Sunday, January 31, 2016

Contests and Contest Answer

     Count this as my February blog because there won't be another one until March. You see, I donated an e-copy of She's a Sinner to The Romance Reviews for their month long Valentine's Day party. I seldom donate to these affairs as giving away one book probably won't make a difference one way or the other, and I am asked so often for free copies. In the e-world , your publisher does not give you boxes of paperbacks to give away for promotion.  You have to buy them at about $10 a piece, so it can get expensive. I can, however, give an e-copy for free.  The Romance Reviews (TRR) has been good to me and put up three positive reviews of my books (no, not all five stars, but good), and so I am happy to contribute to their party. Now let me cheat a little and do a cut and paste of what other goodies they are offering.
     The Mega Anniversary and Valentine's Party starts on February 1 at 12:00am EST. 
 We have more than 300 participating authors and publishers.  There are more than 300 prizes up for grabs during the whole month of February. Grand prize is $200 Amazon Gift Certificate! Plus over $300 Gift Certificates and more than 300 book giveaways!
     Caveat: You do have to join their site to win a prize.
     To win She's a Sinner, you must answer the following question: In which Sinners Sport Romance does Xochi first appear.  You see, my sports books aren't just about sex and football, love and romance, but also about family and friendship as they follow for five books from Goals for a Sinner to Love Letter for a Sinner the career of Joe Dean Billodeaux, a quarterback, from his backup days to his retirement as a legendary player. The spin off Sinner's Legacy series is following the lives of his twelve children, the first two being Son of a Sinner and She's a Sinner which will be up for grabs on February first.  Xochi appears in both books, but first makes her appearance as a child in Kicks for a Sinner.  There's your answer.  Made you read a lot, huh?  But, I also hope I've encouraged you read the whole Sinner series.  Good luck.  May you win many prizes and not only mine. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

A Writer's Resolutions

     Yes, I confess every January I make resolutions regarding my writing career. I've long given up on losing weight and going to the gym more often. Last year worked out pretty much the same as dieting and exercise.  I did not get an agent or make more money on my writing and so have consigned them to resolutions I will never keep.  I did get three books out as I promised myself: Courir de Mardi Gras, Son of a Sinner, and She's a Sinner.  Not looking so good for this year, but I will try to do the same number.  I know I've got a start on publishing three since A Will of her Own comes out in April, I think.  But, my other two projects for this year, A Place Apart and The Courville Rose, have failed to find a publisher--yet.  It could still happen, so that is my number one resolution.
     Number two is to find new publishers offering a greater range of books.  I'm not at all unhappy with my current publisher, but they only do romance.  I'm a little tired of being told I can only have two POVs, his and hers.  I'm not talking about on the same page, but in a 100,000 word book. Some of my books are more mainstream fiction or women's fiction and don't always fit the romance template.  I need more elbow room.
     Number Three: enter the Rita Contest.  In fact, I've done this already.  I don't expect to win or even final, but I figure if five judges read my book, they might like it enough to read others or maybe drop me a review. I did this with one of the entries I read--because you have to be a judge to enter.  None of the five books in my box were bad.  I'd say they were all well-written, but when the contest was over, I did write a review for my favorite.  Also, I suspect those books are passed on to friends or library book sales, or in my case for raffle baskets for my RWA chapter and so reach more readers. Wish I could chip them like lost pets and see where they go. By the way if you are a PAN member of RWA, I highly recommend being a judge even if you don't enter.  Lots of good free reads, and you might discover a new favorite author.
     Number Four:  Find a home for my Regency series of a projected ten books, eight of which are written and languishing in a closet.  I never wrote the last two because the Sinners books and other projects took off and I simply haven't had the time do shop the series or do the research for the last two though I have plot ideas.  I'll have to get used to rejection again, and this slows me down.  This is when an agent would come in handy, but that's not on my list anymore.  Might as well get rejected directly by the publisher and save some time.
     Five: Get more reviews.  Not so easy anymore with floods of indie and e-published authors entering the fray. Prestigious review sources cleave to big New York publishers and don't have the time or inclination to sort through the piles of other authors. My two attempts to attract their attention resulted in, well, nothing. Sent two books out into the void, and they never showed up in reviews. I understand ten solid reviews is the magic number to get on Amazon's radar or attract publishers.  Many of my earlier books have exceeded this number, but lately I'm lucky to get one even on a new Sinners title, my most popular books.  I'd love to see Queen of the Mardi Gras Ball reach ten.  She's at nine now.  This is one of my best books.  If you've read and enjoyed it, please give her the boost of that tenth review.  Thanks in advance.
      Meanwhile, my publisher has invested in NetGalley, a very expensive proposition that exposes books to multiple review sources. Each author chipped in $40 for one title. I think the overall price is $500, pretty steep for most of us. I can verify that I've gotten one review for She's a Sinner from this effort, and it was a good one, five stars. There might have been another, but they didn't cite NetGalley so I'm not sure. I'd say if you have $500, might be worth a try.
     Five resolutions is enough for anyone. I'd better get back to finishing An Ashy Affair, or there won't be three books out this year.  When that is done, I might take a vacation some place my 2015 writing income will pay for--but my husband will have to pay his own way.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

What Keeps Me from Writing

     What keeps me from writing isn't writer's block. I've never experienced that. The reverse problem applies: too many ideas and not knowing which to attack next. Mostly, I want to talk about issues that every writer will face sooner or later, and I had a bunch of them this year as did friends of mine.
      I experienced the full circle of life in the past twelve months. My first granddaughter came into the world in the spring. A week of writing was traded for rocking a fretting newborn and making an Easter celebration for the older child, well worth the time. In June, the death of my elderly mother, a blessed release for her, but the start of the stress and strain of getting what should have been a simple settling of a very small estate that became an enormous amount of trouble. I took another week off to scatter her ashes in Pennslyvania under the tree planted for my dad and where his ashes lie. We planted some crocus, too, but as I now live a thousand miles from PA, I don't know if they will bloom. Also got talked into going to a class reunion up there, another rite of passage and not nearly as painful as I feared, fun even.
     Illness. Two author friends are no longer writing while dealing with diseases we all fear. Two others passed away. I've been lucky so far, but can tell you that being laid up after knee surgery, doing heavy PT and taking heavier pain killers means six weeks of no writing. Last week, I inexplicably broke out in full body hives for no reason the doctor could find. I guarantee you cannot put an itchy butt in chair for hours, and Benadryl will have you dozing in your seat, face down on desk. Clearing up now and getting some writing done.
     Writing Setbacks. The first book I submitted in 2015, The Courville Rose, rejected and still homeless. The second, She's a Sinner, a light-hearted Sinners tale about the NFL's first female player, was published in September following Son of a Sinner out earlier in January. Son did well, but She has garnered no reviews at all which makes me think no one read or liked the book, so why am I doing this? Meanwhile, I sold a single title, A Will of her Own, that had editing problems up the wahzoo. I worked through them, but the changes sucked away some of my joy in writing the book. It will come out in the spring sometime, and I should be thankful to be having a 2016 release after all of the above experiences, both good and bad.
     Travel is my weakness. I love to go and went a little too much this year. Not complaining about the two weeks I took off to visit Ireland, no, not at all, but I didn't get around to starting a second book for 2016 (I usually aim for two) until I got back in late August. I'm still laboring over and having fun with An Ashy Affair, but won't finish it until maybe February because I also ran smack-dab into...
     The Holidays. Cooking, baking, shopping, putting up a tree and other decorations, Christmas cards and a family letter all take up gobs of time and distract the mind. I did get a small respite after setting my stove on fire with gravy and so wrote for a few days while awaiting the arrival of a new stove. Believe me, it is best to bow to the publishing custom of shutting down for December and just let yourself enjoy the company of family, friends, and good food.
      Most publishers would like you to put out two books a year at the very least as writers are soon forgotten if they have nothing new to offer. Three would be even better. Since I write full-length works in excess of 75,000 words, two is about my best effort, though I appear to write more as some books are held back and some leap ahead in the publishing process. Regardless, something must always be in the mill, and some years will be more productive than others because every writer will encounter all of the above sooner or later.
     Wishing you time off to enjoy the holidays and a New Year with fewer interruptions--unless they are joyous ones.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Of Awards, Contests & Reviews, again

Recently, I attended an authors' luncheon with two better known than me guest speakers. Both had recently won awards of some kind or another--and both acknowledged that hadn't made a bit of difference in their sales. One was for Indie books, and I think the public knows little about these awards and could care less. I also suspect the only awards that would have any meaning would be the Rita for romance in my case or one of the library awards such as the Newbery or Caldecott which can make careers.The Pulitzer would count, too, of course, but that is a different kind of writing altogether. Recently, I received an offer to pay a hefty fee to enter a Reader's Choice Award. No thanks. If I have learned one thing, these are primarily popularity contests, and will-known, very popular authors always win them--or people who have lots and lots of relatives to vote.

Similar offers have come for cover contests. I placed third in one of these that had a modest entry fee, but soon figured out that the best cover did not win and would not win. The winners were those who could spend all day voting for themselves as this contest had no rules against that or had lots and friends and family. A perfectly wonderful cover even better than mine got very few votes. The bit of free advertising that came as my award really didn't result in any sales. My friends and relatives already know about my books, though I did startle some folks at a recent class reunion who said, "You're writing what?" Yes, spicy romance novels. Mostly these contests exist to draw your band of merry followers to their web site and a mailing list.

Speaking of which, I received a notice that one of my books, Son of a Sinner, had been entered in a contest, but not by me. At first, I was a little flattered until I realized every book reviewed by that site had been entered in the contest. The contemporary romance category was huge. In order to go on to the next round, my book had to garner fifty more votes. I did try to get those votes until the people I begged to vote for me reported that they had to join the site to vote and the process to do that was laborious. This was just another case of a site building their mailing list. When I understood this, I ceased soliciting votes and didn't get my fifty to continue. I doubt winning would have made any difference. At least, this one was free.

Also, I have been bombarded lately by people offering to review my books on one hand and offering me an advertising package with another. Oh, how we all pine for reviews, so hard to get these days with so many books out there. I fell for this once.  I sent a review copy, but declined the $350 advertising package. Got a scathing review of a book that had otherwise gotten decent reviews. Smell a rat? Amazon did not post it, so I suspect they were also on to something.  So go with care when offered one of these deals. We are all desperate for reviews.  If you want to do something nice for an author, review one of her books on Amazon or GoodReads for Christmas.

I'm not saying any of the above are scams.  Business is business, and they want to sell advertising and draw people to their sites.  It's up to the writer if they want to participate or shell out the money and see what they get. If any of you know if any of these worked for you, please feel free to comment.

In parting, hi to Lisa and Sarah. Thanks for following my blog.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

An Author's Pet Peeves

     It seems that agents and publishers are always posting their pet peeves, but authors are not allowed this outlet. Sometimes, we need to gripe, too. No names shall be named here. These are just general complaints brought on by my recent spate of submissions.
     Oh, how I wish for a standardized submission form. Yes, I do the usual, doubled-spaced in Times New Roman,standard margins, and headers, but then there are some publishers who even specify margin size and insist you cram your entire life story in the header which really messes up the look of the page. Then, a few want single-spaced. Some want attachments, some want embedded chapters, some want fulls, some chapters. A few make the submission process incredibly complex such as asking for your marketing plan and all your platforms as well as your publishing history. I realize they want to weed out the insufficiently motivated, but some also say if you make even one tiny mistake in following their directions, you are not professional,.and they will not take even a glimpse at your work. They have the power to do this of course, and we are at their mercy. We are too many and must be culled, but I am so tired of constantly reformatting.
     Most submissions are done by computer these days--easy to receive, easier to reject and delete, easier for me, too, than running a brown envelope to the post office to be weighed and paying for postage. However since we are in the age of computers, you would think agents and publishers could at least set up an auto reply that says, "We have received your submission."  Some do, but others don't. Their site will say if you haven't heard from us in two or three months, we aren't interested.  But, how do you know they ever got the submission in the first place. What if you broke one of their rules? You will never know. Some say you can inquire after a certain period of time. Frankly, I've never done this as I know they don't want to be bothered, just as people you pitch to do not want your card or contact info which they will only throw out later. I did once submit the same manuscript to an agent twice as I wasn't sure it had been received. To this day, I do not know, but I won't submit there again. Do I really want an agent who can't take the time to at least send an auto reply that says the classically vague, "Not right for us" so you won't go out and kill yourself over all the months you've wasted waiting to hear from them. Yes, I long for the days of the SASE with the standard brushoff and sometimes a single sentence of encouragement.
      Okay, got that off my chest. I shouldn't be broody. A contract did come through for my women's fiction novel, A Will of her Own, about a young woman whose life takes some unexpected turns when she decides to get over her college crush and date men who might really be interested in her. It's already undergone a title change and a blurb rewrite. Edits will show up soon taking me away from working on a new romance, A Splashy  Affair.  Best guess is that it will be out next spring, but She's a Sinner surprised me with a release date months before I expected it.  In publishing, you just never know anything.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

She's a Sinner

My newest Sinners book, the second in the Sinner's Legacy series dealing with Joe Billodeaux's many children, was released yesterday. Placekicker Tom Billodeaux meets his match in Alix Lindstrom, a tall, strong young woman who wins the position of punter on the team. Not only did I gain a lot of new knowledge about punting while doing the research for this book, but I had so much fun imagining what adding a woman to an NFL roster would entail. Alix is the NFL's first female player, and all sorts of problems crop up because no rules are in place.

First of course is locker room etiquette.  Where is Alix going to change and shower at the practice field, at the Dome, and after away games?  Tom with his experience of many sisters helps design a private bathing area for their new punter who will lead the team from the field, pass through the locker room, and go straight to her own shower.  Away games?  She takes a waiting vehicle back to the hotel immediately. And what about language?  I had the best time creating a "sexual sensitivity" class all the guys were required to attend and asked to clean up their words. Alix must attend her own session on how to deal with her male companions.  Declining to turn them in for infractions against her, she works to earn the respect of her teammates, some of whom don't want her to succeed.

Others welcome Alix, none more than Tom who is smitten at first sight. Imagine, a tall blonde who understands every aspect of kicking.  While Alix thinks of herself as a big and clunky female jock, more than one fellow on the team finds her attractive. Are there any rules about dating a teammate?  Not yet.  Tom doesn't move fast enough and is nearly shut out by another player. What about marriage?  Nothing to stop them, but Tom ponders, what if he gets a football player pregnant for the first time in history, and she cannot honor her contract?  Would this situation be treated the same as an injury?  Lots of questions came to mind, and I didn't answer all of them.

I do hope you will enjoy meeting Alix.  She's a Sinner is on sale this week of September 9, 2015 only for $3.00 at Check out the great cover by Diana Carlile there or on Amazon or barnes&  Write a review for me if you find the book engaging. Thanks.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Traveling for Inspiration

 I don't really need to travel to find inspiration for my books. After all, I'm the person who wrote a novel about my garbage collection problems in A Trashy Affair which turned out to be one of my best efforts.. The truth is I write in order to travel. My royalties pay for one nice trip a year with my husband, not exactly Nora Robert's riches, but good enough for me. When I travel, I take along promotional cards for my books and hand them around. When I return I always find a few curiosity sales from my fellow travelers, so don't leave home without some PR product to do a little shameless self-promotion. Just saying.

Those I meet on trips always want information on publishing and also ask if they will appear in any of my books.  I am quick to say none of my characters are real people unless they are historical figures, but I certainly do save up characteristics to use in my creations like the woman who kept disappearing from tours in order to have a smoke and a large coffee or the still spry World War Two nurse who had tales to tell. Recently, I returned from this year's big trip to Ireland, plenty of inspiration in that country with all its history and woes and lovely landscapes. I was asked if I would write about that country in my next book. Well, no. It might take me years to percolate the information, come up with a plot, and then find the time to write the story. I have a list of five books to write in my head already, and Ireland will have to wait its turn.

It took me over two years to get around to writing A Place Apart based on a trip to Maine. I finished the first draft of this 100,000 word novel before I left for Ireland and now must get back in the groove and polish it. Though you can find anything on the internet, visiting a place does enable you to add bits of local color you might otherwise overlook and catch the way people in that area have of talking. For instance, I noticed an incredible number of quilting and knitting shops in Maine, a good way to pass a long, cold winter is my guess. The fifth season in Maine is called mud season when the thaw occurs. And lets not forget the small but tasty Maine shrimp, tiny cousin to its marvelous lobsters, and the schooner ride on Penobscot Bay which features prominently in the new book.

I do wish I could have gone to American Samoa to research Paradise for a Sinner first hand. They don't have much of a tourist industry there, and the plane fare was huge. Think I could have written the trip off on my taxes since a book resulted? An accountant warned me not to do that as a big ticket item is sure to get IRS attention. So, I contented myself with Samoan blogs and travel info to capture the flavor of that country.

As for Ireland, while waking early in adjusting to the substantial time change again, I began to form a plot in my head. The two main characters took shape as did the town where they live. I'd weave in a little mythology inspired by ancient tales and a trip to the New Grange barrow graves (very narrow and low passage-hit my head twice and I am short). Irish music must figure in somewhere. Then,. the alarm went off and I had to get up for real and start the day. File this story as number six in the line of tales I have to tell. Travel truly does inspire, and I will write to get more of it.