Beneath an idyllic veneer of Southern country charm, the town of Newberry hides secrets that may have led to murder.
When a local landowner’s body, with pants down, is found near Tarleton’s Tea Table Rock—a notorious rendezvous spot, federal investigator Carolina Slade senses a chance to get back into the field again. Just as she discovers what might be a nasty pattern of fraud and blackmail, her petty boss reassigns her fledgling case to her close friend and least qualified person in their office.
Forced to coach an investigation from the sidelines, Slade struggles with the twin demons of professional jealousy and unplanned pregnancy. Something is rotten in Newberry. Her personal life is spiraling out of control. She can’t protect her co-worker. And Wayne Largo complicates everything when the feds step in after it becomes clear that Slade is right.
One wrong move, and Slade may lose everything. Yet it’s practically out of her hands . . . unless she finds a way to take this case back without getting killed. Available at Amazon and other book outlets.
Finding the Balance as a Writer
I once sat on a panel with two ridiculously well-known authors – one indie and the other traditional – and the subject of commitment came around from the audience.
“What does it take?” someone asked, in other words, meaning, “How can we be like y’all?”
The literary author never really answered it other than saying read a lot, write a lot, it happens if you work hard. He taught creative writing at a university.
The six-figure indie author said she breathed her work 24/7, and from what I know of her, she does. She was incessantly hungry for achievement.
However, I never heard from either of them what made them tick outside of writing.
I have family, raise chickens and garden, adore my dachshunds, and thoroughly love a husband whom I cherish spending time with. And I told that to the room. Yeah, there was applause.
I added that any writer has to find that balance and choose how they’d love to see themselves a few years from now, on their own terms. Reality is we juggle lots of balls.
Add to that these days we’re deluged by success stories, making us feel negligent that we aren’t achieving more. What is supposed to be motivational instead plants negativity until we sense we aren’t meant to be as successful as others.
The key is to clearly define what matters most and hold up a stop-sign palm to the rest.
Live life on your terms rather than on what celebrities and experts tell us worked for them. Yet we still feel compelled to ask others how they do it. I’m often asked how I do what I do as editor of FundsforWriters, freelancer, daily social media player, blogger, speaker, and novelist. My newest release is Newberry Sin, my eighth mystery, and yes, I’m busy, but I still know how to say no….and when to say yes. The key is to focus on priorities.
I have weekly deadlines with FundsforWriters, a newsletter that reaches 35,000 readers each and every Friday. It’s a hard commitment. In 19 years, I’ve missed two Fridays. That’s over 900 newsletter deadlines. Since FFW is a major cog in my writing machine, that deadline is key, and I make sure family and friends appreciate that. My husband knows to ask if the newsletters are out on Fridays before he makes other plans for us. Of course, if he were in an accident, he’d take priority. Otherwise, the newsletters must go out.
I usually have one or two books under contract with my publisher. Those stepping-stone dates are clearly defined on my calendar. If those deadlines are looming, I refuse all else that isn’t an emergency.
Marry your priorities.
Warren Buffett states that you must marry your priorities, and he limits those to five. He actually suggests you list your top 20 goals, then narrow them down to five . . . and avoid the other fifteen at all costs. Those five top items comprise your devoted focus. It isn’t easy and it isn’t an either/or all the time.
For instance, my five items are: my husband, my health, my family, my writing, and my nature/outdoors. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t fulfill my obligations to all five. Anything else is in my way, or I tend to them once my other obligations are met.
For instance, my house is scrubbed only when someone comes over. I go on vacation if all else is in order. And my friends and family know that my love of writing and the other four items are what make me who I am.
How to keep up with those priorities.
For me, planning takes a weekly desk calendar, a plain notebook, and, a smart phone calendar (to keep the family informed). I’ve turned down speaking engagements, conferences, parties, and weddings if they conflicted with deadlines. After all, you are married to these goals.
At the beginning of each year, and revisited often, I note benchmarks for what I hope to accomplish or items that are non-negotiable. With family, it’s birthdays. With the nature, it’s planting and harvesting time. With hubby, it’s daily dinner, our anniversary, and the hour at the gym. With my writing, it’s the deadlines. I live for deadlines, and create one if someone doesn’t create it for me, because without a date attached to a goal, it’s a vague thought that may never come to fruition.
The writing notebook is a catch-all for thoughts, brainstorming, and daily goals in greater detail than on a calendar. My calendar is a week-at-a-glance, and at the end of the year, it becomes a part of my income taxes to include travel, purchases, and yes, the deadlines.
If you miss a deadline, note it on the calendar. It’s a motivator to not miss it.
You don’t have to become a hermit.
Know what direction you are going instead of waking each day without defined purpose. Of course you have days off. Of course you build in a day of rest. But having missions and goals give more substance to your dreams. And the more organized you are, the more you accomplish, and the more efficient you become at reaching more dreams. The planning makes you seem oh so shrewd and wise.
C. Hope Clark’s latest release is Newberry Sin, the fourth in the Carolina Slade Mysteries. Hope is author of eight mysteries and founder of Funds for Writers, a website chosen by Writer’s Digest for its 101 Best Websites for Writers for 17 years. To learn more about Hope you can visit her website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
This book changed me
When I first heard about Be the Gateway I was immediately interested. I have always believed that promoting your books or artistic work should be more organic than I had seen others doing. And many of the ‘best practices’ in book promotion turned me off. It seemed too cold and distant to me. And counter intuitive to what we’re all trying to do, which is share our art with the world.
And yet this book is so hard to describe. It’s part philosophy, part advice, part brain-stormer. The basic concept is that when you make connections with individuals, one on one, and one by one (rather than some nebulous generality known as audience) that you will bring people through the gateway of your artistic work. And that generosity, empathy, and real connections trump all.
Frankly, I agree.
Dan has many steps that he suggests you take in achieving this and frankly there were times in reading them, I was completely overwhelmed just wondering how I would do these things. But I kept reading feeling that if I got one or two things that I could do to get my work into the hands of those it was meant for, that it would be worth it. I’m glad I did.
Something wonderfully strange happened as I kept reading the book. New opportunities just magically appeared. New peers, colleagues, friendships – so many things. Very subtle in some ways and very big in others. It was almost like magic. Then it dawned on me that those opportunities were actually always there – but until I read Dan’s book I didn’t see them. And I realized that I had slowly shifted my view from what it was before to Dan’s gateway view, without even realizing it.
I honestly don’t know if I could possibly do everything that he suggests in the book but I do know that I understand more about myself, my artistic work, and those I want to share it with so much more than I did before the book.
I know there are bagillions of books telling us the best way to promote (and I think I’ve read about a million of them) our work – but I think you would be changed in a good way if you read this book. I highly recommend it, if only to find a deeper connection with yourself and your work.
Did I just hear a mass wince? Yup, I’m sure I did, or maybe it was just me. Writing a novel is nothing compared to having to then market it. From the ‘deer in the headlights syndrome’ of just not having a clue – to the ‘it just makes me feel so icky to self promote’ whiners, none of us seem to like marketing very much. But if you’re in it for the long haul and have any hope of making it as an author, marketing is something in which you must become proficient.
Following are links to some kick-ass articles about book marketing. If you have a book you need to market, you need to read these posts.
Can You Promote a Book without Making Yourself Miserable? Jane Friedman gives us some decidedly authentic and down to earth advice about book marketing that may surprise you.
Standing Out on the Crowded Shelf—How to Help Your Fiction Find an Audience
Sage advice on what you can do to find your audience and get your books into the readers who want them.
Marketing Your Book on Social Media? How to Avoid Scams
Anne R. Allen warns about the the pitfalls of those feeding off authors with marketing scams.
A 12-Month Strategic Plan for Marketing Your Book before Release
CS Lakin writes a great nuts and bolts post about marketing your book, 12 months before release.
The 6 Most Common Marketing Mistakes Made by Authors
Another great post from Writer Unboxed about common marketing mistakes made by authors. No more excuses after you’ve read this.
In the meantime, I’ve managed to slog through week 2 of NaNo, clocking in a total of 34,993 words so far. I’m pretty sure I’ll meet the NaNo target of 50K – but that won’t produce a finished first draft. So, I’ll persist and hope I reach my target of 75K. The good news is that I have now developed some awesome callouses on my fingertips which makes the typing go a little faster.
Have a great week.
As noted in my last post, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, I relaunched my first book False Witness by offering the book for free. For years, I’ve read of the impact and effect that a free book/give-away can have and was itching to give it a test drive.
When the rights to my book reverted back to me, I felt it was the perfect opportunity to try out this whole free thang.
So this is what I did prior to the freebie weekend:
- Designed a new cover
- Wrote a new blurb
- Revised, edited and rewrote the book. The main problem with the original book was that there was a lot of head hopping between characters, which was probably a left over from my days of writing scripts. So the simple edit I expected to do turned into a major rewrite, while not changing the path of the story. It was a challenge and half the time I felt like Psycho Writer Girl, but when I came out the other side of it, I knew I’d made the right decision.
- Assigned new ISBN
- Did key word research
- Uploaded the new manuscript, cover and book blurb to Amazon
- Spent 2 days communicating with KDP about migrating my existing reviews to the new edition
- Scheduled the promo
- Created a promo email to my mailing list
- Created and scheduled a Face Book post
- Wrote and scheduled a post on my blog about the freebie
- Put together an excerpt (guest) post here
- Then we let her rip
It’s like a drug
I told myself that I would then go about my business and check the sales dashboard once or twice a day. Sorry, writers are just too obsessed to act that rationally. And yeah, I checked every ten minutes for the first day. It was like a drug, watching that stat graph go up, up, up. I just couldn’t do anything else. It was exhausting, but also very cool. By the next day I was able to only check every hour. By the last day I checked in a few times. Aside from seeing my graph going up the things that were cool:
- I hit page one for sub category ‘cozy mystery’ in US, UK, DE & AU
- I ranked #368 in the Free Kindle Store
So, the book was ‘visible’ for a few days. And that was very exciting.
Today I received an email from what appears to be a reputable book promotion site, asking me to do a promo deal with them. That’s a first. LOL. And I’ve decided to think of it as a win.
I’ve seen blog posts where writers talk about thousands of books being downloaded during free promotions, but I had no such expectations. Though I certainly would’ve been delighted had that happened, I tried to be realistic maybe even pessimistic in my expectations. So I was pleasantly surprised that nearly 1,000 books were downloaded.
I write this post not to brag but to possibly help other writers see what they might be able to expect when doing their first free promo. If there are any other developments that come from the free promo, I will update you.
How about you? Have you done a free promo with any of your books? How did it go? Were your expectation met? Were you surprised with the results or disappointed? Feel free to share your war stories in the comments.
There are times in our life when everything goes right. So magical is this sudden stroke of luck that it feels like fate, destiny, and kismet. It seems there is nothing we can do wrong. Things just flow.
This smooth sailing can make you feel like you’ve finally arrived. You know where you’re headed. The path is so obvious that there is no need to plan or analyze. No need to look and for the cause and effect. You just know that you’ve finally found that sweet spot and you will never lose it again.
And then one day it changes
At first you don’t believe it. You think it’s just a little hiccup. Things will go back to normal – that smooth, effortless place where everything lines up and you move forward, making tremendous headway.
Except that the hiccup turns into a cough and the cough then turns into car accident and then the next thing you know, you’re sitting by the side of the road wondering what the hell happened.
That obvious path eludes you. And you haven’t a clue what you should do next. You seriously wonder if you should change course. Go in a different direction. You can feel frantic, desperate, anxious, and utterly confused. The urge to change everything is overwhelming because you don’t want to be in this terrible place of not knowing.
And it is human nature to change because life around you changes. To believe you are making a mistake. That you were wrong. That all arrows point in a different direction and you should follow those arrows. Follow the pack, where it’s safer and easier. To panic and do what everyone else is doing. To listen to those older and wiser than you.
When in doubt, don’t panic
It may well be that you’ve missed something. You didn’t notice a change you made. You failed to spot the real cause and effect of something. You didn’t notice this or that. So instead of panicking and deciding to sign up for some thousand dollar course or pursuing some ‘secret’ trick to turn things around, step back.
Analyze the period when you were doing well:
What were you doing? If you go back to the time period when you were doing well, you can often see that you were doing specific things that contributed to the success. And you may also notice that some things you were doing, you stopped doing. For example, a business may send out a promo piece, which results in more business. In the hurry to deliver, they drop out the promotion because they couldn’t do both.
How did you do it? Did you change your approach? Perhaps you hit your production early in the day then when things starting going well you decided that you could slough off a little. Take a longer lunch. Not work at all on some days. Lower your standards in the interest of getting more done.
Who helped you? We rarely succeed without help. There are always people who offer support, back up, and help of one sort or another. Are those people still around? Did you decide you didn’t need them anymore? Fail to acknowledge their contribution? Have a spat?
What led up to the sudden upswing? Sudden improvement in your sales, production, or even your personal life may appear to be magical but it isn’t. As with anything worth having it requires a lot of work and attention to improve and keep going. The chances are you put in enormous effort in marketing, promotion, networking, communication and more to cause the upswing. Go back and figure what you did and do it again and more of it. Chances are you backslid on those actions.
Review your notes, stats, production. If you aren’t keeping notes, stats, journals or somehow documenting the actions you are taking you will not be able to analyze what you did right and what you did wrong. Keep a journal, stats, production notes, and files – whatever works for you that documents your actions. Otherwise, you will always feel like your future is left to chance.
While it may be true that we all have a path and purpose in life, it is the rare human who can always just know what to do next.
What about you? Did you ever feel like you were on an obvious path? Did the path suddenly disappear? Did you panic and change everything or did you stay the course? Let’s talk about it in the comments.
I saw this article posted by another writer in my Facebook feed yesterday. The title was compelling enough for me to click through to read the article. The article is short and you can read it for the specifics but the long and short of it is that writers are earning below the poverty level. Based on their survey. Which was conducted within their own membership and consisted of only 1400 participants.
Personally, I don’t put much stock in the results of this survey because:
- Given how many authors exist in this country alone 1400 participants is a very low sample
- They only surveyed their group members (it would be more accurate to say that within their own group, authors are earning below the poverty line, but that doesn’t make the news, does it?)
- We have to blindly accept that the data given by participants was true (not everybody tells the truth and particularly about finance).
- It seems to reinforce their position that Amazon (or some other villain) is causing writers to earn poorly.
- We do not have the raw data. Who did they ask? What career stage are the participants in? Beginning, end, middle? What were the questions? How were the questions couched? All of these things are important factors to consider
- How many indie authors participated? (there are thousands and I’m sure many of them would have been happy to add their data to the mix.)
Ironically, the Author’s Guild is involved in attempting to sue Amazon for anti-trust, claiming that their business practices are somehow oppressing writers or their ability to earn income. Since Amazon created the Kindle and the digital book revolution by offering writers of all stripes a level playing field the suit seems laughable. What other company has enabled so many writers to make a viable living? I’m not aware of any, but if you know, please advise.
This page from the Bureau of Labor Statistics from the U.S. government paints a very different picture. Something tells me the U.S. government probably has access to much more data, and a wider cross section of writers, than one writers group.
To me, this type of article serves only one purpose – to discourage authors. The message is, “you won’t make money so don’t bother.” And perhaps that would be good for a group who might want to knock out some of the competition. In fact, lately it seems I’ve seen several authors forward this type of information, which seems counter intuitive to me. If they agree with this then why are they bothering to write books and trying to sell/market them?
Perhaps I am naive or too optimistic but I believe that in large part you create your own destiny and outcome. Even if the above survey results were/are true it doesn’t mean that you can’t succeed, nor does it mean you should stop trying to succeed. And I think as writers/authors we should be encouraging one another not trying to discourage each other. Hey, I know that writing is a tough gig but so what? Does that mean I should just pack up my laptop and go sell shoes? I don’t think so.
What do you think? Does this type of article affect you? Does it discourage you or make you want to work harder? As authors, do you think we should focus more on encouraging each other? Feel free to tell us your views in the comments.
Newsflash — all self-published books suck. Don’t believe me? Then spend five minutes Googling the concept and you will get hundreds of articles from ‘experts’ who will prove to you that it’s the truth.
Okay, so I guess we should all just give up, run away with our tails tucked between our legs, and go start a McDonald’s franchise then?
I don’t know about you but I despise generalities. I hate broad, sweeping statements that dismiss an entire topic out of hand. So, in this here, uppity blog post I will attempt to address what seem to be the biggest complaints.
Complaints about self-pubbed books
While there seem to be as many complaints about self-pubbed books as Carter’s has little pills, let’s hit the highlights:
Not good quality. This I take to mean not as good as traditionally published books and people say this with a straight face too. As though the fact that a book was published by a traditional publisher makes the book good. I don’t know about you but I’ve read plenty of traditionally published books that were terrible. Where and how a book gets published does not guarantee good quality.
Unprofessional. By whose standards? If the readers complain, then so be it. You should probably listen and possibly unpublish the book if the response is really bad. Of course, it’s a given that you want to do everything you can to write the best story you’re able to write and if you have, then who gives a rat’s ass what your competitors say?
Glutting the market. This one really gets me. Because the market is for readers, not authors. So how can an endless supply of books be bad for the market? It can’t. Although it may be bad for authors and publishers who don’t like competition, I don’t think readers are too upset about it.
Poor formatting, not professionally edited, typos, bad layout, terrible covers – blah, blah, blah. Okay, again, so what? (And by the way, I’ve seen typos in traditionally published books too, so no one is immune. And don’t get me started on some of those ‘professional’ cheesy covers either.) And sure, I’ve seen this in indie books too but the market weeds these products out by refusing to buy.
And just as a side note – Hollywood spends billions of dollars a year producing one stinker after the next. Do you hear actors, producers, or screenwriters complaining? Nope. Instead they have awards. Yup, that’s right awards for the biggest stinkers of them all. That group knows how to close ranks and defend the fortress. Also many many of these really bad movies become cult favorites (Attack of the Killer Tomatoes ring a bell?) Who knows, even if your book sucks it could still gain popularity as a Raspberry of its own.
Anybody can publish – no standards. And who might be the gatekeepers in this little scenario? The traditional publishers? The critics? The trolls who travel review forums to trash the work of others? And again, that anyone can publish is good for writers and readers. A writer gets to test her mettle, possibly fail, and learn new tricks, or God forbid succeed – and readers get unfiltered, non-homogenous stories that they can’t get anywhere else. How is this a bad thing? Except possibly in terms of competition for those who’d prefer to thin the herd.
Indie authors are so pushy. Now I agree that manners and being polite in social discourse is a must – however, when an author approaches a reviewer or promotes her book in another way, she is being the publisher/distributor. Not the author. Of course they want to get their product out in the market and known about and create a buzz. It’s a sales cycle, baby. What salesman isn’t tenacious and persistent? Answer: the one who doesn’t sell anything.
Published too soon. Again by whose standards? I’ve seen authors brag that it took them five years to write a book. As though their book is somehow better than a book by an author who wrote and published in six months. But in the end it’s the reader who decides what book is better. The time it took to write a book is no measurement of its value. Again, if an author published too soon, no need to worry about it, her public will let her know. But making statements like this create an arbitrary that really has nothing to do with the truth.
And too, and this is something people don’t talk about much – in the “Golden Age of Pulp Fiction” those dudes and dudettes were cranking out 4-5 stories a week and being published. They didn’t torment over every word, they didn’t wait for beta readers, or spend months looking for just the right editor. They just wrote stories. And apparently, damn good ones because their stories were everywhere. Even if your story isn’t perfect (and I’ve yet to see one that is) if you entertain the reader and give them what they want – the rest really doesn’t matter, does it?
Productivity over quality. I don’t understand how these two are mutually exclusive. Is it really so impossible to write fast and good? Nora Roberts is very prolific and fast, as are many literary giants and best selling authors. Are they hacks too? And if readers love a writer’s books then that’s the important thing, isn’t it?
The wild wild west of the indie author frontier
Indie authors and indie publishers are forging a new path. And my belief is that this is unsettling the apple cart of the status quo. Could things be better? Sure, but that could be said about any industry or field under the sun. Things can always be better and it’s a great thing to strive for – always.
As an author and a reader, I agree that you should do everything you can to give your readers a topnotch, high-quality product. A story that will wow them and keep them up past their bedtimes reading because they just can’t fucking put it down. So absolutely, get all the professional help you can afford and work that puppy into a thing of wonder.
But don’t let a small budget stop you either. You do the best you can. And on the next one you do better. That’s the cycle. Always improving on the next shot, the next round, the next book.
So, I say self-publish. Take a shot. If nothing else, you’ll learn a lot. And hopefully, there’ll be other writers out there who will give you a hand up. And hopefully you’ll do the same when you’re able.
All self-published books do not suck. All traditionally books are not all wonderful. There’s room for all of us. So keep writing.
Do you know what plot bunnies are? I didn’t – until today. Apparently, plot bunnies are subplots or elements that we love and leave in our stories though they contribute nothing to the story and may even lead us way off the path of the plot. I’m not sure why they’re called plot bunnies but I’m thinking that it’s because they are apparently, warm fuzzy things that you dear writer, hold dear, and just can’t kill. Or maybe it has to do with the speed with which bunnies multiply?
I digress. If you think you may be guilty of populating your stories with plot bunnies, the following may tip you off or whether or not you’ve lost the plot:
1. You name all your characters after people you know and/or from the list of baby names you’ve had since you were twelve in case you ever have babies.
2. The steamy sex scene between your main character and the UPS man, meant to show the character’s problem with sex addiction, has now become a major plot point. And the story has turned into a Telenovella but without the subtitles.
3. A secondary character you particularly like has more dialogue than your hero/heroine and you just can’t bear to edit it out.
4. Your story is intertwined with stories of things that actually happened to you but aren’t really funny, monumental or even very interesting to anyone other than you and your BFF.
5. You find a way to save a character you should definitely kill off and sacrifice for the good of the story – but you just can’t. Because you love him.
6. You just can’t, can’t, can’t cut out that dialogue because you love it so much and laugh every time you read it. Even though it has jack to with the story, characters, theme or anything germane to the story.
7. You bristle whenever a beta reader makes an unflattering comment about a plot bunny and write a 10 page response, justifying its existence.
8. You threaten bodily harm to any reviewer who spots your plot bunny and gives your story one less star because of it.
I have to go now because I’ve bought ten pounds of carrots to ferret out my plot bunnies. Wish me luck. Where is those wily wabbits?
How about you? Do you protect your plot bunnies to the end, or do you just make rabbit stew?