Friday, October 21, 2011

Interview coming up

Tomorrow, Saturday October 22nd, my interview with romantic suspense author Ronda Hinrichsen will be posted on http://thewriteblocks.blogspot.com/  It was fun and thought provoking.

More than once I've been asked what my favorite thing has been that has happened since finishing and releasing 12 books in 12 months.

The answer is the response of fans.

For instance, I received word yesterday one of my fans went online to  http://www.iamareadernotawriter.blogspot.com/  where the current giveaway the 3 of my award-winning books is being held and she left a comment there.  She wasn't trying to enter to win the books (she'd already bought all of them) she just wanted everyone to know that she loved them all.  Wow. It renewed my hope and made me want to plow ahead with more books.

Just this morning I received an email that told me one of my fans had a dream about a particularly potent scene in Walking in Lightning.  Another Wow.   

To me, the fact the fan had a dream about the characters in the book is affirmation that my writing has touched something deeper than a persons's eyes.  It sank into their subconcious which then spun the scene out for them in a dream.  The fan said it was like being in a movie it was so real.

Some of my fans have made drawings of my COS characters on deviantart.
http://chest-of-souls.deviantart.com/   You'll even see some of my tracings there.

For me, the fans reactions have been Powerful heady stuff and the best kind of reward because when I write, I do so from the heart.  I want the books to be talked about, laughed about, and discussed with pros and cons for the characters.  It's been one of my dreams for a long time.

I write because I must, but fans are why I continue to do so with a smile.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Free Ground Shipping (FedEx) from now until 20 October 2011

For those people that prefer paperbacks, Lulu.com (my publisher) is offering free shipping from now until October 20th.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Do yourself a favor: Follow David Wolverton/Farland


David Wolverton/Farland has great advice for Indies like me. 

Visit his website http://www.davidfarland.net/  and SIGN UP FOR HIS KICK IN THE PANTS immediately! 

This man knows what he is talking about and is generous enough to share it (we all need a mentor and, frankly, there are too few in the writing world). 

He isn't sitting on his laurels, but actively looking for alternative ways to promote/sell books in NEW ways.  He's seen the writing on the wall and been a pioneer for what is coming to all authors.

David is not just a best selling author, but he's done a bajillion other things that help him write great books.  Confession:  I didn't even know he existed until a co-worker of my husband's dropped by my husband's office and happened to notice the huge poster of all 12 books that I released in 12 months. 

It just so happened that this man wants to be an author and was looking for advice and, in the meantime, he suggested looking at David's website and sign up for the Kick in the Pants newsletter. 

It was one of the best things that happened to me, not because I had to make major overhauls, but I had confirmation I was doing many things right.  It was such a relief to know that I had listened to the still small voice that said, 'No - don't go traditional' way back last year.

Sigh...what a relief!  But I'm always looking for new ideas and promos, so if you have some, please share them here and we'll all know.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Writing a book Step Five: Destination

Step One: Dream
Step Two: Desire
Step Three: Discipline
Step Four: Determination
Step Five:  Destination

Everything, up to this point, has been for this final step.  You've dreamed, wanted it to come true, made sure you worked at it every day, and determined you were going to be successful.

Now, you decide what your destination is by taking the next (scarier) step in the world of Indie publishing.  Where are you going to publish your work? 

My personal preferences and why I chose them: 

Amazon for Ebook - they have name recognition and are International.  Their upload system is easy (and free) for Ebook.  Problem:  sometimes their uploads have issues.  I use the same format, font, and 'formula' for each of my books.  However, sometimes the work I've done shows up as a combination of large and small fonts or the spacing is wrong.  I'm not HTML oriented.  Is this a scheme to get you to buy their services so everything will be perfect?  I have no idea.  I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt in spite of the fact there is one book they have never gotten right.

Lulu.com for my POD (Print on demand) - biggest reason I chose them:  it's free.  If you want to purchase professional services, they are available.  I've had a few problems with the printing machinery creasing or misprinting pages, but as long as I took a picture of the problem and emailed them, they have been good to replace the damaged books.    However, lately, I've had a problem with my soft covers showing on Amazon.  Lulu was supposed to take care of that when I 'purchased' their extended reach program.  They have Live Chat where you can 'speak' to a rep who then helps you with your problem.  I found Live Chat a MUCH better way to go rather than email. 

Now there is another issue:  Lulu sends the information about the soft covers to Amazon, but Amazon is backlogged - REALLY backlogged.  My last three books of the 12 I've written - Storm, Walking in Lightning, and Pic Jump, were published in May and June.  They are not showing.  I contacted Lulu and Amazon and the problem is on Amazon's end.  It should not take them 4 and 5 months to list a product.
There may be something else going on.  I guess I'll find out soon.

18 Oct 2011: Pic is now showing as a softcover but it will 'take longer' for the other two which were uploaded first - no reason given.

24 Oct 2011:  All books with both formats are now showing (insert big sigh of relief)

2013:  New issue:  old cover instead of new on paperback version of Chest of Souls Book One and Two.  Sigh...

Writing a book Step Four: Determination

Step One: Dream
Step Two: Desire
Step Three: Discipline
Step Four: Determination

To write, you must be determined.  Some people might call it pure pigheadedness.  Call it what you will, without it, you will not be able to reach any goal, much less write a book. 

My definition of Determination while writing is:  persistence married to intentions.

Are you persistent?  Can you stick with something until it's finished? 
I'm married to the a man that descended from generations of good hard-working farmers.  His very DNA will not allow him to quit until a job is finished - he is incapable of calling it quits until he is comfortable with the job. 

As writers, we need to do the same.  As Indie authors, it is critical.  We are our own company - CEO, editor, everything.

As an author, you can't please everyone.  You can get a 5-star 'WOW' from one person and a 1-star 'YUCK' from another on the same book.  Why is that?  The same reason some people like vanilla ice cream better than chocolate.  For instance, I prefer 'clean' books - I don't like profanity of any kind, I prefer romance over sex, and if there is violence, it must have a purpose such as self-defense, to save the world, etc.  I'm sure there are millions of readers just the opposite.  To each their own and this is a GOOD thing - it means we can write what we like to read and millions can appreciate our efforts. 

What are your intentions for your book?  Do you intend for your books to be commercially successful or are you willing to just let family have a copy and call it good?

Success takes work.  It means doing things others don't like to do.  One of those things is rewriting.
I usually have about six drafts.

1) Bare bones:  the idea and whether or not I can build a book around the idea.  Maybe how I want the book to end.
2) Bones:  Basic manuscript - I usually write about 20-30 chapters and try to be consistent with length.  In this draft, I made the connections between characters and the main plot.
3) Sinews: Manuscript is expanded and I'm refining characters/plot and making sure the book flows.
4) Muscles: Another rewrite.  I polish the manuscript and fill in holes.  Is it exciting enough?  At this point, I seek to destroy bad elements.
5) Guts: Another re-write and expansion.  Plots and sub plots:  is there enough action?
6) Flesh:  Final re-write/edit/polish.  This is the point I allow pre-readers to see it and point out the things I missed (there are usually typos, grammatical errors, and an occasional continuity issue which is a major oops - like having a character be 6 years old on one page and 8 on another)

Writing a book Step Three: Discipline

Step One:  Dream
Step Two: Desire
Step Three: Discipline

Writing is... wait for it... WORK!  This four letter word seems to be the step where most people get lost or permanently lose their desire.  This is a business and to succeed, you must treat it like one.   As an Indie Author, I am my own boss.  If I fail to host a full-spectrum prism of personal responsibility for my books, my career fails.   

I spend an average of 8 hours a day, but during crunch time I have been known to spend up to 16 (my record was 20).  As much as possible, surround yourself with experts.  My group consists of pre-readers/editors/family/friends.  

I know my weaknesses.  Marketing is not my favorite thing to do.  While I write, my husband's main job when he has free time, is to find and share articles/books about writing/publishing/marketing.  I have adult children.  They offer insights to characters they do/don't like and why.  I do not always take their advice.  I decide because I'm the author.  If the issue comes up more than once, I take it more seriously.  I role-play with my oldest daughter to let the creative juices flow.  It is a phenomenal experience!  I have an enormous extended family who are willing to read - many are NOT readers, but become my fans.  Whenever that happens, the magic spawns more creative juices.

Did I mention the flame of genius is fickle?  For some reason, people I've talked to/read about feel that if genius is not burning, they can't or shouldn't write.  Here's some bubblegum for your brain (if this is the way you feel).  Since most authors must have a job in the "real" world in addition to listening to their muses,  what would happen if you didn't go to work in the real world until you felt like it?  What would happen if you called in and told your boss that you weren't coming in today because your muses were silent?   The same goes for writing.   If you want to succeed, you must WORK.

Another step in the basket of discipline:  Rewrites.  As an author you have to be willing to RE-write whatever you need to and continue for as long as it takes to whip your manuscript into shape.  I was willing to comb through my manuscripts as many times as it took - each time tightening loose bolts, or eliminating fluff.  The upside to rewrites: you learn to write cleaner manuscripts so your effort won't take as much editing.

Recap:  take personal responsibility for your work, treat writing like a business, surround yourself with people who make up for your weakness, be willing to rewrite when necessary.  

Writing a book Step Two: Desire

Step One: Dream
Step Two:  Desire

Writing is my bliss, my passion, my job and, even after writing 12 books in a year, I love it.  There were times I wondered if I would.  I'm grateful I can say YES!!!

One of the first things I do every morning is go out to the computer and press the power button.  Why? I can't wait to see what my characters are going to do!  During the night, ideas come to me (last night I dreamed in technicolor about a kind and good-natured redheaded king, old ruins where cattle were watered, and the future of DVD's - they no longer existed) Okay, that is called creative fodder - the kind of stuff I can and do use in my books.

Writing novels is something I've wanted since I was a teen and, sadly, when I went to college, I listened to the 'experts' of my time and let my dream fade when they said the only writing major they offered was journalism.  It was a big blow.  I wasn't fond of the news (most of it is bad, even then, and why would I focus on that?)  Because I believed them, for decades, I limited my talent to birthday cards, journals, etc.   I was a - dare I say it? - closet writer!  I still penned ideas, but I seldom shared them.

Then I read The Jack Rabbit Factor by Leslie Householder.  The cover of the book had three importnat words that opened doors in my mind:  Why You Can.

Thanks to the book, which woke my dreams, I made the decision to write professionally because I LOVE writing.  Once I gave myself permission to follow my dream, there was no going back to the dark cave where my creative juices used to bubble and hiss while I ignored them. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Writing a book Step One: Dream

After writing 12 books, you have a pretty good idea about THE formula you use to get your book into print.  This is the first step I take in writing:

Write a book : Dream BIG (and don't let anyone steal your dream!)

Take a fantastic idea and be willing to slap the reader with images that blow their minds - if it doesn't blow yours or suck you in, do a rewrite.  Don't use old phrases:  "The dream began..." to begin a book unless in the first page the dream explodes in the reader's face and grips them by the lapels and shakes them hard.  Don't give them any choice but to turn the page.
 
Important:  length of book.  You may laugh, but the first book I wrote was over 252,000 words.  What I learned was traditional publishers won't take a look at you - there are a few exceptions, but for the most part, a first book should be around 200-250 pages.  With that said, simply write the story in your heart.  I had to write it until the story (Epic COS) was finished to my satisfaction.  Now my books average 300 pages (some are more and some are less).  If I did it over again, I would try for 250 and simply add another book to the COS series so that each softcover isn't quite so expensive.  I may still do that...and the good news is that I can because I'm in control of my work, not a publisher, editor, or another person.  I own ALL rights to my books. 

What sells best in fiction?  Character-driven books.  One of my editors, who used to work at a press, told me the reason she loves my books are the characters.  If you don't love your characters, or understand them, it will show in your work.  There are reasons why most people (there are exceptions to every rule) won't write believable books until they are in their 30's - 40's.  The biggest reason:  they haven't lived long enough to experience life on enough levels to really grasp the interactions of people on more than a superficial basis.  Experience counts. 

Even if you have the talent to create great characters, you must be able to weave a story around them that's worth telling.  If you can't do that you won't be successful either.

I've been asked where I get my ideas. 
The answer is everywhere.  Some books come from dreams, others spring from the ashes of unused ideas I had for a different book.  I might watch a movie, read a book, or, as in the case of my upcoming trilogy Sky Signs, watch sunsets and sunrises with the love of my life - for more than a year.  I didn't know watching all of those God-rendered wonders that I would be adding all the information to a stack of ideas. 

After some people read COS, they think I'm a master plotter.  You would think I would be writing murder mysteries and maybe I will - someday.  What they fail to really consider is the fact that COS is an EPIC and as such, had to have significant plot, subplots, and sub-sub plots. 

While there is "nothing new under the sun"  the way people retell stories in this era is the difference between a ride in a 1960 Lincoln Continental and a 2012 Ferrari.  The world is plagued by instant gratification and books are competing with X-Box and other games so they MUST grab the attention of the reader.  

The Harry Potter epic and the Twilight series took tradition and tweaked its nose a bit, re-introducing characters that have always existed (wizards/vampires) in such a way that they sold millions of copies.

In my life time, every 20 or so years, books with particular themes recycle.  For instance, 20 or so years ago, it was Anne Rice and her Interview with a Vampire series that was being touted as new and exciting.  Now, when something is successful, we have three or more copycats and the publishers rush to get the novels out to the world in hopes of riding the wizard/vampire wave of success, knowing the readers are hungry for more. 

Whatever you write, let it be original and something you are interested in.   Love your characters and paint them into a corner as much as possible and get them out of it using unique ideas.