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Friday, April 19

Under the Umbrella by Liz Flaherty

There was a chapter at the end of Little Women entitled "Under the Umbrella." I was trying to land in one spot when I started to write this week's blog, but as you'll see, I'm all over the place, yet still under my writer's umbrella. I hope you'll weigh in on how you feel about these things that fall between the ribs of the bumbershoot. (Ah, I do still love a thesaurus...)

Adding my cent and a half to Nan's subject matter this week, I will say with a heavy sigh that there has been much, MUCH discussion of how much money writers make--or don't. It is, no matter where you are on the wheel of publishing, depressing. It's hard to take. Everyone wants to be appreciated, and authors as an entity often are not. Even by each other.

Sometimes I'm one of them not being supportive or appreciative. If a book is poorly edited, I admit I don't even give it a proper chance. After the second you're instead of your, the third typo--hopped instead of hoped, the fourth or fifth comma left out, if we're still in the first chapter, I'm probably done. I am too distracted by the mechanics to ever get to the core. This isn't fair to either the story I'm not finishing or the author who worked her heart out writing it, but how far does a reader's responsibility go?

I remember years ago being in a discussion--perhaps on Word Wranglers--about what drew us into a book. Was it the plot, the theme, the story, the characters, the writing, the cover, the blurb, or a combination? For me, it was a combination of two, the writing and the characters. If the writing catches me and the characters become my friends or sisters and brothers, I don't care about any of the rest.

And, oh, the things I miss because of my self-set limitations. I've never read--gasp--Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, because I couldn't make myself care about the people in it. While I hope my mind hasn't narrowed terribly with age, I know my reading scope has. I have auto-reads, but one of my objections to many books is that they all sound alike. This doesn't make sense even to me, because what I want in an auto-read is that author's voice, which, regardless of story, sounds much like it did in her last book.

TV Insider  - Justin Hartley
Speaking of covers. I always prefer covers to not have people on them. And, if the publisher insists on having people, I don't want to see their faces. This is because I want to choose what they look like. If I'm seeing Justin Hartley in my reader's eye, I don't want marketing showing me Ryan Gosling. The other thing about covers is--and maybe I can go to hell for this--I don't care much about them. I don't even notice them on my Kindle, and I've never yet bought a paper-and-ink copy because of one. That being said, I've been known to wax rhapsodic when I get one I particularly like, so what do I know?
One of my rhapsodic moments.

It seems that so many writers are talking about quitting. I talk about it, too, but it's not writing I'm going to quit if I ever do--it's publishing. More to the point, book publishing. I will always write, because it's the same thing as breathing.

I've covered all the ribs of the umbrella I'm going to get to today. I'd love to hear your thoughts. I'll leave with this excerpt from the poem in Alcott's "Under the Umbrella" chapter. The way she could turn words definitely made me want to have a writing voice of my own. I hope I've succeeded in that.

"Jo" on the next lid, scratched and worn,
And within a motley store

Of headless dolls, of schoolbooks torn,
Birds and beasts that speak no more,
Spoils brought home from the fairy ground
Only trod by youthful feet,
Dreams of a future never found,
Memories of a past still sweet,
Half–writ poems, stories wild,
April letters, warm and cold,
Diaries of a wilful child,
Hints of a woman early old,
A woman in a lonely home,
Hearing, like a sad refrain––
"Be worthy, love, and love will come,"
In the falling summer rain. - Louisa May Alcott

2018's Christmas Town stories, including The Dark Horse, are in Kindle Unlimited and they're also on sale. If you missed them the first time, now's your chance to pick them up!

Thursday, April 18

It's a bargain... by Liz Flaherty

Sneaking in here on an off day to tell you The Dark Horse is 99 cents today! I love this story. Well, actually, this whole series of stories. I'm working on the next one as we speak!

So, if you missed it...

Tuesday, April 16

Writing Is Hard Work

No, I'm not whining...just stating facts. Writing is hard work, and for most of us, the reward is not financial. This past week, this article showed up on the discussion list of a professional writing group I belong to. Comments have been fast and furious--mostly saying that earning a living as a romance author just ain't happening.

The gist of the whole discussion is whether or not the public should be paying us decently for our art and came from the information garnered in the 2018 Author's Guild's Author Income Survey. The survey showed a 42% decline in author earnings in the last decade. If you don't think that's scary, then you're probably not trying to earn your living as a writer.

Truth is, I know maybe two romance authors in my circle of writer friends who actually make a living wage from their book sales. Nearly to a person, the writers I know are either doing other jobs, too, or have another source of income (husband, partner). I fit both descriptions. I have a spouse who brings income into our  household and I have a pretty much full-time gig as a freelance copy editor. I couldn't make ends meet if I depended on my writing as my sole source of income.

There. I said it. I'm an author who doesn't sell enough books to put food on the table or a roof over my own head. Does that make me less an author than the ones who are selling millions of books, have personal assistants, and go out on book tours across the country? That's a question I often struggle with in my head. Some of the good folks in my writer's group have talked about writing more books faster, getting as many words out into the indie market as you can--that's how you make money. Um...interesting theory because nearly every million-seller author I know produces about one book a year, some one book every two years.

Publishing is tough business--I can speak to the difficulties of trying to make it in publishing because I'm on both sides of the desk--writer and editor. I see what publishers are being offered and what they accept. I also see so many writer friends choosing to go indie right out of the gate because they don't want to go through the process of submitting and being rejected. I think it's true that many publishers are not taking on new writers because the market is so glutted with romance novels--well, all genres of fiction really--that they can't compete. Publishers can't put a book up for 99 cents and hope to make money for themselves, the author, and possibly the author's agent.

And that brings me back to the question of whether or not the public expects us to give away our work. In my opinion, we began a slippery slope with that first 99-cent e-book. We're teaching readers that our stories are worth exactly what they pay for them--and yes, e-books should definitely be less expensive than print books. The work involved in production is less, but for most of us, the work involved in the writing of them is no less at all. So charging $3.99 to $5.99 for e-books seems fair. I'll pay that happily for a new book by a favorite author and even for a book by a new-to-me author if the story intrigues me.

There's so much more to say about this topic, but for now my question to you is this--what will you pay for an e-book?

PS: Please send good energy and love to the citizens of Paris--they are struggling with the devastation of the terrible fire at Notre Dame cathedral. I was there ten years ago and seeing that historic church was one of the most beautiful and humbling parts of being in Paris. My heart goes out to Paris.

Friday, April 12

On a Personal Note...Family News by #JanaRichards

Over the last three months there’s been a lot of things going on with my family, some great and some that we hope will be great in the future. First of all, in March my husband had knee replacement surgery. That’s one of the not-so-great things. Though he’s gone through quite a lot of pain, and is still experiencing discomfort, we believe it will be worth it. His knees have been bad for years and he really needed this surgery. The sucky part is that in about six months, he’s going to have to do the whole thing all over again with the other knee. 

My husband Warren looking sad shortly after his surgery. I can't blame him!
In March, both of my daughters went to Mexico. My older daughter attended the destination wedding of a friend. She had planned to go with her boyfriend, but they broke up shortly after Christmas, so she attended on her own. On the career front, she’s doing great. In March she began producing the local morning show for the TV station she works for. Even though it means getting to work at an obscenely early hour, she’s loving it. I couldn’t be happier for her because there was a time when her job prospects weren’t so great. Now, if only her love life improved.

Getting some rays in Mexico
On the other end of the romance spectrum, my younger daughter went to Mexico with her boyfriend, and while they were there, they got engaged. We knew it was coming because a couple of days before they left, her boyfriend visited to tell us he planned to ask her to marry him. We were thrilled and his actions only solidified our fondness for this young man. He made us feel like part of their big event, even though we weren’t there. So, now we have a wedding to plan. And help pay for. (Yikes!) The kids are looking for venues for August 2020. 

The engagement ring. Isn't it beautiful?
And me? On the bright side, CHILD OF MINE, Book 1 in the Masonville series, my small-town contemporary romance series, released in February. On the not-so-bright side, I’ve been working on book 2 since last fall and I’m still not done. I worked a lot of hours at the day job over the fall and winter because we were short-handed, so it cut back my writing time. To make things worse, a flare-up of an old back problem zapped my energy. 

Blah, blah, blah, excuses, excuses. 

Anyway, I’m back on track (I think) with book 2. I think I’ve also figured out who’s going to be in books 3 and 4 and what the conflicts will be. So, progress. Not as far along in the project as I wanted to be at this point, but it’s something.

Just over a quarter of 2019 gone and so much has happened. What big news do you have from the first three months of the year?

Wednesday, April 10

Writing Contests are still viable

By Ava Cuvay

Blame it on Spring Break or the lovely weather we’re (finally!) having in Indiana, but I missed getting my post up yesterday. Which makes me a Dunderhead, right? In keeping with the recent trend of favorite words, I’ll throw that fun one out there... especially since most of my favorite words lean toward the 4-letter variety.

Wait, I take that back. “Moist” is five letters. ;-) Lol! I just had to “go there” because I’m feeling impish this week. I’ll blame that on the weather as well. (Ooooo, “impish.” I’ll have to use that one on a character!)

Unrelated, there’s recently been some scuttlebutt about a big author contest. “Scuttlebutt” is in truth an exceedingly poor word to describe what’s been going on with regards to this contest, and I don’t bring it up to delve into the complex and emotionally-charged details. But it makes me think of my local chapter’s upcoming contest for unpublished authors—the Indiana Golden Opportunity Contest—and what trickle-down effect the aforementioned scuttlebutt-on-steroids might have. What does the future hold for contests in general? Which ones will thrive, which ones will evolve, and which ones will wither away? (Hint: our IGO contest is nearly thirty years old, and has evolved... I'm pretty certain it will be one that survives :-)

Contests like ours, for unpublished authors, have a particularly uphill battle to fight, because it’s so darn easy to upload a document to Amazon, click a button, and—voila!—be a published author. So what is the selling point of contests for the seemingly-dwindling numbers that haven’t yet published? Potential for getting your work in front of an editor is a big draw. Our IGO contest has acquiring editors from both traditional and epub publishers for the finalists of each category.

Receiving a free critique with this chance to be seen by an editor is also a draw. And in my opinion, the best part about contests such as our IGO. I don’t know a single author who doesn’t dread getting their edits back or a critique partner’s comments… or worse, a one-star review! We have to develop thick skins, pull our big girl panties up and sally forth even when our baby requires drastic changes, and the strength to take everything with a grain of salt (preferably around the rim of a margarita). While hitting the “publish” button is relatively easy, the aftermath can be brutal. A contest with a critique included is a great litmus test for a potential author (and, hey, it’s not all bad… you’ll learn where your strengths lie as well!).

Promotion. I abhor contests that seem like popularity contests and “vote for my cover or whatever”… When a contest win is based on how many friends and fans I can rally to my side, I walk away. That’s a personal preference, but there is always an upside to ANY contest: self-promotion. Even if it’s a simple Facebook post asking for people to cross their fingers for you as you wait for the results, you have an opportunity to promote your author self. And if you final/win, the contest usually shouts that from the rooftops of their platforms as well (hey, more promotion for you!). And I’ll be honest… if you do well in a contest and then go on to great things, those contest people claim that victory as well by boasting about how well you’ve done thanks in part to the contest (okay… not those exact words. But also look at it this way: more promotion for you!).

So to anyone considering entering a writing contest, I urge to you take that step! It’s like winning the lottery; you can’t win if you don’t play. And who knows, that winner might very well be you! Unpublished authors, I especially urge you to try contests. I am the first to admit that I entered the Indiana’s IGO contest before I had ever considered joining an RWA chapter. I didn’t win. The critiques I received were a mix of great and omigawd-who-let-me-pretend-I-could-write. But it was the first real step I took toward my dream of publishing and I would absolutely not be here if I hadn’t entered.

So don’t let a little or even an enormous scuttlebutt keep you from entering writing contests. And if you’re an unpublished author looking for a pretty fabulous contest, give our IGO a try! (P.S. It opens up May 1st!)

Friday, April 5

Friday Thoughts...

by Margie Senechal

Kristi had a great reason for missing her Tuesday post as she's on an anniversary cruise with her hubby. I, do not have a great reason for the lateness of my post. I am not on a cruise, on vacation, or any other wonderful reason. mind is just, well everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Image result for high seas cruise

You know what that means! Hodge podge straight ahead...

Last week, Liz and Nan wrote about their favorite words and because I can't comment from the phone and apparently, I didn't go on my computer to comment (Sorry, girls), I'm going to tell you a few of my favorite words. 

I love the word cacophony. I love to say it and I love what it means. Unfortunately, there's not a lot of opportunities to use it. And even if you find one, the person you're saying it to might give you a weird look. It's not easy to slip into conversation.
Image result for rainy carnival

One of my other favorites is Expectatious. Of course, that might be because I made it up. It's for that feeling when your soul is unexpectantly happy and you feel like something good is going to happen. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't, but that feeling is great and needed a word.

Speaking of feelings, is there anything sadder than a rainy carnival on Spring Break? I love to watch carnival rides, their lights glowing in the night, squeals of delight ringing, the scent of hotdogs and popcorn in the air...and I think of my character, Esme, who has a story that I just can't figure out, but Carnie Girl will get her story.

Years ago I read a short story by John Sladek called Love Among the Xoids. The Xoids were a subset of the population that nobody ever notices---they come into your house at night and eat the leftovers in your fridge, take the socks that fall behind your dryer, go by names that we don't want kind of reminds me of the homeless surge that I deal with every day at work.

Image result for handmaid's tale

The story published in 1984 and so did Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. I just want to know what was in the literary water in 1984.

That's all I've got. Happy Friday!