Vacation Time!

Friday, June 28, 2013
It's off to the lake for me and my family, so don't expect to hear from me until next week.

Bugs bites, and sun burns, and sore muscles, oh my!

Then again, there should also be swimming, and cookouts, and laughter, woo hoo!

My rights for Kiss it Better and How to Resist Prince Charming revert back to me tomorrow. So  Tuesday should be my big day to tell you all about how my first self-publishing uploads went!

Have a great weekend. HUGS!

Oh, and lookie!  My proof copies came in.  Lydia, of course, had to pose with them.
Holding up the number one sign was totally her idea!

Pricing Books

Tuesday, June 25, 2013
I received some exciting news from my publisher for The Color of Grace the other day (Been a while since you heard me mention that book, huh?!).

And has anyone heard of  Well, I hadn't until I received this email.  Apparently, you can pay this place to feature one of your ebooks if you put it on sale or have a freebie promotion going on.  So...I guess my publisher is going to do this.  Come July 16th through July 19th, The Color of Grace will be super cheap (I think $0.99 but I'm not quite certain yet) at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. And it will be advertised on BookBub. I'm so excited!

I had heard of Pixel of Ink, which advertises free and cheap kindle stories that are available, and I'd signed up with them to get a daily updates of what was free and on sale. But now, I'm totally signing up at BookBub too...since I'm always looking for a good cheap book!

About the same time all this was going down, I started to prepare my reprinted stories for publication, doing a trial run at some of the places I am going to upload Kiss it Better and How to Resist Prince Charming. And guess what? I had to come up with prices for my books.

Let me tell you, if you want to sell your paperbacks from CreateSpace, you should probably get ready to do so a couple weeks before the day you want to release the book. They will take a day or so to review you cover art and interior before telling you whether it is acceptable for publication. Then you have the opportunity to order up to five (really, really cheap) proof copies (which take a week to get mailed to you) to examine it before you approve for final release. Anyway, I went that proof-ordering route, so I can hold my book in my hands (happy squeal!!) before it's actually released.

But that has really nothing to do with book pricing (sorry for the tangent). CreateSpace was kind enough to give me a base price that I had to make the minimum amount. Then I could calculate and see how much profits could be made from the prices I chose.  It's really kind of fun to price your own book! 

With my trial run at Amazon, I probably could've set everything up on the day I release (July 2nd, by the way!) and have it ready for publication within the day (because it takes about a day for new sales to show up on Amazon). They also had a minimum price I had to keep. If I wanted to make 35% profit, I couldn't go cheaper than $0.99. If I wanted to make 70% profits, I couldn't go cheaper than $2.99. I've yet to figure out how people put free books on Amazon. Maybe you have to sign up for the prime program. I don't know.

At Smashwords, the price ranges were unlimited. I could make it free straight out of the gate without joining a certain group or taking less profit (not that I'd make any profit from a free book, but anyway...). Or I could choose to have the buyer pay whatever they wanted, or I could set the amount myself, at whichever price I wanted.  And if your book is already formatted and ready, I think you could sign up for an account right then and there and upload your book within an hour.

Unlike Amazon, Smashwords didn't give me the option to proofread a draft of my book before publication though (and I wasn't able to save the info I put in either), which is a bit intimidating. You set it up and publish all in one shot. THEN you can go through all the formats they provide to proof them. I think you also have the option to get a free ISBN for their epub version AFTER you push publish. Since I want Smashwords to distribute my stories to Barnes and Noble, iBookstore, and a bunch of other places, I will have to get an ISBN from them.

The last place I'm going to sell stories is ARe (AllRomance Ebooks). Like CreateSpace, this isn't a one-day thing. You have to apply to become a "publisher." Then before you can publish, you need to provide an ISBN for each book you provide. ISBNs are expensive things if the place distributing your story doesn't let you use a free one from them. And since Smashwords doesn't want you using the ISBN they give you for your books sold at other places, you have to have a new one for those other places.

Since I was back to being ISBN-less, I had to apply to ARe again to set me up with codes to use in place of their ISBN spot. Confused yet? Yeah, it's getting kind of involved there, but it's still a fun adventure for me! It's taken me a couple days to get all that set up. Now that I have my codes to use though, I think ARe would be ready to publish my stories as soon as I upload all the information. I'm not sure if you get to look at the final outcome before publication though. They don't seem to have any restrictions on pricing either, except that you can't sell book through them higher than you sell them anywhere else.

So, that's more than you ever wanted to know about uploading and pricing books at distributing places!  I really do share too much information, don't I? Oh, well.

What's your opinion on book pricing? There are some books I've been wanting to read REALLY bad but just haven't had the gumption to pay $7.36 or more for an ebook! Is there a limit you won't pay, and wouldn't charge if you were setting the amount? What about minimum amounts? Do you refuse to price one of your stories too cheap or buy one so cheap because you don't think it can possibly be any good? I'd like to gather different opinions on the subject.

It's week ten of my PRICE OF A KISS countdown, and here is what my wonky heroine, Reese, has to say today:

The Writer's Welcome Mat

Friday, June 21, 2013
I haven’t been studying up on storytelling techniques lately, so I thought it was about time to do some writing homework again.

This week, I dipped my little pinky toe into Joseph Campbell's The Hero’s Journey. I was ready to learn all the stages and patterns I needed to take to make an epic story where my hero(ine) went out and achieved great deeds on behalf of the united whole.

But I kind of got caught up on step one!

Campbell said the greatest stories start out in the ordinary world.  And that made soooo much sense to me.

There is a reason I usually can’t stand to read Science Fiction stories. There’s just too much stuff going on at the beginning that I can’t understand. Characters names are all funky and unpronounceable, and if they’re not human, they’re some crazy being I’ve never heard of. And barely anything takes place on earth. I just feel overwhelmed, intimidated, and in way over my head. So I stop reading.

But ask me to list my top favorite movies and Star Wars, or Superman, or Spiderman will probably be rated up there pretty high. Yet they’re Sci-Fi stories. So what’s the deal?

Well, the deal is...those stories followed Campbell’s rule and started out in the ordinary world, or at least in a familiar place I could comprehend.

Which got me off track even more and reminded me of these Home Interiors decorating parties I used to attend. A decorating tip I learned at one of these things was to put mirrors in your home’s entrance. Why? Because when visitors come in, the first thing they see is a familiar face, someone they recognize and know. It takes away intimidation and helps put them at ease. It welcomes!

So, if we think of our stories as homes, we need to make the opening act something that our readers can see themselves in and feel comforted and welcomed.

Even though Star Wars started on a different planet, the creators made all that stuff minor background details in the very beginning. The only things really cluing us into this being a different, out-of-this-world place were the two suns out in horizon and the style of clothing and houses. 

What they REALLY focused on was Luke Skywalker and his feelings. He’s frustrated with his life and wants more. We can see a reflection of ourselves in these feelings and can easily relate to being young and wanting our voices heard. We know what it’s like for this poor kid.

And so, the welcome mat for this story was laid down well, the mirrors were put up in the entryway and I felt totally comfortable stepping into this house to then enjoy the crazy Sci-Fi adventure that was Star Wars.

No matter what the genre is, I think this is why beginnings are so important to a story. There might be some amazing things later on in the book, but it’ll be hard for anyone to get there if they don’t feel comfortable enough to even cross the threshold.

So...if you're building a house (aka – writing  a story) that you want people to visit (aka – to read), don’t forget to put mirrors (aka – something they can relate to and are familiar with) in the foyer (aka – first five pages)! And that's my writing tip of the day!

What cool writing tools have you accumulated lately?

CRY No More

Tuesday, June 18, 2013
After I got through my second round of edits for my upcoming novel, CRY, and got a peek of what the cover was going to look like, the publisher decided it needed to be re-titled.

I had tried to come up with a new title before submitting it to publishers. One of my beta readers thought it needed something different. But I never could think of anything I liked. Then my sister and niece said they liked Cry, so...I kept it as is.

They (my publishing peeps) suggested Fighting Fate. At this point, I was like sure, whatever. Sounds fine to me.  Let's do that (because I certainly couldn't think up anything better). But afterward, I told the sister and niece it's title was changing.  And, wow, they were devastated. My niece was like, "GASP!  No. Tell them NO!"  But I'd already said it was fine by me. And actually, the new cover sample looks lots better with a little bit longer title on it.

I'd ask what you all think sounds better, but you'd probably like to know what the story is about first, huh?  Okay then. Here's the general plot:

Girl starts her first day of college. Finds her first class, and during roll call, she learns she shares the class with her brother's murderer. There's lots of crying (hence the CRY title) and lots of fate pushing these two together (hence the FATE title), but after a while, the girl and the guy she thought she hated and thought had destroyed her life and her entire family began to grow feelings for each other (hence the romance!). which title do you think sounds better?


It's week eleven on my PRICE OF A KISS countdown, and here is what my wonky heroine, Reese, has to say today:

Book Cover Samples, Bow Shoots, and Fireflies

Friday, June 14, 2013
And another busy week has gone by!

I just sent in my second round of edits for Cry. Really, like just ten minutes ago. I'm feeling pretty good about that story right now.

What's even better: They sent me sample covers for Cry this week too.  Each sample was so amazing; I didn't know which one to choose. But I think we finally settled on one that's just right for the story! I have no idea when I'll get to show it off, but don't worry, I will definitely let you know as soon as I can!

Since the professional editing and proofreading for Price of a Kiss is finished, I decided to start sending out some review requests to people.  So far, exactly fifty percent have responded and asked for a copy of the story to read.  I know, I thought that was an amazing percentage for me too!

One of my amazing reviewer recipients has even finished reading it and put up a review on Goodreads already.  Not to brag or anything, but oh yeah, it was five stars! Woot, woot!!

I can't express how nice it feels to start out with a positive review. I've started out the other way before, and it totally taints your entire story. Instead of being all proud and happy about all that work you put into it, you just feel ashamed that you created something so monstrous and awful.  But when the reviews starts out positive, it's easier to swallow negative comments when they finally come in (it is for me, anyway) and helps you realize that not everyone despises what you did and that each person has her own outlook and point of view and taste.

Wow, I didn't mean to get off onto a tangent about that, so I'll shut up now!

In the real world, my husband and I went to a bow-shooting competition.  Actually, it was called a 3-D challenge.  I was picturing this big open field, with maybe some grandstands, and an announcer who called out contestants names while there were rows of mowed grass with huge bulls eye targets at the end and people milling around everywhere. 

But nope. There was barely anyone else around, each group went off on their own. We traipsed through rugged woods, ups hills and down, across creeks and through briar patches during the hottest part of the day, with I-don't-know-how-many-ticks crawling all over me (and one bull snake siting...not fun) as we looked for spray-painted marks on the ground telling us where to shoot from. And the targets were actual animals (fake, rubber, 3-D animals like deer, bear, raccoons, and even a tiny dinosaur, plus three zombies) with no bulls eyes on ANY of them.

Honestly, the real version was much more fun than what I was imagining. And now, since the hubby knows I actually liked it, he's gone crazy with the idea of getting me a better bow and all these nifty gadgets. So...I guess I'm going to be a bow-shooter now. Which is pretty cool, huh! The best part is that my soul mate and I can do it together! Aww...

Oh, you're probably wondering how I actually ranked.  Well...hey, it was my first competition. And really, I have no idea. But I CAN tell you I got 180 points out of 360 possible. The husband got 274, I think. And my nephew who cam with us got 203. It was his first 3-D challenge too. There were only two other women who entered the ladies division, but they hadn't finished the course by the time I left. So I don't know if they did better or worse. Though I know I at least ranked third! Awesome.

All the while, my kid is growing like a weed. She's into fireflies these days. The first one we caught and put into the jaw survived four days. We must've prepared her well for its eminent death. When it finally croaked, she let out a sympathetic little sound and then reassured me that bugs didn't live long.  I totally love that girl.

But okay, I should really let you go now.  Have a great weekend.  And happy reading!

Television : A Muse Filler

Tuesday, June 11, 2013
I have been hoooked on the television show, PSYCH, lately. And I totally blame my sister and niece. Since they have gotten Netflix, they have told me about all these great programs out there.  So they discvoered Psych and clued me in, and now I'm about to start in on season six. The hubby and daughter are utterly annoyed by my obsession. But I just can't stop watching it. It's so funny, and ingenious, and...and awesome.  You should become obsessed with it too.  Really.

Anyway, that has pretty much nothing to do with what I'm about to talk about except that I think watching TV is a great source of creative juice for authors. It's fun to take something I see on a show and twist it around until it's sorta new and sorta mine. 

For instance (you knew a 'for instance' was coming, didn't you?), I love this actor who's been on two shows I've started watching (neither are Pysch, by the way!).  In one show, his name is Tyler. In another, his name is Ethan. In one show, he owns a Jeep and works at a country club as a valet driver. So..I made my hero a valet driver at the country club, who drives a Jeep.  He name isn't Tyler...or Ethan, but I did name some other cameo characters in that story Tyler and Ethan.

Does anyone know which actor or two televisions shows I'm talking about? Anyway...

I love weaving stray details like that into my stories. It seems to make the stuff that is totally made up sound more authentic. And it makes the story feel more like me, which probably doesn't make a lot of sense, since I stole those little details from other stories, but those details have become a part of me. They're things I like and help make me what I am. So I like to bring them out in a different venue to reveal a little bit of me hidden in every story I write.

Cool, huh?

Are there any interesting little tidbits you've taken from a television and made it your own or put it in your story?

As a small aside: It's twelve weeks until PRICE OF A KISS, releases for sale. So I thought I'd have a fun countdown by sharing an entertaining quote a week from my wonky heroine Reese every Tuesday until the big day. So here beginneth the quote countdown:

Why I Love My Editors

Friday, June 7, 2013
Price of a Kiss has now been professionally edited and proofread!!  I'm so glad I got both done, and not because the first round editor sucked, because she didn't. Not at all.  She totally rocks!  I swear, I learn a dozen new grammar rules every time I work with her. She knows, like, everything!

But the more eyes that go over a manuscript, the better!  I can't tell you how many times I re-read my story before turning it in for edits (well, it was like six times all the way through, or something like that, and around twenty-some for the first few chapters...not that I was counting), and there were still just soooo many things I missed.

To share a few, here are ten very minor oopsies I made that I didn't catch the first twenty-six rounds through.  Can you spot all my mistakes?

--A middle-age female stepped from the shadows in the neighbor’s yard and strolled told me.

--If that hadn’t convinced he was forbidden, then Wednesday night certainly did.

--I didn’t want a hoard of strangers prowling through my loft.

--He stay rooted on the landing outside. 

--“Your curiosity has no filter whatsoever, does is?” 

--He nearly leapt out his shorts.

--I reached campus ten minutes before my class started, which made my gnash my teeth and wonder if I’d had time to primp after all.

--Her torso when limp and floppy.

--I swore I was going ignore him altogether.

--But I certainly wasn’t supposed to be bumping into him…or siting on my knees in front of him.

So, did you catch them all?  Are you editor quality?  Yeah, I'm totally not. If I could afford it, I'd have fifty people go over my story before I published it.  But, until then, it's back to re-reading it myself twenty-six times through!

For those of you who want to check yourselves, here are the correct ways the sentences are supposed to be:

--A middle-age female stepped from the shadows in the neighbor’s yard and strolled *TOWARD* me.

--If that hadn’t convinced *ME* he was forbidden, then Wednesday night certainly did.

--I didn’t want a *HORDE* of strangers prowling through my loft.

--He *STAYED* rooted on the landing outside.

--“Your curiosity has no filter whatsoever, does *IT*?” 

--He nearly leapt out *OF* his shorts.

--I reached campus ten minutes before my class started, which made *ME* gnash my teeth and wonder if I’d had time to primp after all.

--Her torso *WENT* limp and floppy.

--I swore I was going *TO* ignore him altogether.

--But I certainly wasn’t supposed to be bumping into him…or *SITTING* on my knees in front of him.

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

You Talking to Me?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013
A couple months back, my sister and nieces and nephews had a movie night at my house where we ended up watching Ferris Bueller's Day Off because none of the under-sixteen-year-olds there had ever seen it before, which my sister and I thought was a crime against nature that needed to be fixed immediately.

So you know that scene at the end of the movie where Ferris comes back on screen after the credits are over and asks what we're still doing here, then tells us to go home? Lydia asked at this point, "Is he talking to me?"

After that, she wanted to watch this movie, like, EVERY night for weeks. The husband even got her into walking around the house, calling, "Bueller? Bueller?"

I know it probably puts my parenting skills into question for letting my three-year-old watch Ferris Bueller's Day Off repeatedly, but...hey, she loved it! And I think she liked it so much because, like Dora the Explorer, Blues Clues and many other children's shows, Ferris takes time out of his busy story to talk to her and include her. She was invested in his tale because she was actually a part of it.

Which brings me around to this awesome book I just read. Tangled by Emma Chase is written in first point of view from the hero (I know, the HERO! Isn’t that awesome), and he pauses the story every couple of lines to monologue to the crowd with a bunch of “I know what you’re thinking,” and “Trust me, this is what us guys like,” kind of stuff.

I loved it and think it totally worked. I felt included and closer to the characters, like I understood them (especially the hero) a million times better.

What is your opinion on characters addressing the audience in a story? Because my heroine does that in Price of a Kiss ALOT, so I’m really hoping most of you think it’s awesome. But it’s okay if you don’t like that kind of stuff. At least you’ve been warned about Price!!