Monday, December 15, 2014

Taking Care of YOU

With all the hustle and bustle of the holidays in full force, and all those treats being dangled before us like a never ending buffet, I know the last thing on our minds is getting healthy. But don't we owe it to ourselves to do just that?

Last month I joined a gym. A huge step for someone like me who has basically been the girl curled on the couch with a book her whole life. I also had a milestone birthday in 2014 and decided it might be time to start preserving what was left of the decent body I have!

So, even though I work 30 hours a week outside the house, plan on writing at least 100,000 words this coming year, have a family, a house, a social life...well, you get the idea...I committed to working out a few days a week at my local LA Fitness. (Because I'm not a big fan of paying for something I'm not using, I need to go to justify that $40 a month price tag!)

A few months back I got myself an ergonomic keyboard, so that as I write those 100,000 words this coming year I will have less stress on my fingers and wrists.

I got a new office chair, so that my back doesn't ache quite so much as my fingers are pounding the keyboard.

At the gym, I take an early Saturday morning Yoga class to add some mental clarity to my week, learning to push out the negative and make room for the positive is important!

I've been making healthier choices at the grocery store and when I'm dining out (Ok...maybe not all the time. LOL)

While I'm not big on New Year's Resolutions, making my health (both mental and physical) a priority in a goal I can embrace.

And those of us choosing to be a little healthier this year are not in it alone. Hop on over to twitter and you'll find #healthywriter! Join the conversation with other likeminded writers, share your ups and your downs, be supportive and get support too.

How about you? How are you planning to take care of YOU in 2015?

Monday, December 8, 2014

End of Year Tally & Planning Ahead

December already. Where did the year go? Seriously. Where?

Now is a good time to take stock of what you accomplished this year as a writer. Look back on the goals you hit and those you missed. See what you can do now to reach just one more of them - even just a small one - before the year ends.

Personally, I'm busily writing away, hoping to finish just one more novel before the ball drops on New Year's Eve. I might just make it too!

While December can be the busiest time of year - even if, like me, you don't have a large family - it also has a lot of time off from work and/or school. Those holidays from your normal routine can sometimes be used to write, if you are so inclined.

I remember when I worked full-time in Manhattan. That week between Christmas and New Year was a wonderful time-out-of-time where I could immerse myself in my latest writing project and not think about the office for a few days at a time. Back then, it was a luxury to just step into my novel and stay there for a while.

Now that I write full-time, the holidays when all the stores are closed, the mailman doesn't show up and all is quiet in the world for just a few hours, can still be a magical time to spend in my made-up worlds.

In the real world, you may want to take this the final few weeks in the year to prepare for next year, so you can hit the ground running in January. I keep several spreadsheets to track the progress of my projects, but one of the most important things I use every day is my calendar. I use a spreadsheet I designed myself that helps me calculate how long each project might take, based on how many words I plan to write each day, but a simple paper calendar from the dollar store will work as well.

I suggest you get one and start writing in it - in pencil (colored pencils are even better to color-code!) - to plan out the projects you hope to work on in the first part of the year. I try to plan about six months in advance, but even three months is a good start. Put all of your personal obligations on the calendar - the things you cannot move - in pen (colored markers are good too, since you can color-code for different kinds of events). Then make realistic estimates of how much you can get done on each day you plan to write.

That's where the pencils come in because this will be the most flexible part of your plan. Some days you might not write as much as you hoped. Some days you might have a bonanza! (And who doesn't love those kinds of days?)

Add in time for unexpected events and definitely add time for editing and proofing. You know your own process best, so depending on how in-depth your edit process is, you might need more or less time for that. Once you have all that on your calendar, you have your battle plan for achieving that first goal of the year. Congratulations!

I do this every year. In my case, this system helped me accomplish quite a bit this year. I went into 2014 working on finishing a novel. I got interrupted by emergency surgery in late January (which is why you need to use pencils - so you can erase and adjust), but managed to get back into the swing of things in February. Just as an example, in 2014, using my method, I did the following:

February - I self-published the 3rd book in my Redstone Clan series.
March - my publisher released the 5th and final book in my Resonance Mates series.
May - I self-published the 2nd book in my String of Fate series.
June - I self-published the 4th book in my Redstone Clan series.
July - one of my novels was included in a box set AND I attended RWA national in San Antonio (conference kill my productivity, so I have to plan accordingly).
August - one of my stories was included in a sci fi romance box set AND I attended the AAD con in Charlotte.
October - I self-published the 3rd book in my String of Fate series.
November - I self-published the 4th book in my String of Fate series.

I also had 4 print releases from my small press publisher in January, February, March and December, so for the year, I had a total of:

- 6 new novels in ebook and print.
- 10 new print releases in total (including the 6 new novels).
- 2 box sets.
- 2 major conferences for which I had to travel (and interrupt my schedule).

Now I know most people don't write as fast as I do and that's okay. This method will work for anyone, writing at any pace. Just be sure to set realistic goals. I'll repeat that: REALISTIC.

For me, it's realistic to say I'll write a minimum of 2,000 words per day. I know from my tracking over the past few years that equals about an hour and a half of my time. And since I no longer work for someone else, I can take that hour and a half out of my schedule at any time during the day. Some days, I don't get to it until 11pm. Some days I do it when I first wake up. It all depends on what else my family has on the agenda for the day.

What I'm trying to say is - there IS a way to work around other obligations and still be productive. I'm living proof of that. My wish for you all in this coming year is that you find your happy place - your balance between writing and real life - and that you reach your goals, however big or small they may be!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

What's Your Favorite?

Oh boy, blogs. There's like a kazillion of them out there, all harping for your attention. Yeah, some are trashy but others are informative and funny.  We hope you feel our blog is - um- funny and informative too. 

 I follow decent amount of them.Here's a few I like.

Kristen Lamb's Blog -   I think she's witty, constructive, and positive.

Janet Reid -  You can some good advice here.

The Kill Zone -   Though they don't always write about writing, they do come up with interesting and sometimes provocative subjects.

Writer Beware -  This is put out by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, with additional support from the Mystery Writers of America and the Horror Writers Association.

Smashwords Blog - 

Who do you follow?  What do you like and why?  Maybe I'll like them too.

Some blogs have changed the lives of their creators. The following are two articles about blogs that have taken off and produced unforeseen careers. There are dozens of how-to articles on the net.  Hey, maybe it can happen to you.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Marilyn Fierro and The Long Island Romance Writers

The Long Island Romance Writers had a special guest at our November meeting! 

Hanshi Marilyn Fierro, 9th Degree Black Belt and Chief Instructor at Smithtown Karate Academy,
 gave a terrific self defense presentation at Smithtown Library.

Long Island Romance Writers were spellbound as we watched Sensei take down her agile volunteer, Dennis Bader.

What better way to add authenticity to a fight scene than see a master at work!

 Author, Patty Blount, volunteered to demonstrate how a heroine might block an attack.


But Sensi reminded us that prevention is the best defense. Be aware of your surroundings and trust your sixth sense!

 It was an amazing day. I went home with plenty of ideas for my current work in progress.

Thank you, Sensei! We hope that you will come back again!

To find out more about Sensei Marilyn Fierro, visit her website at

See you next time!


Monday, November 3, 2014

Strange Times Indeed

For the past few weeks, I've been doing research on the reasons behind a phenomenon many of my contemporaries and myself have been feeling in the market... a decided downturn in full-price ebook sales. I've received many opinions on the matter and have formed some of my own through this process. I hope you won't mind my sharing some of my observations here today.

First, you have to realize that starting in about July, I noticed a significant drop in ebook sales. I attributed it to the debut of Kindle Unlimited, and at first, I thought I was the only one affected. I came to find out, by talking with many, many other authors, and surveying the author boards I belong to, that it was across the board. Everyone I've heard from, or have observed posting publicly, is feeling some kind of change.

Now, I've been expecting some sort of shake up for a long time. Like Californians expect an earthquake, I've been looking for that big Richter-scale-tipping change that seems to happen in this industry every few years. I've been looking for it, but I never expected it to happen in quite this way.

Let me go back in time a bit to mention that the first real ebook downturn happened to a more specific group of writers - those that write and package themselves more on the erotic side of romance. For them, the big change started when the controversy over the WH Smith website blew up last year. Apparently, WH Smith was streaming direct from Kobo, I believe it was, and the feed contained some stuff that wasn't suitable for younger viewers. They took their website down completely and Kobo reacted rather strongly, pulling many indie-published books. That same weekend, Amazon cracked down with some sort of "Adult Filter" that hid a lot of my friends' books from the search engine.

For example, if you searched for my friend, Mari Carr's Cocktail series using the names of the books - which are named after naughty mixed drinks like "Screaming Orgasm" etc - and her name, all you could figuratively hear were crickets. The book was still on sale, but you had to have a direct link to it in order to bring it up on the site. Many books that had covers on the risqué side were also filtered.

There was even a rumor going around that there was some kind of bot that was looking for skin-tone on a cover and if it was over a certain percentage, that book got shoved into the filter-zone. The story I heard gave an example of a cover that was a close-up of a baby's face. Supposedly it got filtered because it was basically all skin-tone, but there was nothing erotic or risqué about it at all. The Adult Filter controversy was seen as over-reaching by many. I saw it as a knee-jerk reaction to something that was a legitimate concern, but perhaps in their zeal to segregate rape/incest/dinosaur porn from legitimate romance titles, they might've gone a little too far.

Why? Because, from all I could find out, the process was automated. A bot did the work, making decisions that sometimes amounted to judgment calls that should probably have been made by humans. The better-selling authors who had this problem were able to contact their reps at the various etailers and get their books taken out of jail. Smaller fish in the ocean of publishing weren't so lucky.

So that's when the downturn started for many romance writers. I didn't notice it because I don't package my work in a terribly risqué way, I guess. But I did notice the sudden drop in July, which I am still trying to figure out. Some theories I've heard for this include:

1. The awful glut of free and 99-cent ebooks.

2. Kindle Unlimited is free for the first month and many people did that free trial in July.

3. Behind the scenes tinkering from the etailers to pressure publishers for certain concessions. The most heinous of these, in my opinion, is the so-called Gazelle Project that has been reported in the press, where Amazon allegedly put pressure on small press publishers (reportedly calling them "sickly gazelles") to pay increasing amounts of "co-op" money to them in order to have their books show up in the algorithms. I have heard what I believe to be evidence of this, and believe it to be taking place as I write this.

4. The economy.

5. The Mayans were off by a few years, but the world really is coming to an end. ;-)

As a writer who is both traditionally and self published, there's precious little I can do about most of these things. But wearing my self-publishing hat, I can at least make an effort to not add to the glut of free and permanently 99-cent ebooks out there, right?

As an experiment, I went out and bought a few 99-cent multi-author anthologies. I put my reader hat on and decided that I liked the savings. A lot. I could buy about 20 books for about $5. Neat. The author in me reserved judgment.

I read a bunch of the books and liked many of them. I made mental notes to look up the rest of the series from a few of the stand-out books, but did I? Um... well... I have to admit... I'm lazy. And there were still SO many books leftover to read. I put it off. And now I'm not sure which ones I wanted to pursue. Hmpf.

So as an author, I think there's still a potential to find new readers from such things, but if everyone is lazy or easily distracted like me, it might not be as great as you think. There are just SO many cheap reads out there, I can fill my reading addiction cheaply and never really have to go looking for a full-price book.

From the author standpoint, this sales tactic is backfiring big time! The only thing I can hope for is that most readers aren't as lazy/cheap as I am. LOL.

As for the rest... some of it is saddening, some is downright disturbing. But I have the suspicion that things will get worse before they get better for authors. We just have to hang on through the earthquakes and aftershocks and hope our house is still standing once this all dies down a bit.

Monday, October 27, 2014

What is Nora Roberts?

At our bi-monthly writing meeting, the discussion turned to the trials and tribulations, the angst, and the periodic hair pulling of putting together a story. Somehow the talk moseyed over to the topic of Nora Roberts. For those who don't know, Nora Roberts, with the release of Whiskey Beach in April 2013, has written two hundred and five books.  Thirty-seven of which were under her pseudonym, J.D. Robb.

"I heard she's not human," said Hanna, whose eyes were still red from her breakdown minutes before after telling us about the battle she's been having with her present work.  

She glanced around the cafe.  Her voiced lowered to barely a whisper as she leaned forward. "She's an experimental android spy made by the military. NORA is actually short for Natural Observational Robotic Agent.  But all her reports displayed such creative flair  everyone wanted to read them and were trying to sneak copies out.  Of course the military couldn't have that. "

"They tried reprogramming her, but it didn't work and decided to let her run on her own, monitoring how long she could operate before malfunctioning.  They never expected her to be this good for this long. Plus the Department of Defense gets a percentage of the book sales, so they're real happy."

"But she smokes.  She has to be real," said Mary.

"They added that for realism," replied Hanna.

"I don't think so." Mary continued, "I read Nora's an alien from a literary planet.  She has two brains that work independently from each other and has two sets of arms.  That way she can work on a couple of stories at the same time. She just picked up the smoking habit while on this planet."

"And where the hell did you read that?" asked Cyndi, whose voice whipped with disdain.

"From a reputable newspaper."    

"Yeah, well I wouldn't call The Backdoor Inquisitor a professional journalistic paper."

"I didn't say I read. . ."  

"Oh come on.  I  know you grab that rag every time you go shopping and that bit of info is just their speed."

Mary's fingers tugged at the buttons  of her blouse.

"Okay ladies, let's calm it down here," Keira, always the peacemaker of the group, said as she flipped her hands up in a crossing guard gesture to stop them. 

"I heard she has some kind of magical power," interjected Debbie, her timid glance darted back and forth between Cyndi and Mary.

"What, she just waves her magic wand and poof there's a novel sitting in front of her?," Cyndi shot back.

"Well, I didn't say I believed  it," said Debbie, now wishing she'd kept her mouth shut.  

"You're all wrong," said Tawny.  "She has eight clones tucked away in a remote cabin, each turning out a different story.  Nora, herself, only writes one book every three years."

Cyndi quirked an eyebrow.

"Really! I heard it from a friend, who heard it from a friend, who was made privy to it by her  sister-in-law, who got it from her mother, who heard it from her hairstylist, who happens to be the same person Nora uses."

"Did you breathe at all through that whole sentence?"  Cyndi stifled a chuckle.

Tawny's eyes narrowed.  Her hands, resting on her lap, clenched into fists as she drew in a deep breath  through her nose. 

"Admit it ladies, we're just jealous and wish we could be as prolific," Keira threw in before more could be said.  She sighed as she gazed at the sullen faces and nodding heads, then raised her coffee cup. 

"To Nora, whatever she may be."

We lifted our cups to meet hers.  "To Nora." 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Corn Mazes--The Secret Gold Mine

           If you have been to The Hamptons in the fall, you probably know all about Hank's Pumpkin Town. Maybe you went with your children to pick pumpkins, or $45 dollar baskets of apples. Maybe you got lost in the corn maze and had to call for help. Or maybe you were stuck in the traffic jam it causes on Montauk highway each October and shook your fist out the window. 

          "I'll get you, Pumpkin Town, " the man in the Range Rover swore.  He had five minutes to get to the Hampton's Film Festival. "One night I'll mow that corn maze down!"

Whatever the case, Pumpkin Town is a secret gold mine. Not only for Hank the Farmer, but for writers as well. Writers you ask? Yes! Some of my best ideas for romance stories have come from wandering corn mazes. It's true! 

So if you are suffering from writer's block, need a break from the computer, or simply want to enjoy the beautiful autumn weather, I highly recommend finding a corn maze near you. 

Have you been to a corn maze this year? I want to know!

Happy Writing!


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