September 29, 2013

First Look:  Secrets & Sins and its prequel, Sinner Man

Here are the covers, beautifully designed by Sean D. Young of Young Creations.  At this time I am planning on releasing Sinner Man sometime in the latter part of October.

Its first sentence:  The gossip started well before the ceremony.

Sinner Man will also include a preview of Secrets & Sins that is all but guaranteed to make you want to keep reading!  It will be a free download from my Bunderful Books website (stay tuned; I'll announce when it's available), and possibly even at other retailers if they cooperate, although not right away.

I am hoping to have Secrets & Sins available for purchase sometime in November.  It is not exactly a short book, and it will have to undergo a vigorous editing and proofreading process, so it will all depend on the schedule of my editor and my proofreader. 

I do hope you're planning on reading!  What do you think of the covers?
September 26, 2013

Anatomy of an eBook:  Secrets & Sins

I've been busy writing Secrets & Sins, so busy that I am now at the point where I am determining whether or not I need to put in bridging scenes so changes in action don't seem so abrupt.  Does this mean publication is imminent?  No.

Let me explain.  My editor has informed me that she is contracted for the time I had hoped to send her my manuscript.  This alone means I need to push back the publication.  I then decided to do a prequel, since there is plenty in this story that I can expand upon, especially when you consider that the inciting action takes place in the mid-1950s, over 50 years before the present day when everything starts to unravel.  I plan to have the prequel published by the third week of October at the latest, and like the last time I did this (with the prequel Lost That Lovin' Feeling, prequel to Love Will Follow), the prequel will be free at my publisher website and 99 cents at major retail sites, unless I can get it free there also.

I hope to publish Secrets & Sins in the latter part of November.  I'll probably unveil the cover next week, so stay tuned!  
September 21, 2013

Meanwhile, Somewhere in the Blogosphere...

Some interesting blog columns have appeared recently I thought I'd share with you...

Author Jody Hedlund offers tips on creating sigh-worthy romance stories (sighs of satisfaction, that is, not of the take-this-shit-off-my-eReader type).

If you're not all a-Twitter, Annie Neugebauer explains Everything You Need to Know About Hashtags at Writer Unboxed

If you're interested in tips on what makes a good eBook cover, check out Joel Friedlander's monthly eBook Cover Awards at The Book Designer.  New covers (and comments) every month. 

As I get closer to starting my small-town series, Karen S. Wiesner details mistakes to avoid when writing a series at the Writer's Digest blog.

More about series writing by Larissa Reinhart at Romance University.

Hope you find these useful!

September 20, 2013

Guest Blogger:  Stacy-Deanne

I've got a lot of work to do, since prior to my weekend away last weekend I did next to nothing.  Author Stacy-Deanne is stepping in to take over my blog today to talk about inspiration, a question writers hear often.  She also mentions being influenced by one of my all-time favorite filmmakers.

Stacy's latest book, The Wild Life, is available now.  Not only has she brought an excerpt to pique your interest, but she is giving away a complimentary copy to up to five don't forget to answer the giveaway question below and to to leave your email address with your comment to be in the running!

I'm getting back to my writing.  Take it away, Stacy-Deanne!  

Everything Great Starts with Inspiration

To celebrate my latest book, The Wild Life, I want to talk about my inspiration for writing. One of the main questions people always ask me is how I got into writing mystery novels. Well, I’m a natural born mystery buff. Since I came outta my mother’s womb I loved mysteries. I remember snuggling beside my mom back in the 80’s when I was just a little kid and watching old Hitchcock movies. The first one I saw was Dial M for Murder and I was so taken aback with the ending and that key. LOL! Anyone who’s seen the movie knows what I mean. Hands down I have never seen a twist as compelling as the one on Dial M for Murder.

Hitchcock is my idol and every time I write a mystery, I channel him. I don’t think anyone will ever compare to him. He had a brilliance that you can’t learn. You have to be born with it. What I love most about Hitchcock is that the answers to his mysteries are obvious yet he constructs such brilliant plots that you don’t even realize that the answer to the mystery is right in front of you. That’s a good mystery. Whether the mystery involves looking for a killer or weapon, it should be obvious, yet not-so-obvious. Only a master accomplishes that.

I will forever be grateful for Hitchcock because if it hadn’t been for me curling up with my mom and watching those old movies, I most likely would not be the mystery writer I am today.

The Wild Life (excerpt):

“What do you expect me to say, Steve?” Brianna sat beside Jayce. “I don’t even know what’s going on.”

He bent over her. “Can’t anything go well for you, woman? Why do you keep getting yourself in these predicaments?”

“Oh excuse me for coming home and finding a man in my kitchen!”

Jersey tugged on her ears. “I have a huge headache and one of my officers has just been attacked. The last thing I need is for you two to argue.”

Steven and Brianna made faces at each other.

“We’re worried about you, Morris. Tell us what’s going on so we can help.”

“I don’t know if you can help.”

Davis slunk into the room and rested at Brianna’s feet. She scooped up the brown feline.

“The guy that tried to kill me…” She scratched Davis’ ear. “Well, he worked for Milan Varela.”

Steven gaped. “What the fuck did you just say?”

Brianna shrugged.

“Are you fucking kidding me? A man who worked for the head of the Southern Cuban Mafia was here? Here?”

“I was telling Bree that a friend of mine in the FBI might be able to help her,” Jayce said. “It’s about her father. They’re looking for him.”

“George?” Jersey’s green eyes beamed from behind her glasses. “What the hell would the Cuban Mafia want with George?”

“No telling. You know the life my father lives. It’s full of risks and he makes no apologies for it.”

Jersey touched the back of her neck. “How the hell could he even get close to Milan Varela in the first place?”

“So this is the type of stuff your father’s always into?”

“Jayce, my father has never been a father to me. He stays gone for decades at a time and pops up probably once every ten or fifteen years when he wants something. I wonder if he even remembers he has a daughter half the time.” She kissed Davis’ head. “Right now what’s important is this mess he’s got going with Milan. Why would he want my dad dead?”

“I just can’t believe this. I mean, your dad has been involved in some shady things during his life but nothing like this. What are you gonna do, Morris?”

“As much as I hate him, I can’t let anything happen to him. I gotta find out where he is.”

The Wild Life is available in print and ebook, at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Mailing list:

Giveaway Question:

Name something that’s inspired you personally or professionally and why.

Five people who provide the most interesting answer to this question will each win an eBook copy of The Wild Life.
Giveaway ends at 8 pm Central Time. Ebook copies will be emailed to participants by Stacy-Deanne. Commenters must leave email address with comment to be eligible.
September 13, 2013

Adventures in Scrivener #2

Well, 450 people looked at my first blog about this software, and while less than 2% left comments, I guess there's an interest, so I'll continue giving a few pointers.  Note that I am not an expert in this software by any means, but I can find my way around.  If you want expert advice, I recommend Gwen Hernandez's book, Scrivener For Dummies (although I must say this works better for Mac users, who use  a more advanced version than those who use Windows).  If you're late to the party, check out the first blog I did on this topic.

Today I want to look at the Corkboard mode, which is a series of on-screen index cards that look like this:

Some writers, myself included, like to lay out their books before they start writing, so they have  a defined story (the specifics of which can always be changed) and don't end up having to abandon a project when they realize it isn't going to come together.  This can be done on a poster board with Post-It notes.  I always liked using different color Post-Its to track the plot by each character and also by the happenings in that particular thread (i.e., hero, heroine, general, romance, antagonist/conflict).

This same method can be used in Scrivener.  Simply create a new file (the how-to is in my previous blog) and choose the Corkboard view.  The first text file should already be there.  You might want to add more as you go, or hit Ctrl-N a couple of times to give you more index cards.  Fill them in, and don't worry about what order they're in...because all you have to do is highlight it, then drag and drop until it's in the order you want!  So if you want to record the point in your story where the crisis arises, or the ending, go right ahead!  I often start laying out books while actually writing other projects--because you have to record those ideas as they come--and as things occur to me I add to the Corkboard...just today I opened a file and added an index card that said, "After dinner, [son] develops the same reaction to shellfish as [heroine] described, much to the annoyance of [hero]."  (When drafting, my characters don't yet have names.)

If you want to move scenes or chapters up or down in the Binder rather than in the Corkboard, just highlight the item to be moved and use the combination keystrokes of Ctrl+Up Arrow or Ctrl+Down Arrow to move it up or down, repeating as necessary until it is where you want it.
Now, for a few special features:

Go to the General Metadata section on the right (between the Synopsis and the Project/Document notes).  There you will see sections called Label and Status.  Click on the drop-down menu by Label.  You will see two choices, Concept and Chapter.  There will also be an option to edit (when you click on the plus sign at the bottom, another choice will appear beneath the aforementioned two, waiting for you to name it; you can also click twice on the color to change it (more about that in a few).  Use your creativity here.  Would you rather type scenes than entire chapters?  Create a label called "Scene."  You might also want to use character names or character roles (Hero, Heroine, Antagonist/Villain, etc.) for labels.  If you're writing a mystery you'll probably want a Mystery label.  Be sure to pick a different color for each.

Now, go to the View menu and select the Use Label Color In feature.  Turn this on by checking all four options, and the color you've chosen for each label will show up in the Binder on the left, in the Corkboard mode (both of which can be seen in the photo above), and in the Outline mode (the fourth option, that of Icon, will change the color of the icon on the upper left of each index card, which really doesn't make a huge difference that I can see, but I turn it on anyway.

Back at the General Metadata screen, it's time to set up your Status options.  Click the drop-down menu, and you'll see the defaults:  To Do, First Draft, Revised Draft, Final Draft, and Done.  The Status is the word(s) that show diagonally across the index card (see the photo above) and serve as a quick reference of how complete the chapter is, although if there's something else you'd like to use this for there's no reason why you can't.  I personally added an Incomplete status but kept the existing selections intact.  Like the Label, the Status will show as No Status until you give it one.

You can fool around with options for the Corkboard by going to the View menu and selecting Corkboard options.  For instance, if the Status stamp across each index card annoys you, you can remove it.

A few words about Outline mode.  I don't use this feature much myself, but it is a vertical listing of your story summary from top to bottom (the Corkboard reads across, just like this blog), including the Label and Status you have assigned.  The order of the story can be changed by highlighting and moving to the desired location.

That's it for this session.  I'll be back next week with some final tips.  I won't be online much this weekend, but if you leave questions I'll try to answer them early next week...

September 11, 2013

Guest Blogger:  Sofia Harper

Today, while I'm celebrating a family member's birthday, author Sofia Harper is taking over my blog.  Sofia's eBook, Hot Knights in Paradise (love that play on words), was released this past Monday from Entangled Publishing's Indulgence imprint.

Stranded in paradise with no way to get home, Leah Smith needs a miracle, and fast. Instead, she gets Marshall Jackson, surely the sexiest man alive. Too bad he's got an emotional wall around himself--and her only hope of getting off the island...

Marshall has a strict no-damsels-in-distress policy, but there's something about Leah that makes him want to break his own rules. He agrees to let her work in his bar until she earns enough to get home. But the more time they spend together, the harder it is to deny the scorching attraction between them. Soon hot island nights provide balm to their wounded souls, but will these two flawed exiles make peace with the past in time to claim the future they deserve together--or will paradise be lost?
Sofia is here to talk about her inspiration for writing this particular book, and she brought along an excerpt for your reading pleasure.  Take it away, Sofia...and readers, be sure to share your travel horror stories in the comments!
How A Premise Is Born

I can tell you about how the theme and heart of Hot Knight in Paradise came to be. Not down to the day. I'm not that good. The premise is somewhat more fuzzy. It was a thought, a realization after I lost my cell phone—I didn't know anyone's number. My mother tells me this is a shame because my grandmother's number has been the same for forty years. I am a child of this new technology age and I have no clue what anyone's number is.

If I were to get stranded in another country without ID, money (debit cards included) or passport...Let's just say I could send out emails for help. (Well, on one account, because I can't remember the passwords to any of the others.) Isn't that frightening thought? Well, it was for me. So I researched this very conundrum.

The results were scarier. In California, at least, it can take up to two months to get a new ID. Three weeks for a new birth certificate to get so you can get a new passport. And that's hoping that you can get your bank to send you a new bank card from an address in a new and foreign country. If you have an address you can send it to, mind you.

Now, I was troubled by this beyond reason because I know my luck. I am that person who loses their luggage whenever they travel. If X isn't likely to happen, then X happens to me within five minutes. And that's when the writer in me sat up because this idea became a breeding ground of plot bunny potential. And then I started to make my happy laugh, which sounds like mwahahahahaha.

Poor Leah. She never had chance once that idea got hold of me. She was bound to be the walking epitome of Murphy's Law. Since my laugh is only evil when it's happy, I rectified her luck. On top of that she had Marshall, which I can say is pretty darn...everything good about a man once you get past his initial grumpiness. He is a man who is sweet and is slightly dirty.

Anyway, that's how this premise was born. And if you plan to travel, remember someone's phone number.

Tell me about some of your travel horror stories, and be sure to check out the excerpt from Hot Knight in Paradise below!
Sofia Harper started writing contemporary romance a long, long time ago. When Sofia's not spending time with imaginary people in her head, she's corrupting two little trouble makers. Currently she lives in California, where the wine is good. She also going full-throttle on the ride called publishing. These two thoughts are not related.

You can check out her out here:

Twitter hashtag:  @sofiaharp

Excerpt, Hot Knight in Paradise:

She sighed. “It’s a long story.”

“I’ve got nothing else to do until the others make it.” The unmistakable scent of smoke thickened the air in the bar. That probably explained why his voice came out raspy.

To add insult to injury, his brown eyes filled with amusement. In this light, his skin was a bit lighter, but definitely very sun-kissed and beautifully, deeply bronzed. He kept his hair short, cut into a fade. His well-worn shorts, loose-fitting shirt, and relaxed temperament fit this strange place. Nothing adorned the old-school wood paneling, but there were tables, chairs, and liquor.

The place was a dive trying and failing to be a bar. And Marshall was trying and failing to be charming. She wasn’t going to tell the man her life story, not after he’d let a mugger ride off into the sunset with her purse. She’d had the situation under control until he showed up.

More or less.

She kept a tight, polite smile on her face and lifted the twenty to show him she planned to be a paying customer. “That’s for the drink.”

He shook his head. “I’m not taking your money.” She started to speak, and he talked over her. “Until you tell me how you ended up here.”

She sized him up again. Despite the seedy atmosphere and his current appearance, he had a preppy air to him. Strange thought, but she dealt with banking bigwigs with MBAs in her job as a home loan modifier, and it gave her a sixth sense for preppy. The twenty itched in her hand. Maybe she’d rubbed up against an exotic form of poison ivy when she’d done her stop, drop, and roll.

She shook her head—once, twice—and then slapped the twenty onto the counter. It surprised her when the wood didn’t buckle. The deceptively sturdy counter took up most of the space along the left wall. “I’m not here to spill my guts. Take the money.”

A smile spread across his face, and the power of the sudden mischievous quality made her blink. 

“Okay.” He straightened, leaving behind a musky, masculine scent. “If you won’t talk about yourself, put in on the poker game.”

That kind of smile could talk a woman into just about anything. Her blood sang with attraction, and it made her head swim. Down, girl. 


Marshall shook his head. “I’m not letting you off that easy. I risked my life to save yours. You owe me.”

“Didn’t ask you to,” she said.

His jaw clenched. “Some things you shouldn’t have to ask for.”

A bitter laugh spilled from her lips. “Just like there are some things you don’t. Like bossy men with a hero complex who work in dives.”

His eyes narrowed, and she bit her lip. His gaze dropped to her mouth. She held her breath.

“True,” he said. “Now fess up. How did you end up on the side of the road getting robbed? ”

What would it hurt? He wasn’t likely to tell anyone—not when he seemed to be hiding here himself. What man would opt to live in a place that looked like this? Someone running, that’s who.  And what the hell? If she wasn't going to gamble or finish the entire contents of the glass in front of her, she might as well live a little and do something daring, like open up.

She put an elbow on the counter, placing her chin in her palm. “Where should I start? I’ve never confessed to a bartender before.”

“Start where you think your story starts.”

Her life really started the day she’d made a blood pact with her cousin Janet to never settle for mediocre and to never lose her sense of adventure. Also, whoever lost their virginity first had to retell the story in painstaking detail.

Leah settled on, “I was born in a one-room shack.”

He scoffed at the lie. “Fast-forward just a little bit. I’m more curious how someone like you ended up in my bar.”

“Dive,” she corrected. “It’s a dive.”

“I would be insulted if I didn’t agree.” He tilted his chin up, gesturing to the other side of the room, where a cluster of tables sat together. “I have regulars, and I have people who end up lost." He mused for a moment. "Or troublemakers."
Hot Knight in Paradise is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  Download your copy today!

September 6, 2013

Adventures in Scrivener #1

I posted a picture of my screen with this writing software on my Facebook page the other day, which prompted a few people to ask me if I could help them figure out how it works.  Well, I'm no expert on this, and I probably know less than I don't know about how it works...but I can find my way around it well enough to make it productive. 

Important:  If you find this information helpful, please leave a comment to that effect.  I will keep going with this only if I feel like it's appreciated.  I've got books to write and I already know how to use the program, so while I'm happy to pay it forward, I'll only do it if I know that people are getting something out of it.

That said, let's get started!
Scrivener is, of course, a software to aid writers (novelists, nonfiction writers, screenwriters) organize and complete their projects.  It's not a magic bullet that will write the book for you (experienced writers already know this, but I figured it was worth mentioning), but more of an aid to structuring your story, with many capabilities to help you keep everything straight and monitor your progress.  Unfortunately, their user manual sucks (it's probably easier to clip a brain aneurysm than to understand it) and has turned many people off from using the product.  I work with the latest version for Windows.  I understand that the Mac version is more sophisticated, but I only know about the Windows version.

There are three main screen views in Scrivener:  Scrivenings, corkboard, and outline.  The first one, Scrivenings, looks like this:

It looks like a typical word processor, at least the middle section does.  The section on the left is called the Binder.  The section on the right has three parts, the Synopsis, General Metadata, and Document/Project Notes (today we'll only talk briefly about the Synopsis).

To set up a new project, go to the File menu and create a new project (I haven't experimented with this much, so I always use the blank template), name it (if your projects tend to undergo several title changes don't fear, you can always go back and change it later), and create it.  You will get the above screen, except it will be blank.  (I would have put a picture here, but my computer isn't recognizing my camera at the moment.)

At the very top left of your blank screen, next to the Scrivener logo, will be "Scrivener" followed by the name of your project.  In the Binder column on the left will be a blue "Draft" icon, which is the main folder for your project.  Right click this, choose "Rename" and type in the name of your project.  There will be an "Untitled" sub-folder under this, representing your first text folder, then two more folders:  "Research" and "Trash." 

People use the Research folder to store their important notes, links and even (I believe) photos of their characters, where they live, Main Street, etc.  I don't store photos, so I'm not 100% sure if this is where they go.  Hey, I never claimed to be an expert.

The Trash folder is just what it implies.  Even though anything put in the Trash folder stays there until you empty the trash (by right clicking and choosing this option), I personally do not like to throw anything out until I'm absolutely, positively sure I don't need it, so I create a new Folder called, "Leftovers."  To create a new folder, position your cursor on the file name in the Binder just above where you want the new folder to this case "Research."  Select Project from the menu, click on "New Folder" and name the folder that appears.

You're now ready to start your project!  I find it's easier for me to format my work like the eBook it will eventually become, so I use single spacing, no indent, with extra spacing before and after each hard return (1.0x 12.0/12.0), which I have set as my default.  Those of you creating manuscripts to turn in to an editor will want to use the traditional double spacing.  To set line spacing, look for the box just left of the familiar bold/italic/underline icons at the top of the white section, click on the drop-down arrow, then select "2.0."  

After setting your spacing and fonts (the drop-down box for this is a little to the left of the line spacing box), position your cursor in the body of the white area in the center of the screen.  Whatever you type on that first line is going to auto-populate both the Synopsis on the upper right of your screen and the name of the sub-folder in the Binder on the left (if it's a very long passage, it will eventually cut off).  You'll probably want to assign a chapter name/number to this.  When you tab or return, the aforementioned areas will reflect whatever you have entered there:  "Prologue," "Chapter 1," etc.  In the Synopsis on the right, on the lines after the top one you can summarize the action of that particular chapter (this will be very, very helpful when viewing your project in Corkboard or Outline modes, which we'll talk about at a later time).  I personally like to start with a sense of place (Location, month, and year), but if course if your story's action is going to unfold over a period of a few weeks you won't need this and can just say something like, "Cesca and Gen are asked by Officer Terrence Gulliver to move their illegally parked car; Cesca is knocked unconscious when the car's trunk lid slams down on her."

Some people who want no distractions don't like to have anything else on their screen when they are writing.  If that's you, simply click on the Binder icon in the upper left (just below the word "File" in the main menu) to close the notations on the left, and click on the lower case scripted "i" in the upper right (just below the "x" to terminate the program) to close those sections, and you will have nothing but white screen (these will toggle back on by doing the same actions).  But you will likely want to use some of the special features, so let's use a couple:

Go to Project from the menu and choose Project Targets.  A little box will pop up with two fields.  In the first one, put in how many words you anticipate your finished project to be (especially useful if writing for a market with a tightly controlled word count).  In the second one, enter how many words you want to create in this (or each) writing session.  If you are out of practice, try for 500 words per session.  If you are more seasoned, or if you are trying to get your project completed by a certain date, you'll want to set it higher.  A trick I used to use was to do 750 words per session, with two or three sessions per day. Keep the box open, just move it over to the right so it's out of your way.  The bar will start out red and will turn orange, yellow, and finally deepen to a green as you get closer to your goal.  

Note that there will be a running total of both words and characters on the bottom of your screen when in Scrivenings mode.  As you add chapters (in the Binder, position your cursor on the sub-folder you want your new chapter to follow, click Project and then New Text) you will only see the total words and characters for each chapter on the bottom of the screen.  To see the word count for the entire manuscript in Scrivenings mode, you will have to move your cursor to the main project folder (the one with the title of the work) on top of the Binder (you will also have to position your cursor here to switch from Scrivenings to Corkboard or Outline modes).  Project Statistics (also under the Project menu) will also give you this information.

If you are writing and aren't sure of a fact but don't want to stop to look it up, you can use the Inline Annotation feature.  From the Format menu, select Inline Annotation, then enter your note to yourself: "[check this]", etc.  The notation will appear in red to stand out, and you can do a search for inline annotations to make sure you address them all.  To turn off the notation, select the function again (or use the keystroke combination listed next to it as a shortcut).  You can also type your note, highlight it, then apply the Inline Annotation to the highlighted text.

You can also put notes to yourself in the Document/Project Note section on the bottom right of the screen.  I prefer the Project Note (it toggles back and forth) because it pertains to the entire project, not just a particular chapter, and will show up from anywhere in the project and not just the chapter.  Let's say you want to add something (i.e., "give Heroine a dog"), or you need to correct something (i.e., "Julia's nickname is 'Jules'), this is where you want to put it so you don't forget.  Before finalizing your project you will want to check both your Inline Annotations and your Project Notes to make sure you took care of all these threads.
I think that's enough info to get you started.  Feel free to ask any questions, and I will do my best to answer them.  If there is a good response I'll give you more tips sometime next week.

Update:  Part 2 has been posted; you can find it here.
September 5, 2013

Chewing the Fat With...Chicki Brown

Chicki Brown has a new eBook out!  A Woman's Worth kicks off a new series about the Stafford family of Atlanta.  She's here to tell us a little about it and whet our appetites...

Bettye:  What's A Woman's Worth about?

Chicki:  School media specialist Gianne Marvray has been through the worst two years of her life, physically and emotionally.  After a battle with cancer and all it entails, she is finally ready to start living her life again.  She wants to see new places, meet new people and experience new things, but she isn't ready for the roller coaster ride she's about to embark on when she meets Las Vegas personal trainer and raw vegan foods advocate Marc Stafford.

After a four-year absence, Marc comes home to Atlanta to attend a family celebration in one of his brother's honor.  He's not thrilled about seeing his father, but he has promised his mother that he won't throw off the family balance by being the only one of their six sons absent.  All Marc wants to do is make an appearance at the event and spend a little time with his brothers.  Little does he know that this is the night he will meet the woman who will forever change his life.

Bettye:  What was your inspiration for writing this book?

Chicki:  My story ideas always start with the hero.  I get an idea of what he looks like or what his profession is, and I run with it.  My role model for Marc Stafford was Marcus Patrick, who used to play Jett Carver/Derrick on Days of Our Lives.  He left Hollywood nd moved back to Great Britain to become a personal trainer.  He is also a raw vegan who is zealous about teaching others how to live the raw lifestyle.  I found his story so interesting, I decided to steal his new profession and give it to my male protagonist.  The first question I asked myself was, "What would make this guy's life miserable?"  The answer I came up with was for him to have a longstanding conflict over his career with his father, who is a doctor.  To exacerbate his woes, the woman he falls for is one of his father's patients.

Bettye:  I really like that's different from the same old, same old.  Did you happen to bring an excerpt along? 

Chicki:  I sure did!  Here it is: 

By the time Marc returned to Charles’ condo, his brain was buzzing with a plan. Before he arrived in Atlanta, he’d devised a mental schedule of how he’d be able to spend time with each of his brothers. Now that he’d met Gianne, all of those warm and fuzzy sibling reunion ideas had gone right out the window.  In five days he would be flying to Vegas. His attraction to her was undeniable, and he was certain she felt it too. Acting on the attraction was probably a bad idea, but all he wanted was to spend as much time with her as possible. He’d almost kissed her, and he had less than a week to discover if it was more than mere sexual desire.

Marc found Charles waiting up for him when he returned to the condo. “Well, Daddy and Uncle Rod didn’t show out too much today.”

“Really? You think?”

“I didn’t hear everything, though.” 

Seeing Gianne and his mother engrossed in an animated discussion, for reasons Marc didn’t understand, pleased him immensely. Why did it matter whether or not his mother liked her? He’d only known Gianne for a matter of hours, and he’d only be in town for another few days. He shook his head at the thought and went into the kitchen.

“How did Gianne enjoy herself?”

“She’s an only child, so she asked a lot of questions about how we all get along, but she said she had a good time.”

Charles sat back and folded his arms across his chest. “What’s going on, man? I saw the way you were gawking at her when I came to the table at the hotel. You looked like Michael Corleone when he got hit by the thunderbolt,” he said, recalling their favorite movie, The Godfather.

“What are you talking about?” Marc asked, knowing exactly what he meant. They had probably watched the film together a dozen times.

“The thunderbolt.”

 Marc shook his head. “There’s something special about her.”

“Yeah, she’s fine as hell. A little skinny, but fine just the same.”

“I’m not talking about her looks. It was something else I can’t explain.”

“The thunderbolt,” Charles repeated and laughed. “Are you seeing her again before you leave?”

“Yeah. I’m taking her to lunch tomorrow.”

“I hope you plan to feed that girl some real food. Remember, she’s a woman not a gerbil.” He gave Marc’s back a playful slap. “I’m going to bed. Check you in the a.m.”

“You’re going to the gym with me, right?” Charles nodded. “I think I’ll take in your view for a while,” Marc opened the doors to the terrace and stepped outside. It was only May, yet the Atlanta evenings were already warm. He sat and propped his feet on the railing and gazed at the skyline. The view was so different from his view at home. Although he lived in Las Vegas, his house was built in the desert eight miles from the strip. He had gotten used to the flat landscape with its backdrop of the Spring Mountains. As his eyes took in the twinkling lights, he considered his twin’s words.

When he’d first seen Gianne sitting at the table, he’d be lying if he said what he felt was anything other than a thunderbolt. And he knew it had nothing to do with how pretty she was. Ever since college he had been attuned to his spiritual nature, which is what eventually led him into the vegan lifestyle. His spiritual sensibilities had been shaken. A connection existed between them he didn’t understand, and he’d learned to never dismiss those spiritual jolts. No way was he going back to Nevada without discovering the nature and depth of that connection. Tomorrow was his chance to learn more about her. Health-wise, she clearly needed his professional help. Gianne needed to counteract the effects of her medical treatments through nutrition and exercise, and he knew he was able do that for her. But the natural help wasn’t what it was all about. The moment they’d met, he had the strong sensation that they somehow needed each other. 
Chicki:  I'll also give a complimentary download of A Woman's Worth to a commenter on this blog.

Bettye:  All right, now!  Did you hear that, readers?  It's time to post a comment for a chance to win this exciting new eBook!  Chicki will be announcing the winner's name sometime tomorrow (Friday, September 6th), so be sure to check back by tomorrow evening to ee if you're the lucky winner so you can contact Chicki with your information.

For those of you who don't win, A Woman's Worth is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and Kobo, so all devices are covered!

August 31, 2013

A Few Things I've Learned About Publishing

I've been indie publishing for four years now, and I'm continuing to learn.  My policy is as pictured below, on a story plotting board in my office.

I figured I'd share a few of my observations.  I hope you find them helpful.

1) I have a rather unorthodox way of writing...I write scenes that pop into my head, which in itself isn't all that unusual...except my ideas aren't necessarily for the book I'm working on, but for a future book.  I do this enough so that by the time I'm ready to sit down and write that future book, a good portion of it is already written. As I assemble scenes belonging to Secrets & Sins--a complicated story in terms of setup due to its multiple flashbacks--I find that the majority of the writing is done and that what I'm working on mostly is its structure.  If you follow this blog you'll know that structure is what hung me up on Something Real last year...that book with its main love story and a strong secondary subplot took me eight months to write and assemble.  This time it's not going to take eight months...I still expect to release Secrets & Sins sometime this fall.  The fact that this will be my third full-length release this year, after Man of Her Heart and Love Will Follow (there were also two ePubbed backlist titles and one prequel) tells me that this pattern is somehow working.  The lesson here is to do whatever works best for you, not what everybody else is doing.

2) Regarding cover art, just because a picture is expensive doesn't mean it's original.  Before you shell out a bunch of credits for a picture to use on your book cover, check to see if it is available at another site for less.  Doing a specific search can be very helpful at sites with hundreds of thousands of pictures (i.e., "fruit bowl").  I am presently having the cover for Save The Best For Last redesigned to more closely match the color scheme of the two books connected to it, Something Real and Man of Her Heart.  I nearly fainted when I saw that one site wanted 13 credits for a picture in the size large enough to meet Smashwords' new criteria...but then I went to another site and found the same picture for 4 credits.  It was a piece of cake...which not only describes the contents of the picture, but also the process to track it down on the other site.  I searched for "strawberry cake" and there it was.  Took less than five minutes and saved me a nice sum.
3) If you want expanded distribution through Smashwords, including pre-orders through Barnes & Noble, Apple, and Kobo, you have to choose a cover photo that is vertically oriented, with recommended pixels of 1600 for width and 2400 for height.  You probably won't be able to find a photo with these exact dimensions, but use it as a guideline and go with more pixels, not less.  I forgot to do this with my recent releases and my cover designer made covers too small to go into expanded distribution.
4) Regarding releasing a new eBook...Since Amazon still does not allow indie authors to make their eBooks available for pre-order (unless you're selling hundreds of thousands of eBooks, in which case they will invite you to do this), it is very, very difficult for indie authors to zero in on a publication date.  The ability to do this, along with the possibility that strong first-day sales may propel your book onto the bestseller lists, are the two best advantages for Amazon pre-orders to become a reality (and why I keep pleading with them to offer it).  This can be frustrating, because having a definite publication date projects a more professional image than just saying it'll-be-published-when-it's-ready.  Many indie authors announce the availability of their books on a specific "official" release date, but the publication date on the product page usually reveals that the book has actually been on sale anywhere from one to five days prior to that (no doubt because authors want to make sure they don't run into issues in the upload process).  To me--probably stemming from my time being traditionally published--neither of these circumstances are ideal.  Problems with uploading aside--those will always be unpredictable--if you want your Amazon publication date to show as the same as the date you're announcing it will be available, upload the book after 12:30AM Pacific Time (which would be 2:30AM Central Time, 3:30AM Eastern Time.  I added an extra half hour in there, since the calendar date of course changes at midnight, but upload any earlier and the folks at Amazon will make your publication date a day earlier than you specified because the day has not yet changed on the West Coast.  I'm probably being nit-picky about this, but it drives me nuts when I upload an eBook with a publication date of, say, September 5th, and Amazon backdates it to September 4th.  This is especially irksome when I look at my Author Bookshelf and see upload dates that are a day later than publication dates (as if a book can be published before the manuscript has been uploaded).  That said, overnight uploads usually go pretty fast, I find usually going live within four to five other words, in time for consumers to download and read on the bus or train on their way to work.
5) Speaking of release dates, traditional books (and music as well) are released on Tuesdays, and many indie authors try to follow this model by giving their book an "official" release date that falls on that day of the week.  When I think about this, though, I wonder if closer to the end of the week might be a better choice, since indie authors can choose their own day.  Why compete with all those trad published books?  I also suspect that more consumers get paid on Thursday or Friday than do on a Tuesday, and you'd like your book to be purchased right away rather than go on a wish list.  A Thursday around the 1st or the 15th of the month would probably be a fabulous time to release a new book, because you've got all those consumers on a semi-monthly pay schedule in addition to those paid on that particular week.  This past weekend--the 29th or 30th of August--was a writer's dream in terms of a perfect time for a new release:  Not only did it work well for people who normally get paid that week, but also those paid semi-monthly, since the 1st is Sunday and the 2nd is a bank holiday.  But what really made it fabulous was that aforementioned holiday.  A three-day weekend is a wonderful incentive for readers to buy and curl up with a new book!  
I'll end with a prediction:  If Amazon does decide to catch up with Smashwords and offer indie authors the option of having their books available for pre-order, look for them to require KDP Select enrollment for any titles put in this status. 

Wish it...dream it!