Category Archives: Thoughts

A year ago today I was biting my nails and waiting for my first self-published book to show up on Amazon’s sales page. Today I have six novels in The Outlier Prophecies series published with number seven sitting on my hard drive with a mere couple thousand words left until I can call it done.

I’d started self publishing as a distraction from the longer waits and heartbreaks from my longer, more involved novels moving through the traditional publishing process. I have an agent, I really like her, and I’d love to some day sell a book to a bigger publisher. It will happen! I’ll keep trying. In the meantime, I write a heck of a lot faster than that. So I decided to start Outliers as something to pour some of my energy into.

I’d fallen in love with the characters from a short story I’d written. That short story became the beginning of the third book in the series, The Werewolf Coefficient. I kept wondering how they got to the point they were in the short story, what happened to them after? And the more I thought about it, the more I knew I could make it a really fun series. Fun for me at least. I hoped some readers would come along on the ride. And they did!

One year ago I’d made some pie in the sky goals and dreams. Here’s how it went:

I wanted to make back the money I put into each book. That might sound funny to some people, but the truth is that most self-published books do not accomplish this. Averages were against me on this goal. Here’s how I did…

Romancing the Null and Conditional Probability of Attraction “earned” out after three months.

The Werewolf Coefficient took slightly over two months to earn back the money I invested in it.

Standard Deviation of Death and Big Bad Becker earned out in their first month.

Shifter Variance did it in a few weeks.

So beyond those months the books have been earning a positive income, which is great. I’m so excited to have reached that goal. Also the marketing money I’ve put in: A) worked, and B) also earned that marketing money back too. So my venture into self publishing was not an expensive hobby, it’s something that I can morph into a career with more effort and better targeting. I’d like to make a respectable yearly salary and so this year I’ll be looking at ways to work toward that goal as I write more books to either be self-published or try putting them on submission through my agent.

The next goal was to grow a readership. I hoped for at least 500 organic newsletter sign ups in a year. By organic I mean that they didn’t come from friends and family, but from genuine strangers who read the books and liked them enough to want to know when the next one would come out. Currently, I have nearly double that number in newsletter sign ups a year later.

I’d also hoped I could get fifty reviews in a year. This is a bit harder. The only way to get reviews is to have a lot of sales. I sent a marketing package to a lot of bloggers and advanced readers and did get some response. A few read and reviewed the book, which helped potential readers decide if it would be a book they’d like. Reviews give a more detailed and honest reaction to a book than a description does. Reviewers are able to explain the style and type, what a book might be similar to and really help readers hone in on their decision to download or buy. But that accounted for less than ten of my overall reviews in the first year on Romancing the Null. After Romancing the Null earned out the money I’d invested in the cover and editing, I set it to free. Then I did a promotion on that book as free at least once a month for a few months in a row. This was to hopefully get more reviews and also more downloads. If people liked the first book they would buy the rest. I saw Romancing the Null as a really long sample into the first installment of the storyline. I continued to send the book off to bloggers as I’d find sites that might be interested in the book. I didn’t relax until I got to that goal. If I heard of a friend (or friend of friend) who read the book, I’d beg for a review. That helped a lot and I got more reviews and pushed me into the over-fifty club.

Securing both legitimate blogger reviews, endorsements from bestselling/award winning authors, and having over fifty verified purchase reviews helped me get bigger promotions and so on. Today, Romancing the Null is at eighty-four reviews.

The last goal was one I told only close friends and other writers. I wanted to publish six books in a year. When I published Shifter Variance in December I reached that goal. Big Bad Becker (book 1.5 in the series), though I call it a novella, is actually the length of a novel. It’s just a short novel. I didn’t want to leave readers feeling I’d cut them short, so I claim it’s a novella and let them be pleasantly surprised that it’s actually much longer than most novellas out there.

What’s next?

Book six, Correlation of Fate should be ready to publish in April. So that’s what’s next!

Also Ali Hale gets a book (Half Cup Magic) some time this year. Ali is Kate’s quirky baking-obsessed witch cousin from The Outlier Prophecies Series. I think she gets more fan mail mentions than Kate, or even Becker!! Which is saying something because readers are crazy about Ian Becker.

Also I have a contemporary romance that I plan to publish between now and May. I kept saying May, but now, it’s ready to go. I might get impatient and just publish it. I don’t know. But I’ll show you the beautiful cover and description below:



Good Girl’s Guide to Talking Dirty

Talking dirty as a phone sex operator isn’t what straight laced school psychologist East Winters had in mind as a portable counseling job. But after being budget-cut out of employment, she needs the cash to get out of town fast and hitchhike to Maine for her dream job working at a school with a bigger pocketbook and no knowledge of her family’s nasty history.

Ex history teacher, Ansel Andersson, resents his boss tacking on a team driver at the last minute for his first cross-country delivery. Sure, she’s a sexy redhead that gets him hot and bothered, but he had other plans. Historical sites. Greasy food. Avoiding his PTSD issues from surviving a shooting. Oh that—he’d rather not think about it.

You know what? Maybe this clean, proper psychologist is exactly the perfect distraction. If he could only get her to stop running off blushing into her phone, he’d teach her all kinds of filthy things.

I love comments! Every time you comment East Winters gets a ring-ring on her phone…

The Outlier Prophecies Frequently Asked Questions

Hey all!

It’s been a while since I updated this blog. *takes it out, dusts it off* Pull up a chair and I’ll tell you what I’ve been up to.

First of all, I’ve been working on The Outlier Prophecies series. Kate and Becker keep me pretty busy. And if I’m not writing about Kate and Becker, I’m answering questions about them. So, I thought I’d put some of those frequently asked questions below for pure entertainment and so readers who might not wish to contact me can have a place to obsess over these fabulous characters and get the inside scoop.

So here are some frequently asked questions in no particular order:

Q: When does book four come out?

As I type this I got an email asking this exact question…then a Facebook message. Yes, this is my most popular question. It comes out early August. I turned it over to my copy editor and it should be back later this month. I then format it and hopefully if Amazon cooperates it will be available sometime in the first two weeks of August. I’m so excited to get it out and see what readers think. I know I left people hanging on the last one. I figured I get these books out quick enough that it wouldn’t be too bad, right?

Q: Speaking of, you write pretty fast. How many books are in the series?

I’m writing these books fast. I think I’m writing them fast because they are so incredibly fun. And readers love them and that’s highly motivating. I’ve planned six books in the main storyline. There is also a few novellas in the works as add ons. After I finish this story arc, I’ll assess if I want to do another set (which basically correlates to how interested readers seem to be and if the books become more popular), but from beginning to end of the current storyline, I’m planning on six.

The other half of that answer is that I’m planning on writing/publishing them all in a year. I have four done. Book five is being written. I have until March 2017 to reach that goal. So two more books in nine months. I think I can. I think I can. I think I can…

Q: What do Kate Hale and Ian Becker look like  (And while you’re at it, Lipski and Ali too)?

I have a pinterest board on that. And the second most asked question is if the model on the cover is a fair representation of Kate–that answer would be not really. Kate (as described in the books) is Filipino, Native American, and Scottish/Irish/Welsh. I see her looking more like Liza Soberano (as you can see on my Pinterest board). My cover designer who is from the Philippines couldn’t find any stock photo models that fit the description and were wearing business attire. Or he found photos of models who were wearing business attire but with a huge smile on their face, like they were selling us something–it didn’t fit the mood for the series or was the wrong pose for what he needed for the cover. It also had to be selling for a reasonable price and available for my cover artist to buy. Stock photos of Native Americans were usually in head dresses or leather jackets. Filipino’s were in traditional garb as well. My hope is that someday we can redo the cover to represent Kate better. Someone who has both her Asian and Native American roots with professional attire.

Q: I love your covers! Who does them?

That would be the talented Christian Bentulan from Covers by Christian.

Q: Who does your editing?

That would be the fabulous award-winning and bestselling writer/editor Alicia Street. And yes, I love her, she is a genius.

Q: The supernatural people in your books are fantastic. Where did you come up with the ideas?

I can’t take credit for any of them. They’re all researched supernatural creatures from cultures around the world. I wanted the supernatural cultures in OUTLIER to mirror our contemporary diversity. I embellish the creatures and details, or take liberties to have them be more human. After all, it’s been years of supernatural interbreeding with each other and humans. So, it does dilute their original form.

Q: There are gay people in your books

Also asked as: There is a typo in your book where character G who is a female has a wife. Or character B has dads and not just one dad, if his mother and father divorced you should explain that.

Er, uh, yes? I guess I missed something here (and those are not typos). There are gay people in my life, so I figured to make the book more realistic there would be gay people. Look, it’s an advanced pagan society and in Kate’s world it’s not as big of a deal there. Sure, there is prejudice (some pagans believe power can only be passed between man to woman, woman to man or whatever), I couldn’t find a way around that for some things.

Q: Do negative reviews bother you?

No. Everyone has a right to state their true opinion. And we all don’t have the same likes/dislikes. I know there are people who like my writing and I focus on them, that’s who I’m writing for. Sometimes the constructive feedback of reviews is helpful. If a lot of people complain about a certain thing (like, say I don’t ground the reader in a scene) I know I need to work on that in that case. So that’s helpful.

Q: What else are you working on?

The Outlier Prophecies book five, of course!

I have an Outlier Prophecy novella from Becker’s POV (takes place between book one and two) that is done and I’m editing it right now.

I’m also working on a diesel punk novel (Diesel Punk: A SF or Fantasy that takes place between WWI and 1950–the time when diesel became a popular fuel). It’s a science fiction that takes place during the Great Depression in a shantytown. The Outlier Prophecies is something I consider a comedy, this book isn’t a comedy.

I’ve also got a few short stories outlined. I also have a contemporary romance novel (definitely a comedy. If you like your romance funny, this will be the book for you) that I will be publishing soonish.

Q: Will Ali get her own book?

Yes! But let me get through the current plans I have now, then I can focus on the mess Ali’s been brewing behind Kate’s back.

Q. Which character are you? Do you base characters on real people?

Short answer is that I don’t base any characters on real live people that I know. I make these characters up! It’s the fun of writing 🙂 None of them are like me, but since I wrote them all I guess they are me in some twisted little way.

You can ask any questions you’d like to know below.

A Secret. A Confession. And A Reveal.

I have a confession. I’ve been wanting to do a series. Short novels that are just written for fun—taking all the things I love about writing SF/F and adding a few pinches of romance, a dash of humor, and a smidge or two of mystery. I have no intention of sending them around to publishers. I’m going to produce them myself.

It all started over last summer (2014). I wrote a short story for an anthology and it was in the anthology then it was out of the anthology. Just one little quirk about the business nobody talks about. Three professional NAME writers turned in stories waayyy over the word limit for the anthology guidelines and they needed to take one story out. That was my story. The editors were very nice and in a difficult position themselves. They explained how much they loved the story and wouldn’t be surprised if it found another home right away.

It did. Another editor offered to buy it right away after hearing about it becoming available, but I said “No.” Why?? Why would I say no?

Well this story very nearly broke me. I used every trick I had to make it a great story, an awesome story. But it doesn’t have any literary appeal. It’s simply a fun mystery story, but it was also Urban Fantasy. It’s really difficult to break into the Urban Fantasy market (at least at the time it was, I hear editors are starting to consider it again). Short story markets are few and far between that will take Urban Fantasy, as most specify in the guidelines “NO URBAN FANTASY.” It makes me feel dirty for loving a genre that offers just about everything in a modern package.

So, I put my all into the story and found out that it was not going to get used in the anthology where it was supposed to go and a few days after I found out my parents house burned down and my best friend was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer. I didn’t want to ever look at that story again.

The secret is that a year later over the summer (2015) I decided that I didn’t want that story to end. I didn’t want this to be the story I’d lock away just because it came along at the wrong time in my life. I kept thinking of the characters and the cool ideas I had for more mysteries set in that world. In the middle of writing a third novel to send around on submission I emailed my agent to tell her my idea. She said to go for it. I’d been looking for something to self publish and do on my own and this was the perfect project for something like that.

Now I have two books completed and that abandoned story has become the beginning of book three. And I have an editor lined up and a cover:

HOLY FREAKIN' -- I'M GOING TO PUBLISH THIS. *strokes the beautiful cover*

HOLY FREAKIN’ — I’M GOING TO PUBLISH THIS. *strokes the beautiful cover*

(Cover art by Christian Bentulan of Covers by Christian)

And huge thanks to Stewart Baker who meshed together a few ideas I had for a front cover blurb to come up with something even more perfect.

This is the book description:

There are three kinds of lies.

Lies the fates spin as half truths.

Lies of destined love.

And statistics.

As a fateless, Kate Hale is immune to the first two, but the third kind of lie is her profession. After spending years as an actuary for the Traffic Department, Kate is promoted to Accidental Death Predictions. It’s all she’s worked toward, and her career is finally on track. But when an oracle delivers an impossible death prediction and insists on her help to solve the case, she might lose any chance of impressing the brass.

Her only hope comes in the form of the police liaison assigned to her department, latent werewolf Ian Becker. Becker can grant her the clearance to find answers, but he’s a wild card with a shady past who doesn’t play well with others.

Every prediction has a loophole, but if Kate can’t solve the case before the crime is fated to occur she won’t just lose her job–she’ll have the blood of an oracle on her hands.

Welp—that makes it real. I’ve put a lot of time in between other projects to make these the best books they can be. It’s going to happen, uh, soonish. I don’t have a firm date, but things are happening around here. Just thought you should know what I’ve been up to 😉

A Comparison of Romance Writers Conventions to Science Fiction Writers Conventions

I’m back after a crazy week and a half in New York City! I was nominated for the RWA Golden Heart® in the long contemporary category for my unpublished novel Good Girl’s Guide to Talking Dirty. A lot of people have said they’d love to read it and I’d love to sell it so that people CAN read it, but until then I’ve decided to do a little comparing of Romance to Science Fiction/Fantasy conventions.

RWA Nationals was my first official, in-person, large attendance romance convention. Before that, it was all small intimate workshops, mostly online. Since I also write Science Fiction and Fantasy, I’ve attended large conventions for that side of my writing life. And now that I’ve done a large convention from both, I can finally compare. These sorts of things interest me, so indulge me for a bit 😉

My low down below:

What Romance does best

Friendly—Romance writers have a reputation in the industry as being the most friendly, most approachable writers. This is absolutely true. The giants in the field also make an effort to make themselves available for casual interaction with other writers through free book signings for the convention attendees or after a panel.

Focus on business—The convention was packed with valuable workshops. Every one of them was a weekend’s worth of information packed into a one hour time slot. It was information dense. They also had it tracked out for Marketing, Self-publishing, Career, Craft—pick your poison or mix and match. If you felt there was nothing to offer you could attend the publisher spotlights and meet editors, or get an idea what a certain imprint was looking for.

Agent and editor appointments—At a SF convention you have to chase down an editor and agent and then awkwardly scream out your pitch to them, only to have them nod, uninterested and usually give you some line like, “Hey kid, anyone can send a synopsis to my assistant” *hands over card with old email address and/or link directly to their trash bin* At RWA’s National convention writers can sign up with agents (big and less established names in the industry) AND editors from the major imprints and small presses. Writers do not need to have an agent to pitch to editors. A lot of writers have found an editor this way and then found an agent.

What SF/F does best

More published writers—More writers who seem to know the ins and outs of a writing career. I wonder if it’s the fact that short fiction is a viable way for writers to start their career and recognition that there are so many more published writers when I visit SF/F conventions. Or if it’s that most writers who attend wait until they’re published or have credentials to their name before attending. Or maybe it’s that I notice more published writers because I run in those circles.

Networking—Where Romance writers focus on business, SF writers focus on networking. Man, can those guys network and chat until all hours of the night at a SF convention. It seemed that the majority of romance writers packed up at reasonable hours (before 5/6am) to get ready for the next day.

Awards—They also have more formal awards. Hugo, World Fantasy, Nebula. Those are just three. Romance writers just get the RITA/Golden Heart.

Overall there does seem to be a different atmosphere between the two genres. I’m not saying one is better than the other, just each has its different flavor. What works for one person might not work for another. I’ve come to enjoy both equally.

I’m sure there are more differences if I concentrated hard enough to see them. I’ve made some awesome friends on both sides and am looking forward to seeing what they both have in common as well.

I love comments! Tell me about your experiences in each genre, for every comment you leave it will help me figure out the common threads in both industries.

Be Kind

A few months ago I attended a Romance Writers of America chapter meeting where Renee Bernard gave a talk on women, writing, and romance. Being in a pissy, judgy mood, I thought it would be boring. Yeah, yeah, we’re women and we write romance. Doesn’t that describe all of us? How is this going to be an interesting talk?

This is usually my first sign I need to go. Desperately.

I have this funny thing about myself. I like to be challenged in my thoughts. When I find myself convinced of something I can’t help but to seek out the other side of the argument. Maybe it’s leftover from being a counselor. Maybe it’s because I can’t help but to be empathetic. Maybe I just like to know all sides to every point. In any case, I have this habit and I kinda like it.

So, as you can intelligently deduct, I did go, and I LOVED it. I’m a sucker for humor and Renee is hands-down one of the funniest people I’ve met. She’s got an engaging personality and if she was reading the dictionary with her opinions inter-spliced—I’d have sat there happily for hours.

One of the stories she told was about our chapter. She had gone to a RWA (Romance Writers of America) meeting when she was a new writer. She attended our chapter at a time when none of the members who run it now were there (important point!) Anyway, she had gone right after her first novel sale and proudly announced the sale at the meeting, hoping to get praise for her accomplishment.

Our chapter gives out chocolate for good news of all kinds, even chocolate for bad news. In fact, if you don’t want random chocolate you just don’t raise your hand. Back then, you only got chocolate if you sold. And so the lady handed Renee her earned chocolate. Then each person went around and gave the details of their sale. Renee told them who had bought her novel.

The chapter president repeated the information and then looked at her sadly…then TOOK HER CHOCOLATE AWAY. Apparently the sale didn’t count because it was not to an RWA approved publishing house. It was to a small press.

Something like that wouldn’t happen in our chapter today. The room erupted in collective gasps. In today’s world of indie and self-pub and every flavor of publishing—having an elitist mindset is sort of shocking. For clarification, it isn’t elitist to want to publish to a big five traditional publisher, but maybe it is a bit elitist to think that is the *best* way or the most respectable way. It’s just the best way for some people, but not everyone.

The story hit home for me. When I first took writing seriously, I joined a number of online groups. Wanting badly to improve my writing, I sought out other writers to exchange stories with and get critiques. I’d get a feel for the person, usually admiring them in some way and then send a note to feel out the interest. People either had time or they didn’t and that’s fine. Some people already had a large number of people they exchanged with and adding one more person would be too much. Critiquing is time consuming. I always appreciated the kindness most writers expressed. The majority of writers I’ve come across are caring people, who want to see their fellow writers succeed (and then help them succeed, right 😉

But I did once (maybe twice) get a strange reaction to my request for critique. People I’d admired were unkind in their way of saying no. Now, it’s okay to say no, or no thanks, or not right now. Those are all acceptable responses. But sometimes people felt the need to point out that I had no credentials as a writer (at the time I’d only sold to Chicken Soup for the Soul and I wasn’t very vocal about it, maybe that was my own fault for painting myself as a complete newbie). They went further to assume it would be a waste of time (using not those exact words) to exchange with me, as they were more interested in exchanging with people “more on their level.”

I brushed off those comments and moved along. It’s not at all helpful to dwell on those kinds of observations by other writers. People find success sometimes at surprising times. Someone who looks like a total newb could be a break out writer in just a few months, a year later that same writer could be making millions on Amazon. Writing for ten years, but suddenly finding their groove—they could maintain that speed or in another year be down on their luck again.

That is a writing career. Take it or leave it. It’s unpredictable who will be successful at any stage of the game.

As it turns out I did find success within the year. I one day found myself in the strange position of having one of those unkind writers write me (probably having forgotten that they’d had an email exchange with me a year before) and ask to exchange stories.

I had several choices. One, I could simply say no. Two, I could say no and attach the email they’d once sent me and rub my success in their face. Or three, I could show compassion.

I did exchange stories with this person. And later after several email exchanges I realized I really liked this person (maybe because they complimented me on my writing and liked my critique style…I can be bought, I guess). I did bring up our encounter a year before. They didn’t remember completely, but they said they were a bit of a snob when they first came into the writing forum. But, by doing it this way, this person was shown what it was to show a new writer kindness. And I hoped I saved one less ego-driven writer from the world.

Show kindness.

One caveat. If I show compassion and they are jerks, then throw them to the wolves. I’m nice, but not a pushover.

I love comments! If you leave a comment, you ride the compassion rainbow of love and glitter will stream from your eyes and ears as you spread amazing writerly kindness. Too much? I don’t think so.