Wednesday, December 6, 2017

IWSG: December - Success and Failure

Wow, it's time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group post already! 

This month's questions asks:
As you look back on 2017, with all its successes and failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently? 

I'm pretty happy with the past year other than one small endeavor in dealing with a small local publisher. If I had a do over, I would have listened to my gut and avoided that whole interaction. There was no contract and no money involved so no real losses other than one more thing to be annoyed about. Disappointed, sums it up nicely, I guess.  

Without getting into specifics, because I'm not here to bash anyone and other authors seem to love these people, when your gut tells you to keep walking, even when your friends tell you to stop and check it out, listen to your gut. It's there for a reason. When a publisher will not answer emails, update you the status of the project, produces one of the worst covers and blurbs I've seen (and I've lurked on those lousy cover sites), and runs a six month and counting pre-order with no publish date in sight, it's time to walk away and maybe buy your gut an apology gift - like maybe a big chocolate shake or some cheesecake. 

Enough about failures, let's talk about success, because I wouldn't do that differently. NaNoWriMo just wrapped up and it was a great November. I wrote 60,000 words (my highest single month word production) and reached 50K five days earlier than ever before. Year twelve of doing NaNo was fantastic! The story isn't done yet, I'm still writing. Though, not at the manic November pace. I do try to get 500 words a day or so to keep working toward the end. 

I hope you had a great 2017 or at least a year to learn from if it didn't go so great. I suppose, with the new year approaching it's time to start pondering what my one word will be for 2018. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

IWSG: November

It's the first day of NaNoWriMo and I will fully admit I'm off writing somewhere, probably in my comfy chair under a blanket in my pajamas. But I did like this month's question and it's a topic near and dear to me so I'm going to chime in.

Win or not, do you usually finish your NaNo project? Have any of them gone on to be published?

I've only not won once, but I'd say it's about half and half on finishing. It took me years to get back to finishing my early NaNo novels, and some of those will never see the light of day. Was that a waste of time? Certainly not. Everything I write is a learning experience, sometimes it's to learn to never do that again.

More recently, I've been better about staying on the novel after November and finishing it without years of gathering dust. A good example is The Last God, which was last year's novel and is now published.

2006 - Sahmara  was published in 2016
2007 - Swan Queen is still waiting to be finished
2008 - Not Another Bards Tale is also waiting to be finished and is likely the next on my list.
2009 - A Broken Race was published in 2015
2010 - 50K worth of short stories, one of which did go on to be published
2011 - The Narvan Book 2: Chain of Grey - Is contracted for publication
2012 - Jackson - A horrible idea, but some of the content ended up in the epilogue of ABR.
2013 - Into the Blue - I'd like to finish this someday
2014 - Damaged - I was building a house so this isn't even close to done and may never be
2015 - The Narvan book 3: Bound in Blue - Is contracted for publication
2016 - The Last God, is published

I like to claim NaNoWriMo as my dedicated writing month. I get that rough draft out and can spend the rest of the year making it pretty and work and all that fun stuff. Sometimes my brain and life don't cooperate and I end up with one of those half finished lingering projects.

Good luck with NaNo this year for all those participating!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

All About NaNoWriMo

I'm at about neck deep into NaNoWriMo already and November hasn't even started. I'm anticipating spending my November at about 6 inches under my obligation load so figure on a total breakdown where I vanish for a few days somewhere in December.

This week's adventures in NaNoWriMo included a trip to Grand Rapids where my Co-ML and I went on the WGVU Morning Show to talk guessed it, NaNoWrimo! I'd never been on the radio before so that was an interesting experience. I was on enough allergy meds that I was just awake enough to be coherent but not alert enough to be nervous. I guess there is a plus to allergies after all.

Today I officially secured my Day Of Knockout Noveling location, which is a theater, which is pretty damn cool, if I do say so myself. I'm still a bit bummed about not using the gallery space we've used for the past couple years, but I don't have to haul hardly anything to the new venue. My back, shoulder, and neck are extremely pleased with this news. The manager is super easy to work with and I'm excited to have the whole theater filled with the clickity-clacking of fifty-some keyboards while we novel away for a day.

I also made all the activities, stickers and progress chart for the 50 goody bags we'll be handing out at our Kick Off Party on the 29th and got those all assembled into neat little bags this week as well.

In preparation for a month of writing, I wrapped up my personal Netflix binge-watching yesterday. I've been on a historical fiction stint with Medici: Masters of Florence, which was very good. Can't wait for the next season! And the three seasons of The Borgias , which was a fun example of a whole show of antagonists and getting people to empathize with them...and yet still know they are not good people. I'm still working my way through the last season of Dark Matter and the current seasons of Mr. Robot and Outlander, but those are on husband/wife time so I can still work those in during November here and there.

Next on the list: Re-reading Book 3 of the Narvan so I can dive into Book 4 for NaNo.

And while I have you here and we're talking about NaNoWriMo, both Sahmara and The Last God (which were both NaNo Novels) are currently on sale for .99. Links are over there on the left. <------ p="">

Thursday, October 5, 2017

It's NaNo Prep Time

Sorry for the blog silence over the past month. Life has been insanely busy and allergy season is upon
me, meaning my morning writing/blogging/marketing/all things bookish time has been minimal to none.

Not that I've had to let everything go, but I've had to prioritize what I can do in the time I have. Most of that time has been devoted to participating in and mentoring the Coursea NaNo Prep courses. If you participate in NaNoWriMo, you will have received the email about these courses a while ago. They are ongoing and run through February. There's still time to join any of the five courses. Auditing (watching the lectures) is free. Participating in the assignments (both submitting and critiquing) does require a fee. Both options are helpful.

I did the assignments in the first course and came out with what I'm hoping is a sellable short general fiction story. Now I just need to find time to hunt down a couple markets and submit it. I also wrote a few pieces that I can work into my upcoming NaNo novel. So there has been productivity, just not as much as I would like. I've also critiqued a lot of assignments and answered lots of questions. Mostly the same questions by different people, which is a bit wearing on my patience level.

If you're wondering what all this talk of NaNoWriMo is about, do take a moment to check it out. This will be my 12th year participating. Amazing to think I've been doing this for that long. Twelve years of writing 50,000 words in a 30 days. Just one month out of the year. Thankfully. I couldn't keep up that frantic pace year round, not with everything else I do. But for one month, I allow myself to let other things go. For one month my existence is distilled to eat, sleep, write, work and the activities involved with NaNo writing, such as moderating my regional forum, hosting weekly write-ins, and three large events. I'm taking November off from author events, though there are a few I wish I could get to, but there just isn't enough of me to go around. Blogging will likely be fairly quiet too.

What will I be writing this year? Book 4 of The Narvan. The first three books are under contract. This one is begging to be written. It's a good thing I'm busy, because the writing urge is getting downright demanding and that will only get worse throughout October as I continue to ponder scenes and plot so my fingers can get down to business on November 1.

So that's where I'm at. Not abducted by aliens, but considering what to write about them. Along with gearing up for three author events in the next couple weeks, wrapping up taking the NaNo prep courses, playing mom taxi to two busy high school girls, and generally doing the business owner and family thing. Not busy at all. Ha!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

IWSG: September Surprises

It's been a busy month. So busy, that I haven't posted here in a while. What's been going on?

Our exchange student from Denmark arrived mid-way through the month. We've been having a great time showing her around town and getting her ready for school. The school here is MUCH bigger than what she's used to, but she did well on her first day. It's only going to get busier from here now that we have two high school students to play taxi and supportive parent for.

I volunteered to serve as a mentor for a Wesleyan University online course on NaNoWriMo preparation. Which means I've been busy answering questions and reviewing assignments for participants in the class. Oh, and taking the class myself. Because I have a ton of free time... (or I'm just a bit crazy).

As an ML for NaNo, these next two months are planning for regional activities time. The fact that this is year nine as ML makes this not near so daunting. We generally have this down. Except the venue I use for my giant mid-month write-in may not be an option this year because they're moving. Add that to my list of things to do along with waiting to meet the ML's I'll be mentoring in the next couple weeks. Here's hoping they don't need a lot of my time and attention or that I don't need sleep.

So anywho, nothing going on here, just lounging around. So hey, why don't we take a few moments for this month's Insecure Writer's Support Group post. 

Question: Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? (For example, by trying a new genre you didn't think you'd be comfortable in?)

Yes, definitely. If you've ever done NaNo and read your efforts months or year later, you'll find some portions of the chaos that amaze you. Did I write that? I don't distinctly remember writing that, but holy crap, it's pretty damn good! Even better is when you edit and revise a project and set it aside for a while then go back and read it. I'm often surprised how much I enjoy reading those stories even though I know what happens.  

I've pushed myself to write in third, to write multiple points of view, to do dueling points of view, to write dystopian, fantasy, and more romance scenes than I would have been comfortable with years ago. Beyond my usual novels, I've written short stories and short novels. 

Keep trying new things. They may not work out. I have a whole folder of things that didn't work out. But, I also have multiple folders of projects that did work. You never know what your capable of until you give it a shot. Who knows, you might just surprise yourself.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Summer Project: Building The Pond

No, I'm not writing a book about The Pond. In between attending author events and book signings, I've been busy digging and lugging and getting downright muddy with a real pond.

I thought this was a lot of rocks...ha! 
You may remember this photo from a previous post.

See all those rocks flowing down the hill? I collected those from a house across town van load by van load three years ago. Then I unloaded them in a big pile. A year later, I moved them all to this hill. Who needs a weight set?

The digging has begun.
Well, I decided it was finally time to do what I intended with those rocks rather than let them be the haven for snakes and weeds they had become. So this summer, it was time to build a pond. Two of them actually. But it started with moving all those rocks again, but only a few feet to either side this time.

I'm not good at stopping to take pictures when I'm in the middle of a project, but here's where I was after several days of moving and digging. The top pond was difficult as the first foot was hard clay, rather like cement. Thankfully, nature took mercy on me and provided sand for the rest of the depth. The top pond is 3 foot by 5 foot and 2.5 feet deep.
I tried to give the waterfall some
angles to make it more interesting.

It appears it was spring when I first began this project because the tulips are just done blooming. Summer really rushed by this year!

There are 23 feet between the top and bottom ponds. All of which needed to be made into a series of waterfalls. I spent a lot of time standing and staring at the hillside. It was much like contemplating a scene when writing. A lot of chin scratching, some scrunchy faces, tipping of head from side to side, walking up and down the hill and standing in various places along the way. Days passed, summer moved along.

My collection of rocks included two nice slabs of marble, which I planned to use for my upper and lower fall. The smaller falls used various flat rocks that I had around. With the fall as long as it is and as wide as I ended up making it, I ended up having to borrow from the newer pile of rocks I'd bought and moved here this spring. There was much moving of rocks, a bit of swearing, and two blackened fingertips that were caught between rocks as they shifted into place (and quite a lot of swearing at those moments).

I hit up my local Lowes for their clearance broken bags of stones and pebbles to fill in the gaps.

As you can see from the photos there are a lot of tall plants next to the waterfall. They weren't tall when I planted them there, but we have super soil. That meant I spent some time digging out a lot of overgrown plants. Though I was able to give some of them away, several of my prospective plant takers failed to get back to my and my patience ran out. I did expand some of my flower garden area on the hillside to accommodate some of the offending plants, but the rest got pitched out into the field. Hard as they are, they may grow there and naturalize the otherwise boring field of weeds. If not, oh well. I have plenty more of those particular flowers.

Work began on the lower pond. I wanted this one to be deep enough that the bottom (hopefully) wouldn't freeze. I also wanted it big enough to support fish and plants and help fill the space on the hill.

The first foot and half was again hard work, though not because of clay this time, but because when the house was built, the excavators had shoved all the yucky piles of debris onto the hill because the soil was good. Unfortunately, it also included a lot of what had been tree roots and stinky black dirt. It smelled so bad! Once I got through the two feet of random wood bits from the excavators, I got live wood bits thanks to tree roots, both from trees still here and those we had removed before building. There was much clipping of roots and swearing and hacking of roots with shovels.
The shovel and I grew very close over the weeks that passed.
The lower pond is 5 feet by 9 feet and has steps at 2, 3 and 4 feet, with the lowest section at 5 feet deep. Even more fun than digging all that dirt out was deciding where to go with it. I don't mind digging. Lugging carts full of dirt is not my favorite thing. It's not even something I sort of like. In fact, I dislike it very much. After awhile I enlisted my husband to take the dirt carts away with the lawnmower to patch up the lawn wherever he wanted.

Then came the issue of doing a pond on a hillside. Where does one determine the level of the pond when one side is significantly higher than the other? I decided to make a step on the tall side and raise up the short side with some of the dirt from the pond to even out the difference.

There was much anticipation while
I waited for the top pond to fill and
water to start down the fall.
Just when I thought the digging was over, I remembered I would need to dig a trench along side the whole thing for the pipe to bring water from the bottom to the top and for the electric that would need to come down from the house to the pump and filter in the bottom pond. Oh good! More digging!

I ended up going with 1.5 inch irrigation hose for my waterline because of the distance from the pump. This allowed for a good flow of water down the fall. It makes for a lovely rush of water sound that draws birds, butterflies, and frogs. Yesterday, a heron came. It was pretty, but it better not eat my fish. Hopefully, the dogs in the yard will chase it off again like they did today.

Yes, there are fish. The top pond is home to a lively guppy population. (There's a post about the originator of my guppies out here somewhere. Yes, the progeny of the great guppy mother have prospered). I put them out there when the top pond was half full and beginning to teem with mosquito larvae. Euw! The guppies feasted. Sad to say the waterfall and lower pond took much longer to finish than I had originally anticipated due to weather, limited time, and my energy level. By the time the lower pond was ready for the pump, the top pond was so green and dark that I was sure there was nothing left alive in it.

The first fall is the longest.
Once I had the pump and filter installed and all the lines run between them and the ponds, it was time to switch the whole thing on. Slowly, and with the help of some barley tablets, the water began to clear. Surprise! The guppies had multiplied like the guppies they are. Baby guppies everywhere!

It took a few days of tweaking stone placement, one day of letting it all dry so I could use pond foam to fill gaps and further direct the water flow, and a week of wondering where my water keep going (dirt settled on the rim of the top pond, creating a slow overflow area that was well hidden), before I was finally happy with the project.

Not all the way happy though. Those two nice slabs of marble I mentioned? They survived the move over from their previous home, they were moved here several times. They were walked on and shuffled here and there. But when I finally placed the lower one near where I wanted it? It broke in half. Yes, you guessed it, more swearing ensued. I did install it for now, but I will replace it next year. Right now, I just want to finish the landscaping and buy a bench so I can enjoy watching the fish and frogs.

It only took a week before the frogs
started arriving.
The bottom pond is home to 14 goldfish. The ten cent kind. I learned my lesson with that with my other pond. If it's not the heron, it will raccoons feasting on expensive pond fish. It's also home to about half of the guppy population. How? Well, when the water started flowing, it pushed all those babies right off the surface of the top pond and propelled them all the way down to the lower pond via the waterfall. An amazing amount of them survived. There are also several full grown males down there. Sad for them, because all the full grown females were smart enough to hang out at the bottom of the top pond. Baby guppy explosions will be on hold for a while.

There's still some work left to do. The electric needs to be finished, but it's running off an outdoor extension cord for now. The landscaping needs some of my time, but I'll get to that when the mood strikes. Mulch will come when it's on sale at the end of the season. One of these days I'll finish digging the hole for the filter system, but it's okay in its half hole for now.  One day I might hang a nice flower basket from the top of my electric post or decide to chop it off further down. The pond needs plants. All tasks for another day.

 I'll leave you with the view from upstairs. Don't mind the hose and shovel. We've all grown quite attached this summer.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

August IWSG: Those annoying little things called words

Time to take a short break from marketing to do this month's Insecure Writer's Support Group post. 

IWSG July Question: What are your pet peeves when reading/writing/editing?

Oh, wouldn't it be nice if that was the same thing for all three? That would be too easy though, and we wouldn't want that. Wait, I'd love a little easy right now. Too bad. Onward!

Reading: Repeated information drives me nuts. This happens most often with a character's way of speaking (they seem to whisper every line of dialogue), a habit they have (frowns when responding to everything), or with a detail of physical description. Perhaps some readers have short memories and need to be reminded that a character has curly hair every three pages. Though, really, I think we can all retain that information. I don't mind an occasional reference to reinforce a description but spread them out for the love of all that's curly. 

Writing: I get annoyed when the words in my head don't flow neatly into the page. Don't we all? Ok, seriously, I'd have to say my biggest pet peeve is having to find the delicate line between the amount of description I prefer and what other people feel they need. Specifically when I do add description (trying to be a good little detail providing writer regarding setting and characters) and I get editorial comments like, "Why do we need this?" Those cartoons of writers pounding their heads to bloody pulps on desks are quite accurate. 

Editing: Repetition of phrasing, paragraph length, and words that start paragraphs. I find all of those things horribly distracting from the story itself. All sentences shouldn't have the same structure. All paragraphs shouldn't start with "I" or "He" and sometimes paragraphs should have more or less than three lines. My eyes like variance. 

Do you have any pet peeves you'd like to share?

While you're here, could you take a few minutes to vote for the cover of The Last God in this July Book Cover of the Month competition? You do need to vote all the way through the brackets. There are a lot of great book covers to vote for!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

When I'm not writing, I'm playing in my flower garden

I'm so glad we're not in this stage anymore. 
 When we built our house into a hillside three summers ago, the hill was nothing more than a pile of dirt and a couple trees. But I had a vision.

At our previous home, I'd created flower gardens all over: around the vegetable garden, the house, the shed, the garage, the mailbox, around various trees, and a couple big beds out by the roadside. As you may imagine, this meant there were flowers all over the yard. While this was very pretty, it was also a lot of work. So when it came to designing my new flower garden from scratch, I decided to keep my ambitious flower tendencies a bit more in check to correspond with my time and mid-life energy levels.

Who thought gardening on a hillside would be less ambitious? Ha!
Which brings us to summer number two. In which I planted and mulched around a whole lot of things. Many of these plants were brought over from my previous flowerbeds and survived a hard winter in pots and some of them even in plastic bags (because I ran out of pots). Others had been brought over years before and had resided in a holding garden. The rest were clearance finds. I allow myself a handful of full priced plants a year and even that pains me. I love the clearance table at my home and garden store or most any nursery I pass by.  I love them so much so, that I've rather run out of room for new plants already. Ooops!

Notice that rock pile coming down the middle of the hill? *We'll get to that in another post.

Everything grows like mad here!
Now were up to our third summer, well second living here, but you get the idea. As you can see, everything has filled in nicely. Some so nicely, that I've had to split plants and expand the garden another five feet toward the roadside because I hate tossing perfectly good plants in the mulch pile.

Iris is my favorite flower, followed closely by daylilies. I have a lot of other things in here too, but those two far outnumber the rest.

You can see how well the creeping sedum groundcover likes it here too. A year ago I had a few springs from my sister in law. I tucked them between the rocks. Next thing I know, I can't see the rocks anymore. And I've pulled out handfuls of the stuff and spread it elsewhere. The rocks are completely covered again!

In other rock pile project news, I decided to take care of my hillside ramp that started at the six nice rock steps we could afford (those suckers are pricey!) at the top of the hill and break it up into steps of my own with other rocks that I'd purchased this spring. So now I have a slightly less dangerous and more traversable slope. Wet mulch on a steep incline was slippery!

It's funny to see these pictures from a couple months ago. That sedum has mostly covered these new steps too. I'm not complaining. Everything that covers means less mulch I have to buy next year.

You may notice the wall of large rocks to the left of the last photo. I put a bunch of different varieties of sedum between those last year. It filled in beautifully.

We get a lot of dragonflies and butterflies in the garden, as well as bees from the neighbor's hives. That's all fine and dandy until that creeping sedum flowers. While it's lovely to see the hill covered in tiny yellow flowers, it makes spotting the yellow bees difficult, yet necessary when the sedum covers the path areas. Yes, wearings shoes also a wise choice.

This particular dragonfly was in no hurry to leave its warm rock and let me pretty much put my cell phone on top of it to take a close up. I wish butterflies were as patient.

Please, may I eat another sky raisin?
They're sooooo tasty.
Who loves the flower garden even more than me? My little dog. Bitsy spends hours weaving through the iris and lilies chasing sky raisins (flies). This is a rare picture of her sitting still in the sun. I wouldn't think flies would be all that tasty, but she must. If nothing else, it's good exercise and the world could do with a few less flies. Not that I want her licking me anytime soon after eating one. Euw.

The lovely black-eyed susans are transplants from a corn field next door that was left to its down devices last year and soon filled with wildflowers. When I moved a few plants here, I thought they would never make it. They shriveled up and looked dead. Yet, this year they came up all over the place and I just might regret planting them a little. I pulled out quite a few of them already before they took over.

*That new rock project? I'm creating two ponds and a long waterfall between them. Watch for photos once I get that project done.

Until then, I'll leave you with this last photo of flower hill.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Perils of Pay To Publish: A Cautionary Tale for New Authors

I thought the whole pay-to-publish route was so talked about that authors didn't fall for that anymore. With the internet and all the information out there, it would seem like there would be plenty of information available for those new to the publishing game. Alas, this is not true.

Over the past six months, I've met not one, but four different authors who paid to have their book published. And I'm not talking about paying an editor, a cover artist, and a formatting person. I'm talking shelling out thousands of dollars to a company so they can hold their book in their hands.

With self-publishing such an easy and enticing option these days, and the wealth of information out there on how to do everything from formatting to marketing on your own, I am mystified as to why anyone would think they need to take out a loan to publish a book.

So while it would seem to me that this topic has been flogged to death, I'm going to cover it again. If you approach a publisher and see any of these: say no / look for other options / run the other way:

1. If the publisher charges a reading fee
2. If the publisher doesn't ask to see a query letter/ synopsis/ first chapter but responses to your inquiry regarding publishing with an offer to publish and pricing options.
3. If there are up front fees of any kind.
4. To make this clear, if you are asked to pay ANYTHING to get your book published.

The only time there should be a cost to you is to purchase books at a significant discount from your publisher for you to sell yourself - such as for signings, copies to gift to family and friends, or author events where your publisher will not be present.

Perhaps having to formulate a query letter and the dreaded synopsis, of having to wait for months, and the fear of rejection letters makes the idea of just forking out a couple thousand to skip all the headaches seem worthwhile. It's not.


Your cover is now in the hands of a company who isn't invested in your book. They don't care what it looks like. You better read that contract with a magnifying glass and know what rights you're handing over. They're just churning out what you're paying to have them publish and who knows what effort they're putting into editing and proper formatting.

Your pay-to-publisher will ship you boxes of books that you've paid for. You will have to sell them in order to recover your cost to publish. Sure, your book may be listed on Amazon and maybe even a few other sales avenues, but all those books in your basement/garage? That's your investment. The marketing is on your shoulders.

If you're a well-known business person, teacher, or public speaker, perhaps you can move all those books fairly quickly with a few big engagements. But for most people, you'll sell a few to family and friends and then spend years trying to sell the rest. That's years you're peddling books and selling one or handful at a signing. Do you have years to recover your thousands of dollars?

And we haven't even touched on the costs that many authors have, like all your marketing and publicity: Bookmarks, websites, table fees at author events, travel, business cards, review copies, give away copies, and any other promotional goodies you might need. If you've paid thousands up front, all these costs now also come out of your pocket and eat into any progress you're making toward recouping your costs.

The worst of the four experiences I've encountered was an author who thought she was dealing with a reputable company because it was a division of a name she knew. They charged her $3,500 to publish her book. A book she didn't even have finished. Her first book, mind you. She wasn't a known name in the market by any means. And when she finally had the draft done some nine months later, she was informed that it needed significant editing, and that would be an additional $3,500.  Unwilling to pay that much a second time, she found a college student to edit for her for $600. And now $4,100 later, she has her book to hold.

All four of these authors are out thousands. Yes, they have books to sell, but will they ever make their money back, let alone make a profit? It's very unlikely.

Do NOT let this happen to you.

Do your research on how publishing works. There are options. All of them involve having written your book, utilizing beta readers and critique groups, and learning how to do some editing and general formatting on your own. If you haven't done those things, you're not ready to publish.

Option 1: Aim high and query an agent to help with the publishing process and better your chances of a deal with a big press.
Option 2: Query publishers taking unsolicited submissions
Option 3: Query small presses who may take more chances with first-time authors
Option 4: Self-publish.

The only one of these options has costs involved and that's self-publishing. While there is a host of information out there on how to do all the steps yourself, you're probably not good at all the steps. You may wish to pay someone to design a cover. Hiring an editor is a good choice and often important step. Formatting your book for print or as an e-book can be confusing, there are people who can do that for you. In this option, there are companies who will offer one or all of these services and you can select which to pay for. It should not cost you thousands of dollars. Do your research. Learn how to do as much as you can or feel comfortable with yourself. Pay what you can afford for an editor that works for your book.

If you're considering publication, talk to other writers. Join a local writing/author group.  Join a group online. Build connections. Find out what others are doing and how they're going about it. Talking with other authors is a great way to spot red flags with publishers and possible offers as well as staying aware of new opportunities and markets you may not have considered.

Keep in mind, if you hit upon a contract with a legitimate publisher, they will pay you. You do NOT pay them.

I can't say this enough: Research. Learn. Don't pay thousands.


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

July ISWG: Marketing You and Your Book

Time to take a short break from marketing to do this month's Insecure Writer's Support Group post. 

IWSG July Question: What is one valuable lesson you've learned since you started writing?

Just one lesson? Oh my. Well, I'm going to dig into this particular month's lesson because that's the one freshest in my head. 

You can pour yourself into writing the best book you can write, edit your heart out, subject your carefully chosen words to the eyes and opinions of others, spend a good deal of time formatting your work and picking the perfect cover, agonize over what you want to say on the back cover and swallow your heart as you click that publish button, but that's not the end of the journey. It's merely the end of the writing part. 

Now you're in marketing land. It's a strange and formidable place for dwellers of writing caves. A land in which we must seek out others for reviews and interviews, write guest blog posts, join facebook groups to promote our newly published book, go to events and talk to readers. All of which has little to do with that thing we set out to do, that thing we're comfortable doing, sitting in our happy place, creating worlds and playing with the lives our characters. 

Marketing means promoting yourself and your book. It's having to be social without a keyboard. In person. Where stupid things can flow out of your month unedited. Sitting on panels, doing readings, and offering advice to others like we know what we're doing.

It can cost money and there's no guarantee you're going to get a good return on it: Bookmarks, business cards, banners, book giveaways, websites, domain names, nifty little give away items to entice people to approach you, travel costs to events, table fees, paying to enter contests or get reviews from notable sources.

Time seems to vanish just as quickly as it does when you're lost in an awesome plot twist while you hunt down current and active Facebook pages and groups, blogs, and websites on which to promote your book. While you write promotional blog posts and answer interview questions. Hours slip by as you research events, contemplate travel plans, and connect with other authors about sharing expenses or their experiences with particular events. Entire days are swallowed at events where you may meet some wonderful readers and sell a handful or two of books sit there with a smile pasted on your face, wishing someone would make eye contact with you or your books and you sell nothing. 

Marketing is that awkward place where you try to figure out ways to advertise your event appearances and book promotions without spamming your friends and groups you belong to every other day. It's asking without trying to sound like begging everyone you know who has read your book to write a review. It's endlessly trying to explain how reviews work with the magical Amazon promotion machine and how they can be as simple as "I really liked this book." and still be helpful.  

And somewhere in all this, you have to find a place where you can make peace with the book you've released out into the world for better or worse and start settling into writing the next one.

And so it begins again. 

Do you balance marketing with writing or only have time for one or the other? How long do you devote yourself to promotion before giving your attention to the next book?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

My low cost garden: How I take a break from writing

While I love my flower garden, I like to grow vegetables too. However, I haven't been able to do that for the past couple years. I've missed the daily excuse to get outside and get more dirt under my oh-so-lady-like nails.

The flower section of my old garden, complete with a pear tree, but minus a partridge.
For years at our previous house, we had a large garden, fenced in, with strawberries and raspberries, grapevines and plenty of room for anything I had the urge to grow. Over the years the kids helped plant seeds. We chased untold numbers of rabbits out of the fencing. Squirrels and raccoons leaped down from trees to rip up my corn and decorate the branches above with the stalks after they were done with their stolen feasts. We composted for years, slowly turning the sandy dirt into a nice dark and fertile soil.

And then came building a house. No time to garden, no sir. We barely had time to eat or sleep, for goodness sake. Ignored, our beautiful garden was quickly overtaken by weeds and eagerly expanding raspberries. Then we moved. I'm sure you know how much fun that is and how long it takes to settle in. Egads!

To supplement our fresh veggie intake during all this, I joined a local farm CSA program. If you have one nearby and don't have the time, space or inclination to have a garden of your own, I highly recommend it. We learned to like all sorts of things that I wouldn't have otherwise considered trying from the grocery store or planting myself.

Now, finally, in our third summer in the new house, I had time to make a garden. It's not that we don't have space. There's plenty of that, but where to put it? The majority of our land is low, meaning it gets wet fast and floods in heavy rain. It's also mostly shaded. The back of the house is much higher and in full sun, but filled with dune grass and beach sand, because nothing says contrast like our yard.

So much dune grass...
The full sun won. I rototilled the dune grass. Three passes to get it good and chopped up.Then I covered it with landscaping fabric and lined the edges with rocks. You'd be surprised how fast dune grass grows. I ran out of time for the weekend at that point. So it sat that there for a few days until free time and weather allowed me to get back out there. You'd think that all of my efforts would deter the grass a little, wouldn't you? Ha! It was already starting to sprout up through the fabric!

So I pulled all the fabric back and lined the area with layers of newspaper. With the fabric back in place overtop and the addition of four inches of cedar mulch. I thought I was in good shape.

What's in the pot? Raspberries. I learned my lesson with those. Contain them!

Time to build boxes. We had a lot of random lumber left over from building the house and deck. I didn't want to spend anything if I didn't have to, so while my boxes aren't pretty, other that one box of screws (because I ran out of my leftovers), they didn't cost a thing.

We're also working on a landscaping project in the front of the house and happened to have a delivery of dirt come in for that. I took what I needed to fill my boxes with good dark composted soil and lined those with newspaper too for and extra deterrent.

The one thing I did splurge on was a pre-packaged drip irrigation system from Lowes. I did put this garden out in the full sun right up next to the house for goodness sake. The least I could do was to give it a fighting chance. So a $60 drip irrigation system went in. It was super easy to do and maybe took an hour so two.

If you're wondering what the deal is with the random corner blocks, I left most of them how I found them so that I could add fencing or drape row covers over the plants if rabbits or deer became a problem. So far, thankfully, they haven't.

Next, I ran to the tractor supply store down the street and grabbed up a bunch of seeds while they were on sale and picked up a few tomato plants while I was at it. Though the last frost was still looming, I just wanted this project done so I planted half a packet of everything. Good to have that other half to fall back on if something fails.

You can tell how often the kids use that trampoline. The dogs like the shade it provides though.

Now, two months later, the flowers are starting to bloom ( some, because they're edible and marigolds to keep the rabbits away), and everything is looking lovely. We enjoyed our first zucchini with dinner last night and have been enjoying fresh spinach and lettuce for a couple weeks.

It takes me five minutes every other day to keep it all weed free. And dune grass free, because yeah, all my efforts did was slow that down a little. That's persistent stuff! But it gives me an excuse to get some sunshine. Those randomly long posts at the corners make good handholds when bending over, woo exercise!

Now I'm going to go clean the dirt from my fingernails yet again and think about what project I'm going to work on next.

Monday, June 19, 2017

It's release day for The Last God and more short stories are the way

I'm happy to announce that's it's finally release day for my sci-fi romance novel, The Last God. To me, it feels like this has been a long and wearing process, but in truth, the book began it's birth last November. Perhaps it just feels like a wearing process because it's been my focus for seven months. But it's been a fun and rewarding seven months too.

Abducting the angry and suicidal god of war might not be Logan’s wisest choice, but she’s the weapon that might be able to defeat the army of Matouk, who destroyed his homeworld. If he can show her how to love, they might save each other from the terrors that plague his nights and all of her days.

If you haven't picked up your copy of The Last God yet, it's now available in paperback and e-book. The e-book is currently on sale for .99 through Amazon / Nook / Kobo / Scribd / Inktera/

While I'm announcing things...

I also got word this weekend that my short dark sci-fi story, Sipper, has been accepted to Caffeinated Press's Brewed Awakenings 3 anthology.

And production work on the Grey Wolfe Press anthology that includes my humorous fantasy short, Chetric The Grand appears to be wrapping up. I'm looking forward to announcing it's release soon.

Next week I'll be taking a break from books and talking about my chickens and my garden because I need a break from book things.

Until then, I leave you with an excerpt from The Last God.

Logan watched in horror as the king left the side of the queen and erupted into a towering being of light.

And then that’s all there was, heat and light. He shielded his face with his arms. Huddling against the wall, he blinked rapidly and waited for the ringing in his ears to subside while he got his bearings.

Beside him, Colonel Rice swore. “What the hell was that?”

Logan had no answers. He could only attest to witnessing the woman he’d seen when they’d entered the massive chamber cover herself in the same golden suit of armor they’d spoken with. Then she grew taller, brighter, glorious. Though his mind reeled with what he’d seen and he was only half certain this wasn’t another one of his nightmares, he hazarded a glance to where the king and queen had been.

The two beings of light exchanged blows of massive proportions. Bombs of energy exploded against their bodies. He couldn’t fathom how either remained standing.

“I’m pretty sure the queen exploded,” he said, knowing how absurd that sounded but having no other explanation.

Everyone else in the room had gone to their knees when the king had stood. The uniformed men that they had followed back here, now had their arms outstretched and their faces plastered to the floor.

While beings of light danced in his vision and bombs exploded against his eardrums, he achieved a single glimpse of clarity. Everyone who had been near the throne was blackened. Dead. Bile rose in this throat.

A thunderous clamor claimed his attention. He tore his gaze from the bodies to see the being of white light, what had been the king, sprawled among the remains of the thrones. He dimmed and then was nothing more than a battered and bloody man. His crown lay at the bottom of the stairs.

A shimmering sheet flowed from the General to hover over him and Rice. The ground beneath them rocked and the walls shook. The ceiling above began to crumble.

The colonel didn’t move. He found he couldn’t move either. He wasn’t easily scared, but he had no idea what was going on here and safety anywhere on this planet was questionable.

Without taking his eyes off the General, he said, “We’ve overstayed. The planet is going to go with us on it.”

“Maybe.” The colonel also stared at the giant golden glowing figure.

Debris thundered down on the sheet above them. A shield of some sort.

Logan prayed their ship wasn’t being crushed where they’d left it with the rest of their team inside. Then he wondered if he should hope that they’d left. He and Rice might not make it back. The shield didn’t look able to stretch that far. In fact, it didn’t even go as far as the archway.

A giant explosion struck the General. For a moment he was blinded again. Another blast of scorching air blew past them, though it seemed the shield protected them somewhat as the heat wasn’t near as intense as the first time.

“Holy shit,” muttered Rice.

The King was gone. Only a large scorch mark on the floor where his body had been. The General lay sprawled on steps, her feet just below the thrones. Her armor missing the golden glow and blackened. Blood dripped down the steps from the seam at her neck where her head was suspended over the edge of one of the stairs. She lay on her back as if she’d been blown over, unable to catch herself.

She was still moving. Slowly, but twitching enough to indicate she wasn’t as bad off as the rest.

“We’ve got to get out of here.”

“Agreed.” Yet, Rice crept forward instead of back the way they’d come.

Following behind, they checked the bodies of the others as they went. All of them had burnt to death. Pain on his own arms registered. He glanced down to find them blistered. Rice’s face and neck was red. He guessed his was too by the tightness that hit him now that the shock had worn off. His clothes were singed.

“Good thing we weren’t any closer,” Rice said, working his way toward the armored woman.

Logan rushed up the stairs. He knelt beside the General, who seemed to have returned to her original size. She weakly pushed him away but said nothing beyond a faint moan.

“Let me help you.”

She pushed at him again. He tugged on the helmet, trying to free her head so he could better assess the damage.

The voice that came from the blackened metal face was a ghost of the powerful voice that she’d used earlier, barely a whisper. “Leave me.”

He pushed her hand aside and felt up the back of the armor, searching for a lever or latch of any sort. There was nothing there but blood. He wiped his hands on his pants. “How do you get this thing off?”

 “You don’t.” Her voice grew slightly stronger. “Now go, I can’t hold the shield much longer.”

Rice crouched down beside them. “You’re coming with us.”

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Last God and Sahmara on Sale

To celebrate the upcoming release of The Last God, I've reduced the price of my fantasy novel Sahmara to .99. Get both e-books for .99 each for a limited time!
The Last God - Pre-order on: Amazon / Nook / Kobo/  Also now available in Paperback for $9.95
Sahmara - Amazon / Apple / Nook / Kobo / Scribd / 24 Symbols / Inktera

Abducting the angry and suicidal god of war might not be Logan’s wisest choice, but she’s the weapon that might be able to defeat the army of Matouk, who destroyed his homeworld. If he can show her how to love, they might save each other from the terrors that plague his nights and all of her days.

The Last God is science fiction romance. For those of you wondering about the heat level, my romance is on the fairly tame side. While I enjoy reading hot steamy erotic scenes now and then, I don't write them. My romance is more of the fade to black variety.

Now then... About Logan.

When the angelic face of Matouk appeared on the vids of Hijn, the populace was enraptured by his voice and appearance. Some began to worship him as though he were a god.

Then he started making demands for sacrifices. Threats. His forces filled the skies.

People revolted. Matouk's fury rained down upon them, destroying the colonies that had become cities on Hijn, enslaving the survivors, and taking all he wanted for his own.

Logan Klevo lived through this, but nightmares and horrific flashbacks make him wonder if he can truly call it surviving. Though he's rescued by the crew of the Maxim, Logan feels out of place, a soldier on a ship full of techs. It isn't until he accompanies a few of the crew on a mission to warn the people of Kaldara of their impending demise, that he feels a few moments of peace.

And those brief moments are courtesy of a dying god in his arms. He's not about to let her go.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Coming June 19: The Last God

Now that I can finally breathe. Whew! I just wrapped up the formatting for The Last God, I can take some time to chat.

I totally missed my IWSG post this month. My theme was lacking time. Let's just call that a meta mini IWSG post.

Now then, about this book that's been eating all my time...

The Last God is about a woman who has been the god of war for so long that she's seen and done it all and worn the t-shirt until it turned to dust. The Unlata Kai have done just as much guiding of young races as they have ruling over them and driving them into the ground.

The General is just plain done.

She's been a daddy's girl all her life, doing everything to try to impress a man who has no love for anyone but himself. She's brought his wrath to countless worlds, hunted her fellow Unlata Kai into near extinction, murdered siblings for him. She's even gone so far as to damn her soul. All she's got to show for her efforts is a shiny suit of armor and beautiful city of obedient subjects on a world that's ready to implode.

Her parents have tuned out and the only man she's slightly interested in has joined her in a pact to end her kind. At least he's loyal. Too bad they'll be dead shortly.

All the General needs to do is keep her voice down, the occupants of the throne room calm, and to evacuate the innocent population off Kaldara. As long as the kind and queen remain oblivious on their thrones, the last of the Unlata Kai won't live to see tomorrow.

The universe will be a far more peaceful place.

The last thing she needs is a ship of humans on a mission to warn her parents of Kaldara's imminent demise to land just as the evacuation is underway. It doesn't help that one of them is tall, dark and distracting in ways that have the god of war thinking about taking up a new line of expertise.

The Last God is slated to release on June 19 in both print and e-book. You can pre-order now for only .99

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Editing the weekend away

In the season of graduation open houses, I'm spending my weekend doing the final edits on The Last God. It's been through readers. It's been through my eyeballs. Now it's in my ears.

And it's depressing how much the eyeballs miss.

To cope with this tiresome job, I call upon chocolate.

The best part about graduation open house season though I don't have to cook very much. Lunch has been provided for the past two days and dinner is on the menu for tomorrow. Which is good because the listening method of editing is slower than the reading one. This probably has something to do with why it picks up so many more things that my eyeballs do.

I like to make notes in ink and highlight the area where the change is. Overlooking ink is easy. The orange makes it stand out more. Red ink would also work, but it feels so negative.
Listening has helped pick up on word echos, odd phrasing, extra words, missing words, wrong words, and detail changes I missed making on the last eyeball round.

The cover is done. The blurb is done. Very soon edits will be done and then its on to formatting fun and ordering print copies.

Watch for The Last God on the 19th in e-book and print!

(Wow. My lighting is not that orange, I swear. Dim lights and phone cameras don't mix.)

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Twenty-Four Days by J. Murray

Today we're taking a break from talking about editing, writing and unruly characters to celebrate the launch of Jacqui Murray's newest book Twenty-Four Days.

So what is this book about?

World-renowned paleoanthropologist, Dr. Zeke Rowe is surprised when a friend from his SEAL past shows up in his Columbia lab and asks for help: Two submarines have been hijacked and Rowe might be the only man who can find them.

At first he refuses, fearing a return to his former life will end a sputtering romance with fellow scientist and love of his life, Kali Delamagente, but when one of his closest friends is killed by the hijackers, he changes his mind. He asks Delamagente for the use of her one-of-a-kind AI Otto who possesses the unique skill of being able to follow anything with a digital trail.

In a matter of hours, Otto finds one of the subs and it is neutralized.

But the second, Otto can’t locate.

Piece by piece, Rowe uncovers a bizarre nexus between Salah Al-Zahrawi--the world’s most dangerous terrorist and a man Rowe thought he had killed a year ago, a North Korean communications satellite America believes is a nuclear-tipped weapon, an ideologue that cares only about revenge, and the USS Bunker Hill (a Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser) tasked with supervising the satellite launch.

And a deadline that expires in twenty-four days.

As America teeters on the brink of destruction, Zeke finally realizes that Al-Zahrawi’s goal isn’t nuclear war, but payback against the country that cost him so much.

Kirkus Review:
A blistering pace is set from the beginning: dates open each new chapter/section, generating a countdown that intensifies the title’s time limit. Murray skillfully bounces from scene to scene, handling numerous characters, from hijackers to MI6 special agent Haster. ... A steady tempo and indelible menace form a stirring nautical tale.

Where can you find this military thriller?

Available at: Kindle USKindle UKKindle Canada

About Jacqui:

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, and the thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and  Twenty-four DaysShe is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.