What’s Your Lane?

Choices: I’ve made many of them. I have a problem staying in my own lane, which, when I think about it, doesn’t really seem like a problem. It seems interesting and fun and adventurous. Or as adventurous as you can be when sitting in a chair typing in a room all day.

Looking on my book page, I see the variety of genres and forms of writing I’ve tried through the years. And I don’t even have my poetry chapbook or my dozen or so literary short stories on there! I never published those early stories, except a few in magazines, and the poems were privately printed.

Early on, I decided I was not a literary writer, at least not in the way publishers define literature. Maybe (I thought) I could write women’s fiction (in my mind, so much women’s fiction IS literary) or romance or mystery or fantasy. I ended up writing in all the genres where women writers are most likely to be offered publishing contracts.

I tried on each genre like shoes, and (briefly) loved them all. This is a lot like my love life before Al. I can’t count how many times I’ve been in love. Or on a diet. Or changed jobs. Or the color of my hair. It’s just life, or at least my life, anyway.

Still, somehow, with each new book, I’m always hoping I’ve finally found my sweet spot. A place to rest and get to know the view. Mostly the new genre-love turns out to be the good place for now, for however long it holds my fickle interest. Luckily I have settled down to one lasting human love, because the other way was too much drama, which I save now for my characters. Let them go through all that. I’m done, got my one and only.

I see this flirting with different genres, falling in and out of love with “the one” in a read-through of the free short story (now on my website forever) “The Charming Criminal.” Sometimes I try very hard to hit a specific target, like I did with Lily White in Detroit. I really wanted to write a psychological thriller. What I wrote was a crime novel. That’s fine; I’m still proud I was able to finish it and my dad liked it. But the violence of it, while true to Lily’s story, was the end.

I made what for me was the good choice. I don’t write to torture myself. I write for satisfaction, and I really didn’t want to go down Procedural Road anymore. I wanted to get cozy. And yet when I read through my story, the end didn’t feel like The End. It feels like What Happens Next? So I kept my criminal and FBI agent going into a new book and now into my second series. Along the way, I dodged about a million FBI bullets.

Editing is done (as of last week) on Jane in St Pete. Just waiting for a release date. And messing around with getting this short story, which like my other short stories, was never meant to be published, online. If you read it and like it, maybe you’ll like Jane, too. At the very least, you’ll find closure. Until the next book.

Book Marketing on Pinterest

When’s the last time you had fun marketing your books? My answer until maybe a month ago would have been never. Then, I decided to create a Pinterest board for every one of my books. Sure, my website lists all my books with links and descriptions, but Pinterest goes the extra imagination mile, helping me find photos that express who my characters are and what their setting is, even down to the rings on their fingers and the pillows on their fictional sofas. Since the advent of Kindle, I’ve missed the element of browsing book covers. Pinterest gives that back to me, and more.

Since I’ve succumbed to the deliciousness of pinning, all my books have come more alive to me. Making a perfect board for every book is still a work in progress, but as you see above, my first two rows of boards are all for my books. Lily White in Detroit is my latest novel, so it’s the first board. Obviously you want those novels front and center for marketing. And don’t forget the buy link! I’m working a bit here and there on Pinterest as I try to finish a novel before my husband retires in December. And I have a board for that, too. It’s the best one. Jane in St Pete has categories!

When I got off Facebook, it freed up so much time. Time to write Jane in St Pete (coming in 2020) and time to play. Pinterest is very fun to play with, and while I’m not sure it will be a great marketing tool for me, it’s more than just having fun. Working with visuals spark ideas for my books…and my life.

Once a Romance Writer

IMG_4778It’s not a bad thing to say that once you are labeled a romance writer, you will always be a romance writer. It’s just true. At least for me. No matter what I write. I’m okay with that label. I’m okay with the multicultural label too. At least it’s a bigger box.

I was on Amazon a lot yesterday because I had a Book Bub ad and was checking on my rankings obsessively. I noticed that all my categories except for “Best Sellers” (My book is #335 on that list this morning) have romance at the beginning of the ranking line, despite Book Bub slotting me into crime fiction, where I think it is better suited. Anyway, on Amazon, my numbers look like this:

#3 in Books > Romance > Multicultural

#5 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Romance > Multicultural & Interracial

#25 in Books > Romance > Romantic Suspense

Those were my rankings about 10 pm last night EST. Amazon is three hours behind us in Seattle, so it would have been 7 pm there. I wanted to stay up to see if the book ever got to #1 but I’d had a glass or three of celebratory wine and just couldn’t make it. (I have no idea if you can retro-check something like that; if you know, please tell me!)

Another new thing I noticed this morning on Amazon is my “Author Rank.” I don’t know if I ever had one before or if the number was too high to mention, but this morning it is #56 in Romantic suspense , #57 in Suspense #61 in Mystery & Suspense.

I am not a numbers person and I don’t do well with analytics and charts and things. I am not sure what any of it means, not precisely, but in general I think it’s all good. When my book first came out I was #onebilliontrillion in the “best seller” category, and into the thousands in other categories, so a lot of progress has been made.

Writing this post has made me look a little more closely at my rankings and I now see that not all of them call me a romance writer. Those Author Ranks only mention it once out of five labels. The categories are four romance and four other labels. And really, I don’t mind any label. IRL I am an extremely romantic person. I love a good love story and absolutely insist on having Whole Lotta Love in my marriage. My husband likes Led Zeppelin so it works out for us.

Even when I set out to write a book with NO ROMANCE, it still gets in there somewhere in the plot. I’m in very early stages of writing my next book, set in St Pete, and so far there is no romance. I deliberately made the female lead 20 years older than the male lead, who is in love with someone else who does not love him, and for good reason. But like I said it’s early days in the new book and I said the same thing at the start of Lily White in Detroit.  

A wise writer once told me that labels and categories are useful to publishers, booksellers, and agents. Not so much for writers. Gotta say, I agree.

Good Tidings

I read, signed, and sent my contract for Lily White in Detroit to my publisher yesterday. Yay! Now I must knuckle down and do some work on the ending as I promised my editor I would. Maybe I didn’t mention that before…she loved my story, yes, but the ending fell a little flat for her.

But why? I already knew. It was an epilogue and a clumsy one. My critic partner Tom had already suggested I cut it, but I didn’t, because I had an idea for my character and her arc and I didn’t want to give it up. I still don’t. I have ideas of how to layer those last actions Lily takes to personal freedom into the story a little earlier.

Think I’ll put it in the chapter I was afraid to write, so didn’t. I should have been braver but sometimes a writer just needs her editor to give her a little nudge. It’s a pretty fair bet that if you are afraid to write something, you must do so. Immediately.

Meanwhile, I have a few weeks to make the shift from my St. Pete set next book to editing Lily White, because it’s my publisher’s annual holiday shutdown.

In other news I am still reading Christmas novels. Just finished Comfort and Joy by Kristin Hannah. I’d read a few of her books before, The Nightingale, Firefly Lane. So when I got a BookBub deal for her older Christmas novel, I took it. And loved it. It might be my favorite Christmas novel this year.

This has been a different kind of holiday, but I’ve really enjoyed it so far, and I hope you have too. I went to Florida, helped Al paint and furnish a guest room, saw my son Mike and his family for five luscious days. They all four fit in the new guest room just fine! Came back to Michigan and maybe eight or so inches of snow, but there will be much more up north when Al and I go see our other son and his family later this week. They live in the snow belt and routinely get way more snow than we do here.

Counting blessings here, my grandchildren are the best. I don’t see them as often as I’d like, so every minute we have together counts. It was so fun to play with Owen and hold little baby Julia in my arms as she napped. I’ve done that with each of them as babies, feed them, they fall asleep in my arms, and instead of putting them down for a nap, I just hold them and drink them in. Babies to hold, books to write, books to read…Christmas doesn’t get any better than this.