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

My Midlife Crisis. I Mean, my Mid-Year Check In.

 

It seems completely crazy to me that half the year has gone by. After a crappy winter, my first as a divorced lady, plus a surgery (old news) and dealing with a POS car on top of all that, my spring smoothed out, THANK GOD.

surgery photo

How I started 2019. This smile was before I started puking from anesthesia.

Blaze got better and is fitting into our new family dynamics. I post a lot of pictures of her and my other cats over on Instagram. If you want to follow me there, click here for my profile link.

My car, after $600.00 in repairs, is running all right, but the countdown is on to buy something better.

I published The Years Between Us in May, but that too, is old news. Though, really, it doesn’t feel like old news. It still feels like a brand new book. Not many people have read it, and it has 0 reviews on Amazon. I have it on BookSprout, and if you want to nab a copy for review through that service, click here.

I had a nice vacation last month to Georgia with my sister, and I met up with David Willis, a fellow writer I met on Twitter a couple years ago. I can’t even tell you how much I adore the ocean.

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Spring is about new beginnings. Summer about shaking off the winter, sleeping in, and picking up more hours at work. Things are going as well as anyone can say their life is going.

Planning my next six months won’t be much of an undertaking. Like Adam Croft said in a New Year’s interview with Joanna Penn, he doesn’t treat the new year any differently. He does what he needs to do to get the things he needs done to write and publish books. And I feel that way about the rest of 2019.

When you are running your own business, being a self-starter and a self-motivator is a must. No one can force you to do the work. All you can do is look in the mirror and ask yourself if you want to sell your books or not. If the answer is yes, well, you can’t sell what you don’t have.

I’ll be finishing my Wedding Party series in the next few months. I’m 18,000 words into book three. As I write, I’ve been exploring covers. Formatting will be a snap with Vellum, but to put links in the back of the books, I’ll have to publish all of them at once so the links will be available, then I’ll need to add the links to the back matter and swap out those files. It’s nothing less than what other successful indies do, but it still sounds like a pain in the ass.

Anyway, anyone keeping track of my progress knows I’m getting a little fed up with this lack-of-sales thing I’ve got going on. It’s not my way to whine–in fact I tend to avoid those who do on a consistent basis. I can’t handle how energy-sucking it can be. I need all the energy I have for myself.

In the next 12 months, you’ll be seeing a lot more progress reports from me. I’ll do this because:

  1. not all of us are making money at this writing thing, and it’s okay to talk about it.
  2. if I find something that works for me, I want to share it because it might work for you, too.
  3. I’m at a point where my backlist should be making me a little money. Focusing on writing and not marketing has been at fault, but this is why I’m experimenting now. I thought All of Nothing would be a game-changer for me, and it has been in some ways. It’s the most-read book I have. But that was luck or better timing as when I used a free day and ran a Freebooksy, All of Nothing was in KU.

Why in this business does it feel like all roads lead to Amazon_ HMMMM.

My personal life probably has a lot to do with how I look at sales. But I’m not different than any other writer using their royalties to buy a better place to live, buy a newer vehicle, or pay down credit card debt.

Anyway, I’m doing what I can and what I can afford to do.

In September, I will be a part of an author panel and luncheon at the Fargo Public Library. I’ll be able to sell my books there too. A lovely woman who connected with me via LinkedIn emailed me the opportunity, and I said yes. While it may not yield any results, it made me remember that local networking can be just as important as networking online.

Something like this makes me excited I’m wide–if, after the luncheon, the library wants to carry my ebooks in their lending catalog, my books are available in the library program through Draft2Digital.

I’ll continue to blog in lieu of a newsletter. I prefer to blog, and every time I publish a new post, I gain new followers, so thank you for reading!

This post needn’t be too long. I’m struggling to write my books and stay afloat like many others out there. Some may have it better than me, some may have it worse. But as I have said many times in the past, we can only work with what we’ve got. Keep your chin up and a smile on your face.

Why in this business does it feel like all roads lead to Amazon_ HMMMM. (1)


Care to share how your 2019 is going? Drop me a comment.

Share a little triumph that will carry you for the rest of the year. ❤


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

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

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

Try the Tower City Romance Trilogy Today!

all graphics made with Canva.com

My Wedding Quartet Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

nora roberts quartet

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elegant couple posing together.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wedding bouquet in girl's hands.

Leah! Isn’t she gorgeous? 

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

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

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

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

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

I hope you all are having a great summer!


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

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

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

Try the Tower City Romance Trilogy Today!

My Wide Adventures AKA Sales so far

Almost two months ago I went wide. Has it paid off?

Not so much.

I put All of Nothing, and Wherever He Goes wide through Draft2Digital as soon as they dropped out of KU. I put The Years Between Us on all platforms as soon as it was finished–it never went into KU at all.

Because of an oversight, I missed one of my books in the trilogy, and I thought I would have to wait for them to drop out, but everyone encouraged me to just email Amazon and ask for them to be pulled out, and I did. They were polite about it, and the minute I had the email saying they were out of Select, I put them wide.

For simplicity’s sake, I can say all six of my contemporary romances have been wide since April first.

And well, nothing happened.

Actually, something did happen.

My KU reads dried up, but sales on other platforms didn’t make up that loss. I kind of knew that would happen, but it’s different seeing it. They even talked a little about it at the summit during the wide panel–that dip where page reads go from a waterfall to a trickle, and where no one knows your books are on other platforms.

It takes time, and seeing that money, no matter now small, disappear, makes you sick inside.

Also, listening to Jami Albright talk about her success at the summit in KU with only three books didn’t help me feel any less bitter when I had just pulled my own books out of KU and made them wide.

But like a life-style change to beat a sugar addiction that will make you feel better for the rest of your life, I feel going wide will be the same for my career. Is Amazon cake? I guess if you’re you in the 20booksto50k group on FB and see everyone’s earnings in KU, you can feel like Amazon is a giant piece of gooey cake with a huge scoop of ice cream, too.

amazon vs cake

Hello, type-2 diabetes!

I might have taken that too far.

But, as always, this isn’t about whether going wide is smart or not–always go back to your business plan and decide for yourself what you want out of your writing career.

As for sales: I put Don’t Run Away permafree the minute I could, and asked Amazon to price match when the free price on other platforms kicked in. This is supposed to help introduce a reader to my books. Being that Don’t Run Away isn’t as strong as the books I’m writing now, that’s a plan that may not pan out. But I’ll be publishing  a new series this year after I get them all written and edited, and eventually book one will be permafree, too.

For sales from April 1st to the day I’m writing this blog post, May 30th (rather, the 29th since that’s the way reporting goes).

Amazon:

Free:
Don’t Run Away: 125
Paid:
All of Nothing: 18
Wherever He Goes: 0
The Years Between Us: 1
Summer Secrets Novellas 1-3: 1
Summer Secrets Novellas 4-6: 1

Out of the 125 copies of Don’t Run Away, no one bothered to go on to books two or three of the trilogy. It takes time for people to read, so maybe they haven’t gotten around to reading the book yet. I don’t like to think they didn’t like the first book and don’t want to read the other two. (But when you’re writing a series, that’s always a possibility.)

amazon sales for blog post

So, sales aren’t all that great. Those two little spikes you see? Those are me fiddling around with BookBub ads. I’ll write another post about that later.

How about on Kobo?

On Kobo, I gave away 32 copies of Don’t Run Away. I had 0 organic sales of any of my other books on there. Meaning, I didn’t get any read through to my other books in the trilogy. Bummer.

kobo graphic for blog post

Draft2Digital

Draft2Digital publishes my books in a lot of places, but the top two are Apple and Nook. It’s easier to give you the charts. But I’m sure you can imagine that giving away Don’t Run Away dominated my “Sales.”

draft to digital chart for blog

I sold one copy of All of Nothing, Chasing You, Running Scared, and The Years Between Us. I liked the Chasing You and Running Scared. It means out of the 80 people who downloaded Don’t Run Away, ONE person read the other two. I mean, that’s progress, right?

draft to digital chart for blog 2

As you can see, I gave away the most copies of Don’t Run Away on Nook. I’m not sure why, but maybe one day those will turn into sales of my other books.

Here are the chart breakdowns:
Nook:

draft to digital chart for blog nook sales

And Apple Books:

draft to digital chart for blog apple sales

I feel like I got a little bit of something going everywhere, but not a lot of anything.

As I experiment with ads, and put more books out, maybe that will help. I mean, after all, I haven’t really done much marketing letting readers know my books are everywhere. I use my FB author and personal page to let people know as much as I can without sounding like a harpy.

I use the end of this blog post to let people know my books are wide, but let’s be honest. I’m writing for writers who probably won’t buy my books, and that’s okay. That was the path I chose when I decided to blog on these topics.

And it’s the same with Twitter. I have this as my pinned tweet, and it does absolutely nothing:

All of Nothing promo with goodreads review

I boosted this post on Facebook and it got me 3 new likes to my author page. One of them was my sister. Go me. But the ad is pretty, no? (If you want to make your graphics, use this website; Derek Murphy is so great for the writing community. Be sure to save it as a PNG though, so you have the transparent background. Otherwise, you’ll save it with the white background underneath. I did the rest in Canva. Search for [your color] bokeh if you like the background.)

I do have a Freebooksy scheduled for the middle of next month for Don’t Run Away since it’s permafree. That will be my first real ad aimed at all the platforms I’m on. We’ll see if it makes a difference.

To be honest, this was pretty much what I expected. I’m willing to experiment with ads for now while I’m working on my series. Maybe working with ads over the summer will help me grow a small audience and they’ll be willing to buy my quartet when it’s done.

Slow and steady wins the race, and all that, right?

Have you tried going wide? What has been your experience? Let me know!

Thanks for reading!

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

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

Try the Tower City Romance Trilogy Today!

The Years Between Us is Available!

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

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

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

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

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

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


May Goals

I have a few May goals.

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

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

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


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

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


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

Thanks for reading and have a lovely weekend!

The Years Between Us Paperback Cover

Suspending Belief in Fiction. How much is too much?

Suspending Belief in Fiction. How much is too much_

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

stephanie plum

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

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

But do readers care?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you know how much is too much?

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

Here are some guidelines to keep in mind:

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

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

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

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

    Suspending Belief in Fiction. How much is too much2

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

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

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

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

Suspending Belief in Fiction. How much is too much3

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

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

And that’s just not realistic.

Callie and Mitch blog graphic


picture attribution:

Andy Meyer from Pixabay” cellphone with castle

coincidence and fate

woman with books, canva.com

woman on stability ball, canva.com

Who are your readers?

I have to admit, I get a lot of blog ideas from Twitter. It’s a great place to “eavesdrop” on people who complain talk about agents, querying, reviews, and writing in general.

Unwisely, I stuck my nose into a thread, and while she was polite in response, I could tell my opinion wasn’t welcome.

The thread was talking about silly things people have said about your work. The reason I stuck my nose in was what the person had told her wasn’t all that silly. I’ll write a separate blog post about that, but it did make me think–who is your reader?

who is your reader

You don’t want everyone to read your book, or you’ll end up with reviews like: “I didn’t like this book. It all it had was romance in it, and I hate romance novels” when you write contemporary romance. Or someone who reads your horror who prefers sci-fi. You want people who like your genre to read your books.

So who are you writing for? Knowing this information is helpful in a lot of ways:

  1. It will help you buy/target ads. When you have a person and their lifestyle in mind, it’s easier to target ads.
  2. You’ll know where your readers hang out online, and in real-life. My trilogy is about characters who run (the sport). I could set up a table at a women’s run expo. When I bought my cat to the vet, there was a self-published book about adopting animals sitting on a table in the waiting area. How did I know it was self-published? It had the KDP Print stamp on the back page. Depending on the author and his or her marketing tactics, that book could be sitting in every vet’s office in the city.
  3. You’ll write better. Know who your audience is, and you can tailor your books just for them. Yes, this is the evil writing to market, but if you have your reader in mind, not only do you have a built in audience–you’re assuring future sales of your work.
  4. It helps with networking. Romance writers are the most generous writers out there. They love to share information and support. The RWA is fantastic. Knowing what genre you’re writing in can help you find your online support group.

I was thinking then, who is MY reader?

To figure that out, you need to know what you’re writing.

I write contemporary romance books. My books contain real-life problems. My characters aren’t always rich, and if they are, I make sure their lives are miserable in other ways.

My characters worry about paying bills, affording the mortgage. They have ex-spouses. They find themselves in trouble of their own making, sometimes they are at the mercy of others. Their lives are hard. But I hope I write my characters as likable, lovable, people. People you grow to care about–people you would want to be friends with in real life.

They also fall in love, even if they don’t want to. Even if they think they don’t deserve it. Even if being together forever is going to take a helluva lot of work. They did the work, they grew, they learned from mistakes, and their lives are better for it. They live happily ever after.

My books may contain a glimmer of a mystery, but nothing that would put them in the romantic suspense category. My books don’t contain magical elements the way a lot of Nora Roberts’s books do. My books usually contain someone who is bitter and jealous and likes to make others miserable. I do realize that’s a trope I’ve used often, and it’s in the back of my mind when I write more books I need to lean on other plot conventions going forward.

My characters are usually in their thirties. They struggle with finding a partner. Their biological clocks are ticking. They’re getting married. Holding real jobs, making car payments.

I probably won’t stay too far from this type of book.

A bare “man chest” on one of my covers would look out of place. My characters have sex, but they lack the “dangerous edge” that those books seem to contain. No sexual rules are broken, no one is tied up as prisoner. Sex is used to express feelings, falling in love. I know the types of books that need a dangerous man on the front of their covers, and my books are not them.

This is all very helpful because now I can pin down who wants to read my books.


My reader is probably someone like me. (I’m hoping you write the kinds of books you enjoy reading, and I hope you read in the genre you enjoy writing.)

I’m in my early forties, but my characters are usually in their thirties. I do this for a couple reasons: Because of my age, I don’t care to read about younger characters so I don’t write them. And I think it gives me a little flexibility when it comes to my readership. So I think my base readership is, maybe,  25-55 years old. I wouldn’t go any younger than twenty-five. My subject matter wouldn’t interest a young adult. That’s what YA and NA is for, and all the “dangerous man chest” books I was talking about earlier seem to have a younger heroine, so maybe those types of books have a younger (18-25 year old) readership.

Having a picture in mind of the woman who reads my books, let’s call her Jane.

jane, my reader

Jane is 25-55. She might have children. She probably does. She has a day job. Maybe it’s a bit stressful. She could be an office manager, or a professional, like an HR director or a nurse. Maybe she’s a stay at home mom. She appreciates a light read–something she doesn’t have to think too hard about to enjoy. When does she read?

  • Maybe half an hour before bed.
  • During her kids’ nap times.
  • Maybe in the tub if she can get a few minutes to herself.
  • Maybe while her kids watch TV, or her husband takes them to grandma’s for the afternoon.

She doesn’t have much time to herself–she brings a Kindle to her son’s dance practice, and to her daughter’s soccer games. She likes a cup of coffee to sip on and a cat in her lap while she reads. She owns a mini-van or SUV. Her husband works a lot. Or maybe she’s divorced. A lot of women in their thirties and forties are these days. That doesn’t mean she wouldn’t enjoy reading about a meet-cute in the pick up line at school.

She might feel unattractive or frumpy (kids will do that to you).  She wants to work out but she doesn’t have time. A trip to the salon is a luxury for her time-wise. Maybe she likes her Kindle for the cheaper books. Or her life could be a bit happier–her parents live near her, which means she has plenty of help with her kids. She loves her job. She and her husband still get along.

Where does Jane hang out online? She shops on Amazon, of course.  Maybe she buys her kids’ clothes, and things for herself at Kohls.com. As for social media, she’s on Facebook, because who isn’t? She posts pictures of her kids, and maybe she’s joined a mom’s group or two. I don’t think she’s on Instagram, but I could be wrong. I think she’s more interested in Pinterest right now, for recipes and craft ideas for the kids. Maybe that’s her way of looking for hair styles. If her kids are small, she might hang out on websites like BabyCenter.

Lots of different kinds of women live different kinds of lives, and I don’t want to make assumptions just how my reader lives because I’m only limiting myself if I do that. The only real assumption I can make is the busier she is, the less likely she has time to read, but then I’m not aiming my ads at her, and she wouldn’t be interested if she saw them.

Anyway, Jane likes to read. She reads three or four books a month.

Now that you have your reader in mind, how do they sync up with your books? How would I target an ad with what I know about my reader?

I could target her with these keywords and groups:

  • coffee drinker
  • pet owner
  • mother, step-mother
  • mini-van driver, or SUV
  • Divorced (I include both groups since my characters have been divorced and are looking for a second chance at love)
  • Happily married
  • likes bubble baths
  • likes to drink wine
  • loves chocolate

What books would she read that are similar to yours? Target those authors and their readers. Though if you target Nora Roberts and well-known authors like her, your bid to make your ad seen is going to have to be very high–so think of some mid-list, not-so-well-known authors in your genre who are moving books. (Ad targeting and how to do it is a different blog post, and I’m not experienced enough to do that for you. There are lots of authors out there who will share their experiences such as Michael Cooper and Mark Dawson.)

My books have a tone like Nora Roberts, Robyn Carr, Brenda Novak. Maybe Jennifer Crusie, but hers are more funny and on the chick-lit side of things than mine are. Still, her readers may be willing to cross over to my books. I read Jennifer Crusie, but that doesn’t mean all I read is chick-lit.

This is a good reason to stop into a bookstore. Locate the shelf where your books would be and write down the authors your book would be neighbors with. Especially the authors you’ve never heard before.

If you don’t know where your book would be shelved–that’s a problem. Look at general fiction, or literary fiction, and do your best.

Their readers are your readers. Those are paperbacks–and lots of popular authors are indie and offer e-book only. That’s fine–Google the top Amazon 100 in your genre. Again, find books similar to yours.

Knowing who your reader is helps you write the books they enjoy reading. I KNOW you’re supposed to love what you’re writing, but if you can’t find anyone who will enjoy reading it, what’s the point of writing it? Self-satisfaction only goes so far. (Yes, my mind went there!)

Writing to Market

And knowing what your reader likes, dislikes, what she wears, where she works out, can help you target your ideal audience when you’re ready to target ads.

It’s always a surprise to me how many people write books with no audience in mind.

It’s imperative you know who your reader is or you can’t find them to advertise to them.

Create a character like Jane. Figure out her likes and dislikes.

That’s a great place to start!

PS

This is just a small end note:

Did you see anywhere where I said my reader is also a writer? Is Jane writing her own book right now? Does she go to writing conferences, or attend a writer’s group? Do I know Jane from the #writerscommunity on Twitter?

No.

No, I do not.

Do you know why? Because my readers are not part of the writing community. Yes, I read romance, and yes, I am part of the writing community on Twitter. But if I were to market my books as if my readers were nowhere but part of the writing community online, I wouldn’t have very many readers. I represent a minuscule amount of people like me, and people like me who will read your book will not make your career.

And, maybe more importantly, I don’t WANT my readers to be writers. Writers are picky and hard to please. Do you know how I know? Because I read like that. And I don’t want my books to be read the way I read.

And neither should you.

writers are not readers

I appreciate my friends who take the time to read my books. But I learned a long time ago that my readers are not on Twitter. If you can have a light bulb moment like that, marketing your book will suddenly become a lot easier.

look beyond twitter for readers

Who are your readers?

 

Thanks for reading!

jared and leah for end of blog posts