Sneak Peek Inside UNEXPECTED

In honor of summer, I’ve decided to give you a peek inside my sweet summer romance. It’s something of an unexpected story in an anthology with three other sweet romances.
If you want to read the blurbs, check this out.


As for my story, the meet cute was inspired by a very real hike on the exact trail where my shero is trotting in the opening scene.

There were no interesting males to meet on the trail. I’m a happily married woman. Dogs? Yes, there were many. Some without leashes like Rembrandt.

Their meet cute is the scene I sent to my publisher. You deserve something fresh and new.
When love and isolation collide, only the bravest hearts survive.

Ivory’s determination steams face-first into Prescott’s dream with unexpected results.
Sound interesting?

I admit I’m nervous because these characters are unique in ways I’ve never written before. She’s taller and broader than him, and he’s a little too skinny and pasty to be handsome.

They’re not the typical 22-year-olds, either. She’s heading back for a Master’s degree her parents oppose. He’d a college dropout with his paint-stained fingers and an aversion to physical contact.

It sounds nothing like a perfect match.

Still interested?

Read on for a peek at their story. This is from a non-line-edited chapter six (translation: it might not be exactly the same as what you’ll see in the book come August 6).

After multiple trips on roots and rocks, Ivory’s gaze stayed fixed on the ground. Until she plowed into Prescott’s back with an unladylike grunt. She peeked over his shoulder into a wash several yards away. A doe curled under a pine tree, ears tilted in their direction while a speckled fawn sniffed at the detritus of needles, cones, leaves and twigs lining the edge of the runoff. It hadn’t rained for several weeks, so the ground was dry, and the snapping of the fawn’s hooves against the foliage carried to their ears.
Prescott eased his camera upward. If he couldn’t capture the scene in a photo, hopefully his artistic brain could memorize it well enough to paint later. A portrait of the pair would make an excellent addition to his collection.
The snap of the shutter echoed in the quiet forest. A chipmunk chattering above them went silent, and birds stopped calling to each other.
Ivory held her breath. As if her breathing could be heard by the diligent mother.
A crow cawed. The fawn’s head snapped up and its ears swiveled forward. Snap. The Dumbo-esque ears twitched toward them. Prescott stilled.
Spots dotted the edge of Ivory’s vision. Her fists clamped Prescott’s hips, and she buried her face in his shoulder blade. Only then did she expel her air and draw another breath.
When she looked up, Prescott’s face was turned toward her, a wary look in his eye.
She was touching him. He didn’t like that. Although she didn’t really understand the pain he experienced at physical contact, she had no desire to hurt him.
“Sorry.” At the moment she mouthed the word, a flurry across the clearing drew their attention.
The doe scrambled to her feet and herded her baby into the trees. Her deep brown eyes stared right at them before she slipped into the forest, out of sight in seconds.
“How did she hear that?” This time there was actual volume in her words.
Prescott’s throat bobbed. His gaze flitted to her lips. Her pulse lunged into her throat.
She stared into his eyes. From a distance, the amber ring around his iris made his eyes appear hazel, but up close they were as brown as Rembrandt’s but accented by the golden halo.
“Your eyes are amazing.” As soon as the words tumbled out, Ivory regretted them. Too bad this wasn’t email. No immediate recalls if you hit send too quickly.
He angled his body toward her, his shoulder mere centimeters from her breast. “Isn’t that supposed to be my line?”
“Why? My eyes are muddy green. You have this cool circle.” She nibbled her lip.
He stared intently into her eyes. “Your eyes are the color of a deep fishing hole or tarragon leaves.” His fingers touched the corner of her eye.
She blinked. “A poet and a painter. How is it you don’t have a line of girlfriends?”
His face flushed before a grin quirked half his mouth. Her heart lurched at the sight. If he smiled like this all the time, women would swoon at his feet for sure.
If you liked this, why not share it on your social media? Or maybe forward the link to your friends who like to read?

If you follow my Hero Delivery newsletter, I’ll be sending out an opportunity for a FREE advanced copy of the anthology in exchange for an honest review. Watch your email inbox OR join my Facebook group.
Are you still interested in reading this? More or less interested than before?

Who’s Ready for A VIRTUAL LOVE STORY?

I signed the contract for my first full-length novel a couple weeks ago. The Virtual Match novella series put me through the wringer to become a novel that the same publisher will release ONLY in paperback.

Thank you Roane Publishing for believing in this story! I hope the readers of the novellas who complained about not getting to know Marcus well enough or wanting a real happily ever after will appreciate the 20,000 words I added to make this story complete.

And, yes, much of that is from Marcus Jordan’s perspective.

Here’s the lovely cover.

And now the blurb:

A devastating secret imprisons her. Veronica Shay bemoans her mother’s insistence that love will complete and fulfil her. The Virtual Match Ronnie hires might keep the matchmakers at bay if she can protect her heart from the man behind the texts.

Marcus Jordan, haunted by past relational failures, bumbles in Veronica’s presence. When opportunity presents itself, he poses as her virtual boyfriend. They forge a relationship, but is it built on lies?

When they meet in person, Ronnie can’t reconcile the lies with the truth in her heart. And Marcus can’t maintain the digital image he’s created.

Desperation drives Ronnie to set up a real date with Marcus, but nothing involving her family is ever easy. After her therapist gives her an ultimatum and her family gets horrible news, she’s ready to head back to the safe-haven of a career-centered life.

But her secret is out. Marcus believes he can heal Veronica’s heart. He steps out on a limb to bring her closure, but the olive branch snaps. He plummets to a new low, alone and unlovable, fodder for the ghosts of his past.

Earthquake upon earthquake shakes Ronnie’s world. Can she admit that love is worth the risk? Is being virtually happy possible in the harsh glare of reality?

Look for this paperback on November 19, 2018, just in time for holiday reading.

In the coming months, I’ll be offering chances to pick up advance copies in exchange for an honest review. If you’d be interested in that, make sure you’re a member of my mailing list or my Faceback group. The announcements will only go out via those outlets. I’m limiting my blog to more creative nonfiction about my life.

No one wants to see a constant stream of promotions, am I right?

If you’ve read any of the novellas, what did you think? Would you invest in a paperback to get the rest of the story?

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?

Five Ways to Teach Classics in High School Literature Class

Shakespeare. The Bard. A true genius in literary circles. Ask anyone with an advanced degree in the subject. And some without a degree at all concur.

Me? Not so much.

That didn’t stop me from teaching OTHELLO in four sophomore classrooms a few weeks ago. What I mean by “teach” is to let an audio recording read Act IV to the class while I paused occasionally to ask clarifying questions and double-check for understanding.
And once to just point out the lovely irony the Bard does so well which I do like.
The students had time to write a summary and pick out some figurative language for their assignment. I admit, by class three, I was commenting on some of the personification in one of Othello’s monologues.

Does that count as giving them answers? *shrugs*

Then I played the 1995 movie. Kenneth Brannagh plays Honest (HA) Iago and Laurence Fishburne (Morpheus from MATRIX) takes the title role. We watched Act IV.

Yes, I did this four times. I was playing Words with Friends and scrolling through Facebook during the movie the last few times. Although I did chime in when something was clarified once they could SEE it played out.

Shakespeare scripts were meant to be seen not read.

No matter what you say, I will not be pursuaded from this. If there hadn’t been movie adaptations for the nine plays I had to watch in my college Shakespeare class, I would have failed it.
The man didn’t even give stage directions.

You need the actors to interpret it for you and then learn from their actions.

It was during the final teaching session that a sophomore boy asked, “Why do we have to read this? Couldn’t we study something newer and easier to understand and learn the same things?”

Oh, young man, we certainly do need to study (not read) Shakespeare and other classics. But it’s time to be honest, high school students aren’t getting much out of it.

Use something modern that alludes to the classic.

In preparation for writing this post, I Goggled “Why teach classics in high school?” Links back to many of the articles I found on the subject will be included.

One article on an Advanced Placement literature help site claimed it was a disservice not to teach classics. One of the main arguments was because so many modern references derive their meaning from classical literature.

It’s true. As an aside, I fully believe advanced literature courses should cover the classics, and only the classics. Those students are preparing for college and they’ll need the analytical skills a great literature class teaches.

For the average student, I might recommend a book like THE WEDNESDAY WARS by Gary D. Schmidt. In it, the narrator is forced to study Shakespeare while every other student in his class goes to their weekly religious classes.

The students will engage with this novel’s story, and teachers can take time to delve slightly into the Shakespearian references that are made. In this way, the class stays engaged with the reading, and those who find Shakespeare interesting have now been given a sample. They’re free to check him out of the library or binge watch him on Netflix.

Pair a small bite of a classic with something more current.

Most students shut down when you show them an old story. They don’t care how much it influenced literature or society. All they care about is that it is OLD, and therefore doesn’t relate to them.
Students of literature know better. But general high school classes aren’t meant to make literature buffs out of students.

What is the purpose of literature class in high school? Go ahead and Google it. I did.

Students think the purpose it so learn to research a topic and write an essay on it. Teachers think it’s about grammar, vocabulary, reading and comprehension of broad categories (so why do they have to read a Shakespeare play in every year of high school?), studying the literary culture of English societies and organizing information and communicating it to others. Oh, they say the research and citation aspect is also important.

In any case, there is no reason to wade through hundreds of pages of classical literature to learn these skills. In the era of memes and movies, students want to be entertained. If you entertain them, they’ll learn more.

Ignoring the culture of learning is antithesis to teaching. Great educators can adapt their methods to fit their students. I know this because I worked in a special education classroom for ten years, and in that room, it was all about adaptation.

Invest in different formats of the classic.

I’m not a fan of graphic novels. I want words or I want pictures.

That doesn’t mean the upcoming generation feels the same. If we can put To Kill A Mockingbird in a more accessible format without damaging the beauty of the original language, why wouldn’t we do it?

If a student will read the book in graphic novel format, isn’t that better than if they don’t read it? You say you’ll read it aloud in class. Fine, but we know how easy it is to tune our brains to something else when we’re not interested in the topic at hand.

The key is in making adaptations that maintain the integrity of the original. And companies are trying to do it. Schools should make a market for this important work by investing in new books in a format that engages their students.

Put the classic into historical context.

Many of the posts I read on the subject said the most important reason for studying the classics was because of the cultural insight it imparts.

Wouldn’t this be better off in history class then?

I’d argue for the combined humanities courses that fall in and out of favor in our state’s middle school environments. That’s a perfect age to marry these two subjects.

But those students aren’t going to wade through UNCLE TOM’S CABIN to understand the American cultural climate. Good grief! I barely managed to wade through it as a junior in high school and I was an advanced reader and writer who devoured any book that was handed to me.

Except that one. But I did slog through it.

An excerpt or two could be gleaned from the text on the pertinent cultural lessons. This way, students can access the benefits in a dose they can handle.

Curate the substance and present it in a medium students relate with.

English and literature teachers are the experts on the subject matter. However, they aren’t meant to make experts of their students.

That’s why there are curriculum learning objectives.

As an author, I have to kill my darlings if I want to produce stories that readers will read. This means brilliantly written scenes get cut from the manuscript and filed in my “cut scenes” document.

High school teachers need to do the same. Is symbolism in literature an important thing for students to grasp? And if it is, then choose a modern book they are familiar with (one that has a movie to go along with it) to teach it.

Why? Because using a source they aren’t interested in to teach them a subject they think is pointless is only going to frustrate everyone. They won’t learn, and you’ll feel like a horrible teacher.

The English department at every high school needs to have a round table. The state mandates the learning objectives. Let the teachers decide which literature is best suited to the objective and the audience.

Too often, thought isn’t given to the audience. For an author, that’s the top of an ice-slick slope with an avalanche brewing at your feet. It’s time teachers realized it puts them in a precarious position to only think about what they want to teach instead of how their students will best learn.
What are your thoughts? Did you LOVE reading ROMEO AND JULIET in high school? Are there other ways to teach classics to teenagers who play video games and watch movies rather than read?

Check Out the Sweet Grove Blog Today

It’s my turn to be featured in the Sweet Grove Sentinel this weekend.

That means I’ve got a post up on the blog on the Sweet Grove website. Check it out here.

It’s all about the new HEROES OF SWEET GROVE series within a series coming on July 3, 2018.

You’ll get the chance to see the pretty cover for the third book in my Sweet Grove Romance series. I hope you won’t be too disappointed that there are only minor glimpses of the Wells and Elise Nelsen.

But beta readers are screaming about the great description and believable attraction between Jaz and Bailey.

Who are they? Click over to the Sweet Grove site and see for yourself.

Don’t worry. I’ll be sharing an excerpt right here in a few short weeks. Just enough to make you eager for the release.

When there’s no will, love still finds a way.

Still Together after Thirty Years

Mr. Hughson and I have reached another marital landmark. We recently celebrated thirty years of marriage.

“We’ve been together since way back when.” We actually met in 1982 and became friends in 1983. We started dating in 1985 and spoke our marriage vows in 1988.

I still recall the day. It seems more like fifteen years ago. Time warps the older I get.

He is “Still the One”:

  • I want to talk to in bed
  • Who turns my head
  • Makes me smile
  • I dream about
  • That makes me laugh
  • That’s my better half
  • Still having fun…and “he’s” still the one

Did you enjoy the flashback to the 70s? They don’t write songs like they used to do it. Thus, those 80s retro hits are becoming fodder for the ears of teenagers everywhere.

But I digress…

For our anniversary, we stayed at the Hilton in Anaheim (where he attended some Geek Man conference all week) and toured the local attractions. I was all about visiting Harry Potter World, but Disney offers a fair share of entertainment,too.

My big plan was new rings.

If you recall, I got a new ring in the Caribbean two years ago. But the mister has been wearing the same band for…you guessed it…thirty years.

I wanted him to get something new. Preferably something with blue diamonds so it “matched” mine.

What do you think?

Those are Kentucky blue sapphires folks.
My Caribbean Blue diamond ring. Close enough for government work?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also wanted him to buy me a second wedding band so the solitaire would be hugged by the blue and white diamond sparkle. You’d think getting something from a company called Diamonds International would be a simple thing.

Or not. I’ll let you know how that turns out. If it turns out. There was a lot of email tag and some phone tag.

Ring or no ring. Anniversary trip or home bound. In the end, I’m happy to be stuck with this guy for the rest of my life.

Happy anniversary, Handsome.

What would you plan for a landmark anniversary?

My Thoughts on AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR

Once should have been enough because twice was too much. If someone asked me to, I’d go see it a third time. Yes, I’m talking about AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR.

This post contains my review. It includes spoilers. If you haven’t seen the film, stop reading right now.

I don’t want to ruin the experience for you. The story is intense, and it starts in the middle of the action right where THOR: RAGNAROK ends.

***SPOILERS BEGIN NOW*** Consider yourself doubly-warned.

There will be the death of two people in that first scene. You might mourn them. You might not. But no matter what happens with the Time Stone, I think these individuals aren’t coming back.

Image belongs to digital spy UK

Time Stone, did I say? Yes, this is the glowing green thing Dr. Strange wears around his neck. The thing he’s sworn to protect at any cost.
I recommend watching that movie if you want to get more back story. It might just make you want to pop his head like an irritating pimple.

Image belongs to pop inquirer

“Why doesn’t he use the Time Stone?” I’m sure I thought this several times.

What I Liked
One of the things I love is the repartee of dialog between the characters. Even though Iron Man is far from my favorite, I enjoy the byplay he has with all the other characters. And Spiderman is funny too.

I enjoyed the constant action. We learned what the stakes were at the very beginning and every scene showed either the villain or the Avengers moving toward completing or stopping the collection of the infinity stones.

The story was well-executed. I was engaged and on the edge of my seat from the very first scene.
What I Disliked (and could have been handled differently)
Thanos isn’t a true villain.
Oh, he is driven and determined and maybe a little warped, but he believes in his cause as much as the Avengers believe in theirs.

I’m not a fan of relatable and sympathetic villains. I know they’re the “in” thing, but I want to hate the bad guy. I want to see them get justice in the end.

Thanos still had some things against him:

  • Gomorrah hated him. If she had been with him for more than half her life and she didn’t believe he loved her, how was he supposed to convince me he did by shedding some tears when he has to sacrifice her? Was she the unreliable narrator?
  • Thanos never convinced ME that his cause was right. What spurred him to promote himself to the position of God and decide that half the people in the universe needed to die? Because Titan didn’t listen to him and it perished?

I’m sorry, but that is NOT a reason to believe you should murder half the people in the universe and proclaim yourself their savior. That’s taking things to the extreme.

“You’ll never be a god,” Loki tells Thanos.

But Thanos believes he already is. A self-made god. And why not? No one can keep him from what he wants.
And how did he learn about the infinity stones? How did he know to put them into a gauntlet?

What I Disliked – But was Necessary

People died in the first scene.

One of them was someone I learned to really like in THOR: RAGNAROK. This is war, so I knew there would be casualties.
I didn’t like that the team had to be separated for most of the movie (and Stark’s little group for all of it). I know it’s a big universe and things were happening everywhere, since somehow Thanos could transport himself where he wanted in a near instant (what stone helped him do that?)
Cap had a beard. Yes, he’s been in hiding for two years, but he could have shaved once he faced the Secretary. He wasn’t on the run anymore, then.
That Dr. Strange had the time stone and he could have turned back time as easily as Thanos did when Wanda destroyed the mind stone. But he didn’t.


All I can say, is that whatever single future he saw where the Avengers won must have involved him turning the stone over to Thanos. Or Stark saving the day (and I hope it’s not that one). That’s the only thing that makes sense. Will we even discover why he made that dumb move?

What Made Me Cry (the first time)

Gomorrah’s death, which surprised me since I didn’t really connect very much with the Guardians crew. Those movies were very “blah” and “meh” for me. Although the soundtracks were rocking.

Vision’s death. Let’s face it, the trailer shows him practically losing the mind stone, so I was sure he was going to die. But they made him last for so long. It might have been that Wanda had to destroy the stone that made it the hardest.

What I Hope Happens Next

For the Avengers to take the gauntlet and bring everyone back. I’m not sure when they should turn time back to, maybe just to that moment Peter Quill lost it and ruined the plan to get the glove from Thanos.

That would still leave a few people dead. Is that a price I can accept?

Apparently, there’s a new hero in the wings. She’s going to be the one who saves the day.

I prefer a team effort. That’s one of the reasons the Avengers appeals to me (and I was hoping Justice League might as well).

No matter how strong you are on your own, you’re always stronger with someone else fighting beside you. This is one of my favorite themes.

I’m still a little stunned at all the ash that filled the big screen. It feels like the Avengers have been defeated, and they lost more than half their team in the process.

This is why I can’t say I liked the film. I enjoyed it. I will watch it again and will add it to my DVD collection when the time comes.

But I look forward to all this destruction being reversed. Why not turn time back and let Thanos save Titan? Why didn’t he just go for the time stone so he could do that in the first place?
Let him have his happily ever after and strand him on his planet so he lets us have ours, too.
Did you like the movie? What things didn’t you like about it? What do you hope happens next?

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?