Monday, May 27, 2013

How Writing is Like Ice Cream

I love this video because it reminds me that sometimes I’m so focused on one thing that I can’t see the other stuff (sometimes too cool not to be missed stuff) going on around me.

I will make a confession. Since the LDSstorymakers Conference, I have been toying with the idea of abandoning my self-publishing goals and querying a traditional publisher. My reasoning was: (notice the past tense)

1.       When I first decided to self-publish I still had children at home and my life was busy, full and not really my own, but now that my children are leaving for college—I have much more flexibility and time I can devote to someone else’s idea of how I should manage a career.

2.       I could really use the help of a professional editor, publisher, formatter, and marketing team.

Those are the reasons I vocalized. The reasons I didn’t admit, even to myself, had much more to do with vanity, pride and wanting my ego stroked.

I need to remember that writing for me is a lot like ice cream. The beauty of ice cream is that there is always room for ice cream. It doesn’t matter how much you’ve eaten, or how stuffed you are—there’s always room for ice cream. It slides in and fills in all the cracks. But it’s not the meal. It’s never the main course.

Writing is not and never will be my life. My life is babies and weddings and ailing loved ones and graduations and missions and funerals…family and friends stuff…creating a home stuff…serving and church stuff. Writing is the ice cream.

It’s sometimes hard to remember that. Sometimes I get too focused on watching my books rise and fall in the Amazon rankings that I forget the real reason I write—because it’s cool, like ice cream, and it fills in all the empty spaces with stories I love.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


Last night I attended my daughters’ last high school choir concert. I was sad, but maybe not as sad as I thought I would be. That’s because I remember the other times I was sad, and I didn’t need to be.
I remember driving away from the university in my husband-to-be’s convertible. He had graduated and I had not…and I was sad to be leaving (excited about my upcoming marriage—but still sad to be leaving Brigham Young University.) I didn’t know then that we would return two years later for graduate school. I didn’t know that twenty years later I would begin a university marathon that would last for twelve years (and counting) because five of my six children would end up attending BYU.

Flash forward a few years and I’m at Mission Viejo Lake. My babies were five and two and we would spend most afternoons playing at the lake that was only a few blocks from our first home. I loved our little yellow house, all our friends and I loved spending our afternoons at Lake Mission Viejo. But my husband had an incredible job offer in New York City and we were moving to Connecticut, and I was so happy for him (and more than a little sad for me.) I thought we were moving to the East to stay. I didn’t know that only two years later we would move back (to stay.) We have lived a few miles from Lake Mission Viejo for more than 23 years.

So sometimes doors close and sometimes we end up opening them up again. But even if we end up at the door we thought we had once closed, it’s all new, because everyday we’re a little different because of the choices we make.

from the the musical Closer Than Ever

Well what do you know? (Well what do you know? Well what do you know? Well what do you know?)
In front of me now (In front of me)
is an open door.
I'm moving ahead.
Not sure of the way.
And yet there's a light that I'm heading for.

It's closer than ever
Closer than ever.

Fresh out of bed your life is out racing you. 
There dead ahead another one's facing you.
Seems like at times they're practically chasing you.
Everywhere another door.

One day the doors are locked and you're sick of them.
Next day they're yours and you have your pick of them.
Finding the proper key that's the trick of them.
Every where another door.

Doors to a place that no one knows.
Doors that are open; doors that close.
Doors that you pass through every day
turn into doors that bar the way.

Doors that keep out the chill of night.
Doors that keep secrets locked up tight.
Just when you have things set, when it's all in place, when your life is good 
there's another door.

Doorways are good; they can be enlightening.
Doorways can change you, which isn't frightening.
So tell me why my stomach is tightening
Looking at another door.

Doors can be wide; yes, that can be verified.
Moving outside; the air can be rarified.
I want to go, but why am I terrified
Looking at another door?

What's on the other side? Guess what?
Something I want but haven't got.
Over the threshold. That's my shot.
Will I go in there? I will not.

Maybe a brand new job awaits
Or 20 or 30 different fates.
I'll be in charge at last
Get my life in shape 
And when all the ends, 
There's another door.

What's in the skies from Boston to Florida?
Hirises rising each being horrider.
What hits your eyes as you hit a corridor?
Nothing but a wall of doors.

What would you give to see what is hiding there?
All kinds of people just go inside of there.
What kinds of secret lives are residing there
Hiding all behind those doors?

What's going on inside those rooms?
Kinky behavior one presumes.
Here there's a spinster with her cats.
Next door kid who sleeps on mats.

Here lives a family bland as pie.
Next door a girl who was once a guy.
What would you give to buy some electric eye
That would let you spy on what's behind those
People you never met who are not like you, 
who are just like you
are what's behind those
Just when you have things set, when it's all in place
When your life is good, there's another door

Every day another door.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Friday's Writer's Forum: The Real Reason for Descriptive Prose

Do you ever have one of those days where you wake up in the morning, get dressed, look in the mirror and think: dang, I’m forty-something, I gave birth to six kids and I look good! But then, night falls, evening comes and you put on a dress for a business event, look in the mirror and think: dang, I look like a forty something mom in a too tight dress. My boobs are pointing south, my gut is threatening to pop this silk and what in the world happened to my knees?  Same day. Same mirror. Same body. Your body hasn’t changed all that much in a few passing hours. What changed is your own perception.

Good description does the same thing. How a main character looks at his world tells us eons about what is going on inside that character’s head. We can also learn a lot about a character by a description of how he grooms (or doesn’t), what his space looks like and how he sees the people around him.

Description is also great for building suspense. Next time you watch a suspenseful movie, take note of the music, the sound, the stealth—if it is well done, things are carefully choreographed to ratchet the suspense. I just watched the movie Hitchcock—loved it. It’s about Hitchcock’s struggles to produce Psycho. You might not have enjoyed Psycho, but you have to admit—it’s suspenseful. Norman Bate’s house—could it get any creepier? Consider Manderley in Daphne du Maurier's novel, Rebecca, the moors in Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, and even the forests in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight. All of those stories had incredibly visual settings that added something to the stories.

Everything you write should serve a purpose, or several purposes, i.e. character development, suspense, plot movement. What you don’t want to do is use your descriptive prose to show off. Remember, no one likes a show off. One writer instructor called show off  prose "self indulgent." Keep that in mind--is your prose enhancing your story, or inflating your ego?

That being said, I’m offering everyone a chance to show off. If you have a great description scene, please share.

Here’s one of mine:
Outside, the wind whistled and moaned around the library, tossing branches and bending trees. A near human-like scream tore Blair’s attention away from the open dictionary, but after a moment of wind listening, she returned to her work, collecting words and definitions for the upcoming week.
The Rhyme’s Library (A murder mystery, because you just know nothing good is going to happen while the wind is screaming.)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Writer is a Person Who Writes

I’m reworking a novel I wrote three years ago. I love it, but I wrote it back in the days when I thought I had to be traditionally published. There was a lesson I should have learned three years ago (you can read about Petra going to Chiropractic College in the repeat post below) that I’m still learning today.

I am a writer because I write. I am a successful writer because people chose to read my stuff. I guess this means I became a successful writer when I first began writing for the Arlington Eagle—my high school newspaper. And I guess this means that I won’t stop writing when I make the New York Times best seller list.

It’s like eating. I don’t eat a Thanksgiving dinner and say, Now I am stuffed. I will never need to eat again. Or running, I didn’t run a marathon and then say, Well check that off, I’ll never run another mile. Or reading, I didn’t read Wallace Stegnar’s Crossing to Safety (the epitome of a brilliant novel) and say, Now I‘ll never read another novel, because nothing can top that.

There are some people who write one phenomenal book and are done. But for most writers, I think there is always another story lurking in their head waiting for daylight and how that story finds readers is just another part of the process.

Petra found hers in a chiropractic college. Someday, she’ll find other readers, but I haven’t decided how, yet. Or when, since when I started, this was book one in a three part series. (And I haven’t written book two or three, and did I mention I’m still working on the time capsule novels and there are four of those and I don’t intend to publish any until all are finished?  Then maybe I’ll publish Petra.)

So, this isn’t a teaser, because a publication date is way in an unforeseen future. It’s a just reminder. A writer is anyone who writes. 

Petra Goes to College
Finally, my novel is being read and not just by people who are doing me a favor. Bethany wanted to read my book and she asked Brandon to print it out for her. Brandon took it to his chiropractic school where he could print it out for free. But about a third of the way through the printing, the machine ran out of paper. He had hundred pages printed and he figured he’d do the rest later, when there was paper.

The next day he goes to school and finds that people are passing around a two hundred page novel printed on pink paper. He tells a friend that he has to get it back. Friend replies, “That’s yours? People are reading that.”

I imagine this medical student turning on a printer. It says no paper, he loads it with the only paper he can find… pink. And then the printer proceeds to shoot out the remainder of my novel. And of course, all the kissing happens in the remainder. Suddenly, all these students of anatomy have something less clinical to read.

Bethany said, “Brandon got it back, but I think there are pages missing.”
I wonder which ones.

Beyond the Fortune-teller's Tent
The Arroyo Oaks Renaissance Faire is the brain baby of Mrs. Brighton, part-time English teacher and full time witch. Glass blowers, potters, and herbalists mingle with students, teachers and parents on sawdust strewn paths lined with wooden stalls. Knife and ax throwing are not only allowed, but encouraged. Games include Drench-a-Wench (Mrs. Brighton) and Soak-a-Bloke (Principal Olsen.) Wizards, elves, beer and barely covered booties are all welcome as long as they help raise thousands of dollars for the drama department. 
Petra’s notes
Chapter One

Petra stared at the fortune-teller’s tent -- silky curtains, beaded strings, the faint aroma of vanilla, a gaudy riot of color. She’d been waiting forever, but now that she was here, she took a breath and then another. She turned to Robyn to say something glib, something that would mask her nerves, but she couldn’t find the words.
Robyn squeezed her hand. “It’s so romantic,” she whispered. “This is the perfect place for him to ask.”
“It’s so him, right?” Petra returned Robyn’s squeeze, but her eyes never left the tent. She thought it ugly, garish in a more is less sort of way. She sighed and wished that Kyle had just asked without fanfare or hoopla. Maybe she should have asked him. Maybe they shouldn’t go. Prom was so yesterday, dated like a debutant ball… Or a jousting competition, she thought, her gaze going to the nearby stadium.
The frustration of denial settled between her shoulder blades like an unreachable itch. Why did she even care about prom? She’d been with Kyle for months; a silly dance didn’t define their relationship.
Or did it? Some of her friends even had their dresses. Petra hadn’t actually bought her dress, that would have been presumptuous, but she did know which one she wanted. She’d found the perfect shoes. She hoped Kyle would be okay with the coral colored vest she’d picked out for him.
 “It’s so who?” Zoe demanded.
Petra put her hand on top of Zoe’s orange curls. Zoe was the pooper at the party, the stepsister that never should have come and would have stayed at home if Laurel’s Aunt Ida hadn’t fallen down the stairs. Petra had never even met Zoe’s Aunt Ida. She sounded like a potato.
Petra could understand why Laurel felt uncomfortable taking Zoe to a hospital, after all, no one sane would ever wanted to take Zoe anywhere, let alone a place where people needed quiet and rest.
Robyn rolled her eyes at Petra. Robyn and Petra called themselves tele-friends, because they could read each other like open books. Now Robyn nodded at the tent, her head bob saying, just go.
            “Do you think he’s in there?” Petra whispered.
            Robyn widened her eyes, as if to say of course. “He said he would be, didn’t he?”
            “Who’s he?” Zoe demanded. “Are you talking about Kyle?”
            Petra swallowed and ignored Zoe, tried to forget her existence. “Actually, he didn’t say anything, but his note said to meet at the fortune-teller’s tent. What if he didn’t send the note? What if this is joke?”
“Then it’s not a very funny one.” Robyn shook her head and her curls bounced around her shoulders. “It was Kyle.” She sounded way more confident than Petra felt. Robyn cut her a sideways glance and a small flicker of doubt tickled in Petra’s mind. Why did she suspect the fortune-teller’s tent was more Robyn’s idea than Kyle’s? Petra squelched the thought. Kyle was her fortune. Nothing else mattered.
            “Kyle has hotitude that sadly so often accompanies physical beauty,” Zoe sighed, parroting her mom.
            Petra groaned. Did her parents dislike Kyle just because he was rock star gorgeous? She shook away all the other , more legitimate, reasons why her parents might not like Kyle.
“Ignore her,” Robyn mouthed over Zoe’s head. “And just go already.” She gave Petra a little push toward the tent.
            Petra dug in her heels, or in this case, her silky flats. “Wait, how do I look?”
            “As always, you’re beautiful.” Robyn straightened Petra’s tiara, gave her a small hug, and then turned her shoulders tent-ward.
“Pretty as a Petra poopy picture,” Zoe said, muttered.
Petra frowned at Zoe and then glanced down at her dress, last year’s prom gown. She and Robyn were the only two at the faire dressed as princesses. All around her she saw women wearing laced up bodices, men in tights and knee high boots, horses covered in bright cloths and even a snowy white owl on a perch. Zoe in her cut up pillowcase and drapery tassel looked more in place than Petra and Robyn in last year’s prom-wear. She sniffed. She didn’t care that she was overdressed. She put a finger on the tiara; perhaps the faux diamonds were too much. Too late now.
Straightening her shoulders, clutching her beaded purse, she headed to the tent. Her steps faltered and she turned back to Robyn and Zoe. “Come with me,” she said to Robyn, taking and tugging her friend’s hand.
Zoe’s mouth dropped open. “You can’t leave me here alone!”
Robyn motioned to all the faire-goers: teachers, fellow students, and neighbors. “Alone?”
Zoe’s eyes, for a moment, looked almost as crazy as her hair. “There are witches, people with swords, wild animals!”
Petra saw several people she knew, but Zoe, who had only just moved to Arroyo Oaks, probably didn’t know any of them. She knelt down, so that she could look Zoe in the crazy eyes. “And not one of them will hurt you, I promise. If anyone bugs you, which they won’t, call a yellow jacket,” Petra said, referring to the Arroyo Oaks security guards that patrolled the school grounds and kept peace by way of blow-horns. “Please, just sit.”  Petra stood and pointed at a well placed stump, wishing for perhaps the zillionth time that Zoe would take lessons from her dog. Frosty greeted all instructions with a lolling tongue and wagging tail. Zoe didn’t receive instructions, she counterattacked them. Poodles and stepsisters had very little in common, except for in Zoe’s case, the hair-do.
 “If you leave me here—” Zoe began.
Petra silenced her by holding up a finger. “If you can be quiet, sit and not say a word, I’ll buy you a funnel cake.”  She raised her eyebrows to see if Zoe would take the bribe or would if she needed to toss in a caramel apple. Her health-foodie stepmother, Laurel, wouldn’t pony up for brand name peanut butter, let alone treats fried in oil and covered with sugary powder.
Zoe sat with a humph and picked at the hem of her pillowcase tunic and her gaze went to the corral across the path. Her eyes lit up. “I want a funnel cake and to ride that horse.”
Petra and Robyn both turned to watch guy lead a stallion through a wooden gate.
“Giddy-up,” Robyn said, staring.
The guy had brown shoulder length hair tied back with a leather thong and wore soft, fawn colored breeches and matching knee high boots. His white shirt billowed around a wide leather belt that hung about his hips. Three simultaneous thoughts struck Petra. The first: everyone else, including herself, wore costumes, but this guy looked at ease in his breeches and boots as if they were his everyday clothes. The second: his eyes and the small smile curving his lips sent a jolt of recognition up her spine, although she knew they’d never met. She would have remembered him. The third: she was quite sure this guy would never wear a coral colored vest.
 “Isn’t he awesome,” Zoe breathed, her eyes large and round. “He’s so huge.”
Robyn gave Zoe a funny look and Petra laughed at the misunderstanding.  “You can’t ride him,” she said, watching the Arabian toss his mane and pull at the reins held by the guy with long brown hair. The stallion fought the bit, rose up on his hind legs and scissored the air with his hooves.  “He’s not one of the ponies they lead through rink.”
Zoe frowned, sending her freckles south. “I’m sure he’d rather be with me on the trail than in that horrible jousting place.” Earlier, they had tried watching the knights’ competitions.  Zoe, unconcerned for the men being thwacked about by lances, had wailed for the sweat dripping horses.
“I’m sure you’re right, Zo, but I’m pretty sure I’m right, too,” Petra said. “They’d never let you take him out of their sight. Besides, he looks fast and barely tame.”
“I like them fast and barely tame,” Robyn said under her breath, smoothing down the pink chiffon skirt of her prom dress.
From the jousting arena came the cheering and huzzahs of the crowd. Petra heard the horses’ hooves thundering and the clanging of lances hitting shields and armor. She smelled roasted turkey legs, the fires from the pottery kilns and dung. Her senses careened on overload and when the guy with the horse caught her eye and winked, dizziness and a skin-pricking sensation of déjà vu washed over her.
Zoe looked up at her, smiled and said, this time, in a voice as sweet as funnel cake, “If you let me ride that horse I won’t tell about you and face-sucking Kyle.”
“There’s been no face-sucking!” At least not in front of Zoe.
Zoe put her fists on her hips and jutted out her chin. “Who says?”
Petra blew a loose strand of hair from her eyes. “You can’t ride that horse!”
Zoe’s gaze cut to the corral and lingered on the stallion. “But you can ask if I can.”
Robyn nodded in agreement, a flirty smile on her lips. “We can ask.”
Petra shot her look that said, Traitor.
“Hot horse guy,” Robyn murmured, flipping her brown curls over her shoulder.
“And offer him money,” Zoe put in.
“How much money?” Petra nearly growled. Since her dad’s marriage she’d been given an allowance ‘to help her find her own financial feet in the real world,’ Laurel’s words, and Petra’s feet wanted to wear a pair of coral colored heels to prom.
“I saw him wink at you.” Zoe’s tone turned calculating. “Maybe you wouldn’t need to pay him.”
Petra frowned at Zoe; eight-years old seemed too young to know the art of female bartering.
“We’ll ask him right after we visit the fortune-teller,” Robyn promised Zoe, sending a let’s-get-together-soon smile at horse guy.
Zoe scowled, folded her arms and watched the horses parading in the corral, but she didn’t budge from the stump.
Petra turned to the fortune-teller’s tent and forced herself to not look at hot horse guy, although she imagined she felt his gaze on her back. She towed Robyn with her.
Held up by large wooden poles, the tent had brightly woven damask walls. A barrel-chested man wearing nothing but gold chains, large rings and red bloomerish pants guarded a money jar. A hand printed sign propped by the jar read Fester Foretells your Fate.
“Fester?” Petra whispered to Robyn and stopping short of the tent. “He sounds like he needs a squirt of Neosporin.”
“You’re stalling.” Robyn whispered in return and pulled on Petra’s hand.
“What if he’s not in there?” Petra asked, stopping in front of the guy dressed in bloomers. She flashed the guy a nervous glance, but he remained motionless and expressionless, as if she and Robyn didn’t even exist. Petra wondered what would happen if she poked him. Would he do more than flinch? Would he do even that?
“Then we’ll have our fortune’s read.” Robyn gave the bloomer guy a sideways look, but he stared straight ahead not even looking at Robyn, which Petra found impressive. Most guys couldn’t resist looking at Robyn.
“I’m telling Daddy that you ditched me,” Zoe said.
Petra scowled at Zoe. It still stung to hear Zoe call her dad ‘Daddy.’ “We’re not ditching you. It’s more like we’re parking you in a five minute loading zone.” Petra made a lever pulling motion. “There, I put on the emergency brake. You’re stuck.”
Petra turned her back on Zoe and faced Robyn. “What if he doesn’t come inside? He could stand out here for eons while some biddy predicts I don’t get into a good school and end up selling shoes for the rest of my life.”
“You love shoes,” Robyn said. “Besides, I’m sure he’s already inside.”
“And, just like me, listening to every word you say!” Zoe added.
Petra sent Zoe another be-quiet-or-be-dead look, but then realized Zoe could be right. What if Kyle was just on the other side of the curtain, waiting for her, listening to her arguing with Zoe?  Fighting the flush creeping up her neck, she dropped money into Fester’s jar and pushed back the curtains of the fortune-teller’s tent.
When the curtain of crystal beads fell back into place behind Robyn, it carried the eerie sound of tinkling falling glass shards. Heavy incense hung in the air. Petra blinked, waiting for her eyes to adjust to the gloom. She scanned the tiny space, searching for Kyle. A crystal ball on a table draped in silks glowed and sent a shivery light that didn’t reach the far corners of the tent. Large pillows dotted the tapestry rugs and Petra nudged one with her foot, wondering if she should sit and wait. Could Kyle be hiding behind the draped curtains? No. He probably wasn’t here yet, meaning that he hadn’t heard her and Zoe, and that was good. Wasn’t it?
“Petra, welcome,” a voice in the semi-darkness cackled.
Petra laughed when Robyn, just behind her, jumped. It took a moment for her to find the owner of the voice, a hunched man sitting on a pillow in a dark corner. In front of him lay a collection of tarot cards, face up: a fool dancing, tossing stars into a purple sky, a magician holding a wand scattering glitter.
“I’m afraid you must come alone,” Fester said, leaving his gaze on Petra’s face as his twisted hands gathered the cards, and tapped them into a deck.
Robyn’s eyes flashed a question at Petra. Petra squeezed Robyn’s hand, sending her a silent signal.
“I’ll wait with your sister,” Robyn said.
Still expecting Kyle to suddenly appear, Petra didn’t even watch her friend leave, but she knew when Robyn had gone by the flash of daylight that came and then left with the rise and fall of a curtain and the jangle of the crystal beads.
“There are journeys some must undertake on their own,” the fortune-teller said, staring up at Petra.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Friday's Writer's Forum Making the Bestseller Lists

Writer’s write books. That doesn’t mean they can sell them. Selling books is a numbers game for the nonnumerical.  For those of us who used our math classes to compose poems to the adored, poison pen letters to those we despised, and stories about the algebra teacher turning into a dragon, here’s a few number break downs I found online. I’m still learning. I just stumbled over where you can check your sales rank of all your books from all channels on Amazon. Just enter the ASINs

I really appreciated this list by author Teresa Ragan.
Sales Ranking Chart
The rankings are interesting to look at if you have a book out there and you are hoping to, for example as of January 2012, get on the Top 100 Romantic Suspense Bestsellers List on Amazon. If I look at the Romantic Suspense Kindle Ebook List and click on the book title of #99 or #100 and that book has a Bestsellers Rank of 3,865 (#99) and 3,875 (#100), then I know I need a 3,875 or better to get on that list.
Amazon Bestsellers Rank is the number you find beneath the Product Description. Every book on Amazon has an Amazon Bestsellers Rank. Click on any title and then scroll down until you see it.

As of March 2013

Amazon Best Seller Rank 50,000 to 100,000 - selling close to 1 book a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank 10,000 to 50,000 - selling 3 to 15 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank 4,500 to 10,000 - selling 15 to 25 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank 3,000 to 4,500 - selling 25 to 50 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank 500 to 3,000 - selling 50 to 200 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank 350 to 500 - selling 200 to 300 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank 100 to 350 - selling 300 to 500 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank 35 to 100 - selling 500 to 1,000 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank 10 to 35 - selling 1,000 to 2,000 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank of 5 to 10 - selling 2,000 to 4,000 books a day.

Amazon Best Seller Rank of 1 to 5 - selling 4,000+ books a day.

Amazon has a bevy of Bestseller Lists, all split into Free and Paid listings. The big one is the Top 100 in the Kindle Store, and placement on this list can drive staggering amounts of sales. This list is populated with items ranked #1 to #100 in the overall Kindle Store, which includes not just e-books, but also things like games, magazines, and newspapers.

The exact algorithm Amazon uses to assign a Sales Rank to each book is a closely-guarded secret, but the general make-up is easy to deduce. Simply put, your Sales Rank tells you how many books are selling more than you at this moment in time (it’s updated hourly). However, it also takes account of historical sales. More recent sales are weighted much more heavily in the algorithm, though, and velocity plays a big part too (how much your sales are increasing at that moment in time). There’s a lot more to it, but those are the basics.

The Kindle eBooks list is further subdivided into various fiction and non-fiction lists, with various genres and sub-genres (and sub-sub-genres). Some categories, like Literary Fiction, have no sub-genres, and you need a pretty high Sales Rank – around #2000 – sneak in at the 100th spot on the list.

Other categories, like Science Fiction, have several sub-genres. Something like Science Fiction/Anthologies doesn’t even have 100 books in its category, and you can place on this Bestseller List with any ranking at all (the 62nd book has a ranking of #891,386).

(Note: the importance of picking the right categories for your book shouldn’t be underestimated. If you pick two competitive categories without sub-genres, like Historical Fiction and Literary Fiction, and you aren’t selling enough to regularly chart better than #2000 or so in the overall store, you are missing out on placement on any Bestseller Lists, and hurting your sales. There is great advice here on picking categories for your work.)

All of these categories and lists are reader discovery tools. Many readers browse through these lists looking for books to buy. Placement on these lists can drive a lot of sales. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Gemma Goes to Wattpad

I just posted the first chapter of Gemma Goes to Hollywood on Wattpad.

And, oh yeah, just raised the prices on all my books. If you would like a coupon for any of my books in exchange for a review, please contact me at

Friday, May 3, 2013

Friday Writer's Forum, The First Glance

A number of years ago I had the opportunity to hear Linda Howard talk on the twelve steps of intimacy, a talk she based on the works and studies of Desmond Morris, author of The Naked Ape. I found it fascinating. I began watching for intimate “tells” in the people around me. (Yeah, I’m an avid people watcher and eavesdropper, unless I’m thinking about a story I’m writing, then I’m pretty much oblivious. It’s a toss-up as to whether I’m dialed in and taking mental notes or I’m in my own stratosphere. I’m a risk.)

Today I want to talk about that first step of intimacy—the first glance. How many of us can recall the first instance we saw our spouse? I can, although it was more than 31 years ago. He sat on a nubby green, ugly sofa, friends on either side of him. He wore blue corduroy pants that matched his eyes. Of course, I didn’t know I had reached at a life changing moment, but I had. I also didn’t know that after he left, he told his friends that he had first dibs on asking me out. I don’t remember what we said to each other—knowing me, not much. But voice to voice is step three on the intimacy ladder, and we’re talking about step one— the first glance.

Dr. James Dobson, author of  Love for a Lifetime: Building a Marriage that Will Go the Distance, also recounts the 12 steps of intimacy. He wrote:

 A glance reveals much about a person — sex, size, shape, age, personality, and status. The importance people place on these criteria determines whether or not they will be attracted to each other.
When the man and woman who are strangers to each other exchange glances, their most natural reaction is to look away, usually with embarrassment. If their eyes meet again, they may smile, which signals that they might like to become better acquainted.

Here are the first glance moments in three of my novels.
A mean wind blew the clouds shrouding the moon and a beam of light landed on a lone figure near the bow.  She fought the wind for her hat and her hair, a tangle of dark honey, swirled around her head. The hat, pinched between her fingers, caught another gust, set sail and skittered across the deck.
The woman managed to capture her hair into twist, and she looked over the deck in his direction. Her eyes widened when she saw him and she backed up against the rail.
Stealing Mercy
The intruder flipped on the switch in the kitchen—her kitchen—and flooded the dark with yellow light. Penny pressed herself up against a tree, hiding and watching. Tall, thin, blond, dressed in faded jeans and a button down white shirt that offset his tan skin and startling blue eyes—he didn’t look like a Lurk. His gaze peered into the dark, looking past her and focusing on Wolfgang. “Shoo!” he called. “Go home!”
Losing Penny
Blinded by fear mingled with rain, Blair ran into a large, warm expanse of flannel. For a small moment a slicker engulfed her, and then she tangled with an umbrella. She slipped on the wet pavement and fell hard on her hands and knees. The creel landed beside her and the cat cried in protest. Rain and embarrassment washed over her. She pulled the creel onto her lap and checked its strap.
  “Are you all right?” A tall man with wavy, honey colored hair gazed at her with kind green eyes.
Stooping to pull her upright, his large hand swallowed hers. “You’re shaking.”
The Rhyme’s Library
Please feel free to share your own, either real life moments, or story moments…they’re all good.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A Why Do I Bother Sort of Day

I’m  having one of those why do I bother sort of days. I read pages 13-23 of Gemma Goes to Hollywood last night at my writers’ group and I came home hating my writer friends. Because they are talented, because they are successful, but mostly because their critiques sting…not because they were mean, but because they were right. I hate that. Insightful, honest, helpful creeps. All of them.

I look at my writer friends I wonder what makes them get up in the morning, why do they have the ability to sit at the computer and write story after story, what feeds their motivation and how can I get some that to come my way? Before I remember that I have published five novels and that I have about 7 novels in my head. I don’t need ideas. Maybe if I had less ideas, I would feel better about not writing.

If I can’t/won’t write, then I read. I picked up a bestselling, award winning book and read about half of it. Hated it. Because it’s not mine.  I don’t know if I can finish it. I don’t know if I can finish the novel I started—the unbestselling, nonaward winning one I’m (not) writing, or I was writing. Past tense writing. 

I’m gripped by self doubt. I wonder if I should be feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, engaging in a crusade to save an endangered species. But I don’t know how to do those things. I do know how to write stories.

Today is Thursday—errand day. So, I don’t even have a toilet to clean (did that on Tuesday) or a shelf to dust (did that yesterday.) I could go to the store, but someone already did that for me.  More helpful creeps. I’m surrounded by them.  

On days like this I need to remember where I started and where I’ve been. I recently discovered Amazon’s Author Central. They put my career on a chart. It’s all spiky, with peaks and valleys, with a gradual uphill slope.

 I can’t see where I’m going. It’s like running on a foggy day—one foot, or one sentence in front of the other. The only thing I can be sure of, if I stop running or writing, I’ll get nowhere pretty fast. Hate that.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

An Amazing List of Helpful Sites for Indies

I stole this off the kindleboards. I'm posting it here to share. Somethings are just too good to keep to yourself.

From Christiana Miller
You can find these links as a clickable document (which will be updated 
with new links as I find more of them) on my website at:

To Publish:

Writing, Formatting and Conversion Software:

Important Links if You Want to Publish Audiobooks: (Podcast-based audiobooks)

To Buy ISBNs: (U.S.)  (U.K.)

Conversion Software:

Blogs That You Should Check Out:  
   (also on YouTube at:

Publicity Blogs To Notify For Promos (Free, Bargain, Regular Price as well as National and International): (day of) our authors/ref=cm_cd_tfp_ef_tft_tp?_encoding=UTF8&cdForum=Fx2UYC1FC06SU8S&cdThread=Tx26GH5ZWBDFOMN,130101.0.html (free) (bargain) - gid=0 - gid=0 (Kindle Fire Dept) (Germany)

Inexpensive Blog Tours (more expensive) (traditionally-published books only)

Editing Software (free or cheap)

Freelance Editors and Proofreaders:


Cover Designers: (also (also (also (also (LFD Designs)

Freelance Places to Look/List for Inexpensive Cover Designer:


Cover Art:

All-In-One Service Providers (formatting, editing, covers, publicity):

Sarie Morrell Author and Book Promotions

Fee-based Publisher:

Helpful Boards:,60.0.html  (Writer's Cafe)  (Writer's Forum) (Forum)

Industry News:

Transferring paper books to e-files:

U.S. Copyright Office:

To Get a List of E-Book Formatters and Cover Artists: 
Send an email to Smashwords, asking for Mark's List.

To Get More Lists of Just About Everthing:

Sign into Writer's Café on the Kindle Boards and go to Kindleboards Yellow Pages for Writers.,50419.msg868937.html#msg868937

Here's the link to the thread you can find this list on:,111778.125.html


You can also download "Be The Monkey" for free, from either Barry Eisler's or J.A. Konrath's webstores for a discussion on indie publishing vs. legacy publishing.

E-Book Formatting: (IBM) (Mac)

Audiobook Formatting: