Good and Bad Luck

While writing The Cursed Earl, I have had to research quite a bit into the topic of good and bad luck. My hero is a firm believer in good and bad luck, and this affects him and the other characters in this story. Since I found some of the stuff I learned to be interesting, I thought I’d make a post about it. 😀

The stuff applies specifically to European concepts of good and bad luck since the hero is in Regency England. I also couldn’t include everything I came across. There is a lot of superstitions out there. The stuff I mention below is what ended up in the book.

Good luck:

If a bird poops on you, it’s transferring its prosperity to you.

You wear a garment inside out for good luck, but it’s only good luck if you keep it on that way all day. If you do it by accident, it’s even better (but still remember to keep it that way all day).

A horseshoe over the entryway is luck if it’s turned the right way up. (If the horseshoe is the wrong way, it brings bad luck.)

If the bride and groom don’t see each other before the wedding, then it’s good luck. This goes back to a time of arranged marriages. The idea was that if the bride and groom saw each other before the ceremony, then they’d get cold feet and bolt for the door.

Wedding bells were considered to bring abundance and prosperity. Ringing the bells in a church was believed to ward off evil spirits.

Throwing birdseed at a wedding is said to bring fertility to the married couple. This tradition actually goes back to the ancient Assyrians and Egyptians. The Romans later used this tradition, too. They didn’t throw birdseed. Usually, they’d throw wheat or rice. Somewhere along the way, a myth came about that when birds ate rice, the rice absorbed all the water inside the birds and caused the birds to explode. Birdseed was encouraged for this reason.

It’s good luck for the husband to carry his wife over the threshold. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that the groom didn’t want his wife to trip and fall. But in Medieval Europe, it was believed that evil spirits tried to go with the bride into the house. When the groom carried her over the threshold, the evil spirits couldn’t latch onto her shoes. Also, in ancient times, men would abduct women and take them into their homes. Since the women fought them, they had to carry the women over the threshold. (In the book, our hero carries the heroine over the threshold so she doesn’t trip or fall.)

Oddly enough, black cats are good luck in England. Such isn’t the case in the US.

A clover with four leaves is good luck because the four sides stand for faith, hope, luck, and love.

If you carry an acorn with you, it’s said to protect you from illnesses, aches, and pains. If you are sick, it’s said to speed up the recovery process and relieve pain.

A rabbit’s foot is lucky, but it has to be the left hind foot. Rabbits are seen as symbols of fertility and abundance. Now I know why my mom used to use the phrase “multiply like rabbits” when someone had a lot of kids.

Absentmindedly rocking an empty cradle means a baby is on the way.

Planting a leek in the house prevents the house from catching on fire.

Bad luck:

If you come across a funeral procession, it’s both bad luck and hastens death. The only way out of this is to hold onto your button. If you can avoid the procession altogether, that’s even better.

If you don’t hold your breath while passing a graveyard, you could breathe in the spirit of someone who recently died. (As a side note, if you don’t cover your mouth when you yawn, you risk an evil spirit entering you.)

Seeing an owl in the daytime means there will be a death.

Dreaming of a baby being born means someone is going to die. I had a friend in college who believed this.

A horseshoe without nails is considered bad luck. This goes back to Irish folklore involving Saint Dunstan. He was a blacksmith. Legend goes that the devil came to him looking for a horseshoe. Dunstan used iron nails to secure the red-hot horseshoe to one of his hooves, and it caused the devil so much pain, he begged Dunstan to remove it. Dunstan agreed to remove it so long as the devil promised to never enter a place where a horseshoe hangs above the door. The devil agreed and left. So that’s why iron is important in good luck with horseshoes. (As an aside, iron is also said to ward off fairies in Irish folklore. I learned that while writing An Earl In Time.)

Ravens aren’t lucky, per se, but if you see two or three together, things are going to get really bad.

Feathers of a peacock in the home is bad luck. The Evil-Eye on the feather is associated with wickedness.

Green is good luck UNLESS it’s Scheele’s Green. Back in the 1770s, a Sweedish chemist by the name of Carl Scheele created a greenish-yellow color that became known as Scheele’s Green. It was pretty popular in Europe. Unfortunately, this color had copper arsenite in it. This color was used in wallpaper, clothes, candles, and even children’s toys. When these items got damp and were allowed to mold, the arsenic was vaporized and released into the air. This ended up killing people, and many think Napoleon died from it.

Posted in Uncategorized | 12 Comments

Had to Move Back Publishing Months on My Books

This has been one heck of a summer. It started in the spring when we found out a family member had terminal cancer. There were visits, of course. The funeral was in July. During this time, I was taking the kids in for eye exams and dental exams to get them ready for school. I enrolled my youngest back into school since he misses being with his friends. Then for the past two weeks, I’ve been sick.

As much as I tried to keep up with The Cursed Earl, I wasn’t able to do it. I’m almost 60,000 words into the book, and usually I would be close to the end, but this story line is longer than what I usually do. I’d rather not rush the ending just so I can have it out in November. I want to make sure I give this story everything it deserves.

I don’t know when I’ll be up to writing again. Because of that, I have decided to push back all of the books in my writing schedule. That way, I don’t stress out over trying to resume my writing schedule before I’m physically up for it. Below is the new plan.

Interview for a Wife (Nebraska Prairie Series: Book 3) will be out September 25

Thankfully, before I got sick, I was able to get this all finished up. This is the last book I’ll be able to publish this year.

The Cursed Earl (Marriage by Necessity Series: Book 2) has been moved to January

At the moment, I have January 9 down for it. I really hope this is the last time I move this book back.

The Loner’s Bride (Wyoming Series: Book 4) has been moved to March

I put this in for March 13.

Suitable for Marriage (Husbands for the Larson Sisters: Book 3) has been moved to May

I have this set for May 15.

Heiress of Misfortune (Marriage by Necessity Series: Book 3) has been moved to July

This is now set for July 17.

Secret Admirer (Marriage by Obligation Series: Book 1) will be moved back to September

At the moment, this is set for July, but I’ll move it to September next month. On the Smashwords dashboard, I can’t post a pre-order longer than one year out.

I want to have a historical western out next November.

My hope is to write Daisy Larson’s book in this slot, but I haven’t come up with the idea for her story yet. I might have to put something else in this slot.

Posted in Uncategorized | 14 Comments

What an Author’s Life is Really Like

I saw an article from a celebrity who was talking about what being a celebrity is really like, and it inspired me to write this post.

1. Most people don’t recognize an author in real life.

No one in my town knows that I write until they ask me what I do for a living and I tell them. They’ve never heard my name. They haven’t seen me on social media. They haven’t seen me on online book retailers even though some are avid romance readers. Authors don’t have to worry about being approached in public to have someone autograph their book. I mean, it would be fun if this happened, but so far it’s never happened to me. And I’ve sat at tables at events where I have my books on display and most people aren’t interested in my autograph then, either. I can even offer a paperback for $5 (which costs me $12.99 to buy) or offer a “buy one get one free” option. For anyone wondering, I did originally set the price at $12.99. I wasn’t looking to make a profit off of those books. I was looking to get more exposure in the local community. It was a total wash. Very few people (even romance readers) show any interest. This is why I no longer waste my time at these events. If you’re not a well-known name like Stephen King or Nora Roberts, most people don’t care about you.

The best place to engage with people is online because those people are more likely to give the average run-of-the-mill author a try. Most authors aren’t household names. Most fall into the land of obscurity. Even authors who make a “six-figure income” are largely unknown since even I had no idea they existed until another person brought them to my attention. It’s just the nature of the business. With the amount of books available, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. That’s both a good and a bad thing. It’s good because you are given privacy, but it’s bad because it’s harder to find an audience.

2. Most authors aren’t making a “six-figure income”.

This is the myth that annoys me the most because it’s the one touted the most in the author community. Authors have a tendency to act like if you’re not bringing in six figures, your advice isn’t worth listening to. A lot of people out there don’t make six figures at their jobs, but they aren’t shamed the same way authors in the indie author community are. Can you imagine us telling teachers that their views on education is not important because they aren’t making a “six-figure income”? Or would you tell a mechanic he has no right to give you auto advice if he makes anything less than “six figures”? But we do this to authors all the time.

Not everyone needs to make six figures in order to be happy or to make a living. If you don’t have debt, if you can live below your means, and if you are in an inexpensive area, you can easily make it on less than six figures. It’s all about maintaining a modest lifestyle. You do need to mindful of taxes, of course. (I didn’t realize this early on and had to sell a truck to pay my taxes. To this day, I still miss that truck.) An average rule of thumb I go with is about half of your income should be set aside for taxes, but it’s not really that high. You have to talk with a qualified accountant to get an idea of the exact percentage you need to pay. This percentage will change based on new tax policies that are implemented in any given year. But once you factor in your taxes and if you keep your expenses low, you can make it on five figures.

Also, you don’t need to be a New York Times or USA Today bestselling author to “make it”. Is it a nice perk? Sure. Any achievement is nice. I’m just saying that hitting a bestselling list isn’t a requirement to make a living with your writing. I’ve never made either list, and I’ve been making a living writing since 2012. There were a couple of people who said that they would never buy my books unless I did hit one of those lists, but fortunately, most people don’t think this way. So if you’re afraid you need to hit the list in order to be seen as a “real” author, don’t be. Writing a book people want to read is the most important thing you can do.

3. Authors aren’t always as confident in their books as they appear to be.

Around 2008, traditionally published authors in my romance group said, “You’re only as good as your next book.” In other words, all it takes is for one bad book to ruin the enthusiasm people have for your work. I think most people will forgive one dud, but if you continue to write “meh” books, you’re going to end up losing readers.

This is why every book comes with a great deal of pressure. It’s also why I end up thinking of the market even though I strive to write for passion. With every book I write, I end up asking myself, “How will people perceive this scene? Will people like this character? Should I go back and change something? Maybe I should go in an alternate direction with this story.” It’s hard to stick with passion. Like really hard.

Every author wants everyone who reads their book to enjoy it. We know it’s not a realistic expectation, but there’s a part of us that still tries. When the book is published, there’s often that sense of dread that says this is going to be the book that completely tanks the writing career. This is why reviews can hit us so hard when they point out a book’s flaws. The only way I can think of to combat this is to keep reviews and emails on hand from people who said positive things about our books. Go to those as often as you need to.

4. Most of the conflict an author will encounter comes from the writing community.

When I got started with publishing my books, I had this naive belief that all authors would support each other. I thought that our love of writing would trump everything else. I thought the biggest obstacle would be readers not liking our books. I expected the negative emails and negative reviews. I figured that was par for the course. What I didn’t realize was how much negativity would come from other authors. My biggest critics are writers. My biggest supporters are readers. Writers read to find errors. Readers read to enjoy the book. Every time a writer says they’re going to read one of my books, I want to run and hide.

Probably the biggest source of conflict, however, comes from writing groups. I love being in writing groups because I learn about the publishing world and get marketing ideas from them. So the writing community can be resourceful. But some of the groups are hotbeds for arguments. The problem comes in when you decide to engage in debates within the author community. Stuff like writing to market vs writing for passion or KU vs wide can spark an argument that will go on for days. Some writers end up resorting to putting down others they don’t agree with. There are also smaller things that can cause surprising arguments, like “white or cream” paper for one’s paperback or uploading books to individual retailers vs letting a distributor like Smashwords or D2D take care of that for you. Then there’s the hypocrisy I’ve noticed. For example, if a relatively unknown author in the indie community does something wrong, it gets blasted all over the place, and that author is heavily criticized. However, if a well-known author in that community does the exact same thing, most authors will run to defend the action. So the authors making the most money can get away with anything simply because they’re “more important” in the community.

My advice is to tread lightly when arguments pop up. Some writing groups I once enjoyed descended into an atmosphere of toxicity. I had to end up leaving them. There’s enough negativity already going on in the world. I don’t need to taint my enjoyment of writing along with everything else. That’s why I ignore the drama unless it’s something that poses a threat to the future of indie publishing, such as if an author tries to trademark a commonly used word or if an author is stealing other people’s work. Stuff like that should be addressed in order to keep things fair for all authors. But getting caught in things that ultimately don’t matter aren’t worth it. Sometimes it’s best to let things pass through.

5. An author’s family and friends are not always their biggest fans.

For the most part, my family and friends never read my books. I had a father-in-law and uncle-in-law who read some of my books, but they’re dead now. My family and real life friends have no interest in romance. Now, I did acquire some real life friends who like my books, but I met them after they became interested in my books.

So this idea that an author’s family and friends are buying their books, leaving lots of glowing reviews about those books on Amazon, and are sneaking into reader groups to promote those books isn’t true. I see this myth getting circulated quite a bit. I have yet to come across an author whose family and friends are their most ardent supporters. The authors I know are in the same position I’m in.

The truth is, we have to slowly develop a readership. We can run ads, but we have no idea who sees the ads or who buys our books because of them. We can set up websites, blogs, and social media accounts to develop on online presence, but we have no way of knowing who is seeing any of it. Ultimately, the best form of marketing is word-of-mouth by people who love our books, and that’s something we have no control over. We depend on the kindness of strangers.

6. To get books out on a consistent basis, authors have to write even when they don’t feel like it.

This idea that authors get to wait around for their muse to inspire them before they write is a myth. This is a challenging job. It’s not easy to put words down when your mind just isn’t in it that day. I don’t put out as many books as some, but I do have a routine that I adhere to as much as possible. This isn’t easy when unexpected things pop up or when a spouse/kid wants your attention. A lot of people seem to think that when you’re at the computer, you’re just playing around. Unfortunately, for every interruption I get, it takes 5-15 minutes to get back into the story I’m working on, and no matter how many times I explain this to my family, they don’t care.

The biggest challenge in an author’s life is getting the book done. I’m in the mood to write about 50% of the time. On the other days, I trudge through it. Usually, when I get past the first 500 words, things get easier, but there are those days when every single sentence is like pulling teeth. There are days when I want to walk away and never write again. To better your chances of making a living with your writing income, you have to be consistent. I aim to get a book out every other month. I’ve seen too many authors take a year off only to realize they can’t pick up where they left off. They were once making a living, but they don’t anymore. There seems to be something that happens in extended breaks that ruins their career. Maybe readers got impatient and stopped following them. Maybe retailers shifted algorithms in a way that made them a lot harder to discover. I know a new book gets more attention at a retailer than an old book does. There are authors who get one book out a year and manage fine, but they’re doing other things to bring money in, such as offering courses, making You Tube videos, or running a lot of ads. They have other venues of making money. For authors like me, who don’t have other venues, the next book is extremely important, and you can’t go too long between book releases.

That’s why I have learned strategies to write while feeling exhausted, to push through times when the story isn’t coming easily, and to finish my current book when I’m itching to start the next. I think people assume writers are always typing away with a lot of enthusiasm, but the truth is, we’re often fighting the urge to hop online to do something else. Discipline is key. The routine is not easy to stick with. But it’s like exercise. You don’t get in shape by waiting to feel like working out. You get in shape because you work out even when you’d rather stay in bed. Routine is extremely important.

****

That’s all I can think of for what an author’s life is really like. Are there any authors out there that have something to add that I missed?

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments