Wednesday, November 21, 2018

A Thankful Writer's List

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. For those of us in the U.S. we celebrate by getting together with friends and family and stuffing ourselves past our limits. Then, we sit around watching football and whining about being too full, only to go back later for another round. Sounds fun, right?

Some families have a tradition of having each person go around the table to say what they’re thankful for. We don’t do that in our house, but I am thankful for so many things. And yes, I am going to tell you what they are.

I’m thankful for my husband, for too many reasons to name. When it comes to my writing career, he listens to me when I go on and on and on about how my latest book or promotion campaign is doing and he never rolls his eyes. This man maintains my website. He designs most of my covers and puts up with my endless revisions. He also creates all of the graphics I use in my promotions. Every time my computer misbehaves, he drops what he’s doing to fix it for me. He does all of this without complaint. The support he gives me makes all the difference.

I’m thankful for my daughters. One is my biggest cheerleader. She likes all of my social media posts, tells me how to make them better and shares them. All of her friends know every time I have a new book out. The other daughter is quietly supportive. Even though, she heaves a sigh when her friends ask what kind of books I write, she always answers. And I know she’s proud of me.

I’m thankful for the readers who buy my books. Those who took a chance on me and have been with me since my Wattpad days. Those who read everything I write. Those who like all of my posts on all of my social media platforms. Those who review my books. Those who like my Facebook page and joined my Facebook group. You are the reason I keep writing on the days I think I have no talent. Your support and words of encouragement and even enthusiasm remind me that I should never give up.

I’m thankful for my fellow writers. Some of you give me advice. Some of you share my work on your reader’s groups. Some of you do both. You boost my spirits and sometimes my sales. There are too many of you to personally thank, but I hope you know who you are.

I’m thankful to every author who took a chance and wrote a book and shared it with the world. Your stories give me joy as a reader and help me be a better writer. They remind me to work harder, to write better and to never give up.

I’m thankful to have recently achieved a longtime goal I’ve had as a writer. With the release of my m/m romance, Going Inksane, I become a best selling author. To be specific, I can now say I am an Amazon best selling author. My readers and my peers made this happen and I do not have enough words to express how much this means to me.
I’m thankful for every day that I get to write. Whether it’s one page or one hundred, it means a lot. I’ve been writing since I was a kid, but there was a time in my life when I put writing on the back burner. I stopped writing to concentrate on raising a family so I can’t regret that, but it was difficult to get those creative juices flowing again. I’m grateful they returned.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope you have as much to be thankful for as I do.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

It's Tough Being a Bisexual Writer

Okay, I’ll admit that title is misleading. I am a writer, but I am not bisexual. However, when it comes to writing, I can relate to some of my bisexual friends. I can practically hear you thinking, ‘Uh, Trish, that doesn’t make any sense’.  Let me see if I can explain.

When I first started writing, I was strictly writing male/female romance, meaning all of my stories had a male and female couple falling in love with each other. That is also the type of story I liked to read. It was rare for me to read non-straight fiction, but one day I found myself reading male/male romances and enjoying them as much as their male/female counterparts.

With as many of these m/m romances as I was reading, it wasn’t long before I wanted to try my hand at writing them. In the beginning, it was adding gay characters as secondary characters. Later, it was writing a m/m book in an otherwise all m/f series. One book would be m/m and the other three would be m/f, and I would usually put the m/m book in the middle after introducing one or more of the characters in earlier books, hoping to get readers invested.

Now, I’m writing an entire five book m/m series. I haven’t stopped writing m/f romance though. I intend to keep writing both. I’m not the only author who does it, but you know what I’ve discovered?

Some readers refuse to read m/f or m/m books, no matter how much they love an author. If they like m/m, that is all they will read. Just today, I saw a question in a Facebook readers’ group asking if skipping a m/f/m book in an otherwise m/m series would cause any issues with understanding the events in future books that were only m/m. That reader absolutely did not want to read the male/female/male romance simply because of the female being a romantic and sexual partner for the two males.

Because of this, there are some authors who write both m/f and m/m romances but use different pen names for each trope. I don’t use a pen name, never have. I know a lot of authors do, but I never saw the point. All of my books, whether they are m/m or m/f or even m/f/m are going to be written under my name. Readers that despise one or the other can choose not to read those books. I’m okay with that, but I want to make a couple of things clear.

This is not a phase. I like to write books for both the m/f and m/m audience. I’m not going to pick a side. I’m perfectly happy as an equal opportunity writer. I’m not secretly happier writing m/m and just unwilling to admit it. I enjoy writing m/f as much as I do m/m. Each satisfies me in a different way.

While I would like it if all of my readers loved all of my books, I know that’s not realistic. Everyone has their preferences, and I’m not out to change them. I just hope you’ll do me the same courtesy and not abandon me for liking both tropes. Just read the books you like and let others do the same. And for those of you equal opportunity readers, thank you for supporting me no matter what.

Monday, October 8, 2018

That's Inksane

No, that title is not a misprint. That's exactly what I meant.

If you follow me on social media, you know that for the last few months, I’ve been talking about my latest book. Other than the fact that it’s a male/male romance and will be the first in a five book series, I haven’t shared many details. Well, that changes today.

I didn’t plan to write this book or series. Earlier in the year, I’d mapped out the six book series that I wanted to write. Each book has a synopsis, three have completed covers and two have been written and released. I was all set to write the third book when it happened.

An idea for a new series popped into my head. Once I did the outline, the characters for the first book became insistent. The story would not stop trying to write itself in my head, leaving me two choices. Either write the story or face losing what I’d come up with so far. I chose to write the story.

As of today, that story has been written, the cover has been done and it’s been formatted. Best of all, the book is already up for pre-order in the Amazon store and will be released 10/16/18. And for you Kindle Unlimited subscribers, you'll be happy to hear, I'm putting this one in KU so you can read for free.

The book is called Going Insksane, which also happens to be name of the tattoo shop where one of the main characters works. It’s not just the name of Heath’s business. It’s the story of his life.

For the last five years, Heath Mitchell’s only priority has been running a successful tattoo shop. Relationships haven’t been on his radar, but as his thirtieth birthday gets closer, Heath realizes just how lonely he is. Like an answer to his prayers, Ned Nice comes into his shop. Despite the instant attraction between them, a dark secret in Ned’s past makes him afraid to get too close to Heath. Ned isn’t the only one with secrets though. Heath is hiding a secret so big it could be a deal breaker. Can Heath and Ned find a way to overcome the demons of their pasts, or is it insane to even try?

Going Inskane is the first in a five book series, there will be a larger gap between releases than readers are used to from me. I still want to finish the last four books in my New Beginnings series with Slade's story being the next one scheduled for release. In order to do justice to both series, I will be alternating releases. After Slade's book is out, then it will be time to release the next Ink book and so on and so forth.

I’ve never tried to write more than one series at a time so this will be interesting. And I sure didn’t plan it this way, but I’d say that Going Inksane is a topical title for this undertaking.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Finish What You Started

When I first started writing, my books were all standalone. I wrote one story and moved on to the next, leaving those characters behind. It didn’t even occur to me to consider writing a series until readers started asking for more of the characters they loved so much.

Encouraged by my readers, I took what I thought would be a standalone young adult novel and created a new adult spinoff that turned into a four book series. That series spawned another four book series, which ultimately led to me writing a trilogy. All because the readers liked the characters and wanted to hear each person’s individual story.

I am currently working on two different series, which I’ve never done. I had finished the first two books in my six book, New Beginnings new adult series when I was struck with the urge to write a gay romance novel that I realized would be the first in a five book series. I hope to have the first draft of that book finished by the end of this week. Then I’ll move on to my third New Beginnings book while my first m/m romance is being edited.

The plan is to alternate my releases between each series. The next book coming out will by the first of my m/m romance series. After that, I’ll release my third book in the New Beginnings series; a new adult m/f romance entitled Coming Back Broken. Then it will be my second m/m book and so on and so forth.

I understand this will mean a lot of time in between releases for each series, but I’m hoping readers not reading both series will think it’s worth the wait. So far, I’ve never started a series that I didn’t finish. Too bad I can’t say the same for all writers, which I say as a reader and not a writer. As a writer, I’m not going to be critical of my peers. As a reader, it irks me when authors start something they don’t finish.

The reasons for abandoning a series can be everything from losing inspiration to not being able to secure a contract for the next book if the last one didn’t sell enough. Whatever the reason, it feels like nothing but a flimsy excuse to those of us who have spent the money in faithful support of our favorite authors.

And I’m not talking about taking a long time in between releases. I read a lot authors who aren’t always good for more than one or two books a year. Do I get impatient? Sure, but I’m not usually disappointed when the next book finally does come out.

My irritation stems from writers who give us a few good books that are clearly part of a series and then nothing more. I don’t know what’s worse. When a writer quits a series and seems to drop off the face of the earth, leaving fans to wonder what happened or when an author tells you they’re going to be releasing that next book soon and then it never comes.

I recently saw what I thought were two disturbing Facebook posts from authors. The first was an author announcing he was quitting because not enough people liked his work and he was sorry to those who did. The other was an author who went on an extensive rant because a reader took exception to the fact that the author’s last book in a series ended on a cliffhanger and it’s been years since then. The second author felt like she was being bullied to finish the series and thought it was pointless when so many people have said they didn’t like her, didn’t like the way she ended the last book, didn’t like the darkness of the series, etc. The author made it clear no one was going to tell her what she could and could not write and she was not going to write that last book no matter what anyone else wanted.

All I could say to both of these was ‘Wow, really?’ I guess I have a different attitude. I don’t think it should matter if you have one reader who loved that series or one million. You started something that people became invested in. Maybe it wasn’t as big or as great an investment as you wanted, but someone cared enough to buy your books. You owe it to them to finish what your started, and as long as I’m standing on this soapbox, I might as well say one more thing. Don’t start something you can’t finish.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

You Still Deserve the Best

I’m not just a writer. I’m a reader, a pretty voracious one. In fact, it was reading that nurtured my love for writing. It’s the same for a lot of authors.

There was a time where getting published was nearly impossible. You needed an agent with a proven track record of sales, an agent who had already cultivated a relationship with the big name publishing houses. As a result, agents were inundated with submissions and publishers took on only a small number of projects.

Self-publishing was known but not talked about. Self-publishing companies were referred to as a vanity press, the obvious implication being that authors were so vain they would pay to see their books published. Personally, I don’t think it was so much about vanity as it was about desperation to see your dream come true in any way you could.

The publishing game changed when electronic books and readers became a reality. It became easier and cheaper to buy books. It also became easier for all authors to get published. These days you can use sites like Smashwords to publish your electronic book and they will work with most major online retailers to get your book into their stores. With these types of sites not charging authors upfront costs, the authors can afford to put lower price points on their books, thus attracting more readers and netting more profits. Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program allows authors to upload their novel and sell it exclusively to Amazon customers allowing readers with a Kindle Unlimited subscription to read for free.

With it being so much easier to become a published author, I have noticed a disturbing trend. There seems to be a willingness to accept a less than perfect product. In other words, readers are willing to overlook errors in the novel because they like the story or the author or both. Just to be clear, I’m not talking about a few errors. I’m talking about books riddled with errors. Not just riddled with errors but getting multiple four and five star reviews.

Just yesterday, I was reading a story where the main character had been in an accident and he needed to be assessed for his injuries. Instead of assessed, the author wrote he needed to be accessed. The author also used OK throughout the book instead of okay, which is the correct format. And in this same book, there was a single sentence in which the word evacuation was used three times. Imagine my surprise to find this book had a five star Amazon review.

Authors are also getting away from remembering they need to show readers what is going on and not tell them. Going back to the story I referenced a moment ago, there was a lot of narrative in this book with many sentences starting with “I saw”, “I heard” or “I felt”. These are fine once in a while, but instead of relying on them to describe the scene, authors need to show readers what’s going on. Don’t say ‘I felt someone touch me’. Instead, try going with ‘Rough hands seized my shoulders’ or something along those lines.

Once upon a time agents and especially publishers would not accept a single mistake in a book. If one happened to get through, readers took a certain amount of glee in finding it. It was nice to be reminded our favorite authors were human and made mistakes too.

With there being more independent authors than traditionally published ones, we have access to more books than ever. That doesn’t mean we should tolerate errors or be willing to let authors sacrifice quality. I for one, try my best to produce a perfectly polished book every time. It doesn’t always happen. Sometimes things get through, and it makes me sick when I find them, but believe me when I say I invest just as much time on editing as I do on writing.

Just because I’m an independent author doesn’t mean my readers don’t deserve the best of me. Lower price should not equal lower quality.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Word 2016 Is The Work of the Devil

As I’m sure you’ve figured out by the title of this blog, I’m really not a fan of Microsoft Word 2016. I know. I know. I’m on the slow train with this. It’s 2018. Here’s the thing. Until recently, I haven’t been using the upgraded version. My old laptop was running just fine so I didn’t need it.

Not too long ago, my laptop crashed. I had to go out and buy a new one, which meant I had no choice but to take the upgrade. And don’t even get me started on licensing. That’s a topic for another day. Since being forced to work with MS Word 2016, I have discovered some things I truly hate about this program. Shall we discuss them?

It doesn’t like contractions. Every time I write the words, I’m, you’re, I’d and so on and so forth, I’m hit with the blue squiggly lines. When I right click to see what the problem is, MS Word suggests that I use does not instead of doesn’t or you are instead of you’re. Whether or not I should follow this suggestion depends on who you ask. Some editors will say you should only use contractions in dialogue while others will say it’s fine to use no matter what. I do what I think is natural and makes the story flow better, and I definitely use it a lot in dialogue. The result? My document is littered with distracting blue squiggly lines.

Use of the passive voice is a big sin with MS Word 2016. Saying that I am being forced to use this program is an example of passive voice. I hate to tell you MS Word, you may be right but correcting it will sound awkward. And I don’t know if you or MS Word creators realize this or not, but most writers use passive voice as do most speakers. You know what that means don’t you? More of those annoying blue squiggly lines are cluttering my document. You want to hear something funny? I am currently staring at 'don’t you' being underlined in my earlier sentence. MS Word thinks I should say, ‘you know what that means do not you?’ No squiggly blue line, but you have to admit it sounds awkward.

Starting a sentence with the word and apparently throws MS Word into a tailspin. I’ll admit that it’s not common. Years ago, our English teachers were slashing red lines through our papers whenever we did it. These days, it’s more accepted. Again, how well accepted depends on who your editor is, but the point is that it’s okay to start some sentences with the word and. I don’t need MS Word telling me to use ‘moreoever’ or ‘in addition to’ instead. I get it Microsoft. You don’t think it’s proper English to start a sentence with the word and. Guess what? I don’t care what you think, and I’m going to keep doing it.

I’m sure there’s probably a way to turn off the squiggly blue lines. If you can turn off auto correct or predictive text on your cell phone, I would be willing to bet someone has come up with a way to turn off the English professor feature in MS Word 2016. The problem with that is I actually find some features helpful. I want to know if the word is spelled incorrectly or there is incorrect comma placement. Other than that, I really wish they had left it alone. This is one upgrade that was not better.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

That's The Way The Cocky Cookie Crumbles

If you’re a romance author, especially one who has used the word cocky in a title, you have probably already heard the news. For the readers keeping up with this story, you might know too, but for those of you who don’t know. Guess what? It’s okay to be cocky in your titles.

Not long ago, I shared with you the story of a romance author who had trademarked the word cocky in connection with one of her series. Apparently, she has several books featuring characters with the last name Cocker so she decided to do something that she felt would tie all the books together in a clever way. Her answer was to use the word cocky in every title. For example, and I don’t know if these are names of her actual titles, but The Cocky Teacher, The Cocky Doctor, The Cocky… you get the idea.

You know what? I think that’s a great idea. Any author with a series has done it, myself included. When I wrote the Time for Love series, all four books had the word time in the title. Same thing with my Taking on Love series. Each book had the word taking in the title. Using a word in your titles to associate it with your series is great. Unfortunately, the author in question took it too far.

Somewhere along the way, she decided she wanted to trademark her brand. Again, I have no issue with this. Several authors have a brand trademarked, which keeps other authors from profiting from use of that brand. One of my peers, the amazing Erin Nicholas, has a wildly popular romance series set in the fictitious town of Sapphire Falls. If another author wants to write books set in this town, we need her permission because she owns the trademark. Trademarks work and none of us mind their use, but the author I’m talking about didn’t just trademark her brand when she trademarked her Cocky series. Nope, she decided that since she had a trademark on the Cocky Brothers series that she owned the trademark to the word cocky itself.

You read that right. The author decided she owned the trademark to the use of the word cocky in all book titles. With that understanding, she started sending cease and desist letters to all authors who used the word cocky in the title of any romance novel published after she secured her trademark. In that letter, she explained to each author that she owned the trademark of the word cocky and would take legal action against any author who continued to use the word cocky in her title. Further, she contacted retailers like Amazon and reported that because she owned the trademark on the word cocky, any author using it was in violation of her trademark. This led to Amazon and similar sites taking down other authors’ books, the ultimate result being lost income for those authors.

As you can imagine, this created quite the uproar. Some authors, fearing they didn’t have the money to fight a lawsuit, went ahead and changed their titles. Others refused to back down. After all, you can’t trademark a word. Several authors posted You Tube and or Facebook videos pleading with the author in in question to be reasonable. Blogs were written detailing why the author’s alleged trademark ownership of a word didn’t have a leg to stand on. Authors began tweeting about it, calling the whole fiasco cockygate. One author, who is also a lawyer, began an online petition to have the trademark reversed. Readers picked up on what was going on based on our social media posts and they weighed in, most seeming to agree that the author leading this charge needed to back off.

Not only did she not back off, she secured herself a lawyer and decided she was going to sue a few authors. Two authors and one online publicist were named in her lawsuit. How did the publicist get dragged into this? This poor woman promoted a book with a title along the lines of “Cock Tales”.  The book was an anthology with stories by multiple authors. All stories had the word cocky in the title. The purpose wasn’t just to poke fun but to start a legal defense fund since everyone saw the writing on the wall. Not one author in the “Cock Tales” book kept their profits. The author in question mistakenly thought the publicist was the author of the book and included her in the lawsuit.

This thing got so big that the Romance Writers of America (RWA) got involved. For those of who don’t know, The RWA was founded in 1980. It is a non-profit trade organization whose goal, according to their website, is to advance the interests of career-focused romance authors. When the RWA saw what was happening, they reached out to lawyers as well, and when the trademark author filed her lawsuit, the RWA announced it would fund council for the defense. Their generosity left a lot of us sighing in relief since there is no way most of us could afford to fight this in court, including the authors who were the subject of the lawsuit.

The case was heard before in a New York court earlier this year, and it didn’t look good for the trademark author. Preliminary findings indicated the trademark wasn’t necessary, that readers weren’t confusing her books with others and were sophisticated enough to know the difference. Reader confusion was one of her reasons for insisting she needed the trademark. Supposedly, multiple readers contacted her to state they had bought a book they thought was hers only to realize it was another author’s book with a  similar title. I don’t know about you, but if I happen to buy the wrong book, I simply return it. I’ve never had an issue with this, but I digress. The court also found the plaintiff hadn’t done her due diligence in bringing the lawsuit and certain aspects were without merit.

I can only imagine that the author in question heard the train rumbling down the tracks. Earlier this week, news broke that she not only withdrew her lawsuit but surrendered her trademark. This is a victory, not just for the authors named in her lawsuit, but for all authors. Forget breathing a sigh of relief, many of us are jumping for joy over this news. You can’t trademark a word and expect it not to be used by other authors, even those in the same genre as you.

Guess that’s the way the cocky cookie crumbles.