Category Archives: Writing

Welcome Tahlia Newland!

Happy Monday,

PJ Sharon here today! I know it’s not my usual day to post, but I’m filling in for one of my lovely Scribes sisters. I hope you won’t mind seeing me twice in one month.

Now that we’re all crawling out of our turkey comas and forging on, I thought I’d share some love with my pal Tahlia Newland, the woman who put the “Awesome” in Awesome Indies. She’s here today to talk about her latest release, PRUNELLA SMITH:WORLDS WITHIN WORLDS; part thriller, part magical realism, and part stress management instruction manual. She’s going to touch on one aspect of her new book that affects us all these days…cyber-bullying.

Please give a warm welcome to our guest, leave comments, ask questions, and feel free to follow her on social media or check out her books on her website.

Post by Tahlia Newland, award-winning magical realism author. Read more from her on her blog. You can also join her on Facebook , Twitter Google+  and Linkedin.

Take it away, Tahlia!

How would you deal with a cyber-bully?

Have you ever been bullied or had to deal with nasty comments online? How did it feel? What did you do?

The anonymity of the internet makes it all too easy for those who might never say something nasty to your face to say it online. Cyber-bullies can hide behind a false identity and vent their anger without concern for the kind of repercussions they might get otherwise. They can live on the other side of the world, but their venom can come right into your home and shout at you in black and white from your computer or mobile device. And no matter how hard you try to ignore it, it’s an unpleasant experience, and one that can, if you don’t have the skills to deal with it in a stress-free way, cause a lot of anguish, both mental and physical.

Dealing with this reality is the focus of my latest book Prunella Smith: Worlds Within Worlds.  Prunella Smith is a book reviewer, and an author unhappy with her review of his book begins systematically abusing her online. The recent publicity over a case where an author upset by a negative review actually located and physically assaulted a reviewer makes this theme all too real and raises questions for those who review books, especially if they are an author themselves as Prunella is.

When the bully and his friends leave negative reviews of Ella’s own book, she experiences the situation from the other side—as an author, rather than a reviewer—so we see both sides of the issue of dealing with negativity, whether designed to be helpful or blatantly vindictive.

This book raises many questions: Should reviewers not publish negative reviews and remain silent when they have nothing positive to say? What happens to freedom of speech if readers are too scared to share their honest opinions? Should reviewers moderate their language to avoid upsetting the authors? What use are reviews to readers, if no low ratings only means that those who didn’t like the book aren’t telling? This book does not offer definitive answers, but it does look at options and their repercussions. And most importantly, it does model a way to deal with such situations with the least amount of upset.

That’s what you’ll get from this book: a way to handle the difficult people in your life packaged in a heart-warming and inspiring story. This book is more than just a novel; I draw on my many years of meditation study and practice to provide Prunella with realistic and practical ‘solutions’ to her problems. As always, I write ‘real magic’. The magic in my magical realism is a very real way of working with your mind that makes you strong in the face of adversity.

And that is just one strand of this multi-layered book!

Description:

Worlds_Final-WEB‘The barrier between the worlds shatters like the window. The beast is loose. My nightmare has become real. The guy has totally lost it. If he finds us here, we could die. No, I don’t doubt it; we will die.’

Author and editor Prunella Smith inhabits a multilayered reality. Physically, she lives in the Australian bush with her crazy cat Merlin. In her work world, she edits the love story of Kelee, a Magan Lord’s daughter, and in the cyber-world of social media, she’s subjected to slanderous attacks by a disgruntled author. To complicate matters further she sees things through the eyes of a Tibetan Yogi, has strange dreams and relives forgotten memories.

Separate worlds, interconnected and complementary, but can they help when Prunella becomes victim to a real life stalker and her sanity is threatened?

Worlds Within Worlds has a unique perspective on the nature of creativity. Its touch is light, its humour distinctive but it reaches deep into the nature of human experience.

Comments from readers:

 “This is riveting stuff, part magical realism dreamscape, part taut psychological thriller, and I was literally on the edge of my seat when the final twist—and what a twist it is—came around. Phew, what a ride! I can honestly say it is the best book I have read this year.” Frank Kusy, author of Rupee Millionaires.

 “This book will make you think. Considering the deluge of new works streaming from authors these days, that may be the highest praise a novel can receive.” Amy Spahn, literary critic.

“A fascinating insight into the mind of someone using meditative techniques to deal with stress.” Kevin Berry, Awesome Indies reviews.

Purchase outlets

Ebook

Kindle Stores

Kobo

Barnes and Noble

Apple stores

Smashwords

The paperback will be available from all outlets in early December.

Tahlia Newland, author of six books, including the award-winning Diamond Peak Series (AIA Seal of Excellence in Fiction and BRAG Medallion for Outstanding Fiction), writes heart-warming and inspiring magical realism and contemporary fantasy. She is also an editor and the coordinator of Awesome Indies Books, a website that accredits and showcases quality independent fiction.

Tahlia began writing full time in 2008 after twenty years in the performing arts and a five-year stint as a creative and performing arts teacher in a High School. She has had extensive training in meditation and Buddhist philosophy and lives in an Australian rainforest south of Sydney with her husband and a cheeky Burmese cat, who features in most of her novels.

Thanks for being with us today Tahlia. Let me leave readers with a few questions for discussion.

Have you ever been bullied online or off? Do you post negative reviews, or do you find yourself hesitant to do so, even if a book deserves a low grade? How do you handle negative reviews?

IT TAKES A VILLAGE …

Thea here today wondering if you’ve ever had to name a town. You know, the kind of small town where everyone knows your name, and where its name needs to reflect its geography, or its picturesqueness, or its values, or perhaps some salient historical incident.

i mean, I keep lists of names. Don’t you? Including town names, but also estate names, male names, female names, hero/heroine names (vastly different than every day names), villain names, ethnic names among other things. Names are important. They have to have the right rhythm, vowels and syllables.

And your town has to be located in a correct geographical location — for me, at least, having now lived in 3 very different small towns: rural, suburban rural, and suburban bedroom.

How do you choose a name? How do you decide if Is the town a Shady Dale? (Too suburban development) An Ambleside? (Too cute) A Sugar Bush (too snow country), a Valley View (too suburban bedroom), a Centerville (too bland), a Jericho Springs (too gold rush country)? Or none of the above?

Is it a Hawk Cove (too made up), an Angel Oaks (too over 55 senior community), a Blooming Grove (too title of a play), a Red Creek (too unsubstantial)?

See what I mean? Your town is a character in your book. It has to have the right name.

I have spent months collecting names and ruminating on The Right Small Town Name. Not sure I have it yet, but I offer below a list of suffix/descriptives that might help you in your hunt for the perfect small town name.

lake
dale
cliff
bend
shoals
grove
brook
view
oaks
meadows
junction
line
landing
hill
vale
creek
bush
gate
cove
town
summit
shores
bay
woods
bayou
crest
falls
way
hollow
bush
pines
corner
mile
valley
side
summit
springs
ville
trace
shoals
mile
plains
vista
view
green

So, are you looking for the perfect small town name? Help! How do you choose?d

Thea Devine is the author of 27 erotic historical and contemporary romances, the latest of which, Beyond the Night, the sequel to The Darkest Heart, is available now as a Pocket Star eBook.

Re-branding and Fall Clean-up

Fall 2004 015Don’t you just love October? A bit of Indian Summer to go with the beautiful autumn  foliage makes it the perfect time for some fall clean-up–although the past few days have felt more like May than October. I’m afraid I’ve spent far too much time indoors lately instead of being out enjoying this fabulous weather. I did get out for one last kayak trip this week, but yes, I’ll admit that I’ve been dragging my feet on weeding out my perennial bed and prepping for winter. I’m sure it will all get done in the nick of time, and trust me, I have a good excuse.

I’ve been working hard to finish up the third book in the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael trilogy, due out in December. I’m happy to say the first draft is complete and I’m diving into revisions. Yayyy! If you’re a writer, you know that reaching “THE END” is never an easy feat and it’s definitely cause for celebration, but you probably also know that it’s just the beginning of the hard work of revising and editing, polishing and publishing within a pretty strict set of looming deadlines. In addition, I’m in the process of writing a Christmas novella (more on that next month), and I’m re-branding the Lily Carmichael trilogy.

That means new covers, some targeted marketing, and cleaning up some minor issues with books one and two. That’s right,  in order to move on to revisions, I’ve had to go back and read  WANING MOON and WESTERN DESERT to make sure I have all the details straight and threads tied up. During the re-reads, I found a few small continuity errors, typos, and some generally sloppy writing mistakes. (It turns out I’ve learned a few things in the past couple of years.)

One of the coolest parts of indie publishing is the ability to make changes even after a book is published. I consider this a fall clean-up project, much like cleaning out closets or washing windows. It’s not like anyone would likely notice the dirty little details, but it’s an opportunity to  put a fresh face on and make everything sparkly clean. I’m hoping that the combination of the new covers, the cleanest copy possible, and the ability to offer pre-orders six weeks in advance of the release of HEALING WATERS will have a significant impact on sales for the series. I’ll keep you posted and let you know if it works!

As for why the re-branding, Bella Andre once said in a workshop at RWA Nationals, that if your books aren’t selling, the first thing to do is to consider changing your covers. Aside from writing great books, it’s the easiest thing we can do and one of the few things we have control of. The market changes quickly, and competition is fierce, so it’s super important to try to make our books stand out and look professional. That’s why I hired Kim Killion of The Killion Group. She’s awesome to work with, reasonably priced, and tops in the industry. I’m excited about the fresh new look!

Here’s the new cover for SOUL REDEMPTION, the short story prequel to the trilogy. This is a 15k FREE short story available for download from Smashwords.PJSharon_SoulRedemption_200

What’s it like to be a teenager in the year 2057? Life is hard enough when three quarters of the population has been wiped out by a viral plague and a polar shift threatens to drive humanity to extinction. Adding a genetic modification that gives you the power to take life with a touch only makes being a thirteen year-old boy that much more challenging–especially when he can’t control his growing ability.

Zephron Carmichael would like nothing more than to have a normal life. But hiding out in the Northeast Hills trying to escape capture by the Industry—a rogue division of the New Government who wants to exploit Zeph’s gift—is hardly the way to go about it. Life isn’t so bad on the small woodland farm he shares with his Uncle, but he’s tired of living under the shadow of his annoyingly perfect and bossy big sister, Lily, whose ability to heal makes her well respected and loved in the community. It also makes her another perfect target for the Industry.

As Zeph struggles to control the awesome and terrible power that’s growing inside him, he must find a way to protect his sister, find a place in the world, and make amends for a terrible wrong.

You can also read Zeph’s story on WATTPAD

In the meantime, I’m releasing the new covers–one each Friday–over at my PJ Sharon Books FB page. For being such loyal followers of the Scribes, you guys get a sneak peak of the new cover for WANING MOON a day early!

PJSharon_WaningMoon__200

Be sure to pop over and “like” my FB page if you want to join me next Friday for the new WESTERN DESERT cover and on October 31st to see the big reveal for HEALING WATERS (my favorite cover so far!)

I’d love to hear your thoughts about new covers, re-branding, new ideas for marketing old books, or if you’ve ever wished you could go back and fix a book that’s already been published. Your turn…

Third Time’s a Charm

Hey there Scribes’ fans.  Casey here.

perf5.000x8.000.inddIt’s kind of hard to put into words how I feel about the third book in the Mystic Series. Last year, while I was writing the book, it seemed like I would never finish it.

There were two reasons for that:

One: I was simultaneously writing another paranormal romance –  Lachlan’s Curse (which I did complete early 2014 but that’s a whole other blog post).

Two: the book ended up longer than my target goal of 83,000 – 85,000 words. In fact, the word count after the last round of publisher edits was @92,000 words.

Because I am a die hard plotter, in my mind, this shouldn’t have happened. Obviously I took a wrong turn in Albuquerque or something.

Why so long?

Well, the short answer: that’s how long the story is. For those of you following this series (and I thank you very much!) this is Devlin Ward’s book.

Devlin is a virginal satyr who has a boatload of childhood drama to deal with before he can obtain his happily every after. Lucky for him, his heroine, Mary (aka Ma’at) is more than ready to take accept the challenge.

And believe me, it was a challenge for me too.  Even though I know this world well it didn’t make writing their story any easier. When I realized that the first draft would clock in around 95,000 words, I had a choice to make – stop writing and figure out what was wrong or keep writing because maybe nothing was wrong.

While that sounds incredibly insane, I know from first hand experience that I can be my own worst enemy (hello, Doubt Monster).

In the end, I decided to keep writing and see what would happen because I’m crazy like that. I figured, why not? I can always delete stuff later (which I did).

This past weekend, I read the book again after a final round of edits. And guess what? The length felt just right for Devlin and Mary.

So is there a moral to this blog post? Yes!

Don’t fear the delete key. And don’t be afraid to just see what’s going to happen next.

 

 

 

 

My Three-Year Journey to the 10K Cake Club

spice-cake-su-1673099-lIf you’ve never heard of the 10K Cake Club, it’s the name given to that elusive group of authors who reach the milestone of selling 10,000 copies of their book(s). Now, given that statistically, most authors will never sell more than a hundred copies (no kidding), reaching this milestone is an amazing feat. But we all know how numbers and milestones are relative, and our own expectations can often derail even the most wonderful achievements.

PJ Sharon here, celebrating with you, my dear friends, my three years as an independently published author. I released my debut novel, HEAVEN is for HEROES in September of 2011. (In celebration, I’m giving away an audiobook copy of HIFH over on my website blog. Stop by and leave a comment to enter and feel free to share the post with friends on FB or Twitter. Contest ends September 30th at midnight. )HIFH_audiobookcover (2013_06_07 00_53_00 UTC)

Now, I recall being asked, while on a panel of Indie authors, what my sales goals were as a newly self-published author. At the time, self-publishing was on the rise, Indies were on fire, and sales were through the roof for newcomers. Being the ambitious and overachieving sort, I replied with confidence that I wanted to sell 10,000 copies a year, netting me about a $20,000 dollar a year paycheck from my writing–what I saw as realistic and an amount that would make all the hard work worth the effort.

This was a reasonable goal, but one that I soon found was more or less beyond my control to achieve. I did not foresee the effects of market saturation, the need for endless promotion, or the ever-changing Amazon algorithms that would make it nearly impossible to gain traction on the discoverability front. Basically, I could not have predicted the “luck” factor.

When, in the first year, I sold over 5,000 books (I had three titles out by then), I was not unhappy with my results. After all, goals are merely guidelines…a star to shoot for. But in the second year, when I had the brilliant idea to switch from Contemporary YA to writing a Dystopian trilogy, and sales dipped to half of what they did the first year, let’s just say I was less than thrilled with the results of my ongoing efforts. I shuddered to consider my hourly wage as a writer and decided it was best to stop looking at daily sales reports, screaming into the wind about my books, and beating my head against a wall trying to figure out what the heck the secret to success actually was.

My third year hasn’t been any more profitable than the previous two, despite the fact that I–at the suggestion of Indie superstar Bella Andre no less– went back and wrote another Contemporary YA. In fact, I’ve spent more on covers, editing and formatting on PIECES of LOVE than I have on any of my others simply because I’m trying to compete in the market and feel that others do a better job of these things than I can do myself. Added in is the cost of producing a theme song for POL (thinking that this might be a novel idea and help with sales, but has as yet, not appeared to make any difference at all). With production costs up and sales down (thanks to Kindle Unlimited and the insane amount of new product coming into the market), I’ll be lucky to recoup my costs over the next year.

I’m hopeful that once I finish the Dystopian trilogy, add a boxed set or two to my cybershelf, and get back on the promotional wagon in 2015, that I might see some real return on my investment.

Lest you think that any of this is sour grapes on my part, think again.

I went into this with eyes open that it would be a LOT of hard work, gave myself five years to turn a consistent profit (this is typical for any new business), and expected that there would be a steep–and ever-changing–learning curve. I’ve had to adjust my expectations for financial success, but am hopeful that with perseverance, the pay-off will be worth the continued effort. This is, after all, my retirement plan, and being that I have another fifteen years until retirement, I’ve got plenty of time to make it happen, right?

One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned is that success is measured in many ways. Positive reviews and happy readers who are excitedly awaiting my next release are priceless in the grand scheme of things. Knowing that over two and a half million readers have enjoyed SAVAGE CINDERELLA on Wattpad thrills me beyond words. And the awards and accolades for my books tell me that I’m doing something right. Reader reviews continue to average 4.5 stars across the board.

Another important lesson for me–one that continues to be challenged daily–is about finding balance. I worked around the clock that first year and a half, typically putting in 80 hours a week between my two jobs. I finally decided this past year to set myself a schedule. Knowing that I need to work my day job at least 20-30 hours a week to earn a  guaranteed paycheck to cover expenses, I set a limit on my writing/publishing time to 25-30 hours a week. Perhaps that’s partially to blame for the decrease in sales numbers, but I will say, I’m much happier and healthier these days. Time with family and time to take care of myself are far more important to me than sales figures and financial gain. If I’m in this for the long haul, that’s the way it has to be. I’m good with that.

It’s taken me three times longer than expected–and I’ve stopped comparing myself to others who have done it seemingly effortlessly–but I’ve finally made it into the 10K Cake Club.

Cake and ice cream all around! And perhaps a bottle or two of wine…

What milestone can you celebrate today? I hate to eat cake alone.

Kindred Spirits

Greetings Scriblings! PJ Sharon here.

I had the good fortune of attending a few days of the 2014 IWWG Summer Conference this week. If you aren’t familiar with this acronym, it stands for International Women’s Writing Guild. Despite the fact that I’ve been heavily involved in the romance writing community for several years, I’d never even heard of this organization.  Here’s why.

Romance writers and literary writers tend not to associate or travel in the same conference circles. Whether this is due to some misconception that one is better than the other or that the two are diametrically opposed, I can’t say, because my experience with this incredible group of amazingly talented women was nothing but educational, inclusive, and uplifting–not to mention well organized and fun. These ladies write everything from poetry to memoir, creative nonfiction to essays. A few write fiction as well, and many are published, either traditionally or Indie.

Workshops included a study in Metaphor with the fabulous Susan Tiberghien,  a chance to make “mischief” with Kelly Dumar, where we explored our childhood prankster selves and acted out stories of our misspent youth.  I learned some new plotting strategies from the excellent Chris Eboch in the workshop, What I Learned from Nancy Drew,  and Dr. Dixie King’s extremely helpful Nourishing the Writer Within was an eye opener! Dr. King took us through a step by step guide of smart goal setting and challenged us to pinpoint the barriers and limiting beliefs that hold us back from achieving our goals. I was only able to attend two days of the five day conference, but I felt so welcomed and appreciated by the group that I felt as if I’d met some kindred spirits.

IWWG conf. 2In addition to the wonderful workshops and new friends I met, the food was outstanding and the venue at the Wisdom House in Litchfield, CT was absolutely lovely. I even walked the labyrinth at sunset and spent some time in meditation, which is an area of my life I’ve been neglecting and was sorely needed.

IWWG Conf. 6There was an opportunity to showcase my books at the book fair and take center stage to share from one of my stories.  I was completely floored by the quality of each and every writer’s work that was shared. Poignant stories of family,  deep inner journeys, and prose that gave me chills and had me laughing and crying within the same three minute reading. These women are powerful and brilliant, I tell you!

Regardless of genre, we were all writers and all women–sisters of the pen–there to support each other. I feel so blessed to have been a part of this group if only for a couple of days. It gave me just the shot in the writer’s arm that I needed. I learned some important things about myself in the process and hope to meet these lovely women again in the future. My eyes are open a little wider and my heart has been touched by the gift of their words. Thank you IWWG!

Here’s a little about the organization:

The IWWG, founded in 1976, is a network for the personal and professional empowerment of women through writing and open to all regardless of portfolio. As such, it has established a remarkable record of achievement in the publishing world, as well as in circles where lifelong learning and personal transformation are valued for their own sake. The Guild nurtures and supports holistic thinking by recognizing the logic of the heart–the ability to perceive the subtle interconnections between people, events and emotions- alongside conventional logic.

Have you stretched your wings and made some new friends lately? When was the last time you just wrote for fun? Because if you aren’t having fun, what’s the point, right?

Don’t Be Guilty of #Word Crimes!

Hey there! Casey here!

Recently, Weird Al released another album which shot straight to number 1 on the Billboard Chart. Not since 1963 has a comedy album taken the top spot. Kudos to Weird Al!

And lucky for us writers, he’ s addressed a pressing issue – #Word Crimes! Please watch the following instructional video.

Be sure to laugh out loud if you feel so moved!

 

And then, please reflect upon Weird Al’s wisdom.

In an age where social media reigns supreme, it does seem like grammar is becoming a lost art. Sure, for us writers, solid knowledge of grammar is a must.  But it wasn’t until I chortled my way through this song, that I realized how many of these  mistakes also drive me mad.

Now, to be fair, before I began seriously writing, I’d forgotten some of those rules too. Comma placement continues to stump me. See the previous sentence – I probably used too many commas.  I don’t always punctuate dialog properly and the distinction between blond and blonde often baffles me (largely because publishers all handle it differently).

I am, by no means, a grammar nit-picker but one thing that does drive me nuts is spelling words wrong on purpose.

I’m looking at you SyFy Channel. For shame!!

I’m curious to know – which grammar mistakes drive you batty?