Friday, December 19, 2014

Talking to dogs...

Things you'll probably never say unless you have a puppy...

1. Stop trying to eat your foot!
(Poor guy got his nail stuck on his cage and ripped half of it off and it had to be bandaged, which he kept trying to get off!) 

2. No I don't want doggy kisses! 

3. Quick trying to eat my hair!

4. Stop biting the Christmas tree!

5. Toes are not chew toys!

6. Are you eating leaves? 

7. Can you please do your business without stepping in it immediately after?

8. Why are you shoving your face down the back of the couch?

9. Seriously? You just peed five seconds ago!

10. Don't eat rocks!

In all fairness...

I have said a few of these to my kids, too, but still. Puppies certainly are an adventure!

Friday, December 12, 2014

NextGen Readers

It seems like I hear comments about how readers are a dying breed fairly often. I don't know that I believe that. Maybe we just need to expand our definition of what makes a reader

During the school year, myself and two of my writing besties, Amanda Strong and Gail Wagner, do school presentations and we ask the kids how many of them like to read. 

The first round of hands is usually fairly small, unless we're in an advanced or accelerated reader class. Then we have to clarify. Reading isn't just novels. Reading can be comics, nonfiction, graphic novels, textbooks, news, magazines...

More hands pop up, and their interest piques when they realize we're not criticizing them for not necessarily loving to read Twilight or Hunger Games. Any form of reading is awesome. It expands your mind, teaches you, and helps you see more than just the world around you. That can be accomplished with pretty much any form or reading. 

I'd also like to add audiobooks to that list. 

Audiobooks are something my family likes to listen to on road trips. Usually it's nonfiction, like the amazing narrative nonfiction book, Unbroken, which is being made into a movie next year. If you haven't read/listened to it, please do. It's an amazing story. 

My eight-year-old daughter recently discovered that audiobooks aren't limited to long car rides. She asked if she could listen to an audiobook on my phone the other night, and she's hooked! Her first solo audiobook was The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which is only about 15 minutes and she didn't understand a lot of it, but I only had a few on my phone the moment she asked. 

Next try at audiobooks was Diary of A Wimpy Kid: Long Haul. She finished listening in two days and immediately wanted more. Now she's listening to Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. That one will take her a little while! 

Her discovery that audiobooks exist for young readers has interrupted our Anne of Green Gables nightly reading, but I'm okay with that. Not because I don't love Anne, because I do, but because this is the first time my daughter has really wanted to read on her own. It's always been something she only asked to do at night before bed, like it was weird to read any other time! 

Now, she wants to grab her audiobook whenever she has free time, and I want to encourage that as much as possible. 

Readers aren't a dying breed, we just need to accept the fact that reading comes in lots of different forms and encourage learning and exploring no matter what format piques young readers' minds. 


Monday, December 8, 2014

Everything looks perfect from far away

I enjoy listening to music while I write, and I've been listening to my I Heart Radio station for Hozier lately. "Take Me To Church" is an amazing song, btw, but it was actually a different song that caught my attention recently. 

A line from and Iron & Wine song, Such Great Heights, had one line that really stuck with me and got me thinking. 

What was the line? 

"Everything looks perfect from far away."

Not only did I find this to be rather poetic in the overall concept of the song, it struck me how true it is, and how common of a theme this is in Young Adult literature. I think this is something pretty much everyone has experienced in life. On one side of the coin or the other. 

How many times have you looked at someone and thought their life seemed so perfect? It's not, of course. No one's is. But it looks perfect from where you're standing. Maybe that inspires you, maybe it makes you jealous, but either way it has an effect on you in most cases. 

But what about being on the other side? Things may be going well for you, or your life might just appear to be raining down gumdrops and lollipops. Other people see what they perceive your life to be and have those same reactions of jealousy, indifference, or inspiration to do better. 

Those reactions can have a lasting effect on a person no matter what side of this line you're on. Being judged, knowing you're being judged, can make you want to shout at people that things aren't what they seem. Maybe you're struggling with some serious issues and nobody knows. Perhaps your world is falling apart and there's no one there to help because everyone thinks you've got it all together. And if you're the one looking on and letting your perceptions run away from you, it can either get you moving on a better path or drag you down into bitterness. 

This happens with adults on a regular basis, but these types of perceptions are often dealt with in YA because not only are emotional reactions strongly reacted to with teens, YA characters are brash and make stupid decisions and fall apart over something that shouldn't have been that significant all the time. YA is all about figuring out your place in the world, and we try to puzzle it out by comparing ourselves to other way too much. 

For some, they realize the futility of constant comparison as they age. Some never do, and it shows. Take a page out of your favorite YA/coming of age novel and experience lives you'll likely never live. Learn from their experiences and failures, and then do your best not to repeat them. This is one of the reasons I love reading so much, you get to experience a hundred lives outside your own. Science even backs up the idea that kids and teens who read are more well-rounded and empathetic. 

Don't fall into the trap of thinking everyone has it better than you. Most likely, they're struggling with the same things you are and being a source of support rather than someone else trying to tear a person down will make a difference in your life and theirs. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Surviving November... #nanowrimo

For anyone who participates in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), they know how crazy hectic November can be for a writer. This year was no different, of course!

This is where it all starts, signing up for NaNo, putting in all your info and telling yourself your going to spend the month working on ONE book until you hit 50,000 words. 


For me, sticking with one book for an entire thirty days is nearly impossible. I've yet to make it through NaNo without cheating and taking some time off to write something else. 

This year was no different! 


The official project I uploaded to NaNo was INVINCIBLE, because my poor Wattpad readers have been begging me to finish it. Yes, they think an author can produce a book in a week, and they are teenagers who tend to be a little impatient, but I still love them :) 

My goal was to have Invincible finished by November, 30th, which meant writing about 65,000 words in FOUR weeks. I'm a fast writer, so I figured this was doable. What I didn't count on was my usual writer's block-inspiring fear of finishing a series added in with family, work commitments, and a funeral this November. 

I get so anxious about wrapping up a series, hoping I didn't forget anything important, double checking to be sure I didn't leave anything out, making sure I wrapped up all the lingering questions, and just plain making sure the ending doesn't SUCK! As you can probably guess, feeling like this makes me not want to touch my manuscript with a ten-foot pole. Makes writing a little bit hard. 

So, what do I do normally? Work on something else until I mellow out and quit being a spaz. 


BUT IT'S NANO MONTH!!! 

Yeah, I still did it. Completely unable to focus on Invincible, I switched to a new project I'm working on, my first New Adult novel, THE GHOST HOST. Before the start of NaNo I had maybe 10k words written on TGH, and had dutifully abandoned it for NaNo and my poor Wattpad readers. I got about three chapters written on Invincible before I just had to step away and work out my weird issues. 

I spent the first two weeks of NaNo writing TGH, and finally hit a wall where I needed to stop and think about things 55k words later. So, I had already hit my NaNo goal, but on the WRONG BOOK! 

Maybe that part doesn't really matter since I was writing, and that's the whole point of NaNo, but I still had my Wattpad readers to pacify since I had PROMISED to finish Invincible by the end of the month and have it ready for publishing by Christmas. 

So, back to work! 


I had already had Invincible planned out on a couple dozen sticky notes, so that wasn't the issue. It was making sure this series that has been read several million times on Wattpad (literally) wouldn't disappoint the dedicated fans who have stuck by me since last October when Invisible first popped up on everyone's news feeds on Wattpad. How could I let down all the Robin-haters and Olivason-ship fans who were dying to know what happened in the end and whether Mason and Olivia would be able to stay together? 

I had to get writing. 

As I do with housework and errands, I bribed myself. Seriously. It wasn't chocolate this time. Normally that does the trick. So long as it the good chocolate. No, this time, I told myself I wasn't allowed to watch even a single episode of Supernatural until Invincible was finished, and I couldn't read the Denise Grover Swank book all my friends have been telling me I HAVE to read. (Okay, I cheated on both of those toward the end, but shhhhh!) 

To really get myself moving, I posted it publicly that I'd be releasing Invincible by Christmas Eve. Facing angry teens from all over the world if I failed finally got me motivated and broke past my end-of-the-series anxiety. 

So long story not so short, I hit 50k words on Invincible by November 28th. I missed my self-imposed deadline of Nov 30th to finish the book by two days and Finished on Dec 2nd, but I was pretty close, so I'm calling it a win. As depicted below :) 


So...the plan...

Right now I'm working on editing Invincible and I plan to have it up for pre-order by December 12th, with the final release on Christmas Eve, because...that just seemed appropriate! 

Merry Christmas to all my "Invisible" fans. You guys are awesome and I'm so thankful for all your support with this series. The final chapter of Mason and Olivia's story will be arriving for Christmas this year. I hope you enjoy it!



Saturday, November 29, 2014

Giveaway time!!!


The lovely Mia Hoddell is hosting the 12 Days of Christmas Event, and it's going to be a ton of fun! 



I'll be up giving you a peek at the boys from the Aerling series on Dec 6th. but you get to start in on the fun now with some awesome giveaways! 


There are two giveaways going on, one for USA residents (shipping is expensive) and one for INTERNATIONAL readers. Make sure you enter the right one!

And here they are!

US Giveaway


a Rafflecopter giveaway

INT Giveaway


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Feel free to share with your friends and don't forget to stop by the 12 Days of Christmas Event on Mia Hoddell's blog!

Friday, November 28, 2014

The things you learn from puppies...

My daughter has been asking for a dog since she was old enough to say the words. She's eight now...so that's a lot of, "Can I have a puppy?" requests over the years. 


Finally, we broke down and decided it was time to get a dog. Our kids are 8 and 11, old enough to help out and take care of a dog. So we went to the local shelter after having perused the list of dogs online and headed out to see our top picks. Turns out that the two we liked most were both in quarantine, one for biting people and one for being "aggressive toward people."

On to plan B. 





We ended up settling on this 2 year old brown shepherd mix. Poor thing did not want to be a pet. At all. We tried everything to keep her in the yard, but she escaped everything. She was also terrified of just about everything. She hated coming in the house, had no clue how to play with kids other than trying to tear their clothes apart and bite at their arms, and she chewed up whatever she could get her teeth on. After a month, we finally have to give up and take her back to the shelter.




Round two. 

After our first experience, we decided what we needed was a puppy that we could train and have grow up as part of the family. So, here's our new puppy, Finn. The shelter said he was a lab/retriever mix, but he looks more like a boxer to us.

We adore Finn, but for anyone thinking about getting a puppy, I have just a few words of wisdom to help prepare you.

1. Puppy teeth biting you feels like a dozen tiny needles stabbing into your flesh. They are seriously sharp! Good thing they're only nibbling.

2. Puppy claws are equally sharp! Between the claws and the teeth, I look like I've been in a cat fight recently. Oh, and FYI, puppy claws aren't all the same color. I thought that was neat :)

3. Puppies make lots of messes, but it's totally worth it for us to have a dog that actually likes us and wants to be part of the family.

4. If you thought you were done baby-proofing your house, think again. Shoes have to up off the ground, cords and wires hidden, odds and ends can't be left on the floor to be chewed on.

5. Puppies find a favorite spot, and it's forever theirs alone. Bye-bye gaming chair.

6. Puppies haven't quite gotten the hang of doing their business and not stepping in it immediately after. Consequently, they get a little smelly, which is a problem if the shelter just neutered him and you can't bathe them for seven days.

7. Walking on a leash is not a skill puppies have without training. Poor Finn had no clue what was going on when we put a collar and leash on. Baby steps.

8. Puppies don't like to be alone, especially at night. Poor baby cries when we have to kennel him at night, and whines if he's not in a room with someone else. Luckily my daughter doesn't mind keeping him company.

9. Puppies are super clumsy. It's pretty cute to watch :) Even little steps can sending them tumbling onto their noses.

10. Puppies sleep a lot, and sometimes in strange positions! Finn is also a pretty light sleeper, so the poor guy gets woken up a lot.



Clearly every dog is different, and finding the right one for your family isn't easy. We're loving our new puppy, though, and it looks like this is going to be a great fit! 



Tell me about your pets!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Marketing...part duex #bookmarketing

While scoping out pics for a blog post on marketing, this one totally fit the bill. Why? Because creating a marketing plan often feels like driving around on crazy looking roads like this. 

Learning how to market your books is a never ending battle. You find something that works once, then never works again. You have a random day of awesome sales you can't credit to anything other than dumb luck. You research and put everything to use only to see no change. Like I said...it's a battle. 

So, what have a learned since the last time I griped about marketing? 

Hire someone who knows what they're doing. Caitlin Bauer of Royal Social Media is one of these people. She came highly recommended to me by other authors, and she's totally held up her end of the bargain in training, graphics, ads, everything we've done together so far. She also breaks everything down at the end of the month of ads to explain what the heck happened. I can't recommend her enough. 

Facebook groups posting does work. Now, that's not to say it works as well as it once did before the almighty Facebook decided to screw around with how people see pages and groups. That's a whole other rant, trust me. However, I have the ability to watch the direct sales on 13 of my 15 books, and I can attest to the fact that it affects my sales. For me, posting in 30-50 groups per day works best. For you, it might be different. 

Participating in other authors events is awesome...and fun! I've done quite a few Facebook page takeover and events over the last few months, and not only is is gratifying to help another author out, you get to meet new readers you might not have before. Games that work well are having them like and comment on your FB page to be entered into a raffle for a cool prize, "Caption This" games, name the characters who said..., guess the symbol (I use a lot of symbols in my books), and this probably won't apply to every author but having people tell bad date stories in honor of my Date Shark books was a HUGE hit! Get creative, help another author, and have fun!

Consistent interaction with readers. Honestly, this has been the biggest eye opener for me. I've heard this said a zillion times, but only after Caitlin showed me how to put that advice to use did I begin to see what a difference it makes. Schedule posts/tweets/pins to post regularly so your readers always have new content. Follow a pattern or make it random, whatever works best for you. Use your analytics to see what times are best for posting. And don't forget to ENGAGE with your readers when they do comment or like something. Talk back, start a conversation, make a lifelong friend. It makes a huge difference. 

Specifics:
I recently tried a few new promotional avenues and thought I'd share how they went. Book Tweeters was very effective and reasonably priced. I plan on using them for future release day events. HeadTalker and Thunderclap campaigns have worked well for other authors, but for me I didn't see any increase in sales or traffic on the posting day, so I don't think I'll be using them again since they're very time consuming to reach the goals. 

Marketing each book and genre is so individual, there is no one-size-fits-all plan, but doing your research and keeping track will help you build a plan that works for you.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Ready or not, here comes #Thanksgiving!

It's hard to believe it's already that time again, but Thanksgiving it right around the corner. Next week, in fact. Am I ready for it? No. 

Thanksgiving at our house usually means double duty visiting my husband's family for lunch, which I'm supposed to bring drinks and veggies too (I think. I should double check), then hopping across town to my dad's house for Thanksgiving dinner. Or my parents might come to my house. It's still undecided...a week away. Yeah. We're not ready. 

This year, it also means my kids are out of school all next week for the holiday break. So, will I get much done? Seriously doubt it. I'm glad they get the break, and we'll be busy trying to house train our new puppy, but if there's to be any cooking or cleaning done...I may need some help. 

So, the plan?

1. Figure out whether I'm hosting dinner or attending dinner at my parents. (I think it's my turn, so let's plan for that)

2. Clean my house. Let's face it, that will happen the night before in a mad scramble. 

3. Go grocery shopping. I was at the store today, which is when I probably should have done it, but I was getting puppy supplies and I seem to enjoy going at the last minute, then going to two more stores because the first store is inevitably out of at least four things I need. 

4. Figure out where I put all the pans and dishes I only ever pull out at Thanksgiving. (I need more cupboard space)

5. Figure out where to put everyone. There's a pool table in the middle of our dining room right now, and it's way too heavy to move. 

6. Learn how to make sweet potatoes. That was always my grandma's job, but now that she's passed away, I feel responsible for providing them on her behalf even though my dad is the only one who actually eats them.

7. Watch some Supernatural. Seriously. I've been on hiatus from my favorite demon-slaying boys in an effort to finish Invincible. I'm gonna need some Sam and Dean to gear myself up for all the prep work. 

8. Get my kids excited to help with the cooking. They're on and off about how much fun it is to help mom in the kitchen. I'm having mixed feelings myself after my eight year old put her oatmeal in the microwave without water and burned the heck out of it while stinking up the whole kitchen. She did it a few days ago too. 

9. Assign the things I'm bad at to my stepmom. Gravy, rolls...there are a few things. 

10. Don't stress out. Is there chocolate somewhere? (10.1. get dark chocolate when grocery shopping.) 

Good luck to everyone getting ready for the holidays! Good luck to me, anyway. You all might be a little more put together than I am ;)


Monday, November 17, 2014

A tribute to being determined


 Usually my Monday posts are writing related, but today I wanted to take a minute to share with you some of the events of last week. 


On Monday afternoon I was called away from work by my dad by news that my Grandma Esther, who had fallen the week before and fractured her pelvis, had coded when her heart stopped, but had been resuscitated. She had a do not resuscitate order in place, but because the paperwork hadn't been converted to the newer digital charts, she was revived, but had not regained consciousness. It was touch and go over the next twenty-four hours while she regained consciousness briefly but her body continued to decline. On Tuesday afternoon, she passed away and joined my Grandpa Ivan in the eternities.

I loved my grandma dearly, and being with her the last few hours of her life is something I will never forget. Even though it was incredibly difficult to watch her suffer and be in pain when I couldn't do anything to help her, I felt comforted knowing she was surrounded by family and that those who couldn't be there were praying for her.


In the last three years, we've had four funerals between my family and my husband's. It's difficult to say goodbye to family members that have given so much love in their lives, but my grandma's passing was especially difficult for me.

My grandparents moved in next door to us when I was seven years old. From that point on, they were a constant fixture in my life. They were the loves of each other's lives. Everyone who saw them together knew that. The couldn't have made it through seventy years of marriage if they weren't. They were such an example of what a marriage should be.




My grandpa told us stories of his days in the military, operating a VFW outpost in Colorado, becoming the mayor of the little town of Oat Creek, and helping to get the bridge repaired after a huge flood nearly destroyed the town. My grandma would sit quietly and let him tell the stories, but she lived through every single one of those events with him, and it wasn't always easily.



While my grandpa was overseas, she worked and raised her children largely on her own. She showed
her amazing strength through years of trials, never complaining and always lending a hand to those in need even when they had very little themselves. Accepting help was difficult for both my grandparents, but giving it was second nature. They affected everyone they met for the better.

As I was growing up, she was my role model. Even at thirty years old, she's still the person I want to be when I grow up. I've never known a stronger, more resilient, more giving, loving or more determined person. There was nothing she couldn't do, no difficulty she couldn't overcome...all without complaint. At ninety years old and after years of battling leukemia, she was still living in her own home, taking care of the neighborhood dogs that would wait on her porch for treats and love every day. She refused to move in with my dad and let him care for her the last few years because she didn't want to be a burden to him. She wasn't stubborn--she didn't like that word much--but she was determined. She wanted to live her life on her own terms, and she did.

Esther Mae Shrum was an amazing woman. I wish everyone could have known her. Her influence in my life helped guide me as a child, and will continue to guide for the rest of my life. She was one of those people that you didn't forget after meeting them, and I hope I can one day be like her.

Monday, November 3, 2014

You Owe Me

I'm going to get on my soap box for just a minute today.




I generally leave my soap box sitting in a corner to be used only rarely, but I felt that I needed to pull it out today and touch on a subject that has been on my mind lately. The writing community is an awesome thing to be a part of. Authors who are working on building their platforms can find a lot of fabulous friends who will be happy to help support them,.


The key word here is "friends."



Not random stangers. Not someone who "liked" or commented once on a status update of yours. Not someone you saw belonged to one of the many Facebook groups you belong to. The writing community is a tight knit group, and even though new friends are always happily welcomed, those who are stopping by only to push their own agenda are going to have a more difficult time.



Something I've found happening quite often lately, personally and with other authors, is getting a message from an author or aspiring writer they don't know asking for favors. It might be something as simple as "I liked your page. Will you like mine in return?" or it might be something that requires a bit more like "I enjoy your books, can you read one of mine and tell me what you think?"



Let's take the "Like" exchange to start off with. Me liking your page doesn't do a lot of good for you, other than give you one more "Like." If I don't know who you are, even if I "like" your page, it's unlikely that I'll see, like, and comment on your posts, especially if it's not a genre I read, like male/male romance.



Also, I'm not really your tartget audience. You want actual interested readers to like your page, not other authors who have no real connection to you or your books. And to be perfectly honest, it's not polite and will start you of in a less than agreeable spot with your new "friend." There are plenty of Facebook groups out there to exchange "Likes." I don't participate in them because I won't "Like" and page I don't actually like or know anything about. Please don't solicit "Likes" from other authors out of the blue. If I know you and enjoy your work, I will "Like" you page. I don't ask every author I meet to "Like" my page because I assume they probably feel the same way I do.


Now, on to asking for larger favors.



Reading an entire book, or even a short story, takes a lot of time. That's not something I have a ton of, and I assume the majority of people I meet are in the same situation. The only people I ask to read something for me are close friends I know who, A) have the time and B) actually want to read it. Don't ask strangers to read your writing. Just don't.



On that same note, don't randomly ask people to share you announcements or sales or new releases. If you have a relationship with that person and know they have a blog or page where they share that sort of thing, ASK AWAY! Most authors will be happy to help. I get requests to share things about erotica or gruesome horror or something similar. Most of my fans and readers are teens. I don't share those types of posts. People who know me and what I write know that.



Being online takes away people's inhibitions in many ways. You wouldn't ask a stranger on the street to do a favor for you, especially one that is time consuming or might cause problems for them. Don't do it online either.



I don't want this to sound like I don't want to help other authors. Those who know me know that I spend a lot of time helping other authors with promotions, graphics, book covers, formatting, review/critiques, advice, whatever they need. I want other authors to succeed. I want books and reading to succeed. I love helping other authors, but being asked to do something for someone I don't even know sends a message of "You Owe Me," just because we're both authors. That's not how it works. Like every other business, you have to build relationships, not just take the "buy my book," "like my page" approach. It doesn't work.


Feel free to let me know what you think about this topic!


Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween Gladden Style

We love Halloween here at the Gladden house. Next to Christmas, it's our favorite holiday. Over the years we've built up some fun traditions I thought I'd share today. 


First off...the planning. 



We always plan to get things done early, but we never do. The plan to buy or start making costumes
on Oct. 1st is well meaning, but never happens. Usually, I either buy or start making the kids' Halloween costumes the week of...which is exactly what happened this year. My daughter decided to be Jessie from Toy Story, but the ones to buy weren't great and were expensive, so I ended up making one for her this week. It turned out pretty good, if I say so myself :)

My son really took our last minute tradition down to the wire this year. He'd been saying all month that he wasn't going to dress up because at 11 years old he was too old for it. But, the lure of candy overpowered him two hours before the church Trunk or Treat party and he whipped out his old baseball uniform and went as a baseball player. Thank goodness it still fit! 


Pumpkins


We're going to carve our pumpkins this afternoon after we run some errands, so I don't have pictures yet, but we love to carve pumpkins. Or I should say my kids love to watch ME carve their pumpkins. I don't know how I always get talked into this, since my kids are both excellent artists, but I'm usually the one carving Mario or a zombie head out of the pumpkins. 

At least this year I was smart enough to get those little electric tea lights so I don't burn myself trying to light the candles inside the pumpkins. I already did that last night while frying tortillas for dinner. 

Downtown Trick or Treating


Thankfully, we're not doing this one this year. We've gone every year with the cousins since moving back, but the kids always whine because there are super long lines and hardly any of the businesses participate anymore. 

This year we're going to a friends massive Halloween party instead...which I still need to make a snack for. That's on the agenda for this afternoon as well. 


Regular Old Trick or Treating


Even though by this point my kids have way more candy than they need, we'll usually wander our neighbood asking for more candy. This year we're taking the dog, though she's not dressing up. She'd only eat the costume if we tried. When the kids are too cold to keep knocking, we'll head home and watch a Halloween movie in between handing out candy to the trick or treaters that stop by. Until about 9 o'clock when we just turn out the lights and pretend we're not home so we can watch the movie for more than five minutes at a time. 

Bargaining



My kids will dump out all their candy later tonight and that's when the trading begins. Tootsie Rolls aren't worth, just so you know. Chocolate usually demands the highest prices. My daughter will give away gum for free. She has a thing about gum. 

Coma


When the candy coma eventually sets in, the kids mosey upstairs to bed and my hubby and I will steal a few of the good pieces of candy out of their buckets when they aren't looking ;) 

Then Halloween is over and we start thinking about turkeys and Christmas shopping and all that hoopla. I love this time of year, and love that Halloween is the jumping off point for the rest of the holiday season. I'm looking forward to all our fun holiday traditions!

Happy Halloween to everyone!
 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Choosing a #Publishing Track

Choosing what to do with your book baby is a tough choice. You have so many more options that you once did, and choosing the right one for you can be an agonizing decision. 


This is a topic that has been coming up a lot lately in groups I belong to and with other author friends who are nearing the point in their career where they have to make that decision. So, I thought I'd share some of the pros and cons of traditional and self-publishing I've experienced and why I've gone the way I have.


Let's break this down by the most common pre-publishing aspects like editing, cover design, formatting, and marketing, and what you'll get with both traditional and self-publishing.


Editing

 Traditional


Most reputable publishers will provide editing at no cost to the author. If a publisher wants to charge you for editing, that's a big red flag that you should take your book elsewhere. HOWEVER, finding a good editor is like finding the Holy Grail, and that applies to publishers and indie authors. I've worked with many editors and I can honestly say that only two have done a good enough job that I would work with them again. Don't think that going with a publisher means you'll get a perfectly edited book unless you sign with one of the Big 6. Smaller publishers can't afford multiple edits of a book, so you should plan to do a very thorough read through and possibly even hire an outside editor if the quality of the publisher's editor isn't what you were hoping.

Self-pub

Editing is all up to you when you self-publish. Editing your own work is tough. It's hard to catch all your mistakes. So, what are your options for a well-edited book? Hire an editor, of course, although, really good editors are extremely hard to find. Vet your editor well. Ask for samples of their work, references, and request a short sample edit of your work to test their skills. Many editors are willing to do this.

You can also work out a trade. However, don't just assume that another author can edit as well. Trades can be great, but do your research first. There's also the option to ask a friend. Know a good technical writer, English teacher, etc? See what they would charge you or work out a trade.


Formatting

Traditional


Formatting varies by publisher. Some will put a lot of time into making the formatting look nice and others will just do the basics. For ebooks, there's not a lot you can do as far as fancy formatting goes. Print books are different, but formatting is one of the easier areas of publishing (in my opinion), so it's usually not a huge concern with choosing a publisher. If you'd like to see the quality of their formatting, download samples of some of their books to check them out.

Self-Pub


Formatting can be learned by anyone willing to put a little time into it. There are great tutorials online, and most ebook publishers have guides for authors that spell out what you need to do. It may be a little time consuming at first, but it gets easier the more you do it. All of your formatting can be done in Microsoft Word, but if you're interested in trying some fancier paperback formatting, InDesign can do some really neat things.


Cover Design


Traditional


Cover design is hugely important no matter how you publish your book. Most publishers are willing to pony up for a good cover designer because they understand this very well. Even still, having a publisher does not a gaurantee that you'll end up with an awesome cover, but most do a pretty good job. When shopping around, check out their previous covers, and ask about whether or not they're willing to let authors have any say in the cover design. If you're with a big publisher, chances are you will get zero input, but some of the smaller publishers are willing to listen to author input.

Self-Pub


Cover design is one of my favorite things to do, but I do have a background in art and graphic design. For those who are not artistic or aren't familiar with GIMP or Photoshop, cover design will be a challenge in self-publishing. Createspace and now even Kindle KDP have cover creating software to help you put together a nicely formatted cover.

You'll still need good pictures or stock photography, though. Fortunately, there are plenty of sites out their to find great stock art fvor reasonable prices. My personal favorites are Dollar Photo Club, Shutterstock, and iStock. If you know a photographer, you can get original photos as well. Just make sure to give credit to the photographer.

And if you're not comfortable putting together a cover, there are some amazing designers out there who work for very reasonable prices, like Tirzah Goodwin. Having a great cover is extremely important, but self-publishing doesn't mean you can't have that.


Marketing


Traditional


Marketing. This is probably the area that most new authors will struggle with, and what will push them toward a traditional publisher, but authors need to have realistic expectations about marketing. Most publishers, small or Big 6, have a limited budget for marketing, especially if you're not a top seller. Big 6 publishers will only put their money behind books they KNOW are going to sell tons of books. Newbies won't get much help and will be expected to pull most of the marketing weight. A lot of small publishers (though certainly not all) will put more effort into helping authors market because they need the sales too, but they have very small budgets and most of the work will fall to the author.

Sel-Pub


Obviously, all the work of marketing is on the author in self-publishing, but you also get the full benefit of your efforts by not giving up royalties. Marketing is hard, no matter what publishing path you take. When you self-publish, you have control over how your book is marketed, how much free or paid advertising is done, and what audience you're targeting. With self-publishing, you also have direct access to your sales numbers, so it's a little easier to monitor how effective your marketing efforts are by watching changes in sales numbers. There's a big learning curve to marketing if it's new for you, but there are many articles and books available to help you figure it out, and other authors are a great resource and source of marketing help as well.


What does it all boil down to? 



For me, I've been doing this long enough and put out enough books, that I'm comfortable finding editors, doing my own formatting and cover design, and coming up with my own marketing plan. I have worked with four different publishers since I began publishing. Some have worked out, some haven't. I currently still have my contemporary romances with a publisher, because that's a new market for me and I felt the exchange of roaylties for their knowledge of the romance genre was worth it. For my YA books, that trade wasn't worth it for me and now I have all my YA books published independently.

I also like having control over my covers, formatting, editing, and how my books are marketed. I put a lot of time into learning more about the publishing industry and increasing my skills in design and marketing. Self-publishing takes a lot of work, but I enjoy doing it, and it's a good fit for me and my books.

Choosing a publishing path is a completely individual choice. What each author is comfortable with doing on their own will play a huge part. Break it down and see what you're willing to do on your own and what you need help with, then decide whether or not that help is worth giving up the percent of royalties the publisher is asking for. Don't jump into either option without knowing what you're getting yourself into.

What aspects of publishing intimidate you most? 


Friday, October 24, 2014

#TensList: 10 Ways To Avoid Writing

Sometimes, writing feels like you've turned into a dog with a bone. You can't stop. You're obessesed. Other times...you'll do just about anything to avoid it for one reason or another.

Why? for me, it's usually finishing a series or facing a deadline that makes me want to hide from my computer. So, what can you do to avoid writing when you need a break?



#1


Watch Supernatural. Seriously, Sam and Dean (mostly Dean) can take you're mind off anything.



#2


Read a book. When I'm really burnt out on writing, I pick up someone else's book and let them do all the work for a while. If it's good, I'll want to write because I've been inspired. If it sucks, I'll still want to write because I'll want to prove there's something better out there.


#3


Do some yard work. Seriously, you'll be too tired to think or write when you fnally sit back down.


#4


Bake. Cookies, brownies, cake...do you really need a reason to make yummy snacks anyway? You can always share with your fellow writing buddies in an inspiration session if you want.




#5



Draw. Okay, maybe this isn't for everyone, but use it as therapy to vent your writing frustration. Sketch out an action scene with stick figures. Make your character look ridiculous in payment for driving you crazy. Trust me, it's fun :)


#6



Take some pictures. Whether you're the master of Instagram, only take pictures on your phone, or are sporting a Nikon D-200, take your creativity out of the office and get out and find something that will inspire you to get back to writing.


#7


Break out the sticky notes! Organize your to-do lists, events, thoughts, whatever needs organizing. Forcing your thoughts to stay focused will shut out all those nagging "you should be writing" whispers.


#8


Play video games. Hours gone. No writing done. You're welcome :)




#9


Be social. I'm not talking social media, either. Go have lunch with a friend. Get away from the computer and talk to some real people for a while. You'll be amazed how much it will help with writing drudgery.


#10


If you're really desperate to avoid writing, work on marketing. This will suck up lots of time, but it will be useful! Read some articles, work on your marketing plan.

Get out of your own head for a while and give your characters a break. They need it as much as you do.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Shark Out Of Water is Finally Here!!!!

Celebrating the Release of
Shark Out of Water
Date Shark Series (Book 2)
by DelSheree Gladden


Guy Saint Laurent is too busy cursing his sister for roping him into taking over Eli's Date Shark business to prepare himself for the slew of bizarre women he's about to get involved with. This is the last venture he intended to take on, but somehow he's just become Chicago's newest, most reluctant Date Shark. 

On top of dealing with bug-toting, mothering, obsessive women, Guy faces personal tragedy that changes his outlook on life, whether he wants it to or not. He's not sure what it is about Charlotte Brooks that draws him in, but getting her off his mind after a brief encounter proves impossible. 

As Charlotte tries to help Guy deal with his loss, he begins to get the impression she's hiding something from him. He knows he could simply walk away, continue as he always has, but he suspects whatever she's hiding, she won't be able to face it alone. 

Charlotte is the one woman who can capture his attention, but she may also be the one woman capable of breaking him.




Charlotte was breathless when he pulled back, and the plaintive expression on her face killed him, but he had accomplished his goal. He gestured to the IV hooked to her arm and Charlotte stared at it in surprise. “I didn’t even feel it!”
“I told you I could distract you.”
“Damn near distracted me, too,” the nurse muttered. 




Excerpt

Vance was smart enough to see signs that Guy was now on the defensive. He redirected, asking, “Tell me about Charlotte. Why are you having deep conversations with her instead of flirting and seducing her back to your flat?”
Sulking like a child, Guy muttered, “Je ne sais pas.”
“You don’t know?” That seemed to truly surprise Vance. “Well, I suggest you find out.”
“What?” Guy snapped. “That is your advice to me? Find out?”
Vance nodded. “Oui, mon ami. Find out why Charlotte has done what it has taken me years and years to do. Why let down your barrier between public and private for someone you barely know when I had to practically force you to do the same thing today.”
“Why?”
“Why?” Vance repeated. “Because you need to know. You won’t stop obsessing about her until you do.”
Obsédé? Who says I am obsessing over her?”
Vance folded his arms across his chest. “She is in your thoughts so much that you mentioned her name when you clearly had no intention of revealing her to me.” Leaning forward, he looked at his friend seriously. “Guy, I have known you for a long time. You have surprised me today, but I know how you can be like a dog with a bone. You’ll drive yourself crazy wondering what it is about Charlotte that got past your defenses until it either drives you crazy or you figure it out. Given the line of work we’re in, I’d suggest figuring it out.”
“I thought I was here to talk about Patricia,” Guy grumbled.
Leaning back with a smirk, Vance said, “We are. Just had to find something you wanted to talk about even less to spur you on, apparently.” He shook his head when Guy rolled his eyes. “Something else is bothering you when it comes to Patricia. The funeral is tomorrow. You’re avoiding talking about it. Why?”
Guy did not respond right away. His breathing escalated to the point that Vance reached forward and put a hand on his shoulder. “Her parents… they came to see me at the hospital.”
“How did they react?”
Shaking his head, he still struggled to understand their reaction. Instead of answering Vance’s new question, he answered the original one. “They requested I stand as a pallbearer.” His head fell into his hands. “I don’t know if I can. It is too difficult.”
“It will undoubtedly be difficult,” Vance said with compassion, “but it is difficult for Patricia’s parents as well. They see you as the one person who truly tried to help her. I think it comforts them to think of you being there to help her on this one last transition.”
“I don’t know if I can do this for them.”
Vance squeezed Guy’s shoulder. “You don’t have to if it is too much.”
“Not doing it feels like a betrayal of Patricia.”
“Guy, don’t make this about Patricia or her parents. What do you feel comfortable with and how do you want to say goodbye to Patricia?”
That was not an easy question. Guy sank back into the chair. Vance waited with the patience of a saint as Guy forced himself to confront the answers. He had been through so much with Patricia, watched her move forward only to fall so far again and again. She never stopped trying, and he never stopped trying to help her. “I want to help her this one last time,” Guy said finally.
“Then call Patricia’s parents when you get home and tell them you’ll be there.”
Feeling more at peace, Guy nodded.
“Stephanie and I will be there as well.” Vance held his friend’s gaze for a moment longer, making sure he knew he did not have to face the funeral alone. When Guy’s shoulders relaxed, Vance sat back. “Now why don’t you tell me about the day you met Patricia?”
As Guy began recounting the first time Patricia came into the crisis center wanting to talk about everything from the side effects of the medications she was taking to how her puppy would not stop peeing on her kitchen floor, his thoughts returned to Vance’s earlier challenge. Patricia had struck a chord with him, and so had Charlotte, in surprisingly similar ways. He understood why he has connected with Patricia, a struggling and confused young woman, but Charlotte was more of a mystery. What would it take to find out why Charlotte had affected him so much? 


FREE ON AMAZON
Date Shark (Book 1)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

DelSheree Gladden
DelSheree Gladden lives in New Mexico with her husband and two children. The Southwest is a big influence in her writing because of its culture, beauty, and mythology. Local folk lore is strongly rooted in her writing, particularly ideas of prophecy, destiny, and talents born from natural abilities. When she is not writing, DelSheree is usually reading, painting, sewing, or working as a Dental Hygienist.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Competing and Collaborating Between Authors

Avoiding competition as an author is impossible. As soon as you release a book, you're up against your friends for sales and notoriety. 

Competition among authors is just a part of publishing, but that doesn't mean we're all out to get each other. At least, it shouldn't. 

The writing community is a tight knit group. As we work on projects we ask each other for advice, critiques, and ideas. We help each other with everything from plots to back cover blurbs and pitches. We collaborate on just about everything, and most are eager to offer advice and help. We're excited for each other when we land an agent or publisher, or when we take the leap into self-publishing. 

How does that change once our books go live? 

In a perfect world, it wouldn't change anything. We'd still be thrilled to see one of our friends succeed, even if it means they're doing better than we are. Lots of writers are still extremely supportive of their fellow writers and will lend a hand whenever it's needed. Some aren't, and that's their loss. 

But even for the writers who maintain their excitement for their friends' success, sometimes it's tough not to worry that their success will lessen ours, or even be a bit jealous when their rankings jump ahead of ours. We're human after all. 

The fact is... we're all on the same team. Yes, it might be difficult to swallow when you're still working to get your name out there when a friend seems to skyrocket to stardom out of nowhere. You're looking at it from the point of view of competition, not collaboration. 

Just like when your writer friends encouraged you to keep writing or query that dream agent, every book they sell encourages people to read. If they're writing in the same genre as you, even better! Readers who love their books will want more. Don't hesitate to support the authors you're competing against. Most authors return the favor, but even if they don't, you're still promoting reading and literacy and that is ultimately to your benefit, and everyone else's. Every book sold, whether yours or not, builds a love for reading. That's the point, right? 

I'd love your thoughts. Do you think competition derails efforts at collaborating? 


Friday, October 17, 2014

#TensList: Top Ten Reasons Writers are Crazy

If you know any writers (which you must if you're here), you probably already know that they are usually a bit strange. Well, here's just a few of the reasons why...

#1. 

When you're standing in line at the check out counter or sitting in a restaurant and someone inevitably makes a scene because the line doesn't move or your waiter has disappeared, most people look away and pretend nothing's happening. 

Not writers. We may not outright stare, but we're listening closely and catching all the glorious details out of the corner of our eye. Why? Because we love to make our characters lose it. Sometimes over completely silly things like bad food or poor service. Sometimes at the end of a long line of
tragedies. Most writers, however, tend to be introverts, and don't make a lot of big scenes, so we need inspiration for turning our characters into raving lunatics. Just keep that in mind next time you want to lose your cool in public. There are a lot of writers out there. ;)

#2. 

Ever been stuck in a conversation where the other person just won't stop talking about the most random things? Most people politely listen trying to come up with a polite excuse to escape. What do writers do? Pull out a pen and start taking notes! We love random facts, fun tidbits of knowledge, and bizarre happenings. Why? Because you never know when a story might call for knowledge that there's a guy who's job it is to roam the world weighing a garden gnome to test the effects of gravity at different heights. 

#3. 

People watching is a lost art for most people. It used to be an actual thing back in the day. Now, it's a trick just to get people to put their phones away long enough to walk from their car to the front door. Writers may be some of the few groups left who still love to people watch. Not that we go around staring at people all day... well, not usually. Why do we watch people, though? It's not just to see how they talk and interact with people so we can write more realistic characters and scenes. We might be looking for our next over model too! Be sure to pick your outfits for the day with that in mind. 

#4. 

Conversation skills are important, but writers aren't always the best at this particular talent. We may write great dialog, but we're also highly distractible when immersed in a project, and half our conversations with real people end up starting with things like... "I need you to read something for me." or "How hard do you think it is to drag a body in high heels?" or "Which of these sentences sounds better..." 

#5. 

Speaking of conversations... at least half, probably more, of our conversations take places with people who don't exist. It's not just working out dialog, either. True, I'll repeat pieces of dialog out loud, acting out the voices and intonations to see if I'm getting the right effect, but many writers take it beyond that as well. You get to the point where you find yourself consulting your characters, asking things like, "Would you really do that?" or "How could you do something so awful?" If we zone out while talking to you, don't take it personally. We probably had at least two other conversations going in our head at the same time and forgot which one was taking place in the real world for a second there. 

#6. 

Writers tend to be contradictory by nature. We have this dual concept of ourselves that on one hand we are creative geniuses to some degree, and on the other hand have this crippling fear that we are utter failures. It's boggling, even for us, but a tough one to shake. Please forgive us when we jump around like crazy to celebrate a great idea or contract, then have to be drug out from behind out desks to face actually letting someone read our work.

#7. 

Writers may be the only group of people who are selective perfectionists. Our houses may not get cleaned the week we're trying to finish those last blasted five chapters, appointments may be missed, and we may have forgotten to shower once or twice that week, but by golly... every freakin' word in our manuscript will be absolutely perfect! That will likely be the only thing that's perfect, and even that's a big delusion, but we'll certainly work at it until our fingers go numb. 

#8. 

There's something to be said for becoming an expert on something. It takes a lot of hard work to learn that much about a certain topic. Experts are a writers' best friend, but most writers are not experts on anything, even writing. Sure, there are some writers who become experts on a specific topic while writing a particular piece, but most writers can really only claim to be semi-experts on about a hundred different topics. Why? Book research. We'll research anything under sun, but only enough to make what we're writing believable. We have to get back to writing, after all.

#9. 

We all know that friend who constantly asks you for advice but doesn't listen to a single word you say, right? Sorry, but a lot of writers are that friend when it comes to writing. We constantly ask people's advice about words, phrases, ideas, and concepts. We take in all the comments and suggestions, and then we do whatever the heck we want, which is often exactly what we planned on doing in the first place. It's not that we don't value what other people say. Most of the time, we already knew what we wanted to do, but just needed to talk through it from twelve different sides before we're sure. It's nothing personal. 

#10.


There are times when writers really HATE writing. It's can make us miserable at times, but we still love it. Why? For many writers, it's simply part of who we are. Writing is like an appendage. Even if it hurts or refuses to work properly, we can no more ditch it than we could an arm. Bear with us when we rant about characters and plot holes and endings that fall flat. We may want to quit at times, but we never will because writing is a part of us. 

What are you passionate about that makes you a little crazy?

Monday, October 13, 2014

#Perfectionism and #Writing...

I think a lot of writers will agree that making sure their books are "perfect" is a bit of an obsession. 

We obsess over every word, line, paragraph, chapter... you get the point. We'll research something until our fingers are about to fall off from too many internet searches. Our friends will be sick of hearing about a particular troublesome scene and threaten to throw a book at us if we ask them to read it one more time. 

Having said all of that, I completely agree with Anne Lamott when she said... 

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life.”

All that obsessing over how we write our books or scenes can really kill a story. When you over think while writing, you second-guess your decisions, which leads to endlessly rewriting particular scenes, changing whole passages to try it another way, or scrapping the whole project. 

Now, yes, sometimes these things have to be done, but not every time you sit down to write. If this is your process, it'll be awfully hard to ever finish a book or story. Every writer has to develop their own process, but here are a few tips I've picked up over the years. 

Tip #1: Whether you like to outline or not, don't limit yourself to sticking to your outline or notes verbatim. If you feel like the story needs to take a left instead of a right, or a U-turn in a whole new direction, go with it. Let your plot develop organically and don't feel like you have to go back to an outline and re-outline after every change. Just write. 

Tip #2: Don't edit while you write. You'll kill your progress if you go back and edit what you've just written. Give yourself some time to let that chapter or scene sit and solidify. Even if you have to reread a chapter or two when you come back so you know where you left off, DON'T EDIT, aside from maybe a few typos. Even when you finish the entire book, don't jump right into editing. Work on something else. Give it at least a week (longer if you can) and come back to it when you have fresh eyes. 

Tip #3: Sending your work out to beta readers (readers who read an early draft in order to give you feedback and suggestions) can be anxiety laden. It always is. Waiting to send it out until your book is perfectly edited and all the holes are filled in just isn't reasonable. Find beta readers you trust to be honest, let them know it's not a perfect story and you need helpful critiques, and hit the send button. There are always problems with a manuscript that you as the author won't be able to see. Waiting until it's perfect just prolongs the inevitable and often leaves you with more revisions to make than you would have had otherwise. 

Tip #4: Give yourself permission to make mistakes. Don't want to put a scene on hold to do a little research? Not sure if what you're writing is possible, but the scene is just begging to be written? Great! Keep writing! You can always go back and correct mistakes. In fact, you usually learn a lot from making those mistakes, and then you don't make them as often in the future. It's tough to get into a writing groove sometimes, and if you're in one, let yourself just get your ideas down on paper and worry about refining later on. 

Tip #5: Accept the fact that your book will never be perfect. That's just how it is. There will always be something you think could have been better, or should have been changed. Reviews will make you doubt scenes or chapters or endings. It will never, ever be completely perfect...and that's okay. 

What perfectionist habits keep you from getting things done?