Monday, July 25, 2011

First Chapter Troubles

You only get one chance to make a great impression. And I'm having an outfit crisis it seems with my first novel's first chapter. I have three options:

  1. The original first chapter, one scene of Johnathan meeting one-night stand in bar.
  2. The original second chapter moved up, Johnathan waking up with her in his bed.
  3. A mash up of both, cutting the bar scene shorter, and ending with morning after.
I think I'm going with option number 3. I started rewriting last night at 2 AM (fantastic toddler opted NOT to sleep from 2 AM to 4 AM). I only have a paragraph, but I like it better than anything else so far.

For comparison:

Original first paragraph:

Johnathan Michaels' solitary watch on a black plastic bar chair grew more torturous with each passing minute. He checked his navy blue digital. Fifteen minutes late. If it was anyone else, he'd have already left. 

First paragraph of original Chapter 2, currently Chapter 1:

Tastes of roof tar and rotten fruit filled Johnathan's mouth. Pulling his sticky lips apart with a soft smacking sound, he tried to clear the after-party taste from his mouth with a swish of his tongue. No, he needed mouthwash and a good brushing. 

New chapter 1 beginning written last night:

At quarter to eight, Johnathan Michaels suffered the stuffy one-week-to-Christmas Metro train, then froze his nuts off walking three blocks to a bar along the U Street Corridor. Twenty-five minutes later and killing his second beer, he waited uncomfortably alone on a wobbly, plastic bar chair. Alex and Eric were late. If it had been anyone else, he'd have already left.

In my last year of high school, we spent an entire 9 weeks on college essays, working and reworking four different essays each. One of weekly exercises we had to do was rewrite three of the four essays' beginnings in three different ways. That's 9 different introductory paragraphs, and we had notes on different ways to start, such as with a quote, lyrics, sensory device, in the middle, traditionally, etc. I don't remember all of them.

I'm learning an important lesson: say more with less. In the last paragraph, I given the setting (Washington DC) the time (one week before Christmas) and action. I also managed to keep my male characters' voice. I've realized I neutered him quite a bit in the manuscript, trying so hard to follow different rules, but I don't think it's good writing without my character's view on things. Originally, I had this entire paragraph talking about the freezing December weather, but I think "froze his nuts off" captures the exact temperature. We all know what that feels like. If the story was from Alexis' POV, I would have described the sharp pain in her feet as feeling returned after her frozen three-block walk from the train station.

On Wednesday, I'm driving to Virginia for 10 days. My mother has promised to watch Catie so I can get back on track with my manuscript. I remember one of my Twitter writer friends talking about how she just retypes her first draft from scratch to edit/improve to a second draft. I'm seriously considering it. Maybe not for every chapter, but the problematic ones. I have some awesome chapters later on, but that does me no good if I can't make chapter 1 grab the reader's imagination and hold it until the next one.

I also have a book review due this week.

Beginning to doubt making a 9/22 publication date, BUT, I'm going to keep working towards it. Worst case scenario, I am late by a week or two, but keeping the time crunch until then won't hurt in the least.

"CANCELLED" arriving SEPTEMBER 2011A robotics engineer asks his business partner to marry him, but a previous one-night stand is having his baby.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

POD: Just realized... I've SEEN this!

In 2000, I graduated from high school and my father retired from the military. As I went off for my freshman year, my family moved from Virginia to New Hampshire where my dad took a job with a company that was a dealer for Hunkeler printing equipment. The parent company is based in Switzerland, but yes, these machines are hunks!

During my winter break from college, I visited my family in the snowy land of New Hampshire and my dad took me to his work to see the machines he fixed and helped sell at trade shows etc. In a warehouse room full of Hunkeler machines, I saw one similar to this:
Copyright 2011
It was in a line with tons of other machines similar to it. My dad pressed a button and it sparked to life, shooting copies of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice into a bin. My sister and I each got a souvenir copy. Then he said, "Lizard, watch this." A few more buttons on the control panel, the machine finished the Austen copies in progress, then adjusted and started printing copy's of Dickens' A Christmas Carol and putting them into a different bin. There was plexi glass over many of the "open" areas, and it was so neat to see a book be made, kinda like the voyeurism afforded to stuff animals by the Build-A-Bear kiosks in the mall. I still remember looking at the amber glop of ooze that was churned by a red hot paddle. That was the glue kept hot to glide on rollers as the books zoomed across before pinched with a cover. Another machine stitched hardbacks together.

Check out to see what the machinery of POD looks like. It's nothing sinister. In fact, from what I saw back in 2000, it was efficient and impressively smart. Now, imagine a book store where you picked the book you want, even one that is "out of print" and a machine in the back room whirrs to life and in five minutes (it has to cool), you have your very own copy. I hope that reality comes true, because it will be a very great boon to all of society.

Just saw they have a video of basically what I witnessed over ten years ago. And back then, I had no aspirations to be a writer. I just wanted Dad to finish up so we could hit the mall.... :)

"CANCELLED" arriving SEPTEMBER 2011A robotics engineer asks his business partner to marry him, but a previous one-night stand is having his baby.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Rethinking the Paperback's Place in Self-Publishing

I will be a self-published author. I have 0 designs of selling a paperback version of my book in book stores. First, it would never be on the front displays, it would be lost somewhere in the lengthy Romance fiction shelves, near the end, under "W" for my last name. No one would even find it back there, unless they were looking for it. If they were looking for it, they probably heard about my book online, which means they can buy it from Amazon directly, or read the ebook version.

Now, this doesn't mean a paperback version of my book is worthless. Far from it. But, it is more likely that the people who want a printed version have already read the electronic version and enjoyed it. Or, they know someone who read it and don't own an e-reader. In the first situation, I've already made my royalty off the reader, I don't care if they get the paper version for the lowest price possible. In the second situation, they're trying me out on the recommendation of a friend, so again, I'd like them to get a hold of the book for the lowest price possible. And, I'd like to encourage them to adopt e-reading as that helps grow author-centric publishing for all of us. 


I am not in favor of long-term $.99 pricing for my ebook. That is just me, and I understand other authors will have different strategies for their works. That's great! For my plans, I will price my ebook at $2.99. This will net me roughly a $2 royalty per ebook sold.

My printed books with be POD through Createspace. I will sign up for the ProPlan for $39 a year, so that this plan can work. My paperback will be 6x9, 300 pages. Included in the purchase of the paperback will be an offer for a free electronic version (probably in PDF). I should preface all of this with I do not believe in DRM. My paperback price? $7.99. 

Royalty-wise this is roughly $.34 if a reader buys my paperback book through Amazon's website, and $1.94 if they buy it from my author site. 

This is how it would look:

Reader who wants BOTH e-book and paperback copy: Buy it from my site for $7.99 and get both. (I make $1.94)

Reader ONLY wants ebook: Buy it for $2.99. (I make $2.00)

Reader stumbles on my paperback on I make $.34, but did 0 marketing for that sale, and hopefully the reasonable price makes the reader more likely to recommend it to someone else. Also, there will be an offer for the reader to email me and get an electronic copy for free.

I think the number of readers in the last category will be very small. This idea started from reading on another's blog (I honestly do NOT remember who's blog it was) that they offered the print version mainly as a service to their readers, they didn't expect major sales. Yet, the paperback version was priced at $12. 

This got me thinking...what does the paperback version as a SERVICE to readers really look like? And this is what I came up with. I'm happy to hear comments and concerns from others. Maybe there is an angle I missed. However, I think pricing the paperback as low as possible will be better for readers overall. 

"CANCELLED" arriving SEPTEMBER 2011A robotics engineer asks his business partner to marry him, but a previous one-night stand is having his baby.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

It's Going to Be Okay

First, a HUGE congratulations to my friend Tonya Kappes, author of Carpe Bead'em and The Ladybug Jinx. She is celebrating 1,000 sales today in only 9 weeks. She is part of the amazing writing community at The Writer's Guide to E-Publishing, a site I highly recommend for the latest scoops in the indie world and great old-fashioned camaraderie! (If I type 'the' in my address bar, that's the site that comes up, I go so often!)

In other news, it was a meh kinda week for the writing ego of moi. I keep freaking myself out because I am NOT like other writers in style and tone. For example, I read a tip lately that only "new writers" describe what a character is eating. You know, what's wrong with a little realism? Especially when you use it for characterization. In Chapter 2 (old Chapter 3) my MC is eating a pre-fixe lunch of a terrine with lemony asparagus followed by a salad. His stepmother's boyfriend (who MC did NOT know existed, let alone was tagging along on their Christmas trip to Paris) is eating the same thing. Although the terrine is a soft, meat-loaf consistency, the boyfriend is using the American convention of smashing every bite with the side of his fork, leaving his knife perfectly pristine on the table next to his plate. And he's talking with his mouth full! And you know what? I'm keeping it! 

It gets so confusing. It's a conversation at a lunch table in a swanky 4-star Parisian hotel. How could I not comment on the food? Here's the truth, people eat, sleep, talk, and have sex. Somewhere in there they also work. What's wrong with a little realism to balance the fantasy of a love story? My characters eat: different foods and in different ways. My female lead skips lunch by eating a granola bar when she's stressed and my MC calls her out on it. One of the scenes in Confessions of a Shopaholic that sticks with me most is Becky trying to cook a curry. I can't cook a curry. I don't even know really that I like curries. But I enjoyed the comedy of everyday life. When I read Sophie Kinsella's book, Confessions of a Shopaholic, I loved it so much BECAUSE it was unlike any other book I had read up to that point. 

This morning I read Konrath's piece about authorial intent. Just be deliberate, he says, and too bad for the people who don't like it. Alright. I agree. 

With that, I am going to work on polishing my new Chapter 1 (original Chapter 1 was cut entirely into the deleted scenes bin) which is my old Chapter 2 and have it up on my reader site for Sample Sunday. I also need to get the back cover copy to my awesome cover artist. I was stressing over that, but my paperback will never be sold in stores, so really, what does it matter what the back of the printed book says? For that matter, I am going to heavily subsidize my printed book pricing to promote my ebook, so maybe I will just break the mold entirely. Why not make my back cover of the book a letter to my readers, thanking them for buying this book, a nice picture of me, and encouraging them to email me for a free copy of the ebook? My business is best in electronic media. The more people I can convince to read my books in electronic formats, the better off my business and the businesses of my colleagues will be. 

Wow, I feel like a major DUH!!!! is coming on. Off to work on new and improved back cover copy. 

"CANCELLED" arriving SEPTEMBER 2011A robotics engineer asks his business partner to marry him, but a previous one-night stand is having his baby.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

#ROW80 #6 Chug-a-chug-a-choo-choo!

"I think I can. I think I can. I think I can."

Okay' here's the recap:

I took Sunday and Monday OFF. Yep. I needed a break from work. And my husband suddenly started pitching in around the house. The man mowed the lawn, cleaned up our bedroom, tidied our bathroom, and made our kitchen sparkle. 

On Tuesday, wife guilt put housework first. I managed to wash and fold three loads of laundry, scrubbed our bathroom and the other upstairs bathroom clean, and kept the kitchen sparkling. Today, I am meeting a friend from out of town and we are hitting the local water park with my daughter. 

However, I am okay. My #ROW80 goals are not daily goals but destinations. I like spontaneity too much for daily word count goals, but I might try a weekly total for Round 4. 

  • I began learning how to format my word doc for ebook conversion. 
  • I am up to Chapter 4 glance editing, and middle of Chapter 3 for in-depth, over haul revising. I need to be up to Chapter 10 by NEXT Wednesday.
  • I am doing very well at balancing my writing work with real-life. This post is a case in point. I made sure to make time for it this morning even though I have a jam-packed day ahead of me. 
I wrote down all of my deadlines in my planner yesterday and felt a little daunted. The path from today to publishing at the end of September is a very steep climb. I felt overwhelmed. However, I simply put down my planner and worked on housework a bit, thinking. Yes, it is still a great deal of work to get done. However, as long as I keep plugging away at it, it will get done. It' the whole "I think I can, I think I can." Staying positive is very important, as negative thoughts are crippling. 

I can't worry about pre-readers until I get my second draft polished. I am VERY afraid of reader reception. I am VERY afraid my writing is horrible, and I will be the last to know. However, I suspect every author feels that way, and if they don't, they probably shouldn't be writing anymore. I don't mean it paralyzes every writer, it shouldn't. But we should all care about he quality of our writing, to a degree, even if you've been validated by millions of sales. 

So I'm also working hard to not let those fears build up in my head. I hope to publish Chapter 2 (my new Chapter 1) as a #SampleSunday this week, and we'll see what happens. 

"CANCELLED" arriving SEPTEMBER 2011A robotics engineer asks his business partner to marry him, but a previous one-night stand is having his baby.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

#ROW80 Cinco de Fun

Careful, it's school supply season out there..... :)
I have a new system for sanity: three simple composition books. I've had a binder with plastic sheet protectors and loose-leaf paper, but my 2-year-old thinks it's fascinating to take the paper out of the plastic and crumple it. Composition books she opens, but the threading keeps the paper pretty safe. I'm not surprised, remember in elementary school trying to rip a piece of paper out of one of these scarce school supplies? It was the grade school equivalent of ripping a phone book in half!

Book 1: WRITING JOURNAL :  This was recommended on Twitter, but it's mostly a log of things I did on a certain day (when I started, what I accomplished, and a short list of what I want to get done). I cross off items I get done, leave the ones I haven't so they can carry over. 

Book 2: MARKETING : I have been doing a little research into marketing, solidifying my marketing plan. One post that really helped this was a discussion on The Passive Voice Guy's blog about where do readers find books to read? The answers were very surprising, and I made sure to write down all of the blogs and sites listed that suited my genre. The conversation continued here, as well. I LOVE the design and functionality of The Pauper's Book Club, and the creator Damon Courtney is very open to suggestions from other readers and writers about how to improve. He is also looking for ideas on curating the shelves. 

I also researched into advertising on Mommy blogs/family savings blogs. Federated Media (go to marketers) looks very promising as they are professional bloggers with validated traffic and some sites are very affordable. For example, there is a site I'm interested in advertising on that is women's health, beauty, technology, and geek culture. THAT is one slice of my audience (I have robots in my book :) ). They get 170,000 page views per month, and a leaderboard 728x90 for 10,000 impressions (or views by a reader) will give me a 26% voice (meaning my ad would be every fourth one, very good), and I could run it from Oct. 1-13 for only $42.50. I would need 22 sales from the 10,000 people who see the ad to break even. 

So this is what my marketing book is for, I can't act on all of this right this second, but I am looking at various channels and planning the most effective way to use them.

Book 3 : EDITING: Right now I am working on my editing checklists, and I haven't used this book yet. I can't edit CANCELLED for another week, but I already have ideas swirling in my head about places where I know my manuscript is weak. I am going to have to really work on characterization, for example. I know my storyline is strong, and that's a good backbone to have. However, crying my eyes out last night at the last Harry Potter movie (not because the movie was goo, I thought it awful) I was crying for Snape the character in the books, not Alan Rickman's portrayal. In fact, if I hadn't read the books, I would have thought "What the hell is going on?" 

I have a strong place in my book where I cried as I wrote it. Buckets. But that's because I KNOW these people I'm writing about. I need to make sure I can make my reader feel sympathetic, too.

Oh, I also forgot to mention, book 2 officially has Chapter 1 finished. It will probably get cut/be an extra scene. All in all I feel VERY successful this week, and I'm looking forward to this last week of break from CANCELLED before rolling up my sleeves and taking no prisoners!

"CANCELLED" arriving SEPTEMBER 2011A robotics engineer asks his business partner to marry him, but a previous one-night stand is having his baby.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Printing My First Draft

Proof I wrote for 5 months
 I am on a pauper's editing budget. I can't afford to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for editing. Not on this book. Hopefully by Book 2 I can send my book off for editing, if not then definitely Book 3.

I *know* the book needs editing. That isn't an issue. I am going to do my very best and use as many quality assurance skills I can to help improve the methodology.

First, I outlined my plot. I tried to check my story for holes before I ever wrote a word. Okay, before I wrote more than a few scenes. Writing a few scenes helped me feel the tone of the book, which helped in story boarding. There's layers to editing and I have two editing books that list them. Things like plot, setting, characterization, dialogue. Each chapter will get each layer. The book as a whole will get each layer. I am going to make it the best writing I possibly can.

This is how THICK 225 pages is!!!
Here is where I will print again****

Then come the pre-readers. I am thinking about doing a typo/grammar mistake contest with my 5 pre-readers. Whoever finds the most issues gets a $25 Gift card. And everyone gets a signed copy of the paperback. No idea if they will go for this or not....

Then I will check for typos, each chapter, out of sequence, as many times as it takes until I don't see any more. Not over and over again right away. It will be more like Chapter 3 is checked, I find 2 typos, I mark them. I check other chapters. Then, I come back to Chapter 3, I find another typo, so it will get another run, and just do this systematically until I run out of chapters failing the typo check.

Then I will layout. If I catch anything in the layout, I will fix it. Then print the layout (maybe, unless it's cheaper to buy the mock up from Amazon....).

And that's the best I can do on a shoe-string budget. All in all, I should publish this book for about $500 in expenses....

*** Next time, although this is gorgeous, I'm going to just opt to have the pages printed and hole punched for the first draft. That way as I edit I can print at home and insert them. That should cut the cost from $21 to about $15 or less.

"CANCELLED" arriving SEPTEMBER 2011A robotics engineer asks his business partner to marry him, but a previous one-night stand is having his baby.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Confession...I Almost Quit

When I started this blog, it was to help other people serious about publishing their own writing. I figured while I don't have experience, as a newbie, if I chronicled my mistakes, it might help others.

Here's one of my biggest mistakes: My book COULD be releasing this month. I was originally due to finish my rough draft May 31, 2011. I didn't finish until July 13. 43 days late. Thank goodness my publishing contract doesn't have a penalty clause. But maybe it should? Hmmmm, I'll file that away for later.

What caused the 43 day delay? Doubt. Lots of it. Writing is work. I enjoy my work a great deal, but it is work. My eyes become strained, my fingers swell, my neck aches. In the last 3 days, I've written 18,000 words. 23% of my novel. That figure right there shows I *have* the ability to produce. I am not one of those writers paralyzed by a blank screen. Far from it. and if you sat next to me in a public place, I'd also talk your ear off. I bet the two are connected.

Here's the scary thing. I #wordmongering on Twitter which is writing for 30 minutes, off for 30 minutes. I average 750-1000 words per session. Once I outline. Outlining takes 2-3 weeks. That means for 80,000 words, I really only need 80 hours (30 minutes writing, 30 minutes off which is important. I don't produce as well writing straight through. Writing for one full hour, I end up with only about 1200-1500 words). Hypothetically, I could rough draft a novel in three months (I don't have the luxury of writing 40 hours per week, really only about 10). My first novel I rough drafted in 4 months. So not too bad.


The major hurdles for me were 30,000 and 60,000 words. 

At 30,000.

My 30,000 word mark was a hodge-podge of scenes and then about 6 sequential chapters. I was shocked that as I wrote, even the planned scene changed. I had to reconcile as a writer how much I want to stick to my outline vs. let organic win out. In the end, both had to compromise. My outline was overhauled twice. Once here, and again at 60,000. A handful of times the characters were doing something weird, and it got boring to me. Those moments were scrapped as it's great they lived their lives, but too boring to be included in THIS story. I saved some bits, either for future novels or outtakes. 

At 60,000 

I sat at 60,000 words for almost a month. Well, it took me a month to move from 55,000 to break 60,000. I learned I hate writing between the second crisis to the final crisis. Maybe one day I will pioneer a story structure that skips that. Then 2,000 years from now the writing books will say "Up until the early twenty-first century, the classical three-act story structure reigned as king from the days of Ancient Greece. All of this changed with the West Wham-Bam-Thank-You-Ma'am story structure that truncated the rising action between the second and third crisis, keeping the reader on the edge of his or her proverbial seat...."

Then the story about SPAM on Amazon's KDP broke and every Tom, Dick, Harry, and Sally Sue with a blog remotely relating to writing was 100% against self-published material. I mean nastily against. The Cliff's Notes version is that we were out to destroy the world and every cute little kitten. But mostly just destroy the world. 

I was upset. I was angry. I ranted. Then I got over it. 

When you have a goal, anything really, you just don't have time for the naysayers. You don't. You don't have time to correct their misinformed opinions, you don't have time to worry if they're right. Who cares if they are? Destroy the world hmmm? Well, I always wanted to be a dictator, that's why I had kids...... 

I'd share the words of genius comic Kat Williams, but it just wouldn't be appropriate. But basically, it is a hater's job to hate. That's what they do. My job is to do what I need to do to make my living in this world (which for the record, I'd rather NOT destroy).


Here's what it took for me to finish my first draft. It's not easy. It sounds easy, but it's not. It sucks. And when I say it sucks, I mean remember those days where you hate your job, hate your boss, hate your life, everything goes wrong and you want to stick your head in a microwave? It's worse than that. Because right here is where it all rests on you, baby. There is no boss to gripe about, there is no co-worker you can blame the missed deadline on.

You have to sit your butt in a chair and say "I'm going to finish you." And type. And after you eat, sleep, or use the restroom, you sit back down in the chair as say "I'm really going to finish you!" And type. Over and over and over again. When you get to the point of it's either me or you (you being the manuscript), it physically hurts. I typed until my fingers swelled. My eyes closed two nights in a row with an eye-strain twitch. 18,000 words in 3 days. That's what it took for me to kill that story. 

It really came down to me or my manuscript. If I didn't finish, I would be embarrassed not just to myself, but to all of the friends and family I told I was writing a book. Most importantly, I'd look foolish in front of my husband. The man who graciously enough understood when the laundry wasn't done, or dinner was phoned in. If I ever make any kind of decent money on this, I'm taking him to Italy. :) 

In my head swirled a million and one questions about my ability, my motivation, even my prioritization! Was this just going to be another "big idea" I have that I just can't seem to finish? Was this going to be another time my perfectionism got the better of me? No. It wasn't. 

And after i got my butt in the seat, here's the last important part... I gave myself permission to suck, and got it done. And looking back, I know I'm a stronger writer because of it.

"CANCELLED" arriving SEPTEMBER 2011A robotics engineer asks his business partner to marry him, but a previous one-night stand is having his baby.

#ROW80 AMAZIIING Milestone

At 11:28 AM on Wednesday, July 13 

In the recent tweets by @KarenDelabar, GGGGOOOOOOOOAAAAALLLLLL!!!!

The 225 page document is off at Officemax right now being printed and bound so I have a galley type object to edit. The cost to print the document was $25. I pick it up tomorrow. Another benefit of printing it out is that I can take it with me anywhere to work on it. 

I am *very* excited to start editing, but I'm going to wait two weeks. I might break this rule and edit Chapters 1 and 2 ahead of time, but they are months old, so I am not attached at all. In fact, I really can't wait to overhaul Chapter 1. It's even technically teetering on being cut altogether. I LOVE my Chapter 2. I find it far more interesting. It has more tension, and grabs the reader more, I think. However, this decision can't be taken lightly, as it would change thing. Unless..... I use the dreaded flashback to just highlight a few important parts.

Other major progress this week on my SOUVENIRS. I figured out an easy, low cost way to make some content on my reader site only available to those who buy the book! 

Finally, I have blog post coming on about a pricing idea. :) Oh, and I have two versions of the back copy for my printed version. So I am on track there. I realize the ten day delay in "travel documentation," my first draft, puts me behind on my editing schedule. I'm not going to panic and move the dates around. Instead I want to see what happens when I start editing and see if I can't make that time up by working weekends.

My To Do list this week:
*** Take a break!!!!
*** If I feel like writing, work on something else!
*** Create a master scene list from the manuscript for editing checklists. (Grading, line editing, typo verifications 1, 2, and 3, characterizations, etc.)

"CANCELLED" arriving SEPTEMBER 2011A robotics engineer asks his business partner to marry him, but a previous one-night stand is having his baby.

Other GREAT #ROW80 Participants!

Monday, July 11, 2011

#ROW80 Check in #3 SOUVENIR!!

This is too cool. This has me elated on the inside. This is so simple, it's scary.

My "souvenirs" on my Round 3 of a Round of Words in 80 Days is working on my reader website,, and man did I just find a bargain!

My goals for my reader website are here. One idea I feel very passionate about is behind-the-scenes information. As a reader myself, I go bananas for the author's notes/insights into what's coming next, etc. But I also wanted to make the information secret to people who haven't read the book. Yet, not require all of my readers to "register" with a site (the server space alone would be difficult to manage if my books do well, which is the ultimate goal here). 

Enter password protected posts. This is not a feature available on Blogger, but it is available on Wordpress. Thankfully, my reader site is powered by Wordpress (.org install on my home server). Check this out:

You can't see it, can you? Put in the password Pumpkin

Ta da! (Funny Freudian note.... Pumpkin is my nickname for my stepson, funny how that was the first password that popped in my head.)

Here is a little author's insight on my character Alexis Rodriguez. I might put in a stock photo or something of how I imagine Alexis to look like. Not sure if that's a good idea.... unless I maybe add the caption "Here was my inspiration for Alexis Rodriguez" 

I also added a SPOILER at the bottom, a small detail I know happens in the second book. I tried to make the text the same color as the background, so you have to highlight it to read. This way, people can still read the behind-the-scenes, but choose not to read the spoiler if they don't want to (I don't know anyone who would).

Keeping the Fun Going

Obviously there will probably be someone who tries to ruin the fun by giving out the password. But I'm one step ahead of them. First, I will politely ask that people preserve the fun for others and not spoil the surprise. That usually thwarts the people who will work around the system, if you just roger up that they can and the password is just for fun. Second, I plan to change the password either monthly or quarterly (I'm leaning quarterly). 

For my ebook readers, I will have a Note to My Readers where I will profusely thank them for reading and leaving a review if they so choose to do so. Explain the game of getting to the sneak peeks, and put in the password. On a quarterly basis I will update the ebook file with my distributors and also give a way for them to email for the current password/join a mailing list. By updating, I can also update my reader letter to reflect what is currently going on. I.E. first quarter is just "thank you thank you, here's the game....."
second quarter is "thank you thank you, hope you check out my new book (link) and here's the game....."
third quarter is "thank you and thanks to all of you my sales are X,Y,Z beyond anything I could ever imagine. So glad the book is reaching people, here's my other titles. Here's the game..."

And so on. 

In the print version, I will use the email listing. They give email, they get password in a quarterly Elizabeth Ann West newsletter.

"CANCELLED" arriving SEPTEMBER 2011A robotics engineer asks his business partner to marry him, but a previous one-night stand is having his baby.

Self-Published Author Lesson Learned: Don't Become TOO Attached to THAT Ending

"And they lived happily ever after...THE END."

Writing a draft isn't hard. FINISHING a draft is Herculean. 

I have learned a very hard lesson after weeks of dragging my feet, ignoring my manuscript... just willing it to be finished. That doesn't really work, by the way. There is no Jedi Mind trick to make the book write itself. 

Result: I was too committed to my ending to finish my book. 
I write out of order. The first scene I ever wrote of this current incarnation of CANCELLED is the final crisis where the baby is born. Then I went back and wrote the beginning. Then I wrote a few pivotal scenes in the middle. Then wrote more of the ending after the baby is born. And finally, hunkered down to fill in the gaps sequentially. All with a master outline that had each scene where it is supposed to go. It was kinda like a jigsaw puzzle. I had the final picture (the outline), but I needed to write the pieces one by one, thus sticking them in the puzzle. I began with the edges first (the major scenes that couldn't really change in subject matter or function without dramatically impacting the story).

Then I got to the part of the puzzle where you are almost done, only three or four pieces left but you only have two in your hand. Where did those two lost pieces go? You check under the box, under the table. Finally, after a few minutes you find you were sitting on them, or they were under the puzzle itself. Except my 5 minutes was a few days.

Here was my solution. Reduce the number of pieces I needed. OH NO! THAT'S REARRANGING THE ENTIRE PUZZLE!!!! No, it's not. My story is strong enough that it took it like a champ. A few details will change here and there, but now I get from where Johnathan's fiancee finds out about the baby to the time the baby is born MUCH quicker, just by adjusting when Johnathan is told about the baby by two months. The easiest way to shift this is now my first scene doesn't happen January 27, but December 17. Now, the story remains the same, Kellie still tells Johnathan about the baby, but it's not until March, after she has confirmed without a doubt she is pregnant and likely to carry the baby to term. Now, Alex still finds out about the baby at the end of June, but the baby is born the third week of August, not the third week of September. And most importantly, I can STOP trying to fill a month's worth of "story time" with silly scenes that feel forced, even to me.

If I had an agent, or a publisher, I probably would have had the resources earlier to tell me "Elizabeth, this is too big of a gap from second crisis to final crisis." As an indie, I had some writer friends on Twitter who sparked the solution.

Now, just because changing this major aspect in my story is convenient, doesn't automatically make it the right thing to do. But I've checked against my characterizations. Moving the timetable a little makes Johnathan look a little less like a monster when he keeps the secret from Alex. It fits with Kellie's personality as well, and her fears about what Johnathan might or might not do. Plot wise this strengthens many scenes that I had arranged as kind of a stretch. For example, after celebrating his birthday and having the one-night stand, he leaves to go on vacation with his stepmother in France. This happening over the Christmas holiday makes more sense, and intensifies the jealousy his mother shows at the end of Chapter 2. It also underscores the importance of Johnathan and Anna to one another, especially after the death of his father four years ago, without coming across as oedipal. And when she brings a boyfriend along, and he is jealous because he doesn't have a loved one at Christmas (and who doesn't feel that way being single on the holidays), it intensifies his desire for Alexis. 

Therefore, keep nothing sacred in your first draft. Not even the most important plot element in the story. But, make sure a change isn't just convenience for convenience sake. The change must make the story a stronger and more compelling tale for the reader.  :)

Now I get to dive in and make a ridiculous amount of changes, and close up that little hole left by two missing puzzle pieces.

"CANCELLED" arriving SEPTEMBER 2011A robotics engineer asks his business partner to marry him, but a previous one-night stand is having his baby.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

#ROW80 Check In #2 When Plans go Awry, You Adjust :)

I am blessed in that I have had many opportunities to travel. My mother always says it's because I was born on a Thursday (Thursday's child has far to go). This journey of writing I am on is already coming with adjustments. This non-coffee drinker has been drinking the stuff! (well, half coffee, half milk, a little caffeine goes a LONG way in my system).

The first trip I ever took that went horribly awry was a school vacation to Walt Disney World when I was in 6th grade. We went by bus from Virginia Beach, Va to Orlando, FL. On the way home, the bus broke down, stranding us at the Georgia Welcoming Center. A bus full of teenagers for 8 hours? The staff at the Welcoming Center was NOT very welcoming. But, we bought their entire supply of candy, and nearly emptied out the vending machines. And we played a good deal of card games. The center sold decks with pictures of Georgia on them.

Since then, I've gone to Paris with my husband....with him in a wheelchair. Want to know how handicapped accessible the City of Lights is? The Louvre. That's about it. Oh, and the train station in La Defense has an elevator. No other train station has an elevator, so I carried the wheel chair up and down the two flights of stairs while my husband played Hop-along Cassidy up and down the stairs. Did I mention this was our honeymoon? Yep. He broke his ankle in three places two weeks before our wedding. 

Then there was the 10 days in Japan in 2007. Going home, I didn't really consider how difficult it would be to move all three pieces of my luggage through Shinjuku Station during rush hour in the morning to get to the airport in Tokyo (I was staying in Yokosuka, where the Navy base is). It wasn't like Paris where people offered to help me. No, instead I just cried as I couldn't get all of the pieces up the stairs in time to make my train to make it to the airport in time to catch my flight. I was about to fall into despair when Eureka! I just pushed the pieces out the door and hailed a taxi. It was $150 in U.S. after the exchange rate, but I made my flight! 

Anyway, every journey I've ever made is never perfect. From the cross-country moves to San Diego and back to the East Coast, visiting my husband in Australia and Hawaii, and the multitude of times I've traveled to middle-of-nowhere Texas, I've always had to improvise. This Round of Words in 80 Days is no different.

I am sad and disappointed to say my first draft still isn't finished. However, I'm not throwing in the towel. Far from it. I have adjusted. The story planning of my next novel is going to become something I do whenever, not necessarily this week. It's not absolutely vital to me getting CANCELLED out the door. I am also very, very close to a completed first draft. 

In fact, today is Sunday, and the day I have the most time to write. Friday and Saturday I had social obligations for my husband's work. But today, he's going to watch the baby and I'm going to get a book finished!

So if your #ROW80 journey isn't going 100% to plan, fret not. This is a pretty long trip, 80 days. And if a few days aren't what we expect it will be okay. Looking back, we're going to remember the successes, and the setbacks won't matter.

"CANCELLED" arriving SEPTEMBER 2011A robotics engineer asks his business partner to marry him, but a previous one-night stand is having his baby.

Be sure to read a check-in from one of my friends also participating in Round 3 of a Round of Words in 80 Days.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

White and orange? Did Clemson Buy Google?B

This is what my Google Blogger's dashboard looks like:

It's bright white and orange, with the text gray. It is hard for me personally to read. Not to mention how skewed the pictures associated with blogs in my reading list look.  I am hunting for a way to change this, or at least make a better contrast than white, orange, and gray.

"CANCELLED" arriving SEPTEMBER 2011A robotics engineer asks his business partner to marry him, but a previous one-night stand is having his baby.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

ROW 80: CANCELLED Back Copy revised

First step on the publishing trek for CANCELLED is getting my back copy to my cover artist. I've played with the language in a few versions and a nice comment from R. H. Watson made me realize the crux of the book: the emotionally complex situation. 

To robotics engineer Johnathan Michaels, a problem is opportunity for solution. His unrequited love of business partner Alexis Rodriguez? At the right moment, he will share his feelings. The company's first multi-million dollar defense contract botched by his best friend? He'll cut his vacation short and take charge. And the one-night stand certain she is pregnant with his child? That one can stay a secret awaiting data confirmation.

As lead engineer on a project that keeps going wrong, Johnathan finally wins Alex's love after years wasted in friendship. But it's time for the truth to come out, forcing Johnathan to reconcile two women into his life--one as his future wife and another as mother of his child. Can he keep his relationship with Alex, stand up as a father, and rescue his company? Or will part of his life end up on the scrap heap?


Elizabeth Ann West is a Jane-of-all-trades, mistress to none. For the last three years, she sold non-fiction articles to websites and marketing firms. Before choosing a career in writing, she made magic at Walt Disney World, planned conferences at the National Center for State Courts, and toiled as a quality technician on titanium castings for Alcoa. Armed with a B.A. in Political Science, and experiencing the world courtesy of her husband's naval career, writing fiction is her next mountain to conquer. She loves feedback from her fans and critics at 

I tried to simplify the back copy but still keep the details of the novel exciting. Johnathan is pursuing three different directions: professional success, success in marriage, and success as a soon-to-be father. There is a sub-plot involving his family and its history coming back to wreak havoc in his life, however I don't think that needs to be on the back cover/book description. I also have minor coursework in English Literature, but I don't know that will really help my readers. My resume is actually extremely varied (I temped my way through college working as an admin assistant in everywhere from engineering firms, for an architect, manufacturing, real estate, non-profits, the military, and many others), and I pull experiences and lessons from those jobs into my writing. As an admin assistant, you are invisible, and you see it all!

Finally, the website will be live before publication of the book. I plan to make it a reader's paradise with excerpts, behind-the-scenes information, and a weekly live chat. 

Would love thoughts, feelings, and feedback.

"CANCELLED" arriving SEPTEMBER 2011A robotics engineer asks his business partner to marry him, but a previous one-night stand is having his baby.

RANT: Stop Raining On MY Parade Critics of Self-Publishing

Yeah, I'm going to say it. Ready? If you're writing a slam piece about self-publishing authors and warning about publishing poorly-written works, or saying those authors are not *real* writers, here's my advice.


Yep. That's right. Shut up. Because who you are really upset with, really annoyed with, are the people stealing copy or slapping expired copyrighted material up without any forethought to get a couple bucks off a sucker. And guess what? They aren't reading your blog anyway. 

You want to know who is? Me. My friends also working on their manuscripts. Anyone with half a brain doing their absolute best to publish a story and make readers happy. And you're killing our joy.

It's not my fault the traditional publishing world is elitist, exclusionary, and rips off great writers by offering them pennies on the dollar for their work. Writing is information. Information should be free for the masses. Not free as in cash, but free as in available to all, without restrictions. That includes the tidy version of restriction called a "gatekeeper." 

How many traditionally published books win literary awards? An infinitesimally small percentage. Does that mean every traditionally published book that doesn't win a literary award is not worth a reader's time? No. It means like every other industry, there are humans who work and operate at a level above the rest. You see it in mathematics, the military, athletics (without enhancing substances), etc. We naturally compete with one another and acknowledge excellence by merit. 

But these tirades against self-publishing are wrong. Why? Sure, it makes the poster feel better in his or her role as a traditionally published author, editor, agent, or other position in the publishing world. Yet, they are written at the expense of so many others working hard to put out the best book they can. That is wrong. That is stepping on the little guy to prove your own self worth.

I 100% defend your right to seek a publishing house to promote, edit, and publish your book. The book world would NOT be better off with only self-publishing; there is infrastructure our amoeba-like group cannot support. But perhaps you should acknowledge self-publishing offers advantages to the traditionally published world, too. Such as:

  • boldness to challenge genre definitions
  • sandbox to test new ways to enhance the author-reader relationship
  • faster lead time to experiment with new electronic formats
  • reinforcement of your publisher's pricing schedule as "quality" for a reader

I could pull out the printed books in my library and point out all of the typos I see, times when a page in the middle of the book was blank, or talk about the entire series I returned because chapters were printed out of order (sold in a retail book store chain, who proofed that?). But why? Books are written by humans. Humans are not perfect. 

These blogs and articles poking fun at self-published works are rude at best, bullying at worst. One even proudly teases about how many pages the reviewer can get through before the writing is just too bad to continue. To me, this isn't helpful, it's hurtful. The reviewer could offer constructive criticism, but not if they won't even evaluate the book as a whole. 

I could list hundreds of books I would never get past one, two, or twenty pages in, many of them favorites of my husband. Does that MEAN anything? Or is it just me being mean to the writers of those books if I write a scathing review to boost my page hits? I think the later.

So again, I'm telling you to stop being negative to a group of writers brave enough to push publishing in a new direction. No, we're not all John Locke, Amanda Hocking, J. A. Konrath, Dean Wesley Smith, Barry Eisler, and the other big-time sellers. But all the traditionally published authors aren't just like J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, Danielle Steel, Dan Brown, and the other names on the best-selling wall. 

The point is self-publishing authors are reading your blogs and articles. But you don't win many friends among us by looking down your nose. If you really want to help improve the quality of books out there for readers that you are so concerned will stop reading over a few typos, write about ways to improve a book. Write about what you do with your manuscripts before you send them off to your agent/editor. Give tips on strengthening characters, settings, and plot lines. 

Why? Because we, the self-publishing authors are reading. And you catch far more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. 

"CANCELLED" arriving SEPTEMBER 2011A robotics engineer asks his business partner to marry him, but a previous one-night stand is having his baby.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

ROW 80: Day 1, Cancelled's Backcopy

I'm not going to lie, there is a snafu with my travel documents. My draft is not 100% finished, but it's at 90%, so I'm happy. I had to rework the ending a bit, really. It's not MY fault the robot tried to eat the intern. But it happened. And I had to deal with that. :) So, the good news is we're on version 1.5, but it should be done by Friday so I can get it printed.

Now, I PURPOSELY arranged my first two weeks on Round of Words in 80 Days so there is 0 impact if there was a problem with my travel documents (first draft being finished). The first stop is getting the back copy to my cover artist for the paper cover version.

Here's what I have so far:

To robotics engineer Johnathan Michaels, life is a series of problems needing solutions. When a one-night stand announces she is pregnant with his child, it's perfectly logical to keep quiet until the data is confirmed. In love with his business partner, Alexis Rodriguez, he doesn't see how a baby changes what they mean to one another, and asks for her hand in marriage.

But people are not robots. Inputs don't always match outputs. As the truth comes out, Johnathan fights to reconcile both women into his life -- one as his future wife; the other as a mother to his child. All while getting his company out of hot water on its first multi-million dollar defense contract. 

Can Johnathan save his relationship with Alexis, stand up as a father, and rescue his company? Or is the scrap heap going to get a little bigger?

About the Author
Elizabeth Ann West is a Jane-of-all-trades, mistress to none. For the last three years, she has made a living selling her non-fiction articles to websites and marketing firms. Before settling into a career of writing, she made magic at Walt Disney World, planned conferences at the National Center for State Courts, and performed as a Quality Technician on titanium castings for Alcoa. Armed with a Bachelor's degree in Political Science of all things, while she and the kids follow her husband around the world in his naval career, writing fiction is her next mountain to conquer. Yo-de-le-he-hoo! 

It still needs some work, but this is how far I have gotten. I don't know that is the picture I will use on the back cover either. It's hard to pick a picture that looks good and shows a little of my personality behind the smile. I will probably leave final selection up to my cover artist, with veto approval. :)

"CANCELLED" arriving SEPTEMBER 2011A robotics engineer asks his business partner to marry him, but a previous one-night stand is having his baby.


Friday, July 1, 2011

Unpublished Author, How Can I Negotiate?

Why a high five and not a typical handshake?

Remember when we were kids at the lunch table and a Twinkie traded for like two Fruit Rollups? Both kids happily eating the snack they prefer, Moms never the wiser?

True, successful negotiation is teamwork. Everyone gives a little to get something they want, all parties left generally happy. In self-publishing, negotiation skills are a must, and nobody wants a party to feel "shafted." Why? Because "So-and-so screwed me over" travels much faster in the link sharing, social networking universe we live in than the other side of the story.

When will a self-publishing or unpublished author need to negotiate? ALL THE TIME. Blog tours? Usually a quid-pro-quo situation. Advertising on reader blogs? Negotiating is the only way to get a reduced rate.

There are a number of skills an author should use in negotiating. Throw out any ideas of playing hardball. This is about bringing people on your team, and you joining theirs.

  1. Be nice and professional, even when the answer is a "No." This is just a counter offer. By being courteous back, you never know when someone will say "Oh, alright." Especially if they think you are walking away. Don't be fake, but being polite makes any offer much sweeter.
  2. Give a reasonable offer, not a low-ball. If you don't have much of a marketing budget, that's okay to say so, but don't expect to buy a $50 image ad on a blog that regularly charges (and gets) $300 for the same ad. Now, maybe ask for a $50 text ad, or offer to buy 2 image ads for $250 each. 
  3. Only make promises you can keep. Don't say your blog has 100 visitors a day when it only gets 20. Remember how fast bad press runs? It's okay to trade for a future favor, but make sure you are 100% prepared to deliver, or go above and beyond (and most likely inequitable) if things fall through.
  4. Expand beyond yourself. Becoming friends and acquaintances with people in other professions, and with other skill sets, you can help people find each other to trade services. It might help you get a discount, or bump you up in the line later on.
Negotiation is about being real with expectations, what you can deliver, and how it will help both of you. Finally, the most important part is to remain mum on the details of a negotiation, unless the other party has given you permission to disclose the terms. A reader blog might not want it widely known it will take two guaranteed ads at a discounted price (there might have been income shortfalls that month). 

"CANCELLED" arriving SEPTEMBER 2011A robotics engineer asks his business partner to marry him, but a previous one-night stand is having his baby.