Kathy Carmichael is having lots of fun being an indie author. Her indie romantic comedy titles include Kissing Kelli and Angel Be Good (awarded #2 Romance in the 2010 Red Adept Annual Indie Awards). Her traditionally published romantic comedy, Hot Flash, was named as one of the Top 10 Romance Fiction titles for 2009 by the American Library Association's Booklistmagazine. Besides the fact Kathy's a writer, the main thing you should know is that she spends way too much time daydreaming. Her daydreams are mostly about fictional characters, but she also spends considerable time thinking about her Scottish husband, two sons, two cats, her grandpuppies and where she mislaid her reading glasses.
Positive affirmations: I keep notes taped over my computer that direct where I want to go. Before my first sale, I had a note that said: “I am a multi-published author.” After selling, I replaced with this note: “I am a bestselling author.”
Out with the old: Sometimes you have to put away the old book that’s been revised to death and write something new and fresh. Stubbornness is what allows us to persist, but it can also be our greatest weakness. Don’t be too stubborn to move on.
Accent the Positive: Did you make finals in a contest? Celebrate it. Did you receive a great review? Celebrate it. Did your critique group give you the thumbs up on your latest scene? Celebrate it. Celebrating your successes, however minor, helps to keep your chin up and gives you optimism. Celebrate by giving yourself a pat on the back, by displaying your finalist certificates near where you write and by sharing with other writing friends. Celebrating your wins will give you the courage to continue following your dreams.
If you write there is one thing you know for sure, you will get reviews. Hopefully most of them will be good but even the best books will get negative reviews. Some people seem to take delight in giving bad reviews and there is nothing you can do about that but learning to handle reviews and learning from them is critical to an author's success or, at least, well-being.
Jennifer Hudock of The Inner Bean asked me to write a blog post on What I Have Learned from Reviews and that will be on her blog on Friday. Since I wrote that and sent it off several new things have come to my attention and I thought they were worth writing about.
Big Al's Books and Pals is a terrific blog that reviews indie e-books and does a very good job of it. He has over 600 followers and he has made it something of a mission to call indie authors on bad editing and proofing. Good for him. Big Al recognizes that nobody is perfect – big publishers put out books with typos in them – but when a book is so badly proofed it interfere's with the reader's reading experience, Big Al isn't afraid to say so. Recently he published a review of a book called The Greek Sailorand he gave it 2-stars because, as he said, “Numerous proofing, typo, and grammar issues... Reading shouldn’t be that hard."
This unleashed a firestorm of wrath from the author who posted so many defensive diatribes against him that he finally had to close the comments section on that post. This is a very foolish stance for an author to take and resulted in her book being spammed with 1-star reviews on Amazon. It is too bad but it is instructive to other authors – when you get a poor review, learn from it and move on as graciously as possible.
Yesterday I (and many others) got an email from an author whose manuscript had been rejected in a writing contest she entered and one of the reasons they gave was it was “overly descriptive”. She posted the first 3 chapters online and asked us to read them and give her an honest evaluation. I read just the first chapter and sent her my opinion. In the first, very short, chapter she had described the heroine's hair as both “ebony” and “raven”, a tree branch as “onyx”, and had used the word “black” six times, not to mention many other adjectives. I told her this and have not heard back from her.
Adjectives are a sticky-wicket for any writer and the more you can cut them out, the better off your manuscript will be. I write whatever I want to write but then, on the second or third edit, I go on an adjective/adverb hunt and I chop as many of the little suckers as I can. I even keep a list of my most grievous offenses (“just”, “even”, “very”) and use the Find/Destroy (a.k.a. Search/Replace) tool to hunt the little boogers out and kill them dead.
“Echoing”, the habit of using the same word several times on a page, is another thing to watch out for. I've noticed big-name authors who do this too, so it is natural. I remember reading a book in which the author suddenly began using the word “malign”. He used it five times in about three chapters and then it just disappeared. He apparently got over it but missed it when editing. These things happen but readers do notice.
I've always maintained that, while I love a good review, I tend to learn more from a less-glowing one. As a reviewer myself I try to point out flaws in a constructive manner and very rarely do I give a totally bad review for the simple reason that if a book is that bad, chances are I won't finish reading it.
All that being said, yesteday I got a nice surprise on Smashwords. A reader posted a 5-star review for The Old Mermaid's Tale and the best part is, I have no idea who she is but thank you very much!
Review by: Linda Ash on Mar. 29, 2011 :
The Old Mermaid’s Tale is the beautifully written story of a young woman whose heart and mind are continually drawn to the mysterious, fanciful, and possibly dangerous waterfront in the town near her college. On the days she visits town, she hovers at the seedy edge of its darker parts, not daring to step into that mystique, all the while yearning for it, yearning to know what life is all about in that part of town. Little does she know how closely she will become tied to it, and how it will end up shaping her own life.
This is an artfully drawn and beautifully written character-driven novel, and what characters there are! The mark of a good novel shows when all of its inhabitants feel utterly real, and there is a believable depth behind each one, and this is a good novel. Each character has his or her own history, own knowledge, and it’s easy to forget that they are all drawn by the same hand. Kathleen Valentine has crafted a story of life’s discoveries, love, loss, and redemption that is at times sensuous, at times poignant, and always satisfying. (reviewed within a month of purchase)
Each Angel Burns, by Kathleen Valentine, is on top of the pile of books I intent to read next. I have not been able to read as much as I normally do lately, as I am based in Western China for a few weeks, and have hardly got any time to breathe. On top of my normal “duties”, I have taken on a volunteer role in a school for the deaf and teach English to deaf Chinese children. Quite a challenge, but I will write a post about this soon. In this article, Kathleen Valentine, who has published several books in the literary romance category, tells us a little more about Each Angel Burns.
Kathleen: Each Angel Burns is a contemporary novel about three people entering their fifties and facing big changes – things they never thought they would have to face at this point in their lives. Gabe has spent his life as a hard-working, devoted husband and father who has always done the right things for his family, his cantankerous old father, and his brother. Peter is Gabe’s best friend from childhood. He is a priest and a teacher and has always taken pride in being a devout priest and a good, supportive friend. Maggie is the woman Peter was once in love with. He wanted to leave the seminary for her but she broke off with him to marry a wealthy man who could give her everything Peter couldn’t, or so he thought. Now all of them are older and things are changing. Gabe’s kids are grown and on their own and he realises that he and his wife have nothing in common any more. Maggie has left her abusive husband and has purchased an abandoned convent that she intends to turn into a sculpture studio. When she encounters Peter again after all these years she realises she never stopped loving him and he finds out that she didn’t leave him for the reasons he thought she did.
Many mysteries surround the convent that Maggie now lives in and which Peter persuades Gabe to help her renovate. In the past there were wild stories about an angel with a flaming spear that protected the nuns there. More recently the bodies of young women have been discovered washed up near its shores. Strange things start happening to the people there now, too. Gabe discovers his wife is cheating on him. Maggie’s husband won’t respond to her calls and attempts to start divorce proceedings. Peter faces feeling he never thought himself capable of as he witnesses Gabe and Maggie beginning to fall in love.
This is a story about sacrifice and how sometimes, those things we did with the very best of intentions and for good reasons, can have consequences we never imagined. It is a story about life-long friendship, faith, and great goodness forced to deal with great evil.
Jerome: Who are your readers?
Kathleen: Most of my reader for this book have been older adults – 40+ seems to be the norm – but men and women seem equally attracted to the story. My first novel, The Old Mermaid’s Tale, seems to have a lot more younger readers.
Jerome: What was your journey as a writer?
Kathleen: I grew up in a small Pennsylvania Dutch community in north central Pennsylvania and one of the things I realize now is that the people there were great story-tellers. Ever since I was little I can remember people sitting around — on porches, or at picnics (my family loved picnics), or just sitting around the kitchen table — and they would always be telling stories. Most of my great aunts and uncles were first generation Americans and they brought the Old World tradition of telling stories with them. I can remember parties when I was little when there would be a hundred people there and every room that you went in to was full of people sitting around, drinking beer and telling stories. I loved listening to those stories so I guess it is natural that eventually I would become a story-teller, too.
Joseph Robert Lewis's career in fiction follows a decade of writing and publishing about military theory and history, software development, politics and economics, and the personal stories of entrepreneurs, soldiers, and adventurers of all sorts. His books include science fiction, such as his debut novel Heirs of Mars, and historical fantasy in his wide-ranging Other Earth series, which begins with the steampunk thriller The Burning Sky.
Be professional. Work hard, edit your writing thoroughly, and hire freelancers as needed to deliver a professional product. Most importantly, be polite and courteous when promoting your work.
Take your time. Most people will not get rich or famous as an indie author very quickly. Develop a long-term plan for several books. Keep your prices constant. Don't experiment too much or too often.
Be prepared for silence. After all your hard work, it may take a while for readers to discover your work, sample it, buy it, read it, and eventually review it. During that time, it can feel like the world is ignoring you. Be patient.
The very mischevous Sibel Hodge has issued a challenge for SampleSunday with her post about ... well ... it has to do with chocolate and... just go to her link, okay? So this is my sultry response from Each Angel Burns:
“Are you asleep?”
His eyes snapped open. She stood by the bed in her silky nightgown and a fluffy white shawl holding a tray.
“No. I thought you’d gone.” He sat up and she curled one leg under herself as she sat on the bed and placed the tray between them.
“I thought we could use some nourishment.” She had coffee and her favorite breakfast, hot buttermilk biscuits with butter and honey. “It’s horrible outside.”
“Poor Zeke. Next time let him out in the courtyard. At least it’s protected.”
“Good idea.” He watched as she split biscuits and spread them with butter which promptly melted into golden pools into which she drizzled the honey.
“When I was a little girl my mother made buttermilk biscuits every morning. Sometimes I think it was the only thing she ever ate. She used to make jams and preserves all the time. Pints and pints of it. After she died I wouldn’t let my Aunt Fanny eat any of her preserves. It was the only thing of her I had.” She took a bite and licked golden drops of honey from her fingertips. “They lasted for years. I remember when I got to the last jar. It was blackberry jam made from the berries she picked out along the old railroad track that ran behind our house. I saved that jar for years. One day I just decided to eat it and then grow up.” She sighed, then blushed.
“You’re so dear, Maggie.” He caressed her cheek with his forefinger.
She stood, picked up the tray, carried it to the desk, and then turned back toward him. She kicked off her slippers as she crossed the room. Stopping a few feet from the bed and looking right into his eyes she turned her back to him. In the dim gray light the play of firelight made her look like one of her statues.
She slowly stretched her arms out straight holding the cloud-like shawl between them and languidly lowered it until her hands met behind her backside. She looked back over her shoulder and winked. His body quivered.
She dropped the shawl. Turning, she stepped over it and came a few steps closer. Facing him, she crossed her arms in front of her chest and slipped the straps of her nightgown down over her shoulders. She was smiling a coy, seductive little smile he’d never seen before. She let the gown slip down until her full breasts were nearly exposed then, once again, twirled so her back was to him. Her hands were crossed in front but he could see her fingertips caressing the rose silk as it slithered down over the luminous whiteness of her back.
His blood pounded in his head. His blood pounded everywhere.
As the silk slipped lower, the cleavage of her buttocks peeked above it. Two deep dimples, one above each cheek, startled him. She gave a little wiggle then let go and the gown drizzled down over her long legs like cherry syrup over glistening vanilla ice cream.
Larry Enright (1949- ) was born to Irish Catholic second-generation immigrants and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After college, he moved to the Philadelphia area where for the past 40 years he has filled his life with many careers including teacher, musician, computer programmer, researcher, and writer. He has written three novels. "Four Years from Home" (2010) is his first published work.
Once you have an idea for a book, write the beginning and the ending. That ensures that everything in between will flow consistently from your original idea and into the planned conclusion.
Do not worry so much about the “beautiful sentence” when you are drafting the novel. That part comes in the revisions. Worry more about moving the story along.
Write character sketches out with all pertinent details (appearance, date of birth, etc.) before you start. Keep them handy for reference when your characters appear and need to be described. Add to the sketch file whenever you add an important detail about the character (e.g. that they spoke with a Southern Accent).
When I read that Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward was going to be on Dancing With The Stars I knew he would sparkle. He's got such a great smile and such a luminous personality that, no matter how he danced, he'd make people smile. But who knew he could cha-cha like this?
Is that cute or what? And did you see who was twirling the Terrible Towel at 3:57 in the video. If you watch closely not only is Franco Harris there cheering him on but a little ways behind Franco you can see Mel Blount clapping, too. How can any Steelers fan not love this video?
Well, I've blogged before about being a Steelers fan and this is just one more reason why. I've been working away on my newest novel, Depraved Heart, in which one of the main characters is a former Pittsburgh Steeler and, as my character takes shape, I am loving the way he is unfolding. After I watched this video I tried to imagine him being in the audience and it was not a stretch at all -- he would have had just as good a time and clapped just as loudly and enthusiastically as the real Steelers did.
It's kind of wonderful really to get to see a video like this because it fleshes out one's imagination and makes these guys seem all the more real and lovable and wonderful. I've never watched Dancing With The Stars. I don't have anything particularly against it, it just never interested me until I saw this. Then it was only because I loved the personalities involved. I kind of loved when the one judge told Mr. Ward that he needed to get more swivel action in his hips because, of course, Franco harris was Mr. Swivel Hips himself back in his day. I can only imagine him doing the cha-cha... or my character... can I work that into my story somehow.... hmmmm...
A couple years ago, inspired by the e-revolution that has exploded around us, I got the idea to start an online site to sell romantic literature in e-format. I bought the URL HeartThrobBooks.com and set up a web page and then promptly forgot about it. Over the past couple of years I've sold a few books through it but it became obvious that there were far more web sites offering far more variety who had a much better plan for selling them. So I let it languish.
Since I have recently been getting more interested in marketing my own e-books I've been haunting a number of web sites, blogs and discussion boards devoted to e-book sales. One of the things I read over and over is authors want more exposure for their books. Also, I have been in a lot of discussions about what is a romance novel and why are so many of the most classic of romance novels frowned upon by contemporary romance enthusiasts. All of this gave me an idea.
Yes, yes, I know, I don't need another project. But since I already have the URL it seems a shame to waste it. So I have been dreaming about a different sort of romantic novel web site. This one would offer authors the opportunity to list and promote their books for a very low fee. It would not actually sell books but rather allow authors to list several places where each of their books could be purchased. Where this would be different would be that it would feature books that are both classic romances (like Wuthering Heights and Last of the Mohicans) and contemporary romances – both traditional (mandatory HEA) and non-traditional (HEA not mandatory though may end happily) AND there would have to be a commitment to a certain level of quality.
What do you think?
The site could include book reviews, discussions of books, author profiles, etc. The categories could include historical, paranormal, contemporary, etc. I would like to see a section for novels with a strong romantic theme that feature mature lovers (say, over 40 for instance), as well as younger chick-lit type books. There could be a category for books with an erotic component but I'd prefer to stay away from pure erotica. The only requirements would be that the story line encompass more than just the romance, that it be well edited and proofed, and that the cover art meet a certain standard.
Cover art is a tricky business. I personally am completely turned off by endless nude male torsos or nude/semi-nude emale backsides. What do you think?
I'm going to give this more thought and shop the idea around to a few discussion groups. The big thing is, I want this to be a sophisticated site – romance for romantics with taste and style. How does one accomplish this? It will be interesting to see what the answers are. Please post feedback and, as always, thanks for reading.
I am a gift designer by profession, but I first started publishing for the Kindle on a whim. I was helping my friend publish her poetry book, and I wanted to go through the process first so I would know what I was doing. When my cruise booklet starting selling 10 copies a day, I was so inspired, I added 4 more: all on topics of the things I love to do.
I have a special interest in bridging the gap between artists and technology, and collaborating with indie artists on how to bring their vision into the marketplace.
Write about what you would like to read, and not what you think you should write.
Keep a list of what people ask you during the week. Those are good things to write about.
Try to find someone you can trade editing with, so you can avoid paying for expensive editing fees.
“I just finished Each Angel Burns,” the email began, “your writing reminds me of Daphne DuMaurier. The way you described the convent and the sinister, nasty husband – it made me think of Rebecca.”
Is it possible to receive a higher compliment? I don't think so. I was so thrilled by this unexpected email that I am thinking about having it bronzed. Can you bronze email?
I have loved Daphne DuMaurier almost longer than any of my literary heroines. Actually, it would be safe to say that, other than Carolyn Keene of Nancy Drew fame, my literary awakening came in this order: Louisa May Alcott, Gene Stratton Porter, Charlotte Bronte, Mark Twain, Daphne DuMaurier, Ernest Hemingway, James Fenimore Cooper. I loved all of them, I loved everything they wrote, I read them over and over. My mother had most of Daphne DuMaurier's books and was fond of quoting her famous first line from Rebecca, “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderly again.” I remember the first time I read the book (fortunately before I saw the movie, which was great but movies are never as good as books.) I was so fascinated by Manderly and by the haunting presence of its dead mistress that, when the book ended, I simply could not believe she had been dead the whole time. Of course that stayed with me and has influenced my own writing.
But Rebecca was not my favorite DuMaurier. I loved Jamaica Inn. With its deliciously sinister setting and creepy atmosphere it had everything I wanted from a novel at that time in my life – a vulnerable heroine, a nasty villain, a dashing hero, and plenty of gothic chills. Plus I found Mary Yellen, the heroine of Jamaica Inn, far more sympathetic than the wimpy, dopey second Mrs. DeWinter in Rebecca. Did you know that Daphne DuMaurier also wrote The Birds on which Alfred Hitchcock's famous movie was based?
Then I read My Cousin Rachel and liked that even more. Such a cunning seductress, or was she? But, of course, my favorite of Ms DuMaurier's books was Frenchman's Creek. I loved everything about it: the period Regency England, the setting in a ramshackle Cornwall estate neglected for years until the naughty, scrappy Lady Dona decides to abandon her degenerate friends in London and take her children to get some country air in Cornwall. Lady Dona is everything I love in heroine. She's fiesty and good at misbehaving and talking back to the men who would control her. She's gotten into her share of mischief including dressing in men's clothes to harass the stuffier of her London noblewomen friends. Now she is about to turn thirty and she is tired of being merely mischievous – she wants to be bad. Then she meets the delicious, sexy French pirate Aubery and gets her chance.
One of the things I love about DuMaurier's writing is that it is not only lush and descriptive but she has a gift for saucy dialog. Considering that Frenchman's Creek was written in 1941 some of the exchanges are quite tantalizing. Lady Dona and the pirate Aubery:
“Lord Gadolphin has told me how the wives of Cornwall have suffered at your men's hands.”
“Oh, I don't think they suffered much.”
“I'm sure they didn't.”
Nod, nod, wink, wink.
So, being told my book made a reader think of this literary luminary of mine was quite a thrill. I can only hope more readers will have the same experience. I am hard at work on my third novel, Depraved Heart, and, while creating the estate Hathor, at which it takes place, I have thought a little of Manderly, and of Navrone. There is one line in which the main character apologizes to a guest for the snooty behavior of his housekeeper and he, jokingly refers to her as “Mrs. Danvers”. The guest says she thought her name was Ms. Nettleton to which he replies, “A private joke, have you ever read 'Rebecca'?”
Thank you, Daphne DuMaurier.
And thanks for reading.
I just found this wonderful video of Ms. DuMaurier talking about Frenchman's Creek: