Friday, March 25, 2011

Friendship, champagne, and other tales

Being a real life cougar, I tend spend a lot of time with a significant other who is from a different decade. This is usually fun for me, because he keeps me on my toes, but sometimes--well, sometimes I just feel the need to talk to someone closer to my own age. There's no need to explain references, no need to explain physical limitations, no teasing about my reading glasses/bifocals/et al.  Lucky me, I have those people in my life, and they constantly remind me of the true value of friends.

Let me just say the bald truth, I am not a great friend.  I spend too much time being overwhelmed by the magnitude of the schemes and plots of my life. It takes a lot of energy to be risk taker.  I don't have a whole lot of it to go around. Unfortunately, my tendency to jump off cliffs trying to see if I can fly precludes me getting overly close to any one person. I would not be the best person to call if your house is on fire, but if I find out and get there, I can be formidable in removing all obstacles from your path.  I am a whirlwind once I can fit you in to my schedule <sigh>. I know.  I'm still working on it. My sister is a great friend to her friends.  I try to emulate her.

So though I am often not a good friend, I do recognize a good one when I see one.  I saw three great ones last night. They took me to dinner, bought champagne to celebrate my books, and teased me about reading only the sex scenes until they had me blushing. Yes, blushing. Me. The one who wrote the scenes was blushing. Lesson learned: It is one thing to write a scene for a stranger who will buy the whole story and quite another to have friends reading them to husbands and saying "Donna wrote this--Can you believe she wrote this?" Now how am I going to look those men in the eye next time I see them? I'm going to have to get one of those tee shirts warning them to be careful how they treat me or they might end up in my novel. Teasing!  Okay, mostly teasing.

Last night I laughed.  I cried.  I was happy--happier than I have been in a couple of years.  And that's why I tried to show the importance of the friendship in these first stories. Love, romance, and a hot guy who knows where all the right buttons are is really good to have. But when you are over 50, cynical, and weary of life's trials, there is nothing, literally nothing, like the hug of someone who puts all their energy into wishing the best for you.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Dating A Cougar Book 1 Downloads

Since publishing on March 11, downloads at Smashwords have gone above 1000. Sales of Book 2 are climbing slowly as well.  I still have this sense of awe about so many people being willing to read my work. There is really only one thing to say.


If all goes well, both books will be available for purchase at Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Sony, Diesel, and Apple by the end of the month.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Working on Book 3 Dating A Saint

The third book is an emotional one for both me and the characters of James Gallagher and Lauren McCarthy. The premise is a man who is married in name only, but chooses to remain married to his wife-but-not really-a-wife for some very good reasons.  His decision to do this only becomes a problem for him when the heroine comes along and interrupts his noble intentions by daring to want to get involved with him despite his circumstances. Both characters are 42 years old and their story is not an easy one with easy answers. I did finally figure out the dilemma I was stuck on this week, and thankfully my research is supporting my resolution. I'm thinking the story is still on target to be fully drafted by the end of March and released in early April.

In the real life story that loosely inspired this one, the people involved were in their late sixties and seventies.  My story is quite different from the real one, but the loss of love is the same.  In the real one, the man who remained well lost his wife of many, many years first to illness, and then to another man she fell in love with as a result of the illness. As happens so often, there was no happy ending in the real story, but I prayed for the universe to bless a man with such a loving heart.

Every time I thought about the real story, it reduced me to tears for several weeks after hearing it. It raised the bar for how I defined love and commitment. After my tears passed, I just sort of knew I wanted one day to write a story about long time love lost, but in my story I was determined all the main characters would have a happy ending. It's just how I roll as a writer and one of the main reasons I wanted to write romances. I'm not into obscure endings in my fiction and will leave that to other writers.  Instead, give me closure, and move aside while I work my creative magic to find the HEA (happily ever after).

I didn't necessarily know when I started the Never Too Late series that Lauren's story would end up being this one, but I wasn't really surprised when it worked out that way.  The first time I knew was when Lauren kissed Jim at Casey's and Alexa's engagement party in Book 2. He felt he didn't deserve her or to be happy with her. I put my reaction aside and promised to get back to them.  And I did.

To those reading my blog and interested, I just want to say that I think of this story as balancing the overall karma in the universe for those situations destined to not work out well. I hope every person who ends up reading Book 3 will look at Jim's story and think the promises he keeps to his legal wife are the epitome of love and faithfulness.  I also hope you end up agreeing with me that what Jim ends up doing with Lauren is not outside the capacity we all have for great love.

Now that I've told you so much, I promise to do my best not to keep you waiting more than a few more weeks for the story.  My online teaching work still demands the majority of my time, but I promise to finish Book 3 as soon as I can.  My hero inspires me to keep my promises.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

First day out in the scary, exciting world of self-publishing

I was sending out my work to traditional large and small publishers when I discovered self-publishing. It is a lot of work. The technical aspects of preparing a manuscript for publication are numerous, tedious, and you have to be willing to correct your mistakes as you go along.

There are many reasons I decided to take the risk and just put my work out there.  Here are two:
  • Feedback is necessary to the work of writing. I was getting positive feedback along with multiple polite "thanks, but no thanks" to my story submissions. The ones I just self-published yesterday fit a fairly new break-out genre of romances containing older characters. It might have been arrogant of me to think my first work would be recognized as worthy by at least one of the three publishers I targeted who were looking for work along those lines. I got close, in fact really close one time, but even that almost-but-not-quite-a-yes was a painful experience for my ego. Getting so close, but still not getting my foot in the proverbial publishing door, I started getting wrapped up in doubts like "What does it mean when the acquiring editor says x? Does that mean as a writer I'm bad/uncreative/unimaginative?". Those doubts led to wondering if the publisher really would read my work again if I made their suggested changes, which frankly in all cases was good advice about the story whether I ultimately chose to heed it or not. Those people in the middle--when they are invested in you--do help you improve your writing. However, what struck me most was how much my emotional state suffered for the five months I spent trying to hand over that level of control to agents and publishers. The irony of what I was doing finally caught up to me as I read blog after blog and article after article from authors who were making the leap from traditional to indie publishing.  It is an author reality that he or she who publishes hands over control of their art to someone. The difference seems to be that self-published writers are just cutting out the middle people in the chain. I can tell you I feel much better about handing control over to my readers who will let me know through sales, reviews, emails, and other sources if I am pleasing them or not.  If I need an editor--and we all do--I'll hire one as soon as I can afford the person. In the meantime, friends are helping (and bless you for it).  I looked for and found my own cover artist already. She is talented and lovely to work with as a creative partner. Quite frankly, the formatting grunt work of manuscript preparation I can do myself.  I spent 18 years in technical fields and I hate that part of the work--but I can do it.  So then what does that leave as I put my work out there on my own with only the distributor as a friendly face?  It leaves just me and the readers who are taking a chance that I'm entertaining enough to drop a few bucks on now and again. I will tell you that today, tomorrow, and every day I continue to do this I will be waiting for their feedback with a bottle of wine, a box of chocolates, and multiple boxes of tissues (if necessary) to hear what they think.

  • Money is necessary to keep on going. So many writers are learning that they will average more earnings though self-publishing. As an indie author you might not make the New York Times Bestseller list as quickly, or at all, but if you can be happy with your sales and making a living, how much does that matter? Being a newbie, I had to give this some serious thought because, well--okay I do go check out those shelves in the bookstores. So I had to ask myself a very hard question. Did I want to be famous or did I want to make a living as a writer?  With bills to pay like everyone else, this ended up being a fairly easy decision. Do I aspire to be the next indie publishing success story like Amanda Hocking or Brian S Pratt?  In a word--yes. Will I make it? Who knows? In an interview about her success Amanda Hocking said the most brilliant thing I've heard on the matter. She was talking about another writer she knew well who was as good a writer, and sometimes even better than her. The friend also wrote books with similar subject matter.  What was her secret to selling so well while he was not?  She simply said, "I don't know." It was an insightful answer. Why?  Because it is about the readers ultimately, and their reaction to your work is the great unknown. It is very scary and very exciting. I am choosing to look at it this way--if I write a good story that readers want to download and read then the money will eventually follow. In the meantime, I will just keep on writing.
Since my books went live at Smashwords Friday morning, I've had 248 downloads of Book 1 (a free 80K word story). I also had 3 downloads so far of Book 2 (76k words)  in the same series which is listed for sale at $2.99.  This happened in less than 24 hours. Am I rich yet? Please--even the thought is hilarious, and this would be the perfect place to insert the text emoticon for ROFL (rolling on the floor laughing). What I got was so much better than money on my first scary day out there.  I discovered that 248 people looked at my book cover, read my blurb, and thought what I wrote might be worth reading.  Three even went back to get the second book. I'm not naive. I know some readers will like my work and others will not. What I got from yesterday, from my first self-publishing experience, was simply enough validation to motivate me to get the third book in the series finished and up for sale as soon as I can.  Why is that just as important as the money?  Because since yesterday I have become a writer that readers want to read.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Why I chose to write romances featuring older characters

As a life-long romance reader, I have always been drawn to stories containing strong heroes and heroines who know their minds and live their truths. When I got the urge to write about older women and men, I did so with full knowledge some readers might not be interested in reading about mature characters in love. I knew there was a possibility the stories might not sell, but in typical Baby Boomer rebellious fashion, I said “screw it, I’m not making the characters younger, they need to be older”.
Why did I do this? Because my youngest child is twenty-six, not sixteen. Because I’ve had two, yes two, long term relationships where I continue to happily express my sexuality (first one for twenty-three years). I personally know people of many ages who are still falling in love as if they were seventeen and new at it. Being older just means you just get to the really profound sex part quicker, and there’s so much less fumbling in the dark. Thank heavens for experience.
My Never Too Late series characters are older, successful, mostly stable, and yet on the brink of starting over. Things have happened to them that color their judgments about life. They often hate getting older. Cancer hits a loved one. Their jobs end. Still life goes on somehow. Good thing too, or we would all be in a lot of trouble in this world. I don’t dwell on how they handle the trauma. I just show that they survive, and later thrive by finding happiness despite their setbacks.