Sunday, September 29, 2013

One-year anniversary = a day to celebrate!

One year ago today I shared the news that No Mother of Mine was available in paperback.  While the eBook had been released the month before, I was thrilled when the paperback became available because after working on the book for a year, I finally had a tangible object I was able to hold to prove it hadn’t all been a dream.

Now that I’ve finished the second book in the series, I’ve been in a relationship with Jorja and the other characters in my books for over two years now; although the actual story about Jorja has been in my head for much longer than that.  It was because of the constant thoughts in my head about a story I just had to get out on paper, as well as the absolute need to finally do something about my passion to write, that I finally sat my butt down in a chair at the computer and began to write. 

Did I really know what I was getting myself in to when I first wrote, “She awkwardly carried the bundles wrapped in the sheet as she left the house by the back door,” as part of the prologue?  Did I really think I’d actually publish the book or was there nagging doubt that it would just fizzle into nonexistence?  Did I feel confident enough to share the story and the characters with my family, my friends…even strangers?  Was I ready for the world to read, review, critique and respond to the book, whether the feedback was good or bad?
I bet if I had thought much about it, all the doubts and fears would have kept my fingers stiff and unproductive over the keyboard.  Instead, I wrote for myself, not for others and not based on what I thought they may or may not like.  It is advice I’ve heard again and again over the past two years and it’s probably the best advice any writer can receive.  You must write for yourself; plain and simple.  Doing so leads to a much greater satisfaction than if you struggle to create only what you believe others will buy.

So I wrote a story, even though I had no idea whether others would enjoy it.  Once I finally finished the first draft of No Mother of Mine, I was then brave enough to tell everyone about it.  It was a big secret I kept from all but a few, so when I finally put it in writing as the first post on this blog, I knew I had cemented my fate.  There was no turning back or I’d risk letting myself down, as well as many others who expressed their belief in me.
There are many turning points when it comes to writing, as well as many firsts which happen again and again with each book and will likely feel just as nerve-racking the 10th or 20th time as it did the first.  I truly hope I get to find out if that’s true.  After just publishing my second book, I know I have a ways to go but I have a head full of ideas and many years ahead to get them all down on paper.

Here’s to another year with Jorja and the rest of the characters and here’s to another year with great friends and readers like you.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

And we’re off…Best Kept Secrets has left the gate!

It’s official…my second book in the Jorja Matthews mystery series is now available in paperback on Amazon and via my e-Store.  Now that it’s finally here, I almost can’t believe it.  You know the feeling you get when you’re a kid as you look forward to Christmas morning with such anticipation and excitement?  Okay, I admit, I get that way now as an adult.  Anyway, I feel now like I usually do after the gifts are all opened, the holiday dinner is over and the day is just about done.  I’m almost to the point where I could say…now what? 

This is not the end of Christmas day and I don’t have a whole year to wait with anticipation for Christmas to roll around once again.  I know exactly what happens now.  Now we begin the next phase of marketing this puppy and getting a head start on the third book in the series.  I’m also going to dabble with some short stories and prepare myself for National Novel Writing Month.  I look forward to getting away from the technical side of publishing and moving on to the social part of marketing and the exciting part of creating a new story.

For those who enjoy eBooks, the Kindle version will be available soon.  It’s in Amazon’s hands and is just waiting for the Amazon minions to do what they do best before they push whatever button they need to push to make it as live as the paperback.   The book won’t be available for Nook readers yet though and I apologize to anyone who uses the Nook but I’ve decided to place this book in Amazon’s KDP Select Program so that the eBook will only be on sale with Amazon for the next 90 days.  I decided to try out this program to see how well (or not) it works with eBook sales.  It’ll be something to track over the next few months and I’m interested to see how it works.
Thanks again to everyone who has stuck with me this past year and waited so patiently as I completed the second book.  I can’t wait to hear your feedback about how the storyline is moving along.  Don’t keep your thoughts to yourself – make sure to let me know what you think.





Sunday, September 22, 2013

Ready to Fall into a new book?

The first day of fall – it’s one of my favorite days.  I especially enjoyed the fact that we were provided with a bit of a show today to remind us of the season change.  Not only did we get some rain, there was a blustery wind which forced many more maple leaves to drop from their perch in the trees to land on the green grass below. 
The change in seasons has officially begun.

And there is no better day than today to mark the change in another season…the season of a new chapter in the life of my character, Jorja Matthews.  Best Kept Secrets, the latest book in the Jorja Matthews mystery series, is finally complete and is now waiting for a thumbs up by Amazon so that the eBook cover can be finalized and both the paperback and the eBook can officially be made available for sale. 

I can take a breath…but only until I hear all is well from the Amazon reviewers and that they found no issues with the files I have uploaded.
This means that once I receive word from the reviewers that the files all look good, that the manuscript has been successfully converted to an eBook and that my cover has also been converted to complete the eBook, I can click that little button to make the book available for sale.  The whole process should only take a couple of days, if I remember correctly from the first time I did this.  And it has been almost a year to the day since I published my first paperback.  I do remember how it felt the last time I had to click the mouse on that “publish” button…my heart was in my throat and I was more nervous than I thought was even possible. 

Have I learned a few things since then?  You bet.  Does that mean the process went smoother this time around?  Maybe, but it’s still a slow process.  I was just more prepared for that fact this time.  Do I still have more to learn?  Heck yeah.  That fact will never change whether I publish five books for fifty.
So now I move on to the third book in the series, which is tentatively titled Ties That Bind (see the tagline on No Mother of Mine and you’ll see why).  After you’ve read Best Kept Secrets, I’m pretty certain you’ll be asking me to write faster so that the third book will be released much sooner.  I’ll certainly do my best.  While I plan to spend much of October marketing the second book, with at least one book signing scheduled for October 12th (more details to come soon), I’ll probably join National Novel Writing Month again in November to get a jump start on my word count.  I’m also going to use what I’ve learned with the second book to do my best to get through the writing and editing much more smoothly and hopefully at a faster pace.  We’ll see how it goes so I won’t make any promises other than that I’ll do the best I can.

I’ll be updating my Facebook page and this blog over the next few days as I hear back from Amazon so you’ll know once I know when the book will officially be available for sale online.
Thanks for hanging in there with me!


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Not so sleepy in Sleepy Hollow

Well, I’ve found a new favorite series…Sleepy Hollow, starring none other than Ichabod Crane and The Headless Horseman.  Okay, I know they’re just characters.  Tom Mison plays Ichabod Crane in a way I prefer much better to the nerdy, scared-by-his-own-shadow Ichabod Crane I’ve had etched in my head since I first read or heard about this story.  The Headless Horseman is played by none other than…well, I don’t know.  I guess he really is just The Headless Horseman.  Either way, he’s up to no good, which is exactly as I remember him.
Not since Tim Burton’s adaptation of Sleepy Hollow starring Johnny Depp have I been interested in any version of this story.  I enjoyed that version mainly because I really enjoy movies starring Depp and in Sleepy Hollow he was quirky and entertaining (just what he’s naturally good at, I suppose).

I sometimes dread this time of year because I know all the new shows and upcoming series will be vying for my attention and I just don’t have the time for even one more show.  I’m very thankful for the invention of the DVR, which will hold hostage all my recordings until I finally have the time to watch them.  Wait, I take that back – some shows will have to wait until I have the time to watch them, with the exception of the American Horror Story.  Yep, I’m a viewer who enjoys a series with a dark and twisted side.  I was hooked from the first season, stuck with it during the second (although aliens are my least favorite reason behind a plot twist) and this season the setting is in one of my favorite cities plus we get witches and Kathy Bates.  I’m thrilled and can’t wait for the show to begin. 
Like the American Horror Story, I won’t put off watching Sleepy Hollow, as long as it continues to feed my imagination.  I don’t know what it was about this show but it kept me entertained, made me laugh, indulged me with a new twist to an old story (or at least new to me) and actually surprised me more than a few times (which is great when so many shows are too predictable).  My first thought when the show began was how pleased I was that Clancy Brown was one of the actors in the show but that pleasure was short-lived and became my first real surprise.

I read a few articles and reviews about Sleepy Hollow, as well as comments posted by other viewers, and there were many adjectives thrown around about this show:  funny, scary, interesting, entertaining, edgy, twisted, inventive, sly, serious silliness, an entertaining spin, goofy but intriguing, and handsomely produced horror. 
While this show may have some farfetched scenes and ideas, it is true fiction which shouldn’t be taken too seriously and the basic storyline and dilemmas faced by the characters kept me intrigued.  I loved some of the story ideas this show seems to guarantee as the series moves along.  Too many shows become stale, are too predictable and don’t dare to draw outside the lines.  I appreciate shows like Sleepy Hollow and American Horror Story, which can intrigue and surprise viewers while fully entertaining them.  As twisted or dark as they may be, these shows feed my imagination, so that I want to run to my computer to begin writing my own fantasy horror series.  It wouldn’t be too farfetched for me to try, especially since Stephen King has been my author-idol since I was a kid, beginning with his psycho-thriller, Carrie, and my very first vampire scare in Salem’s Lot.  I think I’ve loved horror books and movies ever since, thank you very much, Mr. King.

It’s something to think about, anyway and it would be good to dabble in other genres.  As with any television or book series, I believe writers really shouldn’t become too predictable.


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Judging by looks? It’s just a human trait.

Way back when, over a year ago now (unbelievably!), I wrote this post about judging a book by the cover.  I was in the midst of getting a cover designed for No Mother of Mine and I was just a bit worried about whether or not it would help market my book in a positive way.
Overall, the feedback I received about the cover design of my first book was very positive.  That leaves one down…and many more to go. 

So now I’ve moved on to the second book and came up with this design:

Based on the characters and the story in Best Kept Secrets, the masks are very appropriate when so many of the characters figuratively wear masks to hide the truth about themselves and what’s happening in their lives.  I also like the colors in this cover because it complements the color of my first book when they’re sitting side-by-side. 

Will readers like this cover?  I certainly hope so.  Will it pique their interest?  Draw them in to discover exactly what the book is about?  My fingers are crossed while I hope that will be the case.  That’s because what I said before is still true, readers do tend to judge a book by its cover, especially when they don’t know the author.
How do readers judge a cover?  They may assume things based on what they see on the outside:

The cover is visually stimulating…the story inside must be stimulating, as well.
The cover just doesn’t cut it; it’s boring or too basic…wonder if the story is boring or just your average every-day read?

How about if a reader judges a book by its size?
The book is very long…I’m just not ready for that sort of commitment.

The book is very short…I want something with more depth.
If the cover doesn’t cause a reader to look more closely at the book, at the blurb, at the prologue or the first few pages in the first chapter, you’ve probably lost them for good.  Maybe until someone else tells them, “You’ve really got to read this book!”

Readers are human and we all have our basic human traits.  How we respond to first impressions based on sight alone is certainly one of them.  I’m going to put my faith in those first impressions and believe that once Best Kept Secrets is made available, the cover will satisfy my current readers but also draw new readers in. 
If you have any feedback about my cover or about whether you buy a book based on a book's cover, I’d love to hear it.  And for those waiting for Best Kept Secrets to go on sale, I’m working on the feedback I received from my beta readers and based on my schedule at this point, I would venture to say it’ll be available on-line next week!  I’ll continue to keep you posted…

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

What makes you cry, sob, blubber or bawl?

Do you cry often or hardly ever?  Do you feel embarrassed after a good cry or fully cleansed?  Do you cry at the drop of a hat or does it take a catastrophe? 
Everyone has different triggers and some might make sense while others may make you raise a brow but I don’t think anyone can argue with the fact that shedding a few tears now and then can be good for you.  It means something has affected you strongly enough to trigger the emotions many try so hard to hide…sensitivity, compassion, kindness, concern.

I’ve already shared at least one thing that can make me cry.  Yeah, I’m a sucker for a show that gives me a reason to root for someone reaching so hard for their dream and why wouldn’t I be?  I’m able to relate while I also reach hard for my own dream.
Television and movies are more likely to bring a tear to your eye because so many of us are visual but have you ever read a book that made you cry? 

I have.  Not many, but a few.  And why did they make me cry?  Most likely a character I liked had to die for whatever reason or something tragic has happened, especially when it involves children or animals.  But this is only if the author is very good at descriptions and character emotions so that I can see and feel what the characters are going through.
I don’t know that my books will ever make anyone cry but I hope they hit a nerve every now and then so that you think you might shed just a tear.  Hitting any emotion, whether it’s sadness, humor, anger or concern for a character is a great achievement every writer would hope to accomplish.  It means the reader is connecting with the story and the characters.  It means the reader cares.

I care about my story and my characters and I hope the readers do as well.  Especially if it means they’ll come back for more as the series continues because I enjoy the thought of others wanting to spend more time with the characters I’ve created.
While I won’t go around killing off my characters to draw any tears (well, maybe), there are other difficulties many deal with in life that can be brought into a book to draw readers in.  In No Mother of Mine there was the question about whether a mother could harm her own children, the question about Jorja’s parentage, the question about why Kat’s mother abandoned her as a child and the question about how an upstanding citizen could hide their true nature.  Whether a reader has ever experienced these types of situations or not, most readers have at least asked the question, “why?”  Why would a mother hurt her child?  Why would a parent lie?  Why would a mother abandon a child?  And, why do people kill? 

In Best Kept Secrets some questions are answered while more arise.  Who is Jorja’s father and why did he leave?  How far will a mother go to protect her child, even at the risk of her own life?  How do people deal with terrible or tragic events in their lives while doing their best to live normally?  How do you protect your loved ones when the evil you perceive is not the evil you must be prepared for?  And, how many masks can one person wear?
In real life, we don’t always get the answers but in books (most of the time, anyway) we do.  And if the author is able to pull you into the story and into the lives of the characters so that you really want to know the answers, the book will also pull strong emotions from you as you turn each page to get those answers.

And maybe, whether the results relieve you or sadden you, they may also make you cry.  But that’s okay.  As with writing, reading is more of a solitary task so if you show any emotion, no one really has to know.  And even if they do, is it such a bad thing to express any sentiment for a fictional character you enjoy reading about?
As the creator of characters in my world, my answer would be ‘no.’

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Can Creative Chaos be Organized?

I’ve been bitten by a bug.  Not a real bug, thankfully, but a bug to organize and prepare for the next season.  It’s an urge I get a couple of times a year and doesn’t just involve the change in weather.  It’s the urge a squirrel must have when he begins to hide food for the winter; although the urge I have has nothing to do with food.
Well, I take that back.  I am cleaning up around my gardens and I’m going to be storing away my garden decorations later this week after what I expect might be one of the last really hot weeks of the year.  Once the gardens are all cleaned up and ready for the fall, my pumpkins can wreck as much havoc as they choose once they can stretch out to invade the areas they haven’t been allowed to inhabit until now.  I admit it feels good at the end of the summer when the gardens need very little attention.

I’m also preparing for the next season of projects.  It’s a funny thing what happens when I’m in the middle of writing a book.  I tend to make a lot of piles.  Piles of articles or magazines I need to read.  Piles of paperwork I should spend time going through.  Piles of books I’d like to read.  Piles, piles, piles.
Any why so many piles?  Because I spend so much of my time working on my book that I tend to get behind on everything else.  I try to get through the piles, but I get through them much more slowly. 

So, now that I’m not in the process of continuously writing but with the knowledge that very soon I will be, I must clean up those piles to make room for the next version of creative chaos which will soon surround me.
And when I get the bug to clean and organize…watch out.  My family knows to steer clear of me because they’ll just get in my way.  Getting organized means getting back on track.  To stay on track, I need to continue to stay organized.  Creative chaos is one thing but getting too far behind on many tasks to the point of feeling buried is quite another.    

So what do I do to stay organized? 
I do use piles, I will admit, but many would argue that piles are no way to stay organized.  It works for me but it’s finding the time to get through the piles that becomes difficult.  So once again, I need to focus on time management and, maybe, I need to limit the need for so many piles.

I use a day planner, as well.  I make list upon list of what I need to do, need to buy, who I need to call, errands I need to run, etc.  But eventually, those lists become useless if you never find the time to cross everything off the list.  Again, there’s the issue with time management and, maybe, learning not to fatten those to-do lists beyond what I’m capable of.
I also like boxes.  I have boxes for items I need to store, items I need to go through, items I need to file away, and items I need to save in a scrapbook or photo album.  But eventually, those boxes pile up, which turns my space from creative chaos to just plain clutter. 

To dig myself out of the clutter, I like seeing new ideas on how to stay organized.  I was recently reading through a magazine from one of my piles and there was an ad for some websites designed to help organize all areas of a person’s life.  Intrigued, I checked them out and overall they do appear to have something for everyone for every area you could think of…
I like the idea of so many options to stay organized so I thought I’d share since I’m always on the lookout for any new tool or idea that might help me stay organized.  Speaking of that, I better get back to what I was doing so that I can prepare for another busy week. 

Until next time…


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

My long weekend ends with a visitor!

I realize my blog posts haven’t been the usual Sunday/Wednesday schedule lately but that’s occurred for a number of reasons, most of which are likely explained away when I finally do post.  The lack of posting this last weekend also had its reasons; with the main one being that I decided to take a long weekend and that involved hardly any butt time in the chair.
I took a long weekend for a couple of reasons.  First, I just needed a break; a break from work, a break from the computer, a break period.  Second, I’m in between finishing one book and starting another so time away from the computer at home and at work meant time to get other projects done and out of the way.  And third, I had other matters I needed to tend to and it was just better to focus my attention where it was most needed rather than where it would be no use if my mind was elsewhere.
I got my break, spent extra time with my family, was able to tackle a good number of projects and I kept my focus on other important matters.  Overall, it was a very good weekend.  My weekend is now almost over and as depressing as that sounds, I was also anxiously waiting for this day because I thought I’d finally receive the proofs of my second book, Best Kept Secrets.  With no mail delivery the past three days, I was excited to learn that the proofs were waiting at the post office like I hoped.  The copies are now waiting to be reviewed so that I can add any final edits to the book before I make it live and available for everyone else.
With the box at home and on the dining room table, I pulled out each book to stack them on top of each other.  Really, it’s just not easy to describe what an awesome feeling it is to see your book in print for the first time.  I then wondered how the new book would look sitting next to the first book so I grabbed a copy of the first to place it by the second.  While the covers aren’t similar so that it’s obvious they’re in the same series, I’m happy with the second cover and ready to move on to finish with the publication.  As I stared at both books side-by-side, it was then that it struck me…I’ve completed my second book!  I’ll have two published books out there and soon will be working on the third!
It just amazes me when I really think about what I’ve accomplished so far.  And I’ve done it with so much else going on in my life at the same time.  But I’m no exception to the rule.  Every writer does it.  They have to.  No one lives just to write…you also have to live your life to give your writing depth as well as a familiarity readers can relate to.
There’s no trick to it – there’s just the need to create mixed with the ability to find the time.  Most of my life I’ve minimized my passion to write but not anymore.  I’ve found the time to write two books and I will continue to find the time to create more. 
But the creation will have to wait just a bit longer.  I’ll need to hear from my beta readers with regard to their feedback and I’m reading through my own proof copy of the book to note any final edits as well.  I expect to have Best Kept Secrets available for sale in the next two weeks or so and I’ll be posting updates with a publication date once I can narrow it down better.  I’m also working on dates for the next book signings so look for updates here and on my Facebook page because I’ll be posting more information once I have dates and times confirmed, with one to take place in Tenino and the other in Olympia. 
Until then, I need to get back to focusing on the next phase towards publishing.  With that said, I’ll get back to proofing my book!