Official Website for Contemporary Romance Author Alicia Renee Kline

An Open Letter

I’ve written about piracy before.  I even came up with a catchy title for my first post on the subject, written shortly after I discovered that my first book was available for illegal download on a handful of websites.  And those are the ones I know about.  I won’t repeat myself, but if you’re curious, you can read my original thoughts here:

Yar, I Smell a Pirate

The fact that my book appears on these sites doesn’t keep me up at night.  I view it as free publicity and move on.  In retrospect, it’s not really any different than me offering my first book for free via coupon code to anyone who cares enough to download it, which I’ve already done on several occasions.  It’s just a really extended promotion.

Even so, I’ve attempted to prevent the rest of my books from ending up on those same sites.  As far as I can tell, I’ve been successful.  How so?  I’ve not offered them for free publicly.  Those who have gotten free copies from me haven’t posted them on torrent sites.  For what it’s worth, those that have paid for them haven’t posted them, either.

But if you search for my second and third book on Google and page far enough down in the results, you will find that they have been requested on torrent sites.  By name.  Sometimes with links to their Goodreads pages.

That’s kind of flattering.

And it got me thinking.  If someone wants to read my books so badly that they specifically request them by name on a torrent site, isn’t that exactly the kind of person that I want reading them?  Aren’t those the type of readers that could potentially be some of my biggest fans?  The people that are searching out my book and posting about wanting a pirated copy would probably actually read it if they got a hold of one.

Now, my books aren’t expensive.  I price them at $2.99.  And though a voice in the back of my head tells me that if someone wanted to read them that much, they’d just plunk down three bucks to do it, I also realize that not everyone comes from the same background or lifestyle that I do.  I’m lucky enough that I can pick up a new book without giving a second thought to the purchase.  Not everyone is. Trust me, I’ve dealt with job loss before and know that it can be a struggle to come up with money for necessities, let alone funds for frivolous purchases like romance novels.

So that led me to this thought…

What if those people that posted on the torrent sites about wanting to read my second and third books had instead searched me out and contacted me?

That’s easy.

I would have given them a coupon code and told them to have at it for free.  Then asked nicely for an honest review when they were done.  Then continued asking very nicely for them to tell everyone they knew about it, especially if they thought it was good.  But even if they hated it (because any word of mouth is free publicity, and some people search out things that get bad reviews).

In this world of giveaways and contests, some people are so desensitized to getting things for free that they sometimes forget that they’ve won anything.  Maybe they win so much that they can’t keep track of it all.  Case in point:  the last three book giveaways I’ve done, each time I’ve had at least one person not redeem their codes.  I know this because I track them.

I’d much rather give something away to someone who genuinely wanted and appreciated it.

So here’s my open letter for those who, for whatever reason, feel that the only way they will ever read one of my books is if it’s available on a torrent site.  Instead of asking strangers for an illegal copy, send me a quick message on Twitter, Facebook, or here.  If you’re sincere (and as a mom, I have a pretty keen BS meter), you’ll likely get what you ask for.



Double Standard

I write fiction, but it’s fairly realistic.  I tackle some pretty serious subject matters in between the snarkiness.  My characters have gone through some deep stuff:  death, disownment, financial crises, drug and alcohol abuse, legal issues, you get the idea.  I can’t even openly discuss one of the major plot points in my new release without giving away a huge secret – or potentially crying - so we’ll just focus on something innocent and non-controversial.

Let’s talk about sex.

Specifically, the double standard that exists in regards to men and women even in a fictional setting.  It’s perfectly okay for a guy to be a player, but when a lady does the same, she’s labeled something not so nice.

I’m a contemporary romance author.  Sex plays a part in my books – I won’t lie.  And while it’s not uncommon to have a heartbreaker type alpha male as the lead, a woman filling that role is a bit harder to find.  So I wrote one.

Two of my main characters are brother and sister.  Same upbringing, same swoon-worthy attractiveness.  Same predilection for one-night stands or at least back-to-back revolving door relationships.

Not surprisingly, the readers have spoken and have deemed him “adorable” and “almost too perfect”.  I agree with them on the adorable part, but I’m biased.  And he’s nowhere close to perfect (on purpose).  Mind you, this same guy went to jail for six months, had massive issues with drugs and alcohol and slept with 36 women before finding his true love.

Conversely, his sister single-handedly dealt with his incarceration, taking care of his house and personal affairs in his absence, driving him everywhere for years when his license was suspended (twice), all while earning a college degree and starting her own business.  She has a one-night stand vice, however.  Though her number isn’t revealed, she does state that 37 is “child’s play”, so it’s more.  By quite a few.  What have I heard about her?  She’s “selfish”.  Never mind that she’s still in love with the person to whom she gave her virginity (and he with her).

And this is from an audience who is largely female.  My male readers haven’t chimed into the discussion yet.  Maybe they’ll think she’s cool as hell.

By the end of the story, most everyone warms up to her.  But by then, she’s turned her back on picking up people at bars and giving out fake names.  It is a love story, after all.

I’m not surprised by the general consensus.  Society has raised us to believe that men are attractive when they have notches on their bedpost.  We like the bad boy, all while pretending we’re the good girls.  Guys openly brag about their conquests, while some women feel ashamed if they’ve had previous relations before finding “the one”.  But let’s think about it.  If guys are running around conquesting all over the place, there has to be a female population participating.

I guess they’re just quiet about it.

So what are your thoughts?  Are alpha females attractive, too?  Or is there a stigma attached that can’t be overcome?




Lessons Learned

I don’t pretend to know everything about self-publishing.  Lots of times I can string together sentences that sound impressive, but I’m still learning.  As most of you know, my third novel was recently released and I experimented with this a bit.  Being through two release days already, I had a general idea of what was good (almost nothing about how I released #1) and some things that I wanted to tweak.

So here  goes - my list of what I learned this time, in no particular order:

1.  Releasing on the same day that Kindle Unlimited goes live is a real buzz killer on Amazon if your book isn’t part of the program.  Had Amazon consulted me prior to making the big announcement, I would have politely told them that July 18th was already spoken for.  Since they didn’t, I was pretty much hosed by everyone trying out their shiny new subscription for 30 days free.  I have yet to sell a single copy on Amazon.

2.  Fortunately, iBooks stepped up for me in a big way.  Since July 18th alone, I have sold over three times the number of books on iBooks as I did there for the entire year of 2013.  Sales there have now bested what I’ve done on Amazon so far this year.  This makes me very happy, and proves my point that I’ve made the right decision (for me) to be available through as many outlets as possible.

3.  I’m not sold on the idea of a Friday release day.  I did it once, just to see if I could gain traction by releasing on a day not chosen by traditionally pubbed authors.  Even most self-pubbed authors still release on Tuesdays, just because it’s ingrained in our heads.  Maybe it’s the trickle-down effect of KU as well, but my release day sales for Book 3 were much less than they were for Book 2.   At this moment, I’m pretty much in the same boat sales wise as I was at the same point with copies of #2.  Looks like Book 4 will be back to a Tuesday release day; I didn’t hurt anything by trying.

4.  Preorders are still useful, even if no one did.  With only three books out, I haven’t developed a rabid fan base yet.  It will happen.  But the value of having a set date for your novel to go live is priceless.  That and having your links for everywhere else but Amazon well in advance to post on your website, send to bloggers, etc.  No one noticed that my book was live on Amazon a full 10 days before release day so that I could prepare for the big event, but I was pretty coy about that fact.

5.  When writing a series like mine, even if your book is technically able to be read as a stand alone, people appreciate it a whole lot more if they’ve read the others first.  I never really doubted that.  The majority of the reviews that I’ve gotten from people who’ve admittedly not read the first two are definitely not as glowing as the ones from those who’ve been along for the complete ride.  Mind you, these stand alone reviews still aren’t bad.  Even with a bit of quick recap, it’s impossible to make up for two hundred thousand plus words of character development.  Especially when my characters’ lives are as intertwined as they are, and by design the next book in the series always picks up right where the previous one left off.

6.  We’re trained to believe that reviews sell books.  I agree that reviews are important and I’m working hard to get more for Book 3 than any other previous novel.  However, I have reviews on Amazon and no sales.  I have sales on iBooks and absolutely no reviews there for any of my three books.  Yes, I’ve got Goodreads and B&N reviews as well, not to mention people posting them to their personal blogs, Facebook and Twitter.  But either people on iBooks are buying blindly, or they’re reading the reviews elsewhere and then picking up a copy from Apple.  I’m not sure.

7.  I thought that price always moved books, but I’ve found preference does.  I made it very clear through all of my channels that the first book in my series was free all July and book two was half price during that same period over at Smashwords.  I didn’t expect to get any full priced sales on either one throughout July.  But I did, because people bought from the vendor that they felt comfortable with.  And that is what is beautiful about distributing everywhere  – the freedom for your readers to choose who they give their money to.

8.  I don’t want people to like my books because I give them trinkets.  Sure, I’ll give out free copies of my new release – even before you can buy it – in order to hopefully draw some buzz.  I’ll even give out the entire series for free so people will read it as intended.  That’s been more successful for me, and possibly more appreciated – judging from some emails I’ve received - than my attempts at giving out Amazon gift cards.  It also pisses off my husband a lot less.  But I don’t think I’ll ever give out bookmarks, t-shirts, keychains or the like to advertise my stuff.  I know lots of authors do, but I’m not convinced that buying someone’s affection really helps the bottom line.  Writing an awesome book does.  I can do that for free.

9.  It’s time for me to consider putting my books in print for a very limited run.  This was the first time anyone, ever, has asked me if I have a book signing planned soon.  She lives in Indiana, so I think if I did, she might actually come to it.  Our local library holds an author event every fall and I’m considering ordering a few paperbacks of each book and signing up for it.  Then begging my Facebook fans who live close enough to me to come to it so I don’t look like a complete loser.

10.  This writing thing is far more fun than I ever imagined.  I always say that my next book will be the best one.  Even though I’m very proud of what I’ve already accomplished, I’m not about to stop now.


Off the Grid

Well, not really.  But this isn’t exactly Fort Wayne, Indiana – now is it?


Myrtle Beach 2014 Alicia's Photos 039

For the first time in 14 years, my husband and I actually went on a  vacation (this time with our kids) that involved us taking off more than a day or two from work.  We opted for Myrtle Beach, where neither one of us had ever been before.  This photo was taken from the beach right outside our hotel.  Our hotel room had a balcony that looked right out on this scene, so this is what I woke up to for three mornings in a row.  Pretty cool, huh?

You probably noticed that I was relatively absent from social media that week.  Then again, maybe not.  I did tweet and post on Facebook a few times.  But no blog post and no retweeting others that Monday.  For that one week, I put my phone down for the most part and focused on the view.  I took myself relatively off the grid.

Though I don’t regret doing that and intend to do it once a year now that the girls are older, I’m not sure if the timing of my absence was good or not.  Why?  Back in January when I was requesting time off at work, my husband and I figured that planning our vacation over my birthday would be a smart thing to do.  That way, we could both easily remember what week to take off.  And yes, I could spend number thirty-six on a beach.  I won’t lie and say that wasn’t a factor.

That said and done, and over a hundred thousand words later, I also decided to officially release my third novel that week.  From previous experience I knew I wanted to have my release day off from my 9-6.  There’s just too much texting, tweeting and emailing going on to be anything close to productive at insurance stuff.  So I scheduled it for that Friday, when I knew I’d already be back home.  In theory, that was a good move.  But I also missed out on promoting the book actively – not sure how much of that I would have done anyway.  Then I got blindsided by the whole Kindle Unlimited thing (its launch date was the same as mine for Book 3) and watched as absolutely no movement happened on any of my stuff over on Amazon.  That’s another blog post entirely, stay tuned.

So, we’ll sum up things by saying that I’m not planning a summer release next year.  But we are already working on where we’re headed for vacation; looks like it’s Minnesota and Mall of America time.  Highly recommended – I was there in 1999 and am excited to go back.

But right now, it’s great to be home.


Myrtle Beach 2014 Alicia's Photos 113

Winds of Change

Remember when I posted about ebook subscription services Oyster and Scribd?  As recently as a few months ago, these services seemed odd to most of us.  We sat around and contemplated just how that would work.  A Netflix for books?  Weird.

Seems like Amazon was listening as well.  They’ve started their own service, Kindle Unlimited.  It sounds a lot like the others in concept, but with one glaring difference:  they require indie authors to be exclusive to Amazon in order to be included.

When I read that email, I shook my head and sighed.  Yet again, Amazon discriminates against those  indie authors who choose to be available at other retailers.  Note that traditionally published authors don’t have to proclaim their loyalty to Amazon to be included in the program.

Don’t get me wrong.  I appreciate Amazon and the ability they provide me with to get my books seen by the general public.  However, I think that they are making a big mistake by choosing not to at least pretend to play well with others.  After all, my books still make them money when someone chooses to purchase them there.  I’m not even mad about not getting the free promotion days (I just do those on Smashwords) or having the opportunity for my books to be borrowed by their Prime members (I had Prime for a year and NEVER borrowed a single book).  But this exclusion stings a bit.

It’s no secret that all three of my books are available on both Oyster and Scribd.  I can’t speak for Oyster since I’ve never used it, but I love my Scribd account.  I’ll even fully disclose that I don’t currently pay for my Scribd account, as a one year free subscription was part of the deal that Smashwords ironed out when they came on board.  But will I continue the subscription when I have to cough up money for it next year?  Based on the amount that I use it currently, yes.  My last five reads have come from there.  The app is a bit quirky at times, and you practically feel like you’re jailbreaking the Kindle Fire to install it, but it’s been worth it for me.  I’ve read books that I normally wouldn’t have tried – from both traditionally and self-pubbed authors.

So I’m obviously down with the whole ebook subscription service thing.  And I would partner with Amazon’s if they would let me.  But I can’t, and there’s no way that I’m giving up my freedom to publish elsewhere to do it.  There are just too many unknowns.  For starters, the terms of payment on Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited are vague at best.  It reminds me of the KDP Select program, where you get a percentage of the money put in the pot each month depending on your downloads.  This means that one month, you may get $2 per sale/borrow/read/whatever.  Six months from now, you could potentially get 25 cents.  Funny, Scribd and Oyster are able to tell me exactly how much I will make per read once a consumer gets past a certain percentage in my book.  If Amazon would allow me to keep my books everywhere else and participate, I’d  accept these terms and just consider whatever it was that came in extra income.  But when they’re requiring me to pledge myself to them exclusively, don’t I deserve better than smoke and mirrors?

Realistically, I can see Amazon at some point demanding that all indie authors who publish with them do so exclusively.  We’re not that far from that right now.  At first, this scared me.  Then I realized that I technically don’t need them.  After all, my Kindle readers could always purchase my books on Smashwords and side-load them.  I’ve done it with my own books – I don’t own Amazon versions of them.  I could make a tutorial on how to side-load books, post it on my website and direct everyone to it.  In fact, I make more money per sale on Smashwords than I do at every other retailer including Amazon.  If I didn’t see the value in being at the big names, I’d already be directing my readers to buy only from Smashwords.

But I understand the power of choice.  Why can’t Amazon?

This isn’t an Amazon bashing post.  I’m not going to pull my books in outrage.  I’m going to keep publishing with them until they tell me that I can’t.  But I’m so glad that they aren’t my only outlet for sales.

As an aside, I’ve seen the power of choice work for me with my new release.  iBooks, B&N and Smashwords have all outsold Amazon this past week.  I’m talking paid sales, not the free copies of the first in my series that I’m giving away throughout July over at Smashwords.  Not that I’m kicking ass in the sales department, but it proves my point that Amazon isn’t the only name in the game.  They should stop acting like they are.



Bait and Switch

I enjoy free publicity.  I’m sure most authors would agree with me on that aspect of things – that’s why we contact local media, insert book links on our email taglines, sign up for contests, participate in giveaways, etc.  Every little bit helps, right?

In addition to the free stuff, I also dabble in the paid marketing.  It’s no secret that I work with a tour company to promote my books upon release and to pimp them out to bloggers for reviews.  They do legwork for me that I either don’t have the time, talent or courage to do on my own.

You’d think that free and paid would be opposites, sort of like the colors black and white.  But more and more, I’m noticing that the lines are blurring and what starts off as free doesn’t always end up being no charge.

Case in point, there are several websites around that offer to promote self-published books and authors.  Some of them are little more than directories of authors who all have the same dream:  to get noticed.  Some of them offer places to feature excerpts or a little insight into your novel; others provide a place for readers to post reviews and recommend your work to friends.  In my formative years (read early 2013), I signed up for a couple of them, figuring it couldn’t hurt.  It also didn’t help one bit, as I realized that  readers  aren’t the ones trolling those sites.  Authors are, and we’re preaching to the choir.

A number of these sites are free.  Or at least they were.  But I’m noticing what I feel is an alarming trend:  more and more of them are beginning to charge fees.  Or sites that do offer free services are now touting upgrades for a monetary cost.  And spamming my inbox with messages announcing the great results I can obtain if only I pay their low monthly/quarterly/annual fee.  I won’t name names, because the point here is not to badmouth any specific group or site.   But  I’ve seen several, so you’ve likely run across some of the same ones.

Is it because they’ve upped their game, or because they think they’ve found a cash cow?

I get it, really I do.  People see an opportunity to make money and they grab it and run.  If authors are flocking to your site when things are free, perhaps a good portion of them will pay if you ask them to.  I don’t blame anybody because I’d like to turn a profit as a result of this endeavor, too.  And these sites may offer legitimate services to authors that may work.  But because I’m not yet independently wealthy, I have to decide where to spend my money.  I’ve been burnt before, and I am less apt to believe glowing reviews (even from people who I’m familiar with).  I need to feel that there’s going to be a good chance of me personally getting results.  If it doesn’t feel like a worthwhile expenditure, no amount of hype will get me to change my mind.

Of course, even the big names aren’t exempt.  We extoll the virtues of being on Twitter, having a Facebook fan page, or being a Goodreads author.  The free aspect of social media works great for most of us, but you can spend money here, too.  I won’t go into things like buying 15,000 followers for $35; I’m talking about sanctioned spending where the money goes straight to one of the three entities.  In fact, during the creation of my Facebook fan page I felt like someone at their corporate office was reaching through my laptop screen, trying to convince me to pay for likes or promoting posts.  I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that I thought about it, and even checked into the pricing.  I still haven’t completely ruled it out.

For every cautious author like myself, there’s probably one or more that will throw money at these outfits like change into a wishing well.  This makes me sad, the feeling that there are those of us out there who want this dream so badly they lose sight of the work involved.  There’s more to becoming known, respected and successful than simply writing a check or draining your Paypal account.




Middle Child

There’s a disadvantage to working as far ahead as I do.  It’s no big secret that I’ve pretty much got Book Four in my series mapped out and I’m starting to create scenes for Book Five.  This of course, doesn’t factor in the stand alone novels I’ve already got concepts for, as well as working titles.

One might think that it’s a gift to have a wellspring of creativity to draw upon.  In most cases it is, and the majority of my brain is not complaining.  But in my usual fashion, I always get more excited for what’s way around the corner than I do for what’s right in front of my face.

This leaves me at a loss when it comes to marketing.  I’m supposed to be getting people super excited for my new release when it already feels like old news to me.  Trust me;  I am excited and all tingly for the middle of this month, but I’d rather talk about my work in progress which likely won’t come out until next year.  I’d have to write really fast to squeak out another book by December and I just don’t think I have it in me.

When I do put on my marketing hat, I speak about the release date, preorders and teasers for Book Three.  I’m also still trying to drum up readers for Book One, since in a perfect world, people would start there and read them in order.  So all of my efforts are focused on those two books, leaving Book Two in the corner, playing the role of middle child.

Let’s get it straight:  Book Two is a fully functioning, quality read.  I spent long, hard hours working on it and it’s just as good as the others.  But it’s a companion to Book One.  You’d miss a lot if you came in there, unlike starting at Book Three and going backwards.  So it’s forever destined to sit in the shadows.  The novelty has worn off now – it’s not the new release anymore, so marketing it in and of itself is not the option it used to be.  The best marketing tactic for Book Two will always be hooking people with Number One.

I didn’t mean for it to happen, just like I’m assuming parents with three children don’t mean to make the middle child feel left out.  I wouldn’t know; I stopped at two kids myself.  My husband and I both only have one sibling, so I’ve no real world experience to draw upon.  Only this and how I feel kind of bad, like Book Two is somehow a living, breathing thing.

I’ve often read that readers like series, but they also want to have the installments feel like stand alone novels.  That’s understandable, and much easier to adhere to if you’re writing a mystery series as opposed to a romance where the heroine of the books is the same.  Relationships are tricky and they build upon prior experiences, as they do in reality.  So I’ve compromised and met people in the middle.  My series has three heroines; you’ll be able to start at Book One, Three or Four.

I’ve also met a number of people who will wait until the entire series is released, then they’ll binge read all of the books.  I’ve done that myself, finishing thousands of pages in a matter of days because I have to know how things end.  Right now.  This totally backs up the phenomenon that many authors say happens:  once you have between three to five books published, your sales seem to increase dramatically.  Provided, of course, that the novels themselves are good.  But that’s a given, right?

So I keep plugging away, promising Book Two that it will eventually reclaim its popularity like in the good old days when the spotlight was focused upon it.  I covered its ears when my beta reader told me that she really liked Book One, but might have enjoyed Book Three a little more.

After all, there are some things that middle children just don’t need to hear.

Party Person

I know it’s been heavily debated how useful Facebook is as a marketing tool for an author.  If you’ve been here long enough, you already know how I feel about the personal side of the social media giant (as in, I despise it).  That’s why I deactivated my account about a year ago and never looked back.  And me – have an author page?  Not on your life.

But I survived my first Facebook party, sponsored by the company that all three of my books are currently touring with in some way, shape or form.  And honestly, I’d do it again.

The concept was simple:  open the floor to a different author each hour to market him/herself – though mostly herself, since they cater largely to the romance crowd.  No charge, just sign up and go.  I’m down for as much free publicity as I can get, so I bit my tongue, reactivated my Facebook account and claimed my hour.

Granted, everyone wanted the prime time evening hours, which I wasn’t lucky enough to get.  But I’m flexible, so I grabbed a slot from 7-8 am EST on the morning that marked exactly one month to my new release officially going live.  Yep, that was on purpose.

Then I tossed and turned about oversleeping and what I was going to do when I got there.  Everyone seems so giveaway happy and I don’t have anything cool like hard copies or trinkets.  I just have coupon codes and mobi files.  My husband also voiced my biggest fear:  that no one would show up.

But I woke up with enough time to get completely ready for work, make myself a bowl of oatmeal and frantically post some bonus content at the blog before signing on.  Then I crossed my fingers and sent my first post.

Within seconds, I had my first response, then another and another after that.  I posted another something and even more people showed up.  We talked about cliffhangers and love triangles and I posted the covers for all three books as well as their blurbs.  When I looked down and realized I only had the floor for another twenty minutes and hadn’t even mentioned a giveaway yet, I figured I was doing pretty good.

So when I announced I’d give out ARCs, the left side of my screen went nuts with notifications.  Yes, I gave out more than the five that I posted I would.  I was feeling generous – what can I say?  And these were all readers that I probably never would have reached if I hadn’t shown up to the event.

So there’s something to be said when Facebook marketing is a collective effort.  When you have the backing of a bigger entity, I really do think it can work.  People that have never heard of you an hour ago are liking your stuff, adding it to their TBR piles and commenting about how they can’t wait for the book to come out so they can read it.

I wish all of my interactions on social media could be that entertaining.  I feel like in the span of sixty minutes I accomplished so much more to build my brand than I’ve done in the previous two years.

And no, I never once uttered the words “buy my book”.

As an addendum to this post, it appears as though the Facebook party will be a once a season kind of thing, and I’m definitely going to be participating each time – provided I can score a slot that fits into my schedule.  That being said, I bit the bullet and created a Facebook page for myself.

It kind of makes me feel dirty.  But, by all means, you should “like” it.





Award Free and Happy

I’ll admit it.  The past couple of months have been tough for me on the blogging front.  Not with writing the posts, but rather with watching my number of visitors dwindle from about six months ago to where they are now.  Especially with a new release on the horizon, my goal is obviously to get more people to land here and that just ain’t happening.

The optimistic part of me tells myself (quite logically) that I’ve implemented tools to decrease the amount of bots and spammers that troll my lovely domain, posting comments on how to get prescription meds for cheap.  And let’s not forget the “Gucci” handbags at remarkable prices.  Considering that when traffic was at its highest here I was getting hundreds of junk comments, it goes to show you how well my tactics are working.

The pessimistic part of me just hears crickets.

So when my blogging confidence was at an all time low, I got a couple of reminders that people are out there listening.  Yes, this past weekend I was nominated not once but twice for the Versatile Blogger Award.  Thank you Roz and Patty and Anna Celeste Burke!

For those of you that may not be aware of what this award encompasses, it’s one of those where acceptance comes with stipulations.  The gist of this is that you nominate fifteen other bloggers, then write a post of seven things that others may not know about you.  It’s very reminiscent of those chain letters that used to be passed around in class – you know the ones that made you feel utterly left out when you weren’t selected to get one.

I immediately thought of my fellow blogger, Diane over at Being Truly Present, who wrote a great post about this just a few weeks ago.  Even though it didn’t pertain to me at that point, I found myself agreeing with her decision to become an Award Free Blog.  So she was the first person that I contacted after thanking those that had nominated me.  With Diane’s permission, I’ve linked to her post here.

While Diane makes excellent points regarding her hesitation to accept this award (and she has many of the same reservations that I do), I found myself wanting to expand on some of her thoughts now that the ball was in my court.  For instance, Roz and Patty were the first to nominate me.  I took a look at the other fourteen bloggers that shared the honor with me and realized that several of them were people that would be on my list of fifteen.  Others I would have included have previously been nominated elsewhere – I’ve seen their posts accepting the award.  Since I’m not everywhere all the time, the remainder of my list could already have been nominated, but I’m just not aware of it.

The spirit of the award is to bring attention to bloggers that your own readers may not be familiar with.  It’s also to show these bloggers that you enjoy their content.  But if we all keep circling around and nominating each other, it in essence is only a giant popularity contest.  “What?  You’ve only been nominated once?  I’ve been nominated twenty times!”

As much as I like being appreciated, I have an issue with putting a finite limit on the number of people that I in turn wish to recognize.  Do I leave someone who I really respect - who already has lots of followers and blog traffic – off my list in favor of a smaller blogger just starting out who I also enjoy?  Will feelings be hurt if I don’t name someone who I interact with often?

I’m already pretty transparent with whose blogs I enjoy on a regular basis.  When I take part in Monday Blogs, for instance, I often retweet the same people.  Just like I can predict retweets of my own posts from certain people almost every week.  These are the kind of relationships that are built when you blog, and they flow organically – not because I’m looking for recognition.

So, while it leaves me warm and fuzzy to be nominated, I’m abstaining from returning the favor, but in the most polite way I know how.  And just in case you have this weird urge to learn more about me, I’ve compiled my own list of seven random things you probably never wanted to know.

1.  I’m five feet tall.  Up until my new release, all of my heroines in anything I’ve ever written have been short.  Blake is five foot eight.  I hope I write “tall” convincingly.

2,  I’m not ambidextrous, but I do count money left-handed.

3.  I no longer look like my author photo, Twitter profile, etc.  Even though it was only taken about eight or nine months ago, I’ve already gone through two more hairstyles and gained one more piercing.  But damn, that’s a pretty good picture of me and I don’t want to change it now.

4.  I wanted to go to school for broadcast journalism.  That didn’t happen.

5.  My parents don’t know that I’m an author.  At least I haven’t told them.

6.  I’ve built my branding for my series upon images of wine glasses.  I don’t drink wine.  I’ve tried, and I can’t stand it.

7.  My toenails are always polished to match my fingernails: even in the dead of winter when no one will see them.

Designed Bonus Content – Rot in Hell

Ah, Chapter Seventeen.  If you’ve been trolling this blog long enough, you know that this was the most difficult chapter in the whole of my new release for me to write.  This particular section of the book is where Blake is revealing her big secret to the readers, but not yet to anyone else.  Technically, the news broke in the previous chapter, but this is where she deals with the aftermath.  To be honest with you, I sobbed while writing it and there are still phrases in there that make me cry.  So I skip them, because I know what happens.

But it also contains the scene that I’ve been dying to write for Blake and Chris ever since Book One.  It’s been alluded to several times, when Blake softens slightly and gives Lauren a bit of a glimpse into her ill-fated relationship.  Yes, it’s the breakup scene, where Blake infamously tells her ex to “rot in hell”.

In  Designed,  of course, the scene is written from Blake’s point of view.  This being such a pivotal moment in their history, I always wondered how Chris saw things.  How would you feel if you were completely unaware of what was truly going on underneath the surface?  It kind of makes me feel sorry for him.

Ten years is an awfully long time to keep a secret like this.  On 7/18/14, Blake finally comes clean…

Rot in Hell

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