Friday, May 12, 2017

Favorite links for writers - self-publishing a book

  The production of a book--where you take it from manuscript to an actual product that a reader can hold in their hands or read on an electronic device--requires time, effort, patience, and perseverance. Traditional publishing houses handle the details of book production for their authors. But if you are self-publishing, then you are the publisher; you own all of the details.

  I have self-published 6 books and learned so much along the way. Below are some helpful blogs, websites, and publishing professionals that I've discovered. My thanks to everyone who have sent their favorite links to me; I've included them here.

Overview of my self-publishing experience
 
 In 2015, a small press reverted the rights on 3 books (the I Wish series). I worked hard to turn those books around fast, 8 weeks or less. Looking back, I don't really know why I thought it was so important, but I did. And in putting myself under that pressure, I missed out on the opportunity to connect with the pioneers of self-publishing who had already figured everything out. Please don't make my mistake!

  I wrote a blog post about all of the Fun Times with Self-publishing that I experienced.  Feel free to read and enjoy, but remember that it was written in March 2016. Self-publishing and the book market changes quickly--and book production is definitely improving every day.


Self-publishing blogs and support groups

  There are thousands of these groups to help you navigate the challenges of self-publishing. Here are a few sites that I've found helpful:
  Facebook and Goodreads also have many author support groups, so search both sites and see if any feel right to you.



Book cover design

  Your book cover is the best marketing tool that you have. Gorgeous covers will help sales. Bad covers will hurt (or destroy) sales. Ask your writer friends for recommendations or check out cover designs and see what appeals to you. Your genre/subgenre will make a difference too, as they often experience trends.
  Covers can cost from $100 up to $1000s, so research is key. Some suggestions for cover designers to consider include:


Ebook formatting and layout

  The internal layout and formatting of your book requires technical knowledge of ebook publishing formats, like MOBI/AZW and ePub. If you have a good understanding of these formats (or HTML), you might be able to do the work on your own. I'm a software engineer in my day job, so I do my own formatting and stick to the basics. But I suspect that most indie authors hire someone to do the work for them, such as:


Professional editing

  If you want to sell a quality book, you need a good editor to point out your flaws. Not just spelling and grammar mistakes--but holes in the plot, inconsistencies in characters, and continuity errors.
  Professional editors are not cheap, and the costs range widely depending on their education and experience. Seek recommendations from other writers. If you find an editor who you want to hire, see if they will edit a sample chapter. It will give you insight into whether their style aligns with yours.
  I've only ever used one editor, Laura Ownbey, so she is the only one I can recommend from personal experience. She is amazing!



If you have any links you would like to suggest, please add them in the blog comments or send them to me through my website.


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Kindle countdown deal for I WISH



I WISH is on sale on Amazon, as a Kindle Countdown deal.

The deal lasts through next Wednesday.

If you know someone who might love to discover a YA genie story, now's a good time to let them know!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Always there - satisfying ending

I love stories with a happily-ever-after. 90% (or better) of the books I read have an HEA. That's also what I like to write.

Recently, I asked some friends for author recommendations on a genre called Women's Fiction. They gave me many suggestions, such as Liane Moriarity, Sarah Addison Allen, and Kristin Hannah.  I checked out their booklists and reviews. Each author sounds as if she writes beautiful books that readers love. But further research showed that their books often have sad, dark, or unsettling endings. I'm not sure I'm up to that.

It hasn't always been this way. I haven't always insisted on reading books (or watching films) where the villains receive justice and the girl rides off into the sunset with her adoring guy. But the real world has grown so much more complicated, certainly more for my daughters' generation that it was for mine. I want to focus on reading and writing stories that give me an escape from the bad stuff.

I won't pledge to give readers the ending of their dreams, the ending where all problems cease and life magically becomes perfect. I do, however, pledge to leave my protagonists on the road to happiness. There will be hope.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Always there - realistic parents

I have two awesome daughters. They're both in their 20s now, which means that I have survived mothering girls through their teens.

It was hard and fun and frustrating--and I'm so proud of the women they've become.

My girls - many years ago

Parenting is not easy. Most of us want to be good. We want to raise amazing, happy, healthy kids who will change the world (or their little corner of it.) Just when we think we have parenting figured out, another kid enters the family, and we learn that we know nothing. Again.

This is why I try to write realistic parents in my books. They're not all bad and not all good. They get things right and make mistakes. Some are more likable than others.

I will always give my main characters at least one parent who loves them and genuinely wants to be the best they can. That doesn't mean a parent without flaws; it means a parent with good intentions that don't always work out.

Here are some insights into my main characters' parents.

Whisper Falls - Mark's parents love and support him. His mother, Sherri, gets mixed reviews for how inconsistently she treats him. I actually loved writing her character. She's in a stage of life that is so hard for mothers of teens--trying to let go of their young adult while mourning their childhood and not being needed anymore.

I Wish - Lacey's mom is clinically depressed. Crystal wants to be a good mom, but her mental health isn't stable enough for her to succeed. Since depression doesn't solve itself quickly, it isn't until the book 3 that the reader begins to see signs that Crystal is slowly getting better.

Wishing for You - Kimberley's mother Teresa was an angel of patience and protectiveness in book 1. In book 2, readers can begin to see the cracks. Teresa has been Kimberley's "primary caregiver" for years, and it's exhausting. Teresa makes several slip-ups in this book, not because she doesn't care, but because Kimberley's life is growing more complicated, not less. And that is backwards for most teens.

The Possibility of Somewhere - Eden's healthiest parental relationship is with her stepmother. Marnie is as perfect as she can be, given that she's inherited (and wanted desperately) two kids from her husband's first (bad) marriage.  Eden's father, though, is almost impossible to like. Most people see him as a villain, and it's true that he does and says very bad things. But I don't think he's a thoroughly bad man. He's had only poor role models. He's a product of a world that is very limited, and he has no clue how to be a better person. I think America's current political climate is a good example of how decent people can have indecent attitudes.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Always there - North Carolina

Raven Rock State Park
I moved to North Carolina in my twenties, not long after I graduated from college. I've lived here since, and I completely love my adopted state. (Well, okay, maybe I don't like our state government so much.)

Anyway, I enjoy the people, the beaches, the mountains, the history, the weather, etc. There is just so much about North Carolina that I find interesting. This state bristles with stories waiting to be told, which is why I've set all of my stories here.

  • The Whisper Falls series takes place in and near Raleigh/Wake County, both 18th- and 21st-centuries.
  • The I Wish series is set in Magnolia Springs, a fictional town patterned after the real town of Elon. Magnolia Springs lies midway between Raleigh and Wilmington.
  • For The Possibility of Somewhere, I dreamed up Bayville, a town near the Crystal Coast beaches.
  • Fade To Us (releasing in Winter 2018) will take place in the heart of North Carolina, not far from Raleigh and Raven Rock State Park.

Occasionally, my characters will travel to other exciting places, but they will always call North Carolina home.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Always there - no violence

I rarely read books with violence in them. Mystery novels are about the only ones. Even then, I prefer books where the violence or murder happens before the book begins, and I want justice by the end.

As an author, I don't like to write violence, but I have on a few occasions, when I felt like I had no choice in order to tell the story. I guess this post would be better titled "Almost never there - graphic violence."

Whisper Falls has instances of physical abuse during the series. The 18th-century half of the first book shows the plight of female indentured servants. I couldn't have given a true account without letting the reader see the brutality that haunted their lives. Our hero has been the victim of bullying. It's hard for either of those plot points to be authentic without alluding to some violence. In book 3, the villain is again the cause of abuse to both the hero and heroine, although less is visible on the page. The reader knows it's happened, but the details are not graphic.  In this series, justice prevails.

In The Possibility of Somewhere (writing as Julia Day), the realities of the heroine's life are fairly harsh. Physical abuse lurks constantly as a possibility. The heroine, Eden, is prepared to take care of herself, though. "The Mundys of the world believed in a sunshiny legal system... [but] I knew better. The Edens of the world grew up in trailer parks, and they had different rules. Justice changed depending on where we lived."

So, perhaps instead of pledging to never write violence, I'll promise instead to limit it to the minimum needed to serve the story, to describe what's happening without gratuitous details, and to see that the criminals (perpetrators) reap punishment for what they've done.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Always there - Norah and Charlie

For any book or series that I write, there will always be two characters with the names Norah and Charlie.

The reason is bittersweet; I do this as a memorial to two adorable little children that we lost too soon. Charlie was my nephew, who died at age 4. Norah was the daughter of a friend. She passed away at age 6.

This didn't start out as a conscious decision. I wanted them both to be remembered--and simply wrote them into my first book. Once I'd discovered this way to remember them, I knew that I'd want to include them again.

Since I Wish was the first YA book that I wrote (although it was the fourth to be published), Norah and Charlie made their first appearance in it. They are two ice-skaters in "genie-land."

They play a bigger role in the Whisper Falls series. Mark (the hero) has a strong relationship with his grandparents, Norah and Charlie. They appear in all three books of the series.

In The Possibility of Somewhere (writing as Julia Day), Eden once held a job at Charlie's Diner, working with a waitress named Norah. A small presence--but I know they're there, and now you do too.

For Norah and Charlie--
We have not forgotten.