Promotional Freebies – the fun side of marketing

A Fool and His MonetWith a new mystery series set to debut in March, I’ve been perusing the gamut of products out there that can be personalized with book and author info. Bookmarks, of course, are a given, but I love to be able to share something unique with my readers, too.

Which is why I’m super-excited about what we’ve created for the Serena Jones Mysteries.

The first is a very unique USB key embossed with the series’ logo and my web addy.

Promotional USB key

These are from USB Memory Direct and the salesman I worked with there was awesome at answering my questions and providing quick delivery of a well-constructed product. I’d highly recommend them. They have a phenomenal range of USB style choices and accessories, as well as, options to include preloaded content on the keys, or what I did, configure it to appear in the Windows viewer as an art frame logo.

I plan to share these with my editors and critique partners; bookstore owners who have me in for signings; as a thank-you to the authors who endorsed A Fool and His Monet; and in gift baskets at events.


I also wanted to have something I could economically mail to lots of readers or give away at events that would:

  1. be useful for years to come and
  2. be related to the series.

This is what we came up with:

Purse-sized first aid kit

It’s a mini-first-aid kit for your purse or briefcase, complete with bandaids, antiseptic wipes and a quick reference guide. The plastic pouch is credit card sized and can easily be restocked as needed. I figured my heroine is an FBI agent. Law enforcement are supposed to help people…so now my readers can, too.  😉

If you’d like me to send you one, email me your address and I’d be happy to do that. I can even include a couple of extra for you to share with friends.

If you’re looking for similar items for your own promotional needs, I found them at Hit Logic. Darryl, the owner, was another awesome guy to deal with. I met him at Write Canada and we talked about a lot of different things–no high-pressure sales tactics, at all, and a great selection at economical prices.

For Deadly Devotion, the first book in my Port Aster Secrets mystery series, I shared marigold seed packets, since the victim was believed to have died from drinking the wrong kind of marigold tea. One of my Facebook fans actually proposed the idea and even sent me links to a site that sells them!

Deadly Devotion Seed Packets

These proved very popular with readers. Many of my newsletter subscribers contacted me to receive packets for themselves and to share. Bookstores were also happy to include them in bags. And browsers at book signings enjoyed having something to take home to plant. Several emailed me pictures of their flowers at the end of summer.

For Blind Trust, we created whistle key chains with a light–something every amateur sleuth, putting her life in jeopardy, could use, right?  😀  These were a lot of fun to share. The kids especially loved the whistle. But they proved to be pricey to mail, due to their thickness, so I wasn’t able to share them as widely.

Blind Trust Key Chain

So…I’m learning to balance the fun, the usefulness and the affordability.

Your Turn: What is the most useful or appreciated promotional freebie you’ve received from a company or author?

Counting Blessings!

With the arrival of September, you’d think my mind would be turning to the routine of Fall, but here in Niagara, we’re enjoying one of our most “summery” weeks yet, after a peculiar roller-coaster ride in the weather department over the last few months. Would you believe I actually had to turn the heater on in my office last week?!

So…I’m planning swim dates every afternoon with the grandkids.


Always a splashing good time!

Did I mention we have a new grandson?!

Cool brother

He’s a big hit with his big brother.

And is the reason I haven’t been too talkative around here lately, as I’ve been enjoying having my two eldest grandchildren visit. Of course, many of you caught my odd post to FB, when I managed to snatch a few minutes to share a picture. I do so enjoy celebrating these blessings with all of you.

My autumn is showing no sign of slowing down with a wedding for my son in the works, but I promise to keep writing, between all the tempting distractions. 😆 Babies are so fun too cuddle and they grow up so fast.

I hope you have also enjoyed a blessed summer (winter for my friends in the Southern hemisphere).

Your Turn: I’d love to hear about your summer escapades or plans for the upcoming season!

P.S. If you missed it, I was also blessed to be interviewed with the Christian Fiction Online Magazine last month. If you’d like to read the interview, please click the cover image below.

Screenshot 2015-08-10 12.22.57




The Art of Naming Characters…and Babies

Around here these days, we have our noses in the baby names book as our daughter and son-in-law debate the merits of various suggestions for my newest hero or heroine–aka their soon-to-be-born baby. 😀


I’ve suggested a few of my favorite fictional heroes’ names, but it doesn’t sound like any of them will fly. 😉

Have you ever thought about the names people choose for their children or that authors choose for their characters?

My daughter’s top criteria in no particular order include:

1) Has a good meaning.

2) The resulting initials won’t be anything they’ll be teased about.

3) No one else in the family already has the name. (It’s a big extended family so this is actually problematic)

4) Hubby doesn’t hate the name. (some surprising ones fell into that category!)

5) She likes it.

disgusted expression

As an author, my top criteria for choosing character names are:

1) Has an apropos meaning. My heroine in my new series is Serena. Her parents were hopeful she might live up to the name (i.e. be serene). You know where I’m going with this, right? 😎

2) Limit the number of names that start with the same letter or end the same way, to avoid confusion. (Ex. Bonnie, Betty, and Libby) It’s funny how similar sounding names creep in and add up and then I have to debate whether to change them or keep them.

For example, I’m currently juggling Tanner, Tyrone, Truman, Tasha and Ted. The first 3 are non-negotiable, but I really like the last two so I hate to change them just to get rid of two more “T” names!

What do you think? Too confusing?


3) The name needs to suit the personality. So a grumpy guy might be Mr. Bitterman. And a hero definitely needs to have a heroic sounding name, with all due apologies to the Leroys and Leonards out there. 😳

Single syllable guy names apparently resonate with me since my first 9 heroes were–Gabe (unpublished), Rick, Ethan (Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible, need I say more?), Zach, Josh, Sam Steele (I really knew a guy by that name), Jake, Cole, Tom, and in my upcoming series…

The guy who eventually gets the girl might be Tanner or… it might be Nate. Time will tell. 😉

(and I hope a lot of readers will chime in, too!)

4) For villain names, it needs to sound slimy or sublimely innocent or creepy, depending on how astray I want to lead my readers. 😛

5) The names have to be easy to read. Nothing drives me crazier than not being able to pronounce names I’m reading in a book. I also try to avoid names that might confuse readers as to whether the person is male or female. (ex. Chris, Alex, Dale, Jamie)

Your Turn: What would be your top-pick names for a hero, heroine or bad guy? What kind of names confuse you in a story?

woman Image courtesy of anankkml at

confused boy Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at

Introducing: 7 Essential Habits of Christian Writers

I learned about the new anthology 7 Essential Habits of Christian Writers over the weekend and wanted to share it with the writers and aspiring writers amongst my blog readers. (And there’s a bonus surprise at the end for readers!)

This anthology deals with seven key areas for Christian writers: Time with God, Healthy Living, Time Management, Honing Writing Skills, Crafting a Masterpiece, Submitting, and Marketing.

The contributing writers, all members of ICWF— InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship—come from various walks of life and write in various genres for a range of audiences. Through fiction, poetry, and nonfiction such as devotionals, essays, and articles, they generously share their own discoveries, success stories, and hard-won lessons in order to encourage and support other Christian writers.

Here’s what well known authors are saying about the book:

Phil Callaway, bestselling author and host of Laugh Again Radio says, “I love seven things about this book: It is practical. It is affordable. It is encouraging. It is worth highlighting, underlining and dog-earing. Plus it made me forget about my toothache.” He continues his endorsement: “Whether you’re a newbie or a veteran writer, you’ll discover 7 Essential Habits of Christian Writers to be jammed with instantly actionable advice that will make you a better writer. Dig in.”

Jeff Goins, bestselling author of The Art of Work and other titles says, “This book is a beautiful blend of faithfulness and craft. It will help you answer the practical questions of what it means to be a writer while honoring what you believe. I wish I’d read this when I got started.”

Kathi Macias, award-winning author of more than 50 books, says, “7 Essential Habits of Christian Writers is an absolute gem! I love that it covers all the basics a writer needs to know, making them simple and practical. I also love that the book has many authors, giving us ideas and suggestions from their own writing journey. I highly recommend this book to anyone seriously considering writing as a vocation or even an avocation, particularly those writers who see their work as a ministry—which it certainly is!”

Nancy Rue, bestselling author and creator of Shadow to Shelf, a mentoring program for writers, says, “There are hundreds of how-to-write books on the market, but none that I know of touches both of the vital aspects of writing as a Christian better than this anthology from InScribe. The practical and the spiritual are woven into a whole by a remarkably creative group of writers who are in the trenches as we speak. I intend to snack on this fare again and again.”

The e-book is currently available on Kindle. The paperback version will be released in September, during the ICWF Fall Conference in Edmonton, Alberta. Click to learn more about ICWF and their annual conference.

Giveaway Opportunity: Stephanie Nickel, one of the anthology’s editors, is generously giving away a paperback copy (open to US and Canadian addresses) when it releases in September, to one randomly selected commenter below who lets us know an essential habit he or she is working on as a writer.

Bonus Giveaway for the non-writers who took the time to read this post anyway: 😉 

An advanced copy (once available) of my next mystery, A Fool and His Monet, will be mailed to one randomly selected commenter who shares a humorous or unusual personality quirk or incident he or she would like me to include in the next novel. 😆

P.S. My newsletter subscribers will receive a sneak peek of A Fool and His Monet this week. Click here if you don’t want to miss it.

Behind the Scenes Glimpse of the Writing of Gone Without a Trace by Patricia Bradley

“Shh.” I glanced from side to side. “It’s a little known secret that authors think their characters are–uh, hum, there’s no less absurd way to say this than just to flat out admit it–real. They think they’re real!”

Case in point: I invited Patricia Bradley to interview her character for today’s blog, and…  PT Bradley (1)

This is the scenario I walked in on:

“You busy?” Pat said to the hero of her latest novel, Gone Without a Trace.

She looked from his computer to the doorway. Alex Jennings leaned against it, a frown on his face. “A little. Do you have a problem?”

“No. I just want to hang out.”

I could tell this bugged her. She’s confided in me more than once that she hates it when characters won’t tell her what’s wrong, when she has to drag it out of them. She closed the top on her Macbook. “Spit it out.”

“Spit what out?” He stepped into the room and moved a research book from the Queen Anne chair beside her desk (a very nice chair I might add) and then sat down. Of course, his 6’2” frame looked ridiculous in it.

“Hold on a sec,” she said, and exchanged places with him. “Now, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing.” He crossed his arms and stared out the window.

She waited. Although I noticed her toe impatiently tapping.

After two minutes of staring, he turned to her. “What am I doing in Logan Point, Mississippi? I’m a Texan, all the way back to the Alamo, and Texans belong in Texas.”

“You don’t like Logan Point?”

“I didn’t say that.” He smiled. “Actually, it’s a great little town. And I love Kate’s B&B. Did you know that woman can do some cooking?”

“Hmm. I think I knew that. So, what’s the problem?”

Alex pressed his lips together. “It’s that detective you paired me with. Livy Reynolds. She’s driving me crazy.”

From the slight curve in Pat’s lips, I could tell that warmed her heart, but she managed to restrain a full blown smile. “Exactly how does she do that?”

“She’s going to organize me to death. Have you seen her lists? That woman makes a list for everything. And that’s not all. She.Is.A.Control.Freak.”

“And you’re not?”


She doodled with her pencil. “Do you like anything about her?”

A gleam lit his eyes. “Have you seen her with Abby? That little girl has Livy hogtied.” He tilted his head. “And she has courage. She’s pretty, too.”

“So it’s not all bad?”

His eyes widened. “Uh, uh. You’re not going to—” He jumped up and palmed his hands up . “No. Don’t you dare try to get us together. Not happening. Not in a million years. She’s too bossy. And she hates flying.”

“If you say so.” She took her chair back and shooed him out of her office. Gone without A Trace

I slipped out of my hiding place behind the curtain to find Pat madly typing. “What’s up?” I asked.

She laughed sinisterly. “I just figured out another way to torture the both of them!”

Wasn’t that fun? (Okay, I might’ve made up her sinister laugh. Pat is really quite sweet even if she does love to torture people, ur, characters.)

Patricia, thanks so much for giving us a behind-the-scene glimpse of your character development!

Blog readers, if you love romantic suspense, you’ll enjoy this book. I was ridiculously pleased to have figured out whodunit before the end, but…Pat still managed to make me think I might’ve gotten it all wrong in those tense last chapters.

Pat hails from Mississippi, where I’ve never been, but I’ve enjoyed vicariously visiting the Deep South through her novels. I had the privilege of rooming with Patricia at last year’s Writer’s Police Academy and have to say that honoring God through her writing is her number one priority. Gone Without a Trace is the fourth book in her Logan Point Series from Revell, and…

I’m giving away a copy of Gone Without a Trace.

Answer one of these three questions in the comments to enter:

1) Where would you rather live Texas or Mississippi?

2) Do you make lists? How much do you put on them–as detailed as eat breakfast & brush your teeth or just the big projects?

3) How long do you think a couple should date (or know each other) before they talk marriage?

Thanks so much for visiting today! I hope you enjoyed meeting Pat and Alex. You can learn more about Pat at her website: or connect on Facebook.

And…for first time visitors to my site, check out Deadly Devotion, book one in my Port Aster Secrets series, also from Revell Publishing. It’s currently free in Ebook format at online retailers!


Introducing Susan Anne Mason

I’m super excited to welcome the fabulous new Canadian historical romance writer, Susan Anne Mason to my blog along with Brianna O’Leary, the heroine in her debut historical release with Bethany House, Irish Meadows, which received a starred review from the Library Journal

I first met Susan when we both attended an ACFW conference in St. Louis in 2011 when my debut book released. To think we live a mere couple of hours apart and we had to fly to St. Louis to meet!

Susan Anne Mason & Sandra Orchard
Susan, myself and our mutual friend Eileen who introduced us

Well, today, we’re all going to meet Susan’s heroine: Brianna O’ Leary

Welcome, Brianna. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Irish-Meadows-662x1024I am one of six children (five still living). We live in Long Island, New York where my father owns “Irish Meadows”, a horse breeding farm. Daddy is determined that once I graduate I will marry a man he deems suitable in order to keep up our position in society.

Ooh, I hope we’ll meet a few horses. Our family loves horses. Tell us your greatest dream.

My greatest dream is to attend college in Manhattan. I want more out of life than to just become someone’s wife and to attend endless social engagements. I want to study literature and perhaps become a teacher or a librarian, and prove to my father that I am a daughter to be proud of.

What is a quirk of your personality that most people wouldn’t know?

I was a true tomboy as a child, much to my father’s dismay. I used to steal my brother’s pants and ride bareback around the track when Daddy was away. Mama finally sewed legs into my old skirts and I wear them when I ride my precious mare, Sophie.

Yeah, I guess that answers my question about meeting horses, too! 😀 Name something you would hate people to know about you.

That I’m jealous of my older sister who is so beautiful and vivacious that every man in the county would love to marry her. She also has Daddy wrapped around her finger and gets her way every time, whereas I can barely get Daddy to notice me.

Wow, being a horseman, I’m surprised your Dad isn’t taken with you love of horses. Tell us about the man who has stolen your heart. What makes him special?

Gilbert Whelan and I grew up together. He was my best friend and he taught me everything about horses. Now that he’s home from college, I can’t help seeing him as more than a friend. Gil is kind, loyal, compassionate, and he understands me better than anyone else in this world.

Well, I certainly hope he sees you the same way. Thanks so much for visiting and thank you, Susan for bringing her by. that must’ve been one long ride!

carriage ride

And for those of you curious about Susan, here’s her bio:

Susan describes her writing style as “romance sprinkled with faith.” She particularly enjoys exploring the themes of forgiveness and redemption in her stories. Irish Meadows is her first historical novel and won the Fiction from the Heartland contest sponsored by the Mid-American Romance Author chapter of RWA.

Susan lives outside of Toronto, Ontario, with her husband, two children, and two cats. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Romance Writers of America (RWA).

Connect with Susan Anne Mason at:


FB Author page:

Happy Birthday Canada!

It’s a new month, with a brand-spanking new book hitting bookstore shelves in the coming week.

And we’re celebrating with a giveaway!

Emergency Reunion small

This is the final book in my connected stories of members of the Steele family that began with Perilous Waters last April, and continued with the award-winning Identity Withheld, last November. Click the image to learn more.

I was thrilled to learn that Emergency Reunion received a “Top Pick” designation from RT Book Reviews

and the reviewer Leslie McKee had invited me to share about the inspiration for the story on her blog today, where…

we’re giving away a copy!

So please click through above and enter at her blog for a chance to win an autographed copy!

And check out super fun interviews with all my summer release characters here for another chance to win:

And…the fabulous and super-generous reviewer, Kav, will also be reviewing the book later this week and giving away a copy. Check out all of her week’s reviews and giveaways, as they post, here:

And check out the fun bonus features I’ve added to the site for it. Aspiring writers might especially be interested in the editor’s commentary and deleted scenes.

Big Giveaway at The Book Club Network

If you’re a member of The Book Club Network,

We’re having a discussion about

Herbal remedies vs. pharmaceuticals

on the Revell loop.

Join the conversation for a chance to win one of 5 copies of

Desperate Measures.

Herbal Remedies – Hype or Helpful?

Join me at the

Fresh Fiction Blog

for a guest post about herbal remedies related to my

Port Aster Secrets mystery series


Leave a comment there for a chance to win a copy of Desperate Measures, a mug and some tea!

(ends June 21st)

Speaking in the Cafe Tonight!

For those in the St. Catharines, Niagara area, join me at Heritage Christian Bookstore Cafe at the Grantham Plaza, 400 Scott St., St. Catharines, for a behind-the-scenes peek at the writing of the Port Aster Series and a lively Q&A.

It all starts at 7 PM. Hope to see you there!

Port Aster Secrets by Sandra Orchard