Leaving the backlist behind

Over the past week—especially since Wednesday when I discovered my dog had chewed through my computer cord—I have been working on getting the last three of my self-published books online at Smashwords. Smashwords will make these books available in multiple formats at multiple outlets, so that you aren’t just limited to Kindle if you wish to read in ebook format. In a few days, every one of my books will be available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Kobo, iBooks—you name it, I’ll be there. Every format.

Revisiting my backlist became less of a chore than I’d imagined it would be. I actually found myself giving my last three books (Weeds and Flowers, Ducks in a Row, and Saturday Love) a thorough proofreading…and enjoying it. I haven’t read those books in ages.

Weeds and Flowers isn’t even a romance like I write now. More of a coming-of-age story that was written in a sort of patchwork quilt way—bits and pieces that I stitched together to make a novel. Appropriately, it was actually probably the first novel I wrote, though not the first one published. I had forgotten how much that book meant to me, though. It’s the only one—so far—that has something in it that actually happened, not actually to me, but to people around me. Re-reading it was like reliving some of my own childhood, even if I was more watching than experiencing at the time.

As for the other two, Ducks was the most difficult book I’ve written thematically. I think of it as sort of an anatomy of both a marriage and an affair. I actually still dislike the heroine, though she did grow a lot during the course of the book. And I fell in love with one of the male characters. So much so that he ended up getting his own book, Saturday Love, because I just couldn’t leave him hanging like he was at the end of Ducks. Regardless of my feelings for the characters, however, re-reading those books was like visiting with family I hadn’t seen in a while. And it revived a past resolve to write a third book in that series. If I can ever get past the two or three other projects I have waiting for me now.

But for now, I am returning to work on Dickens Magic, my next in the Sleight of Hand series and my first ever attempt at a holiday-themed book. I’d reached a sort of roadblock on that one. I couldn’t quite figure a believable way to drive a wedge between the hero and heroine but over the course of the week, I had a brainstorm. I plan to give myself two more weeks to finish the first draft of Dickens Magic, then I have another start on a not-magic-related book and at some point I have to get to work on Magic at Sea… 

But maybe that would wait. Maybe I could start my third book about the Hubbard family, Agape Mou (Greek for “My Love”). There’s a reason it’s Greek. If you read Ducks and Saturday Love, you’ll understand. I have plans for a very good-looking Greek hero for that one, but his ties to the Hubbard family are very complicated and bound to result in some drama. Especially when he gets involved with the daughter of the family…

Oh crap. If I’m not careful my imagination will get stuck in sunny Greek vineyards instead of a theater all decorated for Christmas. Better get back to work! Herete, my friends.

Reviving the Backlist: 13 Novels are waiting for you!

Yesterday while pondering whether or not I could be considered a “Southern” writer and not just a writer from the South, I started thinking about my backlist. I realized three of them were still only available on Amazon because I created book covers for them using KDP. But creating simple ebook covers is easier than ever now, so I looked up an online book cover creator and got to work.

I’m happy to say I now have book covers for all three and one of them—Weeds and Flowers—is now available (along with most of my backlist) for free on Smashwords with the coupon code SS100. Ducks in a Row is in process today and I’ll work on Saturday Love as soon as Ducks is ready. I’m excited about getting Ducks out there to a wider audience. It was what I call “critically acclaimed” having earned the following comments from reviewers on Amazon:

  • “I highly recommend this unsettling book.”
  • “A beautiful story about love, choice, redemption, and family.”
  • “One of the best books I have read this year, very thought provoking.”
  • “…a very beautiful but painful story…”

Saturday Love is actually the sequel to Ducks because I felt I left too much untold at the end of Ducks. At any rate, I’m thrilled more people will soon see these and maybe add them to their to-be-read pile. For now, here are the covers of all three:

Weeds and Flowers

Ducks in a Row

Saturday Love

Five Days of Free Kindle Books: Saturday Love

As you all probably hopefully know by now, I’m giving away one of my books each day of this work week. And to sweeten the deal, I’m offering a $50 gift card for anyone who writes a review of one of my books on Amazon and posts it by August 15. Winner will be chosen by random drawing that evening. All you have to do is drop me an email at michellegflye at gmail dot com to let me know you posted the review. I want your honest take on ANY of my books (including the three published by actual publishers), not just the five I’m offering for free this week, but this definitely gives you a chance to read one of my books!

Saturday LoveToday’s free Kindle book is Saturday Love, the sequel to Ducks in a Row. In many ways, Saturday Love is a much better romance than Ducks. It certainly sticks closer to the prescribed one hero, one heroine and a happily ever after formula, though I did take some liberties. Saturday Love is also the only one of my self-published novels to be professionally edited (by the awesome Kristin Anders). Please don’t let this scare you off the others, though. I’m pretty good at catching my own errors. It was just that this one confounded me at every turn. I wrote and rewrote it and still wasn’t satisfied. By the time I handed it over to Kristin, it was a hot mess, but she somehow helped me work through it, and the result pleased even me. I hope it will please you, too!

Here’s a snippet to get you going:

“You’ve never made scuppernong wine, though.” Will glanced up at Accalia curiously.

“No. That is true. Our wines have always been European. It’s a new venture for us. For me.” Her expression showed no concern, and even a hint of arrogance. “To be truthful, I fell in love with the taste of your scuppernong wine while on a buying trip in the States. I took some home to my father.” She smiled. “He didn’t really understand the draw, but when I showed him the numbers, even he had to admit it could be a profitable expansion if done correctly.” She paused. “Nonetheless, I am under no illusions. Although I have the backing of my father’s name and his label, this is my venture, using my capital. If I fail, I fail alone. If I succeed…” She spread her hands.

Will’s respect for the woman tripled. He recognized her passion because he’d felt it himself, working at the restaurant. It was why he’d put in such long hours there, even before Cady came to work for him. He shoved thoughts of Cady away. “Well, I look forward to seeing you succeed, Ms. Nikoulas.” He stood, holding out a hand as he stepped around the desk. “We would be more than happy to help you on your way.”

Her face broke into a smile and she stood, unfortunately a little more enthusiastically than gracefully, and fell into his chest. Without missing a beat, Will put an arm around her waist to steady her, stepping away only when he was certain she wouldn’t fall. “Are you all right?” He noticed a slight blush on her cheeks.

“Sorry.” She laughed, obviously embarrassed. “I didn’t mean to jump at you. I’m not known for being graceful.”

At the sound of a slight cough, they both turned. Lisa stood in the door, a glint of amusement in her eyes but her face schooled into a professional expression. “Ms. Nikoulas, I just wanted to stop by and say hello. I’m Lisa Hubbard, the manager of the vineyard. I trust you’ve seen everything you need to?”

“Yes. I have, and I believe we’ve reached a deal.” Accalia looked happily at Will. “Mr. Hubbard and I, that is.”

“Perfect.” Lisa took her hand. “My brother will be your contact here, but feel free to call on either of us at any time. You are, of course, welcome back here as often as you like.”

“Thank you.” Accalia nodded. “And please, call me Accalia.”

“And I’m Lisa.”

“And Will.” Will stepped in. “Accalia is a lovely name. Greek?”

She nodded. “My father is Greek, my mother American. I’ve spent half my life here and half there. The best of both worlds, I suppose.”

“What does your name mean?” Lisa tilted her head curiously, lapsing out of her businesswoman persona for a moment.

Accalia winced. “Nothing very attractive, actually. My mother told me my father chose it because it means ‘chaos’ or something like that.”

“Mary Shelley said all invention comes out of chaos.” Will smiled at her.

“He got that from his education at UNC.” Lisa waggled her eyebrows expressively.

“More than they taught you at Duke.” Will turned his back on her to find Accalia watching them with amusement. “Would you like to see any more of the vineyards? I’ll be more than happy to give you a guided tour.”

“Thank you, but I saw a good bit earlier, thanks to your map.” She turned and started down the hall. Will walked beside her, his hand resting on the small of her back as he reached around her to open the front door.

“We look forward to seeing you again, Accalia.”

She gave him an almost shy, slightly awkward but still friendly smile. “Thank you…Will.”

Will watched her cross the parking lot to her Jeep. Her figure was trim, almost athletic, and her blonde hair shone in the sun. He turned to be confronted by his sister, leaning on Natalie’s desk. When his eyes met hers, she pretended to fan herself. “Was it getting hot in here or was it just me, Natalie?”

“What on earth are you talking about?” Will frowned at her.

“You were flirting with her!” Lisa chortled.

“I was not.” Will brushed past her.

“Well, don’t get me wrong, Will. Seriously, if you get us more buyers by flirting than by giving tours of the vineyard, I’m all for it.” She laughed. “As long as our clients aren’t married.”

Will froze at his office door and glanced over his shoulder. She couldn’t have meant the remark the way it sounded, but the explosion of pain in his chest wouldn’t be denied. Lisa’s teasing smile faded and Natalie looked like she might cry. Lisa took half a step toward him and opened her mouth as if to say something but he shook his head and went into his office, shutting the door carefully behind him.

He sat at the desk, looking at his hands. God, he missed the restaurant. There was always something to do there. If you were done getting ready for the lunch rush, you’d better get started getting ready for dinner. And paperwork and orders and checks to be signed. And then Cady came and even the least favorite of his chores became a joy because he was near her. He groaned and laid his head on his arms. These memories of her had to go. He had to forget. Somehow.

Announcing: Five days of free books! Plus, enter to win a $50 Amazon gift card!

I have now self-published enough full-length novels to fill a work week. To celebrate that accomplishment, I’ve decided to launch a five-day promotion starting on Monday of next week. Five days of free Kindle books! And to sweeten the deal, if you read one of my books and post an honest review of it by August 15, you’ll be entered to win a $50 gift card to Amazon! Here’s the schedule of free books:

Monday: Ducks in a Row
Tuesday: Saturday Love
Wednesday: Close Up Magic
Thursday: Weeds and Flowers
Friday: Tracks in the Sand

Remember, the review should be totally honest. Whether it’s positive or negative—as long as it’s obviously about one of MY books—you’ll still be entered to win the gift card. And each review equals one entry! So if you want to read and review more than one by August 15, please do! I can only offer my self-published ones for free, but if you’d like to purchase and review Where the Heart Lies, Secrets of the Lotus, or Winter Solstice, those count, too!

Here’s how to enter:
1. Download one of my books. See the schedule for free books or purchase and review one of my pro published books.
2. Post an honest review on Amazon about the book.
3. Email me at michellegflye@gmail.com to let me know you posted a review.
4. Winner (selected by random draw) will be announced August 15 6 p.m. Eastern!

Quick Update: What I haven’t done.

You know that moment when you’ve been up all night with your kid who has the tummy bug and you’ve got a splitting headache and all you want is to take a shower and go to bed, but you’re still waiting to see if the Gatorade and pretzels are going to stay down this time?

Yeah. That’s me. Right now.

So I chose this moment to update you on what’s going on in my life. And maybe give you an excerpt from Saturday Love cause I really want more people to go out and give that book some love! It deserves it.

I’ve been staying busy, which technically means out of trouble. My kids’ school libraries are up and running and almost fully staffed by volunteers. I love moms who love books and kids! I’m writing somewhat furiously on Island Magic. This one’s like a maze. I keep hitting roadblocks and having to go back to the beginning. But I’ve got a good feeling about the current track I’m on. And I’ve been doing some other fun stuff like working on a fundraiser for the kids’ school, keeping up with their various practices, etc.

What I haven’t done (and that’s always what haunts us, isn’t it?) is be consistent with my marketing for Saturday Love. As I mentioned before, it really is a good book. And even if you haven’t read Ducks in a Row, Saturday Love is pretty much a standalone novel. So anyway, rather than bore you further with my regrets, here’s a taste before I leave you alone:

Will hesitated inside the front door. He glanced down the hall, knowing his mother waited in the kitchen. His brother and sister paused with him and Will looked at Lisa. “Can you give us a minute?”

Lisa opened her mouth to object, but Patrick jerked his head at the kitchen. “Tell Mom we’ll be there in a minute.” She frowned at him, but flounced down the hallway after a second’s hesitation. Patrick sighed and looked at his brother. “Don’t ask me.”

“I just want to know if she’s okay.” Will heard the note of desperation in his voice and saw it reflected in his brother’s eyes. “Jesus, I feel like a fucking addict.” He turned away.
A moment of silence passed, then Patrick spoke. “She’s fine. I saw her the other night.”

“Did she speak to you?” Will stood with his shoulders hunched, holding onto the old wooden banister that he’d slid down as a child. He could feel a slight nick in the wood beneath his fingers and remembered how it had happened. He’d been playing with one of his father’s knives from the kitchen, pretending to be in a swordfight with an invisible adversary. He’d never intended for the banister to take a hit, but it had. Will remembered how angry his father had been. He wondered how angry he’d be now.

Patrick didn’t seem to notice his brother’s preoccupation. “No. I don’t think she saw me. She was with her husband.”

Will closed his eyes, pain and relief warring in him. I’m glad she and Neil worked things out. It’s the right thing. But God it hurts to think of her in his arms.
Then again, it always had. How in the hell did I manage to fall in love with a married woman? Especially one who was still in love with her husband?

SATURDAY LOVE: My current feelings (subject to change) about self-publishing

Whatever else you might say about self-publishing, I’ve never felt so free before!

Today marks the official publication of my book SATURDAY LOVE. It’s my eighth book, my fifth self-published. I’ve gotten much better at this thing over the past couple of years, everything from formatting to editing to cover design is better now. Even my writing is improving with every book, and I say that with no false modesty whatsoever. I can’t read one of my older books without blushing a little, and I wouldn’t want to change that. If I could read them all with unfettered pride, it would mean I was standing still.

But why do I say self-publishing is freeing? Whether it’s a good thing or not (and it’s definitely more work in many ways), I can publish what I want and make my own schedule. Having done it both ways, I thought I’d give you a sample schedule for both traditional and self-publishing.

SELF
Write
Finish book and set aside.
Write something else.
Return to first book, rewrite and set aside.
Contact editor and get quote.
Send book off for editing.
Write.
Get edits back. Lots of great suggestions! Pay editor.
Rewrite and make better.
Set aside.
Write something else.
Pull out book and read over making small changes and edits.
Decide it’s good and set a publishing date.
Write blurb.
Contact a cover artist, tell him/her exactly what you want.
Get back cover and be pleased. Pay cover artist promptly because you want to use them again.
Submit everything to CreateSpace.
Decide to go over one more time. Crap. How did you leave that apostrophe out?
Fix apostrophe and resubmit everything to CreateSpace.
Begin telling friends, posting on FaceBook, Tweeting, etc.
Publication day!

TRADITIONAL:
Submit book.
Wait
Wait
Wait
Wait (begin checking email obsessively)
Wait
Wait (despair of ever hearing back)
Wait
Finally!
Open email with great trepidation to find a refusal.
Break smartphone/computer/etc.
Drink wine.
Resubmit book.
(repeat above process)
Finally!
Open email and rejoice to acceptance.
Wait
Wait
Contact with editor who gives you rough schedule of editing process and publishing schedule and sends you worksheets that will help the art department and blurb writers get a handle on what your story is about.
Complete worksheet and return.
Wait
Wait
Wait
Get first edits.
Despair that there’s still so much wrong with your story.
Get to work.
Complete edits in much less time than is given and return.
Wait
Wait
Wait
Get second round of edits.
Complete edits much faster this time because you and your editor understand each other better.
Return edits.
Wait
Wait
Wait
Final round of edits.
Complete and return.
Wait
Wait
Wait
Copy edits arrive, marked up by two or three additional editors you don’t know.
Crap. There’s still so much wrong! How is this possible.
Fix and return.
Wait
Wait
When will you get to see your cover? What’s up with that? And the blurb?
Wait
Wait
Finally! The cover arrives. The artist is very proud. He/she has a cover they know you are going to love!
It’s not what you’d imagined. But how do you tell him/her that? And it’s not bad, just not what you’d pictured.
Blurb arrives. It’s pretty good. They’ve taken your original idea and spiced it up with some catch words and phrases designed to make readers LOVE the idea of reading your book.
The cover’s really not that far off. And what do you know, anyway? You point out a few small things that could be changed.
The artist replies that those things are set, makes a very minor change and you’re both okay with it.
Wait
Galleys arrive. You read eagerly, certain your book can be nothing but perfect now.
Crap. Who left out that apostrophe? Was it you or one of the copy editors? Is it too late to fix it?
Decide it’s too small to bother editor with.
Decide it’ll bug you forever if you don’t.
Query editor about it and be reassured you’re not being a pest and they’ll fix the apostrophe right away.
Relax.
Wait
Wait
Wait
Get advance copy of your book. Start querying review sites that haven’t already been hit by publisher about reviewing your book.
Wait
Wait
Wait
Publication Day!

In so many ways, the process is the same. The difference is, the only person I have to wait for is myself, really. The editor and cover artist (and I’ve done self-publishing without either) never take long to do their jobs, and because I hire them, I know about how long that will take. So, in the end, I can publish what I want when I want to publish it. But I’m out here more or less alone, except for you guys, my readers.

SATURDAY LOVE is now out there. Feel free to give it some love. And if you’re worried about reading the sequel without reading the first book, DUCKS IN A ROW is free for the Kindle today. Do me a favor and go check it out, then let your friends know, too.

SATURDAY LOVE excerpt:

In just three days, SATURDAY LOVE will be available for Kindle and in paperback for your enjoyment. In the meantime, however, I thought I’d give you a little taste of what Saturday love is like from my heroine Accalia’s point of view:

On Wednesday afternoon, she visited her friend Cyra, who’d recently had a baby. Other than Myron, Cyra was the only childhood friend she’d kept in touch with over the years.

Cyra greeted her enthusiastically at the door, pulling her inside to admire the baby, who slept in a bassinet in the sunny living room. Accalia stood for several minutes studying the tiny peaceful face framed by dark hair. What was it about babies, anyway? The tiniest, most demanding creatures in the world, but mothers would do anything to protect and serve them. She could see it already in Cyra. And if she stood still long enough and looked deep enough into her own heart, she could feel a longing to experience that servitude herself.

“She’s so beautiful, isn’t she?” Cyra nudged her friend and handed her a mug of hot, strong coffee.

“She truly is, Cyra. And you and Pavlos are doing well?” Accalia smiled at her friend.

Cyra beckoned her over to the couch. She sat with a sigh of contentment. “We’re exhausted. But Pavlos is a wonderful father. He gets up with me every night when she cries. I tell him ‘go back to bed, Pavlos, you have to be up early,’ but he does it anyway.” Her expression turned tender. “I married such a wonderful man.”

Accalia thought of Elene’s advice about marriage and friendship. If she hadn’t fallen in love with Will, if she’d given her marriage with Myron a chance, would she end up feeling such tenderness for him after the birth of their first child? When she tried to imagine the development of such feelings, however, her mind turned to Will.

As if she were reading her friend’s mind, Cyra gave her a mischievous smile. “When will you and Myron try the baby thing, anyway?”

Feeling her face grow red, Accalia took a sip of the hot coffee, which unfortunately did nothing to alleviate the heat in her face. She set it aside. “I—we don’t have any plans right now.” Especially since we’re not sleeping together. Loyalty to her friend Myron wouldn’t allow her to make such confessions—even to Cyra—however. She couldn’t risk embarrassing him that way. Still curious, she looked for another way to ask her friend about married life after the first passion had faded. “Now just isn’t the time. I’m returning to America soon. And…I worry. What if things…change?”

“Change?” Cyra snorted and shook her head. “Oh yes, it changes. Pavlos and I—well, once upon a time we couldn’t keep our hands off each other. And little Chloe is the result of that, I guess. I can see why you’d be worried about it.” She grinned, then reached over and took Accalia’s hand. “But even though most nights we’re too exhausted to do anything but fall asleep on the couch, we do it together. And I think if you have that relationship to base your marriage on, it’ll survive even the fatigue of a new baby. Besides, even now there are…moments.” She smiled a tiny private smile, then gave Accalia’s hand a squeeze. “Marriage is work, isn’t it?”

Accalia bit her lip and nodded. It’s work I’m not very good at.