Do travel mugs equal e-readers? Only in my world.

I may be a romance writer, but I’m also a coffee lover, and today I’m home, drinking coffee out of my favorite mug. It’s a big thick one with Minnie Mouse on it. I don’t like it because it has Minnie Mouse on it, although I love all things Disney. I like this mug because coffee tastes better out of it than any other coffee mug I’ve ever tried.

I can’t always kick back and drink my coffee at home, though. Most days I’m on the run, delivering kids to various dental or doctor appointments, grocery shopping, volunteering at the school. You know, all the things that keep us moms out of trouble. For those days, I need a travel mug. One problem. Coffee does NOT taste the same out of a travel mug. Want proof? I have a cupboard full of travel mugs and I don’t like any of them as much as I do my Minnie Mouse mug. Have a look:

Romance writer's travel mug collection

You’d think one of those mugs would work for me, wouldn’t you? To be fair, these are my favorites and the ones you’re most likely to catch me with. In fact, despite my tendency to leave things behind, I’ve managed to hold onto a couple of these for years. See that pink one with the lip prints on it? That one’s from a school trip my son took to Washington, D.C., three years ago. I have left that mug everywhere, but I always go back for it, because the coffee doesn’t taste half bad when I drink from it. The two Margaritaville mugs are my most recent acquisitions. I just bought them on my vacation last week in Myrtle Beach (remember the gators?). You see, I’m still on my quest to find the perfect travel mug because none of these match up to my good old-fashioned Minnie Mouse.

So how did I go from thinking about travel mugs to e-readers? Simple. People keep asking me when my novels will all be out in print. Even now when most of the people who will read my novels actually do have an e-reader or at least a smart-phone with a Kindle app. But I get it. Reading a novel on an electronic screen isn’t the same as holding the book in your hands. So yeah, now that I’ve actually held one of my books in my hands (Ducks in a Row), I get it. I know now why people self-publish instead of looking for an independent electronic publisher. That doesn’t mean that I’m not still looking for electronic publishers. But it does mean that when I get a chance to publish in print, I’m going to take it. So look for Weeds & Flowers to be out there soon. But for now, I leave you with this lovely image:

Romance and coffee

Giving away stuff today…

I get a great feeling out of giving stuff away. It’s a fun, sort of magnanimous, expansive feeling…kind of like I’m Robin Hood throwing gold to the poor.

Well, I’m not Robin Hood, and what I have to give isn’t stolen. I worked hard for them, but I do feel kind of like I have vast riches to give away because now I’ve got not one, but two books that I can decide to put on Amazon’s free kindle books list. So go get your copies of Weeds and Flowers and Ducks in a Row now. They’re free until Thursday. Enjoy!

Ducks in a Row Cover

Weeds and Flowers

Self-published and proud of it: Stop squelching the new voices.

There are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt. — Audre Lorde

I’m really trying not to get angry now. If you want to know why, go read this article: Are Self-Pubbed Authors Killing the Publishing Industry? I actually read the article yesterday and let it sit for a day so I could be sure after cooling off that I didn’t see her point, but after reading it again this morning, I realized I’m still hot. So here I go on my soapbox.

Seriously? KILLING the industry? You want to know what’s killing the industry? Look a little deeper. Look at the agents who don’t want to take a chance on cross-genre works and new names. And the editors who won’t even look at a new author unless they’re represented by an agent. The publishing industry has become so intertwined, it’s almost impossible to get anything published the traditional route unless you’re grandfathered in.

Of course, there are exceptions. Everybody knows J.K. Rowling’s slush pile acceptance story. But that was more than fifteen years ago. More recently, of course, there was the Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James (what’s with the British authors with initials thing?) breakthrough, but let’s please remember that that started out as fanfiction, and was originally published online. So I’m not certain you can claim Ms. James went the traditional route at all.

I have self-published a book. I’m considering self-publishing more. And the reason I’m doing it is because I’m a writer, and I have every intention of continuing to write and be published, whether I have to do it myself or not. And to promote my books, I will do web tours and give away Kindles and Nooks, even if “Traditionally published authors aren’t stooping to these tactics.” Traditionally published authors don’t have to. Their publishers take care of publicity for them.

I have said before and will say again that the way for new authors to get their words out there is to go through small e-publishers. With that route, you get the benefit of a professional editor (believe me, it helps). However, I also know there are books that even indie publishers aren’t going to consider. And for those, Smashwords and Kindle Direct Publishing will continue to be desirable routes for writers. And if we want to sell our words for 99 cents, then traditional publishers need to suck it up and stop complaining. Buyer beware. If you pay 99 cents for a book, you might not enjoy it. It probably hasn’t been professionally edited. It may have typos and formatting errors.

On the other hand, it might be brilliant. It might be a new voice with something to say that you might enjoy hearing. At any rate, it cost less than a cup of coffee at Starbucks, so what do you have to lose?

If you’d like to try my 99 cent self-published 5-star on Amazon book, here’s a link: Weeds and Flowers. And my self-designed cover, which I am very proud of:

How to make your setting into a character…and why you should. Plus, today’s blog tour stop!

I watched a movie last night that made a real impression on me. It was called “Saving Grace”, a British film set in a little town on the coast of Cornwall. What impressed me most about the movie (which on its own was very entertaining and made me laugh and cry), was that the town has become a character to me all on its own.

You see, I’ve been watching the British television series “Doc Martin” with my husband over the past few weeks. I’m so addicted to this show if I can’t watch at least one episode of it a day, I feel out of sorts. Last night my husband was on a Boy Scout campout and had forbidden me to watch “Doc” without him, so I decided to rent the movie the series had grown out of instead. I wasn’t sure I’d like it because, although some of the same actors are in it, they play totally different characters. None of the characters are the same.

Except the setting.

I’m not sure if they called the town by the same name, but it looked the same. The narrow curvy streets, the quaint cliffside architecture, the harbor clogged with fishing boats. Every time they showed the town, I felt a little happier and I knew it was because I recognized it. The town itself has become important to me, as if it’s a friend I visit when I watch the show. The setting of the story has become a character to me.

Setting is important to any story, of course. For the most part, you can’t let your characters carry on their story against a blank backdrop. City or small town, apartment or house, they need to be put somewhere. The question I’ve been asking myself ever since realizing the little town in “Doc Martin” had become so important to me is, “Can I do that in my stories? Is it possible?”

I think I’ve answered it. It is possible, because some authors have already done it. Think about Margaret Mitchell’s Atlanta. Didn’t you mourn the burning of Atlanta almost as much as her characters did? She must have really loved that city. Other settings I love as much as the characters in books: Hogwarts (Harry Potter), Prince Edward Island (Anne of Green Gables), and Bath, England (Jane Austen). In fact, if I look back on the books I’ve loved most, part of what I loved—usually a large part—was the setting. The authors not only provided a backdrop for their characters, they created living worlds.

Have I achieved this in any of my books? I don’t think so. Maybe I came a little bit close with Weeds and Flowers? Possibly. The setting of that book was the most important of any story I’ve told yet. I’m writing another one now set in my hometown of Brevard, N.C. It’s the first time I’ve tried it since W&F. Maybe the key is to love the setting as much as you love your characters, to let the setting influence the story and your characters. I look forward to exploring it further.

In the meantime, check out my guest blog on All I Want and More today for some background into the inspiration for Where the Heart Lies and an excerpt from the book. Leave me a comment for a chance to win fabulous prizes!

End of summer post and celebration; Get WEEDS AND FLOWERS free!

The end of something, the beginning of something new. I’m looking forward to this year, but I always find it difficult to let go of my kids at the end of the summer, to turn them over (part-time), even to the teachers who share my quest to bring out the best in my offspring. Every year, they get taller, smarter, more beautiful until it breaks my heart to look at them because I know someday I have to let them go completely.

Take a breathing moment. Get a hold of the motherly “perklempt”, if I can be excused for quoting Saturday Night Live.

And on to the celebration part. In a couple of weeks, my youngest will follow her brothers into the world of school and I’ll be free at least four mornings a week, four hours a day, to write! Ah, the beauty of it. I’ll get a lot done, right? Right?

Maybe.

At any rate, I am celebrating back to school this week by giving away WEEDS AND FLOWERS for five days. That’s right, you can save 99 cents! I know you’re speechless. If I could give away all four of my novels and the couple of anthologies I’m represented in, I would, but W&F is the only one I have control of the price. At any rate, starting at midnight, you can download it for free. If you’ve already read it and enjoyed it, tell a friend about it and maybe they will download it. (And by the way, I’d love to have a couple more reviews!) If you do like W&F, maybe you’d like one of my other books, as well. (hint, hint)

And if you’ve never read any of my books before, well, free is a good place to start, right?

Embrace your velvet-cloaked vampire: Go ahead and publish that book

I just read an article in Forbes called Don’t Publish That Book. It’s worthwhile reading. The author Suw Charman-Anderson publishes a Twitter conversation she had with authors Steve Mosby and Lou Morgan in which the authors bemoan their early stories, one of which was evidently about a vampire in a velvet cloak.

I enjoyed the article. It encourages writers to write until they’re good enough to be noticed and not to rush to self-publish. Charman-Anderson seems to indicate that if you get multiple rejections, there’s probably a reason for that. She’s probably right and I agree with her. Too many self-published books are published before they are ready. Please, please copy edit. Don’t rely on spell-check. It’s not infallible. And let a manuscript sit for a few weeks after it’s done, re-read it and then decide if you want to publish it. You might be surprised by the answer you give yourself. My self-published book Weeds and Flowers sat on my hard-drive for years before I got the go-ahead from my inner editor.

With that said, I will also add that we all have our stories about vampires in velvet cloaks. C’mon, if you’re a writer who started publishing within the last fifteen years, you have that story. That one story that’s still floating around in the ether somewhere waiting to come back and bite you in the ass. I know where mine is. Do you?

My point is that we live and publish in a different time. A new age for publishing. An age in which our mistakes and growing pains may make it into “print”. Yes, we need to watch ourselves, but we also need to embrace this new age. Imagine if we could read Stephen King’s first stories. I’ve heard Nicholas Sparks say his first novel was a horror novel. Now that would be some interesting reading.

One of my favorite books on my bookshelf is A Whisper in the Dark: Twelve Thrilling Tales by Louisa May Alcott. Of course, I don’t love the tales so much as I love the book. You see, Louisa May Alcott was my inspiration for becoming a writer. I loved all her books, read all of them, but my favorite, of course, was the semi-autobiographical Little Women, in which Jo, the character Alcott based on herself, writes “sensational” tales for the paper. The first time I read Little Women when I was about nine or ten years old, I couldn’t imagine what “sensational” meant. Later I got the idea that they must have something to do with sex, especially since Jo destroys them all in a fit of shame in the book. I read A Whisper in the Dark much later as an adult, and I wondered what on earth Alcott was talking about. They’re corny by today’s standards, and probably pretty dark and risque in the nineteenth century, but not the awful stuff I’d half been expecting.

Only now as I begin (notice I said “begin”) to reach my own maturity as a writer do I understand where she was coming from. But as a writer, I’m grateful not all of Alcott’s early works were lost. It makes some of my own early growing pains easier to bear.

Even now when I look back on Secrets of the Lotus, published almost exactly two years ago, I see things I would do differently. The same for Winter Solstice. If I’m fortunate enough to continue growing and developing as a writer—and I hope that will be a lifelong process—in five years I may reread Where the Heart Lies with tolerant disdain.

It’s a process. So whether an editor or publisher will take the time on your work or you self-publish it, you have to know that if you are one of the lucky ones, you won’t like what you write now in five years.