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

My Going Wide Adventures–ebooks (and last post)

I started the process of going wide some time ago, and I can say that for now my ebooks have been successfully published wide.

I got tired of waiting for my trilogy to drop out of KDP Select, so I took some advice and emailed Amazon and asked them to be taken out. I made it easy by giving them the ASIN numbers for the books. They were very prompt and my trilogy was taken out of Select the next day.

canceling select blog post picture

I didn’t waste any time publishing my trilogy on Draft2Digital and Kobo. When I uploaded them onto those platforms, I priced Don’t Run Away for free. Amazon won’t let you do that; they prefer you enroll in Select and use their free days in your marketing plans. Kobo and Draft2Digital had no problem with pricing my book for free, and after Don’t Run Away was published, I emailed Amazon with the buy links to Kobo and Barnes and Noble proving Don’t Run Away was free, and they price matched. blog picture kdp free book

don't run away free amazon buy page

This will be my permafree book to hopefully draw readers in to my other books that they’ll want to buy. I hate that Don’t Run Away has so few reviews, and I still have that one stinker of a review saying she hated it because of the swearing. So I think I’ll be concentrating a little bit on some cheaper promos to see if I can’t bump up those reviews a bit. While this blog post is about my process of going wide, not marketing strategy, I have to remember that Amazon isn’t the be all end all of my sales any longer. Any promo is good though, so I’ll still throw a little money at it anyway. The trilogy is strong, I think, and when it was in KU I got decent read-through. So we’ll see.

books on draft to digitalbooks on draft to digital2

You can see I haven’t made any money, but going wide is a process, and I haven’t done any marketing yet.

Kobo is the same.

books on kobobooks on kobo2

Besides emailing KDP to pull  my books out of Select, things went fine, and emailing KDP wasn’t even a big deal–I just felt bad doing it. But as I tell my friends, this is a business, don’t take things personally. I’m sure the KDP rep who pulled my books out of Select didn’t give a crap what I was doing, he was just waiting to go to lunch. So, no harm done.

The Years Between Us will be released soon. The pre-order ends May 1st. I needed a bit of time to get ahead with my series, and I hope by the time The Years Between Us is released, I’ll have book two almost done.

I don’t have the paperback loaded into Ingram Spark yet, only KDP Print. I’ve already gone over the proof, so all I need to do is hit publish when the ebook is released. The Years Between Us is on pre-order through Draft to Digital as well as Kobo, and you can pre-order it at any retailer here.

The Years Between Us Paperback Cover

I use Universal Book Links to create buy links for my books. They’ll pull from everywhere your book is sold and when a reader clinks on the link, they will be directed to a retailer page so they can choose which vendor to purchase your book from. When I clicked on the buy link for The Years Between Us above, this came up:

universal book link result

Then all your reader has to do is click on the logo of the store where they want to buy your book. That way you don’t have to have a million different buy-links when you do an ad or something. You can thank the team at Draft2Digital for putting that together for us indies.

The other thing I did was email Kobo and ask for access to the promotions tab. The promotions tab is for Kobo readers only, and allows you to ask the Kobo Writing Life team for consideration for certain promotions the website hosts. You need to email them for access though, as it doesn’t automatically pop up when you list your books for sale there. I’m excited to start making use of those promotions, and now that I’m done with some administrative work going wide created, I can spend more time marketing.

I only put my six contemporary romances wide. I did that because 1) The Corner of 1700 Hamilton was my first book and could use a good editing sweep, which I’m not willing to take the time to do right now, and 2) Summer Secrets is erotica and not the genre I’m going to write ever again. They aren’t in Kindle Unlimited, either, because I didn’t want to get anyone grumpy at me for only have part of my library in KU. I could always put them wide and make them permafree, but I don’t think that would do much for me as I don’t intend to write those genres again, and while Don’t Run Away will always be free, the main point of going wide and writing in one genre is to find a readership and sell books. Selling books usually, if you do it right, means making a bit of money, and who doesn’t want that?

If you have any questions for me about going wide, please let me know! I’ll cover paperbacks in another blog post.

Thanks for reading!

Callie and Mitch blog graphic

 

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Suspending Belief in Fiction. How much is too much?

Suspending Belief in Fiction. How much is too much_

As authors, we ask our readers to open their minds and believe the unbelievable. Writers of fantasy and sci-fi, paranormal and horror wouldn’t make a penny if readers couldn’t put aside reality and enjoy a good story. The Martian would never have taken off, and we would never know who Luke and Leia and the rest of their universe are, never mind them being household names.

Writers who write in those genres have a flexibility not all of us have–yet they are still held to some kind of realistic expectation. Why do characters behave the way they do? Why are things the way they are? It’s why in comics and huge worlds like Game of Thrones and Star Wars, origin stories are so popular. Knowing why helps us understand.

Writers who write contemporary fiction stories that take place in the real here and now struggle with this, too. More so.

When I wrote All of Nothing, I struggled with what I could get away with and what I couldn’t. If you read my reviews on Goodreads, you’ll see that to some people, I failed. Jax Brooks accidentally shot someone, and I made him suffer for it–for 15 years. I got called out on it. No one would suffer for that long, or to that extent, for 15 years. Or would they? Did I make him suffer for too long? Should I have shortened my timeline?

Raven Grey was homeless for 13 years. That’s a long time to be homeless. I didn’t write her with a mental illness or a drug addiction, so anyone who wasn’t afflicted with something like that . . . would they have let themselves live on the streets for that long?

I asked the reader to believe she would have. I’ve never been homeless, or feel that hopeless. So I guess I truly don’t know if someone would drift through life that way when they had resources at their disposal to help them. But when she did turn her life around, it made it that much more poignant. Did making Raven homeless for so long add to the story, or did the implausibility of her situation take something away?

We’ve all read books that ask the reader to set aside real-life expectations. But how much is too much depends on the reader. I stopped reading Stephanie Plum at number 15 because after so many books, I just didn’t find the character believable anymore. She fumbles around as a bounty hunter suck in a love triangle, and she never changes. After so much time you’d expect her to take self-defense classes, or at the very least, learn how to shoot her gun. But she doesn’t do anything because Janet Evanovich relies on Stephanie’s ineptness as a bounty hunter to give us a laugh. And that’s great. I did enjoy the first fifteen books, and the couple of books that took place between the numbers. But eventually, and this is where real-life comes in, people need to grow and change. Most writers who aren’t writing a series only have one book in which to show us that their characters have changed, grown up, learned a lesson. That Stephanie Plum hasn’t grown, changed, in 15+ books (I think Janet’s up to 25, but I lost interest a long time ago) just makes her character worse.

stephanie plum

Katherine Heigl as Stephanie Plum. Her expression says it all. You can read the article and see more pictures at cinemablend.com or by clicking here.

No one is going to believe that in all the time that goes by, if Stephanie really wanted to take a real stab at being a bounty hunter she wouldn’t try to improve her skills.

But do readers care?

Janet Evanovich is a bestselling author, so I’m guessing most readers are along for the ride and don’t care Stephanie still can’t shoot, still can’t choose a man, and still blows up every car she drives.

I read something once that said as writers, right away we’re asking our readers to believe in a coincidence, an act of fate. Like the man meeting just the right woman at the beginning of a romance. Or a man killing the wrong person at the wrong time at the beginning of a mystery, or a child kidnapped just as a famous detective travels through town on vacation. How was it that Hercule Poirot happened to be on the Orient Express?

coicidence and fateAlmost every inciting event will be a coincidence, and readers accept that because that’s how a story starts.

But anything you ask her reader to believe after that just builds up until the reader throws the book across the room in disgust because the writer has asked them to believe too much.

Readers aren’t stupid, and you can’t write to them as if they are, yet some writers can get away with asking their readers to believe the impossible.

In 50 Shades of Grey, Christian Grey is a self-made billionaire at twenty-seven. Doing what, who knows. It is possible, but not likely. Not unless you’re working from your mom’s garage creating the next big thing that will replace Facebook.

Anastasia Steele was the same way, professionally. Would she really be an editor at an distinguished publishing house because her boss was fired? Probably not. She majored in English Literature. A publishing degree is a real thing.

How do you know how much is too much?

Unfortunately, you probably won’t know until you get feedback. Hopefully that is in the form of beta reader feedback and not bad reviews.

Here are some guidelines to keep in mind:

  1. How old are your characters?
    If you have a 20-year-old who is running a million-dollar company, ask yourself why. Why is your character 20? Is he a genius? How does his age contribute to the story? Could he be 30? 40? Could he have a different occupation? Are you writing the next Doogie Howser?
  2. Keep technology in mind. 
    All of Nothing Paperback Cover

    Do you want to check out All of Nothing? It’s now WIDE and you can click here for your favorite retailer.

    Today, anyone can know anything with a touch of a few buttons. If you’re keeping your characters in the dark about anything they could find out online, you better have a good, and believable, explanation.
    I walked a thin line of that myself in All of Nothing. Jax didn’t know the identity of the person he shot, and Raven’s parents didn’t know the identity of the policeman who killed their son. How did I explain that? The city paid Raven’s parents not to ask questions, and they kept Jax in the dark to help him put the accident behind him. That’s why I put the accident so far in the past. I didn’t need social media interfering in my story. These days, everything is splashed everywhere online. Especially police brutality. Everyone knows everything in an instant. Maybe even with a video. I couldn’t afford that because the whole premise of my book were the facts Jax didn’t know whom he shot, and Raven’s family didn’t know who took her brother’s life. Yeah, this blog post revealed a big spoiler, but did I pull it off? You’ll have to let me know.

  3. Keep your timeline in mind.
    Unless you’re writing the next 24, your characters are probably going to need time. People don’t fall in love in a day. Murders aren’t solved in a day, or even a week. People trapped in a cabin during a blizzard with no food won’t live two weeks without something to eat.
  4. Because I said so.
    If you have to say this, or any derivative of this phrase to someone asking about details of your story, you’re covering up lazy, sloppy writing. Because I said so is for children who don’t want to eat their vegetables. If you have to explain any aspect of your story, you’re doing it wrong. You can’t be over every reader’s shoulder trying to validate and justify all your choices. Your reader may come away from your story loving it or hating it, but they should always understand it.

    Suspending Belief in Fiction. How much is too much2

Human nature is weird. There are things people put with for years and years, and in the same situation, a different person would tolerate it for only a moment.

Sometimes you can get away with it. Soap operas do. After a few years watching Days of our Lives, I finally asked, “If living in Salem was so miserable, why didn’t they just move?” You can’t tell me Bo and Hope wouldn’t finally have found some peace and quiet if they would have moved out of Salem and away from Stefano DiMera.

When I was writing The Years Between Us, I confronted this possibility as well. The whole book depends on blackmail and lies, much in the vein of a soap opera. I had a few beta readers read it and I asked them if it was too much, and all of them said no. I hope it isn’t. I hope the plot is still believable. I hope that what people willing to do for love is enough of a reason to carry the story along. You’ll have to decide.

Your readers will only accept so much. You can’t please everyone, of course, but at some point you are going to have to keep an eye on what is believable and what is not. You’ll have to decide if inconsistencies and discrepancies are intentional or the byproduct of lazy writing. Plot holes are never okay, and explaining why a character did something by saying “She was crazy, that’s why!” isn’t good enough. Even crazy people live on their own plane of reality, and it’s your job as a writer to show us that.

Suspending Belief in Fiction. How much is too much3

As writers, we are always going to be asking our readers to believe something that has a small chance of happening in real life. But after that initial leap, keep your story grounded in facts, otherwise you are going to lose them.

Fiction is fiction, we read to escape, but your story needs to make sense, or the next thing you know, your bounty hunter will have been on 25 jobs and still won’t know how to shoot a gun.

And that’s just not realistic.

Callie and Mitch blog graphic


picture attribution:

Andy Meyer from Pixabay” cellphone with castle

coincidence and fate

woman with books, canva.com

woman on stability ball, canva.com

How Much Research Do You Do?

How much research do you do for your books_

Any writer knows doing research is critical. Different kinds of papers and essays require different kinds of research. Even some of my blog posts require a bit of research–at the very least I like to add additional links to the ends of some of my posts so my readers can look to other opinions and other resources.

This is where the old axiom “write what you know” comes in. Not to get out of having to do research, but because as you are learning craft–character arcs, plot, finding your voice and wrestling with syntax, grammar and punctuation–it’s easier to focus on learning those things without the added burden of researching and incorporating what you find into the story, too, not to mention doing it in a believable way.

How much research do you do for your books2

Writing a police procedural without any law enforcement exposure would be difficult, I imagine, without immersing yourself in research. The same with writing about doctors, lawyers and any other professional occupation with which you may have little to no knowledge or education.

The last thing you want your readers to say is “That’s not right” or “It doesn’t happen like that” or worse yet, someone who actually does the occupation you’re writing about saying, “That’s not true at all.”

Some professionals who have gone into writing are Tess Gerritsen and John Grisham, a doctor and lawyer respectively.

Wikipedia has this to say about Tess: “In 1996, Gerritsen wrote Harvest, her first medical thriller. The plot was inspired by a conversation with a retired homicide detective who had recently traveled in Russia. He told her young orphans were vanishing from Moscow streets, and police believed the kidnapped children were being shipped abroad as organ donors. Harvest was Gerritsen’s first hardcover novel, and it marked her debut on the New York Times bestseller list at number thirteen. Following Harvest, Gerritsen wrote three more bestselling medical thrillers: Life Support, Bloodstream, and Gravity.”

Wikipedia has this to say about John: “John Ray Grisham Jr. is an American novelist, attorney, politician, and activist, best known for his popular legal thrillers.”

As you can see, it was easy for them to segue into the types of books they started writing because their backgrounds supported the subject matter.

castle_richard_castle_kate_beckett_stana_katic_nathan_fillion_98247_2363x1615Some research is pretty hardcore–think Richard Castle shadowing Kate Beckett in Castle. The chances of a a police department, in New York City, nonetheless, allowing a civilian to shadow a homicide detective seems pretty slim–even if you are a bestselling author who is friends with the mayor. But lots of police departments host ride-a-longs as part of community outreach, and that could be a small in for and of you who wants to write about being a cop. This is what I get when I Google police ride along for my area.

The internet makes research easy–Google Maps can show you pictures of anything in the world. It’s how I wrote parts of Wherever He Goes, when Kat and Aiden were on their road trip. They traveled through states I have never been to before. I even made up the casino they visited in Las Vegas because I have never been to Las Vegas and I couldn’t accurately describe a casino there. I spent hours pouring over photos and descriptions of various parts of the United States to get their settings just right. It was only after they eventually moved into familiar territory that I relaxed.

Settings are hard because not only are you dealing with the actual land formations, you have to think about temperature, climate, and bugs. Kat finds a scorpion in her hotel room. I had to research that, too, because I assure you, I have never seen a scorpion anywhere but behind glass at our zoo. And I plan to keep it that way.

When I wrote Don’t Run Away, Dane owned his own store. I’ve been in a running shoe store many times, but I’ve never run my own business. So I had to talk with someone who had. And yeah, real-life store owners run a tight ship financially–so I wrote Dane broke–but he was doing what he loved.

I’m well aware I’m lucky. Writing a romance ensures I can focus on the romance of the story and not have to get bogged down with details of a character’s occupation.

I like to think I know enough about life in general that if I decide to write a heroine who works at a bakery (or who owns her own) she’s up at 2 am and baking by 3 so she has pastries to sell by the time her store opens at 7. There’s no way she’s going in to work at 9–not unless she has help. And she very well could. Just be sure she can afford to pay her employees.

I’ve written my heroes into occupations I know nothing about, and I’ve done the minimal amount of research required to be able to say, this is what they do, and that’s about it. When I wrote about Aiden screwing up a big case as an Assistant District Attorney, I modeled his case after the OJ Simpson trial. I watched a lot of footage from that trial and read a lot of articles. His story in the book wasn’t about him losing the case, or why, it was about him being able to move past the fact that he did, and what that meant for his career and the rest of his life.

In Romance, their tragic backstories, personal demons, and falling in love take up the most space on the page.

But I’m fully aware that if I ever wanted to stretch my wings as an author (and I know I will want to at some point) or delve into another genre like Women’s Fiction, I’ll need  more than just a romance to carry the plot, and that will probably require more research than I’m used to doing.

I read an interview with Jennifer Egan about Manhattan Beach, and boy, did the woman research. You can read about her process here.

What’s funny though, is when I speak to other writers, they say the more research they do, the richer their story becomes because they have more facts and details at their disposal.

I truly believe this. But as an indie, the pressure to crank out books is stifling, and it’s hard to give up writing time for research no matter how useful it will end up being.

I’m reading A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult, and the amount of research and the number of people so spoke with . . . it’s crazy. Not to mention the hours of shadowing she did. It was more than nailing down the details–she was recording thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about the topics she was writing about that she also gained from the research. She has a bibliography in the back of her book two pages (front and back) long, and an acknowledgement section the same length.

This is another reason why I like romance–I love the idea of falling in love, being in love with love. I’ve had my heart broken. No research required to know how it feels when you fell someone you love them, but you don’t hear it back.

How much research do you do for your books3

It’s nothing short of devastating.

I wonder if this is why some indies start out writing fantasy. Everything comes from the imagination. The government, the currency. Magic, laws. The world-building is incredible. Everything from the ground up. This can be liberating–but it can also scare the crap out of you. To create a world from nothing . . . You still may need to research when you write fantasy–how do you saddle a horse, or do your characters ride bareback? What are the parts of a ship? What are parts of a castle called? When I was writing my fantasy, I had to research those things . . . but the magic, the laws, the kingdom, those were all mine.

Starting with what you  know can definitely help keep momentum going if you are a first-time writer. If you do end up exploring an area you aren’t familiar with, ask for help if you can find someone who is familiar with your subject material. At least they can point you in the right direction, or tell you if you are missing the mark.

Where do you go for research?

Let me know your favorite books and websites!

Here are a couple of mine:

If you want to know about any job occupation, did you know the Department of Labor has a list of job descriptions for everything? Take a look here.

Google Maps/Images has can show you everything you need to know about a setting.

YouTube. You can find almost anything on YouTube. Right now for Jared and Leah, I’m “learning” how to fly a little plane.

The How-To Books for Dummies. Immerse yourself in a occupation, and it can carry you for a long time. Like, if you’re writing a series about a lawyer. A little research could help you write many books in a series.

Thanks for reading!

jared and leah for end of blog posts

photo of Tess taken from https://rizzoliandisles.fandom.com/wiki/Tess_Gerritsen and the photo of John was taken from https://www.penguin.com.au/authors/john-grisham
photo of Castle and Beckett taken from http://www.wallpapercraft.com

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The Wedding Party Series Update

If you follow me on social media at all, you’ll know that The Years Between Us is finally to a proofreader who will take a quick look for typos and inconsistencies.

Now that I can almost wash my hands of that book, I can put all my focus on my Wedding Party series.

Jared and Leah came in at about 67,000 words. I was a bit disappointed as I like my books to fall around 70-72,000 words. I always lose some during editing as well, so while I edit and try to plump up scenes that feel sparse, I’ll be keeping an eye on what I delete and make sure I add where appropriate.

I was able to open the file last night and I started reading from the beginning. I wrote half of it before my surgery and half of it after. My surgery was back in January and I stubbornly finished it while in recovery. So I know there’s room for improvement, especially to the second half when I was hurting, but I was too impatient to wait before writing more.

I don’t like writing in chunks, so I feel like this book isn’t “together” though that probably isn’t the case.

Anyway, as I go through this book, I’ll be looking for a few things:

  1. Consistency. I always look for this anyway, but it’s more important with this book as there is so much time between me writing the first half and the second half.
  2. Places I can pump up word count. I wrote this book in a hurry. While I don’t advocate filling your book full of fluff just to make a word count, I already know of three scenes I can add to that will make the book better. If that doesn’t bring me to my desired word count, so be it, but it will sound better, too, and that’s all that matters.
  3. Where the second books fits in. Call it poor planning or brilliance (I prefer brilliance) book one and book two are going to overlap. There’s nothing I can do about it. How am I going to pull that off? Luckily, I knew that was going to happen before I started writing book one.

The characters are in Rocky Point, Minnesota for a wedding. The bride and groom aren’t main characters because they are already together, but they do pop up now and then as strong secondary characters. Anyway, everyone is in town for two weeks. If I wanted all four books to take place within those two weeks, my couples would be falling in love and having their stories told in a couple of days. And while a countdown plot like that works for a thriller, it doesn’t make good sense for a romance because it’s hard to carry out a complete character arc. People need time to fall in love. I love the “love at first sight” trope, but to make the story realistic, characters need time and space.

Falling in love . . .

Book three will cover the week of the wedding and book four will cover time after.

James Fox Wedding Party

James Fox. Not 100% how I pictured him, but have you ever looked at stock photos of men in tuxes? Some of them are downright creepy!

I lucked out there because the two people who are featured in book four live in Rocky Point, and it won’t matter if the wedding is over to complete their story. And the way the books were plotted out, not everyone leaves Rocky Point after the wedding. That might have been luck or good planning, but either way, I feel good about how the rest of the series will go.

But for now, while I edit book one, I’ll just need to keep track of where everyone is so book two is accurate.

This isn’t unlike writing The Corner of 1700 Hamilton. Ben and Lila’s stories were split down the middle, and they only intersected a handful of times.

Marnie Zimmerman wedding photo

This is how I pictured Marnie Zimmerman, the bride. 

The bride’s time isn’t all accounted for, as the primary focus of book one is Leah and Jared, so Callie will get some bride-time in book two. I didn’t want it to feel weird to the reader that Leah was able to have bride time, but no one else does. But James, the groom won’t be spending time with Callie’s love interest because he isn’t in the wedding party.

I’m really excited to start book two, but I’ll finish plumping up book one first and getting that one almost ready to go, as I’m not thrilled to be working on two projects at once again.

So that’s a short update. I’ve been trying to keep everyone posted on how the series is going because I plan to rapid-release them, and I’m hoping to get them all written by the end of October or so so I can have time create covers and do the formatting. There won’t be a book released after The Years Between Us for a while, so it’s important to me that you all know I’m still writing!

Hopefully I can release Jared and Leah in the winter of this year, and release the rest of the books going into 2020.

We’ll see. You know what they say about good intentions.

Check back with me to see what else is going on in Rocky Point, Minnesota, release news with The Years Between Us, and my slow slow slow progress going wide!

Until next time!

 

jared and leah for end of blog posts

 

More of My Adventures Going Wide (Paperback Update)

going wide girl on tracks blog post

Like a clock with dying batteries, my wide adventures are moving, but at a snail’s pace. That’s okay. I think about all the time that’s being wasted, but I’m not sure what I’d be doing anyway, besides what I’m already doing–writing the next book.

While nothing can happen with my ebooks–all I can do is wait for my trilogy to drop out of KDP Select–my paperbacks have seen some movement.

It may not seem like anything happens when you fill out forms and send emails, but people read them, and one day, out of the blue, they respond. I heard from both KDP Print and Ingram asking for permission to move my ISBNs and confirming my decisions, respectively.

Courteous and friendly, I responded to both inquiries, and as of writing this, my ISBN numbers have been moved from KDP Print Expanded distribution and are now available to be published by Ingram Spark.

What this means, however, is now I need to adapt each paperback cover to the Ingram Spark book cover templates as the templates between KDP Print and Ingram Spark vary slightly–enough to throw the text of your spine off. Only because Ingram’s paper quality is a bit better (so I’ve been told), making the spine measurements differ. You can see the templates are a bit different, just enough to make it a pain in the butt.

ingram all of nothing template for blog post

This is a screenshot of a PDF Ingram Spark sends you when you ask for a template book cover for your book.

 

5.5x8.5_Cream_290

This is the PNG of a KDP Print template.

Adapting covers seemed like a huge undertaking, and I asked a friend to do it for me. Since then she’s had a family emergency, and I’ll be doing them myself after all. That’s fine. I should know what I’m doing for future books. I thought I’d do all of them at once, but then it occurred to me I should only do one and order a proof to be sure my process works. It can’t be much different than submitting to KDP Print, but my covers are already done. The trick is to make them fit on the new template without rebuilding them from scratch. I have an idea on how to do this, but being I have never submitted to Ingram before, how I think I can get it to work will be an experiment.

So, progress is being made, but it is slow going, indeed.

I’m looking forward to the process , as it will bring me closer to my goals: asking the indie bookstore in my city to carry my books and possibly Barnes and Noble, even if it’s just in the local author’s section.

So, that’s the update. Once I start adapting the cover for All of Nothing, I’ll let you know how it goes.

Questions for me? Drop them here, or reach out to me at my email, vaniarheault at gmail dot com. While I can’t give you a full tutorial on how to do this, if you have a specific question you can’t find an answer for, let me know. I might be able to help.

Thanks for reading!

jared and leah for end of blog posts

Book launches, book anniversaries and other musings about three years of hard work.

This morning I was reading a blog post my by friend, Sarah. It’s her book baby’s birthday today, and she’s celebrating her book turning one! And while I admit I’ve never celebrated a book’s birthday–hell, I rarely announce a launch–her blog post encouraged me to take a look back at my publishing milestones.

I don’t have my publishing dates memorized or anything like that, so I’ll need to go on to Amazon and take a look:


Under lock and key

I thought The Corner of 1700 Hamilton was my first book I published, but according to the dates, I actually published Under Lock and Key a week before on July 7th, 2016. It’s a novelette that I wrote from a writing prompt a dear friend of mind, Liz, tweeted one day. I haven’t read it for a long time, and no doubt it needs another edit. When I go wide, I’ll put it everywhere for free. It’s gotten some so-so reviews, but I can’t expect anything too great as it was the first thing I published.

 


the_corner_of_1700_h_cover_for_kindle

A week later, I published The Corner of 1700 Hamilton. This is a trainwreck of a book, as first books are wont to be. The original cover was horrible, and even with a beta reader and an editor, it still wasn’t up to par. Recently I went through one of my old paperbacks and edited both novellas, but I’m not sure if or when I’ll ever put them in. Even the “new” cover needs work,  but my mantra has always been “always look forward.” Having a sub-par book for sale doesn’t make me want to celebrate, however. So I may try to find time one day to fix it up.

 


I was still in novella mode when I decided to try my hand at erotica, and I wrote six novellas back to back for a total of (approximately) 155,000 words. I wrote all of them at once, hired an editor and published them together. Summer Secrets is about a group of friends who have sex, party, fight, and make up at a small lakeside resort during their summer vacation. For what they are, I’m actually quite proud of these; I had found my voice, and the interconnecting plots stand even without the sex.

Summer Secrets was a lot of work, but they made me a better writer. While I won’t be writing any more erotica, I don’t have any regrets taking the time to write these. They were published in August, 2017. I guess I didn’t realize I took a whole year to write them, edit them, format them, and do the covers, but at 155,000 words, I guess that’s not so bad, either. I redid the covers not long ago, and reformatted the insides using Vellum. I was even able to add the embellishments I tried for the first time around. They are pretty, and it’s too bad they aren’t in a genre I want to write anymore. I don’t consider them part of my backlist, but I won’t bury them the way I kind of blur over 1700 when asked about my backlist.

The covers look better, and the paperback covers look a lot nicer. I’ve learned a lot in the past three years, and I think it shows.

Summer Secrets Novellas 1-3 New Cover

summer secrets new cover 4-6

 

summer secrets chapter starts


I had Don’t Run Away done while I was doing these, and I can’t even say when exactly I fixed it up and decided to make it a trilogy.  I published the first on November 17th, 2017. I do remember while Summer Secrets was being edited, I wrote the second book of the trilogy. Later that became Chasing You which was published on December 14th, 2017. Running Scared was published in January of 2018. All I can say is when I look at those dates is holy crap. It helped I had Don’t Run Away done, and that was one tough book. It went through a lot of edits. I added POVs, took them out. Rewrote large sections. This was before I started listening to my novels as part of my editing routine, and I have no idea after the first one was beta read/edited, what I did with the others. I think by then I was confident in my own editing skills, but I doubt I was at the point I am today.

At any rate, they do okay, and during a Freebooksy ad, I gave away over 4,000 copies of Don’t Run Away. That promo led to the first wave of readers whom I hadn’t met via social media (AKA strangers), and I’m happy to have done it. I also proved that even though it feels like a quilt, all patched together, the book was strong enough to get decent read-through to the others. If you want to read about my Freebooksy promo results, look here. If you want to read some of my reviews on Goodreads, look here.

The best lesson I learned from writing the trilogy is to MAKE THE FIRST BOOK STRONG TO ENSURE READ-THROUGH. It won’t matter how many books you have in a series if your first book won’t carry them.

I’ve redone the covers, though they aren’t a drastic change, and I reformatted the insides using Vellum.

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I can tell you I was done with those characters by the time I finished Running Scared, and I didn’t think I’d ever do another series. I don’t want to say I was bored, because what would that say about my writing? But I will admit it’s nice to move on.

Wherever He Goes was published on June 1, 2018. It was the first stand alone novel I’d ever written–up to that point, even my novellas had been connected stories. I haven’t done much promo for that, though I did do a paid Bargainbooksy that didn’t do anything. Looking back at stats, I don’t even think the sales paid for the promo. If you want to look at my blog post about my results, look here.

There were a few firsts with this one: I had more beta readers, and I did the entire paperback cover in Canva. It looks amazing, and is still one of my favorite covers to date. I’ve had good feedback about the novel, and I enjoyed writing it. I need to do more promo for it, as I think it’s an enjoyable contemporary romance that should have more readers than it does.

Wherever He Goes (1)


All of Nothing, I feel, is my strongest book to date, and I believe in it so strongly, I entered it into the RWA RITA awards contest. It can more than hold its own against some of the traditionally published books out there, and when I did a Freebooksy promo for it, I gave away over 6,000 books. (If you want to read about those results, click here.) I love the way my ad for it looked in their newsletter, and bless them for making it the first book!

freebooksyadallofnothing

It didn’t place as high as Don’t Run Away on the free lists, simply because they are in separate categories. (Don’t Run Away is a sports romance.) But the book has more reviews than any other of my books. Published on October 16, 2018, it took me four and a half months to write it, edit it, format it, and release it. I had it beta read and proofed, and I’m very proud of how it turned out–from cover to cover.

All of Nothing Paperback Cover


The Years Between UsI don’t have any more published work out right now, though The Years Between Us is finished. I could have had it published already, but I’m working on a series that I won’t release until they are all done. I’ve been taking my time editing The Years Between Us, but at 74,000 words, it is a complete and finished novel. I don’t have the full cover completed, nor has it been fully edited, but I do plan to have it out into the world maybe by the end of March, or early April. There is no rush, as I don’t see my series being released until Christmas of this year. The first draft of the first book is finished, however, though I admit getting out of my recovery rut has been harder than I expected.


Anyway, so looking at those dates, seeing how hard I’ve worked . . . what have I learned through these two and a half years of publishing?

  1. Not many people care. Sure I may have a lot of followers on Twitter, may be a part of a lot of writing groups on Facebook, but unless your books are actually doing well, and you can prove it through sales, no one cares what you’re doing. Only a handful of my friends have patted my back, and that’s fine. My progress is for myself. I know I’m working hard, and I hope I can be an inspiration to others, whether my books are selling or not.
  2. You have to keep moving forward, or you’ll feel like you’re on a going down escalator trying run upstairs. With indie publishing, everyone is faster, quicker, doing more than you. Some are doing this in a legit way, and some are not. But for you, yourself, if you want to make any headway in the industry, always be moving forward. Don’t get caught in a rut because days turn into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years. Just like my friend Sarah says in the blog post I linked to at the beginning, all of a sudden a year had gone by and she has nothing to show for it. 500 words a day over the course of 365 days in a year can net you 182,500 words in a year.
  3. Even when you’re doing the work, it will feel like you’re in quicksand. The harder you struggle, the faster you sink. I’ve done a lot of work these past couple of years, and if I kept track of my hours worked versus the time and expense, I would be negative in return on investment. You can’t let this get you down, or you’ll stop. Write for the joy of it first, so you always keep working at your dreams. And let success be a secondary motivator. My success will come–I’ll make sure it does. But I can’t guarantee when it will. All I know is if I stop working for it, I definitely won’t have it.
  4. It might be your baby, but after you publish it, it’s not your baby anymore. MAKE IT WORK FOR YOU. This reasoning is probably why I don’t celebrate my book birthdays. I don’t think of my books as babies. I think of them as products to be sold to help me make money. I do enjoy writing, or I wouldn’t do it. But I also want to make a profit so I can keep doing this, for the long-term. While I’ve stated I like my job, and yeah, my free time at work as helped me with my publishing speed, I would love to earn a living on my writing only. I can’t be precious with my work. I’m always learning about craft, always keeping up with the latest thing about publishing. Even if you’re persistent and want to keep comparing your books to babies, eventually you expect your children to go out into the world on their own and make their own money. Even real-life children grow up.

Thanks for sticking with me–this is probably one of the longest blog posts to date. I doubt I’ll do a recap again; as my backlist grows, it will just get too time consuming. But the look back was fun, and thank you again for joining me!

If you  want to read any of my books, you can check out my Amazon author page, here.

Wherever He Goes and All of Nothing have recently been added to Kobo, and you can find them here and here.

Thanks for reading!