We write for readers, and it is important not to forget that. If we don’t work to give readers what they want (the FEELS - in all possible iterations) they will not connect to our work. A scene that may play out exactly as you envision in your mind may not be the right payoff for a reader. It’s easy to miss as you write. Especially when that payoff is part of a sub-plot. You get so caught up in the main arc that when those pieces fall into place, everything surrounding it gets fuzzy. But when not paid off, those moments are the ones that might make your reader throw your book at the wall.
When you develop a plot (or sub-plot) you are making a promise to the reader: This will go somewhere, you will get a payoff for sticking around. And you HAVE to keep that promise. No if’s and’s or but’s.
I’ve recently finished working through Cassia’s novel that must not (yet) be named, and it has shown so much improvement. I’m proud on her behalf for the quality she has added. That said, I might have swapped from professional-dev-editor to friend-reading-the-book and left a comment with some expletives in it when the sub-plot came to a head only to linger on the edge without pushing over.
Her character was going to make a deathbed decoration... did make a deathbed declaration... but we didn’t get to know what he said! Total book-throw moment for me, and thank goodness Cass is a good sport, because my comment that followed was not exactly friendly. ( Her reply: “I love that you got so worked up… I like your unfiltered sentiment”, so all is not lost, she’s not running and hiding from me today.)
I kept reading, and those words of his kept getting teased, but never delivered. Finally she saw the comment and replied... “don’t you just want to imagine them?” As a writer to a writer, that might make sense. Often, what we make up in our head is better than what we can put into words. But—huge BUT—our readers are not writers. They need us to put what we want them to know on the page. And they deserve it.
I went on and marked places where she could use this no-show technique to build tension and purposefully irritate readers just enough so that when we get a final reveal of the words (the pinnacle of this sub-plot), it’s a huge moment.
I finally got those words pulled out of Cassia and they are everything I’d hoped for. I am so excited to see how this book continues to be reshaped into something amazing.
I've been ranting on Facebook since According to Plan came out about how much I love hearing from and talking to readers. This book has delivered that in spades as readers reach out and tell me exactly what they think of Jared (and of Laura to a lesser degree, but J is my guy for getting big reactions it seems). And I love it more than can be imagined.
The feedback on him is pretty diverse too, which is super cool to me. I had so much fun writing him and figuring out how his mind works that despite his terrible actions I could see hints of good in him. Now I have people saying they love him, and isn't that the best thing a writer can hope for on a villain? You've made them so well rounded the line of good and bad blurs?
"Jared's voice as he went on his long, entitled, deranged diatribes was so powerful, creepy, and, for many women, way too familiar." ~ Shayna Lambert
"I personally loved Jared, yes, I know I'm calling my therapist after I get done posting this. . . There are so many points that make it difficult to just utterly hate Jared. Yes, I know! I should hate him...Jared's a complex character and I enjoyed him so much." ~ Rachael Kaup
"Jared was a terrifying character. Like most mediocre men, he has an inflated ego and feels better and more intelligent than everyone else." ~ KKEC Reads
I'd love to hear your thoughts on him--Is he all bad? Misguided? Tragically Obsessed? Totally psychotic?
Some people look at self publishing and think—good, I wrote my story, I’ll just pop it on Amazon and people will love it! No, no, they won’t. You cannot do this alone, and that is hard to hear, especially when you then look at price points on the various services you need to publish a book. Covers, website, marketing, editors, formatting... The list goes on and on and the $$$ goes up and up.
Many things you CAN learn to do yourself, but not without time, effort, and often real $$ shelled out on programs to do them. Everyone had to ‘pay their dues’ (generally, I hate this phrase, because I think it breeds an environment where people get taken advantage of, but hear me out) you have to put something in (besides your self-edited draft) to get something out of the publishing industry. It’s that simple, and that something can definitely be time... lots and lots of time. The less $$ the more time it will take. But that’s fine, you are on your own schedule. Do what you have to do. I have.
If you are like me, you just started out with some vague idea that you will write a book. Great, done. Nailed it. Then you are faced with making it something that people will want to read. Oomph. Here’s where I get honest and break down what I spent putting out my first romance series (3 novellas, in ebook and paperback). I’ll preface this by saying: I’m not a bestseller... yet (though I have ranked #1 in some free categories!). But my method is ever-improving and so are my results. I’m right here with you on this journey. Let’s enjoy the ride together.
Part 1 - Covers
My first step was finding a cover. I (luckily) had some background using photo editing programs and doing design, so this was one place it made sense for me to study up and learn to do it myself. There are also tons of great resources and groups out there to help you with this (Indie Cover Project on FB is amazing, if you can take the sometimes harshly delivered critique). Stock photos can be free and cheap, so once you develop a good eye and the skill, you can definitely make your own covers (hint, you can also barter and make other people’s covers too!)
Covers ($0) - I’m pretty decent with a variety of free editing programs (photofilter (http://www.photofiltre-studio.com/pf7-en.htm), photopea (photopea.com)) and also decent at making free stock work for me. So I did my covers myself. I made no less than 5 versions of each over literally weeks as I went round for round with feedback from various sources. I spent so much time scouring stock sites, even going out and taking my own photos for some versions (those didn’t make the cut, but I can use them in marketing images)
I absolutely ‘spent’ more in time than I would have paid for a cover designer, but again... I had the time, not the cash. And each time I do a cover, it takes a little less time.
Part 2 - Interior
Once covers were sorted (I did all three at once so I knew they would be cohesive) the inside needed attention (let’s assume MS is ready, I’ll talk about editing in post #4) It’s not something you think a lot about, until you face choosing it for yourself. Where do you want page numbers? What about chapter subtitles? Should you spell out the numbers? What is popular for your genre?!?
Are you ready for more hours staring at a computer screen? Do you love hunching over your keyboard and wondering how one keystroke sent all your formatting into the twilight zone?
Buckle up buttercup, let’s get to it!
Anyone can do interior formatting simply enough in MS Word with enough patience. Will it be gorgeous? Probably not, but it will be fine. My biggest writing venture was springing for Atticus to format my books (thanks to my Nana for seed money there) and now I can pretty quickly put together professional interiors—but just like cover creation, there is a learning curve. I spent (and still spend) days tweaking things to get them how I want. Eventually it will be quick, but until then, I’m still probably spending more time-value than I would $$-value if I could just hire someone. (But just like cover design, this is another service you can barter with!)
Interiors ($0 ish) My original formatting was all done in MS word. It took forever and left a lot to be desired. I wanted something fun and fancy, but got... standard. It was fine, and no one complained when the first editions hit the web. But I wanted better. Atticus sat on my ‘I’d love this’ list for a while, and when I got some unexpected birthday money, I jumped and bought it (cost: $147 atticus.io). It’s a great investment, formatting is smoother and comes out with much higher quality. Soon I hope to add this to a services list for future bartering.
Part 3 - Website/blog
Time to get your face out there! Your fans need a place to find you, and a website is the best thing for that. You can link out to all your socials, create a blog and share, share, share! It’s your homebase for links, books, stories and everything that is part of your brand. It can be as simple or as complicated as you want/are capable of. It may even begin simply as a landing page to build your mailing list and hand out freebies.
A website is a big task and lucky me to have been the type of person who’s been messing around with site-building for some time. It’s another skill that takes time to develop, but there are some very user friendly hosts/builders out there (I am using GoogleSites, free hosting and you can bring a custom domain - https://sites.google.com/new). My site took me a couple of weeks to build, but I love it and it serves its purpose. I haven’t spent much (in $$$) keeping it up, and now have another skill I could barter with.
Website ($10/yr) - I did all my design with and hosted on GoogleSites - for FREE - I simply purchased my domain through NameSilo (namesilo.com) for about $10/year. Design and creation was easy; drag-and-drop kind of stuff. It doesn’t have the greatest SEO offerings, but with enough messing around you can work in your keywords to your text well enough to rank decently. BUT it took me days of slogging through chatrooms to get Google to finally crawl and list the site, even though they are the ones hosting it. If I were paying myself a reasonable wage, I don’t want to think what it would have cost. Would a pro have been quicker? Would I have fewer gray hairs? Absolutely, but I only had time to invest here. If I can find the patience, you can too.
Part 4 -Editing
The elephant in the micro-budget publishing room is the edit. The place in writing where going it alone is no longer an option and where the costs can skyrocket. As always, knowledge is power here. Do your research, talk to other writers, and put in those hours. There are ways to get this done and stay on budget, but this is the place where you will encounter the most work since actually writing your book.
No matter how much you learn, you simply cannot, and should not, do the edit on your own. Sorry. I’ve tried, for sure, but a second (or third, or fourth...) set of eyes is necessary. But.... you can find your people. Ones that may barter for something else you are good at (see previous posts in this series), ones who are looking for help on their own books... we all need something, and it’s not always $$. That is always the quick way, and if you have it, go for it and don’t get bogged down slogging through hours and hours working around your writing. Scroll around writer groups, read other people’s work, see who you connect with—it might not be who you think. But if you put yourself out there enough, and make enough connections, something/someone will work out.
A note here: make sure your work as is good as it can be before you look for these people! You are more likely to make good relationships if you show up acting like a professional. That means lots of self edits; use an AI writing tool, do an audio edit, (this was a game-changer for me! Listen to your work out loud and you will catch SO MUCH more.) make your book as good as you are able. Don’t rely on people to do the heavy lifting. If you abuse them, they won’t turn up again next time you ask for help.
Editing (hear me out once more - $0... sort of) My editing budget is, surprise, $0. But, I am a lucky one here—in many ways. I have found (through MUCH trial and error, many blink and you missed them beta swaps, unreciprocated reads, etc) an amazing group to work with, part of that was luck, and part of that is my newfound developmental editing skill. I had something to bring to the table, so this is my biggest barter chip. I can trade dev edits for line edits. Even before I labeled it as such I had another author I trade with (though we were both confused and called ourselves betas) to give her a dev edit for a line edit. It can be done.
Figure out what you have an eye for and hone that skill, then use it for all it’s worth to get your book published. Beg, borrow and practice your way to new skills, always be open to refining what you are capable of, and ask questions. Be humble, take critique, and learn, learn, learn. Know what you can spend time on, and figure out what you can spend $$ on. Someday I hope to be at a place where I don’t have to do most of these things on my own, for now... I will because I have to. It also makes me that much more appreciative of those who do offer these services.
Was Jared inspired by a real person?
Yes and no, I am lucky enough to not have had to deal with any kind of stalking, but I do (like most women) have the experience of that guy who just doesn’t get it when you give a polite no. Fortunately, my guy was more lost puppy than bipolar stalker and after a few firmer no’s he got the hint. There are a couple lines of Jared’s that come directly from our text messages, so they helped me ground Jared’s point of view in something real.
Where did the idea for the book start?
The book idea didn’t actually start off with a stalker. I was looking through images (which I do all the time) and found an image of an abandoned tent in the woods. That got me thinking about who was in it, where they went and why. Laura doesn’t pack herself a tent, but that set-up turned into her little pile of items she left at the trailhead, things to make it look like she was gone for good. Then I just had to figure out what she was running from.
Is Laura’s hiking spot a real place?
Sort of. Lincoln is an actual town outside of Boston and there are several hiking areas nearby that could feasibly be Laura’s disappearance location. I don’t have a particular one in mind and am not sure that any are surrounded by such meandering roads as she deals with though I am familiar with many areas between Massachusetts and New Hampshire that could fit the bill, small scenic roads are easy to come by out here so I envisioned all the best parts of them for her journey.
Which character did you enjoy writing more?
I wrote most of Laura’s chapters first (until the timelines merge) and I expected to enjoy her most. She is a planner and analytical like I am. But when I started getting into Jared’s head, he came so easily. It was so enjoyable to let his deluded worldview paint a picture on the page. He has become my favorite character I’ve written so far. He’s an awful guy but was awful fun to write.
Why use two different points of view?
I like to write in 3rd person (he/she/it) and it was natural to begin that way with Laura, but when Jared came onto the scene he really took over and I felt like I needed to be as close to him as possible—he had to be 1st person. I think it is very effective to understand his delusions this way by really seeing his thought process play out. Since it’s not very common to mix the two in one book, I thought about putting Laura into 1st person as well, but it felt unnatural. She is so closed off from the world that getting in her head seemed wrong. This is where the benefit of self-publishing came in. I didn’t have to make a choice that would be safer for the market, so I stood by what felt right for the characters.
Release day is finally upon us, if you've been following my blog you've gotten some sneak peeks behind the scenes on the good, and bad, days leading up to this. I am beyond excited for it to finally be out in the world and I hope my readers love it as much as I do.
Right now it's up on Amazon, but I am working to publish wide for at least the paperback version.
Click here to go to Amazon or here to check it out on GoodReads and see what early readers are saying.
The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon meets YOU.
Every woman has encountered that guy...the one who won’t take no for an answer.
Laura’s assistant Jared is obsessed with her, and after being fired he uses his newly free time to learn her routines. No matter how she says no, his advances keep getting bolder.
Laura soon realizes that the women she thought were friends are actually team Jared—he’s funny and likable while Laura is reserved. Of course they don’t believe that he is stalking her, and without a tangible threat, the police can’t help either.
Now, she has an elaborate plan to fake her death. When everything goes wrong, she finds herself lost in the forest, and her notes tell people not to look for her. But one person is looking for her. Jared’s formed a plan of his own and he is hunting her—to prove they were meant to be. By any means necessary.
If you still aren't sure you can get the first three chapters free here.
Thanks to all my readers who have picked up my other books, volunteered to leave ARC reviews and who follow me on social media. All of your support makes my day and I do this for you! If you read According to Plan and have any questions about it, or my process send them to me, I will be putting together a special Q&A blog post soon.
This was supposed to be a big excited hype post for According to Plan, since it comes out this week.
To cut to the chase, it IS coming out this week. But, Amazon started off my week with chaos. A canceled pre-order meant rushing around trying to figure out what to do, recreating the ebook, re-linking it with the paperback and getting GoodReads to un-list the never-released version to prevent people getting lost in broken links.
So the blog post got put on hold, but now all the major fires are out. GoodReads was great, and Amazon was as good as could be expected. It should not surprise me that a book called According to Plan has been anything but, but adversity builds us up, right?
I have learned a lot from this nightmare, though. I will release the paperback at multiple retailers, not just Amazon. I’m still undecided if I will put the book into Kindle Unlimited—if you have strong feelings about this, please let me know. I want to do what readers want, to make it easy for you to find and read my books!
Aside from all the drama, ARC reviews are coming in and the early feedback has blown me away. It only makes me more excited to share this book with more people and push it out there no matter how crazy launch week is.
I hope you check it out, maybe pick up a copy and give it a shot. I’m really proud of this one. There have been plenty of times I second guessed choices on it, but I think I did right by this story.
You can find it on Amazon HERE
Or check out early reviews on GoodReads HERE
I was back and forth on this book for quite some time. I liked the characters and could tell there was much more to them, and I love an unreliable narrator. As with most thrillers that promise the ever-magical insane twist, I was skeptical, especially as the blurb seemed to almost directly tell us something that, in some books, would be the totality of that twist. When that ah-ha moment came just after the halfway point, I was... confused and honestly, ready to be disappointed.
Fear not, there is more to come, much more. I won’t say too much, but just about everyone steps up in unexpected ways. I kind of wish there was one more chapter to wrap up at the end, but it was satisfying enough. I damn near* felt bad for our antagonist #1 by the end. *Near—not actually, terrible person through and through, but hey, characters with layers—I love them. Or maybe love to hate them. Either way.
Unmissing is a good read, especially if you are slightly more patient (or perhaps read faster) than me. Also being the terrible keeper-upper of authors I like, I hadn’t realized until I made it to the author bio that I have read, and thoroughly enjoyed Minka Kent before. Who knew? Nicely, she has a good bit of a back catalog I can now happily peruse.
When you publish your own book, that means you are in charge of everything. I talked about making the cover a couple weeks ago in the reveal post. Covers are obvious, and pretty easy to fit into any given genre. Something we don't think about as much is in the interior formatting. It is just as genre specific as anything else about publishing and is still fairly new to me.
I purchased Atticus a few months back and am learning the ropes there to make my books look exactly how I want them to. It’s a great program (no, I don’t get anything for saying that) and I am pleased with my progress each time I use it. But there are SO MANY OPTIONS!
My first step was the library, the new fiction section, where I scouted out an armful of new thrillers and plopped them on the check-out desk. Each is slightly different inside, and I made pages of nearly nonsensical notes to decipher what was most common and what I liked best. Those didn’t always line up, but I took the fact that everything in my selection was published by one of the big five publishers to mean that any and all were acceptable.
Fun things like fonts, chapter titles and drop text, boring things like page numbers and where my name goes and stuff that you can hardly tell is different until you really line it up like line spacing. My brain fried pretty quickly, but I got my ebook version whipped into shape. The paperback took longer as I wanted to play with the customization a bit more where possible and making sure the alignment worked perfectly. Even with a top-notch program, you can’t just click ‘done’ and not re-check and reread it a million times.
It’s the little things that make a big difference in how professional a book feels, and I hope that, with all the time I’ve spent molding this baby into its final form, my readers will agree.
Here is a little sneak peek inside the paperback version:
You can get your copy now - CLICK HERE!
One thing that I found interesting (and difficult) about going through the query process was finding comp titles. I have a fairly unique POV structure in this one and that made it a little difficult to find books that could sum up the vibe and story.
After lots of searching, reading and even watching, I went against the grain and ended up with an older Stephen King title - The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon as a mood and setting a tone for my protagonist Laura.
Laura flees to the forest where she has to battle her mental state as much as anything else. I loved TGWLTG and how mysterious it all was; her hallucinations, the reality of the bear, and how her mental state was always changing. Some of her struggles are those that my Laura faces, the brutal reality of being lost in the forest, and I hope readers will enjoy the same things in my story.
On the flip side, I had to figure out how to spotlight my antagonist—Jared is totally deluded and it’s hard to be sure just how dangerous he is. Laura knows, and the reader will soon find out, but on the outside he’s Mr. Nice Guy (TM) this comp was easy to pull, I had binged season one of YOU recently and ran to the library to grab a copy of the book. Joe and Jared could be great friends—as long as their interests never overlapped. That is one dog-fight I’d like to see. Joe would probably win, especially now that I’ve seen him in full action further into his series (which remains a favorite). Jared’s still working the kinks out of his style.
I also played with using The Forest (2016 film) as the vibe and creep-factor was perfect for the setting and the locations connection to suicides fit well with Laura’s plan. I, more or less, enjoyed the movie when it first came out for certain moments, but know that mine is not the popular opinion, so I opted to leave it off my official list.
The “YOU meets The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon” felt both fresh and at the same time safe. It draws a good image, for me at least, and seemed to hook interest in my query as well. I hope that this gives you a hint of insight into According to Plan and that you stay on the lookout for the release date!
You can get your copy now, CLICK HERE!
I’m having a hard time reviewing this one as much of the time I'm not really sure what kept me reading. Not to say I didn’t like it, I enjoyed the style quite a lot, so maybe that was it. The quiet neighborhood of The Loop gets turned on its head when a body is found and the man's wife and children are missing.
We follow Andy, a novelist taking care of his father who is succumbing to Alzheimer's. He writes crime fiction and has now found himself the center of something that could be the crazy plot of one of his books. That missing woman, he was having an affair with her, and a mysterious note shows up letting him know that someone knows about them.
It’s slow paced, even for domestic suspense, despite lots going on. There is not just one dead body, but three; ranging from what seems like accidental to suspicious causes. [note here - I nearly stopped reading when we prattled on about Mary being killed by her horse - I'm not sure the author has ever met a horse or someone who knows about them, his plot here based on only the flimsiest ‘things people know about horses’ and made me roll my eyes numerous times. Also, he couldn't even get the vocab right. *sigh* I did like the horses' names at least.]
There are lots of players to keep Andy, and us guessing, but there just wasn't the tension that I want from a thriller. I'm not one to try to guess the ending as I read, but I had a pretty good grasp on where parts were going regardless.
Overall it was well written, and I liked the moments that were a little meta where Andy talked about his writing, but there wasn’t much for me to hold on to and remember, or that makes me want to shout about this book from the rooftops. At the same time I don't regret reading it, so there’s that.