Monday, September 15, 2014

Recommending Myself to Strangers

In the 1995 movie version of Pride and Prejudice, there's that pivotal scene- you know, the one where Mr. Darcy listens to Elizabeth play the piano next to Colonel Fitzwilliam and then approaches them. Elizabeth starts taunting him a bit, pointing out his poor behavior at the ball where she first met him. Granted, Darcy acted like a snob, which of course, is our first impression of him too, but in this scene at the piano, he attempts to defend himself. It goes like this:

Darcy: I fear I am ill qualified to recommend myself to strangers.

Elizabeth: Should we ask him why? Why a man of sense and education who has lived in the world should be ill qualified to recommend himself to strangers?
Darcy: I am. . . I have not that talent which some possess of conversing easily with strangers.

Elizabeth: I do not play this instrument so well as I should wish to, but I have always supposed that to be my own fault because I would not take the trouble of practicing.

(Darcy gives a cute little smile here. Just thought I'd mention that part.)

Darcy: You're perfectly right. You've employed your time much better. No one admitted to the privilege of hearing you could think anything wanting. We neither of us perform to strangers.

(And if you want to just watch it, go HERE. And the poster of this video, Tobias Sing, is a much better pianist than Elizabeth so his other video's are worth watching too.)

Okay, so besides just outing the fact that I go all fan girl over Pride and Prejudice (and Jane Austen in general. I may or may not be the kind of woman who forces her ten year old son and four year old daughter to dress up as Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth for Halloween. Yes, I'll foot the bill for their therapy someday.), there was a reason I just wrote out that scene. The first time I saw that movie as a teenager, that was the scene where I felt bad for Mr. Darcy, and really sort of related to him.
So, I definitely don't make ten thousand pounds a year or whatever today's equivalent would be, and there is nothing I have to be snobbish about (unless it's my really extensive Jane Austen movie and book collection), but the moment he sheepishly says, "I have not that talent with some possess of conversing easily with strangers" just hit home. I know exactly what that's like. I'm guessing a lot of people do.
I mean, yeah, sure Elizabeth makes a good point but I felt some sympathy for Darcy at the moment because I know what it's like to struggle with socializing.
Fast forward two hundred or so years later (has is been THAT long since the Regency era? It feels like just yesterday. . .) and now we have social media. The very fact that the words "social" and "media" are now coupled makes me want to close my eyes, plug my ears, and scream the words to Handel's "Slumber, Dear Maid," until I pass out. 
Wasn't media a place where you could disappear while being entertained? Sink into the darkness of a movie theater while other people fake-socialized on the screen? And books? Well, they're the best media. Reading quietly to oneself means sharing a world only with the characters in a story. Watching or reading the news while it processes privately in your head. . . 
but now, we're expected to socialize within media too? What's the world coming to?
Okay, I'm in jest, sort of, but to be honest, this is something I struggle with. I tend to be a fairly private person on the public front. Personally, one on one, I may babble your ear off if you seem nice. (I met my kids' former school Principal's wife at the gym a few weeks back. Poor lady had to flee the pool to get me to shut up. I'm still embarrassed about it.) Get me in a social gathering, and I seriously clam up. I've been known to hide in hallways during baby showers. Give me an audience or put me in an online forum or someplace I know may reach a lot of people, I may just have a panic attack. 
Hilarious that I'm a writer, right? Or, not so much, actually.
There are two reasons I'm writing about this issue today. The first is because I want to apologize if any of my readers have felt neglected. I'm not talking about blog posts, like this one. I'm not so full of myself to think that what I post really matters. I'm talking mainly about responding to comments here, reviews and engaging readers on Twitter (Confession: I still don't get Twitter.), Facebook, or on sites like Goodreads and Amazon. If I've come across snobbish or ungracious with my neglect, I am truly sorry. That has never been my intent. 
The second reason I'm writing about this goes a bit deeper. Before I managed to get over my fear of people enough to publish, I followed a lot of forums that dealt with reviewers, readers, and writers. There are a ton of controversies out there where a reviewer says something about a book a writer doesn't like and the writer or his/her agent/editor/friend/posse responds, tweets, or posts in defense or retaliation (however you look at it). Then, the world implodes.
In reading up on these situations, I saw quite a few reviewers and readers telling authors to not comment on anything. The reviewer is simply doing their job and the author should be grateful for the review. The author should gracefully accept the criticism/opinion and move on- and they shouldn't necessarily be messing with or frequenting a readers forum anyway when it's personal to them. Some comments seemed to suggest that, unless initiated, writers should be careful contacting readers for anything. I took this to include thanking them for any reviews. 
I hate controversy and I hate people being angry at me so after seeing this, I vowed to just let people review my books and make comments while I faded silently into the background.
Well, after an interesting conversation with some other writers on a forum, I'm realizing that hasn't served me well either. I've struggled to strike the right balance.
After a particularly awesome review that came when I needed it most, I felt it was important to let the reviewer know how much I appreciated it. Then I felt guilty for not having done that with everyone, especially because I truly AM grateful for every positive review. So after some thought, I've realized I've let my fear of social media and the occasional consequences that come from it scare me away from "recommending myself to strangers" or in better terms, engaging with readers. 
I'm going to change that. . . so when possible, I'm going to take Elizabeth Bennett's words to heart and try to socially engage. I want to thank my reviewers and readers more often because they truly deserve recognition for giving an unknown writer a chance.
Finally, I'm very curious about how reviewers and readers on average feel about contact with the writers of the books they read, whether they liked the book or not. I have a list of questions and if any reader or reviewer actually reads this post, I'd love them to share their thoughts on any of these.

1. Should a writer respond to reviews at all?
2. Should they respond to positive reviews only?
3. Should a writer initiate conversation about a review with a reviewer or reader on a public forum? What about through private communication?
4. Should a writer thank a reviewer for a negative review?
5. Should a writer ever defend him/herself or comment if a review is particularly negative?
6. Do readers and reviewers expect or wish to be personally thanked for each review? 
7. What is a reviewer/readers definition of proper writer etiquette when it comes to social media and working with their readers?

I hope to someday get a myriad of ideas and answers to these questions. . . they're important to me, especially since I'm still trying to find my footing in the writing world. But either way, I want it publicly stated that I'm grateful for my readers and reviewers and their positive words have often kept me writing when I just didn't want to anymore. For that alone, I owe them a lot!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Finally Here!

"Heiress," Book Two in the Birthstone Series (Sequel to "Sea Dweller") is finally here! While I'm still waiting for Barnes & Noble to list the book, Amazon and Itunes currently have it listed. Also, in our local paper, The Mountain Times, my little "writing story" was featured. Thank you to Madie Smith for writing it. It was such an honor to be interviewed and the article was so positive and fun to read! Madie has serious talent in writing.
I'll be posting a bit more about the second book and a few more links as they become available this week, but for now, I wanted to make the anouncement that Book Two is available for purchase. Also, the price is currently $1.99. It won't stay that way. Sea Dweller (book one) will be free soon and when that happens, Heiress will be permanently listed at $2.99. I wanted to make sure it was priced lower for the first buyers!
So, if you plan on purchasing it, grab it now!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Cover Reveal!

It's finished! The cover for the second book in the Birthstone Trilogy. . . or as I've dubbed it,
"Sea Dweller 2". Just as with the last cover shoot, my lovely model, Sydney, did a wonderful job hiking in the mud and cold and ignoring the strange looks people gave us while she strolled around a public park in a medieval dress and in the (extremely) heavy cloak shown in the photo. So, I owe her a very special thank you for once again, being willing to be my cover model.

And yes, this means that Book 2 - otherwise known as "Heiress" - is VERY close to being released. I don't have an exact date yet but it's nearing the final stages of editing.

Thank you to all of those wonderful friends, family, and readers who have hung in there and been so patient. I've had a lot of questions about when Book 2 would be ready and I've had to confess to people that I am a slow writer. Luckily, I'm getting faster with each book. . .so maybe Book 3 (the last book about Aylen and Sai but NOT the last book based in this world) will be finished even faster.

Anyway, enough blathering. I've got a bit more editing to do and the sooner I do it, the sooner "Heiress" will be out to purchase! I can't wait to share the rest of the Aylen's story!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Ambivalent Writer

Many years ago, in the early days of my marriage, I found myself wandering through a Borders Bookstore on a crisp, probably cold evening in Logan, Utah. There were a few extra dollars in my pocket (I'm not sure why; we were always broke during those days)and I knew I needed something to inspire me. I skipped over my typical search through women's fiction- this was before I'd discovered how much I loved children's and YA literature- and drifted toward the section for writers.

Anyone who has a yearning to write knows that section. It's the one that offers advice, sympathy, and a thousand encouraging words for the poor, miserable souls who are convinced writing is their path to immortality. The shelves are jammed with books written by editors, literary agents, successful authors who've forgotten what it was like to be on the dark side(every unpublished author hates those the most), and unknown writers who seem to think they have a wealth of information to spew even though no one has heard of anything they've written. There are over priced reference books that list constantly outdated requirements for submission to agents and publishing houses, and books on grammar that people like myself ignore far too often.

My eyes scanned the titles, looking for what would make the flame inside me blaze.

 That "flame" - my writer's flame - had been around for nearly as long as I could remember. It flickered at times, but sometimes, it roared to life again until it nearly consumed me. The first time I'd been consumed was in fourth grade. Even though I knew I wanted to be a writer by third grade, it was my fourth grade teacher who assigned the class to write a paragraph about three things they'd take with them to a desert island.

 I ended up with a twenty-two page story. And that tiny writer's flame inside of me exploded. I knew writing defined me, my desires, my future, my very soul.

 So, on that night in Logan, after years of failure in writing and a million moments of the flame alternating between flickering and blazing, I wanted something solid. Something that would tell me my words had worth. I shouldn't give up. Someday it would be worth it.

 And I found Betsy Lerner.

 It's been years since I read her book "The Forest for the Trees" but I remember feeling like she GOT it. Betsy understood how difficult this business was. How discouraging. How humiliating at times. And when she defined the different types of writers, I knew she had my number. I'm what she termed the "Ambivalent Writer". I'm the writer who can say, "I'm awesome, I stink," all in the same sentence. I have a million ideas and I can't force myself to write them. I fear writing. I love it. I hate it. I HAVE TO DO IT or I forget how to breathe. And this is why my second book isn't out yet.

 I'm not making excuses. Honestly, I'm not sure that it really matters to anyone but myself. One of the nice things about being an indie author is that an author can set her own release date. Usually, with indie authors, they are much faster than the year long wait between books with traditional publishing. However, sometimes, it can take much longer. And in my case, it's because of my ambivalence. I'm all over the place when it comes to my confidence and desire to write.

 All over my "All About Writing" Pinterest board, I've pinned words of encouragement about just sitting down and writing and sticking to it because that's what I struggle with the most. When the writing flame is only a flicker, it sputters with a barrage of thoughts that sound something like, "I suck. I suck. I suck." Then I begin the internal war that goes, "I HATE writing!" in a pouty, weepy voice, but quickly moves on to, "But I LOVE it. I NEED it. I AM a writer." Then, "But I hate it! I'll never be good enough!" And on and on.

 Occasionally these thoughts make a verbal showing around my family and I can promise, it drives my husband crazy. If he thinks it's that bad, he should try listening to it in his head all day.

 The reason I'm sharing this is to explain. For anyone that cares, yes, Aylen and Sai's story continues. I love them. I care about those characters as though they were my own flesh. I hear their voices when I sleep and during nearly every waking hour. The next book is about their individual strengths and sacrifices and it's nearly done - but I AM a slow writer. Besides the typical struggles of being a mother of four small tyrants (really, I adore my tyrants) I struggle deeply with self confidence and self worth. Deeply. This isn't a good thing when you are putting your books out to be critiqued (Note to self: New Year's resolution is to develop a thicker skin) and sometimes I allow my confidence issues and love/hate relationship with writing to cripple me. Sometimes it cripples me for weeks. Months even. Other times, something ignites the flame again and I can overcome it. Oftentimes, it's the kind and encouraging words of a reader that clears the haze of discouragement from my mind.

 So, I want to thank those that have read my little story and said such positive things about it. It is the kind, enthusiastic words from readers that keep me from giving up when my confidence is fragile. A simple positive rating on Goodreads from a stranger has honestly been a tide-turner for me. Your opinion and support matters. And I think it's the same with all writers. We rely on our readers. We care about them. We appreciate them. Words have so much power, especially from a reader. In fact, they may be the very thing that can turn a writer's flame back into a blaze that can consume the writer's ambivalence and set them back on the course they've lost. Thanks to my wonderful readers and writer friends, I think I'm headed there now.

 I hope you have a wonderful New Year. You truly deserve it.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Jamie Baker by Kelly Oram

Obviously, I LOVE young adult books and lately, I've come across some amazing authors. One of my new favorites is Kelly Oram. A while ago, one of my good friends recommended one of Kelly's books to me (because that is what good friends do! We share books!) and I was instantly hooked. Kelly writes very fun, lighthearted, thoughtful stories that keep you turning pages and constantly wanting to see what happens next. I was so impressed with the first one I read that I hurried and bought several more of her books for my kindle. I loved them all! One of my favorites was the first book in the Jamie Baker series. "Being Jamie Baker" was such an intersting, engaging story with an exciting, fast paced plot that I have no problem reading it again and again. I was thrilled when I found out that a sequel was coming out and I wanted to help promote the series. I love finding good, clean stories that I can recommend to everyone and this series is right there on the list. You'll even find these books on my Pinterest board - and I don't pin books lightly! If I've got you interested yet, then check out the info below and get your Jamie Baker books! I'm a little late posting this but it's not too late to get a good deal for the first book just in time for the second to be released! Happy reading!
More Than Jamie Baker, the second book in the Jamie Baker series by Kelly Oram is almost here! 
Haven't read book one yet? No problem! 
For a limited time Being Jamie Baker(Jamie Baker #1) is available for $.99 on Amazon and Barnes&Noble!
Don't miss out on this electrifying tale of superpowers, bad guys, and heart-stopping kisses. Literally, heart-stopping...
An accident that should end in tragedy instead gives seventeen-year-old Jamie Baker a slew of uncontrollable superhuman abilities.  To keep her secret safe Jamie socially exiles herself, earning the title of Rocklin High's resident ice queen. But during a supercharged encounter with star quarterback Ryan Miller she literally kisses anonymity goodbye. Now the annoyingly irresistible Ryan will stop at nothing to melt the heart of the ice queen and find out what makes her so special.  Unfortunately, Ryan is not the only person on to her secret. Will Jamie learn to contain her unstable powers before being discovered by the media or turned into a government lab rat? More importantly, can she throw Ryan Miller off her trail before falling in love with him?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Bit O' Change

I really like change. I've never been one to love my surroundings or environment so much that the thought of something changing gave me reason to lament. Through my teen years, I'd get so bored with routine and I'd desperately crave some excitement in my life. Well, as fourteen year old, rule-following, straight laced nerd (Yes, I admit it, I was a nerd), there wasn't a whole lot to do to generate excitement. So, when I was desperate for some sort of alteration to my life, I usually did something truly brilliant like chop all my hair off. Or dye it a really bad brassy blond - which, believe me, is NOT my color. In fact, for some reason, my hair usually took the brunt of my need for change/control in my life. This didn't help my "nerd" situation much because whatever I tended to do never looked that great and I usually ended up in my mother's hairdresser's chair wondering why I couldn't just leave things alone.
But fast forward many years later (yeah, I'm not gonna tell you how many) and I still haven't quite kicked my need for change. Luckily, I don't lash out at my hair so much anymore. I've allowed my husband to have a bit of a say in that and well, being bribed to keep my locks long doesn't hurt either. However, I still get bored and seek out ways of creating something new. When I'm not writing or taking care of my kids, I'm sewing a new dress or playing around in Photoshop, even with old photos I'd once forgotten about.
So, it's no surprise that I went back to some of my old covers for "Sea Dweller" and decided to start altering a few of them. At first it was merely just for fun after a long day of writing, editing business photos, and hearing my sons beat the snot out of each other in the background. But after a while, one in particular really grew on me although it was never one of my favorites in the past.
Apparently, it's now my cover of choice.
So, the updated cover for "Sea Dweller" is:

Granted, this isn't everyone's favorite but for now, it's mine. And the nice thing about it is that unlike a really bad hair cut, it can be changed quickly if I want. But in the meantime, something about this one just made me want to step into the picture and stay there for awhile.
Now. . . as for an update about book two, let me just promise that it's coming. I've had some really wonderful reviews from such encouraging people and I can't express my thanks enough for those kind words. My readers in Australia have been such a delight and a surprise and now, here in the US, Sea Dweller is staying near the top of Amazon's free list in several categories. I hope it can stay there for a bit while I crank out the last bit of book two. Soon, I will post the book description, the title, and maybe I can even put an excerpt or two up.
Download Sea Dweller if you haven't yet while it's free! 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Still Here. . .

I know, I know. I've gone AWOL for a while, but I promise I'm still here and book #2 is on it's way. I don't have a release date yet but I'm currently preparing for a cover shoot in the next few weeks - if we can get a good rainy, overcast day. Come on, this is Oregon! That shouldn't be too difficult, right?
I'm planning on working with Apple and Smashwords to get the second book available for pre-order once I have a final release date. Also, the new cover will be revealed.
I wanted to give a quick thank you to all of my readers who have left such incredible reviews. Apple has seen a ton of awesome reviews on Itunes and because of the top ratings in Australia, my book was featured as part of an ebook promotion in Australia and New Zealand. THANK YOU!!! It's amazing to me to know that I have readers so far away who love my story.  
Sea Dweller is still fairly unknown and I haven't done as much marketing as I'd like, but the people who have read the book have been so supportive and so enthusiastic. Honestly, it means so much to me. I'm sorry I haven't been as quick as I should be in getting the second book out. I haven't forgotten my readers and those that want the rest of the story. It IS coming!
So, in the meantime, I'm going to try and update the look of the blog (yeah, the banner needs replacing) and pin down a release date. The second book has a lot going on and it's been an interesting process sorting it all out. These characters are real to me and as strange as it sounds, I know the background stories behind every side character and the reasons for every little choice each character makes. This will probably lead to some novella's in the future. Oh, and yes! We will have paperback copies of Sea Dweller available at some point soon. 
Again, thank you to my amazing readers all around the globe. I'm so grateful for your support and enthusiasm! And I promise not to disappear for so long again!