Indie Gems

This past week was a great one to be an Indie author. It started with me participating in a birthday bash on the Pretty Little Pages blog. The creator, Kristen, was celebrating her own birthday by celebrating her favorite Indie authors. I was lucky enough to be one of them.(There is still a fantastic giveaway going on over there until September 2nd!)

Kristen is one of the somewhat rare group of reviewers who not only will accept and review self-published work, but she is actively promoting good Indie authors. She really is at the front of the pack doing work that takes more time and effort, but I believe, gives bigger rewards. Of the hundreds of review requests a blogger receives each week, many will be poorly edited books with weak story lines from self-published authors. There are a ton of them out there because it’s amazingly easy to put a book on Amazon. But hidden in this huge pile are a few real gems, books with strong stories, great characters, solid editing and a unique perspective. Kristen has taken the time and (huge) effort to find these. When you are looking for your next book, check out her blog for suggestions.

But being part of this esteemed group also made me remember one of the best reasons you should give Indie authors a try – we take risks, we present new and refreshing perspectives and unique stories. Publishing houses are not taking risks right now. Their hundreds-of-years-old business model is crumbling quickly in the electronic age and they are not about to invest time and money in anything unique, risky or different. They want tried, true, established, (cliche, formulaic). 

I started writing because I wanted to read something new. I love romance books, but I just couldn’t take one more syrupy-sweet heroine and her bad-boy (more like asshole) hero who try and sell me that they are in love when I’m getting chapter after chapter of nothing but descriptions about how hot they both are. I wrote the book I wanted to read. And so did a lot of other writers. And they are good. 

This week inspired me to keep writing, to get more connected to other Indie authors and keep building our community and to support the Indie authors that I love. From working with review blogs I’ve discovered a few gems myself. If you are looking for a Labor Day weekend read why not give one of these a try. And if you are as impressed as I was, please leave them a review and help spread the word.

Knockout by Tracey Ward.  I am only 40% into this book and it is my first by this author, but I am already impressed. I had to force myself to stop reading in order to write this post. It will be a struggle all day to keep myself from getting lost in this story. Fantastic drama, great characters, so far a good story line.

 

Archer’s Voice by Mia Sheridan. This is a truly sweet love story that will not make you nauseous. The author manages to create a heart-warming, unique story that never crosses the line into sappy. Completely unique characters in a story that had me yelling at my kindle, hoping for a happy ending. 

Tangled by Emma Chase. This romance is completely written from the male perspective and its a good thing because if you didn’t know what was going on in this guy’s head you would hate him. As it is, you get a truly funny perspective on love and lust. The heroine is also one of my favorites. She is witty, smart, strong, real. 

 

Frenched by Melanie Harlow. I not only fell in love with these characters, I fell in love (again) with Paris. 

Happy Reading!


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Viva The Self-Pub Revolution

I remember when I first heard of the idea of self-publishing. In the late 80’s it was still a theory or prediction, but it was an exciting one. Desktop publishing loomed as a possibility for anyone and everyone with a home computers and I was enthralled with the idea of creativity without gatekeepers. We were told it will be possible to create your own music, movies, professional photographs and print work and get it out to the public. It seems so mundane and obvious now, but the idea was truly freeing and revolutionary.


I didn’t grow up in a ‘if you can dream it you can do it’ kind of world. People who dreamed of doing something big were usually told to grow up, get a dose of reality and stop wasting time on artsy-fartsy stuff – unless you want to live in a cardboard box on the side of the road for the rest of your life. While I loved the idea of a creative revolution, it didn’t seem to apply to me. That was until I hit my mid-life crazy and decided I wanted to join the revolution.

I tell you all this background now so you will understand how excited and committed I am to the self-publishing revolution. As I have gotten more involved with the online community of authors I was surprised at the number who may be self-published right now, but only until a publisher comes along to deem them “a real writer.” In a way I get it. It wasn’t that long ago that the only way to be a writer was to have your work smiled upon by the gods of the traditional publishing industry. If that happened, it was a HUGE accomplishment and the writer could bask in the glow of being one of the lucky few. 

Would I like to have that glow? Not really. (Liar, some of you hiss). It means so much more to me to be part of this revolution. The only draw a publishing house had for me was an editor and marketing. While a company-supplied editor would still be nice, I’ve learned that the marketing machine is reserved for the use of those at the top (an executive bathroom privilege of sorts). New authors are asked to show up with tens of thousands of followers on self-created social media platforms. If I’m going to create that on my own, I might as well keep going and do it all myself. I’m not even sure how I would get all those followers before publishing my first book. It looks like the current formula is for an author to self-publish, build a following, then present themselves at the publishing house alter to humbly ask to be called an author. 

I get that it’s lonely and scary to do all this alone. My ratio of scared-s**tless to confident days is still running around 30/70. But the same social media that puts me in touch with readers is also connecting me with other writers and a boat-load of resources to make it all so much easier. 

I’m in this for so much more than just sharing my work right now. I want to see where this revolution goes. I want to see how the world changes for other potential authors, people who were told that their dream of writing was a one-way ticket to disappointment and abstract poverty. It’s not easy and most of us have to work more than one job to get started, but being part of something so huge and empowering is worth it to me. 

So to all the book bloggers, reviewers, #amwriting tweeters, Goodreads Indie author supporters, writing coaches, and yes, even Amazon; I say thank you – and vive la revolution!


I’m Not Working

The other morning I woke up before my kids and I let them sleep in since they are on summer break. The house was quiet (for once) and I even had control of the TV. So what did I do with this magic time? I worked (sort of).

What I did was write some on Popstars, Friends and Lovers (my second novel), and connect with all the writer/reader people I have met through social media. Technically I guess it was work, but I didn’t do it out of obligation or a need to reach a certain goal. I did it because there was really nothing else I wanted to do more. I’ve reached the mythical place where work isn’t work.  

Jeff Foxworthy mentioned this phenomenon once. He talked about having so much fun doing comedy that he couldn’t believe that someone was actually going to pay him to do it. I remember thinking that was a fantastic pie-in-the-sky idea.  I didn’t know people who lived like that.  I always thought a job was something you had to do, usually something you got stuck doing, and definitely something you complained about doing on a regular basis.  

Now writing has fallen into a strange new category for me. It seems too fun to be my “job” but it’s important that I make it my “job”. If I don’t see it as my primary occupation, it can easily be pushed aside and fall off the top of my priority list. It could smother and die under a pile of other stuff. 

There are those who might argue that I’m not really working. That I’m just pursuing a hobby or chasing a dream. My writing paycheck couldn’t even support my coffee habit, yet. But they are missing the big picture perspective I have. I can see the next nine novels I will write already sketched out in my head. I can see the growing number of people who have read my first novel and want to read the next (and hopefully more after that). I can see more and more days in my future where I am not working, but I’m having a blast doing what I love doing.

 

High As A Kite I Just Might Stop To Check You Out

How I see Steve **

Long title today, but I couldn’t resist the Violent Femmes reference.  It goes with the territory I’ve been in lately.  I’m working on Popstars, Friends & Lovers the sequeal to Burnouts, Geeks & Jesus Freaks: a love story. So I’m spending a lot of time with my favorite burnout, Steve Shrader. He is often high as a kite and today’s the day we will stop to check him out. 

In a way Steve is the Midwest version of Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. He’s the funny, charming guy who cruises through high school on a perpetual high. Other students think he’s funny and teachers like him more than they would ever admit.  That is definitely part of this character and the side that he shows the world. But as book one progresses and into book two we learn that he is so much more complicated that what he lets you see.

A big part of his character is that he loves girls. Sure all guys say they do, but it borders on obsession with Steve. (See my 10/3/13 post – A Primer on Men Who Love Women) This overwhelming need to connect to females comes from the lack of any female in his early life. He’s never known his mother and only briefly connected to one of his dad’s girlfriends. He spends time with and studies girls. He flirts with any female he comes across because he loves to make them smile. And all that studying and flirting make him an amazing lover, even at sixteen. He’s not a player, looking to see how many girls he can score with. He’s an aficionado of all things female who can’t resist getting to study the objects of his desire.  

And the one he connects with most is MG. His laid back side is drawn to her hell-bent need to have fun. He’s her perfect partner in crime, willing to go along and support all her schemes. He’s more than happy to just bask in her glow, never needing the spotlight she craves. But MG wants more from life than he can (or is willing to) offer. 

Book two is Steve and MG’s story, but also a story about dreams. The problem with Steve is that he just doesn’t have any. He was raised without expectations or permission to hope for anything more than a third shift life moving boxes at a warehouse. His laid back nature works against him and he just lets life happen to him. Until something pushes him to take the reins of his own life and go after what he truly dreams of. 

The surprising side to Steve Shrader is his passion. I can’t wait for everyone to get to see this side of him this November when I tell his story.  

Working from Your Gut

I’ve written a few blog posts about working alone, at home.  I have three jobs (Mom, Writer and Instructor) and none require I actually go to an office.  There are drawbacks, loneliness being the biggest one, but that is eclipsed by the benefits.  I love my flexible schedule and non-existent work uniform, the quiet work area and fully stocked lunch room.

Having so much flexibility can be great, but it really puts all the weight on my shoulders to get results and define what kind of results I want.  It’s an exciting challenge but I’m starting to get a better feel of the daily choices necessary to be a CEO.  I’m having to filter out more than I let in or I’ll just keep spinning my wheels in place.

I have fallen into the wide sea of book marketing sources.  Once you put it out there that you are a self-published author, idea and programs start pouring in to help you market your book.  Some of it is great, some of it is crap, and I could spend (waste?) days sorting through it all.  At some point I have to stop researching, make some decision and move forward.  Of course, the minute I do I receive a new article telling me that the option I just chose was the worst one another author ever used.  (frowney face)

I have definitely made some mistakes while self-publishing and most have been due to a lack of information. It gets tempting to over-read and over-research my next move when I run into one of these errors.  I could easily get into a mobius-strip cycle where I might think I was getting somewhere, only to find I’m actually just running in circles.  

But I’ve learned another thing along the way (this just recently). I have to listen to my gut, to the way something feels, and base my decisions on that.  What was a bad move for one author, might not be for me.  Books are like fingerprints, each unique, so they need a fingerprint marketing plan.  I created my book so I am the only one who can get a “feel” if I am on the right track.  

By self-publishing I moved myself from worker bee to CEO.  No one can give me a list of tasks that need to be completed.  There is something so satisfying about crossing tasks off a to-do list and patting yourself on the back that you are on track.  But it is so much more satisfying to study, research, plan, implement, analyze then start over again, learning from my mistakes along the way.  I’m developing my CEO gut instincts with each move I make and it’s a thrill ride. 

MG Ulrich – Pot stirrer, boat rocker, purveyor of fun

There has to be one in every group (or at least any group worth belonging to).  She’s the one who looks for trouble (otherwise known as fun) then grabs a few friends and brings them along for the ride.  In “Burnouts, Geeks & Jesus Freaks: a love story” that girl is MG Ulrich.  

Although not based on any one specific person, I knew MG in high school.  These were girls who were pied pipers, leading willing followers astray. They either knew where the great parties were, or they created one.  They were unpredictable, creative and usually lucky in life.  All MG traits.  

The fact that MG has never used her given name gives some insight into her personality.  She is her own person and creates the world the way she wants it to be. Her style changes with her whims. She lives in the present and doesn’t let things like not knowing her father or other negatives in her past effect her. She also gives little thought to her future. With no specific plans she is happy to tag along on her mom’s dreams and just see where life takes her.  

Her friends are her family, and that includes her mom. Only seventeen years apart, they are more friends than parent and child.  This gives her too much freedom, but it also develops her sense of self-sufficiency. She may not do it in a traditional (or safe) way, but MG can take care of herself and others.  She is a cheerleader (sometimes literally) for her friends. 

People are drawn to her good looks and energetic personality and she gets a lot of perks in life. She is aware of her windfall and loves to share it with her friends. 

She may not know where she wants to go in her future, but she knows what she doesn’t want. Like her mother she loves luxury and a very comfortable life. Anything that might keep her from that life is ruled out, including love. At seventeen she sees obvious and attainable benefits in material gratification and love as a dangerous distraction. 

Although her fate is hinted at in “Burnouts, Geeks & Jesus Freaks”, the details of her story and that of her friend/boyfriend/lover Steve won’t be known ’til book two, “Popstars, Friends & Lovers” – October 2014.  

 #  ♪ ☺ ♥

Carrie is Complex (but don’t tell her you know)

Actress Sarah Bolger would make a great Carrie* 

Like so much in “Burnouts, Geeks & Jesus Freaks: a love story” Carrie Gould is average and plain on the surface.  She is average looking, has average grades and comes from an typical suburban family.  That’s the way the world sees her and she likes it that way.  But only because she has to work to keep up the appearance of average, typical and normal.

Carrie was one of the most complex characters that I created and I was tempted to tell the story in first person from her point of view because she keeps so much of who she really is under wraps.  In the end it was more challenging and a better story to let her conflicted, complex self come through in her actions (and sometimes her thoughts).  

Her struggles mainly come from her home life.  Her mother has strong narcissistic tendencies and her father is emotionally disconnected.  That combination of personalities plus her parent’s odd, but lasting marriage creates a world for Carrie that is internally dysfunctional yet easily appears unblemished to outsiders.  Her scars are all internal, invisible to everyone.

The conflict between her outward appearance and internal struggles are played out in her social life.  Only those who know her well understand why she feels more connected to the burnout kids.  Although her family is physically intact, it is emotionally just as broken as the kids who are missing parents and their support.

Her conflict is further complicated (and hidden) by the fact that she is generally a happy person and spends a lot of time laughing with her friends.  As is often the case with kids from broken or damaged homes, Carrie’s friends replace what is missing in her life.  They give her the pep talks and support she doesn’t get at home.  

Carrie’s personality was also created as the perfect contrast to Ben’s.  She’s as impulsive as he is regimented.  She pushes him to lighten up and he gives her stability.  He is the Yin to her Yang; together making each a better person. 

The final elements I added to her character was the internal strength that emerges when life puts her to the test through her marriage.  The silver lining to having grown up in an unstable home is her ability to handle chaos and keep working when everything is falling apart around her.  

I get more compliments on Carrie than any other character.  She is the most relatable and readers tell me they feel like they knew her in high school.  Which is a huge compliment to me.  It feels great to have created such a complex, yet real, character.

*Note* I did an interview that will appear on the Pretty Little Pages blog.  I was asked to choose actors who could play each character.  See all my choices on June 2nd.