aliciareneekline.com

Official Website for Contemporary Romance Author Alicia Renee Kline

Newbie

I’ve gone and done it now.

Over the course of the past week, I joined (one of?) the newest social media network(s) on the internet, Tsu.  To be honest with you, I hadn’t even heard about it until somebody that I respect posted about it on her Facebook group page and invited people to join.  So I filed it away in the back of my mind and looked into it before signing up myself.

From what I read, Tsu is gaining popularity, especially with the author crowd, because it’s a cross between Facebook and Twitter.  Face it – most of us are on both anyway.  From my first impressions, it reminds me slightly more of Facebook, with one big plus:  those who friend or follow you actually have the stuff you post show up in their newsfeed.  No more 2-6% of the people who’ve liked your page getting your message; everyone who’s connected to you does.  How awesome is that?

You probably noticed the terminology “friend or follow” because you have options.  “Friend” is what it means on Facebook, a mutual acknowledgment of each other on the network.  Your friends see all of your posts, just like you see theirs.  You can also “follow” someone, meaning you can see their posts, but they don’t see yours.  You don’t need to do both, so if a person that you’re following eventually sends you a friend request, or accepts yours, you’ll want to stop following them because your number of follows is limited to 1,000.

I kind of like the differentiation between friending and following.  One of the caveats to Twitter is your following to followers ratio, which makes a lot of people think twice before following celebrities or other “names” that you know will never follow you back.  Personally, I’m using my follows for book blogs and the like.  In my limited time on Tsu, I have one-clicked so many new books that have been on sale that it’s ridiculous.  Good thing I read quickly.

You can also search for posts by other members who you’re not connected to by using hashtags.  So yes, you can get visibility by posting content with #author or #romance or whatever, and maybe even find some new friends or followers that way.

But with any new network, it’s got its critics.  The most vocal ones are shouting that it’s a scam, or at the very least a social media Ponzi scheme.  Yes, there is a monetary side to Tsu, which promises that users will share in the profits from their postings, unlike what happens over at Facebook.  And there’s a sort of convoluted family tree thing that comes into play, too.   In order to sign up for the network, you have to be “invited”, which really isn’t as exclusive as it sounds.  It means you have to click on someone’s link who is already a member.  Then you register for your own account and they become your “parent”.  Likewise, any people that sign up using your link become your “children” and so on down the line.  Eventually, the idea is that if you are sitting on top of a big network, you will end up making (a very small amount of) money off of everyone in your network’s posts and shares.

Me, I don’t expect to see a dime from posting on Tsu, so that’s not why I’m there.  I’m not about the hard sell, so I’ve nicely asked people to join that are already connected to me on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus and have gotten absolutely no results.  Yes, according to Tsu, I’m pretty much completely barren.  You’ll notice my friends and followers list is nothing to brag about either – certainly not like the person who gloated that after three days on the network, he had 500 friends.  Considering that I can’t convince my in-laws or some of my beta readers to like my page on Facebook, my experience with Tsu is exactly what I expected.  (I still love you guys, though!)  But don’t think that I’m crying in my Vanilla Coke; my first Tsu friendship came about 30 seconds after I joined and was to a book blogger who I don’t recall meeting anywhere else.

From there, I’ve slowly been looking up people that I know from Twitter and Facebook, and if we already have a connection, I’ve been sending them friend requests.  But I’m not expecting this to be the magical balm that will propel me into superstardom.  At the same time, I can’t ignore getting in on the ground floor of something with good potential.  So I’ll play around with this and market on Tsu, Twitter and Facebook and see where it takes me.  But the main focus in this writer’s life is always going to be on creating the next book, as I think it should be.

So if you’re already lingering around Tsu and want to hook up, or if you have an urge to try it out, here’s my link.  We’ll be newbies together!

 

On Borrowed Time

So perhaps the single most awesome thing in my writing career happened for me recently.  Nope, I didn’t hit the bestseller list for thirty seconds, or get closer to achieving my goal of luxury car ownership via royalty checks.  In fact, my monumental feat has absolutely nothing to do with sales.

My books are now in my local library.

My husband told me that it would be unseemly to go visit them, so I just have to take the online card catalog’s word for it.  I believe it; here’s the link.

For some reason, this is more validation for me as an author than having an Amazon page, a Goodreads profile, or a Facebook fan page.  Maybe it’s because growing up, I never dreamed in a million years that something I wrote would be placed on those shelves.  Shelves upon which I discovered my love of reading.  And in the library setting, it’s somewhat of a more level playing field, in as far as my fiction books are alphabetized right in with traditionally published works by big named authors.

As you might recall, in November I was one of approximately 70 authors who took part in an Author Fair held at our Main Library.  As such, we were encouraged to bring copies of our books for sale.  This event pushed me to create paperback copies of my already published ebooks so that I actually had something to show off while I was there.  Though I sold a few books there, I did come away with some inventory.  Which got me thinking – what if I donated a couple copies of each book to the library so that readers in my community could enjoy them?

So I asked.  And I got a quick response back.  One that shocked me.  It went something like this:  “Of course we would be happy to accept your contribution.  But we’d like you to know that we’ve already got the first book in your series on order and it should be stocked shortly.”

Yes, they had already purchased my book.  Without me asking them to, or me getting down on my hands and knees and begging them to.  And I had no clue. Which I found to be even sweeter than them agreeing to take some free ones off my hands.

I’ll likely never see the proceeds from that book, because my net royalty on that particular sale is only 50 cents.  And I seriously doubt I’ll see an influx of paperback purchases that will help me cross the payment threshold.  But I don’t care one iota. Because they showed me with that order that they believed in me, at least a little bit.

I promptly dropped off copies of Books Two and Three, as well as two additional copies of the one that they already bought.  Now all three novels are in circulation, and as of this posting, over half of the copies available have been checked out.  I’m really curious on how they are being displayed, or if library staff is recommending them or what.  Other than a quick post to Facebook and Google Plus and a mention to some coworkers – who I seriously doubt are responsible for borrowing them – I’ve told no one that they are there.

I’m excited to see what the future holds, and I’m cautiously optimistic that this will have a snowball effect.  A common take away from people that I met at the Author Fair was that it was cool that I based my books in Fort Wayne.  And now, the community that serves as my setting has the chance to check them out, very literally.

Though I know not everyone in our city of a quarter million people has a library card, our library system is county wide.  Even though the copies all originated at the main library, since readers can return them at any branch in the county, they may find their way to other locations in the area.  Or if there is enough demand for the copies that they already have, the library may purchase additional copies to shelve at some of the more frequented branches.

Any way I look at this, the potential to reach a new set of readers is nothing to sneeze at.

 

 

 

 

 

Piercing Presence

I miss sleeping on my left side.

There’s a work around that I’ve come up with recently which is sort of convoluted and involves me putting my pillow a few inches away from my husband’s and sticking my left ear in the gap between them, balancing my head on the edges of both.  Understandably, this position doesn’t last long, and it usually only works when I’m trying to fall asleep anyway.  Sometimes I also try propping my ear up on my arm so that it doesn’t touch the pillow itself, which doesn’t work much better.  Invariably, I wake up on my right side, or if I’m feeling really adventurous, on my stomach.

Back in the spring – I’d say around May or so – I got my left ear gauged.  For the uninitiated, what this means is that I got the cartilage at the top of my ear pierced by a hollow needle, leaving a hole into which was threaded a small hoop earring.  It hasn’t yet completely healed, which isn’t out of the ordinary.  It certainly doesn’t hurt nonstop, but it is still sore when bumped into or when I smash it against a pillow.  But I like the way that it looks and that’s just the price that I have to pay.  I’m hoping at some point it will be as though it’s not even there and I can go about sleeping (or putting on my winter hat) as I did before.  But not quite yet.

This is the second piercing that I’ve had done in relatively the same location.  The first time I got it done was at the mall, with a traditional ear piercing gun when I was about eighteen or nineteen.  I had loads of problems with that one, so I took out the earring and let it grow shut.  I later learned that one should never get a cartilage piercing done with this method, and in fact, the state of Indiana has outlawed this practice.  You now need to go to a tattoo / piercing parlor to get this done (with the needle method) by a licensed individual, which is what I did the second time around.  So far, so good.

As you might have gathered from reading some of my previous posts, this was not my first trip to a tattoo parlor or my first piercing.  So the thought of having to go back to one of these establishments certainly did not discourage me from getting a cartilage piercing done (like it seemed to do to the lady at the mall who told me to simply cross the state line and get it done in Ohio, instead of going to the tattoo place that’s approximately seven minutes away from my home).  Last time I checked, Ohio was more than seven minutes away.

My first experience at a tattoo parlor was actually getting a tattoo done.  This happened prior to children, and most of the time I forget it’s there.  A pretty vine of flowers along my lower back, which I will catch in the mirror from time to time when I’m getting dressed and still have no regrets over it being there.  It occasionally shocks people when they learn that I have one, though to look at me it shouldn’t, because though it’s my only tattoo, I didn’t exactly stop there with the modifications.

Next I got my navel pierced.  This one I had to think long and hard about.  And I also waited until I was done having children before I did it, because I just didn’t want to consider the logistics of it.  I mean, I was the pregnant lady that completely lost her belly button, as in it became totally flat as things progressed.  Both times.  So when I was in the clear, it took a small dare from my husband before I grabbed the keys to the minivan and drove myself to get it done.  Though I love the end result, it was the most painful addition I’ve made – both during the actual piercing and the healing process itself.  If it ever closed up (which I won’t let happen), I would not get it done again.

Then came the nose.  It’s the one that most people are curious about, maybe because it’s right there in the middle of my face.  It’s also my favorite one of the three that I have.  I’d admired other people’s nose rings before, but being in the banking industry, it was always a sort of pipe dream for me since that look was definitely not work appropriate for a conservative institution.  When I quit the bank and moved on to insurance, I found myself working in a much more laid back environment, so I got the green light to have this done.

Nose piercing number one did not work so hot.  My first nose ring had a habit of migrating out of my nose, which sometimes happens.  I tried a shorter nose screw after the initial healing period, which actually got embedded into my nostril and had to be pulled out the other side.  Yeah, that was about as fun as it sounds.  After a few more pieces of jewelry, it closed up overnight when the nose bone I had in came out in my sleep.

I was sad.  Of all the piercings I had, the nose  was the one that I felt was a part of my personality.  I went bare for about a year or so before getting it redone.  This time, no problems at all so it’s here to stay.  I did have a dream this morning though, where my nose was horribly stuffy and I ended up waking myself up by taking the nose bone out, likely to solve my problem.  Luckily, I still had it in my hand, so straight to the bathroom I went to put it back in with very bleary eyes.

To be honest with you, apart from the occasional “How do you blow your nose?”, most people don’t even seem to notice the tiny sparkle on the side of my face.  The answer, in case you were wondering, is just like everyone else.  With a tissue.

I’m happy to report that I’ve never gotten any rude comments from people because of the way I present myself.  I’m beginning to think that as time rolls on, people are growing more and more accepting of those who choose to adorn themselves in a permanent manner.  This is a wonderful thing in my book.

Case in point:  I went into the same bank that used to employ me over the summer to attend to some business.  The head teller there had a nose ring, small and delicate, just like the one I sport.

Kind of makes me wonder if I should have pushed the envelope before I left.

 

 

 

Thankful

Since this post is going live right before Thanksgiving, I’ll be a bit cheesy and embrace the holiday.  Unlike those who proclaim their gratefulness for things like family, a place to live and food to eat – all good sentiments – I’ll keep mine strictly writing based.

Here’s my list of things I’m thankful for:

1.  Self-publishing – Because without it, I wouldn’t be an author at all.  I never once had the inclination to query an agent or a publisher.  Not because I didn’t believe in myself or think I was good enough to be published, but rather because I didn’t want a string of rejections to dissuade me from trusting that I was.

2.  Readers – Not so long ago, I never thought that anyone else would be privy to the tales I was weaving in my head.  Every person that chooses to pick up one of my novels (especially when there are so many worthy options out there) is one more person than I dreamed would ever read them.

3.  Reviews – Though sometimes I question how crucial they are to the bottom line, I still enjoy hearing feedback from readers.  Yes, I know that reviews aren’t for authors – they’re for other readers – but sometimes I’m surprised at what has resonated with others.  Case in point:  a certain scene from one of my books keeps getting quoted, when I had actually considered removing it from the final version  completely.

4.  Time – I’ve devoted countless hours to this endeavor, and I’m lucky that I’ve been able to do so.  Just a couple of years ago, with two small children, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do this writing thing justice.  So I didn’t even try.  Now that they’re older, I’m able to squeeze in this second career.  It’s still not easy with a full time job, but I joke that I don’t sleep much.  When I do, I sometimes dream about story arcs.

5.  Social Media – Without it, no one would have heard of me.  At all.  It’s still not far from the truth, but at least I’m kinda sorta respectable.  It’s a small victory that when you Google my name, you now actually get me instead of being redirected to “Alicia Klein”.  I know I don’t market my books as much as I should, but when I want to, it’s mine for the taking.  I’m much more likely to make an irreverent statement on Twitter than to post a book link.  Or anything about my book, actually.  On my Facebook fan page, though, I’m all about the books.  Or at least romance.

6.  Ideas – Because without them, I’d have a serious case of writer’s block.  I’m in no way an outliner, but I already know how the final installment of my series is going to play out.  That’s two releases away, if you’re keeping track.  And I’ve got the basis for three stand alones after that.  I hope I come up with more soon, or I’ll be screwed in about three years.

7.  Characters – They write themselves in some ways.  I want to be friends with most of them.  Others I’d like to strangle.  But I’ve shocked myself at how easy it is to immerse myself in their lives like they are living, breathing people.

8.  Freedom – I ultimately answer to myself and no one else.  I’m not confronted with deadlines or expectations from outside sources.  I don’t release a novel until I’m happy with it.  The final product is something that I can be proud of (and should be), because it has me written all over it.

9.  Stability – I don’t rely on writing to pay my bills.  I don’t have to.  This means that I write what I want to instead of jumping on the trend bandwagon in hopes of becoming popular.  I’d rather be obscure than feel like I sold out.

10.  Sales – Every. Single. One.  Enough said.

Us Versus Them

I’m about to go on a rant here.  Hopefully, I won’t come across as an unholy bitch.  That’s not my intention at all.  But seriously, I’m sick and tired of a couple of bad apples ruining things for the entire bunch.

Most of us author types are professionals.  And by professionals, I don’t mean we rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars while practicing our craft.  I mean that we act like adults and are courteous.  We treat others like we want to be treated.  Of course we are also human, so our feelings get hurt.  But by and large, we think before we act, because we all know that in this day and age everything we do is public.  The majority of us do not have online hissy fits on social media or stalk people that give our books 1 star reviews.

But every time an author (self or traditionally published – because it happens in both camps) oversteps their boundaries, the rest of us are made to feel like we should hang our heads in shame, too.

It reminds me of high school, and an online version of us versus them.

So now we have bloggers mad at authors and vice versa.  Lines are drawn in the sand and generalities have been made.  And what everyone seems to forget is that we are all supposed to be on the same side, right?

A recurring theme that I’ve heard from both sides is “they don’t appreciate what we do for them”.  Granted, these are the people whose opinions are at opposite ends of the spectrum and who in turn are the most vocal.

Let’s recap:

Bloggers – read authors’ books on their own time, generally don’t get paid, post honest reviews on many outlets, provide a means of promotion for authors, do their best to pimp out the stuff they like.

Authors – generally provide free copies of books for blogger review, do interviews, write bonus scenes, character interviews, etc. that become content for other people’s blogs, provide prizes for giveaways.

Just like in any relationship, there’s a mutual give and take if this is to work correctly.  And when both sides do their part, it’s beneficial to all involved.  But when hard feelings enter the picture, it’s difficult to have shiny happy people on either side of the fence.

How about we get back to basics and realize that no one owes anyone else anything?

If a blogger doesn’t want to read books and write about them, then they shouldn’t.  If the time that they are devoting to blogging should be spent instead at work or with family or whatever, then that is what should be done.  For most bloggers, this is a hobby and it should be at least halfway enjoyable.  If this starts feeling like work (the dreaded kind) or a chore, then it’s going to come across that way to readers.

If an author doesn’t want to give away books to bloggers for free, then they shouldn’t.  At the same time, they shouldn’t expect a bunch of review coverage for that upcoming release.  And certainly if a review or ten pop up, don’t have a meltdown if they aren’t favorable enough.  Even bad reviews spark interest.  Don’t want to do a giveaway?  Hate writing bonus content for other people?  Fine.  No one is holding a gun to your head and making you do those things.

And while we’re on the subject of criticism (constructive, not the threatening or attacking kind) , here’s my take.  If you can’t handle it, you shouldn’t publish anything in the first place.  Sure, pass your Word doc around to your mom or your friends, who will tell you how awesome it is, then stick it in your closet and forget about it.  If you can’t put on your big girl panties, you have no business selling your writing to the general public.

I’ve had some great interactions with bloggers myself.  I certainly can’t be the only author who has had a blogger (on more than one occasion) actually purchase the next book in my series because they enjoyed the one that I gave them for free.  And goodness, if I would have known that they were that into my writing, I would have handed over coupon codes for all of my releases.

I’m lucky enough to have one blogger who doesn’t even ask for book descriptions anymore – I simply let him know that I’ve got a new novel ready and within five minutes I get an email back saying “send it”.  Those are the relationships we should all strive to have.  And if I, a literary nobody, have already fostered this, then I’m sure there are plenty more instances out there.

But we never hear about the good, which happens a lot more than the bad.

Shouldn’t it be the other way around?  Why are we wasting our efforts on people who are drawing attention to themselves in the wrong way?  Shouldn’t we be ignoring them instead?

 

 

 

In Person

I made it through the Author Fair virtually unscathed.  Unfortunately, I can’t say the same thing for my new earrings.  Don’t ask me how one loses a six inch long piece of sterling silver that threads completely through your ear, because I have no clue.  All I know is that it didn’t make it back home and it renders the matching one useless.  There was one royalty check well spent.  Back to the practice of investing all of my sales back into my writing.

(An update after this was initially written:  the earring has been found.  It was wedged in my inventory and fell out from between a couple copies when I flipped through them.  But I haven’t changed my mind about the investment strategy.)

But anyway, as promised, here is a recap of my very first public appearance.  As you might recall, I had a checklist of what I wanted to accomplish in my last post on the subject.  Since you’re all dying to know if I was successful at any of it, we’ll just take care of that in list format.

1.  Talk with potential readers – yes.

2.  To be as good of a representation of my brand in person as I am online – leaning towards yes.

3.  To let my personality shine through snarkiness and all – yes, and bonus points for using “anal retentive” in a sentence while doing so.

4.  To get some new local interest in my work – debatable.  I had people take my business cards – which are super cool, by the way – but we’ll see if anything comes from that.

5.  To meet a couple of the authors whose books I’ve actually read – half accomplished, as in I met one.

6.  To come home with a few less books than I started with – yes.

To read it all spelled out like that, it sounded like it went off without a hitch – right?

Well, not exactly.  There were some, ahem, issues with things.  But nothing insurmountable.

My children are taking an art class at the college on Saturday mornings, which meant that my husband drove me to the library, helped me get set up, and then had to leave again to retrieve them.  My in-laws met them at our house to watch the kids overnight and my husband was supposed to come back and be my companion for the rest of the event.  He did come back, but by the time he did, there was absolutely no parking whatsoever and he never got to exit the car and come in to see me in action.  This meant he just drove around the block repeatedly waiting for me to get the hell out of there.  This also meant that he was not the happiest camper when we met back up.

The turnout for the event on the author front was crazy good.  There were 70 authors slated to be there, and there was even a waiting list on top of that.  Seems that there are more local authors than I thought.  Unfortunately, the table placement was less than stellar because they tried to accommodate as many authors as they could.  Which left me relegated to a table off the main drag, just inside one of the entrances, wedged in a corner by the Dunkin Donuts.  But I was sitting by another romance novelist and an urban fiction author who were both very nice, and we were having quite the discussion about things.

Eventually, the powers that be took pity on all of us in said corner and we got moved into the main drag to fill up seats from those who had not shown up, or left early or whatever.  Unfortunately, this meant that I was split up from my fellow fiction writers and seated in the midst of a lot of really nice non-fiction, historian types.  For someone who writes “smut” as my loved one (and my boss) affectionately call it, it kind of made me want to hide under my new table and rock back and forth, claiming my unworthiness.

As I implied above, I did sell some paperback copies.  My plan was to offer them at a reduced price for the event.  However, the indie bookstore charged list price for them, which is more expensive than they currently run on either Amazon or B&N.  Fortunately, my husband knows the lady that bought them and we returned the difference to her after the fact.  And yes, since the agreement at the Author Fair was to donate 10% of your sales to the library, I did write them a check for 10% of the list price, not the reduced price.

I didn’t go into the event with unrealistic expectations, so I’m not in any way disappointed.  And it was interesting to see how other authors handle public appearances.  Some went all out, bringing posters, artwork and table decorations, while others didn’t have anything but themselves.  I was somewhere in between.  And I certainly wasn’t the least seasoned author in the bunch, which was also comforting.  To think that I was able to both speak intelligently with those who have been more successful than I have and to offer advice to others that are just starting out is a good feeling.

Yes, it was a learning experience.  Will I do it next year?  I’m leaning towards yes, but I’ve got a bit of time to decide for sure.

 

 

Stage Fright

In roughly one week’s time (I’m writing this on Halloween), I’ll be attending my first public appearance as an author.  By the time this post is published on my site, the event will be in a few short days.  And when this post is finally tweeted during Monday Blogs, the Author Fair will be a recent – hopefully positive – memory.  Don’t worry Twitter blogging friends, I’ll do a follow up to let you know what happened.

My local library holds an annual Author Fair, something that I happened to stumble upon last year strictly by accident.  As in I was returning library books the day it was held and hey, there it was.  My husband asked me why I hadn’t signed up to do it.  First off, I would have had to have known about it and secondly, I didn’t feel like I was worthy of being there anyway.

Truth be told, I did know about it, at least in passing.  I’d contacted the library previously to see if they would possibly be interested in purchasing ebook copies of my debut novel.  At the time, I wasn’t distributing on the platform that they use for their digital downloads (I am now) so that part of the conversation was a moot point.  But the nice lady that corresponded with me did let me know about the Author Fair that’s held each fall.  I filed that information away in my head and did absolutely nothing with it.

Why?  Because last year, I didn’t feel as though I belonged in a published authors club.  Even though I did publish two books in 2013, I still felt like an impostor, like I was trying to pretend my way into being an author.  Plus, I felt like the big draw of doing a public appearance was to sell and/or sign physical copies of actual books.  I told myself I would feel like an idiot if I sat at a table all by myself with no product.  What would I do there?  Bring my laptop and show people my Amazon links?

My husband looked at me like I had two heads when I explained this all to him.  His solution was simple:  make print copies.  Carry some inventory so that I could go to events like this and feel like a genuine author.  His take on things is if I can’t make some fans in Fort Wayne (who don’t already know me personally) when my books freaking take place in Fort Wayne, then no one anywhere will give a crap about them either.

I beg to differ slightly with his logic; I mean, I’ve sold copies in Canada, England and Australia, and I’m positive I don’t know anyone personally in any of those places.  In a global marketplace, you can make a name for yourself far away from home.  Just ask David Hasselhoff.

But I did what my loved one suggested and I made paperback copies of my three current novels.  I also paid attention to the library’s website so that I didn’t miss the registration for the event.  This year, I signed up and claimed my place in the published authors club.

So now, I’m sitting typing this while paperback copies of my novels stare at me from their place in the corner of my living room, where they’ve been waiting for their unveiling since the day they arrived at my house.  Tomorrow I’ll cart them over to the indie bookstore that will be selling my books at the event.  I’ve gotten business cards printed to pass out while I’m networking.  I’ve got my autographing pen at the ready.  I even have my outfit planned, right down to the awesome new earrings that I ordered for myself.

But even with all that preparation, I still feel the nervousness creeping in.  That in a sea of seventy total authors, I’ll be invisible and absolutely no one will stop by my table.  That I’ll be outclassed by every single person that’s there.  I recognize this phenomenon from my days in high school, the feeling that I got right before I went out on stage.  And I never made a fool out of myself back then, so that’s at least slightly comforting.

So what are my goals for the Author Fair?  To talk with potential readers.  To be as good of a representation of my brand in person as I am online.  To let my personality shine through snarkiness and all, because that’s a direct reflection of what I write.  To get some new local interest in my work.  To meet a couple of the authors who will be there whose books I’ve actually read.  And maybe to come home with a few less of my own books than I started with.

So stay tuned to see if I actually accomplish any of that.

The one thing that I know for sure is that this will be a learning experience.

 

 

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