Galloping Toward the Finish Line

jumping-kSome of you might notice I haven’t been around much lately. I apologize, and want you to know I haven’t forgotten you–I’m just behind on my emails with a lot of catching up to do.

What have I been doing?

Well, I’ve been deep in edits on my upcoming Christmas story called Holiday House Swap. I’m so excited about this one, guys! It’s a fun little story about opposites attract when circumstances throw an in-the-closet writer and a forcibly retired Air Force major into frivolous circumstances. This one’s a feel-good story for the holidays, and should be out from Dreamspinner Press in December.

I’m also working like madย  on the next story–which I *must* finish before the first of the year: the next (and final) installment of The Sixth Sense series. I’m thrilled to announce that the entire series is getting a new look with new covers because I’m releasing an expanded version of the first story, Unspeakable Words! That’s right, Unspeakable Words will be coming out soon with extended scenes and the sorts of details everyone’s been begging for! I can’t tell you how pleased I am to be able to share this information with you!

Fool'sGold-400x600I’m also running a sale on Fool’s Gold soon (as soon as I can set it up). I’ll be offering an epilogue to the story–but it will be available only to those who sign up for my newsletter. I’ll make an additional announcement when I get that in place too! Which reminds me–Fool’s Gold is up for Book of the Week at Love Bytes Reviews! I know it doesn’t stand a chance of winning (I’ve seen the competition and it’s fierce!) but if you’d like to vote for it, the poll is at the link in this paragraph.

And I almost forgot! My monthly blog post is up at Author’s Speak at Rainbow Gate, where I discuss the dangers of comparing yourself to others. This doesn’t apply just to writing–the advice is applicable to everyone! Do drop in, check it out, and tell me what you think.

And work just called me in early… Whew! No wonder I’m distracted and am behind on my correspondence! I promise I’ll catch up soon, though!

More on KU , a Rafflecopter, and the upcoming release of Fool’s Gold!

Today I’m over at at Authors Speak at Rainbow Gate talking about my ongoing internal debate about whether or not to give KU a chance with my upcoming release of Fool’s Gold. I’ve posted about this before, but I have gathered new information since then, and guess what? It hasn’t made the decision any easier.

dangerI think what it’s going to come down to is doing it on a trial basis and seeing how it compares to the kinds of sales I’d expect otherwise. I mean, I won’t really know unless I try it myself, right? But if you’re also sitting on the KU fence, you’d be wise to read my cautionary tales in the Authors Speak post! Heck, even if you’re not sitting on the fence–if you have stories in KU, you’d better keep an eye on things!

In other news, we’re holding a Rafflecopter giveaway for those who sign up to follow the Authors Speak blog! Check out this post to participate and find out what you could win!

On the home front, I’m pleased to say by this time next month I’ll be attending Writer’s Police Academy! To say I’m looking forward to this is a bit of an understatement. I don’t get to travel much, so I’m looking forward to being in a different venue, but oh! The fun I will have! In addition to the regular seminars, I won lotteries to courses on ballistics and death scene investigations. I’m so excited! The hard part is going to be choosing between seminars held at the same time. I’m also looking forward to using the knowledge gained in upcoming stories, so be prepared for some gritty action in my future romances. ๐Ÿ™‚

I’m also pleased to announce that Unspeakable Words is getting a makeover, with additional scenes that will expand it into a full-length novel! Unspeakable Words is the first major story I ever had published, and this revision is something I’ve wanted to do for a while now. It only makes sense to have all the stories in the Sixth Sense series in the same format, and it had always bugged me just a little that UW was only a novella while the other stories were novels. So yay for Dreamspinner to allow me to publish a second addition! Hopefully it will be out by March of 2017.

I’m also pleased to announce Dreamspinner has picked up my Christmas-themed story called Holiday House Swap! When a reclusive writer on a tight deadline trades homes for the holidays in order to get fresh perspective, the last thing he expects to find is the actual owner in residence. Misinformation, misapprehensions, and general hi-jinks ensue. It’s one of my favorite tropes–the home for the holidays story. I think you’ll find it loads of fun. ๐Ÿ™‚ Tentative release planned for December 2016.

But before both of those, I’ll be releasing my sport horse story, Fool’s Gold. It’s being formatted now, and I hope to have it available within the next few weeks–I’m timing it for the 2016 Summer Games, as it has an Olympic storyline. There will be a book tour soon, and I’ll be posting some excerpts as well. This story has a lot of personal meaning to me, as I used to event myself before I had to retire my mare from competition due to arthritis.

Fool'sGold-400x600Blurb:ย Eight years ago, Jake Stanford had it all: a spot on the U.S. Olympic Equestrian Team and the love of his life, Rich Evans. A tragic accident wipes out everything in the blink of an eye. Hard work and sacrifice get him another shot at Olympic Gold, but only if he puts his past behind him and agrees to work with Rich again.

Bound by secrets he cannot share, Rich was forced to give up Jake eight years ago. Now he has a second chance to help Jake realize his dreams. But the secrets that drove them apart havenโ€™t changed, and Rich must face them or risk losing Jake forever.

 

So that’s all the news in Lake Wobegone for the moment. ๐Ÿ™‚ Stay tuned for updates as they become available. ๐Ÿ™‚

 

 

 

 

 

Walk a Mile is a finalist in the Rainbow Awards–and on sale!

WalkAMileGreat Scott! You could have knocked me over with a feather this morning when I received the email that Walk a Mile (Sixth Sense series Book 2) was a finalist in the 2015 Rainbow Awards! Believe me, I was tickled when it received an Honorable Mention, but I didn’t think it would progress any further in the awards than that. I almost didn’t even enter the awards this year because I wasn’t certain I had a worthy contender that qualified. I decided to enter in the end because all the proceeds go to charity, which just goes to show that we aren’t necessarily the best judge of our own material. ๐Ÿ™‚

 

The awards are being announced tonight, and though I have no real hopes of winning–this is one of those situations in which it truly is an honor to be on the same list with such great stories–I can’t help but keep refreshing the page. However, the moderator is taking a break for a couple of hours and I’ve decided to just go to bed and see what the results are in the morning. ๐Ÿ™‚ My congratulations go out to all the winners named thus far and the ones that will be announced shortly. Update: Walk a Mile came in 7th in the gay paranormal romance division–a delightful achievement–my thanks to everyone involved in the Rainbow Awards, and congratulations to the winners! A special thanks to the organizers of the awards, and the volunteers who helped make it possible. This year over $17,000 was raised for charity, donating to GLBTQ organizations!

The Boys of Summer400x600I’m also looking forward to the re-release of The Boys of Summer through Dreamspinner Press two weeks from today! This story is very dear to my heart and I hope that many new readers will discover it through DSP. There will be a book tour in January, with a chance to win an e-copy of this combination contemporary/WW2 historical story.

As part of K-lee Klein‘s 31 Days of Gratitude, I’ll be sharing with you a post about my own experimentation in practicing gratitude on a daily basis–and giving you another chance to win an e-copy of The Boys of Summer, as my post will go live Dec 21.

I’ll also be doing a Twitter Takeover of the Dreamspinner Twitter account on Dec 22, from 7-9 pm EST, so if you want to join me and chat about the upcoming Star Wars and Marvel Universe movies, hot pilots and the men who love them, what I’m working on next and where you might be able to meet up with me in person in 2016, then come join in the fun! There will be links to free stories, pics of hot heroes, and a good time will be had by all.

It’s not too late to go vote for your favorite author and stories in the 2015 Divine Magazine Awards. You might find my name there in a few places… *cough-cough* ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ll also be taking part in Divine Magazine’s 12 Days of Christmas event, in which guest authors will be posting about what Christmas means to them, as well as offering terrific prizes in a Rafflecopter. Be sure to check it out! Among other things, I’ll be giving out the recipe for my ‘famous’ sausage balls. ๐Ÿ™‚

UndertheMistletoe_DSPsiteAnd before I sign off the for the night, I must tell you that Dreamspinner Press is holding a 25% off sale on the entire story from Dec 8-11–which means you can grab any of my stories for a great price! Do check it out!

What are you waiting for? Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or whatever holiday you celebrate at this time! ๐Ÿ™‚

Today only: Unspeakable Words is free!

UnspeakableWordscoverWhat a whirlwind the last few weeks it has been! It seems like only a few days ago, I was saying, “Halloween already?” and now Thanksgiving has come and gone.

I have more to say on gratitude later, but I had to take a moment to get the word out: for today only, Unspeakable Words (Sixth Sense series Book 1) is FREE. That’s right, free! Snag a copyfree-sign from Dreamspinner Press until midnight tonight, EST. Even better, you can get the entire Sixth Sense series on sale until 11/30! Wait, not only the entire Sixth Sense series, but ALL my books are on sale! I know, right? That’s because Dreamspinner is having a 35% off saleย  on the entire store until 11/30.15. In fact, you can even pre-order The Boys of Summer at the sale price (release date 12/21/15). So what are you waiting for? Go, shop, enjoy!

Have the Guts to Gut Your Story

frustrated-writerWell, it’s November, which means almost everyone I know is doing NaNoWrMo–the challenge to write a 50 K novel in 30 days. At least, it seems that everyone I know is doing it, based on the way my social media is exploding with word counts and updates, as well as posts on NaNo. Not me. I applaud anyone who does NaNo, I love the idea of having that network of support pushing you to write some every day. It *is* the best way to complete a story. But it doesn’t work for me. I don’t mean the part about working on your story a little bit every day–that is good advice and the best way I know to stay connected–and committed–to the story at hand. No, for me, the hard part about NaNo is the stricture that you not go back and self-edit, that you move ahead with the story as written each day. No massaging of text or tweaking the previously written material.

This is so much the antithesis of how I write that the one and only time I attempted NaNo, it sent me in to my first (and worst) case of writer’s block. NOT the intention of the challenge, I suspect. For me there’s a fine balance between moving forward and making sure your story has a strong enough foundation to support it.

Siege_of_Peking,_Boxer_RebellionThat’s the problem I’m having with my current WIP. I’m a good enough carpenter to know when something is off-kilter and out of balance, and yet I’ve been struggling for the better part of the last six months to make this story work as written because Jeez Louise, it’s sitting at 45 K, which means it’s halfway done. To stop now and have to go back to pull down walls because the floor isn’t level? Argh! Surely that can be overlooked, right? No one will notice. To say I’m at the halfway point is arbitrary anyway. There’s no set story-length. All those ‘rules’ of story-telling were created by the publishing industry in order to create a cost-effective and marketable printed book. All bets are off in the digital era, right? I don’t need your stinkin’ rules!

Um, no. It doesn’t quite work that way. In fact, the reason I’ve been struggling with this story for so long now is I can feel that the balance is off. I know in my gut that it’s wrong and I can’t keep forging ahead in the hope that it will somehow come out right in the end. In fact, the further out you go from a crooked starting point, the worse the deviation from the correct path becomes. And the last thing I want to do is pull down an entire house because there’s a serious crack in the foundation. Much better to solve the problem now, even if it means gutting a good bit of the existing work.

Yeah. Because I’m looking at having to cut about 15 K of extraneous story to get back to the structure of the thing and make it right. And ouch. That hurts. It hurts because some of those scenes are fun, and we all need fun in our lives. It hurts because we’ve been trained to think of word counts as the ultimate sign of a day’s progress, and yikes–this is like back-tracking several weeks for me.

But word counts are NOT the end-all and be-all of writing. To strain the metaphor further, at the end of the construction, what we want is a solid, sturdily-built house that will hold up for the next thirty or forty years–longer if we’re really lucky. And while the ‘rules’ of storytelling should be somewhat fluid, in that we shouldn’t wed ourselves to formulaic guidelines simply because that’s how it has always been done, most of us recognize when a story is off-balance. We know it because we read a LOT and we know what feels right. We know the difference between good storytelling and bad. You shouldn’t ignore that inner writer’s instinct that tells you when something isn’t working.

crumpleI’m not talking about that point in the story (and we all reach it) where you’re convinced you’re holding a sack of crap and nothing in the universe can transmute it into anything else. For me, that’s usually the 3/4 mark of any story, the point at which the writing becomes hard, when I’m certain I’m an idiot and there’s no hope for the story. No. I’m not talking about that. We need to learn our own writing cycles and when to ignore the routine run-of-the-mill crippling self-doubt. This is far more subtle. It’s sensing that an engine is running at less-than-optimum efficiency. It’s noticing that the floor is warped and things tend to roll to the right. It’s the certain knowledge that if you put a level to your story, the bubble wouldn’t be in the center.

A shoddy contractor would be tempted to hide this fact before it became apparent to everyone else. That’s a mistake. Because if it is apparent to you as the author, it sure as hell will be apparent to the reader. The longer you plug away at an inherently flawed story without fixing the underlying problem, the harder the edits will be too. And that, in a nutshell, is my problem with NaNo. Sometimes it’s smarter to stop what you’re doing and fix the problem before you cover it up with brilliant work that will only have to be torn down again. It’s easier to write a clean copy the first time than to repair a damaged one.

So don’t feel bad if NaNo is not for you. And don’t be afraid to follow your gut instincts and gut a story that isn’t working out. In the end, the revised story will be the better for your efforts. You’ll see.

In other news, Truth and Consequences was listed as an October Recommended Read by Prism Book Alliance, and there’s a giveaway going on at their page. Truth and Consequences has received stellar reviews from Rainbow Book Reviews and the Paranormal Romance Guild, among others, which just makes my heart sing.

Looking ahead to next month, The Boys of Summer will be re-released as a revised version Dec 21, so Merry Christmas to everyone!

 

Frenzied, Frazzled, but Still Having Fun: the Truth and Consequences Book Tour continues!

T&C spotlightI confess, I’ve fallen down on the job a bit here with the book tour… thankfully, the tour took a brief hiatus over the weekend, so perhaps I can catch up now!

Truth and Consequences is climbing the bestseller charts, and I’ve been delighted by its reception! Readers are emailing me, wanting to know more about the series and when they can expect the next installment–sadly, it will not be next week, as some people have hoped! ๐Ÿ™‚ What I can tell you is that there will be more from Jerry Lee and John–and yes, we will be dealing with the Grimm Fairy Tale killer at long last–as well as John’s nemesis, who possesses the same powers he does, only he uses them for evil.

I also have plans to write more in the Crying for the Moon universe–Nick and Peter are begging for their backstory, and Viktor is not yet done with Alex and Tate, either! I’ve also got a Regency in the works, as well as contemporary romance set in the exciting world of sport horses and eventing–and in December, I’ll be re-releasing a revised version of The Boys of Summer! Such happy-making plans. The only problem is finding the time to write.

Branch ManagerThis past weekend was a good example. I trapped, neutered, and vaccinated the feral tom that has been hanging around picking fights with the other porch cats. The heavy rains and early leaf fall produced a bumper crop of mushrooms in the yard–and I caught one of the dogs eating a toxic Aminita species, so I had to induce vomiting and administer activated charcoal. I’m trying to sell a house, deal with an insurance claim, cover barn duty for friends out of town dealing with their own family crises, field emergency calls, and put in a full day’s work. I might have been a bit cranky last night when I finally got home!

Still, I’d rather have tons of ideas and little time to write than all the time in the word but I stared a blinking cursor, not knowing what to say next! So be patient with me–I’m writing as fast as I can! Hopefully you’ll get new stories to read in a timely fashion. The very fact people are excited about the next one coming out just makes my day. You guys rock!

Here’s my tour schedule if you’d like to join in and check out the fun! Be sure to enter the giveaway too!

Tour Dates & Stops:

14-Oct: VWFOhMy!, The Blogger Girls, MM Good Book Reviews

15-Oct: Jessie G. Books, Divine Magazine, Lee Brazil

16-Oct: Iyana Jenna, Three Books Over The Rainbow, KathyMac Reviews

19-Oct: Kimi-Chan, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words

20-Oct: Wicked Faerieโ€™s Tales and Reviews, The Fuzzy, Fluffy World of Chris T. Kat, Emotion in Motion, Book Reviews, Rants, and Raves

21-Oct: Full Moon Dreaming, Happily Ever Chapter

22-Oct: The Hat Party, Bayou Book Junkie

23-Oct: Hearts on Fire, Love Bytes, My Fiction Nook

26-Oct: BFD Book Blog

27-Oct: Molly Lolly, Inked Rainbow Reads, Elisa โ€“ My Reviews and Ramblingsย 

Truth and Consequences by Sarah Madison: The Fun Continues!

T&C spotlightGood morning, everyone!

Truth and Consequences (Sixth Sense series book 3) was launched yesterday, and we embarked on our book tour!

Today, we have stops at Jessie G. Books, Divine Magazine, and a rather racy interview on Lee Brazil‘s site! Do drop by and find out more about Jerry Lee and John’s planned adventures–be sure to enter the giveaway too!

 

While you’re at it, check out the lovely review for Truth and Consequences at Divine Magazine as well!

For the full tour schedule, check out the fabulous list below!

Tour Dates & Stops:

14-Oct: VWFOhMy!, The Blogger Girls, MM Good Book Reviews

15-Oct: Jessie G. Books, Divine Magazine, Lee Brazil

16-Oct: Iyana Jenna, Three Books Over The Rainbow, KathyMac Reviews

19-Oct: Kimi-Chan, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words

20-Oct: Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews, The Fuzzy, Fluffy World of Chris T. Kat, Emotion in Motion, Book Reviews, Rants, and Raves

21-Oct: Full Moon Dreaming, Happily Ever Chapter

22-Oct: The Hat Party, Bayou Book Junkie

23-Oct: Hearts on Fire, Love Bytes, My Fiction Nook

26-Oct: BFD Book Blog

27-Oct: Molly Lolly, Inked Rainbow Reads, Elisa – My Reviews and Ramblingsย 

WillPride_1

 

Release Day and Book Tour for Truth and Consequences by Sarah Madison!

T&C bannerIf you can’t tell, I’m pretty excited right now. Today is the release day for Truth and Consequences (Sixth Sense series, Book 3) and the launch of a two week book tour! I don’t know about you, but it feels like I’ve been waiting forever for this book to be released! But the day is finally here, and I can’t wait to share this story with you!

Here is the schedule, if you’d like to join in the fun!

T&C Schedule

 

 

 

I’ve got three stops today: Vampires, Werewolves, and Fairies, Oh My!, The Blogger Girls, and MM Good Book Reviews! Drop by and leave a comment. I’ll be giving away a free copy of Unspeakable Words (or if you have that already, something from my backlist).

Here at last! Cover art and release date for Truth and Consequences!

I’m trying to be a decorous and professional author here, but I’m so excited!

TruthandConsequences2 - CopyJust this evening I got the cover art and a release date for Truth and Consequences, book 3 in the Sixth Sense series! OMG, Paul Richmond, the cover artist for the series, has really outdone himself this time–and that’s saying something! This has to be my favorite cover out of the series,ย  and I’ve loved each of them in turn. ๐Ÿ™‚ Isn’t it gorgeous?

Truth and Consequences will be available from Dreamspinner Press October 14, 2015. I’m so thrilled to be able to bring you this next installment in the Sixth Sense series, which promises to answer some long-standing questions while raising some more. ๐Ÿ™‚

Blurb: When FBI agent Jerry Lee Parker wakes from a coma after a murderous attack on his life, he has no memory of his immediate past. In the blink of an eye, he has gone from having a nearly photographic memory to recalling nothing of the last six months of his life, including his partner and lover, John Flynn. While Lee tries to reboot his past and reconnect with John, there are events at play around him he doesnโ€™t understand. John is keeping secrets from him, secrets which could get them both killed.

Matters come to a head when Lee is hounded to turn over a mysterious artifact, of which he has no knowledge. The two men wind up in a fight for their lives as they risk everything to keep the powerful relic out of the hands of a ruthless killer. In order to protect those he loves, however, John may be forced to make a deal with the devil.

I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to this release! It’s going to be a wild ride! ๐Ÿ™‚

Ten Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me As a Newbie Author

dangerThe other day I stumbled across a great Facebook thread in which a new author asked for advice: she wanted to know what kinds of newbie mistakes to avoid as a first-time author.

True to form, the writing community, including myself, chimed in with a number of excellent points. Afterward, it dawned on me this would make an awesome blog post, and here we are.

I’m going to give you my bits of ‘I wish someone had told me’ advice, mixed in with some of the best snippets I gleaned from my Facebook friends when asked the same.

In no particular order:

1. Google your pen name before you start using it. Yeah, I wish I’d done this. Because there’s Sarah Madison the actress, and Sarah Madison the cardiovascular surgeon, and Sarah Madison the published historian, and if you are looking for any of them and you get me instead, yikes! On the other hand, I like to think of someone enjoying one of my stories while recovering from cardiovascular surgery… Seriously, though. Google your pen name. You really don’t want the same pen name as a serial killer. Also, be careful of having a ‘unique’ spelling. If people can’t remember how to spell your name, they aren’t likely to find you on a web search. It’s easy. It takes less than thirty seconds, for Pete’s sake. Just do it. You won’t regret it.

Whether or not you need a pen name is another discussion altogether. I personally think if you write in wildly divergent genres, such as ‘sweet’ Christian romances and dinosaur porn, you’d better have two pen names. But that’s just me.

2. Platform and promotion. Yes, you have to have it. No, no one likes promoting themselves, but it is a necessary evil. As author K-lee Klein points out, “Writing is the good part, but be prepared to WORK for the book when it’s done.”

In order for promotion to work, however, you already have to have a platform and internet presence in place. A website (more on that later), Facebook page, and Twitter account are probably considered the bare minimums, but most writers have pages on Pinterest, Tumblr, Goodreads, Amazon, Instagram, G+… well, you name it. Many writers have pages on sites geared toward their genre, too. It’s a lot to keep up with. My rules for platform and social media: pick the two or three sites where you are the most comfortable and spend time there. If a site makes you unhappy, you won’t be your best there. Learn how to cross post from your main sites to other sites. I rarely spend time on Goodreads or Tumblr–they just aren’t my kind of places, but other people hang out there, so when I post a blog entry like this, I make sure it automatically cross posts to those other media platforms.

Worry less about your ‘brand’ย  when starting out. Be friendly. Share other people’s announcements. Interact with people in a manner that does not always center around your books or writing. For heaven’s sake DO NOT auto-post tweets or private message people with BUY MY BOOK spiels within seconds of them friending or following you.

glasses-booksThere are some great books on social media out there. I happen to like Kristen Lamb’s We Are Not Alone:The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. I might not agree with everything Ms. Lamb says (she is very much against pen names, for example) but she has some good points to make. One of which is that your name should be easy to find–it should be part of your website, your Twitter name, etc. Having a cute Twitter handle might be fun, but what if no one remembers that @AwesomeWombat is really Sarah Madison? Don’t make it hard for your readers to find you.

3. Websites: Your website is your home base. It is going to be the main way readers find you. Make it easy for them! You have roughly two seconds to make a good first impression when people land on your page. If your site is too hard to navigate, too difficult to read, has too many moving gifs or images that roll by too rapidly to read, you’ve lost a perspective reader right there. They will move on to the next site, to look for some other author whose home page doesn’t make their eyes bleed. Whether you have a static home page or not is up to you. But the most important thing is that your site is crisp, clear, and easy to navigate. Your social media links should all be in one place. Your backlist and buy links should be easy to find. You should update your blog on a regular basis. If you have a newsletter or a way for readers to follow your blog, it should be easy to find and sign up. Two seconds. Otherwise, your viewer will click away.

4. Reviews: if I had put these in any kind of order, reviews probably should have gone at the top. EVERYONE had a lot to say about reviews. For the most part, I tend not to read my reviews unless I’ve been sent the link from a trusted review site or a friend has discovered a glowing review and they want to share it with me. Everyone gets bad reviews. Don’t believe me? Look up your all-time favorite book. I guarantee that you will find someone who utterly loathed it and flamed it royally in their review. Any time I stumble upon a review I wish I hadn’t seen, I perform this very task and it is amazing how therapeutic it is. Because if someone can hate the book you adore, then it puts things in perspective for you. Over and over again, people gave DON’T ENGAGE A NEGATIVE REVIEW as their number one advice. Just.ย  Don’t. The author *always* comes out looking like the bad guy here, and nothing will alienate fans faster. Jay Northcote puts it this way, “Never respond to bad reviews. EVER. And don’t bitch about them in a public forum or it’s likely to bite you on the arse. If you need to vent (and if you look at your negative reviews, you will), do it in a safe/private place to someone you trust.Sue Holston says don’t even read your reviews, and I can understand that viewpoint as well.

There are some people who’d suggest not responding to any review on Goodreads, as it is a site primarily for readers, not authors. I know many authors who interact with their fans quite happily on Goodreads, but I confess, it feels like an abandoned mine field to me. One false step and BOOM. But that’s just me.

The point is, don’t let one bad review negate the twenty good ones you’ve received. Don’t let a ‘meh’ review derail you from your planned story arc, or shut down your writing mojo. Cooper West quotes Churchill, saying, “When you’re going through hell, keep on going”, which is a pretty good life lesson in general. Margarita Gakis advises the same, but urges even more to simply write. She says, “My advice is keep writing. Keep writing when it sucks and when you get a bad review and when you’re not sure if this is for you. Because as long as you’re writing you’re getting better. It’s like learning any skill and the more you do it the better you’ll be.”

And then there is the classic post regarding reviews from the imitable Amy Lane: The Five Stages of a Bad Review. Read it. You’ll be glad you did.

5. Beta readers versus Editors (and what they bring to the table): first of all, these people are invaluable to you as a writer. As Kaje Harper said, “Beta readers and editors are in partnership with you to make the story the best it can be. Every error they catch, every change they suggest, is not an insult to your talents or story, or a sign of failure, but one more thing that will be better when actual readers buy your book. Welcome the red ink, don’t fear it or be insulted by it. At the same time, remember it is YOUR story. You can tell an editor they are wrong, if you truly believe that. They are human and fallible and sometimes your vision has to be the one that carries the day.

I think this is very important on many levels. As authors, particularly new authors, we have to be willing to accept the input of others, especially if we keep getting similar feedback from multiple sources: that’s your biggest indication something is wrong with your story or your writing style and it needs fixing. At the same time, it can be difficult not to let a strong-minded person take on more credit for the shaping of your story than they really deserve–or should have. Beta readers are not editors, either. Yes, they will catch typos, but their primary function is to tell you if the story is working or not. Different people catch different things, so I think it is very important to have more than one beta reader. But my main reason for having multiple readers is two-fold: not only do you not want to overwhelm a single person if you are a prolific writer, but it is much harder for someone to claim a larger share of the credit when there is more than one person involved. A beta reader who claims to ‘make or break’ you is like someone who helped you set the table expecting credit for cooking the banquet as well. A good beta reader is worth their weight in gold. They will help you produce the cleanest copy possible for submission to a publisher. They are cheerleaders and problem-spotters. But once the story moves on to editing, their role is usually done. Beta-readers are often friends, which can make it very painful to sever the relationship if it is no longer working for you. But if your beta-reader is acting like a gatekeeper between you and publishing, it is definitely time to end the relationship.

pen and paperEditors will clean up and tighten your prose, point out that you have used the same phrase thirty-seven times, correct your somewhat loose interpretation of the Chicago Manual of Style, and identify where things need to be explained in greater detail or a weak plot point that needs fixing. But they should not be altering your style to match their own. It is your story. They are polishing the finish on the sports car, not re-building the engine.

Kaje Harper and Becky Black also wanted me to point out the difference between rejection and ‘revise and re-submit’. Getting a revise and re-submit request is a good thing. It means the publisher sees promise in your story, but that it is still a bit rough around the edges. Don’t let an R&R crush you! It’s actually quite hopeful. ๐Ÿ™‚

6. Don’t game the system: I mean, seriously. There’s a big difference between recognizing and taking advantage of market trends (something I’m not very good at, but I know people who are) and writing simply to make a buck. Face it, if you want to make money, there areย  far easier ways of doing so. By gaming the system, I mean deciding you’re going to write serials, or short cliffhangers, or dinosaur porn, filling Kindle Unlimited with them because hey, you can churn those babies out to match the current best deal Amazon offers, and the instant the algorithm changes, so does your storytelling. Look, I have nothing against dino porn, but if you want to write it, do so because you enjoy it, okay? And no sockpuppets singing your praises or slinging mud at the competition. No buying reviews. I really shouldn’t have to say this, right? Pricing your story so that it sells well, or making the first book in a series free? That’s not gaming the system. Buying your way onto the bestseller lists is.

The best way to make writing pay for you? Write. Write a lot. Be working on your next story while you are launching your previous one and be thinking about the next one, too. Readers are like stray cats. If you feed them, they will come.

Most of us go through a post-story blues, where it is hard to move on to the next project. Get over yourself. I once sat down and figured out that it took me nearly a year from the time I conceived of a story idea, to writing it, to submitting it, to having it published before I saw royalties trickle in. Which means that for writing to pay the bills, I have to have a new story coming out at minimum every quarter. Which brings me to the next point…

7. Don’t quit your day job. Seriously. Writing a runaway bestseller like 50 Shades of Grey is like winning the lottery. It rarely happens, and certainly not to you and me. The rest of us have to slog out a minimum of something on the order of 60-80K words every 2-3 months in order to even hope of quitting the day job. I don’t know about you, but putting that kind of pressure on myself really puts a damper on my writing mojo. Writing is something I do that makes me happy in order to make other people happy.ย  But I don’t ever want to look back on my life twenty years from now and wish I’d spent more time walking the dog or hanging out with my boyfriend. And I don’t want to take something I love and turn it into something I hate because I can’t turn out a completed product I can take pride in.

But hey, maybe you can be incredibly prolific while still working a full-time job. Or maybe you’re currently jobless, and now is the sink or swim moment. It is possible to make a living as a writer. Just expect to work hard, write a lot, make a lot of personal sacrifices regarding how you spend your time, and don’t expect Hollywood to come knocking at your door with a movie deal in hand. It means writing when you don’t feel like it. It means there is no such thing as ‘your muse’, only the need to put words to paper because that’s your job.

Though this doesn’t quite fit in here, Felice Stevens had a nice bit to share about the “Rules” of writing: Don’t listen when someone tells you the “Rules” on how to write. Don’t listen when people tell you if you write fast, it’s junk, if you write slow you’ll lose your base. Find your voice and don’t try to be some one else.”

Which is just plain, good common sense. You’re going to hear a lot about how to be successful as an author. But by trying to please everyone, you’ll wind up pleasing no one. You don’t really need a ton of fans, anyway. You need a thousand die-hard fans that will buy everything you write and tell all their friends about you too.

pirate8. Piracy: it happens. There is no use giving yourself ulcers about it. Don’t try counting up the money in lost revenue it represents, either. It will only make you cry. Some people don’t fight it. Personally, I do. Piracy means the difference between my paying the mortgage some months, or whether I have to wait another year to replace the glasses with the $400 lenses. Piracy is the difference between having to choose between dental work or going to a writer’s convention. Don’t just bitch about it, though. Every couple of weeks, do a search of your name and book titles (I find that Google Alerts tends not to pick up many illegal downloads–it’s better for notifying you of reviews). If you have a publisher, report it to them–they are losing money as well. Draft DMCA and takedown notices to send to pirate sites. Make sure that people know that many of these sites are just phishing to steal credit card information. In my case, my stories frequently show up on torrents (someone seems to keep uploading a bundle of four of my stories–it’s infuriating to see the same bundle appear again and again…). Appealing to the torrent is usually futile, but you can report the link to Google, which will block it in a title search on their browser. Given that almost everyone uses Google, having them block the illegal site in a search is a good thing. Searching the internet and preparing takedown notices is time-consuming and frustrating, but I do it. Sure, I realize that the vast majority of people downloading illegal copies would never buy from me in the first place. That doesn’t mean I have to make it easy for them to pick my pocket.

NotMyMonkeys-FB9. Don’t ever diss another author. That’s just plain stupid. Unless you are among unimpeachable friends that you trust with your whole heart, giving a frank opinion of someone’s work or personality is fraught with the potential to have your words come back and bite you in the ass. Keep it to yourself, even if you feel completely justified, or if someone approaches you, encouraging you to vent. Be a professional and keep your mouth shut and your fingers off the keyboard. That applies in general to most internet kerfuffles and dramas. Remember the great proverb: Not my circus, not my monkeys. This is a corollary to not responding to negative reviews. People talk. And if you malign someone’s writing or themselves as a person, the chances are it will get back to them.

On the other hand, sometimes it is impossible not to have someone get angry with you through no fault of your own. Apologize for inadvertently upsetting them, try to correct or prevent the circumstances that led to the misunderstanding, but if they won’t grow up and get over it, let it go. Don’t talk about it, however. Be the bigger person here. Apologize, move on, and never refer to it again. If they keep bringing it up in the face of your silence, they wind up looking petty and small for holding grudges.

10. And last but not least: write what makes you happy. Don’t write to market pressures. If you have no interest in the latest fad, your lack of enthusiasm will show. If you want to write about chefs, or the horse-racing industry, or US Marines, or WW2 flying aces, or dragons, you can. Just make sure you’ve done your homework, or in the case of fantasy, you’ve created a world with believable rules that make sense. Don’t worry about finding an audience. Chances are if you love what you’re writing, others will too. And they are the readers that count the most.

As for me, right now, I’m deep in the throes of edits for Truth and Consequences, book 3 in the award-winning Sixth Sense series from Dreamspinner Press, hopefully to be released this fall! If you’ve been waiting to find out what happens to Flynn and Jerry next, you’re in for some major surprises! Next month, I’ll be attending Rainbow Con in Tampa, FL–do look me up if you’re attending the convention. ๐Ÿ™‚ More on that as we get closer to the date.