Success Is Personal: Reflections On a Twelve-Year Journey

Everyone in author world has his or her own definition of success. Some define it as making six figures in royalties. Many want to be published by a big 5 publisher. Others want to be number one on the New York Times bestseller list. Still others are content selling a few copies of their book to family and friends. Whether seeking recognition in publishing, longing for feedback from readers, or craving the joy that comes with creative expression, most authors have at least attempted to define success.

Writing is my passion. Someone reading what I write is my dream. Success came when I finally made more money in royalties than I earned in accounting. If I am a professional writer, I can stop being a professional accountant. That’s how I define success: having the freedom to quit the day job, indulge my passion, and pursue my dream. Royalties mean books are being sold. That means someone out there is reading. Maybe that’s not your definition, but it’s the definition that is meaningful to me.

It’s been a twelve-year journey. I started this blog years ago with the title “Journey to Publication.” I changed the title to “Suspense, She Writes” when Still Moments Publishing released my first short story in 2012. At first, I labeled myself as a romance writer because Still Moments was a romance publisher. After a few years and a few releases, I realized that the title of this blog had always been a more accurate description of what I write. I love writing suspense. 

In 2014, I released my first paranormal romantic suspense novel and found my niche. After ten years of writing and publishing, I finally knew who I was as a writer. I had found the elusive voice that writers talk about—that quality of one’s writing that defines them as a writer.

Occasionally, an aspiring writer will ask me for advice on how to succeed in publishing. I try to give the best advice I can. The truth is I have no idea why my books began to sell. I have a few theories, but I can only guess. All I know for sure is that in January 2015 the first book in the Haunted Hearts series started selling, and it’s still selling. I’m grateful. It was my dream to be a professional writer. The success of the Haunted Hearts series has fulfilled my dream.

However, I am not at that place in my writing life, at least not psychologically, where I can boast about how I did it. I don’t feel comfortable giving how-to-succeed-in-this-business advice. When I do, I subconsciously, or maybe even consciously, wonder if I’m a fraud pretending like I know what I’m talking about when I really don’t. My success feels very much like being in the right place at the right time.

There is a subgenre of writing about writing, and some writers have been successful in publishing in that genre. I read their words, and I suspect those writing gurus are just as clueless about why they succeeded as I am. All of their advice is sound, but a writer could follow their advice and still remain unknown, unpublished, and unsuccessful. I'm sorry if that is discouraging, but it's the truth.

During these twelve years, there are a few things I’ve come to understand and I can state without feeling like I don’t know what I’m talking about.

1.     Very few authors are overnight successes. Actually, there probably aren’t any overnight successes. Authors who came onto the publishing scene with a breakout novel honed their craft for years before they had a successful debut novel.

2.     Fail proof marketing strategies do not exist. It’s all trial and error. Discovering what works is a process. Stubbornly sticking to a strategy that doesn’t produce results is a waste of time, money, and emotional energy.

3.     Not all “authoritative” publishing advice is valid. It’s like parenting advice. Some of it is great. Some of it, not so much. A few basic pieces of advice are sound. The rest is opinion. It takes time and experience to be able to determine the difference between advice and opinion.

4.     There are many paths to publishing success. Success has its own plotline and its own timeline, and it's different for every author.

5.     It’s the story. That’s it. If you have a sellable story, it doesn’t matter how well it’s written. Some of the biggest bestsellers have tons of reviews posted on Amazon about poor writing. Despite all the "authoritative" advice about making your story as good as it can be no matter how long it takes to get it right so you can compete in the marketplace, if the story doesn’t interest readers it’s not going to sell, which means no one is going to read it. I'm not saying don't insist on delivering a quality book to the marketplace. I'm saying don't count on the quality giving the book an edge over other books with better plots.

6.     Not everyone is going to love the story. Every book published is vulnerable to the one-star review. If the author hasn’t received a one-star yet, it’s coming. Wait for it. The negative review will punch the writer in the gut. Hard and without warning. It is survivable, and it doesn’t mean the writer is awful. One star reviews are not a sign the writer should stop writing. They are an indication that someone is paying attention.

7.     The more I learn, the less I know. This kind of sounds backward, but I find it to be true. The more I read and understand about the art and craft of writing, the more I feel like I have so much more to learn. Every new concept I discover strengthens and enhances my writing. A good writer never stops learning how to write better.

I cringe when I think about the first full-length manuscript I finished. I know now what I didn’t know then. The book was lame and the writing was terrible. You’ll never read that book because I don’t think I can revise it enough to make it sellable. Like I wrote before, I want people to read what I write, and I'm not fond of one-star reviews.

Twelve years ago, I told my husband about an idea I had for a book. The idea turned into my book Purgatory. We were coming home from eating out for our wedding anniversary. He says he remembers the conversation, where we were at, and how excited I was about the story idea. He’s good at remembering details like that. That idea was not the first book I completed. I think maybe it was the second or third full-length manuscript I finished. I'm still writing, and I believe my writing continues to improve. Twelve years has given me a lot of practice.

I have one piece of advice for aspiring writers. Do not let rejection, an unclear or uncertain path, or negative feedback discourage you from pursuing your writing goals, no matter how complex or simple they are. No matter how personal they are. No matter how long it takes to achieve them. Being a professional writer is a process, not a destination. Looking back on it, I was a professional writer twelve years ago. I just didn't realize it.


10 Favorite Inspirational Spots

These ten spots have inspired me, and one day will all find their way into my writing...if they haven't already.

Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington

Hidden Falls, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Pirate's Alley, French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana

San Antonio Riverwalk, Texas

Inner Harbour, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Meigs Falls, Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Tennessee

Hot Springs, Arkansas

Ghost Town, St. Elmo, Colorado

Florida Gulf Coast, near Pensacola, Florida

Caddo Lake State Park, near Jefferson, Texas


Conversations With My Muse - Writing In My Head Edition

Image in Public Domain as a faithful reproduction
of a work of art in the public domain.
It’s been awhile since I shared one of my conversations with my muse. Not that my demanding, loud-mouthed muse has been quiet. No, actually she’s been very vocal, and her ideas have kept me busy writing. In fact, sometimes she demands so much attention that it’s hard to think about anything except what she’s yelling in my ear.

As some of you may know, my alter ego is a tax accountant. January through April is tax season, a time of the year I call hell on earth. Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but not much. Stress levels during this time of year can get very high.

Wait! Stay with me. I’m not going to bore you with tax stuff. I promise. I’d rather not bore me with tax stuff, but the non-writing job supports my writing habit, so I immerse myself in tax stuff. This time of year, it’s hard to get all that tax stuff out of my head when I’m trying to write, and a writer has to have priorities.

After tax season ended last year, I tried to quit my part-time accounting job to write full time. I really tried, but the accounting boss man asked me nicely if I’d considered staying. The men and women I work with have become my extended family. I’ve developed a rapport with most of the clients I work with. I mourned losing my connections with them, because no matter how hard a person tries, connections get lost after a certain amount of time. So when the boss man asked nicely, I agreed to stay. Reluctantly.

My muse was furious.

Last April, our conversation went something like this:

Muse: What are you doing? Yells in my ear while I’m completing a Form 1040 (To the left you can view one of these obnoxious creations.)

Me: Jumps out of skin (figuratively if not literally). Go away. I’m working. Muttering under my breath while I glance around cubicle world to see if anyone notices me talking to my invisible muse. My co-workers already think I’m nuts.

Muse: You should be working on something important, like your manuscript. You’ll never get it finished this way.

Me: Gritting my teeth and growling my answer. I’m working on it. Besides, what I’m doing here is important.

Muse: Uttering in an incredulous voice. You can’t work on your manuscript here.

Me: I can so work on it here. Just because I’m not typing doesn’t mean I’m not organizing my next chapter in my head.

Muse: Hogwash. You need to be in your writing environment to write. She’s so wrong. I can write anywhere. Most of my writing is done in my head before I even start typing. She knows that. What’s her problem?

Muse: I have an idea…

Me: Rolls eyes. You’ve given me enough ideas to keep me writing for ten years. I don’t need any more. Let me finish the ones I’m already working on.

Muse: Are you really sending me away? Pouting. Not a pretty sight, I guarantee.

Me: Just until I finish working on this tax return. Then, you can help me think about how I’m going to get my character out of that sticky situation I left her in.

Muse: Picking at her fingernails. It’s not nice to leave a heroine with a villain’s fingers around her neck. You should have finished that scene before you came to work. I told you what to write.

Me: Huffing. I was already late for work this morning. If I’d finished the scene… Never mind. You have no sympathy.

Muse: So when are you going to quit this job and come back to work?

Me: Oh, please. Go away.

And she did for a long, long time. The ungrateful wench left me on my own for a few months. Thankfully, she’d left me with plenty of ideas to work with. I just had to come up with the details on my own. I finished the manuscript I was working on and released it in April 2015. I was still rolling with ideas, so I wrote the follow-up book and released it in July 2015. After that, I needed her help badly. I didn’t release the next book in the series until December 2015.

She came back, loaded with ideas and snarkier than ever. Yeah, I kind of missed her.


The Haunted Hearts Series Books 1 - 5 Now Available In a Bundle

The first five books in the Haunted Hearts Series are now available in a five book bundle for $9.99. Separately, the five books cost $12.95. So that's a pretty nice bargain, right?

Very soon, I'll be releasing book 6 in the series, the first book in the next five-book set. The setting moves to locations along the River Road in south Louisiana. I'm excited to keep the series going.

Now, you can get caught up with the first five books before book number six comes out. Click on the image above to go to purchase the bundle.


New Release by Chantel Rhondeau - Love's Ride, McCallister's Paradise #4

Title: Love's Ride (McCallister's Paradise - 4)
Author: Chantel Rhondeau
Release date: November 24, 2015
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Family Saga Romance

Brad McCallister has always felt estranged from his family. He thought taking over as manager of their paradise resort would make him feel more connected but that hasn’t happened. To top it off, his siblings are finding life partners and settling down while Brad’s still single. If only he could stop obsessing over the island's psychologist, Chelsea Taylor.

Chelsea loves working at McCallister's Paradise. She enjoys the large family of employees and feels at home in the sand and sunshine. The only thing missing is the spice of adventure. She longs to explore the island and conquer her longstanding fears.

After Brad’s sister schemes to bring Brad and Chelsea together things go horribly wrong, but Brad refuses to give up without a fight. A two-week island adventure will not only help fulfill Chelsea’s lifelong dream of being a survivalist, it will give them a chance to get to know each other—away from his meddling family.

This couple gets more than they bargained for when survival takes on a new meaning in paradise.

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1N0mO7Q
Nook: http://bit.ly/1RpPbR8 
Apple iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1035524163 
Kobo: http://bit.ly/1RpPfk2 


She pouted slightly as she thought, her full red lips begging him to suck on them. “I felt like dinner went well the other day, but…” She paused and scarlet flared against her cheekbones.

“Dinner did go well,” he agreed. “I wasn’t sure you thought so, but I had a great time.”

“I was surprised when you left so fast.” Looking down at their hands, she avoided his eyes, seeming unsure and flustered. “I thought you’d want a goodnight kiss.”

She felt insecure because he hadn’t kissed her? Well, hot damn!

Brad chuckled and tugged her hands, pulling her close to his chest. She was enough shorter than him that when her hair swished around her face the silky strands rubbed against his chin, catching slightly in the evening stubble he hadn’t had time to shave.

Pressing his lips against her forehead, Brad released one of her hands to caress her cheek and slide his hand down her neck.

The passion he felt in being so close to her was echoed in the soft trembling of Chelsea’s body against his and the sweet, contented sigh she released.

Wrapping both arms around her, Brad held her close to his heart, enjoying having her so near after spending several days apart. If only work would slow down and he could see her more often. He knew it was too sudden to be sure that he wanted things to work out with Chelsea, but holding her felt right. Since the moment she arrived on the island, Brad hadn’t been able to stop thinking about her, wishing he could call her his lady. Now he might have a chance.

Chelsea’s arms circled him, and she rested her head on his shoulder. The soft puffs of breath coming from her mouth bathed his neck with their warmth, making him wish he were less of a gentleman.

“You smell delicious,” she whispered, sniffing deeply. Her lips brushed his collarbone, setting his heart rate racing. 

If he didn’t stop this soon, the problem twitching to life in his pants could make a family dinner awkward. Kissing her forehead once more, Brad gently gripped her shoulders and pushed her away.

About McCallister's Paradise: 

Fall in love with the strong men and smart women of McCallister's Paradise!

At their tropical island resort, the McCallister family works hard. Life in Paradise should be perfect. After all, the place is great for a romantic getaway. Unfortunately, the five McCallister siblings are still searching for their happily ever afters... and romance always seems just out of reach. 

But determined hearts won't be denied. And when love is on the line, a McCallister doesn't fall halfway!

Happy Endings (Quinn)
Diving Into Love (Parker)
For Love or Charity (Sydney)
Love's Ride (Brad)
Cooking Up Love (Shane - coming soon)

Available at these vendors:

~~About the Author~~

Bestselling Author Chantel Rhondeau once thought a mystery or fantasy book with strong romantic themes was the highest level of reading bliss. After reading her first romantic suspense, she never looked back. Chantel is author of six romantic suspense novels, three Christmas novellas, a sports-themed novella, and the McCallister’s Paradise contemporary romance/family saga series. She lives in the western United States and when she's not writing, she loves playing cards with her family, bowling on leagues, and snuggling with her lazy kitties.

Want to contact Chantel?
Mailing list: http://bit.ly/1qKSN0q (FREE copy of Season For Love for new sign ups!)
Join my Facebook Group: http://on.fb.me/1JlKFNC


Cranking Up the Creepy


The final book in the Haunted Hearts Series: Arkansas Hauntings, Chelsea Lane, has just been released.

Here's the books description:

Searching for a reason to go on living…

All her life, Chelsea has suffered feelings of worthlessness from being abandoned—time after time—causing a huge pile of hurt to reside in the deeper recesses of her heart. When James Standridge kidnaps her, he gives her a new name and a new reason to exist. The will to survive keeps her going from one day to the next until his death changes everything.

Fearing freedom after living so long in the shadows…

After years of being a missing person, Chelsea is suddenly free to reclaim her lost identity, but she doesn’t know where to start rebuilding her interrupted life. Hovering around the fringes of her former existence seems easier than facing the dangers of becoming Cherish Duncan again.

Finding that hope happens when you least expect it…

When Chelsea begs him to help her, Jordan Clark can’t resist being Chelsea’s knight in shining armor. After all, hefeelsdeeply the need to make up for the mistakes he’s made in the past. Living with Chelsea in the house she shared with James Standridge ignites more than the promise of romance. Jordan’s presence energizes restless spirits who would prefer their secrets remain buried for eternity.

Can love conquer fear and free the ghosts haunting the house on Chelsea Lane?

I'm excited about this book because it completes the story arc that began in book one. Do you want to know what happened to all your favorite characters? Did the bad guys get what they deserved? Will the paranormal activity in Hill County finally settle down to a somewhat tolerable level? You can find out by purchasing the book at this link. 

Finishing a series like this is kind of like saying goodbye to close friends. But this isn't the final farewell. No way!

I've already begun the outlines for the next five book set in the Haunted Hearts Series entitled River Road Hauntings. In book one, coming early 2016, Jordan and Chelsea move to south Louisiana to start their lives over, and of course, they discover the River Road is haunted with the ghosts of the mysterious Wakefield family. Can Jordan help his old friend Dylan with his ghost problem? Will Jordan have to call on some old friends to help him with another ghost eviction?

Are you ready to get acquainted with a whole new cast of characters to follow from book to book?

The books in this series are tentatively titled:

Book #6: The Unmistakable Scent of Gardenias

Book #7: The Curse of a Single Red Rose

Book #8: The Wind Through the Magnolias

Book #9: The Trail of Crushed Azaleas

Book #10: The Sweet Madness of Honeysuckle

I've already started writing Book #6. Here's the book's description:

Content with the direction her life takes…

The temptation to earn a sweet payday and collect enough money to start her own interior design business is too much opportunity for Sophia Cannon to ignore. Working for her new client, Les Wakefield, is like working for a creepy stalker. He seems to be everywhere she goes.

Until trouble walks around the corner and into her life again…

Dylan Hunter almost turns down the Wakefield Manor restoration job until Les Wakefield tells him Sophia is the interior designer hired to oversee furnishing the old plantation house. Sophia has been the ghost in his life since the day she left him, haunting his heart with her memory every day and every night.

Stirring up more than just the spirits of the dead…

Sophia and Dylan fight with each other until a much bigger threat puts both their lives in danger. Discovering that generations of Wakefields have restored the plantation only to disappear months after moving into the manor house stirs up spirits that would rather remain undisturbed.

Can love survive the long nights at Wakefield Manor with the unmistakable scent of gardenias hanging so heavily in the air?

Okay, come on! Doesn't that sound just a little bit...creepy?

In this new set, I'm cranking up the creepy.

Check out Chapter One of The Unmistakable Scent of Gardenias at this link. 

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