IT’S ALIVE!!!!!!

Well, it’s here!  RELEASE DAY!!!!!

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Honestly, I never thought it would get here.  It’s just seemed like an endless cycle of writing and editing, and more writing and more editing.  But it’s here.  My book has gone live.  Of course, even with the best of planning, things are never perfect.  I found a mistake in my print copies–totally my fault, and I didn’t catch it early.  I had a slight meltdown over that, but then I figured out a relatively unobtrusive way to fix it for the release party this weekend (I’ve already fixed it in CreateSpace, so any future print copies will be fine).  Then, although my upload was accepted to Premium Catalog on Smashwords (this lets my book get distributed to all the other non-Kindle e-book formats), it’s still in process of being “shipped” to the various distributors.  So for today, my book is live only on Kindle.  But the others will be live soon.  We live, we learn, we adapt.  That is definitely what being an indie author is all about, I’m discovering.

And yet–it’s a gorgeous day here in eastern NC, the sun is shining and gorgeous, the sky is clear and brilliant blue, I took a vacation day from the day job, and my book IS ALIVE!  I’ve sold 2 print copies already, and the first is already in her hands.  The second one will go to its new home tomorrow.  I’ve sold a few Kindle copies as well.  I’m still scared “you-know-what-less” about how people are going to react to it.  But…that’s something every author has had to deal with.  Good, bad, or indifferent, it’s mine, and I have finished something I’ve started.

So what’s next on the agenda for this new indie author?  Right, well I have 2 manuscripts in the drafting phase that I need to finish writing, and the first book in a paranormal romance series that is in editing phase.  I also have a mystery series that is currently in the outlining and planning phase…no rest for the wicked!

Want to know what Seeking Solace is all about?  Get the book synopsis and buy link here.  Oh, and  thanks for sharing this moment with me–it’s something I’ve always dreamed about.

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Love Your Beta (and Other Thoughts on Self-Publishing from a Whirling Mind)

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on my writing blog.  I find that I’m still trying to figure out exactly how to juggle this writer thing with the day job and still finding time to just “be me” and “have a life”.  Hopefully, one day I’ll get it all figured out, but until then, I hope those of you who are reading bear with me.  🙂

Since I’m going the indie route, I’m finding that I have to be all things to all people as I work towards publishing the first novel.  I am author, editor, secretary, finance manager, public relations staff, social media analyst, CEO, and I don’t know what all!  I’m in the middle of final edits to my debut novel, and in and around finishing those, I am also researching blog tours, who will take an ARC to review my book, which site is the best distributor for ebooks, Kindle Select—Do I?  Don’t I?, planning a release party, setting up my business name so I can collect royalties…. “ET CETERA, ET CETERA, ET CETERA (**cue Yul Brunner from The King and I here).

More often than not, I’m left just wondering if I’ll ever get it all figured out.  The successful indie authors I follow and love make it all look so easy and effortless, although I am positive they’ve been where I currently am at some point when beginning their life as a publisher/author.  The one thing I can say is that many of them have been so very kind to share their insights and tips and tricks with newbies like me out here.  That means the world to someone carefully inching their way down the path to publication.

The other thing I am finding is my life preserver in the ocean of self-publication—my beta-readers.  Do not underestimate the contribution of an excellent and thorough beta-reader.  At this point, two of them are more like critique partners than betas.  Line by line, page by page, chapter after chapter—copious notes and markings indicating what is working and also what isn’t and habits I tend to have with phrasing.  (Apparently, my characters were tending to blink and wink a LOT, also cocking/raising/lifting/wagging/shifting eyebrows.  I’m guessing when I was writing the original draft during NaNoWriMo I was giving them temporary Tourette’s or something… )

For a long time, I’ve been very apprehensive about giving my drafts away for first-looks and/or beta-reads.  You spend countless hours over many months crafting and writing a book that feels like it has become part of your soul, and you don’t want anyone else telling you it sucks (or your characters have so many facial tics going on that people will think they’re tripping on some kind of experimental drug).  It’s scary revealing this deeply personal work of art to the world.  It’s your baby, your “precious”, and you don’t want it harmed.   So I put it off for as long as remotely possible, afraid of what people would say about it.

Nevertheless, if I want to become a published author, then I have to eventually let people read my book.  So I finally sent it out to my betas.  Surprisingly, when I got my draft back, marks and notes on every line, I found that my feelings weren’t hurt.  I found that I was excited!  I was dying to clutch those pages to my chest, speed away home, and begin working on “my precious”.  Why?  Because I knew that going through the feedback would only make my story better.  The notations weren’t only just corrections or negatives; they were also positive comments on what was working or what my beta was liking.  I also found that many of the second thoughts or changes I had already been thinking about myself were often being confirmed by my beta’s notes.  That made me feel secure in the knowledge that I was in tune enough to the story to know what needed shifting and confirmed my hope that I wasn’t so attached to the story “as it was” that I would be too obstinate to make it better.  That in itself was quite liberating.  I have embraced completing this final revision of my novel and know that in the end, this story and these characters will be even more engaging and touching than I had originally conceived them to be.  Don’t be afraid of your beta-readers!  Love your betas!  (Especially if you have awesome ones like I do!)

 

**Publication update:  Seeking Solace now has an April 2015 release date!  Stay tuned for cover reveal and release day announcement!

**Meme credit to compositionatthebeach.com

Look Out! Curves Ahead!

Look Out!  Curves Ahead!

As some of you may be aware, I’m in the process of self-publishing my debut novel.  However, I must admit I haven’t completely given up on the hope of breaking into traditional publishing at some point.  In truth, I’d really like to settle into a hybridized career, doing both.  In the midst of this very laborious (and sometimes surprisingly fun) path towards publication, I have found that just when I think I’ve figured out my course, I’m suddenly facing a hairpin curve on the side of the mountain…my poor little novel-train desperately clinging to the tracks to keep from falling off the edge to its doom.

So far, they’ve been curves I can negotiate fairly simply by doing my homework and researching options or asking some of my growing network of author friends for advise and suggestions.  The biggest curve I’ve had so far, I think, has been the issue of cover art.  I’m on a budget, so naturally my initial instinct was to gravitate towards stock photography.  It’s certainly being used, and used successfully be a number of indie authors.  I selected a few shots that I just fell in love with.  They fit the mood of my story.  The models were remarkably similar to my main characters in physical appearance.  I scrolled through pages and pages of romance novels on Amazon, checking the cover art for any similar shots.  I wasn’t finding the shot I really wanted to use.  Paydirt!  I had my cover art.  About every two weeks since then, I had continued to monitor new releases on Amazon to make sure no one was using my photo.  Several months went by (during which I was editing and doing beta reads on the story), and my photo was still in the clear.  I’d become secure in what was going to be the cover to “my precious”.  (I totally turn into a slightly more attractive Gollum when it comes to my novel. It is “my precious”.)  I could see the title…what type of font and color I was going to use…oh, it was beautiful.  Then—disaster.

One of my FB author friends shared a post of someone’s new release.  There it was in all its horrifying glory.  My cover photo.  Or at least, a zoomed in portion of my cover photo.  My heart completely sank to the depths of my stomach.  I know some books have either similar cover shots or the same exact shot from stock photography, but I didn’t want to do that.  I didn’t want to use the same shot someone else already had.  Back to the drawing board for me, and I didn’t know what to do.  Because my novel is contemporary, I really wanted to use photography rather than drawn art for the cover.  Here goes the novel-train, barreling around the side of the mountain, and I can’t see the other side of the curve.

Here’s where networking everywhere you can is absolutely vital to moving forward towards becoming a professional writer (or anything else, really).  Through our local NaNoWriMo group, I remembered that the brother of one of our members is a photographer.  I had seen his work before and went back and checked his sites.  If this guy could work with my budget, he could my ticket back to getting a cover and finally setting a release date.  He had the contacts that I didn’t—makeup artist, costume designer, models.  After a very enthusiastic meeting, we decided to give this thing a go.  I’m about mid-way around the curve now, but at least I know that my novel-train will get to the other side of it.

He’s about to start shooting for my cover, and I’m excited to see what he comes up with.  When we get to the other side of this curve, I’ll give you all a sneak peek!!!

**Photo credit: https://southwestdesertlover.wordpress.com

 

The Elusive Mr. Darcy

I don’t think any lover of romantic literature can speak about the quintessential and unforgettable heroes of this genre without having Mr. Darcy (from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice) come close to the top of the list.

Tall. Handsome.  A Man of Means.  Proud.  Slightly Brooding.  Need a visual?  Take your pick—Colin Firth from the original A&E mini-series, complete with “wet t-shirt scene”. (Stuff of dreams that was.  Oh mercy!)   Or— Matthew McFayden from the Jon Wright production a few years ago.  (That end scene at dawn when he comes across Lizzie walking the fields.  Delightful.)

Sorry… there was a thud.  That was me swooning.  I do love a handsome, brooding Englishman.  However, men of that description are in quite the shortage in eastern North Carolina.  More’s the pity.  Sigh….

But I digress.

Although I have interests in several genres, I am currently working within the romance genre.  I think it begs the question—am I writing Mr. Darcy?  I think there may be small hints of him here and there in my male characters.  So far, they are all tall and handsome.  Although the romantic heroes I’ve written so far are typically of the average professional variety (no millionaire tycoons, etc), they are all quite proud and have a bit of masculine arrogance, so that’s a bit Darcy-esque.  They all, so far, are perhaps a bit brooding.  They have things going on under the surface that the heroine doesn’t immediately understand—also reminiscent of Darcy.

So what makes my romantic heroes something different than just an homage to the famous Mr. Darcy.  For one thing, Austen’s Darcy is a bit unapproachable.  My male characters, with one exception, are a bit more outgoing and social.  They also are written with quite a sense of humor. I love to laugh, and I try to infuse as much humor as possible into my characters and my stories.  I think that’s one of the defining aspects of creating a character that feels real.  Feels human.  Mr. Darcy is always so very serious, and while this is certainly a necessary virtue, I find my characters tend to temper their dispositions with a bit more levity than Austen gave to Darcy.

Have I found Mr. Darcy?  In real life or on the page?  On the page…I find I’m not really searching for Mr. Darcy there.  So far, I’ve found some romantic figures that are as wonderful, as swoon­-worthy, and a bit more real than Mr. Darcy.  I hope my readers will find the same when these characters and their stories are finally released.

Well, I admit that in real life, I have not yet found Mr. Darcy.  Perhaps a Mr. Wickham or three, but no Mr. Darcy.   Before anyone comments about there not being a “Mr. Darcy”, let me state that yes, I am aware that Mr. Darcy is fictional.  Hence the reason I won’t find him here on this earthly plane.  However, there is someone out there.  Tall (maybe). Handsome (in my eyes).  A Man of Means (works towards his dreams and goals and is gainfully employed).  Proud (of who he is and will be).  Slightly Brooding (only on occasion to lend that “quizzical brow” look).  So I continue to keep an eye out for him, the elusive Mr. Darcy.  Not The Mr. Darcy.  But rather, My Mr. Darcy.

Entering the Twitterverse

To tweet or not to tweet.  That is the question.

My most humble apologies to the Bard, who is currently rolling over in his grave as I type this post.

Another thought:

Never say never.  Ever.  It will always come back to bite you in the butt.

Self-publishing.  Throwing caution and (miniscule) finances to the winds and hoping someone will read brilliant masterpiece.  Sounds easy, right?  You write a book, prep it for release, buy an ISBN, upload to the digital market of your choosing and BAM!  Instant sales and fans and reward.

Well…..not quite.  Apparently, social media is the driving force behind finding your potential readers.  Ok, I got this.  I do Facebook.  Cool.

Well…..not quite.  There’s a plethora of social media outlets.  Twitter among them.  I had sworn off Twitter personally for years.  I had four thoughts about Twitter—1) I can’t possibly say what I need to say in 140 characters.  Me, the girl whose paragraphs can give Charles Dickens a run for his money on a good day.  Me, the girl whose basic email is the length of The Iliad.  2) I don’t care what people are having for lunch (this was the trend for a while at the onset of the Twitterverse).  3)Facebook is enough. I can barely keep up with Facebook. And, most importantly, 4) “Tweet”.  I think this is one of the stupidest terms on the planet.  I wanted nothing whatsoever to do with an application on which I “tweeted”.  (Yes, I know I’m probably showing my age.  Yes, I realize I sound like an elitist social media snob.  I’ve embraced both of these and am ok with it.)

It turns out, you can be bombarded with pictures and/or descriptions of food people think you want to see on Facebook as well!  (I guess the trend shifted from Twitter to Facebook after a time).  I also found out that I can indeed limit my overly verbose ramblings to around 140 characters…although I have to really, really concentrate.  I am still getting used to the idea of checking Twitter.  I suppose this will become more natural with time.  However, I’m able to use both it and Facebook without going into a panic attack.  I still hate, loathe, despise, and abominate the word “tweet”.

If you’ve done any research into marketing and promotion for authors, Twitter is perhaps the biggest platform to use at the moment, spurring tons of articles and blog posts like “Twitter for Authors in 10 Minutes a Day”, and so on.   After much deliberate debate with myself (along with quite a bit of rolling of eyes and internal “bah, humbug”), I joined the Twitterverse a couple weeks ago.  I am currently up to 27 followers. Not a lot.  BUT—most of them are fellow authors, and a number of them are best-selling authors at that.  If nothing else, for this moment in time, those folks have openly welcomed me into the writing community.  This is a support and an encouragement that is like nothing else—to be accepted by your peers and those whose work you admire.  If they feel that I have something of interest to share, then potential readers will too in time.  And that’s the whole point.

I have 27 followers.  Nathan Fillion (TV’s Richard Castle) has something like 2.4 million.  (If you hear a rapid heartbeat followed by a thud that’s just me swooning over Nathan Fillion…. I’m fine.)  I won’t say I’ll never get 2.4 million followers (although this is unlikely).  See beginning of post above–Never say never.  Nonetheless, I am out there, in the Twitterverse, hashtagging my way towards publication and some lovely (albeit at 140 characters or less) communion with fellow artists in this craft we call writing.

The beginning of the journey

So.  I am a writer.

I write novels….  I am a novelist….

 

Okay.  So I’ve spent my entire life reading. Voraciously reading.  Dickens—Shakespeare—Austen—Hawthorne—paperback romances (hundreds of paperback romances).  I love reading. I loved it so much I got a degree in literature.  I have a piece of paper that declares I am a readaholic.  Losing yourself in a world somewhere with interesting characters and unending plot twists—heaven.  However, I learned when I was young that I loved something even more than reading…WRITING!  ( I remember my first piece too.  It was a short story I wrote about a haunted house. Very spooky.  I loved it.)

Now, growing up and having to choose a way to make a living, I defaulted to that of “teacher”.  Why?  I loved to read, and I loved to write (when everyone else around me hated it and thought I was weird for loving it so much).  At the time, all I could think was “I’m not an author. I’d never get published”.  What’s the old saying?  Oh yeah… those that can’t do, teach.  So I decided to take my love of literature to the classroom.  I was spurred on by all those great movies about these fabulous teachers (most of whom taught English lit…think about that for a minute….) that inspired their students to excel (Dead Poet’s Society, anyone?  RIP Robin Williams).

I did end up teaching at a local community college as an adjunct for about a decade.  I had some great students.  I also had a few that I seriously wanted to hurt with a frying pan.  Fast-forward a bit.  I’m an ex-teacher in her mid-30s, divorced, and looking at the ever-closing gap to 40 wondering what the hell I’ve done with my life up to this point.  Nothing I had imagined for myself, let me assure you.  I was still reading.  Voraciously reading.  I had also picked my writing back up.  I had started a couple manuscripts, but never finished one.

Last November, I did something I always secretly hoped (but doubted) I’d do.  One of those “maybe one day I’ll….”, back of the mind, think about when you’re drunk and wonder why in hell haven’t I done that yet? ideas.  I wrote a novel.  In 30 days.  Over 51 thousand words.  How?  I got plugged into an awesome local writing group that does NaNoWriMo.  The support of a close-knit group that was just as “nerdy” as me was a match-spark to my fire.  I had a story I loved with characters that I thought were funny and sweet and just a bit sassy.  Throw in a foreign country and a little conflict… recipe for a great read.  But… what to do with it?

For a long time, writers who self-published were considered “lesser” on the author hierarchy.  Popular consensus was they couldn’t cut it with the Big Trade publishers.  Well, with the boom in epublishing, we unknown and novice writers can now take the bull by the horns ourselves in the here and now.  So, that’s the route I’ve chosen.  I choose to be an indie author, solely responsible for the outcome, with total control of my product.  I realize this is a bit of a risk and without a doubt a TON of work.  But, since I have a “day job” to keep me not homeless and not hungry… why not?

Since November, I’ve edited, done beta-reading, dabbled with cover art, scheduled a release date, and started another story.  I am now in the “author platform building” phase of this thing.   (More on that in a future post!)  There’s so much that I’ve learned since November.  There’s so much I still don’t know!  This is my journey.  I hope you’ll join me for the ride.