Leavin’ on a Jet Plane

Over a year ago, my mom said, “I’d like to hike somewhere with you before I’m too old.”

I semi-jokingly replied, “You find the budget, I’ll find the time!” Cause let’s be realistic, broke writer here.

Tonight we get on a plane on fly to Dublin.

canstockphoto22291162.jpg

The trip has changed a little in that time. The original plan was for the two of us to hike across the country from Dublin to the West coast. A stress fracture in my mom’s foot derailed that plan fairly quickly, and we decided it would be nicer if we didn’t leave my dad at home.

But we’re still going from Dublin to the West coast (albeit in a car, and along the coast). There will be shorter day hikes and lots of time to explore the countryside.

And after three weeks, they’ll drop me off at Helena Stone’s house and I’ll stay with her and her husband for another two and a half weeks.  There will be writing of course, and day trips into Dublin to see places I’ve heard her talk about but barely imagined I’d visit.

I have a date with a very cool Irish guy I’ve been talking to for a few months. Long story, but suffice it to say when you post on an Irish message board you’ll find the Irish are a VERY friendly bunch.

The whole thing will be a working vacation—because I definitely can’t just take five and a half weeks off from writing—but I am so excited it’s ridiculous. I’ll definitely be on social media less, but I WILL take a ton of pictures.

It’s still a little surreal. I’m not sure it’s really sunk in that I’ll be staying in Ireland for almost six weeks. But my packed suitcase says otherwise and in a little over twelve hours, I’ll be leaving Toronto airport and heading straight for Dublin.

The real question is, am I ever going to want to come home?

Advertisements

Doc Brodie and the Big Thank You

In the past few months, I’ve thought a lot about where I’m going with my writing career and if I’m really cut out to be a full-time author.

Sales for “Connection” were subpar (my own fault for not promoting it adequately). Sales for “Trust” were better (but being the second book in a series I hadn’t promoted enough made them less than stellar). Sales of my backlist were solid; enough to pay the bills while I’m living with my parents, but certainly not enough to pay rent if I moved out.

When road blocks hit as I was writing “Push & Pull” (the second in the Midwest series) I began to panic. What if I’d been fooling myself? What if I wasn’t cut out to be a writer at all? With depressing thoughts of having to get at least a part-time job again whirling in my head, I gave myself an ultimatum. If my next two releases didn’t do well, I’d look for the part-time job. In the meantime, I’d stop panicking about the fact that I’m only a few months away from having lived with my parents for a year. My goal was six months.

I threw myself into getting print books out and writing “Doc Brodie”. I contacted Rachel Maybury of Signal Boost Promotions and planned a Book Blitz and Review Tour to get the word out to new blogs and readers. After a minor panic when the first two days of sales for “Doc Brodie” were sub-par, a kind word from a fellow author prompted me to take a look at my pricing. I realized that based on the length of the novella, I’d set my price too high. I adjusted that and since then, the book has been flying off the (metaphorical) shelves!

Sometimes it’s hard to know what exactly leads to good sales. The time of year, the type of book, what else is going on in the world, along with a host of other factors can greatly influence sales. In general, the summer is a good time for shorter, lighter reads so I think that certainly helped with Doc Brodie sales. I wish I could say that it was because it was such an amazing book, but I know book quality is not always correlated to sales numbers. I am certainly proud of “Doc Brodie” and I never put out anything but my best effort, but I know I still have a lot to learn.  Unfortunately, I know very talented authors whose books don’t sell well.

In the two-and-a-half years since I published my first short story, the biggest thing I’ve learned is that marketing makes a big difference. In the list of people I want to thank for Doc Brodie’s success, Rachel Maybury is definitely one of them. I can’t recommend her highly enough. Her fee was reasonable, she was timely in responding to questions, and I feel she more than delivered what she promised. While it’s difficult to say exactly how much her marketing contributed to the book’s success, I honestly believe it played a substantial part in the fact that Doc Brodie sold more copies in the first month than any previous book I’ve released!

The book’s success puts me in a solid place to focus on “Push & Pull” (with a tentative September release) and I am hopeful that as long as that goes well I will be able to move out sometime this fall. *crosses fingers*

AdobeStock_97032783 (1).jpg

 

This blog post is my very long-winded way of saying thank you to all of the people who helped with the book. In addition to Rachel, I’d like to thank Allison Hickman and Helena Stone for their beta work, Sally Hopkinson for her editing, Jessica Stuhr Kurvers and Amy Keating Casey for the proofreading help, and the handful of pre-release reviewers from my private Facebook group. And of course, huge thanks to the bloggers and readers who reviewed and spread the word about the story. Much love and appreciation to all of you. I simply cannot thank you enough. ❤

 

Prism Book Alliance Guest Post: Outside the Margins – Writing What You Know

10354962_10102472817116524_7249860059425921314_n

Join me on Prism Book Alliance’s Outside the Margins column.  Today I discuss research for my novels.

I hope you’ll take a look and please leave a comment.  I’m open to any feedback or suggestions about what you’d like to hear from me in my monthly column.  Looking forward to seeing you there!

Review – “Phoenix Rising”

Phoenix Rising

Summary:

New York City homicide detectives Artemis Gregory and Rachel Wayland are first on the murder scene of a beautiful young gay man, the third victim of a serial killer dubbed the Moon Killer by the department. Their investigation leads them to Talis Kehk, charismatic lead singer of the rock group Phoenix Rising. As the next full moon approaches, Artemis and his partner uncover clues that lead straight to Talis—even as Talis, exhibiting behavior Artemis finds strange indeed considering the circumstances, uses every means possible to keep Artemis close.

Artemis could never fall in love with a murderer, could he? Innocent or not, Talis has a secret… and it’s about to change Artemis’s world forever.

Review:

You know I like Theo Fenraven’s books, no question about that, but Phoenix Rising was particularly interesting.  If there’s one thing I appreciate in a story, it’s when I feel like I’ve read something unique, and I’ve certainly never read anything like Phoenix Rising.  There were choices the characters made that made me pause.  One in particular made me set down the book in shock and wonder how the hell Theo was going to pull it off but in my opinion, he certainly did.

I don’t want to give away the plot, but Talis’ secret is utterly fascinating. It changes the way Artemis views him, and the world around them. I loved the way myth was woven throughout the story.  I love that when I finished it, it didn’t leave my head and I kept mulling it over, pondering how I felt about it.  I love that Theo’s books make me think.   The books that stick with me are the ones that challenge me.

This was a tricky, tricky story to tell but I love that not only did Theo attempt it, he pulled it off. Spectacularly.

What’s the Opposite of Writer’s Block?

I posted this image on FB today because it made me giggle.  Sometimes my characters DO feel like imaginary friends.

 

I’m grateful that writer’s block is something I rarely have to deal with.  Don’t get me wrong, my creativity (and focus) ebbs and flows.  Some weeks I feel like I can’t find enough hours in the day to keep up with the ideas in my head.  Other time, it’s like pulling teeth.  I do my best to write even when I’m not feeling especially productive, although often I focus on other things, like writing book reviews or blog posts.  Sometimes I work on a story and just re-read what I’ve already written and make minor tweaks or plot out where I want to go next.  There’s always something I can work on.

Avoiding writer’s block is one of the main reasons I have multiple stories going at once.  It’s a very effective tool for me because if I’m feeling blah and uninspired about a particular story, I can work on something else for a while and it sparks my creativity.

Unfortunately, right now I feel like I have the opposite problem. Lately, my imaginary friends have been talking my ear off and I can’t get them to stop! I’m drowning in plot bunnies and I have a difficult time focusing on what I should be working on, namely the holiday shorts and book three of the Equals series.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Russ and Stephen.  I love the characters, I love their story, I love their relationship and the way it’s evolving. But I have so many other characters impatiently waiting their turn and it’s a daily struggle to focus on what I need to work on.

I feel ungrateful complaining about an excess of creativity; after all, it could be worse, right? I could be completely stuck and unable to write.  But it’s hard to feel grateful when the number of projects I have in my plot bunny folder keeps piling up.  I have no idea when I’ll get to them and just thinking about them gives me anxiety.

What am I going to do about it?  Honestly, I don’t know.  Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, I guess, but I’d sure love to know if you have any tips!

What can I do to get my characters to speak a little more quietly or at least wait their turn?

 

 

Review – “Hotel Pens”

Hotel Pens

 

Hotel Pens

Summary:

Travel writer Joe Jordan hasn’t been home to New York since his boyfriend broke up with him. Instead he’s hopped from hotel to hotel, collecting pens like a child in a fairytale might leave a trail of breadcrumbs hoping to find his way back. But now he has an assignment, an article titled “5 Ways to Rediscover New York.” Being back on his home turf is daunting—until he meets Claude Desjardins, a gay romance translator staying in his hotel who, after a night of near passion, leads Joe on a treasure hunt through Manhattan, writing clues on Joe’s skin using hotel pens. But it isn’t just New York Joe needs to rediscover.

Review:

This story is a novella, and on the shorter side, but completely worth it.  I picked it up on a whim during Dreamspinner’s sale a while back and thoroughly enjoyed it.  It certainly wasn’t a heavy book, but it was a nice sweet read without lacking substance.  Joe’s past issues were believable and the relationship that develops between him and Claude was very believable.  The treasure hunt on Joe’s skin was such a fun thread throughout the book and I loved the way Claude’s creativity shook Joe out of his humdrum life.  There’s a bit of a lingering question throughout the book that causes some angst and lthough I guessed the “twist” to that issue long before the end, it didn’t make it any less wonderful.

While it may not be a story that changes the world it’s a very solid feel-good read.

Review – “Spirit”

Spirit

Summary:

Jason Day, brilliant designer of video games, is not only a confirmed bachelor, but he’s as gay as a maypole. One wouldn’t think being saddled with his precocious four-year-old nephew for four weeks would be enough to throw him off-kilter.

Wrong. Timmy, Jason’s nephew, is a true handful.

But just when Timmy and Uncle Jason begin to bond, and Jason feels he’s getting a grip on this babysitting business once and for all, he’s thrown for a loop by a couple of visitors—one from Tucson, the other from beyond the grave.

I’m sorry. Say what?

Toss a murder, a hot young stud, an unexpected love affair, and a spooky-ass ghost with a weird sense of humor into Jason’s summer plans, and you’ve got the makings for one hell of a ride.

Review:

Summing this book up in a few sentences is difficult.

I spent my lunch laughing so hard I smeared my eye makeup and terrified the people sitting around me. I came home from work and read more, still laughing, totally engrossed in the story.

But to say that it’s funny would only cover a small part of it. It was an extraordinarily well-written ghost story/mystery. The characters were utterly delightful, especially Timmy. The chemistry (and sex scenes) between the main characters were steamy. And in parts, the book was utterly heart-breaking.

It’s rare to read a book that covers such a wide array of emotions so well, but this did it beautifully.

Read it. Now.

I’m going to find more John Inman books.

The What Ifs


Tomorrow is the big release for Equals, the novella I told you about a month ago.  It took longer to finish than I expected.  The feedback I get from my talented team of pre-readers is something I take very seriously.  When they told me they felt like things were missing, I listened.  When they told me tweaks needed to be made, I agreed.  I took their feedback, read through the story again, and made the changes.  Not every single last one–there are always a few suggestions that I know just don’t feel right for the characters–but I thought them all over thoroughly.  And they were right.  Before, I felt like the story was good.  Now, I feel like it’s great.  Well, at least I did.

In the last few weeks as I put on the final touches, polished the document with my editor, and prepared the book for publishing, my confidence began to waver.  When I thought about the July 11 release date, my stomach knotted.  Had I done everything I could to make it a great story? What if I should have fleshed out this scene more? Cut that one?  What if the character motivation wasn’t strong enough? What if it bored the reader to tears?

The questions multiplied. What if it was just regurgitating the same old story? What if I got it all wrong?  What if everyone finds out I don’t have a clue what I’m doing?

Why the hell am I doing this writing thing anyway?

canstockphoto20581897

Self doubt is horrible.  It’s painful and crippling and as the release creeps closer the worse it gets.  In the past, I knew there was a limited audience for short stories.  My releases were small.  I knew the bulk of my readers were friends, people I already know.  There’s more pressure with a novella.  And I’ve set up a blog tour to promote the story and bring in new readers.  I had a blast preparing for it and I think you’ll love the excerpts and interviews.  But it somehow makes this much more “real”.  Cue the anxiety.

The book is done, the advance review copies are in the hands of the bloggers, and there’s nothing to do but wait.  Tomorrow everything starts rolling and all I can do is hang on. I’ll be posting links to the blog tour and of course I’ll have links to where you can buy the book.  I hope you’ll give the book a chance and that you’ll visit the blogs on the tour. What will I be doing? Well, I’ll be swimming through the what ifs and doing my best to make it through to the other side.

What Am I Working On?

I know it’s been pretty quiet around here, so I thought I’d bring you up to date on what I’m working on right now.  A lot, actually.

There are certainly more plot bunnies than I have time to wrangle.  I have a number of documents with a brief summary, a picture or two, and a few scenes or chapters written.  Some are short stories, one is a novella.  I have four that could potentially be novels.  Right now, they hang out in a folder and I pop in to add something if a really good idea occurs to me.

There are three I am focused on right now.  A novella, and two novels.  Yes, two novels.  One is a collaboration with the ever-fabulous Karen.  You know, the one who got me into reading m/m in the first place.  I won’t say much about it, but we’ve been working on it for about a year.  Collaboration can be slow, but I enjoy it.  I’m pleased with the way the story is coming together and when we get closer to having it ready, we’ll share more info about it.

The other novel I’m working on is something I’m doing alone.  It’s coming together nicely and I’d say the first draft is about 3/4 done.  There are a few scenes here and there that need to be written, but mostly I need to fill in a few missing pieces.  After that it’ll go to the pre-readers.  I feel like there are some issues with it that I am not sure how to correct, but I know with good feedback it’ll come together.

The novella is my top priority right now.  I hope to have it finished and available by the end of June.  I’ve been working on it for a few months, on and off, and it’s been slow going.  I didn’t quite have a grasp of the characters at first and until I can “hear” their voice, the dialogue doesn’t flow.  I can block out a scene and get a general idea of where it’ll go, but it’s difficult to get any momentum until then.  I had a brainstorming session with a few people on Facebook and they helped me figure out the motivation for one of the characters.  That really helped me get a better grasp on him and  I spent the weekend writing.   I parked myself at my desk, logged out of Facebook, and put my headphones on.  Other than a cat kneading my leg with his pointy claws I managed to keep the distractions to a minimum.

On Saturday I wrote 9,528 words, on Sunday 6,087.  I finished the first draft tonight and it’s roughly 41,000 words.  That’s a little long for a novella, but it’s what the story required.  It’s off with one of the betas right now and I am sure I’ll have a lot of work for me once I get it back.  There are parts I’ll need to tweak, but it feels great to have that step done.

It doesn’t have a title yet, but the main characters are named Stephen and Russ.  Stephen is in his late 40’s, Russ is in his late 20’s, and their relationship is an interesting one for me to explore.  Their dynamic isn’t one I’ve explored before but I enjoyed pushing myself out of my comfort zone.

 

Russell                                          Stephen

Here’s a little excerpt for you:

They made idle chit-chat as they ate, ignoring the elephant in the room; their plans for the evening. There was something titillating about knowing sex would happen but having to wait. It put him on edge, teetering on a fine point of arousal and anticipation. As he stared across the desk at the man devouring his salad he wondered if a weekend in bed would be enough to assuage the hunger he was sure they both felt. Not the kind satisfied by a deli lunch, but something deeper, more primal. He stared at Russ’ forearms, exposed by his rolled up shirtsleeves, tan against the whiteness of the cloth, lightly covered in hair. His hands, with blunt, strong fingers, and branching veins. His eyes, more hazel than brown as they picked up the olive tones of his tie. His lips, full and shiny as his tongue swiped across them to catch a stray smear of dressing.

Russ leaned in. “You’re going to get us both fired if you keep looking at me that way.”

Stephen blinked and cleared his throat trying to think of a witty comeback. He had none. He took a sip of his water instead. “I’d apologize, but we both know I’d be lying.”

Russ laughed and tossed his leftovers in the trash. “Right now I’d be lying if I said I cared if we did.”

 

 

How To Support An Author

Let me be very blunt; I’m going to talk about sales and money.  Some authors do, some don’t.

May was my best month so far.  I sold 223 copies of my short stories, as of this morning.  I have the rest of the day today and tomorrow still, but it probably won’t be more than another 10-15 sales.  Depending on which site the sales are from, I make anywhere from about $2.21 on Smashwords to $1.50 per book on iTunes for a short story listed at $2.99.  Averaging it out between the sites, it’s roughly $2/sale.   $446 a month.  And that doesn’t include what I have to withhold for taxes or pay for stock photos to make cover art.  I make my own book covers and  I’m lucky enough to have incredible betas and a stellar editor who work for free.  Or for a copy of the story/my eternal gratitude.

So, when I say that every sale counts, I mean that.  Every sale matters to an author.  Every review, every tweet, share, like, and recommendation.  And every one of those things has a cumulative effect.  Take a look at May.

Chart

Whenever I release a new short story there’s a spike in sales.  For example, I sold 34 copies of my stories on May 19, after “Sunburns and Sunsets” was released.  The chart above is my sales from Amazon and doesn’t include the other sites.   Sales tapered off slowly over the next few weeks while I continued to pin inspiration pics, blog about it, Tweet, post on Facebook, etc.  And then it settled down to maybe 2-3/day.  For May, I’ll probably average just over 7 sales/day.  That’s nearly double what I sold in April, but equal to what I sold in March.  According to other authors I spoke to, April tends to be a slow month.

I’ve been tracking sales since February, trying to put together the pieces of what makes the biggest difference in sales.  This is what I’ve found applies to me.  It may not be the same for other authors, but I guarantee, it won’t hurt.

So what can you do to help your favorite authors?

Review

Hands down, reviews make some of the biggest differences in sales.  Review on the site where you bought the story, review on Goodreads.  Review on both if you can.  Review on your blog or your FB page or in FB groups.  Every single review counts.

Even if you feel like you’re saying the exact thing someone else did, that’s fine.  It doesn’t matter if it’s two lines or twenty, it helps.  It doesn’t matter if it’s stilted and awkward sounding or clumsy.  It’s another person chiming in to say how they felt about it.

If I had to choose between all of the places a reader could leave feedback, I’d probably pick Amazon.   More than half my sales come from there and while they aren’t the highest royalty (about $2.09) they are number two and every review translates into more sales.  The more sales, the higher the story is ranked, the more exposure it gets, and the more people are likely to buy it.

If you can do more than one site, you’re a rock star and I’ll probably love you forever.

Word of Mouth

Spread the word!  Every new release from me is posted on FB, tweeted about, blogged about, etc.   Share those.  Whether it’s a re-tweet or a share on FB, it counts.  It’s one more chance for someone to see the story and think, “Hmm, that sounds interesting, I should buy it!”  If you love a story, tell people about it.  If you’re excited about it, they will be too.

Comment on the author’s blog, share their posts, engage with the author.  Sometimes it feels like we’re writing in a vacuum and a quick message from someone can make a huge difference.  Knowing readers are out there and enjoying what I do is an incredible boost and makes the words flow faster.

Understand Royalties

I’ll be honest, I had no idea whatsoever that there was such a huge difference in what an author is paid depending on where you buy your books.  If they’re going through a publishing company, they’ll earn more if you buy directly through the site than on Amazon (although, there’s a flip side and the more sales on Amazon, the better the exposure and the more books are sold).  It’s complicated.

For self-published authors, there’s a huge range in royalty rates.  For my $2.99 short stories, this is how it breaks down.

Smashwords – $2.21

Amazon – $2.09

Kobo – $2.09

Barnes & Noble – $1.94

All Romance – $1.79

iTunes – $1.50

Obviously, I’m just thrilled if you buy one of my books, wherever you buy from.  I appreciate the support and interest in my work.  I would imagine most authors feel the same way.  That being said, I know a lot of people had no idea that there was such a huge difference.  If you’re so inclined, buy from places like the publisher’s site and Smashwords.  But if it’s easier to One-Click on Amazon and it means you’ll buy more, by all means, go there.  Just keep buying books!

Pay for What You Read

This may seem silly, but pay for the books you read.  I just recently discovered that my books are available on a pirating site.  If I found out about one, that probably means they’re on a dozen more.  I have to wonder how many sales I’ve lost because of this.

Loan judiciously.  I’m not against the idea of you loaning a book of mine to a friend.  Occasionally.  I can only speak for myself– many authors feel differently–loaning a copy of an eBook to a friend every now and again is no different than loaning a hard copy.  I’ll be honest, I’ve loaned eBooks before and had them loaned to me.  But often, after reading that story I’ve  gone on to buy every single other book in that author’s catalog.  Plus the one that was originally loaned.   A single, judicious loan led to many, many sales.  It can be done fairly.  But it can also get out of control, so be mindful.  Realize that it directly impacts an author’s life.

Don’t return books on Amazon.  I know many authors who are livid about Amazon’s return policy.  I’m learning to suck it up and deal with it, but it rankles.  On average, I lose 10% of my sales from people returning books.  I suspect most of them don’t have cats who accidentally One-Click on my book or anything else of the sort.   Probably, the vast majority are people who read the book and then “return” it because they don’t want to pay.  For an author like me, that can add up to hundreds of dollars a year in lost sales.  For bigger authors, even more, although most I’ve talked to say it hovers in the 10% range for them as well.

Don’t Feel Guilty

If you’re as busy as I am (or busier) doing all of these things can be time-consuming.  Believe me, I understand.  Compared to the number of books I read, I am only able to review a limited number.  I share the ones that excite me.  We all have busy lives and just finding time to read those books is a challenge.  So don’t beat yourself up if you can’t write an in-depth eloquent review for every story you read.  I am a writer and I feel like I write the lamest reviews ever.  So, do what you can.  If you have the time to review, do it, but don’t beat yourself up if you can’t.  Like and tweet and reblog when you’re able and know that every single thing you do is appreciated.

Like

This is the easiest one of all.  Go to my Amazon Author Page and click the Like button (on the upper right side of the page).  It will only take a few moments and will help boost my author ranking.  Can’t hurt, right?

Oh, and on that same page you can sign up for an email alert notifying you when an author has a new book available.  How handy is that?

 

Finally, please, please know how much I deeply appreciate those of you who have gone out of your way to do all of these things.  There is no way I’d be able to do this without you.  ❤