Friday, July 20, 2018

All Good Things Must End

I'm winding down on my Mind's Eye series. I admit I'm dragging my feet. I've loved being in Levi Wolfe and Trudy Tucker's world. I have loved their romance and now their marriage. #5 in the series -- THROUGH HER TOUCH -- is (or will be in a few days) available on Amazon and I'm writing #6 now (THROUGH HER HEART). 

I thought I'd create a new series, but I'm not so sure now. Series take a lot of planning, thinking, character development, etc. The Mind's Eye is my first one and I originally plotted three books. But the main characters had so much to say and reveal, that I had to expand it to six books. This series had been buzzing in my head for a good ten years, so I had spun a long tale in all that time.

A new series? I have a couple of characters in mind, but I might just place them in a single title romantic suspense novel. I haven't decided. After this series is finished at the end of the year, I'll write a western historical romance. That will "cleanse my palate" for the next contemporary novel, whether it is a single title or the first book in a series.

Marketing a series is also a big task because it is never ending. I'm always trying to tempt readers to read the first one and, hopefully, get hooked and read all the others. It's strange to me how readers can rave about the first book and say they want to read the whole series, but then don't seem to follow through. Maybe there are too many books out there and attention spans are extremely short these days. I've given away at least a hundred copies of the first book in the series and I haven't received a hundred reviews, although most of those people promised to post one. Readers, for the most part, don't understand how important reviews are -- especially for "indie" writers. Even my best friends admit they don't leave reviews. Most of the time they lament that they don't know what to say. I tell them, "Write that you read the book, liked or loved the book, and want to read another book by the author." How hard is that, I ask you?

So, if you're reading this and feeling a pang of guilt. Good! Go write a dang review on Amazon. Not for an author who already has a few thousand of them, but for an author who has fewer than 100 of them! You will give that author a thrill and feel that you've earned a gold star as a reader.

Happy Reading, Everyone!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Thinking It Through

Just Staring and Plotting

When a writer stares off into space, that writer is usually working. A writer acquaintance of mine once told me about how her young daughter -- the child was about seven at the time -- piped up one day and said, "Mommy, I'm going to work like you!" And she sat down at her desk and stared out the window.

What we do takes place in our heads -- in our fertile imaginations. If you don't have an over-active imagination, you'll be hindered as a novelist. Although I had one sibling, I was, for all extents and purposes, an only child because my sister was almost 10 years older than me. Therefore, my closest playmates were in my imagination. In my bedroom or backyard, I acted out whole TV shows and films I'd seen. I was Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, and their horses.

Which brings me back to the point of this. It might look as if we're just sitting and staring, but there is more to it. We're imagining. We should wear a sign that states:Caution! Writer At Work.

I just returned from sitting out on the patio. I went out there for a minute to let the dogs do their thing and I ended up staying there for half an hour because I was working out a tangle in the plot I'm developing. Something about the story was wrong. I couldn't put my finger on it, but I knew that some element wasn't firing properly. Out there on the patio, I finally saw the trees and the forest. My antagonist was wrong. Not nearly frightening enough or disturbed enough. That pivotal character was coming off mild, and that's the kiss of death for a suspense novel. Problem solved. I blinked, realized that the dogs were dancing around me, wanting back inside, and I came back to myself and my desk and untangled the knot in my plot.

That's how it works. Half of writing a book consists of not writing. It consists of staring while your mind whirls, pulling up this plot thread, examining it, casting it off, grabbing another, until you finally find one that you can weave in and out seamlessly to tighten your story. The best outline ever still needs tweaking, revising, and bolstering. That's because as characters take shape and find their own voice in your head, plot points can change. What once made sense for a character is now out of character. Actions taken by a character now are preposterous.  Dialogue spoken by your protagonist suddenly seems forced. So, it's back to sitting and staring or jogging, doing laundry, vacuuming the rug -- it all works. Mindless activity to allow your brain to create scenes, conjure places, and pen dialogue.

As Dee Hock once put it: "Clean out a corner of your mind and creativity will instantly fill it." 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Movie Magic

Hurray for Hollywood!

My writing is often inspired by movies. I don't "rip them off." But I do "riff" on them.
Take my newest historical western romance. It is set in 1881 Arkansas and the first inkling I had of it was in recalling the superb performance of Ruby by Renee Zellweger in "Cold Mountain." While the whole film was memorable, I kept thinking about Ruby and her unfettered spirit. I loved the look of her. Her pouting, take-no-prisoners scowl and her no-nonsense approach to life. She was a survivor, born and bred. She didn't know affection or respect, but she knew how to hang on and never surrender.

I decided to create my own Ruby. I named her Gussie and caught hell for it from my best friend who despised the name. But I had plans for that name. Gussie was born Augusta and became Augusta again in the eyes and heart of Max Lonestar.

Having a heroine who is sharp-tongued and frowny-faced is a tricky feat. You have to find the right balance or a majority of readers aren't going to identify with her or feel sympathy for her. And you really must engage the readers on those counts. Even Scarlett O'Hara had her moments of vulnerability so that readers could glimpse her heart and understand her motivations. You might not approve of Scarlett's choices, but you understood how she came to do what she did.

I found a photo that also inspired me. I've included it on this blog so you can admire it, too. This gal and Renee's Ruby rolled into one to become Gussie. She can be as tough as boot leather, but with the right words and encouragement, she can also purr like a kitten.  I loved writing about her.

That's one of the fun things about writing. Creating and living inside characters. Gussie is more courageous and independent than I am, but she's a dreamer like me and she's a sucker for silly dogs and men with good hearts. She's not the most beautiful girl in the world, but she has a beauty all her own and one that transcends physical attractiveness. She's the kind of woman who will stand next her her man, but never in his shadow. She might give the impression that she doesn't need anyone to help her, but she appreciates a strong shoulder to lean on and a hand up when necessary.

Gussie is a heroine I'm glad I finally pulled out of my mind's dust bucket and brought to life in her own book. Thanks to novelist Charles Frazier and actress Renee Zellweger, I found a mote of an idea, grabbed it, and created a whole book around it.

I hope  you enjoy reading Lonestar's Lady as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Can You Hear Me Now?

Audio Book Adventure

Several years ago, Audible, my literary agent, and I worked out a deal for Audible to buy audio rights to my back list. It was a swell deal and I jumped at it. While I wasn't crazy about the covers they selected or some of the narrators, in general, I've been happy with the results.

After I'd done two books for my Mind's Eye romantic suspense series, I had my agent approach Audible about them purchasing rights to it. They declined and suggested I do it myself. That is, commission the audio books all on my lonesome. In other words, you pay for it, not us paying you this time. I could understand this. When they purchased my back list, they were growing their library. Their library is humongous now.

So, I put out the word through Audible that I was looking for a narrator and I'd do a royalty split with them. One person answered my summons and I wasn't thrilled with her "take" on Levi and Trudy. I passed. A year or so goes by and I'm still wishing I could get the first Mind's Eye book done as an audio book. This time I put out a summons for a narrator, but I will pay up front -- per hour. A LOT per hour.

That did the trick! I received a dozen or more auditions. Now, I'm picky when it comes to Levi Wolfe and Trudy Tucker (the main characters). I make a big deal about Levi having a raspy voice in the books. Therefore, I had promised myself I wouldn't go through with the audio book unless I could find someone who could do a sexy male voice and a good female voice. I listened to the auditions and marked most of them "Nope" and a few "Maybe." Then I heard marvelous Matt Haynes. (Pardon me while I swoon.) Oh, jeez. I was in author heaven! He nailed the voices. All of them. What a talent!

Therefore, I grimaced only slightly when I paid him after his wonderful work was done. Through His Eyes is now a spectacular audio book, available on Amazon, Audible, iTunes, etc. I'm so proud of it and I loved every minute working with Matt on it. It was so much fun I can hardly wait to do it again. I'm saving my pennies, putting every extra dollar aside to "produce" the next one -- Through His Touch -- with Matt, of course.

Go give it a listen. You can "sample" it free!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Writing for Yourself

Learning to Soar    

Write what you know. That's what we're told when we begin writing fiction. Usually, we're kids then and don't know a heck of a lot. So, that advice goes out the window real quick.

Write what you like to read. This is what we're told when we're taking matters seriously and trying to get published. Even then, it's kind of bogus. I recall wanting to write a vampire series and being told by my agent and several editors that vampires weren't selling. Just from looking at books in bookstores I could tell that was bunk. Vampire books never go out of fashion, right along with loner cowboys and damsels in distress. But I was discouraged enough to put aside my vampire dreams because "those in the know" had decided that what I liked to read was dead. (Forgive the pun.)

Write what you'd like to be reading. Ah. Now we're talking. This is the best directive you can give to writers and it will save them a lot of trial and error as they attempt to write what they know and then try to emulate what they're reading. 

Writing what you would like to be reading fills a void and, therefore, makes your novel different enough to stand apart from all others. Why? Because it has your unique fingerprints on it. You aren't encumbered with only relating what you've personally experienced or by trying to fit your ideas and characters into a neat, prefabricated box that other authors have constructed. You are writing a book from your head, your heart, and your own creative imagination.

You pay homage to other writers' styles by using them as scaffold while you construct your story and create your characters. No doubt, you're comfortable enough with a specific genre to use it as a blueprint. Beyond that, you're free to entertain yourself.

Ask bestselling authors and most will tell you that their "big breakthrough" novel was one that they'd wanted to write for some time, but they were either discouraged to do so or they weren't brave enough to attempt it for a few years. However, once they shook off the bindings and wrote what they really wanted to write, they made believers out of the nonbelievers.

My advice? Once you know your craft and yourself, don't worry so much about what others think you should write. Write your story the way you want it written. You won't please everyone and you might even write a book that most of your acquaintances won't read, but someone will read it -- and love it. Many someones just like you are waiting to read your next book, even if they don't know it yet.

 As Garrison Keillor says, "Be brave and do good work." Excellent advice.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Here, Take it, It's Free

Freebies. Why That Still Smarts.

Giving books away has been a no-no in my life ever since I was first published. It was drummed into me by other authors to NEVER give away your work -- except to your mother and maybe some siblings (providing they actually read books). So, now that every expert in the field of book marketing is telling me to "GIVE AWAY YOUR BOOKS," I find it very unsettling and not an easy thing to do.

But I'm doing it. (gulp)

Not all of of my books, mind you, but one and sometimes two of them. The powers-that-be call this "baiting" or "magnet books" that attract readers to your body of work. Yes, I'm used to sending out ARCS (advance reader copies) in hopes of getting a review or two out of them, but giving books to readers is a new activity for me.

I understand how it works to build your reader base and get them talking about your books. When I go onto Goodreads and see people asking if anyone knows of any good westerns or romantic suspense series, I fume. Why? Because Goodreads doesn't allow authors to jump in there and write, "Read mine! They're fabulous!" Nope. You can't do that. You must remain on author pages where you can post your new book or cover or whatever and hope that readers migrate there to see it. Fat chance.

So, I've jumped onto the freebie bandwagon and have been sending my books to people left and right, free of charge. I'm also going to begin offering a novella of mine to anyone who signs up for my elite readers group or my elite Facebook group. 

Of course, if you're a KU member (Kindle Unlimited) you can get my books for free any old time you want. However, it's alarming to discover how few reviewers are KU members. This is, of course, because they don't ever buy books, so they sure aren't going to pay for a KU membership.

It's also odd to discover people who STILL don't read ebooks, for whatever reason. Most of the time, it's because they say they can't afford an ereader. This seems preposterous to me. You can buy a Kindle Fire for $50 and get books, movies, email, etc. on it. That will SAVE you money, in the long-run. Especially, if you're one of those people who never pays for books, but gets them free on various online sites. Spend  $50 and not another dime to read thousands of books. Yes, the majority of those free books suck. But, hey. They're free, so quit whining.

If one out of five people I have sent books to actually leaves reviews of them on Amazon and/or Goodreads, I will be a freebie convert for life. If not? I'll still keep giving them to readers in hopes that some of them will enjoy them so much they will want to read more of my books. Gee. They might even want to BUY one!