Monday, April 30, 2012

Monday Miscellany: Nine Facts

I could write about how allergies suck or how my muse is a sneaky bastard, but, instead, I'm going to go the meme route and offer you nine (writing-related) facts about myself. I know that I sometimes like to see these posts from the bloggers I love. Maybe you care, too. (And if not, we will return to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow. Or Wednesday. Depends on how long it takes me to format the next formatting post.)

1. I have been "writing" since even before I could spell. I have distinct memories of scribbling on notebook pages when I was three or so, speaking the story out loud.

2. When I was eleven, I wrote an entire series about marine biologists and their kids/teenage interns/college students. Each story was the length of a young adult novel and I took inspiration for the series from The Babysitter's Club. (You know, each story is centered on a different member of the club, etc.) They were really bad, but I was proud of them. I drew covers and printed them out and stapled them together and everything.

3. My first experience with fanfiction was writing my own Frank Hardy/Nancy Drew shipper fic. Joe caught them kissing. I was nine, okay?

4. My first real experience with fanfiction online was Star Wars. I know you're shocked. This was back in the late nineties, right after the original trilogy was re-released. I read a lot of Hanson, Backstreet Boys, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer fic, too.

5. The first fanfiction I ever wrote and shared with fandom is actually a recommended story on a famous cross-fandom reference site. I am insanely proud of this.

6. I have had a muse since I was about eleven. I used to rely exclusively on inspiration to strike until I realized--when I was about fourteen--that inspiration is pretty much always there and when it isn't, it can be manufactured until it's real.

7. That said, I've still suffered writer's block. In fact, my most recent stretch of it was through 2008. I'm still trying to recover my 2005 - 2007 mojo.

8. The vampire novel I'm working on, The Guest, has been written and re-written five times in the last fourteen years. I finally feel like the version I'm working on now is the right one. That may change.

9. In my second year of college, when I was a criminal justice major with the intention of going to law school, my philosophy professor pulled me aside and suggested I give up law and "write for a living." He wasn't the first or last educator to suggest that, but I remember him the most.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Blog Roundup: April 23 - 29, 2012

Chuck Wendig's newest book came out last week and so he offered up 25 Things [He] Learned While Writing Blackbirds. It's just a really solid post about writing a novel. I can't pick a favorite tip, I can just tell you that if you're an aspiring novelist, that's a good place to spend some time.

Amanda Hocking wrote about her experiences with traditional publishing. I, for one, appreciate her transparency. Seeing her go through both self-publishing and traditional publishing is fascinating.

This week's Tips on Thursday from Girl Who Reads was about picturing it. Readers are more likely to click on links that include a picture. At least, I think I read that somewhere?

This post over at It's the Future, Stupid about marketing post-gold rush is worth checking out. It's rough analysis from a fellow self-pubber who is struggling--just like the rest of us--to get his books sold, so reading his thoughts might be helpful. (For the record, I don't think marketing on Twitter helps--but I do think sharing blog links, writing advice, and networking with other bloggers and writers does help.)

James Killick offers analysis of creativity and suggestions for achieving originality in this post. It just makes me think of Amanda Hocking's basic tip, which is to write a story people want to read. That's what it's all about. Slow week. Once again, I don't feel so bad about not blogging as much as I should. It's the weather, isn't it? Gorgeous weather is back so people aren't chained to their computers anymore.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

SitRep Saturday: Argh Blogger!

It took me a day and a half to format the first OpenOffice post. Seriously? I don't know if it was my Internet connection, my lack of blogging savvy, or what, but that post was a bitch to make look pretty. That's why there hasn't been another. I was so disheartened that I gave up on the blog thing for the week. Sorry about that.

I've made some progress on Right This Time, too, but not as much as I'd like. I'm undaunted. A little frustrated, a little bummed, but undaunted.

There are other projects in the works, too, and I've made progress on some of those. When I figure out which one is my next big one, I'll let you know.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Self-Publishing: Basic Fiction Formatting for Smashwords in Open Office (Part 1: Steps 1 - 4)

OpenOffice is my word processing software of choice. Aside from the fact that it's free, it has basically all the same capabilities as MS Word. There is definitely a learning curve, but if you've mastered Word, you shouldn't have any problem at all with OpenOffice. And if you're reading this, chances are you feel pretty proficient and are ready to format your manuscript.

First of all, download a copy of the Smashwords Style Guide. Read it. You don't have to fully understand it, but Coker explains a lot about Smashwords and formatting expectations. If you feel like you can format in OpenOffice by implementing the spirit of the guide, go for it. That's what I did. It took some trial and error, but I think my books are pretty predictably and attractively formatted. (At least, they are in my Kindle and on my computer. I haven't gotten any complaints, either, and I've only had one book rejected once from the Premium Catalog. I messed up the table of contents.)

Disclaimer: my formatting guide is based entirely on the Smashwords Style Guide by Mark Coker. I'm even copying the order in which the steps appear. My intention is not to profit from this guide. My intention is to provide information and help to fellow self-published writers. Click any image below to enlarge.

Step 1: Make A Backup
You've done this already, right? I'm sure you have. But I'll just put this here, you know, in case.

Step 2: View Nonprinting Characters
When you can see all the little things the word processor adds to your file, you can more easily clean them up. This makes for a sleek, attractive-looking reading page.

Step 3: Turn off AutoCorrectThis is important. AutoCorrect options embed weird symbols and code into your file and you don't want that. Personally, I clear out all AutoCorrect options. (You can leave spellcheck on.) I don't like the risk of even one overlooked formatting error. Formatting errors, just like spelling and grammar errors, jar the reader from the story.

Step 3a: Select Tools > AutoCorrect Options

Step 3b: Empty "Replace" tab
This is time-consuming, but (to me, at least) worth it.

Step 3c: Unselect all boxes in "Options" tab

Step 3d: Disable and empty "Word Completion" tab

It should be noted here that the Smashwords Style Guide advises eliminating text boxes. I don't use text boxes, I've never even tried, so I don't even know where to begin. If you have text boxes in your manuscript, consult the Style Guide.

Step 4: Clean Up With The Nuclear Method
"The Nuclear Method" is what Coker has dubbed this step and I like the name, so I'm using it here. You can skip this step, but I really wouldn't recommend it. Later on down the line when you have that one little mistake keeping your EPUB file from being perfect, you'll probably have to do this. Go ahead and do it now.

Step 4a: Copy text

Step 4b: Open Notepad

Step 4c: Paste text into Notepad

Step 4d: Close out of OpenOffice

Step 4e: Open new text file

Step 4f: Copy from Notepad

Step 4g: Paste into OpenOffice

Step 4h: Save your document

In the next post, we'll look at choosing a paragraph separation method and formatting those paragraphs.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Monday Miscellany: Writing and Blogging

Those really are two separate subjects. Sort of.

Editing is slow but going well. Right This Time is less romance and more erotic, which is what I'm more comfortable with. In my quest to recover my honesty and rediscover my writing self, I'm making real progress. And taking chances. I absolutely love to try new things, take chances, and experiment. I need to get back to that.

The tumblr blog is going fairly well, too. I haven't got any followers, but I also haven't found anyone to follow just yet. I will open submissions here: If you have an indie book or know of an indie book or read an indie book you think the readers of tumblr land should know about, please let me know. I'm doing recs, reviews, and sharing book-buying resources over there.

Here, this week, expect to see some formatting posts. I use OpenOffice and so I'm going to share with you how to format your manuscript for Smashwords using the free word processing software. When I first started out, I would have paid dearly for this guide. You, my lovely readers (and anyone finding her way here through the search engine), get it for free.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Blog Roundup: April 16 - 22, 2012

Chuck Wendig shared 25 Things You Should Know About Transmedia Storytelling. Confession: I frequently have no idea what buzzwords mean. Transmedia looks like a buzzword to me. Guess it's time to get educated beyond Mr. Wendig. (Oh, that hurt to write. Chuck, if you stumble across this, I still love you!)

A Chick Who Reads pondered bookish things (erotica) this week. As an erotica writer, it's nice to find out what readers want--but it also goes to show that erotica is an intensely personal thing. Reading choices in general are an intensely personal thing. (I have a friend who is reading the Fifty Shades trilogy and I kind of want to break up with her over it.) I actually like my erotica a bit crude and dirty, so that's how I try to write it. However, I can't think of any instance in which calling female genitalia a "puss" is acceptable.

Erotic Romance reported on Forever Amber's plagiarism. I just don't understand what would drive someone who considers herself a writer to steal someone else's work.

A Girl Who Reads talked about user engagement in her Tips on Thursday post. User engagement is definitely something I need to work on--though my blog stats show me that a fair number of you make a point to visit regularly, even if you don't comment. Not that I blame you. I'm not a big commenter, either.

Paperback Writer had two great posts this week: one on a virtual storyboard, which is cool because sometimes it really can be immensely useful to work with index cards; and a paranormal romance pop quiz, which (because I am a terrible person) makes me want to write a story containing every single item on that list.

Aimee Salter shared a great post about giving yourself permission. I just love that post. I really do. It's astonishing how easy it is to be strict with yourself, as a writer, and how you can get lost in your own head. Sometimes it really helps to step back and remind yourself that this is a creative venture and it needs to be treated as such.

Stella Deleuze wrote about point of view in her Tip of the Week post. Picking the right point of view is absolutely crucial. Using it effectively doubly so.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

SitRep Saturday: Bad News and Good News

All right, the bad news first: I did not finish Right This Time this week. I've made it about a page and a half into the edits, which isn't bad, but it isn't great, either. I'm still hopeful that I'll be done soon. Mostly because I have about five other projects I'm ready to work on.

There's quite a bit of good news. Sales are picking back up again. Not much, but a little, and that feels good. I went through my personal online journal the other night and discovered several stories that I started and they're actually really good. One of them is being added to the list I plan for a God-themed erotica anthology and one is going to be written for a fandom I left last year as a final hurrah. There are others, originals, that I'll edit and find homes for, even if that home is just my website as samples of my writing.

The final piece of good news is this: my new tumblr blog. I've had a personal tumblr for a while and I love it. This is where my target demographic spends some of their free time (and I know this because I and my friends are part of my target demographic). This is where I learned about and decided to read The Hunger Games and The Haunted Vagina. This is where I find book recs and find out about some of the free books I've picked up and it's where I learn what my friends/fandom acquaintances are reading. So far, I only have three entries up, but I have one or two entries in the queue and I'm working on more. That blog differs from this blog in that over there, it's all about readers, while here, it's all about writers and fellow self-pubbers. I'll let you know how the experiment goes. I'm hopeful.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

On Writing: Expanding Your Vocabulary

In order to use the right word, you need to at least be aware that it exists. Word of the Day calendars and emails are fun for adults, but most of us aren't still taking weekly spelling tests. (We totally should, though.) Sometimes, we get stuck in the rut of using the same words over and over again when there are so many out there just ready to be dropped into the perfect sentence. Here are seven ways you can expand your vocabulary.

1. Read the dictionary.
Yes, I'm serious. This works best with real paper books. Open your favorite dictionary, pick a word, and start reading. That's it. You'll run into a lot of words to know, but there will be some surprises. I'd even suggest writing down the ones you like.

2. Read the thesaurus.
Again, yes, I'm serious. Reading the thesaurus not only teaches you new words, it helps you discover similar and dissimilar words. Maybe "lucid" isn't the right word, but maybe it has a cousin that is.

3. Read technical non-fiction.
Specialized knowledge is valuable, that's why tuition is so expensive. At least, that's what I tell myself. If you're researching something for a story, get your hands on all the technical manuals, textbooks, and other non-fiction work you can. You'll absorb the specialized vocabulary in addition to the material.

4. Study technical diagrams.
You know that edge of reinforced cloth on a shirt where the buttons are? That's called a placket. I learned that from studying technical fashion diagrams. You can do this with pretty much anything. Need to know where the main arteries are in the human neck? Diagram. If you find the right one, it'll even tell you what doctors call those arteries.

5. Play word games.
Scrabble is one of my favorite games. If I had an iPhone or something, I'd probably play Words With Friends. When you play a word game, make rules for yourself, like no four-letter words. Be creative. Force yourself to recall as much of your vocabulary as possible.

6. Listen to people smarter than you.
And people who are effective communicators. Chances are they not only have large vocabularies, but they have excellent command of the language, too. Find the people you consider smarter than you, shut your mouth, and listen to the words they use and how they string them together.

7. Listen to people with specific knowledge.
My husband is a soldier, so when he comes home and talks about work, he uses quite a lot of very specific vocabulary. I am reasonably certain that he says things comprised entirely of acronyms. Long things. Like whole sentences or paragraphs. I don't always understand it, but if I ever get around to writing my epic military science fiction, I have a wealth of vocabulary to draw on. The same goes for doctors, lawyers, construction workers, engineers, chefs... Anyone, really. Everyone is an expert in something, after all.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Self-Publishing: Publishing Your Fanfiction is a Bad Idea

It's a hard thing to do in a title without sacrificing consistency, but self-publishing your fanfiction is a Bad Idea. It might even be a Very Bad Idea depending on how wild your imagination for repercussions can be. Here's why.

1. Fanfiction is technically illegal.
It is considered copyright infringement. Whoever owns the copyright can sue for infringement. Selling fan-created work for profit is pretty much guaranteed to bring lawyers down on you.

2. The relationship between copyright holders and fans is delicate and should not be upset.
Plenty of copyright holders--like authors Anne Rice and George R. R. Martin--have taken a hostile stance toward fanfiction. There have been cases of copyright holders changing/relaxing policy (Lucasfilm, Poppy Z. Brite) but for the most part, creators are firm. Fans respect the official stance and those of us in fandoms that allow fanfiction and other fanwork are grateful for the encouragement or ignorance. If, say, Lucasfilm or CBS/Paramount found out that fans were profiting from copyright infringement, I can easily imagine cease and desist showing up in the offices of every archive, on the doorsteps of every author and artist. It might crush online fandom. Am I overreacting? Possibly. But I'm old enough to remember the thriving Vampire Chronicles fandom before Anne Rice shut it down.

3. Self-publishing is easy and universally accessible but that could change.
There are zero controls on self-publishing right now. Anyone can do it with any quality of work. But that could change. Lawsuits and/or cease and desist letters could shut down places like Smashwords or force Amazon to shut down KDP. Or maybe they'll have to implement quality control measures and we'll end up with a whole new realm of gatekeepers in the form of hired hands vetting the work submitted for sale. Right now, self-publishing is a pretty sweet deal. It wouldn't take much to change that.

4. Selling fanfiction amounts to theft of intellectual property.
See character. Steal character. Profit from character. It's the same thing as stealing someone's car stereo or cell phone or selling bootleg DVDs. As writers, we should understand that. How would you feel if someone read your book, loved it, wrote their own story with your characters, and then sold it? Exactly. So think about that if you're considering putting your fanfic up for sale.

This post doesn't come to you out of the blue. I have actually seen fanfiction for sale (the worst example, Wesley Crusher: Teenage Fuck Machine, seems to have been removed from Amazon), but you can still download (for free, admittedly) Star Wars: Awakening and Star Wars One from Smashwords.

And none of this list even touches on the general icky feelings I get from everything Cassandra Clare (also known as Cassie Claire) has published or the entire Fifty Shades trilogy (which began as Twilight fanfiction and didn't get much better from there). That's profiting from fanfiction (and bad fanfiction at that, seriously) in a whole new, gross way.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Monday Miscellany: Things I've Done Instead of Editing

Wow. I am just having a hell of a time editing. In fact, it's so bad that I've avoided looking at the story altogether for the last two days. Instead, I've been watching New Girl to get all caught up (I love Zooey Deschanel and am glad she's finally got a starring role, but I wasn't sure about the show... I was wrong, it's hilarious) and reading. I'm still working on Candlelight Sinner but I've finished Mockingjay (not as satisfying as I thought it would be, which I guess is kind of the point of the whole revolution) and The Haunted Vagina (gross and weird and I've totally found a new genre to explore).

Today, we took the kiddo to the Frankfurt Zoo. That place is so nice. It wasn't busy, so she could run around without me worrying. She loves monkeys. And birds. The thing that surprised me most was the number of baboons the zoo has. I counted 22 in one pen alone. They were all eating, which was just so fascinating to watch. This is the husband's last week of vacation (though we're looking at taking the kid to Disneyland Paris next month) so we're trying to do some fun things. Saarbrucken won't happen, but swimming and shopping probably will.

I have also purchased Tim Timebomb's new album and the first episode of Rock'N'Roll Theater. I'm waiting for my PayPal transaction to go through (I am so tired of using them) but as soon as it does, I will be in heaven. I love Tim Armstrong.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Blog Roundup: April 9 - 15, 2012

Chuck Wendig was en fuego this week with two great posts: 25 Reasons I Hate Your Main Character and A Long Look At "Show, Don't Tell." I think both of these posts are must-reads for beginning writers... and it probably couldn't hurt those of us who have been doing it a while.

Laura Bradford's post on writing as an invisible business really hit home for me. When my sister was here, it was nearly impossible to get any work done. Now that my husband is home on leave, same story. It takes great, concentrated effort to get my toddler to play by herself for short periods of time ever since she had a constant companion in my sister. Writing itself is hard--finding the time to do it without distraction or interruption is even harder. More than once, I've questioned why I even bother. (And then I remember that I really do love it and it really does matter to me and I think I'm okay at it, so all the extra hard work seems worth it. And then I have a drink because I really must be crazy.)

Girl Who Reads offered up an analysis of the star rating system in her Tips on Thursday post. I like the star rating system, personally; it gives me a lot of information at first glance. But I either don't really care what other people think of a book and will read it if I want to, anyway, or--if it's a book I'm uncertain of, like The Hunger Games--I will read the reviews with one through three stars. Two and three star reviews, in my experience, tend to be the most tell-tale.

Last week was Indie Author Week at Into the Morning (a great blog you should be following, anyway) and my favorite post was this one about indie book covers. We all judge books by their covers. No sense saying we don't. And independent books... well... they're frequently lacking. The most glaring problem I see is that we use a lot of the same stock photos. I like her quickie review of the good and the bad book covers. I think, especially for those of us designing our own, it's a good idea to look at all the criticism and praise for book covers that we possibly can. (Related: I tend to take inspiration from the traditionally-published erotica books I enjoyed. So I've based my covers on books like Breathless by Bonnie Edwards and pretty much everything by Delilah Devlin, as two examples.)

James Killick shared a short list of Five Things More Important Than Knowledge. The thing about knowledge is that it can be acquired. Or it can be rejected in favor of blissful ignorance. His list is comprised of things that are pretty hard to reject and ignore, at least in my experience.

Keystrokes and Word Counts has a short review of KDP free days. If it's something you're considering, I'd advise reading as much as possible on the experiences of other authors. I have a project in the works that I am planning to enroll in KDP select when the time comes, so posts like this are helpful to me.

Sierra Godfrey had a thought-provoking post asking where to find the self-pubbed books. She has a point. A good one. In my case, I don't market so much as I tailor my keywords for searches... because that's pretty much how I find the books I want to read.

Stella Deleuze advised that authors choose a publisher wisely. Personally, I'd do a ton of research--on the company and the people I'm working with. I'd check out the other books they'd published, not just the sales rankings, but the cover designs and reviews and the books themselves. I don't have an answer for Ms. Deleuze. I don't know what I'd do if my book was at the mercy of an editor who didn't know what she was doing. I sincerely hope I never have to answer that question.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

SitRep Saturday: Prices and Right This Time

This was definitely a vacation week. I tried to stay on top of work but I wasn't terribly successful.

As far as prices go, I saw a boost in sales the first few hours after I upped the price of Cass to $1.99... by a single book. I saw a more significant bump--four books--the night I lowered the price. The book is selling pretty much the same as it was before the price change (approximately two books a day), so it looks like the current price point is as good as it gets. My next experiment, I think, will be either The Cowboy Next Door or the new one, Right This Time.

Speaking of Right This Time, I have it drafted and cleaned up a bit, I have a cover image for it... Oh, here, I'll share:

I think it nicely reflects the tone of the piece. At least, I hope it does.

This story is a bitch to edit, though. I think it's just because I lost sight of the characterization some. I've been so scatterbrained that it's hard to focus. I'm trying to get that--and my muse with his clear, strong voice--back.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Self-Publishing: On Sales (February 2012)

Remember my last sales posts? (Here, here, and here if you'd like a refresher.) Well, sales were funny in February of 2012.

I left January visible for side-by-side comparison. As you can see, sales through Amazon took a significant hit while sales through the outlets Smashwords handles got a boost. I have no answers. I mean, I expected to see a decrease in Amazon sales, so that's not even a little surprising. Sales were so impressive in December and January that I believed they had peaked. The bump in sales, especially through Kobo, left me scratching my head a bit.

This month, I also thought it would be interesting to take a look at sales for the first six months my books were available.

You can click on the photo to enlarge it. What it boils down to is the number in the bottom left corner of the image: 8,996. In the first six months, I sold a total of 8,996 books through all outlets. The bulk of those sales came through and the bulk of even those sales came from a single book.

So there's the data. I'm not an analyst, so the only real conclusion I've drawn is that I'm pretty happy with the numbers and I'm going to keep at it.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Monday Miscellany: Vacation, Speculation, Coming Soon

My husband signs out on leave tonight at midnight. We're not going anywhere big, but he needed some time off work. This will be the first time in the nearly two years of her life that he will get to spend "normal" time with our daughter. No grandparents, no reverse work schedule, just the three of us. It's going to be... interesting. We have plans to visit a city on the French-German border and maybe take a camping trip to the Black Forest, but for the most part, I think we're just going to stick around here and enjoy being a family.

I've been toying with the idea of raising the prices on my books. I suspect I've tapped out the target audience willing to pay $0.99 for my short ebooks, so I raised the price of my oldest one--the anthology--to $1.99 just to see what happens. I have the feeling I'll be playing with prices a lot in the next few weeks. It can't hurt. As I mentioned to the husband, this will be a lean month (sales have dropped dramatically over the last few weeks), so I might as well take advantage of the leanness and experiment. As usual, I'm sure you can expect to read about my findings.

Over the weekend, I finished drafting the next short story. I think I even have a title for it: Right This Time. I was able to find a lovely photograph at Dreamstime for the cover and downloaded a comp image (which means it's not full size and has watermarks) in order to play around with cover design. I've mentioned that I take a lot of inspiration from my favorite and other popular book covers, right? If I start to flounder, it's good to know where to go for guidance. Honestly, I can say I hope to have the story finished by the end of the week. I'm not sure that will happen, but I can try. I'm sure there are readers among you shaking your head and tsking me for such a quick turnaround. Four months is a ridiculous length of time, for me, to spend on anything under 10,000 words. At most, I should have spent two months on the last story. Short stories are kind of my Thing. And this one, Right This Time, I've had it in the works (for real--outlined, action-drafted, and a draft 1.5) for a little over six weeks.

I think a lot of confidence and comfort with writing comes from knowing your strengths and playing to those as you strengthen your weaknesses.

This week, expect at least one blog post on February's sales figures. I'm still trying to figure out which other posts I'd like to do, too.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Blog Roundup: April 2 - 8, 2012

Chuck Wendig told us all how to be a full-time writer. He's so smart.

Guess what? Greta van der Rol's latest, Starheart, is free on Amazon for the next day! You know you want it.

Amandan Hocking wrote about her outlining and note-taking process. I am always interested in how other authors approach getting the facts and doing their research, so I liked the post.

Avery Olive had her First Book Signing recently and she offered up some lessons learned. Useful! I've never done a book signing and I assume that, if I ever do, I'm still years away, but this is a great post. I bet the tips she offers would work at book launch parties, too.

Isis Rushdan wrote about learning to surrender. Really, I think that's the key to writing well: surrendering to your process, whatever that is. Don't fight it, don't try to do things the way you "think" they should be done.

Paperback Writer's Query No-Nos post is funny at first glance, but I suspect it's all too true. If you're going to write a query, or you've written one, I think it's worth reading that post.

Sierra Godfrey's Google Reader Roundup is a bit light this week, but that's okay because the links are still good ones.

Sirra compiled her writing and editing tips from Twitter. I love these posts from her since I don't get over to Twitter as much as I wish I did.

Stella Deleuze's post on zero sales is quite a sobering look at the impact enrolling in KDP Select can have on your sales. If you're considering it, I would advise doing as much research as possible first.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

SitRep Saturday: Behind the Curtain

This week has mostly been more behind-the-scenes work. I finished One Good Cowboy and got it formatted and up at Smashwords and Amazon, I updated the bookcovers on Smashwords and one or two on Amazon (I need to do the rest still), I updated my website (but I didn't get as much done as I would have liked, but there's always next week), and I made a list of the blog posts I'd like to work on. So. Progress.

More progress? I drafted one new short story and I started work on a second. The thing is, the second has kind of gotten away from me and it might actually turn into an erotic novella complete with multiple points of view. I'm not sure. I need to play around with it some more. If that's the case, then I'm going to have to put another story into my planned three-story anthology, and, man, I hate when I underestimate stories like that.

It's all good, though. I am back on track. So what if I lost four months? I'll make it up.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Release News Update: One Good Cowboy

All right! So guess what? One Good Cowboy is up over at Smashwords, which is fab because you can get it for FREE right now until April 9 if you use coupon code XE88V at checkout.

It's also up over at Amazon: US, UK, DE, ES, FR, IT.

I'm still waiting on the approval and distribution through the premium catalogue over at Smashwords, but you all probably know how that goes, ha.

Believe it or not, I actually updated my website this week. I still have a ton of work to do: the excerpt page for One Good Cowboy is all wonky and I'd really love to redesign the site into a section for readers and a section for writers (with the writer section having a collection of my blog posts on writing and self-publishing and the like). The program I use to design and publish my website is just so incredibly slow that I get very easily frustrated.

Anyway, I thought I'd share an excerpt of the short with you dear readers:

Heather rolled her eyes. Knowing she didn't have a real shot with Justin lessened the sting of rejection but it did nothing for her exasperation with Ty. "Oh, and I suppose you're good enough for me?"

Ty lifted his shoulders in an eloquent shrug. "No." One corner of his mouth quirked up in a self-deprecating half-smile. "I know you're too good for me. I want you anyway."

Heat flared low in her belly and spread through her, a summer wildfire of desire. Seven years ago, she would have given anything to hear him say that.

Seven years ago.

Things had changed since then.

"Shut up, Ty."

"You owe me a beer," he countered.

"You're supposed to be leaving."

"I want a beer."

He wouldn't leave until he got that beer, she knew. She looked at him, at the hat he hadn't taken off and the new wrinkles around his eyes, at the long thin nose that had been broken more than once and now sat a little crooked on his handsome face, at the shape of his mouth so frequently set in a firm line but the lips still so kissable. Exhaustion swept through her. The fight melted away, taking the square of her shoulders with it. She just wanted the night to be over. Fighting with him would only make it longer.

"Fine." She served another beer from the cooler.

"Thank you."

Heather went to finish washing the dirty drinking glasses. "Why did you come back?"

Resignation passed over Ty's face. "Where else was I going to go? My family is here. Crystal left me. Denver gets cold."

"Canyon gets cold," she pointed out.

"Not as cold as Denver," he said, giving her the feeling that he wasn't talking about the weather.

Silence stretched between them, a tenuous thing punctuated by the splash of her hands in water and the wet sound of him sipping from the bottle. Heather wondered how he was, really, surprising herself; despite everything, she guessed she still cared at least as much as a friend would. He had done well for himself in the eight years he rode professionally. Being forced out because of an injury had to hurt more than the reconstructed bone in his leg and the pins in his hip. She winced. Ty was strong. He was confident. The mental image of him injured and weak was wrong. Some men were supposed to be invincible.

Heather shied from that particular thought. She rinsed the glasses under the tap, telling herself that the last thing she needed was a rekindled case of hero worship. What had that ever gotten her before? A broken heart, that's what, and more than once. She thought about Crystal instead, a pretty redhead with a sweet face and kind eyes. It had been long enough that Heather might have understood why her father walked out on her mother--family life wasn't exactly the thrill-a-minute Buck seemed to need, and Bobbi had bought the Wild Card with the intention of settling for good in order to give them a place that was home once he retired--but she didn't understand what would make a woman walk away from the man she loved when he needed her most.

"I'm sorry Crystal left."

"It wasn't meant to be."

"You don't believe in that fate bullshit?" Heather couldn't keep the surprise out of her voice.

"Why wouldn't I?" Ty frowned at her.

She shook her head, disappointed in him. "Love isn't like that."

"Maybe it is for some people."

She tamped down the sudden bitterness and mustered some semblance of humor. "Ty Youngblood is a romantic. Who knew?"

"Shh. Keep it down." His eyes darted furtively to the left and right.

Her lips twisted into a smirk. "What? Afraid someone will hear? Oh, no, your reputation will be ruined!" She gasped theatrically.

"I have a reputation?" He cocked an eyebrow at her.

"Hmm." She frowned. "You know, not really." Mostly, gossip came through idle chitchat while she was serving drinks, or she overheard it from the girls at the Wild Hearts across the highway. But everything she had heard about Ty since he'd left had come straight from his mother. Heather doubted anything Mrs. Youngblood had told her was less than a fact served with a liberal dose of pride. Or worry.

Ty heaved a sigh. "I guess I'm not special enough to talk about."

"Oh, you're special all right."

He grinned at her. "And what do they say about you, Heather Wild?"

Frozen fingers closed around her throat. No, she wasn't going there. She jerked the bag of glass bottles from the bin. "I have to take these outside."

"Want some company?"

"No." Heather hefted the bag and started for the back door.

The rumors after Cooper had bailed were graphic and vicious. She scratched the heat-prickled skin beneath the hollow of her throat. They didn't matter. Not then, not now. She wasn't that scared and lonely sixteen-year-old anymore, damn it. She was an adult. She didn't need anyone's approval, certainly not Ty's.

Heather sighed. She pushed through the back door, into the mid-spring night. Who was she kidding? As long as she remained in Canyon, she would forever be the child her father abandoned, the easy target for sleazy older guys. Labels thrived in small communities and the only way to escape the label was to escape the community.

She tossed the bag into the recycling dumpster and stepped back. Eyes closed, face turned up, she took a deep breath. The dry scent of the desert and the sweet-sick stink of the dumpsters filled her nose, her mind, pushed away the thoughts she didn't want to think. The night was nearly silent here. For a few moments, she could be alone.

Pursuing Justin was single-minded of her. He wasn't a cowboy. He was as far from being a cowboy as he could possibly be. He was only a poor replacement for what she really wanted. If she was honest with herself--and she really hated that kind of honesty because it meant she'd lied to herself at some point--deep down she knew that going after Justin was nothing but misguided rebellion against herself. She knew what she wanted. What she'd always wanted.


Stupid cowboy.

The sound of boots scuffing on concrete caught her attention. A breeze moved her hair across her face. She stifled a sigh and brushed away the errant curls as she turned around.

He stood on the stoop, door shut behind him, hands tucked into the front pockets of his jeans. His body was loose, legs bowed, stance relaxed. He'd taken off his hat and the breeze ruffled his black hair. He smiled at her.

"I said no." But there was no venom in her voice.

"I'm not keeping you company," he said. He breathed in deeply and exhaled slowly. "It's a nice night. I wanted some fresh air."

"Out by the dumpsters." Skepticism colored her voice.

"There are drunks out front."

Heather frowned, brow furrowed. "What has gotten into you?"

"Me?" He shook his head. "Nothing. Why?"

"I don't remember you being like this before."

Ty said simply, "I've changed."

He had. In a way she couldn't quite define. She looked away, rubbing absently at her upper arms. "Haven't we all," she murmured to herself.

"You sure have." He stepped off the stoop. "You used to be sweet. You used to like me." Regret tinged his voice.

"I still like you."

"Yeah?" He sauntered close, so close her nose nearly touched the pearl-snap button in the center of his chest. "Prove it."

Heather rocked back, tipping her head up to search his face. "What?"

"Kiss me."


Monday, April 2, 2012

Monday Miscellany: Book Release, Rewards, Work To Do

Guess what's out? One Good Cowboy! Yes, I finally finished! I'm pretty happy with it. It's nothing at all what I thought it would be when I first started it (four months ago), but it's good. I'm proud of it. And now I can be done with it.

Until April 9, you can get it for free at Smashwords with coupon code XE88V.

I'll be updating my website, of course, with a sample and the summary, and I'll have that for you here later on this week, too. But for now, I'm trying to get caught up on some other stuff.

And I'm indulging in my reward. Oh, yes, I am.

See, I finally caved and read The Hunger Games. And then, on Saturday morning, I left my husband and daughter alone together in order to go see the movie. I haven't been to the movies alone in two years, I haven't sat through a whole movie in the theater in a year. It was quite a treat for me and it was well worth it. I've been just dying to read the next book, Catching Fire, but I wouldn't let myself get it for my Kindle until I was done with this cowboy. Well. Now I'm done and now I have the book. I've been reading snippets all afternoon. It's fabulous. I completely understand the appeal.

While I was formatting One Good Cowboy for Smashwords, I took screenshots of every step. I'm going to squeeze a week's worth of how-to posts out of it, so check back for that. If you use Open Office and have trouble getting your book to look the way you want, I might be able to help. Of course, I still have four book reviews to do, a couple of editorial-like posts, and a handful of other posts on finding the time to write, expanding your vocabulary, and being inspired. We'll get there. Now that this story isn't consuming my every waking moment, I can move on.

If it ever takes me four months to make 8,500 words work together, I just might shoot myself.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Blog Roundup: March 27 - April 1, 2012

Chuck Wendig shared this list of 25 Lies Writers Tell and, yeah, it's pretty spot on. (Who hasn't told themselves they don't have time? There is always time.)

Greta van der Rol touched on a subject dear to my heart this week: editing. Why is it such a struggle? Stupid editing.

James Killick offered up five reasons to keep writing. We've all been there, when it just doesn't seem worth it anymore, or it's too hard, or too frustrating. But there is always at least one good reason to keep going.

This cute post from Paperback Writer is worth it for the chuckles, but check out her favorite porn site link. It'll probably make you smile and it's totally safe for work. was a slow week. I'm so glad it wasn't just me!