Tag Archives: authors

It’s my second Indie birthday!

Hey Scribblers!

PJ Sharon here. Today I’m celebrating two years since I first published my debut novel HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES. In honor of the occasion, I’m giving away an audio book copy to one random commenter. Chance to enter ends Monday, September 30th at midnight.

So what’s it like being an Indie toddler?very-excited-girl (2013_06_02 00_59_02 UTC)
Believe me, there are days when I want to have fits like a two-year-old. But there are also days when I can’t imagine a more exciting pursuit. It seems like just yesterday I was posting my first novel onto AMAZON, B&N, and Smashwords, taking the giant leap of faith that I had done enough to ensure it was as close to perfect as possible. Five books and a zillion lessons later, I’m still working to improve and streamline my process. Everything from formatting, cover art, editing, and marketing, to managing the business end of being an author, is constantly changing, making me feel like a perpetual newbie.

Here’s a short list of what I’ve learned in my first two years:

1) Relax and Breathe-I really stressed out my first year and a half as an author. The past six months has been about letting go for me. I can’t control it all, I can only do so much in a day, and the to-do list will still be there tomorrow. Making time to write is non-negotiable. It’s what keeps me moving forward and brings me joy. I manage what I absolutely have to do each day, and try to remember that I’m the boss.

2) Hire as much help as you can afford-I’m a big fan of bartering services, but there are some things you just can’t do that with. Figuring out a budget and investing in creating a superior product is worth the effort and money. Hire a good cover artist and excellent editors, and pay for the RIGHT advertisement, and you will make your money back. Caution: BE SELECTIVE. Get references and do your research.

3) It’s good to have friends in the playpen- I would know nothing if I didn’t belong to such Yahoo Groups as IndieRomanceInk, Authors Network, and Marketing for Romance Writers. My local RWA chapter has been invaluable, and the contacts I’ve made through YARWA and the WG2E street team are like family. I am constantly amazed by the generosity of the writing community.

4) Patience grasshopper-  I’m only two, for Pete’s sake! We have to walk before we can run, right? Everything requires a process. In people years, a toddler is only just beginning their journey. I can’t expect myself to know everything, do everything right, or earn a solid income in only two years time. Every business model I’ve ever seen considers a profit after five years, a success. Most businesses will fail in those first five years. I take comfort in knowing that the only way I can fail is if I stop writing books. I’m more and more convinced that money comes with time and persistence. I’ll let you know how that theory works out in another three years when I graduate to kindergarten.

5) Perspective is everything- I originally set the goaI that I would sell 10,000 copies of my collective books in a year. I guess I didn’t necessarily mean the first year…or the second. Well, maybe I was just being optimistic. I could have been disappointed when I didn’t meet my mark in 2012, but it didn’t really phase me. Mainly because I knew that if I had sold 5,000 the first year, the second five would come eventually. I still haven’t quite reached the 10K mark yet (there will be cake when I do!). But I consider every sale, every contest win, positive review, or reader comment a measure of success. Most importantly, my level of enjoyment with the process is my biggest measure of success these days. I keep a copy of each of my books close at hand to remind me of what I’ve accomplished in just two short years.

There is so much more that I’ve learned, but I’d have to write a book to contain it all and my publishing schedule is booked for the foreseeable future. So instead of me blabbering on about my toddler years, why don’t you guys tell me about your journey.

How long have you been writing?  What has it taught you? Have you made the leap into the publishing world? How’s that going for you? Let’s chat!

Act of Faith

Thea Devine today, just back from Atlanta, and thinking how everything concerned with writing is an act of faith. You’re born with it, I’m convinced, or why else would you at some point sit yourself down at a computer and start to write?

You have faith you have the talent, that you have the power to create characters with all their foibles and flaws, conflicts, motivations and consequences. You have absolute faith you can mix up that brew into some kind of plot.

And with all that faith, you start to write a book. Faith drives those opening chapters where you set up the problems and possible solutions and obstructions. You know you can solve any fictional problem, you have faith. Even in the depths of that sagging middle, you have faith.

And when you’re hurtling toward the end — faith. You’re going to get it done. You’re going to have your beta readers or your critique partners read it, with faith they will love it as much as you do.

Then, you take a huge leap of faith and submit. With faith the project will sell. And if it doesn’t, with faith that it will.

We writers live on the edge of a dangerously amorphous cliff called faith. My guess is, we’d never have it any other way.

What do you think? Is it faith or insanity that drives us? Have you ever lost faith?

Thea Devine is currently working on her next erotic romance. She’ll be speaking at the NJRWA Put Your Heart in a Book Conference in October, and is delighted that five of her backlist titles (the westerns) are now available in Kindle editions.

Write for Joy

Thea Devine today, urging you to take a time out from all the industry turmoil, questions, opinions, critiques, disappointments, marketing questions, publicity plans, and opportunities, and just sit down and write something for the pure joy of it.

Write something you want to write exactly the way you envision it and want to write it. Don’t think about editors, critique groups, beta readers, marketing requirements, anything. Just write.

Write the way you used to write before the idea of publications was even a gleam in your eye.

Write what interests you. I believe with all my heart that what interests me will interest the reader. You see that when there’s a wave of books centering on the same elements: babies, vampires, billionaires, surviving a dystopian future.

Writing for joy doesn’t require any critiquing except your own. Guard what you’ve written with all that’s within you. And you must not only like what you write, you must LOVE what you write.

If you love what you’re write, your conviction and the love shine through. A reader can tell. So write for joy because you’re a reader and there’s a story you want to tell that you would want to read.

I love what I write, every single word, even the mss that have been rejected, even things I wrote years ago.

Write for joy because it’s so liberating.

Write for joy because there’s no one standing over your shoulder saying, “you can’t.” You absolutely can.

Write for joy to reconnect with why you love to write in the first place.

And most of all, write for joy because — you can.

Have you ever written for joy? Just for you? Did you love it? Was it different? The same? Did you let go more than you thought you would?

Thea Devine is the author of more than two dozen erotic romances. She’s currently at work on a contemporary erotic romance and happy for the reissue of five of her early backlist titles in Kindle editions.

Websites, tag lines, and titles, oh my!

PJ Sharon here today, and I’m asking for your help with some of my more immediately pressing concerns. First off, prioritizing my duties as an indie-published author and entrepreneur is challenging to say the least. There are many moving parts to this job and I wear more hats than guests at a royal wedding.Royal-Wedding-Unusual-Hats-Kate-William-floral-hats While I await my second round of edits for WESTERN DESERT, I have time to work on my marketing strategy for the release next month. Priorities include scheduling a short blog tour, setting up an advertising budget for paid ads, a possible launch party of some sort, sending out press releases, and finishing my back cover copy and art. The list goes on, but sometimes, I just need to let my instincts take over and tell me what is most important for the day.

Of course, writing this blog is always on my Sunday to-do list—though it often falls over to Monday night at midnight—but today I was talking to my DH about a new website. Those of you who know me, know that I have talked about switching over to a WordPress site for my website and blog for at least the past year. Currently, I have a blog on Blogger and I have a website that I love, but it has some significant limitations. My Circle Pad site, which I pay the requisite $8.95 a month for hosting, has some quirks that make it not compatible with Apple products for one. Search engine optimization is lacking, and the interface, as user friendly as it is to work with, is antiquated and doesn’t stand up to today’s market equivalents. Even with all of that, I have resisted switching to WordPress because,

a.) I’m tech-phobic and,

b.) I can’t seem to make decisions about details such as colors, design, theme, or whether to go with .org or .com?

In a come-to-Jesus moment, I have decided to just suck it up and do it! No matter how overwhelmed I feel, the website change is a must-do. In forcing the issue, I have come to realize that part of what holds me back is that I still haven’t clearly identified my brand. I’ve gotten as far as to say, “I write romance fiction for teens and beyond,” but other than that I don’t really know what defines me as a writer these days.

This brings me to my second dilemma of the day:

Should I change my tag-line, and what should I change it to? My first three books, being contemporary YA romance with hopefully ever after endings fit fine with my “Extraordinary Stories of an Average Teenage Life” tag line. But now that I have added dystopian to my repertoire, “average” doesn’t seem suitable—not for genetically altered teens in a futuristic setting. There is still a romance, but the story clearly fits in the YA category of dystopian fiction rather than upper YA/NA stories. Romance readers are not necessarily sci-fi readers and vice versa, so I feel like maybe I need to change my image a bit to reach out to a broader audience. It occurs to me that maybe I’m having trouble pinpointing my target readership because I haven’t truly discovered my “hook”—that message in our style and voice that makes us unique and offers readers the promise of something different.

Once I understand what makes my stories extraordinary, and have narrowed down my tagline to who I am and what I write, then the web design should be easier. I also just finished taking an online web-design course to get me over my tech-fear, and DH has vowed to help me get set up on a WordPress site by the end of June when I launch Book Two in The Chronicles of Lily Carmichael, WESTERN DESERT.

This takes us to my third issue of the day, month, year…a title for the third book in the trilogy. Here are the parameters:

1) Title must be in adjective/noun format (Waning Moon, Western Desert)

2) It would be nice to keep with the “W” alliteration, but I’m not attached to that.

3) The title should reflect that Lily and Will are embarking on the final stage of their journey across a post-apocalyptic US. This time they are leaving Las Vegas and heading east along the southern route, which will take them through the Southern Swamps. (I already thought of that as a title but I think that would only work if there were a fourth book since this one will culminate in the final battle with the Industry and will take place in Chicago and then Vegas again. I do wish I had made it a series and not a trilogy…another lesson learned.)

4) Basically, I want a title that sounds catchy alongside the other two, is different enough to not be competing with a dozen other books by the same title, and one that metaphorically shows the shift to a hopeful ending rather than a title that focuses on gloom and doom.

These are a few of my ideas. I’d love to hear yours!

CHANGING/SHIFTING/RISING TIDES (you get the drift)
SHIFTING/RISING WINDS
STORM SURGE
HEALING WINDS

Thanks in advance for any help, advice, or suggestions!

The Saga of Mr. Fern

DSCF0661Mr. Fern, who by then was raggedy, although he still had green fronds, sat discarded outside the teachers’ room door at the school where my husband teaches, and rather than let him be consigned to the garbage, John brought him home. For years, Mr. Fern sat by the sliders to the deck in the winter, and on the deck, summers, and regenerated and bloomed, and — I truly believe — begat a whole family of ferns that return every year, shooting up like alien pods, in my pachysandra patch.

So it was with great sorrow that two or three years ago, we watched as Mr. Fern deteriorated to the point where he had no new growth, his leaves shriveled, browned, became dessicated, and he died.
We put him in the back yard nevertheless, loath to leave him in the detritus that would be cleared away in the bi-annual garden clean-up. And there he sat for a summer, a winter, another summer, forlorn, dried up, leafless, lifeless …

And then one summer day, I saw a sliver of green poking out from the midst of the jungle of brown. One fully formed fern frond, child-size, fresh green, fresh life, a little miracle stretching out from the dirt and decay. No stopping him then. I began watering him. He pushed out more long stringy fingers which turned into an explosion of brand new fronds.

Mr. Fern is back. Why, how, from that mass of crinkly dead leaves, I’ll never understand. I thought he was truly gone, and then, suddenly, there he was. And now he sits in my cluttered dining room by the sliding doors, growing and flourishing every day.

It’s a lesson to all of us. Sometimes we feel hopeless, helpless, dry, dessicated, chewed up, beaten down
– like we couldn’t produce another word, even if it was the word “I” — and we just bury ourselves and let it all go.

Don’t let go. We’re writers. There’s always life in there, even if at times it seems like still life with no possibilities. All it needs is a little poke and prod. A book, a word, an overheard conversation, something in the news — and we green up, poke our way out of the dessication, and get going.

Because we have to. Because there are stories to tell and we can tell them. Because there are fictional lives to explore, and we can do justice to them. Because when you’re a writer, you’re never not writing, even if you think you’re not.

And, because we can.

Thea Devine is currently working on her next erotic contemporary romance. She’s pleased to announce that five of her early books, Reckless Desire, Ecstasy’s Hostage, Relentless Passion, Montana Mistress and Angel Eyes are now available in Kindle editions.

Home is Where …?

Happy belated new year, Scribers. Thea Devine today. We had an interesting holiday ourselves. After spending Xmas with our grandson and his parents, we went to visit family in Arizona. Our first trip. A wonderful visit to a place my husband’s family members had wanted to live for years, had dreamt of living there for years.

Which led me to wonder about home, and what makes you feel that this is home: the desert, the painted sky, the dusky colors, the unlimited horizon — as opposed to the unlimited horizon of the ocean, the rocky shore, trees that touch the sky, winter that cradles you in snow and the warmth of the fire. A big Victorian, or a roomy ranch. In the woods back of beyond or in a cluster of houses in a development. A brownstone in the city or colonial in the suburbs. A cabin in the woods or a condo on the edge of a bay.

Do you live now where you grew up or thousands of miles away?
I was amazed, when I attended my fiftieth high school reunion, at where many of my classmates wound up. A fair of them stayed in New Jersey. But others lived as far away as Hawaii, California, Tennessee. What said home to them in those disparate places, I wonder.

Place is so important, especially I think to writers. We once bought a house that after a couple of months, I told my husband I wanted to go back to where we moved from. He did not ask for a divorce.

Of all the houses and places we’ve lived, I love living here in CT the best. I love the town, I love how much there is to do, how many opportunities to volunteer. I love our house which is a typical 1970′s ranch. It’s sited beautifully on a rise so when you look out the door, you feel like you’re living in the trees. The sun is at the back of the house, south. I never feel comfortable when it’s at the front of the house. We keep the front door open most times so it’s like another window to view the landscape. I love winter days when we light the fireplace, play music, low, and curl up with a book. I love watching birds hanging onto icicles pecking away at the feeder. I love warm days when my husband and I just sit on the deck and talk.

So when you create your heroine — where is her home? Is it where you live? Where you wished you lived? Someplace you have lived? An imaginary small town where everybody’s known you since the day you were born?

Is it where you’re comfortable or where your heroine has to find comfort? Does she resist or embrace her home? Do you? Have you lived places that just didn’t Feel Right?

What makes a house feel right to you, the sun pouring in from the south or sunrise to the east. The layout? The fireplace? The kitchen. The property? The look of the house? Being near water? Do you like the snow or the heat? The changing seasons or a constant landscape?

What says home to you? Do you wish you could live someplace else or do you love where you are? Have you put your heroine in places you’ve never been? Or do you keep her close to home? Do you think writers are super sensitive place — or is it just me?

Thea Devine’s books defined erotic romance. She’s written 25 historical and contemporary erotic romances and a dozen novellas. Beyond the Night, the sequel to The Darkest Heart, will be released September 2013 from Pocket Star. She’s currently at work on her next erotic romance. Her 2008 novel, His Little Black Book, was reissued in October.

“It Does What I Want It To”

Thea Devine today, romanticizing perhaps, a long ago moment that’s stayed with me all these years.  My husband and I were in the living room and my youngest son was at his father’s desk fiddling around on my portable IBM Selectric (yes people, there was a portable Selectric back in the day, complete with canvas carrying case).  He must have been four or five at the time, just pounding away, when he suddenly looked up, his face all lit up, and exclaimed: “It does what I want it to!”

Even after all these years, I just LOVE that idea — because it could have meant the machine, or it could have meant (I prefer to think) the words.

Words did what he wanted them to.  As in, he chose the words, put them together and they expressed what he wanted them to.

Words do what WE, the authors, want them to.

When we let them.

How often we don’t.

When they scare us to death because they mean commitment and we’re not ready for that long-term relationship with a particular WIP.

When we’re facing a blank screen and the prospect of filling four hundred more of them with what, how many words??  Or there are still three hundred and fifty empty I-can’t-think-of-a-single-plot-point pages to write.

I know this:  if you’re staring at a blank screen, you can always write something, It doesn’t have to be for your WIP of the moment. It can just be.  But you always have words, even if sometimes it feels like they’re out to get you.  Or it may feel like they’re fighting you — and winning, and that you can’t write a grammatical sentence to save your life or a description in fewer than fifteen pages.

Well, everyone — this is a call to action.  People, take control!  Re-assess those soggy sentences, wrangle those restless verbs, slice and dice those irritating adverbs, show those pushy participles who’s the boss, and you will finally and happily make those wayward words  do what youwant them to.

Has your child ever said something that struck you as being relevant to writing?  Do you feel mocked by that empty screen?  If you felt you had control of words, would that help or hinder you?

Thea Devine is the USA best-selling author of twenty-five erotic historical and contemporary romances, and is just finishing Beyond the Night, the sequel to The Darkest Heart to be released by Pocket Star April 2013.