Monday, May 31, 2010

My First Author Interview

Just a quickie post today so I can get back to family. We're spending this Memorial Day with my dad (veteran) and brother-in-law (active duty).

My first author interview is up at Critique This WIP. Thank you to Courtney and the girls for this opportunity. Go check them out!

Have a safe and fun holiday! Tomorrow's teaser: photos from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. It was awesome!!!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Five for Friday

Happy Friday! And there's no better one than that before a long weekend! Woohoo!

Actually, my weekend has been extra long. In fact, yesterday started mine and I've been in Orlando. While you're reading this, I'm at Universal Studios' Islands of Adventure and, hopefully, checking out the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter!!!! According to rumor, today is a soft opening.

(Truth be told, I'm writing this Wednesday night to post on Friday with the magic [sadly, not HP magic] of technology. So, I'm not positive we'll get to go through HP world, but if we do, I'll tell you all about it next week!)

Anyway, here are five things I hope we all get to do this holiday weekend:

  1. Spend time with family and friends.
  2. Relax.
  3. Appreciate our freedoms and remember the fallen soldiers who gave their lives for us.
  4. Take a dip in the pool, sit on the beach or at least spend a little time in the great outdoors.
  5. Drink an ice-cold beer or some kind of frozen concoction. Or both.

Enjoy your weekend! Be safe!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

My Personal Mission

So Monday I wrote about what it takes to put a book together – as in a physical book, with cover, pages with words, etc. One person commented. I know it’s not exciting stuff and it can be overwhelming. I also know most of you don’t find it relevant at all, but, honestly, you should.

If you’re a writer, you might be thinking that your publisher will do all this for you. If you have a good understanding of what it takes to produce a book, though, you can see why the publisher wants a fair share of your pie. You can also sound more knowledgeable when you communicate with your publisher and agent. And if you consider self-publishing, you need to know exactly what you’re getting into.

If you’re a reader – as in you read others’ stories, but don’t write your own – I think it’s also important to know these things. In fact, I’ve made it a personal mission to inform readers of all that goes into a book so you can understand why they’re not free or next to free. I know we can’t all afford to go out and buy every single book we want to read and, instead, we borrow from friends or the library. But it bugs the crap out of me when someone broadcasts on the Internet that “I’ll never pay $10 for a book! I’ll wait to buy it at a garage sale, even if it is my favorite author.”

Side-note: It really, really burns me. A book brings hours of entertainment. People will willingly pay $10 to see a movie that might be two hours long. They’ll pay $20 to buy a DVD they might watch a few times, so two to eight hours. But they balk at $15-$20 for a book that provides hours of entertainment, something to look forward to every evening for a few days (or longer, depending on your reading speed) and, if it’s really good, many more hours of daydreaming about the characters and the story. And you’re actually using your brain! Bonus!!)

But that favorite author won’t be around forever if he or she isn’t supported and that even applies to the big ones. Because nobody gets paid for re-sales, trades, sharing, etc. If stores and distributors aren’t making money, publishers aren’t making money. If publishers aren’t making money, authors are the ones that suffer. They get mid-listed, fewer resources are invested in their projects, which means even fewer sales…and the downward cycle continues. They get stuck in a deep rut in their careers.

Most authors don’t write for the money, but most of us would like to be able to write full-time. But we all have bills to pay. Unfortunately, nobody makes much money off a book – not publishers and especially not authors. You have to sell millions of copies to make millions of dollars. Seriously. An author is doing well to bring in about $1 per copy sold. Obviously, borrowed, traded, found, stolen and garage-sale books don’t count.

Numbers may vary but since an author gets paid as a percentage of sales, the more the book’s price, the more the author receives. So they might get $1.50 instead of $1. On a $15 book. You’ll find discussions in many places of higher royalty rates, but royalties are complex. A 20% royalty is not usually 20% of the list price. There are all kinds of calculations that go into it. No matter how we’ve crunched the numbers, from major publishers to indie presses, it basically comes down to about $1-$1.50 per book.

Surprising? It was when I first figured it out. Depressing? It can be. Discouraging? Maybe, but only if you let it be.

My point is that I hope more readers will be less likely to complain about book prices if they understand that 1) nobody makes a ton of money unless the book sells a ton of copies; and 2) the author gets a tiny amount of each sale.

I also hope that writers take the initiative to learn about the industry and all of their options. Everybody wants a piece of your pie. It’s just the way it is. All you can do is write an amazing book and then market, market, market.

That was supposed to be today’s post – what goes into marketing a book. But I went off on a tangent. Sorry. I’ll get off my soapbox now.

What are your thoughts? Anyone want to join me on my mission to educate readers?

Monday, May 24, 2010

What Goes Into a Book (More Than Just Words!)

Sorry for my lame-o posting last week. I was completely ecstatic about being able to share the cover for PROMISE and receiving all the great feedback. What I didn’t share was that I received a proof copy of the book last week, too.

I. Went. Crazy.

If there were hidden cameras in my house, the video would be a huge hit on YouTube. I haven’t acted like that since…um, I don’t even know. I’d say when my kids were born, because it was nearly the same feeling, but I didn’t jump and dance around the room with them clutched to my chest, screaming like a madwoman. Yep, that’s what I did with my proof. And I cried. And laughed. And squee’d. Lots.

Then I started reading it, checking the proof as I’m supposed to, and found typos. Do you know how many times this baby has been combed through?!? Of course you don’t, but those close to me (and helped with that combing) do and none of us can believe we missed these things. So, next time I see a typo or two in a book, I’ll be less likely to criticize the author or editor or publisher. In our case, it’s not because we weren’t trying.

There’s a lot that goes into putting a book together and being that we’re all human, there are bound to be mistakes. If there’s 1 missing word among 95,000 of them or 2 juxtaposed characters when there are over half-a-million characters in the entire book, that’s pretty good quality control.

Writing, editing and proofreading are just part of the process – though I will be the first to tell you (when most publishers won’t admit it) that writing is the hugest part. What else goes into making a book? Here are a few things:

  • Selecting the size, type of paper and format(s) that will best serve the book, while being cost effective.
  • Determining the suggested list price for each format.
  • Obtaining ISBNs – one for each format, including hardcover, paperback, ebook, etc.
  • Designing the cover, ensuring the ISBN barcode is included, along with all other specs of the printer.
  • Creating the front matter – cover page, copyright page, acknowledgements, etc.
  • Creating the back matter – any excerpts from other books by the author, marketing for other books, etc.
  • Inserting front and back matter into the text file.
  • Formatting the interior for the printer, including page numbers, chapter headings, page headers/footers, alignment, any photos, etc.
  • Obtaining and reviewing a proof.
  • Ordering Advance Review Copies (ARCs).
  • Printing the final products.

This has nothing to do with marketing or sales. This is just putting the book together and it’s by no means comprehensive. When you self-publish, you may make all of these decisions. And guess who keeps all the revenues? Not you. Here’s who else gets a piece of your pie:

  • The printer – most printers create a web page where people can buy the book from them, as well, and take a percentage after they take their cut for printing the book.
  • Distributors and wholesalers – advertise your book to the buyers at retailers, libraries, etc.
  • Retailers – whether online or brick-and-mortar, they take a big percentage.

Who gets a piece of your pie when you publish mainstream? Everybody above, plus:
  • Publisher – they need to pay your editor, proofreader, cover designer, publicist, etc., and they’re in the business to make a profit, as well.
  • Agent

Why do we writers get so little when we did the majority of the work? Good question!!! If you’re in it for the money, you must be in it for the long haul and hope your books eventually make the best sellers’ lists and stay on there a long time. But most of us aren’t in it for the money. We write because we just can’t not write. If the money follows…B O N U S!!

Does any of this surprise you, readers and writers? What are your thoughts?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Five for Friday

Looking for something good to read this weekend? Check out and bookmark these review blogs for great recommendations for urban/contemporary fantasy and paranormal reads.

1. All Things Urban Fantasy
2. Bitten by Books
3. Ex Libris
4. Paranormal Haven
5. Book Chick City

Have a great weekend and happy reading!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Insane Characters...and Writers

I see you had the pleasure of meeting Alexis last week. I apologize for her insanity. She really is in a dark, miserable place in PURPOSE. We will soon be making strides in digging herself out of there once again. It’s the most emotionally packed section of any of my books so far and it really is good, but it’s the most difficult part to write, rewrite, revise, etc. I hate it just as much as she does.

Anyway, last week’s posts were the result of many things going through my mind in the weeks prior. It was a fun way to introduce you to Alexis, Tristan and excerpts of the book and hopefully whet your appetite for PROMISE. It was also a good writing exercise in character development. The posts were actually kind of difficult to write because in the three books I’ve been writing with her, her voice has changed as she matures and evolves. The posts are based on where she’s at in PURPOSE but more in the voice of the third book, but limited to what you experience in PROMISE. So, yeah, a challenging writing exercise.

It wasn’t the marketing and writing challenge that led me to the idea though. It was actually one of those weird ideas writers get that kept growing in my mind. Someone (sorry, I can’t remember who it was) posted on Facebook that they stopped on a piece to start on something new, right as the characters in the first piece were about to have sex. She wondered if the characters were mad at her. I imagined these poor people, naked in a semi-dark room, panting as desire all but consumes them and they just have to stand there and wait until the author comes back to write the scene.

My mind took off with it from there. I imagined characters coming to life in our computers while we’re away, a la “Toy Story,” taking revenge on the authors who left them suffering. Then I got even more carried away with the idea from “Men in Black” that our big universe is really just a marble in someone else’s much larger universe. We are living out the lives of characters in a bigger story that someone else is writing.

Just like in the books we write, our own story is about the exciting times, the times that form our character, challenge us, make us become better people. We create havoc in our characters’ lives to help them grow, because the smooth, happy times don’t accomplish what a crisis can. That’s what our Writer does for us – gives us obstacles to overcome, weaknesses to improve, breaking points that we can survive, all to better equip us to fight our own enemy and to reach our potentials.

Most of the time, our lives are boring and we just live them out on our own, until our Writer decides it’s time to grow again. So maybe, like us, our characters are carrying on in their own little worlds with all that mundane stuff when we’re not looking. They go to the bathroom, do the laundry, wax their eyebrows, get that embarrassing health issue taken care of…things that must be done but don’t move the story along.

Or maybe they’re limited to our computers, destroying the alternative outlines that kill them off so you’ll forget you ever had that idea. Or maybe they’re frozen in time, naked in the heat of the moment or hanging upside-down from a tree branch or staring their enemy in the eye, unable to do anything until we write it down. Or maybe they’re just running rampant in our minds, poke, poke, poking us in the gray matter, screaming in our heads until we finally sit down and give words to their stories.

My characters are very real to me, so I can imagine any of the above. Can you? Or am I really just as insane as Alexis?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Five for Friday

I know, it’s Saturday now. Sorry this is late. I was waiting for a moment when Kristie was away to post this, but she shut the computer at 5:30 p.m. last night! Can you believe it?!? She never turns off the computer until like 2 a.m. So I was kind of stuck in the dark and then she got to work this morning, and I finally have a chance to put this up.

So, here are my five favorite things [from Alexis]:

  1. Tristan – His eyes, his purrrrfectly chiseled chest, his hands and what they do to me [shudder], his luscious lips…
  2. Vampires and everything magical and fantastical
  3. Chocolate croissants
  4. Writing
  5. You!!

There’s something else, but, unfortunately, I can’t tell you right now. You’ll have to read Promise and Purpose.

Thank you for distracting me from my woes this week. I guess now I have to go back to waiting in my misery. Kristie promises to be back, though, so we can finally finish this story.

Talk to you soon!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Not-So-Enlightening Conversation With Tristan

Hello, real-lifers, it’s Alexis again. Yes, I’m still here, even after what I did Monday and Tuesday. So either Kristie doesn’t know yet that I posted two whole chapters of Promise or just doesn’t care. I guess we’ll find out soon. I’m a little giddy today. Tristan’s here! Yes, he still makes me giddy. That’s a good thing, considering we’re supposed to spend forever together.

I’ll start by telling you a little bit about the true love of my life. First, he’s absolutely beautiful. Yeah, you probably get that already, with all the gushing I did over there. But I can’t help it. And he’s much more than just good looking. He’s an amazingly talented artist and a math geek, too. He likes to cook, ride motorcycles and watch sunsets on the beach.

Tristan: Sounds like a personal ad. Except the math part. That’s not very sexy.

Me: Even the math part’s sexy about you.

Tristan: Haven’t we had this conversation before?

Me: Um, yes and no. We had to delete that scene.

Tristan [frowning]: Too bad. I kind of liked that scene.

Me: Don’t worry. There’s still lots of kissing and, um, other stuff. So, well, [trying to be sneaky here] what were you like as a kid?

Tristan [answers with a scowl]

Me: Okay, fine. I know you don’t like talking about your past. What do you want to talk about?

Tristan [smiling now]: You.

Me: Today is about you. What’s your favorite memory?

Tristan [huge grin]: Hurricanes.

Me: Hurricanes?

Tristan: Specifically, Hurricane Alexis.

Me [blushing profusely]: Um, yeah…well, they don’t know that part yet. And if we’re not careful, that might become a deleted scene, too.

Tristan: Right. I certainly don’t want that to happen. No secrets out of these lips. All of my favorite memories would get us in trouble, though. I guess there’s the time you threw the dart at me. Or our first sunset. Ah. Our first kiss. That’s an excellent memory.

Me [grinning]: Yes, it is.

Tristan: And then there was kicking Edmund’s ass.

Me: That’s a horrible memory!

Tristan: I would have never let him hurt you, my love.

Me: So sex and violence? Those are your favorite memories? You are such a man!

Tristan: Most definitely. [He winks. And if you don’t know what that does to me…shiver.]

Me: You’re avoiding the real you.

Tristan: We’re both pretty good at that, aren’t we?

Me: Yeah, I guess we are. So, real-lifers, you’ll just have to read the books to know more. Maybe Kristie will bring us back sometime, if you ask her nicely.

Monday, May 10, 2010

This Blog Has Been Jacked

Ahem. Um…hello? [Tap, tap, tap] Is this thing on? Oh! Uh…hi. I’m, uh, looking for my author. Do you know her? Her name’s Kristie. I’m Alexis, from Promise, and I kind of need her right now. Have you seen her? No? Well, crap.

See, we’re working on the next book, Purpose, and she’s left me in the middle of a big crisis. In fact, it’s absolute hell for me and I’d really like to get past this part. Yeah, we’ve already finished it once and I know things will get better, but I just really hate getting stuck back here again. It nearly kills me every time we go through it. And now she’s left me here, about to lose my freakin’ mind.

[Sound of a document opening.]

Oh. Hold on a sec. Maybe that’s her.

[Document closes.]

Son of a witch! Yeah, that was her alright! She opened the file for just a minute, said something about having to live her real life for a while and I’d just have to wait, then closed it again. So now I’m supposed to just sit here and wallow in my misery until she decides she has time for me again! She has these things called day-job clients and real kids and trying to get stuff done for Promise’s release. Apparently all stuff that’s more important than us right now. Doesn’t she know I’m on the verge of insanity?!? The nerve!!!

Well, I’ll show her! Since I’m a little on the crazy side anyway, I’m jackin’ the blog this week. Yep, it’s all mine. I’ll plead temporary insanity when she returns. It’s her fault, anyway. She put me in this mess.

Hmm...I better not go too crazy. After all, I’m a writer, too, and I know exactly what happens to characters who misbehave. Not even I’m safe. I know all about changing points of view in the middle of a book or series just so you can off the MC. [gulp] Kristie wouldn’t really do that, would she? I kind of like living in her head and I think she likes me, too. I’m not positive, though. I mean, if you knew the things she put me through… She’s horrible sometimes! Like right now, when I’m suffering through the darkest days of my life. Huh…maybe she’s really a bitch.

[Looks around, sees the sidebar.]

Oh, well, she looks nice. And she has a lot of friends, so she can’t be too bad. Oh! Look! There’s you! Look at all you real-lifers with your cute smiles and safe lives. Must be nice. Trust me. No matter how tough your life seems, it’s nothing like ours. I’m sure you don’t have demons chasing after you and your loved ones. Well, not real, physical ones that growl and bite and tear off body parts. Oops. I better watch what I say. Kristie would kill me if I give anything away. I mean, actually kill me.

So…what are we going to do this week? I guess I can start by telling you a little about me. I’m not really good at that, though. Maybe that seems weird, since you’ll be learning all about me in Kristie’s books, and they do get extremely personal. I mean, very close-up, with Tristan and me. [blushes] But, admittedly, those are my favorite parts. [shy grin]

Um…about me…well, what do you want to know? Why don’t you ask the questions and I’ll answer them this week. I can probably get Tristan to come over, too. Can you say yummy? Hmm…maybe I don’t want to share after all. We’ll, see…

If we have time before Kristie comes back and discovers what I’m doing, I’ll introduce a couple other characters this week, too. And they can probably tell you more about me than I can. So, if there’s anything you want to know, now’s the time to ask. We have to be careful and not give away too much – none of us want to be killed off – but since I’ve just been left hanging here, I’m willing to take a few chances. Maybe next time Kristie will think twice before leaving me like this again, the little witch.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Five for Friday

For Mother's Day, five things I love about being a Mom:

  1. Flutter of those first kicks
  2. Hearing their heartbeats for the first time
  3. First cries
  4. First smiles
  5. Looking UP at them (two are a foot taller than me!) and saying "Because I'm the Mom! That's why!"

Oh...and the pride I feel when I see what great young men they are growing up to be. I love my herd!

Happy Mother's Day to all the Mom's out there!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Last Lines Blogfest

Today is the Last Lines Blogfest! Check out the others over here at Lilah Pierce's blog. Thanks, Lilah, for hosting this!

Edited to add: Charity Bradford is hosting a 50 Followers Blogfest today, too. I didn't think I really had anything good to contribute to her theme of baking, but, hey, my characters below do discuss eating. It's just that the steaks end up in the fridge for the following night. If anything, I just wanted to give a little shout-out to Charity's Blogfest and help a friend out. ;-)

This was really hard to choose what to post. Some of my best last lines gave too much away. But I finally decided on this, an excerpt from PURPOSE, book two of my series.

Wow, you look…” Owen was caught off guard when I called for him. I flashed him my best smile. He narrowed his eyes and said flatly, “You’re not going anywhere.”
I tried to act casual. “Of course not. I was just tired of looking like a frump. I feel good. I finished the book.”

He smiled. “Great! Now we wait for it to be published and let it do its thing.”

“But we can celebrate now,” I said suggestively.

He looked surprised, the sapphire eyes wide, eyebrows raised. “You and me?”

“That’s all we have right now, right? Why not? If you get some steaks and the trimmings, I’ll cook. And we need some wine, of course.”

He frowned. “I don’t think that’s a good idea. We need to be completely alert.”

I pretended to pout. “Just a glass. Just for a toast to the Amadis and whatever it is they have planned.”

He studied my face. I really wasn’t trying to seduce him. Honestly. I just needed him to disappear for a while…just long enough. I smiled warmly at him.

“Okay,” he finally agreed. “You stay here. I’ll be back in ten or fifteen minutes.”

I followed him out the door and watched him walk down the driveway, into the brush and disappear. As soon as he was gone, I jumped into the Ferrari and took off, my heart pounding with anxiety and fear. I’d left the keys in there earlier, knowing I needed every second I could get when the opportunity arose. I sped down the highway, clearing as much distance as possible before Owen returned and found me gone. Guilt pierced my conscience when I thought of him searching for me. But I had to do it. At least he wouldn’t be left heartbroken and helpless like I had been. I just hoped he wouldn’t immediately guess where I headed, but would think I went after my family. Because once he knew, he would be there in a flash.