Happy Wednesday! Author musings and Indie Publishing news.

Happy Wednesday! I usually post on Thursdays when I have a little something I want to share, but today I’m writing about some time sensitive material, so posting today instead.

We have five more days of this month, and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve always been a Fall girl, and this year, especially, I can’t wait for cooler temperatures and rainy afternoons while the wind whips the leaves from the trees. I don’t even have to dread all the snow we’re predicted to get this year as I got a new vehicle, and hopefully it will take to the snowdrifts better than my crappy little Neon ever did.

Due to COVID-related issues, my trip I was going to take this week has been canceled, and that gave me time to write I didn’t think I’d have. I got 5,000 words written yesterday and I’ll be at 70k soon. I’m aiming for 90k, but since this really is just one long story, if I reach a good ending point, I’ll stop and pick up in the last book of the series. It’s coming along, though some of the planning has dragged a little bit as I’m more pantsing this book than plotting, and I can’t sit down and write until I know what I need. That means a lot of daydreaming or free writing to figure out where my story is going and how to get it there. On the bright side, I know what I need to finish this book, so I should have it done in the next week or so.

I did a terrific interview with romance author Meka James and we’re hosting a lovely giveaway of a ebook or audiobook of Being Hospitable, and a $25.00 e-gift card to Amazon. To be perfectly honest, none of the giveaways I have ever hosted have done that well, and if you want to enter, you have a REALLY good chance of winning. There’s only been a handful of entries, and that includes me and Meka testing the link so you should definitely enter! http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/f2ad9b1e25/

As far as what’s going on in the news, I may be the last to report this, but a couple weeks ago, Amazon Ads have starting reporting page reads in your ads dashboard. That means if your book is in KU you can see if that ad is bringing in page reads. Now, that’s not a sure-fire way of knowing if your ad is profitable, since page reads can come from more places than just an ad. Amazon reporting isn’t the greatest, and we’re encouraged to use the KDP Reports instead of depending on your ads dashboard. But I think a lot of us were just happy that Amazon seems to be trying to make things better for us in terms of working with them. I get that we have a love hate relationship with the big giant, but I tell myself that self-publishing wouldn’t be possible with the creation of the Kindle. I mean, who’s to say if a different company wouldn’t have picked up the reigns, but had that happened, who knows what the indie publishing space would look like now. Better? Worse? Less opportunities? More? It’s nice they listen to our feedback, and I appreciate the opportunities Amazon has given us.

Anyway, if you run Amazon ads, KENP reads are another way of showing you if your ads are profitable.

Here’s a screenshot of one of my well-performing ads:

The ad for All of Nothing at the bottom of this picture does pretty good. The total KENP for the ad is 10,205 and that equals into about 23 books. (Divide KENP page reads by the number of KENP pages your book has, and that information can be found under promote and advertise on your bookshelf for your book).

If you’re interested in trying Amazon ads, watch this video with Janet Margo, Craig Martelle, and Mark Dawson. She used to work at Amazon and has some great tips for authors. Also, it’s quite amusing to watch Mark Dawson in the background smoking a cigar and drinking. LOL

In other news with Amazon Ads, they are expanding, and they added Canada and Australia this week! I did put up some Canadian ones to test the waters since I’m in Minnesota near the Canadian border (and some of my books are set along that area as well). We’ll see how it goes. I need to watch them carefully as I don’t know if the bids are the same as in the US. I’m sure the Amazon Ad Profit Challenge Bryan Cohen is going to host in October will have some tips regarding the new countries we can advertise in. It sucks that each country has their own ad dashboard, and you have to remember to calculate all the different spend totals when figuring out if you’re still ahead, which is the most important thing when all is said and done.

I’m a member of an Amazon Ads FB group and when I asked for ideas on blog posts lots of people wanted to know about marketing.

In an email that Bryan Cohen sent out to us (if you’re on his newsletter list) he teamed up with Alex Newton of K-lytics to host a webinar about genre research and he said:

Whether you want to believe it or not, meeting reader expectations is the best way to sell a lot of books. That means knowing your genre. Worrying about how to market your book after you’ve already spent six months to a year writing it isn’t the best time to wonder where your readers are. Just my two cents, especially considering I’m on book 5 of a 6 book series that isn’t *quite* like any of the longer billionaire series I’ve read. But I do agree we have write what we like, too, or we’re trapped writing books we don’t want solely for the paycheck. I hope I hit the mark with the tropes and the characters, and where I didn’t, readers can still enjoy what I did with the plot or overlook the parts they dislike.

If you want to sign up for the webinar, you can do it here: https://k-lytics.lpages.co/webinar-bpf/ It plays Thursday, August 27th, but there is always a replay if you can’t watch it live. I’m working tomorrow, so I’ll be watching the replay when they release it.

I think that’s all friends! I hope you all have a terrific weekend, and don’t forget to sign up for that giveaway! Read Meka’s interview, too! I asked her a lot of questions about her self-publishing journey!

Until next time!


Thursday Musings, what I’m up to, and what’s ahead for the month.

Well, it’s July and saying the world is crumbling around us is an understatement to say the least. COVID-19 is going crazy, we have a president who doesn’t seem to care, and the whole thing is really scary. My fiancé was supposed to move up from Georgia this summer, but he can’t if he can’t get a job up here. He has something steady where he’s at, and we’re thinking he won’t move until this coronavirus stuff is under control. And who knows how long that will take? I try not to be political on this blog–there are authors who will say anything they want and if you don’t like it, deal with it. I’ve never been that kind of author to treat my social media that way. It’s always more fun to share pictures of baby skunks anyway. But this COVID stuff is . . . people are dying, people don’t have jobs, people don’t know where their next rent payment is coming from. It’s terrifying, and it feels almost petty to go on and talk about books. But I keep trying to find the light at the end of the tunnel. When all this is over (and “over” means different things for different people) I don’t want to look back and realize that I didn’t get anything done. I’m trying to press through the best way I know how, and that’s keeping my mindset in the publishing game.

This image is from For Fox Sake Wildlife Rescue in Tennessee. I pulled it off their FB page. They rehab animals and put them safely back into the wild. I love looking at their photos and give when I can. You can support them here.

Why isn’t my book selling?

This question bothers me so much because it’s usually obvious. There’s someone on Twitter and he constantly laments that no one is buying his book. But his book doesn’t meet industry standards. The trim size is wrong, his book doesn’t have a professional cover–to the point the book’s title and his author name aren’t even on it! The insides are a mess. I don’t understand this because I have told him what he needs to do to fix it, and he says it’s his first book and didn’t expect anything from it. THEN STOP TRYING TO SELL IT. He seems to have plenty of people on Twitter who would be willing to help him, for free, even, if he would just ask for a little help. His tweets are a bore. Put in the work, or don’t bother.

But I like it this way.

I ran into someone else in a FB group who said she doesn’t full-justify her paperbacks because she doesn’t like how it looks. I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around that since first of all, it shouldn’t matter what you like or don’t like–full-justification is industry standard for a paperback. When an indie won’t follow industry standards (like the person on Twitter up above as well) it makes them look petty and immature. Are you really running your business while being so trite? And then we still wonder why there are people who won’t buy indie. It’s rather ridiculous to me that a person chooses to go indie for the creative freedom, and that’s what they’re going to do with it. I’ve read lots of indie books and their paperback books look AMAZING. Why not strive for that instead of cutting corners then complaining about it? Just a thought.


In other news, because this isn’t going to be a bitch session, I’m 35k into the 4th book of my series. I was scared to start this book, and I took me a week to hunker in, do some outlining, and actually start. But now that I have, it’s going well, and as always, I didn’t need to worry about word count. I usually do, but first person takes up a lot of room, if you know what I mean, and it’s a lot easier to meet word count. I understand the appeal of indies writing first person. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s not complicated. I’ve even gotten some feedback that says my first person sounds better than my third person books. What? I’m flattered, and I like writing in it, but I started this first person stuff on a whim and I’m not sure if it’s what I want to keep writing. It’s interesting, though.

June Amazon Ads

I turned my ads off on June 26th because I was in the red four dollars. I wanted to see if I could catch up with page reads and I did:

My ad spend was $79.85. I am selling some books, which is fun, but you can see that most of my royalties are from KU, which is fine; that’s why I’m in the program.

And I have to say, changing out the cover to The Years Between Us was probably the smartest thing I ever did. I never would be selling so many books with the old cover. Just a lesson to never be so set in your ways or what you think should be working when it’s easy to try something else.

I’m interested in seeing that people are reading the last book in my series, so I decided to look at my KU read-through for A Rocky Point Wedding for the month of June.

For His Frozen Heart, the first in the series had 1,557 pages read.

His Frozen Dreams had 361.

Her Frozen Memories had 355, and Her Frozen Promises had 5.

Lots of people have told me that it’s too soon to decide if the series is a wash. Especially since the last book has only been out a month, and I haven’t done much promo for the series as a whole. But while I was finishing it up, I knew books one and two weren’t as strong as books three and four, and that’s such a bummer. I’ve heard it’s common, though. As you get to know your characters the writing is deeper and richer and the plots get a little more involved since the readers know the characters better and you are more comfortable as a writer to draw them into the conflict. It’s definitely something I’ll keep in mind if I write another series. The first person one feels different and I can’t explain how. Maybe because the first three books follow the same couple and I don’t have to worry about introducing new characters.

Anyway, if you’re going to fumble along, you can expect to scrape your knees.

I think I’ll end here and get some writing in. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend ahead!


Writing with tropes in mind. What I learned from reading Zoe York’s Romance Your Brand

Last weekend I read Romance Your Brand: Building a Marketable Genre Fiction Series by Zoe York.

I love reading nonfiction by indie authors. It’s like being able to pick their brains without actually bothering them. An author shared a screenshot of the books on her Kindle in one of the Facebook groups I’m in, and Zoe’s book caught my eye. Zoe is a well-known in the indie publishing space as a contemporary romance writer. I first heard of her when she was a contributor of the now defunct podcast Self-Publishing Round Table, one of the first podcasts I listened to about self-publishing.

I was excited to see that she started writing nonfiction and I purchased her book right away.

I’ve written two series: one trilogy and another with four books. They don’t sell that great, but though to be fair, I don’t promote them much, either, and I thought Zoe could share some things that worked for her.

She goes through the reasons why a series is good–namely read-through and creating a world fans can fall in love with. I already know that, which is why I tortured myself all of 2019 writing one. It’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it, but there are things you have to consider like consistency and bringing other characters into the story of the main couple because they’re all friends and people simply don’t disappear when you don’t need them at the moment.

Zoe goes into some of the planning, encouraging you to draw a map of where your series is going to take place. She writes small-town romance, and my Rocky Point Wedding Series is placed in a small town, too. I knew my series wasn’t going to be very long — I don’t have an attention span for several books, so I trusted myself to keep Rocky Point’s details in my head without writing them down. But if you plan to write 5+ books, it may be advantageous to treat your setting like a character and write a detailed sheet to keep facts straight.

Other tips she offers are keywords, naming your series, and plotting out the books. This is where my ears perked up so to speak because Zoe is a genre fiction author. She subscribes to the Venn Diagram where you need to write to market while writing what you love and finding that sweet spot to sustain a lucrative, but happy and satisfying, career for yourself.

When I plotted my series, I started with setting first. For me that’s the easy part. I set the books in a fictional small town in Minnesota based on my hometown. I even gave my town the same attributes — along the Canadian border, a shut-down paper mill, and a similar Main Street. I’ll probably always set my stories in Minnesota. I love the seasons and the variety they can bring to the plots.

Then I move onto characters. I think this is where I dropped the ball and Zoe opened my eyes that actually when I plan out my books I don’t keep tropes in mind.

Every romance novel is based on a trope or two, and while you might scoff or want to deny it because your books are better than that drivel, I need to remind you readers love tropes. The kind of trope the book contains is why the reader chooses to read your book.

While plotting my series I forgot that, and it’s why my books aren’t as strong as they could and should be. Of course my books contain tropes, but I assign the tropes after the fact when I should be planning my stories around them. Knowing the tropes I want to include beforehand will give my books a stronger spine.

What are some romance tropes? These are from Zoe’s book:

  1. friends with with benefits
  2. married to the enemy
  3. marriage of convenience
  4. enemies to lovers
  5. fish out of water (new town, fresh start)
  6. forced proximity
  7. bad boy
  8. ugly duckling
  9. unrequited love
  10. friends to lovers
  11. strangers to lovers

There are more, these is only a sample. A Google search can come up with a couple more:

  1. forbidden love
  2. age gap
  3. secret baby
  4. fake date
  5. fake marriage

You can have a lot of fun with tropes. Take forced proximity. Maybe two strangers have to share a shelter during a tornado, or the elevator stalls (that’s pretty popular) or there’s only one bed (another that’s popular). Anything where the characters need to spend a lot of time together in a close space with no chance of escape. Like a cabin during a blizzard.

Zoe encourages you to list the tropes as you plan the books in your series and I’m going to start doing that with all my books. For now I can list the tropes that my books do contain (I can list them for marketing and ad copy purposes) and going forward use new tropes as I plot.

Knowing what tropes your books includes can help with blurb-writing and writing ad copy. As Jami Albright says, tropes sell. If you can make the tropes easy for readers to see, you’ll be more apt to make a sale.

Writing a series takes a bit of planning. At least the first few books so you can fit the pieces of each book together like a puzzle. Some series can go on for a while see (Robyn Carr) and there is no way to plan twenty books at one time. But if you can list the elements you want to include in the first few hopefully consistency won’t be too big of an issue and you (and your characters) can find a groove.

Zoe’s book gave me a new perspective and I feel there are things any genre writer could benefit from. I encourage you to pick it up. You’ll be glad you did.


A note about sub-genre and tropes.

Some writers blur the line between sub-genre and tropes. The easiest way to explain the two is to give an example.

Take Aidy Award’s books. She writes curvy-girl romance. That’s her sub-genre. You know when you grab one of her books the heroine will be voluptuous. But that can’t be the plot. The plot will contain tropes that pertain to genres that aren’t only curvy-girl. Like close proximity or enemies to lovers.

Billionaire romance is another example. Maybe every single male character an author writes will be a billionaire, but those characters will have their own plots that contain their own tropes.

I have noticed that some of the bigger in the writers like Aidy focus on one sub-genre. Then they have fun with the tropes. They have an easier time branding their books and that helps marketing and sales. It’s something to think about moving forward.


If you want to grab Zoe’s book, look here. She has another book related to this one, and I’m going to grab it as soon as it’s available.

To check out her Amazon author page, and take a peek at her contemporary romance books, look here.


Thanks for stopping by!

Happy Tuesday!

Happy Tuesday!

I usually don’t blog without something to say, but today finds me in a good mood, and I’m just going to ramble for a bit about what’s been going on with me.

We’re 21 days into 2020. How is that going for you? Have you started a new project? Wrapped up something you were working on? Or in some cases, just trying to get through day by day because work is a drag, or your spouse is in a bad mood all the time, or you have a sick pet, or a continually sick kid. There always seems to be something, and if you can find an hour to yourself to sip a cup of coffee and do something productive, that’s going to be a win. I’ve blogged before about winter putting me into a slump, but this week we’re supposed to have mild temps–20-30 degrees F, and in January in Minnesota, that’s pretty great. So I’m going to bundle up and make the most of it.

Coming soon!As far as writing news, my quartet is almost done. I’m waiting for book 4 to come so I can proof the proof. My “second set of eyes” finished with the last book as well, and I’ll be incorporating his findings as I proof.

Even though my response to the Booksprout Review Service was lukewarm and lackluster, it did make me think about what a book launch looks like without reviews. So, I published the paperbacks of the first three books in the series, (I’ll do the same with book four as soon as I’m done proofing it for typos one last time) and put up those books onto the service for reviews upon the ebook publication. Will it make a difference? I have no idea. There is a section for a message from you to the reviewer, so I did ask them to be honest with their overall impression, how they like the stories from one to the next, how they all fit together. I’m not sure if it will do any good–from what I hear, a lot of people who read ARCs for Booksprout are only in it for the free books, but it never hurts to ask.

Here are the four completed covers:

Do you know all brunet men with beards look the same?  There is one male model who gets around, and it’s tough finding men who look different. But I think these will be okay for small town, contemporary romance. I looked covers for the top 100 small town contemporary romances and there is no one “set” way those covers look. My books also have older characters, so having a hot 20-something couple on the cover wouldn’t suit, but I can’t have them all fully clothed either, because then they look too “sweet.” When I had clothed couples on my trilogy, they sent a lot of mixed messages, so I’ve learned to keep my men half naked to readers know to expect a little sex. It’s such a strange, weird balancing act when it comes to romance, genres, and the covers.

But I will be glad these are out and then I won’t have to bother you with my griping anymore. LOL

If you want ARCs of any or all the books, let me know. I have them in pdf, generic epub, and mobi. 


In other news, I finally started working on the third book of my first person present trilogy. I’m excited to launch that pen name, and if first person present stays hot, then I might be writing under that name for a while. These have younger characters, are grittier (Think 50 Shades of Grey or the Crossfire Series by Sylvia Day but with a little less sex), and features a hot billionaire. The books take place in a fictional huge city that’s a cross among Savannah, Georgia, the Twin Cities in Minnesota and New York. Not as big as New York, and not detailed enough since I have never been there, but I wanted the vibe and the energy, at least.

Screen Shot 2020-01-21 at 12.57.53 PM

This is one of the posts that I did for my pen name’s author page on Facebook. I’ve been sharing pieces of the books along with a relevant stock photo and boosting those to get a little attention. I was careful when I picked out my targeting audience, and while my FB author page doesn’t have a lot of attention yet, I can shift my focus when my quartet is done.

I’ve been thinking about what I want my pen name’s “brand” to be. Not with logos, or colors, or what her website looks like, but what she writes. Listening to author panels and getting feedback from my backlist under my own name has made me realize I need to stick with a theme. So my pen name’s theme is probably always going to be the big-city, rich lifestyle. And have the glitz and glamour of that life be the tie that binds my books.

Also, in taking a look at my other plots and characters’ backstories, I do know that a lot of the time a message I send to my readers is you need to be happy for yourself and with yourself before you can be happy with someone else. And another thing my characters find is when they fall in love, they find “family.” I try not to let that be too prominent, in the way falling in love with the perfect man saves the woman from a bleak and unhappy future, but as for the guy, too, finding a woman who will love him despite his flaws, or if he’s hurt her in the past, and building a foundation despite that hurt. How to turn those themes and feelings into marketing will be a different matter all together, but if a reader reads your books and the themes are similar they’ll connect the dots themselves and hopefully leave the reviews to reflect that, too.

I’ll be paying special attention to these covers to make sure that the feeling will travel across everything my pen name writes.

As for what I’m doing for the rest of my day, I wrote 7,000 words yesterday, and usually after a creative spurt like that I don’t get much done the next day.  I would still like to get a couple thousand in later, but I need to run to the grocery store, and tonight is movie night with my sister. We saw Uncut Gems–my pick–a couple weeks ago, and it was not to our liking, so it’s her pick now. I don’t know what we’ll see. Have you watched any good movies lately? I’ve been watching The Witcher at night, one episode, or half an episode, ever evening (I don’t have tolerance for much more TV than that). I tried reading the books a while back, but didn’t care for the 3rd person omniscient they’re written in. I might go back and try again, since I’m enjoying the show.

I hope you all are having a fantastic 2020 so far!


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End of the Year, Where I’m at with my Wedding Quartet, and more.

Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, we only have 21 days until the New Year. That means wrapping up a few things, freaking out because my writing time is suddenly gone because of Christmas, taking time to enjoy the holidays, and figuring my plan for 2020.

Quartet Update

My books are technically done. I’m waiting for my proofers to get through them all. One is almost done with book two, the other is closer to being done with book two, and this leaves me with what I’m going to do with beta-ing/proofing/editing moving forward. The two proofers are friends of mine, and they volunteered. That means I’m working on their timetable, and they both know how impatient I am. When you hire someone to help you, you are working on their timetable, too, being sandwiched in with their other clients, Hopefully they feel they must work a little faster to keep their clients happy. This isn’t a brag at all, and I’m sure other indies who write quickly are in the same position: I write too fast to depend on free help anymore. So in 2020 I’ll be looking for an affordable beta- reader/proofer in my genre who can help me polish my novels before publication.

In the meantime, I’ll put out the quartet with the resources and friendships that I have and decide what I’m going to do with the 1st person trilogy I’m writing that will be released under a pen name in the early spring of 2020.

As far as the quartet covers go, I received good feedback on the mockup for the first one, and I will definitely be keeping this couple as I haven’t seen them on a cover of a book before. (If you have, don’t tell me!) I have a few more couples bookmarked on Deposit Photos, I just need to see how they look shoved into the template. I thought I found one, but the way he was positioned put his nipple in the exact center of the front cover. Once I saw it, I couldn’t unsee it, and I know a lot of people would have noticed it too. Finding couples is hard!

a rocky point wedding book cover mock up for blog

I’ve been looking at fonts and buying a few to try during the holiday sales to replace the bad Scriptina font, and at work one day I did take about six hours to brainstorm titles for all of them.  I just need to find the notebook they’re in now. Jeez. Blurbs are next, and I wish I had 1,000 dollars to hire Bryan Cohen and his blurb writing business to crank them out for me. I also need to get going on the blog posts a writer character writes for her newspapers blogs. I haven’t gotten many of them written yet, and I don’t know how many I’ll do. With what goes on in all four books, there is a lot of subject matter to choose from.

I should just make a list and get going because I missed the deadline of when I wanted to start publishing these. But taking my time will be worth it. I don’t want to have to fix anything after these are out in the wild. And feedback is pretty important, too.

It seems surreal to me I started writing the first book in the series around this time last year, trying to get as much done before my surgery as I could. Now they’re done. I worked really hard this year, and I’m going to have to think of a special way to celebrate once they’re all ready to go.

First person trilogy

I’m experimenting with first person for my next romance, and I’m going to publish under a pen name. I know authors who go back and forth with POVs under one name, but I’d like to keep them separate. In the little research I’ve been doing, it feels to me like the audiences are different (first person present readers seem younger to me somehow) and that might affect how I do some marketing. Eventually I might reveal what my pen name is, but the plan is to keep the launch separate and see what happens. Vania Rheault doesn’t have much power anyway, so it’s not like I’m missing out by not using my readership to launch a new trilogy. Joanna Penn and her mother released Penny Appleton books without telling anyone. Joanna just used what she knew of marketing, and it sounds like she did okay. I feel like these are better for the market right now, so I won’t be shy with throwing a little money at the first book’s launch and see how they do. I’m excited to try this different path in my writing career.  Stay flexible!

Other Bits and Pieces

It’s cold here now. It seems like winter decided to smack us in the face a little earlier this year.

photo of snow field near trees

It’s pretty until you have to live in it.   Photo by Burak K on Pexels.com

It makes the winter months drag, and I’m already tired of the bitter cold and snow. Seasonal/situational depression sucks, and there’s nothing you can do except keep chugging along and trying to take more good out of the bad. I’ll be writing as much as I can, of course, trying to go outside when frostbite isn’t a sure thing, and just trying to keep my sanity until the weather warms up in four long months.

This time last year I was also dealing with two sick pets, and my kitties seem to be doing okay now. Blaze and Harley still don’t get along, and that will always be a stress in the back of my mind. (If you want to see pictures of them on a fairly regular basis, follow my Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/vaniamargenerheault/ where you’ll also see I have a penchant for martinis.) Harley’s stress made her pretty sick, and 2,500 dollars later she seems to be okay. So I can count my blessings in that regard, anyway.

Still thinking about doing a newsletter, and looking at aggregators for that. MailChimp still seems to come out on top because of their free service up to 2,000 subscribers (even after their changes) but I’m also hearing good things about Mailerlite. Mailerlite is free up to 1,000 email subscribers, and that seems to be the one a lot of indie authors use. You

shallow focus photo of woman sitting on couch

can change aggregators, but I would prefer to choose the one I’m going to stick with for the long haul. I know that my blog is for indie writers looking for publishing advice, and a newsletter needs to be for your readers in the genre you write in. So I need to decide if I can scrape up content for a newsletter that would go out about twice a month and still have the time/energy/brainpower to keep my blog going. I love blogging. It gives me a chance to switch gears from fiction to nonfiction. So in 2020 we’ll see what happens.

I suppose that’s about it for now. Just wanted to catch you guys up. I’m still working really hard on the quartet, though things seem to be at a standstill as I wait. There are background things I should be doing, and I’ll focus more on those in the coming weeks. My second book in my first person trilogy is at 63k, and I have to admit, I work on that when I shouldn’t be; I’m just having so much fun! I have about 15,000 more words to go and it will be done. I know what I need to write, I just gotta do it. I primarily write that in longhand at my work so I don’t think I’ll have a problem finding the time to finish it before the end of the month. Bits and pieces of the third book come to me, and I’ll have to plot that out a little more when I’m ready to write it. Writing in 3rd person and 1st person are very different, and writing 1st person (to me) seems easier.  But, if it’s any good remains to be seen! Ha!

I’ll have more of my Written Word Media survey blog posts coming out in the coming weeks, too, so look for that. If you missed the first one, you can read it here.

Thanks for checking in with me, and I will talk to you soon!


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Editing The Rocky Point Wedding Series. Where I’m at cutting time and cutting the fat from my books.

These past two weeks have been not so much as hit and miss as totally miss when it comes to the blog. I apologize for that, but this week I’ll try to catch you up on what I’ve been doing!


a rocky point wedding social media graphicYou all know I’ve been writing my Rocky Point Wedding Series.

I tweeted the other day that I was finished the first sweep of editing Book One. I felt like I missed a few important things, so I’m in the middle of editing it again. I’ve lost another 200 words on top of the 2,000 that I lost the first time around, and my final word count for that book will be about 72,500. A far cry from the almost 75,000 words I ended it with, but I think it’s reading a lot better.


In the past my editing schedule has gone like this:

  • Edit on screen. Maybe I do this once, usually do it twice. Not sure. This is where I look for typos, but it’s also where I usually get a rid of a lot of filler that drags the story down. Of course, this is the place to do the biggest changes, and I usually lose a lot of words here.
  • Another sweep on the computer.
  • Print it out. This stage is where I added a lot of the words I took out the first time, only making it sound better. This is where I tackle some syntax issues as well. This is a time-consuming step because after editing on paper, you need to take the time to put them all in the computer file.
  • Have Word read it to me. This step is also very time-consuming, but in the past I felt it was worth it. You can hear how your book sounds, listen for clunky sentences, fix syntax issues and all get a feel for it spoken. I like this step because authors are putting their books into audio a lot more lately, and places like Find A Way Voices through Draft to Digital are scrambling for ways to make this affordable for every author. While Word’s robovoice isn’t 100%, you can still get an idea if a narrator is going to stumble over a paragraph with twenty sentences in it.
  • Then I would proof the paperback proof. This step is pretty awesome too, because your  book is a book then, and it’s easy to spot typos and words like peek, peak, and pique that aren’t caught during editing.

woman using laptop

Photo by Jopwell on Pexels.com

You might be saying that’s a hella lot of editing, and it is. You might also think a person could skip some of this if she hired someone, and you would be right again. I never have, and it’s not a secret I do all my own editing. Sometimes I catch stuff, sometimes I don’t, but I’ve read books that have been pro-edited that have had mistakes. We’re all human, and I do give myself a little slack.

But this kind of editing takes on a whole new meaning when you’re doing four books at the same time, or at least back to back. So I’ve decided to cut out a couple editing steps and I have a proofer lined up who will help me. I’ve decided to take out the printing step, because that’s just a lot of paper, and I’m debating on taking out the listening step. If I don’t, I have to figure out where I want to put it in my schedule. I don’t want to touch it after my proofer gets a hold of it. That’s just asking for trouble.

I don’t like skipping the proofing the proof part because it really is important to read through the book after you’ve gotten it. You catch more than spelling mistakes and typos. Even inconsistencies are easier to spot since you are reading your own book as a reader. How can you not when you’re holding it in your hands?

I went through all that because I did want to touch on one other thing in regards to editing. As you get better writing, plot construction, character arcs, and learning grammar and punctuation (or you should be! listen to your feedback!) your books won’t need as much editing. It feels WEIRD giving up an editing step or two, but as you write, your first drafts will be cleaner, and clinging to editing steps may just be a waste of time.

Be careful that you’re aren’t changing something just to change something. Change something to make it sound better, or you’re just wasting your time.

A great book to read on self-editing is Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print Subsequent Edition by Renni Browne (Author), Dave King (Contributor). When I went to a writing conference in Santa Barbara a couple years ago, this book was recommended by nearly everyone.

Another good book that will help you edit is Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing (Quick & Dirty Tips) by Mignon Fogarty. Even if you’re going to pay someone to edit or proofread for you, it’s always cheaper to do as much as you can by yourself, this includes knowing where commas go, what a comma splice is, how to correctly us a semi colon, that kind of thing. Little details like that are a KILLER on an editor’s time.


I was going to add a couple other topics to this, but I had no idea going through my editing process for these books would take so long. I’m at almost 1,000 words already, so I will say goodbye for now and fill you on in what I’ve been doing with Amazon Ads later on this week.

What kind of editing do you put your book through? Betas? Yeah. An editor? Proofreader? Nothing?  Let know!

 

end of blog post graphic

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!

The Wedding Party Series Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Falling in love . . .

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

James Fox Wedding Party

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

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

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

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

Marnie Zimmerman wedding photo

This is how I pictured Marnie Zimmerman, the bride. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time!

 

jared and leah for end of blog posts

 

Laying the Groundwork for a (Romantic) Series

Series sell. Us indies are told this all the time. Write a strong first book in a series, hook the reader, and have natural read-through to the next three or four or five plus books. While my trilogy hasn’t taken off, (i.e. I can’t pay the rent with royalties yet) I do have some read through–people I have reading book three who wouldn’t be around had the first book been a standalone.

But there are a lot of questions to consider when thinking about a series:

  • Where is it going to take place?
    You need a setting that is interesting enough that the place of your books will hold

    interesting setting

    An interesting setting becomes a character in and of itself.

    the reader’s attention for that amount of time, lends plot potential, and is a place that you won’t get sick of as an author. A detective series could take place in a large city. There’s enough fodder for lots of crime, and the possibility of cops sitting around playing poker in a city full of millions of people is low. Lots of romances take place in small towns, but if you’re working with a small town, you need to make sure your characters have something to do. A town with one stoplight, where the only gas station closes at 8pm, doesn’t leave much opportunity to use setting as a character, unless something happens like a natural disaster such as a tornado. So when you’re planning your series, you have to keep the setting in mind. Susan Mallery’s Fool’s Gold series is based in a town called Fool’s Gold and its Mayor proves to be quite the matchmaker.

 

  • How many people are you going to start with at first?
    A series will evolve and change as you write (new characters will be introduced, for

    group of people

    Plan your characters.

    instance), but when you sit down to write the first book you’ll need to keep in mind where you want the first few books to go so you can lay the groundwork. Weaving future plots and characters into current narrative will clue your reader into the fact that yes, there will be more books about the characters they will come to care about, and yes, they will want to read the next and the next and the next. But you can only do that when you know what’s going to happen in the first handful of books. It can be a woman and her three best friends, or a guy and his two sisters. Nora Roberts does this well, and my Four Bridesmaids Quartet I’m planning is modeled after her Bride Quartet. (I’m not copying her–I’ve read Nora since I was a teenager, and I admire her plotting skills and the construction of her books. I wouldn’t be the writer I am today had I not read so much Nora Roberts growing up. She’s definitely influenced my writing for the better. :))

 

  • What are the characters’ backstories?
    Your characters’ backstories need to be related to the plot somehow. Say your three sisters had an abusive mother and their relationship with her bleeds into their relationships with their boyfriends. If you go bigger (a longer series) and it’s your town that has the problems, like a tornado, or hurricane, or a flood, your characters need to have personal problems associated with the town to create conflict. A popular romance trope is a stranger comes to town, and he’s got a ton of secrets. Only the widow in the falling down ranch house can breech his rough exterior to his secrets beneath. But he’s he’s also an electrician and can help rewire the school after the fire! That helps the town accept him and he feels like he belongs and he stays after he falls in love with your FMC (female main character).

 

  • What is your plot?
    Is your main plot going to be wrapped up in each book (like the detective solves the crime, and the next book would be the detective solving a new crime?) or is your main plot going to arc over a few books? If you’re hoping to write so a reader can pop in at book eight and not feel like they’ve missed anything, you’ll need to wrap up the plot at the end of each book while foreshadowing your next story. This is why it’s always best to know what your next book is going to be about so you can weave in those clues.

 


Publishing Your Series

The bullet points above are the writing part of it, but before you begin a series, it’s best to have some kind of idea about publishing.

  • Your publishing schedule.
    As an indie, you have complete control of your publishing schedule. Are you goingwaiting for a series to publish them as you write them, or are you going to save up a couple and publish them together? A week apart? Two weeks apart?In this case, being an indie author is definitely a perk. You don’t have to make your readers wait a year between books like the traditionally published authors do. But because of impatience, many indies publish as they write, without a thought as to making a reader wait for the next book. I haven’t met one author who likes to sit on books. (But I have heard of plenty of stories about the benefits to the authors who do.) The minute the book is ready, they hit publish. But what does this mean if you’re writing a series? How fast can you write the next book? Do you do this full-time and can publish the next one in two months, one month? Do you have a team that will edit and format and do your covers for you? What is the point of publishing a book one if it’s going to take you two years to publish the next?

 

  • Consistency.It’s really hard to go back and make changes to a book that’s already been

    changes

    This is a pretty kind of change. The kind made to your book after already publishing isn’t this pretty, and it’s time-consuming.

    published. Not that it’s hard from a technical standpoint–just make the fixes and upload the new file. But what about those readers who have read it already? Your plot and characters are already in their heads, and you want to ask them reread your book for the new information so the next book will make more sense? Sorry. It doesn’t work that way. If you write a book one, and something happens in book two to make your consistency fade away like fog in the sun, you’ve got a problem, if you’ve already published. But if you haven’t–good news! Just make the changes. As you add to the series, this isn’t realistic, I know that. You’re not going to sit on seven books. No one would. But in all practicality, sitting on two or three books to make sure your plot is going smoothly and you don’t have any big plot holes or changes that need to be addressed is pretty darn smart.

 

  • Covers 
    If you’re doing your own covers, or if you’re going to be buying premades, orbride_quartet nora roberts working with a designer, it’s very very very important that your covers not only fit the genre, but that your series will look like a series. That means your author name looks the same, that your pictures you choose are cohesive. It means that the series name is on all the books.Here’s Nora Roberts’ Bride Quartet I was telling you about earlier. It’s a lot easier to plan how your covers will look–at least the first few, if you wait to publish.
    It’s also helpful with titles. If you’re doing a trilogy, or a quartet, or even a quintet, it will give you a chance to think of titles that match the theme of your plots.

 

After my May/December romance, I am going to write a quartet. Yes, I will wait to publish until they are all done. I will do my own covers, and I’ve already thought of titles that will match the theme of the books. I have my town chosen, I’m mulling over characters now. It will take a lot of patience to write this series, but as I stated at the beginning of the post, series sell. I’ll have a trilogy and three standalones in my backlist, and it’s time for another series.

Are you writing a series right now? Are you publishing as you go? How much time is between them? Let me know!

 

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