Saturday, March 29, 2014

Sunday Morning I mean Saturday gosh darn sleep deprivation strikes again

3 days left in the month of March and I have to say this has been one of the busiest months I've had in A WHILE.  2 Book Release Parties, one kid's birthday party (and for those of you that know me, you know birthdays are not something I take lightly-read as, NO EASY FEAT), a book signing, and marketing marketing marketing.  Of course lets not forget Harlow Whittaker & The Apprentice, the second book in the series is currently being edited and formatted by me (well that was an awkward way of writing that sentence-let's just say all my brain can handle is editing that book and not my blog).

As much as I advocate for putting oneself out there in order to get your work recognized I have to say it is not by any means my favorite thing.  And all my fellow introverts can understand the need for downtime/hibernation/runaway from home and hide out at your parents house where you can get away with wearing nothing but sweatpants with several mystery stains-I'm going with chocolate, syrup, and whatever else my kids happen to have on their hands at any given time.  (seriously where do they keep finding the chocolate???)  But as much as being out amongst the living somewhat irks me it is the source of inspiration.  Every interaction, no matter how intense, or short, or awkward, will somehow be used as a muse or jumping off point for a future or even current project. 

Also on the flip side of that, not only do interactions with others, whether strangers, new friends, old friends or acquaintances when you get in a room with them it's a chance to plug your current work.  Last night I had the second Launch Party for Harlow Whittaker & The Soothsayers, and it was a low-key affair, but I did sell all the books I had with me and it was a chance to get people talking about my book.  So as uncomfortable as it was for me to say, "Hey I wrote a book and you should buy it," it was definitely worth it.  (For more on Launch Party's click here)

So I believe it was last week where my home-girl, Shannon Barczak and I discussed working on our second books for our Trilogy's.  Well now that I just completed reading my second book, cover to cover for the third time I have to say I am now where Shannon was at the time we published that post.  It is really good. Okay before you're like Valerie of course you have to say that, hear me out.
I wrote Harlow Whittaker 2 last summer and I read it twice after it was completed and then it just sat there, because life happened, along with the fact that I was publishing HW1 so I haven't even opened that file since last July.  To read it now, it's like reading someone else's work. And that fact; that I don't remember what happened, due to having two kids and a horrendous memory (it is really bad, I don't know how I haven't lost one of my kids already...wait what was I talking about before I started with the parenthesis...???) so I read it like I didn't write it which is great for editing but also gives me confidence in that maybe I'm not too shabby at this writing bid-ness. 

Well it's now 8:19 AM and I think I've gotten enough off my mind to go back to sleep.  If you aren't able to return your head to its pillow check this out, it will have you singing Drunk In Love all day, but I think it's totally worth it.  It's how that song would sound in the 1940s with a Big Band and a sexy raspy voice.  'Till next time!!

Friday, March 21, 2014

You've sold enough copies that you can write full time, but is that really what you want? Author Sarah Dalton Explains All

This weekend is my little man's birthday party which means....GUEST BLOG POST and this one is a treat.

Sarah Dalton is the author of the Amazon bestselling Blemished series and she agreed to shell out some tips along with the details of what exactly happens when you reach bestselling status and get to quit your day job.  Is it as sweet as it sounds?  Read on to find out. 

Release, release, release!!

So when I first started dipping my toe into the frightening waters (filled with sharks) that are writer critique forums, one of the first pieces of advice I heard was to write your book, then shelve it for three months before you even read it.

Three months.
When I think back to when I first started writing it feels like a luxury to be able to sit on work for that long. Now that I’m self-publishing my books, I don’t have that opportunity. What I do have, is a pressure and a drive to release books as soon as I can.

The best marketing advice you can give a self-published author is to write a long series of books with the same characters and release one book at least every three months. We’ve seen time and time again how this has worked well for ebook sales. Readers are hungry for books. It could be because of the wealth of sharing on the internet, but it feels like people are reading more books than ever before. With self-publishing and ebooks, it feels like people are publishing books faster than ever before. And they probably are, because there’s no longer any need to wait for a publisher to find time in their schedule to organise your release.

Now, I’m going to skip over the issue about quality. There are many writers out there who absolutely cannot get their head around the concept that someone can write a good book in a month. They are adamant about it. Well, I say, as long as the readers are happy with the books they are getting, then live and let live. Enjoyment is subjective. Quality is a measure that constantly changes. I’m not here to judge. I’m here to tell you how it feels from a slow writer’s perspective.

Actually, I’m not that slow. I managed to release two full length novels, three novellas and write 60k during NaNoWriMo last year. I did all that with a part-time job. In October, I packed in my part-time job to work full-time as a self-published author. It was the easiest decision I’ve ever made. As soon as I began to out earn my job, my resignation letter was written, and I dreamed of writing entire books in little more than a month.
But somehow it hasn’t happened that way. In some respects, I write less than I did before. The reason is, now I have to think of 
Now, I’m going to skip over the issue about quality. There are many writers out there who absolutely cannot get their head around the concept that someone can write a good book in a month. They are adamant about it. Well, I say, as long as the readers are happy with the books they are getting, then live and let live. Enjoyment is subjective. Quality is a measure that constantly changes. I’m not here to judge. I’m here to tell you how it feels from a slow writer’s perspective.

Actually, I’m not that slow. I managed to release two full length novels, three novellas and write 60k during NaNoWriMo last year. I did all that with a part-time job. In October, I packed in my part-time job to work full-time as a self-published author. It was the easiest decision I’ve ever made. As soon as I began to out earn my job, my resignation letter was written, and I dreamed of writing entire books in little more than a month. 

But somehow it hasn’t happened that way. In some respects, I write less than I did before. The reason is, now I have to think of my writing as a business, and I need to expand my business. So for the last few months I’ve been working with other authors on projects, building social media and mailing list connections, turning my Facebook page into a place for fans to interact with me. It takes up a LOT of time.

There goes my dreams of writing at least four novels this year.
I’m a bad planner. I would love to be the kind of person who can set out a publishing schedule for myself—to sit down and decide which months I will write which books—but I can’t. I start one book and then BAM! a great idea for something else. I’m also one of those people who can’t concentrate unless they have done something about that idea, which means breaking from one project to work on another. Then I try to pretend like I’d organised it that way the whole time. Oh, yeah, I always meant to start a brand new series before I finished the last one, that’s just how I roll…

The advice about quick releases is correct. There is a good chance you will sell more books that way. But you need to find what works best for you. I’ve broken lots of pieces of advice. I genre hop within YA. I write books to the length I want them to be, rather than trying to stretch them into something more sellable. I use covers that stand out rather than imitate. I write what I feel like writing. I think I’ve been lucky so far. I’ve had other people take a chance on me. You might do too, but you won’t get there with a book you don’t care about.

Sometimes you need to shake off that pressure. Sometimes, you need to reignite your love for writing. Write what you love today, not what you should be writing. The deadline can wait until tomorrow.


Sarah Dalton is the author of the Amazon bestselling Blemished series, the Amazon bestselling novella My Daylight Monsters and the brand new YA fantasy series White Hart. She lives in Sheffield with her partner and splits her time between writing, playing around creating book covers, and watching teen TV. She should probably be in the gym right now…


Find out more from Sarah on her blog:
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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

SXSW Collaboration: Writing Book Two of a Trilogy

This weeks post is going to switch gears a bit.  Remember a few weeks back when I told you that fabulous fellow YA author Shannon Barczak and I would be starting a monthly blog post together?  Well if not, that previous sentence just shed some new light on you and if so then HERE IT IS, our first post together. 

We decided, in an eerie/creepy/read one another's mind sort of way, to name our monthly article, SXSW (an abbreviation for South By Southwest).  Here's the deal, the past couple of weeks, I've been sleepless in New Mexico.  No I'm not a widower, whose ridiculously cute and poised son called into a radio show which led to the sweetest love story of all time but the sleepless part is accurate.  Teething baby, marketing the first book in a trilogy while also trying to keep up with my day job has become more and more demanding and there just isn't time for sleep.  So to avoid becoming completely zombified I've been sleeping at weird hours since I'm awake most of the night.  Last week while Shannon and I were brainstorming about the title for our monthly chronicle, at 2AM inspiration struck and I though thought of SXSW.  (I live in New Mexico and Shannon just relocated to South Carolina) the thing is when I emailed the idea to Shannon, she was like, "No freakin way I had the same exact idea late last night."  I think we are sistas from another mista!!  But keeping with the theme of being on the same page in the big book of life, Shannon and I are both preparing for the release of our second books in our YA Trilogy's.  While Shannon is planning for the release of her next book, Isle of Night, on March 27, of this year the second installment of Harlow isn't coming out until June.  However the pressures of writing a second book are still present for each of us and that's what we want to share with you all.  So sit back and prepare for some sexy deets and a little foul mouthed humor while the two of us dish about writing a trilogy.  (Shannon's responses will appear in white, while mine will remain in orange).

Shannon’s Tale: Writing Book Two

Writing book two of ‘The Skye trilogy’, ‘Isle of Night’, was a very interesting experience for me as a writer. I was nervous at first. Could I really write another book? Was I truly ready and able to commit myself so soon after writing ‘Isle of Skye’? It took me a few weeks to sit down at my computer. I had already written out my chapters outlines so I was good to go.

I started with the prologue and about halfway through, I realized it sucked, shut off the computer and stomped out of the study completely frustrated. The next day though I thought to myself, ‘Why do I have to write a prologue right now?’ So back in the room I went and from there on it was smooth sailing. That was until I hit a wall. A big, fat sex wall. Yup, you read right, sex wall.

The first book I did not want my main characters to jump into bed together. My whole goal was to bring a sense of realism to the unrealistic genre that is paranormal romance. I knew that book two was going to be a bit racier but until I was faced with writing out the first scene I hadn’t truly grasped the ramifications of my actions, which is my writing. All I could think about when I was typing away was Holy F*ck my father is going to read this. How on earth can I write these scenes?

Well after a good week went by I finally gave myself a bit of therapy and wrote out the scene. From that moment on I didn’t look back once. Am I straddling the line between romance and erotica? Maybe a little but I don’t know how to write any other way. I write the way I think and I write the way I talk. If someone has the impression that I am a foul mouthed, sex fiend, then so be it. There are worse things in life to be regarded as and I can only hope that people will see my writing as it truly is and that, my friends, is honest.

I have no fears about this book. I will arrogantly proclaim it better than the first book. I think it’s because I was more relaxed and confident. I will always love my first book but I have to say, ‘Isle of Night’, rocks. I adore this book from start to finish. When I finished ‘Isle of Skye’, I cried. When I finished ‘Isle of Night’, I had a Cheshire cat eating grin on my face for days.

Am I worried about people not liking the follow up to book one? No, not really. I’m sure there may be a few that are a little taken aback by some of the scenes but I see this book as the turning point in my writing career. This is my moment. This is when I started to believe not only in myself but as an author.

Valerie's Piece: Writing Book 2
When I began writing the second book in the Harlow Trilogy, Harlow Whittaker & The Apprentice, I had the same "This is crap moment" as Shannon.  I started it out set in the future and it was going to have several flashback scenes explaining what had occurred in the time between the first book ending and the second book beginning.  However that beginning was very flat and dry and after two weeks of working on it, I had two chapters that were utterly boring and useless.  There was no character develop and it read like a laundry list so I hit ctrl A and delete.  And left it alone for about a month.  Then one day I had the entire book outlined on the small scrap of paper.  That put me at ease, finally my characters had a story.  
So after moving, unpacking and giving birth I decided I had time to write and so I did and HW2 was completed in about two months.  Once it was written I printed it out, and read it cover to cover, editing like crazy.  I re-read the first book to make sure that there were no holes in the story, that things were spelled consistently and that above all, it was a successful follow-up to the first book.  I wanted the second book to continue the story but also be more than a supplemental read, I wanted it to be worth the wait and satisfying for the reader, who at the time was only my mother in law. 
I didn't publish HW1 right away, I waited 3 years so the only people that had read it besides myself were my husband and MIL.  So when I wrote the second book I wrote it with her in mind.  The comments she had given me after reading the first book rang in my mind.  DESCRIBE MORE, etc.  
Now that I am beginning to outline the third book I can only imagine how many reviews, and star ratings will be in my mind when I sit down to right the last book in the trilogy.  But I will cross that bridge when it gets here.  For now I am in the final editing phase of book two, and by final editing, I mean that last week I formatted it for print and I then printed it out and am maddeningly crossing things out and re-writing sentences and grammar checking. (Yay! and by that I mean BOOO!) So back to my edit hole I go.  :(
Hope you enjoyed the view of releasing a second book from two different authors from two different regions of the U.S.  Come back next month we'll be blogging about something else that tickles or fancy (Yup that last bit was total sleep deprivation speaking) 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Bestselling Author Emily Murdoch Dishes About Her Big Move & What That Means For Her Writing

I met Emily Murdoch on Twitter, she's a fellow author who's work is widely successful we're talking bestseller status.  Recently married she finds herself leaving her home in the United Kingdom and relocating to New Zealand.  Curious to how she balances it all?  So was I, I asked Emily to write a guest post about being an author in the UK and she came back with a lovely piece about all the ups and downs that accompany the adjustment of an international move and how all of that has effected her writing.  Read on for all the details, in this poignant piece perfectly tilted, Author Without An Address.

I was born and brought up in England; the land of Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Jane Austen. I grew up in the beautiful historic city of Canterbury, and was surrounded by literature, art and music as I became an adult. Beyond anything else, my love of words and books was encouraged by my family and my teachers, and so it almost became inevitable that I would become an author myself.
Fast forward a couple of years, and I am a third year student at the University of York, reading History and English. I have finally finished my first novel, a historical romance set just after the Norman Conquest of 1066. It was a challenge to write - my specialisation in medieval history gave me much of the background, but it was a real emotional journey. Was I good enough to write a book? Would anyone even want to read it?
It's now two years, later, and not only has my book been published and read by over 11,000 people...but I'm living over 11,000 miles from my home.
My husband is a trainee pilot, and part of his training involves about nine months of training in Hamilton, New Zealand. I have been here for just over a week, and I am already trying to acclimatise to the blistering temperatures, new currency, and slightly confusing accents. But what I'm finding most difficult at the moment is writing.
I really wanted to take the opportunity whilst I was miles and miles from my friends, family, and financial commitments to be 'an author' as a full-time job. When would I ever get the chance again to write all day, and then have barbeques in the evenings? But suddenly, and without any warning, all of my motivation to write has disappeared.
In some ways, I guess I could blame the strangeness of the land that I'm living in. The heat can be oppressive, and I've spent quite a bit of time trying to sort out the administrative nonsense that comes with ripping your life out of one place and transplanting it in another; bank cards, car insurance, finding the nearest supermarket...
Instead of my previous life, when the hardest decision in the day was whether to have pudding after my supper or not, my new life feels slightly off-kilter. Once I've replied to about a hundred emails, finally worked out how the laundrette works, and cracked how to send an online transfer with my New Zealand bank account, the last thing that I want to do is sit down and through the emotional turmoil that I'm putting a character through.
My inspiration has also been pulled out from underneath my feet. I have only ever lived in cities that have their origins in Roman settlement, and have been major political, social and religious centres up to the present day. The times that I write about - from around the 11th to the 15th centuries - are all around me. Here in New Zealand, a building is considered ridiculously old if it is more than 150 years old. 
Life often brings up smallnesses and nothings to distract us from what we love. As writers, the smallest thing can push us into a bad mood that can rub off on our writing. Being an itinerant author without an address can make even the small things takeover an entire day, and before you know it you haven't written for weeks.
So what is my advice for you - whether you are a writer that's never crossed a border, one that's just left home, or one that as been living without any home comforts for a while? For me, it's simple: make home where you are, and stick to a good solid routine. Personally, I've brought with me some of my favourite books and (don't judge me) my childhood teddy bear. They make me feel safe, and if I ever sink into a hole of 'I'll never write again', they are always able to pull me out. Now that - I hope! - everything major is organised, I've created a schedule that I will be able to stick to, but should also keep me focused for at least five hours a day.
Maybe it will work, maybe it won't. Being an author without an address certainly gives me experiences of a different land and culture that I could never have expected or imagined. And you never know: maybe one day I'll write a bestseller about an author who moved to the other side of the world...

Emily Murdoch's book Conquests: Hearts Rule Kingdoms can be bought here: Her own writing blog can be read here: and you can follow her on twitter @emilyekmurdoch.

Conquests: Hearts Rule Kingdoms
by Emily Murdoch.

'Conquests' is a brilliantly researched and involving historical drama that is perfect for fans of Alison Weir and Philippa Gregory. 
'It gripped me from the first page.' - Robert Foster, best-selling author of 'The Lunar Code'. 

Buy here:

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Createspace Expanded Distribution; Good or Bad?

If you're thinking of self-publishing via Amazon's Createspace then you have no doubt read about their Expanded Distribution option, I think I've even mentioned it here a time or two.  Well if you have heard about it you have also heard the good with the bad.  Or mostly the bad.  Lots of blogs, websites and message boards have dedicated themselves to explaining how horrific an option it is.  However I just signed up for it almost 3 weeks ago (yes almost 3 weeks of use make me a bit of a Lothario on the subject lol-no but in all seriousness read this post if you're on the fence about it) and here are my thoughts:

ED (Expanded Distribution-NOT erectile dysfunction) allows you to have your books at Barnes & and if you know managers at your local B&N's you can have them order your book so its on physical bookshelves as well, (something I plan on doing next week, or next month, I'm telling you 2014 has me sprinting).  So that's a plus.  However you should know, like with any other expanded distribution channel, you do receive less royalties when people buy from anywhere but Amazon or your Createspace Estore.  (The sales from those channels does effect your Amazon sales rank, so you can tell from that if you are making sales from ED channels)  AND it can take up to 60 days before you see those sales and the money earned from them.  My thing is, who cares?  (Well if you look online, A LOT of people) But as an author who is trying to get their work out there I pose this question, isn't it better for your book to be HIGHLY VISABLE rather than less sales with higher royalties?  If you look at the end game then the answer is going to be yes.  #IMHO (BTW that is my least favorite hashtag because there is no way to utilize it without sounding incredibly pretentious, so sorry about that)  At the end of the day you end up squabbling over pennies as opposed to getting your hard work to the reader.  And lets face it, some people are brand junkies who like to buy all their books from Barnes & Noble, local bookstores, or libraries rather than a web address that they've never heard of.  For instance my Createspace Estore link is (yeah doesn't look as legit as,

When I first published Harlow 1, I thought ED looked great, then I backpedalled thinking there was no money in it, but then my Facebook fans were like, where else can I get your book?  And to some people your book isn't real until they can physically go buy it at their local bookstore.  So for those small tried and true book lovers I think ED is fine, and you can always unclick the box and go back to making your book exclusively available via Amazon.

For book signings, like I have one coming up on March 15 at a local Indie store, having physical copies available is a requirement so ED seems like the obvious choice-the bookstore can order them via Ingram (thank you ED) and I don't have to order a ton of books and lug them around. 

In short my experience with ED is that it has widened my reader base.

So that's my rant, and to those of you that are trying to file a class-action against Amazon because of ED just remember this used to be a $25 service which is now free and which remains COMPLETELY OPTIONAL so if you'd rather stick exclusively with Amazon that is still your right.  Otherwise try and get a publishing deal with a big publisher and see how they treat an unknown author. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Book Release Party Part 2

The book release was not exactly what I had been expecting/dreading.  It was loads better.  For instance there was live music on the patio!  Nothing like signing a book your wrote while listening to a local artist sing all the songs you listened to why you wrote said book.  Freakishly awesome right!?

Let's get to the deets of what happened the night my book had a party-

1.)  No speech:  While one guest asked later on if there was going to be any talk of me and I informed them no.  They seemed just as happy to be there and not too put out by the fact that I wasn't going to be spouting off about my accolades for 15 minutes.
          *In lieu of a speech I stuck to writing extremely personal/inside-jokey inscriptions in the books when I would sign them.  (That way that could read them wehenver they liked and not have me say quite private info in croweded roomful of folks.  Read this as: I hate watching people cry).  Also while you're signing books one-on-one you get to answer everyone individually when they ask, "So how'd you come up the idea for your book?"

2.)  Less people showed up than I had invited however the weather was a bit gloomy so I forgive the no shows ;)  However sense I mentioned on the invite to bring a copy of the book so I could sign it, I sold just as many books as I would have, had they actually attended.

3.)  It was super super fun.  There were times when I would look around the room and it was like hanging out with all the characters in my book because aren't all characters loosely based on our intereptations of the many people that we meet in our lives?

4.)  I am already talking about throwing another party back in my home town next month.

5.)  I'm definitely glad I had books there to sell because a handful of guests didn't order theres in time and some wanted copies for friends who couldn't make it.

And those are my final notes on what I characterized as a successful book release party.  Check out the pics of Saturday night below and for more head to my Facebook page.

That last pic is me and the brilliant cover artist!  Wait 'till you see what she's got cooked up for Harlow Whittaker & The Apprentice, the second installment in the trilogy.