The Joy of Research

Hi everyone and welcome to my blog. If you are new or a returning viewer , I hope you find us interesting, helpful and  fun. Afterall, you gotta have some fun, Right?

Today my guest is Beck Martinez               becky-fortbent-2

The Joy of Research – Becky Martinez

Recently I had the opportunity to combine two of my favorite things – traveling and researching. An out-of-town trip to a cousin’s wedding gave me the opportunity to visit a location where I could make some first-hand observations for a romance I am writing that is set in the Old West. As I later wrote in a Facebook entry, Research and Romance, what could be more fun?

The wedding was held in historic Old Bent’s Fort, a re-creation of the trading post originally built-in the 1830’s by brothers Charles and William Bent along the Santa Fe Trail. Located near the Arkansas River, which was then the border with Mexico, for years it played a major role in trade. The fort was eventually burned down and moved, but in 1976, work began on reconstruction. Today it’s a wonderful replica of the old fort, complete with authentic rooms, barns and dining areas. It’s an excellent way to get a feel for the experience of what life might have been like in those old days.  Guides dressed in authentic costumes wander around the fort, telling stories of those old days.

What I learned that day for my story was something valuable beyond just a lesson in how to make adobe bricks or how the pioneers sharpened tools or collected water.  For a time I felt like I was transported back in time, touching the furs, smelling the wood burning in the old fireplace, even touching the straw used for those new adobe bricks. Standing outside in the late afternoon sun, listening to the whisper of the wind in the trees, I could almost imagine what it might have been like to be one of those pioneer women at the fort, relaxing for a time at the end of a long journey, smelling the wood burning in the camp fires.

After a few minutes I decided the thought was sort of silly, since they were facing an unknown future, and I just had to get in my car and drive off, but one of the books I bought that day at the Fort was “Land of Enchantment” a memoir dictated by Marian Russell who told of her travels along the Santa Fe Trail. One passage really struck me.  “It is in the little incidents of life that the interests of existence really lies,” she wrote in her book, and it occurred to that is what we are writing about in our current books.

Conducting research for writing has always been a particular joy for me, but like so many writers, it is often tough to mix the two.  How do you quit researching to start writing?  What happens if you realize you haven’t researched enough? What’s the right way to research?  I received so many warnings about getting caught up in research when I first started out, and for a time I did find myself caught in that old trap of wanting to learn so much about a subject that I forgot to write. (or I used the need to research as a way to postpone having to sit down and compose that story)

As a TV journalist I always had to do some research on any given story, but time constraints always kept me honest. There came a time when you had to sit down and write it or the story wasn’t going to get on the air.  My first job in television was as a researcher for a documentary unit. Doesn’t that sound like a dream job for a beginner? I had visions of spending every day poring over books of information. Well, yes, it was fun. My first documentary was on Denver ballet and the performance of “The Nutcracker,” so I got to watch rehearsals and talk to dancers and the company directors. Wonderful fun! My next project was on the future of Colorado so I spent long hours with census books and studying traffic projections. Long columns of numbers were not my idea of a good time, but in both cases, I was learning – the research was valuable but it wasn’t the end product.

The real joy came from seeing all that information appear in final form – in telling those “little incidents of life,” as Marian Russell said of her travels over the Santa Fe Trail.  And that is the final joy I will have as I construct my story about a family who settles on the plains near Bent’s Old Fort.

Becky Martinez is an award-winning former broadcast journalist who writes romance, mystery and romantic suspense. Her latest work, a short story, “One More Romance” was published in the anthology, Sealed with Love.  Her last mystery novel, Blues at 11, was published by The Wild Rose Press. She is currently working on a historical romance set in 1880’s southern Colorado.

She also teaches writing classes and has co-authored two books on writing with Sue Viders, Let’s Write a Story – Seven Ways to Plot, and Creating Memorable Characters. Both are currently available on

Thank you Becky for this peek into the past and having fun doing research, one of my favorite things to do.

Reminder: My November book giveaway starts today. Please share this post on your sm and ask your friends to stop by and sign up. . One lucky winner will receive my historical romance, The Reluctant Debutante  in eBook format and a paperback copy of A change of Fortune by Colorado author Jen Turano. (U.S. only). This was Jen’s debut novel with Bethany House a few years ago. She is a romance writer too. You’ll enjoy this 20th century story of a young lady who has to fight to regain her fortune and change her future.

Until next time, happy reading and writing.




Tips for Winning NaNoWriMo

Plan your work and work your plan

November means different things to different people. For folks in the U.S., it’s the month of Thanksgiving and Pumpkin Spiced Lattes; to our friends south of the equator, it marks the run-up to Summer. But for aspiring novelists everywhere… it’s our most creative time of the year!

November is National Novel Writing Month which, despite its name, is a global competition for authors. To win it, simply sign up and finish a draft of a 50,000-word novel within 30 days. Easier said than done, right? nanowrimo-logo

Here are some tips that have worked for me in the past and I will be using them again next month.

1. Plot your novel, use an outline

2. If you are a pantser, at least have a beginning, middle and end.

3. Next I decided I could realistictly write 20 of the 30 days so I divided 50k by 20 and came up with 2500, the number of words I need to write each day designated day.

4. I took my calendar and blocked out my writing days. Be very protective of them, make Dr/denist appointments etc on non writing days.

5. Get your family onboard by having them help with laundry, shopping and preparing meals. My hubby is the best and very supportive.

That’s it for this week. How will you plan your NaNo challenge?


REMEMBER  to enter my monthly book giveaway by clicking on this link October Giveaway

Happy writing!

What is your comfort zone?

Today in Colorado the tempature is a comfortable 53 degrees F. Our normal for this time of year is in the mid 60s. Two days ago the temp was 83!

When I looked in my closet this morning, my summer clothes said “should we stay or should we go”? Good question. For now they will stay as our nine day forecast includes temps in the high 70s. Yay!  Snow will be here soon enough and although we need the moisture I can wait. I think I’m becoming a fair weather person, not to hot, not to cold. You know, like Goldie Locks, just right.

I have a refridgator magnet with this quote:

Life begins at the end


your comfort zone.

Neale Donald Walsch-

What is your comfort zone when you read a romance novel? They range from “sweet – clean” to “hot and sexy”. I write sweet historical romance with a sprinkle of spice, but I read most levels of heat.

So what makes a romance a romance? A romance novel requires two basic componets: a central love story and a Happy Ever After (HEA) for the two main characters. It goes a bit further than that as a romance novel focuses on the romantic relationship between the two main characters. In my opinion, mysteries, sci-fi, thrillers, westerns and other subgenres all have some romantic elements in them. It’s just in our nature. There has to be tension and conflict to make a story great. (Don’t you just love the making up part?)

Romance novels inspire an emotional response in their readers, although this can vary. You can experience laughter, fear, and sadness and the power of love.

I’d love to hear from you and what your’re reading now.

Remember to sign up for my October giveaway, the clock is ticking down to October 30th when this months drawing will close.

I’ll be attending (volunteering) at the Castle Rock Writers annual  Conference this weekend in Castle Rock., Colorado. All you writers, all levels from “I have an idea, what do I do now”, to “pre-published and published author workshops lead by some of Colorado’s best educators, come check us out.  We may just be the “tribe” you’re looking for. It’s not too late to join us for an exciting Saturday.

Who doesn’t like free books? I know, right?
Every month I have a giveaway and October’s  includes two great books to gwt you in the mood for Halloween.
“A Pirates Obsession” by M.L. Guida (don’t you love the cover?)
“Rising Darkness” by Thea Harrison (looks scary-eek!)

Throw your name in the hat for a chance to win by signing up here:
to follow me.
Hurry, sign up today! You only have until 12 midnight MST on October 30th.
Limited to U.S.A. mailing addresses only.
Winner will be determined by

I hope you find some love today.

Happy reading!


4 Easy Things You Can Do If You Don’t Want to Market Your Book

I’m always reading blogs and looking for marketing ideas. I saw this and thought it might help other authors.

From Terry Odell’s blog 10-10-16
By Penny C. Sansevieri

If you’re an author who just wants to write, you’re not alone. I talk to authors every day who hate the idea of marketing and are not even sure where to begin. I definitely can understand. Marketing is always changing, and it isn’t easy, especially if you still have a full time job and want to focus on writing your next book. However, if you don’t market your existing title(s), no one will ever know what you have written.

Realistically, you can’t just upload your book to Amazon and expect the sales to roll in. That’s not a marketing plan. And, contrary to what your mom, family and friends may think, or perhaps what you’ve been told in your writers group: your book is not the field of dreams. Remember – “If you build it, they will come?” That’s simply not the case with books. The mere act of publishing one won’t bring droves of people beating a path to your door. So, what can you actually do to drive sales? Fortunately for you, it’s deceptively simple! Probably simpler than you thought.

Here are four easy things you can do to give your book it’s best possible start:

1. Start building your fan base

Fans, and Super Fans in particular, will really help you to market your book. Start engaging with people who already like your book; they often help drive sales. Just think for a moment how awesome that is. So how do you build this fan base? One thing I am always saying is that every author should include a letter in the back of every book. Craft something engaging and inviting; you want to encourage readers to contact you. A loyal base is worth its weight in gold, and if you really want to spend as little time as possible marketing your book(s), then it’s critical to invest in the fans that find you organically. If you want to dig into this further, I wrote a more in depth article — “How to Turn A Freebie Lover into a Super Fan.”

2. Pitch Reviewers

Pitching reviewers can seem tedious, I know. But, if you can commit to pitching five bloggers each week, it will add up fast! I think the biggest thing here is to be consistent. You should always be pitching your book to bloggers, readers, Amazon reviewers, etc. Not sure how to find them.

Check out these links for bloggers you can pitch:

3. Start Building UP Your Amazon Visibility

On my own blog, I talk about optimizing your presence on Amazon a lot. In fact, I’m such a fan of this that I wrote a book about it. Why? Because, it works! Amazon can really help you market your book, but to make the most of it, your keyword strings and categories must be on point. Replace all of your single keywords with actual keyword strings. If you want to dig deeper here, I have more articles on how you can find keywords.

4. Post on Your Blog & Social Media

Unless you got your start by writing a blog, this is a turn off for most authors. Many of you have already started writing your next book or at least have an idea of it in your head. So you’re concerned that blogging and spending time on social media it will take away from your writing time.

Maybe a little, but don’t overthink this. Blog posts don’t have to be long, and in fact some of the best posts aren’t. But they should be interesting, insightful, even funny if being humorous is your thing. How often do I want you to blog? Once a week or so, which is manageable, right?.

And, in terms of social media, keep in mind that it’s not about being everywhere, but everywhere that matters. If you only have time for one site, then do just one site. Post one piece of content a day, that’s it. It literally takes less than 5 minutes, and it’s free. So spend those five minutes every day engaging with your fans and networking.

Whether you choose all of these things, or even just choose one, be consistent. One blog post every once in a while, one social media update, or one pitch to a blogger will not move the needle but done consistently this will have an effect on your success. All of these things are easy to work into a schedule and some (like the Amazon keywords) only have to be done once, or a couple times a year if you’re in a popular genre. If you wrote a book, you owe it to yourself and your book to do even a few small things to get the word out.

Whatever you do, don’t just throw up your hands and walk away. I see it a lot, but know that your book has so much potential.

When I was first in business I hated a lot about what I was required to do. Taxes and accounting are a great example of that. I did this myself for a while and it wasn’t pretty but I did it and it got me through. When I finally had the means to I outsourced this. I’m glad I didn’t walk away from my business just because I sort of suck at math. Why am I telling you this story? Well, to emphasize the fact that we all have pieces we hate to do but if this journey and your book are important to you, you’ll make time to do them or learn how.

You only fail if you fail to try!

Okay, Writers in the Storm readers, what non-marketing tips do you have to share with us?

* * * * * *
About Penny

Author MarkketingPenny C. Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert and an Adjunct Professor with NYU. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns. She is the author of fourteen books, including How to Sell Books by the Truckload. AME is the first marketing and publicity firm to use Internet promotion to its full impact through online promotion and their signature program called: The Virtual Author Tour™

To learn more about Penny’s books or her promotional services, you can visit her web site at To subscribe to her free newsletter, send a blank email to:

Copyright @2016 Penny C. Sansevieri

Plan to Succeed at NaNoWriMo

Welcome October!

Fall is here in Colorado in all it’s glory. Mountainsides are splashed with Aspen trees changing into colorful blankets.

October is also the month in which I plan my November writing challenge. you may be familiar with the nationwide (no, not Payton Manning’s) event NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month.

Writers accept the challenge to write 50,000 words in the month of November. I did this in 2014 and the results were The Reluctant Debutante. So you see, it really does work. I planned my work and worked my plan. I expect to do the same next month when I’ll be writing Laura’s story from Chronicles of the Hudson River Valley. 

As a special treat this week. My guest blogger/writer and friend, Chris Mandeville is sharing with us her PlanoWriMo.

Thanks Chris for your inspiring words.

NaNoPlanno: Tools for NaNoWriMo Prep

by Chris Mandeville


NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month: a frenzy of writing with the goal of producing a 50,000-word novel during the thirty days of November.


NaNoWriMo is a great opportunity to push yourself as a writer. It’s all about quantity of words, not quality. It’s vomit writing, spilling your guts, taking an idea and running with it, sans editing, revision, and second-guessing. It goes to the core of the creative process of writing: putting words on the page.


The official NaNoWriMo was created by author Chris Baty in 1999 and is now run by the nonprofit National Novel Writing Month. Hundreds of thousands of writers have participated over the past sixteen years, writing billions of words.


Why do so many people set out to write 50,000 words in just thirty days? There’s a lot to be gained beyond wordcount: NaNo forces you to focus, put writing higher on your priority list, and say “no” to distractions – habits you may carry over into life-after-NaNo. It can help you build other good habits, like writing every single day and shutting up the “inner critic” so your story can flow out uncensored and uninhibited. It’s also a great way to try on a new idea without investing months or years to see if it will hold water.


Overall NaNoWriMo is a short-term investment with a BIG payoff: one month of crazy-busy writing that results in a 50,000-word rough draft and the knowledge that you can do it.

Of course another reason to do NaNoWriMo is that you might be one of the lucky few whose NaNo book gets published. Some of the more recognizable titles to come out of NaNo are Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, and Wool by Hugh Howey. This is a rarity, so it shouldn’t be your primary reason for trying NaNo, but why not dream big?

For more info about NaNoWriMo or to sign up for the free program, visit

If you’re going to embark on NaNoWriMo 2016, you can greatly improve your odds of success by using these “NaNoPlanno” tools now to prepare yourself, your space, and your loved ones for November:


Take a critical look at your schedule for November and follow these steps to provide yourself with more time for writing:


    1. Eliminate all non-essentials
    2. Reschedule as many tasks as possible to another month
    3. Delegate to others (co-workers, friends, family, hired help)
    4. Reduce what you can’t eliminate (e.g. 20-minute workout instead of 40)


After you’ve rescheduled appointments, cancelled weekend getaways, and delegated household chores, take another hard look at your calendar and see if there’s more you can do to carve out additional writing time. Is there anything you’ve neglected to consider? Can you take some time off from your day-job? Can your kids do their own laundry? Do you really need to shower every day? Be creative and find writing time wherever you can.

Once you’ve eliminated all non-essentials, take that nearly-empty calendar and block out time to write.

To write 50,000 words in 30 days, you must write an average of 1,667 words per day, or about 2,000 words per day if you take one day off each week. Only you know how many hours it will take you to write 50,000 words, and your output can vary from day to day. When in doubt, budget for more writing time than you think you’ll need.


There’s a lot of time—and peace of mind—to be gained when your loved ones “buy in” to your crazy November endeavor. So communicate with your friends, family, and co-workers your reasons for participating in NaNo and how important it is to you. Share your plans for conquering NaNo, and enlist their support in achieving your goal.

Let them know what you expect of yourself and what you expect of them. Maybe you’d like them to agree not to tempt you with fun outings or ask for favors. Maybe you want them to take on some of your non-writing duties. Or maybe you simply wish for them to be more respectful of your writing time and more understanding of your limitations during November. Whatever your expectations, be clear about them in advance so everyone is prepared.

Also be clear with your loved ones about what’s in it for them if they cooperate—offer prizes, rewards, and gestures of thanks. Then when November is over, be sure to follow through on any promises you made.

You may want to try to get through NaNoWriMo without anyone being the wiser, but your odds of success are a whole lot better when you have the understanding, help, and support of the people closest to you.


Where will you write? If you don’t have a private writing space, now’s the time to get one. It doesn’t have to be big—a prolific writer I know turned a closet into a desk when she didn’t have any other option. So find, make, or clear out a space. Do it now! Next, create a sign to let others know you’re busy writing. It can be anything from a literal “do not disturb” sign to a hat you wear. Just make sure it’s a clear signal that you’re not to be interrupted unless there’s a true emergency. If you can’t write at home or prefer not to, scout alternate spaces. Libraries and coffee shops are great, but think beyond that: what about house-sitting or using the conference room at your day-job after hours? Scope out your physical writing space now so you don’t spend precious November moments looking for it.

Likewise examine your virtual space. Are you distracted by social media and email? Is research a siren’s song that tempts you away from writing? Does your phone interrupt you incessantly with texts, calls, Tweets, and Google Alerts? Make an effort now to clear up your virtual space for November writing time. Set up a personalized “do not disturb” mode on your phone so only emergency calls can get through. Turn off email and social media. Even consider using a program that prevents you from accessing the Internet until you’ve met your daily writing goal.

The official NaNoWriMo site does offer lots of resources to help you during NaNo, but use with caution because “official” or not, they can clog up your virtual space with distractions and detours. By completely removing the option to access the Web during your designated writing time, you can become laser-focused and uber-productive. But if going completely “Webless” is too difficult, try setting a timer to allow yourself ten minutes at the Procrastination Station [], or reward yourself with an hour of research after you’ve reached your wordcount goal for the day.

Practice writing now in your chosen physical space and your newly de-cluttered virtual space so you feel at home when NaNoWriMo begins. And prepare to be amazed by your increase in productivity.


The NaNoWriMo rules say you aren’t allowed to count any writing you do prior to November 1 in your official NaNo wordcount. But prep is okay. So prep away!

Here are some tools and resources I use when prepping a new story:

NaNoPlanno tools for plotting/story-planning:

  1. The Hero’s Journey [link:]
  2. Outlining [link:]
  3. The Plotting Grid [link:]


NaNoPlanno tools for character building:

  1. Character profiling [link:]
  2. Brainstorming by free-writing to prompts [link:]
  3. GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict [link:]


NaNoPlanno tools for creating setting:

  1. How-to books [link:]
  2. Guidelines and cautions from author Chuck Wendig [link:]
  3. Research tips from Writer’s Digest [link:]


Whether you story-plan in a structured way or you prefer to spend October daydreaming about your story, any prep you do now will give you a leg up in November.

NaNoWriMo is a great way to challenge yourself as a writer, and NaNoPlanno tools can make your NaNo writing experience more enjoyable and more successful. So get out there and NaNoPlan up a storm! Create characters with vast backstory, clear goals, and driving motivation. Dream up a difficult journey for your protagonist, complete with insurmountable obstacles, impossible conflicts, and terror-inducing villains. Build your world, do research, think about theme and character arc and all that good stuff. Clear your schedule, enlist support, and make your writing space conducive to prodigious productivity. Then buckle-in for the wild ride that is National Novel Writing Month.

What are you still doing here? November is just around the corner. Get thee to NaNoPlanning!

Chris Mandeville writes science fiction and fantasy, as well as nonfiction for writers. Her books include Seeds: a post-apocalyptic adventure and 52 Ways to Get Unstuck: Exercises to Break Through Writer’s Block.