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Behind the Scenes — RECOVERING

August 25th, 2016 No comments

Author Note: For my ongoing series of behind the scenes looks at each book in the Girl With Broken Wings series, I’m re-posting this blog that explains why I had to write an entire novella from Gabe’s point of view and my unique struggles in stepping into the persona of a boy with a really dirty mouth. RECOVERING was completed and published two years ago, but this blog was originally written while I was still in the middle of editing the first draft. It’s pretty interesting for me to re-read this and see my own mindset in the middle of this project. 

Thumbnail Cover for Recovering, Girl With Broken WingsOkay, 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.

Will You Take a Moment to Bask with Me?

August 1st, 2016 No comments
Book cover of J Bennett's Flying

FLYING has launched!

We are not supposed to bask. We are not supposed to be outwardly and unapologetically proud of ourselves. Even in the face of great deeds, humility is still called for. We are supposed to say that we couldn’t have done it alone, or that it’s not a big deal, really. Well, watch me offend the world’s delicate senses, because I’m going to bask for just a little bit, and I want you to bask with me.

I just sent out the email to my reader list announcing the publication of FLYING, the fifth and final book in my Girl with Broken Wings series. Seven years ago when I started scribbling out those first few scenes in the first book, FALLING, I wasn’t even sure I was capable of writing a complete book. (Learn the full story behind FALLING.)

The scenes piled up, and eventually a messy, terrible manuscript was born. I worked and worked and worked on the manuscript. I scrubbed it up and down. I found critique partners and beta readers. And finally, I took the deepest, biggest breath possible and published FALLING.

That was pretty freaking scary.

In 2009, I wasn’t capable of writing one book. In 2016, I’ve written five books and two novellas for the GIRL WITH BROKEN WINGS series. I’ve carefully guided my characters and my story to a conclusion. I didn’t do it alone. My critique partners and my beta readers made my story better, and my fans inspired me on all those days when I felt too tired or uninspired to write. I also know that I still have a long way to go as a writer as I continually work to improve my craft.

Just for today, though, I’m going to bask.

Come tomorrow, I’ll start freaking out, convinced that the GWBW series was a fluke, that my next book will suck, regardless of what it is. And what will it be? I’ve got a dozen ideas all fighting for dominance in my mind. How to choose? What if I pick wrong and then end up stalling halfway through? What if FLYING is the last book I ever write?

Hello, anxiety. I will hang with you tomorrow, but today I’m busy. Dear reader, if you’ve read the GWBW series, then we’ve gone on a journey together. We’ve melded minds in a way that’s kind of magical. I hope that you will take a moment and bask with me whenever you read this. Bask for FLYING, for a seven-year journey, for characters that we loved together, and for a shared story finding its completion.

Ahhhh, basking.

The True Story Behind FALLING and the Girl With Broken Wings Series

April 30th, 2016 1 comment

A.K.A., a Long-Ass Post on How I Wrote and Published My First Book

Girl With Broken Wings series

Worth all the tribulations? Definitely!

I am, right now, putting the finishing touches on FLYING, the fifth and final book in my paranormal series, Girl With Broken Wings. This is kind of a big deal for me. Not just finishing another book – which is awesome – but putting this series to bed. When I started writing the first book in the series, FALLING seven years ago, finishing it felt so hard. That was the beginning of my journey within the world of Girl With Broken Wings and my journey into publishing as well. As I gear up to complete the series, I can’t help but feel a little nostalgic about those early days. If you’ve ever been curious about how the GWBW series started or about evolution as a writer and self-published author…well, here are a lot of honest words about it.

FALLING into FALLING

I mostly wrote FALLING by accident. At the time – this was back yonder in 2009 — I was actually struggling to write another book. As a writer, I had floundered for years with trying to complete a full novel. Looking back on it now, my problem was really obvious. I would get inspired by a scene in my head, start writing, and then pray to the universe that the story would just somehow work. This is known as the “seat-of-the-pants” writing method. Some writers (pantsers) do well with this method and somehow manage to cobble together something worth reading. I am not one of them. Too often, my characters would just lurch blindly from one crisis to another or spend scenes just shooting the breeze with each other, because I couldn’t think of what to do with them. My plots would either run out of steam or just hit a wall and combust.

This is exactly what was happening with my novel. I was stuck. So was my plot, my characters, and basically everything related to the book. At the time, I was watching a lot of my favorite show, Supernatural. (The most supernatural thing about the show these days is that it is somehow still on.) One episode in particular captured my attention, and from the seed GWBW would eventually be born. The Supernatural episode that changed my life was Episode Four of Season Four (Metamorphosis). In the episode our hunky heroes Sam and Dean come across a man named Jack. Jack has kind of a big problem. He is a pretty decent normal guy…who (through no fault of his own) just happens to be turning into a Rugaru, a creature who is irresistibly drawn to feeding on human flesh.

Dean, at this point in the series, is the bad ass, straight-up killa’ of the pair. He’s all for blasting Jack’s brains out. Sensitive Sam sees Jack’s humanity and wants to try and find a way to save him. Seeing any similarities between this conundrum and another set of vigilante brothers who have to decide if a certain someone is too dangerous to live?  Yeah, that episode really got to me. I wondered what it would be like to be Jack; to try and fight against terrible urges to hurt others. I also liked the difficult choice Sam and Dean had to make. Could Jack be saved, or by sparing him, were they putting other innocent people at risk? Yummy, yummy tension!

Several months after watching that episode of Supernatural, I had one of those wonderful moments when a scene just flashes through my brain. I saw a girl in a hotel room trying desperately to control her urge to drain the life out of her trusting brother who was sleeping in the next bed. (Here’s another Supernatural influence — Sam and Dean travel the country fighting evil and end up sharing a lot of hotel rooms.) I was fixated on this scene, on the girl’s struggle and the brother’s slumbering innocence. Since I was getting absolutely nowhere with my work in progress, my fingers started typing, and what came out ended up being the prologue to FALLING.

FALLING is Born…and Then I Have to Edit A Lot

As soon as that first scene was down in pixels on my computer screen, I had to know how Maya got into that room. (Fun fact: Maya’s original name was Misha before my sister forced me to change it.)  How had she been turned into an energy-sucking creature? Writing FALLING became about answering that question. It was rocky. It was messy, but the words kept coming. The scenes piled up. Somehow, I managed to do something I had never done before – I made it to the end.

Because I was a pantser, the book’s plot had more holes than a colander, but I knew I had something special. How? Because I absolutely loved the characters of Maya, Gabe, and Tarren. Each of them felt real to me, and I cared deeply about their mission. Even as I was writing that first book, I started to understand Tarren’s deep internal struggles and Gabe’s desperate optimism. I began to fill out their backstories and discovered that Tarren had quite a few skeletons in his closet (some of which will finally come out in FLYING).

I had to work that book to the bone, scrubbing and scrubbing, to get it into decent shape. It took me over a year just to edit (compared to the roughly three or four months it takes me to edit a full novel now). Looking back on my files, I realize that I eventually went through ten separate drafts of the book! Compare that to the four drafts that will take me through FLYING (first draft, first edit, beta edits, grammar/final polish). This terribly long and arduous process along with the fear of repeating it all over again when I started on LANDING is what finally helped me shift from being a pantser to an outliner.

It’s ALLLLIVE…but Unloved

In 2010, I completed what I considered to be the final draft of FALLING. It was still early days for the Kindle and, more importantly, for Amazon allowing authors to self-publish their works. At the time, self-publishing had an incredibly bad reputation. It was considered by many, including myself, to be the last refuge of the author who wasn’t good enough to get an agent and a traditional publisher. In my view, self-publishing meant epic failure.

So, for over a year, I worked to get an agent. I sent out dozens of carefully crafted query letters and attended writing conferences. The first chapters of FALLING won top pick from an agent at one of the conferences. I got a cool certificate. That agent, along with two others showed a lot of interest in the book. Here’s the problem though, the pitching process is SLOOOOOOW. If an agent likes your query, you might hear back from her in a month or two requesting the first few chapters. Now, wait another two months or so, and she might request the full manuscript. Only a very small percentage of authors get this far. When/if you do, most agents request exclusive rights to consider your work, which means you don’t continue to query other agents. I got to this stage three times. In one instance, the agent declined. In another, the agent informed me that she had taken on as many new authors as she can handle. (I realize that this is basically the agent equivalent of the “I’ve decided that I’m not really ready to date anyone new right now and just want to work on myself,” classic dating rejection.) In one instance, I waited four months until the agent came back and told me she was leaving her job.

It was extremely frustrating and disheartening. Each time an agent requested my full manuscript for consideration, I felt like I was on the brink of achieving my one true dream in life, only to get that terrible NO and have to start all over again. In the year that this process was going on, I felt paralyzed. Should I start on the next book in the series? Maya, Tarren, and Gabe were chattering non-stop in my head wanting me to continue their story. But if no agent loved my book, then wouldn’t it be smarter to write something totally new that I could pitch?

Self-Publishing to the Rescue

At the same time I was bogged down in agent-pitching limbo, something curious was happening in Kindle World. Some of those loser self-published authors were actually selling a few books. Okay, not a few books. A lot of books. Amanda Hocking was one of the first self-published authors to sell a million copies of her books. This was also the time that a handful of brave traditionally published mid-list authors decided to experiment with self-publishing. A lot of authors were writing about their journey, and as I read more about their experiences, my mind began to change.

I realized something really important. I had put my writing on hold for an entire year waiting for an agent to tell me that FALLING was worth publishing. I had given them all of the power just because I was afraid that self-publishing was a cop-out. I asked myself one simple question: Do you believe FALLING is worth reading?

The answer was yes, and so the path forward was obvious. I wasn’t going to wait any longer for someone else’s approval. I was going to put FALLING into the world and let the readers decide if it was worthy. I doubt FALLING will ever top any best-selling lists, but since I published it in 2011, it has been downloaded over 10,000 times, reached the top ten ranking in Amazon’s New Adult book category several times, and generated some amazing and heartwarming fan mail. (Which I love getting and always respond to, by the way!)

The decision to self-publish also meant that I could write LANDING, RISING, LEAPING, and finally now FLYING. I could tell the story of Maya, Tarren, and Gabe.

I had that first epiphany of Maya struggling not to kill Gabe in the hotel room in early 2009. Now, seven years later, I am about to say goodbye to these characters for good. It’s been a long journey, but I’ve grown significantly as a storyteller, as a craftsman, and as a person. Thank you so much for coming on this journey with me. Don’t worry, this is only the beginning. Saying goodbye to Maya, Tarren, and Gabe will be hard, but there are many story paths yet to walk, and I hope you will walk them with me.

Read the Full Behind-the-Scenes Series

Difficult Choices – Why You Can Only Find Some Books On Amazon

April 10th, 2016 No comments
Unlocked handcuffs

Time to break my books out of Amazon exclusivity! Photo credit: Insulinde via Visualhunt / CC BY-SA

As an author, I naturally want my ebooks to be available in as many places as possible. I want to put them on Amazon of course, but also in the Apple bookstore, Kobo, BarnesandNoble.com. Heck, if I could, I would dress up in a pink tutu and magically sprinkle print copies of my books onto every bookshelf in the world – The Book Fairy! (You know, if breaking into strangers’ houses wasn’t considered such a social faux paus).

Despite my personal preferences, you may have noticed in the past that only Falling, the first book in my Girl With Broken Wings series, was available on platforms outside of Amazon. The rest of the books were trapped, Rapunzel-like, exclusively on the giant retailer. Several readers have asked about this, so I’m going to lift the curtain of the publishing world and explain why authors face so much pressure to publish exclusively through Amazon…and why I’ve decided to buck the trend.

A Little Note About Amazon

Amazon is by far the largest book seller in the world; and not by a small margin. Barnes and Noble – one of the last remaining chain book sellers, is like a cute little smart car compared to Amazon’s growling monster truck.

Don’t think Amazon is a courteous, polite driver in that monster truck. No, it is all about rolling over the competition with its huge tires and selling power. Amazon knows that it benefits when books are only available on Amazon.com. It also knows it has a ton of leverage, because it can offer authors access to more readers than any other book selling platform.

Is Amazon – engines growling – going to use this leverage?

Uh, yeah.

KDP Select

Amazon wants exclusivity. Amazon has reader leverage to offer authors. What does it do?

Answer: It builds a program called KDP Select. In a nutshell, the job of KDP Select is to entice authors with all sorts of special privileges in order to convince them to publish exclusively on Amazon. Authors who sign on the dotted line (okay, it’s really just a super easy box that they click) agree to keep their books exclusively on Amazon in exchange for some pretty sweet perks.

What’s so awesome about KDP Select that so many authors would be willing to turn a cold shoulder to all their less cool publishing friends like Kobo, iTunes, and Nook? Lots of stuff, it turns out. KDP Select members can run special promotions on their books not available to other authors and set their books for free, which regular authors aren’t allowed to do on Amazon.

(Note: You may have noticed that, as of this writing, both Falling and Employment Interview with a Vampire are free on Amazon. Yep, there’s a super sneaky, complicated way of making this happen. Let’s just say that I am an author ninja!)

Probably the biggest benefit of going steady with Amazon is that signing up for KDP Select allows an author to enroll their ebooks into the Kindle Unlimited Program. This is Amazon’s book subscription service that lets readers borrow an endless supply of participating books. Emphasis on the word participating. Things may be different for Lee Child or Stephen King, but for us smaller authors, the only way to get into the program is to agree to go exclusive with Amazon.

This is a hard choice for authors. The Kindle Unlimited program offers authors the opportunity to earn more money, oftentimes more than what we can earn on all the smaller book selling platforms combined.

On the other hand, we also want to offer our books to readers across the spectrum. We know that some readers only own Nooks and that others shop through the iTunes store or through Kobo. Seems kind of mean to cut them out or force them to download a Kindle app or purchase a more expensive print book off of Amazon.

Breaking Out

So, what choice did I make? Weren’t you reading the beginning of this blog post? I went for the money, of course! I signed up almost all of my books exclusively with Amazon for the better part of two years. I kept Falling out of KDP Select, because it was already free on Amazon. This led, inevitably, to readers finding Falling on different book selling platforms and then getting justifiably ticked off when all of the rest of the books in the series were on Amazon.

I was never comfortable keeping all of my books on Amazon, but the extra income was…how shall I say, too good to refuse. However, over time, scammers learned how to manipulate the way Amazon paid out royalties on books in the Kindle Unlimited program. It’s this whole big, complicated story, but the bottom line is that legitimate authors started earning less and less. Amazon has promised to fix the system and filter out the spammers, but to me, this was as good a time as any to jump ship and go wide.

Yes, this means losing money, at least in the short term, but my hope is that with a little elbow grease and hard work, I can introduce my books to readers on all the different platforms. Regardless, it feels good to break my books out of the Amazon tower. To be clear, my books are all still for sale on Amazon, but they are no longer participating in the Amazon Unlimited Program.

And…drum roll….all of my books in my Girl With Broken Wings series and The Vampire’s Housekeeper Chronicles are available on:

I’m sorry it took me so long!

New Covers, New Impressions

March 29th, 2015 No comments
Old and new covers for the girl with broken wings series

The Girl With Broken Wings covers got a makeover.

Readers, you may not realize exactly how much we authors think about you. We think about you a lot. Creepy, right? But it’s only because we want you to notice us, read us, love us, and – of course – post a review about our books when you’re done. Feel flattered that we often spend hours, days, or even weeks sweating and struggling to write a book summary that will stop you in your tracks and hook you. That we fight to get into the genre categories you frequent. That we always wonder what you think about our covers.

Covers. Sigh. Perhaps nothing about publishing a book is so tricky as getting the cover right. A bad cover can break even the best book. A cover has a lot of responsibilities. It must capture a reader’s attention in a split second and whisper promises of the story within. It must be strong, powerful, clean, well-balanced, and intriguing.

But here’s the thing…authors aren’t cover designers. A few are, but most of us, including yours truly, haven’t progressed in our artistic integrity beyond stick figures. That means that we often have to hire cover designers for our books and guide them on what we want while restraining ourselves from breathing down their neck so they can do their magic.

Weird how a cover – so influential in the buying process – is so divorced from the actual creation of the book and story itself. Few cover designers read the books they create covers for. Has it ever driven you crazy that a character on the cover looks nothing like the protagonist in the book? Now you know why.

Readers, here’s a little insight into life as an author – most of us are neurotic freaks when it comes to our covers. In our writer’s groups, we constantly ask each other, “What do you think of my cover?” We send each other endless drafts from our designers, trying to tweak shadowing, fonts, the tagline, everything, all for you.

Recently, I decided to update the covers in my Girl With Broken Wings series. I really liked my previous covers. I thought they were artsy, unique, and invocative, but it was time for a change. After studying the other covers in the paranormal genre, I decided that I wanted something darker, edgier. I worked with a new cover designer for three months to re-do all of the covers in my series, and I am thrilled with the results. Every new cover that my designer sent me was like a Christmas present come early.

The result is the banner at the top of this blog, which showcases my old covers and my new covers.

It will be interesting moving forward to see if these covers influence readers or impact my sales. All I can say is that I love their artistry and grittiness, and I think they promise an exciting story within. I hope readers will agree!

Ten Reasons Why Writing and Self-Publishing a Novel is the Coolest Thing I’ve Ever Done

February 22nd, 2015 No comments
young child drawing

My first novel

Like many authors, I knew that I wanted to be a writer from a young age. I wrote “novels” with crayons on big pads of paper and then in dark ink on “secret” notebooks. I even pecked a few shaky stories out on a typewriter as I was growing up. I always had this vision of myself as a writer, even if I wasn’t exactly sure how that was going to happen or how shy little me would ever gather up the courage to put my words out in the world.

Fast forward a decade. I’d spent two years tapping away on my laptop and ended up with a stack of paper filled with my words. This was Falling, the first novel that I felt was actually good.  I spent another year getting close, but not close enough to snagging an agent. At the end of that year with nothing to show for a hundred query letters sent, I was done waiting for validation from someone else. Despite the fact that my heart wanted to jump out of my chest and go running for the hills, I self-published my book and it was the coolest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Here’s why:

1. I am an author!

Writing makes you a writer. Publishing your work and allowing the world to see it makes you an author. When I finally gathered the courage to self-publish, I wondered if I was a “real” author since an agent or a publisher didn’t give my book approval. Over time I’ve realized that validation comes from my readers not agents who only take on a handful of new clients a year in genres they think have the greatest market potential. I write, publish, and sell books. I am an author. Awesome-sauce!

 2. My choice, my way

The beauty of self-publishing is that I get to make every major decision related to my book. I guide my cover artist, I decide which platforms I want to publish on, and I decide how to price my book. Last year after publishing the third book in my new adult paranormal series, Girl With Broken Wings, I decided to make the first book in the series, Falling, free. This is the same book I spent two years writing and another year pitching to half-interested agents. A publisher would never let me give this book away for free, but I love its zero price tag. I am giving a readers a risk-free chance to try my writing style and fall in love with my characters. Thousands of readers have downloaded Falling, so I think it’s working.

 3. I had to face my fears

For a long time I didn’t think my book was good enough unless an agent or publisher ultimately decided to represent it. Several agents showed a lot of interest in Falling, but in the end they passed on it. It felt like they were passing on me as an author. After a year of wasted time when I could have and should have been working on the next book in the series, I realized this was my moment of truth. Was I going to keep waiting for someone else to tell me my writing was good enough, or would I listen to my heart? Self-publishing was scary for me. I was putting my words – a little piece of my soul – out for the universe to judge. What if readers hated my book? What if they laughed at me, skewered my writing, or worse…ignored it completely?

Publishing felt like a big leap, but it was also very freeing. After I published that first novel, I was hooked, and I never looked back.

 4. I made some new besties

Writing is not a solitary endeavor as many people believe it is. Over the last few years, I have built a great team of wonderful people around me. At first they were critique partners, beta readers, fellow authors asking questions on forums, and members of my author group. Over time, they became friends. I entrust them with my newborn novels and listen carefully to their feedback. I care about their progress and celebrate their writing success as if it were my own.

5. I got in shape

Sometimes the things you learn as you write change your life. When I first started working on my novel Falling, I needed my vigilante characters to be in fantastic shape. I did a lot of research on the most effective fighting methods and fitness routines and decided my characters trained in Krav Maga for fighting prowess and did CrossFit for overall fitness. At the time, I was plateauing in my own gym routine. After a lifetime of being an athlete, I was losing my edge. I did a search and found a local CrossFit “box” near me. It was love at first nauseatingly difficult workout. I’ve been doing CrossFit for over four years now, and I’ve never been in better shape.

 6. I’m actually making money!

The first month Amazon deposited a royalty payment in my business checking account was one of the most amazing and coolest moments of my life. It didn’t matter that the amount was about $50. I was making money…from writing books. It was a dream come true! What was even more amazing is that the small payments kept coming month after month, which meant that people who were not my family members and friends were paying money to read my book. I still don’t make enough to be a full time writer yet, but my royalties are growing, and I feel so proud that I am earning money for my writing and that readers are voting for my skill as an author with their dollars. Readers have millions of books to choose from, as well as endless movies, television shows and video games. Every download I get and every dollar I make is a personal victory.

7. My friends think it’s pretty awesome that I’m an author

Your real friends, the ones who truly want you to be happy and succeed in life, will think it’s really, really cool that you have written books. They will beg to read them and generously write reviews. They will call you up and want to talk about the characters and chide you for making them cry. In essence, they will understand how much writing means to you and they will celebrate you for completing each novel and publishing. It’s the same way you will support your friends as they train for a marathon, start a new relationship, or decide to throw caution to the wind and start their own business. You recognize how much this new goal means to them and you feel excited for them as they get closer and closer to realizing their dreams. It is an amazing feeling knowing your friends support your endeavors and that they think you are awesome for writing and publishing books even if you never become the next Stephen King.

8I’ve received fan mail

Nothing can describe the feeling of receiving a note from a complete stranger that says, “I loved your book! When is the next one coming out?” No matter how much I told myself that I thought my book was well-written and worth publishing…. No matter how much my critique partners and beta readers told me it was ready….I don’t think I truly believed I had written something good until I heard from my first fan. Every single interaction with a happy reader is a treasure to me. Like I’ve mentioned, the royalties of my books don’t pay my mortgage yet, but every time I get a fan letter, I feel renewed. My purpose and my motivation to keep writing spikes to the moon. I keep every fan letter. They are my inspiration and my remedy for my worst moments of doubt.

9. I found the best office mate in the world

Black bunny with white nose

Avalon

In my novel, Falling, one of my characters, Gabe, adopts a pet bunny he names Sir Hopsalot. When I first wrote this scene, I had to spend a few hours researching rabbits as pets. I found out that they could be litter box trained and that many owners allowed their bunnies to roam free around the house.

Personally, I come from a long line of crazy cat people. One night a few years ago, I felt that genetic stirring in my soul to get a pet. Unfortunately, at the time my roommate was allergic to cats and our small apartment wasn’t a good environment for a dog.

That’s when it hit me – a bunny! I quickly logged onto the local Humane Society’s website, and there I found a picture of an adorable black bunny with a white star on his nose named Avalon. It was love at first sight.

Sure, Avalon occasionally eats my shoes…while they’re on my feet, and he hasn’t figured out that digging in the carpet won’t accomplish anything, but he is an amazing and wonderful office mate. I love that he is a fun and frolicking part of my life…all thanks to my character Gabe and his fictional pet, Sir Hopsalot.

10. I get to do it all over again

I have to admit that after I self-published for the first time, I got a little addicted. I realized that publishing a novel wouldn’t kill me. In fact, it made me stronger and more confident. I was on my right path, and I felt that deep in my bones. My mind is always buzzing with stories, and I feel an incredible rush when I write tight and exciting scenes that challenge my characters physically and emotionally. Since I published Falling, I’ve written two more books and two novellas in the Girl with Broken Wings series. I’ve also just completed the first draft of the fourth novel in the series. I’ve also published a compilation of short, humorous vampire stories in a series called, The Vampire’s Housekeeper Chronicles. I love writing. It nourishes my soul. Thanks to self-publishing, I don’t have to wait for someone else’s approval. I can just keep writing, keep publishing, and keep loving every day I get to be an author.

Why I Wrote A Series About A Cranky, Old, Unattractive Vampire — Behind The Scenes With The Vampire’s Housekeeper Chronicles

September 17th, 2014 No comments
Nathaniel, The Vampire's Housekeeper Chronicles

Not so sparkly, but I love Nathaniel anyway.

I am getting ready to compile all the short stories in my The Vampire’s Housekeeper Chronicles series into a single collection, and I thought readers might be interested to learn where the idea for this series came from. I’ll ruin the surprise – it was Twilight. But here’s the full story…

Vampires had it good for a couple of centuries. They inspired fear, pants wetting, and lots of running around and screaming like a boob. They were cruel, deliciously vicious, and powerful…and then Twilight came along.

With this single book, vampires left the realm of nightmares and became squarely lodged into the stuff of tween girl daydreams. CW’s Vampire Diaries has only thrown gasoline onto the tragic fire of hunky, sensitive, and people-eating free vampire mythology.

My sister and I email each other back and forth every day, because apparently email is our crack. About two years ago, my sister headlined an email with this complaint: “I hate that vampires are all total wusses now!”

My response was, “If you were over 100 years old, why in the world would you want to spend your immortal afterlife in high school?”

How could a 100+ year-old vampire not get bored out of his mind and fed up with all the stupid dramatics of high school? There are obvious physical reasons why a vampire might be attracted to a high school girl, but what could they possibly talk about? [Insert joke about how talking isn’t necessary for certain activities].

“And how would a vampire even be able to keep up with the times? I just learned how to use Siri, and I was born in the last century,” I wrote to my sister. “How could someone who grew up with steam engines and telegraphs understand iTunes, texting, and the resurgence of Weird Al Yankovic?”

Thus an idea was born…an idea to write about a vampire who was not handsome, not sparkly, not fascinated by the vacant minds of high school girls, and who definitely could not flawlessly keep up with the rapid pace of technological innovation.

For the next couple of days, I started each email to my sister with an ongoing story of a luckless college grad who finds herself out of a job and lacking in useful job skills. When she goes to an employment agency for help, she is sent on an interview for a housekeeping position at a haunted mansion where her perspective boss…isn’t exactly a vegetarian.

Deidre and Nathaniel were born. That first story was completely random, a little bit of cheek that stemmed from my desire to write a different type of vampire. What I didn’t realize at the time was that the story fulfilled another need I have always wanted to explore as a writer – writing a different type of protagonist.

Deidre is so far from the wispy, damsel-in-distress Bella, that she might as well live on a totally different planet. Deidre is overweight, self-conscious, funny, loyal, and pragmatic. She sees the world with a wry sense of humor and a certain stoic acceptance of her messy and chaotic existence.

That first story was such fun to write that I kept the narrative going into a second chapter, which would eventually become The Vampire Hunter Comes to Call. About the time I finished up the third installment (eventually Duel with the Werefrog), I realized that I really liked Nathaniel, Deidre, Dex, and Sloppy Joe (who was originally named High Man until my sister pointed out the similarity between his name and a certain part of the female anatomy).

The stories needed a lot of polish from their original email serial form, but with a little elbow grease, Deidre’s world started to come to life (or afterlife). I loved writing the first six stories in this series. With each story, Deidre’s world got a little bigger and more complex. Over the course of the series, Drew has turned into a reoccurring character, as have Nathaniel’s bingo buddies.  I’m excited to introduce a very intriguing character – Hunter Gulliver Graves – in the novella that completes the first volume of this series. (Apprenticeship With A Vampire is now available!) I love all the silly and improbable situations Deidre finds herself in and all the jokes the ghosts play on her. However, I believe each story also contains a little bit of Deidre wisdom tucked beneath the top layer of humor. I hope readers get this and enjoy a story that can be both silly and a tiny bit serious at the same time.

The Vampire’s Housekeeper Chronicles, Volume One will launch on October 1st, so if you haven’t tried the series yet, get ready for this very non-Twilight vampire series.

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.

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.

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 iTunes, Kobo, and BarnesandNoble.com.

One More Thing — Free FALLING Giveaway

<< Blog Update: This giveaway has expired <<

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.

Who Can’t Use More Grouchy Vampire In Their Life? J Bennett Publishes “Death in the Family”

March 13th, 2014 No comments

A New Short Story in The Vampire’s Housekeeper Chronicles

Post Update: The short story Death in the Family has been bundled into a two-part novella, When Vampires and Ninjas Collide, available on Amazon, iTunes, Kobo, and BarnesandNoble.com 

Nathaniel has been grumbling for some time that I haven’t been writing about all his thrilling adventures, prowling the night, sipping his prune juice, and driving his poor housekeeper, Deidre crazy (which is technically allowed in her employment contract, btw).

 

Well, here we go. I’m happy to announce that I’ve just unleashed…er, released a new hilarious short story in The Vampire’s Housekeeper Chronicles. You can read all about Death in the Family below, but before you do, here’s a cool quickie announcement:

 

The Story Will Be Discounted To $0.99 On Amazon Until Friday, March 21st

 

That’s right, I want to reward Nathaniel’s most loyal fans with a price even that penny-pinching vampire couldn’t refuse. After the ten days are up, the story will go to its intended price of $1.99. Click the image above to immediately go to Amazon.

 

Okay, here’s the short story blurb. I think you’ll like it!

 

Some Family Feuds Last Beyond The Grave…

 

Life as a vampire’s housekeeper is rough. Try cleaning a haunted mansion when spider webs reconstitute every hour, or keeping a positive outlook when the ghosts put tarantulas in the morning coffee. Then there’s the boss, who gets a little savage when his prune juice runs out.

 

Deidre’s life is no walk in the park, but with the impending arrival of Nathaniel’s sister, things go from crazy…to crazy plus some extra deadly fun thrown on top.

 

Tiffany arrives in high fashion, amazing curves and sharp fangs on full display. Her posse includes a zombie husband who smells like the city dump is his bathtub and a chilling ghost. As Deidre struggles not to burn dinner, impress Drew (hunky wereferret with a capital H), and stay one step ahead of an insane ghost who delights in dropping chandeliers on heads, she discovers Tiffany has an ulterior and vengeful purpose for her visit.

 

Nathaniel has put on his very best cape just for this story. (He does love his capes!) Join him, Deidre, Drew, and a growing cast of colorful characters in this new and hilarious short story in The Vampire’s Housekeeper Chronicles series. Can Deidre stop the powerful, evil, not-even-fair-how-good-she-looks-in-skinny-jeans, Tiffany? Or will Nathaniel learn that death can’t solve all family disagreements? Find out!

 

Here’s what readers are saying about The Vampire’s Housekeeper Chronicles Series:

 

>>> “A very funny short story that gives reading about vampires a delightful and refreshing twist.”

 

>>> “Although undead, Nathanial is a fresh take on the genre, and the Chronicles are quite enjoyable.”

 

>>> “I would recommend this short story to anybody who is tired of chick-lit vampires and appreciates a large amount of wry sarcasm.”

 

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Don’t forget that Nathaniel has plenty of other adventures available. If you haven’t read about Deidre’s infamous job interview, Nathaniel’s not-so-nice vampire hunter visitor, or his duel with a werefrog, check out those stories in Employment Interview with a Vampire. This may just be my completely biased opinion, but I really think each story gets better and better.