Tonight I finished writing Silenced .
As with any of my previous four books, coming to the end of a novel is always a double-edged sword. A feeling of accomplishment mixed with a bit of sadness that this story is over and these characters that have grown throughout the course of the book are sailing off into the sunset one last time.
As most of you know, this is the fifth and final installment of The Intoxicated Books, so for me this is a big deal. Most of these characters have been a figment of my imagination for about twenty years, and however silly it sounds, I’ll kind of miss writing for them.
My goal was to finish writing the book sometime in November. I’d say that wrapping things up on the first of the month pretty much shattered that goal. I wanted to have a finished – but not perfect – manuscript when I uploaded the preorder to Amazon. And to be honest with you, I wouldn’t be embarrassed if this version I just finished went live. I’m a pretty clean writer, and my final copy never looks that different from the rough draft.
Admittedly, I have an unorthodox approach to publishing. I’m of the rare breed that likes to finish very early, read it once, then set it aside for a while and start writing on the next book. About a month after the first read through, I go back and read again to make any other changes. My sideloaded mobi copy gets highlighted and notated, then I go back to the Word doc and change the real thing.
I usually have ARCs ready well in advance. Not that many people care about them, but I do have four or so people in my back pocket who will read and review for me. Once that’s done, I focus my attention on formatting the print copy and of course, writing the next book.
This time will be different. I’ve already decided that I won’t be doing a massive release day rollout, or a preorder event, or a blog tour, because I don’t really feel like I’ve benefited from them in the past. In fact, my paid marketing tactics for book four left me so upset that I seriously thought about erasing the entire novel (which I loved), cancelling the preorder and never releasing it to the public. With that horrible aftertaste in my mouth, I can’t treat any future books in that same manner. I have a couple marketing ideas that I’m tossing around, but nothing set in stone. Whatever I do end up doing will be controlled entirely by me and distributed by me, because I’ve learned it’s a good idea to trust only myself.
And in addition to me embarking on writing completely different characters, I’m doing something else unprecedented shortly.
I’m taking a break from writing romance.
Chasing Echo is by no means a romance book, but it’s definitely a love story of sorts. However, I’m categorizing it as Contemporary Literary Fiction. I can’t even realistically call it Women’s Fiction, because it will be told entirely from the viewpoint of the male character.
Because I think ahead, the next two books on my plate after that will more than likely be Women’s Fiction, and that will mean that I won’t be writing anything of the Romance genre for at least a good two years. Maybe longer, because I have some pretty decent concepts for Chick Lit tales as well.
Why? I’m tired of sex.
I’ve always been an outsider in the Romance genre, because my series has been notoriously difficult to categorize. People looking for an alpha male, mommy porn novel are bored to death. People looking for a clean romance are turned off by my foul language. And The Intoxicated Books are probably the closest things to romance that I’ll ever write. I do have a very loose concept for a new romance series, but that will be very, very far off, if in fact it develops into something more.
I’m having so much fun coming up with ideas for standalones that the thought of being bogged down in another series doesn’t appeal to me at this point. I’ve blown my series wad with these characters, and I can’t imagine anyone else taking their place.
Like I’ve said many times before, I write for selfish reasons. I don’t write what sells, but some people end up buying it anyway. I write stories that I want to read, tales that I don’t feel have been done before in the way that I can do them. And true to life, most of what I write does have romantic elements. Relationships permeate your entire life – for good or bad. And I think that comes across in what I create.
But the idea of writing full on romance, or even masquerading like I do, feels like a lie. And the only thing I’ve wanted to do during this journey is be true to myself.
I’ve been away for awhile.
During my respite from blogging, I’ve actually been living out my author dream pretty well. Just like the words of wisdom that I read from some other blogger sometime quite long ago, many authors start to hit their stride somewhere around the fourth or fifth book. I’ve found mine and it’s a beautiful feeling. For some reason, it’s the sweet spot and if you’re doing things right, by that point you should be pleased with your sales figures. If you’re not, it’s time to re-evaluate what it is you’re writing and how you’re promoting yourself.
I’ve always been a genre bender. I’ve always had difficulty categorizing what exactly the hell it is that I write. It’s easier to list off what I don’t: paranormal, historical, fantasy, sci-fi. For The Intoxicated Books, I settled on classifying them as contemporary romance.
But I’ve always known they were different. They don’t fall into the typical romance book mold, even though there’s plenty of falling in and out of love. But there’s humor and heartache and family drama too. And there are definitely some romance buzzwords that don’t show up in my writing, though I certainly am not afraid of the F-bomb. As such, readers looking for a cookie cutter alpha male story with hot, hot sex aren’t going to be impressed. That’s perfectly fine.
That’s part of the reason that I decided to market Book 5 in the series in a completely different way, if at all. It’s something that has been brewing in the back of my head since the debacle that was the release of Book 4. The moment that I realized without question that I didn’t fit in where I had placed myself. The moment that I realized that I didn’t want to play the competition game. The moment that I decided it wasn’t fair to myself to pay someone else for a marketing campaign that left me in tears and wanting to cancel the entire damn thing. Though Book 4 is quite arguably my favorite in the series (but I say that about all of them when I write them), for a few weeks I absolutely hated it and regretted ever writing anything.
Marketing your books shouldn’t make you feel like total hell.
So I stopped, and then the magic happened.
Of course, there is always room for improvement, and no one ever sells as many copies as they ultimately dream of. But my expectations are reasonable, and I’ve always been very clear that I do this on an extremely part time basis. I don’t spam book links to various social media accounts, nor do I even post everywhere frequently. Yet most days, I get paid sales on at least one platform. Sometimes I get more paid sales than free downloads. And I realize that by accomplishing this, I’m doing better than a large percentage of self-publishers. I’m not greedy; I’m humbled that I have found repeat readers. Readers who get hooked on the first book, who maybe did pick it up as a perma-free, and who dutifully come back and purchase the remaining books in the series. I’ve even gotten preorders for Book 5, which doesn’t come out until February, simply by having it available at most retailers already.
And you know me. I am always thinking ahead. Book 5 is over halfway done on the laptop, but complete in my head and I’ve moved on from those characters. They write themselves for me, after having been with them for the better part of twenty years.
I was sitting on ideas for about 7 standalone books, along with a very basic concept for another series. They range in flavor from chick lit to steamy romance, but never to the point of erotica. I might read it, but I don’t see myself writing it. And considering that I will have to start writing one of them to put a teaser chapter at the end of Book 5 before it goes live, I knew I needed to make a decision on which figment of my imagination was going to come next. I had almost decided on one of them; the one most fully formed with a title, tagline, entire plot and a cover vision.
Then Tuesday happened and another brand new idea took precedence. In the span of twenty-four hours, I had all of the above plus character names and a half-assed blurb jangling around in my brain. I was writing scenes and dialogue, envisioning the beginning of the book in my screenplay-esque way. And I knew without a doubt that it would be the next book going up for sale.
Guess what? It’s not a romance. Sure, there will be romantic elements. But this will be dark and depressing, a haunting novel that will hopefully stick with readers much the same as it’s consumed my thoughts lately. It’s the story that I feel I need to tell next, genre be damned.
Call it women’s fiction, or literary fiction, or whatever you’d like. And take the plunge with me if you want to. For I don’t write for sales, I write for myself. And maybe I’ve found that being a little off and unpopular is exactly where I want to be.
If you’re really observant, you’ll catch the title here, hiding somewhere on this blog. But that’s all I’m ready to say at this point.
Let’s face it. Romance novels have long had a stigma as being trashy. The kind of books that are your dirty little secret. Before the rise of the Kindle and iPad made it simple to mask what exactly it was that you were reading, some resorted to creative tactics to hide their guilty pleasure.
But think about it. This genre as a whole is responsible for a massive amount of sales, so there’s plenty of people reading it. Their dollars are talking, even if the people spending them aren’t admitting to devouring the latest and greatest installment. And more and more people are signing in to Goodreads or Amazon and discussing and reviewing. Does this mean that more people are reading in general? Maybe so – it’s never been more convenient to read than it is right now.
A common theme among people who have been pulled back into the realm of the reading world is that one of two series in particular reawakened their love of romance in general. Mind you, these are also two of the most widely condemned and ridiculed by others.
Yes, I’m talking about Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey. Full disclosure here; I’ve read both series in their entirety. Okay, I even read the Twilight Saga twice. We’ll say that loosely, because I skimmed the parts in New Moon related to the Indian ancestry on my second time through because I really didn’t care. Same with all the sex in Fifty Shades. After the first 300 times, it just wasn’t that cool.
So what is it about these books that is so polarizing? It seems that you either love them or hate them. And a lot of times, the hatred comes prefaced by “I would never, ever, read that”. So what exactly are people who haven’t read them basing their negative opinions on?
I get that they are not literary masterpieces, but they really aren’t that bad. Does Twilight take a lot of liberties with vampire lore? Heavens, yes. My main beef is not with the sparkliness, but the fact that their vampires never sleep. That bothers me on a lot of levels and I’m not even sure why. Is Fifty Shades repetitive? Goodness, yes. But what book or TV show that’s beloved by many couldn’t be the subject of a drinking game at times?
Bottom line is that I enjoyed them. Overall, I’m not upset that I spent money for the opportunity to read them. They weren’t my favorite books ever, but I didn’t hate them. And I won’t criticize anyone who chooses to fawn over them. Because what they did is to open the door for more potential readers to eventually find my work. I’m not about to slam that door in a new reader’s face by publicly declaring that a series that they loved is crap.
And many authors do. While authors are certainly entitled to their own opinions, sometimes it’s best not to broadcast them. You never know who is listening.
Repeat after me: not everyone wants to read Shakespeare all the time. Not everyone is a book snob.
It’s easy to pick on the popular thing, to compare and contrast against it simply because of its visibility. And I understand where an obscure author (and aren’t we all compared to Stephenie Meyer and EL James?) might feel slighted that a reader chooses to spend their dollars on a big-name author instead of a self-pubbed one. Our work might be on par with – and sometimes superior to – the current “it” book, but that’s the game that we all play.
There are many best-selling books I have no interest whatsoever in reading. Hunger Games and Harry Potter come to mind. I’m not about to judge those who do like them, and I certainly won’t declare my hatred of them. It’s not a good business practice in my opinion. Neither is ripping one of them apart in order to build myself up.
Life isn’t always fair. Some authors will get their big break, while others just as deserving won’t. So what can we do to help push the odds in our favor? Write quality work. Write things that make us proud, even if no one reads them. Keep writing. Keep connecting. Play nice with others.
And remember that hatred caused by jealousy isn’t a way to win over fans, either.
People like to put things in categories. It makes sense, but sometimes things just don’t fit into a neat and tidy description. This is part of the beauty of being a self-published author: we don’t have to precisely commit to one category or another. If hard-pressed to describe what I write, I’d start off by saying it’s a hybrid of contemporary romance and chick lit. Some have even stretched it further by claiming new adult. But to me, it just is.
A byproduct of categorization is finding who your target audience is. You know, the people that will be most interested in reading whatever it is that you’ve written. These are the individuals that you strive to seek out and connect with. If done correctly, some of these folks will become your fans and start helping you market via word of mouth.
Based on the description that I’ve given my own work, suffice it to say that my target audience would be women. If we narrowed it down, I’d go further and specify ages 18 and up. I hesitate to put a maximum age out there because I’ve heard back from readers who are in their 50s and 60s. Saying my books would appeal to ages 18 to 118 just sounds cheesy and board game like, so we’ll leave it open-ended. And don’t even get me started on economic factors. All kinds of women like to read romance type novels – from stay at home moms to corporate executives. So we’ll just go with women. Makes sense, right?
So naturally, because I’m unconventional and a bit of a risk-taker, I contacted a guy who blogs and asked him to review my book.
Insert the eye roll if you want. And the WTF were you thinking?
Now, this isn’t the first guy that’s read my book – there’s another gentleman who has read it and posted his review on Goodreads. But his review came courtesy of a blog tour and I’m pretty sure it was a book club rating where he just happened to be its voice. And I personally didn’t ask him to do it.
I’ll admit that I thought long and hard about contacting this particular blogger just because of his gender. I came across his posting on Google Plus about how he just started a book review blog and was looking for submissions. As such, his queue was fairly empty. Intrigued, I investigated a little bit more, fully expecting him to limit his reading to the “typical” guy stuff. You know, things that aren’t romance and/or chick lit. But no, he stated that he would read just about anything. The things that he wouldn’t read didn’t apply to my books, so technically, I was golden.
I didn’t submit right away. I thought it over for a couple of days, debating on what I should do. Did “I’ll read almost anything” really mean almost anything? Finally, I decided to take the plunge. I figured that the worst that could happen would be that he’d tell me no or not respond at all. And if you’ve queried any bloggers before, that’s a common answer anyway.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained – at least that’s how the saying goes.
So obviously, he said yes or this whole post would be about absolutely nothing. I sent over the coupon code for the book and crossed my fingers – the same way I do anytime I know that someone is reviewing my work. And believe me – I have specific coupon codes that I hand out when I’ve contacted someone myself to review as opposed to a blogger getting it from my review tour. So I know when a review is coming, and have a good idea of where it’s coming from. I’m anal; I know.
The book was downloaded and he contacted me shortly thereafter to tell me that he was getting ready to read it. The nervousness set in. Was I making a huge mistake? Would I get flamed because I didn’t write a mystery, a fantasy, or sci-fi? That same night, he emailed me back and had only good things to say based on his progress. Silly me, I was certain he had emailed the wrong author. He couldn’t be talking about my book, could he?
So what did I end up with? Quite honestly, I received the most thoughtful, thorough review that I have ever gotten. I literally smiled all the way through while reading it. I even laughed, because some parts were damn funny. Even when he was taking me to task about certain plot developments (which I’ve discussed here somewhat before), he did it in a way that was witty. And it was quite apparent that he’d read the entire book, not just skimmed it.
So lesson learned. Sometimes it’s worth it to think outside the box.
And yes, I’ve already sent him over the coupon code for Book Two. I can’t wait to hear his thoughts on that one.
After a lot of blood, sweat and tears (some of those just last night and this morning), I have finally done it. Intoxicated is officially for sale at smashwords.com by clicking here:
Like I said before, I will get it out to Amazon as well in due time. Maybe once I untangle myself from the fetal position, I’ll be ready to tackle yet another formatting job. Let me tell you, switching the finished file back from Word 2013 to a .doc file was not exactly the most fun I have ever had. Especially since I didn’t realize there would be an issue until I kept pressing “Publish” last night only for absolutely nothing to happen. Thankfully, I set the computer down instead of throwing it and decided to come back to it later.
For those of you who have been patiently waiting for everything to arrive, I’ll make it easy for you by giving you the first five chapters in their entirety right now. Just click the link below and you’ll conveniently get to meet all of the main characters.
I am so excited to share this with everyone and can’t wait to get some discussions going! Happy reading!
For those who have been asking me to classify what genre I write in…here goes. My best personal description is a cross between chick lit and romance. A little of both, but not entirely either. No bra-burning and no men riding up on horseback to save the day. I write what I typically would like to read; something fun and lighthearted that can be an escape from the real world. I’m not attempting to write the next literary classic – as long as I can entertain you for a couple of hours and still leave you wanting more, then as far as I’m concerned, I’ve accomplished my goal.
My debut novel Intoxicated is moving closer and closer to publication. I am working on getting the cover art ready (one area I’m not about to do myself) and I have countless hours of formatting ahead of me. But it’s on its way and I hope you’ll agree that it is worth the wait.
That being said, I wanted to give you the first view of the description I just wrote for it:
A full length novel of over 100,000 words…
When everything she ever wanted turns out not to be enough…
Lauren Jefferies is on the verge of having it all. Hard work and determination have culminated in a promotion that promises to put her on track with her upwardly mobile boyfriend Eric. High school sweethearts and together for ten years, they are young enough to have their whole lives ahead of them, but old enough to have established themselves as forces to be reckoned with.
The news should be cause for celebration.
But taking the job means moving two hours away.
Instead of planning their reign as an up and coming power couple, they find their already tenuous relationship further damaged by their conflicting opinions. Eric doesn’t want her to leave. Lauren refuses to back down. In the end, she packs her things and heads up north to her new life, the abstract promise of figuring this all out later hanging between them.
Lauren settles into her new routine quite easily, thanks largely in part to her fast friendship with her roommate Blake. Blake’s companionship comes in a package deal with that of her older brother Matthew. One night over dinner, an innocent conversation leads to the discovery that the three of them have more in common than they’d ever imagined.
Ashamed of his role in the thread that ties them together, Matthew begins to withdraw. As Lauren devises a game plan to ease his torment, Eric inadvertently pushes them together with his selfish actions.
Lauren’s relationship with Eric continues to flounder. The distance is an issue, but Eric’s indifference does nothing to help. Every bright spot in their courtship is countered by darkness and bitterness. More often than not, Matthew is there to pick up the pieces that Eric leaves behind.
Prior to meeting Matthew, Lauren thought she knew what she wanted. Now that she’s just about to obtain everything on her list, she’s left to question if she ever really knew what that was.