Top 5 Things I need to Write

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Every writer is different. We all have our own system in place to be productive. For me, I start with a time limit on social media! Most days, I come home from work, eat dinner, and then start writing. My Saturday mornings consist of grocery shopping – followed by writing. Sunday mornings consist of laundry – while writing. Working full-time means I have fewer hours in the day to write. I sacrifice a lot to be able to give my characters a voice. For this system to work, here are five things I can’t do without.

1. My note pad. I’m old fashioned. I love to hand-write notes. This actually comes in handy when I’m at my day job. I can keep a notebook on the desk and when an idea strikes, I can write it down before I forget it. I also carry pen and paper with me to various appointments – like the doctor, or getting my oil changed. I use it to map out characters or plot lines. I’ve got a great new series being plotted right now. Of course, I’m keeping that on the back burner until I have all of the Tip of the Spear novels finished! I don’t think I can handle more than two series at a time! It’s very rare that you will find me without a means of writing something down.

2. Mac Book. I generally write on my Mac Book Air, though I also have an iMac in my home office. The screen on it is bigger, so I generally use it for edits and the more tedious aspects of writing. But usually you’ll find me in my recliner with my laptop propped up on a blanket, usually surrounded by at least two of my three dogs. Maybe I should have added the recliner and dog cuddles to this list….

3. Scrivener. I discovered this software on an author forum that I subscribe to. It has a unique layout that authors either love or hate. It’s not without its idiosyncrasies, but what it lacks in user-friendliness, it makes up for in formatting. This program has saved my life (or rather, the life of my computer) when formatting frustrations threaten to get the best of me. I don’t do well with electronics that don’t cooperate – just ask the last poor DVD player that malfunctioned on me!

4. Dragon Dictate. I heard so many complaints about dictating software that I was hesitant to purchase any. Then I flipped out of my hammock in the back yard and injured my wrist. For an author, not being able to type is a death sentence. My solution? Dragon Dictate. It took me a while to admit that I liked it. In fact, it wasn’t until I started using the transcription functions on it, instead of dictating, that I found it was worth the cost. The “How to Train Your Dragon” facebook group has also been a lifesaver. I doubt I would have come so far without the support and encouragement.

5. Books. Yes, you read that right. Books play an important part in an author’s life. To be a good author, you have to love to read. For me, reading is a way to escape, to live another life – even if only for a few hours. I usually take a week to binge read the books that I’m saving up during my deadlines. It serves as a reset button on my brain to enjoy someone else’s words instead of my own.

So, there you have it – just a small peek into my world. I’m sure if I put my mind to it, I would have no problems coming up with another 20 items I could list here…

Five Inspirational Women

2016 has been a rough year for celebrities. We’ve lost so many. Additionally, I recently lost my beloved grandmother. It got me thinking about women who have shaped me into the person I am today. First, let me say I love women who are the first in their field – those who break out of the mold that they are forced into. Women who dare to go where no woman has gone before are truly inspirational. That’s where I chose to start my list of women that I find inspirational. I originally called this the “Top 5,” but I’m not sure that I can truly quantify a top 5. So, here are my thoughts on women I look up to.

Hurston-Zora-Neale-LOC 2Zora Neale Hurston. Who is that, you might ask? Ms. Hurston was an African-American woman who came to prominence during the Harlem Renaissance. I first discovered her work while taking an African-American Literature class in college. We had to read her book Their Eyes were Watching God, and I thought it was amazing. I read the book in several other courses after that first time, and it had no less of an impact with each re-read. Ms. Hurston detailed the struggle of a black woman in the south who overcame several obstacles, but it was so much more than that. She wrote at a time when there wasn’t a platform for African-American women, or their works of art. In fact, she is said to have died penniless. I’d like to think that she knows of her impact on the world of literature once her books were rediscovered.

earhart 2Amelia Earhart. Have you ever wondered how many times she was told that a woman couldn’t fly? Think about it. She flew across the Atlantic Ocean in 1928 – just 8 short years after women were given the right to vote! I’ve spent a lot of time imagining her conversations with people who doubted her or tried to convince her that she couldn’t achieve her dreams. I’m glad she proved them wrong!

 

Summitt 2Pat Summitt. Her death at the end of June is really what started me thinking about this blog post. I wrote a paper on her for my Master’s program and discovered how inspiring she was. The winningest coach in basketball history – men OR women! Think about that!! I’m a HUGE basketball fan – as any of you who followed me on Twitter during March Madness know. I was born and bred on UK Basketball – it’s practically a religion down here. Though I was never a UT fan, Pat Summitt stood out. She represented grace, strength, power, humility, eloquence, and so much more. Her attitude was inspiring, both on and off the court. Google her – some of her more popular quotes will bring tears to your eyes.

 

Force 2Marie Force. Of course I couldn’t go without listing the one person who has made self-publishing into an art form. This woman went from a working mom and wife to an author who has published 50 books! She has established her own business, helped other authors begin to achieve their dreams, and still manages to keep in touch with her fans. I am exactly 10 years behind her in this adventure, and I hope when I reach the mark she is at now, I have a quarter of her success, and 100% of her character.

 

C Mellon 2Connie Mellon – my mother. I know, I know…she isn’t famous… But what she has in common with all of the women above is her support. I am sure that there was one person who supported each and every one of the women I listed in #1-4. I’ve read that Earhart’s husband published a book lavishing praise on his wife after her death. Pat Summitt had a family, both related by blood and by sport, that stood beside her during her final years. Marie Force has often talked about the support she receives from her family – namely her husband and father. For me, that support has come from my mother. She never fails to encourage my dream or to believe that it’s possible (p.s. I should say that if this was a list that included men, my father would be on it, too!).

My lesson to you by including my mother is that word do mean something. Look around at the people you love – support their dreams. What would have happened if Amelia had never taken off the first time? Or if Pat had never accepted a job as head coach? Women are making strides to accomplish their dreams. There aren’t many fields that haven’t felt the impact women bring to the table. Now, it’s time to build higher – go further –dream bigger.

Argh! Pirates!

pirate-47705_640Ahoy, Mateys! I am using humor right now because I am so angry! Warning: this post will be full of exclamation points!!!! I just found out that a few of my books have appeared on illegal sites – they’ve been hijacked! Wow, do I feel violated!

I’ve been reading about this happening to authors ever since I decided to self-publish and joined a few author groups. But I didn’t think I had to worry about it yet. I mean, I’m just little old me…a newbie, an unknown. Why would someone target me? I have now learned a hard lesson – you’re never too lowly to be ripped off…

The music industry has been fighting this for years. I remember thinking “they’re just $0.99 songs, what’s the harm?” Now I know the harm first hand! I’m still trying to build a fan base and attract new reader. But that doesn’t mean I should be turning a blind eye to this. My books are not my primary source of income (thank goodness, or I’d be homeless…), but they are still valuable to me. Every penny I earn on these books ensures that the next one can be published. I literally live book-to-book in the publishing world!

So I ask you – PLEASE, PLEASE do not give these sites your business. If you run across pirated work, don’t download it. Email the author the link you’ve found. Most of us self-published authors would be so grateful to know we are being ripped off! This is uncalled for, illegal, immoral, and just down right dirty.

Cover Art

Who knew the process of publishing a book was so involved?  When I started this dream, I thought, “Hmmm, I’ll just write and put it out there.” Wow, was that ever wrong! There’s writing, revising, editing, sending it to beta readers and an editor…and that’s just the book. Then there’s the website, social media, and book covers. Whew, it can be exhausting.

Now, there are several sites out there that offer pre-made book covers, and some of them are pretty good. But I happened to have a friend who is a really talented photographer and graphic artist. I can describe to him exactly what I have in mind and he makes it 100% better than I could have imagined. And then there are the times he just creates a masterpiece from his own thoughts.

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FtoK thumbnailFree to Kill in the Katie Freeman series was the first book I completed and published. It was also the first time I had to actually think of what to do for a cover. Michelle (my social media guru), Ryan and I sat down to begin brainstorming. I gave them a pretty in depth description of the book and what I had in mind. Ryan asked what the church I envisioned looked like, so I started searching online. I found a church in a small town in Kentucky that was PERFECT! But who had the time or money to go to Kentucky? So I started looking for similar architecture in Tennessee. I found the church on the cover of Free to Kill in downtown Nashville – and BONUS! it even had the red door!! The only problem was that it was on a weird street corner with traffic all around and electrical wires obscuring every view. But Ryan took his camera and somehow made the church look like it was in the rural setting from the story. It was the first time I realized what a master he was behind the lens.

From that time on, we have worked to build a theme between the books in a series. This was something I didn’t really think about in the beginning. Take a second to go look at the covers of your favorite book series. Do you see a similarity? That’s called Branding – and it’s vitally important. Who knew!?

With this information, Katie Freeman covers had a color scheme and a main attraction – that was always red. In Free to Kill, it was the door. In Free to Deceive, it was the fountain. In Free to Live, it was the front door of the house (Ryan actually had this cover designed before I published book 2, but it was so perfect for book 3, that we held off on using it). I can’t wait to see what it is in Free to Believe – book four (no release date yet, but shooting for June…).

The same theory applied to the Devil Mountain Shifters books that I released in October. They all had the same mountains in the background and the same physical look.

The Tip of the Spear series was a little trickier. I said from the beginning that I wanted the large spear on the cover with the main image in the center. Ryan still argues with me to change that, and one day I might let him win. But changing that now would mean redoing all the covers so that they are consistent. I think both he and I struggle more with the Tip covers than any other. He sends me beautiful first drafts that would be sufficient if I used them. But there’s just something that doesn’t hit right. He’s become a mind reader when I say “there’s just something not right about it.” One thing I’ve learned is to actually tell him when something doesn’t sit right. That’s a difficult thing to do for a person who hates to make waves. I’m one of those people who will never send food back in a restaurant, just because I don’t want to upset anyone. I’ve had to adjust that mentality for my books. After all, these are my babies. If I don’t speak up for them, who will?

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Goofing around during the photo shoot for the In The Wind cover.

Ryan Bukowski

Ryan Bukowski, my cover artist and photographer

 

Comments: the good, the bad, the ugly

review

Thanks Nancy!

One thing I continually hear from other beginner authors is the difficulty in getting reader reviews. There isn’t a good or proven strategy in getting readers to leave feedback – good, bad or ugly. I’m finding myself in the same boat. Comments do so much for an author. They get the word out on what readers really think of a story. They boost an author’s visibility. They allow an author access to certain publicity sites – like Bookbub. Without feedback from you, an author doesn’t stand a chance at getting his/her name out there. Ratings and comments from readers can make or break an author.

Personally, I read every comment made every one of my books. So far that hasn’t been many… I look forward to the day when there are too many to keep up with. With that being said, thank you to all of you who have left a comment or rating. Please spread the word and encourage others to do the same. If you have read one of my books and haven’t left feedback, please do so – even if you didn’t like it. I love hearing from you and would love to know what you think!

 

Book Sales

TOS#3 - Cover Hi Res (1)It’s been a few weeks since In the Wind came out and I am continually surprised when I check my sales information and see results. I started this journey simply because I enjoy writing so much, so it’s always a pleasant surprise to see that people are reading my books. I love that my readership continues to grow and I would just like to say a huge THANK YOU!!!! to all of you who have purchased In the Wind.

If you haven’t had a chance to read it, grab your copy here:

Kindle
Kobo
Nook 

Three Years and Counting…

My friend, Michelle, and I sat down three years ago and had a conversation about where we wanted to go with our careers. Both of us were in jobs that didn’t really call to us. They paid the bills and paid the bills and provided health benefits – you know, the things people want and need to feel secure. But the long-term prospects for those jobs just weren’t satisfying. Instead of letting this conversation become a ‘woe is me’ pity party, we decided to set goals – with time limits and action steps. My goal for that first year was to write and publish one book. Looking back, that was a very naïve and uninformed decision – good thing I’m adaptable.

During the first year, I went to two conferences, signed up for many courses on self-publishing, and started researching the success of some of my favorite authors. Not only did I learn how much more was involved in being a self-published author, I finished not one, but four books. I had headshots taken, got a website up and running, joined several social media platforms, and, yes, published my first book.

Year two brought some major changes to my personal life. I spent several months in transition between day jobs and finally ended up with a job that is perfect for accommodating my second career. I can now leave work at work and go home to spend my evenings and weekends writing.

The third year is coming to a close with my 40th birthday in June. My original goal wasn’t to become a successful, self-supporting author. It was to see if my books had gained traction and, more importantly, if I still enjoyed the process. I’ve worked in the professional world for over 20 years, and the last thing I want is to be pursuing something that doesn’t bring me joy. So, what have I decided, you ask? I love writing! It still fulfills me every time I sit down at a computer. I love dreaming up new stories. I’ve discovered that even something that I do for fun can strike a chord with a reader. Putting in humor has become easier. And, I’m almost over the embarrassment when my parents read an intimate scene that I’ve written…not sure that will ever go away completely!

Blue TempestWhat about my friend Michelle? Well, she too has made adjustments to her day job. She’s expanded her art to several retail spaces around town, started her own social media campaign (in addition to running mine…), and sold several paintings/mixed media art pieces. If you’d like to see her talent, take a look at the photo attached to this blog – it’s one of many of her pieces I’ve purchased.

We might not be successful by society’s definition, but we made it! We’ve set out to do what we outlined. And we’re going to continue to grow and expand and adapt and learn. Most importantly, we’re going to keep creating. Because that’s what brings joy.

Sicker than a Dog…

cup-779284_1280Ever wonder where certain phrases come from? I often wonder this, and this past week I’ve had more time than normal to think of such random things. I’ve been down with Strep throat and a sinus infection and had to take a few days off from my day job. It’s rare that I get sick, but when I do, it wipes me out. I spent three whole days doing nothing but sitting in my recliner, snuggling with my dogs. Not a bad way to spend a few days – if only I hadn’t felt so miserable.

To me, the worst possible form of being sick is having a stuffy nose. I can handle chills, fever, sore throat – but not being able to breathe has got to be the worst feeling in the world. So there I was, swaddled in my recliner, a dog on each side of me, and too exhausted to hold a book. I tried to prop my e-reader up on it little stand, but then my eyes revolted. My eyeballs hurt and my eyelids refused to stay open. I ended up having a tv marathon – Pitch Perfect, Magic Mike, Fast and Furious. It’s a very rare thing for me to spend so much time watching television – and so little time reading.

One of the good things to come out of so much downtime was that I got to brainstorm on the next Katie Freeman book. I already had an idea of where this book was going, but I really got to put some ideas together. Now I have to make up for the lost writing time.

Memorial Day Weekend

flag-958343_1280Hey all! It’s a holiday weekend here in the USA. Memorial Day weekend is a day to celebrate those who gave their life while serving in the armed forces. To many, it’s also the unofficial start of summer. Last Memorial Day, I had just put up the hammock in my backyard and enjoyed quite a lot of time out there. There was also a comical moment when I flipped out of said hammock – luckily I rescued the laptop and didn’t land on top of it…(go ahead and laugh, my mother did…)

While sitting in my hammock last year, I wrote a draft of The Only Wolf. It was just a story that was in my head after spending hours watching coverage of the 70th anniversary of the Holocaust. It wasn’t ever supposed to amount to anything, but those who I let read it loved it. So it became a trilogy.

This Memorial Day weekend, I’m planning to spend some more magical time in the hammock, this time working on Free to Believe, book 4 in the Katie Freeman Mysteries. I’m hoping the story turns out to be as enthralling as the Devil Mountain Shifters were. Hopefully, I can remain in the hammock this time. 🙂

Travelled vs traveled

sign-429419_1920I had an interesting conversation with one of my closest friends today. We were discussing the nuances in the English language. She texted me to ask how to spell “travelled or traveled”. My automatic reply was “traveled”. Her follow up was to ask about “cancelled vs. canceled”, to which I replied “cancelled”. Of course, I started second guessing myself at that point and decided to let Word tell me which was right. I typed both into a blank Word document expecting the little red squiggly lines to appear under the incorrect one and TADAH! I would see who was correct. But guess what? They’re both right!

The English language can be so tricky! It turns out the double Ls are British English and the single L is American English. That’s a little more subtle than “color vs. colour”. For now, I think I am sticking with being bilingual in this aspect. I will just hope for no cancellations during my traveling!