Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Shameless Plea

The title of this blog says it all. I want something. Ironically, the title is a bit misleading. After settling on the title, it took me a good five minutes to decide how I was going to start so here goes...

Last year, I released a story on Wattpad entitled, Like You Mean It. The story of a young athlete who loses his arm in a car accident struck a chord with readers. Reviews on Wattpad sent the story to the top ten of the site’s teen fiction category. As word spread, my readership grew and I couldn’t have been more delighted.

Like You Mean It was a story that was seven years in the making. I wrote the first draft in 2005 and spent several years polishing and perfecting the story. One year, I even entered it into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards. Though it made the semi-final round, it didn’t win. I did, however, get some good feedback from readers as well as a professional reviewer that helped me to make the novel what it is today.

Even though I didn’t win the Amazon contest, I never stopped believing in the story. Anxious to see how it would fare all these revisions later, I posted it to Wattpad. My perseverance was rewarded by the glowing reviews and votes of generous readers, many of whom pushed me to have the novel published so they would be able to have a printed copy. It was their encouragement that led me to jump back into the search for a publisher.

Earlier this year, I was thrilled to be offered a contract for the book which would make it available in both electronic and print formats. After accepting the contract, and no longer owning the full rights to the story at that point, I removed Like You Mean It from Wattpad. Soon after beginning to work with the publisher, I quickly came to regret my decision to sign with her. To make a long story short, we mutually agreed, in writing of course, to terminate the contract on the basis of creative differences and Like You Mean It was my story again. Determined to see the book published, I forged ahead on my own though I couldn’t offer it in print. Instead, I released the book via Smashwords in an electronic version and continued to offer it as a free book.

Not long after this new version of Like You Mean It was released, I received notice that for the first time ever, Writer’s Digest would hold a contest exclusively for e-books. The books would be judged on the overall story as well as the grammar, spelling and punctuation, along with the cover design. Seeing this as a sign, I entered the contest. Although it wasn’t specified in the judging criteria, I suspect that reviews of the book will play a part in the decision making process. Logic would dictate that a book with more positive reader reviews is more attractive to judges. The more positive reviews a story has, the more marketable it appears. This is where my shameless plea comes in.

I need your help. To those of you that have read and enjoyed Like You Mean It, please take a moment to review the story. If you have an Apple iBooks account, you can download, rate and review it for free. If you have a Nook, you can also download, rate and review for free.

Sadly, the story isn’t available on Kindle yet. However, you can get a Kindle ready copy by visiting https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/355303

If you don’t have an e-reading device, this same website will also offer many other versions of the story which can all be downloaded for free. Once you download the story, I’d really appreciate it if you’d take a moment to leave a review on this site.  With any luck, the more reviews I have, the better my odds to win the contest. And even if I don’t win the contest, seeing those reviews would still mean a lot to me. I sure hope you can help me out and please feel free to pass this plea and the accompanying web address along via all of your social media outlets. 

Thanks in advance, and good or bad, I’ll keep you posted as to the results.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Some Things Matter More

This weekend, I didn’t do one bit of writing. And you know what? I’m not the least bit sorry or even bothered by it as I sometimes am when I let opportunities to write pass me by.

Even though I’d already known I wasn’t going to be doing any writing on Saturday, I did have a plan to spend a nice chunk of my Sunday working on my new novel. That plan fell by the wayside when I sat down on the couch to unwind and the activities from the day before quickly caught up to me. It wasn’t long before my husband and I were sleeping side by side on our sectional, no doubt thanks to the fact that we’d been up twenty-two hours straight the day before.

I started to say our adventure began at 5:00am on Saturday, but the truth is that it started weeks earlier. That’s when the planning began for our daughter’s last band competition, not only of the season but of her entire high school life. Though she’s been in the marching band the last four years, we had no idea there was a big to-do held for the seniors until we received an email asking that all parents attend a meeting to begin planning the senior dinner. At the first meeting, we learned the pomp and circumstance that go into this event, and it’s all coordinated by dedicated band parents.

Anxious to be a part of making the experience memorable for our daughter, my husband happily volunteered our services for a number of things, including providing and hauling the trailer that would carry all of the supplies needed for the senior dinner. Little did we know what we were getting ourselves into. The senior dinner isn’t an independent event. It’s actually scheduled around the performance of the final competition of the year and it’s something every high school marching band does for its senior class members. While the rest of the band members are served tri tip in chow line, the seniors are provided a catered dinner complete with steaks and sparkling cider and served by, you guessed it, their parents!

The day of the big event, which included participating in both a parade and field show competition, we all rolled out of bed at five in the morning. After dropping our daughter off at the school at six, we headed over to the house of one of the band moms so we could hook the trailer up to our truck. Thankfully, we’d made time the night before to load up the trailer so all we had to do was hook and go. A shade under three hours later, we were there, but there was no time to rest. As soon as we were parked, we had to unload the trailer which was probably the easiest part of our day. Once everything was out, we got to work on the assembly.

A team of about ten people, including me, my husband and our freshman daughter, worked together to assemble canopies and tables. We hung lights draped in black and white tulle and strategically placed cutouts of musical notes. We covered blue plastic chairs with black fabric to give them a more sophisticated look. We set the tables with chargers and china and stemware. We spent time trying to figure out who wanted to sit where and arranged the place cards accordingly. There was a bit of a break when we all headed off to watch the kids compete in the parade and then it was back to work. Another brief break came for lunch and then we were back at it, setting out favors and putting on those final touches.

It was just before three in the afternoon when we finished and we took the time to walk over to the vendor booths outside the stadium. There we paid a pretty penny for a sweatshirt that featured the name of the competition and even paid extra to have our daughter’s name ironed on the sleeve. My daughter wore that shirt for three days and swears it’s her new favorite shirt!

Throughout the day, I was compelled to see what the other schools were doing for their senior dinner. I have to admit, I thought ours was the best, and the comments I heard from other spectators not affiliated with our school seemed to agree.

Dinner was scheduled for five but students began seating at four-thirty. Twenty-eight kids and two instructors gathered under the decorated canopies to dine on steak and pilaf and salad while watching a video of their performances of the past four years. Some of the parents served food and drinks in between snapping pictures. For dessert, it was a three tier cake made to look like a castle. While the kids enjoyed their cake, raffle prizes were handed out, including smaller cakes and table centerpieces.

All too soon it was finished. What had taken parents hours to assemble took the kids less than an hour to be done with. Having gotten their fill of food and fun, the kids headed off to rehearse for the upcoming field show, leaving the parents behind to clean it all up. Before dashing off, my daughter made it a point to come and not only thank me and her father and her sister, but she hugged all of us. She even hugged her sister! And she told us that she appreciated everything we’d done for her. I had to take a moment to absorb that one.

With the kids preparing to compete, the parents went about taking everything down and restoring order to our host school. There was a brief respite after everything was loaded into the trailer before it was time to watch the kids compete, followed by a late night awards ceremony that didn’t get underway until ten fifteen.

I’m pleased to say that for her final competition of the year, my daughter was part of something special. The marching band walked away with a first place finish in the field show category of their division, third place overall for woodwinds, second place overall for brass and being the Grand Sweepstakes winner. By the time all was said and done it was after one in the morning when we made it home and almost two when I dropped into bed.

When I woke up on Sunday morning, late Sunday morning, I thought about writing. I planned to write. I even knew what I wanted to write, but exhaustion got the better of me. I spent most of the day on the couch recovering from our activities the day before. So I didn’t get any writing done Saturday or even Sunday. So what? I got something better, the joy of seeing my daughter so happy. Some things are more important than writing. Don’t you agree?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Always worth Remembering

Veteran’s Day was this past Monday. Many of us, myself included, took advantage of an extra day off work. Hopefully, we also took the opportunity to remember and even to thank those who defend or have defended the country.

If you don’t already know this about me, I’m a creature of habit. Once I establish a routine, it’s rare that I deviate from it. How I spend Veteran’s Day is no exception. For the last few years, I’ve watched the local parade on television and then watched a movie called “Taking Chance”. If you haven’t seen this movie, I highly recommend it.

This year, I had to add something new to my routine; a visit to the cemetery. It's been nine months since my father died, but it's still so fresh in my mind.

In addition to watching the parade followed by my beloved movie, and now visiting my father's grave, I always have this period of reflection in which I marvel over the impact the military has made on my life. I wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the United States Air Force. You see, my parents met when stationed at the same Air Force base. Besides this immediate personal connection to the military, it was also instrumental in getting my writing career off the ground.

My first novel, Letters from Linc, tells the story of a young Marine deployed to Iraq and the wife he left behind. Through letters, which they favor over e-mail or social media, they find a way to not only stay connected but to nurture that connection. The story, set in 2003, was actually written in 2005 and first released in 2006. Since its release, it’s opened all kinds of doors for me, both professionally and personally.

I’ve always felt I owed my success to Letters from Linc. I still feel that way, but I also know a story like this wouldn’t exist without the countless men and women across all branches of the military. It wasn’t that my story was theirs. Instead, the jobs they do made it possible for me to tell the story.

I’ve heard it said that ‘Some gave all and all gave some’.  I couldn’t have said it better myself. To those of you who’ve given some and to the families of those who gave all, I thank you from the bottom of my heart and celebrate your stories every day. No matter how much time passes, it's always worth remembering. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

It's Not for Everyone

Look around any social media site and you’ll see that National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo, is everywhere. Considering November is National Novel Writing Month, it makes sense.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with this concept, the basic premise is that writers are challenged to write at least fifty-thousand words of a first draft of their novel. Writers sign up on a website specifically dedicated to this cause. Participants must complete a minimum number of words per day with progress being tracked on the NaNoWriMo website. At the end of the month, all writers who reach the fifty-thousand mark are declared winners. There are no awards to speak of save for a printable certificate and the pride of accomplishment.

Social Media hype for NaNoWriMo usually begins in October, and it’s about that time I have to make that decision as to whether or not this will be the year I give it a go. To date, I’ve not participated in NaNoWriMo. While I love the concept, as I do with anything that promotes writing and writers, I never can bring myself to participate.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but November is not the most ideal month for me to take on an additional project. Being a mother of two teenage daughters, I usually find myself up to my eyeballs in their extracurricular activities. This year is no exception. We’re knee deep in marching band competition season which is in addition to the football games the band is required to attend. Then there’s cheer. One of my girls eats, sleeps and breathes cheerleading. Not ony does she cheer for the school, but she’s a competitive cheerleader. Next month we’ll be traveling to San Jose for the Golden State Spirit Association championships. November also marks the official beginning of the holiday season, which is a busy time for any family. And let’s not forget, writing is not my money making job. I have a full time day job that I’m currently working at six days a week.

Family and work obligations aside, there’s one other reason NaNoWriMo has never spoken to me. For me, it feels as if it turns writing into work. At the height of one of the busiest times in my life, I’m expected to pen a certain number of words daily, good or bad. Like I said, I understand the premise. It gets writers writing. It takes away excuses like mine. I understand it and I support it for others. I just can’t get on board for me. I want to write on my own terms.
For those of you brave enough to through your hats into the NaNoWriMo ring, I commend you, but it's not for everyone.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

I Promise You This

It seems like ages ago that my freshman novel, Letters from Linc, received a poor review on Amazon with the reader’s main complaint being she couldn’t get past all of the typos. If you’ve been reading my blog for some time, you’re no stranger to this story. If this is your first time hearing about it, here’s a short recap:

A few months ago, I stumbled across a review of Letters from Linc giving the book only three stars and saying the multitude of typos made it difficult to read. Even worse, the reader returned the book for a refund, costing me a sale. Initially, I ignored the review, but I just couldn’t get it out of my head. I downloaded a free sample of the novel, convinced I wouldn’t find anything wrong with it, and was shocked when I found the e-book riddled with errors that did not appear in the printed version.

When I first brought this to the publishers’ attention, they requested I review the book and identify all errors. I was charged with not only finding the mistakes, but providing the corrections. It quickly became clear this was a bigger task than the publisher understood so I contacted them again. A little more research on their part uncovered the problem was with their software and not with my spelling, grammar and punctuation. E-readers didn’t exist when the novel was first published. The first e-reader came out the following year, and the printed book was scanned for conversion to an e-book. Apparently, there was an issue with character or text recognition during this process which resulted in the errors the reader pointed out. The publisher is now working on correcting this.

While I’m happy the issue is being rectified, something else is bothering me. As much as it pains me to admit this, I don’t think Letters from Linc is my best work.  I love the characters, and I think the storyline is sound. I’m just concerned with the mechanics. In looking at the novel all these years later, I can see a lot of things I’d like to change. There are a number of instances in the story where I told readers what was going on instead of showing them. There were also some scenes which I felt needed to be expanded on.  I also used far too many adverbs.

Looking at all of these things now, I can honestly admit if this wasn’t my own novel, I probably would have been turned off by the writing style. Likely, I would have rewritten it in my head as I went. In fact, I find myself doing that now when I read the story.

Seven years ago, I sent this novel to as many agents as I could and was crushed by one rejection after the other. It was that experience that prompted me to pursue releasing it on my own. Now, I’m a little ashamed to admit I think those agents made the right decision. I get it, but I promise you I’m going to fix it! I owe my readers that much.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Saga Continues

Last we talked, I shared with you the fact that the e-book version of my freshman novel, Letters from Linc, was riddled with errors. This fact was pointed out by a reader in her Amazon review in which she professed disappointment over the fact that a novel filled with potential was likewise filled with errors. Besides posting this poor review, the reader also returned the novel for a refund. Not only did this cost me a sale, but this reader isn’t likely to read any of my work again and has published a review that may deter other readers.

My initial reaction to the news of these errors was to file them under the old adage of ‘you can’t please everyone’.  Several months later, still plagued by this, I downloaded a free sample of the book. There I discovered the errors the reader was talking about. Concerned there could be more mistakes, I paid for the book and set about skimming the rest of it. Sadly, my search yielded a number of mistakes early on. Dismayed, I contacted the publisher to ask what could be done.

You see, when Letters from Linc was released in 2006 the e-reading device was still a thing of the future. The novel was offered in an electronic format. When purchased, the reader was emailed a PDF of the novel which mirrored the printed version.  One year after Letters from Linc was released, the first version of the Kindle hit the market, which is where the problems with my novel began.

Naturally, I contacted the publisher to ask how this could be resolved. I was sent a book block proof form so that I could identity all of the errors as well as the correction needed. In this case, that was a lot easier said than done.  It didn’t take long for me to realize this wasn’t the correct solution to my problem.  Frustrated, I contacted the publisher once again and got a more detailed explanation of the issue.

Letters from Linc, along with other titles offered by the publisher, were converted to e-books that fit the Kindle formatting guidelines. As other e-readers were released, the Kindle formatted version was offered in those sites as well.  The intent was good, but the final product was not. It seems that there were some major issues with the conversion. The text in the original document wasn't recognized by the conversion software used. The publisher blames this on the fact that they no longer had the MS Word version when they sent the book for Kindle formatting. Instead, they had to convert the PDF back to word and then send it to be converted to the e-book. The result was an overwhelming number of errors that made the book unreadable and something I never knew. I was never notified of any of this or given an opportunity to review it prior to being released to the e-reader.  It all took place behind the scenes. Had the reader not posted her review, I might never have known any of this.

The publisher has assured me they are going to do what they can to resolve the problem. Of course, they haven’t specified what that entails, which means the saga continues.  In the meantime, if you were thinking about purchasing the e-book version of Letters from Linc, I’m begging you to wait until this is resolved.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

That was Close

If you’re one of my Twitter followers you’ve already heard what happened with my new novel, This Time, while I was working on it this weekend. If you’re not one of my Twitter followers, you really should be! Seriously, I put a lot of important information there. Not to mention, it inflates my ego to see the number of followers grow every day and makes me feel like maybe I’m not wasting my time with social media.

Okay, so what happened this weekend? A near disaster, that’s what. It didn’t start out that way. With my husband out with one of our kids and the other child hanging out with a friend and me at my desk working on my newest novel, it was a pretty typical weekend day. Then it happened.

After finishing a rather intense scene which included a major argument between the main characters and resulted in a key turning point in the story, I was ready for a break. I thought I’d take the time to empty the dishwasher while simultaneously thinking about what my next move with the story would be. Not wanting to be irresponsible, I clicked the save icon on my tool bar and stood up from my desk. That’s when it happened.

My jump drive caught on my clothes and was ripped from the computer mid-save. How did this happen? Well, the drive is attached to a lanyard that I wear around my neck and take almost everywhere I go when I’m not working on my stories. That lanyard caught on my clothes and came free from the computer while it was trying to perform the save operation which caused my computer to have a meltdown. Rather than recognizing the drive I was trying to save the file to was no longer enabled and offering me the chance to save it somewhere else, my computer had the nerve to shut the entire program down which resulted in the loss of the entire story which up to that point was hovering around 480 double-spaced type-written pages.

My first instinct was to panic, but I rebelled against the urge to puke and began combing through my computer files hoping there was a recovered version of the document. There was, but it was in a TXT form. I converted that to word and was able to retrieve the last few pages of what I’d written. The rest was gone, including the argument scene I was so proud of. Out of ideas as to how to get my document back, I sent my version of a restrained text message to my husband asking when I could expect him home. When he gave me the time, my reply was something to the effect of ‘Thank God because I just lost my whole story’. My husband reminded me that the story was backed up on his computer and could be retrieved from there.

So, if it was backed up on another computer what was the problem? I only have my work backed up once a week, usually Monday or Tuesday. Everything I’d spent the weekend working on wouldn’t be there. I tried to take comfort in the fact that at least I was only out 30 pages rather than almost 500, but it was of little comfort.

A short time later, my husband came home to try and save my story and my day. When I told him what happened, I could tell by that grim look that all hope was pretty much lost. Still, he gave it a try and set about doing an in-depth search with his recovery program. In the meantime, I went through all of the stages of grief. I was just about to the acceptance of the loss stage when my husband announced a version had been found and asked me to look at it. To my utter joy, he managed to recover the story up to what I’d done the day before. Add that to the portion I recovered, which was what I worked on that day, and I had my complete story again.

Words cannot describe the immense relief I felt, and still feel, at having my story back. All I can say is; whew, that was close!  

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Lessons Painfully Learned

Some time back, I told you about a rather disappointing review my first novel, Letters from Linc, received on Amazon.  The reviewer took issue with a number of typos in my novel, so many in fact that she returned the book for a refund thus causing me the loss of the sale. In posting that review, she also created the possibility that it would deter others from purchasing the work.

Although I was disappointed with the review and in myself for producing such a poor product, I didn’t question it. I typically don’t respond to reviews of my work. Some writers take exception to criticism of their work and go to great lengths to defend it. Making your work available to the public means you’re agreeing to open yourself up to their commentary of said work. I’ve always been a firm believer in taking the good with the bad. Even award winning, best-selling authors are going to have people who don’t like their work and don’t have a problem saying so.

At the time I received this negative review of my freshman novel, something didn’t sound right to me. One of the things the reviewer took issue with was the fact that I often misspelled the name of the hero, calling him Line instead of Linc. Despite the fact that I’d read this novel numerous times and couldn’t recall seeing that error, I didn’t question it. I did share the review with my husband who also had read the book. Like me, he couldn’t remember it being chock full of the errors this particular reviewer alleged she found. Still, neither one of us questioned it.

Since then, several months have passed and subsequent reviews have been good. Even though I haven’t forgotten the sting of that review, I’ve moved on. I’ve also become more focused on my editing; doing my best to make sure I give the readers the polished product they deserve. In the spirit of moving on, my first young adult novel, Like You Mean It, was recently released as an e-book. Since its release, I’ve been anxiously awaiting its availability through the Kindle store. It can be found in Nook and Apple iBooks stores, but still hasn’t been uploaded to the Kindle store. I know because I’ve been checking every day, sometimes twice a day.

It was in checking the Kindle store so obsessively that I made the decision to download a free sample of Letters from Linc, and it was a decision I’m glad I made. I’m sure you can imagine my shock when there, right on the title page, my book title was listed as Letters from Line! Of course that sent me running for my paperback version of the book. I couldn’t believe I’d missed something like that and in the front of the book no less.

Well, guess what? I didn’t miss it! The paperback version doesn’t have this or any of the other errors the Amazon reviewer found. Instead, I suspect there was an issue in the conversion to the e-book format. When I first published Letters from Linc, e-readers didn’t exist. There was an e-book version available, but it was emailed to customers to read as a PDF. Now, it’s purchased from e-reading stores, and the errors abound which leads me to suspect the problem arose when it was converted by the publisher to these new formats.

I think there are some valuable lessons here. First, if you publish your book in both a print and an electronic format, check the copy on both post-publication. Don’t take it for granted that both formats are correct or identical. Second, do this post-publication check immediately after publication. Don’t wait the seven years that I did. Finally, don’t ignore that inner voice when it tells you something isn’t right. After reading that negative review, I kept telling myself it had to be wrong and I hadn’t made those mistakes. I told myself this, but I didn’t listen to myself, and I should have.  Let’s just hope it’s not too late to do something about it. If not, lesson most painfully learned.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Moving One Step Closer

Last week I told you all about my impatience problem. Having worked so hard on my young adult novel, Like You Mean It, I was anxiously awaiting its release as an e-book. As you learned I wasn’t doing a very good job of playing the waiting game.

This week, I’m feeling a bit better. Just one day after my last blog post, Like You Mean It was finally made available in the Nook bookstore. Since I own a Nook, I was quite literally jumping up and down when I did my daily search of the bookstore and saw it there. There’s something about seeing your book in that bookstore that makes you feel like a writer.

Of course, I went straight to my social media sites to let all of my friends, family and fans know that it was available. While everyone was excited for me, one question prevailed: when will it be available on Kindle?

When will Like You Mean It be available on the Kindle? That’s a good question, and one I’m afraid I can’t answer. Truth be told, I was a bit surprised that the book made it to the Nook faster than the Kindle considering that Kindle is the most popular e-reading device and Nook is supposedly on the way out. I can say the e-book was shipped to Amazon last week.

In checking with the publisher, it seems that Amazon and Apple iBooks don’t always respond to e-book shipments right away.  With e-books now the norm, there is sometimes a backlog of books that have already been received and are waiting to be pushed to the Kindle and iBooks stores. For Like You Mean It fans that own Kindles or use iBooks that means you have to wait longer than Nook owners before you’ll have the book in your library.

So, the bottom line here is that we’re not quite there yet. Like You Mean It hasn’t been made available to all readers, but at least we’re moving one step closer. It’s not the best of outcomes, but it’s far from the worst. And yes, I’ll keep you posted on its availability.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Waiting Game

I may have mentioned this once or twice, but I hate waiting.  Whether it’s waiting in a long line at the grocery store or waiting for my Amazon order to arrive in the mail, my reaction is the same.  I get impatient, and I’ll admit that it’s sometimes irrationally so.  That said I do my best to keep that reaction in check in public. You’re not going to see me cussing out the cashier or yelling at the clerks in the post office, but even those who don’t know me can probably tell at a glance that I’m not a fan of the waiting game. 

That same impatience extends to my writing. I’m so anxious to finish a novel that I’ve often spent several hours a night working on my latest creation. Once it’s finished, I’m no better. I dive right in to the editing process.  I always tell myself I’m going to give it a few days and take a breather, but I’m usually lying to myself.  This is something that can be both helpful and harmful to my writing. It helps in that it gives me drive and ambition. It hurts when that drive and ambition rushes me and makes the finished product sloppy.   I once had a fellow writer, a rather accomplished one at that, tell me that he really liked my work but he was disappointed with the ending. The way he put it, he could tell I just wanted to get the story over with.

Once again, I find myself playing the waiting game for my writing. This time, I’m waiting for my newly published e-book, Like You Mean It, to be available in e-book stores.  To be fair, it’s only been a week since it was published and accepted for premium catalog placement, and granted the publisher ships weekly to most major e-book retailers. Let’s not forget that if the retailer has a backlog of orders that will cause a delay.  I know all of this, yet I still find myself obsessively checking both my Apple iBooks store and my Nook to see if the book is available. And when I say obsessively, I mean multiple times a day as if it might be there at noon despite not being there at ten.

I like to think I’m not the only one who’s anxious for Like You Mean It to be available at major e-tailers. I imagine that my readers are ready for it to be there too; especially when I told them this would be the month they could have that long awaited book. While I’m sure that’s still the case, the book will still be available this month, I’d much rather that happen sooner than later. For those of you who know me, I’m sure you know the fact that I can’t do anything to speed up the availability offends the control freak in me!

So, like it or not, there’s nothing I can but continue to play the waiting game in the hopes that soon it will come to end. Oh, and I can continue a vigilant review of the bookstores in my e-reading devices. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Time to Let Go

For the last few months, I’ve been working hard to get my new novel ready for release as an e-book. Okay, it’s not really a new novel.  It’s a novel I’ve shared with the world before. I’d originally pulled it from being a free download on Wattpad because I’d signed a contract to have it published which meant it was no longer mine.

When the publishing contract fell through, I was faced with a choice. I could either try to find a new home for it or make one myself. Being that I’m no stranger to being an independent author, I decided to look into the possibility of releasing it on my own as an e-book.  After doing some research into Smashwords, I was sold. I was going to release this novel on my own. Since I’d offered it free once before, it didn’t seem right to start charging for it so I decided I’d leave it as a free download. This isn’t about making money. It’s about two things really. First, this novel has meant a lot of things to a lot of people, and I want them to have that back. Second, I’d like to build my audience and test the waters of the e-book market.

In the last few months, I’ve read and reread. I’ve edited and edited and edited some more. Some days, I’d think it was great only to find that I used the word was when it should have been what. I told myself that I wasn’t going to let this novel go until it was what I thought was one hundred percent perfect. I was going to keep reading and editing until I wasn’t able to find anything else I could change. Well, you know what I’ve discovered in this process?

I’ve found that I’m never going to be satisfied. Even when all of the mechanics are correct, I’ll still think I should revise a scene or at the very least change a few words. This has opened my eyes to something. If I don’t let go, the readers are never going to have this novel they’ve waited so patiently for. That doesn’t mean I’m throwing in the towel and letting it out riddled with mistakes. That’s not it at all.

I’m here today to say I think it’s ready. After months of work, this novel, whose first draft was written back in 2005, is finally ready to be published. It’s time to let go and hope for the best.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Spinning the Signs

I’m not a superstitious person. I don’t shiver when a black cat crosses my path. I don’t avoid walking under ladders, though I don’t often have occasion to do so. And the fact that one Friday in September falls on the thirteenth doesn’t concern me in the least. That said, I have talked before about signs. No, I’m not talking about street signs. Instead, I’m referring to those external indicators that drive a person’s response to a given situation.

I’ve often looked for signs with regard to my writing. For example, if I get several messages from readers asking me when my next book is coming out, I might take that as a sign that sales are going to be good. Today, I received a sign that I initially thought about making bad but have decided is actually good.

In reading previous posts, I’m sure you’ve noticed that I’m no stranger to participating in writing contests. I can’t remember when or why I started doing this, but I suspect it has to do with wanting to lend some credibility to my resume. Since embarking on the professional writing journey, I’ve entered countless contests. Though I’ve placed in some, I’ve never been the big winner.

Recently, I entered a contest in which my ability to write was judged by the first five hundred words of my young adult novel. Five hundred words is hardly a drop in the bucket which makes me think the judges are trying to determine if the story can hook the readers from the beginning. Today, I learned I was not one of the five authors whose story was chosen to be posted online for fans to vote for the best. This is where the signs come in.

My first reaction to this news was that my failure to advance is a sign that my writing isn’t up to snuff. This is always the first reaction I have when I don’t do well. To get over feeling sorry for myself, I remember the legions of devoted readers I have that have been patiently waiting for the release of my novel, Like You Mean It, which wasn’t the novel I entered in the contest in question. On further reflection, I realized the logic I used to end my pity party was actually a sign in and of itself and that perhaps not advancing in this contest was for the best. In fact, I think it’s a sign that I need to move on from writing contests, at least for the moment, and focus on being a writer.

Some would call this making lemonade when life gives you lemons. It probably is, but I also like to think of it as seeing the signs as they’re meant to be seen. Sure it’s spinning them in the most advantageous light, but what’s wrong with that? If you ask me, it’s better than throwing in the towel.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Encouraging or Discouraging?

Recently, I was contacted by one of my Wattpad readers to ask if she could interview me. The reader liked my work and wanted to use the interview as a means of promoting my work on the site. This isn’t the first time a reader has asked me for an interview, but I’m always flattered and humbled every time it happens, and I always say yes.

During these interviews, I’m often asked the same questions. How long have I been writing? What inspires me to write? Do I ever suffer from writer’s block and what do I do about it? Sometimes, I get asked some interesting questions, which I don’t mind as it makes the interview more fun. Once, I was even asked to play word association, but the words didn’t have anything to do with writing.  At least I don’t think being asked to name the first word I thought of when the reader said the word dinosaur had anything to do with writing!

In my most recent interview, I was asked a new question, one that had to do with writing but one I hadn’t been asked before. The reader asked if I thought any of my novels would ever be published. Given that I self-publish, I took the question to mean did I think a mainstream publisher would ever publish my work. I wrestled with how to answer this question. My first inclination was to say no, I will never be published. I’ve been in this business for eight years and have yet to reach that goal. With each year that passes, it becomes harder to believe in the dream. I hesitated to answer the reader this way because many of my Wattpad readers are also aspiring writers and I’m not interested in being a party to trampling someone else’s dream. In the end, I decided to answer honestly. I said no and I didn’t give it much thought beyond that.

Flash forward two weeks to today where I read an article about twenty-one-year-old author Samantha Shannon. I’d never heard of this woman until I read this article, but she’s being touted as the next J.K. Rowling for her freshman novel The Bone Season. For some reason, this article brought to mind my recent interview in which I said I’d never be published.

Rather than being encouraged by Shannon’s success, I felt the opposite. I suppose that has to do with my age. It’s difficult to be hovering near the edge of forty and have been toiling at this for eight years with minimal success and see an author half my age being given such a prestigious moniker. It calls to mind the big question; am I being passed by publishers because my work isn’t any good? I want to jump on the no bandwagon and ride the coat tails of excuses like it’s a hard business to break into or I have to be somewhat good to have so many readers.

Whatever the reason for my inability to cross over from self-published to mainstream author, one question remains. When I see other authors take the same steps down the road to publishing that I’ve already taken, and they succeed where I’ve thus far failed, am I encouraged or discouraged? Maybe it’s both and the way I feel depends on the day. Maybe it’s neither. Maybe I should be happy for them while staying focused on forging the path to my own success. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

An Interesting Lesson

As a writer, I’m always interested in improving my craft.  I’m one of those writers that will gobble up every book and magazine article aimed at helping me to be a better writer. Thanks to the internet and the subsequent social media explosion, it’s easier than ever for me to find tools designed to make me a better writer.

The best example of this is my Twitter account. There, I subscribe to a number of profiles designed at helping writers not only polish their prose but reach their target audience. Recently, there was a link on my Twitter account posted by one such person I follow. The link had the impressive title of how to avoid getting bad reviews of your novel. The first time I saw this link, I passed on reading the article with my first thought being that writing a good novel is really the only way to avoid a bad review.

When another person I follow posted the same link, I couldn’t resist reading any longer. There had to be something all these people knew that I didn’t. Having once been the victim of a bad review, which was entirely my fault, I wanted to know what else I had to do to avoid a repeat of this disastrous fate.

My expectations were quickly dashed when the article, which was actually a link to an independent author’s blog, was lacking what I’d call helpful advice. In his post, the author recounted his experience with getting a bad review because of his failure to research the profile of the reviewer. It turns out this author sent his book to a reviewer who didn’t care for his genre. The result was that the reviewer didn’t give the book a fair chance before publicly posting the bad review which had the potential of costing the author future readers and sales.  The author of this blog post suggested that every author needed to research reviewers before soliciting reviews of their work.

I hate to say it, but my first thought after reading this blog post was ‘Well, duh!’ If I were attempting to find an agent or publisher for my young adult fiction novel, I would never send queries to people who dealt only with non-fiction. Why then would I send that same novel to a reviewer who only liked Science Fiction and Fantasy or Westerns? I wouldn’t. To me, that’s just basic logic.

It’s unfortunate the author was the victim of a bad review because of his own shortcomings, but I was a little disappointed that the title of his blog post implied it was something it wasn’t. I was expecting to get some tips and tricks on dazzling book reviewers and securing those great reviews. If this author’s blog post is any indication, my first instinct was right on. The only way to get a good review is to write a good novel. Just make sure that novel gets into the hands of the appropriate reviewers. If not, you have no one but yourself to blame.

As to the blog post on avoiding bad reviews, there’s an interesting lesson here. While the author may have been trying to spare colleagues from suffering the experience he did, the title was misleading. It gave the impression it would have all the answers on the subject, which illustrates one very important thing about writing. A good title can make all the difference.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

I Beg To Differ

If you’re truly a writer, you write every day. Not because you want to but because you have to.

I didn’t write this quote. I paraphrased it from one I’d seen somewhere else a long time ago. In preparation for this blog, I went searching for it again hoping to use the exact quote and give proper credit to its creator. While I didn’t find what I was looking for, I did find a number of articles devoted to this very topic.

I’ll admit I didn’t read all of the articles. I skimmed over them, but the gist of them was all the same. Writers need to write every day. It polishes their craft and keeps their skills sharp. Those who write every day are not only the masters of their craft but they’re legitimate writers. I’m afraid I’m going to have to respectfully disagree. Not with everything. I don’t dispute that writing every day can sharpen a writer’s abilities. However, I take exception to the fact that it can and must be done every day in order for an individual to be considered a writer.

I’m here to tell you I don’t write every day. Or rather, I don’t make time every day to sit in front of my computer and pound out a few pages. That doesn’t mean I’m not writing. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve started thinking about the direction of my latest novel only to become caught up in writing a scene in my head. This is both a blessing and a curse. While I’m grateful to have an idea as to how I want the story to progress, I’m often the victim of writing prettier prose in my head than what I produce on paper.

To be honest, I don’t have the time or the desire to sit in front of my computer each day. If I did that, it would probably hurt more than help my writing. Many writers, me included, have day jobs; eight hour day jobs filled with stress that require we spend a great deal of time in front of the computer. Many of us have spouses and children that need our attention. After giving to our jobs and our families, the thought of sitting in front of the computer to write the latest chapter sometimes seems overwhelming. When that happens, writing crosses the line from being something we have to do because we’re passionate about it to something we have to do because we’re writers and it’s expected of us. I don’t know about my peers, but when I write because I feel obligated to do so, my work suffers. My scenes are flat, my characters are dull, my dialogue is forced and my work sucks so badly I find myself wondering why I bothered.

I would love to write every day if it was feasible. I can’t think of a writer who wouldn’t take that deal but to say that not writing every day makes me less of a writer is just insulting. I write when I want to, not when I think I should. Besides making me a better writer, it keeps writing from becoming something I dread.

Real writers write every day? I beg to differ!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Another Step Forward

I’ve finally done it.  I’ve taken the next step in releasing my first young adult novel, Like You Mean It. I’ve sent the manuscript to be formatted to appropriate e-book standards. This was a big step for me and it wasn’t because I was putting my work in someone else’s hands. It was something bigger. It was about my desperate need to make sure this work is one-hundred percent polished and ready to publish.

This isn’t my first foray into self-publishing. When I released Letters from Linc back in 2006, e-books were an interesting idea being touted as the wave of the publishing future. Now they’re so prevalent that brick and mortar bookstores are struggling to keep up.

Thanks to e-books, self-publishing a novel is cheaper and easier than ever. Authors don’t have to toil in obscurity trying to find an agent or traditional publisher. Of course, there is a down side. Thanks to e-books, anyone who thinks they can write has the ability to unleash their story on the world. That’s not to say all authors self-publishing e-books aren’t worth reading. Nicky Charles is one of my favorite as is Kyle Adams and both of these authors are self-published. What sets them apart isn’t just good storytelling, it’s their high standards for editing. Their stories aren’t riddled with errors. They don’t lower their standards just because they’re author, editor and publisher. They’ve set a standard I aspire to. Not that I didn’t take my editing seriously before.

When Letters from Linc came out several years ago, I’d read and reread the story. I’d revised and changed and edited. I’d done everything I could to make it free of blemishes so the story stood on its own. At least I thought I had. I was disappointed to get the first printing and find I’d omitted a word in one of the passages. It was a mistake I simply couldn’t afford to fix so I let it go. As it turns out, that wasn’t the only mistake. It was just the only one I saw. Recently, there was a review of this novel posted on Amazon in which the potential reader was so disappointed with my poor editing that she returned the book for a refund. That one stung a lot. I haven’t read the story in years so I don’t know what other mistakes I made, but apparently there are enough that it cost me a sale. 

I have no one to blame for this but myself. I couldn’t afford an editor. I’m not a member of a writer’s group that gets together to critique each other's work. I was afraid to ask a friend or family member to read the work. And when I did my own editing my eyes saw what my mind knew was supposed to be there.

Since then and with my newest novel in particular, I’ve changed my editing technique. I’m determined to give readers the best possible product. I love this novel so much that I don’t want to do anything to detract from its message. I want readers to focus on the story and not the mechanics. I can honestly say I think I’ve done it this time. Of course, I thought I’d done it before and I was wrong. Trust me when I say writers don’t set out to make these mistakes and we’re appalled when they rear their ugly heads.

In a few weeks, my novel will come back formatted and ready for publishing, but you can rest assured I won’t be rushing into anything. I plan to take my time looking over it to make sure nothing was missed. Until then, I’m going to relax and bask in the glow of taking another step forward.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I Totally Get It

“You like me. You really like me.”

It’s been almost thirty years since Sally Field uttered these much ridiculed words during her Oscar acceptance speech for her role in the film Places in the Heart.  This oft parodied phrase has stood an impressive test of time and managed to become firmly ensconced in pop culture. Last week, something happened to me (three times actually) that reminded me of this phrase and gave me inkling as to how Field felt that night if she spoke them in earnest.

I’ve been a writer for quite some time now.  I’ve published articles and short stories in magazines. I’ve entered contests and received modest recognition. I’ve self-published a few novels and spent far more money than I made in doing so. My greatest success by far came when I joined an online writing community known as Wattpad and began to upload my stories to their site.

Since joining Wattpad nearly two years ago, I’ve uploaded several completed novels and gained a large following. One of my most popular stories was Like You Mean It, which told the story of a blossoming romance between a teenage left arm amputee who was once the most popular boy in school and the girl who was the most forgettable ever to walk the halls of their high school. The story struck a chord with fans and made it into the top ten of both the romance and teen fiction categories of most read stories. Encouraged by its success, I shopped it to publishers. When I found an interested publisher, I had to remove the story from the site. Though I made sure to tell readers why it was removed, I received a lot of concerned messages asking what happened to it and why I would take it down and when I would put it back.

In reading past blog posts, you know that publishing deal didn’t come to pass. Rather than put it back on Wattpad when that happened, I decided to self-publish it as an e-book via Smashwords. I’ll still be offering it free of charge, but I want to be able to reach a broader audience. Readers following my Wattpad and Twitter accounts have been kept updated as to my progress in this area. Those who don’t follow one or the other don’t always know what’s going on with Like You Mean It as I found out last week when I received a message from a Wattpad reader asking why I’d removed the book that meant so much to her. When I told her my plans, she was overjoyed and regularly checks my profile page for updates. In fact, she sent me a message just today to ask if I’d post the cover because she’s so excited to see it.

Last week, I also received a private message from another Wattpad reader telling me she’d read several of my novels and loved all of them. She went on to say that she read the series so quickly because she just couldn’t put it down and she looked forward to my next work coming out because she planned on reading it while curled up under the duvet with her e-reader.

As if these two flattering messages weren’t enough, I received an email from a young Wattpad reader last week who told me that Like You Mean It was the first teen romance she read on the site. According to this young lady, she felt a real connection to the novel and the work was so good that she often recommended it others. She wanted to know why I’d taken it down and if I would ever consider putting it back up. Of course, I sent her a reply to let her know of my plans for the story and how to keep updated on its progress.

With each of these messages, two things came to mind. First, I thought of that famous phrase from Sally Field’s Oscar speech. Second, I thought, you know, this could work. Meaning, since there seems to be continued interest, it could turn out to be on a most downloaded list again. Wouldn’t that be nice? Whether that happens or not, I can say one thing for sure; after what happened last week, I totally get it, Sally Field!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Name Game

As a writer, there are two things I struggle with. One of those is coming up with a title that’s not only interesting enough to catch the eye of a potential reader but also captures the essence of the story.  The other is naming characters. 

I’m so bad at coming up with original and interesting names for my characters that I bought a huge book put out by Writer’s Digest that’s aptly called The Character Naming Book.  My favorite thing about this book is that it gives a large list of names for several ethnicities so that writers can choose names appropriate to the culture they’re writing about which lends authenticity to their work. 

Today, I came across an interesting article on the Today Show web site regarding baby names. The article was about the most popular baby names for the year; at least the most popular names thus far. It seems Katniss is a top choice for a girl’s name. Katniss is the name of the female protagonist in The Hunger Games which is not only a novel but was recently a blockbuster movie. Though I don’t personally care for the name, I am impressed that a literary character was so influential in the baby naming trend for this year. Of course, this is nothing new. Remember when Twilight was a fan favorite, and everyone was naming their daughter Bella?

Thinking about this trend got me to thinking about the possibility of being part of the naming trend. I am a writer after all. I may not be famous yet, but I’ve been told more than a few times that my books would make great movies. So, why not? Yes, I was at one time suffering from a serious character naming deficiency, but I think I’m cured. Don’t believe me? Here are some of the female character names in my more popular works: Fallon, Lauren, Tarilyn, Gwen, Danni, Chelsea, Marcy, Corina, Daphne, Angelica, Wendy, Kara, Shirelle, Mina, Megan and Lucy.  And for the male characters I’ve used:  Lucian, Griffin, Christian, Simeon, Sebastian, Tate, Darren, Justin, Nick, Ethan and Solomon. Not bad names, if I do say so myself.

I may not have the fame I need right now to start a baby naming trend, but who knows? Maybe one of these days I’ll pen a bestseller with a character name or two that will strike a chord with readers, and I’ll be a major player in the name game trend. Maybe not. Either way, it’s fun to think about. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

How Dare You

I’m a writer. That’s no secret.  It’s not my day job, but anyone who knows me, especially members of my immediate family, can attest to how much time I spend on my work.  My books are like children to me, and I love my characters so much that I laugh and cry with them.  The first time I killed off one of my male leads, I cried so hard I swore I’d never do it again. That’s how much I love what I do, and I know I’m not the only author who feels this way.

That’s why I’m always appalled and disgusted when the word plagiarism rears its ugly head. Taking the work of another and claiming it as your own is deplorable and hurtful and lower than low.  There have been a number of novels I’ve read where I’ve liked them so much I’ve wished I'd written them. I’ve also often really enjoyed certain scenes in novels and had the same feeling, but I can safely say I would never lift these passages and try to pass them off as my own.  Not only is that unfair to the author who invested so much time and emotion in creating the original work, but it’s illegal and unethical and immoral.

One time, at least that I’m aware of, I found myself the victim of plagiarism. A young author posting a story on a Justin Bieber fan fiction website of all things took several scenes from my story Like You Mean It and inserted them into “her” story. She not only copied scenes, but she used the same premise. An alert fan brought this to my attention and after months of working with the site, the story was taken down and the author banned from posting, under that name anyway. With the anonymity provided by the worldwide web, there’s no guarantee she’s not already at it again.

The outrage I felt over this is still quite fresh in my mind, and my husband can confirm the many screeching rants I subjected him to regarding this issue. Sadly, plagiarism will never go away, but it never ceases to anger me as it did last week when I learned an “author” named Jordin Williams was found to have plagiarized work from not one but two published authors. It was found that several of the passages in Williams' novel were taken directly from the works of legitimate authors Tammara Webber and Jaime McGuire. When confronted with this accusation, Williams initially denied writing the novel and claimed it was the work of a ghostwriter which smacks of fraud since Williams claimed to be a ghostwriter turned author. Since then, Williams has gone into hiding. No one can find the once ubiquitous web presence she had. Anyone who purchased Williams’ novel, Amazingly Broken, is urged to return it for a refund. 

When I first heard the name Jordin Williams, I had no idea who she was. My Twitter feed was abuzz with the news that she was not only a fake but her identity was in question. I took to the web to find the information in the preceding paragraph. Now, it’s only right to mention that in the United States all persons accused of a crime a granted the presumption of innocence until proven guilty in a court of law.

All I can say is if this person really did this, and I say this on behalf of all authors who’ve spent countless hours, days, months and even years working on our stories, is how dare you! 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Time Flies

As a writer in the twenty-first century, I’m always looking for non-traditional ways to create and expand my fan base while still trying to explore conventional publishing methods.  One of the ways I’ve been most successful at this is to join an online writing site and post my work for fans to read free of charge. Though I’ll admit I was skeptical of how well this would work, to date I’m up to nearly 7,500 followers with that number growing every day.

Although I make my work available to readers free of charge, I’ve never given up on the dream of mainstream publishing. Since joining this site, I continued to pursue writing contests designed to increase chances of publication. In fact, the grand prize of two of my favorite contests is having your novel published. I also kept doggedly sending out queries to secure a literary agent who could help me realize this dream.

My perseverance paid off when I was able to find an agent for my most recently penned paranormal young adult romance novel. I not only found an agent but an agent with a solid reputation and proven track record. Still, I approached this with cautious optimism. Having been down this road before without much luck, I wasn’t ready to let myself believe this was finally going to be my chance.

A few days ago, while cleaning up my computer and going through some old files, I took notice on the dates of  the correspondence between me and my agent. I was surprised and a little sad to find it was a year ago this month that I signed with him. One year has passed since that first thrill I felt at finding a good agent. Make no mistake, my agent is still good. Maybe the book isn’t as good as we thought. Or maybe I’ve missed the market trend again. Who knows? The editors’ opinions are too varied for me to say with any certainty.

All I can say is that it has been one year this month since I signed that contract in the hopes that things were looking up, and I’ve discovered something that’s all bitter and no sweet. Time flies whether you’re having fun or not! 

Guess that means it’s time to get myself in gear and take the bull by the horns. Stay tuned in coming weeks for more on this topic.