point #2. Don’t be afraid to ask other authors who have already gone this route for their assistance. Authors Elaine Meece, Dee Julian and Kim Smith talked me down from the ledge more than once, assured me I could do this, and Dee even took my manuscript and formatted for my paperback according to CreateSpace guidelines. Once I saw what she had done, it made sense. When I first looked at the options for trade paperback, I balked. What if I messed up and formatted my book all wrong and it printed all wrong and my readers saw what an idiot I really am? Okay, take a breath and step away from the laptop. The online guides for CreateSpace will actually guide you through the process. But—this is IMPORTANT—you have to know your page count according to the print book size you choose (5x8, 6x9, etc.) in order to calculate the size of the spine where your title and name will go. Once you upload your formatted manuscript to CreateSpace into their template, you will be able to review it page-by-page and you will get the page count. The guide tells you exactly how to calculate the spine size. I gave this to my cover artist and she did the rest, then sent me the full cover (front, back and spine) for upload for the paperback and a jpeg of the front cover for Kindle. I did supply her with their specifications on pixels, etc. (the things that make my brain shut down—numbers.) But she understood and that was all that mattered.

Now, I formatted the manuscript separately for Kindle and for CreateSpace. However, there is an option on CreateSpace to publish your completed manuscript to Kindle. That may simplify the process but I, of course, did the harder way, so I can’t tell you how that works. I assume they convert the file for Kindle and upload it. And CreateSpace runs its own check of your manuscript and tells you if there are any glitches before you publish. They won’t let you make a complete fool of yourself. After all, their reputation is riding on how your work looks, too. If you’re considering going this route, simply go to, scroll down the page to the very bottom and choose the option Independently publish with us.

I heard another author recently comment, “Publishing is going to hell in a hand basket. Any fool with a computer and an idea can publish a book, and most of those self-published books are poorly edited garbage.” Harsh? Yes. Somewhat true? Yes. The downside of independent publishing is just as he described. I urge you not to be foolish and publish that book you are so sure is ready for consumption without the benefit of proper editing. Please do yourself and the rest of us that favor.

Okay, here’s where sex comes in. How is self-publishing like sex? Once you get the first time out of the way, it’s enjoyable! I’m looking forward to a few more projects I have in mind to independently publish. After all the doubt, the angst, the anticipation, the frustration, the worry about ‘doing it right’, it was fun and I want to do it again.

And, now, here's my finished product--PROTECTION

Available now in eBook and Trade Paperback at

Back cover blurb:

Jake Garber is a new man after being placed in the witness protection program pending a Federal child-trafficking case in which he’s a witness. Shannon Chase is the identity stolen by a young woman escaping her past to protect her child. A foggy night, a hairpin turn, and a car crash throw Jake and Shannon into one another’s lives where each struggle to protect a secret.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Protection - My First Foray Into Indie Publishing

With so many authors dipping their toes into the Independent Publishing stream, I knew I had to give it a try. I have books published with three small presses and, don't get me wrong, I love my publishers. Publishing independently is just one more way of broadening the scope of my writing.

I often felt as if I was wandering blindfolded in a dark room throughout the process of preparing my manuscript and formatting for publication with Kindle and CreateSpace. Fortunately, I have some very generous writer friends who lent their expertise with editing and formatting. (Without their help and encouragement, I'd no doubt still be bumping into unseen walls.) Today, my book went live on Amazon for Kindle. (The trade paperback is soon to follow). The cover art by Trisha FitzGerald is so perfect for the story. Well, you'll see for yourself--AFTER you read the book!

Jake Garber is a new man after being placed in the witness protection program pending a Federal child-trafficking case in which he’s a witness. Shannon Chase is the identity stolen by a young woman escaping her past to protect her child. A foggy night, a hairpin turn, and a car crash throw Jake and Shannon into one another’s lives where each struggles to protect a secret.

Protection - Romantic Suspense - is now available for Kindle at

Friday, March 7, 2014

International Women's Day

Saturday, March 8 is International Women's Day. To celebrate, I'm presenting a few of the women from my women's fiction books. Just leave a comment for a chance to win the book of your choice (from those pictured below) in either ebook or trade paperback. I'll post the name of the winner here on the blog on Wednesday, March 12 with contact information to claim your prize.

Kate from And The Truth Will Set You Free: 

Kate stared at the fire as she spoke. “I did discover some truths while I was away and I want to say them out loud so I don’t dismiss them. I think that, once you speak a truth, you own it and it owns you.”

Beth from The Year I Lost My Mind: 

My mother will tell you that I have been having a midlife crisis. My best friend will tell you that I am courageous. My husband will tell you that, on my last birthday and for just a little while, I lost my mind.

I will tell you this: Sometimes you have to lose something in order to reclaim it. Sometimes you have to trust the love that holds the seams of your life together and stretch it to a new limit. Sometimes you just have to lose your mind... and follow your heart.

Janet/Hope from Finding Hope:  

Dear family, I quit. Effective immediately, I am no longer the cook, laundress, shopper, housekeeper, chauffeur, landscaper or resident problem-solver. Oh, I’m also not the banker or the ATM. I am, however, the instructor. Classes will begin tomorrow and seating is limited, so you should sign up early...
                                                                                      Janet R. DeMarco,
                                                                                      Wife, Mother, Person
                                                                                      (not necessarily in that order)

Abby from The Restoration of Abby Walker: 

“I was thinking about something I learned about patina when I started to restore furniture.”

“You’re thinking of that now?”

“Yeah. The important thing about patina is that, if you restore something beyond its age, you remove the patina—the essence of what it is, where it’s been. And it loses value. There’s a very fine line you can’t cross.”

He tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “I’m glad you put down the sander when you did. You know, that Mulgrew woman was okay. But Abby Walker just takes my breath away.” He traced his fingers down her arm. “And you should see her patina.”

Another lesson crossed Abby’s mind: If you restore, rather than refinish furniture, you will bring the old finish back to life.

Rylee Morgan from Shooting Into The Sun: 

Never shoot into the sun--the voice played in her head. The rules she had learned early in her career never failed to produce flawless photographs. The rules she had developed for life had not served her as well. In the sixteen years since her father’s departure, Rylee had kept herself busy, focused on her career, and safe inside her well-constructed boundaries.

Rylee resituated the tripod and checked the sun’s position. She stepped behind the camera, looked once again through the lens and waited, watching the slight movement of the leaves. Water bubbled over rocks. Slowing the shutter speed, she could create a smooth cascade effect. Blue sky and white clouds reflected on the stream’s surface. This stretch of the rapids where the Youghiogheny River ran through Ohiopyle State Park in Pennsylvania was her favorite spot for shooting.

Her thumb rested on the shutter release, prepared for just the right moment. The breeze subsided and the shadows shifted. Then, just as she pressed the button, some jerk decided to walk on water.

Rylee lifted her head and stared. A hiker made his way across the exposed rocks and into the middle of the narrow river--directly into the center of her view. She walked to the water’s edge and, with hands on hips, shouted, “Excuse me! You’re ruining my shot.”

Meg from Unconditional:

As I settled my purse in the bottom desk drawer, the muffled strains of Ode to Joy sounded. Thomas. I turned off the phone and tossed it back into my purse, resolving to change the ringtone later. I was torn between Before He Cheats and the old Eagles song, Lyin’ Eyes. I didn’t think anyone had recorded a song about castration.

All of my books can be found at  Be sure to leave a comment here to be entered into the drawing to win a free book in celebration of International Women's Day.

Thanks for stopping by,  Linda