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.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Showing My Pride

June is Pride Month. It’s a time for the LGBTQIA community to celebrate the freedom to be themselves. It can be done in any number of ways with everything from parties to parades.

In this day and age, most of us are familiar with the terms gay and lesbian and bisexual which takes care of the L, G and B of the acronym. That leaves the TQIA. For those who may not be aware, the T is transgender, Q is questioning, I is intersexed and A is asexual.

I love that our society has evolved enough that we recognize that people don’t fit into a simple box. We’re not all gay, straight or bi. Some of us are, but there are many more of us who are not. Many people are questioning their sexuality or have realized they fall on the asexual spectrum while others are intersexed.

I’m grateful to live in a time where we are dedicated to helping people feel less ashamed of who and what they are even though I don’t fall anywhere in the LQBTIA equation. I wish we didn’t have to single out one month for celebrating. I would love to see the day where sexuality isn’t something we worry about in others. It would be nice to have a normal that made it as unimportant to judging someone as their height or eye color. Meaning, we know these things about each other, but we don’t let it affect our assessment of their character or our interaction with them.

I am 100% straight. I’ve never questioned who I was or questioned my sexuality. From the minute my sexuality awakened, I knew I liked boys. I dated boys, loved boys and ultimately married a cute little nineteen-year-old boy who was the sweetest guy ever. Twenty-four years later, I’m still married to that guy. One of our daughters is gay and recently married a woman. When our daughter came out, it was with little fanfare. There was no big announcement. We’d suspected. We asked, she admitted it, we told her we supported her and that she should always be proud of herself, and life moved on.

Thanks to my very gay daughter, I’ve been exposed to things I never knew about. My daughter introduced me to the first transgender person I had ever met, a young boy named Josh.  She also introduced me to the wonderful world of drag and showed me her alter ego Apollo. The first time I saw Apollo, I told my daughter, ‘You make a really hot guy’. It must have been the right thing to say because she laughed and told me I was the best mom ever. I may be biased, but I stand by my assessment of Apollo.

I think a combination of living in this time and having a gay child has directly impacted my writing. When I first started out, I wrote romance novels with a male and female couple. Now, I’ve written characters who are gay and bisexual and this year I released The Truth Inside, my first book with a transgender male lead.

In the past, the romance genre has primarily been about straight couples, but LQBTIA romances are gaining popularity. I’ve been reading male/male romances for years and have just started trying my hand at writing them. While I’m sure this may offend some people, I don’t care. I may not be LGBTQI or A, but that’s not going to stop me from showing my pride damn it.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

It's the End of the World

Okay, yes, I’ll admit it. That title is a little melodramatic, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Just not in the way you’re thinking.

Two years ago, I was contacted by best-selling romance author Erin Nicholas and asked if I would be interested in writing a book attached to her Sapphire Falls series. For those of you who don’t know, and I’m sure that’s a small number, this popular series was set in the fictional town of Sapphire Falls, Nebraska and featured some hot country boys and sassy gals trying to keep them in line. As with most of Nicholas’ books, the Sapphire Falls brand was wildly popular. So popular in fact that it was getting its own Kindle world.

Until Nicholas reached out to me, I didn’t know much about Kindle Worlds. It turns out that Kindle Worlds is an Amazon brand. It takes a series of books that are being sold on Amazon and allows authors to write what basically amounts to fan fiction. Participating authors use the characters and settings of the original author with a few rules in place. Authors aren’t allowed to write stories for main characters already written but can use those characters to support their story. As the name implies, these titles are exclusively offered on Amazon.

I was both excited and honored when Nicholas asked if I would write a book for the October 2016 release. Even though she reached out to me in April, I jumped right on it and quickly churned out the book and secured a title and cover. I couldn’t have been happier when the book was well received by Nicholas’ rabid fans. In fact, it did so well, and I had so much fun being part of the Sapphire Falls Kindle world, that I released a second title in that world.

To this day, those two books are my most reviewed and possibly highest selling. I have no doubt those books are responsible for the increase in my fan base, and I couldn’t be more grateful.
Too bad all good things come to an end. Last week, I received an email from Amazon announcing they were going to discontinue the Kindle Worlds brand in the next few months. Not only that, but they’re pulling all existing titles. That means I lose the reviews attached to those titles as well as the income I net each month.

And no, authors can’t simply republish their titles. Some of us, me included, wrote under a trademarked brand. To republish would violate that trademark. Thankfully, the amazing Erin Nicholas is already on top of this and working with her authors so I will have some options in the future. I’ll keep you posted on those.

If you’re a Kindle reader, as many of us are, and you borrowed these books, you may want to consider buying them. If you don’t buy them, you could run the risk of never being able to read them again because the world is ending; the Kindle World that is.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Mess With One

The writing community is usually a pretty peaceful group. Since I only write romance, I don't know if it's true across all genres, but I find we are very supportive of one another as well. We'll reach out to each other and form friendships. We'll bounce ideas off each other, collaborate on projects and promote each other on social media. We've even been known to share our locales or characters or series with each other in an effort to cross promote.

With all of that support, you can imagine that we tend to band together against injustices. Now, I will admit there aren't many scandals in our community, but when there is one, it's epic. The latest one has turned an entire group against one author, and believe me when I say it's well deserved.

Okay, so let's go back to the beginning. Last week, several romance authors received an interesting email from one of their peers. The gist of the email was to order these authors to change the titles of their books or face legal action. Why? I could say it's because the sending author is an uppity bitch, but I won't go there. The author, whom I will not name and give any further publicity to, is insisting that she holds the trademark on the word "cocky", a word all of these authors had in their titles.

Yep, you read that right. This author went so far as to register a word as a trademark to brand her book series. The fact that she was allowed to do so is mystifying for many reasons, not the least of which is that titles cannot be trademarked. Logos can, and series titles can. Example, the Apple logo is a registered trademark for Apple Inc. Harry Potter was trademarked by JK Rowling. That means none of us can use the words Harry Potter in our book titles, but we can make reference to them in our blog posts.

Writers talk, and it wasn't long before word of this spread. As a result, romance writers across the globe have banded together to offer support to each other. There's been a lot of fun poked at the author who started it all. Just yesterday, I read a blog on the subject titled, Harry Potter and the Audacity of This Bitch. Authors are calling this whole fiasco cockygate, but it's not just authors who find it ridiculous. Book bloggers have thrown their support behind romance authors. Many have used their blogs to point readers in the direction of every cocky book there is. This has even gone all the way to the Romance Writers of America who are likely going to pursue a course of action that would lead to this trademark being revoked.

What is the author herself saying? Besides the fact that she's playing the victim card and claiming she feels attacked but is willing to turn the other cheek, she claims this is for the benefit of confused readers. Supposedly readers are searching for her books and finding someone else's. The author also alleges she doesn't want other authors to lose sales because of this. I have two words to sum up my feelings on this; bull shit.

If a reader buys the wrong book, it can always be returned. Most retailers have such generous return policies that authors cringe because readers are returning our books after reading them and we lose the sale anyway. If a reader finds my book by mistake and returns it without reading it, the sale I'm losing is one I wasn't going to have in the first place. No real loss there.

I  think her motivation was more selfish. She was losing readers. Maybe readers were finding the rest of us and liking us better. Ever heard that phrase there's no such thing as bad publicity? Seems pretty true here considering we've all had her name on our minds and social media posts the last two weeks.

Ultimately, only the author who started this hot mess knows why she did it, and at this point I'm not sure I care. I'll tell you one thing though. She can't pick this kind of a fight and then cry foul when we all hit back. It's absurd, and she learned a hard lesson. Mess with one of us, you're messing with all of us.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Things to Think About

In my last post, I talked about an article, I'd read that was written by a romance author who was discussing her recently released sports themed contemporary romance novel. It seemed that the first book in her series didn’t sell nearly as well as her second book, and let me clarify that. The first book sold a few hundred copies in comparison to the few thousand the second book sold. The author and publisher were frustrated and looking for answers. What she suggested was an interesting yet sad commentary on our times, and I promised to address that in my next post. This is difficult for me to do, but I owe it to myself and my readers. 

In the article I read, the author pointed out that the cover of her first book featured a sexy black man while the second book featured an equally sexy white man, leaving the author to wonder if the problem was that covers featuring men of color aren’t as well received as those featuring white men. This comes on the heels of an issue with a well-known romance publisher dropping their black romance line and actively encouraging their white authors to start writing about different races and ethnicities.

In her article regarding her covers, the author acknowledges that she had input in and final say on the art of both covers. She admits that she can’t necessarily prove that the first book didn’t sell as well because the model was black, but it seems awfully suspect.

So much about this article got me thinking. As authors, we’re encouraged to write what we know. The advice is sound, but I don’t think we all follow it. I once wrote a young adult series about vampires, and I can tell you for a fact I know nothing about vampires. Anything I didn’t know, I made up. That’s the beauty of being a fiction author. We are allowed a certain amount of creative license, more so in fantasy books, which brings up another interesting point the author made.

Maybe her books weren’t selling because they had a high element of realism and readers want to escape reality. Readers are happy to read about billionaire CEOs, pregnant shape shifting men, and the like but they don’t want to read about characters struggling with real issues. I sure the hell hope not because while I’ve dipped my toe in the fantasy pool, I’m much better at writing books that have a basis in reality.

If you’ve read any of my books, you know most of my characters are white. There have been a few books where I’ve included black or Latino characters, but they’ve never been lead characters. The closest I’ve gotten to writing about minorities is writing a book with a straight, transgender male lead and a few books with gay male leads, but all of those characters were white.

It’s honestly never even occurred to me to write a black, Latino, Asian, Indian or non-white character as a lead. In asking myself why, it comes down to two things. The first is that I write reality based novels, and I don’t know enough about these cultures and the issues they face to do justice to the characters and their struggles. The second is honestly the bigger issue for me. I want to be taken seriously a writer, and there’s a part of me that wonders if writing lead minority characters as a white female author means that I’m going to be judged more harshly and held to a higher standard than a minority author writing about these characters.

Am I right to think this way, or does my lack of diversity in my writing make me part of the problem this author was trying to bring to light? I truthfully don’t know. I certainly don’t have any issues with buying books with sexy men of any race on the cover. If I don’t buy a book, it’s because the story doesn’t appeal to me. I’ve never looked at a book cover and refused to read any further if the model is a man or woman of color.

Is being a diverse reader enough though? Should I be a more diverse writer? Do I have a responsibility to? I don’t know, but the author has definitely given me a lot to think about.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Writing Your Way, No Matter What

I recently read a blog post from another author who was frustrated by the lack of sales of her first book in comparison to her second one. The author offered up a lot of theories, one of which is quite provocative and I’ll address in a future blog post.

You can definitely feel the author’s frustration, and it’s understandable. Authors put their hearts and souls into their writing. We spend a lot of time, effort and money to produce and promote our work and often don’t see an equitable return in our investment reflected in sales and reviews. There is no way to adequately explain what goes on behind the scenes of writing a book. You just have to take my word when I say that it can be a soul crushing process.

One of the less controversial theories the author put forth was that readers just weren’t interested in sports romances. She went on to point out that there are plenty of best-selling books about billionaire CEOs, MMA fighters and even pregnant men who can shift into animals. This really struck a chord with me, and I found myself doing an emphatic head nod in agreement.

When I first started out as a writer, I wanted to write young adult novels with disabled characters as romantic leads. I can’t tell you how many agents, publishers and editors told me that would never sell. The industry wanted fantasy novels. Readers wanted vampires and werewolves and fairies. Books were about escaping reality.

I floundered for a while. I’m ashamed to admit, I threw my hat in the vampire ring. Guess what? It didn’t make a difference. Even that wasn’t good enough. I was told I’d never compete with Twilight or True Blood. As much as that hurt, I could live with it because that’s not what I wanted. I’m going to date myself here, but I grew up reading Judy Blume and Lurlene McDaniel. These women were writing stories about kids my age that were dealing with sobering realities and we devoured those novels. Those were my heroes and who I aspired to be.

It took a lot of soul searching and trial and error and some growth and change in the publishing industry for me to find my way. Now, I write what I want. While all of my books are romance, I don’t let myself be penned in. If I want to write new adult or young adult or anything in between, I write it. I don’t care if the story is m/f or m/m. I give my characters the love interest that I think fits best for them. It’s amazing the amount of stress that I took off myself when I accepted this was the approach I wanted to take as a writer.

So, if you write about pregnant omega wolf males or billionaire oil tycoons or up and coming MMA fighters, that’s great. It doesn’t make you better or worse than your peers who choose to write in a different genre. You have to write what makes you and your readers happy. It might not make you rich or a best seller, but writing your way doesn't make you a failure either.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The Long, Hard Indie Road

After years of rejections and a few heartbreakingly close calls, I made the decision to become an independent author. That was back in 2006 when I self-published my first book, Letters from Linc. Since that time, I have released a total of 18 books, which includes 3 novellas but doesn’t include the multiple titles I’ve released on Wattpad.

When I published Letters from Linc in 2006, I told myself this self-publishing thing was a one-time deal. I just wanted to be able to see and hold and touch an actual book that I’d written. I said that if I could do that, I’d be happy. I’d feel like I’d achieved my dream and I could move on. With an additional 17 books under my belt, it’s obvious I was wrong.

So much has changed since I released that first book. In 2006, E-books were offered by only a few publishers because e-readers were still in their infancy. Authors who released their own books weren’t recognized as being independent authors. They were called self-publishers, and they had to pay to have their books published. Companies that published books for pay were, and still are, known as vanity publishers. The difference is all those years ago, paying to publish your book was frowned on. You weren’t considered a real writer. Now, some indie authors are far more successful than many traditionally published authors. Unfortunately, I’m not one of them.

In the time since publishing my first book, I’ve come a long way in my promotion efforts. I went from a basic website with a few tabs to something that’s far more intricate. Thanks to the advent of social media, I have accounts with things like Facebook and Twitter and Instagram that I use to increase visibility. I’ve taken a couple of online book tours, held a few online release parties, hired a third party to do promotions of my new releases, done at least two Thunderclap campaigns, had a third party make a book trailer for two of my books and have done countless giveaways.

When I see it all laid out like that, the amount of effort that we as authors do in promotion of our work is staggering. It’s also somewhat depressing for me. I spend a great deal of time and effort on writing my books, and when it comes to promoting them, I spend quite a bit of money. Often, I spend more money than I make. Considering the number of books I have published and the level of promotion I’ve done, it’s pretty discouraging to make such an emotional and financial investment and see so little return.

With every new book I release, I tell myself this is going to be the one. This one is going to break that glass ceiling and get noticed and I’m going to reach more readers. It doesn’t happen, at least not on the scale that I’d like. The funny thing is, my books are always well received by the few who do read them and are kind enough to leave a review on Amazon. My latest novel, The Truth Inside, has only 5 reviews on Amazon, but they are all 5 stars. While that’s a great feeling, there’s also this part of me that wants more. Trouble is I just don’t know how to get it.

Today is one of those days where I question everything about this decision. Am I even good enough to be in this game? What more can I do to reach more readers? Should I be spending more money? More time? Or is there something else I should do? Should I just quit?

Quitting isn’t in my nature. I figure I’ll probably be writing until my mind and body are too far gone for me to write anymore, but as you can see, being an indie author isn’t all fun games. This is a long, hard road, and it’s not for the faint of heart.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A Pretty Happy Birthday

A couple of weeks ago, I told you that my birthday was coming. We talked about what I wanted for my birthday, which is pretty much the perfect gift for any author.

Last we talked, I promised to come back and give you an update on whether or not my birthday wishes came true. In case you forgot, I asked for Amazon reviews, social media posts about my books and to make a best seller list. 

Let’s start with reviews. Guess what? I got two additional reviews for my newest book, The Truth Inside. Two reviews might not seem like much, but it’s two I didn’t have before. And best of all, both of those were five star reviews. It can’t get any better than that. So, to the two of you who read and reviewed The Truth Inside a few days before my birthday, thank you. You made my day.

Social media posts? I think I got a few more. I can safely say that I Love HEA Romance Book Blog did some heavy posting for me after reviewing my book. The blogger’s reaction to The Truth Inside was shared all over Facebook, Instagram, and more. That was pretty awesome. My book was also on tour that week, so it got some decent exposure as did I. 

Sadly, I have yet to make a best seller list. Not even the Amazon best seller list. Don’t worry though. I’m not giving up. I’m going to keep writing and keep improving my writing so that one day I can reach that goal. I have no doubt that it’s going to happen, and I can’t wait. This is one dream every writer has. It’s not easy to accomplish, but the good things in life don’t always come easily.

Aside from the writing related things, my family made sure I had an amazing day. I got some nice gifts and a few sweet cards. My favorite card came from my twenty-two-year-old daughter who wasn’t home for my birthday this year for the first time since she was born.

All in all, it was a pretty happy birthday thanks to my friends, family and some awesome readers. You guys never fail to make me smile.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

It's My Birthday; Almost

Exactly one week from today, I’ll be celebrating my birthday. Last week, the big question came up. What do you want for your birthday? Some of you might know the answer to that question since it hasn’t changed in the last few years, but here it is. Some cheap and easy ideas to make this author’s birthday one for the record books.

I want to be a best-selling author. It can be the New York Times or USA Today. It can even be Amazon. Better yet, it could be all three, but I’m not picky. I’d be happy to start with reaching just one of those lists. In order to do that, I need your help. I’ve done all I can. I’ve written the books. It’s up to all of you to buy them and enlist your friends and family to do the same.

I know what I’m asking. There are a lot of titles out there. Spending the money to buy all of them can add up. Along that vein, buying even one of my books is an amazing gift to me. It tells me that you are interested in my work and want to read it. Hopefully after you do, you’ll want to keep reading it.

If you want to get me a gift that won’t cost you a dime then review any or all of my books on Amazon. Reviews are an author’s life blood. Yes, sales are important, but your reviews let us know how you feel about the book. If you loved it, we want to know. Gushing reviews make our day. If you hated it, we want to know. Maybe your insight can help us figure out where we went wrong so we can improve our next story. Of everything you can get me next Thursday, this is the one thing that is easiest for you and means so much to me.

What else could you get? How about promotion on your social media? Behind a five star review, I get the biggest kick out of seeing people sharing me and my work on their Twitter, Instagram, Tumbler, Facebook and what not. It’s so flattering to know that you liked my books so much that you’re taking the time to share them with others. Every time I see something like that, you better believe I’m sharing it with everyone I know.

There you have it. It's not much, but it's what I want. I can't think of another author who wouldn't be happy with any of these gifts. Be sure to check back in the next two weeks, and I'll let you know if any of my wishes came true!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Bringing The Thunder

On January 30th, I released The Truth Inside, my first novel in the New Beginnings new adult romance series. This year, I made a commitment to do more promotion of my work in an attempt to reach more readers. Right now, there are two simultaneous promotions underway. I’m here to tell you about one of those and ask for your help.

As of yesterday, I started a Thunderclap campaign to spread the word about my book. For those of you who have never heard of a Thunderclap campaign, it’s a three step process. Well, four once you create your account.

So, you create an account and then you have three steps to go. First, you write a message for your campaign that you want to share with the world. Then you determine how many supporters you want to reach. Once your campaign is approved, you start your outreach. You can do this at no charge or you can choose to purchase a plan that will allow you more benefits.

Since this is the first time I’ve tried this on my own, I decided to start small. I did the free campaign and chose the mid-level amount of supporters. Now, it’s up to me to get those supporters. Of course, I’m doing all I can. I’m blogging; here we are today. I’m also posting on Facebook, Twitter and the like.

Today, I’m asking for your help. If you haven’t already done so, please take a moment to support my campaign and then share it. It only takes a minute or so, and it would mean a lot to me.

What do you say? Are you ready to help me bring the thunder to The Truth Inside? The Thunderclap, that is. Just click the link below and let’s make this happen.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Truth Is Out

It’s finally here. After months of writing and rewriting and editing and then editing some more, The Truth Inside came out yesterday with little fanfare.

While I would love to have received a bigger reception, I’m still proud and excited. This book, the first in my New Beginnings new adult series, gets back to what I always wanted to do; write books that touch people’s hearts and give them characters they identify with. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve enjoyed all of my books and I’d like to think my readers have too, but this is different.

I know parents aren’t supposed to have favorite children. Since authors often feel like their books are their children, I suppose the same could apply. Maybe we shouldn’t have a favorite book that we’ve written, but I do. This one is it for me.

The Truth Inside tells the story of Nate Holland, an MMA fighter who’s trying to get his career off the ground and having his first serious relationship since making the transition from female to male. Nate not only has to navigate his romantic relationship but also the ones he has with his friends who haven’t been privy to his secret until now.

I’d been toying with writing a new adult series for some time, and a transgender character in one of my stories seemed like a good idea. Stories with trans characters exist, but they’re difficult to find. Even more difficult is finding a story that doesn’t sensationalize the trans character or use him for shock value.

In The Truth Inside, Nate starts out by keeping his transition a secret from his new friends and girlfriend because he’s struggling with his journey. Nate has a hard time accepting himself and he projects those feelings onto those around him. Like with all secrets, this one won’t stay hidden for long, and readers join Nate in the aftermath of sharing that secret.

As soon as I got the idea for this story, I wanted to stay true to the theme. I wanted to write a story that anyone could relate to, especially anyone struggling with their gender identity. I not only wanted a realistic story, but a cover model who was transgender to pay proper homage to the theme. Thankfully, transgender activist Jeffrey Rubel stepped up to the plate to help me bring Nate to life.

The Truth Inside has finally come out. It’s my biggest hope that it touches people and helps them to feel better about who they are. Everyone deserves a happy ending, except maybe murderers and rapists and child molesters, but you get what I mean.

I hope you'll give this story a chance and share it with others. Thank you for taking this journey with me and Jeffrey and Nate.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Taking the Truth on Tour

We’re less than a week away from the release of The Truth Inside, the first novel in my New Beginnings new adult romance series.

Earlier in the year, I made a commitment to be more aggressive in promotion of my books this year, and I’ve taken the first steps. The Truth Inside will be going on a blog tour beginning February 12th and ending on March 2nd.     

The plan is to be featured on fifteen different blogs where readers will be able to see the cover and a sample of the book. Even better, readers will have a chance, fifteen chances actually, to enter to win a $20 Amazon gift card at the conclusion of the tour.

I’m equal parts excited and nervous about this tour. I’ve done one blog tour before, and as much fun as I remember it being, there’s still a bit of playing the what if game. What if there aren’t enough bloggers interested in hosting the book for the tour? What if bloggers don’t like the book or the cover and give it a bad review? What if there aren’t any readers interested in the blog tour? And the list goes on and on.

Instead of listening on these negative voices, I’m going to tune them out and focus on the goals I have for this tour. Book tours have one big perk that writers can’t deny. They introduce you to new readers. Don’t get me wrong. I love the readers I have. They are rabid in their loyalty and they never fail to brighten my day when I need it. Having more readers is always a plus. Likewise, I hope this will translate to more sales and especially more reviews, but that’s not the main thing I want from this tour.

The Truth Inside is a novel that’s near and dear to my heart and I’m grateful for the opportunity to reach more readers. I’m hoping new readers will discover this book and be touched by it. I’m hoping that at least one reader identifies with our hero’s struggle and that it somehow changes his or her life. Making money as a writer is always nice, but it’s not my top priority. I want to entertain my readers while at the same time affecting their lives in a positive way, be it large or small.

In March, we’ll find out if I’ve reached any of these goals. I’ll be sure to let you know either way. In the meantime, be sure to watch my social media posts in the upcoming weeks for details on each stop of the tour!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

It's Time for The Truth Inside

It’s a new year, and with it comes the first book in my new series. This year, I’m dipping my toe into the new adult fountain with the release of The Truth Inside. Publicly anyway. This is not my first new adult rodeo, but that’s a story for another time. Today, I want to focus on what’s important.

The Truth Inside is the first book in my New Beginnings new adult series. At this time, there a total of six books planned. Each book will be a standalone romance novel that focuses on the journey of one young couple. All of the characters are friends and will appear in each other’s books. Reading each book is helpful but not necessary to understand and enjoy each book individually.

The Truth Inside is the story of Nate Holland, a transgender MMA fighter. Nate’s had so much rejection in the past from parents to peers that he’s decided to keep his birth gender a secret. Things get complicated when he meets Natalie Cox. Nate finds himself falling for her but still afraid to take that leap and tell her the truth. When he finally does, Natalie’s reaction is the last thing he expected.

The preceding paragraph was not a spoiler. Readers learn early on that Nate is transgender. The story isn’t about the readers trying to unravel Nate’s big secret which is held until near the end of the book. It’s about Nate’s journey as a transgender man and athlete and how that affects his relationship with his friends and ultimately his girlfriend.

This story isn’t about going for the shock value. I’ve read far too many stories labeling themselves as romance novels that are all about how everyone reacts to the trans character. Often, these stories are erotica, which is fine with me since all of my novels feature some pretty graphic sex scenes. My biggest problem with them is that the trans character doesn’t reveal his or her truth until in the midst of getting hot and heavy with the new love interest. Once that happens, the scene and usually the book as a whole, tends to focus on the reactions of the non-trans character and how that person copes.

That’s not to say there aren’t books out there with solid story lines that explore a trans character’s journey. There are, and I’ve read a few. That’s the problem. There are so few. Certainly not enough when you think of how many transgender people are in this world.

With Nate’s story, I wanted to stay true to what it means to be transgender. I wanted to tell as beautiful story that didn’t demean what it means to be transgender. I am not transgender, but I did my best to provide an accurate and beautiful portrayal, thanks in large part to the number of transgender people who have been open to sharing their stories with the world.

In keeping with the spirit of authenticity, I somehow managed to convince transgender activist Jeffrey Rubel to lend his image to the cover to portray Nate Holland. That’s right, Jeffrey donated his image and time with no expectation of compensation, which is never going to stop amazing me.

I hope that I’ve done this story justice. I hope you enjoy it, and if you do, I ask for only two things. First, please review the book on Amazon. The more reviews it gets, the more we can spread the word about this book. Second, tell others you liked it and encourage them to read and review.

Thank you for taking the first step on this journey of New Beginnings. The book will be out 1/30/18, but you can preorder your copy now.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

What's the Plan?

Happy New Year, everyone! Is it me, or does it seem like 2018 came up fast? Last week, I told you that we’d talk about my writing plans for this year. As promised, here they are.

First, I’m tackling a new book series this year. Don’t worry. I’m still going to be writing romance. Honestly, I’m not sure I could write another genre. I’m just going to be taking on a new subgenre. My new series is called New Beginnings and it will be a new adult romance series. Right now, there are a total of six books planned for this series, but there may be more. We’ll have to see what happens with the characters. The first book, The Truth Inside, is scheduled for release on 1/30/18. Keep watching my social media for news about the preorder.

This year, I’m making a commitment to do more promotion of my books. While I keep up with my social media accounts, or try to, I’m not very good at promotion. In the past, I’ve had an issue with my budget. Truthfully, I didn’t have one. That changes this year, starting with my first book of the year. So far, I’ve already scheduled a book trailer for The Truth Inside. By the end of the day, I will have also scheduled a book tour. By this weekend, I will have ordered several new promotional pictures to use on my social media sites. I’m also planning to take a look at the wonderful World Wide Web to see what other efforts I should pursue. You’ll have to bear with me if I’m slow to start on this since it’s all new to me.

Instead of only offering my new books in electronic format, I will also be making them available in paperback. This is for my new adult series and any books that I publish from this year on. I may consider going back and making my prior books available in print format. That's still up in the air.

I plan to be a best-selling author this year. Other than writing a great book, this is something I have little control over. That’s where my promotional efforts come in. With any luck, investing more time and money in promoting my books will translate to more sales. At the very least, I would like to be an Amazon best seller, but I would absolutely love to be on the New York Times and/or USA Today best seller lists.

I would like to go to at least one author event this year, but I can’t make any promises. I’m an indie author who not only has a small budget but also a day job. Both of those things make it difficult to travel, but maybe I’ll get lucky. Maybe my first book of the New Year will do so well that I’ll have the money to go to an event this year. I’ll keep you posted.

I think it’s time I joined Romance Writers of America. I’m a romance writer after all. If I’m going to invest in promotion of my books, I think I can invest in this as well.

This year, I also hope to gain some new fans and see more Amazon reviews of my books. Only time will tell if this happens. I’ll let you know at the end of this year when I do my annual recap. Until then, wish me luck!