Three Cheers for Indie Authors

On Saturday, I attended the North Texas Book Festival for the second year in a row, and it was even more fun this year than it was last year.  I had several friends there and I was privileged to make the acquaintance of even more wonderful readers and writers.

I may have come home with one or two new books…

Hey, it’s networking.

Currently, I’m in the middle of reading Still Alice by Lisa Genova.  I loved the movie, so I’ve really been looking forward to reading the book.  The thing is, however, I’m so, so, so excited to start reading all my new books that I got on Saturday that I’m finding myself kind of speed-reading through Still Alice in order to get to my new ones.  There’s something so special and remarkable about reading books that have been produced and published by the author themselves, especially authors you’ve met in person and who’ve shared their personal stories and experiences.  The best way to get to know an author is to read their book.  And I can’t wait to dive in.

I know I’m also an independent author, so what I’m about write may sound a bit self-congratulatory and egotistical, but I am so proud of the work I’ve done, and I’m so proud of my colleagues for their dedication and passion.  There’s this stigma that independent publishing is the “easy way out.”  Let me tell you now, there is nothing easy about taking matters into your own hands and learning skills that you never thought you would need practically overnight.  Independent publishing is real work, work that I would never have even considered if I didn’t truly believe that my books were worth sharing.  This is why I say three cheers for all my fellow indie authors.  You do not believe in limitations.  You will not accept no for an answer.  You conquered your own mountains, you made your own dreams come true.  I am so honored to be in your company.  And I can’t wait to read your books.

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Spring Has Sprung

Hello, friends.  I’m sorry I haven’t been updating as much as I should.  Life, as usual, is quite busy.  My sister is home for spring break so I’ve been spending as much time with her as I can.  We went to see the stage production of The Little Mermaid on Sunday and once again, I cried my eyes out because Ariel is my childhood hero.  Then yesterday, we spent the morning at the Arboretum.

It was a beautiful day and the best way to welcome spring.

As for book updates, I’m having so much fun writing the third book in the Boy Band series.  I think it’s going to be my favorite.  I can’t wait to share it with all of you.

I’m also helping my cousin (whom I only recently connected with on Facebook) publish her book of poetry/memoir.

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The photo on the cover is hers as well.  It’s been a new experience.  This is the first time I will have published a book that is not my own.  I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out the best way to publish it so that the royalties go directly to her.  I think I’ve finally got it all sorted, but it’s been a challenge.

Of course, I’m hoping to one day get to the point where I publish a LOT of books, not just my own and my family members, and I’ve had some requests.  The thing is, I can’t work for free.  With Margaret, it’s different since she’s family.  Even still, I don’t want to be a pay-to-publish company, or a vanity press, if you will.  I want my authors to get paid.  Unfortunately, I don’t have the sort of money that would allow me to make an offer or a payment up front.  I think the best way to do it would be to publish and keep 25% of the royalties while the other 75% go to the author.  But that’s not going to happen for a while.  I’m still trying to make a name for myself as an author.  That’s my ultimate dream.

On the other hand, I am very seriously considering offering my services as a cover designer.  I have thousands of images that would work for book covers (NOT stock images) and it’s something I really and truly enjoy.

What do y’all think?

Indie Books and POGs

Last night, I found my old POG collection.  If you grew up in the 90s, chances are you also collected the little round pieces of cardboard that were apparently meant to be a game but really ended up just being shiny little circles we accumulated and hoarded like Smaug’s treasure in The Hobbit.

As I was looking through my old POGs, I noticed one had a ghost on it.  I thought, “Oh, that’s cute.  I should take a picture of it with Cemetery Tours.”

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So I did.

But I didn’t stop there.

Slowly but surely, my little idea to take a picture with the ghost POG became a full fledged POG and indie book photo shoot.

This isn’t the first time I’ve taken pictures of several (not all) of the indie books I own.  I have a whole photo album that I’ve dedicated to the #IndieBooksBeSeen movement on my Facebook page.

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There is a rhyme and reason to my madness.  Despite the fact that we call ourselves “Independent” authors, the truth is we are very much a community.  No one works alone.  We have editors and graphic designers and reviewers and marketing experts.  And we have each other.  As independent authors, we support each other 100%.  That’s one of the first things I learned about the community and one of my very favorite parts of being an independent author.  I never expected the warm reception or astounding support system when I first published Cemetery Tours, but it’s there.  And it’s so, so, so amazing.

There are several ways that authors support each other.  I have friends who Tweet and Retweet.  I have friends who share dozens of Facebook posts.  I have friends who review every book they read.  Me?  I definitely try to review at least every indie book I read.  But I like to take pictures.  It’s my favorite method of communication.  Funny, for a writer, I know.  But there’s a certain love to a beautiful image that words really can’t express.

I take pictures because these books need more exposure.  I want each and every one of these authors to know the same kind of love and praise and success that their traditionally published counterparts experience.  I want them to be interviewed and reviewed by Entertainment Weekly and fly to the top of the New York Times Bestsellers List.  I want independent books to become mainstream.  And I think they are well on their way.

 

 

World Book Day

I haven’t been very good about blogging recently, but I simply had to take a moment to wish you all a very Happy World Book Day!

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I don’t think I even need to tell y’all that I love books.  I love to read.  I love to spend hours at a time perusing my local bookstore for new titles, new adventures.  Becoming an author has only deepened my appreciation for the written word, and for all the hard work that goes into transforming a story into a book.

Just a few short years ago, writing and publishing a book was a pipe dream for many.  It was reserved only for the chosen few, the traditionally published elite.  Big companies and corporations decided whether or not your work was worthy of publication.  Those companies do good work.  Most of my favorite books are traditionally published.

But times are changing.  There is a real movement to take the independently published novel mainstream.  And of course, as an independent author, I’m all for this.  Indie books are real books.  Independent authors are real authors.  They’re more than authors.  They’re also publishers and designers and marketers and editors and formatters.  I’m almost inclined to say that you have to be at least a little crazy to be an independent author, because who would willingly do all of this work for a pay-off that isn’t guaranteed?

Well, we would.  And I do believe it’s worth it.

So today, when you celebrate World Book Day, I challenge you to read a book by a lesser known author.  Take a picture of an indie book.  Leave a review on Amazon or on Goodreads.  You may not believe it, but every little bit helps.  Every sale, every post, every review, is a step towards taking this very noble and worthwhile industry to the masses.  Readers make everything possible.  And we, the authors, will never be able to thank you enough.

In the City

Hello, friends!  Just a quick update!  I may not have any more deadlines for a while (Yay!) but life is still as busy as ever!

I’ve been enjoying a wonderful few days, celebrating the impending Christmas season with friends and family.

A few of my girlfriends and I had a Christmas crafts night.

Then my mom and my sister and I took a trip downtown to see the world premiere of the opera Becoming Santa Claus.

And life is only going to get busier!  Tonight, my friend and I are taking my sister out to celebrate her birthday.  Tomorrow night, a group of my friends from high school and I are going with our English teacher (our Mr. Feeny, if you will) to see MacBeth.  Thursday night, I’m going to a bachelorette party and Saturday is the wedding!  So much fun and merriment and all the while I keep thinking, “Oh my goodness!  I have to get the new book out!”  Then I remember it’s already out and I think to myself, “Oh, yay!  I love it when that happens!”

The new book is doing great.  And Boy Band is getting some new love because of it!

I’ve had two reviews in the past week that I particularly love.  One is from a new friend down in Mexico named Bryan.  You can check out his review here!

He also took this fabulous picture and I’ve got to be honest, it’s one of my favorite book portraits ever.

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The other is a review I believe I already shared, but I love it so much, I’m just going to share it again.

I love all my readers and reviewers and friends so, so much!  I don’t know if you realize it, but you make so many dreams come true just by doing what you love!  Thank you, thank you!

I hope you all are enjoying this most wonderful time of the year.

The Writer’s Christmas List

Hello, friends!  How are all of you?  Sadly, I am still battling The Crud.  I thought I was getting better, but then Monday night I had a bit of a relapse and it hasn’t gone away.  It’s not horrible, but it makes you feel just gross enough to not want to do anything.  Blah.  Thankfully, I get to work from home so I don’t have to go out and infect the rest of the world.  Unfortunately, in my sickly state, I don’t want to work.  I just want to sit around and snuggle with my kitty and watch Disney movies.

As I was getting ready for bed last night, I couldn’t help but think that this virus has seriously gotten in the way of my Christmas shopping.  And THAT gave me an idea for a blog post.

Ladies and Gents, may I present to you…

The Best Gifts To Give To Your Writer Friend This Holiday Season.

*Please note I am NOT writing this as a suggestive hint that all of you need to buy me presents.  This is just a fun little list that I came up with for all writers.  Not that I speak for all writers.  You know what I mean.*

  1. Books.  This one, I think, kind of goes without saying.  We’re writers.  The only thing we love more than writing is reading.  You can never go wrong with books.
  2. Gift Cards.  Let’s face it, most writers are poor.  And even if we’re not, we can be hard to shop for.  Gift Cards, especially to Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, or Starbucks are always appreciated.
  3. A Bottle of Wine.  Insert stereotype that authors really, really, really like to drink here.
  4. Scented Candles.  Okay, maybe this is just me, but I love lighting a scented candle while I work.  It brings me so much peace and makes my work environment so pleasant.  12246903_10206808044093322_3679859631548650627_n
  5. Scarves.  We’re writers.  We love scarves.
  6. Homemade Cookies.  Honestly, this is probably the best present of all.  I’d so much rather have a good friend make me something (especially something chocolate) than go out and buy me something.
  7. A Book Review.  The very best gift you can give to any writer anywhere is a book review.  Just a few short sentences about how much you enjoyed their book.  Book reviews are invaluable to writers.  It’s free and it only takes about three minutes of your time, if that.  Best.  Present.  Ever.
  8. Giving Their Book as a Gift.  You want to make a writer’s holiday season merry and bright?  Give their book as a gift to someone else.  That is better than buying the writer themselves a car.  Okay maybe not, but it’s almost just as good.
  9. Donate to a Good Cause.  Last year, instead of buying gifts, my mother donated to charities in our relatives’ names.  I thought that was a great gift.  Great causes to donate to for your writer friends include literacy and education charities.  Also the Humane Society because everyone loves animals.
  10. Quality Time.  To me, nothing is better than quality time spent with those you love.  Take your favorite writer friend out to dinner, or go drive around a look at Christmas lights and drink some hot chocolate.  Bake cookies and watch a Christmas movie.  It’s the season for gift-giving, true, but it’s more so the season to love and appreciate the people in your life.  It’s the moments, not the gifts, that will last a lifetime.

 

Fiction’s Females

Hello, friends.  Today, we’ll be talking about female characters in modern literature.

As a female myself, I identify with several aspects of several female characters.  For example, Cath Avery from Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl.  Like Cath, I spent a great deal of my time absorbed in fictional worlds.  Books are just so much safer than reality.  Or maybe Hermione Granger.  I wasn’t quite the know-it-all she was, but I was definitely teacher’s pet.  I also had the outrageous, uncontrollable curly hair.  Or what about Katniss Everdeen, perhaps my favorite modern literary heroine?  I would go to any lengths to protect my little sister.  I would rather die than let any harm come to her.  That’s what big sisters do, and Katniss is just… wow.  I love her.

Of course, all these characters have their flaws, too.  Cath is timid and antisocial.  Hermione is stubborn.  Katniss is cold and hardened after the loss of her father and having to become the primary caregiver and supplier for her entire family.

There is a big push today for writers – of books as well as movies – to create what is known as the STRONG female character.  We’re not talking about a damsel-in-distress whose one goal in life is to meet Prince Charming, fall in love, and live happily ever after.  Although I have to say, I have friends who want just that and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it.  Who doesn’t want to find companionship?  It’s a basic human need.

But you know what I’m talking about.  The swooning schoolgirl just isn’t “in” right now.  And that’s fine also!  I love female characters who are intelligent, ambitious, witty, independent, talented, powerful, etc…  What I don’t like is female characters who come off as rude, ungrateful, sarcastic, and pretentious.

Why do I bring this up?  Because I’m reading a book with exactly that type of “strong” female character right now.  Or should I say I WAS reading the book.  To be totally honest with you, I hate this girl so much that I probably won’t make it much farther.  Disappointing too, because this is a book I really thought I was going to like.  I downloaded it on Kindle on a total whim.  It wasn’t one I had planned on reading.  Now it’s on that I don’t plan on finishing.

I know what the author is trying to do.  She’s trying to make her female protagonist “different.”  She’s super smart, totally focused on her studies and her budding career (more power to her for that), but she’s totally aloof, unimpressed with anything the other girls find interesting.  That’s fine, you don’t have to fawn over Harry Styles if everyone else does, but don’t look down on them for doing so.  This girl acts so snobby and above-it-all that I can’t imagine why she has any friends in the first place!  She’s so completely rude and unappreciative to everyone she meets, even when they treat her with nothing but courtesy and respect because she’s so smart and special… It just drives me crazy!  Of course *spoiler alert* she gets the guy in the end, the one that she scoffed at all the other girls for swooning over.

I try to take a whole different approach to the STRONG female character in my books.  I like my heroines to be independent and smart and witty… but I also like the to be genuine.  I like them to be honest, to struggle over what’s right and wrong, to enjoy what they enjoy, and to not be ashamed of being themselves and loving what they love.

Take Mel in Boy Band.  She’s not particularly intelligent or ambitious, but she’s loyal and she’s a hard worker and in this new book, boy does she struggle with what’s right and what’s wrong.  She’s a good friend and she’s so completely in love with Sam, but that doesn’t make her weak or anti-feminist.  It makes her her.

Kate in Cemetery Tours is a bit different.  She’s older, more ambitious, more intelligent, and she doesn’t let anyone tell her what to do.  She’s brave and adventurous, but she also loves nothing more than sitting around in her pajamas and marathoning her favorite television show.

I love my female characters.  I wouldn’t enjoy writing them if I didn’t.  And I don’t love them because they’re STRONG.  I love them simply because they’re them.  They’re real to me.  That’s what I’ve always tried to achieve with all my characters.  I want them to feel like real, fleshed out people.  Not a jumble of characteristics on a page with a name attached to them.

It’s important for women to be strong, but it’s just as important for us to be real, to be genuine, and to be happy and proud of who we are no matter what.  We’re all different.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.  Nothing at all.

Backstage Soundtrack

With a little less than a month until Backstage is released, I figure it’s about time to share the soundtrack that helped inspire it!  Every time I come up with a new idea for a book, one of the first things I do is make a playlist of music to listen to that serves as a soundtrack that I listen to while the book plays out in my head.

You can find the Soundtrack to Boy Band here.

Note: I do not own any of these songs, nor am I profiting from them in any way.

  1. “Shut Up and Dance” by Walk the Moon
  2. “Little White Lies” by One Direction
  3. “Roller Coaster” by Bleachers
  4. “Ordinary Day” by Vanessa Carlton
  5. “Something Great” by One Direction
  6. “Good Girls” by 5 Seconds of Summer
  7. “The Great Escape” by Boys Like Girls
  8. “Don’t” by Ed Sheeran
  9. “Manhattan From the Sky” by Kate Voegele
  10. “Drag Me Down” by One Direction
  11. “Headphones” by Matt Nathanson
  12. “Disconnected” by 5 Seconds of Summer
  13. “Perfect” by One Direction

Backstage will be available on December 8!  Make sure to enter my GoodReads Giveaway for a chance to win signed copies of BOTH Backstage and Boy Band!

GIVEAWAY!

Hello Tuesday

Hi, friends!  I hope you all had a great weekend.  Mine was super busy.

For one thing, my dad had another eye surgery yesterday to take care of a nasty cataract which was a direct result of his last surgery.  Thankfully, everything went well.  It was a simple procedure and he was up on his feet and totally fine within about thirty minutes.  He still can’t drive, so my mom and I are helping him out there, but his vision has improved significantly in just twenty-four hours.  Pretty cool!

For another thing, I have been sending out review copies of my books like crazy.  And I still have more to send!

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I also finally made it to the mall to visit the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree.

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I usually don’t post about personal stuff like this, but every year, my sister and I adopt an angel.  I know that it’s always important to give things like food and clothes, practical items to those in need.  But I’ve always loved the Angel Tree because it gives me the opportunity to give those kids something more.  I love the idea of being able to make their holidays magical, to bring them a bit of joy.  By adopting an angel, you’re making a kid’s Christmas dream come true, a wish that may not have been granted otherwise.  So if you have a moment, or a few gifts to spare, stop by your local Angel Tree.  It’s so much fun to play Santa, and a beautiful reminder that this truly is the season of giving, of love, and of goodwill towards all men, women, and children.

This weekend, I also got to spend a bit of time outside, first with my friend and an adorable puppy named Kate, and then with my cousins at White Rock Lake.  I’m so happy to say it is finally feeling like fall.  I’ve been wearing my jeans and scarves and sweaters.  I love it!

Of course, I’ll only love it until December 26, but hey, I’m going to enjoy it while I can.

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Last but not least, I’ve been working tirelessly on Backstage, getting it ready for publication in less than a month!  Agh!

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On a similar and very fun note, there’s a new Twitter account called Niall (Horan) as Books.  I may have mentioned before that even though I am fond of all the 1D boys, I am very partial to the adorable blond Irishman.  Imagine how thrilled I was when this appeared in my Newsfeed:

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This is officially one of my favorite Tweets, along with a Tweet from a similar account, Harry (Styles) as Books!

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Yes, I am still a 1D fangirl and I am eagerly awaiting the release of Made in the AM this week!  I’m probably looking more forward to that than the release of my own book.

Well, maybe they’re tied.

Love you all!

NaNoWriMo 2015

We’re five days into National Novel Writing Month and I’ve got a confession to make:  I haven’t been keeping up with it very well.  I’ve written a little bit and brainstormed a lot, but I’m nowhere near where I should be in the grand scheme of NaNoWriMo.  There are a few reasons (or excuses) for that.

First of all, I spent a long weekend in Houston and didn’t return until Monday afternoon.  At that point, I was exhausted and had a lot of unpacking and pictures to go through.

Second, with only a little more than a month before Backstage is released, I’m devoting most of my time and energy into making sure it’s ready to go by December 8.  Those of you who’ve published your own books know that that doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for much else.

Finally, I’ve been having a difficult time figuring out how I wanted to begin my NaNo book.  I think I may have figured it out last night, but I’m still not 100% sure.  Sometimes, you can’t force it.  You just have to let the words come naturally.

I am, however, SO excited to see so many of my friends and colleagues and total strangers participating in NaNoWriMo this year!  It’s a fantastic way to get people writing and to get some fantastic new books out there.  It’s also proof to me that the written word is thriving.  There are so many rumors and reports and literacy and society’s love of reading being on the decline, but even if they’re true, there is so much love for NaNoWriMo and so much enthusiasm and excitement for reading and writing new books that I can’t help but feel optimistic about my trade and profession.  I love books so much.  I always have.  And it’s so encouraging to see so many others sharing that love.

NaNoWriMo will always hold a special place in my heart, particularly because it gave me the opportunity to write something new, something that I guarantee I would not have written otherwise.  Boy Band is the book that was not supposed to exist.  And now, here it is, a year later and I’m getting ready to release its sequel.  How cool is that?

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For those wondering, that little guy in the picture is Simon the NaNo Dragon.  He’s my November writing buddy.

Fellow writers and aspiring authors, enjoy your NaNoWriMo experience.  Write well.  Write what you love.  You never know what may come of it.  And if you get behind (or if you haven’t started on time – oops!), don’t get discouraged.  After all, it took me TWO months to finish Boy Band.  All you need to know is that you can do anything.  And you will.  Just keep writing.