Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Not Messy But Dirty (Housecleaning Sucks!)

Last Saturday my husband and I decided to give our house a thorough cleaning.  Well, not the basement.  That would take the whole weekend.  The basement is my art supply area and the place where projects in progress linger.  Need I say more? Artists need stuff out where they can get it immediately.  That does not equal clutter free.

Anyway, the whole main living area was ravaged with dust cloths, feather dusters and vacuums.  We did not leave anything alone.  Carpet edgings got vacuumed. (Yes, we still have carpet, much to my husband's delight and my chagrin.) Ceiling and walls got hit with the feather thingy.  Furniture got vacuumed  I even polishing the silver pieces in my hutch!

It took us all of Saturday. We finally got our first meal at 9:30 pm.  Man, that is a lot of work!  It looked great...on Saturday.  Slowly, so slowly one sees the dust and debris show up on furniture and carpets.  We will still dust and vacuum, but we live by our own motto.  You know how most say "We are messy, but we aren't dirty"?  Not us.  We don't like clutter (except in my art area.  :)  ) but we don't mind our own dirt.  We aren't messy, but we are dirty. There.  I said it.  If friends base their friendship on how clean my house is I don't need those friends in my life. I do have other talents.

Sorry.  Too many other things to do in this short life.  I used to drive myself nuts about it.  Used to wash walls until my knuckles bled.  Not anymore.  Not for years.  There are only two of us and two parrots.  We do vacuum the parrot dust up, but we don't clean as often as we probably should.

Still, I worked in property management for eight years.  I can tell you that 90% of people are dirtier than we are.  Even the well dressed, neat looking ones can surprise you.  Seriously, you would not believe the hell holes I entered when I had to go into apartments.  And these were nice apartments, not ghettos!  That is when I learned I could relax a little...actually a lot...and still have a cleaner home than most people on this planet.

I really hate cleaning.  It is boring.  Although I did learn a trick that helps a little.  I read somewhere to think about who gave you each item or where you were or who you were with when you bought or received each item as you dust.  That does give me some pleasant memories while cleaning.  It helps.  A little.  OK...not much.

It was sure nice to relax on Sunday in a totally clean house.  Not nice enough to do it again anytime soon, though.  That I can say with no hesitation.  That, my friends, is a wrap.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Interview With Fabulous Author T. M. Souders!

Today I have a special treat for you on this blog.  I am interviewing author T.M. Sounders, who I have had the pleasure of getting to know on kindleboards.com.  Please take a few minutes to get to know more about her and her writing.  You will be glad that you did!

Welcome T.M. !  I appreciate your taking time to chat with me today.Let's talk a little bit about how you became an author, your books, and you. First of all, I am curious as to what made you personally decide to write your first book, why you decided to go "indie", and when the first book went "live".
I wrote my first book in college, but my life was crazy at the time and I was not fully committed to writing. I became serious about it shortly after my first child was born, this was about four years ago. Since then, I've written about one book a year, only one of which has been published (Waiting On Hope). I decided to go Indie after researching the industry and publishing. It seemed like a “no-brainer” at the time. My first book, Waiting On Hope went live in late July of 2011.

Waiting on Hope has 28 reviews and 4 Stars. That speaks very well of the book!  People can click on the book to get to Amazon and read the reviews.

How many books do you have out?  What are the other titles and genres?  Tell us a little about the main character(s).

I have one women's fiction novel, Waiting On Hope. The main character in this story is a pariah of strength. She is forced to find a way through unspeakable tragedy and manages to pick up the broken pieces of her life.
Dashing Through The Snow is a romance/chick-lit novelette that I published this winter. The main character is sweet, but my favorite character is her best friend Gemma! She's funny, sassy, and tells you like it is.

I loved Gemma, too!  She made me laugh out loud more than once, that is for sure. I can see why this is another 4 star book.  (Click on cover to read reviews, etc)

When is your next book coming out?  What is it about?

My next book, Freedom Road, is undergoing edits as we speak. I believe and hope it will be available in mid-March. It's a YA/Crossover novel and is about an eighteen year old who comes from an extremely dysfunctional family. She has a dream of Juilliard and a desire to escape home and the life she's leading.

What advice would you give other people who are thinking about writing their first book, but then that self doubt comes in?

Don't doubt yourself. If you're that unsure, then get Beta reader or someone who provides critique to look at your work, then go from there. Often times, self doubt is something we all struggle with and something we just need to get over. A good critique will tell you if you're just doubting yourself or if you really do need to work on your craft.

 What do you think are the five most important things a new author has to "take care of" to give them the best chance at success?
The first, and I learned this the hard way, is to get a good editor. Don't just hire anyone who is cheap, with little to no experience. Look at their credentials and make sure their worthy to work on your book. Second, grow a thick skin. Third, get ready to devote some serious time to promotion, marketing, and networking if you want to be successful. Fourth, create goals for yourself. How successful do you want to be? Are your goals realistic? Fifth, get a good cover, because most people do buy a book based on the cover.

 Let's talk a little bit about you as a person now. Tell me, what about life never fails to make you laugh?
My kids. They constantly are reminders of what's important in life. They're the two things I'm positive I did right!
What do you enjoy doing besides writing?

I love to read! Sometimes I devour books, one right after the other, because when I'm in the middle of writing I don't have as much time to read. I love spending time with family and good food! Eating out is one of my favorite things to do, lol. In the spring and summer, I also love gardening and spending time outside. There's something amazing about burying a seed in the earth and watching it grow.

I love gardening, too.  For me, it is working with my annuals daily. They get as much attention as one would give a child!
Finally, let's play the old genie in a bottle game. You get 3 wishes. They can't be general wishes, like "peace on earth", or all disease cured. No I wish my family, etc would stay healthy.  We all wish those kinds of things.  These 3 wishes are for personal, material things. What three things would you wish for?
1.    To be in St.Lucia, Antigua, or somewhere equally as exotic and beautiful right now for a month of R&R.
2.    For my book to get a movie deal, and actually be made into a movie. (Often times, books get deals but never come to fruition)
3.    A beach house in the Outer Banks of North Carolina!!! I can't believe I almost forgot this one! It's my DREAM to get a beach house there. I'm determined that some day it will happen!

I hope you get that beach house and be you will.  The movie deal would be AWESOME!  What book by another author do you wish you would have written and why?
Jennifer Donelly's Rose Trilogy! I LOVE these books. They are absolutely amazing for romance fans. It's funny because I don't read much historical romance, but these by far are three of my favorite books. Especially, the first two. I don't know what else to say except I love them. The writing is amazing, the history amazing, and the story lines---> this is my jelly face :-/

Any last things you would like to tell people about you or your writing?
I write because I love it! If I had one main goal to achieve through my writing, it would be for people to love my books and for them to leave the book wishing it didn't have to end. I love hearing from readers and other authors, so feel free to contact me!

Thank you again.  It was a pleasure.  Please see the links below for ordering information begarding T. M. Sounders books and contact information!
Purchase links:
twitter: @tmsouders

Friday, January 27, 2012

Is It A Romance? (This Genre Is A Tough One)

As an indie author, you will be responsible for selecting the genres you want your book to appear in.  On Barnes & Noble you get up to 5 to add.  On Amazon you only get two.  That is really difficult for many of us.  For instance, my books are drama, historical fiction, romance, steamy romance, historical romance, saga, and book one is coming of age.  See what I mean?

I also wish they had a better selection of genres.  Some are missing.  Some get further broken down and the wording sounds so stuffy I almost go to sleep!

However, today my blog is about the romance genre.  There are many that argue that if a story does not have a "happy ever after" ending it does not fall into the romance category.  They almost have a stroke if a book dares to fall out of that old "woman meets man, they fall in love, there is a misunderstanding, they fight, they get back together, they marry" formula.
There are many readers that DON"T want to read that formula anymore or never did.  What fun is it to read a book when you know exactly what is going to happen?  Why not just read the same book over and over?   Those of some of the things that run through the minds of readers that do love romance but don't like predictability.

I would fall into the category of those that don't like a standard formula.  It bores me, and it bores me quickly.  I have been reading for decades now.  That same old formula just doesn't excite me anymore.  Sorry.  This is not a knock on those who write formula romances.  God knows you have a huge following.  It is just not for me and I can't write it.  I am probably in the minority. You who write it will make a hell of a lot more money than I ever will.  Still, if I am bored writing I may as well go back to work for the feds typing social security numbers all day.   At least I would have some benefits.
Here is a thought for those of you that insist on the same old, same old.  If we use your formula, then Romeo & Juliet, Wuthering Heights, and Gone With The Wind would not qualify as romances.  They can't, if you use the formula.  They certainly are not feel good stories.  Yet, they are love stories.
Romantic/Sexual love is at the core of each of them.  As it is in 1984.  Does that have a happy ever after ending?

Some say they are "only" love stories and not romances, Or they fall under another category (Of course, don't most great books?).  Only love stories??? Isn't that what romance is part of?  Personally, I will take a romance with surprises and real life dysfunction and angst any day over a 'they met and kissed and lived happy forever' type of book.  I want to read about characters who seem to have a real life.  In real life, we seldom exist in a state of eternal bliss, even when we end up with our soul mate.  I get that it is fiction.  Still, I want to be able to believe it might happen. My mom used to say if two people live together and never fight, one is kissing the other's ass.  She was right.

I am not saying the story cannot have a happy ending.  It could. But, it just as easily could not.  Isn't that what life is like?  Isn't that what makes a book something you don't want to put down?  A book where you aren't sure how it will end is much more addicting than a book that you know the ending to before opening it.  

Be forewarned: I write romance, but it will never be typical.  If they gave me "love story" as a genre choice, I would move there.  They don't-so thar ya go. I write about love. I write about love and romance in a way that appeals to both  men and women. Imperfect characters.  Raw sex. Both beautiful and ugly emotions and actions. You will never know what to expect and you will never know if it will be "happy ever after".  I want to take you on a ride.  Even more, I want the destination to be a secret until we get there.

Surprise!  Fasten your seat belt.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Treating Book Reviewers and Bloggers With Respect

Part of your job as an indie author is to find book reviewers and bloggers to review your book.  There are dozens of them out there. You can find them by searching facebook for pages about books and about your genre, searching on yahoo or google, or asking other authors that you are friends with.  Once you have a large list, you should be contacting a couple of dozen right away.  Then, every week or so, add three more. Keep a log of who, what and when.
Before you contact them, go to their website or blog and carefully read the instructions on how to request a review.  Please note if they say they are closed for reviews or do not review indies.  If either of these are mentioned, do NOT request a review from them.  You will not be the exception and you will only irritate them.

If they do accept indies and are not closed, then follow the instructions completely.  Send what they ask for in the first email and only send that.
If they accept your book and did not ask for everything up front, they will give you further instructions.

Once accepting, ask them kindly if they will post on whatever book sites and selling sites you want the review on.  Remember, they do reviews for free and out of the love for books, so they do not "owe" you reviews on any sites.  If they do not post on every site you want, don't be rude.  Most at least post on Amazon, B&N and Goodreads.  That is fair to expect and request.  Some will post other places, too.  Just ask.  Never demand. If they don't do other sites, don't get angry.  Reviews on the three I mentioned will still benefit you.

Provide all information that they ask for.  Make sure you have a copy of your book cover photo, a description, your buy links, your social media links and can either send them a .pdf or .mobi if they want OR be willing to send them a gift cert to either Kindle or NOOK.  It only costs you the price of your book and when they redeem it, you get a sale.  Some do not read books electronically.  So, send them the paperback.  Yes, it costs more.  Still, the review costs you nothing and can benefit you greatly.  If you don't have your work in  paperback and they don't have an e-reader then graciously say so and find a different reviewer.

It is fine to ask when they expect to have the review done.  Some are within weeks, most a month or two...and some of the big ones can be several months.  I have a review that I requested last fall coming in July 2012!  That review site is greatly respected and I feel it is well worth the wait.  What does it hurt me?  Nothing.

If they don't give you a general date, don't harass them weekly.  In fact, don't harass them at all!  If  a month and a half goes by, a polite email asking if they are now able to provide a target date is fine.  Don't bug them often or you won't get reviewed!  Remember, they are doing this for free.

Ask them if they will let you know on the day the review goes live so that you can push the review with social media.  You can tweet and facebook the link to the review on their site or blog, and that gives them exposure too.  In fact, you should.  Some don't let you know ahead of time, just when it is live.  Some don't show you the review until it is live.  Some do.

Do NOT pay for reviews.  How can a paid review be fair?

Last and most important:  Do not argue or be rude or defend your book once the review is done if it is less than you expected.
You asked them to review your book, not be your friend. They are not obligated to love, or even like, your work!  Not everyone likes every book!  Chalk it up to either someone not liking your style or needing to improve your writing skills, depending on what the review says.  If it says the book is full of errors, shame on you.  The book should not be published if it is not well proofed and edited.

If it says the characters were not developed or story did not flow, perhaps you need to work on those things in the future.  If other reviews are good and don't mention that, perhaps it was a style that they don't like.  Once you get several reviews, you will know if certain points come up over and over again.

Remember, three stars is not a bad review.  Authors are starting to think anything less than four or five stars is an insult to the book.  Three stars out of five means they liked it!  They liked it enough to read it all and would tell others it was decent.  What is wrong with that?

Even two star and one star reviews can help you.  It just depends on what is said.  I got a two star that said there was too much sex in my book.  Right after that review I had a burst of sales!  I am not going to argue if there was too much, too little or just the right amount, as it does not matter.  If I see a review that says there was too much description of scenes, I won't buy it but others may love that.  I like a lot of dialog.  So a one star review saying too much dialog would inspire me to buy.

Do not leave comments about reviews on the review sites.  It looks tacky to readers.  You look defensive and unprofessional, no matter how professionally you respond to bad reviews.  Just don't.  Seriously. Responding to good reviews makes it look like you are friends.  Leave it be. Seriously, don't. Remember this: reviews are for readers not authors.  You can thank them for their work via a private email.  And that is all.  No rebuttal.  Got it?  :)  We have lost too many fair reviewers because of abuse by authors.  If all we end up with are reviewers that kiss authors butts, then reviews are pointless.

Bitching about a bad review on kindleboards (even their writer's cafe) or other chat rooms is not advised.  Readers see that and think much less of you.  Reviewers see that and don't want to work with you.
Yes, we all strive for four and five stars.  It is great to get those.  But you earn them, dear author.  You earn them.  You are not more special than the rest, you are not entitled simply by publishing our work.  You earn them.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

There Is Nothing Like Being Owned By Parrots

I have a life besides being an indie writer. You know I paint, but did you know I am owned by parrots?

There are dog lovers and then there are cat lovers.  They both give reasons why dogs or cats are the best pet you can have.  And, of course, we have all heard that cliche "Dogs are a man's best friend".  Dog lovers go on and on about dog's loyalty and how glad they always are to see you.
Hmmmpfffff.  You don't have a clue to how close of a relationship one can have with an animal until you are owned by a parrot. People who don't know much about birds think they must be boring.  Not so.  Most parrots have the intelligence of a three year old human.  African Grey parrots and Cockatoo parrots have the intelligence of a five year old human.  Animal experts now say they are at least as intelligent as dolphins and moneys...maybe more so.

Does you dog talk?  I did not say mimic.  I said talk.  There are still some "experts" that say parrots only mimic.  They obviously have not lived with parrots.  Or watched the videos of Alex, the African Grey.  He is dead now, but learned colors, sizes, shapes and could pick them out when asked randomly.  Some greys are being taught to touch computer keys to call up different photos of parrots.  They think in 10 years greys can video conference.  True, it won't be as in depth as us...but pretty cool.

My parrots will look at me out of the blue and say  "I love you."  When was the last time your cat said that?  When they are tired, they say "Time for night night" or "See you tomorrow".  If I don't act immediately, I hear "Let's go.  Let's go."

Some think parrots are dirty and have bugs because they are always pecking at themselves.  Not so.  They are cleaning feathers and rearranging feathers to get warmer or cooler.  Parrots ARE messy.  They throw things and their feather dander gets on everything.  There is lots of vacuuming done in my house and we have air purifiers.  But guess what?  Their poop does not stink.  Not one bit.  Nice, huh?

Parrots are not for everyone though.  They are very, VERY high maintenance.  They need one on one time daily.  They need to legitimately be part of the family.  As flock animals, they like to be involved and included.  They can't be put in a cage and left there just because their feathers happen to match your decor.  Some parrots actually go insane because of bad treatment.  They are a commitment for decades.  Do you get rid of three year old humans when you tire of them?  That is what it is like if you "get rid of" parrots.

Don't get me wrong.  I love dogs and cats.  I also love snakes and other reptiles.  But there is no other animal in the world that can have a deeper relationship with you than a parrot.

We have a male White Capped Pionus named Kazoo (16 years old) and a female African Grey name Melanie (20 years old).  Kazoo could live 35 years and Melanie could live to be 75.  People ask why we chose animals that have the intelligence of human children and will live (one of them longer than we have left here) so long when we are childless by choice.

My answer?  Well, yes they can bite.  They are messy and can be loud.  They are demanding.  However, they will never do drugs, total my car, need money for college, or marry someone I can't stand.  That is more than a fair trade-off, if you ask me.

Oh-oh.  Gotta go.  My "bosses" are ready for breakfast.  Kazoo is saying "Wanna eat" and Melly is yelling "Good Morning."  I don't want to be written up.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Book Reviews By Readers Help Readers AND Authors

 As an indie author, I need all of the exposure I can get for my work.  Whenever a reader leaves a book review, it really helps me.  Before I started writing I really did not realize how important it was to an author for readers to leave reviews.  I never left reviews.

I guess I just assumed reviews were only done by "reviewers".  Yes, we need reviews from book reviewers and book bloggers.  But, we really need input from regular readers, too.  It you liked or loved a book, please take the time to leave a review.
Also, in order for the review to help other readers, it needs to say more than "I really loved this book" or "the best book I ever read".  If you take the time to leave a paragraph or two about what made you love the book (without spoiling any surprises that would ruin the story for others) if really helps others know if they want to read it.

For example, perhaps you loved the fact that the author went into a lot of detail about the homes or settings.  That is good to know.  Some people love that.  Others prefer more dialog driven books.  Either way, it helps both readers know what this book is like.   If the dialog flows well and is crisp, say so.  If you laughed, cried, felt emotions toward characters or situations, say so (again, do NOT spoil a situation by revealing something that should not be).

Conversely, if you did not like a book and feel compelled to leave a review, be specific.  Leaving a one or two star review and saying "This book sucked" or "The worst book ever" does nothing but show your meanness.  What didn't you like about it?  Where the characters wooden?  Was plot lacking?  Be specific in a constructive way, so that the author can improve their skills.  Being mean does not help anyone know what they did wrong. Remember, authors are people, too. Treat them as such. They put a lot of time and their heart into their work.  It is ok to criticize the work, but don't bully.

Hey, I know we are all busy.  Perhaps you don't have time to do a review every time you read a book.  I understand.  I don't always, either, even though I know the importance of reviews now.  But, if you can take a few minutes, a review is always much appreciated by any author.  Good, bad, or indifferent.  If you give specific reasons, a review will help other readers and it will help the author.

Happy reading!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Writing Fiction in a Different Time Period

As an indie author writing novels that take place during a past time period, I must be my own policeman when it comes to making sure my story stays true to the period. Yes, it is fiction, and you can have things happen that didn't really happen...but it still has to be within reason.

Gastien lived in nineteenth century France. Therefore, I can't say that he drove to Au Lapin Agile for a drink! You may thing this is a "duh" when writing, but it is so easy to mess up. For instance, one beta reader caught it when Gastien used a twist on an old saying by stating: "I may have just arrived off the turnip truck...". There were no trucks then, she reminded me.  Oh. Right!  It quickly got changed to "I may have just arrived off the turnip wagon..."

I am now writing the third book in The Gastien Series, which will be titled Tristan Michel: Bloodline of Passion. It starts in 1909. I have about 17,000 words done.  Friday I started reading it aloud to my husband, Dave. Tristan Michel calls his sister in New York City to tell her that he is moving his family to New York from Paris. All of a sudden, I paused. Could that have happened?
It has been too many years since my history classes as a student. Way too many. So, I looked it up on the Internet. Whew, I thought, phones WERE in use then. No problem. Still, it haunted me. This morning I searched deeper.  Yes, phones were in use, but the first intercontinental call did not happen until 1915! Now I know that Tristan Michel must send a telegram. 

If you are using a big event that actually happened in history in your fiction, make sure the facts are right. For instance, if I wanted to use the Great Flood of Paris that happened in 1910, I better not have any of Tristan Michel's relatives die in it. No one died in Paris itself, and they all lived in Paris.  Well, actually, one soldier did. So, if he was related to Tristan Michel, I would be safe. Does it matter? To a some people, no. But to a reader that knows French history, you better believe it does. It makes the story unreal to them. Fiction is fiction, but while the reader is reading the story it needs to seem real.

I am talking about major historical events. Tristan Michel is an architect. Because it is fiction, I certainly can have him work on some major buildings wherever he lives in the USA. The facts about who built each building are not major events. Not many care or know who put the windows in which building, or who made the plans for most of the buildings in our cities.

Gastien's clothing was vastly different than others during his life. Because people from all over the world came to Paris and Montmartre there were what we would call "flea markets" and used shops featuring all kinds of goodies. Therefore, it was possible that he would buy clothing from other cultures and wear it. Plus, he was an artist and they tended to dress oddly.
He even wore pants that fit him as capris, although no one else was wearing capri trousers at the time. It works, because he was a "bohemian", the group he was part of and where he resided.
Have fun with your characters and what they do, but make sure that it fits the era you are writing in, or at least can be believable because of the character and situation he or she is in. Use the Internet to find out details of major events, how people dressed, and what major things were or were not available to them during that time period. It will take you longer to write the story, but you will end up with a novel that readers can enjoy as real during their time spent with your characters.

Happy Writing!

Friday, January 20, 2012

What a Character! (So Hard to Say Goodbye)

Continuing as an indie author, the third book in my Gastien Series has been started.  I have about 17,000 words done.  It is so hard to say goodbye to Gastien himself!  This third book is about another characeter in the series, and he is vastly different from Gastien.
I have lived with Gastien in my head and in my soul for over a year.  I think I know him better than I know Caddy Rowland.  Sometimes, he feels more real than I do.  All of a sudden, I have to let go.  Let go and move on.  It is so incredibly hard to do so!  It feels like my firstborn is being ripped from my arms.  Yet, unless I do, Tristan Michel will have no voice.  He won't become real and readers will feel that.

Tristan Michel is very, very different from Gastien.  I have to keep reminding myself of that as I write book 3.  What worries me is that readers won't remember that.  They love Gastien. They talk about Gastien as if he were alive today and a close friend of theirs.  His story was extremely emotional for them. Many who never cry found themselves in tears. Gastien was full of passion and wildness.  A nonconformist. 

How will they deal with a reserved man who values tradition and family values? Will they pan the book, saying that it lacks the excitement and emotional intensity of the first two?  I am scared. Damned scared.

If they just give Tristan Michel a chance, I think they will find that he wrestles his own demons and is a time bomb waiting to go off.  That his story, too, is full of emotion and pain.  He is different than Gastien, but no less driven; no less conflicted.

Tristan Michel is begging me to open my mind and allow him to speak.  His story, although different, is no less important.  He deserves my complete attention and so, although I hate to, this blog is a goodbye.

It is a goodbye to Gastien, that bohemian bad boy who broke readers hearts and made them laugh at the same time.  Yes, readers hated him at times.  They loved him even more.  Ah, Gastien.  How I enjoyed your story.  It was a pleasure allowing you to speak through me. How I love you! I will miss you, my amie.  I will miss you.

R.I.P. Gastien Beauchamp.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Formatting Hell (Where Indie Authors Go)

I love being an indie author.  I don't much like waiting for other people to decide my future; or having my writing changed into something that is different from my voice.  Why write if you lose your uniqueness?  Yeah, I have always fought authority, and like John says, authority "always" wins. 

But not in this case. Indie authors are here to stay.  Kind of like rock and roll.  I am here to stay.  And I am determined that, this time, I will win.  What is cool about being an indie?  Well, besides keeping my voice, I get to call all the shots.  I have never been much good at having someone else do that.  I get to decide how to market my work, how often to publish, what to publish, and where to publish it. 

Will my work ever become hugely successful?  I hope so.  If it doesn't, I will still keep writing.  More and more people are listening, and I got my first "fan" mail by email yesterday. There is nothing quite like getting an email from a stranger telling you how glad they are that you write; how they can't wait to read whatever you are writing next.  That makes the struggle to be heard worthwhile.
But, formatting...oh my.  I really thought I had it covered.  The first book taught me a lot.  The second book should have been easy.  But, no.  For the last week or so I have been struggling with some formatting issues discovered once it went live!  There were extra alpha characters on kindle that did not appear on Nook or in the paperback.  Nor were they on my original documents.

I seriously thought I would develop ulcers before this got solved.  FINALLY, after a friend on kindleboards found what was wrong, I uploaded the new book yesterday.  Only to find out that a reviewer cannot get the gift certificate for kindle to download.  Fabulous.  Will this book ever settle down?
I called a different friend and told her I was sending a gift certificate and to see if it opened.  It would not.  She then went and bought the book and it downloaded.  Then, it said her gift was waiting...but it would not download.  That may be because she had the book downloaded already because of buying it to see if it worked that way.

The good news?  People buying my book are getting it.  Thank God.  I put up information on several Facebook pages yesterday, so I would have really hated for people to be buying my book and getting nothing.  The bad news? I still don't know what is wrong with the certificates.  At least I know it is not me.  I will be calling Amazon later today after I have that reviewer try to download the certificate again. 

Still, Gastien Part 2: From Dream to Destiny seems to be my problem child.  This is the rebellious child after giving birth to my first one.  Everyone says no two deliveries are the same and I can now vouch for that.

I am going to be working on Book 3 today: Tristan Michel: Bloodline of Passion. I pray this child will give me a break when it comes to formatting.  I don't have much hair left to pull out. I am also running low on bottles of cab.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

In Protest of SOPA and Protect IP

In protest of SOPA, I am only posting a link that explains why you should care if this bill gets passed:


This is NOT a good thing.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Ménage à Trois and Loving It

People say it's wrong.  I know that.  Still, I can't stop.  How can I choose just one?  To live without either would kill me.  They both fulfill me in different ways...and in like ways, too.  Each can consume me.  I get lost in them for hours at a time. When I am with either, I am totally immersed in their sensuous, sinuous offerings.  Yes, I am in love with two.  And I am damn proud of it.

Oh, wait!  Did you think I was talking about men?  Or perhaps one of each sex?  No, no, nothing that ho-hum; nothing that cliche. I am talking about writing and painting.  Those, you see, are the two that I love.  Of course, I love my husband even more in a completely different way, but I did not want to say I love three.  You might think I am too promiscuous then!

Both writing and painting offer me the platform to create.  Ah, creation.  The start of everything the universe has ever known.  Is creation, that energy that turns thoughts into realities, what God is?  Perhaps.  Creative energy.  That certainly does not put limits on God.  In fact, to me it makes God as huge as a god should be.  The vastness of creation is unparalleled.  To give something like that human qualities (jealous, forgiving, loving, angry) seems much more limiting in my book.  Of course, my book may be much different than yours.
Writing gives me the ability to create characters and scenes; thoughts and deeds.  Painting gives me the ability to express emotions and visual beauty or horror.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  Yet, they also say that verbal abuse is much more damaging than physical abuse. 

Words and visuals.  Paintings and books.  They both can cause a woman to sigh in ecstasy, a man to fall to his knees in horror.  Words can make a grown man cry, paintings can slice a hole in ones soul.  Both can heal.  Pretty heady stuff, books and paintings.

So, I will continue my love affairs with both.  Today I am committed to writing twenty pages in my third novel.  Yesterday I got a review from a total stranger, a man, for Gastien Part 2: From Dream to Destiny.  There is nothing quite like the feeling I get when I see that someone I will never know has been drawn to read my work.  He gave it 5 stars.  I am honored.  He said he laughed and he cried.  I made a man cry with a love story.  Words.  They have brute strength.

After I write my twenty pages, I will pick up my favorite paintbrush and continue to caress either my impressionistic painting of a street in Montmartre, or I will continue to soul kiss some cubism I am working on.  Depends on my mood.  Paintings.  Visual statements from my soul to your eyes. Will you love them?  I don't know. What I do know is that the paintings will know that I loved them to the best of my ability.

Me and my loves.  My loves and me.  How fortunate I am to have them both in my life.  They sometimes fight for attention, but they both know I love them equally. We exist blissfully in our ménage à trois. Care to join us?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Winter Reality in Minnesota (Stranger Than Fiction)

Ok. Wow.  I have lived in Minnesota for decades and winter has always been a miserable time of year.  I won't go into all the reasons I hate it because I have posted about that before.  But this winter?  If, as an indie author, I wrote a book and had winter in Minnesota like this winter people would say my work was fakey and unrealistic. Even Gastien did not have good enough drugs to imagine a winter like this for Minnesota.

Every year I pray that by some stroke of fortune we get through November without snow.  That makes the winter so much easier to mentally get through.  Snow usually comes in November, though. Sometimes quite a bit of it.  We normally get snow November through March.  March has a lot of melting and new snow.  Promises of spring peek through during the March melting days, making March tolerable.

Believe me, I remember the year of the Halloween blizzard.  Something like 28 inches over a couple of days.  If I recall, it started the day before the holiday.  We got stuck with all of our candy that year.  Gee.  Too bad!  :)
It also made winter seems about two years long!

This year, I crossed fingers, toes and eyes in hope of seeing a snow free November.  Bingo!  I got four corners, and by November 30th still no snow! Then December began.  Nothing.  The week of Christmas we got a dusting.  Christmas itself was not white.  Thank you Mother Nature!  I know, I know.  We need the moisture.  Shut up. We got an inch or so New Year's Eve.

Enter January (click on January to read about last year's typical January). Not this year! For the first ten days, not only did we not get snow, our temperatures continued to be more like late March or April.  We have consistently been in the forties, and sometimes in the fifties!  Yesterday was about 53 degrees!  So, not only do we not have snow, we have not been even close to the frigid temperatures we normally have.  Not once below zero, even at night.  I can only recall one night in single digits above zero.
Yes, this has been a winter to cherish.  Today it changes.  The temperatures drop and by tomorrow the high will be about sixteen.  We are supposed to get snow today and tomorrow.  Maybe three inches.  Still, this week is supposed to traditionally be the coldest of the year.  Sixteen?  Fine.  I'll take it.  Next week they are predicting a large snowstorm.

People keep saying "Oh, we will pay.  Just wait for January and February."  Hell, I don't care!  We shaved two and one half months off of winter!  It can snow every day for the next two months and I won't bitch once.  Well, umm, maybe a couple of times.  But I am so very grateful for this stranger than fiction winter!

I hope we do get a boatload of snow over the next two months.  I understand that plants and trees need it.  I am prepared to have miserable weather, just not for five months, thank you.  Two I can deal with.

Oh, and Mother (Nature)?  Please don't bitchslap me now and make me pay in April  That would NOT be nice.  I have been a good girl (as good as I can be) and every Minnesotan deserves a decent spring.  You don't have something awful up your sleeve for us, do you????

I am going to sneak off to lunch with a friend today, while the snow starts.  Perhaps dinner with friends tonight, unless it is too crappy.  Then I will stay home with my husband.  The next two days, I am inside.  By the weekend, 20's again.  It is usually WAY colder than that, so 20's will be great.
Ah, Minnesota.  The land where idiots still try to go out on the lake to icefish when it is slush instead of ice and fall through.  I have lost count of how many by now.  They should have their children taken away when they have subjected them to falling through thin ice. Someone should dole out mandatory intelligence tests to the males here.  It seems we have a higher than normal percentage of inbeciles.

Now I am off to find my boots.  Damn.  I have to wear them today.  Friday I had on birkenstocks with no socks.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

LIVE Author Chat and Book Giveaway TONIGHT!

As an indie author, I am always looking for new ways to connect with readers.  It is nice to build a relationship with current fans and to gain new ones.  I am trying something new for me tonight.  I am doing a live chat.

A favorite facebook page of mine, Bookies, asked me if I would be interested in discussing the Gastien series in a live chat.  I jumped at the chance!  It sounds like a whole lot of fun.  How cool to be able to chat directly with people who have read either one or both of the first two books in The Gastien Series.

The story of Gastien is for both adult men and women.  It is drama, coming of age, historical and romance. 

I am also going to give away either a NOOK book or Kindle book to someone.  They will receive either Gastien Part One: The Cost of the Dream OR Gastien Part Two: From Dream to Destiny if they have already read book one.

This is a great way to ask questions about how Gastien was written, get background information about any of the characters, or to ask questions about the history of the bohemian art world in nineteenth century Paris/Montmartre. 

Please join me tonight at 7pm Central (8 Eastern, 5 Pacific) to learn more about Gastien and the world he lived in.  I would love to chat with you and answer your questions! Just go to Bookies and then click on the chat, listed on the left of the page.  It is so simple and will be a lot of fun.

Hope to see you there!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Inteview with an "Angel"? (Author David H. Fears (Mike Angel Series) Talks About Writing

Indie Authors are a wonderful, diverse group of people.  One writer that I have had the pleasure of meeting in kindleboards is David H. Fears, the author of several books in the Mike Angel Series.  Mike Angel is a PI and the books are mysteries, with a little bit of a "hard boiled" feel...and a lot of originality. 

David was kind enough to help me with the blurb for my second book Gastien Part 2: From Dream to Destiny, which I really appreciated.  He has also agreed to be interviewed today here on my blog.  I am really pleased and excited to present to you Mr. David H. Fears, a fabulous author and a new friend on mine:

Hi Mike!  Thanks for taking time to chat with me for a little while today.  You have several books under your belt, so I know you can give some great insight and advice.  Let's start by talking a little bit about how you became an author, your books, and you. First of all, I am curious as to what made you personally decide to write your first book, why you decided to go "indie", and when the first book went "live".

I’m a historian and a recognized Mark Twain scholar (See Mark Twain Day By Day in 4 volumes, 3 now out; each 1100+ pages. Ivy Leaguers love these). I came to writing fiction late in life (doesn’t it always feel late?). I literally immersed myself in reading fiction, long and short for a couple of years, after realizing that save for a few school assignments, I’d mostly read non-fiction and history (which can be a certain kind of fiction, depending on the schlub who’s writing it). I also immersed myself in online and in person crit groups and studied the craft of fiction writing in 60 books I purchased. I began with short stories and flash stories, and was quite enamored of them. Having a rolling computer biz with over 300 customers, I self-pubbed a collection of my 20 first good stories (“Tree House Tales”). I paid for cover art & design, an editor and printer and did a run of 500 books costing about $4 each. That was in 2001. I broke even and was happy with that, and I think there’s still a couple of boxes in the garage.

My writing was perhaps not as polished as it would be but even today when I read them I feel there is a dollop of freshness and vibrancy in several of them. That was my first idea to go indie, since agents wouldn’t look at a collection by an unknown. Of course, those who knew me would have argued I wasn’t unknown! It’s all relative. About this time I was offered a part time gig as an English Comp instructor at a career college and loved it, also fitting in a masters degree in Education. Teaching comp by using fiction became my most successful approach to turning students on. I haven’t taught in several years but would jump at the chance to do it again. From 2003 to 2006 I wrote the first 4 Mike Angel novels. The first, DarkQuarry, was actually 4 diff. stories “stitched” together. I don’t recommend that method, but it did get me past my fear of writing novel-length works.

Then ebooks came along and on Christmas Eve, 2010 I uploaded the first couple of Mike Angel novels. Since then I’ve written 2 more for a total of 6. Each book is in a subsequent year, beginning in 1960. Each has elements of historical fiction, using real events, persons, places. The first began in the NY/NJ area (Mike was from Newark) and then moved to Chicago. Novels 2-5 are based in Chicago, from 1961 to 1964. The last, Dark Moon (#6) is based in my hometown of Portland, Oregon.  I find these so damned much fun to write. I can be several sides of myself, don’t have to be politically correct at all, and can do research of the times for things I cannot recall (I was a young man in the 1960s and find today I’m still cursed in that way—arrested development?).

Due to all the snubs and weirdness connected with trying to find an agent in the late 90s and early 00’s, I have sworn on an altar (actually it’s my desk) never to go traditional publishing or to use an agent. Since I grew up with a bossy sister (think Lucy-Linus), I enjoy doing it myself in my own way, be it right or ruinous (insert Sinatra here, singing “I Did It My Way.”)

How many books do you have out?  What are the other titles and genres?  Tell us a little about the main character(s).

Currently, 8, though I also have several short stories or bundles of short stories. My main writing these days is the Mike Angel Mystery Series, and there are 6 of those: Dark Quarry, Dark Lake, Dark Blonde, Dark Poison, Dark Idol, and Dark Moon. These, if you haven’t guessed are a bit, uh, “dark.” Besides the 2001 Tree House Tales (20 short stories under the pen name DH Henry) I have a collection of 44 of my best short stories collected from 1998 on, 44Collected Stories by David H Fears (DH Henry). Obviously the mysteries are mysteries—so much of a dab of this and that; the short stories are in a wide range of genres. As a historian I enjoy wrapping a story around historical figures and events—the Mike Angel Series goes up against Chicago corruption in the Richard Daley administration; one short story that illustrates my love of history is “Pretty Boy Floyd We Need You Now.” Mixing history with fiction is very much like a slug of good scotch with a suds chaser. They both work.

My mystery novels are hard boiled to a degree, romantic to a degree (if you think of seduction and a growing love interest as romantic), with a smidge of the supernatural (Mike’s dead father “talks” to him during periods of danger), and humorous to a degree (how could I write without being humorous? Answer: I can’t.)

Mike Angel, aka (D’Angelo) is a too-young (30-35) and not-ready-for-prime time investigator, who, after a stint in Korea and with the NYPD, followed his father’s dream of establishing an elite agency; his father was murdered on his first case after retiring from the NYPD Detective force. Mike tends to be headstrong, rush-in with fists or bullets flying, has a weakness for drink and females in trouble (whether bad or good) and struggles with commitment issues. Mike’s a simple, what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of straight forward guy, who is ambivalent about being a PI, and struggles with his failures. He’s a bottom line romantic though, not the tough woman-beating PI of Spillane, nor the cultured loner of Chandler.

Molly Bennett meets Mike in the first novel. She is then 24, a bright, cute, and shiny penny of optimism who is wise beyond her years. She loves Mike totally but understands, and more importantly, accepts him, knowing she cannot tie him down without his permission. She encourages him to let the relationship build slowly; is his office whiz and even helps on some cases by her cogent questions. Nothing ever gets her down, with the one exception of the death of her father (Dark Lake). She’s in it for the long haul, and will wait for Mike to understand he’ll never find a better mate, mainly because she’s convinced of it. She admires him to death and even encourages him to “fib when you need to” though this acts as a brake to his behavior. She also takes judo lessons and is a brown belt working toward a black belt. One misled reviewer thought Molly was “all right” with Mike’s womanizing. The poor thing (reviewer) didn’t understand just how Molly approaches this, so she needs to read the other novels.

Rick (“Don’t call me Richard”) Anthony (age 58-63) was the lead detective partner of Mike’s late father on the NYPD 23rd precinct. He retired but didn’t want to fish or play golf. Over educated and burdened with a head-slapping vocabulary from taking every NYU night class available for 20 years, Rick is the analytical partner and balance to Mike’s rush-in nature. Rick came West to Chicago during Dark Lake (#2) and talked Mike into being his junior-senior partner. Though increasingly unable to endure rough and tumble as he ages, and with his own predilection for females (society widows, etc.), Rick provides a lot of humor and give & take with Mike & Molly, and keeps nudging Mike to commit to Molly. He also wants to hear about every salacious dame who trips Mike & beats him to the floor, as most of his bedroom enjoyment is vicarious through Mike’s missteps and adventures.

The late Chet Anthony, Mike’s father, gets a “quota” of words to use in warning Mike of dangerous situations; Only Mike “hears” this voice in his head and he hasn’t yet told anyone about it, though he’s convinced St. Peter is allowing Chet to speak to him. Chet also “warns” Mike by prickling and burning a long scar on Mike’s jaw that he earned when chasing down his father’s killer in Dark Quarry (#1). The Voice isn’t frequent enough to be overbearing or that Machina ex Deus thing writers are warned about, and it isn’t often enough for Mike to be sure one way or the other if he’s going bonkers.

By the way, I LOVE your book covers! When is your next book coming out?  What is it about?

Besides my historical reference work, Vol IV of Mark Twain Day By Day out late 2012 hopefully, I have a seed of an idea now for a 7th Mike Angel Novel. What is it about? The murder of a stunning model, human frailties, danger, seduction/temptation. Sometimes these seeds drop in my briar patch from a certain image I’ve seen on the Net. This one is now germinating.

I also have an idea for a “chicken soup” type of book—that contains discussions of the last conversations with loved ones passed by a bunch of folks. I have at least 3 segments to add myself. Send me yours!

What advice would you give other people who are thinking about writing their first book, but then that self doubt comes in?

Self doubts are the worst. Read and act on a book called Be Your Own Best Friend, the gist of which is to tell yourself only those things that you would say to encourage your best friend, and flush the others. Then, go ahead and write, get a lot of crits, editor advice, beta readers (not family) and learn the difference between editing and revising. Lastly, put it to the drawer test—let it lie there as long as it takes to forget a lot of it. Then pull it out and do another read through. Read it also aloud—very important. You might want to read it backwards, or printed out in a diff. Font. Learn how to self-edit. Don’t buy too much into what “experts” tell you—be true to your vision. Finally, throw it out there—if you find you’ve made errors, ebooks are quite easy to edit & republish. Even paperbacks using Createspace are easy to change. 

What do you think are the five most important things a new author has to "take care of" to give them the best chance at success?

1)     Discover ways to exercise your imagination—without it no piece of writing, no matter how “correct” can be a good story.

2)     Study and learn the craft of writing fiction in whatever way you can. Read all the time—have at least a couple of reads going in the genre you plan to write in. See how others do it; observe & even ape the masters, but use your own head, heart & mystery.

3)     Have your life in proper priority—no one has to ignore family, God, Country, etc. to become a good or great writer. For what shall it profit a man if he gives up his soul for his writing? (I kinda borrowed that). If you don’t have a thick skin, rent one. Write what’s fun or exciting or scintillating to write.

4)     Don’t follow the crowd—they’re always proven to be dumb lemmings.

5)     Write regularly—don’t wait for some stupid “muse”—ass to chair; writing is discipline as well as fun.

Let's talk a little bit about you as a person now. Tell me, what about life never fails to make you laugh?

People mostly—those without a sense of humor are the funniest. Groucho movies, Peanuts cartoons, Old Seinfeld episodes, kids—what they say and how they say it.

What has surprised you about life that you were not expecting that is good?

A strong and surprising increase of love for children and animals; also being, feeling younger as I age.

How about same thing, but bad?

The tearing holes that come at the loss of a parent, or a life-long friend; a lonely warehouse of memories & no one to share them with.

What do you enjoy doing besides writing?

Historical research and reading history; eating those baby chocolate donuts while watching The Biggest Loser and Cupcake Wars with the wifey. Bicycling on some great trails in the woods near my home. Watching nourish old movies. “The stuff that dreams are made of.”

Finally, let's play the old genie in a bottle game. You get 3 wishes. They can't be general wishes, like "peace on earth", or all disease cured. No I wish my family, etc would stay healthy.  We all wish those kinds of things.  These 3 wishes are for personal, material things. What three things would you wish for?

I have no wishes for material things, understanding like the rich guy who tried riding that camel through a needle’s eye was on the wrong path. I’ve been a millionaire and also a pauper and learned that neither lifts the spirit. I hope to teach writing again someday and see once more the students catch my enthusiasm and learn to write better than they thought they could. I also wish my calico editor cat Sophie lives to be 20 or more years. She is now 11, and this interview has put her completely to sleep next to me.

What book by another author do you wish you would have written and why?

A tie: first, The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler because I think it is simply the best, the most sublime in the genre. Also Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy (I read all his novels one summer years ago), because he created a place called the Heath, which became a character in the moody novel. I try to re-read these two every year.

Any last things you would like to tell people about you or your writing?

I always strive to be a good storyteller first. As I taught my students, “you can pick all the flies off of a dead man but you’ll still have a corpse”—meaning, voice and story must take priority over grammar and correct diction. Of course you can be thin and rich too? I am challenged to bring back some popularity for the PI Mystery, hard boiled to a degree, but with my own ingredients applied as well. Seduction and romance carried beyond those famous fade out scenes, venturing into erotica territory. I aim for likable sympathetic characters with depth but also strive to give life to the minor characters even if they only have a brief time on stage. I’m probably done with short stories, but deeply respect the crafting of them and those who do it well, like Alice Munro. Not every writer can be a novelist. I read once that every short story could be a novel, and every novel could be a short story. Life is both—a novel, and a short story—way too short for most.

I thank you for this opportunity. My persona does not always come across well online. Many people actually think I’m a jerk! Of course this can be publicity of a sort. “Be good and you will be lonesome” – Mark Twain. Last, I’d like to see writers interviewed in Utube or Skype sessions. That’d be an improvement in that follow up questions would be added. Now I’ve done my one interview for 2012 and will go back to being a hermit in my den. Wake up, Sophie! It’s time for lunch.
Thanks, David.  And, Sophie, thanks for letting me borrow David for a few minutes.  I grew up with cats, but now have 2 parrots.  Something tells me you and my parrots would probably not be best friends...but I do love felines.
You can click on David's book titles that are linked above, or here is a link to all of David's books on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=sr_tc_2_0?rh=i%3Astripbooks%2Ck%3ADavid+H+Fears&keywords=David+H+Fears&ie=UTF8&qid=1326122385&sr=1-2-ent&field-contributor_id=B002BMD05M
There are reviews and free samples for each book on Amazon.  I am betting you will quickly become a Mike Angel fan!