Category Archives: This Business of Writing

A Little WIP Never Hurt Anyone!

I’ve got a couple of things in the works right now, including a companion novel to the Moondance Trilogy (which is almost finished–clapping hands with glee). I thought I’d leave you with a little bit of another of my WIPs. This is from a future rom-com tentatively titled The Last Will and Testament of Crazy Lizzy. I entered an excerpt from this work in the Adobe Cottage Fiction Contest. I didn’t win, but the amazing Susan Donovan told me I was in the top 10. I’m pretty proud of that. So, here’s the opening…Enjoy! (Warning: I have a potty-mouth, and I’m not afraid to use it!)

I know T.S. Eliot called April “the cruelest month”—something about lilacs and dead land and memory and desire. That memory part must have skipped right over me because I don’t remember any more of the poem than that. Maybe I was having an off day when we read it in Mrs. Moffett’s senior English class, or maybe T.S. Eliot was having an off day when he wrote it. Who knows? I guess it just didn’t speak to me at seventeen all-knowing years of age.

One thing I do remember from Mrs. Moffett’s class is that context is everything, and I’m sure I’m removing Eliot’s words from some deep underlying meaning when I say that I don’t agree with his assessment of April. Around here, April is far from cruel. In fact, this morning, it’s pretty damn spectacular. Today is April second, and on this second day of mean ol’ April’s blessings, the weeping cherry trees along Main Street are a jubilant celebration of spring’s arrival. Long pink garlands hang from each of the old gnarled branches. They sway in the breeze as if waving us humans over to take a look. Every few seconds the garlands shed a tiny petal to ride the wind like confetti. It’s beautiful, but somehow sad. Looking at this scene, some deeply suppressed part of me is stirred, a restlessness in my soul, and I kind of wish I was one of those petals . . . riding the wind right out of this town—on second thought, maybe Eliot was right.

One of those wayward petals sticks to the windshield as my brother parks us along Main Street and cuts the engine. “Damn, Kitty Kat, looks like we were lucky to get a spot.”

I look around us. Both sides of the street are packed with vehicles. “I didn’t think we had this many people left in this town. What in the world . . . ?”

“I don’t know . . . must be traffic court day or something. Come on. Let’s go in.”

“Wait!” I grab his arm as he reaches for the door. “I still don’t know about this, Dave. We barely knew the woman.”

“Look sis, you’ve beat this horse to death ever since we got the notice. You know I did that work on her front porch last year, and you helped me paint it. She must have, I don’t know, decided she liked us or something . . . or maybe she just felt sorry for us.”

“Maybe, but that’s not enough to include us in her will. I mean, you were contracted to do a job . . . and I was just helping out. Nothing special about that . . . I did open the door for her that one time, but—”

“Listen, Kitty Kat, put the brakes on your over-analyzing shit. The woman had no children, right?”

“Right, but—”

“But what? Now, just hush and listen. She had no children. And even though she was bat-shit crazy, we were always nice to her, so the best I can figure, she just wanted to leave us a little something. I’d say we get a couple of hundred bucks and the rest is probably going to some artsy-fartsy foundation or some kind of shit like that . . . Hell, there’s probably not much left anyway. She never worked a day in her life. I bet she spent just about everything her daddy left her . . . No sense making a mountain of a molehill here.”

I look over at him and raise an eyebrow with my best watch-it-mister expression. Even though David and I are twins, both 24 years old, I still feel like I have to be the adult. And this is not a recent development; it’s been this way since we were thirteen. Losing both parents has a way of making a person grow up fast. It did for me anyway. For David . . . not so much.

“Don’t give me that look,” he says as he shakes his head at me. “The only way we’re going to settle it is to go on in and see why we’re here, and we’re about to be late. So come on.”

He is right, of course. I just roll my eyes and reach for the door handle of his rickety old truck. You know, since he refused to let me drive us in my car. For some reason, he’s in love with this rust bucket. It’s a wonder we made it the five miles from our house to town.    

Dave jumps out, in an obvious hurry, and takes the lead. I’m content to follow behind. Maybe that way, people won’t think we came together . . . Oh hell, who am I kidding? Everybody in this dried-up town knows who we are—the poor, pitiful Riley orphans.

As we walk along, all I can see is the back of one big-ass Five Finger Death Punch concert tee—which I begged him not to wear to the courthouse. Everybody treats us like white-trash lepers as it is. We certainly didn’t need to show up looking the part. The busybodies will look down their noses, but apparently, Dave doesn’t care enough about his only sister to stop embarrassing her—so I glance over at the closed doors of the courthouse and dread our grand entrance. Well, at least no one knows we’re coming. We’ve both kept this pretty quiet.

As we reach the intersection of two sidewalks, Dave makes an abrupt stop, sending the side of my face crashing into Toronto . . . or maybe Tokyo. All I see is the “To” as I run into him. I’m just about to light into his ass when a man’s voice redirects my attention. “Please, after you,” he says.

Of course I couldn’t see anyone else approaching on the sidewalk because I was walking behind a big stubborn house dressed in a ratty old concert tee. Since Dave is six-foot and pushing two-fifty, I’m forced to lean around the big lug to see who is talking. As soon as I obtain a view, my eyes quickly travel from dress shoes to perfectly fitting slacks to a button-up shirt and jacket—also perfectly fitting—all the way up to the most insanely blue eyes I’ve ever seen. They make it impossible for me to look away. In the periphery, I notice his neatly trimmed stubble is just enough to be sexy over a chiseled jaw, and his hair is just messy enough without being too messy. All I can think is damn! At this point I know two things about the man: one, he’s a god consorting with mere mortals, and two, he’s most definitely not from around here.

In one slick move, I lose my balance and stumble to the side. With a flurry of hair and elbows, I try to right myself. I’m such an idiot. Suddenly, a strong hand on my arm steadies me. I bolt up straight and freeze like a groundhog about to get his ass run over.

“Woah there . . . easy,” he says.

I look up and come face to face with brilliant blue. I guess I’m momentarily stricken dumb because I can’t seem to respond verbally.

“You okay?” he asks.

Physically unable to push any sound from my throat, I just nod my head.

“Goddamn, Kitty Kat, don’t lose your shit.”

Dear God. He did not just say that. My brother did not just curse and call me Kitty Kat . . . and curse . . . and embarrass me in front of a complete stranger—a completely gorgeous stranger. Dave’s stupidity and obvious lack of manners does wonders for my vocal chords.  “Thank you, I’m fine,” I say to the man. Then I shoot my brother a look which says I’m going to strangle the life out of you with that freaking t-shirt.

Lucky for Dave, he knows exactly what the look means and has enough sense to back off. Two big-oaf hands fly up in a gesture of defeat. Well, he should know when to quit. It’s not like this is the first time he’s incurred my wrath . . . Not by a long shot.

Apparently, our little display of sibling affection amuses the stranger. When I look back to him, he’s smirking at me. What the . . . ? Who does he think he’s laughing at? He doesn’t know us. He may be a god on whatever planet he’s from, but that doesn’t give him the right to make fun of us mortals. I don’t care how adorable that little dimple is that just magically appeared. My eyes narrow for a quick second. Then, I walk on ahead toward the building.

I don’t turn around, but I can feel both men fall in behind me. Huh, I guess Mr. Blue Eyes was headed to the courthouse, too. He probably got a speeding ticket out on the three-mile stretch of interstate which cuts through a corner of our county. I bet he drives some obscenely expensive sports car. Too bad for him—about the ticket, I mean, not the car.

In what, for me at least, is now a march of nervous excitement, we walk up the courthouse steps and open one of the giant oak doors. Generations of people from our town have passed through these doors, but at the moment, none of them are here. The hallway is completely empty. That’s weird. I really expected to see a bunch of people walking around. Somebody is driving those cars. Where are they?

I pause just long enough for Dave to reach my side. Then I ask, “It was Courtroom B, right?” I know good and well it was, but I guess I’ve always kept him in the loop in any way possible. He’s a big idiot sometimes, but I want him to feel important . . .  I let him think he’s helpful.

Dave nods, and we walk the few steps together to Courtroom B. As Dave reaches to open the door for me, I catch a glimpse of Mr. Perfect headed into the men’s bathroom. I bet he’s got enough money to pay off his ticket and be done with it. I doubt I’ll ever see him again. I shrug it off as a rare encounter with some fantastical beast, a unicorn. My friends wouldn’t believe me if I told them about him anyway.

My attention flies back to the door just opened by my sweet idiot brother. I’m frozen in my tracks at the first glimpse inside the courtroom. It looks like the whole town is here. But it’s not just people from our town, there are movie cameras and lights and some guy barking orders about angles or something. Dave and I just look at each other. The letter we received didn’t say anything about this. We just assumed we would be the only ones here.

We pass, reluctantly, through the threshold and into the room. With no seats left, we are forced to stand in the back against the wall. Lucky me, I get pinned in between two mountains—Dave on one side and Randy Shumate on the other. Randy works at the hardware store, so he knows everybody.

“Oh, hey, Kat . . . Dave,” Randy says looking between us.

With the apparent revelation that we weren’t the only ones to be summoned here today, I ask, “So, you got a letter, too?”

“Yep, looks like the whole town got one.” Randy points out the obvious.

I just nod and direct my attention to movement and murmurs at the front. Over the heads of those seated, I see Mr. Treadway, a local attorney, step up to the judge’s microphone, and the room goes silent. “Hello everyone. Thank you for coming, and welcome to the reading of the last will and testament of Miss Beatrice Elizabeth…

 

This Is Me…New & Improved

Signing 2Not too long ago, I decided to update my author bio. Being that it can be found in several locations—Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook, etc.—I guess it’s a good idea to keep it up to date. Naturally, I had to go back and read what I had written before. How can I put this delicately? Hmm . . . it made me want to puke, just one of the many mistakes I made starting out. Brand new authors have this belief—misconception really—that their stuff needs to read like it came from a big publishing house. The longer I trudge along as an Indie author, the more I realize this isn’t necessarily the case. So, here they are, kiddies, today’s words of wisdom—be authentic, be real, be yourself! Following my own advice, I’ve rewritten my own bio (which makes it autobio, but who cares?). Here is the new, improved version:

Author bio is supposed to sound like it was written by some magical PR genius, right? It’s supposed to make the author sound intelligent, interesting, but most importantly, it’s supposed to sound like the author didn’t write it. Well, let’s be honest, I’m one of the hundreds, nay, thousands, of Indie authors operating as a one-woman show. I don’t mean to brag, but I literally do it all: I write, I create book covers, I format my own books . . . and, admittedly, I write my own bio. So, here it is (in first-person, in a relatively concise fashion): I have a day job at which I ingest ridiculous amounts of coffee and leave a lasting mark on the brains of teenagers (scary), and I don’t discuss my moonlighting—writing contemporary, Southern, erotic, romantic comedy. Sometimes I think I remember what my sweet husband looks like, but I’m not one hundred percent sure. I’m Indie by choice and likely to remain that way (mainly because I’m stubborn and curse like a sailor). And I often start sentences with coordinating conjunctions . . . on purpose. So, if you’re feelin’ froggy, have a go at one of my books, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

 

Did Ammy Forget It Owns Goodreads?

I suckYou know what I find interesting? Amazon limits certain reviews because it somehow, mysteriously deems that the reviewer is a friend of the author (even if the book sale is a verified purchase). HOWEVER, Amazon doesn’t seem to care about the validity of the reviews/ratings on Goodreads (owned by Amazon). For example, (and let me preface this by saying I realize I may sound like I’m whining over a bad review, but that’s not the case) when people rate/review my books, I want to see what they said or check out the other books they’ve rated for comparison. I just noticed I have a 1-star rating on one of my books on Goodreads. Since the reader left no review, I went to check out her other ratings just to see if I could gain any insight—you know, I’m always looking to improve my writing. What I found was interesting. This particular reviewer seems to have a pattern of posting multiple ratings on the same day (like 18 one day, 10 three days later, 35 the following week). Now, I guess it’s possible that she read books for a few months but decided to save all her ratings until after she had read like 200 books, but I highly doubt it. Additionally, most of her ratings are low. Call me crazy, but doesn’t this seem odd? Shouldn’t Amazon take notice? I mean, I can handle a bad review/rating. Of course, I know you can’t please everyone all the time. A bad rating from time to time is to be expected, but damn, is it too much to ask that the reader has actually read my book?

So, Amazon, is this a problem, or what? Well . . . ? Nah, I’m sure it’s just me. I’m sure she read 63 books in two weeks and just didn’t like any of them. Okay . . . rant over and rating lowered.

True Love & Biscuits

A love story…

This morning, I was craving a steak biscuit and some dirty rice from Bojangles’, so I went. As luck would have it, I arrived at the peak time to dine with the retired and elderly crowd, or as they’re known around here, the old coffee drinkers. What I didn’t expect was for one of them to remind me of why I write romance novels, nor did I expect for one of them to make me cry.

I was tucked away at a corner table playing invisible woman and tap, tap, tapping away on my tablet screen when I overheard one sweet little grey-haired man talking about the loss of his wife. I didn’t hear him say how long she had been gone. I didn’t hear what she died of. What I did hear was him saying, and I quote (I recorded it on my tablet so I wouldn’t forget), “You know, when my wife died, I actually though about pitching a tent up at the cemetery, up at the edge of the woods, so I could be right there with her.”

I’ve been writing some emotional stuff the last few days, so I’m sort of a wreck anyway. Hearing that sweet little man speak of his grief broke my heart right in two. I actually had to turn my head, so they wouldn’t see my eyes welling up. That’s right, I cried over what was left of my biscuit and dirty rice. Shoot, I’m getting misty-eyed now just thinking about it.

The rest of the conversation only drew more tears from me. One of the ladies at the table asked him what he does to keep busy during the day. Of course, he said he visits his wife’s grave every day, sometimes three times a day.

“Do you, really?” the woman asked.

He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Sometimes I stay up there for 30 minutes or more just talking to her. I know it’s just her body, not her soul, but that’s all I know to do. I just talk to her.”

I believe my unintentional eavesdropping this morning confirmed for me what I already knew—true love does exist. I would even argue that, aside from the need of food, water, and shelter, the human need to love and be loved is basic to our existence. This is why I write romance novels—because they chronicle the basic human quest of finding that one true and devoted love and overcoming adversity to make it work.

Naysayers of the genre speak of romance novels as if they are ridiculously corny, completely unrealistic, and not representative of real relationships. All I can say is, tell that sweet little grey-haired man that his devotion to his wife, a devotion that had him considering living in a tent in the cemetery just to be close to her, tell him that his love for that woman was/is unrealistic. And me…I cried all the way home from Bojangles’ because that sweet little man made me consider what it would be like to live on this earth without my husband of twenty-four years. Just the thought takes my breath and wrenches the heart in my chest.  The thought of losing him—my partner, my best friend, the love of my life—kills me. I’m sure I would be lost, just like that sweet little old man. Tell me the love I have for my husband is unrealistic?

When I write, it’s not from some fantasy land of emotion. It’s from a real place in my heart. I don’t pretend relationships are easy. Whether real or imagined, they take work. But to say that adversity cannot be overcome, to say that people cannot work through problems to achieve a real and lasting love is just stupid. So to the naysayers I say, it’s okay. Perhaps you are not emotionally ready to find meaning in my writing. Perhaps the current state of your relationships will not allow you to have hope in your heart. Don’t worry, when you’re ready, the romance genre will still be around.

So, I got this email from Ammy . . .

Hulk HandsAfter reading this morning’s “Important Kindle Request” from Amazon (KDP), several thoughts come to mind. I’m sure I’m not the only indie author to chime in on this issue, and I’m most likely not the only one to voice the following opinions. But it’s my blog, and in the immortal words of Eric Cartman, “I do what I want.” So here they are—my thoughts on the Amazon vs. Hachette (Big 5) issue:

• Damn, that was a long email. I’ve no right to chastise anyone for being long-winded, but jeez, I think “The Amazon Books Team” may have overestimated the attention span of us authors. Just get to the freaking point already. I really don’t need to be dazzled by your knowledge of the history of printing. I had that class in college, and it was boring as hell!

• As an author, I think my own books are worth much more than $20 (don’t we all), but, as a reader, I agree with Amazon that $20 (plus) is too much to pay for ebooks. I can’t help but think about the average family (like mine). I could easily download and read at least one book per week. At $20 per book, 4 or 5 books per month turns into $80-$100 per month (for just one avid reader). That’s not a book budget; that’s a car payment (at least it is for me). No average family can afford that.

• Having made my point about pricing, it seems to me that the market itself will work this little problem out (in due time). The most I’ve ever paid for an ebook is around $12 (and that was only because I’m completely hooked on this series, and, even though it killed me to pay that, I just had to have it). Frankly, I cannot afford to pay much more than that, and I know I’m not alone. When consumers refuse to pay over $20 for an ebook, won’t the Big 5 get the message then? It will be hard for them to ignore a drop in sales. Amazon’s tendency to push cheap and discount books will not make it easier for them to charge higher prices, either. I just think, as with any other product, the market will drive the price. The Big 5 can decide to charge whatever they want to charge, but people don’t have to pay it. The market is flooded with other options.

• All of this price gouging and bickering could be a potential win for us indie authors. Reader disillusionment with the whole mess should be considered. If readers get tired of it, perhaps they will look to indie authors as their source for good books. After all, there is an abundance of good, quality indie writing out there, and most of us are not stupid enough to charge over $20 for an ebook. I’d say the indie market will follow suit if prices are raised, but, ultimately, our books will always be cheaper than books from the Big 5. We are the no-brainer alternative. I recently lowered my price to $2.99 and I’ve seen a slight increase in sales. Maybe we are already reaping the benefits of this dispute. (I know I’m not getting rich any time soon, I just want people to read my book.)

• One last thought: it will be interesting to see what this does to the print book market. If the Big 5 are successful in raising ebook prices, I will look into purchasing print books with the option to download the ebook for free (or at a reduced price). I guess I’m thinking, if I’m going to pay as much as I would for a print book, I may as well get a print book. This could be a bump for that market, who knows? [whohit]Ammy vs Hachette[/whohit]

#MyWritingProcess Response

My Writing Process is an ongoing blog hop in which writers answer four basic questions about their writing process and then pass the baton to two more authors. I was invited by multitalented author, photographer, and blogger Terri Lyndie. Thanks Terri! Check out Terri’s blog at http://www.terrilyndie.com/.

What am I working on?

openbook-paper-penRight now, I’m working on the second book in my Moondance Trilogy. In this one, my two foul-mouthed and oh so passionate lovers, Maggie and Mason, are faced with a whole new set of challenges. Now that Maggie is aware of Mason’s wealth, she must learn to adjust to a very different lifestyle than what she is used to. You can take the girl out of the cow pasture, but . . . Well, I think I’ve said enough about that. Working on this book is particularly stressful because I certainly don’t want to fall victim to the dreaded sophomore slump. I’m trying really hard, I pinky swear, to focus all my energy into this book. The few exceptions being a blog post here and there, a couple of reviews, and random photos of Chris Hemsworth (oh, and keeping up with Twitter, Facebook, my website, Goodreads, etc). With all of these demands on my time, I just don’t think it’s wise to split my attention with two major writing projects at once. I’m inclined to lean toward quality over quantity.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

This question is tough for several reasons. Fans of this genre will tell you they expect romance books to meet certain criteria which are unique to the genre. Probably more so than any other group, our readers have some idea of what they are getting when they open a romance novel. I think the artistic challenge for us romance writers is to find ways to delight with our language and surprise the reader while staying within the confines of the genre. It’s sort of like writing a sonnet—it must be fourteen lines and stick to an accepted rhyme scheme or run the risk of not being a sonnet. Further, there are only so many ways one can take the boy-meets-girl plot. Originality in plot line is nigh impossible. Heck, even Shakespeare borrowed plot lines, and that was four hundred years ago. At this point in human existence, plot is pretty much played out. However, Shakespeare knew that how one tells the story and develops characters is wherein genius lieth. So, to answer the question, I’m a huge fan of realistic language, well-developed characters, and believable situations. And I don’t have a problem with dirty words. Words are just words. If they exist in our language and are used on a daily basis, I think I should be allowed to use them. I realize this may put me in a category of being too raw, too graphic for some readers, but I think others may find my work refreshingly real. Not that I’m a no-holds-barred kind of gal. I don’t set out with intentions of offending people. I just don’t get bent out of shape over a curse word or twelve. So, fair warning, if bad language and sexual content are offensive to you, don’t read my books. (And you probably shouldn’t read the rest of this post. Just saying!)

Why do I write what I do?

Oh, that’s easy. I write romance novels because I love them. Yeah, I know, that’s not much of an answer. It happens to be true, but there is a little more to it than that. Okay, allow me to explain: love, sex, hate, pain, joy, heartbreak—all of these coexist with emotion, but not just plain emotion. These require an outpouring of passion, often a passion so intense that it can alter the course of our lives. When we experience those things, that’s when we are most human. That’s when our lives transcend the here and now and link us with all who came before and all who will come after. Romance novels take me to the place where real human passion lives. They remind me of how absolutely essential it is for us humans to experience that passion. They remind me that true joy can only come after one experiences pain. And they remind me to be thankful for those moments of passion in my own life. I know I can’t please everyone, but I hope my writing brings joy to someone (after all, I’m one of those troubled artistic types who appears nonchalant, but deep down, I just want to be loved).

How does my writing process work?

drunk chickWell, it is very simple. Some of us are blessed with an orderly muse who bestows her gifts in measured portions. She cultivates genius and looks after her protégé with the greatest care and routine visits—yeah, that muse? She ain’t mine. My muse is a drunk chick who hangs at parties until she makes a complete ass of herself, and when she’s done with that, I’m pretty sure she visits Stephen King’s muse and “sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore” me . This bitch likes to mess with me until I do stupid things like use isle instead of aisle or asses instead of assess. Sometimes she puts the spark of an idea in my head then withholds the word I’m looking for to make me forget it. But sometimes, when she sobers up, she is an utter angel. The problem is, I never know when she is going to behave. Ideas hit me at the oddest times—three o’clock in the morning, four minutes before I’m supposed to leave for a dental appointment, right smack in the middle of . . . ahem . . . relations with my husband. Needless to say, I don’t have a set routine. I feel like I’m most productive in the mornings, but that’s not always the case (sometimes that whore is hungover). But, you know what? She’s not so freaking smart. I’ve figured out a few ways to outsmart her, and, since Stephen King knows how to deal with his muse, I’m following his words of wisdom: “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” I bought a Windows tablet, so now, I can write anywhere at any time. The tablet and a small Bluetooth keyboard fit in my cavernous tote bag, so I take them everywhere I go. Also, I have earplugs strategically placed around my house. Even if my husband is watching my very favorite episode of South Park (which is the evolution episode, by the way), I can drown out the noise in the room with my handy-dandy ear plugs (at least until Mr./Mrs. Garrison begins the evolution lesson). My husband thinks I’m crazy, but it works.

Thank you for reading my post. All of us writers like to hear ourselves talk, but it’s nice to have others to listen to our self-indulgent musings. And please, feel free to leave a comment. I now pass the baton to these wonderful and talented ladies:

Sarah Winter is a self-published contemporary romance author from Wyoming whose debut novel, Snowbound, was released in January of 2014 and went on to become a quarter-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest. Born in Wisconsin and currently living in Wyoming, she has a husband, two sons, and a pair of lazy salamanders. She’s currently working on another contemporary romance, Third Wheel. Check out her blog at http://www.sarahjwinter.com/.

And to . . .

A graduate of the screenwriting program at the University of Southern California’s film school, Morgan Richter has worked in production on several TV shows, including Talk Soup and America’s Funniest Home Videos, and has contributed pop culture-themed reviews and essays to websites such as TVgasm and Forces of Geek, as well as to her own site, Preppies of the Apocalypse. She is the author of Bias Cut, Lonely Satellite, Charlotte Dent, and Wrong City. Bias Cut won a silver medal in the Mystery category at the 2013 Independent Publishers Book Awards (IPPYs) and was a 2012 semi-finalist for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA). Charlotte Dent was a 2008 ABNA semi-finalist; Lonely Satellite was a 2014 ABNA quarter-finalist. In 2012, Morgan founded Luft Books, an independent publishing company. Born and raised in Spokane, Washington, she currently lives in New York City. Check out her blog at http://preppiesoftheapocalypse.blogspot.com/.

Sarah and Morgan will post their responses to the My Writing Process Blog Hop next Monday, July 21st. [whohit]MyWritingProcess[/whohit]