Friday, March 31, 2017

Around the web

Merry Farmer has an amazing post about success and how it defines an author.  It got me thinking, although I think about this a lot anyway as it is, but I wonder what an author's criteria is for defining success.  And does it change or evolve?  I believe it does.
When self publishing didn't exist (or pre 2010 when it was considered mostly taboo) I defined success as being traditionally published.  But prior to that I defined it as obtaining an agent.
After being small press published for awhile, I defined success as that publisher allowing me to continue writing the series I was currently involved in.  And to do that I needed to keep my sales numbers up or my series would get dropped. 
Now I mostly exclusively self publish and I define success in a different way:  by readers.  How many readers can I reach? Connect with? Connecting equals a following and that to me, in my own personal writing journey, is my definition of success.  The money comes from that.  See, I can't do anything to control the money coming in.  All I can do is maintain loyalty to my readers and hope they do the same to me.  And to do that, I work on my craft and put out the best book(s) possible for readers.  What's all I can control.

In reader/book news, I'm attending the Liverpool, NY Book Festival on Tulip St in Liverpool, NY this Sunday from noon to 2 pm.  Stop by if you're in the area!  There will be loads of great authors and readers attending!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Judging a book by its cover

Readers judge books by their covers.  We all want to think we don't, but look at this example above.  In 2003 I first was published by a small press.  Blackbird was the book, and the original cover is on the left.

On the right is today's self published cover.

Which do you think sells better?

Exactly.  Not to argue that bare man chest wouldn't draw attention, but it's not just that. It's the colors, the banner at the bottom, even the blurb on the back of the book.

Self publishing forces you to examine human nature, to experiment on what is more appealing to the eye.  (Um...yeah, man candy with tattoos definitely.)

Oh, and in case you wondered about hero Adahya's tattoos, those are original tribal Iroquois tattoo designs.  They often tattooed themselves in Colonial times.  Hard to believe, right?

So tell me what you think of the new cover. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Try something new

So I went to my first massage recently.  It was a Reiki massage.  I thought that it would help with the back pain I’d been suffering from. I had back surgery in 2015 and have had constant pain ever since blowing out my disc prior to the surgery.

I wanted to believe in the power of healing energy, and I had no idea what to expect.  I think I went into the appointment with the wrong attitude.  I was skeptical plus I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being selfish.  I was paying a lot of money to try this out.  I felt guilty.  Hugely guilty.  The money I was spending on this could have gone to paying a bill.  I had no right to spend this solely on myself.

So I went in feeling guilty about spending the time and the money on myself.  And I felt nervous.  I didn’t want someone touching me.  I’d have to meet a stranger.  I was nervous about what she would think of me.  I don’t know why, but that’s me.  I’m always terrified meeting new people.

They first greeted me upon arriving and gave me a glass of water.  They didn’t explain why the water, so I thought that was a bit weird. Turns out, which she explained to me at the end of my massage, was that they believe water helps conduct energy, thereby promoting the positive energy to come to you.

I don’t know…I wanted to believe. I really did. Granted the table was soft and heated like a large heating pad, and she had dipped her hands in lavender oil which smelled wonderful and was relaxing. But as far as the power of healing from a non-hands on approach.  I…I just don’t know.

But I tried it.  Would I go back? Doubtful.  But at least I opened my mind up to give it a go.  And that’s what life is all about, experiencing new things, right?

Monday, March 20, 2017

Chapter One - Second Beginning

Chapter One

Abigail Cooper knew it was rude to stare. Sitting at the corner table in Jean’s Diner, a tiny little hole in the wall in the even tinier hole-in-the-wall town of Cold Springs, New York, she waited for her breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon to arrive. She couldn’t help but gawk at the man sitting across the room from her.
Biker boots, tight jeans, blue tee shirt, leather jacket draped over the back of his chair. His jet black hair was trimmed short but his bangs curled over one eye, giving him an edgy appearance. Straight out of a biker bar. Not that she frequented biker bars or listened to conversations between perfect strangers.
This man was dangerous. Despite the fact that he had the Sunday comics laid out on the table in front of him.
“What do you mean it was rigged? That was a perfect pitch.” Biker Guy waved his fork around in wild, exaggerated gestures as he spoke. He had long fingers. They were clean, not grease stained like she might expect a biker’s hands to be.                                                                                                                                   
An old man sat beside him. Not the type of person she’d expect a guy like that to hang around. Biker Guy was maybe late twenties, early thirties. The other man was well past his seventies. Had to be his father or grandfather. Biker Guy would have rebel friends, friends with sketchy pasts or prison records, not small-town old men who drank coffee from a cup that said “Crabby til I get my coffee” with the name “Burt” printed along the bottom.
The waitress, whom everyone was calling Sam, brought Abby’s food. Scrambled eggs, home fries, bacon, and toast. “Here we are. Can I get you more coffee?”
“If it’s not too much trouble.”
“No trouble at all.” She headed back to the counter and returned with the coffee pot. “Chrissy, do you think you can find time to help me?”
Abby couldn’t help but notice Sam’s annoyance at the young waitress, who was sitting with a tableful of men. She giggled, brushed a lock of hair back from one man’s eyes. “Coming.”
“That play was a foul and that’s all I got to say about that,” the man called Burt shouted above all other conversations.
“Shh,” Sam said to Burt and Biker Guy.
Biker Guy looked apologetic. “Sorry.”
Abby had never heard a biker apologize before. John’s biker friends had been full of arrogant confidence that would make anyone cringe.
Burt, however, didn’t look the slightest bit apologetic. “I could be quieter if I had a refill on my coffee.”
“I’m charging you for refills.”
“Put it on my tab.”
Sam glared at the other waitress. “Chrissy, if you’d stop flirting for five seconds, I need your help.”
Abby watched Biker Guy as she silently ate her eggs. She couldn’t take her eyes off him.
Lord help her, she wa attracted to this man. She knew exactly why too, which made it all the worse. He reminded her of John. Somehow he was nothing like John and everything like him. And being reminded of John was something she didn’t want—or need. After twelve months she still couldn’t get used to being single. John was gone, never coming back, and she was alone. Perhaps that was what she was always destined to be. Alone.
 “Can I get you anything else?” Sam brought her bill, startling her.
“No, thank you.” She smiled at the petite blonde. “Oh, more coffee please. I’m waiting for someone. At least I don’t think she’s here. I’m not sure what she looks like.”
Abby gave a self-conscious laugh. Words kept spilling out of her mouth, and she felt her face redden as it always did when she was nervous.
“Oh, who is she? This town’s pretty small. I probably know her.” As if she didn’t find Abby’s conversation stupid at all, Sam set her coffee pot down on the table and held out her hand. “I’m Sam Stone, by the way. Owner of this fine establishment.”
“Hi.” Abby took her hand, greatly relieved by the friendly gesture. “Abby Cooper. I just moved here. I’m supposed to meet Stephanie Taylor. She’s my real estate agent.”
“Oh, okay. She comes in for lunch a lot.” Sam’s eyes scanned the crowded diner. “She’s not here now, but she—”
A woman walked in just then. She wore a black skirt and blazer and bore the stereotypical look of a real estate agent. She waved to Sam.
“Speak of the devil. Here’s your girl.” Sam picked up her coffee pot. “It was nice to meet you, Abby. I hope to see you again.”
“You too, Sam,” Abby called as Sam hurriedly filled the coffee cups of other customers.
Abby turned to Stephanie Taylor and held out her hand. “Hi, Stephanie. I’m Abby Cooper.”
“Hi, Abby.” Stephanie surprisingly caught her in a hug. “It’s so nice to finally meet you in person.”
Abby returned the embrace, stunned to find people so friendly. So different from California. The realization filled her with sudden hope. Maybe everything would work out for the best. Perhaps friendship was possible. To think that the gut-wrenching loneliness would pass filled her with a sudden rush of happiness.
“I’ll get this.” Stephanie snagged the check from her. “It’s the least I can do for making you wait. I’m so sorry. Kids, you know.” She laughed, as if Abby should understand what her life was like.
Abby was the last person capable of sympathizing about motherhood or anything involving children, for that matter. She’d never been around them growing up, had none of her own, and that was just fine with her.
Abby followed her agent up to the counter where Sam checked her out. Biker Guy made brief eye contact, his gaze quickly leaving Abby’s to make a sweeping assessment of her. She’d just gotten off a plane and was exhausted, no doubt a wreck in her most worn jeans, tee shirt, and sweater with her hair thrown into a haphazard bun on top of her head.
Guilt hit her unexpectedly. This was the first time she’d felt self-conscious over a man since John’s passing. She had no right caring what some biker thought of her. John’s memory hadn’t even had a chance to fade yet.
Biker Guy stood, all six feet of him stretched as if biking had him cramped for days. He grabbed his leather jacket off the back of the chair and shrugged it on. “I gotta run,” he told the man called Burt, clamping a huge hand on Burt’s shoulder. “Take it easy, man.”
“What’s your hurry? You still—”
“Lots of work to do.” Biker Guy cut Burt off mid-sentence. Rude. Abby’s mind flashed to John again. How many times had John cut her off like that? Had John even heard a word she said to him? Bikers were all the same.
She followed Stephanie outside, Biker Guy trailing behind them.
Just as Abby expected, he hopped on a huge Harley, kicked it to life, and rode off as if hell was on his heels.
Abby and Stephanie got in their respective vehicles and made the quick drive across town to the building Abby had purchased sight unseen. The drive was only two blocks away from Jean’s Diner. Trees lined both sides of the street. There were sidewalks, giving the town a quaint, cozy feeling. The perfect place to open a bookstore.
She rounded the corner, saw a two-story brick building, and immediately knew it was hers. The building looked more like a warehouse than a store. The front of the building, however, was exactly what she had expected—a simple storefront with large glass windows, perfect for displaying books.
Abby parked her car in front of the building behind her agent’s SUV and got out. The sidewalk and the concrete in the front of the building were broken, with grass growing at least a foot high from the cracks. An old sign hung over the door. It was rusted so badly she could no longer make out what it had once advertised. It creaked and groaned as it swayed in the breeze. One strong wind and it could fall on a customer’s head. She had thought the building would be on Main Street, not the small, residential side street where she now stood.
But she had taken marketing classes. She could advertise and get customers here. She would hold events to bring them in from other towns. If her store was great, people would drive the distance and location wouldn’t matter.
Across the street was a large white Victorian house. Huge oak trees dotted the edge of the long, winding driveway. A beautiful setting, but the sign in the center of the lawn left a little to be desired: Carver Funeral Home.
She’d bought a future bookstore across from a funeral home.
Well…at least it wasn’t a cemetery. Although a cemetery might be less conspicuous. Funerals would be held here. People would be sad and crying. It would be depressing for her customers, and they might not come back.
Her heart fell. This was a mistake. Everything she owned was packed in two suitcases. She’d bought a one-way ticket from California to upstate New York. Nothing left in California to return to. No family. No friends. She couldn’t go back.
She stared up at the ramshackle brick building that was now her property. She didn’t have a choice. She had to make this work. 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Promotion time!

So Second Beginning, Book II in my Cold Spring Series released yesterday.  That was a day I worked all day at the day job, had some weird bout with stomach problems.  Which I'm blaming on the multigrain bagel with cream cheese that I got at lunchtime from Dunkin Donuts. Right after I finished it I had a killer stomach ache for hours.

But I got home and had a major headache and didn't remember to even promote the book's release on social media until midnight and by then I was zonked out to the world.  So I got up at 5 am this morning and social media-ed the crap out of it. 

I sent out my newsletter this morning.  I wasn't at all happy with the formatting and I hope you guys don't find it too annoying.  Just couldn't figure out the darn thing.  I think I need more coffee.  I'm still on my first cup.

On the swag bandwagon, I got some really cool bag samples from yesterday.  I got a computer bag and a sling bag.  I'm going to have my logo printed on a few for giveaways.  One of which I plan to fill with my books and give away to those who have signed up for my newsletter. ('cuz you guys are awesome!) Look for that giveaway sometime this spring. (I have to get the logo printed on the bag and once that's done I'll start announcing it.)

Happy weekend!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Second Beginning - Some facts

Book II in my Cold Springs contemporary series, titled Second Beginning, comes out March 17th. Yay! I’m so excited! This book was fun to write. It came easier than the first book, Second Chance. I think it’s because I already had fleshed out the world and everyone in it, and I had the luxury to just go with the story.

Book II introduces Abby Cooper and Ethan Carver. They aren’t in book I but all the characters from book I are in book II. Does that make sense?

Anyway…to answer some reader questions, yes Cold Springs is an actual town in New York state, but the series doesn’t take place in that town.  The town of Cold Springs in my series is fictional. I toyed around with names, Cold River, Cold Lake, Cold Outlet, but I eventually came up with Cold Springs and it stuck.  I thought it had a fun and quirky ring, and that’s the heart of this series: fun and quirky.

I did take some key locations from where I grew up and incorporated them into this made-up town. The scene where Abby picks up Claire from piano practice is actually a house near where I grew up. It’s this tiny little house in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by fields of dairy cows, Holsteins, etc. It’s literally like a Thomas Kincaid painting. That was what I pictured in my head for that scene and the scene where Abby mistakenly coaxes a cow to stick her head in her car.

Then you have Jean’s Diner.  Jean’s Diner represents every diner I’ve been to and loved. To me, there is nothing more relaxing than meeting a friend for coffee or breakfast and chatting with the locals gathered there.  You can learn about upcoming auctions, local garage sales, and just generally catching up on who’s expecting or getting married.  Okay…call me a gossip. I dare you! LOL!

Then of course you have the funeral home where Ethan Carver runs a very tight ship. Take any small town and the prettiest Victorian house in it is likely the local funeral home. Ethan likes everything in its place, everything planned to the minute, and when disorganized Abby Cooper comes barreling into his life…well, you’ll have to just read Second Beginning to see what zany antics ensue.

Thanks for reading! 

Monday, March 6, 2017

Giving up or resurrecting the blog

I've thought a lot about giving up this blog in the last few months.  Frankly, it's becoming a pain and a burden. Yet I missed blogging.  Blogging is dead, they said. But to me it didn't feel dead. I loved reading other authors blogs, still do.  I love online writing communities.

What if I make this blog an online community?

Will I have time? Will it take time away from my books?

I'm a quirky person. I can't be like the normal authors. (Do "normal" authors even exist??) I like to goof around in real life. I can't take life seriously much less myself. 

So why not start just being myself here? Why do I have to portray, to me, a stuffy pompous romance writer???  That's what blogging has seemed to become for me, trying to be something I clearly am not.

I'm old enough. I've reached an age where I'm comfortable in my own skin.  So I'm no longer going to act like someone I'm not.  I'm going to write the works I want to write, write unafraid, simply just write.  And you should do. Be goofy. Be unafraid.  Don't take yourself to seriously.

Just be.