Category: Writing

Amazon: Destroyer of Future Plans

I’ve never been one of those author with scathing commentary about the monopolizing power of Amazon’s book store. Instead I was all-in with several Kindle-only titles.

Then they pulled the plug on Kindle Worlds.

At the moment this was announced, I was begging beta readers to return their comments on the third book for the series published in this universe. That story was planned to release in less than two months.

The day after the announcement, I got my royalty statement from Amazon showing the first month when two titles were available for sale. It was great. The sales had been strong and steady, more than anything else I’ve ever published.

Amazon was jerking the rug out from under my expanding readership.

Worse, I was positive that the introduction to this world and the amazing influencer who conceived it was the future of my writing career. At least for the next couple years.

Thanks, Amazon, for demolishing that business plan I made a week earlier.

But as much as this derailed my career planning, I knew the news was even worse for Melissa Storm.

I messaged her. I wanted to encourage her and let her know that no one was mad at her and we hoped we could still work together.

By the next day, she’d formed her own publishing company.

And why not? She has an incredible platform of followers. She launches all her new releases to the bestseller list.

Those characters I was dropping into Sweet Grove aren’t displaced after all. Their stories will be told.
*Shakes fist at Big Brother Amazon*
In the future, I might even explore some of the other shared series worlds she’s planning to launch along with Sweet Promise Press.

So if you’re an author, you should check it out. There’s a form to fill out if you want to write for her.

Those lines in my business plan that mention Kindle Worlds will have to be lined out. But those titles should still reach you.

In a few weeks, I’ll give you a glance into the next First Street Church novella. When I know the release date, I’ll pass it on.

Make sure you don’t miss any of these updates. Follow my author page on Facebook. Better yet, join my Facebook group.

It’s nice to know that Amazon doesn’t actually have the same destructive power of…Thanos. Indie authors unite with more strength than the Avengers, too.

Do you buy most of your books from Amazon? Is there any way we can curb their market share?

Ten Things to Know about Being an Author – Part Two

People want to know what it’s like to be an author. What it takes. How do I stay on track. It’s neither science nor magic, but it does take work.

On Monday, I listed five things to know about being an author. In case you missed that post (or you don’t remember), I’ll recap them.

  1. Traditional publishing is the slow track to being published
  2. Publishing with a small press is the fast track to getting work in front of readers
  3. Traditional publishing success is ninety percent about who you know
  4. Small press publishing is fifty percent finding the right publisher and fifty percent telling a good story
  5. Indie publishing requires both entrepreneurial finesse and cash reserves

To discover the ins-and-outs on each of those, read the full post here. Then come back to find out the next five things to know about this author gig.

Success as an indie author is ninety-nine percent connecting with the right audience.

I still haven’t found my tribe. But success can be measured by markers other than copies sold, numbers of social media followers and earnings.

Define success. Make this part of the business plan mentioned above.

Find promotions you can join that help you build your email list. Yes, you need one. Even if you don’t want to mail a regular newsletter, you need a way to let your readers know that a new book is coming, to ask for reviews and to sell copies. (This goes for traditional or indie published authors.)

The project that had me pulling my hair out was one I tackled for the sole reason of having a stand alone romance novel in print. This is the “entrance fee” for dozens of promotions I’ve seen. I couldn’t join them because I didn’t have a print book.

Building my tribe is also why I decided to write in the First Street Church Kindle World. The owner of that world is a marketing powerhouse. She leveraged her thousands of followers for us, and that’s worth signing over full rights to KDP for a few stories.

Some markets take longer to break into.

Young adult fantasy and any form of young adult literature is one such “competitive”market.

This is why I haven’t written any young adult fantasy in two years. I want to. I’m considering polishing up one of my manuscripts and submitting it to a small publisher I’ve been following for several months.

But I have to decide if that’s in the best interest of my business. If I love telling the stories I’m writing and they are connecting with readers, why shouldn’t I keep writing them?

To succeed, you need to partner with one or more influencer.

This is where I will praise Melissa Storm. She has a huge reader group that she mails to on a weekly basis. Other authors pay her to be promoted to her group.

I’m getting access to these groups just because I’m writing in her Kindle World. Since my first novella was published there in November 2017, my email list has grown from 39 to 185. Every subsequent title I publish in that world nets me more followers.

And many of these readers are connecting with me so they can review the books. Book reviews are the foundation for online sales.

The author gig requires business and marketing (sense)abilities.

Marketing. The thought makes my skin crawl. My introverted self retreats like a turtle in its shell.

Traditional publishers expect you to market your book by posting on social media, making appearances and having an email list.

You’re nothing but an amoeba in the sea as an indie author. There are plenty of readers. You don’t have to compete for them, but you do need to connect with them.

Ads on Amazon, Goodreads and in reader newsletters give you exposure to readers. Some of them want to chat with you online, and that’s what Facebook is for (as advertising here nets sketchy results compared to ads on sites where readers already visit and are looking for book recommendations).

Hire a marketing firm if you have the budget. I’ve bought several nonfiction books that outline the best practices and with each new book, I try to add another level of marketing.

It’s not my strength. I don’t even like it. But I can do a little and if I invest in the right areas, I’ll get a decent return on my investment,

It will take more than four years to “succeed” in either traditional, indie or hybrid publishing.

I haven’t arrived. I’m not a success, not even by my own flimsy definition.

July is the four-year mark of my author career. I still don’t have my first 1000 followers (what pros say you need to have a successful book launch).

I do have an impressive list of published titles. Check out my Amazon page to see them all.

Most of them don’t have enough reviews so I can join advertisers with huge lists, where indie authors find big sales and garner new followers.

I’m not giving up the dream. I have a plan and I’m working it. I’m learning to network more and refine my brand so it’s identifiable to the readers who are looking for me.

This list could continue. Each of these “lessons”could turn into a blog post. And there are dozens more things to know if you intend to be an author.

Four years ago, I claimed the title of professional writer, but didn’t see myself as an author. After all, an author needs to have a published book. An indie title that sold fewer than 200 copies didn’t count.

But it did count. All it takes to be an author is published work and the guts to own the title.

Author friends, what would you add to this base of knowledge? Reader friends, how do you prefer to connect with the work of an author whose stories you enjoy?

Ten Things to Know about Being an Author – Part One

Since shortly after I was old enough to read and imagine my own stories, I wanted to be an author. My first story was penned in a spiral notebook when I was in third grade. The past four years that I’ve been living the dream doing this author thing have been amazing.

And instructive. And painful at times. Filled with discouragement and despair at other times. Even wrought with excitement to the point I soared above the clouds.

The higher you go, the further you have to fall.

And falling from such heights hurts. It might even kill you(r dream).

Traditional publishing is the slow track to being published.

By slow I mean, it takes years if you pursue one of the large publishing houses (which means you have to find an agent first). After you spend months writing, revising, editing and polishing your manuscript, the journey of ten thousand miles begins.

It starts with research. Which agents are looking for your style and genre? Which publishers would contract it?

Then the rounds of submission begin. Most of this is done electronically. This speeds the process of notification to three months instead of six to twelve. Many agencies won’t respond unless they’re requesting pages.

Talk about disheartening. It feels like tossing my life’s work into a black hole.

I wanted this for myself. I needed the validation. I wanted a publishing professional to confirm that my work was of a quality to be read and circulated.

Publishing with a small press is the fast track to getting work in front of readers.

Even though it was a small publisher who gave me my first fiction contract (and all my subsequent contracts until I began writing for Kindle Worlds), it didn’t feel like traditional publishing to me.

First of all, the submission hoops are simpler to understand and jump through. The turnaround time for notifying you of acceptance is shorter.

I started with short stories in answer to specific submission calls. This is the only way I’ve managed to publish in my dream genre (young adult fantasy).

The contracts are long but straightforward, and most of the small houses don’t offer advances. They split the royalties half and half, though, which I understand is a substantial raise over big houses.

You still get the benefit of several editing passes (story development, line edits and proofing) and a professional cover. On my stand alone titles, I’ve been consulted about the title and my thoughts and opinions were considered and employed.

Traditional publishing success is ninety percent about who you know.

Slush pile. I’m not sure the few manuscripts I’ve sent, although requested, actually met up with the agent or editor. Getting a query past this point is something I’ve only managed with small houses.

Could be my queries are weak. Or the agent wasn’t looking for the kind of story I was telling.

All I know is that hearing nothing is more depressing than a rejection. It’s like all your effort is meaningless to the agent or editor. Sure, they have a ton of work, but does it really take so long to send a four line email saying you aren’t interested?

If you can get an author to recommend you, I understand the odds increase exponentially in favor of a contract.

Small press publishing is fifty percent finding the right publisher and fifty percent telling a good story.

It will still take effort to locate the right press for your story. More small houses appear every month. Many of them will disappear within a year or two. I don’t send anything to a publisher that’s been around for less than a year. And I always check out their current and past titles.

I’ve started reading some stories from a small press that weren’t all that great. Then I see that the author is also the editor-in-chief. This looks like a new form of vanity publishing to me.

They started up the press so they could publish their own books.

I’ve also read a few fantastic stories that come from the same situation. The difference? I didn’t take a poll, but I think it involves professional editing and more skilled writing.

I don’t want a bad story to be published. This is what kept me from subbing manuscripts for years. I wasn’t good enough. Even reading the first fiction short that Roane accepted makes me cringe a little.

Indie publishing requires both entrepreneurial finesse and cash reserves.

Independent publishing makes you the boss of it all. You’re the captain of the publishing ship.

If you want, you can churn out a story and upload it to Amazon with a thrown-together cover. Maybe you’ll sell a few copies.

But if you want to be a professional author, act like one. Make a business plan. Plan a production schedule. Give yourself deadlines and then meet them.

To succeed, you need to learn the business. Locate professional editors and hire them. Listen to their comments and improve your stories.

If you don’t know design, hire a cover designer. You can hire someone to format the interior of the book. You can even hire a publicity representative to plan your marketing campaign.

All of that costs money. Plan on investing anywhere from $500 to $1500 from your savings per book. Then do the math and find out how many copies you have to sell to break even and make a profit.

I still haven’t broke even on my indie novella Reflections from a Pondering Heart.

This is only FIVE things you need to know about being an author. I’m guessing 900 words is more than long enough for most of my blog readers.

Come back on Thursday to learn the other five things.

Which of these seems most obvious? Most important? Most discouraging?

Deep Thinking at the Writer’s Retreat

My Muse is extroverted in every imagined scenario. My actual body and mind are introverted enough to happily stay home every weekend reading a book.
While Musie celebrated the idea of the Deep Thinker’s Writing Retreat, my mind shriveled into the fetal position and begged to visit a library instead. Preferably the one on my iPad which wouldn’t involve moving away from my couch.
Since the retreat was in Florida, my body argued with my feeble mind. “There will be sunshine and blue skies. We can get our daily dose of Vitamin D without taking that soft gel.”


The part of my brain that knows I need a writing tribe and that my writing is falling short—somehow, since I can’t get an agent to jump on it—also slapped the curled mound of quivering gray matter. After all, 2018 is a year for metamorphosis, and the biggest part of that is with my writing.
The battlefield inside didn’t stop me from packing a bag or waking up at 3AM. On waged the upheaval between mind, soul and Musie, while I kissed hubby goodbye and boarded a plane for the first of three legs of the journey to Destin, Florida.

My Expectations

It was a writing retreat. I expected to write.

In fact, I set myself a goal of completing 5,000 new words for the third Sweet Grove Romance. I figured, that’s five hours. I’ll be there six DAYS, surely there will be at least five hours to write.
Not if I expected to sleep.

Not if I hoped to glean the lessons I needed for character development.

I know this is my weak area, and the retreat organizers gave us three days to work on our characters. In fact, we spent hours brainstorming the hero and shero of every retreat attendee.
This after the entire group tossed out ideas for characters of the “group” story we were brainstorming.

Brainstormers Extraordinaire headed by Susan May Warren

Brainstorming is my super power. No less than six people told me that at the group. One woman (a former managing editor for Zondervan) told me to expect an email from her every time she got stuck.
Oh-kay.
But the only time I got to write anything was on the final day of the retreat. Then I was expected to craft the first scene we had brainstormed earlier and share it with my group mentor, Susan May Warren.
She wanted me to share a rough draft scene with her? Was she honestly expecting to see my best work?
Enough of that. Even if the retreat wasn’t what I expected, it was an incredible experience.

A Day in the Life

I don’t sleep in. The fact I was in a different time zone didn’t matter.
I woke up around 5:30 AM (3:30 my time). My roomie woke up, too, and we headed down to the beach for a walk. This became our normal morning routine for the next four days.
Breakfast was meant to be served at 7:30. The oven wasn’t cooperating, so that didn’t happen the first several days. (Eventually the maintenance man arrived and determined that the convection setting was the default, so the retreat hostess had been using that instead of a regular bake setting.)
At 8:45, Rachel Hauck led the group in devotions. She’d recently taught a class on the Song of Solomon at her church, so we got some condensed thoughts from that.
Enlightening, for sure. I was considering the intimacy of my relationship with Christ…and finding it sadly lacking.
Then the morning sessions began. These were the topics:

  • Stories that matter
  • Characters that matter
  • Lindy Hop MEGA
  • 4-Act Plot
  • Plot your bookends
  • Scenes that matter
  • Building your premise

No, we didn’t do ALL those the first day. There were two morning sessions and these were the topics for those sessions (ten planned sessions in all, although it ended up only being eight).
After lunch, the larger group broke into two smaller brainstorming groups of six attendees, one mentor and one scribe (the Administrative Assistant for My Book Therapy was our scribe and the retreat hostess was the scribe for the other group. Both of these ladies are published authors).
Here’s what the afternoon brainstorming sessions were supposed to look like:

  • SEQ Brainstorming (four sessions)
  • Plot Brainstorming (two sessions)
  • Black Moment Brainstorming (one session)
  • Scene One Brainstorming (one session)
  • One session of writing time
  • Two sessions for one-to-one meetings with mentors

Note how I said “supposed to” in the preceding sentence? Yeah, the brainstorming of the hero and shero took the first three days of the retreat for the six authors in our group. A full hour or more per character.

This is what a character SEQ looks like

This left no time for scene brainstorming because the rest of the sessions were needed to brainstorm six plot outlines (LINDY Hop four-act plot diagram).
I will say that we brainstormed the black moments and first scenes as we went, so all the bases were covered.

The Lindy Hop plot for my novella

The first three nights, we watched a movie from 7 to 9 PM. Each person was assigned something from that day’s lesson to find in the movie and we discussed it after the film.

  • We used THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY to discuss characterization on Friday night.
  • On Saturday, we talked about the major plot points with THE LEGEND OF TARZAN.
  • They made us cry on Sunday with THE IMPOSSIBLE. We talked about why that movie “worked” when the story was not action-packed. How did they build the emotional tension?

Not surprisingly, the emotion building still fit into the LINDY Hop structure we’d been learning.
Using movies is a great way to solidify the importance of characterization and plot. Everyone has the same frame of reference, so the question of subjectiveness is alleviated.

The spot where phone calls home happened

For the most part. There were varying themes for TARZAN that could be determined by naming different things as the “man in the mirror” moment or “black moment.”
The Deep Thinkers Retreat might not have been what I was expecting. (Notice I didn’t call it a writing retreat there. I think it’s meant to be a writer’s retreat rather than a retreat for writing.) Still, I learned so much that my brain overloaded on the flight home.

The perfect place for writing

My next Sweet Grove romance was written using these methods. In July, you can judge for yourself if this retreat made me a better storyteller.
What makes something a retreat? Have you ever when to a retreat with one set of expectations only to discover it would deliver a different set?

Seven Things I Learned from Publishing in Kindle Worlds

Every story and book I’ve published has taught me something about the publishing industry. Since Amazon gets a lot of flak about taking advantage of authors, I wanted to share what I’ve learned from publishing in Kindle Worlds.
First off, Kindle Worlds are considered fan fiction. I’m not a fan of this genre or this label.
Furthermore, I’m not a huge fan of the original First Street Church novellas written by Melissa Storm. I am a HUGE admirer of Melissa because she believes in supporting authors with every resource at her disposal.


I’ve mentioned before that I don’t read romance. Okay, that’s false now that I’ve dedicated myself to publishing three romance novellas this year and getting my first romance novel into print.

My first choice for reading material is not romance. And if I pick up a romance, I prefer romantic suspense. Sure, the romance is important but it isn’t the sole focus of the story.
So what the heck am I doing writing in a genre I don’t prefer to read?

I’ve been asking myself this question at least once a week since the dawn of my contract with Kindle Direct Publishing.

Now, on to what I’ve learned from this experience:

  1. The timeline of publishing may be shorter than with traditional publishers, but it isn’t quick and easy. Let me add: I have only contracted for a bonus with the first book released in November. This is an incentive from KDP to get authors involved in these universes they “own.”
  2. There is even LESS communication with KDP than with any other publisher I’ve worked with. Even the small house that took two years to print the anthology I was involved it had a specific editor who replied to my emails in a timely manner. Not so much with the KDP representative.
  3. It’s better to get support from other authors when you’re uploading your first book. The cover portion of the upload is confusing (set up so you will design your cover right there), and I was glad that there were multiple authors in the FSC Facebook group who could walk me through it.
  4. You won’t sell a ton of books. Even authors with huge followings who mailed their large lists of subscribers found they didn’t sell the expected number of copies. Which seems strange since Amazon promoted the heck out of these books on release day.
  5. The influx of cross-over readers takes time. In fact, I didn’t see a huge rise in subscribers to my Facebook page (we ran a promotion) or my email list when the book released.
  6. Staying the course with multiple avenues of exposure is still necessary. Once I finally got my spot in the Sweet Grove Sentinel (newsletter for the Kindle World), I netted 53 new subscribers in one weekend. Wow!
  7. Quantity is as important as quality. I believe the more titles I publish in this world will grow my following. Since there are so many books and authors in the First Street Church universe, the readers can’t be expected to buy ever one of them. At least not within the first few months.

    In the end, I don’t feel I’ve wasted my time and effort writing for Kindle Worlds. Yes, they own all these stories—forever—but I could take the characters to a different location if I wanted to publish outside of the First Street Church universe.

    Do you have any questions about this form of publishing?

Florida in February

Who wouldn’t want to go to Florida in the middle of winter? (Okay, winter is only a month from being “officially” over, but still.)

What writer wouldn’t want to attend a five-day writing retreat with two best-selling authors? Maybe someone, but not this author.

I wish I could tell you more about it, but at the moment, I’m in transit. Since the retreat is held at a house in Destin, Florida, I’m having to zig and zag all over the place to get there from the Pacific Northwest.

I left before 7 am this morning from Portland to fly to San Francisco. From there, I’m heading off to Houston, which appears to be the only major airport on the west side of Destin with flights to the little airport.


I arrive at 6 pm, exactly one hour before the shuttle leaves from the airport to take a bunch of us writers to the retreat.

Bright and early (okay, not really early in my book) on Friday morning, the retreat begins with breakfast and devotions led by Rachel Hauck. Not sure who that is? One of the best-selling authors. She writes Christian historical romances and historical fiction, so if those aren’t your genres…you’re forgiven.
There will be classes in the morning. Group sessions for brainstorming and applying the lessons.
In the afternoon, I’ll be writing my next Sweet Grove romance novella. That’s the entire focus of this retreat for me. I hope to come back with 5-10 thousand new words. If nothing else, I’ll have an incredible hooking scene and complete understanding of my characters’ motivations.

Because the first draft WILL be written before the second book releases on March 13.

Yes, here’s the pretty cover, in case you missed my post about the series. (You did? Here’s the link.)


Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to let you know how well the retreat worked out for me. Maybe even this time next week.

Or maybe not since I’ve scheduled March 1 as an official “recovery” day from all the travel and lack of sleep.

Where is your ideal winter vacation spot?

Transformation: Genre Branding & Platform

It’s hard to make a change when you don’t have consistency. Or at least that’s what I told myself about my author brand and platform. And then came 2018 and its Word:

The truth is, I’ve been walking around rather apologetically since I started this professional author gig. Well, except for a few months around the time of this release:

“What do you write?” People would ask.
“All sorts of things.” And then my eyes would dart to the side. “Most of my published stuff is romance, but I have one YA Fantasy and a women’s fiction novel.”
I’m guilty. I was ashamed to admit that I wrote romance. Many of my author friends are angry and revolted as they read this.

Because romance writing isn’t anything to be embarrassed about. Is it what I “dreamed” of writing? Nope.
But it IS what I’ve been able to market to publishers, and where most of my readers come from.
This is the year I embrace that identity. With one caveat, of course.

My Brand: Before

I’m not even sure I had a brand before this. Check out the things I used for continuity across every social media platform.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you saw those things, what would you guess I wrote?

What? It doesn’t scream any genre at you?

That would be because I wrote so many genres I feared embracing anything that might look distinctively romance or fantasy or nonfiction or Christian.
Is it any wonder I haven’t been able to build an audience? No one can figure out what it is I’m selling here.

My Brand: After

 
One thing I’ve heard over and over is: “As an author, YOU are your brand.”
But what does that really mean? What does that LOOK like in logos and colors and fonts?
I am a person who loves to read many genres and has too many ideas to contain in a single writing category. So do I brand multiple personalities? How?
This is what I learned from a quick quiz from Kaye Putnam and her Brand Personality Quiz:
1. I have elements of several personalities in my brand
2. The ones that appeal to me most are Hero and Magician
3. To settle on ONE or know how to properly combine these, I needed to discover what I want my ideal clients (readers) to FEEL
Light bulb moment.
I knew the answer to this. So I took some time considering it more deeply.
I want my readers to feel understood and hopeful and encouraged. I want them to be empowered to chase (and capture) their own dreams.
Yes, I want to offer them escape, but more than that I wanted them to see themselves between the pages and know they are not alone. Someone relates to how they’re feeling and what their lives are throwing at them right now.
Then I outlined all of that and shipped it off to a designer. Perry Elisabeth is a freelancer I met through a Facebook Group. I’d been admiring her cover designs for months and I’d succumbed to the magnetism of her WriteMind Planner.
And this is what she came up with.



There was a transformation here, right? I can build a platform with this distinctive symbol.
Based on that, what genre would you guess I wrote?

And if you say “romance” or “women’s fiction” I won’t cringe. Because in 2018 I’m going to publish three (or more) Christian romances with women’s fiction themes and motifs.
More on that later.
What do you think of the new look? What/how does it make you feel?

A Romance Series in Sweet Grove, Texas

Small town romance series are a huge hit. How do I know? Because the little town of Cedar Cove,Washington (now a Hallmark Channel series) was invented by Debbie Macomber years ago and has millions of adoring fans.

It isn’t the only small town series I’ve read and enjoyed. Currently, I’m a huge fan of Kait Nolan’s Wishful Series. In fact, I never thought much about Mississippi until I read these books. Now I want to go there…and specifically to Wishful. Too bad it’s fictional…

Because of my affection for small town romances, my joy at being included in the Kindle World of Sweet Grove, Texas, shouldn’t surprise anyone.

I hope you’ll learn to love the people and the places of Sweet Grove as much as I do. Check out the entire world here. Read the recent feature about me from the SWEET GROVE SENTINEL here.

My newest romance series is considered a Christian romance series. I’d encourage readers of my sweet romances to give it a try. I swerve far from being preachy (and if you think I don’t after reading one of these books, please email me with your concerns), so I think even people who aren’t generally a fan of Christian books will enjoy this series.

Also, as several reviewers remarked, I tend to dabble on the darker side of town. Sweet Grove is a wonderful place, but it isn’t free from problems.

In this series, I’m trying to use non-standard sheroes and heroes with real life issues. And my happily ever after endings don’t feel forced or fast. (If you read and feel differently, again, send me an email. I want to know if I’m missing the mark and I don’t always read my reviews.)

Let me introduce you to my Sweet Grove Romances.

Book One

LOVE’S LATE ARRIVAL released on November 15, 2017. Read all about it here.

 
Book Two

LOVE’S LITTLE SECRETS will release on March 13, 2018.
Will his secrets end their marriage?
Blurb
On the eve of her twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, Norma Wells isn’t sure she loves her husband anymore. They’ve grown apart since a barren womb robbed Norma of her most cherished dream. When his secret son crashes their anniversary party, she’s ready to walk away.
Herman Wells performs his duties, even when it means keeping secrets that would destroy the love of his life. All at once, every secret is revealed, and Herman prepares for damage control. No matter what, he’s not willing to see his marriage end.
To save it, he will have to take advice from his son and even confide in the preacher. He can’t rely on Norma’s anti-divorce to save him. Somehow, he must make her fall in love with him again.
Can Norma forgive the betrayal? Or has Herman’s secret-keeping doomed their love?

Book Three

Within the First Street Church Kindle World, the authors have decided to introduce specific subcategories. My third book will debut with the Heroes of Sweet Grove line on July 3, 2018
LOVE’S LINGERING DOUBTS
This is the tentative tagline and blurb, subject to change as the story is written and the characters buck my outline.
To trust each other or lose it all?
Blurb
When her brother is killed in battle, Jazlyn Rolle gave up her softball scholarship for Army green. Barely four years later, she’s home again, disgraced and disillusioned. She’s nobody’s hero.
Bailey Dyer’s doing everything he can to save the ranch he’s called home since being fostered there at the age of six. He doesn’t have time for anything but work.
Until the pretty stranger in clingy running shorts carries his dog along the country road. He wants to deny the attraction, but how do you avoid someone who hits a softball into your lap?
When a distant relative decides to fight Bailey for the ranch, Jaz will get her chance to come to the rescue using the legal skills she learned in the JAG’s office. But will Bailey admit to love? Or will he let Jaz succumb to her lingering doubts?

Book Four

Sweet Grove High is a line for young adult and new adult romances within this Kindle World. It debuts on September 10, 2018.
Readers of LOVE’S LATE ARRIVAL expressed curiosity about what happened next for Ariel Stryker. Her story will be expanded in this fourth book, still untitled.
Future Books
I’ve roughed out at least two more stories for this series and they will likely be released in 2019. After that…who knows?
Another novella for the Heroes of Sweet Grove line, LOVE’S LOST INNOCENCE pairs a woman fleeing memories of a brutal assault with an angry former soldier, whose external wounds aren’t nearly as debilitating as his festering fury.
The secret son of Herman Wells is going to get his own book too. I think I’ll pair him up with a minor character from LOVE’S LATE ARRIVAL, but I haven’t decided for sure. I don’t have enough of the story outlined to settle on an appropriate title.
What’s your favorite small town series? What sort of characters or issues would you like to see addressed in future stories? (If I use your ideas, I’ll mention you in the acknowledgments or perhaps even dedicate the story to you.)

Three Reasons I Avoid Writing Book Reviews

I read tons of books. And I enjoy reading them. Even if I don’t end up liking the book all that much, reading has the potential to make me a better writer of stories.
And even though I track all my books on Goodreads, I’ve stopped writing reviews for many of the books I read. At times, I don’t even give them a rating.
And, no, this isn’t just because I didn’t finish them. I don’t even add those ones to my “READ” shelf. I have a special shelf for them: “Abandoned.” And it used to be a lonely place, but not so much any more.
If you don’t finish a book, you have no business reviewing it. Or giving it a rating. I’m sorry, folks, but you shouldn’t even say why you couldn’t get through it.
Reviews are for finishers. Why? Because the story could have turned around. Maybe it was a slow starter. Plenty of books that went on to become blockbuster movies were a drag to begin reading. Nope, I’m not naming names here, but I’m sure you know who you are *winks*
Many of the books I read are advance copies meant for the sole purpose of garnering a review on release day. And sometimes I’ll bet the authors who asked this “favor” from me wish they wouldn’t have.
Because if you’ve read my reviews, you know I can be harsh. Some people have commented that my four-star reviews sound like they’re for two-star books.

I’m honest with my criticism.

I’ll be the first to announce that reading preference is all subjective. A reader’s idea of what makes a book wonderful is also subjective…to the criteria their enjoyment is based upon.

My criteria are few:

  1. A well-structured story (that isn’t predictable)
  2. Characters I can relate to and root for
  3. An obvious story problem with a clear resolution
  4. A dynamic main character (meaning this person CHANGES over the course of the story)

Sure, if you can make me laugh AND cry, you’ll get bonus points, but that won’t keep me from overlooking a lack of any of the above items.

In recent months, the number of books I’ve finished reading but haven’t written reviews for has increased. Here are the reasons for that:

ONE: SOMETHING IN THE STORY AWOKE MY BIASES

Yes, I just admitted I have biases. I’m sorry folks, but everyone does. Even if you consider yourself the most accepting and non-judgmental person on the planet, you have biases.
It’s impossible not to form them. If you disagree with this, let’s have a reasonable discussion about it in the comment section. (But don’t be surprised if I call out your biases when they appear in your commentary…because they will.)
For example, a recent book by an author whose stories I adore didn’t earn a review from me. The story line endorsed something that I am opposed to.
However, her writing was fine. The story met the other qualifications for being great. But I knew I wouldn’t be able to write an honest review without mentioning this thing that burrowed under my skin like a ravenous scarab.
So, I rated the book but didn’t write a review.
And I didn’t mention the reason anywhere.
In fact, I’m still not really telling anyone which book it was or what the THING was.

TWO: THE AUTHOR IS MY FRIEND

Okay, this is a tough one to admit. I’d love to say that I’m only friends with authors whose work I love and adore.
Alas, no.
Sometimes they are writing too far on the edge and I can’t buy into their fantasy world. They haven’t done the work to make me suspend my disbelief.
If I truly dislike the story or find the writing subpar, I might not even give a rating to the book.
In either case, I always contact the author directly if I’m giving anything less than four stars to their book. Because…I don’t want my “negative” review to affect their sales.
I’m an author, too. I might have been a reader first, but the business part of me understands that my opinion could sway people. And they might have enjoyed the story.
Who am I to keep people from reading something they might enjoy? Especially if the fact they bought it would help a friend of mine further their writing dream?
But…I’m not going to fib either. I’m not going to claim something is amazing when I growled about it.

THREE: THERE’S NOTHING REMARKABLE TO SAY

This is the one that I’ve decided is most prevalent for me (even though I’ve listed it third). Sometimes, I really like the book. It made me smile, laugh or tear up.

But when I finish, there’s nothing that stands out about it.

You can be sure it won’t get FIVE STARS in this case. But if I’m feeling warm and fuzzy, I’ll probably give it four stars. After all, all that means is that “I liked it” (on Amazon) and “I really liked it” (on Goodreads).
But if there’s nothing to SAY, why would I write a review?
If I give it a rating but not a review, you can most likely put it in this category. Unless the rating is three stars or less. And I really try NOT to give anything less than three stars.
Do you write book reviews? If not, why not? If so, what are your criteria?

Inside a Writer’s Brain

I thought the Professional Author’s Brain (PAB) would be different. Back when I started down this road to become a published author, I accepted that disparate ideas and motivation would war against my love of story writing. I was an amateur after all, and that creative writing/professional writing degree didn’t really prepare me for reality.
Four years into the real deal, I’m not sure anything could have given me a heads-up about being a professional author. Or what really went on behind the forehead inside a PAB.
True, continual writing and seeking feedback from more skilled writers could equip me with the TOOLS I needed. But there isn’t a book or course that can tame the beast inside my brain.
I know this because I’ve read an endless stream of writing craft and career books from successful authors, and I’m still scratching my head over some aspects of the whole “author gig.” I’ve also taken multiple courses offered online and at conferences from published authors who are also competent teachers (and as an educator, I can tell the difference).
What did I get? More knowledge. More tools.

Nothing to discipline the genius inside my heart, soul and mind.

The part some people call “The Muse,” but I’m inclined to agree with Elizabeth Gilbert’s assessment that we all have a genius at our disposal, and it isn’t subject to the spurious whims of the gods.


What? You didn’t know Muse is actually a Greek goddess, patron of artists everywhere.

Now you do. And that explains her fickle game plans and unpredictable work schedule.

What I’ve learned as a professional author is that you can NOT wait for the Muse to show up before you work. You have to sit your rear in the chair and do the work.
But, the truth is: Muse work reads like poetry and my work affects me like a C-level college essay. So why write the words are going to sound so…average?
Why didn’t my brain shift into a different gear once I decided to go “pro”? Surely professional authors with a string of best sellers and a backlist that fills five Amazon screens don’t have problems tricking their brains into work mode. And their Muse must show up for eighty percent of their writing sessions.
You’d be surprised what best-selling authors do to trick their brain to do its best work. But, I can’t rely on the bag of tricks they share as “writer’s gold” in their blogs, memoirs and books on writing best sellers.
Because most of it is nothing more than fool’s gold to my brain.

My Creative Brain

I come up with ideas for stories quite easily. Too bad that’s NOT the hard part.

I might be standing in the grocery line and here are some things that would grab my creative genius:

  • The cover of a gossip rag in the magazine stand
  • A snippet of overheard conversation
  • The set of the cashier’s shoulders
  • The look a stranger gives as he passes by
  • The contents scrolling across the belt about to be purchased by the person in front of me

There’s no shortage of ideas in the world. Anyone with a spark of imagination can come up with hundreds of ideas during a one-hour brainstorming session.
In fact, I never need to brainstorm story ideas. What I need to learn is how to multiply plot points that will compel readers to turn the pages.
Because while the idea pool is deeper than the Mariana Trench and wider than the Pacific Ocean, the number of ideas which will generate an entire, interesting story or novella (forget the gargantuan required for a novel) fit in an espresso cup.


The Other Half of my Brain

And that little puddle is where the other half of my brain refuses to play. It likes the splash of plenty in the ocean of ideas.

Why narrow things down? Won’t it be more fun to play with all the interesting water puppies?
No, Brain, it only leads to frustration.

Except for when it causes plot holes. Or there’s an off chance it will peter out in the dreaded middle of the story. Maybe it locks itself in a tower and conveniently misplaces the key.

The left brain has lots of fun, but at some point the right brain (PAB) must approve all the fantasy-babble. It has to contain enough truth to suspend the reader’s disbelief. And this half of the brain is like a wet blanket on the fiery creative half.
So why can’t I convince this half of my brain to “create” like a professional author?
Because it doesn’t tends to cage the fluttering explosion of ideas and the Muse doesn’t survive behind bars.
In other words, professional authors learn to write IN SPITE of the flibbertigibbet whiff of inspiration and genius.
Me? I’m still trying to escape the beast with all my limbs intact.
What sort of things do you imagine go through a PAB? Any questions for this full-time author that might light a fire beneath the Muse?