Perfectly Matched and An Earl In Time

Book 2 in the Husbands for the Larson Sisters Series

I’m 34,000 words into Perfectly Matched right now, and this book is NOTHING like I had planned. It’s a good thing I didn’t spend time writing the book description because I’d have to go back and change the entire thing.

So my original ideas was to have this be a romantic comedy where Jim marries Patricia Larson (that’s Tom Larson’s 2nd daughter) and takes her to downtown Omaha where he lives in what he believes to be a haunted house. The house, of course, wasn’t haunted, but he was supposed to think it was, and this was going to be the avenue where there was a lot of humor.

Remember in Nelly’s romance (pictured below) how her sisters were all excited to have her get married because then it meant they could start getting husbands?

Book 1 in the series

Well, Val’s friend (Jim) got off the train, and Nelly and Val brought Jim out to Tom Larson’s farm to stay until he got a job and place to live in town. All at once, two of the three remaining unmarried sisters started to compete for his attention, leaving poor Jim overwhelmed and unsure of what to do.

This angle was turning out to be so much fun that I decided to keep going with it. I’m over halfway into the book, and we’re still at the point where Patricia and Erin don’t know which of them he’ll pick. Daisy (the youngest at 16) is convinced he’s fallen in love with her despite her attempts to stay out of the way. Now, Jim’s never told Daisy he’s interested in her. That’s something she came up with all on her own. And since it adds to the humor of the story, I decided to roll with it.

These girls are a hoot to work with. I had a lot of fun writing the scenes with Tom and Joel, and these girls are just as fun.

Now, the way this book has progressed, I had to throw out my original idea. Instead, the book is going to end at a wedding. This is one of the few books I’ve done where I don’t feel a sex scene would add anything to the story. I could throw it in, but there’s really no purpose except to let new readers know that I don’t primarily write “clean” romances. Most of the time, I feel a scene does add something, usually to the development of the relationship between the hero and heroine. In this case, a sex just wouldn’t have added anything to the story, so I wanted to leave it out.

I wasn’t sure if this would be disappointing to people who do read my books, so I posed the question on Facebook. I do want to make people who take the time to read my book as happy as I can. I realize I can’t please everyone, but I do try. Thankfully, people said they’re fine if ends at the wedding scene. This puts a lot of pressure off from trying to wiggle in some way to make a sex scene fit into the story.

I would like to have this book out in March, but I can’t promise that since I went through 2.5 months where I was unable to write more than a few hundred words on any one day. It’s only been since the past two weeks that I finally got the “spark” back. I think I can still make it for a March release as long as the momentum keeps going.

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One of the things that gave me the “spark” back was giving myself permission to write something different from what I typically do. An Earl In Time is going to be different. It helps me to dive into other genres.

While I was in my writing funk, I was browsing pre-made covers on The Book Cover Designer. I found that one above. It was love at first sight. But I couldn’t see buying it unless I could write a story for it. I spent a week or two thinking over what kind of story I could write to fit that cover. Obviously, the cover isn’t your typical historical romance. The mirror is separating the hero and heroine. It appears as if he’s stuck in it. So that gave me the question, “Why is he stuck there? What happened to cause him to be there. How is she going to cross the divide and be with him?”

I had other things I wanted for the story to hit in order for it to be something I could get excited about writing. I wanted something along the lines of the Grimm stories, not the light Disney adaptations. I wanted something that would allow me to break outside the box of realism. I wanted the possibility to work with magic and curses, and I wanted something dark. I wanted to be able to take the limitations off of historical romance. I wanted my imagination to be able to go in any direction it wanted to.

After working with several ideas, I settled on a time travel romance that starts in our current day. The heroine has inherited an English estate, so she leaves the United States to go there in order to sell it. Yeah, she could have stayed in the US, but for the sake of the story, she goes to England. Once she crosses the moat (I decided on adding a moat after finding out that a property over in that area actually has one), she’s going to be unable to leave. The moat contains the magic that keeps her there. Other people can come and leave, but she’ll be unable to. I want there to be some creepiness feel to the story, so I’ll have her be alone. Things always feel creepier when people are alone.

Here’s what I know so far:

The curse started in the early 1800s when the earl lived there, and there’s a mirror on the second floor that is a portal between our current day and the past. He can’t go to the present, but the heroine will be able to go into the past. When the curse was set, the hero and the servants were transported into a state of suspended time. For two hundred years, he’s been having to live the same day over and over. The servants, however, aren’t aware of it. To them, no time has passed at all. That’s the setup on that side of things, and I have no idea what caused the curse or why the heroine is the key to breaking it. And for some reason, the curse only effects the hero and the heroine. No one else in the family line was touched by it because the person she inherited the estate from came and went without any problems. The only thing is that no one in the family had ever been able to sell the place for some reason, which I don’t know yet. This is a story where I find out the answers as I write the scenes.

Right now, I’m at the point where she’s about to notice something moving in the mirror that’ll totally freak her out. She hasn’t passed through the portal into his time yet. That comes later. At the moment, she thinks everything is normal. She doesn’t even realize she’s unable to leave the property. That’s coming soon, and I’m excited. I enjoy writing the high tension stuff. I feel like it flexes my writing muscles.

Bottom line, if you don’t like dark/spooky fiction, you’ll want to avoid this book. The goal is to do a fairy tale with gothic elements.

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Tips on Writing When You’re Facing Burn Out (A Post for Writers)

Writing is one of those things that demand a lot of energy. I’m talking about creative energy. Words just don’t pop onto the page. They need to be created in the mind first, and these words need to be strung together in a way that tells a compelling story that will keep the author, and hopefully reader, engaged all the way from the beginning to the end.

The longer the story, the more writing the story is going to feel like a marathon. I know we’re not out running or lifting heavy weights, but we are using our creative muscles. We still need to be disciplined in our goal of finishing a book. We need to stick to it even when the story isn’t as bright and shiny as it was when we started it. This involves a lot of pacing on our part. Long-term writing, especially, requires a good schedule that you can stick with.

Over time, however, even the most disciplined of writers who have a solid writing schedule that gives them a realistic publishing schedule can face the dreaded burn out. Today, I’m going to offer some tips on how to deal with this when it comes knocking at your door.

1. Take a break.

I’m not a fan of writing every single day. I think the creative mind needs a breather. We would never tell a doctor or a teacher they need to work every single day or they aren’t a “real” doctor or teacher. So why are we doing this to writers? Writer is a person who writes. It doesn’t matter how little or how much the writer writes. As long as they are writing, they are a writer.

And it’s healthy for people to rest. Not everyone will need the same amount of time to rest. We all have different things happening in our lives. Someone who is taking care of an elderly parent or young kids will have more already on their plate to deal with. Also, people who work can’t use a “full 24-hour day” to fit in some writing. Or maybe you have health issues. Perhaps you’ve been steadily writing and publishing a book or more a month for a year. That kind of pacing will wear anyone out.

The more exhausted you are, the longer of a break you’ll need. Don’t let anyone tell you how much of a break you should take. You take all the time you need.

2. Set up a realistic pacing system for your life.

I know some authors brag about writing 5,000 words a day and publishing 2-3 books a month, but that’s not realistic for everyone. Some authors do one book a year, and there is nothing wrong with that. My advice is to tune out authors who make it sound like you’re a failure if you’re not rapidly writing and releasing books. You are not a failure. Your lifestyle is just set up in a way that doesn’t make 5,000 words a day the best option for you.

I think it’s a good idea to track down how you use your time for one month. Then at the end of the month, take a look at what you’re doing. Are there areas where you’re wasting time doing something that could be spend writing? Then fill in that slot to write instead. Until you know where your time is going, it’s hard to figure out when you can write. Not everyone has the ability to sit down all morning and write. Some people need to wiggle in 30 minutes here and there. There’s nothing wrong with that. As long as the free time is there and you want to spend it writing, go ahead and do it.

3. Eliminate as many stressors as possible.

This is probably the trickiest part since we can’t always control the stressors in our lives. My advice is to look for moments in the day where you can get away from everything else and just relax. Give your mind a break from all the noise.

I have music to help me with this. When I sit down to write, I have a playlist of music ready to go. Sometimes I put on headphones to tune out everything else around me. I don’t let myself get tangled up in social media or anything else during this time. All I do is write. I’ve also had to start going to bed without listening to anything negative. The negative stuff at the end of the day makes sleeping more difficult, and the harder it is to sleep, the harder it is to be well-rested and ready to go for the next day. So those quiet times, however you can find them, are extremely helpful to being in a restful state. The better rested you are, the happier you are, and the happier you are, the easier it is to create stories.

4. Exercise

Sometimes getting out and physically moving can help. The endorphins created during exercise offer a natural boost of happiness that can help offset the effects of stress, and burn out is a major source of stress.

5. Eat Well

There is definitely a connection between what you eat and how you feel. We all know what foods are healthy and which aren’t, so I won’t before anyone with a list.

6. Do things you enjoy.

Just because you have a day where you can write, it doesn’t mean you have to do that. You can give yourself permission to engage in other activities you enjoy. The story will always be there when you get back to it.

But just make sure you aren’t using those other things as an excuse to put off writing the story forever. The goal of starting a book should be to finish it.

7. Ignore the blog posts and social media threads on how to make more money as a writer when you’re feeling down.

In my experience, this is one of the biggest sources of stress. You can’t control how sales go for you. If you’re feeling exhausted or stressed out already, this is only going to pile on the negative emotions. My advice is to worry about marketing when you have a ton of creative energy already flowing through you, and writing is coming fast and easy. If you’re focusing on marketing where you’re struggling with enthusiasm, it’s only going to make things worse.

8. Write what you love.

When you’re writing what you love, it’s much easier to get words down on paper. Maybe this is something you have to do while writing on the stuff that makes you money. There’s nothing wrong with carving out some time for a “guilty pleasure” that only you will enjoy. It could be the very thing to help fill up that creative well within you.

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There Is No Magic Bullet in Self-Publishing

Today’s post is based on this video I watched yesterday on You Tube:

I really like Dale’s videos. He’s usually quick and to the point, and I find that he does a good job of offering a balanced view of things.

That in mind, he also did a video on why you SHOULD publish on Amazon, too. Here it is so you don’t have to rush over to You Tube to find it:

For today’s post, I wanted to piggyback off of the first video because a few thoughts came to mind as I was watching it.

Quick disclaimer: I believe you should be on Amazon with ebooks. Dale brings up a situation where the author did better not going on Amazon, but most of us will have ebooks under $9.99 to sell over there, and in that case, it’s wise to be on Amazon.

That disclaimer aside, let’s get into the content of this blog.

There is No Magic Bullet in Self-Publishing

1. Just because you write it, it doesn’t mean people will find it.

I know this isn’t exactly breaking news, but there’s still this idea floating around out there that if you’re on Amazon (especially KU), you’re going to be earning a livable wage in under a year. Yes, there are people who are killing it on Amazon. I’ve met them. But it takes work to get noticed.

Dale is right about 2015. Before 2015, it was super easy to get noticed over there. You pretty much could write the book, publish it, and go off to write the next book. The algorithms on Amazon pushed you up without much effort on your part. It was a beautiful thing. Early on (like 2011 to 2012), Kobo and Barnes & Noble would push up indie books, too, but that lasted for maybe a year. So Amazon was definitely the indie author’s friend.

Despite everything, Amazon is still the friend of the indie author because even if you aren’t in KU, it’s still easier to get noticed over there. There are some authors who make more wide, but a lot of authors still make more money on Amazon than the other wide retailers. I’m one of them. Even not being in KU, I still make more on Amazon. That’s why I suggest being on Amazon with your ebooks. It’s one more piece of the pie you can have.

However, you have to do some marketing to get noticed. You can’t write the book, slip off into a corner, and watch the money come in. You have to work at it. The term “pay to play” fits. I don’t run a lot of ads. An author friend I have ran Amazon ads on her KU books and her wide books, and she found that Amazon pushed the ads with the KU books a lot more. So I don’t bother with Amazon ads.

I do, however, find success with Freebooksy ads, and I’ll run those to help give my backlist a boost. The first in a series free strategy still works, thankfully. I’m not a heavy marketer. That’s why I don’t make the kind of money I did back in 2013-2015. But the ads and permafrees do keep me afloat.

I’ve also found some success with pre-orders on Apple. This isn’t a big and wild success, but it does help to pay the bills. The longer you can have a pre-order up at Apple, the better. I even find that I make more on a new release on Amazon if I have it on pre-order for at least one month before it comes out. But again, you have to let people know about these pre-orders. You can’t just put it up and never mention it.

You should pick the marketing method that best appeals to you. I hate marketing. I find it physically draining. That’s why I use the path of least resistance. (Freebooksy ads, permafrees for Book 1 in a series, and pre-orders.) And guys, my strategy doesn’t yield megabucks. It’s enough to get by if you are getting books out on a consistent and frequent basis. The minute I go longer than two months between new releases, my income takes a nosedive. In my opinion, fresh and new content is a necessity if you’re not very good at marketing. If you are good at marketing, you can utilize your backlist to your advantage if you don’t want to be writing all the time.

2. Amazon has strict and ambiguous guidelines. Being on all retailers is, in my opinion, the best strategy.

Dale mentioned this in the video at the 3:49 mark, and he’s right. Things change. Nothing stays the same. You have to be flexible.

One of the benefits to being in this business for a little over a decade now is that I’ve seen things change across multiple retailers. I remember when Barnes & Noble wouldn’t publish an indie book. I remember when Kobo was created. I remember when you could make paperbacks on Amazon using CreateSpace. I remember when Amazon didn’t require exclusivity in order to get special visibility on their site. I also remember when authors weren’t able to do pre-orders unless they were with traditional publishers. Heck, I remember when traditional publishing was considered way better than indie publishing. I’ve been around so long, I even remember when MySpace was the place to go! 😛

During all of these changes, I have found Amazon to be the most punishing retailer out there. Sometimes it is the author’s fault when they get banned or have titles removed from sale, but sometimes the author did nothing wrong and it was a “glitch”. I had a title that went “off sale” in the US store for a week. When I mentioned this to KDP support, they put it back up without telling me why it had been removed. I had a few titles that were unavailable in Australia. I have NO idea why it happened, and my publisher was never able to reconcile it. So any time, for whatever reason, stuff happens on Amazon that you just can’t predict.

This is why I refuse to be exclusive on Amazon. I believe in being over there, but I don’t want to trust my entire author life to the whims of one company. As the financial advisors tell investors, “Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.” Some authors will put some titles in KU and have the rest of their books wide. I prefer to have all of my books wide. That way if, for whatever reason, Amazon decides to pull my books from their site, I still have my books on the other retailers. I’m willing to take less money from not being in KU in order to have the safety net of knowing Amazon can’t single-handedly destroy my years of hard work.

3. Not every book will be a hit.

For whatever reason, some books take off better than others. Even if you get emails from people telling you that they are eager to read a certain book, it doesn’t mean that it’s going to be a big seller. Then at other times, you write a book that doesn’t seem to be interesting to your readers, and that’s the one that takes off. Feedback from people does not equal sales.

That’s one of the reasons why I finally decided to write the books I wanted to read. I had pushed myself into writing a few books that I wasn’t all that interested in because I was getting feedback from people who wanted to read those stories. And there were times I didn’t go far out enough and take a story in the direction I wanted it to go because someone told me they wanted it to go in another direction instead. I even rewrote a few books early on to please my critics. Then I got comments from my readers who wanted the original versions, so I reverted the stories back to what they once were. Despite their many flaws, those books are in their original form today. Lesson here: don’t try to please the critic. You’ll only end up pissing off people who love your books.

We all want people to fall in love with our books. It’s natural. But at the end of the day, these are your books. You’re stuck with them. Everyone else can move on to other books, and they may even write their own books. However, you will always have this book in your backlist. Years from now, do you want to go back and read your books? If not, then feel free to write for other people. But if you do, then I think it’s best to write the books you want to read. That’s just my opinion based off writing books that I have written and have no desire to ever read again.

Anyway, the fact that not every book is going to be a good seller is why it’s important to keep getting books out on a regular basis. When you have books coming out regularly, it helps to keep the income steady. One bad release can be propped up with a good one. The money you’re bringing in isn’t so much like a roller coaster. It’s nice and steady.

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So that’s my two cents on the first video I posted on this blog. If anyone has thoughts they’d like to share, I’d be more than happy to listen. 😀

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