Strawberry Moon

Full moons are always about the fullness of life, when something or everything has reached a peak. This full moon is special because it is happening at Solstice, the longest day of the year. Native Americans called this particular moon the Strawberry Moon because it signaled that the fruit had ripened to its fullest flavor.

My life has been pretty full-to-bursting in the last few weeks. Feels like I’ve been on roller skates half the time. Let’s see, bought a house, finished edits on my Christmas novel, designed and ordered promotional material for my series, wrote out the lecture for my workshop coming mid-July, joined Sisters in Crime, signed up for a workshop in police procedure in Wisconsin, revised WIP chapter for critique, started summer walking program…I am replete with this summer moon energy.

Now, it’s time to relax. Now it’s time to release. To let go. To spend some time quietly gathering strength for the work to come. To refill the well. To make strawberry crumble and serve it with vanilla ice cream. Because as much as I want and need to replenish my inner self, I also need to replenish those pantry and fridge shelves with healthy food. Grocery shopping waits for no woman.

I realize I slipped “bought a house” in there … the deal is not yet complete. It’s an awesome step of a lifetime, I’ll say that. Al and I are happy and amazed, and you’ll be hearing a lot about this decision in the weeks and months to come, as the impact is going to change my life in considerable ways. But not for awhile.

Other changes are coming sooner. Smaller but significant ones, like the turn my writing life is taking toward the darker parts of the human heart. I have written six novels loosely classified as “women’s fiction.” I wanted to write about the light. About love. About home and family. It’s what I knew, it’s what I struggled to make real for the first half of my actual (as opposed to fictional) life.

I’ve had a bit of resistance to this turn in my fiction writing toward the darker aspects of the human heart, but only a little. I know I need to follow where my creativity wants to take me. I’m gathering my courage, and my research, for this new direction, this new work-in-progress. Yet another something that is too new, too unfinished, to talk much about. Just to say that when I took one of my characters out of Blue Lake and put her in Detroit I really had no idea what I was in for. But it’s fine.

Character and setting are so aligned in my mind that I soon realized I would not be able to write this book without being honest about Detroit and that means I need to talk about race. Also guns, drugs, and corruption, but race, that’s a scary thing. The thing I resisted writing about the most. Racism is so far from love.

And yet, I am going there. I’m taking my writing, and in fact my life, to places that will require courage. Also knowledge, which is why I’m doing the police academy seminar, but mostly the new things in my life, the things just coming now, will require courage. I have never thought of myself as a particularly courageous person, in fact quite the opposite. I like feeling safe. But to grow into fullness, in writing and in life, I must gather my courage. Also strawberries.

 

Sweet Melissa & More

Sweet.MelissaWith two second-in-series novels ready to debut into the e-book and print world within a month or so of each other, I am focused on the third book in each series. Ideas pop, plotlines entice, characters beckon. “Come to California,” say David and Melissa from the third in my Traveling Girl series. Love this original cover art by beautiful & talented Bodicia.

“We need you in Blue Lake,” say Fast Eddie and his first love, from coastal Michigan.

What’s a writer to do?

Well, if you’re like me, that’s easy. First, I go with inspiration. It doesn’t happen that often anymore and I take advantage of it when it does, even if it’s just to write snippets of conversation or a plot idea. Lots of songs spinning ’round the turntable in my head, too, suggesting mood.

Second on my list is writing to deadline, and that’s easier since for the #indie Traveling Girl series I make my own deadlines, thank you. Which means, Eddie, contracted for October, you are up.

Fast Eddie’s Bar & Grill shows up in the first two Blue Lake novels,  and at the time the name “Fast Eddie’s” was just one of those things that came to me. I don’t tend to question stuff like that. I liked it, I used it, I moved on. Ha!

Now I’m playing with the idea of just how Eddie got that Fast attached to his name. I have a few ideas…

As I begin the third books, and the second ones prepare to make their bows, treat yourself to the firsts in these series, Gypsy is New Adult paranormal and Blue Heaven is contemporary romance.

Go on, you know you want to:)

How I Got to #1 on Kindle

I’ve recently had the experience of five “free” days on Kindle. What this means is my publisher allows Amazon exclusive rights to my novel for three months, and in those months, I agree to give  my book away for free for five days. It’s a marketing thing. I am not good at marketing.

Also,  I’m deep into a semester of teaching college freshman how to write, so there’s not a ton of extra time to promote my other career as a writer.  Friends pitched in with advice. One said I should RT (retweet) more. Another said I “must” buy a Book Bub ad. The Wild Rose Press publicist gave me a three page list of websites to contact for free and paid promotion.

I did some of this, but not everything. Teaching takes priority when I’m working the day job. No way could I publicize the way I needed to. This realization gave me new respect for how hard authors and publicists have to work to get noticed in the e-book market. 

I love Twitter, so it was easy to RT and tweet a bit more every day the month of September. My free days were October 1-5, so I front-loaded the increased Twitter time. Not a problem. Like I said, Twitter is fun for me. Some reviewers and bloggers, (Big thank you Rosie Amber, Bodicia, and Melissa Snark) offered to host me on their websites. I didn’t ask, they generously offered, which was a bonus, because I really don’t like asking for things. Especially free publicity. Writing guest posts and answering interview questions are fun. I love to write, be it tweet or blog post or novel.

The only thing I don’t love to write is the begging letter, in which I ask for favors. I don’t even like to ask my friends to buy my book. But giving it away for free, that I like. I asked Book Bub to consider advertising Blue Heaven, and they agreed. I paid them to advertise my book because I didn’t have time to do everything myself. Their fee was about equal to two hours of teaching pay. Worth it.

The day before Blue Heaven went “free” I checked my stats. Blue Heaven had been out for a month and was at approximated 600K on the paid lists. My stats in the “free” realm were decent. Nothing to get too excited about. I got up to #125 in romance and somewhere close in contemporary novels while hovering in the low thousands for all free books.

Book Bub publicized my novel on October 5, my last free day. After Book Bub stepped in, Blue Heaven shot to #1 on all three free lists: #1 Kindle Top 100. #1 Romance novel. #1 Contemporary novel. Woo hoo.

The day after the free spree my stats went up and down, but I’ve gotten several new reviews and stayed for a bit in the Top 100 “paid” Romance category. My “free” adventure, because that’s what it felt like, was a blast. I’d do it again in a minute. And if you’re a reader, keep checking those free Kindle lists. You might find a new favorite author.

*First published on Melissa Snark’s Snarkology

Stand-Alone Sarah

Sarah’s Survival Guide is a free 40 page story right here on my website. Anyone can read it, even attach it to their tablet or reading device. Makes it sound like I wanted to do something nice for my readers. I do, of course, but the real reason Sarah’s Survival Guide stands alone is because my former editor asked me to consider taking it out. I was writing romance at the time, and Sarah’s subplot was stealing the spotlight from the main lovers. Sarah is still very much a part of The Paris Notebook, especially the penultimate scene.

What Sarah does not have in the novel is a point of view. Sarah’s story is not filled out as I meant it to be. That’s okay, I’m a tough old writer and have been edited many times. I also understand the rules of writing romance. So I’m not saying my editor was wrong. She was spot on. The problem was me, I had not written a romance. The wonderful folks at The Wild Rose Press knew I was not a romance writer, and through two novels helped me become one. Then when I proposed a women’s fiction series, they said YES. They said that was where I should be, writing women’s fiction, with more going on than true love. Nothing against true love! I’ll always have a love story or three.

Almost the minute I learned I needed to cut Sarah’s story, I began plotting. I was able to pull it out almost seamlessly. I added a few bits into the book so it made sense and I took all spoilers out of Sarah’s Survival Guide. Then, after paying a friend a shamelessly small amount for a gorgeous cover, I was ready to roll.

I don’t know how many people have read Sarah’s story. I have never, in ten years, quickly going on eleven, looked at my page views. But I love hearing people tell me they wished there was more about Sarah in The Paris Notebook. And that’s happened at least a dozen times. Every time, I say “You’re in luck! Click on Sarah’s Survival Guide on my blog.” I think it’s a sweet love story. It works as a short story, but if you read it first, you might want to know what happens next. Well, that answer is in The Paris Notebook.

What is Women’s Fiction?

For my next novel, I’m crossing over from romance to women’s fiction. Although writing romance has been a fun challenge, romance is all about the two. Just like when you’re newly in love, you can’t see or think about anyone but your love. My story drafts have all sorts of point-of-view, many types of relationships, including love stories. Always more than one. Now I won’t have to cut away until the two are left alone on the page.

People ask what the difference is between women’s fiction, chick lit, and romance. For a definition of romance, see above. Now, chick lit and women’s fiction. Those labels are harder to define. It used to be “chick lit is funny and women’s fiction is serious.” or “chick lit is singletons on the town and women’s fiction is settled and sad.” That’s just not accurate. These labels are marketing devices. Chick lit comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. It’s not all white wine and new shoes. Women’s fiction is not all drama and divorce.

We have these labels because marketing people like to know where to slot books to optimize purchases. “Okay, if the heroine is single and in her 20s or 30s, loves to shop, and isn’t ready to settle down, let’s call that chick lit. We’ll do the covers in fun colors with sexy half body shots. That way young single women can buy the books that reflect their lives and experiences.”

When I was in my 20s and 30s I was in college reading the classics, not chick lit. (I’m old, so the label had not been invented yet.) In my 40s, married with children and settled, I became senior chick lit reviewer for the trade magazine RT Book Club. I loved chick lit then, and I love it still. The variety of “chick lit” stories I read, from one about a homeless DJ to another about a newly-divorced and pregnant forty-something, convinced me chick lit was simply fiction for people, probably women, since we buy most of the fiction out there, who like to read novels.

Ditto for women’s fiction. These stories are not all female life or death medical dramas or how to go on after a husband’s betrayal. They don’t always include knitting. Women’s fiction can be funny and chick lit can be serious. Each is often both, all in one story. Many women take exception to the term “women’s fiction” and I don’t blame them. There is no equivalent “men’s fiction” so it’s just another way to put women in their place, behind the male writers.

Truth is, men write romance. They just kill the heroine at the end and everyone says how sensitive and romantic these authors are. Men write “women’s” fiction too. If it’s not sci-fi, fantasy, thriller, or mystery, marketing just calls it “contemporary fiction.” That’s what I write. Contemporary fiction. Suitable for both sexes. And if my publisher wants to call it women’s fiction, I am happy to let them do so, since, as I said, most novel readers are women.