Getting To Know Aila, Self-Publishing, Uncategorized, Writer's Life

Marketing Sucks…

 

UNION“Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing but nobody else does.”
Steuart Henderson Britt

It warrants repeating. Marketing sucks. Especially if you don’t do it.

Now, as with all things in life, I try not to speak on a subject unless I’m fairly well-versed on the topic at hand–and there’s little else I’m better at than not talking about myself.

I wrote a book and I’ve done an exceptionally bad job at marketing it. Let’s not kid ourselves, writing a book is a big deal. Even if you never sell a single copy. Even if you never publish it. The simple fact that you wrote a book from start to finish is incredible. You created a world that doesn’t exist. You created people that do not exist. You thought up and penned hardships, relationships, love, envy, hatred, crime, and magical creatures that otherwise would have remained a fleeting thought in your head, or a dream you would have eventually forgotten.

You did an awesome thing.

I did an awesome thing.

And I’m smart enough to know that just because I did this awesome thing and hit the button to publish it for the scrutiny of the world, it doesn’t mean a damn thing without begging people to buy and read it. Which means I have to step–no leap–out of my comfort zone and talk to people about my book all while keeping the thousands of tiny rules about self-promotion in the back of my head.

Don’t open a conversation talking about your book. Don’t auto-DM people about your book. Don’t do this. Do that, but cautiously. Do this every day. Do this other thing every other day.

So, for those astute readers out there, some of you might be thinking that Sex, Love, and Technicalities came out almost a solid year ago. Why, for the love of Whitman, am I talking about this now?

Well, my friends, I sold a book. I mean, I’ve sold a few copies of it actually–but this one was a genuine surprise. I didn’t even know I’d sold it because I’ve been so unbelievably terrible at my author duties for going on four or five months now. Now, this sale (from a complete stranger) also came with a 5-star review on Amazon. This was a kick in the seat for me.

Here’s this person who found me by mysterious means almost two months ago, bought my book and loved it. They took money out of the wallet to buy, and time out of their life to read something that took me over a year of my life to write. And they loved it. I wasn’t even paying attention at the time. How sad is that?

I’d all but given up on myself and my work and this sweet soul named Diane came out of left field and reminded me that I’d done an amazing thing. Thanks, Diane, you’re the best. Whoever you are.

So, don’t be like me. Don’t finish your amazing thing and then leave it on the virtual shelf to die. It wasn’t even the lack of sales that caused me to drift, it was the notion of having to market myself when the fun part is writing. I had no grandiose notions that I was somehow above the marketing part, nor that I would be special and the crowds would flock to me out of nowhere. I was just doubling down on my social anxiety and introvertedness.

Listen to the experts on this one, guys. I’m absolutely the last person you want to take marketing advice from. All I know is that I have to figure it out because Diane from Amazon stumbled upon my book by chance and loved it and I kind of want to find out what everyone else thinks too.

Marketing sucks, but just freaking do it.

 

Uncategorized

Banish Bad Book Covers!

BANISH (4)
“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.”
-Edgar Degas

I haven’t written a blog post in five months. FIVE. MONTHS.

Let me preface this by saying I am not claiming to be an expert in cover design. I am most definitely an advocate for people to purchase book covers from actual professionals when their budget so allows–hell, even the ready-made book covers are giant steps forward for pretty much everyone.Cover DesignAlabama Rain

That said, I made my own cover for Sex, Love, and Technicalities and also for my current WIP, Alabama Rain.

Admittedly, the cover for AR is extremely simple. It’s a stock photo with text.

SL&T is actually several elements that took me at least ten hours in Photoshop to blend just the way I wanted them. But, how much did they cost me? Because let’s be honest, people who can afford to have covers made generally do so. I’d be willing to bet that the vast majority of people who create their own covers do so because they want to do it for free.

Subtracting the cost of Photoshop (Because my husband already had it), the cover for SL&T cost me a whopping $3. Alabama Rain? $1.

Are they perfect? No. But, I have had a surprising number of people tell me they thought SL&T was done by a pro. I chalk it up to flattery.

So, you’re a self-pubber and you need a cover. Your dream designer costs hundreds of dollars you don’t have, even if you committed yourself and your spouse to eating nothing but ramen for the foreseeable future. You’ve scanned at least a thousand pre-made covers, and even though they’re much more affordable, they just don’t seem very you. The one you did find you actually liked was already being used by another self-pubbed author and they’re in the same genre as you. You don’t want that Amazon taboo on your conscious.

You’ve given in to the fact you’re going to have to create your own, but where do you even begin? Stock photo sites are a bit pricey and some seem kind of shady. If you could afford Photoshop, you’d just buy a cover. Gimp is confusing. You could make it in MS Paint. (Tip #1: Don’t.)

There are plenty of places to create covers (Think Amazon’s own cover designer) but allow me to again mention my love and devotion to Canva. If you haven’t tinkered around with it, I suggest you do. I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this post teaching you how to use the plethora of its features. Perhaps I’ll save that for later.

Author Name HereFor this experiment, I concocted a very quick story idea just so I could think up of a cover design. Our fictional novel is called Murder at the Lake, and it’s setting is in the late 1970s. Let’s look at the really bad, terrible, horrible cover design that I slapped together in about 45 seconds.

Let’s just go from top to bottom. What’s with the band of gray? If you’re adamant about a dark cover and a light font for the title, that’s fine… it doesn’t require a block of color to set the title off. In fact, with them so close in color, it’s very difficult to read. Also, the font… it’s a bit cliche, right? Let’s just not.

Furthermore, I’m fine with stock photography. This was a free image in Canva’s vast library, and there is nothing inherently wrong with it. This could quite possibly be the cabin in which the murder took place. But all too often with people making their own covers, the stock photography winds up having very little significance for some strange reason. So when people keep reading and realize a cabin just like this doesn’t exist in the actual book–they’ll be quite confused about the author’s choice. (Hahaha…okay, so with a cover like this, who would actually ever get that far?)

And yes, we’ve got more awkward blocking at the bottom to set apart the author’s name…but also, look at the size of the font for the name vs. the title. I’m sorry to say it, but this author is no Stephen King, and their book isn’t going to sell just because of their name… For self-pubbing authors, your title and cover design are paramount. Your name isn’t getting you placed on bookshelves just yet.

Total cost of this self-made cover: $0 and many, many missed sales

Author Name Here (1)Alright, now let’s glance at a cover I spent just slightly more time on to show a few improvements. This is by no way a perfect cover or a saleable cover, but it is better and a step in the right direction. How has it improved?

It feels like a novel set in the 1970s, for one thing. The lake is at the center visually as we can assume it will be the center of the novel. The text is easy to read and in reasonable fonts and at appropriate sizes. It would be decent in thumbnail size.

It’s just so… blah. Better than the first, yes. You’d definitely get more interest and more people willing to take a chance on it. But not many, I’m afraid.

Total cost: $0, and missed sales.

On to #3.

THE LAKEIn this example, I hope you’ll agree we’ve got something potentially workable. Instead of reworking the whole thing, it may require minor tweaks here and there, especially if you’re publishing in multiple formats.

With this cover, we’ve eschewed the whole notion of using a photo of a lake. Instead, we see a fingerprint, something synonymous with a crime scene investigation. It’s minimalistic and will translate nicely to thumbnail size.

We’ve fancied up the title just a bit, but it’s still plenty readable and is a good size in comparison with the author’s name. It still only took me about 15 minutes to design but is leaps and bounds better than the first, and a huge improvement on the second.

Total cost: $1.

Truly, I hope you’re able to work with a professional designer who can create the cover of your dreams. You’ve [hopefully] worked very hard on your book and it deserves a cover befitting the best-seller you know it to be in your heart.

If not, I hope this post has helped you think and rethink some of your choices. Designing your own cover is not impossible. Just keep these guidelines in mind:

•Keep it simple.
•Look at it as a thumbnail. (This is how 90+% of potential customers will view it)
•Ask for feedback from Beta Readers.
•Know the copyright laws on any images you use! (Sometimes you must give credit, sometimes purchasing a license may only cover you for the first X-number of sales, etc.)
•Check Amazon for books in your genre, be mindful of trends. What looks good to you?

That’s all I’ve got for you today, friends. I promise it won’t be five months until we meet again.

Happy writing! xoxo

 

 

 

Uncategorized

Decluttering the Writer’s Mind

best“It’s a lack of clarity that creates chaos and frustration.
Those emotions are poison to any living goal.”
-Steve Maraboli


Hello, you.

I have attempted to start a blog post for weeks now. I’d sit at my computer, dawdle and tinker with a few items perched happily—expectantly, even, on my desk. I’d catch my reflection in the screen. My tired eyes drooped and heavy, my hair tossed into a messy bun atop my aching head—and I’d sigh and get up. I had nothing to give you. I had no words to write to convey anything of even minuscule value.

I was stuck. To be honest, I’m not sure I’m completely unstuck…and it isn’t writer’s block. It’s nothing special, either. Just bogged down by the every day. My work life has been a constant uphill battle as of late. In a way I am reveling in the daily challenges, but I’m depleted by the time I make it home.

Then the other day one of my IRL friends (yes, I have those!) asked me how my writing projects were coming along. Bless her, she had no idea how much I needed someone to ask me that at that particular moment. I blurted the truth: “They aren’t!” Then I realized that there is a good chance that my feeling drained and empty isn’t completely to blame on my nine-to-five or those other pesky adulthood obligations.

I need to write to feel complete.

But my first few attempts at getting back in the saddle haven’t been as fruitful as I’d like, so I’m on a quest to unburden myself while I am at home, gain perspective, and reclaim my writerly life. I thought I’d share my ideas in hopes they might help someone going through a similar dry spell.


1.| This one may sound strange but: Shower and change. I’ve got a bad habit of coming home from work, squaring up dinner, and then continuing to work. I check and respond to emails, work on spreadsheets, etc. I need to shed my work-self when I walk in the door. So, I’m going to change up my routine and wash away my day with a hot shower and hope that puts me in a different mindset.

2.| Sip a new brew. Whether it’s an herbal tea (Still love my green apricot and sour cherry blend), or a new coffee for some weekend morning writing, I think the prospect of treating myself to something new—i.e. something I don’t drink before work—will help separate those two pieces of my life.

3.| Get up. This one isn’t original, I know. Hear me out, though. I’m naturally a pretty early riser. The latest I like to sleep on the weekends is still only 7:00 and up until a couple of months ago, that was still pretty late for me on the weekends. In recent weeks, I’ve been allowing myself to stay in bed as late as 9:00…and I’ve been insistent on leaving almost as soon as my husband’s feet hit the ground. Because staying home meant I would inevitably work—and come Saturday, a spreadsheet may cause me to go into a fit of rage. So, I’m going to

4.| Groceries 2.0. What? I have discovered the joy of having others do my grocery shopping for me. I’ve been heckled about this from several people. “That’s so lazy. Are you kidding me?” “I could never let someone grocery shop for me. I need to see everything.” Look, I get it. This one won’t be for everybody. But it is mighty satisfying to get a phone call and someone tell me “Your groceries are ready!” I can swing by after work, and everything is loaded for me. I’m in and out within five minutes. No impulse shopping. More time for writing.

5.| Enthusiastically enjoy life. Oh yeah, this one is simple and easy to do. (Cue eye roll!) Recently I went on vacation. I should mention this is the first real vacation I’ve been on in at least five years—probably more. We didn’t go far, just about three hours away. In the three hour drive there, I stressed over what was going on at work nearly the entire way. It took considerable effort, but I successfully checked myself out of work while I checked in at the hotel desk. I need that more often. So, my plan to enjoy life has various stages. I will endeavor to do at least one thing every day to enrich my husband’s life. I will not check my phone when we are dining together. I will only check my work email on Sunday evenings, just to make sure there isn’t something unexpected I need to do first thing on Monday morning. (I’m trying to let it sink in that if something is urgent enough, they’ll call.) And lastly, I’m going to travel more. I’m 31. I work hard. I deserve to play.

6.| Ask for help. This may be the biggest no-brainer on the list, but it is probably the hardest for me to do. I get this from my father, as I do many things…but asking for help is really difficult for me. It makes me feel weak and less than. I feel whomever I’ve asked for help is automatically my superior. Depending on the size of the task I’ve asked to be assisted with, I can really beat myself up about it. I’m my own biggest enemy and competitor. I should probably seek help with this. 😉 But, this isn’t healthy, and I know it. I will probably never be comfortable asking others to pick up some of my workload, but trying to do it all is going to kill me. Aside from work duties, I am asking my husband to help by cooking dinner one night per week, and to block out a few quiet hours during the weekends to give me time to focus. Other family members will be asked (not expected) to take care of my dogs on occasion so I can work on #5. (One of the reasons it has been so long since I’ve been on vacation is because I hate asking people to take care of my pups!)

7.| Get dirty. Yeah, yeah. Snicker all you’d like. This one is a bit of #5, because I really need to go hiking more often…but I really mean I need to scratch my other creative itches. Painting, candle making, making shitty pottery. Now, you may be thinking that these creative endeavors, while fun and all, are simply just obstacles to writing. “Aila. Seriously. This is just you wasting even more writing time.” But, I don’t necessarily see it that way. Writing is the primary goal, but when I think over the last couple of weeks, I think I would’ve fared better had I kneaded some clay or filled my home with the fragrance of a batch of new Autumnal candles. Anything other than sitting here, stewing over problem #459281. Yes. I think it’s high time for a date with Bob Ross.

8.| Meditate. I suck at this. I am really, amazingly, monumentally terrible at meditating. My mind is all over the place. But, as with most other things in life, there is an app for that. Many, many apps.

9.| Reward scheme. Let’s be honest. Most of us really like rewards. We sign up for reward programs at the grocery store. We scribble our names and addresses on those cards at the mall kiosk in hopes of winning a candy-apple red Mustang GT. Hell, some of us are even willing to change banks if there is a free blender involved. So, I’ve decided to set up a rewards program for myself. The prize will of course have to reflect the effort. I can’t afford a fancy meal after completing every chapter. But most definitely so after finishing a draft. Perhaps after every five chapters I will treat myself to some new gourmet coffee or an interesting tea. This would help with the Sip a New Brew plan, anyway. If you have other reward ideas, let me know in the comments below!

10.| Write on location. The library is one thing, but I’ve never really attempted at writing anywhere outside the comfort of my home. Maybe a few sentences here and there—and I’m not including the notes app on my iPhone where I jot down story ideas as they come to me. Actually, I’m not even talking exclusively writing on an electronic device. The idea of sitting on a bench downtown with my laptop, or with pen and pad on a tree stump in the woods next to a gurgling river has immense appeal to me suddenly. Perhaps this is just the shot in the arm I need.

Have you ever been stuck before? How did you navigate back?

Uncategorized

20 Fab Writing Tips From 20 Author Interviews #Writingtips #WeekendBlogShare

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Author Interviews

This week I am having a rest from my Author Interview Series and reflecting on the useful insight gleaned from these interviews.

I am so grateful to all the authors who have taken the time to share their book writing experiences with me.

You can find all the interviews by clicking here.

In each interview I asked for some handy writing tips for aspiring new writers. I thought it would be great to summarise these in one useful post.

These are great tips from people who have actually written books. They have all experienced the many challenges that come from writing a novel and have come out the other side …smiling and proudly clutching their beloved book. Sigh!

So, here are 20 writing tips from the first 20 authors interviewed as part of my blog series – Author Interviews.

  1. Helen Treharne. Write for you. Stick at it. Listen to…

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An Overdue Review – Sex, Love, and Technicalities by Aila Stephens

This absolutely made my day. 🙂 I was so reluctant to ask her to read the book because I knew it was not her genre at all, and I knew she was pretty sure she was going to hate it.

Brittany's Book Blog

I’d like to preface this review by pointing out that I don’t read romance. It’s not a true conscious avoidance of the subject, and I always have romantic subplots in the stories I write myself. I simply don’t seek it out. Romance and erotica just tends to come off shallow and predictable for me. Obviously this is not always the case, but it’s often enough that I’d rather bury myself in the Fantasy/Sci-Fi section of the bookstore.

That being said, Aila is a fantastic friend of mine. She asked me to read her book to check for formatting and technical issues that may have come up that she missed. I actually didn’t even have time to glance at it for a few days, but I finally decided to skim it during a slow day at work.

Two hours of reading time later, I was done.

SLTTitle: Sex, Love, and Technicalities

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Self-Publishing, Tips, Writer's Life, Writing

Let Me Be Frank

Self-Pub Mistakes“A teachable spirit and a humbleness to admit your ignorance or your mistake
will save you a lot of pain. However, if you’re a person who knows it all, then you’ve
got a lot of heavy-hearted experiences coming your way.”
-Ron Carpenter, Jr.

So as I mentioned last week, my launch day wasn’t the thrill it was supposed to be. I didn’t tweet about my book–and haven’t once–since then.

I’m sure my husband would protest, (HA!) but alas: I am not perfect.

Instead of pouring my heart and soul out, let me just give you a little lesson in all that went wrong for me on that day and the days leading up to it. If I had a nickle for every red flag I overlooked, I could quit my day job. (If anyone wants to send me nickles to get that process started, my P.O. Box is… *wink*) In all seriousness, please learn from my mistakes.

Without further adieu:

1.| I should have recruited more help. The people helping me were FANTASTIC! But, I should have had people reading the eBook in multiple formats, because I wasn’t just putting it on Amazon. I was using IngramSpark and my book appeared on Amazon, iBooks, Nook, and obscure Japanese websites for whatever reason. So, while the formatting may have been decent on one platform, it wasn’t on all and this was something I didn’t consider. Mostly because…

2.| I purchased a layout for my novel. [This isn’t exactly a mistake, but there were definite lessons to be learned.] I’m not ashamed to admit it, I wasn’t getting results on my own that I was happy with, and I didn’t have time or patience for learning InDesign on the fly, so I purchased a Word-friendly book layout that was supposed to translate perfectly from print to eBook. I am 99% sure I even paid a little extra for the duality. I’m debating on whether to link to the company because I am quite frankly debating on whether I will use them again. Their information is listed in the front matter of the book because a.) it was a requirement of purchasing the layout and b.) because I’m thrilled with the way the paperbacks look.

However, what I did not, can not, and will not like or understand about this is what happened to the metadata of my eBook. This company automatically inserted itself in the metadata as both author and publisher of my book. And my eBook layout problems only seemed to occur whenever I corrected the metadata. For legal reasons, I will not say that they were definitely the cause of my eBook layout problems, but I will say that it is a matter I am still looking into.

3.| Every time I needed to fix an issue with the eBook, it cost me $25 to do so. This was my fault, 100%. I knew that when/if I needed to make changes to the print version that it would cost me $25. I did not know the same applied to the eBook. With the layout problems I was facing, this was staggering. I am singing IngramSpark’s praises because they did not give me any trouble whatsoever when I asked begged them to release me of my eBook contract. Within 48 hours every trace of my error-riddled eBook was off the market and it was mine again to obsess over and check for those blasted formatting errors.

cautionSide note: If you’re going the IngramSpark route, I will be doing a more thorough review of my experience with them, but I will say this much quickly: Unless you are absolutely certain your success hinges on your eBook being available in every possible market, having your eBook with them will be an expensive venture. eBooks are updated regularly, and $25 each and every time adds up. Research the absolute hell out of the pros and cons of using their digital distribution services before you decide.

Their print service is exceptional, though. Truly top notch.

4.| If you’re an aspiring author and you’re not on Goodreads, hear this: Get on Goodreads. It’s powerful. Oh, and while you’re there, follow me. I ignored this valuable asset for far too long. You can do a lot of things here to set your book apart, like add video trailers, create quizzes and trivia for fans of your work. Have discussions with your readers in a way that other social media outlets simply can’t compare.

5.| I am not sure why I didn’t do this step, because I fully intended to, but I wanted to send out 15 or so ARC (Advanced Release Copies) to hopefully get some reviews before launch day. (This also would’ve alerted me to those formatting errors, too.) This was a monumental mistake on my part. Don’t be like me. Send out ARCs.

At the end of the day, you know what? I have a book. Relatively few people can say that. Even if you make every single mistake I did (Don’t, because you’ve read about them now) and you have a completed book that you’re proud of, that is an amazing thing! Don’t let a few mistakes and bumps along the way cause you to lose sight of your accomplishment. Dig your heels in, do your best to make it right, and make a vow to do better next time.

Do not give up on your writing dreams!

Uncategorized

Tick Road Revelations

Tick Road“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
-Winston Churchill

Some time ago, I took my parents on a day trip through the mountains. My dad isn’t in the best of health has really bad health problems; most, but not all, of which stem from a massive stroke back in 2007.

On this particular day trip, my father wanted to find a needle in a haystack, really. A road by which he knew by another name. Tick Road. You couldn’t ask anyone: “Hey, where’s Tick Road?” Because they would look at you with some degree of pity. This road is one my father remembered as beautiful and one he really wanted to rediscover. We didn’t find Tick Road that day.

I also didn’t find Tick Road a few weeks later when I went to search for it, either. Even with my husband in tow. Now, what makes this exceptionally odd is that Tick Road stems off of another road (but so do about a bazillion other roads) and I knew exactly where that road was. That road wasn’t hard to find, and it too was a stunning stretch of asphalt through the mountainside. But that road wasn’t Tick Road.

Yesterday, my book was available for purchase. I had planned on yesterday being a celebratory day despite the fact I didn’t actually predict I’d sell anything. Let’s be honest, for a lot of us the simple fact our work is complete and up for sale is celebration enough. But, as I’ve already told a few people, my launch day was nightmarish. The content of the book wasn’t my problem. The presentation of it was. I’m a Type A. I’m OCD. I’m a perfectionist. Whatever. I’ve worked on this story for a year. I’ve shed tears over this book. I’ve had gnarly paper cuts, blissful dreams and night terrors over this book. I’ve gained friends and lost friends over this book. I love this book.

Getting the eBook to look the way I want is apparently going to be some kind of Apocalypse Now undertaking.

[Sorry! I got sidetracked. Back to Tick Road.]

So, I had to get out of my house today. It wasn’t an option. Do you ever get that way? It was like the very walls were choking me and I had to throw on the first clothes I came to and just bolt. I had no idea where I was going. Honestly, Tick Road was not even on my radar when I set out. I know this, because coffee was on my radar when I set out.

Once I had my coffee, I discovered I had exactly a half-tank of gas, no phone charger, and 48% battery. So at first I thought I’d just go downtown. SCREW traffic. No, thank you.

So, I headed out of the city. I thought about going to the tiny little town where my grandmother had lived, getting some drive-thru lunch and having a solo picnic… but before I realized it, the mountains were off in the distance, and there was no debate anymore.

I went to Pumpkintown. (Yes, that’s a place.) I skirted places called Caesar’s Head, Table Rock, and realized Jones Gap would make the trifecta!

The higher I climbed in elevation, the less bummed I was about my imperfect eBook design.

I almost missed the road for Jones Gap, but once I was on it, I remembered how many times I went up and down this road with my parents looking for Tick Road, and suddenly I had a mission and I decided even if I had to call roadside assistance (assuming my battery held out) because I’d run out of gas, I was not leaving that road until I #$&%=+! found Tick Road.

Three trips up and down the way, turning the heads of farm laborers and the retired people living along that road who apparently check their mailboxes fourteen times a day—but I found it!

I discovered I had slightly less than a quarter-tank of gas left, somewhere in the 30ish percentile of phone battery… but ahead of me was the famed Tick Road. It was easy to stop in the middle of the lane and contemplate what to do, because I hadn’t seen another car in nearly a half-hour. Shortest debate of my life, probably.

At the crest of Tick Road, the temperature was about five degrees cooler than at its base, and I still didn’t know how much farther the road would take me. My gas needle hadn’t moved much, and I still had a need in my bones to keep going.

When I came out at the other side, the vast improvement of the road conditions told me I might not be in South Carolina anymore, and oh! those  mountains took my breath away. I knew my elation was to be short lived, and that I really needed to head home. The majority of the way back, I talked to myself… yes I do that (and luckily, with the popularity of Bluetooth, my random roadmates don’t know I’m crazy!)

My journey to Tick Road today reminded me that I may be a lot of things, but I am not a quitter. In fact, I am pretty hard headed and stubborn, and even though I have to turn around a lot and I may have to go back to where I started: I will eventually find where I am going. Even if I have to do it alone.

 

 

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Author Interviews @AilaStephens #weekendBlogShare #writer #author

I was so honored to sit in Lucy’s red chair today! She is an absolutely fabulous lady and writer!

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Author Interviews

Welcome to my weekly blog series – Author Interviews. 

Each week I ask authors to take a seat in my red interview chair and tell me about how they wrote their first novel, what challenges they encountered, the writing best practices that work for them and the most important question of all – what do they wear whilst writing?

This week I am squealing with author excitement, as Aila Stephens has agreed to sit in my chair! I am reading Aila’s new book at the moment and bedtime reading sessions have changed. I have not had the chance to speak to my loved one across the pillows, as I have been so engrossed with Aila’s book. Luckily he has found comfort in a spy thriller.

So, let me welcome the amazing Aila Stephens to my red chair!

Hey Aila!  Sit down, make yourself comfortable and help yourself to my homemade

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Getting To Know Aila, Tips, Writer's Life

Ten Writerly Lessons

Ten
“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
-Benjamin Franklin


There are only FIVE days until the release of Sex, Love, and Technicalities. That’s… terrifying. I thought I would take this time to share with you ten things I’ve learned over the course of this past year—the good, the awful, and the ghastly.

1. | HOLY CRAP BALLS – WRITING IS HARD. Okay, so not physically hard. Unless you think sitting in a chair for long stretches of time is a strain. (For the record, I know several people who actually do find this difficult.) But, a lot goes into writing a full-length novel, and sometimes I want to pull my hair out.

2.| There are more tools than MS Word. I can hear some of you snickering, but this isn’t something that had ever occurred to me before I got serious about writing. I’ve dabbled with several programs and Scrivener is just amazing. Even if you want to stick to Word, I highly suggest using ProWritingAid instead of relying on Word’s less than stellar grammar help.

3. | Patience is key. I am not a naturally patient person. I get that from my father. But take it from someone who is admitting to this embarrassment: Being impatient can be costly. I started buying promotional items before the second redraft. Yep. I did that. You know what happened shortly afterwards? I changed the name of the book. And pushed back my release date. Anyone want a useless, highly inaccurate bookmark?

4.| The writing community is a vast, packed, and lonely place. I had an idea of how large the writing community was, but it wasn’t until I dipped my quill inside the well that I realized just how massive. I’ve met some incredible people, forged some priceless friendships… but there are a lot of people to compare yourself to. And for me, a naturally negative person, sometimes the very beauty of this community can leave me breathlessly lonesome.

5.| Build your brand before you type “Once Upon A Time…” If you’re serious about becoming a published author, by any means necessary, it is essential for you to build your author brand. I claim no expertise on the subject, I just know it is something you have to start early.

6.| Ideas will pop up at the worst times. I sort of knew this before. But before I got serious about writing, I could let go of these story ideas without much of a second thought. After all, I assumed I’d never use them. Oh, but now! now these precious gems of ideas crop up and I’m finely tuned into them. It doesn’t matter if I’m just drifting to sleep or in the middle of a conversation. Not getting to jot these ideas down is almost blasphemous.

7.| Doing bad things to my characters actually hurts. I revealed this tidbit to a non-writer friend, and they just couldn’t understand. “You do know they’re fictional, right?” Yes. But they’re my creations and I have just turned their world upside down and dumped a bucket of shit on top. Doesn’t mean I don’t fully understand that I have to do this, but sometimes after writing some particularly heavy scenes, a girl just needs to watch Doctor Who.

8.| Browsing Barnes and Noble becomes difficult different. Don’t get me wrong, I still do this on the regular, but once you are knee deep in publication decisions, you start to analyze books for things other than just their content. Oh my God! I LOVE that font! Where can I get *that* font?! Others in the vicinity will notice that you’ve adopted Gollum’s stance and are stroking a particularly pretty book and… well, you get the idea.

9.| I get insanely excited for my writer friends’ successes. There is nothing I like more than to see my writer friends achieving their goals. I’m not necessarily talking about publication, either. I like seeing them blow past a word count record, tackling and defeating a difficult chapter, getting the guts to query agents. It’s all worth celebrating. I love when someone sends me something to read. It makes me giddy! Which brings me to…

10.| Writers are without a doubt some of the brightest, loveliest, and bravest people on the planet Earth. You offer pieces of yourself up on the page for people to scrutinize. You want to change the world with your ideas. You give encouragement and hope with your words. You create your own worlds and realities and shine light on important subjects. You are amazing.

That’s ten things, of many, I have learned over the past year. Thank you all so much for being the awesome, crazy, amazing, badass people you are.


If you’re interested in getting your own signed copy of Sex, Love, and Technicalities, I am hosting a sweepstakes giveaway on Viral Sweep, and I am SUPER excited! There is no purchase necessaryWIN, but unfortunately it is only open to US residents. There are multiple ways to earn extra entries! I do hope you will enter to win—and share with your friends! (Actually, that’s one way of earning extra entries!) For entry and the full details please see either the ViralSweep site or my website. Thanks in advance!

 

Announcement, Uncategorized, Writer's Life, Writing

SL&T: It’s Getting Close

I’m taking a little reprieve from the A-Z Series. I’ll pick it up again in the first week of August, and I’ll post a few each week to get caught up. Let me say that I have really enjoyed writing that series so far. It has given me the chance to get to know some seriously cool authors and read some amazing work, but I have a few really good reasons for the break:

1.| I should launch a new website this week. It’s actually ready and awaiting publication, but I’ve changed hosting companies and I’m waiting for them to sort their crap out. (When this launches, I will be giving the novelette No More Running, prequel to SL&T, away to mailing list subscribers for free!) I am toying around with merging the blog straight into this website, but for now, I will still use Wordpress for all my blogging.

2.| I have my book completely laid out and ready for publication as well, both for an eBook format and for paperback. I, being the OCD person I am, am having one last go through the book, reading it on different media and aloud making the tiniest little adjustments, but I have to force myself to have a cutoff for this, and I’m looking at Wednesday. If I don’t give myself a cutoff, I will be stuck in this stage for the rest of my days.

3.| As per reason #2, I have been spending an exorbitant amount of time getting my cover, spine, and back cover designs the way I’d like them, which means I had to write a short Author Bio, and I am not exaggerating in the least when I say I would rather write a hundred novels than Cover Design.pnga single paragraph about myself.

The cover has evolved many times. Generally speaking, I create cover art for each of my books. I’m not sure why exactly, but it has become a part of my process. Each of the covers I have created have been designed in Canva, with a little tweaking in Photoshop afterward.

Whenever I work through a difficulty in a scene, I  just tinker around with the corresponding cover design until I have it figured out. If I had to guess, this would be version 483.7, or somewhere in that vicinity. 😉

In anticipation of the book’s release, I thought I would take an opportunity to tell you a little bit of the behind the scenes information about the book and give a quick introduction to my main character’s family… and reveal which actors or actresses most frequently played them in my mind. Yes. I said that. (I’m only admitting to what every single one most of us do!)



| By the numbers|

The first draft of SL&T was about 82k words and it took me a whopping eleven days to write. Interestingly, my most productive day was 11k words. Also, the original chapter eleven was slashed from the book first. There was just something about the number eleven. I was very fortunate to have the time off from work which allowed me to write so much in such a short amount of time. I was also lucky that my husband didn’t walk out with as much as I talked about it and with the sheer volume of ideas I bounced off of him. I was very motivated to write this book. Now the book sits at around 76k words, broken into 40 quick chapters.

I knew early on in this book that it was going to have a sequel, which I’ve already gotten through about 1/3 of the way. I had gotten through it about 1/2 way, but then I had an epiphany about the way SL&T ended, and I rewrote so much, the sequel had to change shape. Well worth it in the end. I’m much happier with SL&T’s ending now.

| Other Tidbits – Warning: Contains Spoilers, however minimal |
While this book is a far, far cry from autobiographical, there are a few parallels between myself and the main character, Briella Logan. Brie, as she’s called for short, is a chef. I’m a chef. She struggles with turning thirty. I unexpectedly fell apart over turning thirty. She struggles with whether or not she wants to continue being a chef. I had the same struggle. She’s very close with her father, who has precarious health problems. I’m very close with my dad, who has been in poor health since I can remember. (Brie’s dad calls her Pumpkin, my dad calls me Chickadee.)

The numbers in my book are [mostly] from something significant in my life. For example, the number 927 shows up in the book. That number is the date of my father’s very first heart attack.


| Introducing The Logans |

Briella LoganBrie is the head chef of a popular restaurant called Table Twelve, she’s a workaholic who has been avoiding any sort of social life for quite a while, save for her best friend John. She lives alone in an apartment with a view of the water and the city of Nashville. She enjoys wine and British television. On the occasion she does go out with friends after work, she drinks to excess—something she hides from her well-to-do mother, Deidra. [Among many, Rachel Bilson probably had this role most often.]

Deidra Logan: Is somewhat of a socialite in Nashville, especially amongst the ladies in her Bible study group. She has high standards for her family, and generally isn’t shy about letting her daughter know when she isn’t living up to them. She’s a bit of a worrywart when it comes to her husband, and is known for elaborating. [Geena Davis or Sela Ward]

Geoffrey Logan: The head of the Logan family, Geoffrey, usually finds himself trying to keep some sort of tranquility in his family, as he is usually put in the middle between his wife and daughter’s arguments. He is a very calm, rational man who loves the outdoors and taught Briella early on the pleasures of camping and fishing. He enjoys golf as his health allows. [Kevin Costner. I don’t know why.]


I am brimming with so much excitement as this whole process is coming to a close, I am having to restrain myself from dropping some major spoilers. If you have previously checked out the prologue, which can be found here, please check it out again. Things have changed a bit.

As ever, thank you for stopping in. Sex, Love, and Technicalities will be available this month, and you can bet there will be some giveaways centered around the launch, so check back!