Thursday Updates: Indie Publishing’s Reputation, and more.

Lately, I feel like I don’t have time to get anything done. I’ve been doing a lot of vet stuff for my cat–she ended up going to the animal ER because the antibiotics she was on a couple weeks ago didn’t work. She’ll need to be on special food for the rest of her life and that is going to be a long, hard road (especially since she’s only three years old). She’s on pain medication now and another round of antibiotics, but time will only tell if the special diet will take care of her bladder issues. It’s been a little time-consuming, and I haven’t gotten much done on my next project as I’d like.

Here’s a picture of her sleeping after a dose of pain medication. She matches our couch almost perfectly.


In other news, I did start a new project, and I chose the “fake fiancee” trope. He needs a fake fiancee to win a bet, and we’ll see what happens. I’m 10k into it. I wanted to try a fresh take on the trope and tried to think outside the box. I didn’t want my hero to need a fiancee to inherit a boat-load of money, or to appease a dying parent. A bet may not be that original, but with his backstory, and why my heroine needs the cash he’ll pay her, I’m hoping this story will be something new that readers will enjoy.

I’m still not sure if this will be the cover for my ugly duckling romance–I need to work shop it in a covers group on FB and see what people think. I like it, though it’s not exactly what’s out there right now. (Mostly a single guy in a suit looking ticked off with a bold font.) I’ve shown it off before on the blog, but this time I’ve zoomed in on the couple a little more. I love the font, but maybe going with something more easily read will be the end result. Or I could be trolling Deposit Photos and find a completely different couple. Who knows?

While I’m doing that, I sent it to my (paid) beta reader, and she’s going to do her thing. I’ll format it myself in Canva, and I still need to learn MailerLite. I know, I know.

If you want a list of fake relationship books, BookBub put one together, and you can find it here.


I finished reading another billionaire romance the other day, and I have noticed some things that bother me while I’ve been reading through the top 100 on Amazon. For one thing, the characters are really young, and I touched on that subject in a previous blog post. In the book I finished reading, the hero was 28 and the heroine was 21. The book takes place over the time span of a year and a half, which makes the heroine roughly 23 by the end of the book, and at the end, she’s having a baby. I don’t know about you, but at twenty-three, I wasn’t thinking about babies, and the end of the book felt false to me. A happily ever after doesn’t always have to include children. In fact, because of their histories, some of my couples have agreed not to have children, even though they are old enough to want them and afford them. I’ve been guilty of giving my couples pregnancies–she ends up pregnant at the end of The Years Between Us and All of Nothing. There is a lot of baby talk among my characters in my Rocky Point Wedding series, but for the most part, they are agreeing they don’t want (biological) children. I’m not saying couples who want kids at the end of romance books are not to my liking, but when the characters are that young, I’m almost wincing with dismay. Live a little first, figure out who you are as a couple without kids. Sound advice, even in real life. This is only an opinion, but if an author wants their characters to start a family right away, it would be simple to age them up to an appropriate age for that.

My characters fall between 35-45 years of age, for the most part. In The Years Between Us, she was younger, only because the trope was younger woman/older man. The first person present series I finished that I’ve been sitting on for the past few months, they are younger, but they don’t talk about babies. It’s been a bit of resting for me with that story, but if I remember correctly, they don’t talk about babies at all. I like babies, in real life, and in books, but I think it helps the relatability and realistic factors if the characters are actually old enough to want to have them. What do you think?


Just one last thing I’m going to touch on in this blog post. I was on Twitter the other day and came upon this Wall Street Journal article: An Epidemic of Memoir-Writing. The lockdowns have spread of virus of non-memorable life stories, by Peter Funt. It wasn’t that this is ground-breaking news. Even in the fiction community, output of authors rose exponentially during the pandemic and saturated indie publishing. But what I found interesting was this grab from the article: “Andy Ross, an Oakland, Calif., agent, says, ‘I get multiple proposals for memoirs every day of the year, including Christmas. Most of the stuff is terrible, so it ends up with Kindle.'”

Guys, we’re never going to get past the stigma of indie publishing if we don’t start putting some effort into the things we publish. Indie publishing will always look like a last resort for people who don’t take the time to polish what they have before publishing. This is really disheartening to read because most authors I know do put 110% of effort into everything they publish. Writing is hard, and you can’t do it alone. You need critique partners, beta readers, editors. You have be willing to ask for and process feedback, whether it’s negative or positive.

If you want to learn more about writing a memoir, you can look here. Reedsy just happened to pop something into my email today and I’ll share it with you: What is a Memoir? True Life Stories, Minus the Boring Parts.

That’s all I have for today! Enjoy the rest of your week, and have a wonderful weekend!

Reedsy’s Savannah Cordova: How to Ensure Your Romance Sequel Exceeds Expectations

I’d like to welcome Savannah Cordova from Reedsy to my blog today! I was so excited when she reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in hosting a guest blog post. Of course I said yes! I love Reedsy and all they have to offer indie authors. If you like this post and are interested in others like it, Reedsy hosts its own blog, and you can find it here. Thanks for stopping by today!


How to Ensure Your Romance Sequel Exceeds Expectations
by Savannah Cordova

Having enough acclaim to write a sequel to your book is every writer’s dream — but that doesn’t mean the process comes as easily as the butterflies when you get a crush. There are plenty of critically panned sequels out there, and the pressure can be nerve-wracking: you’re stressed about both living up to the first novel and coming up with something fresh and original.

The best romance novel sequels build on the success of their debuts, while also introducing new concepts, characters, and plot lines — which means that some beloved elements of the first novel might end up on the cutting room floor. A lot to juggle, right? Read on if you’re a romance author in need of some help; here are five tips to help your sequel shine.

1. Identify what your fans loved and focus on it
A great love story is a surefire way for a book to attract a following and take on a life beyond itself. With investment into a fictive world, and the growth of a fandom, come expectations. Expectations that need to be met or, dare I say, exceeded.

To do this successfully, it’s important to analyze what really made your first love story sing. Were people inspired by your fresh twist on that popular romance trope? Was the main love interest setting readers’ hearts aflutter? Did people enjoy the relatability of a certain character’s struggle to accept love? A stellar first romance novel normally has something special to distinguish it from other releases (if you’re feeling brave, reviews of your book might help you on this front). Zero in on this aspect and do your best to tease it out in the sequel.

That said, you shouldn’t be completely cowed by what you think your fans want — it’s your story, after all! Don’t be afraid to challenge their expectations and take the plot in unanticipated directions. It’s even advisable to drop some characters and subplots if they no longer serve a purpose. “Out with the old, in with the new,” as the old adage goes.

2. Introduce new plot threads
Writing a sequel doesn’t always mean picking up where you left off — this can fall into the trap of predictability and boring linearity. You may need to resolve cliffhangers left in your first book, but you should also take the opportunity to explore uncharted waters!

Many romance authors change the who of the story in their sequels (focusing on a new set of protagonists, often secondary characters of the previous book), but keep in mind that you might be better off simply changing the where and when. Great material can be found in illustrating your amorous protagonists adapting to unfamiliar settings and different life challenges, and can allow you to “test” the strength of their romantic relationship.

Another idea is to throw up some roadblocks that will put your characters through their paces, revitalize your narrative, and make space for character development. For example, in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Bridget diverges from the original setting of London and, after a mishap on a vacation in Thailand, ends up in jail — definitely not what she (or readers!) were expecting. However, we learn about Bridget’s resilience, and this scene change also sets the stage for her two suitors to fight over her, in that iconic fountain fight scene.

3. Don’t hesitate to change the stakes
Beware of giving your readers another helping of the exact same dish. It’s fairly easy to change the more episodic events of a story, but what will really give your story fresh dynamism is changing your protagonist’s priorities or stakes. Better yet, doing this without betraying any key qualities of your characters, their principles, or the overall tone will mean the key change won’t seem gratuitous or excessive to the point of unbelievability.

Let’s take Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You trilogy as an example. In the second book, following the death of her lover Will, Louisa is dealing with her heartbreak and trying to move on as best she can. After an accident, she ends up in a church basement with the members of the Moving On support group.

So what’s changed? For one, in grief, she’s a more world-wise, introspective character. She’s also adapting to a new social setting, where she is introduced to handsome and charming fireman, Sam — you can probably see where this is going. The stakes have been altered because of the events that have occurred. She’s recovering from an accident and therefore vulnerable, which no doubt factors into the risks she will take if she is to fall in love again.

4. Develop your characters in interesting ways
You may think you know a character, and then they respond to a situation in a way you never would have anticipated. Surprise is the essence of any great drama, right? Though introductory beats are usually where a good chunk of character information is found, any good novel will treat character development as a continuous process. To do so will give you room to interrogate and deconstruct your characters — and subvert expectations.

Though character development has been touched upon in point #2, consider also how you might want to accentuate a feature (or flaw) of a character that was not touched upon in your first story. This might come naturally if the character has aged, as well as with the general forward-thrust of your plot. Perhaps a softer, more sensitive side to a character is revealed when they become a parent — or a more daring, combative facet of another character comes to the fore when their relationship is threatened by a third party. The list is endless!

5. Expand on the backstory
Even as you’re in the process of driving your plot forward, why not throw in a bit of time traveling via flashbacks? There is more incentive to do this if you’re penning a sequel to the first part of a book that did well — your fans will be invested in your characters and hankering for juicy details on their backstories.

Moreover, elaborating on a character’s origins will give color to their actions, reactions, and decision-making in the present day. For example, in the Bridgerton books and Netflix series, we learn that the Duke of Hastings lost his mother at a young age and had a terrible relationship with his father. From this, we are better equipped to understand his reluctance to marry Daphne Bridgerton — the Duke has trust issues and feels unworthy of her love.

Throwing in some snapshots of life before the present day is often an effective way to understand characters’ psyches and how this factors into a romantic dynamic. In this instance, Daphne and the Duke’s love story is made even more powerful after we learn of the psychological hurdles the Duke has had to overcome to commit himself to their relationship.

And there you have it. Hopefully these ideas will aid your writing process and enhance the next act of your story, as it were. You might even have an entire series under your belt one day!


Thank you, Savannah! Reedsy offers a ton of writing/publishing/marketing resources for indie authors. Check out Ricardo Fayet’s free marketing book here. Reedsy also hosts their own YouTube channel, and you can find it here.

And my favorite part of Reedsy is their straight-to-inbox free courses! Check out all they have to offer here.

Thanks again, Savannah, and have a great week, everyone! Until next time!

Flexibility: When time and patience aren’t enough to achieve your goals.

Spotted in my Instagram feed.

As indie authors we have a lot of flexibility. Blurb not working? Change it. Cover not working? Change it. Didn’t edit your novel well enough the first time, give it another editing sweep and upload the new file. We have a lot of flexibility when treating our writing like a business. We can pivot faster than any traditionally published author, chasing trends if we’re fast enough writers, or researching sub-genres and hopping onto a hugely-demanded but underserved niche.

This quote jumped out at me this morning as I scrolled all my social media feeds while I sipped on my much-needed first cup of coffee. I like it because as indies, we’re able to search out new ways if something we’re doing isn’t working. The problem is, there is such variety out there that it’s difficult knowing when to give up and try something new or sticking with what we’re doing and hoping that our tenacity will be rewarded. We need to give something ample time to see if it’s going to work, and bailing too quickly before something can stick could cut off something that could be really viable to your business. On the other hand, sticking with something that’s not working out of fear of the unknown won’t get us very far, either.

Knowing when to keep trying and when to throw in the towel is something that needs to be taken as case by case basis and perhaps the thing you’ve moved on from could work for you later. With all the information available to indies right now, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the choices.

Here’s a not-so-quick list of some of the things that we as indies have control over, when to let things ride, and when to maybe give new things a shot:

  1. POV. Changing up a POV may not be an option for some people. You need to definitely work with your strengths and admit your weaknesses. If you rock 3rd person past, it wouldn’t be wise to change to shaky 1st person present just because that’s what’s trending in some genres right now. The quality of the work should always come first, or what you do after that won’t make much sense. I find writing 1st person present easier than 3rd person past. I can write faster, and as my paid beta reader just got through the first book my first series and liked it, I feel I’m capable in that area. A comment made on this blog on one of my posts said I didn’t like writing it, but that’s not true. I wasn’t sure if it was the right choice when I decided to write a book in it, that’s true. It wasn’t what I gravitated toward when I started writing because I’d read 3rd person past all my life and stuck with what I knew. But my books also were not selling that well, and since I had nothing to lose, I mixed it up. This is one area where I probably could have stuck with 3rd person past and eventually seen some level of success. On the flip side, my 1st person present books could flop. I don’t know. The amount of flexibility we have can be a pro as well as a con. If you’ve been writing in a POV you may not click with, or you haven’t found readers to click with it, change it up. You never know where a new POV will take you.

    If your current POV is not clicking with readers, you don’t have to change POV to find traction. Maybe changing subgenres would help. When I was writing 3rd person past, I wrote steamy contemporary romance. I didn’t have to change to 1st person present to make a change–I could have started writing women’s friendship fiction, or domestic thrillers, or literary fiction. Again, you need to know where your strengths are. I like writing romance and have a difficult time plotting anything that doesn’t revolve around a man and woman falling in love. Changing POVs made more sense to me than seeking out another subgenre, but I could have made a less drastic change and started writing clean romance as well. There are all sorts of things you can do if what you’re writing isn’t hitting the mark and finding an audience. I was lucky and stumbled upon first person present billionaire romance. I enjoy writing it, I feel I’m good at it, and I’m hoping that even though that subgrene has peaked, I will still find readers when I’m ready to publish.

    POV: Choosing Between First-Person and Third Person Writer’s Digest


  2. Ad platforms. This is a tricky one because your ads can only do a well as the book you’re selling. Bailing on Amazon Ads in favor of Facebook ads may not do anything for you except eat up money faster. You also have to know what your business goals are. If you’re in Kindle Unlimited, it makes sense to run Amazon Ads, but if you’re wide, Facebook can reach more people who read on all platforms. I see some authors give up on ads saying they don’t work, but they aren’t advertising a book written to market, or the cover is bad, or the look inside is full of telling. Another important thing to consider is if you learned how to use the platform. There are a lot of free resources out there and I would never try to put together an ad on a platform I wasn’t familiar with. Once you are familiar and know your ad budget then you have to figure out if your return on investment is worth it to keep running ads. It may not be. So you table that ad platform and write another book, or just hold off on ads for a bit, or try BookBub ads instead. You have to give something time to work. When I was doing Bryan Cohen’s ad challenge, there were so many people who wanted to throw in the towel after the first couple of days. If you feel like that, then maybe you don’t have confidence in your product and your gut is trying to tell you something. If you know you’re advertising a good book, then you should have patience and faith in your product. Your book will be on sale forever (unless you pull it). You can afford to wait a couple months to gather ad data to make good choices.

    The quick and easy guide to Facebook and Amazon (AMS) ads for authors by Derek Murphy

  3. Newsletter. If you haven’t started one, you can start one anytime. If your newsletter has low open rates, figure what why readers don’t want to open your mail. Maybe you’re not giving them anything of value. Maybe you’re not emailing frequently enough. Maybe the only mail you send out is when you have a new release and readers are tired of your “buy buy buy” message you send out every three or four months. Maybe you need a new aggregator because the one you’re using now sends everyone’s mail to their spam folder. If you aren’t getting the results you want, figure out why. Change your newsletter sign up cookie, or offer the readers you already have more content. There is a lot of flexibility here and you can make it work for you.
  4. Your book’s package. It’s easy to fly off the handle with changes when Canva makes it easy to create a book cover, and changing the blurb is as simple as writing something quickly and logging into your KDP account. The thing is though, you have to wait to see if what you already have can work. Run ads, ask in reader groups, or send out your cover and blurb in your newsletter and ask for feedback. I’ve blogged before that it took me a year to change the cover of The Years Between Us, and when I did, I saw immediate results. But when I changed the cover of Wherever He Goes, it did nothing for sales. Whenever I do Bryan Cohen’s Amazon Ad challenge, the first part of the challenge is always taking a look at the product and making sure your book is sellable. Covers get changed, blurbs get changed, categories are added. I have no doubt that a lot of those changes are for the good of the book, but also if you’re running ads for the first time for only a handful of days and you’re not seeing impressions, that may not have anything to do with your book and going through the hassle of changing your cover may be for nothing. Oftentimes it’s helpful to take a step back and give yourself, and your book, time to breathe while collecting data.

When we talk about old ways keeping doors closed, what we’re doing is talking about years of collected data. I can look back on my 4+ years of indie publishing, and I know what I did wrong. I didn’t network with other romance authors, I don’t have a newsletter. Had I done those two things, maybe my 3rd person present stuff would have sold better. Maybe my POV switch wasn’t necessary and I was just grasping at straws making such a drastic change to my writing career. OR, it could breathe new life into my writing and it could offer more opportunities than I ever thought possible.

That’s the thing with being flexible. My third person books will always be there and I can always go back to them if my first person stuff doesn’t work out, or I need a change of pace. In fact, I had a good standalone idea for my next book that I was going to write before I made the change. Now I can write it in first person or put the idea on hold. I also have 20k of a book that I need to rewrite and finish that was part of a writing prompt I stumbled upon a couple years ago. I wasn’t in a place writing-wise where I could finish it, but my skills have come a long way, and I’d like to revisit it and finish it up.

We have a lot of flexibility as indie authors. Don’t get bogged down with the way you’ve always done things. You could be missing out on a new opportunity!

Until next time!


Monday Musings and where I’m at right now.

Happy Monday! I hope you all are having a terrific start to your week!

I don’t have much to share with you this week–I’m only going to be talking about a few things that I’ve enjoyed in the past few days and catch you up with what I’ve been doing.

First of all, I want to thank all my subscribers who come back week after week to consume and participate in the content. Last week I made it to 500 followers, and WordPress gave me this cute little congratulations.

Blogging is a slow road and sometimes it feels like you’re blogging to no one and without thanks. Building your SEO and reputation is long, arduous work, but I love blogging. It gives me a break from the novel-writing part of my brain, and I enjoy dipping into the publishing part of being a writer/author. I like sharing my ups and downs, mistakes and the (few) things I’ve done right. I hope to continue my blog and offer useful and relevant content in the years to come. Thanks for sticking with me, and I hope you find all the information I post on here useful and relatable.


I finished my WIP last week, the second book of the second series I’m writing in first person present. Since finishing to now blogging about it, not only have I finished it, I’ve given it two editing sweeps. To be honest, I’m not sure what my publishing plan is, or how fast I’m going to release any of the eight books I’ve written this and last year and are now just sitting on my laptop. They all need to be edited to some extent, so they aren’t exactly ready. The first thing I want to do, though, is take a break from this series and write my reader magnet for my newsletter. While I write my newsletter, I’m going to learn how MailerLite, Bookfunnel, and StoryOrigin work. I’ll keep you posted on the blog. My reader magnet will only be available for newsletter signups, and I’d like to have a few subscribers before I start launching books. I have a glimmer of an idea for it, but I have to plot it out and write it. Soft deadlines are good for me, so I want to finish it by the middle of April. I’m giving myself some extra time because I’ll be learning a whole bunch of stuff and well, I don’t even know what my characters’ names are yet, so I better get brainstorming!

Excerpt from Finn and Juliet, book 2 of my Billionaires of Briarwood series.

Last week, I listened to a really great author interview on the 6 figure author podcast. Lindsay, Jo, and Andrea interviewed Elana Johnson. I might have heard her name here and there, but to be honest, I didn’t know who exactly she was before the interview, now I want to gobble up all her content! One of the things that really stuck out to me was when she said, “The package is the promise, and you have to deliver on the promise.” What she meant is, you need a good cover and blurb that is genre-relevant, and then what is inside the cover matches reader expectations of that genre. Not a lot of authors talk about craft because they’re worried about stepping on toes, etc. And to be fair, it’s difficult to tell an author her books need more work. I’ve only said that to a couple people in my whole life and only because they asked for advice. A writer never really stops learning, but I like how Elana phrased it. The package is the promise. And the promise is you’ve written a great story. Besides being a bestselling author, she also writes nonfiction, and I’ll be reading her books soon. To look at the first book in her nonfiction series, click here. And here’s the interview if you want to give a listen.


That advice is similar to what I’m learning in Suzy K. Quinn’s Self Publishing Formula class, How to Write a Bestseller. I wish I could outline everything I’ve been learning, but that wouldn’t be fair to Suzy, who’s making an income off the class and would be disrespectful to the time she put into creating the class, and it wouldn’t be fair to me, really, who’s paid for it. But I will say, she starts the class by encouraging you to think about the book’s package. The genre, the cover/vibe, who your audience is. Create a tagline, and put together what the book will be when it’s finished. That’s not so far off from Elana saying, your book’s package is your promise to your reader. With this reader magnet, I’m going to create the package first before I begin writing it. I suppose you could say that creating the package is the fun part, but having everything in place will keep the book on the straight and narrow and give me an ending point to look forward to. I can’t wait to start!


In other news, I got the first book in my series back from my paid beta reader. I only went over the overview she sent me. (She liked it!) I haven’t gone into her track changes yet since I’m not ready to start editing that book, but I’m excited to see the things she liked and the parts of the book where she thought I could use a little more plumping. The few things she did touch on I agreed with, but I didn’t want to edit it too much more without feedback. I feel editing too much without feedback wastes time because I can’t see all the mistakes myself. So I’m making progress! I feel like I’m hoarding a secret and I can’t tell anybody what I’m doing until I’m ready.


On a more personal note, I asked to go back to work vs. working from home, and they told me no. I think now working from home has more to do with cost-saving measures rather than protecting us from COVID, and while I wasn’t surprised they said no, I was disappointed. This means if I do have some anxiety because of the cut-off feeling I have not going in to work, I’ll have to figure out a different way to alleviate that anxiety. I’m not feeling too much of it lately–having another day off during the week has helped and I don’t feel so stressed with getting my words in every week. As far as my butt pain goes from sitting on a hard chair, I’m standing up more during my shifts and it’s fading. Anything I’ve read about pelvic pain that has nothing to do with an infection (which I don’t have–remember I’ve been to the doctor twice to make sure) says that it can take up to 12 weeks for the pain to go away. I’ve been taking Aleve, too, and sitting on an ice pack when I do sit and it’s making a difference. BUT if I’m not feeling better by the end of the month, I’ll schedule another appointment. You just never know.


For Amazon ads check in, I’ve spent under 8 dollars this month, and I’ve grossed in royalties almost 50. (Net, around $42.00). I’ll have to think about what I want to do with these books. I still get a lot of my royalties from KU but if I’m not going to write in 3rd person past anymore (or not anytime soon) I may put them wide. I’m not sure. I don’t feel like I have the energy to market them wide and I may just leave them in KU. I don’t know. It’s the age old question of what’s best for your business and leaving all your eggs in one basket vs. multiple streams of income. It’s a tough choice. At least this month I’m in the black, and it’s still nice to see that people are reading all four of the Rocky Point Wedding books. That read through is always nice, and the validation you wrote a strong series can keep you motivated to write more. Soon it will be the one year anniversary of book one and I think it will be time to make up a boxed set. Luckily Velllum is good with that, and it won’t take me long at all.

Read-through for all the books in the series is small, but I’m grateful readers are reading from beginning to end.

My friend and fellow author Sarah Krewis is planning a Facebook live on her author page on the first of March. She’s giving away a paperback copy of my book, Wherever He Goes. Follow her page here and mark on your calendar to join in! Thanks, Sarah!

taken from Sarah’s FB author page

I guess that’s all the news I have for this week. I’ll be drifting a little bit as I plot out my reader magnet. I always feel hazy when I’m not actively writing–but since I don’t have a team and prefer to stay hands on with most aspects of the publishing and marketing side of things, there will always be times between books when I’m doing admin and production stuff. I enjoy it all, but I do get antsy when I’m not writing.

Have a good week everyone, and thanks for reading!


When Writing to Market Doesn’t Go as Planned

Anyone who has followed the blog knows I’m switching gears and moving from 3rd person past contemporary romance to 1st person present billionaire romance in an attempt to write more toward what’s selling right now. The change was easier than I thought it would be–this coming from a self-declared hater of 1st person present novels.

I made the change thinking readers would be easier to find. I wouldn’t say that switching to billionaire romance was trying to catch a trend because billionaire romance has been around since 2011 when EL James made Christian Grey a household name. Billionaire romance has been in the spotlight for over a decade, and only now according to Alex Newton of K-lytics, is reader demand for the subgenre tapering off. (It seems due to COVID every romance writer has decided to move to billionaire romance–I can’t blame them for doing what I did–and the market is, unfortunately, saturated.)

Lately I’ve been putting my KU subscription to good use and reading some of the top billionaire romances on Kindle. With a sinking heart I’ve come to the sad realization that my books don’t sound like them. For one, my characters are at least a decade older. My Stella and Zane series I have on the back burner are more with what’s selling now–he’s 31 through most of the series and she’s 27–which is still about five years older than the average for the female MC. In this new series I’m working on, the characters in the first book are a lot older than the average I’ve come across: Colt is 37 and Elayna is 35. Not only are they older, they act like it.

If you’re reading billionaire romance, it stands to reason there’s going to be a billionaire in there somewhere, probably the male MC, and you’d hope he’s smarter than the average toaster. The heroine will be unlike any woman’s he’s ever met before. He’s captivated by her vulnerability and her fresh outlook of the world. At least, that’s what you would think picking up a book like that. In the books I’m reading now–we barely read the hero’s POV, it’s mostly the heroine, and she’s immature, makes terrible choices, and overall is unlikeable.

I read these female characters and wonder why a man with his resources and good looks would choose a woman who throws temper tantrums and is irrational to the point where you wish her parents would have spanked her as a child for being so insolent. Of course, that turns into the hero’s job–making her grow the fuck up.

Maybe it’s my age, maybe I just don’t have the patience for characters that aren’t likable, maybe I’ve already raised my children and don’t care for characters half my age, but it makes me worried because my characters do not fit in. And I wonder what I’m going to do with that.

Did these authors do market research? Are they writing heroines they know readers adore? I look at a book’s profile on Goodreads and it has over a thousand reviews and most of them are positive. What is carrying this book? The sex scenes? The sexy billionaire? The cover? Are the readers that much younger than me they identify with the heroine and her constantly snarky attitude? There’s so much eye-rolling going on that my own eyes get sore just reading it.

The problem is, even if I had read these books before I started writing, I’m not sure I’m capable of writing such immature characters. My characters act grown up because I want them to be. Because I am. They’re professionals. They’re tackling life’s problems while also navigating falling in love. Yeah, some of their problems are more over the top than mine will ever be (corporate espionage! murder! kidnapping!) but if I wanted to write quiet stories I would have stuck to my small town romances.

I keep going back to Ana and Christian. Yes, she was young when they met–just graduated from college, and the scene where she gets drunk and throws up all over Christian’s shoes is on par with the books I’m reading now. But she grew up and it didn’t take her that long, either. She found a job in her field. When Christian took her into “his world” she didn’t embarrass him. Of course, I didn’t read the books–my take is from the movies, and that could make the world of difference, too. I read the Crossfire Series by Sylvia Day, and while Eva made some mistakes, her mother, married to a multi-millioniare herself, was there to guide her into Gideon’s world. Eva didn’t want to embarrass Gideon, she wanted to be an asset. The women I’ve been reading are so against wanting their men for their money (a popular trope in billionaire romance–the heroine isn’t impressed by the money) that they forget he’s more than his bank account. He has a reputation to uphold. He’s human–with feelings.

Trying to write to market, I completely missed the mark. A lot of authors are against writing to market, and you might be saying, so what if I did miss what I was aiming for? You can only truly say that if you honestly don’t care if people read your books. I’ve published for four years and fought tooth and nail for every reader. I’ll always fight to find new readers, but being able to get picked up by the Amazon wave and riding it for a while would be nice, too.

So what am I going to do with a book or series that isn’t quite right? Publish it anyway. Write my reader magnet with the same sophisticated characters that I’ll always write in the voice and style I’ve honed for the past four years and hope the readers who sign up for my newsletter to grab that freebie like my style and stick around to purchase books going forward.

It’s all any author can do–hope that readers like their style enough to stick around.


It’s tough to pick apart another author’s work–and it’s why I don’t leave book reviews, negative or otherwise. I could list every stupid thing I hate about the book I’m reading now, but what would that get me? Besides, I’m obviously an outlier, and all that tells me, and all that should tell you, is that when you’re reading an author you don’t like, you aren’t their target audience. The authors on the top 50 of billionaire romance–they don’t care I don’t like their books. They’re doing just fine without me.

I’m glad I’m doing market research–it will help me when I’m ready to publish and I can create a list of adjectives that will describe my books. Mature. Elegant. Professional. Down to earth. Intelligent. I don’t know about you, but I find intelligence extremely sexy.

I just need to find readers who think that, too.


If you want to know more about selling books not written to market, Lindsay, Jo, and Andrea recently recorded two podcast episodes about that very thing, and you can listen to them here.

Thanks for reading!


Are Editors the Next Gatekeepers? Some people want them to be.

The one thing we say most about independent publishing is it has completely taken away the gatekeepers. You can publish anything you want, whenever you want, all you need is a properly (sometimes not!) formatted file and a good cover (sometimes not!). We all know that there are lot of good books that are indie-published every day. We also know there are a lot that aren’t.

I left another FB group the other day. The conversation turned so stressful that I was in a bad headspace all day. It’s hard to shake things off when people attack you for what you believe. What was it I said? I said some indie writers are good enough not to need the whole buffet of editing: development edit, copy edit, line edit, and a proofreader. That’s all I said, and I still stand by that. An author who is on book 30 is not going to need the time and attention an author is going to need publishing her debut novel. They simply aren’t. The craft is there, the skill is there, the experience is there. Two editors took my words the wrong way, or they were just spoiling for a fight, and tore into me.

Of course the conversation turned more ugly when price became a topic because everyone in the industry knows that editing is the most expensive part of publishing–especially if you do need the whole smorgasbord before you put your book out there–and the editors were defensive. I’ve never said an editor shouldn’t be paid what he or she is worth. I’d never devalue an editor’s work like that. You’re paying for a skill that they’ve (hopefully) honed for years. An excellent editor can take your lump of coal book and turn it into a diamond, I get that. On the other hand, not everyone can afford it, and they didn’t seem to understand that.

I agree with the belief that you shouldn’t publish until your book has been edited, at least by SOMEONE, but it’s also discriminatory to say that no one should publish at all if you can’t afford it. That’s gatekeeping all over again.

I didn’t point out in my exit rant that the people saying this were affluent white people who have the disposable cash to hire an editor. I’m white too, but I’m poor. I can’t afford a $2,000 development edit. I simply can’t. That’s three and a half months of rent. I do the best I can with the resources I have, and I will never let anyone insult me for it.

One of the big questions that come up when discussing editing fees is, why do editors cost so much? It’s not because each individual editor is trying to rip you off (though some are better than others, so ALWAYS ask for a sample and make educated choices). There’s an association that offers guidelines as to how much freelance editors should charge their clients. Editors/beta readers like Kimberly Hunt, the paid beta reader I referred to in my feedback blog last week, adheres by this association, and you can look at the pricing structure the Editorial Freelancers Association recommends. She, and many other editors, are charging the standard. Some editors who freelance on the side may charge more depending on where you’ve found them. Professional editors found on Reedsy, for example, are more than I can afford. On the flip side, there are writers and authors who want to start editing and charge a lot less because they are just getting their business going. It would be up to you whether you want to pay less. An editing sweep by a new editor will be better than no editing, but always make informed choices. Don’t just sign with her because you can afford her. And on the flip side of THAT, I wouldn’t pay a new editor the industry standard unless they can provide testimonials and proof that their skills are worth it.

Indie publishing has opened up a whole new world for scammers, and some of them don’t know they’re doing it. (Like the freelance book cover designer who will charge you 50 dollars for ten minutes of time in Canva. They think they’re running a business. I think they’re ripping you off.)

What can you do if you can’t afford an editor?

The obvious thing is to learn your craft inside and out. Learning your craft is a good first step in the editing process. It’s a lot easier to edit a good first draft than it is to tackle a draft that you know has plot holes, flat characters, and verb tense changes throughout. Hone your writing skills.

Then find feedback where you can, and like I said in the feedback blog from last week, listen to that feedback, or you’re just wasting everyone’s time.

And lastly, learn how to self-edit. Put the book in a drawer for a month or two, write something else, then come back to it with fresh eyes.

You can teach yourself to self-edit, and there are a lot of resources out there that will help. You can take editing classes, definitely edit for others (that’s why I do it for free for my friends because it helps me improve) or my favorite (and probably cheaper) way to learn how to edit is reading self-editing books.

Here are my go-tos:

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print by Rennie Browne and Dave King

Intuitive Editing by Tiffany Yates Martin

Cover to Cover: What First-Time Authors Need to Know about Editing (Read this book before you publish your book by Sandra Wendel (Hat tip to Jane Friedman for this find on her blog.)

You also should have a firm grasp on grammar and punctuation. No matter who reads your book, be it a paid beta reader or one of the authors you networked with who said they would give you feedback, make it easier for them to read you by knowing your grammar and punctuation. If you choose to pay a proofreader or a line editor, it will be cheaper if they don’t have so much to wade though.

Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing (Quick & Dirty Tips) by Mignon Fogarty

Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style by Benjamin Dreyer

I have all these books; I’ve read all these books. Self-editing is a different skill than learning and practicing how to write good books, but I think they go hand in hand.

I’m glad I left that group, but I wish I would have asked those snobby women what they do to help the indie publishing industry if they so despise what come out of it. Do they beta read for free? Do they edit pro bono twice a year? How are they making a difference? Complaining about the state of indie publishing is only being part of the problem not part of the solution.

I try to help when I can. Maybe my edits aren’t as good as someone with a real editing degree, but I have a Bachelor’s in English with a concentration in creative writing, and I educate myself all the time. I hope that the authors I’ve edited for have gone away with a better book.

Saying an author shouldn’t publish without a professional edit is shortsighted to say the least. Authors are going to publish without an editor no matter what anyone says because they don’t have the disposable income to afford it. Hell, I’ve read some traditionally published books that have read like they haven’t been edited, either. (See my crabby review of Jasmine Guillory’s The Wedding Date novel.) It’s up to the author to learn what they need to learn if they can’t afford an editor and aren’t willing to sell plasma like Jami Albright to hire one.

Readers will always be the new gatekeepers. You, as an author, need to do what you can to keep your readers happy. In the end it doesn’t matter how you go about doing it, only that you do. And if you don’t, your reviews and sales rank will be proof that you’ll need to start doing better. It will be up to you as to how.


Learning Craft + Feedback

On Monday I had guest author Sarah Krewis on my blog and she talked a little bit about the importance of learning craft so you can put out the best book you can when it is time to publish. She mentioned the Centre of Excellence and the writing modules they offered. In a private message I asked her if an instructor gave out critique and she said not in a way that I would probably want, which led to the topic of feedback.

You can learn the craft all you want, read all the books, take all the online courses you can afford, but at some point you’re going to need feedback on your work. We don’t like to ask for feedback because it hurts when we hear that our writing isn’t as perfect as we want it to be or thought it was. But you have to keep an open mind when people are reading your work and be receptive to the idea that your work needs, well, work.

If you want to see a cute little Venn diagram, an author’s process should probably look like this:

This isn’t the best, spacing it out was a pain, but you get the idea. Feedback and reading are just as important as the writing part of the craft. I know authors who read read read and prefer to hide from their own writing by reading other authors instead. I know writers who write write write but don’t ask for one ounce of feedback. Then there are others who thrive on feedback and implement every single little change, but then that leaves no room for moving on to other projects because they’re looking for perfection they probably aren’t going to find.

I’m not perfect–I don’t read as much as I should, but I am open to feedback and I hired my first professional beta reader this month.

Where you do find feedback? Before the pandemic, looking locally was easy. A call to your public library probably would have hooked you up with some local writers and maybe a NaNoWriMo group that met up at a coffee shop on Thursdays. But since everything has moved online and to Zoom meetings, it might be a little harder for you to find something in person. That might not be a bad thing for us introverts, but putting yourself out there is the price we pay when we said we wanted to be an author.

If you want a professional opinion, hiring a paid beta reader may be the way to go. They will give you more than “It was great!” They dig into story and characters. I’m using Mary Dunbar, and you can find her website here. She doesn’t list beta reading prices because she said she’s just been thinking about adding it to her list of services. Contact her through her website and ask if there is way she can help you with what you need. She’s an editor, too, and she critiques queries. I’ll be blogging about my experience with her in later blog posts. Another paid beta reader that I may use in the future is Kimberly Hunt from Revision Division. I’ve gotten to know her on Facebook and she’s gotten positive reviews. You can find her website here.

But if you’re a newbie writer, you may not be ready for paid services, and that’s okay. That’s where networking and forming relationships with your fellow authors comes in. It’s really important that your beta readers read and write in the genre you’ve written in. That way they can identify the tropes and tell you if you’ve hit the mark or if you’re too far off the path to keep your readers happy. There are a lot of FB groups that you can join and once you get to know a few people you can put it out there and say that you’ll beta read in return. As the diagram above shows, beta reading for someone else can be just as valuable as the the feedback you’ll receive.

What are some tips when it comes to finding and accepting feedback?

  • Know what you want. A beta reader reads your book after it’s finished. Some will point out typos, grammatical errors, etc, but you may not be in a place for that and just want general feedback. Let your beta reader know you want overall feedback like plot holes and character arc opinions and advice. An alpha reader reads as you write it, say chapter by chapter. They make sure you’re steering your ship in the right direction and can catch inconsistencies as you go along ensuring by the end of the book you don’t have a huge plot hole making you scrap half the book. It’s up to you and what your skill level is at and what you feel you need.
  • Remember you don’t have to take everything to heart. If you already know your plot, you don’t have to accept advice that’s different, unless you like it and think it will make your book better. We all have ideas and you can give six writers a writing prompt and come back with six different stories. It’s always going to be your book, but if your beta spots a plot hole and you choose not to fix it, that’s on you.
  • Don’t have too many opinions. Too many cooks spoil the broth and this is true for your book. Find one, two, maybe three betas in your genre that you trust that you know are good writers and listen to what they have to say. You don’t want to be overwhelmed with opinions. On the other hand, if they all have the same problem with the same thing, then you know that’s something you have to pay attention to. I’ve seen some authors confuse beta readers with ARC reviewers. While your beta readers may leave a review down the line, beta readers are not readers who receive an advanced copy of your book solely to leave a review. Two different readers.
  • If the relationship is not working, don’t force the issue. For whatever reason, you may not mesh with your beta reader. That’s fine. I wrote a blog post a long time ago about what to do if your business relationship with a friend goes south. You can try to be amicable about it, but hurt feelings comes with the territory. You never want to burn bridges in this industry because while it seems large, thousands and thousands of authors who publish every day, this is really a small industry and we all know each other. Word gets around and you don’t want to be that person who is known for not getting along with her peers. If the beta is too heavy handed or is too cruel to work with, simply say that you’re going to choose a different route and thank her for her time. An egift card for a coffee shop or 25 dollars to Amazon might ease some ruffled feathers. But be sure that when you beta read for someone that you aren’t the one being heavy handed. We all need kindness when giving our work to other people. It’s fear that keeps us from seeking out feedback in the first place.
  • Keep an open mind. Don’t waste someone else’s time. If you’re not ready to hear criticism, wait until you are. Betas, paid or for free, are giving you their time. Don’t waste it by being in a headspace where you aren’t receptive to their feedback.

If you’re new and don’t know where to look, try Googling writing critique groups. This article by thewritelife.com has a list and you can look at it here.

The Reedsy blog, a blog that I’ve referred to in the past that I trust, also has a list and you can find it here.

In short, writer eduction, feedback, and reading go hand in hand. As Sarah said in her guest blog post, there is no excuse not to keep learning, but you also have to know if you’re applying what you’ve learned correctly otherwise you could actually be unintentionally reinforcing bad habits that can take you years to break.

Good luck!

Where do you find feedback? Let me know!


Guest Post Sarah Krewis: Writer Education and Resources

The Importance of Writer Education and Using Centre of Excellence to Learn

A special thank you to Vania for letting me get my blogging fix by doing another guest post for the blog.

Today I want to talk about the Importance of Writer Education. As a newbie self-published author, I have learned so much based on personal experience over the last six to seven years. I can’t believe it’s been that long since I began penning my debut novel, Broken Tomorrows.

Picture a barrel racing horse bursting from the start line and racing around the barrels. That was me when it came to writing. I didn’t think about everything I should have learned before I started my writing business. In fact, I didn’t even think about the business until after I’d published my book the first time. Even when I republished the book, I still didn’t have my full head in the writing business mindset. I published because I wanted to get my story out there and have people read it. 

There’s one problem when you do things that way; that book I wanted to get out there and have people read, wasn’t being read. 

In 2021, I am pumping the breaks and winding back the clock. I’m marching myself back to the starting line and figuring things out the way I should have done in the beginning. 

Ways to Educate:

There are a lot of ways to further your writer education. You can listen to podcasts like Joanna Penn. You can join Facebook groups like #20booksto50k. You can take online courses from places like WriteAcademy or Centre of Excellence. Or you can read the countless non-fiction books out there about any topic in writing that’s ever existed. 

Centre of Excellence

Today I’m going to focus on Centre of Excellence because it’s the place I’ve now taken a few courses and I really like what I’ve learned from there. Centre of Excellence is a UK based online company that offers courses in everything from Writing, Mental Health, Photography, and so much more. So far I’ve taken their Novel Writing Course, and Proofreading and Copyediting Course. Each course consists of about 10 modules. Each module has a few pages of reading and then a 10-question assessment (multiple choice and essay form). The cost of the courses are pricey at $186-ish dollars, but they are always offering deals and I’ve never paid more than $37 for a course. At the end, you get a diploma/certificate. 

Disclaimer: I don’t make anything from this post. Neither does Vania. I’m speaking on this because 1) I love these courses and 2) I’m going to share a few things I’ve learned in the novel writing course. 

What I’ve Learned in the Novel Writing Course:

POV- One of the most important elements of writing is knowing which POV and how many you want to use in your story. You need to know this before you even start writing the book. Will it be in first person (I, me, us) or will you use 3rd person (they, she, them)? Will you have two POVs or four? 

For my assessment on POV we were given a photograph of a man and women close together being seen through a window. We had to write from both first person and third person POV using the same image. 

My First-Person Response:

I couldn’t believe my eyes, maybe the binoculars had some sort of defection where you see only what you want to see. That had to be it because my husband couldn’t be standing in my neighbor’s bedroom stripping her body of what little clothing she wore. I knew Matthew was hiding something from me; his late nights, early mornings, and his sudden interest in running threw up countless red flags, but I was too stubborn to listen. Sure, we had some problems, fights that were petty on my part, but was that really an excuse for him to cheat? I can feel my throat go dry as I watch him kiss her neck the same way he’d done mine not thirty minutes earlier. But wait! What is he doing now? He’s gripped her by the hair and is twisting her towards the wall. Ouch! I can’t watch anymore. I wonder if I call Cecilia’s house if it’ll distract him enough to ease up. Or did she like it rough?

What I enjoyed about this prompt was that it allowed me to try something different in writing first person. I usually write in third person POV. There were more prompts like this in the course regarding POV but the point of this exercise is to help you determine what POV you’ll want to write in. Some writers start out writing in one POV only to switch and watch the gates of heaven open because of how much it changes their writing and success in sales. Regardless of how many you use, you need to know which POV to write in before you write the story. You can always change it in the second draft, but you don’t want to bounce around when it comes to who is telling the story.

Villain- All stories need to have an antagonist, the obstacle preventing your protagonist from getting what they want. Sometimes your antagonist is the main character and that’s okay. Villains can appear in any genre of writing. Typically, when I hear the word Villain, I think murderer, but that’s not always the case. During the course, we were asked to write a small passage where our villain commits a crime. As a Domestic Suspense author, this was a prompt I allowed myself to escape into. I swear, I’m a nice girl. 

My Villain Response:

Mason wiped the sweat off his forehead, creating a brown streak of mud along the hairline of his overpriced haircut. It was almost finished, the cage foundation took longer than he wanted but within the hour, he’d be ready to place the cage and pour the cement. Deep down a voice told him to stop, maybe it was his father who passed away years ago, leaving him in a world with untrusting women. His mother had never been this way towards his father, he knew that to be true. But, the women needed to learn and this was the best way to teach them. 

Once everything was in place, he walked the three feet to his car and pulled out the five-foot three woman, wrapped in a soft blanket and tied at the ends like a present. She wasn’t screaming anymore, probably tired out, but be noted the rise and fall of the blanket. She was alive. Bonnie was her name, a cute girl he’d picked up at a local hotel. She’d been desperate, easy…not his usual M.O.

Back at the cage he placed the blanket on the ground and untied the top, giving her fresh air. He’d leave the blanket, he wasn’t that heartless, and a bottle of water against the railing. The rest would be up to her. 

He padlocked the cage and covered the twelve-by-twelve frame with nearby limbs and bushes. As he climbed into the car, he pulled out a notepad from his dusty suit and added one more tally mark on the page. Fifteen and Counting…

These prompts are without editing. My point in showing these two examples to you today is to show you the kind of writing you can do when given prompts. A wise woman once (or twice or three times) told me that in order to get better at writing, is to keep writing. Taking online courses is a great way to get motivated to doing prompts. You never know…one of the exercise prompts could lead to a really great story idea. 

I’ll be writing Mason’s story in 2022 or 2023 and I cannot wait to use what I learn this year in my writing in the near future. 

Writer education is such an important element into being successful in the writing business. Don’t skimp on it just because you want to get your story out and into the world for people to read. They won’t.

Side note: Centre of Excellence is just one of the many resources out there to continue your writer education. While it’s not as expensive as some other courses I’ve seen out there, I’ve also noticed it doesn’t give personal constructive feedback on the assessment essay problems. It’s not a perfect solution but the information is fulfilling. In the end, you have to find which route is best for you. Online courses are one of the many options out there and it’s all about what suits you best and only you can determine that. Like I’ve listed above, there are many podcasts available, books in the millions with all kinds of information on how to write, edit, and market a book, as well as blogs. My final point is that it doesn’t matter what avenue you get your education, there is enough resources out there for authors, in many income brackets, that there’s no excuse why you shouldn’t be constantly learning the craft of writing.

What are some ways you further your education in the writing business? Share in the comments below. 

Thank you again, Vania for allowing me to guest blog today. 

Until next time, Happy Writing!


Broken Tomorrows is available on Amazon. Grab your copy today!

Welcome Guest Blogger Women’s Fiction and Domestic Thriller Author Sarah Krewis

a stack of books. quote says: what i learned when i published my debut novel
Provided by Sarah

I want to thank Vania for allowing me to guest post on her blog today. Our friendship began a little over four years ago, I believe, and with it has come some pretty stellar conversations about the life of an indie author. Today I want to talk about a few tools necessary if you want to succeed in this business, based on personal experience. 

When I began writing my debut novel, four years before I published it the first time, I had no idea what I was doing. Through research, my love of reading, and a handful of supportive people on Twitter, I figured out the barebones of how to write and publish a novel. It still wasn’t enough. 

I was stupid and naive. I thought that because I had a cover made, I had someone edit the book, and someone else to format it too, that it was all I needed to publish my story. Sure, my book cover was really well done. But I was impatient. I didn’t have a clear vision for my story so I wasn’t able to work with the designer to get it how I wanted because I didn’t fully know what I wanted. My editor gave it a first glance edit and made constructive notes. I made changes that I thought needed to be made, then I was done. I thought one round of edits would be enough and I didn’t need to have anyone else look at the book. I had set a publishing date, made the announcement on social media, and was two steps ahead of anyone who’d graciously offered to help me. 

I imagine now, when I look back on that time, a clear picture of those who helped me, standing on a sidewalk. Shock and disappointment on their faces, watching the cloud of dust behind me as I flew straight for the finish line with my unfinished project that I was so sure was this great thing. Back then, I had a lot of support on social media. I felt important, accepted, and successful. 

Then, I published. And I fell flat on my face. 

It seemed like overnight I lost 95% of support from social media. I sold approximately 25 books that first day, which isn’t bad but most of those were family members. Then sales dropped off a few days until I had months with no sales. The friends that were still in my corner were concerned for me and I was lost in a darkness of shame and disappointment in myself. I had no backbone for the blows I endured during that time and I felt defeated. 

My first review was from a FB friend who hadn’t even bought or read the book. That 5-star review was posted on the day the book went on sale. Before there were any sales.  Then, family members finished reading the book a few weeks later and I got more 5-star reviews. A few friends who read the book gave 5-star reviews or 4 stars. I was so excited! 

After about six months, I finally sat down and read my book again as a reader. I couldn’t believe it. The book wasn’t a 5-star book. At. All. At best, if I’m being nice, I’d give it a three. Once we got settled into our new home, I began a new edit and commissioned a new cover. December 1st, 2019, I released the newly edited version of my debut novel, Broken Tomorrows

It’s still not a 5-star book. 

Over the last three years since I first published the novel, I have grown and learned as an author. I have attempted to mend some of the friendships that I lost, and I took a good look at how I reacted and how sensitive I came across to those who knew me. If they left a 5-star review because they didn’t want to hurt my feelings, that’s on me. I never want anyone to feel like they can’t be truthful with me because it’ll hurt my feelings. 

In 2020, I took six months and focused on myself. I reviewed my life since I joined this business of writing and I asked myself some really tough questions, like, is writing really what I want to do with my life? I also stripped Broken Tomorrows off Amazon and redid about 75% of the story with the intent of republishing a third time. How do I know I’ve grown? I took a step back and realized that I need to write something new and fresh. I need to walk away from my characters and meet new ones. I do have a plan for what I rewrote of Broken Tomorrows, but that will come in a couple of years after I’ve shared some other characters with my readers. 

Authors should never pick up the task of writing a book unless they are prepared for everything that goes into it. Here are five tools you MUST understand before you begin writing that book, tools that I learned the hard way are essential to the craft.  

Read Reviews with Caution: As authors, we aren’t supposed to read reviews as they aren’t really for us. They are for other readers to share if the book is worth buying. I can do a whole other blog post about my thoughts on reviews, but I’ll save that for another time. IF you find yourself peeking (believe me, it’s hard not to do), take them for what they are: Someone else’s opinion. Read it, process it, check it, and then move on. 

Get a Backbone: This was one of my biggest lessons I had to learn, and it’s not something that happens overnight. Sometimes we need to read bad reviews and get negative feedback to strengthen us. But we also need to be stronger than the sensitive versions of ourselves. How to do this? Don’t take everything so personal. If someone gives you a negative reaction, take the good you can learn from it and grow. 

Have a solid Writing Community: I went into this business thinking that everyone in the writing community were supportive and loving people. That’s not true. There’s a saying out there that says something like, “other writers aren’t our competition” but in reality, not everyone believes that. While I did eventually find a handful of really great writers who support each other, it’s rarer than you might think. Reach out to other authors in the genre you write and support them. Some of those people may give you support back, or some may use you because your support goes a long way. Know what to look for and at the end of the day, understand that when people say writing is a lonely business, it’s not a false statement. 

Own Save the Cat Writes a Novel: I wish I had this book back in 2014 when I first started drafting Broken Tomorrows during NaNoWriMo. It gives a clear breakdown on each scene that needs to be written and why. It’s the perfect guide for those who enjoy outlining their novels. I get nothing for recommending this book to you, I just really believe in it. You can find the book on Amazon by Author Jessica Brody. 

Invest in Yourself: I used to scoff when people would tell me to do this. I mean, when you don’t have the money for an editor or cover designer, you don’t have it. But, while you may not be able to afford that $1800 Developmental Edit, you can buy books that will teach you how to edit yourself. You can find a way to enroll in inexpensive courses online to teach you the craft. Groupon got me into a Write Academy course and a 6-month subscription to The Writer Magazine. There are deals out there you just need to look for them. Sell items that you don’t use anymore and start a Writing Fund. Network with other authors and reach out to University students. 

Vania knows a lot about making writing a business. If this is your first time on her blog, I recommend following her because she has a lot of useful advice based on personal experience. I’ve learned that you have to treat this like a business if you want to make it as a successfully published author. Don’t let these tips above discourage you from doing what you love, if writing is what you feel destined to do. Writing has a lot of tough moments, but when you are holding your bestseller in your hands, you’ll remember those tough moments as paying your dues for success. 


To purchase Broken Tomorrows click here.

Writerly things I’m enjoying right now!

Happy New Year and welcome to my first blog post of 2021. I thought I would take this blog post as an opportunity to tell you about a few things that I’m enjoying this month! I know money is tight, and I do like to recommend low cost or no cost items on this blog. Read to the bottom to enter into a giveaway for CreativIndie, Derek Murphy’s new book, Craft Book, a book on, well, you guessed it, craft. It’s one of my favorite things this month.

Let’s get started!

Bryan Cohen’s Amazon Ad Profit Challenge
If you’ve read my blog at all, you’ll know that I am a fan of this challenge. Bryan has taught me what I need to get started with ads, and if I pay attention to ad spend there are very few months where I lose money. It take a little time and patience–comparing ad spend to royalties and pausing ads that are spending more than they are bringing in, but I’m just at the beginning of this journey and what Bryan teaches you is free. While it is a tactic to bring in students to his ad school, he DOES teach you enough to get started. I’m well aware of the webinars and infomercials that are full of “Information” but don’t tell you a damned thing. Bryan’s ad challenge isn’t like that. In the challenge he’ll teach you how to:

*contact KDP and add categories to your book and ebook to optimize the category ad placement in the ad dashboard
*ad a subtitle to your ebook to highlight subgenre or trope to your potential reader.
*teach you to write easy ad copy for the kinds of ads where you can add a hook
*find relevant keywords for your ads
*find a workaround if you published via a different platform than KDP and still want to run ads
*what to bid and what your daily budget should be to be profitable with ads
*teach you what conversion means. If you have plenty of clicks and no sales, something is wrong. He’ll help you puzzle out why your book isn’t selling.

The group also offers a ton of support. His successful Amazon Ad School students help him moderate the FB group page and answers all the questions! They also moderate his FB live segments. There is plenty of support if you missed something or need clarification.

Some information is the same, some is different as between each challenge, Amazon tweaks the ad dashboard. I participate in the background to glean new information, but this will be my 5th ad challenge, and I don’t think I can do anything more with the information he’s given me except 1) join his ad school and/or 2) publish more books.

If you’re interested in his next challenge, it starts January 11th, and you can click here for the signup website.*

*This is not an affiliate link. I don’t get anything for recommending this challenge to you.


The 2021 Author’s Planner
I’m not much of a planner, but when Craig Martelle from 20booksto50k mentions something, it’s worth taking a look. He posted about this author’s planner, and I went ahead and bought a copy. His link is for Lulu, and the book is spiral bound. That is great for not ruining a book’s spine if you need full access to write on the page. Amazon also offers one with a perfect-bound spine, meaning as with KDP it’s glued together. That’s not such a big deal if you need to save a little money and you don’t mind cracking a spine to have access to the whole page. I’m pretty hard on my books and cracking a spine never has bothered me. (Don’t look at the covers of books I’ve taken into the bathtub!)

Taken from the Amazon Product page

The book looks fun and helps you stay on track with writing, publishing, and your newsletter. I’m excited because I have a lot going on in 2021, with new releases, and new “pen name” and the start up of a new newsletter. It’s difficult for me to pivot this way, but I’m going to use what I learned in the last four years to really make a mark with my books. Having a plan will go a long way to keeping me accountable!

Here is the link for the Amazon perfect bound edition.*

Here is the link Craig posted for the Lulu spiral bound edition.*

Let me know if you buy it and what you think.

*These are not affiliate links. I don’t get anything for recommending this book to you.


Five-Minute Focus by Craig Martelle
Speaking of Craig Martelle, what I’m really enjoying these days are his 5 minute focus videos on YouTube. He takes 5-6 minutes to talk about something like hooks, blurbs, covers, motivation, whatever and he’s just a lot of fun to listen to. He’s making a lot of money with his books, and he has a right to be excited, but no matter where you are in your author journey you have a lot to be excited about too, and his enthusiasm is infectious.

Here’s a taste of what I’m talking about. Listen to them all at once, or one a day. He seems to record them regularly. I also like the talks between him and Michael Anderle. If you want to listen to two men talk successful indie publishing with a huge dose of gratitude for what they have, these are your men.


A Book on Craft
Last, but not least, is Derek Murphy’s book Book Craft: How to write books readers love, from first draft to final polish. I’m only fifteen percent into it, but I’m really enjoying it so far. It’s not stuffy like some nonfiction books, and I like his voice and his stories. Just a warning though, if you don’t like books that tell you to write to market, you may not enjoy this one. Derek is all about helping you write a novel and while he wants you to write your passion project, he also wants to guide that project into a book that readers will want to read.

Me reading this book is like listening to a preacher while I’m standing in the choir, but we all need to be reminded now and then that after our book is written and published, it’s up to the readers to decide if you’ve written what they are going to enjoy.

I’ve been in this business long enough (and have learned the lessons) that you can’t make it if you don’t write what readers what to read and package it in a pleasing manner. I’ve seen authors publish books in the double digits and barely sell any every month for the simple fact their covers are bad or the look inside is boring because they started their story in the wrong place.

While it’s not fair to leave a glowing review of a book when I’ve only finished 15%, I have a feeling I’m going to enjoy the whole thing, and I think you will too!

Here are the cover and the blurb:

Image and blurb taken from Amazon.

Everybody wants to write a book, but most authors fall short.

You have a gift, but it’s not enough. Deep magic isn’t a spontaneous explosion of creative energy. That burns too hot. It’s unstable and unpredictable. Real power comes from deliberation, skill and craft. But you need a guide to unlock a writing practice that ignites your true potential. This is it.

You have been told that writing is a type of magic, that all craft-based strategies are blasphemy. But smart authors recognize that even if writing is an art, it’s also a craft to be mastered. It’s time to peer beyond the veil, and unlock your unique brand of powerful book craft.

This is not a book, it’s an initiation. You’re here because you love the alchemical process where your creativity and inspiration bleed onto the page. You’ve tasted the power of using letters to communicate ideas and cast spells, bewitching readers and captivating them with the powers of your mind.

You’ve got a taste for it, but you want more. So you’ve sought me out, and here we are. This information took me decades to uncover, and I don’t reveal it lightly. Not every author is ready to hear the valuable lessons I’m about to share with you, but this book isn’t for them. It’s for you.

The truth is, there are things that great books have in common- and even more informative, there are definitely signs of weak writing, which can be easily identified and avoided. 

This book will help you to…

  • Plot your book without stifling your creativity
  • Hit crucial turning points to keep readers engaged
  • Improve pacing & backstory without info-dumps
  • Increase stakes, drama and conflict
  • Double your word count and stay motivated
  • Avoid common amateur mistakes & lazy writing
  • Heighten intrigue & suspense to keep readers invested
  • How to know your book will sell before you write it
  • Why readers stop reading and how to fix it
  • Simple plotting and outlining strategies so you can write faster 
  • Revise and edit your first draft and identify problems fast 
  • Save thousands of dollars on editing and increase book sales

Ready to move from the slush pile to the bookshelf?
Scroll up and improve your writing today!

If this is a book you think you’ll enjoy, leave a comment at the end of this blog post, and on January 11th I’ll choose a winner and send the winner a copy of the ebook.


2020 is over and it’s time to kick the dust of your boots. There’s a meme out there that says you can’t claim 2021 as your year, but hell yeah, do it anyway. I have. 2021 is a fresh start to many aspects in my life, and I bet it is for you too! Hopefully these tools can help you succeed! Happy New Year!

What. Ever.