Monday, October 20, 2014

A Precipitous Fall into Self-publishing

Award-winning author, Meredith Bond, kicks off a four-week Book Blather series featuring indie authors.  Meredith is an award-winning author of a series of traditionally published Regency romances and indie-published historical paranormal romances. Known for her characters “who slip readily into one’s heart”, Meredith’s romance novels include her new Medieval Fantasy series, the Children of Avalon, her Regency-set paranormal romances in the Storm series and traditional Regencies (without magic) in The Merry Men Quartet. Meredith teaches writing and publishing at her local community college and blogs on the two subjects every Saturday at www.meredithbond.com.
Welcome to Book Blather, Meredith.


How does one fall head-first into self-publishing? Well, actually, it wasn’t easy. It was kind of like falling uphill. It takes skill.
I teach writing at my local community college. I have for many years.
After hearing a member of the Washington Romance Writers (my home RWA chapter) speak about self-publishing, I was certain that that would a fantastic way to publish a textbook to go with my writing classes. Little did I know just what I was getting into!
My friend who gave the talk told me afterward that her husband had formatted her books into mobi and epub files to publish and the he could probably format my textbook for me. So I sent it to him.
And then I waited.
And waited.
And after a month I got back to him asking if he’d had a chance to format my book for me. He hedged and hawed and said that he hadn’t had a chance. Things were busy at work, he told me.
So I decided to see if I couldn’t do this myself. I had once studied computer programming (when I was a freshman in college eons ago when beginning programmers were still taught binary—we were past the punch-card era, but not by much). 
I did some research on the internet and found Guido Henkel who has a fantastic series of blogs detailing exactly how to format a book into HTML, and from there convert it to an epub and mobi file using Calibre. It didn’t look too hard, so I did it. Referring many times to a general on-line tutorial for HTML because, of course, a textbook has more than straight text like there is in a novel. There were pictures, bullet points, numbered lists and all manner of more complicated formatting.
But I did it! It looked great! So I published it.
I was then asked to teach a class on “how to get published”. I thought it would be perfect to include how to format a novel and self-publish it. So, as a test, I formatted a book that had been sitting in my drawer for a while after receiving a fantastic rejection notice from Kensington where my Regency romances had been published (essentially I was told that the book was great, but that they wouldn’t publish it because it had a paranormal element to the Regency romance and they didn’t publish books like that—this was in 2011). So I formatted the book (Magic in the Storm) and published it, carefully documenting the entire process as I went so that I could teach others how to do this.
It was so much easier than the textbook! But I realized—after it was available at three retailers—that I had no marketing strategy for the book. There had been no beta readers. There were no reviews. Nothing! I had a book published and had done nothing to get the word out. I scrambled to send it out—I think I sent it to about 30 websites and bloggers begging for reviews. I gave away many, many copies. I got about 5 reviews. Slowly, over the years, through many sales and much promotion, this book has a few more reviews now and it’s still one of my favorite, but I know better now. Now I know all the planning and advance work that should be done before a book is released into the world.
I also realized that formatting is kind of fun and really easy for me, so I now offer my formatting services to other indie-authors, as well as my advice on how not to publish a book.

I currently have ten books and an anthology published and am working on more, but now when I publish, I do so deliberately. I try not to fall into publishing a book, but step carefully. If I fall on my face now, at least I know that I’ve tried not to be quite so clumsy.
                       ______________________________________________
Check out Meredith's latest book here: http://amzn.com/B00NI4YCIQ




Saturday, October 18, 2014

And The Winners Are . . .



I'm pleased to announce the winners of my September giveaway. Each of the following people received an autographed copy of a book of their choice:

De'Anna Jenkins of Salem, Alabama

Janette Derucki of Frisco, Texas

Philip Schmeck of Apple Valley, California

Alice Liu of New York City

Kathy Hennessy of Tigard, Oregon.

Congratulations ladies and gentleman!



Monday, October 13, 2014

Romance Author, Michele Summers



This week’s guest is romance writer /interior designer Michele Summers who writes funny, sexy romances with spunky heroines, wacky characters and happily ever after endings.  Be sure to read the excerpt from her latest book, Find My Way Home at the end of the Q and A. Get your fans ready, ladies. Welcome to Book Blather, Michele.

Thanks for having me! I’ve been looking forward to this for quite some time. A lot of hard work goes into writing a book and when it’s done…you just want to shout it from the rooftops! *squeeeeeee* Me shouting with delight.

I’m always interested in learning about an author’s journey to publication. Tell us about yours?

Funny, you should ask, but I am one of those people who woke up one morning and said, “I think I’ll write a book.” Now, mind you, we had just been through a hurricane down in Miami and had no power and I was bored to death. Sitting around waiting for the power, fanning ourselves with palm fronds, using our precious ice sparingly, I decided to get productive. Literally, I grabbed a legal pad and started writing. Never actually finished that first draft before I started a new one in earnest on my computer (once power had been restored). And I just sorta’ got hooked. Every hurdle, every rejection, every new thing I learned became a challenge to me. I couldn’t imagine giving up since I’d put so much work and effort into this project. I was like a dog with a bone…I was going to find a way to make it happen. And finally after winning various contests, attending several conferences, ignoring numerous rejections, I received the call about four years later. I still get goose bumps!

In addition to your writing job, you work as an interior decorator. It sounds like the two careers intersect in your book Find My Way Home. The protagonist, Bertie Anderson, is also an interior decorator.  How much of you went into creating Bertie?

All the hard grunt work, climbing ladders in heels, attempting jobs you’re not qualified for, dealing with unhappy, unreasonable clients…ALL true! I tried to show some of the non-glamorous parts of interior design, but with humor through Bertie. The actual designing and selection process of what a designer creates is probably a whopping 5%. The rest is all the orchestrating, organizing, processing and making sure crews show up and get the job done along with making the client happy. It’s a lot of juggling, begging, counseling, etc. But when you see the final product…it’s all worth it! Bertie also shares my proclivity to multi-task…we are not proud of that addictive habit.

The logo on your website says, “Southern Charm with a Twist. Where the heroine is always sassy and hero is every girl’s dream.” I sense a lot of thought went into this branding. Is there a story behind it?

LOL! I’m so happy you noticed. Actually, I’ve added a new tagline: Romance Designed to Make You Laugh!  I think it captures what I write in nutshell. Yes, I write with a Southern twist because I was born and raised in the South and it comes naturally to me. But my twist is the humor I like to add to all my stories. And I enjoy creating strong, sassy heroines who don’t mind speaking their minds (can’t imagine where I get that…) and of course, I have to have a dreamy, wonderful hero that we’d all like to snatch up and take home and never let go! My next series may or may not take place in the South, but don’t fret, there will be Southern characters popping up on the pages to give it that certain charm.

What’s next for you?

 I’m actually finishing the fourth book in the Harmony Homecomings Series as we speak. Book two: Not So New In Town is set to release July, 2015 and it features Bertie’s friend Lucy Doolan who reluctantly comes back to town to help her step-sister who happens to be pregnant and bedridden. Lucy’s a little down on her luck (a cheating, a-hole, ex-boyfriend will do that to you) and she’s not too happy being back in small-town Harmony where everyone knows her business and loves Tweeting about it on a daily basis. Especially when she realizes Brogan Reese, her crush from high school has returned too. Her crush…but her step-sister’s ex-boyfriend! Awkward. Brogan’s home to put a few rumors to rest and he and Lucy find they have more in common than sharing a few high school memories after all. Lots of Southern charm designed to make you laugh!

Would you please share a short excerpt from Find My Way Home? *twist my gumby arm*

Bertie and Keith’s first crazy kiss after Bertie is caught hiding in Keith’s closet.

With quick reflexes, he grabbed her by the hips before she managed to plow him over. All good. Until she realized her breasts were smashed against his bare chest. Oh my! He smelled musky and sweaty…a tantalizing combination. She inhaled his scent deeply. Overcome by the surrounding hotness of Mr. Perfect-Please-Be-Mine, Bertie wobbled on her four-inch heels and appeared to be molding herself to his hard, warm body. Nothing could be further from the truth. Okay, well, maybe it was a little bitty close to the truth.
Whatever you do, don’t look down.
She glued her gaze to the dark stubble covering his stern jaw, fearing that if she did look down she’d see his low-slung towel, hanging even lower and revealing something pretty darn spectacular, if what she felt pressed against her stomach was any indication.
Something she hadn’t seen in a very long time. Or felt.
Something she didn’t need to see now. Or feel. Because she could almost guarantee that she’d gawk and then do something really stupid, like beg him to take her.
***
Keith witnessed Bertie’s expressions go from fear to shock to sexual awareness in a matter of seconds, even though she never lowered her sea green eyes past his chin. He wasn’t completely sure, but he could’ve sworn there was an ongoing conversation taking place inside her head. Her generous, plump breasts were pressed up against his chest, and her soft, round hips were burning holes in his hands. He wondered if it would feel as nice if he slid his hands from around her hips to her curvaceous ass. Okay, now I’m acting nuts.
Bertie’s big eyes went from the color of the sea to dark forest green as they grew wider and more dilated. Shit. This was bad, real bad. So bad it felt fucking great. Keith’s knees almost buckled as he felt Bertie take an unsteady breath, making her gorgeous full breasts expand, pulling her closer. Her delectable lips parted and he didn’t think. He just acted, swooping down for a crushing kiss before she could start talking crazy and break the spell.
***
Bertie froze like a statue, Keith’s lips rocking over hers in a kiss so mind-blowing that he literally took her breath away. She had no idea how long she leaned into him before she realized she wasn’t participating and was missing some really good stuff. Since she didn’t want Mr. Perfect to think he was kissing a total fool, she ran her hands up his strong, defined arms and locked them around his neck as she stood on tiptoes. Not wanting to miss out on probably the best kiss she’d ever experienced, her tongue tangled with his until it became hotter and deeper and more drugging.
Suddenly his large hands were everywhere. One cupped the back of her head, tilting it for better access; the other massaged her bottom until she heard a deep, throaty moan. It took a few seconds to realize it came from her. She couldn’t remember the last time a kiss elicited any kind of emotion from her, much less a deep-throated moan. A thunderbolt shot clear to the soles of her feet. She pressed even closer and gave in to the sensations pouring through her.
Keith jerked back, dropping his hands and ending the best kiss in the whole universe. “Goddammit!” he growled as he retied the loose towel around his lean hips. Bertie clutched her throat with a shaky hand.
What had she done? She needed to dig her way out of this steaming heap of humiliation. She was a professional designer, not a bimbo who hid out in hunky sports celebrities’ closets like a stalker.
“Uh, okay, here’s the thing…your door was open and I wandered in and then I got so absorbed in the bones of the house that—”
“Enough.” Keith stepped even further back, as if Bertie had leprosy, and indicated with a sweep of his arm that she should precede him out of the bedroom. Now. Bertie moved through the door on shaky legs.
“But, I need to ex—”
“Don’t elaborate any further. Look, Ms. Anderson, I’m sure you’re a capable decorator—”
“Designer,” Bertie interrupted as her heels clicked down the hall, making a hollow sound in the vacant house.
“Whatever. This isn’t going to work out,” Keith said behind her in a strained voice. “Let’s forget the whole thing.”
She stopped in the grand foyer, blocking the door while Keith reached around, careful not to touch her as he yanked on the doorknob. “Okay, but the thing is—” Bertie attempted to explain again, her face flushed from embarrassment.
“Thank you for your time and I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to…you know…kiss you. It was a mistake.” Keith held the door open for Bertie, looking not at her but at some fascinating spot over her head, standing as if he were Prince Charles and not a half-naked stud who’d been feasting on her lips only minutes ago.
“Right. A mistake. Well, good luck.” Bertie bolted from the house and down the porch steps as fast as her high heels could carry her. What a hot mess, emphasis on hot. She couldn’t reach her car fast enough. The minute she slid into her seat, she banged her forehead against the steering wheel. “Fudge. What did I just do?”
She was dazed and disoriented, not from beating her brains out, but from sharing a life-altering kiss with a guy she barely knew. She lifted her head and with a shaky hand shoved the key in the ignition. Her reaction to Keith Morgan was appalling, especially since he clearly couldn’t stand the sight of her and was probably disinfecting with Listerine at this very moment to remove the taste of her from his mouth.
“I am so leaving town in three weeks,” Bertie said out loud as she started her car and peeled away from the curb. “A herd of rampaging bulls couldn’t make me stay.”
***

Thank you again for hosting me! This has been great fun and I hope you enjoy Find My Way Home and look for Not So New in Town in 2015.


Monday, October 6, 2014

Mystery Author, C. Hope Clark

 C. Hope Clark lives on the banks of Lake Murray in central South Carolina, when she’s not visiting Edisto Beach. She’s the author of The Carolina Slade and the Edisto Island Mysteries. Aside from writing compelling fiction, Hope is the editor of FundsforWriters.com, a website chosen by Writer’s Digest for its 101 Best Websites for Writers for the past 14 years. Life is good.

Welcome to Book Blather, Hope.



Why Neil Diamond?

When my publisher thrust upon me the idea of writing a new series, an unnatural sense of loss came over me. Why couldn’t I be like Sue Grafton and write about the same characters for thirty years? I adored my Carolina Slade mystery series. Slade was me in a twisted way. But publishers have a way of influencing authors, so I accepted the task.
         Dang it, I had to build a fresh world, with new characters, in a completely different environment. It was as if I’d moved to another state and didn’t know where to live, shop, or find a job. The editor said I could choose the setting, but the protagonist had to be law enforcement, not an amateur sleuth. And I must be sure to sprinkle in a heavy dose of family angst. Where to start?
         Grasping for familiarity, I chose Edisto Beach, South Carolina, a secluded, obscure, non-neon beach I’ve frequented for years. It’s where I often escaped. Awesome. Murder on Edisto. What else?
         The steps started coming, and soon I had a protagonist who was Southern bred, an ex-Boston detective, a widow, and emotionally fragile from some horrible events in her past. I piled on a diva mother with a grating personality, and of course, a murder or two. But what would make Callie Jean Morgan connect to me, her creator? We needed a conduit to put me in her head to speak to me each night as I sat at the keyboard.
         Edisto is haunting and healing, an out of the way beach that doesn’t allow motels or franchises, but I wanted more than waves and breezes as the audible backdrop. I wanted music.
         Jimmy Buffet was too cliché. Beach Boys represented the wrong coast. Then one evening it hit me . . .
         Neil Diamond.
         His music began in the late sixties and carries through today, soothing several generations of women. Not only could Neil’s songs aid Callie through her pain and suffering, but we realize that her mother loves him, too. A common thread with her mother that Callie didn’t want, but couldn’t ignore, and ultimately had to confront.

Excerpt from Murder on Edisto:
"Callie’s mind raced as she returned to the living room, searching for some damn excuse to keep them. She’d never replace the antique sound of that LP player, the texture of its linen speaker cover, or the slight squeak of the top’s hinge. Until now she didn’t realize how much those details meant to her. But every argument for Callie was equally as justified for her mother.
Fact was, the records had never belonged to Callie. She rubbed her forehead. This was stupid, so stupid. She ought to just give the woman the damn albums. So why was it so challenging not to?"

         I discovered Neil in high school, and I can sing almost every stanza of every one of his tunes. As I wrote this book, I listened to ten different Diamond albums, and they drew me deeper and deeper into character. Just like these songs lulled me to sleep or helped dry my tears, they did the same for Callie. Finally, I loved my protagonist. I loved my setting. I understood the story.
         And it’s the best book I’ve ever written.
                                

BLURB:
When her husband is murdered by the Russian mob, Boston detective Callie Jean Morgan suffers a mental break and relinquishes her badge to return home to South Carolina. She has no idea how to proceed with her life, but her son deserves to move on with his, so she relocates them to the family vacation home.

But the day they arrive on Edisto Beach, Callie finds her childhood mentor and elderly neighbor murdered. Her fragile sanity is threatened when the murderer taunts her, and the home that was to be her sanctuary is repeatedly violated. Callie loses her fight to walk away from law enforcement as she becomes the only person able to pursue the culprit who’s turned the coastal paradise into a paranoid patch of sand where nobody’s safe. But what will it cost her?

Murder on Edisto
Bell Bridge Books
Twitter: @hopeclark



Monday, September 29, 2014

Meet Editor Pat


When I get together with other authors, horror stories abound. The word horror does not refer to their chosen genre but to their interaction with editors. That’s when I realize how incredibly fortunate I’ve been. The eagle-eyed, line-dancing Pat Van Wie edited my last three books written for Bell Bridge Books and . . . she’s made them shine! When I asked Pat to take part in a Q and A for Book Blather, she readily agreed. But first, here’s a bit about her background.

 Pat Van Wie is a multi-published author, editor and creative writing teacher. With eleven published novels under her belt, she crossed to the other side of publishing and took a position as senior editor for Bell Bridge books to build their mystery and suspense list. Pat recently joined the indie author ranks by re-releasing her first hardcover suspense, Blind Run in e-book format and written under the pseudonym, Patricia Lewin She also teaches writing classes around the country and is currently teaching creative writing at Collin Community College in Frisco, Texas.  Chat with Pat on her Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/patvanwie. Check out Blind Run here: http://amzn.com/B00LT8D60I  
Welcome to Book Blather, Pat.


Tell us about your background. When did you first know you wanted to write?

I have an unusual background for a writer.  My college degree is in Computer Science, and I worked for IBM as Computer Programmer for over twelve years.  However, I’ve been writing since my freshman year in high school—I just didn’t have the courage early on to attempt to write for a living. 
                                                 
It was only after I’d been working for IBM for five years that the writing bug bit again.  I went to a weekend writer’s conference, and that was it.  I’ve been writing ever since.  

You’ve been in the world of publishing for many years, first as an author, then as an editor. Which do you prefer?

I actually enjoy both roles.  However, I’m first and foremost a writer.  There is nothing quite as exciting as the creative process.  That said, the reason editing works for me is that my favorite part of writing is story building. So, working as an editor allows me to do that, while another author gets to do all the nitty-gritty in-the-trenches work. 
                                
 You’ve had books published with major companies. Tell us about your journey to publication and your first sale.

I started writing while still working at IBM—weekends, holidays, lunch hours.  I also attended writer conferences, read every how to book I could put my hands on, and entered (lots and lots of) writing contests.  About two years into this process, I started making the finals in the contests I entered, including the Golden Heart.  The third time I finaled in the Golden Heart, Brenda Chin was one of the finalist judges.  She ended up buying that book, Keeping Katie.  It was, as you can imagine, a wonderful experience, and Brenda and I are still good friends.

The fun thing about my first sale was that I got the call from Harlequin while at a trade show for IBM. None of my techie colleagues really understood, and I couldn’t reach anyone at home to share the news.  To say the least, I was in a really great (but frustrated) mood all weekend—probably sold a lot of the software product we were demoing.   J   

 I speak from experience when I say you are an excellent editor. Where did you learn your editing skills?

I think the process of writing is a great foundation for editing.  Plus, I was part of some terrific critique groups and have taught creative writing for years.

What is your favorite part of the editing process? Your least favorite part?

My favorite part of editing is working with authors to make their stories better.  I love story building, so this is a natural fit for me.

My least favorite part is reading submissions. It just kills me to turn down books, especially when I see potential.  I’m sure it’s because I understand how badly these writers want to become published.  But the competition is tough and my time is limited, so I can only buy books that are ready for publication.  It’s so hard, and it makes me slow on responses.  I start reading something, see potential, think maybe I can help the author fix the problems, and then I file it to come back to it later.  A bad habit, I know . . . but I really hate sending rejection letters.  

You recently decided to re-issue one of your earlier books, Blind Run. What prompted that decision?

 Well, like a lot of other long-time authors, I got back the rights to many of my books.  It seems a waste to let them just sit on my computer, so why not re-issue them? 

Do you have any upcoming projects?

Yes, I’m re-issuing Out of Reach, my second Ballantine book, soon.   I’m just waiting for the cover. 

Any advice for aspiring writers?

This is a hard one, mainly because there is no one answer that fits every author.  All of us have different issues and challenges when it comes to writing and publishing. 

So, I’m going to be very basic here.  Learn the rules, grammar, punctuation, story structure—you can decide to ignore them later, but at least know them so when/if you break the rules, you’re doing it consciously.  And the second very basic advice I’d give—which most writers already do—is to read, as much as you can, and in a variety of genres.  It will make you a better writer.

What do you do for fun?

I line dance.  I started about six of seven years ago, and have a whole group of friends who I dance with.  We do events, both locally and traveling to other cities.   We’ve even done a couple of line dance cruises.  It’s great fun.