aliciareneekline.com

Official Website for Contemporary Romance Author Alicia Renee Kline

By Any Other Name

I’ve already posted here that I use my legal name as my author name.  There’s no need for me to pretend that I don’t; it’s already out there in black and white and there’s no taking it back.  I haven’t had any issues with doing so, but I don’t exactly shout it from the rooftops that I’m a romance author when I go about my daily business, either.  Most people that I cross paths with don’t put two and two together, nor should they.  Mine is not exactly a household name.

That being said, there’s a contingent of people that are up in arms concerning those in the writing and blogging communities who choose to use a pen name when they do their thing.  To me, it’s a personal choice and not really a big deal.  After all, people in the public eye (celebrities, journalists, radio personalities, etc.) have long taken stage names and this is considered an acceptable practice for them.  Why should it be any different for an author or blogger big or small to do the same?

There are certainly many valid reasons for opting to use an alias.  Privacy, for starters.  Maybe your given name is difficult for others to spell or pronounce.   Perhaps you don’t want others in your community – think employers or church members – to know that you write something like erotica on the side.  Maybe you’ve come up with a witty pseudonym to market yourself with.  Whatever.

However, those individuals that criticize the practice seem to assume that people that don’t use their real name ultimately have something to hide.  In some cases, I’m sure that’s true.  I’m thinking those that have left abusive relationships, etc.   And that as a consumer, they have the right to know what this something is.  Um, no.

In my eyes, you have the right to create the public persona that you want to.  As long as you’re writing or blogging in a professional and respectful manner, which the vast majority of us do already, there’s no reason for the public to dig any deeper.  Even when the public doesn’t like the book we wrote or the opinion we’ve taken on a topic, for most people it stops there.  Sure, they might never buy another novel from us again, or stop reading anything with our byline on it, but that’s their choice and their right.

But keep in mind that the internet is the internet and that there’s a scary amount of information out there that can fall into the wrong hands.  And no matter what you choose to call yourself publicly, there are people out there who know the real you.  Think about it.  We all have bank accounts, go to doctors and dentists, get our taxes done, have insurance policies.  There are no ways around using our legal names for these purposes.  Plus, there are well meaning family and friends who may let things slip accidentally.  Despite all the various precautions taken, an alias is not a fail safe plan to protect your true identity.

Given all that, shouldn’t we all just hole ourselves up in our homes and stop creating or ranting?  Should we change our opinions on things just because someone could search us out and torment us?  I don’t think so.

This was something that I came to terms with a few years ago when I first obtained my insurance licenses.  You give up quite a bit of privacy in becoming licensed, which I didn’t realize until I learned that there was an online data base that includes at least a smattering of every licensed agent’s personal information.  Name and address (whether business or home) was enough to concern me.  But nothing bad has ever come out of that in my case.  No disgruntled customers waiting for me in the parking lot or showing up in my driveway.  Granted, I don’t actively sell any more, but still.  I suppose there was the guy that continued to call me after the fact we established he wasn’t a potential client, but I never felt threatened by him.  Let’s just say he got a little more pleasure out of my phone voice than he should have.

Everything worth doing in life has a risk.  Just like I put myself out there when I became life, health, property and casualty licensed, I did it again on a larger scale when I made myself a brand.  To me, it was a big step in proving that I’m ultimately responsible for my successes and my failures as an author.  It might also have a little something to do with the fact that I have a hard enough time coming up with names for characters, let alone myself.

But would I be any less genuine or snarky if I called myself something else?  Not on your life.  My books would read exactly the same no matter what name I put on the cover.  Every single word.

So pick your name and own it.  And don’t let anyone silence your voice.

 

 

 

Change of Venue

When I was writing my debut novel, I didn’t have a dedicated workspace.  Since my whole foray into the world of self-publishing started off as a hobby, or at the very least, a dare to myself, I wasn’t thinking of being in it for the long haul.  At least initially.  So I wrote in bits and pieces, when I was watching television with my husband.  I’d perch the laptop on my legs and fire off a few hundred words or so at a time.

Formatting that way proved to be a bitch.  Or maybe that was because I was learning the process.  Just imagine lots of screaming and frustration at my technology.  That’s a pretty accurate description of preparing my first book for publication.

Eventually, I decided that I would only write when I wasn’t spending time with my husband.  Since he has a work schedule that has always been a bit opposite mine, this still allows plenty of opportunity for me to work on my books.  It also eliminated him being around to shoot me weird glances when something didn’t go right.  And stopped the whole reading over my shoulder thing that I’ve never been fond of anyway.

For books Two and Three, I moved my work area out of the family room and into our repurposed dining room.  Here, I had a computer desk and an office chair.  This also coincided with my new attitude of making self-publishing my second career.  I would hunker down at my desk and spend hours at work, just like this was a job.  I’d like to think that aided in my productivity, but I’m not entirely sure.  I think a large part of my confidence also stemmed from the fact that I wasn’t new to the game anymore.

Formatting went the same way as the creative process.  A little easier, because I wasn’t as flustered by things.  And since the preorder option was available at that point via Smashwords, I was able to take my almost finished manuscript, sideload it to my Kindle, and proofread the thing from my couch like I was reading any other book.  Since proofreading isn’t technically writing, I do fudge a bit on this step and I will read my own stuff while my husband’s home.  Seriously, what’s the difference between having my Kindle out for fun or doing work?

So now we are on to Book Four and some things have changed.  I’m almost, nearly, halfway done with my first draft.  I’ve also given up my computer desk and chair to my ten year old.  This time, I’ve moved out into the living room to write while sitting atop our brand new sectional.

I’ve also discovered television again.  See, I can’t work in total silence so I’m always writing either to the sound of whatever program is on or whatever music I choose to play on my iPod.  In my dining room, it was always music because I didn’t have the option of anything else.  But now I’ve got choices.

And a new guilty pleasure.  Namely, The Voice.

I shied away from watching much of anything on television when my husband was home during the week, simply because our tastes are so different.  So we’d watch what we could agree on together, mainly sporting events or cooking shows.  But now, with him back working weekday nights, I have a whole world of reality TV calling out to me.

Too bad for me that the program I picked to watch captivated my attention so much it cut into my writing time.  And it’s on two nights a week to boot.  But I’ll adjust, because it’s drawn me in that much.

A long time ago, in that hazy place called my teenage years, I used to sing, too.  Depending upon who you asked (my choir director and some friends and parents of friends), I could have been good at it.  I had solos and I sang in contests and musicals and such, but I always let that evil stage fright get the best of me and never really met my full potential.  Of course, there wasn’t this kind of programming on back then to make you push yourself and truly believe that someone from Indiana could be discovered and make it big.

So what’s a few hours sitting back and getting caught up in the dreams of other hopefuls?  Seeing people working hard and getting recognized for it is sort of inspiring.  We’ve already established that I’m a bit sympathetically emotional, and some of their performances give me chills and/or bring tears to my eyes.  Plus, it also reminds me that I always wanted to – but never did – learn how to play the guitar.

The world today is so different from what it was when I was growing up.  Internet and all that goes with it has helped to eliminate the geographic boundaries that used to exist for those of us passionate about the arts.  Now you don’t have to move to LA or Nashville to get noticed; just post a video on YouTube or audition for one of these competitions and you might very well become a household name.

It kind of reminds me of how self-publishing has eliminated boundaries for those of us who choose to explore our creative sides offstage.

Besides, writing is much better for introverts, anyway.

Dancing with the Darkness

“I won’t give up on you,” I said softly, “not until you tell me that it’s time.”

Designed, Chapter 17

A fairly benign statement, taken out of context.

To me, however, it’s one of the passages in my own release that I can’t bear to read.  They’re the same words that I whispered to myself that day twelve years ago when I stood powerless and afraid of a future that I had no control over.  The same words that take me back to that moment like it happened hours ago.  The same words that make me tear up even now, knowing what I know.

That’s some pretty powerful stuff.

With my new release, I went darker than in my previous two books.  Considering that I’ve already tackled drunk driving, felonies, death of a parent and familial estrangement, that’s saying something.  Sure, there’s plenty of humor, steak and a happy ending.  There’s also a whole lot of raw emotion, borrowed from my own experiences but with a few changed circumstances.

I, for instance, was older and married when it happened to me.  I was gainfully employed and had a far better support system than my heroine did.  I also told a handful of people what was going on when it happened, then relied upon those few to tell everyone else.  I was not alone, even when I felt like I was.

But it still hurt like hell, and it continues to, right to this very day.  There’s a numbness that comes with the passage of time, but it’s never really gone.

I’m not trying to be coy here.  And I’m definitely not ashamed, but I’ll not mention the specifics here.  Why?  Because the thing that I share in common with my heroine is also her big secret – the bombshell that I’ve led up to for two entire full length novels.  And though I know that I have a vastly different readership of my blog than I do of my books, I don’t want someone to stumble across it and see a spoiler.  For those that have already read, they’ll understand.   So far, the lovely bloggers and reviewers who have written about this book have quite eloquently skirted around this theme and I’m not going to be the one who ruins it.

Writing about it, passing that fear and grief and thought process on to someone that I’ve created has been a cathartic exercise.  Truth be told, I toyed with the idea of chickening out and changing the big reveal to something else, because I was scared to deal with it myself.  Maybe have her abducted by a UFO or something – something that wouldn’t hurt so damn much.  But once I sat down and bled at my laptop, crying at the keyboard along with her, I knew I was doing the right thing.

I also knew that I would make some people uncomfortable.  I knew that I might offend readers by being honest and open and genuine.  Whether it’s because the subject matter hits too close to home or simply because it caught them off guard matters not.  I knew I was running the risk of alienating those who were looking for a quick, breezy read and I more or less said “screw it”.  I knew that readers would potentially label this novel as the “fill in the blank” book, and that’s okay.  There’s still a stigma attached to talking about this, and it’s undeserved.

There’s also a lot of people who have the same history as I do  – who might very well be ashamed or not distanced enough from the pain not to be lowered once more into those layers of despair that I know all too well.  Who might slam the book shut or turn the Kindle off and stop right there.  Now that I’m done with publication, even I skip strategic portions of that chapter because it’s too much.  I totally get it.

I’m fairly new to the whole blogging universe, but I came across an article about trigger warnings.  Which led me to Google the term “trigger warning” because I had no idea what in the world it meant.  For the uninitiated (like I was two months ago), it’s more or less a disclaimer at the beginning of an article or blog alerting people that the content contains sensitive material.  A lot of times, it’s related to depictions of violence or abuse, often of a physical nature.  But it can be used for anything that a specific group of people could find especially disturbing because of their collective history.  As far as I’m concerned, this topic also qualifies.  I’m not being a softie, even though Pixar movies make me cry and that damn Apple commercial that ran over Christmas with the boy who you thought was always just playing on his phone, but was really recording his family in order to put together a video for them, well, that got me too.  But seriously, there are bona fide support groups for this trauma.  It’s a big deal.

It was then that I wondered if my novel should have contained a disclaimer.  Granted, that would have been hard to incorporate without giving the entire crux of the story away.  After doing a bit more research, I learned that most professionally published novels that contain sensitive material don’t allude to it on the book jacket, so I breathed a sigh of relief.  Confirmation that you haven’t just made a major misstep is always a good thing.

Even so, there have been mixed reactions to my book and I’m good with that.  Some have said it’s their favorite of mine to date.  For others, it’s been their only introduction to my writing and it’s been viewed positively (meaning five star reviews).  Some people picked up the series here and had nothing more to say than “meh”, but they really liked the side characters – who, of course, aren’t as depressing.  Still others who have raved about Books One and Two have been completely silent after reading Three.

But I wrote the book that I wanted to.  And that’s what matters in the end.  I wrote it not to profit off of my pain, but to show that happy endings are still possible.  I lived through this and came out intact.  I’ve walked through the darkness and gotten through to the other side, knowing that I quite literally wouldn’t have what I have today if things had happened differently.

But always, always, there’s the hint of what could have been.  And the fact that I will never forget.

“Never forget how much I love you,” I whispered.  “I’ll never forget you.”

Designed, Chapter 17

 

Marketing Tips from a 10 Year Old

Both my 10 year old and my 9 year old have a new hobby.  They are happily creating their own masterpieces, which will most likely sell better and garner more publicity than mine.  I’m kidding.  Really.

I’ve gladly downloaded Open Office to the old hand me down desktop and my former laptop (where  Intoxicated  was written) already has the starter version of Word installed.  A few tips from mom – but not too many – and off they went.

I’m saving the lecture about proper formatting for ebook editions later.   I’m also ignoring the fact that I’ve already found several grammatical errors and misspellings because, hey, they’re kids.  We’ll discuss that later.  No sense in raining on their parades yet.

What’s cool is that I didn’t push them to do this.  At all.  I guess they think it’s normal, that maybe all people sit and create something and try to sell it on Amazon.  The verdict’s still out on that; I’m sure some that are harsh on the indie publishing world would tend to agree.

Like me, they started from humble beginnings.  I’m certainly not alone in the fact that I created my first works in spiral notebooks.  Then I graduated to my inaugural bottom of the line laptop with the free version of Office.  Yes, the annoying one with ads.  They’re just starting earlier with the technology.

The 10 year old is also a pretty talented artist.  Some of the stuff that she creates on the computer baffles my mind.  I have absolutely no idea where she learned how to do what she does.  And her doodles on paper have an anime styling.  Naturally, the first “book” she put together on a wide-ruled tablet included illustrations.

It  also included this cover blurb:

 

IMG_0371

For those of you that don’t read elementary school girl writing, I’ll translate.

Welcome to the magical world of Maleot!  5 teens on a big mission and 1 big problem.  Read on to find out what happens or leave yourself clueless…

First off, I think she might have been listening to those marketing gurus who talk about elevator pitches.  Secondly, her first attempt at a cover blurb may just be better than any of mine.  And lastly, maybe she’s come up with a new technique that the #amwriting world could learn from:  insult your reader.

After all, no one wants to feel clueless.  Right?  But would it convince someone to buy your book?  Hmmmmm.

For the life of me, the poor child could not understand why I took a picture of this.  Or why it made me both laugh hysterically and beam with pride.  And she would absolutely kill me if she knew I blogged about it.  But I doubt she’ll sue me for copyright infringement so I think I’m safe.  Plus, I pay for everything that she has, so she knows not to piss me off.  Anyway, I’m pretty sure that this is an abandoned project and that she’s moved on to bigger and better things.

As for the 9 year old, she’s working on a collaboration with a classmate.  As in the classmate came up with the title of the story and my daughter is writing the entire thing.  Being the nice person she is, she’s given her friend equal credit on the title page.  Yes, I know there’s plenty of lessons to be taught from that, but her eyes sort of glaze over when I explain why hers is not the best arrangement.  She’ll figure it out.

Realistically, this is probably just a passing phase and all hopes and dreams for them of being authors will fly out the window shortly.  They’re already distracted by the PS4.

But then again, maybe not.

10 Reasons I’m Glad I’m Not a Bestselling Author

Okay, so like most authors, my dream is to actually make money on my books.  As it stands now, my novels cost me money.  Yes, I sell a few, but so far I have put every penny earned plus some back into various aspects of this venture.  I’ll be happy if one day I consistently earn enough each month to fund a nice car payment.  I’m thinking a Lexus or perhaps one of those new Mercedes that can read your handwriting – though I’m not sure why it needs to.  Shouldn’t you be – I don’t know – driving?

People that semi-know me in real life and are privy to the fact that I moonlight as a romance author tend to fawn over me a little bit.  I’ve heard several times from different people things along the lines of “we can say we knew you when” or “one day, when you’re famous”.  Inwardly I roll my eyes because I know I might never make it out of the slush pile.

Yes, I’m sarcastic and self-deprecating as hell.  So the idea for this post sprung to mind.  Consider it tongue in cheek, consider it thought provoking.  Just don’t think that I’m crying myself to sleep at night.  Because I’m not.

1.  If I were to hit the bestseller list anywhere for ten seconds, I might be obligated to call myself a bestselling author for the rest of my life.  These words are like nails on a chalkboard to me when I see them on people’s social media profiles.  It’s actually gotten a couple of people unfollowed  on Twitter because they felt the need to auto DM me and let me know.  I had never heard of them before.  I’m betting that most of the general public hadn’t, either.  My opinion is that the majority of people who are qualified to label themselves as such don’t need to, because you already know what they do.

2.  Right now, every single sale inspires a celebration.  And when I sell what I call the trifecta (all three books currently in my series in the same day at the same retailer) it’s all the more wonderful.  If I was selling hundreds of books per week, I’d be walking around in a state of constant euphoria and I’d be damn tired.  Really, I never want to lose that sense of wonder that people are actually paying to read the stories I come up with in my head.

3.  On Goodreads, I can tell simply by looking at the number of people that have my books on their to read shelves if someone new has added it.  When that number ticks upward by one, it inspires a whole new happiness of its own.

4.  I can also tell just by looking at my overall star rating on Amazon or Goodreads that someone new has reviewed my book.  I play a bit of a game with myself where I guess what star rating I got on said new review simply by analyzing how it affected the average.  I haven’t been wrong yet.

5.  Five star reviews still make me cry.  Happy tears, because I’m not the only one who doesn’t think my writing sucks.  Hell, any review makes me cry, no matter the star rating because someone has publicly admitted to reading my stuff.

6.  I have no pressure to create the next book, because very few people are going to notice when it comes out anyway.  The only pressure I feel is self-inflicted, and I can tell myself to shut up.

7.  I can write like nobody will read it because it’s not that far from the truth.  I considered censoring myself during one of the flashback scenes in my newest release because I wasn’t sure what the reaction would be.  Eventually, I decided to leave the specific details in the finished product, and no one who’s read it has accused me of being inappropriate or icky.  I wonder if any reader could guess what scene I’m talking about – it might not be the obvious one.  Perhaps I created a problem that I never really had.

8.  I’m so accustomed to spelling my entire name immediately after giving it to someone that it would really freak me out if people actually recognized it and knew how to pronounce it.  “Alicia” I can kind of understand, although there are some famous ones out there (Keys and Silverstone spring to mind).  “Kline” boggles my mind because I really thought I was hitting the last name lottery when I got married.  But no, I always have to differentiate between Cline and Klein.  And don’t get me started on the people that call up asking for Mr. or Mrs. Clean.  For the record, my husband is not a bald cartoon character who sells household products.

9.  I can still shop at Walmart in sweats and no makeup and no one cares.  I can also go shopping at Walmart in full hair and makeup and no one cares.

10.  Even though I am doing this as professionally as possible, it still doesn’t feel like work.  If this ever felt like a job, if I ever had to depend on this to be my sole income, I think my writing would suffer because it wouldn’t be fun anymore.  Everyone is shocked that I work 40 plus hours a week in insurance, then I come home and spend maybe another 20 hours per week writing, blogging, or marketing.   (I take weekends off to spend with my family).  What they don’t understand is that the whole author thing is pure enjoyment for me and it’s how I relax.  Most of the time.  I do yell at my computer on occasion.

So there you have it.  I like where I’m at right now because the only place to go is up.  And the view from where I’m currently standing is pretty beautiful already.

 

Assigning Value

Over the course of the past six months or so, I’ve made a conscious decision to review every fiction book that I read.  This change of heart came from me realizing what a struggle it is for most indie authors to have their works read, let alone have someone write a review for it.  During this time, I’ve not only read self-pubbed works, but also the traditionally pubbed stuff too.  So I’m an equal opportunity reviewer.

I’m kind of quirky about where I post.  Since the bulk of my reading material has been coming from my Scribd account lately, I have only been posting those reviews to Goodreads.  I have purchased the occasional read from Amazon, and those reviews get published on both sites, since my Kindle posts to both concurrently.  I know that common practice is to ask people to post to both places, but I’ve been reading some pretty popular fare lately.  It absolves me of some guilt about not copying and pasting to add my two cents to the hundreds of Amazon reviews already available.  Besides, even my lowly self has more total reviews on Goodreads than anywhere else.  I completely understand why.  If you didn’t buy it on Amazon and you didn’t personally promise to post the review everywhere you can think of, then it’s okay in my book to leave one review in one place and move on.

Recently, I gave my first two star review.  This was to a traditionally published book by a big time, well known author.  Not out of spite, but because I really didn’t care for the storyline of the book.   And I knew I wouldn’t be hurting this particular author’s sales or ego because I chimed in about not feeling connected to her antiquated characters.  It didn’t feel right to bump up my star rating to a three because the technical aspects of the thing were spot on.  So I figured that in this circumstance, it was okay to be honest and leave the lowest star review ever in my short reviewing career.

When I come to the end of a book, I often know exactly what I’m going to say in the body of my review, but I struggle with the star rating.  Why?  Because it’s difficult for me to assign a numeric value to my opinions.  I know if I liked something or not, but I take it a step further and try to compare it with other books that I’ve already read and reviewed.  For example, did I like it as much as this other book that I gave a four star?  More?  Less?  And then I go from there.

As I’ve progressed in the number of posted reviews, I’ve found myself more than once wanting to go back and assign a different star rating to something I’ve already done.  This happens most often in that space between the three and four star review.  So many times, I’m stuck between the two and have to decide whether or not I should round up or down.  Sometimes, I don’t get it right.  I usually figure this out when I am a bit removed from the book and realize I’m about to give the next novel the same exact star rating, but I either liked the current one more or less than the previous one.

That’s really maddening to someone as anal retentive as me.  Maybe I’d be better off with a scale of one to ten, since there would be many more options from which I could select,  But probably not.

My whole point of this rant is that I think that too many people get too hung up on numbers.  A star rating is a very subjective thing that varies widely between reviewers, and even widely with the same reviewer depending on timing.  But we see time and again where some advertisers only want books with so many reviews and an average star rating of whatever that it’s hard not to focus on that quick and dirty number.

What’s more important is what is said in the reviews.  I’ve had five star reviews of my work that were more critical than three star reviews.  If people only looked at the star ranking, they’d miss that.  Our trained response is to assume that the lower a star rating assigned, the lower that reviewer’s enjoyment of the book.  In fact, one of my readers gave me a three star review that said my book was “a great story”.  I suppose this bodes well for me if a potential reader who qualifies all five star reviews as bogus (mine are not) and only reads the four stars and lower is considering a contemporary romance book and stumbles upon my page.

Many people are calling for a change in the way that book reviews written by the general public are handled.  Many people insist that the bulk of Amazon reviews are fake and that the system is way too easily manipulated.  Still others complain that the star ratings on Amazon and Goodreads should mean the same thing – they are owned by the same people now – which does make sense to me.  And even more think that star ratings should be given the boot altogether.

I’m trying to imagine a world in which we don’t have a handy metric to rate a book’s overall impression with people.  We like numbers and percentages and these make sense to us.  If all we had to go by was the written word, would reviews of something even make a difference?  Would people actually take the time to read them?  Or post them in the first place?

In essence, my takeaway from this is that we shouldn’t let another person’s viewpoint sway ours entirely.  We shouldn’t be ashamed to like something that the majority of people don’t, just as we shouldn’t feel obligated to read the “it” book that everyone is raving about.  Reviews and ratings should be just one tool in our arsenal.  While they may help to drive sales and buzz, they are by definition someone’s opinion.

And everyone has one of those.

 

Taking it Personally

I’ve spoken here a couple of different times about my hate/hate relationship with Facebook.  The only reason I have a personal profile there is because I need to have one in order to have an author page.  I don’t post personal pictures or status updates.  If something really exciting is going on with my page, I will share it with my friends.  I don’t think it makes much of a difference, but at least they can tell I’m alive.  I do admit to scrolling through my news feed to see what’s going on with other people, but I don’t like or comment as just plain old me.  My author self does all liking and commenting, which isn’t a whole lot anyway.

Up until June of this year, I didn’t even have an author page, because my disgust with Facebook was so strong.  Then I took part in a really awesome Facebook party with other authors and I changed my tune a bit.  Since I had so much fun hosting that event for my allotted hour and I met so many cool reader types during it (who asked me if I had an author page they could like), I decided to bite the bullet and create a page.

Since then, I’ve been fairly good about posting updates and content that I don’t share on Twitter – my social media drug of choice – or Google Plus, which I dabble in from time to time.  After all, there are at least a few people who follow/like/whatever me all three places and I don’t want to bore them to death.  I’ve also been rather lucky at growing my audience.  When I first started out, I doubted I would ever reach that 100 likes milestone that Facebook dangles before you.   But I bested that number two times over plus some, mainly because of a new release/giveaway promotion in July and just a plain old giveaway that I took part in with about 100 different indie authors.

Most of those people who liked my page have stayed around.  Judging from my stats related to reach, most of those people don’t ever see a single word I post.  Considering that I’ve found documentation that a common visibility percentage is between 2-6, I’m still kicking ass in that department.  But then we get into the bane of my existence:  the unlike.  Over the past week, that nasty occurrence has reared its ugly head more than once.

My gut instinct is to immediately ask “What did I do wrong?”

I’ve been around on Twitter long enough to not be bothered by an unfollow or ten after I tweet something.  And I certainly understand a drop off of followers after a giveaway ends and a winner is announced.  If you look at the majority of Twitter accounts of people who seem to do nothing on the site but enter contests, you notice that they have only a handful of followers themselves, but are following just under that magic number of 2,000.  It makes sense that they’d pack up and run because they are on to the next contest entry.

I had to do a little digging, but I did come up with evidence that there is a Facebook liking limit as well.  The exact terms of it appear to be very vague and confusing, or maybe that was just me because I was nursing a headache when I read them.  But it appears that some contest enterers frequently hit this Facebook liking threshold and have to clean up shop.

I’ve told myself that this is likely what has happened in my case, but there’s something about Facebook’s terminology that makes it seem more personal.  It hurts way more to be “unliked” then it does “unfollowed”.  After all, do I  really  want someone tracking all my movements like that action on Twitter implies?  Not particularly.  But let’s face it:  everyone wants to be liked.

So for you that use Facebook:  are you very selective with your likes?  Or do you like any old thing that tickles your fancy at the moment – from a toothpaste company to a band – and then deal with the consequences later?  And what makes your list as grounds for an unlike?

 

 

 

 

Marinate

I’ve been watching too many cooking shows.  To be honest with you, that’s about all I really watch on television anyway.  As a family, we decided a year or so ago to give up cable, since we weren’t really watching it enough for the exorbitant amount we were paying per month to be worth it.  Let’s face it; when I’m at home and not actively doing something with my family, I’m either writing or reading.  When I do stare blindly at the TV, my attention is focused on public broadcasting’s wide array of foodie shows.

So it’s reasonable to use a food analogy for my writing method.  By definition, marinate means to soak or to steep.  Most often in a sauce, but for my purposes, in my brain.

We’ll start off small.  With my blog posts I typically have a few ideas rolling around in my head each week for things I’d like to discuss.  Some are serious, some are self-promotional, others are off the wall zany.  I’ll try to come up with a witty title and a short, tweetable plug that I’ll send out to announce it’s there.  This all happens before I sit down at the computer and actually write the thing.  Posts are typically written on Monday or Tuesday nights, then saved and published on Wednesday late nights so they get emailed to my subscribers on Thursday mornings.

Some weeks, I’m a fountain of creative genius that people may or may not be reading.  I’ve been known to fire off three or four posts in a single week, though I don’t share them immediately.  Most of the time my limit is two per week max- one that I share for Monday Blogs and if there’s a second post, it’s book related or promotional.  Since I hate spamming “look at me” posts, I don’t expect the promotional ones to be retweeted by my blogger friends.

But always, always, there is a cooling off period where I let my thoughts marinate.  I go back and read it before I send it out into the world.  I edit, or add things, or delete things all together.

Why?  Because in real life there are so many times where you’re caught up in the moment and the conversation doesn’t go as planned.  How many times have you thought of a kickass comeback hours later and wished you could have said it?  In my blogging life, I go back in and add it before anyone else reads it.  So ultimately, I look super witty the very first time.  Nobody sees how many revisions my posts have.  That’s my little secret.

I’m the same way with my novels.  I’m not an outliner, but I’m not a true pantser either.  It’s no secret that I have entire pages of dialogue already written in my head for my WIP.  I have scenes scripted screenplay fashion, with a character that I haven’t even physically introduced yet playing a crucial role.  No, I don’t write these passages down, nor do I write scenes out of order.  And no, I don’t forget what’s going to be said.  It’s all there marinating, waiting for the perfect moment to come out.

Case in point:  the main character in my WIP has been a scene stealer in the previous three books.  Without a doubt, she’s the comic relief and she gets the very best, most memorable lines in every one.  Her sense of humor obviously comes from me, but I can’t write those things for her on the fly.  Okay, sometimes I do – but it’s very rarely at the precise moment they can be used.  Instead, I think them up and commit them to memory, inserting them when the timing is right.

Now, writing an entire book from her point of view is a bit intimidating.  So I’ve had to think long and hard about her moments of brilliance in this one, so as not to disappoint her fans.  I think I’m doing pretty well at it so far.  But I’m still scared that I won’t be able to top my personal favorites of “No wonder you’re depressed.  Those clothes are making me sad, too” or “All it took to make things right in the world was a conversation and a good screw”.  Did I mention she’s kind of raunchy?

I’ve got some good zingers floating around in my head.  They find their way eventually into my Word doc and sometimes morph into greatness during editing.  Other times, I don’t have to add anything to them.

Just today, I came up with a line that will be marinating for the next seventy thousand words or so.  It’s in one of the final scenes, but this time the credit doesn’t go to my heroine.  I’ll leave you with it to ponder:

“You’re so good at making me forget that I don’t even know why I wanted to remember.”

 

A Novel Idea

As some of you may already know, I’ve signed up for an Author Fair this fall at my public library.  Although they do allow entrance to authors who only have ebook copies of their work available, the draw is obviously there to bring along paperback versions of your novels, as you’re encouraged to sell them there.  Add this to the fact that I’ve read time and again that while ebooks are taking over the market, you’re still wise to have hard copies available.  Plus, someone who read my last book contacted me on Facebook and asked me if I had any book signings planned.

Mind you, I can already autograph ebook copies.  But the thought of actually sitting at a table with a pen and signing a real book for a fan just seems way more impressive than sitting at my laptop and trying to do an impersonation of my signature with my mouse.

So I decided if I was going to do this thing, I would do it right and have some real life hard copies of my series available.  If I’m being honest with you, I don’t expect to sell a single one of them.  But I’ll have a copy of each for posterity, I’ll probably sneak a set onto my employer’s book cart in the break room to see if anyone notices, and the rest will make awesome doorstops.

Like many self-pubbers, I opted to use CreateSpace for my paperbacks.  I’ve heard horror stories about formatting, page numbering and the like, so I did a bit of research before diving in.  I bookmarked some helpful blogs, scoured the CreateSpace website itself and also went to the ultimate source – a book on my bookshelf.

Then I set to work.  Obviously, the hardest part was already over.  I have three books that are currently published in ebook format.  So there’s over three hundred thousand words already plotted out.  Already read and reread, over and over until I can recite them in my sleep.  All I had to do was make them pretty on paper.

I started in chronological order, choosing to format my first book first.  I made only a couple minor changes to the file.  I shortened a “you are” to a “you’re” in the prologue, because it really, really grated on my nerves when I had to read it over and over in excerpts on the blog tour I did.  I added a missing (in some versions) word back to the last chapter.  I updated the page with my other books in the series to reflect Books 4 and 5, which haven’t come out yet but are already titled.

Then I got down to the hard part.  I was timid, expecting to experience the nightmares that I’d already read about.  I formatted according to what guides told me, doing things I didn’t understand because it was the next step on the list.  I opened up the actual paperback on my desk and confirmed little, silly things that I’d never considered before.  Things like how chapters start on odd pages in traditionally published books.  Things like how the front matter isn’t page numbered, nor are the first pages of each chapter.  So while page two is the second page of Chapter One, it’s not the true second page of the book.  And there’s no (marked) page one.

Much like the first time I formatted my first book for ereaders, the exercise made me want to curl up in the fetal position and rock back and forth.  But I got through it, and still came out alive on the other side.

The second book didn’t go as well for me, though the total formatting time was less than the first.  This is because I went without the assistance of webpages and blogs.  Instead, I referred back to what I’d already done with my first book and attempted to recreate it.  Just when I thought that I’d gotten it right, a quick check through the interior viewer would confirm that Chapter Such and Such still began on page 204, and I really didn’t have a good concept of what I was doing.  I tried to be all ninja like with Odd Numbered Section Breaks, but for whatever reason they didn’t seem to stick.  Ever.  But after much yelling at my computer and much uploading to CreateSpace, I got it done all in one night.

The next night, I came back for Book Three.  And to potentially get my ass handed to me yet again.  That’s when the magic happened.  I didn’t refer to anything.  No blogs, no websites, no Book One or Two.  I put in my earbuds and just went to town on the thing.  I didn’t think about formatting.  It all came naturally.  I did sing (loudly) through three complete Parabelle albums, which usually drives my girls nuts, but since this was infinitely better than me screaming at my computer, they didn’t say one word.

Which led me to believe that I do my best formatting when I’m not thinking about formatting at all.  It also led me to question whether I could make any money doing it for other people.  After all, CreateSpace’s packages start at $199.  I think that price includes a bit more expertise than I could provide (and undoubtedly less cursing), but still.  They’ll also happily do your Kindle version for something like $80.  That’s a lot of money that some people are willing to shell out for a couple nights’ worth of work.  Even if I charged half that, it’s still a nice little chunk of change.

Then I remembered that I am super anal retentive.  No joke, my rough drafts – ever since the first book – are all fully formatted for ebook consumption.  I write them that way so once I’m happy with the edited version I can just slap on the copyright, front matter, back stuff and be done with it.  I couldn’t deal with someone else’s files handed to me every which way.   So there goes that career path.

But at least I know when I’m ready to print Book Four that it’s not a daunting task ahead of me.   And I can be glad that I will never, ever, have to do three paperbacks at once again.

Designed Bonus Content – Wedding Day

I’ve been sitting on this bonus content for quite awhile.  However, in honor of Labor Day and not working, I thought it would be appropriate.  After all, Eric and Lauren didn’t exactly work, either.

There’s a couple minor spoilers in here for those of you who haven’t read “Designed” yet.  I don’t feel too badly about revealing that, yes, Lauren and Matthew get married in this book because that part was already pretty obvious at the end of Book Two.  This leaves what I consider spoilers to be a.) Blake and Eric make a bit of a scene at the wedding (unbeknownst to either her brother or new sister-in-law), and b.) what Eric sees at the very end of this content.

That being said, enjoy!

Wedding Day