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Official Website for Contemporary Romance Author Alicia Renee Kline

Vacant

Yes, I know I haven’t posted here in over three months.  Yes, I know that I just now went into my settings and changed the book links for Silenced to state that it was live and not on preorder, took down the giveaway that ended in February, and removed the progress bar for the book that’s been released for nearly two months.  Seriously, I bet people figured out that it was done already.

No, Chasing Echo hasn’t sat completely untouched, even though that progress bar is clocking in at a big fat goose egg.  I just can’t be bothered to change it right now.

If you haven’t noticed, I’ve sort of had an “I don’t give a fuck” approach to writing lately.  And it seems to work for me.  Because not giving a fuck, and barely making a peep about my new release has rewarded me with quite a few sales.  In fact, having a silent (pun intended) launch has yielded the most results ever.  I’m not even trying, and people are buying.  I attribute this to the fact that I’ve finally used the loss leader approach for the first book, and the few people that have actually downloaded and read it keep coming back for more.

But this post isn’t about sales, or really writing for that matter.  Because it’s pretty obvious that this isn’t my focus right now.

I’ve touched on what’s going on in my personal life briefly if you stalk me on Facebook or Twitter.  Don’t worry, it’s all good.  For nearly the past year, my husband has been interviewing for various manager positions within his company.  All of which would require an out of state move, because that is what the end goal was.  We didn’t care where, we just wanted out of Indiana.

Before people get all riled up, there’s nothing wrong with Indiana.  It’s just that I have lived here all my life, and even though my man has lived overseas, it was before he was old enough to really remember it.  So for all intents and purposes, he’s been here his whole life too.  And we wanted to experience somewhere different; not just on vacation.

That place turned out to be North Carolina.  Sure, there were a few close calls – times when we thought we’d be packing up and heading to Wisconsin or Oklahoma.  We actually figured we didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell at NC.  But that wonderful phone call came, and everything became real.  Right now.

Within weeks, we were flying out to choose a place to live (we decided to build), and shortly after that, my husband had to be out there for good.  Which leaves me back in Indiana to wrap up things like selling the house and getting the kids through the end of the school year.  It’s like being a single parent, only I have a husband available via Skype.

This past weekend, I took the girls out for their first visit to their new home.  Technically, their new hometown, since the house itself has just started to be framed.  So we visited our slab, okay?  That’s how memories are made.  Really, the majority of the time in NC was spent just being a complete family unit again.

So I survived twenty hours in the car in the span of three days, and a trek through the mountains all while being the sole driver.  And the girls and I didn’t kill ourselves, or each other.  No one yelled or screamed, but there were a few tears.  Trust me, it was hard to leave that home and come back to the old one.

This trip was planned at the very beginning of my girls’ spring break, so I wouldn’t have to pull them out of school for the drive down.  So I was gone Friday and Saturday, returning on Sunday.  After unloading the car and taking our stuff inside, I went down to the mailbox and emptied out the two days’ worth of junk mail that had accumulated, thinking very little of it.

Monday after work, I did my usual run down to the mailbox, noting nothing inside.  That’s not all that peculiar.  Every once in a while, we go without getting anything.

Tuesday?  Nothing in the mailbox again.

Wednesday, I walked down to the mailbox in the pouring rain, only to open it up to pull out an ugly green slip of flimsy cardboard.  Emblazoned on this paper was the word “VACANT”.  Upon further inspection, I learned that my idiotic mail carrier had deemed my house as vacant.

Because, as you may expect, I have a “for sale” sign hammered down into my lawn.  Because I was gone for TWO WHOLE DAYS without asking his permission.

Never mind that the lawn care guy had clearly just been by.  Never mind that my trash and recycling bins had been rolled down to the curb, just like at all of my neighbors’ houses.

I apparently didn’t live there anymore, so the post office was refusing to deliver my mail to my home.

So I followed the instructions on the form, declaring that I did in fact still live there, scrawling even my minor children’s names down on the off chance they may receive some mail at some point.  I added a couple choice comments, too.  Then I marched back out to the mailbox, raising the flag as told, and slammed the damn thing shut.

The more I thought about it, the more pissed off I became.  As there was no contact phone number on the form, I searched Google for who I could call to bitch out.  The 800 number for the USPS is useless, unless you want to track a package or buy stamps, especially at 7 at night.  And the phone number I found for the Indianapolis office that services address in my zip code?  Just rang and rang, with not even a voice mail picking up.

I was seeing red, imagining the envelopes that my mailman was keeping from me piling up.  What gave him the right to determine that my home was vacant?  That’s right.  He had none.  Maybe if my mailbox hadn’t been emptied for weeks, and it was overflowing, okay.  BUT TWO FUCKING DAYS?

Nobody holds their mail for a two day vacation.  The post office would probably laugh their asses off at me if I tried that.  I’ve been gone that long before with absolutely no mail delivery problems.  But stick a damn “for sale” sign in your yard, and suddenly you’ve abandoned your property, gone without a fucking trace.

So I put pen to paper and gave Mr. Neighborhood Watch a piece of my mind.  I restrained myself, not dropping any F-bombs, but the snark came out full force.  I pointed out that I had lived in my home for 13 years, and that I continued to live there despite the fact my house was on the market.  Because normal people do that, you know.  I told him I wasn’t aware I needed to inform him when I decided to take off for the weekend.  I let him know that I had moved before, and realized that when my address changed I needed to tell him.  And that I would gladly do so when that time came, because I wasn’t stupid.  I played the “I came home from a 10 hour workday to deal with this shit” card and advised him that since he had created this mess, he needed to handle it YESTERDAY.

Then back out into the rain to pop that bad boy in the mailbox too.

I slept a little easier last night, even though my author’s brain conjured up images of the cops being called to find me squatting in my own house.  You know, the place where all my stuff is because I STILL LIVE HERE.

In the morning, I woke up just as pissed off about it.

Part of me expected me to chicken out and grab that letter from my mailbox before I went to work this morning, before anyone else saw it.  But no dice.  It remained in the mailbox, the red flag proudly declaring that my mailman had mail.

Tonight, when I came home from work, the mailbox was empty.  We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

I’ll probably end up with a flaming bag of poo on my doorstep, and will never see mail in my mailbox again for the 7-8 weeks I have left here in Indiana.

I’ll probably have to physically go to the post office and complain at them to get what’s rightfully mine, to take it back to the vacant house in which I still live.

But my kids will always remember the time that their mother roasted the mailman.

Everybody’s Doing It

As I approach release day for book two I’ve been trying to think of ways to promote my novel without hitting people over the head with it.  By now you know I’m not the type to employ the hard sell.  Linking to my book on Twitter makes me cringe, even though my screen is full of other authors doing just that.  I would much rather link to an interview I’ve done or to bonus content on my blog than the plain old retail page.

So I’ve tried to be creative.  With one book already under my belt, I have a general idea of what works and what doesn’t.  I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of going on another blog tour.  I didn’t want to pay money to post an ad on a website that caters to authors posting ads on their website.

A lady that I know has taken a certain interest in my writing career.  I guess you could call it that, though I can’t remember her ever asking me the genre of books that I write or what the names of them are; she just knows that they are fiction.  And I’m too modest to brazenly plug my wares.  But we have had some fascinating discussions about self-publishing, royalty rates, websites and e-readers.  Also Halloween costumes, but that’s another story entirely.  I appreciate her interest and her enthusiasm, so I roll with it.  She suggested doing a press release.

I’m of the school of thought that posting a press release on one of those free press release sites is much like randomly posting a link to your book on Twitter.  Most people won’t give a darn.  I took her idea a step further and reached out personally to both major newspapers and television stations in my hometown.  This means I wrote four emails, personally addressing the individuals and telling them why my book was relevant and why they should be interested in learning more about it.

This was two weeks ago.  I am still waiting for responses from three of them.  I’m not bitter; I’m surprised that I got one bite.

The lady that did write me back (the features editor from one of the newspapers) was very courteous.  She congratulated me on my accomplishment and indicated that she would post a small blurb in their weekly section covering arts and entertainment.  I was beyond happy; I’ll take whatever press I can get.  However, she told me that they had done a story about self-pubbed authors in the past and now that so many people were doing that, they had no plans to run a feature article about any self-published authors in the future.  Fair enough.

But it got me thinking.  Obviously, the self-publishing market has exploded over the past couple of years.  Everyone knows that; I won’t insult your intelligence.  But how many self-pubbed types reside in my corner of Indiana?  I’m not talking about the people who slap something up on Smashwords so that their friends and family can read it, or publish just because they can.  I mean the ones who, like me, take it at least somewhat seriously and market and blog and actually try to make a career out of it.

I consulted Google because that’s where everyone does their preliminary research these days.  I searched for “self-published authors in Fort Wayne, Indiana” and came up with nothing.  Not even little old me.  So the truth is, I don’t know.

What I did find was an interesting article about an event that our local library has held for the past few years involving local authors.  Various authors from our community convene at our library to speak about their books and to even sell a few.  The event started off small, but last year grew to about 40 featured authors.  Yes, self-pubbed types were represented, though the blurb sounded more like it was geared to those in print rather than e-book only.  Part of the allure for the authors there was to have copies of their books available for sale – if I had been a published author when it was held last year, would I have brought my laptop and had people buy my novel from their vendor of choice?

But I digress.  What I found interesting was that 40 authors showed up and this was a record turnout.  That’s awesome for everyone involved.  And those are probably my peers, people who genuinely take their writing seriously and have pipe dreams of being one of the few that makes millions off of their creativity.  Granted, I’m sure not all serious authors from our area knew about the event, or maybe they did but their schedules didn’t permit them to attend.

Let’s put that into perspective.  Fort Wayne is a rather large city.  Though most people outside of Indiana have never heard of it (or if they have, they think it’s a military base – it’s not), we still boast a population of about 250,000 people.  If you look at it that way, 40 serious authors doesn’t seem like a lot.  Even if you double that or multiply it by 10, that’s not a huge portion of our population.  It’s hardly everyone doing it.

The moral of the story is that I’m still pretty obscure and that Fort Wayne isn’t exactly the self-publishing capital of the world.  But I tried, darn it.  Maybe if I do hit it big and make a million dollars off of my series, I’ll get my feature article.

But for now, it’s back to the drawing board.

 

Write in My Backyard

When I was selecting a setting for my series, I didn’t have to look far from home.  Since I’ve been a lifelong resident of Indiana, my series takes place in – you guessed it – Indiana.  All of the books that I will ever write probably will.  I couldn’t imagine it being any other way.

I think a lot of authors do this.  They take a place that they know intimately and they weave it into their stories, meshing reality and fiction to create something that feels real.  How better to describe a place than to actually be able to go there?

Everything that I’ve ever written, even the stories that were scrawled longhand in notebooks, took place in Fort Wayne.  I wasn’t one of those types who wanted to create a town and totally make up everything within it.  And I couldn’t do justice to placing my characters somewhere I’d never been – those popular locales like LA or the Pacific Northwest.  I’ve never been further west than Saint Louis.  When I was twelve.

So it was a non-event for me to just start writing about good old Fort Wayne, Indiana.  Throw in a healthy mix of Indianapolis and you have the basis for one of the major plot points and a cause for conflict.  And I can write what I know and not look like an idiot doing it.  I’ve seen criticisms of authors who attempt to write novels that take place in areas they’ve never been and it’s not pretty.   Internet research isn’t the same as knowing the real thing like the back of your hand.

For those readers who live close enough to the action, you could probably do a scavenger hunt to find most of the places that I’m describing.  Restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations and even the exact locations of the main characters’ houses are very real places, though never named.  Even the interstates around Fort Wayne come into play, though given my penchant for snark,  I just couldn’t bring myself to refer to them by their proper designations of I-69 and I-469.  No, I’m not making that up; I couldn’t if I tried.

Of course, there are some places that I’ve completely fabricated.  I’ve established a bank that doesn’t exist on a actual street where there’s nothing like it around.  Call it creative license.  And please stop looking for it, because it’s not there.

Romance can happen anywhere.  Why not in Indiana, too?