Friday, December 30, 2011

What if you woke up and found you didn't exist (online)?

Being a self-published author most definitely has its ups and downs. When you check your numbers and find out you made a sale - an actual sale, maybe even a few! - that's a fun day. Those are the days you do a little happy dance in your chair.

And when you launch a new book with a beautiful cover, that's a great day, too. My latest book, Magic, Miracles & Mistletoe, has a wonderful cover created by Dreamscape Covers. My first book, Death on Deadline, has a striking cover designed by my uber-talented friend Claire Innes-Wilbur.

(I'm always amazed at what artists can do with my stilted descriptions).

But days aren't always fabulous - take the day I released Magic, Miracles & Mistletoe. I bounded over to - which I think is an absolutely essential web site for authors (and readers, too)- and found I didn't exist.

Nope, no sign of me. My books were gone, my blog was gone, my profile was gone - even my NAME was gone. What the ..?!! When I tried to look it up I got a unfriendly "Page Unavailable" notice.

I'd been ... erased. Ouch.

My author friends said not to worry - it was likely a temporary glitch. The support staff said they'd work on it. And still, weeks later ... nothing. Finally, one book showed up - with Author Unknown. I fixed it, and added the other myself. I redid my bio. Added another photo.

I still don't have my author page, so I'm applying for a new one. My blog is still gone, so I'm just importing this one - and I hope if you followed it, you'll follow it again. : )

I'm not exactly doing a happy dance ...but I'm fixing it, piece by piece.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Writing in the third person is so addicting (she exclaimed)

I've never written stories in the third person before. Well, that's not true - exactly. I wrote news stories in the third person for years. But they didn't count, because they were true.

So let me start over. I've never written fiction in the third person before. But about a month ago, long after most sane authors were putting the finishing touches on their Christmas stories, I got a little bug in my ear to start a few holiday tales of my own. Nothing fancy, mind you. Just a few fun stories that would quite literally feature a Christmas spirit or two.

I bounced a few story ideas off my long-suffering husband, then laid in bed plotting out character names, cities and even cars. Then I tentatively started writing. And I started, determinedly, in the third person.

 I expected long moments with my hands on the keyboard, simply waiting for inspiration. I expected clunky dialogue and strange interactions. I expected ... problems. But they didn't happen. On the contrary. I had fun. A lot of  fun. So much fun I found myself thinking in the third person even when I wasn't writing - always dangerous territory.

I just wrapped up my stories, and I'll be publishing them soon in a little novella titled "Magic, Miracles & Mistletoe."

"I hope you'll give it a read," she said, wandering toward the kitchen for yet another cup of coffee.

Dang! See what I mean? Really. So much fun . . . .

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Sharing a commute with the undead makes the drive go faster

I've been spending my commute with the undead, and it's sure improving the drive. Well, they're not right there, of course - unless other grim-faced commuters count. I actually ride into work alone. It's boring - a 45-minute straight shot on the highway, past storefronts, apartments, strip malls and even a few strip clubs.

I usually listen to news radio. I think. I plot my books. Plan dinner. Wonder why I work so far from home.

But not anymore. Now I'm listening to Home Improvement: Undead Edition, and I have to tell you - my commute isn't long enough. Last night, I even sat in the driveway for a few minutes, hoping to hear the end of a riveting tale by Heather Graham. (I didn't - but I clicked it on first thing this morning).

I never thought I'd like audio books. I thought I wouldn't be able to keep track of the plot ... after all, I had traffic to watch, right? But it's not that hard, really, no more difficult than focusing on a radio news report. And I can always click back if I need anything repeated.

And listening to an anthology of scary stories by great authors makes the time go soooo much faster.

I've toyed with the idea of making my own book, Death on Deadline, an audio book. I have no idea where to begin, of course. But now that I know how fun they are to listen to, the inspiration to create one just got that much stronger.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Creativity, helpful friends and happiness: For these, I'm thankful

I've been wanting to write a Thanksgiving post for a few days now, and I've had some trouble starting. Not because I have so little, but because I have so much. Now, if you had told me a few years ago I might have this problem, I likely wouldn't have believed you.

Because I was angry. And sad. I had lost my sister, my journalism career had ended, and all my pets died. It wasn't a good year, to say the least.

My creativity, my saving grace, disappeared. Just vanished. I could barely lift my head, much less craft a tantalizing sentence. Oh, I tried. But let's face it, as writers, we know when we suck.

I had a manuscript in my desk, a murder mystery that I had fully intended on sending out to literary agents. But after awhile, I forgot about it. The only thing that got me out of bed was my family. One day, my husband found my novel. "You should do something with this," he said. "After all, you wrote it."

I did, I thought. And I realized I didn't want to spend my time writing queries. So I published it myself. And people actually bought it and liked it. I was incredibly excited and gratified. I started writing some more. I read blogs about writing. I started my own. I met helpful authors, authors I really admired who wrote incredibly helpful blogs like and

I'm not a bestselling author, not by a long shot. But I write every day. And I learn something every week. I'm creating.  I'm happy. For that, I'm very thankful.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Do ads add up to a better blog? I wonder ...

When I was a reporter,  I had a certain feeling about advertisements: Yuck. Advertorials? Even worse. Fill those pages with good, solid news content. Let "other people" worry about bringing in the bucks.

But I'm not a reporter anymore. My personal writing now is for blogs and books - I have two blogs and a book that sells for 99 cents. My book sales are pretty steady - and I'm grateful for every sale - but at that price, I certainly won't get rich. The blogs are all content-based, and I like it that way. I've seen blogs with giveaways, lots of ads, etc., and I think that's fine  - just not for me.

Or so I've always thought. But now I wonder ... am I just being old-fashioned?

After all, a content-based blog doesn't bring in any money. Ads do. And it's hard to pay the bills on your high principles. So now I'm keeping a closer eye on the ads I see on blogs. Are they worth it? I know it's a lot of work, getting sponsors and such, but I've talked to some bloggers who say it's a nice way to make money doing something you like. Am I just being snooty, not working toward that?

I waffle, both ways. And I wonder. What makes a better blog?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Discouraged? Change your publishing perspective

I was skimming through writing blogs the other night when I came upon a post titled, "Keep your expectations low."

It stopped me cold - I had to read more. The post was about self-publishing, and the author, a young writer, was advocating realism. He was disappointed in the sales of his self-published book and in the feedback he had received. He was thinking that perhaps he expected too much from self-publishing.

I understood his point of view. But I just couldn't embrace it. I think I would have gone with, "Alter your strategy," or "Expand your network," or maybe even "Change your point of view."

After all, most of us don't write to sell, even though sales are wonderful. We write because we're writers. We love it. It's what we do. That comes first.

And c'mon - you finished a book! And people are reading it!! Maybe not as many as you like, but still. That's a pretty amazing starting point right there.

So let's not lower our expectations - at least not yet. Let's tweak that perspective first.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Drained of creativity? Maybe it's ... vampires

Do you believe in vampires? No? Okay, then ... what about psychic vampires?

After all, it's that time of year when the skies are getting darker and the leaves are scratching like fingers at the windowpane - it seems a post about a not-so-familiar monster is quite appropriate.

Especially since this creature is one that writers should take special care to avoid.

These aren't vampires in the classic sense - they don't have fangs, they don't turn into bats, they sure don't sparkle in the sunlight and they're not brooding or sexy.

They're leeches, but they don't suck your blood. They're emotional vampires. They steal your life force, your creativity.

I know, I know, it sounds crazy on first read. But think about it: Aren't there those people who just seem to drain you? Who are simply toxic? Who seem to grow stronger even as they drain every ounce of creativity you possess? After an encounter, you feel tired - they walk away smiling and whistling.

I read up on them ... they're actually called psychic vampires. Sure, some versions are more literal than others, but they're all out there.

Truthfully, I thought of this post because I actually think I've met a few lately - in one form or another. After only a few conversations I realized they had completely exhausted me - to the point where I actually felt I needed a nap. It was creepy.

Maybe it's my imagination getting the best of me - after all, the glow of the sun is fainter each day; the wind blows colder each night.

But still, I'm getting a little extra rest, and I'm a little more wary when I share my best ideas.

I need all the energy I can get.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Good night, inner editor - see you soon

I know some writers who put together their stories line by line, winging it, with no idea where their characters will lead them.

Not me. Maybe it comes from years of working on deadline, but I like to have a plan.

In fact, it may sound boring, but I usually know what will happen in my stories, chapter by chapter, until the very end. Oh, I don't know every sentence and every bit of dialogue, of course, but I have my scenes laid out pretty firmly in my head before my fingers ever hit the keyboard.

But not this week. I'm trying something new. I'm putting away that internal planning guide and starting fresh each night. Will I feel more creative if I start that new chapter without an outline in my head? Or will it overwhelm me? I'll soon find out.

Why mess with my process? Well, in my latest project, I've been finding myself stifled - by silly, stupid things. Was this character a boyfriend or a cop, or both? How did this character get out of jail on a Saturday?

The devil was in the details, and the details were overtaking my plot - and my good sense. So I've decided to put my inner editor to bed for awhile and see what happens.

Wish me luck.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Even if the words won't come . . .

On nights like these, I try to remember what one of my favorite editors used to say: "Even if it's crap, just get it on the page."

Because if it's not on the page, you'll never be able to change it.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Is creativity a muscle or a vessel?

I work with a woman who has a really boring job. It's not a secret. She knows it - we've laughed about several times.

But the other day, we happened to start talking about non-work stuff, and somehow, we got onto a rather impassioned discussion about the book Twilight.

She is an avid fan. My tastes lean a little more toward Sookie Stackhouse and her vampire world.

But during the course of the conversation, she mentioned that she has a fine arts degree. She wanted to be an artist, and on the weekends, she still is very creative. She doesn't mind that her job is boring, she told me. If it wasn't, she'd give away too much creativity to leave any for herself.

I've been thinking about that for awhile. I can't decide if I agree with her. I guess I've always thought of creativity as a muscle that became stronger every time you used it, not as a vessel that you had to worry about emptying.

But I'll admit, when I was a journalist and I wrote and developed stories every day, I was pretty zapped by the weekend. By Saturday, I didn't really feel like writing my own stories. I did, though. And I feel like it made me a better writer.

Now, I'm on on the fence - but I'm still leaning toward my original view.

Any thoughts?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Bad day? Keep writing, keep pushing

In self-publishing, there are some days when you feel like you've got it going on. Your sales are up. You scored a good review. You wrote another chapter in that new novel. You're doing great.

This was not one of those days.

This was one of those days when you're reminded of Sisyphus, the hapless king in Greek mythology who was doomed to spend each day pushing a heavy boulder up a hill, only to have it roll back down to the bottom at the beginning of the next.

It's one of those days when everything goes wrong - your links are broken, your computer is frozen and you don't have time to fix anything because after all, this isn't what you do for a living. And you sigh and wonder what it would be like to have an agent and a publicist and a therapist and manicurist and whatever the hell big-name authors get.

And then you tell yourself to shut up because no one likes a whiner. You fix what you can and get help for what you can't. You write, late at night if you have to, and keep writing until that chapter is finished.

You wake up the next day ready to start over because you're not a quitter, you're a writer. An author, even. And you smile at the other authors and you think once again that there ought to be a secret handshake because that's about the coolest thing you can be.

And you feel lucky.

Monday, August 22, 2011

When the business of writing intrudes on art

I was way the heck out in Amish country, and I couldn't relax.

I was in a tiny cabin with no phone, no kids and no WiFi and yet, I couldn't stop fidgeting. I was supposed to be working on my latest fiction project. But the words wouldn't come. Instead, my mind was racing. I wanted to check my book sales. I wanted to see if an anticipated review had been posted. I wanted to check just one more thing off my list ...

I wanted, I realized with a sinking heart, to be a businessperson more than a writer.

My emphasis on marketing had worked too well. The business side of self-publishing was now intruding on the creative side. I had a story inside me I couldn't get out because I was too busy selling a different one.

Before I published my book, I would sit down and write just to write. I never thought about selling or strategizing. I wrote because I loved to write - not because I was selling anything. So what was wrong with me now?

The scales had tipped too far to one side, I realized. I needed balance. And it took me awhile - some quiet time, some thinking, and a few hard-won pages - to get things back to normal.

But I'll be more watchful from now on. Because when business overtakes art, it shows.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Authors helping authors: Just plain nice

I can't say I've ever relied on the kindness of strangers, but I do appreciate it. As I feel my way through the maze of self-publishing, I'm constantly amazed by how nice so many of these other authors are.

Nice - now that's a word you hardly hear these days. But sometimes, it just fits.

Consider this: Angel Haze, a Canadian author who writes mysteries and thrillers, has her own website, of course. But she recently started a related blog where every Monday she promotes another indie author - like me. On her original site, she has a section where she offers resources - tips and books for self-publishing newbies - who can use all the help they can get.

That's just nice.

Or this: R.J. McDonnell is a Pennsylvania-based musician and author who writes a lighthearted rock & roll mystery series. We started following each other on Twitter, and he took the time to tell me that the blog link I have up on my profile there is broken. (Ugh - I'd mistyped it). It was just a stupid mistake on my part, and it could have stayed that way for months. But he took the time to tell me.

That's just nice.

I've met plenty more, too - folks who took the time to send me e-mails or funny quips that took me by surprise and brightened an otherwise humdrum day. Writing is solitary, yes, but these fellow authors remind that there are times it doesn't have to be.

Monday, August 1, 2011

It takes a village to raise a (happy) writer

So next on my list of challenges is making Death on Deadline into an audio book. And as usual, I have no idea what I'm doing.

So I'm taking it step by step. I realized right away I would need help with the technical stuff (of course). And I knew I'd need a voice for my protagonist, America Miles.

What I didn't know is she could be sitting nine floors up from me. Yep. In the middle of corporate-land, I work with an extremely talented actress. And all I had to do was ask for her help.

You know, it's amazing. Being an indie author, I pretty much thought I'd be using crayons to draw my book covers and burning holes into my eyes editing my own copy. I wondered if anyone would ever see my work ... I imagined my poor book buried in some Amazon pile of e-rejects.

But it really hasn't been that way. And the key, I think, is networking. I can't say it enough. Look around. Need something? Ask. Your friends and co-workers may be far more talented than you know. I'm extremely lucky - my former career in journalism brought me in touch with a wide variety of talented artists, editors and designers.

But I've met other talented people along the way, as well. Videographers, actors, marketers, other authors ... we help each other out whenever we can.

It really does take a village to raise a writer. And my village is growing. Yours can, too.

Monday, July 18, 2011

I really, really should be writing this week

I should be writing this week. I really should be writing.

But ... I've been on the library waiting list for the newest mystery by Susan Wittig Albert, Mourning Gloria, and even though I swore I'd just read the first chapter, it's simply too good to put down.

And then my daughter received a gift card to Borders for her birthday, and while we were there this book called to me - called to me, I swear - from the shelf. It's titled Skirting the Grave by Annette Blair ... and, well, now, it's on my bedside table.

AND well, it is summer, and summer means there are tables upon tables of clearance books. I considered it an exercise in restraint I just picked up one bargain, a novel titled The Christmas Cookie Club by Ann Pearlman. And no, it's not anywhere near Christmas, but hey, when it's this hot you do what you can to cool down, right?

Now believe it or not, there's a message on my machine that the new Carolyn Hart mystery I've been waiting for is in.

It's an embarrassment of riches, actually.

Which is kind of a shame.

Because I really, really need to be writing this week.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Spam: Mystery meat and a surprising folder

I remember when Spam was just this mysterious meat product from Hormel. It came in a can and it had this weird gelatinous layer on top. I pretty much left it alone.

But now spam has a whole new meaning - it's that annoying junk mail people send you - you know, offers from a prince in Nigeria to share his bank account, a new sex device from Canada, and lots and lots of promotions.

I have a spam folder in my e-mail - I usually leave that alone, too. I mean ... it's spam, right?

Kind of. But today, at work, I realized it was really full of mail. Out of curiosity, I clicked on it.

Ohhhhh Noooooo!!

Here's a surprise: Non-spam stuff sneaks in there, too. I had a letter from a former colleague (I was wondering why he didn't respond!!) and two, count em, two queries from book bloggers who were interested in reviewing my book.

Luckily, they weren't terribly dated, and I could still respond. But it gave me a nasty start.

So I learned two things today: Check every folder in your e-mail. And don't screech loudly at work. People tend to stare.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

You're not just a writer, you're Writer, Inc.

It used to be pretty easy to pigeonhole ourselves professionally. He's a plumber, she's a dancer, I'm a writer.

It's not so simple anymore. The plumber has to be an accountant; the dancer is a nutritionist, and the writer... well, the writer has to be an entrepreneur.

I don't think it matters whether you have a high-powered agent or if you're going it alone. Writers today just don't have the luxury to sit in their garrets and polish their prose.

I thought they could - or, at least I could - for a long time. Then I met Susannah. Susannah is a high-powered exec in my building. She has sleek hair, wears tailored suits and is surgically attached to her Blackberry. On the surface, we have little in common.

I met Susannah during one of the endless rounds of meetings we both attend - she as a manager, me as a minion. I discovered she was funny, smart and a voracious reader. She found out I was an author. She bought my book, and she liked it.

And in her spare time, she gave me advice. You're a business, she told me - develop your product. Market yourself.

Me? What? The artist in me rebelled ... but my ego understood. So I listened. She told me about brands, about customers, about what works and what doesn't (This post, for instance? Waaaay too long).

Changing my perspective has helped immensely. My stories are the same, sure. But now the author thinks more like Majeske, Inc.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

From newspaper to novel is quite a change

I was a newspaper reporter for years. I was assigned stories (or better yet, thought of my own). I interviewed sources, taking notes and developing my own quick-write shorthand. Then I wrote up my story and turned it in.

It was edited by the copy desk, and it was usually published the next day. And that was that. It was very quick, and the process was fairly simple.

Oh, sure, we scheduled photos, and sometimes there were snags. Other times, there were big projects that took weeks, even months, but usually, things were very fast-paced. We had a daily product to fill, after all.

I longed for the days when I could write my own stories, with my own characters. I'd build my own worlds, create my own dialogue, set my own twisty-turny plots.

Now I'm doing it. And you know what? It's ... hard. Anyone who writes fiction will likely agree with me. I'm realizing, belatedly, that it's much easier when your story is laid out in front of you, when your quotes are given to you, and when your characters are standing right in front of you. Starting with a blank slate is freeing, yes, but a bit overwhelming, too.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not complaining. I still love it. But it's a change that has definitely taken a little getting used to.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

So close ... to fame on Amazon

For just a few minutes there, I was almost famous. I was so close.

See, I called up Death on Deadline on its Amazon page to see if I had any more reviews posted (I have a few pending) and my jaw dropped in amazement.

There, right by MY book, my hard-scrabble indie little baby, was an Amazon seal of approval. YES! It was right there! It was GOLD! And it said "Best of 2011 So Far." Really? Seriously?

I did my traditional seated happy dance, but it wasn't enough. I almost got up to do my standing-up happy dance when I stopped. Wait a minute. There was a little box around the seal. Like ... maybe ... it didn't go with my book. Like ... maybe ... it was just kind of a misleading little ad. Misleading in my favor, sure, but still.

I looked closer and read the small print. Oh. It was just an ad for Kindle books in general. More expensive Kindle books by traditionally published authors. Dang it.

I suddenly flashed back to junior high school, to walking down the hallway to algebra class. "Hey," I hear. I see the most gorgeous basketball star ever to walk the halls of Benjamin Franklin Junior High flashing his trademark grin and walking over to me. Me? The big nerd? I stop in my tracks, swallow hard and smile back tentatively. I keep smiling, too, as he walks past me to link arms with the gymnastics star standing right behind me.

Dang it. I was so close.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Finished your book? Start the next one!

I had a terrifying question asked of me the other day. Oh, it didn't start out scary. It just ended that way.

"Hey, I liked your book," read a comment in my e-mail. I did a little happy dance in my chair. "What's America doing next?"

America is America Miles, the protagonist in Death on Deadline. And right now, she's waiting on me.

And it's all my fault.

I should have listened to my husband. He told me months ago - right after I published Death on Deadline - that I needed to start working on my next book. I just shrugged. And glared.

"I will, I will," I told him. "I JUST finished. That's like asking a new mom when she's having another baby."

Geez. How rude.

Well, I hate to admit it (because wives are always right, of course) but he wasn't rude. He was right. I should have been writing.

Because now I'm late. And my fingers are flying double-time. So don't wait. And don't be offended. Just write.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

It's writer mom vs. kids this summer

There are two camps in my household these days. One camp is trying to finish a book and is on a self-imposed deadline. The other camp is on summer vacation and has no deadlines whatsoever.

The camps are not particularly compatible.

One camp is trying to create compelling, creative prose. The other camp is tearing apart the basement looking for Spongebob goggles that may or may not actually exist.

The first camp is doing her best to create a humorous book of essays, knowing that humor is a delicate, subjective topic that must be crafted with just the right amount of tact and dignity. The second camp is learning to do cartwheels in the living room and shouting things like "Lookit mom!!lookit mom!!lookit mom!!lookit mom!!"

The first camp is realizing why famous writers of old often turned to the bottle or ran away to desert islands to think. And while she won't do either of these things, she also is realizing that deadlines are flexible and kids are only kids once.

The first camp is waving the white flag. The second camp is just wondering why there aren't more Doritos in the house.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Seriously - can marketing yourself be fun?

At the end of an email the other day, a potential reviewer wished me well on my book sales. "Isn't it fun?" he added.

All day, I couldn't stop thinking about his comment.

Fun? Seriously? We're talking self-publishing, right? You know - selling books, getting reviews, developing your brand, all that. It's marketing, and that's necessary. But fun?

Writing is fun for me. Creating a story, building a new world, finding those twists and turns that keep readers spellbound - now that's fun. Marketing ... well, fun wouldn't be the first word I use to describe it. But I'm starting to wonder if I'm judging too hastily.

Are there others out there who have as much fun with marketing as I do with writing? Is there a way to have the best of both worlds? Maybe it's just a change of perspective. Maybe it's more. Either way, I think it's time to find out.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Lesson learned: Lunch before book reviews

So I've been working recently to get book reviews for Death on Deadline. And as a publishing newbie, it's taken me some time to figure out how it's done.

But finally - success! I received a few emails the other day from interested reviewers. Would I mind sending them copies? One requested a .mobi file, the other epub.

Naturally I didn't mind. I was delighted. I ... just wasn't quite sure how to do it. And I wanted to make sure I did it right, so I didn't look like a doofus. I didn't want the first line of the review to be how difficult it was receive the book in the correct format.

So I woke up extra early the next morning. I downloaded the versions (very easy) then took a break for the morning routine - getting the kids fed and dressed and off to school. But I was so excited, I couldn't leave well enough alone. I kept fussing with my emails, messing with the computer. I was just about finished, though, and it was almost time to leave for school, when my young son came by and looked at me accusingly.

"Where's my lunch?" he asked me, looking in his backpack. "Did you forget to make my LUNCH?"

Um...oops. He glared at me. "Are you playing on the computer in the morning? We're not allowed to play on the computer in the morning!"

Busted. I had to run his lunch over later, parking in a no-parking zone and getting yelled at by the meanie in the school office.

There's a few lessons that can be learned here, but perhaps the most important one is this: School lunches before book reviews.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Amazon promotion sparks inner debate

Last week, Amazon quietly launched its big Sunshine Deals promotion, and my inner writer and reader began to argue.

If you haven't heard - and you probably have - Sunshine Deals is a promotion between Amazon and some traditional publishers, allowing Amazon to sell 600+ e-books by big-name authors for cheap, cheap, cheap (99 cents, $1.99 and $2.99) until June 15.

It's a great way to fill up your Kindle. In fact, that's the whole marketing campaign.

And so the reader inside me was ecstatic. Despite all the hype, bestsellers for Kindle often aren't really that cheap, at least not for skinflints like me. I mean, they're more inexpensive than the hard covers, sure, but they're not as drop-dead cheap as we might have been led to believe when e-readers first went on sale. (At least that's my opinion).

But the writer inside me - whiny little thing that she is - wasn't quite so thrilled. I'm a writer, after all. And I'm selling my e-book on Kindle for 99 cents. I have enough competition with other indie writers. Do I really need the big-name guys horning in on my price range? They have agents, publicists, probably massage therapists. Sheesh. Don't they get enough breaks as it is?

My inner writer was not pleased at all, no sirree.

But then I began perusing the site. I started shopping. I began filling up my Kindle with bargains. I realized I couldn't get mad at any promotion that promotes reading.

And I also realized the promotion hasn't really affected my sales. Hmm. Maybe me and the big boys don't share the same readership. Yet. : )

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Writing? In this weather? Umm, maybe ...

Remember when you were in school and the sun would be shining and it would be warm outside, and everyone would raise their hands and say, "Can we have class outside today?!"

I'm getting that feeling all over again.

I've read a couple of posts from writers lately, talking about how the fresh, warm weather has sparked their creativity. I envy them. I'm finding myself distracted.

I love to write, sure. I need to. I have projects thisclose to being finished. And I have fun projects I want to start.

But after a long, cold Midwestern winter and an incredibly soggy spring, it's finally sunny and warm outside. I'm reveling in it. I can't get enough of the sunshine. I want to swim in the pool. I want to garden. I want to simply sit outside. I want to teach myself to take nature photos so when winter inevitably arrives again, I'll have a way to remember this time.

But I need to write. So I'm thinking of taking my laptop outside for a little bit of a compromise. And I'm forcing myself to focus.

Because if you'll remember, we didn't often get to have class outside.

Monday, May 16, 2011

It takes a village to raise an indie writer

I made a book trailer the other day for my book, Death on Deadline. It is 60 seconds long, and I forgot the words about seven times. It was shot by a professional videographer on his lunch break.

I'm paying him in cupcakes and effusive thanks.

My book cover was created by a friend (Claire Innes-Wilbur)who happens to be an extremely talented graphic artist. Her payment? My everlasting gratitude.

My book was edited literally dozens of times - by my husband, by my writer and editor friends and even by my ever-patient sisters. When it came time to format and post it, I was lost. My good friend Traci Bauer, who helps manage a daily newspaper, takes night classes and spends literally no time on herself, came to my rescue.

My next book cover is being drawn by an accomplished artist friend, Chuck Todd. He has a wonderful children's book out that he illustrated - There's a Hummingbird in my Backyard - and he and I are working out ways to cross-promote each other. I'm incredibly excited.

Writers - especially indie ones like me who are just starting out - need help. I'm happy to say we can often find it. I've found the indie authors I've met to be incredibly supportive.

The people who have helped me have been absolutely wonderful, even when I pestered them with e-mails and shoved sentence after sentence in their face, insisting they choose which feels better.

I talked to a good friend the other day, and when I mentioned to her that my book sales were up that month, she expressed surprise. Then she quickly explained herself. "It's just, well... there are so many e-books out there," she said.

I agreed. There are. And some are absolutely terrible. But many aren't.

With the right village of support around you, it's a lot easier to help readers tell the difference.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Write what you know - but know a lot

Write what you know - isn't that what we're told all the time?

But I wonder about that advice. I understand the premise, but I think it falls just a bit short. After all, if I wrote what I knew on a daily basis, I'd be penning a fascinating tome on cubicles and cafeteria lines. Isn't the real trick to stretch and learn and know more?

When I wrote Death on Deadline, I put my protagonist in a newsroom because I was a reporter for so many years. I felt confident in that environment. That's what I knew. But I needed more drama - more mayhem. However ... I hadn't killed any editors. (Although I'd been tempted.) So I researched poisons, contemplated motives, debated logistics.

I think I was starting to give my husband the creeps, but in the end, I did feel like I was writing what I knew - just in a different way.

I didn't realize how important believability in fiction was until I heard something that rang false.

I attended a writing group once where a young man brought his manuscript; he read aloud from a part where a woman received a prenatal ultrasound. But it was obvious he had no idea how an ultrasound worked. I was pregnant at the time, and this bothered me immensely. But when I politely questioned his description, he was openly hostile.

"That's how it works in my book," he said stubbornly. Fine, I thought. But will it work for your readers?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

New projects go word by word, bird by bird

Starting a new writing project can be so daunting. All those ideas in your head, waiting to be organized. All those blank pages. All that ... nothingness.

I think it's so hard to start over. In fact, I try not to even think of it that way, to even use those words. I try to look at it as just more storytelling, another chance to share what I'm thinking with a new group of friends.

I take it page by page, sentence by sentence, word by word, if I have to.

For motivation, I think of a story from one of my favorite writers, Anne Lamott. She tells this story in her wonderful bestseller, Bird by Bird:

"My older brother, who was 10 at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he'd had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at the family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother's shoulder and said, "Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird."

Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

When do deadlines really become deadly?

Years ago, I watched a cocky young reporter have a meltdown while covering a major election. The clock was ticking, editors were hovering and he realized, suddenly and sickeningly, that no coursework had prepared him for pressure like this.

He started to cry. Then he started to hyperventilate. It wasn't pretty.

And this was when newspapers were relatively fat and happy, when seats were filled and shareholders were content. Not like now, when executives have sliced and diced newsrooms, leaving only the few, the brave and the very, very tired.

I was thinking about that the other day as I read David Callahan's piece in The Huffington Post, one that analyzed the case of Sari Horwitz - the Washington Post reporter recently suspended for plagiarism that occurred while she was covering the Arizona shootings.

See, Horwitz isn't some young hotshot. She's a Pulitzer Prize winner. And in her apology, Horwitz mentioned the stress of the tight deadlines she was under. But plagiarism? This is ... worrisome.

I don't know Horwitz; I don't know anything about the situation. But I know deadlines. I know that feeling of rising panic and the power it takes to quell it. I still remember how my heart would start beating faster and how I would count backwards to calm myself and slow things down. I know the feeling of how everyone is counting on you and how you better not screw up.

I don't work in a newsroom anymore. I can't even imagine how tough it is today - with staffs that are skeletal and expectations that are still sky-high.

I would never condone plagiarism, obviously. It's inexcusable. In Death on Deadline, plagiarism and the power of information are a big part of the story. That's fiction, of course. But I have to wonder if the issues caused by tight deadlines and corporate cutting might just be bleeding into real life.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

E-book world is easy, even for techno-saurs

I'll be the first to tell you I'm a writer, not a salesperson. And I'm sure not the technical type.

But I finally, yes finally, put my book up for sale in Amazon's Kindle store. I had hemmed and hawed forever. I thought it would be too technical. I wouldn't know what to do. I'd get confused. Blah, blah, blah ... excuse, excuse, excuse. Then one day, I just realized that nobody was going to do it for me.

So I ventured tentatively onto the KDP site, the Kindle Digital Platform for self-publishing.
After a few false starts, I uploaded my book. Just. Like. That. It was actually pretty easy, even for a techno-saur like me. And I'm even selling a few copies - not only here, but on Kindle UK. (Go figure). Maybe I'll be realy popular in Europe - you know, the David Hasselhoff of self-publishers, if you will. Or ... not.

So if your e book is completed and you just have a case of nerves, take a deep breath and dive in. It's really not that bad. I swear.