Monday, March 21, 2016

The Hardest Job in the World

Being an author is the hardest job in the world. Yes, it is.
Not the writing part, mind you. Writing is easy; it’s like breathing, like sipping hot chocolate, with whipped cream or the 100% Arabica coffee that I love. Writing is like sailing along on a morning breeze over a silvery ocean in the opaque light of a sun bleached by a night of storm and rain. It’s the sweet, scent of roses in a balmy sunset or that slice of pizza you really, really wanted. It’s an escape, a dream fulfilled, an alternate reality, a thing of beauty.

See, here’s the thing: When you start writing your first novel you don’t think about publishing. Or I didn’t. I didn’t think of going out there and submitting my story to a publisher. I had a couple of friends who read it, friends I’d met on twitter, and that was far as I was going to go. Not even my family was allowed to take a peek; I was way too embarrassed for that. It was my story, my fantasy, and that’s how I wanted to keep it. 
Of course you know by now that fate had other things planned for me. Enter Buddhapuss Ink, the publisher who found and followed me on twitter, and who eventually published all the books I’ve written so far. 

But that’s not what I want to talk about today. When I signed my first book deal I imagined myself living like Castle in a few years. You know—Manhattan penthouse loft, Ferrari, nice restaurants, the works. That was before I realized that writing a book was just the tip of the iceberg, and that a lot of work was waiting for me that I’d never expected to do. Blogging, for instance. I’ve covered that ground in another blog post so I won’t go to go there again. 

But who knew how hard it is to sell books? I had no idea. Naive little me, I’d always assumed that if you write a book that’s good enough to be picked up by a publisher, a book that wins an important award, that it would fly off the shelves. I mean, if a publisher likes it well enough to sink their money into it, and an award jury likes it well enough to give it a medal, shouldn’t that mean that other people, aka readers, will love it to? 
See, that’s exactly the point. They do love it. Once they’ve noticed it.

I remember telling my publisher, when we first talked, before the first book contract was signed, that I was ready to do anything to market my books except dance naked on tables. 
Back then I thought that I was being hysterically funny. Actually, I wasn’t. Because with the internet going crazy and Amazon offering a new release every five minutes, one single book, award-winning or not, is no more than a single ant in an anthill as large as Manhattan.
That’s me; that single ant. And it’s every other author I know, too. 

So basically what I’m trying to say here is, if you’re in this for money, forget it. Unless you’re E.L.James or James Patterson or George R.R. Martin you won’t be able to pay your bills with your royalty money. You might use it to help pay for part of an amazing research trip. Or you can treat your family to a fancy sushi dinner. Or buy yourself that Michael Kors purse you’ve been coveting for so long,but sorry, not enough for a Herm├Ęs Birkin bag.

As for the rest, enjoy what you’re doing. Write for fun! Write for your friends, your family, yourself, the publisher who believes in you, for awards, and most importantly, for your readers. 

It’s a journey, enjoy the ride, but forget the money. And if you get very, very lucky, and you do make it big, and you want to share, I'll let you know where to find me. 

Friday, March 18, 2016

Thank You for the Love

There is nothing harder for me than promoting my books and myself.
It’s like walking on the edge of a knife: How much is enough, and how much is too much? When do you reach the point where asking nicely turns into spamming, and consequently disgusting my friends?
I try very hard to entertain you, but I never want to get on your nerves, ever.
I hope you enjoyed my Mad about March with Mariam #MMM promo.
Soon, the Stone Series will conclude with the novella, For the Fireflies, told by Joshua and Allie, Jon’s and Naomi’s son and daughter. The Stones have been part of my life for seven years now, and it’s time to bid them farewell. We’ll wave them off while they sail into a lovely Key West sunset, happy with each other and the lives they’ve found.
My new co-author and I have already written the first book in a new series, The Sunset Bay Mysteries. It will be released later this year, so stay tuned! We’re taking you to Vancouver Island, and the rough and beautiful shores of the Pacific Northwest.
I want to thank you all for your unwavering support and love, and for the many encouraging messages you sent me during this promo.
You downloaded thousands of copies of The Distant Shore. There were over 600 entries in our Goodreads giveaway, and almost 400 entries in the Rafflecopter event!
I’m always grateful for every new review you leave for my books… authors need reviews. Reviews on Amazon make books more visible.
And I want to thank my publisher, Buddhapuss Ink, for their love and support. Guys, you are nothing but amazing. I love every minute working with you.
Thank you, thank you, so much everyone!
Now, it's time to move forward. Sunset Bay, here we come, but first, For The Fireflies, Joshua & Allie's Stories.

We'll be releasing a new chapter of For The Fireflies exclusively to all newsletter subscribers, so if you want to read it, please sign up now!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Suck it up, Buttercup!

“What would you like to do for the promo?”

That was the question I’d been dreading when my publisher and I (well, mostly the publisher. Like, 99% mostly. Okay, all of it.) setup the three -week March promo for The Distant Shore.
I hear her say that, and I hear in my head the answer she wants: Write blog posts.
I hate blogging. I’m sorry, I know I’m not supposed to say that, but it’s the hard, cold truth. I hate blogging. 
Every time I say this—mostly uttered in a pathetic, whiny voice while I’m sprawled across the desk like a bored cat—the publisher gives me this very stern glance over the rim of her glasses and says, “Suck it up, buttercup.”
No matter how much I groan and howl, she can be very firm and somehow makes me do things. 
Anyway–this time, I said, “How about I record a video of me reading from the book?”
Did I really suggest that? Had I lost my mind?

It took me three days to work up my nerve.
Is there anything worse than staring at your own face while you try to sound calm, cool, and collected? Because, seeing yourself, and hearing yourself on a screen is the most normal, boring thing ever. Right?
So there I was. My mug of coffee was my only friend in this horrible moment of lonely terror. I’m not a makeup wearer, but my hair looked great.
I looked at my mirror image and decided that lipstick would be a good idea. Yes, I do own a lipstick, and it’s a very nice one, from a Japanese luxury cosmetics company. It was very expensive. But it’s really nice. 

Here’s the thing. I should have gotten up from my desk chair and gone to find a mirror to apply that rather dark lippy. As it was, the result of trying to put it on with the computer screen as a mirror didn’t go well. 
Trying to remove the  lipstick from my mouth with a tissue was even worse. 
Now I had a big red smudge all around my lips, and it made me look like someone had hit me or I’d eaten too many raspberries. After washing my face (actually scrubbing it comes closer to the truth) I had to wait until my irritated skin calmed down.

I started recording. Stumbled over my own tongue. Started over. Like, ten times over.
On the eleventh take I stopped caring if I stumbled over a word or not and just plowed through. YAY! I’d done it! I had recorded an author book reading! And I’d not messed up like a complete idiot either.

Uploading it to Youtube and sharing it to twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest seemed like the sweet treat after a chore well done. I sat back and waited for comments. For praise and joy at how well I’d done. 

“Would have loved to watch and hear, but there’s no sound.”
What? I’d just spent an entire morning on this, and there’s no sound?
Of course I hadn't checked. 
Dudes, it’s hard enough to watch yourself read once while you record. But watch it again? No way. 
I still haven’t figured out why there was no sound. Sigh. 

This was supposed to be a gleaming, beautiful blog post about the joy of doing a virtual author reading, about how easy it is, and how easily I dealt with it. 
Well, it’s not. Because I failed. Miserably. 

Suck it up, buttercup. 

Saturday, March 5, 2016

The Secret

Hi all, today, to celebrate the first daffodil that just showed up in my garden, I'm giving you a short story that I recently wrote. It's a mystery snippet, and it's just a bit creepy. Enjoy! 
Image by Sue Farrant

The Secret

I woke to find mother already dressed and bustling around the kitchen. 
  She was wearing her good red skirt and embroidered blouse, with her best, white kerchief tied around the fat knot of hair at the back of her head. She hummed while she put water and roasted bread over the open hearth. There was a big jar of honey on the table, and a generous slab of the salty butter I’d churned the night before. The honey shone golden in the sunlight.
  “Get up, Lillemor,” Mother sang, “Get up, and hurry, I need to go to the forest today!”
  I remembered: when she’d crossed the yard on her way back from the stable and I’d seen the thin sliver of the new moon playing hide-and-seek with the wind and the clouds. It was the day.
  “Mama,” I sat down at the table, my nightgown wrapped around my knees and feet to keep them warm against the early morning chill, “where do the babies really come from?”
  Mother’s shoulders drew together. “You know that, silly Lille,” she said softly, “I don’t have to tell you again, do I?” She pointed at the open window with her chin. “The stork brings them. They grow on the clouds, and when they’re ripe the storks pick them up, and bring them to the meadow in the forest where I go to find them and bring them to their families. You know that! You’ve watched me go every season, ever since you were a little girl.”
  Of course I knew that. For the past few years mother had allowed me to tag along all the way to the edge of the forest, but not one step farther. The forest wasn’t for everyone, she always had said, only a very few were permitted to enter. It was a dangerous and protected place, a place of mystery and secrets. 
  Twice a year mother went into the forest, and she always came back with a new baby, and sometimes, two. Once there had been three, and stepping out of the forest she had laughed, her eyes shining, her hair plastered to her head with the effort of carrying three infants. I’d hurried to help her, and that had been the first time I’d ever felt the surprisingly solid, little body of a new baby. You’d expect them to be fragile, light, nearly ephemeral, but they aren’t. They’re  little humans with strong lungs and lusty voices, and tiny hands that they know how to ball into fists even though they can hardly open their eyes yet. Like kittens, they were like new kittens. Hardly out of… 
  “Yes.” I spread butter and honey on my piece of bread, “But Mama, why are kittens and calves born from their mothers’s bodies, and humans, not?”
  “That is a mystery,” Mother replied, pouring tea for us, “And it’s useless to ask because there’s no one who can supply the answer. Now eat, and I’ll sit with you for a little while, but then I must be on my way.”
I glanced over Mother’s shoulder and out the window to where the forest stood, silent, dark, its secrets hidden in the shade of its ancient trees. 
  “Can I come, this time?” I asked, “Please? To the meadow?”
  “No, sweet child.” Mother reached out and tucked a strand of hair behind my ear. “You can’t. No one can.”
  I knew that one day I’d find out. Bringing out the babies had been  the task of the women in our family for as long as history could be remembered, and I knew that one day it would be my turn to discover the secret the forest and my mother guarded so well. 
  “I’ve never seen storks with babies fly over the trees.” I hid my face behind my mug so she couldn’t see my warming cheeks, “Shouldn’t we be able to see them, when they bring the babies?”
  Mother opened her mouth and then closed it again. I was asking too many questions; in a moment she’d tell me to hush and go muck out the pigsty, and that would be it for the day. I’d come out smelling like a pig myself and then I’d have to walk all the way down to the river for a bath.
  But all she said was, “Patience, little mother. Your time will come. You’re just past childhood. You should sing, and play, and dance with the young folk from the village, and not worry about those deep mysteries. Not yet, Lille.”
  Little mother she had called me, and that went down my back like a caress. My name. It was my name, little mother. That’s what Lillemor meant. My mother’s name was Moren. She was The Mother, and that was her name. 
  It had always been just the two of us; I had no brothers or sisters, no grandparents, no father. For as long as I can remember, it had been Mother, and Little Mother. 
  “I must leave now.” Mother stood up. She straightened the pleats of her skirt and checked her kerchief. “You can come to the edge, if you want, and wait there for me. I have a feeling that today will be…” Her words trailed away, she turned her head. I could see the tiny, stray curls on her temples glint silvery.

We set off, mother and I, at a slow pace, chatting softly about the coming winter, about how the leaves on the trees had changed color, and how the meadows leading up to the forest had been mowed and the hay stored in the barns. We came to a spot where a big, flat stone served as a bench, just outside the shade of the forest. That was where we had our lunch. The march up the hill was longer than it looked. We sat there, napkins on our laps, munching the bread and cheese we’d brought, drinking tea from the flask, watching the smoke rise from the houses far below. 
  “Who will have a new baby today?”
  Mother didn’t respond for a while. Nodding, she looked down toward our village. 
  “Bethe and Emil have wanted a child for a long time now,” she finally said, “So it might be for them. But Orna and Ben have asked for another, too. Their little boy is so sickly after having fallen off the top floor of their barn. I’m not sure.” She shrugged, and began putting away the remnants of our meal. “I guess we’ll know soon enough.”
  She walked away and was soon swallowed up by the shade under the trees. 
  I sat there in the mellow fall sunshine, my legs stretched out, letting my mind wander. 
  After a while, sleepy boredom overtook me. I wished I’d stayed behind and mucked the pigsty after all. Even that odious chore would have been better than the boredom.
  I’d just decided to return home when something in the air changed. 
  Where it had been mild and fragrant a moment before it was now cold, and smelled of moss and decay.
  “Lillemor,” the trees whispered, and then again, “Come. Come, Lillemor.”
  I sprang up and stared. The sun was still streaming down from a teal sky, a gentle wind ruffling the leaves of the trees. 
  Almost certain that I’d fallen asleep and dreamed it, I sank back down on the stone. 
  “Lillemor,” the forest sang, and this time it wasn’t a dream. “Come, Lillemor.”
  My feet moved without me having even decided yet. I walked toward the forbidden forest.
It was different than I’d expected. 
  From outside, the forest was a dark, forbidding wall that kept out everyone and everything. I’d often sat on that stone bench, my back to the village below me, and stared at the dark, silent trees and wondered how mother could find her way in there. I imagined her creeping through the thick, unwilling underbrush, twigs and thorns snagging in her skirt and hair, resenting her presence. 
  This time, though, it occurred to me that she always returned walking upright, not a hair out of place, and the infants in her arms, unharmed.
  “Come,” the wind whispered, the boughs sighed, and I took my first step into the shade. It wasn’t that the trees moved, or the underbrush vanished. It was more as if, once I’d crossed that barrier of darkness, I’d entered a realm that had been hidden before. I walked on emerald, spongy moss, across sun-drenched glades that were alight with flowers and butterflies, along a brook that sparkled and glittered over marbles and pebbles in all the colors of the rainbow. Silver fish darted through swift currents, dragonflies hovered over nodding reeds. 
  I could hear wildlife: the soft tread of deer, the rustle of rabbits and even smaller animals, the snuffle of something with the plodding of a ponderous cow.
  There was no path; yet my feet seemed to know where they were supposed to go, gently guided by the forest. Up I went, deeper into the woods, always following the brooks meandering trail, until at last I could see green shade and the reflections of a pond through the trees.
  Dread crept up my arms, my neck. 
  There was mother, on her knees, bent over the still, dark water of the pond. Her hair was loose, flowing around her like a veil, and she was naked. She had stretched out her arms, her palms down, and she was chanting a phrase over and over again, the same words flowing into each other like the cadence of a waterfall. “Jord, Mormor, Moren, Lillemor…” 
  Over and over she chanted this while blood dropped from her wrists into the pond.
  I wanted to rush to her, scream at her, shake her out of the trance, but somehow I knew that I couldn’t. So I stood there, silent like the trees around me, waiting.
Mother fell silent. Her arms fell to her sides. She sank into the moss, exhausted, and wiped the last drops of blood from her skin.
  “Come here,” she said, her voice dry and rough, “Now you must do the rest.” She sounded like a very old woman. 
  I hesitated, not sure that she’d meant me.
  “Come, Lillemor.” This time she sounded impatient, urgent.
  I knelt beside her. The water was no longer still. Something moved in it, deep down in the darkness. 
“There is no meadow,” I said. 
  “There are no storks,” I said.
  “No.”Her hand moved to point at the water. “Watch. Listen. Learn. This will be your task from now on. I can go home. Mother Jord is calling  me.”
Jord. The goddess of the Earth. 
  “You are not Lillemor any longer. You are now Moren, The Mother.”
  Through the surface of the pond a bundle rose, a small, white bundle of humanity, an infant girl, pale, her eyes pinched, her head covered with the same black hair that mother had, and I.
  “She is Lillemor,” Mother said, “She is your daughter now. Teach her. You are now the Mother.”
  Carefully she picked the baby up, held it for a moment, and then laid it in my arms.
  One last smile, one last breeze of a kiss on my brow, then she stepped into the water and allowed it to swallow her. 
  The infant opened her eyes and looked at me. They were my eyes. They were mother’s eyes. They were the eyes of every child born from the pond. 

“I will take you home now,” I told the little girl, “I am Mother.”

Don't forget that a LOT is going on at Buddhapuss Ink right now! We're doing a raffle, there will be giveaways, chats, surprises, a FREE new novel, and you can even win a COMPLETE print set of the Stone Trilogy!
Join us as we celebrate our own kind of March Madness!