April 27, 2022

Black and White Characters (and I'm not referring to race)

Until now, I'd always written a compelling backstory for my "bad guys." Generally, I believe that people (or characters) have both good and bad attributes. In other words, no one is all good or all bad. There are no absolutes. Life is a result of one's experiences and choices.

While self-editing my latest book (second last step before submitting it to my publisher), I made a startlingly realization. My "bad guy" was just "bad."

From the moment I introduced the character, Sherrie, she was a complete bitch. She abused a position of power. She treated my heroine, Beth, with disrespect and embarrassed her publicly. In front of other characters, she acted like a totally different person. My hero, Nick, stood up for Beth. He made Sherrie accountable for her behavior. By the end of the story, Sherrie became unhinged, resulting in her downfall. Sherrie had specific motivations for her actions, but they weren't justifiable. Her character arc was a simple cause and effect. Karma. She was a terrible person who lost everything.

This was the first book I'd written in a while that didn't include physical violence and danger. It can be pretty exhausting to spin that kind of intrigue so I thought I'd write something lighter. Stories still need conflict though. As it turns out, I only exchanged physical violence with emotional abuse. Both my main characters encountered judgment based on preconceived notions. It made my heroine defensive and distrustful. It made my hero reckless and self-sabotaging.

My writing is a personal reflection. I often incorporate (knowingly or unknowingly) my experiences into my work. Through fiction, I discover truths about myself and I can control the outcome for my characters (or at least they let me think that I can). Sherrie represented a malevolence I encountered and faced alone. In my story, Nick listened to and supported Beth. I gave Beth what I'd needed. This was painful to write, but powerful to realize. I couldn't rewrite my past, but I could bring the lesson forward.


April 26, 2022

#TirgearrTuesday

Excerpt from A Fairy Godmother's Redemption:


The sun woke him up the next morning. Oh… it’s too early. His brain abandoned its sleepy state when he remembered his mother was kicking them out today. He rolled out of bed, wearing yesterday’s wrinkled clothes.

His heart jumped in his chest. He heard the clang of pots and pans coming from the kitchen. Is Mom making breakfast? Maybe she changed her mind? He hopped down the stairs, taking two at a time. A surprising scene greeted him with Madison and Mackenzie making breakfast in the kitchen. There was no sign of his mother. He tried to hide his disappointment.

“We made breakfast.” Madison smiled, pride evident in her eyes. “We aren’t allowed to use the stove.

Mackenzie looked around the room, avoiding eye contact with Drew. “I hope you like cereal.”

“You used a lot of dishes—” He waved his hand around the messy kitchen. “—to make cereal.”

Madison's eyes filled with tears.

Damn. He hated the waterworks. “That's fine. I love cereal.”

Mackenzie grinned. “We made it special.”

Special? He took a bite of cereal, tasting a mix of at least three different kinds. “Mmm.”

Madison beamed while Mackenzie watched him suspiciously.

April 22, 2022

Finding Balance Between Art and Business

A published author who wants to achieve "commercial success" must keep focused on both the creation and promotion of their work. That said, writing and promoting are two very separate activities, requiring different skill sets.

There are only twenty-four hours in a day... and some of those are dedicated to sleeping and eating. Plus, in the indie author world, most of us have day jobs. Some people have families and other responsibilities. Where does writing fit in? Who has the time (and money) to promote?

Promotion on a Limited Time and Money Budget

What are the goals? Constant engagement on all the social media platforms plus maintaining a blog (and/or newsletter) and website. Constant ads on book promotion sites. Continuous production of new work to promote. Being everywhere. Doing everything. Sound unrealistic? Unless you are ten different people or have a personal assistant, probably.

I have a decent understanding of social media. I'm fairly active on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. In the last year, I've seen a 16% increase in Instagram followers whereas Facebook and Twitter have grown by 2%. I use my blog to post my weekly features like "Quote of the Week" on Mondays and "#TirgearrTuesday" on Tuesdays with a not-so-regular-lately post on Fridays. For time management, I use several social media post schedulers, like Planoly and Buffer. In the fall, I started contributing (non-promotional posts) on medium.com on Wednesdays to expand my audience. Words are important, but it's even better if you can reach the readers.

For new releases, I have used Facebook parties, virtual book tours, and book trailers to create interest.

I have a blog (obviously) and a quarterly newsletter I send using MailChimp. A lot of the how-to guides to book promoting stress the importance of building a mailing list. I have participated in promotions to add to my numbers. Most recently, a Booksweeps promotion which added 300 people to my list, equating to a 29% increase from last year. Ideally, offering a lead magnet would encourage readers to sign up too. It's on my to-do list.

My skill set has expanded to include (basic) web and graphic design. Templates make it accessible for diys. I design my own graphics using sites like Canva. I outsource when my requirements exceed my abilities.

My website contains the recommended pages: Home, About, My Books, and I use it as a landing page for newsletter sign-ups. My current package includes ten pages so I have an entire series on one page with shortcut links to individual books. I also have a Writing Community page with links to my author pages and interviews, other authors, writing resources, and promotional sites.

Aside from the author platform—social media, blog, newsletter, website—reader reviews are an invaluable source for promotional material. I've sent hundreds of book review request emails over the last ten years, found some excellent reviewers, and used review snippets in my book graphics.

In conclusion, I save money by doing as much as I can myself. Unfortunately, doing promotional activities takes time away from writing. In truth, this is probably not a good strategy because I don't make any money. For my last four books, I have spent an average of $800 per new book release ($3,000 total) and earned less than $100 in royalties (in the first year). Seriously, what I am I doing wrong?

I imagine I am not alone in this seemingly losing battle. I write. I promote. Capital is required to get my books in front of readers in order to make sales. But my past strategies are not getting results. So, where should I spend my promotional dollars?


April 19, 2022

#TirgearrTuesday

 Excerpt from A Fairy Godmother's Redemption:


Drew stepped a little closer to Sera, standing awkwardly under the bright lights.

The crowd chanted, “Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!”

Without warning, Sera grabbed Drew’s jacket lapels, tugging him even closer, before planting a gentle kiss on his lips. The attraction was undeniable. He wanted to drink her in. If they weren’t on stage… But they were. Drew pulled back.

Sera winked at him. “The crowd loves it.”

Will this ever end? He turned slightly, hoping to move off the stage without drawing any notice. But a twin spotlight moved over him.

Sera held the microphone in one hand, but she held him captive in her gaze. He was drawn to her intense eyes. The way she looked at him… It felt real, like she actually had feelings for him. He dismissed the ridiculous thought. This meant nothing to her. She was a performer, a talented actress. 

Sera started playing the intro on her guitar. “I was incomplete; I had a missing piece. Without you in my life. Just a princess without a prince; Then I found you.”

Drew watched her, completely captivated. Her voice was amazing as always, but this song… This song was powerful. There was no other word for it.

“You make me feel beautiful; Like I'm your whole world. Everything is brighter; I feel lighter. With you in my life. So, sing with me.”

Drew felt connected to her song, compelled to join in. “Sing with me.”

Sera looked startled for a moment, then continued with the song. “Complete me.”

Drew echoed. “Complete me.”

Sera leaned in, touching him under the chin. “Be my perfect complement. I need you, My Duet at Midnight.”

As the crowd cheered loudly, Drew echoed the lyrics. “Duet at Midnight.” Then, everything faded into the background until he was only aware of one thing. Sera. The lyrics from one of his songs came to mind: Never felt like this before; Something in me wants to soar.

April 12, 2022

#TirgearrTuesday

Excerpt from A Fairy Godmother's Redemption:


Today is a new day. This will blow over. And everything will go back to normal. Sera squared her shoulders. I can face anything as long as I get to sing. She took a deep breath. I’m not doing myself any favors, wallowing in my hotel room. She needed a change of scenery… and some fresh air wouldn’t hurt either. 

Enjoying the forceful stream from the showerhead pounding the tension from her neck and shoulders, she lingered under the heated spray. Escaping the steamy room, she donned her most inconspicuous outfit—a faded t-shirt and a pair of worn jeans—then tucked her long hair, still wet from the shower, under a ballcap. Finally, she grabbed her sunglasses and purse before slipping out of her room. 

As she passed Krista’s door, she felt a twinge of guilt. It’s not like I’m sneaking around. Even she didn’t believe her defensive statement. She knew she’d been avoiding Krista. After a quick walk, I’ll go see her.

The bright sun on this spring morning promised another sultry day. She tugged her ballcap a little lower and put on her sunglasses before pushing open the heavy revolving door. The rich aroma of freshly roasted coffee filled the air, a sharp contrast with its competing scents—malted barley and Mary Jane. She hit the sidewalk, heading toward the nearest coffee bar. It felt good to be out of her room. She dodged a group of camera-toting tourists, turning her face to the side as she passed. Pausing in front of a cafĂ© that boasted “fair trade organic coffee” to read their sandwich board menu, she decided on a twelve-ounce cappuccino. Coffee in hand, she detoured toward the marina instead of heading straight back to the hotel. 

It’s a beautiful morning. She took a deep breath, appreciating the salty tang of the ocean. Neat rows of sailboats lined the piers of Mariners Bay. People bustled along the boardwalk, focused on their various places to go, leaving Sera unnoticed among the chaos. She enjoyed the anonymity. In her casual clothes, no one would mistake her for the musical sensation, Seraphina Jacobs. 

Finding an empty bench with a great view of the harbor, she settled down, cradling her coffee in both hands. She embraced the peaceful feeling that something so simple—sitting down with coffee—created within her. In a flash of inspiration, she dug out a notepad and pen from her purse. She scrawled Everything is brighter; I feel lighter on the page. Staring at the words, she realized their truth. Sitting there in the sunshine, things did seem brighter. Far removed from the worries of her reality. She gulped the last sip of coffee, knowing she’d run out of ways to stall her return to the hotel. Her reprieve was over. Time to face the music. She cringed at her unintentional pun, then she grinned as another occurred to her. It’s showtime.

April 5, 2022

#TirgearrTuesday

Excerpt from A Fairy Godmother's Redemption:


“Faye hooked us up with a limo ride to the concert.” 

Madison gasped. “Wow!” 

Mackenzie assessed Drew critically. “If we’re going in a limo, you’re gonna need fancier digs.”

“Already covered. Faye included a suit rental.”

Madison sighed. “It’s just like in Cinderella.”

“What?”

“You know when Cinderella goes to the ball… Her fairy godmother gives her a new dress and turns a pumpkin into a fancy carriage…” She smiled dreamily. “You know what that means? Faye is your Fairy Godmother.”

He paused at Madison’s words, thinking about everything Faye did this week. With a new job, new apartment, and now a suit and a limo… It did seem like a fairy tale, but he didn’t want the girls getting any unrealistic ideas. “Don’t be silly, Madison. Fairy tales aren’t real.”

Mackenzie’s chin jutted out stubbornly. “Says who?”

Too tired from working all day, he didn’t have the energy for this argument. “Fine, fairy tales can be real. Now get ready for bed.” He caught Madison and Mackenzie sharing a smug smile.




April 4, 2022

Quote of the Week

Just as April showers bring May flowers, pain can bring change.

On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. His dream for equality, freedom, and justice continues to inspire.