Friday, December 20, 2013

The Adventure Begins!

Okay, so I didn't quite make my goal of getting this book online by October 31 of this year. One thing I've learned about goals is that it's unproductive to spend time on regrets, Wouldas, shouldas and couldas can eat a person alive. 

So yesterday I uploaded my first work of fiction onto Amazon and thus begins the real adventure into self-publishing. Earlier this year, I put up one of my workshops for writers and that's been selling pretty well so far. My next project will be to get another workshop on Amazon. But my first love is writing fiction, so in my head this is where it really starts to count.

Oh, I know I'm a bit late coming to the indie dance, but I'm here now and that's what matters, right? Not only is this the first work of fiction I'm publishing on my own, it is literally my first work of fiction. It's the book that started it all when I got an offer from a publisher back in 1993. No Place for Secrets is the book that launched my publishing career 20 years ago, so it will always have a special place in my heart.

In an effort to figure out the world of independent publishing, I've spent time researching and reading what others who've gone this route have already learned. I've weighed the pros and cons of every choice and then I've tried not to agonize over the choices I've made. I thought about changing up the titles, but after brainstorming new titles for several weeks, I finally decided to stick with the original ones. I found a slew of titles I liked, but none that worked for good old Fred, Doc, Enos, and Margaret.

Over the past few weeks, I read through the manuscript again and made some minor revisions. I thought about updating the story and making it more current, but at the request of readers I opted to leave Fred and his friends in the mid-1990s where they belong. In fact, other than shaving off a few of the rough edges I found in my writing style, I left the story alone.

So it's up there on Amazon and now it's time to step back and let the story do the work. If this series is new to you, I hope you'll give Fred and the good folks of Cutler a try. If you're one of the many readers who considers these characters friends, I hope you'll enjoy going back to visit them as much as I did.

Monday, October 21, 2013

100 Books: #19 The Winter Lodge

Okay, I'll admit, I sometimes (almost always) judge a book by its cover -- and this one really appeals to me. Honestly, that's the very first thing that made me stop scrolling through the books on my goodreads shelf and pick this book to move from my very, very (embarrassingly) long to-be-read list onto my shorter Plan to Read Before the Next Millennium list.

The second thing is the author. It's by Susan Wiggs. Susan. Wiggs! Have I ever been disappointed by one of her books? Not that I remember. Nope. Pretty sure I haven't been.

And yes, since moving to Florida, I actually do miss winter. At least, I miss the idea of winter. I don't miss the reality of snow and ice and slick roads and falling on my way to my car, but I do miss the idea of snow and cold air and warm fires in the fireplace and the appealing glow of a well-lit house on a cold winter evening, And that brings us back to the cover, which has it all!

So The Winter Lodge finds it way onto my list of 100 Books I Want to Read at #19.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Random Thought on Thursday

The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right place but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.
-- Dorothy Nevill
Found on the in other words... site. 

Isn't that the truth? 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Road to . . .

I have the very best of intentions. Really, I do. I begin every year vowing to be a better family member, a better friend, a better author. I vow to buy birthday cards for those closest to me and (better yet) actually mail them—on time! I know! The very concept leaves me breathless.

Every year I promise myself that I’ll blog regularly and fill the internet with witty chatter about my interesting life (the one I vow I’m going to have this year) and all my amazing activities (the ones I swear I’m going to actually participate in.)

And then reality sets in and 10 months later I’m looking at all the things I promised myself faithfully that I’d do this year, but haven’t, and I wonder what happened???

Sure, there’s work to do and books to write and the house to clean and the dog to walk and the cat to continually move from my lap to the floor so I can actually do all of those things. And there are illnesses and emergencies that get in the way. But not every day, and not all the time. So what happened?

I used to be one of the most prolific authors I knew. I was focused. Dedicated. Determined. That was okay, but I was also . . . rude. I rolled my eyes at excuses and thought that anybody could write three or four really good books a year if only they’d put their mind to it. I was convinced that anybody who was struggling to write must not really want to write.

Yeah. I know. I apologize to every writer in the entire world. I’m not joking.

I was one of those people you asked to take on a project because, as we all know, if you want something done you give it to a busy person. I worked three jobs at a time, or worked two and went to school in my spare time. I was a single mom, so raising the kids, running the house, keeping up the yard, and bringing home the bacon fell on my shoulders alone. I had to do it all, and I did. (Admittedly, I fell a bit short on some things. I mean, c’mon. It’s impossible to do everything well, right? Right? So let’s not talk about the yard, okay?)

But for the past few years I’ve felt as if I’m on the proverbial road to hell and that road really is paved with my good intentions. Somewhere along the way I hit the wall. I spent so long burning the candle at both ends that, apparently, the ends finally met in the middle.
I also encountered a few very challenging life experiences, a couple of which shattered my entire world. It has taken me a long, l-o-n-g time (and a whole lot of prayer) to find my way back from those. Back in my “everybody can write if they really want to” days, I didn’t factor in those earth-shaking, rock-your-world, leave you empty and shaking in the corner things that eventually happen to all of us.

I’ve always been an avid list-maker and goal-setter. But now, instead of producing long lists of tasks I’ve accomplished every day, I find myself staring at long lists of tasks I haven’t managed to complete. Lists are no longer my friend, they’re my guilty conscience.

461349dac5c52e68fd4fb4c90cf313f8But no matter how it happened, it’s way past time to get back on track. And I mean it this time.

Maybe I can’t fill the internet with witty chatter about my interesting and varied activities, but I can be honest about where I am and what I’m doing to pull myself up by my bootstraps.

Today I’m going to declare a dream and write it down with a date. My plan is to read through the very first book I ever wrote, which is also the first book I sold way back when. I recently got the rights to that series along with the rights to a few of my romances back from my publisher, and I’m going to release them all in Kindle format. That’s my big dream, but let’s take it one at a time.

Dream: Start with No Place for Secrets.

Date: Publish the book by October 31, 2013. That makes it a firm goal.

Steps: Since this book was written back in the olden days, everything after the first draft was done in hard copy, so the manuscript on my computer needs some work before it matches the finished product. So my steps are to read and polish one chapter at a time and celebrate the tiny victories along the way.
I remember this from back in the day: celebrating a small victory leads to more small victories. Repeatedly beating oneself up over small failures leads to inertia.

Action: Well … that’s pretty obvious. Now that I have my Grand Master Plan, I have to do the work. My plan is to track the steps here on my website, chapter by chapter, to keep me accountable. Steps + Action.
As for those birthday cards … my oldest niece has a birthday coming up later this month. I could wait until the beginning of the year and start over then, but why wait? I say, begin right where you are.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Sugar Cookie Follow-up

Yesterday I posted about a recipe that caught my eye while I was poking around on Pinterest. It's a recipe for a sugar cookie bar that (allegedly) tasted just like one of my favorite guilty pleasures, the gas-station sugar cookie (also known as Granny B's). At the very moment I was blogging about my love of Granny B's most amazing cookie and the recipe I'd found that was supposed to taste just like it, some very dear friends (honorary nieces, really) were trying to stir up a batch of sugar cookies for the Wednesday night class they teach at church. Unfortunately, the project wasn't going all that well.

Their mom saw my blog post, printed off the recipe, and the twins started over. I'm delighted to announce that not only did the sugar cookie bar recipe work much better than the cookie recipe they were trying to follow, but (dear, wonderful young women that they are) they saved a couple for me so I could see whether they lived up to my hopes that they'd successfully satisfy a Granny B's craving.

The verdict? Yum!!!!!!!

Will the recipe satisfy a craving for those of us who live in locations where Granny B's isn't available? I say a resounding yes!

Thank you High Heels and Grills!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Guilty Pleasures: The Gas Station Sugar Cookie

Okay. I'll admit it. I love those sugar cookies you find at the gas station. You know the ones, don't you? They're slathered with thick pink frosting and individually wrapped. I'm not sure why I like them so much. I shouldn't like them, but I do. I never try to make them, even though I've thought about it a gazillion times. A homemade sugar cookie is bound to be better than the gas station variety, isn't it?

Trouble is, in order to make a sugar cookie good enough to satisfy my Granny B's craving, I'd have to make the cookie dough, roll out the dough, cut the cookies, and bake them. Then there's the whole frosting issue. Can I just buy it in a can, or would I have to make a homemade frosting? And if the frosting had to be homemade, did I even have a recipe that would be good enough to top the cookies if I went to all the trouble to make them?

So when I stumbled across this recipe for sugar cookie bars on Pinterest this morning, everything else flew right out of my head. I couldn't get back to work until I'd pinned the recipe and made sure the pin actually took me to the recipe (a consistent problem on Pinterest. Is there anything more frustrating than pinning a recipe or a DIY project, going back to it with hopes high, only to discover the pin takes you either to a warning that the page is unsafe or a picture without recipe and/or instructions???)

So, for anyone like me who would love to make a good pink-frosted sugar cookie without the muss and fuss, this link should take you right to High Heels & Grills, the blog where I found the recipe.

You're welcome :-))

Now it's your turn? What's your favorite guilty pleasure?

Friday, October 26, 2012

To Buy or Not to Buy

I've been browsing the free books available for Kindle and Nook lately. I've picked up a few along the way, which is great, but mostly I've been learning about my buying habits as a reader. I've learned, for example, that sometimes even a big fat nothing is more than I'm willing to pay for a book. That seems a bit odd, even to me. I mean, I'm a book addict. Big time. You'd think I'd happily score every free book I could get my hands on. And yet I don't.

Here's what I've realized about what attracts me to a book and what puts me off. Okay, mostly what puts me off. As a bona fide book addict, I'll admit that if it doesn't put me off, it can be counted as attractive to me.

1. Covers do matter. Unless I recognize your name, if your cover was obviously put together on your computer using Paint, I'm probably going to pass. That's not a guarantee, but it's a high probability. Likewise, if your cover is obviously a generic cover you've purchased from someone else, I'm likely to pass. The probability of this is lower than it is for the Paint cover, or a cover without graphics, but it is likely. The good news is that in the case of a generic paste-in-your-title-and-name cover, I may click through to read the back cover blurb if it appears to be in a genre I like to read, but unless the cover copy really grabs me, I'm probably still going to pass. Yes, it's true that you can't (always) judge a book by its cover, but the fact that this saying exists at all is proof that a lot of people do.

2. Your cover copy matters. A lot. If your cover copy is poorly written and/or grammatically incorrect, it's a definite pass for me. I might be a book addict, but I'm a demanding reader. Back before I knew the industry lingo, I would frequently stop reading a book if the writing felt "obvious" to me. That's the term I used then. Now I realize it's a combination of several things including telling more than showing, heavy-handed emotions, purple prose, and author intrusion. But before I even get to that point with your book, you have to convince me to read page one. If it's obvious to me from the cover copy that you don't know how to use the language, that you don't understand basic grammar, or that you don't know how to edit your own work, I'll skip right past your book and never look back.

3. Titles matter. One of the reasons publishers have marketing departments is to create titles with appeal to many readers. Appeal that we, as writers, don't always understand. For most of us, marketing is not what we're good at, even if we think we are. Too many of us come up with titles we think are amazing, but in reality they're quite generic, uninteresting, and unimaginative. Oh, we think the title is appealing. We might even think it's unique. We wouldn't put the thing on our book if we didn't. But I have discovered that if your title is something like Tripping and it's book 1 in the Tripping Series, and especially if your protagonist is named John Tripping, I'm likely to pass on the book even if it's free. Why? Because I've realized that  if your title and your series are the same -- and especially if you've used the same word three times -- I come away with the impression that you're not very imaginative. Is this true of you? Maybe not. But that's my first impression.

4. First impressions matter. I wish they didn't, but they do.

5. Price matters. Yes, I know we're talking about free books here, but I've identified another knee-jerk reaction when I'm considering whether to click through and "buy" a book for nothing. I have realized that I am much more interested in a free book if the original cover price is listed as $5.99 or higher. If the cover price is $12.99 or $14.99 I'm almost giddy over the chance to get it for nothing. If the original cover price is $2.99 -- or worse, $0.99 -- my initial impression is that the book probably hasn't been professionally edited, which means the writing is likely to be "obvious" and I'm not interested. Is this always true? Maybe. Maybe not. I'm not talking about reality here. I'm talking about my initial reaction to what I see on the screen.

I don't know if any of this matters to you, but it gives me a lot of food for thought. I haven't yet put any of my own backlist out there in e-book format, probably because life got really hard a couple of years ago and I'm struggling just to catch up with where I'm supposed to be. But I've been thinking about re-releasing my backlist and one of these days I'll probably do it. And that makes what I'm learning about myself and my buying habits, my reactions to other peoples' books, very interesting to me.

And now I'd love to hear from you. Am I the only one who passes up what might be a perfectly good book based on first impressions? I'd love to know what attracts you (or doesn't) when you're trying to decide whether to click on that free book.