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Why I Am Giving Away Over Two Years Of My Effort For Free

August 23rd, 2014 No comments
Cover of Falling, Girl With Broken Wings

This Baby Is Now Free!

A lot of writers will go into dramatics about how hard it is to write a novel. When they get really amped up on metaphor crack, they reel off the bodily fluids that went into creating the novel, including blood, sweat, tears, manna of the soul, etc…

The truth is that writing isn’t always hard. Some writers can dash off ten books a year with nary a speck of sweat on their upper lip. Other writers scrape and strive and snivel for ten years to eke out that magical manuscript. It all depends on the writer and the circumstance.

My first novel, FALLING, took me over two years to write. Scratch that. It took me approximately six months to write and then about triple that time to edit it into shape. This novel was hard. The first usually is. I started it with no plan about how it was going to end, no character sketches, no brilliant plot twist looming in the wings. All I had was a scene seared into my brain of a girl standing over the bed of her sleeping brother doing everything she could not to reach out and drain his energy.

From that dubious starting point, FALLING slowly formed…and reformed…and reformed as I fought the plot, the chapters, and the words into something worth reading. I remember writing and rewriting the same sentence, quibbling over specific words, changing chapter formats, and begging more and more people to read it and give me feedback.

No blood was spilled writing this novel, but at times I felt like I was leaving a piece of my soul on the pages.

This week, I set FALLING for free on Amazon. This is not a short-term promotion. FALLING will stay free, at least for the time being.

I thought long and hard about this move. Something deep inside of me rebelled against the idea of giving away FALLING and all the hours, all that mental energy, away for nothing. That part of me asked, “Do you value your writing, your talent, and hundreds of hours of your time so little that you have to give your book away just to get people to read it?”

But in the end, I decided to go with free for one specific reason. I want people to read my books. In today’s world, attention is a rare commodity and Amazon is stuffed to the gills with books for readers to choose from. Each available book requires hours of a reader’s time. That’s a big investment aside from the book’s cost. No wonder so many readers stick with their favorite authors or only choose proven best-sellers, those “hot” titles that all their friends and Oprah are talking about.

I’ve decided that my primary goal as a writer is to introduce people to my books. Making a profit is secondary. To forward this goal, I need to lower the barriers – lower the risk – as much possible for the reader. I’ve already written what I believe is an engaging, touching, amusing, and high quality book. I’ve also tried hard to give readers a true taste of the book in the description, which includes caveats about the book’s violence and language to help a reader make an informed purchase decision. The final thing I can do was eliminate any financial risk.

Of course, I have a second agenda. My hope is that a reader will see FALLING as a low-risk time investment, read the book, love it, and then purchase the following books in the series. If this happens, then FALLING will act as a hook, the freebie that sucks readers into the series and hopefully turns them into fans for life.

At the very least, I can say that I’ve done what I can to invite readers into the series.

Visit Amazon, Kobo, or Smashwords to download FALLING for free. Enjoy!

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Fun With Overlapping Narratives

August 2nd, 2014 No comments

Every story presents its unique challenges. Sometimes the plot hits a brick wall and I stare helplessly at my computer, at that last lonely sentence waiting for a mate. Other times the characters pull against their leashes, and we have to trek down mysterious paths together.

My current project, RECOVERING, led me to a different puzzle. This novella overlaps the first half of my novel RISING and is written from the foul-mouthed point of view of my character Gabe. The whole reason that Gabe insisted I write the novella in the first place is that he only makes a short cameo in the first half of RISING.

Roughly 90% of his novella covers new ground, but several early chapters in the novella play out events that are featured in RISING when Maya briefly returns home and interacts with Gabe. In essence I had to write the same scenes over that already exist from Maya’s point of view – same action, same dialogue – but infuse it with Gabe’s perspective.

Sounds easy, right?

Not exactly. To get the scenes just right, I had to carefully reconstruct them from the chapters of RISING, reading and re-reading those chapters as if they were under a microscope.

When I wrote the same scenes for RECOVERING, I had to force myself out of Maya’s guilt and concern and put myself in Gabe’s shoes to show his loneliness and self-loathing. I had to write from his sense of betrayal, shame, and anger using the same dialogue and the same scene structure that already existed.

This little experiment forced me to focus more on Gabe’s inner thoughts to make the scenes seem fresh and also to change the pacing of the scenes so that it wasn’t a rote rehearsal of the scenes found in RISING. For example, Gabe often summarizes longer bits of dialogue that Maya’s narrative in RISING recalls in full. Gabe’s focus will also emphasize different parts of the scene. He doesn’t notice the sad state of the house as much as Maya does. He also thinks a lot about his mother and sister, people Maya never met.

On the technical side, I ended up putting the text of RISING on one monitor and the overlapping text of RECOVERING on the other to make sure every word of dialogue matched up, that the timing of events was accurate, and that Gabe reacted outwardly in the way Maya observed in RISING.

I hope the result is a fresh take on Maya and Gabe’s interactions that doesn’t feel stale or repetitive. I have to believe that Gabe is such a charmer that his perspective can put a new twinkle on everything!

How do you think I did? HERE is a chapter from RISING and an overlapping chapter from RECOVERING. Enjoy the sneak peek of RECOVERING!

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Getting Gabe Right

July 12th, 2014 No comments

Okay, here’s my problem. Gabe Fox has a really dirty mouth. And a dirty mind. And, basically, he’s a boy.

Gabe and I are pretty much opposites in just about everything. I’m a relatively prim and proper person. Sexual innuendo makes my face go all watermelon-colored. Any talk of bodily functions has me laughing awkwardly or quickly exiting the conversation. If I cuss, it’s usually only because I’ve walked into a wall or door (happens more than I liked to admit).

But I love writing about Gabe, dirty mouth and all. He is one of the main characters in my GIRL WITH BROKEN WINGS series. Here’s the thing about Gabe – he has a huge heart, can spit out a ribald joke in even the most dire of circumstances, and is fiercely loyal to his family. He is the light within the murky and often sad world in which his small family operates.

Earlier this year, I was thrilled to complete RISING, the biggest, most complex book yet in the GIRL WITH BROKEN WINGS series. As with the previous two books and novella in the series, it is written from the point of view of Maya, Gabe’s younger sister. There are so many things I like about this book (and I hope you do too), but something about the book always bugged me.

Not enough Gabe (or cow bell).

I’m going to carefully tiptoe around some spoilers here and just say that Gabe is left behind from the book’s main mission and only gets a brief cameo in the first half of the book. It’s the way things had to be from a plot standpoint, but it doesn’t mean I had to like it.

Gabe didn’t like it either.

When I took long car rides or walks around my neighborhood he kept pestering me about it. I started to listen and discovered that he hadn’t been exactly sitting around twiddling his thumbs during the time Maya and Tarren were hunting a new and dangerous angel threat in Peoria, Illinois.

Gabe wanted me to write his side of the story.

We argued. I kept telling him that I needed to start on book four in the series. More than anything I wondered how I could possibly write an entire novella in Gabe’s voice, in his sarcastic, confident, dirty, hyper-masculine voice.

Gabe was adamant, and the boy can be very persuasive when he wants to be. I buckled like a sandcastle hit by a tsunami.

So, instead of writing book four like I’m supposed to, I am currently in the midst of writing a Gabe novella tentatively called RECOVERING. It has plenty of action, keeping in line with the other stories of the series, but RECOVERING is also really unique in that it will offer a look into Gabe’s personal life outside of the mission.

This novella is proving to be a unique challenge for me, mostly because Gabe is just so…Gabe. He cusses way too much and thinks about sex in ways that Maya would never even consider. Imagine how often my face impersonates a tomato while I write.

I’ve never felt as unsure about a work as this novella. After the second draft I printed out the whole thing and read it out loud. Over and over again I wrote the same thing in the margins: “More Gabe”, meaning that the perspective was drifting back into my voice, not Gabe’s voice. I caught myself over and over again speaking too formally, too politely. Gabe doesn’t do polite. He is candid to the point where the TMI line was three exits ago. He just doesn’t give a flying f…fruit about propriety.

This novella is taking much longer to write and edit than I anticipated, and I’m not sure if readers of the series will even like it. Still, I’m glad I wrote it. Not only was it the right thing to do for Gabe, but it really pushed me (and continues to push me) as a writer to embrace a different voice and to understand Gabe on a much deeper level.

He and I are still polar opposites, but I love him like he was my own brother, and I’m glad that I can give him a voice and his own story. If all goes according to plan, keep a lookout for RECOVERING on Amazon and other online booksellers in September. Or you can sign up for my email list and receive a notice when it hits the market.

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The Dread Monster Comes Again – The Fear Of Starting Something New

July 5th, 2014 No comments
Young girl, scared

This is kind of what I feel like every time I start writing a new book.

The laptop is open in front of me, the page white and fresh. It’s time to start the first draft of the fourth book in my Girl With Broken Wings series. I want to feel excited. I want to feel plump with possibility like a perfectly ripe grape that bursts between your teeth. I want my fingers to be humming with anticipation.

But what I feel is a deep, dark, shapeless dread.

The old worries whisper through my mind. I won’t be able to finish this book. My writing will come out stale and mildewed on the page. My characters will spout vapid dialogue and be as colorful, as deep as shadows.

It doesn’t matter that these worries are pointless. I’ve already completed three full books in the series as well as one novella. A second novella is on its second draft. I know I can finish this book. I know my talent won’t shrivel up and fade like some mystical, short-lived flower.

So why is it so hard to get started on this book and all the previous books? Why are my first, faltering words always overshadowed by a big, snarling Dread Monster?

The more I think about this, the more I realize that the Dread Monster has always been stalking at my heels. I remember my stomach flip flopping, my throat tight on the ride over to gymnastic meets when I was ten. Later, in high school, my whole body would be tight with fear as the last hour of the day ticked down before a tennis match. We had matches three or four times a week during tennis season and that I enthusiastically made the team all four years, and yet I could never quell the Dread Monster. I could never run fast enough to leave him behind or find a sword to pierce his hide.

Is it just nervousness about starting something new? I don’t think so.

Nervousness is that fluttery feeling on a first date when you don’t know what to do with your hands and words become slippery like butter.

This is dread. A dismal sense of emotional pain, of unstoppable worry and anxiety. It is a growling, slobbery monster that eats light, goodness, and positive mantras for breakfast.

Maybe you’ve felt this way too. Maybe not, and I’m just a freak who gets off on self-sabotage. I wonder if there are other people out there with monsters walking behind them. Maybe some of you have found ways of facing your Dread Monster, of starting new things without worries or an endless pit of doubt opening up beneath you. I have not, but I have found a weapon that works against my Dread Monster.

I ignore him.

I write.

When I look at the white page, while the worries spin so fast in my brain they make me dizzy, I put my fingers on the keys and make them move. The words come, slow at first but then faster and easier. I’ll hit hard parts, and my writing will be as graceful, as smooth as running through sand, but I will buff and polish these areas to a high shine in the editing process. The dread will shrink little by litter and the love of writing, which has always been inside of me, will begin to softly beat inside of me like a second heart.

One day I hope that I can approach a new book, a new project, a competition, or a big life choice with enthusiasm, eagerness, and confidence. But until then I’ll elbow past my Dread Monster and start writing, one word at a time.

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Sometimes Opportunity Doesn’t Knock…It Emails

June 14th, 2014 No comments

Opportunity has a reputation for going around and knocking on people’s doors. Honestly, that hasn’t been my experience. Opportunity is sneakier than that. He likes to play Hide-n-Seek with me, ducking behind trees and bushes or flashing by in a conversation with acquaintances.  I don’t mind seeking out Opportunity. In fact, the chase is kind of enjoyable. Makes me appreciate it more when I actually catch Opportunity.

Occasionally Opportunity will get fed up with me. He’ll come out from the bushes (not in a creepy way) and be like, “Hey, you, girl in the glasses, how ‘bout looking my way?”

Also, here’s another bubble popper – Opportunity almost never knocks. Usually he’ll email or Facebook message. That’s what happened a few weeks ago, when, out of the blue, this guy named Bryan Cohen emailed me. I didn’t know it at the time, but Bryan is a pretty awesome guy.

He let me know that he was putting together a promo event for New Adult Fantasy authors. Would I be interested in being a part of it?

I looked over the edge of my computer to where Opportunity was doing some weird combination of jumping jacks and the chicken dance to get my attention. I considered Bryan’ email. Opportunity danced on, switching to The Robot and then, unfortunately, to twerking.

“Alright, alright, I get it,” I told poor, gasping Opportunity (he’s not in the best shape). I wrote back to tell Bryan that I would be delighted to join the event, Legends, Lovers, and Lives.

So folks, today is the day. Sixteen authors, including myself, have lowered the price of one book each to $0.99. My discounted book is FALLING, Book One in the Girl With Broken Wings series. Some of the books on offer look very intriguing. I’ve only had a chance to dig into one, AFTER THE ENDING, which I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE. Sassy girls, cool powers, the apocalypse…what’s not to like? Okay…. the apocalypse…I wouldn’t like that (as soon as I lost my glasses, I’d be zombie bait). But reading about an apocalypse can be surprisingly enjoyable.

So guess, what, maybe this event is your Opportunity to download some cool new books. New Adult is a very diverse genre that, in my opinion, is more satisfying than the typical young adult novel that features high school students popping pimples and freaking out about prom. I actually wrote a little bit about how I discovered that I was a New Adult Author on the blog Deal Sharing Aunt. The post just went live today.

But back to Opportunity. He’s dancing for you right now, trying to get you to pick up some great books at an even greater price. Don’t make him bust out any Backstreet Boy moves (don’t think he won’t!).

But seriously, if you have a little time, please stop by our Facebook Event today, Legends, Lovers and Lives for some great giveaways, author chats, and links to all the discounted books.

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RISING – Book Three of the GIRL WITH BROKEN WINGS Series

April 17th, 2014 No comments

Meet my new baby, RISING. She's a big one, but that just means there's more of her to love.

Have you ever had a big, hairy audacious goal, like running a marathon, buying a mansion, or finally solving that $%^&*# Rubik’s Cube? That goal drives you, focuses you, gives you a glimpse of future glory. Success can be oh-so-sweet, but then what happens next?

Maya had a goal, a pretty big one. She wanted vengeance against the man who changed her and murdered her boyfriend. (If this sounds like gibberish, it’s time to get your hot little hands on FALLING – GIRL WITH BROKEN WINGS). At the end of LANDING (book two in the series), Maya gets her vengeance, which leaves her with that big, scary, accusing question…what next?

I’ll tell you what’s next — Adventure, Snow Storms, Cool Missiony Stuff, Chuck Norris Jokes, Occasional Kidnappings, and maybe even a little love in the air! That’s right, RISING, Book Three in the GIRL WITH BROKEN WINGS series is here!

And Guess What — You Get A Discount

As a gift to true fans of the series, I have priced the ebook for $2.99 for its first week of existence. On April 27th, RISING, well, rises to its permanent price of $4.99. Buy your copy today and enjoy an awesome story for an even…er, awesomer price.

Other Places to Buy

RISING is also available as a soft cover on Amazon, though the  book is so big that the printing cost make it a wee bit higher than I would have preferred (sorry, nothing I can do about that). Additionally, you can find RISING on Smashwords and Scribd.

One More Thing — Free FALLING Giveaway

If you really want to enjoy RISING, then make sure you start at the beginning. Maya’s story, and the whole not-exactly-human-so-much-anymore thing all start with FALLING, Book One in the GIRL WITH BROKEN WINGS series. You could always buy the ebook on Amazon for just $3.99, but if you need one more little nudge, I’m giving away 10 print copies of FALLING on Goodreads. Participation in the giveaway is completely free. You’ll need a Goodreads account, but otherwise no hoops to jump through. I’d love to be able to mail you a copy of FALLING! Throw you name in the hat.

The giveaway ends April 30th, so sign up today!

Alright, those are all the announcements of the day. Back to business.

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Fun With HTML On Amazon

March 31st, 2014 No comments

I recently discovered that Amazon allows authors to use a small set of html tags to spiff up their product descriptions on the site. (Here is a whole list of the tags Amazon supports) It’s pretty amazing what a few h2 tags and some bolding can accomplish. I spent some time this weekend gleefully giving all of my book descriptions a little makeover. Check out the difference with my book, Falling!

(Sorry, the images are a little skewed by the frame of the website, but if you click on the images, they’ll expand so you can see them more clearly)

ORIGINAL

 

AFTER HTML MAKEOVER

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The Okayness Of Missing A Publication Deadline Even If It Pisses Off Your Deadline Monster

March 5th, 2014 No comments

Deadline. The very word sends shivers of fear up the spine of a college student scrambling to finish an essay or a writer who has made a promise to fans to publish the next book in their series by a certain date.

When I’m working on a tight deadline, I imagine my deadline as a big, snarly monster with matted green fur and a razor sharp teeth breathing down my back. As I furiously type, it licks its lips, ready to crunch some bones, or, more likely, let me know that I’m a total, utter, beyond-question loser if I don’t publish on time.  His named is Reginald.

Reginald; Don't let his adorableness fool you. His retorts can sting.

Reginald and I have an odd relationship. I guess it’d fall under the “It’s complicated” Facebook designation.

Reginald is an important part of my writing life. We indie authors need to have a deadline monster breathing down our neck in order to continue writing each day and publishing on a schedule our readers can rely on. Because it is easy to slack off.

Seriously, easy. Dr. Who marathon – need I say more? (If Netflix were a physical thing, Reginald would pour gasoline all over it and toss on a lighted match with undisguised glee)

But deadline monsters can also be too pushy. Sometimes Reginald stands wayyyy inside my personal space bubble. He can be hurtful when I want to sleep in, or a certain blue Tardis is calling to me. I understand that he’s just doing his job, but the guy needs a little flexibility. And some sensitivity training.

Reginald and I have been on pretty bad terms recently.

I published the first novel in my Girl With Broken Wings Series, Falling, in January of 2012. In January of 2013 Landing, the second novel in the series, Landed. So, January 2014 rolls around and what happens?

A big, ole NOTHING.

Reginald was all about me publishing Rising on schedule this January, but it just didn’t happen. A lot of things sucked away my time in 2013, and, I have to be honest, Reginald was a part of the problem. Every day that passed, he grew a little bigger, more loomish as he crept ever closer. I almost didn’t even want to write, because I knew he’d be staring at me, all judgey and mad.

I kept telling him, “Reggie, this book is 95,000 words long. My biggest book yet. Of course it’s going to take longer. The series is getting more complicated. It needs another round of edits. Also, indie writers can be flexible. That’s one of the great things about being an indie author. We define our own schedules!”

Did Reginald listen? Nope? He just got a big scowl on his face and said, “You’re the biggest loser in all of Loserville. You should run for the mayor of Loserville. I’d vote for you!”

See what I mean about the sensitivity training?

Reginald never gets tired of telling about all the highly successful indie authors who publish two, three, even five novels a year. “And you,” he says, “can’t publish just one?”

That’s when I got mad.

“It’s not the end of the world!” I told my hulking, snarling deadline monster. “I’d rather take more time and make this book kick ass than scramble to throw a messy pile of utter messiness on Amazon! My readers will wait. They wait years for George R. R. Martin. Hopefully they’ll allow me two extra months for this awesome book. So, GIVE ME A BREAK!”

That did the trick. Reggie’s ears went down, his tail tucked between his legs, and I swear I saw the glisten of tears in his eyes. Don’t worry, we didn’t leave things like that. I gave him a big scratch behind the ears.

“You’re really important to me,” I said as his leg thumped approvingly, “but we have to work together. I need you to be a firm-yet-understanding deadline monster. ”

“Okay,” he murmured, “but April, you’re definitely going to publish Rising by the beginning of April?”

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Going Beyond The Story

May 26th, 2013 No comments

Extras From Girl With Broken Wings

 

One of the best and most fulfilling aspects of writing a novel is the ability to construct your own world and to inhabit the minds of different people. Placing your characters in a certain situation and moving them forward requires you to understand their motivations on a deep very intimate level.

I think there are plenty of talented authors who don’t heft the shovel and dig too deeply into their characters or components of the plot, but those books don’t appeal to me very much. I can tell when an author truly knows his or her characters, when they hear the whisper of their characters in their heads and see their characters living, talking, dreaming beyond the scope of the story. These are the same authors who build a vibrant, amazingly-detailed world. It’s not just because they are extremely imaginative (though they are that too, of course), but also because they are inside the world themselves.

The writing process for my Girl With Broken Wings series doesn’t start with a blank Word doc on my laptop. It doesn’t end there either. Every day my characters whisper to me, and I watch them move in the long stretches of time between action. I see the house they live in, watch them on the gritty rooftops where they wait to take their shot, feel the endless vibrations of their SUV as they cross the country, always hunting, fighting, delivering.

Of course, all of this background can’t possibly fit into the books. Instead, it must peek out in short clips before the action, in a casual remark dropped into a conversation or in a quick observation by the narrator. These tiny details are stiches in a much larger quilt that makes up the invisible foundation of a story.

I’ve written down a few patches of this quilt and listed them on my website under extras for anyone who is interested in going a level deeper into the world of Girl With Broken Wings. The extras include:

For all you writers out there, don’t be afraid to let your characters speak or to follow them around in your mind even when they’re off the clock. Observe them and allow them the freedom to move on their own without your guidance or requirements of the plot. Observe their world, and if it is gray and fuzzy, then populate it. Add a weird vase in the character’s house and then figure out why it’s there. None of this will likely end up in your story directly, but it will be there just below the surface, adding a deeper layer that readers will recognize and appreciate.

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Landing Has Landed

January 10th, 2013 No comments

Okay, a little forced, but I’m really excited to welcome Landing, the exciting second novel in my Girl With Broken Wings series. Here’s all the details:

 

Fighting evil isn’t only high-stress, no pay, and uncomfortable as hell most of the time, it also doesn’t turn out to be quite as black and white as Maya would have hoped. As a hybrid angel struggling to control her murderous appetite, Maya should know better than to expect simplicity.  With one half-brother still convinced that she’s an unstable threat and the other oblivious to the danger she presents, Maya struggles to find a balance between her diminished humanity and the darkness of the monster within.

The world gets murkier when Maya discovers a pair of angels who invite her into their lives. Now, she must choose between family or the promise of acceptance. The stakes grow higher when Maya’s greatest enemy returns. Vengeance may be within her grasp, but will Maya have to sacrifice one she loves to take it?

Landing is J Bennett’s action-packed, darkly-humorous sequel to Falling, and the second book in the paranormal adventure series, Girl With Broken Wings Series.  And yes, there will be plenty more Chuck Norris jokes.

Available as an ebook for $4.99 on:

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