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Archive for December, 2012

In The Spirit Of Love

In The Spirit Of Love

When my debut novel, In The Spirit Of Love, was finally released via Echelon Press, LLC in November, I was over the moon. Before it was actually out there, live and open to the world, I had no idea how I’d feel. Then I downloaded a copy to my Kindle and there it was! I sat in my tiny little office space (just a corner of a room really), and started to shake. Then I got all teary. Then I jumped up to find my husband and parents, whom we’re temporarily living with. It was surreal. I couldn’t believe that people all over the world would be able to seek out, download, and actually read the words I’d laboured over so long and hard. We celebrated with champagne and orange juice even though it was only 9:30 in the morning, my mother downloaded a copy to her Nook, and I cried a little more. Then I got up and went back to my “office” to begin the task of promoting it to the world.

That’s when it hit me. People were going to be able to read my words and judge them. They’d decide whether the story I’d crafted was good, bad or mediocre. But first, they had to know about it. My work wasn’t done. In actual fact, it had just doubled, or tripled. Now, not only was I going to have to keep working on my current project, the sequel, but I was going to have to start devoting a good portion of each day marketing and promoting the heck out of this now released one.

 

Statistics

Statistics

Then I made a tactical error. I started reading, at first hourly, the ratings on the sites it was available on. I don’t claim to understand how the ratings work. I don’t think anyone does, but I avidly went to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords, and OmniLit to see what the “numbers” said. They made no sense to me, but I knew they were important, so I watched. My emotions see-sawed with the numbers on the screen. The lower the number, the better, so when the numbers went down, I rejoiced, but when they went back up, which of course I knew they would, I still felt let down. I started getting edgy. How could I get those numbers down and prove, to myself, that my book had merit and that others were buying it. I had no way to know how many were buying it, or even where. I also didn’t know yet what people thought of it, so I focused on the rating numbers.

A few days went by like this, and I’m sure I drove my family nuts with it. Then I remembered something I’d heard Oprah Winfrey say once. She recounted how, in the beginning of her career, she too focused on the “ratings” of her new show. Her staff and producers did the same. They compared her to her contemporaries and determined whether or not they were on the right track with them. They told her she had to “keep her ratings up” to be successful and win the “game”. Then she said something I’ve never forgotten. She said she realized she didn’t have to compete with anyone. She only had to do her very best every single day and be herself. The rest would just have to work itself out. She told her producers and staff not to bog her down with talk of ratings, as this just interfered with her vision for herself and the show. She didn’t want to get caught up in the hype. She just wanted to do a good job and bring whatever wisdom and light she could into the lives of her audience. Well Amen. I had my Ah ha moment.

I’m no Oprah Winfrey, but that piece of wisdom makes sense to me. I guess I’ve always been of the opinion that I can only do the best I can at whatever I take on. I can only be myself. I write because it’s what I love and want to do, not because I’m being “rated” for it. Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean the ratings don’t matter. In book sales, in business, they do. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to be successful and make a decent living at this writing gig, I do. But now I check them once a day, just to begin to understand whatever trends they might indicate. What I don’t do is agonize over them anymore. I don’t judge whether or not I’m a good writer by them. What matters to me is whether people who read the books are enjoying them, so those are the ratings and reviews I focus on. If they’re positive, then I’m on the right track in terms of story line. If and when I get poor reviews, and I’m sure I will, then I’ll pay attention, take them with a grain of salt and take what I can from them.

The Magic of Reading

The Magic of Reading

I keep talking about how my lessons in writing mimic my lessons in life. This is another of those instances. Of course I want to be a successful, prolific writer, but only I can determine those terms. So I’ll work my butt off to get the word out there, I’ll promote my work when and where I can, I’ll continue to write the very best stories I can and grow into my craft, and I’ll have to let the chips fall where they may. Just like in life, it’s all any of us can really do. The rest is all just hype.

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The Prince Charming Hoax

The Prince Charming Hoax

 

 

I quite enjoyed reading The Prince Charming Hoax. It’s snappy dialogue, erotic sex scenes and contemporary story were easy to follow and kept me turning the pages. I particularly identified with the character, Leah. Her outlook on life and sense of humour were what kept me engaged throughout the story, which is why I gave this book 4 stars. I’d highly recommend this book to any female in the 20+ age range who possess an open mind, (due to the light erotica) and love of contemporary romance novels. Good work by author, Shelley Lieber/Elyse Grant!

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Jumping for joyWow, this past week has been exciting. After some three years (give or take) of writing, I can now say I’m a bona fide published author.  Woohoo! The moment I downloaded a copy of my book onto my Kindle and my mother downloaded hers onto her Nook, I started to shake. Then I cried like a baby on my husband’s shoulder, while my dad looked on in bemused wonder.

I was unprepared for the emotions I’d experience at the live “birth” of this baby. I’d always wondered why authors likened a book to a baby, but having just gone through the experience, I now completely understand.  Having toiled away in relative quiet; writing, reading, editing, re-writing, submissions, rejections, more editing, more reading, and about three more rounds of editing, I’ve come to realize just what kind of dedication it takes to becoming a published writer. It’s no easy task, and not for the faint of heart.

Kind of like with pregnancy, you grow the “book baby” within you, close to your heart. No one can see or hear it yet, but you know it’s there. Then you announce to the world you are writing a book, and the responses run the gammit from “Wow, that’s incredible!”, to “Oh really…”. Like a pregnant mom, you protectively cross your arms over your growing child and tell yourself  it doesn’t matter if your book is a huge commercial success, is beautiful, well-received, or brilliant. It doesn’t matter. It’s yours – all yours.

As release day looms, you begin to anticipate all kinds of terrible things, like; it’s a terrible story, it’s not well-written, people will hate it, it’ll be full of all kinds of flaws that everyone will see. But you love your child, so you do everything you can to prepare for the birth – the release date. You cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s, hoping to get it as perfect as you can, while still agonizing about how it will be received by the public at large.

As you go through all of these stages, you are terrified you’ve missed something. In fact, there is no such thing as a perfect book. Almost every book written has some flaws, a missed punctuation here, an oddly placed word there, some bit of awkward phrasing you didn’t catch during the gazillion times it’s been edited by you, your editor and whoever else you’ve had aid you. Just before the release, you realize you’ve done everything you possibly can, and you know your child will not be perfect. As in people, it simply can’t be. You breathe and you try to accept that this “baby” will be whatever it is meant to be.

Oh, but then there is the birth – the date of public release. Suddenly after all the stress, strain and pain, it is out in the world for all to see. Every thought you’ve put down on paper is there. Good, bad or indifferent, anyone who picks it up and reads it now knows whether it’s a good story, a mediocre story, or a bad one. All the flaws are revealed. But as you gaze upon the written words on a mechanical device or paper bundle for the first time, your heart melts. It is done. It is beautiful. So you cry, you shake with emotion, and you let those who’ve stood by your side wrap you in their arms of love and share in the excitement.

cartoon BabyThe first day or two are euphoric. You are thrilled, proud and want to show it to everyone. You want to give it the best life you possibly can. So what do you, the author/parent do? You begin promoting the hell out of it. You tell perfect strangers, family, friends, anyone, that your baby deserves a fighting chance. You start pouring over the book’s ranking on the on-line sales sites, unsure of what they mean. Your family and friends start asking things like, “so how’s it going?” or, “how are sales today?”

You become somewhat defensive. Sales? Who cares about sales? Who cares if it currently ranks in the hundreds of thousands on Amazon because few people still know about it. Oh, you care. You care because you want your baby to succeed. You care because your “baby” is a reflection of you. You created it, so it is intrinsically a part of you. It is only day four of it’s life, yet you want it to be a star among stars, shining brighter than all the other millions of stars out there.

Then, if you are reasonable, you begin to breathe again and realize that you can only do the very best you can.  As Richard Mabry states in his guest blog on Rachelle Gardner’s blog site, “should you open the champagne when the number is small and look for the bottle of antidepressants when the number rises? Nope. Just keep writing.”.  You want to give your new “baby” the best possible start in life you are able to provide it, and you will continue to do so, but you must also resume other aspects of your life. Your spouse, family and friends are standing by patiently (or not) waiting for you to rejoin the rest of society. You start to loosen the iron grip you had on statistics, rankings and reviews, and begin to focus on simply raising your “child” and enjoying the journey.

Then, you get another book idea-and start the whole cycle over again. So now I understand. Writing a book and getting it published is about more than just putting words to the proverbial page. It is about faith, love, perseverance, and the need to tell the stories that inhabit your mind. It is very much like parenting and life. In fact, it brings to mind the Serenity poem, which reads, “God, grant me the serenity to change the things I can, to accept the things I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference”. 

Serenity Prayer

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The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap

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