Updates on What I’m Doing

I feel like it’s been forever since I’ve been in a writing routine. I did well this summer, and then in mid-August, I took a break. Since then, I’ve been struggling to get back into a solid writing routine. This is why I’m not a fan of long breaks. The longer the break, the harder it is to get back into the habit that’s already been established.¬†Thankfully, I was still able to get some things accomplished over the last two months, which I’ll discuss below.

First of all, I’ve decided to keep writing stories at the length I’ve been doing all this time. I appreciate all of the comments people gave me on my last post. It means a lot to me that you took the time to let me know what you thought.

Second, I still prefer typing to dictation, but I do dictation when I have to. It’s easier for me to think a story out while I type. I guess it’s because my brain has been wired that way for years. Dictation is coming along easier, but I feel like I’m training my left hand to write when I’m right-hand dominant. It doesn’t come naturally.

Now, for the things I managed to get done over the past two months.

The Bride Price is due out October 28

(Some retailers haven’t updated the release date yet, but the update should be showing up in a week or two.)

the-bride-price-ebook-cover10

If you want to, you can pre-order a copy now:

Amazon

Amazon UK

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

iBooks

Smashwords

I finally have a release date on this. The story has been uploaded to all retailers. This is Book 1 in the Misled Mail Order Brides Series. This story has some great suspense in it that I really enjoyed writing. The romance came very easily for this particular couple. They fell in love right away. I tried to get them to hold off on saying the “L” word (love) until later in the story, but they fought me and prevailed. So if you’re looking for angst between the main characters, you aren’t going to find it in this particular story.

I did an entire outline on this book from beginning to end. Halfway into the story, the characters said they weren’t going to follow the outline I did. I give up on plotting. I didn’t really enjoy the process of it. The logical part of my brain still bucks against the creative part of my brain on this story because I let the creative part take control as soon as the characters started veering off course. I know this is hard for some understand, but the subconscious mind does a magnificent job of creating stories. I say it’s the characters who are running the show, but the truth is, it’s the subconscious part that is really at play on this stuff. All I learned from the experience of plotting a book is that I have a lot more fun and enjoyment from writing when I let my subconscious mind run the show. From now on, that is what I’m going to do.

Anyway, I see this book as the springboard into books 2 and 3 in this series, and those books will have plenty of angst between the hero and heroine. Not all stories are created equal. I can’t do formula romances where X + Y = Z because my subconscious mind doesn’t work that way. Each story is going to be its own entity. (This is why I wasn’t a good fit for romance publishers and had to self-publish my books. I couldn’t write romances to fit what they wanted.)

Enough about all of that, though. Let’s continue with what else is new. ūüôā

I’ve started The Rejected Groom

The Rejected Groom Ebook Cover

Click here to pre-order from B&N, Kobo, and iBooks

This is book 2 in the Misled Mail Order Brides Series. I’m really, really, really excited about this book. Yes, I love all of my books, but I admit there are some I love a little bit more than the others, and this is one of them. I am now getting to Richard and Amanda’s children. This will be Anthony (Tony) Larson’s story. I’ll go more into this as time goes on.

Even though I put June 2018 for a release date, I expect to have this out before then.

I changed the cover for The Perfect Wife

This is book 3 in the Misled Mail Order Brides Series, and Mark Larson will be the hero. Mark and Tony are twins, so I got to use the same male model on both covers. Here’s the new cover:

The Perfect Wife Ebook Cover3

I don’t usually make my own covers, but I did for this particular series.

Right now, this book is only on iBooks and Smashwords for pre-order. ¬†Again, I expect to have this out earlier than what I have marked for a release date. Right now, I have it set to July 2018. I do that in case something like a family emergency comes up, and I’m forced to put off writing for some time.

Married In Haste is almost done

Married in Haste Ebook Cover for Website

Click here to pre-order on B&N, Kobo, iBooks (coming soon to Amazon)

I am currently getting to the final part of Married In Haste. This is Book 2 in the Marriage by Fate Series. Since a couple of people have told me the heroine looks Spanish, I have updated the book to make her mother Spanish and her father English.

This book is the beginning of Lady Eloise’s fall. The hero in this book is Brad Bachman, Lord Youngtown, who is also Loretta’s older brother in The Rake’s Vow. I don’t know how many of you remember Brad from that book, but this is his romance. It’s actually fitting that he’s the one starts the sequence of events that lead to the dismantling of Ladies of Grace given what Lady Eloise did to Loretta and Tad in The Rake’s Vow. See? It’s stuff like this that compels me to make my stories longer. I love stuff that connects one book or series to another. To me, the books are a puzzle, and it’s fun to see how the pieces fit together.

Right now I’m orchestrating things so that it leads into Book 3. Lady Eloise’s group doesn’t officially fall apart until Book 3 (or possibly Book 4) in this series. I won’t know for sure until I’m writing those books.

I now have the title and plot for Book 3 in the Marriage by Fate Series.

make believe bride

The cover is by Yellow Prelude Design, LLC.  (Yellow Prelude Design, LLC also made the Married In Haste cover above, and redid the cover for The Reclusive Earl.)

This is not on pre-order yet. I haven’t gotten that far. But I picked the title Make Believe Bride. This will be Lady Stacey’s romance. She is one of the members in Lady Eloise’s group. In this book, I will get to continue playing around with dismantling Lady Eloise’s group from the point of view of someone who is actually in it. This is going to be fun. I’ve been looking forward to this since The Viscount’s Runaway Bride when I first introduced Lady Eloise and her group.

Anyway, in Married In Haste, Lord Whitney tells the gentlemen at White’s he’s engaged. I introduced Lord Whitney in The Reclusive Earl (book 1 in this series). He danced with Opal, and she found him to be extremely boring. Opal wasn’t the only one who thought that. Most of the people in London think that, too. So in order to help make up for that, he makes up a betrothal. The problem is that the gentlemen will start putting pressure on him to produce the lady so they can meet her. That’s where Lady Stacey will come in. I haven’t ironed out the details yet, but I’m looking forward to this set up.

I now have a cover for Wanted: Mail Order Husband

Wanted Mail Order Husband ebook cover

This one was done by Stephannie Beman.

This is Book 1 in the Fort Benton Series. I haven’t made much progress in it because I’m not really sure what to do next. I’m probably about 1/3 of the way into the book, and I want to do right by it, so I’m taking it slow. On some books, I have a harder time coming up with what happens next, and this is one of them. I have no pre-order on this, so I have no date set on its release.

I need to get back to The Outlaw’s Bride

The Outlaw's Bride ebook cover

This is Book 1 in the Wyoming Series, and Stephannie Beman is co-creator of the book under the pen name Anne Johanson. She also did the cover.

I haven’t touched this since July. I’m beginning to think I can only do three books at a time. Any more than that, and I get overwhelmed. But if I can make a goal of 1000 words a week in this one, then it should be doable. I’ll try that and see how things go.

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I think I covered everything in this very long post. ¬†I didn’t mean to ramble, but sometimes it happens. ūüôā

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How Long Should A Story Be?

The simple answer to this question, of course, is this: A story should only be as long as is necessary to complete it. Word count goals aside, the main thing is writing a story that isn’t rushed but also doesn’t drag on. It should keep the reader wanting to turn the page. When it’s done, there should be a satisfaction in it.

Lately, I’ve been discouraged because my stories seem to go on and on. My stories often range from 50,000 to 70,000 words. Most of the time, I end up with 60,000. ¬†Other authors around me seem to manage to produce a satisfying story at 30,000 or 40,000 words. If I could cut my word count in half, I could produce twice as many books in a year, and the more books an author can produce, the more money that author has the potential for making. I’d like to say that money has nothing to do with writing, but the truth is, it has a lot to do with writing. If the books aren’t selling, then authors have to find other ways to earn money, and most of the time that will require the authors to write a lot less.

At the rate I’m going right now, the most books I can produce in a year is between 8-10. That’s what I’ve been pretty much doing for the past couple of years. I thought I was doing more this year, but the truth is, I’m going to be at 9. Last year I was at 10. But then, last year, I did that nonfiction novella.

So I’ve already been writing as much as I can without going through burnout. Some authors think I write too many books a year. Well, I know of authors who are publishing a lot more than I am. Some are publishing a book a month. Some even publish two in a month. I don’t know how they do it because I’m maxed out on how many I can do unless I start writing shorter stories.

My last attempt at doing this was The Bride Price. It was supposed to be 30,000 words. It turned out to be 50,000. I thought plotting it first would enable to me to bring the word count down. It didn’t. I’m already at 52,000 words in Married In Haste, which needs at least 10,000 more words in order to wrap things up nicely. I just started The Rejected Groom (which follows The Bride Price) which is already at 13,000 words, and I know that I’m only 1/4 of the way into the story, if even that far along. Then in Wanted: Mail Order Husband, I’m at 22,000 words, and I don’t see this finishing before the 50,000-word mark.

It’s frustrating because sales are going down on all of the retailers except for Amazon. Now, I don’t know if that’s because more people are switching over to Amazon, if I don’t have the same visibility I used to at those other retailers, or if it’s because I’m not producing books fast enough. It’s probably a combination of all three factors. ¬†Charging $3.99 instead of $2.99 for a new book is out of the question because my sales will drop if I do that. That’s why I spend this year doing everything I could think of to get more books published. I thought dictation was the answer, but it turns out I dictate at about the same pace I type when you factor in all the editing I need to do with dictation because dictation doesn’t pick up the nuances¬†in the English language, like dear vs. deer.

So I’ve had to come to a very difficult question: how long should my stories be?

Would I be happy with my work if I were to shorten it in order to produce more books in a year? I know some would argue that happiness shouldn’t be a prime motivator for writing. They would argue this is about making money, and an author should do whatever it takes to make more of it. If that means writing about stuff you aren’t all that excited about, then you should do it. So, I’m guessing they would tell me that I should write the stories at the length that will make me the most money. Shorter, in this case, would be better.

But let’s say we fast forward to my death bed. I love writing, and I love writing the types of books I do. Up to this point, I have written each story in the way the characters wanted it to go. These stories average 60,000 words. If I were to have trimmed out some of the subplots, would I have been as happy with the stories as I am with them right now?

The truth is, no, I wouldn’t be as happy with them. One of my favorite series is the Chance At Love Series because of the thread I had going through each story about Abe and Carl. I especially liked Carl, which made it fun to do into the murder of his first wife and the fallout from that. ¬†If I had removed all of that, the stories would have been shorter. Would they have been complete? Yes because that extra stuff had nothing to do with the main plot, and I suppose when you’re making a story shorter, you have to cut out some of the excess around the edges. I kind of like the excess. ¬†One of the things I’m enjoying most about Married In Haste (which is Book 2 in the Marriage by Fate Series) is that I’m finally going to put something at play with Lady Eloise that I’ve been working on since the last Regency series I did (Marriage by Bargain Series). ¬†These little excess things I do don’t really add anything of importance to the main plot, but they’re fun, which is why I’ve been doing them. They lengthen the story.

So I guess what I’m saying is that I want to keep my books the length they are. ¬†Now, for another author, the way I do things might not work well. Short stories and novellas can be very well done. Longer books than what I do can be very well done, too. I just have to come to peace with the fact that I’m not other authors. I am me. I need to stop comparing myself to others, which isn’t as easy as it sounds. ūüôā

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What Book Signings Are Like

Right now I’m in the Omaha, Nebraska area visiting my good friend Janet Syas Nitsick. ¬†She signed up to be one of the vendors at the AppleJack Festival in Nebraska City, Nebraska. ¬†There were lots of vendors, but Janet was in the Fox Center. ¬†I played the gopher for her, running around and getting things she needed. ¬†It was a lot of fun.

janet at booksigning

Janet Syas Nitsick at her table. She is dressed in the same outfit the heroine is on The Bride List book cover (which is featured on the poster next to her).

So anyway, I don’t think I’ve ever done a post on what an author goes through to set up a book signing at a craft show, festival, or some other kind of event where people can sell things.

1. The author needs to search for events that are going on in their area that they are interested in going to.  

There will be a person to contact if you want to be a vendor.  The author contacts the vendor, and the vendor will give the author the information on where to go, when to be there to set things up, etc.

2. The author needs to look at expenses.

There is usually a cost to reserve the spot. ¬†For this particular event, Janet paid $75 to be a vendor. ¬†Also, since she’s in Nebraska, she is required to charge sales tax. ¬†In this case, Nebraska City’s sales tax was 7.5%. ¬†The sales tax varies from one city to the next. (The taxes all go to the government. She doesn’t keep it.) ¬†In addition to that, Janet had to figure in cost of gas since this is almost one hour from her home and money paid for food and drink while she is out. ¬†Also, she had to keep track of the miles she drove. Those costs are business related and can be written off when she files her taxes, but she will need to keep careful track of her expenses, so receipts are a must. ¬†I mention all of this because unless she can make more than all of the expenses, she will not make a profit. ¬†So as you can see, her asking $9.95 for a paperback isn’t outrageous. ¬†If she was to have any hope of recouping the costs, she needed to ask that.

3. The author must engage people.

One thing I noticed over the two days was that if Janet didn’t start talking to people, no one would have bought her books. ¬†The rules of marketing are different when you’re in person. ¬†Online, you have some flexibility. You can do free reads, engage in social media, run ads, etc, but at a book signing, you don’t have that luxury. ¬†You need to get out and mingle with people. ¬†If you don’t, people will go right by the table without looking back. About half the people Janet talked to loved to read, but they hadn’t planned on stopping by the table. She had to make eye contact with them, smile, and engage them into a conversation in order to get them to stop. When I found out they loved clean romances, which is what she writes, I kept wondering why they didn’t stop before she talked to them. So if you’re going to have a book signing, you must be willing to get out there and socialize. ¬†(The same was true for other vendors as well. Those who initiated the most conversations sold the best.)

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Now, I skipped over the whole thing where an author has to set up their table because I have pictures for that! ¬†Pictures are the fun part. ūüôā

When you’re at an event, the big thing is setting up the table. ¬†Just as marketers stress attractive book covers, blogs, and websites in the online world, it’s important to present an attractive table to appeal to your ideal audience.

Below is the process for setting up the table.

First, we got the skirt around the table.

skirt around table

After we set up the book signing poster, we finished lining the table with tablecloths to cover it.

top of table and poster

Then we put the items on top of the table where they belong.

setting up table

table is complete

Janet is somewhere in this picture. ¬†Can you find her? ūüôā

Now you add the author, and everything is ready!

just add the author

And I thought I’d show what it looks like inside a building when all of the vendors and set up and doing business:

applejacks1

This is the view from one of the entrances. ¬†Janet was to the left in the corner, so you can’t see her table from this angle.

applejacks2

This is the view from Janet’s table.

And though this has nothing to do with the topic, I saw the bathroom sink and thought it was so cute that I took a picture of it.

cute bathroom sink

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