A Snippet of Book One of my new Wedding Party Quartet

Series sell. Readers get invested, and that can mean the world to an author. Personally, I prefer to write standalones. Maybe because for now, I prefer reading them, too. But I recognize the value in writing a series, and after writing three stand alones,  I planned out a four-book series consisting of full-length novels.

I’m going to write them, edit them, format them, design the covers and drop them all at once. Risky, perhaps. But there are authors who swear by rapid release, and for consistency reasons, I would finish them all before publishing them, anyway.

Because I said I would update you as I write them, here is the first couple scenes of the first book. This was originally the second book in the series, but I felt it was a stronger start. The second book will need a bit of fluffing up, but nothing too terrible, and I’m looking forward to adding to the plot as I learn more and more about my characters.

Book One is about Callie Carter and Mitch Sinclair. Mitch has been in a horrific accident that has left him scarred, both physically and mentally. Callie has been under her father’s thumb for many years and accepted an offer to be a bridesmaid for a chance to breathe and figure out her life. Little did Mitch and Callie know that Marnie Zimmerman and James Fox’s nuptials would be the catalyst for such significant change.

Enjoy this small, kind of edited, excerpt from the first book of the Wedding Party Quartet. It doesn’t have a title yet, but that’s just one more thing I’m working on as I write. 🙂


“You’re here!”

Callie Carter tugged her suitcase into the Rocky Point Resort’s lobby as Marnie Zimmerman’s shriek zinged across the room.

“I told you I would be, but my dad didn’t make it easy,” Callie said, easing her case to a stop in front of the registration desk.

Marnie frowned. “You deserve the break.”

Callie set her purse on the counter next to a display of resort brochures. “No one knows that more than me. I had the time, and there wasn’t anything he could do about it.”

Her father didn’t believe in taking a break. Horace “Ace” Carter didn’t believe in down time. Rest. Taking care of her emotional health, her physical health. He believed in getting the job done. And for the past ten years, she had. But rubber bands, stretched too tightly, eventually snap, and Callie was almost there.

“I’ll make sure you have fun . . .” Marnie said, linking her arm through hers while the agent ran her card and handed her a small stack of papers.

“Here’s your key, Miss Carter,” the desk agent—her nametag read Sophia—said, handing her an honest-to-goodness key attached to a maroon keychain with the gold Rocky Point Resort logo stamped into the plastic. “You’re in room two-thirty-one, next door to Marnie and James.”

“. . . Starting tonight.”

Callie pulled her suitcase behind her. She’d left a few dresses hanging in her car, and she’d have go to back for those later. “What’s tonight?”

“I planned a get-to-know-you dinner. Jared is picking up Leah in Marengo, and she’ll be here this afternoon. I can’t wait for you to meet her. Hell, I can’t wait to meet her!”

“You are positively giddy,” Callie said, laughing. She stopped at the base of the short set of stairs that would take them to second floor. Purse hanging from the crook of her elbow, she hugged Marnie. “I’m happy for you.”

Marnie hugged her back so hard her spine cracked. “I am happy, and I’m happy you could be here.”

“I wouldn’t have missed it.”

She’d been honored when Marnie asked her to be a bridesmaid, and hadn’t thought for a second about saying no.

Standing outside Callie’s door, Marnie said, “I know you want time for yourself after that long drive. Take a bath, order a bottle of champagne, whatever you want. We’re meeting downstairs for dinner, and you’ll meet everyone then. I’m so excited!”

Marnie’s platinum blonde hair shimmered in the fluorescent lights, her pin curls, thick red lipstick, and clear skin giving her a Marilyn Monroe glow. She even had the curves to go with it, and Callie had always envied Marnie her softness.

Callie worked out seven days a week, three-hundred and sixty-five days a year. She had to. It was part of her job. Speaking of . . . she might be on vacation, but she still needed to workout. “You said the resort has a workout facility?”

“Yep,” Marnie said. “It’s downstairs by the pool. It’s not as big as the set up in your basement, but it will work.”

“Thanks. I’ll see you tonight, then.”

Callie didn’t feel the need for a bath, but a light nap sounded divine.

She let herself into her room and tucked her suitcase into the closet. The room smelled like any hotel room she’d ever stayed in: air freshener and the scent of recycled air.

A huge gift basket sat on a table tucked under the window that overlooked a thick swatch of trees. A brochure said there were woods to the west, the lake to the north, ski slopes on the east side of the building, and the town of Rocky Point on the south side. The resort offered quite a few amenities, Callie noticed, skimming the resort’s brochure. Maybe she would try her hand at skiing while she stayed there.

Callie washed her face in the sink and dried her skin with the bleached white hand towel. She hung it on the bar over the toilet and frowned at the water pooling at bottom of the bowl. “That’s great,” she muttered.

She needed a working sink. If all the pipes were connected, the bathtub might be affected, too, and she wanted to be able to shower in the morning. Or tonight after dinner.

“I need maintenance,” Callie said, using the landline phone on the nightstand to call the front desk. It wasn’t that late in the day, and she hoped someone would be able to come by her room soon. “My sink is plugged and won’t drain.”

She recognized Sophia’s voice. “We’ll have Mitch up there right away.”

“Thank you.”

Callie should have asked to be transferred to room service but she didn’t want to call back. She could save her appetite for dinner, and even though she was on vacation, she shouldn’t give in to wanting to drink too much. Her father told her she needed to be in control at all times. What if someone needed her? He always had an example at the ready of a time when he’d been able to help someone.

Service was a calling.

Ace Carter spoke of their occupation as if they were ministers or missionaries.

And he expected her to behave as such.

But why did being responsible mean she couldn’t have fun?

Someone knocked on her door, and she pushed the thoughts away. This was supposed to be vacation. A break. She’d fought hard for it and won.

Callie opened the door expecting an older man, balding, wearing a t-shirt and stained overalls carrying a red battered toolbox, and she blinked in surprise at the man a few years older than she standing in the hallway.

Her gaze traveled from his dark brown hair to his green yes. Slim, but strong, with the way he carried an enormous toolbox.

He shifted slightly, and asked, “Did you need maintenance?”

The right side of his face and neck made her hide a gasp behind her hand.

Through the crackling of heat in her ears, her mind whispered, fire.

***

Mitch was used to the wide-eyed stares, the stunned silences, the pity and the sneers. He’d become numb to it, and he ignored the shocked gasp the woman emitted when she saw the right side of his face and the scar that started at the top of his hairline and rippled down his temple and cheek, across his jaw, and into the neckline of his work t-shirt. It spread farther than that, but besides doctors and nurses, few had seen it, and Mitch intended to keep it that way.

“Maintenance?” he asked again.

She moved her hand away from her mouth. “Y-yes. The sink in the bathroom won’t drain.”

“I’ll take a look.”

When she didn’t move, he reached out a hand to nudge her from the door, but she flinched away.

So this was the way it was going to be. When he’d taken the job, the manager of the resort, Desiree Arnold, told him not to put himself into situations that could cause trouble for either party. If he felt the need to have someone with him while he did repairs, then that’s the way it would be. When she offered him the job, Desiree hadn’t brought up his scars at all, but Mitch didn’t need her to point out the obvious. He looked a hell of a lot scarier with his scars than he’d look without them.

“Would you like me to call Sophia and ask her to sit with you while I fix your sink? Or would you like to go to the bar and have a drink while you wait? It’d be on the house.” He carried vouchers in his toolbox to offer guests who didn’t want to be alone with him. A free drink to get them out their room so he could work in peace.

No one turned down free drinks, and her refusal took him aback.

“No, it’s fine. I’m sorry. You took me off-guard.”

“I usually do that to people,” he said mildly, stepping into her room. Before he shut the door, he asked, “Are you sure?”

And that question took him back to the last time he’d tried to make love to a woman. She’d been adamant she could handle the scars.

But it turned out she couldn’t, and he’d never tried again. With anyone.

She nodded. “I’m fine. I, ah, washed my face, and the water didn’t go down.”

“Sounds like an easy fix.” And it did. He’d spent the past seven years as the resort’s maintenance man, drawing on his own experiences fixing things around the house with his dad. Desiree, being in a jam when the current maintenance man quit unexpectedly due to a heart attack, had hired him on the spot, making it clear it was probationary. But there hadn’t been anything in the resort he couldn’t repair. His three month tryout ended with a pay raise and a small room with a twin-sized bed. Mitch didn’t need to stay there, but Desiree liked having on-site maintenance twenty-four/seven, and he didn’t have anything else to do.

The sink sat inside the spacious white-tiled room that held the bathtub, shower stall, and toilet.

Last month, Desiree had warned him that several of his old classmates would be trickling in for Marnie Zimmerman’s wedding and they would be filling the resort for two weeks. At the time he’d wondered why she’d bothered to say anything. It wasn’t like he’d never worked with a full resort before. The resort brought in tourist dollars for Rocky Point, and Desiree and her sales manager worked harder than anyone he knew to keep the rooms full all year round.

It was only after, while he thought about their conversation over a tuna sandwich, that he realized what she’d been getting at.

He didn’t recognize this one though. She hadn’t graduated from Rocky Point. He would have remembered.

Mitch hunkered down onto the floor with his toolbox and removed the extra toilet paper, box of Kleenex, and a hair dryer from under the vanity to reach the pipes.

He didn’t bring  a bucket, and he shoved the wastebasket under the pipe to catch the water as he removed it.

The brunette disappeared, and he worked in silence.

The culprit of the clog was a wad of hair and dirt, and a small diamond ring.

Satisfied he’d fixed the problem, he cleaned up. Dirty water filled the wastebasket, forcing Mitch to take it with him. He couldn’t empty it into her bathtub or sink. Desiree hired only the best housekeepers and Sophia said this woman hadn’t been in her room long. Maybe if she would have gone to the bar he could have dumped the water and cleaned up after himself, but he wouldn’t try it now.

“I’ll have housekeeping bring you another wastebasket for the bathroom. I’m sorry I had to use this one.”

She lay on the kind-sized bed staring at the ceiling. “Did you find what was clogging the sink?”

“Yeah.” Free of dirt, the ring sparkled, a platinum setting hugging the modest diamond. “Did you lose a ring?”

“No. Can I see it?”

Mitch shrugged. He didn’t know why not. He’d only take it to the registration desk so they could research the history of the room and ask if anyone had lost a ring recently. If they couldn’t find anyone who had, the ring would sit in the safe as part of their lost and found.

She rolled off the bed and took the ring when he offered it to her.

“I would be freaked out if I lost something like this.”

“I wouldn’t buy something like this,” he said. He caught the bitterness in his tone and pursed his lips.

Startled, her gaze met his. “You don’t want to get married?”

Mitch took the ring from her fingers, his skin brushing hers.

The way she looked at him, like she didn’t see the scars, not once she moved past her initial reaction, made him think that one day maybe he could find a woman who could see through his injury.

He snorted.

Yeah, when pigs flew.

“I learned a long time ago women want Mr. Perfect, and I have never been, and never will be, that kind of man. Have a good afternoon, miss, and enjoy your stay.”

Mitch dropped his toolbox with a large clatter outside her room, and hugged the wastebasket stinking of dirty water close to his chest.

Closing his eyes, he tried to forget about hers.

Callie and Mitch blog graphic

The age-old question, ‘what do you want from your writing?’ isn’t the real question at all. The REAL question? What can your writing GIVE YOU?

We’ve all been asked the $50,000 dollar question: Why do you write? Do you write for success? For the fame and fortune? Do you have a story that must come out no matter what? We all write for a reason, the reason that keeps us coming back to the laptop again and again.

But the fact is, after the writing is done, what can, what WILL, writing give us?

There are different kinds of writing, and each medium gives us different things:

  1. Blogging. Blogging gives us a place to vent, a place for our voice to be heard. Blogging lets us share information, be an authority. (That’s where the word AUTHOR comes from, don’tcha know?)  But blogging can only give you those things if you have an audience. Also known as, a reader who will read your blog post, maybe share it, maybe leave a comment. Your voice can only be heard if someone is listening. Will the blogger make a sound if no one is around to hear it? Yeah, and her voice sounds like this:
    wah wah wah
    You have to have good content, consistently, to find an audience who will enjoy your posts and keep coming back to you. And that’s difficult. I’ve blogged for the past few years, and finding consistent things I like to blog about and that I think others would enjoy hearing about, is downright hard. I’m not complaining, I love blogging. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t. I put a lot of my heart, soul, and time into my website, and I blog to keep it current. That’s something I get out of blogging. Good SEO. Everyone once in a while someone will tell me they learned something on my blog. That’s great, too. But I understand when bloggers give up, because the time it takes, money (let’s get rid of that pesky .wordpress.com at the end of our domain addresses, okay?) and the pounding our heads into the walls to come up with ideas. Well. There’s not a lot of return on investment there, is there?
  2. Other social media. You’re writing when you post a picture on Instagram and tell your audience the story behind it. You’re writing when you update your Facebook Author page. You’re writing when you tweet. What kind of payback is there from spending time on social media? There is some. You find camaraderie, you find support. You can find people who will help you publish, both indie and traditionally. You network. You support the “big guys” by buying their books and promoting them. But besides being involved on social media for all those things, you hope one day you meet the right person who can introduce you to the next right person (hello agent!), you tweet something that goes viral, and that maybe, because you cultivated a social media following, you might sell some books. But realistically, the “might” is pretty big. Skyscraper big. Authors learn early on that joining social media and screaming
    BUY MY BOOK
    will annoy everyone very quickly, and eventually get you muted or blocked. Which, by the way, is the exact opposite of what you want to be doing. Just a little FYI in case you’re doing it wrong. Stop it!
  3. Writing books. If you ask any writer, they’ll tell you that they would still write even if no one were to ever read anything they’ve ever written ever again. And I believe that because there is something that keeps us writing. The innate human need to tell stories and to listen to stories. It’s how we learn, it’s how our cultures are passed down from generation to generation. Someone may not read our stories now, but maybe in 50 years? 60? You never know! Storytelling is in our blood. There is satisfaction in storytelling. There is happiness in typing THE END to a book or a short story or a novella. There is joy in it.
    cricket
    But anyone who has ever published a book to crickets will tell you that sometimes you better be happy with self-satisfaction because that’s all you’re going to get. I was reading my friend Dave’s blog post right before I wrote this, and he gave me the idea for this post. He went through a lot with his release. A lot of anxiety and lot of pushing through panic publishing his book. And I wonder, if you asked him, if he knew what the outcome would be, if he knew that after all he went through publishing his book, if he would do it again.
    Was the payoff big enough?
    What was the payoff? That’s different for different people. Maybe it’s simply holding it in your hand. Maybe it’s seeing it “out in the wild” when your friends and family buy it to show their support. Maybe it’s that first review. Maybe it’s that first review by someone you don’t know.

But this is what this whole post is about–this is what it took 791 words to say. Those small things, they better the hell get you through, because in this day of self-publishing, in this day when 50,000 new books are published on Amazon every month, THAT’S ALL YOU’RE GOING TO GET.

You might not believe me when I tell you this isn’t a bitter post. You probably won’t after all the whining I’ve done about sales these past few months, and the huffing and puffing I’ve done about Amazon and KU. Those days are gone because I’ve made some decisions that feel right, and come hell or high water, I’m going to stick with the choices I’ve made. (My publishing career isn’t a ball in a pinball machine–I need to stay steady to gain ANY traction.)

This isn’t a bitter post, but it is realistic. You’re not going to set the world on fire when you hit publish. Anywhere. Not on FB when you publish an updated author post, not in a Tweet, though you may get a few hundred likes, and good on you if you can. You’re not going to change the world with a blog post. Someone did that already, back in 2011.

This is a new age of publishing, and you HAVE TO find little things you love about it to keep going, or you might as well quit. You’re not going to strike it rich with a book, or two, or even six, as I can tell you. 50 might be the new 30, but it used to be you could make okay money if you had 6-10 books out, and you can’t do that anymore. Indies making any kind of money have 10+ books out. Sure there are outliers, like Jami Albright, but for us little people who don’t have the means to go to an RWA conference and rub elbows with big authors who will put us in their newsletter, success is going to come much slower. We’re talking years. And the slower you write, well . . . you don’t need me to do that math.

So the question of this blog post wasn’t what do you get out of writing? It was, what does writing and publishing give you? 

Besides bills from hiring editors and formatters and graphic designers to do your book covers, what DOES writing give you, and is it enough to keep you going until it finally gives you what you want?

And what is it you want?

Fame and fortune, of course. Fame and fortune.


thank you for your patince

Mistakes I See New Authors Making

Indie books versus traditionally published books

I’ve been reading a little indie lately. I hate splitting up the two — indie vs. traditionally published. Books should be books no matter who has written them or how they were published and printed.

But I have been reading some books I’ve found on Writer Twitter and in some author Facebook groups.

Even though we shouldn’t separate books by who has written them or how they’ve been published, there is still a little issue of what does make them different.

Quality.

Indies say taste is subjective and that quality means different things to different people. I certainly say this when it comes to my own writing. But I’m not blind to the issues my books have–especially Don’t Run Away, my first “real” book I count toward my backlist. I’ve gotten good reviews and bad reviews. The bad reviews have a point. I didn’t know as much about plot as I do now. I didn’t have as much practice in character arc as I do now.

Indie books versus traditionally published books (1)

And that’s too bad because it’s the start of a trilogy, and I’ve said this before. If you don’t have a strong start to a series, no one will read the others because your readers will assume the other books are more of the same.

But I also have positive reviews suggesting the book isn’t a total train wreck and investing a little money in promos and a little time redoing the covers hopefully won’t be a total waste down the road.

I went into this blog post with the information about my own book to let you know I understand. I understand the mistakes new authors make because I have made them myself.

The problem is, we have to move beyond those mistakes if we hope to attract readers. With six books in my backlist, I’m hoping this is something I can start doing. And soon. Attracting readers that is.

What have I noticed in the indie books I’ve been reading? Here’s a short but important list:

Telling, not showing. I’ve seen this in 99% of the indies I’ve read. In fact, I’ve read it so much I’m willing to go out on a limb and say this is probably the biggest thing that sets indies apart from traditionally published authors. No matter how bad you (or I) think a traditionally published book is, it will never be bad because the culprit is telling.

Indie books versus traditionally published books (2)

Telling is 100% an indie problem because a book full of telling will never make it past an agent or an editor at a publishing house.

The book I just ordered has a letter to the reader in the front matter, and she even states she enjoyed being the narrator of her characters’ story. And her book reads exactly like that. Two hundred and fifty pages of her telling us what her characters are doing and feeling.

No thanks.

I’ve worked with some writers in an editing capacity and unfortunately telling is probably the hardest part of writing to stop doing. There are whole books written on showing vs. telling, and I have no interest in writing one. The best way you can stop telling is write a lot, find your voice, listen to feedback, know your telling words, and write more.

  1. Write a lot. Find your voice. James Scott Bell has a lovely book about finding your voice. He explains it so well it will turn your writing around. It really will.
  2. Know who your characters are. Who are they as people? Their likes, dislikes. How they react to certain situations. What are their tragic backstories? Characters are people, not puppets. Part of finding your voice is knowing how your characters sound when they think and talk and being able to translate that onto paper.
  3. Know your telling words. Think, thought, feel, felt, see, saw, know, knew, heard, could hear. Felt is horrible. Search for it. In lots of instances just deleting those words will take the telling away.
    She realized he was lying to her.
    He was lying to her. All this time she’d believed whatever he told her. Now she was paying the price.

    We’re already in her point of view. You don’t need to tell your reader she realized he was lying. Just say he was lying to her. We understand she realized it because we’re in her head and she thought it. When you use these words you slip out of your character’s POV.

  4. If you’re still having a problem, work with an editor or a beta reader. Lots of writers can’t see it in their own work, but they can see telling in other writer’s work. Choose betas and editors who won’t lie to you. The book full of telling I’m reading now? It has 17 4-5 star reviews. That means 17 people lied to her.

Speech tags. I made it to Chapter 4 of a different book. It popped up in my Twitter feed so often I decided to give it a chance. I ordered the paperback, and wow. By Chapter 4, I counted more than 35 speech tags. I couldn’t read any more. I think we’re all victims of speech tags at some point in our careers. I know I was when I wrote Summer Secrets. My editor helped me with a few–but she should have been much, much harder on me. Since I’ve written more and honed my dialogue skills, I rarely use speech tags anymore. If you find you use speech tags, work on stronger actions and better dialogue to evoke emotion. Don’t depend on speech tags for clarity.

Here’s a before and after. Tell me which kind of dialogue you’d like to read for an entire book:

“I did. Just not the way he thought. A couple of goons caught me outside the hospital—” Callie bit off.

“The hospital. Jesus Christ,” Brandon snapped. “Do I have to check myself out and drive up there?”

“No! Just listen to me,” Callie yelped, pulling over in the middle of a residential section. She should’ve driven with Mitch. She had no idea where the police department was and couldn’t use her phone’s GPS while she was talking on it.

“I defended Mitch on the ice a couple days ago,” she stated, “and I dumped one guy on his ass. Tonight he and two of his friends caught me outside the hospital. Mitch happened to be right behind me and stopped them before they could do anything. I’m on the way to the station to give my statement,” she explained.

“Are you hurt?” he asked urgently. “You beating up guys? Callie, you’re supposed to be having tea parties and watching strippers. What the fuck?” he growled.

There are seven speech tags in this little section. They don’t sound terrible, in fact, upon reading this, you might think they actually lend something to the scene. But this is just one small section of a book. When you have a book that’s heavy on dialogue like my books are, reading all those dialogue tags can be tiring.

Look at that section again. These two characters are talking on the phone having a heated discussion. How did the writer make the dialogue sound? Do they sound like real people? A brother and sister who care about each other? Do you need the tags? Most sections of dialogue don’t need tags if you write the characters well enough the readers don’t need to be told who is speaking. Read the same section without tags. Does what they are saying draw you closer in because there’s nothing taking you out of the moment?

“I did. Just not the way he thought. A couple of goons caught me outside the hospital—”

“The hospital. Jesus Christ. Do I have to check myself out and drive up there?”

“No! Just listen to me.” Callie pulled over in the middle of a residential second. She should have driven with Mitch. She had no idea where the police department was and couldn’t use her phone’s GPS while she was talking on it.

“I defended Mitch on the ice a couple days ago, and I dumped one guy on his ass. Tonight he and two of his friends caught me outside the hospital. Mitch happened to be right behind me and stopped them before they could do anything. I’m on the way to the station to give my statement.”

“Are you hurt? You beating up guys? Callie, you’re supposed to be having tea parties and watching strippers. What the fuck?”

Sound better? If not, that’s cool.

Exercise: Take a book you particularly enjoyed. Find a dialogue section (the longer the better) and count how many tags the author used. You might be surprised.

Nothing is happening, or the author tries to make a big deal out of nothing. I did this with Don’t Run Away, much to my sincere regret. I made Dane make a big deal about being married before and how nasty his divorce had been. And now I look back and think, who cares? Everyone goes through a divorce (or it seems like it, anyway), and yes, those divorces can be nasty. Especially when kids are involved. I understand small things can be a big deal, but they should still be only a small piece of the whole puzzle. And readers have called me out on it, calling Dane a weak character for not being able to move past his divorce. That’s what the book was about, but I still should have made him more ready to be in a relationship than I did. Or made Nikki smarter so she steered clear of him.

In the book where I only reached Chapter 4, all the characters had done up until that point was sit around and talk. And not about anything particularly interesting. Ask for feedback from someone who won’t lie to you. If the beginning of your book is boring, if there’s nothing happening, no one is going to get to the part where it finally does.

If you have a too slow of a start, people will bail before they get to the good stuff. If you want help with your first pages, read Your First Page by Peter Selgin. He walks you through what will make your first pages pop!

Bad formatting. I buy paperbacks because when it’s slow at work, I can read. We’re not allowed tablets, but I prefer paperbacks anyway. That being said, a lot of paperbacks I see are a mess inside, and all I can think is I hope to God they never host a book signing or do a giveaway on Goodreads. Maybe authors don’t put much time into their formatting because they don’t think they’ll sell many books. But the problem is, you will sell some at a convention, or you’ll want them for giveaways, or you may want to stock them at your indie bookstore. If the manager of that bookstore flipped open a poorly formatted book, he’d probably tell you to fix it first. Draft2Digital has a free paperback formatting tool. Or give someone a $25 gift card to Amazon and ask they do it on their Vellum software.

It’s a sad fact that you could have the most entertaining story in the whole world but no one will want to read it if your book doesn’t look like a book inside. I struggled with this too, when I published 1700. I cried, literally, until someone reminded me about the KDP Print template. Back then it was CreateSpace, but they do offer a free interior template. There weren’t the easy and free tools available there are today. (It’s crazy how the industry has changed, even in three years.) Even if you don’t know how, there is no reason why your book should look like a mess. And if you really can’t find the means to format a paperback book, you’d be one step ahead not offering one at all.


These are only four things I’ve found in the latest indie books I did not finish (or DNF in shorthand), but they are doozies and enough to turn away any reader. In the case of the woman whose book is all telling–she’s putting herself in a tough spot. She wants to write a series, but she’s waiting to see if her first book takes off before working on a second. Her book will never take off, but not for the reasons she thinks. It’s too bad.

Reading indie is a valuable experience. I love to support my friends, and of course, there are some fabulous writers out there making a living off their books.

The issues I’ve outlined can be fixed over time by studying craft and writing a lot. It’s not a coincidence that a lot of indie books I find fault with are an author’s first book.

We all mess up our first book. Unfortunately it’s a really important book. You can’t build on a crumbling foundation.

What are some things that you’ve noticed in indie books? Anything that has turned you off?

Let me know!

Thanks for reading!


My books are available everywhere! Check them out!

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

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

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all graphics made in canva. all photos taken from canva except for the horse meme that i don’t feel guilty grabbing online because it’s everywhere.

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!

When Do You Recommend Your Friends’ Books?

The indie writing community is very tight-knit. Make one of us mad, we all get mad. I think Faleena Hopkins figured that out quick enough. We support each other; we help each other. We do free things for each other: cover help; editing; beta reading.

We even do some naughty stuff like review trading.

We tweet each other’s books.

Lately, there have been a couple of people asking for book recommendations from indie authors. They want to start a list on their website, or they want to start reviewing indie books.

There were lots of tweets, as you can imagine.

And there was something that surprised me, but I guess it shouldn’t have. Someone was recommending books they haven’t read. How do I know this? For one, I know she doesn’t read indie. Two, she’s a very picky writer, and I don’t think she would have recommended these books had she read them. (That is a polite way of saying they could have used more editing.)

This made me do one of my super researching techniques: I ran a poll on Twitter. While the participant number was low, the results still stunned me.

indie books

I’m trying to figure this out because this bothers me.

Why would you recommend a book to someone if you haven’t read it? Would you walk into a bookstore, grab any old book off the shelf, and tell your friend it was fabulous and a must-read? Of course not.

This seems to be an indie-only thing, like not full-justifying your margins in your books when you format or adding your cover designer to the book’s contributors when you publish. Indies start stuff traditionally published authors don’t do. And the more indie authors do it, the more it becomes acceptable and the more newbie authors do it.

Of course I want to support my friends. But we all know indie writers don’t read that much. We might beta read, or be a critique partner, and that’s fine. It’s a little different in that I would assume the published book is different from a draft a beta or CP read. But at least you know the gist of the story, know if the book has proper punctuation and grammar.

At least you know the story makes sense.

But what are you doing to your own credibility if you recommend a book to someone you haven’t read and that someone takes you seriously? What if that someone takes a peek at the look inside on Amazon. What if that book has no established POV, or doesn’t have a good hook (AKA boring as f*ck)? What if the formatting is messed up, or has typos in it? What if the first paragraph head-hops into five different heads?

There were a couple comments in that tweet thread that asked the question: Who doesn’t read their friends?

Well, quite a few if my own track record is anything to go by. I can count on one hand the number of my friends who have picked up Wherever He Goes and read it cover to cover.

And if you want to ask me what indies I’ve read in the past few months, I can say one. And it was someone I edited for back in February. Otherwise, I’m busy writing or reading craft books, or reading trad-pubbed romance books. I don’t read indie simply for the fact that most of my friends don’t write what I like to read–contemporary romance. And then another reason I don’t read indie much anymore is if they find out I’m reading their book, they expect a review. I won’t leave a bad indie review. I won’t do it. So I don’t want my friends to wonder where their review is because there won’t be one if I don’t like their book.

Given those reasons, I rarely recommend indie books on Twitter. I recommend how-to publishing books or marketing books. I recommend trad-pubbed books that do something well that could be used as an example to my fellow writers.

I think it’s great that we help our friends. But if we want to help our friends, we should do it in a different way. Pass along promo sites. Recommend books you’ve read on how to do proper Facebook ads or Amazon ads. Marketing your friends’ books is not your job.

Sure, I’m flattered when someone posts a picture of my book on Instagram, or tweets about it. (And yeah, less five people have done that for me anyway.) But I don’t expect it and I don’t ask. My readers aren’t on Twitter. They aren’t even following me on Instagram right now–I got sucked into the writing world there, too. {KT Daxon is a good one for this, and I have to give her credit where credit is due. She does a great job of promoting the books she reads, and she truly does read the books she says she does.}

I would only recommend books I’ve read. It’s honest.

And you want people to be able to trust you, not question your taste.

Not question how good your books are.

I know this blog post sounds like I don’t think indies can write and publish good books. That’s not the case. What I am saying is that some indie books could use more editing. And I understand why indies don’t. It’s expensive and time-consuming. Waiting for an editor to get back to you is like sitting on pins and needles, and then you have to put in all the edits once you get them back. A total edit could push your pub date back by several months. But let’s not pretend that indies aren’t impatient, and rushing to publish is a mistake a lot of indies make.

This reminds me of the trad-pubbed writing community. I’m exposed to a lot of YA on Twitter and Instagram. It seems like a lot of YA authors do read other YA authors and tweet about their books and support each other. Being trad-pubbed is like being in a club, and those authors have each other’s backs.

Romance writers are the same way:

lori foster brenda novak

Here’s Brenda Novak reading Lori Foster for a book club Brenda is going to hold in her Facebook Author Group.

That’s real support. That’s real networking and collaboration.

There’s lot of bad things to say about the traditional publishing industry, but this isn’t one of them.

Let’s support our friends the right away.

Read the books you’re recommending. Because reading a book and having a discussion about the book with its author would mean a lot to the author, and a tweeted conversation about a plot twist or an evil character is true promotion.

Do you have any good reasons for recommending books you haven’t read? Let me know!

 

Blog book promo for the end of blog posts

 

Can You Please Stop Saying Your Work Sucks? What if Someone Believes You?

hatewriting2

You would think writers would love their work. We sit for hours and hours holding pencil or pen to paper, or sitting in front of our laptops, or holding a microphone to our mouths weaving plot and character together to hopefully create story.

Yet, writers are first to degrade their own work so completely that if you listened to every word they said, you’d fully believe your kitten could do better.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

I don’t mean insecurity, or doubts while you’re writing. We all have those. We should have those. We all have more to learn and we need to stay open to new ideas. Thinking you’re the best will close your mind.

Mainly, what I’m talking about is Twitter behavior in the #amwriting community. And perhaps this isn’t such a big deal. But writers have to remember Twitter is still a public forum. Do you want a potential reader to stumble upon your handle, excitedly look through your tweets only to find you bashing your own work?

Of course not.

But we do it.

I’ve seen it enough times by authors that, no, I won’t spend money on their books. Why should I waste money on a book when its own author says it’s crap? They would know, wouldn’t they?

Why do writers hate on their own work publicly? I have a few ideas:

  1. They do it to fit in.
    The #amwriting community is full of doubt, insecurity, and competition. We need allies in this writing war. Why stand out when you can blend in? You don’t want to alienate anyone by actually being proud of you what you’re writing. Blend in or get out. No one wants to be your friend if you know what you’re doing and like it.
  2. You need sympathy and people to commiserate with you.
    There’s nothing more boosting to your ego than if you tweet that you just wrote twenty-five pages of crap and have ten people pat you on your virtual back and say, “You did not! Read it in the morning and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.” Or, “I just deleted two chapters of sludge. Here’s a hug and shot of whiskey [insert whiskey GIF here].” Uplifting. Encouraging. You’re not suffering alone.  Well done.
  3. You want to put your work down first.
    Say all the bad things before anyone else can. Beat them to the punch. There’s nothing better than posting a snippet with an “I know this is bad, but I’m tweeting it anyway” warning label. Besides, you know it’s not that great, even if you did rewrite it five times before you tweeted it.
  4. You’re not going to brag because what if you think it’s good, but it really does suck?
    There’s nothing worse than saying you are super proud of your work, and then later finding out it’s only sub-par. Too many filler words. You tried to be too flowery, so WTF does your line even mean? Better to admit it’s crap because really, your betas and editor will tell you it is anyway.

The thing is, at some point, you have to be proud of your work. You have to be. Or you wouldn’t query, submit to contests, or publish. Very few authors honestly look at their work, say, “This is crap,” and while believing it, still click publish.

publish image

So if you have pride in your work, why not say so? Maybe your excitement will boost someone else. Maybe your enthusiasm will open a door. You could be invited to participate in an anthology, or an agent who is thinking of signing you will be charmed by the simple joy you have in your projects.

Why sabotage your writing career?

We all have doubts but find a trusted friend and vent offline. Not everything belongs in a tweet.

Stop saying you hate your work.

Because you don’t. If you really did, you would stop writing.

And we all know you don’t want to do that.

self-confidence-2076793_1920

The Wedding Date–A crabby book review

the wedding dateWhen I saw The Wedding Date at Target, I picked it up. The premise was a trope I have always enjoyed–a fake date that turns into a real relationship.

When Alexa meets Drew, it’s in a hotel elevator that has stalled. Drew is there to be a groomsman at his ex’s wedding. Alexa is at the hotel visiting her sister. They get to talking; sparks fly.  That she is black and he is white does nothing to the story. In fact, because the author does not use the character’s skin color as neither a negative or positive plot device, I forgot by the middle of the book they are even different in that way. I didn’t care, anyway.

Drew and Alexa are from different California cities, and throughout most of the book, they are flying back and forth to see each other on the weekends.

Drew is a pediatric doctor, and Alexa is the chief of staff for her city’s mayor. Their occupations are thrown into the plot as little side bits in an attempt to deepen their character arcs, and it doesn’t work that well. (More on that later!)

As most long-distance relationships go, there are disagreements and misunderstandings, and I have to admit by the middle of the book I started to skim.

The book ended how I would assume a romance would–happily ever after. And no, she didn’t relocate–he did. As a romance writer, I can appreciate the author made her male main character give a little, as a lot of times in books it is the woman who makes the compromises to keep the relationship going.

But also, as an indie writer and self-published author, I have to ask, “How the F did this get published?”

This is probably one of the most annoying things about traditional publishing. Traditional publishers can publish crap, while good indie writers can’t get an agent to save their lives.

I’m not saying this book is crap or didn’t deserve to be published–but I am saying this book could have used a lot more editing.

One thing that turned me off almost from the start was the use of repetitive words and phrases. As an indie, we’re taught word needs space–but this also includes phrasing. Can your female main character look up at your male main character 10 times a page?

Yes.

Does it read well?

No.

I would have loved to get ahold of her Word document and do a search for a list of “naughty” words.

Someone needed to because Drew kept putting his arm around Alexa’s waist, and every time I read it, it made me itch.

The story itself began to grow repetitive and mundane, and like I said, about the middle of the book I began to skim. There were only so many times I could read about them flying back and forth, having sex (that mostly faded to black, so I didn’t even have the sex scenes to look forward to) and taking the texts they sent each other when they weren’t together in the wrong way.

The ending came out the way I expected, but Alexa’s job, her sister’s backstory, and a kid with cancer made the plot some kind of soupy mess.

I want to be clear here. I am not blaming the author. She had a good premise, and she put forth a good effort.

Who I am blaming is her publishing house and the editing they failed to give her.

There are a few reasons for this:.

  1. They wanted to push the book out for marketing reasons or to catch a trend.
  2. Maybe the editor who acquired the book left the publishing house and little attention was paid to the book after that. (After listening to podcasts about the publishing industry I am surprised at how often this happens, and how much this hurts the author and the book.)
  3. The editor the author was stuck with was new or had too much on his or her plate.

No matter what the reason, however, it is frustrating for an indie author to buy a traditionally published book full of mistakes we are told to stop doing in our own work.

And it’s frustrating to know an author can get a book deal when indies who have stellar books in their possession can’t find agents.

There are probably reasons for this, too. She knew someone in the industry and she used her connections. She may have won a contest. Or simply, she just got lucky.

But that won’t give me my $13 back plus tax.

And I suppose the one thing that makes me the most upset is that the midlist is shrinking. Big publishers go for the big books, the books that will bring in millions like James Patterson’s and Bill Clinton’s The President is Missing.

Few midlist books are printed every year. In fact, there are imprints who publish digital only books like Carina Press. This is disappointing to an author who hopes to see their book on a shelf. Any shelf.  Even Target. Maybe especially Target. It’s not an accident the book section is across the aisle from Toys.

What can a writer hoping to query and publish a book take from all this?

That the publishing industry is broken?

We knew that already.

It says to me I may never want to be a part of a traditional publishing industry.

Because I expect that if Roxane Gay, who is a New York Times bestselling author, would be willing to blurb a book, and that book is a Target Club Pick, it’s going to be good and worth my money.

And again, this isn’t a blast on the debut novelist. It’s a blast on the publishing industry that would publish a book that needed so much more work.

I know books aren’t for everyone and this particular book, or perhaps even author because I’ll never read her again, just wasn’t my cup of tea. (I drink coffee anyway.)

But a scan of reviews on Amazon told me it wasn’t a cup of tea for others as well. (Who also may only drink coffee.)

Even someone reading The Wedding Date as a reader and not a writer can still say a book grated on their nerves even if they can’t pinpoint why.

I don’t expect to like every book I read–that’s a given. But with the resources of a large publishing house–this book was published by Jove, an imprint of Penguin–I shouldn’t dislike a book because of the editing or lack thereof.

jasmine guilloryI wish the best to Jasmine Guillory.  I hope she can come into her own as a writer without help or she seeks it out on her own (if she happens to read reviews) because her publishing house certainly isn’t going to give her any assistance.

What do you think of the plight of a first-time querying author? Do we have a chance, or should we just give up?

Let me know!