Playing catchup and bending under pressure: a lesson in what not to do.

Hello, November!

Hello, everyone. Sorry I have been MIA. I think I did post last week, but I try to hit Mondays and this week was a fail. What have I been up to? Glad you asked!


Yesterday my proofer gave me back book one of series. He liked the story overall, and found some typos. I found some more running it through Grammarly, and I think it’s going to be as perfect as humans can make it. So, that’s book one down.

a rocky point wedding social media graphicWill I be able to start publishing near Thanksgiving like I hoped? Nope. I’ve decided I want him to read through all four and make sure they are consistent with details and plots. Waiting will make my life a lot easier if he finds anything. I could go ahead and start publishing because I’m hoping I would know if I left behind any giant plot holes, but I am not 100% confident in my abilities. I admire the authors who can publish books one by one in a series. I prefer to not chance it, but I should be able to start publishing before the end of the year, so I’m not that far off the mark. Editing always takes more time than I think.

Also, yesterday, I woke up in a lot of pain. My left shoulder blade and arm were hurting pretty badly. This could have been from all the typing I did on Monday since I transcribed the last of my SUPER SECRET PROJECT, and the final word count before editing came in at 80,500 words. Monday I transcribed to the tune of 6,000 words and that may have just been a little much.

But you know, I probably just slept funny. All those “after 40” memes are pretty accurate. Someone can look at me wrong, and my back will hurt the next day. Because aches and pains are going to be part of life from here on out, I try not to take too many pain meds and save them for the worst days. Yesterday was one of those days, and I took some before bed too, which gave me a decent night’s sleep. Except for the cats, of course.

I feel like my life is a box of clichés.


Anyway, this segues into something I’ve been thinking about.

We’re all under a lot of pressure. It’s something we don’t like to talk about. The pressure to create content, the pressure to publish. Especially in romance, the genre I write in. I haven’t published anything since May of this year, and that gap in a publishing schedule is practically unheard of (by authors who are making money). Never mind that in total this year, so far I have written four full-length novels and half of one that I started in December 2018.

We see authors cranking out content and we want to do that too. Sometimes we try. Sometimes we can, most times we can’t. This is a secret that I learned, and not that long ago.

You have no idea what is going on behind an author’s name. Or, more precisely, a pen name. You think, one name, one person. And a lot of time, I can’t say how many times because authors keep this secret pretty close, a prolific author name has two, three, or more writers behind it. It’s how they can crank out material so fast. We’re over here killing ourselves trying to keep up, and oh, look, a couple of top ten romance authors have two people writing the books.

I’m definitely not saying this is bad. If you can find someone who matches your style and you get along, hell yeah, collaborate. Why not? In fact, if you listen to any publishing prediction for any upcoming year, more collaboration is always one. Why? Because it’s smart. Why not share the work? Why not dominate in your genre if you can. Half of thousands in royalties is better than none, am I right?

But for those of us who write solo, it’s very deceptive. And it can be dangerous.

Another thing you have to watch out for if you’re comparing yourself to prolific writers is what the word count of their books is. Yes, they are writing full-length books, BUT, if you look closely, you’ll see that their catalog is peppered with novellas, novelettes, and even short stories. Lots of those are “add-ons” or “companions” to the full-length book, and it’s a fun way to give readers a little extra. But you do have to keep in mind that counting an author’s titles isn’t a fair way to compare how much time they spend writing versus how many books they have published.

I could publish two novellas a month if that how I wanted to build my backlist. For now I’d like to continue to offer my readers full-length novels of 70+ thousand words. You have to do what’s best for you and the readers you want to attract.

If you’re going to have comparisonitis, at least be smart about it.

Having passion and working hard at something doesn’t have to be a bad thing. When I used to run, I would run injured all the time. Anyone can tell you that’s bad, and it just sets you up for more injury. But whether it’s bad or not, it’s common. Runners even have memes about it:

runnign while injured

There are a lot more than this one, but it depicts how runners really feel about taking time off to relax and heal.

Writers can be the same way. I am very passionate about my SUPER SECRET PROJECT. It was fun to write, and I don’t feel like I was racing to get it done. It’s book one of a trilogy, and I probably won’t be able to release them until early next year when my series is out. Why was it so important I finish it so quickly?

zane and stella stats

 

 

Who knows, except, again, it was fun. But I could have afforded to go a bit slower, just to take better care of my health. Mental and physical.

There is pressure to publish, and to publish quickly. We scramble because it feels like other writers are gobbling up pieces of the reader pie and there won’t be any left by the time our book comes out.

The indie publishing space is drowning in books. But hurting yourself and making yourself burn out isn’t the way to make a grab for your piece.

Hello, November! (1)

I’m going to try to be more mindful of writing time. If I have twenty pages to transcribe, I have to remind myself it’s not a race to get them typed up.

Take care of yourself and don’t bow under the pressure. Especially with the holiday season coming. Sometimes you won’t have time to write, and that’s okay. Take a rest, tolerate enjoy your family, and eat a piece of pie while you watch TV. Just be mindful of what your goals are!

I’ll end with that for now. It’s early here yet, even though it’s pitch black outside. I have time to edit for a few more hours.

Just kidding!

No . . . I’m not. 😀

Have a great week everyone!


end of blog post graphic

 

 

 

Can Authors Write Characters They Dislike?

As readers, we read characters we dislike all the time. That’s what villains are for, after all. They are characters we love to hate. They create horrible problems for the characters we love.

We read characters we can’t identify with and that makes us dislike them. Or they make stupid choices we don’t understand. Whatever the reason, as readers, reading about characters we dislike is common. It makes it hard, sometimes, to get into the story because characters we don’t like or can’t understand pull us out of the story and leave us frustrated.

Sometimes this is because they aren’t written well and the author gives them negative character traits in an attempt to make them well-rounded. Other times we can’t identify with characters because they are too young or too old. Not many adults who read Twilight liked Bella Swan. She was a whiny, indecisive 17 year old girl.

So, as a reader, it can happen where you stumble upon a character who is too air-headed, too boring, or just all around unlikable.

As a writer, can this happen to a character in your own story?

Can you write a protagonist you don't like blog post

Usually, we love our characters. It’s why writers write series, so they don’t have to say goodbye. Or we edit the same piece over and over again because we don’t know how to let go. It’s common for sequels to be written without being planned because a secondary character steals every scene and demands their own story to be told.

When I was writing book one of my series, Callie Carter started off as any of my female characters. She needed a change. Her backstory wasn’t as horrible as some other characters I’ve created, but she still was unhappy and she was using the two week vacation in Rocky Point to not only be a bridesmaid, but also to take a break from life and figure things out. She’s in-your-face and assertive. She goes after what she wants (unless it has to do with her job and her dad).

When she meets Mitch Sinclair, she knows she wants him. And when she sees how Mitch lives because of something that happened years ago, she promises fix it. Even if he doesn’t want her help–even if he doesn’t want to fix it.

She knows best.

Or she thinks she does.

Mitch falls for her quickly. He falls for her effervescence. He falls for her joy of life. And he falls for her because when she looks at him, she sees him, not the accident that scarred him. He’ll do anything for her.

She asks a lot of him because she wants to help him live a better life, and she pushes him out of his comfort zone.

I hated her for it.

She knew Mitch needed a change, and change can hurt. Bad. While trying to help him, defend him, as no one else had, she hurt him. And I couldn’t make her stop.

I cried for Mitch and what Callie was putting him through. But the story demanded it. Because while I hated Callie for hurting Mitch over and over, she was right, too. He couldn’t keep living that way. And slowly, he realized it, too.

But Mitch and his parents went through a lot to come to that point.

All while I was writing her and what she was doing, I hated her. I kept telling her to leave him alone, that if he was happy with the way things were, why was she picking on him? Making things worse for him?

Their story is done, and they both learned valuable lessons in life and love, but I still don’t like her very much. And I still don’t think she treated Mitch very well, even though he fell in love with her, and she was right about a lot of things in the end.

It made me wonder if other writers are sometimes in the same situation. Writing protagonists they dislike.

And it also made me wonder how that affected my writing. Will it show through that I hated how she treated him? After all, she loved Mitch. She wanted to help him. Everything she did was to help give him the life she thought he deserved to live.

Does her love for him show through? I hope so.

It was a different experience for me, to not be totally enamored by one of my characters. Usually, I love them all.

Can you write a protagonist you don't like blog post4

As a reader, it also made me wonder about the female characters I’ve read and disliked. I don’t normally like characters who are pig-headed and stubborn. Or make wrongful judgments about people. That seems to be a common trope in romance: female characters jumping to wrongful conclusions about the heroes, and it sets off a chain reaction that doesn’t get resolved until the heroine is proven incorrect about the man she fell in love with despite her attitude. The whole premise of books like that wouldn’t even exist if the heroine hadn’t been so blind in the first place. Plots like that are frustrating.  I also don’t identify with characters who won’t listen to other people’s opinions because I’m open-minded.

Callie was stubborn. She thought she knew best. Even when everyone around her was telling her that she didn’t understand the situation.

Maybe my readers won’t feel the negative emotions I felt writing her. Maybe they’ll understand more where she’s coming from.

We all have good intentions and even the best of us have trouble with the executions of our actions that come from kindness.

“You were only trying to help.” We’ve all heard that a time or two and by the end of the book, Callie has, too.

Can you write a protagonist you don't like blog post2

Callie is my first character I’ve written I don’t identify with. It’s not a bad thing. Maybe it means as a writer I’m moving out of my comfort zone and that can only help me stretch my wings. All of us writers put pieces of ourselves into our characters and with Callie’s stubbornness and shortsightedness, she’s nothing like me.

I would never ask someone to do things they didn’t want to do. She wasn’t manipulative, though, and she wasn’t using Mitch’s love for her to make him do things he didn’t want to do. She truly cared for him. But she could have gone about helping  him in a different way. But then the story would have been different, and Callie wouldn’t have learned the lessons she learned to help her stand up to her dad. In the end she was finally able living the life she wanted.

I’d like to think my story worked out exactly how it should have.

And I hope that does mean I’m growing as a writer. Callie was who the story needed her to be. I let it happen. I had faith in my writing ability. I had faith Callie would be the character she needed to be. Who Mitch needed her to be.

Had I tried to push her into a mold, maybe she would have read insincere, or maybe she would have read flatter because I would have diluted her spark.

Callie made me uncomfortable, but I hope readers can see the good she was trying to do–the good she did do.

I hope readers love Callie as much as Mitch does.

I’ll keep writing characters I may not like or agree with.

Because it’s not my story I’m writing.

It’s theirs, and I have to trust them to tell it.

Can you write a protagonist you don't like blog post3

Tell me what you think! Have you written characters you haven’t necessarily identified with? How did it feel? How did you resist rewriting them to fit your preconceived mold?

Let me know!


My books are wide. Find them at your favorite retailer!

Don’t Run Away: books2read.com/dont-run-away
Chasing You: books2read.com/Chasing-You
Running Scared: books2read.com/running-scared

Wherever He Goes: books2read.com/whereverhegoes1
All of Nothing: books2read.com/allofnothing1
The Years Between Us: books2read.com/the-years-between-us

Try the Tower City Romance Trilogy Today!

graphics made with canva.com

My Wedding Quartet Update

I haven’t been doing much with my series, so there’s not a lot to say about it (she says but after she’s finished typing she has a 1400 word blog post about it).  I have finished book two, which will now be book one. To stop having to give that convoluted explanation, I’ll just refer them by the order they will be published. I changed them because I realized the second book I wrote was stronger, and it would make for a better first book in the series. This will take a little rewriting, as I started the book thinking readers were already going in knowing who characters are, but that’s okay.

I finished the first read-through of book two, and after I finish the read-through of book one, I’ll print them both out and add to book two since I know more about what’s going on with the story.

What’s been dragging me down has been looking at stock photos for the covers. I briefly looked into hiring them out, and depending on how much hair I lose between now and when they are ready to publish, I still might. The problem is, and the problem most indies have, is figuring return on investment versus cost. I found a site that will do custom covers for 350 dollars a piece. Now, if I were only doing a standalone, that would be more than manageable. That also includes a full paperback wrap, so I wouldn’t have to worry about that, either. But being that I’ll have four, well, you can do that math. (In case you don’t want to, that’s $1400.) You can see how I would maybe balk at that. Now, I’m not saying I can do as well as that artist can, probably (most certainly) I can’t. But I’m poor, and I have no problem with saying so. I would have to work a lot of hours to cover that. And with the way my books are selling, I would never recoup that cost.

So, for the past few nights, instead of writing, I’ve been researching wedding covers, looking at stock photos, and slowly losing my mind.

To make matters worse is that yes, there is going to be a wedding in this story, but the bride and groom are not a featured couple in the any of the books, so does it make sense to put a bride and groom on any of the covers?

My books all end with some kind of a wedding proposal or a promise to love forever, so implying my couples will get married at some point isn’t a lie.

Another reason I have so much pause is something someone said in one of those FB book cover groups I keep talking about. Someone said that indies are held to a different standard than trad-pubbed authors are. And I guess they are right. Our covers better be pretty damned special to catch a reader’s eye because we can’t depend on our well-known names to make the sales for us.

nora roberts quartet

I think of Nora’s quartet when I’m looking at my own covers. If I thought I could get away with it, I would definitely do something similar. Look here for the article accompanying the image I borrowed.

If I go with this way of thinking, I most definitely need couples on my covers. Maybe not locked in a steamy embrace, because these books are the same as other books I’ve written. Not a lot of sex, but there is some.

What does that mean for me? Can I put bridesmaids and groomsmen on my covers? Singly? Because I’ve looked through a lot of photos and I can barely find one good couple that looks part of a wedding party, much less four.

Can I put a bride and groom on all my covers?

Items don’t seem to go over as well with indie authors, so choosing bridal bouquets or other wedding paraphernalia may not be enough to make a sale. (See the dreamy covers on Nora’s books above.)

If I take the wedding element away, that gives me more choices, but that still leaves me

Elegant couple posing together.

The plastic, vacant looks on their faces do not match how I feel my characters are portrayed in my books. (Photo purchased from depositphotos)

digging through photos of pretty girls with dorky-looking guys. I don’t know how that happens, but it’s weird. (Out of respect for the men, I won’t post an example here.)

Or I get too “plastic” and they look kind of fake. Definitely not the kind of book I’m writing.

I mean, you know the book covers this couple would end up on. Mega rich, lots of hot sex. And maybe one day I’ll write something like that, but I need down-to-earth couples, and sometimes that means the people look just a little too “real” for a book cover.

It’s a balancing act that makes me want to poke my eyes out.

And while it’s a necessary part of the creative process, to keeping trying, that is, it does make me feel like I’m wasting writing time. Anyone can tell you  that you don’t need book covers if there’s no books. But I’ve blogged about book covers before, and figuring out what looks good, and finding the right photos, takes a lot of time. Not only time, but practice. I have Canva open all the time, shoving photos into their templates, experimenting with font for the titles. I did find this beautiful photo and I thought right away she reminded me so much of Leah, the female main character of my second book. She looks so much like what I envisioned, she literally took my breath away. You might say that would be a sure sign to use her for the cover, because if she evoked that much feeling when I took a look at her, hopefully she would for other readers.

Wedding bouquet in girl's hands.

Leah! Isn’t she gorgeous? 

But, don’t forget she would only be one cover of four. And she is cover worthy, so it’s not that she wouldn’t be perfect. But is she perfect for a series, and more importantly, is she perfect for a contemporary romance cover? Unfortunately, she doesn’t pose with a man in the series of photos that were published on depositphotos with this one. But I have purchased her, (that’s why she doesn’t have a watermark) so I may decide to use her somehow.

Anyway, I have 6 pages of book 3 I have written out longhand that I’ll be transcribing after I finish out this blog post. I still hope to have all four books done by Halloween. Probably not fully edited, but close enough that I should still be able to start publishing them around Thanksgiving. I read Craig Martelle’s book on Rapid Releasing, and to be perfectly honest, what he wrote didn’t give me much hope for a good launch. I have no readers. No one waiting for these, so to tell you the God’s honest truth, it doesn’t matter when I publish. I do know that after they are done I’m going to take a short break because these are going to drive me nuts between now and the end of the year.

I’ll keep you updated on progress though, and next week I’ll share a snippet or two of my favorite scenes so far. I’m glad that Autumn and Cole are the last couple because I’m very much looking forward to getting their story out, and as of right now, it’s what’s keeping me going. I love all my characters, but the sheer scope of writing four books and producing them all at once is daunting and I’m overwhelmed at times. But because of consistency issues, I’m glad I’m taking things slow and writing them all first before I publish.

As for Autumn’s blog posts, I need to get on with typing those out and writing more. As the stories go on, and she interviews more people, her list grows longer, and I’m falling behind. Still not sure what I’ll do with that extra content. It’s looking like more and more they’ll end up on the website to maybe drive some more traffic here. Not sure.

If you’ve stuck with me, thanks for reading! I’ll be visiting Tybee Island as you’re reading this, on a vacation with my sister. After I take a week to breathe and see the ocean, I’ll come back with a clear head and hit the ground running on the second half of my series.

I hope you all are having a great summer!


My books are wide! Check them out at your favorite retailer!

Don’t Run Away: books2read.com/dont-run-away
Chasing You: books2read.com/Chasing-You
Running Scared: books2read.com/running-scared

Wherever He Goes: books2read.com/whereverhegoes1
All of Nothing: books2read.com/allofnothing1
The Years Between Us: books2read.com/the-years-between-us

Try the Tower City Romance Trilogy Today!

May Goals :)

I didn’t have May Goals, so my title is a bit deceptive.

The only goal I really had was to finish book 2 of my series, and I did that. I’m taking a little breather before I start editing book one. I would like to edit books one and two, so when I finish book four, the editing won’t be such a massive undertaking. Book two finished out at 76,000 words, which is 6,000 more words than book one. But now that I know the characters better, when I edit book one, I could easily add a few more words to that, and write in some foreshadowing of other books since I failed to do that the first time around.

I did manage to change the covers to my trilogy, on all the ereader platforms, and even Ingram, which was pretty cool. I won’t rehash any of that–I’ve written other blog posts about it so . . .

next

The problem is, there isn’t any next. I mean, nothing I wouldn’t be doing anyway.  Outlining books three and four, and just editing my life away, while try to stay on top of this blog.

Speaking of blogs, I need to type out some of Autumn’s blog posts. She’s a character in the series who writes a blog for the newspaper. I thought it would be fun extra content to type out the blog interviews of other characters that she talks about in the books. I don’t have a good place to post those. I thought about creating a free website for her using something like Wix, and trying to make that look like her newspaper’s website, but I don’t know how much time I want to take doing that. Especially since I have a standalone book brewing in the back of my mind already for when this series is complete. I could add a tab to my own website, but how long do I want to keep them up?  I’ll keep writing them and transcribing them, and after I get them all done, I’ll decide then.

I’ll continue to look at stock photos to see what i can come up with for covers. I hated doing my trilogy. Four books should be even more fun.

I did attend that Sell More Books Show Summit, and that put me behind a few days. The experience was wonderful though, and you can read about it here.

I edited for a friend, and that took a bit of time, but I like editing, and her story is sounding fantastic!

I guess that’s about all I have for my May goals. I always know what needs to be done if I want to propel my career forward. That usually means writing fast and writing good, quality work while still being anchored to the land of the living.

I bought a promo for Don’t Run Away for the middle of June. It’s permafree, and I purchased it from Freebooksy. I plan to mark down my other two books in the trilogy to .99 for the rest of the month to encourage read-through rates. My main goals while finishing this series and preparing it for release is pushing my books out there. I need reviews and exposure.

I got turned down again for another Kobo promotion, but I’ll keep trying. As a new author without reviews on that site for any of my books, it will be difficult to be approved, I think.

But, it is what it is.

mountain of success

I’ll share how my wide adventures are going in another blog post.

Thanks for reading!

Don’t Run Away: books2read.com/dont-run-away
Chasing You: books2read.com/Chasing-You
Running Scared: books2read.com/running-scared

Wherever He Goes: books2read.com/whereverhegoes1
All of Nothing: books2read.com/allofnothing1
The Years Between Us: books2read.com/the-years-between-us

Try the Tower City Romance Trilogy Today!

graphics made with photos and font from canva.com

Tower City Romance Trilogy Cover Remake

I’ve always said never to look back, always move forward, but in this business, sometimes it’s not always feasible to keep your eyes straight ahead. As authors, we have a back list (or hope to write one) and as much as I hate to admit it, or put time into it, we do have to do a little maintenance from time to time.

My maintenance included redoing the covers for my trilogy. I needed to redo them for a couple of reasons.

  1. People were mis-categorizing them. Because the couples had all their clothes on, people were thinking the books were sweet romance. When I did my Freebooksy for Don’t Run Away, they even went so far as to email me and ask if I had selected the wrong category when I paid for my promo. Don’t Run Away‘s one star review on Amazon made it clear the woman was appalled at the swearing and the sexiness on the first page. At first I blamed her, but she judged my book by its cover and thought it would be a sweet romance. So, okay. I finally took responsibility for it and now my covers (hopefully) reflect a little more of what is inside the book covers . . . and bed covers!
  2. Kobo turned down a promo ask. I know this might not have anything to do with the cover of Don’t Run Away. I mean, it was my first ask, and Mark, in Killing It on Kobo, stresses the need to ask and ask and ask. And only when you get tired of asking maybe then reach out to the Kobo Writing Life team and say, hey, what’s up? Why am I never approved for a promotion? As I’ve said before, real people are behind Kobo Writing Life. A real person looks at the books submitted for promo, and a real person chooses what she thinks will fit inside the promo. I asked to be in a Free Contemporary Romance promo, and maybe my cover didn’t fit what she was looking for.
  3. But this will help with other areas of marketing, too. It’s not just at Kobo that I will see some benefit from changing my covers. I may snag more eyes on Amazon and the other marketplaces as well. I’ve killed all my Amazon ads right now, but it will be an interesting experiment to start them up again (if I do) with the new covers.
  4. My skills are better. I’ve said a million times it’s easy to slap text onto a cover using Canva.com and publish your book. That’s what I did with the trilogy. Found photos that kind of worked and found some font, and did the best I could. But since I made the covers two and a half years ago, I’ve learned GIMP better. I hadn’t heard about Canva. I did my original covers in Word, if you can believe it. So even just  learning about Canva’s existence helped tremendously. I pay for the Pro access, just because I love using it so much, and I figured it’s the least I can do for their team.
  5. I found other places to buy pictures. Lurking on Facebook groups aimed at helping indie authors helped me find other places for book cover photos. Using depositphotos.com helped me find the couples I ended up using for the trilogy, where before the only site I knew was safe was canstockphoto.com. Only the one for Don’t Run Away sticks out a little as it has a darker background and not a white one. While I could have snipped the couple out and pasted them onto a white background (because, yay, I have the skills to do that now), I didn’t think about it that much, and I don’t regret not doing it. The new covers are still 100 times better than what they were. So you lose a couple battles to win the war, and just be happy you won at all.
  6. I learned to experiment with font. Back then, Word didn’t have much choice, and font is like the photos–not everything is safe to use.
  7. I learned to really take a look at what is popular in my genre. Before I was publishing on a regular basis, and before I understood what indie publishing romance meant, I thought a cover was a cover, and that was it. But now I know that publishing romance is a whole different ballgame. Speaking of ballgame, want a series about baseball romance? Got it. Motorcycle club romance? Check. Billionaires? Check. Firefighters. Navy SEALS. And those are just the mainstream subgenres. Then we get into, um, dinosaur romance, Bigfoot romance, I’m-Going-To-Chain-You-Up-And-Make-You-My-Sex-Slave romance, reverse harem romance, and everything in between. So you better believe that your cover should at least *hint* at the sub-genre your book is in. And my fully-clothed happy couples didn’t depict any sexy-times. I don’t write sub-genre, though, so choosing couples that didn’t skew toward a certain sub-genre was tough. Too sexy and they’d look like erotica. If the men were too rough, the books would look like bad-boy romance, or alpha-romance. Study your book’s genre and make sure that your cover fits what is popular in your genre. Wolves on the cover equals shifter romance, and don’t forget it! 😛

    A friend pointed out that my trilogy was about running, and it is. But running isn’t sexy, and the photos of couples I found running were even less sexy, and not cover-worthy by a long shot.

    Here are a few covers from the top 50 contemporary romance right now. Guess what sub-genre they’re in.

    Lots of skin, some tats. A couple menages, if you look at the top 100 full list. Tell Me to Stay by Willow Winters seems to be the couple with the most fully-clothed. And even they are in a provocative pose. I did some homework for my covers and I’m happy with what I came up with.


I’m hoping I don’t have to go back and redo those for a long time. If ever. I redid the paperbacks for both KDP Print and IngramSpark. And in turn, I needed to update the insides. Replacing all those files is a lot of fun, said no one ever.

On the bright side, I’m getting better at handling IngramSpark, and yes, I did the full covers in Canva for both KDP Print and IngramSpark. Thanks, Canva!

Here are my old covers:

One thing you can probably notice is Nikki and Dane are a bit back. Then Alyssa and Brett are a little closer, and then Marta and Ian are in your face. LOL  When you’re doing a series and you don’t have much skill, it’s extremely difficult to make your covers look like they belong together. It’s why I wanted to hire out this time around. It would have made things so much easier if I could have just shoved this onto someone else.

While I was looking at the top 100 in contemporary romance, I began to notice a trend and I started playing with photos and text. Keeping in mind that every second I was “playing around” I wasn’t writing my current series. Blah! But I came up with some mock-ups of how I wanted the trilogy to kind of look:

These were just concept, and I didn’t notice right away that it looked like the same guy. Not a terrible thing if the trilogy was about so gigolo or something. Also, the backgrounds are a little cluttered with items like the faucet and sink, and items like that don’t make the covers look clean. I really like the couple I found for Chasing You, but in the end I didn’t use them either. You can see what I was trying to get at, anyway, and this first attempt brought me a little closer to what I was looking for. And they are far from what I had originally.

This is what I ended up with:

They look like they belong together. The men are shirtless, and the women all have long-sleeved white shirts on. That was very lucky for me. They give off a sexier vibe, and the font fits in. Do they look 100% like what is on the Amazon top 100? No. But they don’t look as if they belong on the Amazon Top 100 of Sweet and Clean Contemporary, either. I paid for the photos from depositphotos.com and I was lucky enough to find the sexy font free for commercial use. I never realized before how brunet men with scruff could look the same, but I’m hoping people can tell they are a different guy (at least, I hope he is!). Doing these has really made me wonder what I’m going to do with the four-book series I’m writing right now. It’s enough to give me hives, that’s for sure!


I guess what you really want to know is if I’m making any sales off the new covers. The answer to that would be no. Not any measurable improvement. Don’t Run Away is permafree on all platforms, and I consistently give away 1-4 copies every day on Amazon, and a handful here and there on ibooks, Nook, and Kobo. So far that hasn’t led to actual sales for the other two books in the trilogy on Amazon, or for the others in my backlist for that matter, but the first book isn’t as strongly written as the other two, so that’s to be expected, I guess.

I’ll throw some money at them and see what happens.

At some point, I’ll be redoing the cover for All of Nothing, too. Though I have gotten GREAT feedback, it doesn’t fit in with what’s hot right now, and that’s the name of the game. Fitting in while standing out!

Tell me what you think!

If you want to try Don’t Run Away, it’s free on all platforms, and you can find it by clicking this link. It will redirect you to any platform where you buy ebooks.

Thanks for reading!

Try the Tower City Romance Trilogy Today!

 

 

 

The Years Between Us is Available!

It’s May 1st, and The Years Between Us dropped out of pre-order and it’s available! I just approved the paperback so that should pop up on Amazon shortly.

The book has been in pre-order for so long that I forgot it was out there. Since I finished it up and listed it, I’ve written the first book in my Wedding Party series and close to finishing the second book with about 15,000 more words to go.

I’ll chat with you about a couple things, and then I am off for the Sell More Books Show Summit in Chicago for the weekend, hopefully to learn how to market my books and put them in the hands of eager readers. I’ll recap that when I get back.

For now, I’ll let you know I only did pre-order to give myself some time to write. I released All of Nothing in October, and everyone says that six months between books is way too long. I agree. For most indie romance writers, three months is probably the maximum they leave between books, some even publishing 50,000 words every month. I still think I write pretty fast considering I have two children, three cats, and I work a day job to pay bills. I also see my sister once a week, I try to walk and catch up on podcasts, and I write this blog. So it’s not like when I’m not writing I’m sitting around twiddling my thumbs. But even if I could sweep all that aside, I don’t think I could produce more than three books a year, and that’s okay. I don’t want to write less than 70,000 word books (now that my novella streak is over) and sometimes that means plotting a little more and taking time with character development.

At any rate, the pre-order I did wasn’t to gain sales during the pre-order period, and that’s a good thing since I only had ONE pre-order on Amazon. I actually clicked the wrong button on Draft2Digital, so I didn’t know until a couple days ago my book was already available through them since April 17th. I would have been upset had I been trying to do a proper launch, but in my way of doing quiet, (AKA not telling anyone) launches, no one probably knew about my mistake.

As my 13 year old daughter likes to say, Whatevs.


May Goals

I have a few May goals.

  1. One is that I need to redo my trilogy covers.
    They are okay as far as being homemade, but I’ve gotten better at my skills, and well, trends have changed since the two and a half years since I published them.  Last night I took a look at the top 100 in contemporary romance on Amazon to get a feel of what’s out there. I’ve been looking at www.depositphotos.com to find new couples. For the amount of open door sex scenes in my books, my couples have too many clothes on. I’ve come to realize this through reader feedback and the fact that Freebooksy, when I did a promo for Don’t Run Away, wanted to put it in the sweet romance category. So I’ll be looking for couples who have a playful, sexy, fun vibe about them. As always, this took some doing because I needed to find couples that looked like they belonged together since’s it’s a trilogy. I’ve also been studying font and the color of the titles. A hot pink/fuchsia is in, along with a hot aquamarine in a handwritten font. I think I got it, but now I have to go through the trouble of creating them, and swapping them out with all the other vendors. Including Ingram Spark if I decide to keep my books listed there. Is it time for a drink yet?
  2. Finish book two of my Wedding Party Series.
    I have book two almost done, and I probably could have finished it if I wasn’t going out of town this weekend. I also realized that book two is stronger than book one, and since the stories parallel the same timeline, I can move book two to into book one position without too much rewriting. Jared and Leah are going to need a bit of rewriting anyway. I wrote on half before my surgery, the second half after, and I feel the ending isn’t as strong as it could be. I’m being very careful how all these are written and published because I want good read-through. To read more of my thoughts about writing a series click here. 
  3. Start book three. 
    I should  be able to start book three. I have the characters and their backstories mapped out. I have an inkling of some things that will happen, but I still need to sit down plot out the BIG BAD and of course, make sure I add some wedding stuff in there. Like, I don’t know, Marnie and James’s actual wedding. They aren’t going to be a premiere couple, but they are the reason this series is in creation, so I better get them married off.
  4. Start and finish an editing project.
    I’m helping a friend of mine edit the sequel to one of her books. I’ve already done one sweep, and she sent it to me again. It shouldn’t take me long to get through it, so I can’t even count this as a goal, just something that I’ll be working on the first week in May. I’m excited for her, and I love helping her. I’m proud of the work she’s done on her books because like you and me, we have a lot going on but she doesn’t let that stop her.

May looks to be shaping up into a busy month, but now that the weather has finally cleared up, my cat isn’t sick anymore, I’m healing from surgery just fine, and whatever else little things I was going through seems to have tapered off for now (knock on wood for me) I should be able to to cruise through writing this series and being able to publish them toward the end of fall/beginning winter of this year, into the rest of winter of 2020. All the while, of course, writing another book, which will be a new standalone that I’m already quietly plotting out.

A writer's work is never done. There is always a new story to tell.


It’s also not lost on me that I’ll be needing to look at promos here soon, and what exactly I can do to bump up sales. The new covers to my trilogy will be a start. To be honest, I’ll probably need to redo the cover to All of Nothing, too. I’ve gotten some reader feedback that Jax is so much of an ass that readers didn’t care for him all that much. Rewriting the blurb and redoing the cover to better prepare readers for his unlikable personality may head off more negative reviews. While I try not read reviews, when opinions make it to me, I try to listen. All of Nothing is very love it or hate it, and if I can prepare my readers by changing the cover to more of a bad-boy type, and rewriting the blurb to focus on how damaged he is, that would be a win for me.

By the beginning of 2020 I’ll have ten contemporary romance books out in my genre. They will be good, solid books, and there’s no reason why I can’t start making some money. I’ve been waiting to build a backlist, which I am doing, quite well, if I do say so myself. Now I just have to put my books to use because there’s no point in writing them if no one is going to be reading them. AmIright? 


If you want to take a look at The Years Between Us, it is live on all platforms. Zia Bishop is in love with an older man, and you’ll have to read to see how that turns out! Click the photo to be directed to your favorite retailer! If you’re waiting for the paperback, that should be available soon. There’s no reason why KDP Print should find anything wrong with it.

Thanks for reading and have a lovely weekend!

The Years Between Us Paperback Cover

Sad Endings versus Happily Ever Afters

And they lived happily ever after!

My friend Sarah wrote a blog post about Happily Ever Afters or HEAs. I wrote a response to that, but she said it was lost in the ether and it never posted. Anyway, I figured my response would be a good blog post so here are my thoughts about endings and happily ever afters.

Do all books need one? While I write romance, and I’m required to give one in my books, maybe you’d be surprised when I tell you that not all books need a happily ever after.

But.

But there needs to be some kind of ending that offers a sense of satisfaction to your reader. Something that offers closure.

We do this for a couple of reasons:

  1. Because readers have spent quite a few hours with you by the time they reached the end of your book.
    Look, reading a book takes a few hours, if not a few days. Maybe a couple of weeks. Anytime a person gives you that time, and pays you for the privilege on top of it, they deserve a little respect, don’t you think? Life is busy. We have jobs, kids, pets, spouses, and other responsibilities. When a reader sits down with your book, that’s an honor. And one you as a writer shouldn’t take lightly.And they lived happily ever after! 2
    Authors do, though.
    We see it in the way they offer books that haven’t been edited, or are formatted incorrectly. We see it in the way they offer stories with flat characters, plot holes, and endings that don’t make sense. And I have to ask, why would a writer disrespect their readers that way? It happens way too often, and readers don’t have time for it. With so much content out there now, and free, too, readers don’t have to waste time with you. Yet writers get offended when a reader points out a book’s flaws. This includes an unsatisfactory ending.
  2. A reader has just spent 10 plus hours going through hell with your characters, and readers want to know that through all that, at least they are on the right track to a better life.
    When readers go through hell and back, it’s nice to know that meant something. Otherwise, what is all the pain for? Your characters can’t go through 250+ pages of fire and brimstone without getting something out of it, right?
    What’s the point of the pain and the suffering without the offer of hope?
    That was something I heard when I listen to a couple people talk about The Walking Dead. I’ve never watched it; zombies aren’t my thing. But the woman said she stopped watching it because there wasn’t any hope, and the despair week after week brought her down.
    Humans need hope.
    Prisoners of war survive for years with the hope that one day they will be rescued. I just finished watching the documentary series about the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. Her parents have to have hope that one day their daughter will be found or they would just shrivel into a ball and die. Is the offer of hope enough for your book? That depends on your plot and the journey your characters have gone through. But your readers need the promise that there is a very good chance your characters will be okay because they learned enough on their journey to make better choices.
  3. Life is hard enough as it is.
    Readers read to escape. That doesn’t mean you have to give them rainbows and sunshine, but our lives don’t end on page 305. Real life consists of good days, bad days, super great days, an horrific days. But we keep on. When a reader reads a book, they expect, I’d venture to say,  a happily ever after, even if there isn’t much happy. In a kidnapping case, maybe the child is never found–but the kidnapper is. The parents will never find closure, but the detective working the case had, technically, done his job. Would you be happy with such a book? Or would you be happier if the child is found as well? In real life, missing children stay missing. Sometimes their abductors are found and punished. A plot like that is realistic. My friend says she writes realistic fiction, so a plot like that would be acceptable to her, more than likely.
    But does it belong in a book? Do the parents deserve closure? What about the detective? He’ll carry that burden for the rest of his life. What feels right for the story? What feels right for the characters? What feels right to the reader? As the author, you are in control. What feels right to you?

And they lived happily ever after! 3

There is a saying out there that a story is never-ending, the author just chooses to stop writing. I suppose this is true, and it amuses me to think about my characters living life without me, maybe breaking up when I fought with my laptop so hard to push them together. Maybe this is why series are so popular. We get attached to characters and want to keep reading. Does that happily engaged couple really get married, or do they break up after all? Does that detective finally find love despite his long hours and alcoholism? Does that one serial killer who got away finally get caught? Or in the case of that missing child, is she finally found and reunited with her parents?

Humans are hardwired to find the happy. There are a lot of trite sayings about happiness. Happiness is a journey, not a destination. Learn to be happy with what you have. Happiness is a state of mind. The list goes on, but with books, I think we can say that yes, happiness is a journey and it starts on page one, but it is also a destination and it’s found on the last page of your book.

And they lived happily ever after! 5

Here’s the thing. If your reader comes away mad at you, not only do you risk losing them as a future reader, you risk losing the next sale. Writers don’t write for money, but authors publish books for the sale. Why would you leave money on the table offering or reader a mediocre ending at best?

Think of any TV show that wasn’t ended properly. Castle, Lost, Seinfeld. Think of how you felt when you invested years of your life to be rewarded with a lukewarm ending. Now think of shows that weren’t ended at all, just cut off because they didn’t bring in the ratings.

You feel cheated.

And then you wonder, as an author, why people would be angry at you if you didn’t deliver a satisfactory ending.

quote-the-first-page-sells-this-book-the-last-page-sells-your-next-book-mickey-spillane-131-21-05

Writers, readers, and TV watchers aren’t different. We want the hope, we want the idea these characters can make something of their lives despite the hell they just went through. Is why Scarlett O’Hara makes such an imposing figure on that hill, her family soil clutched in her fist. She’d lost Rhett. But she wanted him back. She fought for Tara and won.

“Tomorrow is another day,” she said.

Your characters won’t have another day.

Unless you write the sequel.

Scarlett did have a sequel. Alexandra Ripley wrote her one. Scarlett’s happily ever after was hard-won.

But she did it.

How will your characters find theirs?

There are a lot of resources about endings. James Scott Bell just came out with The 50 Last Pages. Check it out here. 

Happy for Now? You Decide:
https://bookriot.com/2016/03/14/should-romance-novels-always-have-happy-endings/

https://writingcooperative.com/hea-vs-hfn-aea4ad42f7c5


Still writing my Wedding Party series! Check back often for an update!

Callie and Mitch blog graphic

all pictures except Mickey Spillane were found on pixabay.com and made with canva.com. Mickey was found in a Google search and taken from https://www.azquotes.com/author/13953-Mickey_Spillane