Saturday, December 14, 2013

My heroine needs a name. Anyone?

I’ve been making some decisions on my new series. The first book finally has a title: Andrew’s Key. Instead of “The Hartford Stories,” the subtitle will be “Stories From Hartford.” Is that better? I don’t know. I’m going with that anyway because I need to settle on something.

I finished the draft for Book 2 and immediately began work on Book 4. Now I’m committed to having at least 4 books in the series. You might think having 3 books in progress only commits me to 3 books. But I am way too stubborn to take something I’ve been calling Book 4 in my head and suddenly make it Book 3.

I have a few pages of plot and character notes. I’m sticking with my decision to make this one a Christmas love story, which is why I felt like skipping ahead to it right now. But one very important decision has yet to be made. As I said in the beginning, my heroine needs a name. I’ve been flipping through the phonebook and trolling baby name websites to no avail. I always struggle with names, but I seem particularly stuck this time. Most names make me think of someone I know or have known and if that person doesn’t look anything like the character in my head, then the name won’t work for me. It isn’t any better if that person does resemble the character because I don’t want to feel as though I’m naming a main character after a real person.

I know this might be a long shot… but does anyone want to suggest a character name? I could use the help. I still have a few minor characters to name so I might be able to work in some suggestions even if they don’t seem right for the heroine. Feel free to suggest first and last or only first or last.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Hartford Stories (a working title)

I have decided that my next book will be the first in a series. I never thought about writing a series before because sometimes, as a reader, I have been annoyed by them. I greatly dislike loose ends. There have been exceptions of course, but I generally prefer a story with a nice tidy ending. I want all the crumbs swept up and in the trash when I get to the last page. If it actually has the words “the end” typed out, I’m okay with that. I don’t mind revisiting a place or a theme. What I don’t want is to feel as though I’ve been tricked into having my next book picked out for me. (And if that book hasn’t been written yet…!)

In all honesty, it was a touch of laziness that sparked my interest in writing a series. I wanted to start a new book and it occurred to me that if I recycled my small town then I wouldn’t have to think of a new setting. And if a few minor characters made repeat appearances, they’d already have names! Names are difficult for me. This was a major selling point.

So Book 2 has a whole new story with a new hero and heroine. It will be an independent read that just happens to be set in the same imaginary town as Book 1. My concern now is that this series idea has grown on me almost too much. I recently had a conversation in my head that went something like this:

- Two books don’t really count as a series. I’ll need a 3rd.

- Since Book 1 covers most of a summer and Book 2 ends in the fall, I could make Book 3 a Christmas story. I love Christmas stories!

- Hang on. My current plan has me starting Book 3 near the end of January. How much will I be loving Christmas stories in January?

- That’s a good point. And I’d probably want to release Book 3 in the summer anyway. If I do that other idea first, I could make Book 4 a Christmas story. That would come out closer to Christmas.

- Oh my goodness! I think I’m losing my mind. What makes me think I can release 4 books in 1 year?

- Well, maybe I could. I’m almost halfway done with them.

- Halfway? Let’s check that math. I have one full draft in need of serious editing plus a cover and it doesn’t even have a title yet. That’s something like half a book. I also have about 3/4 of a manuscript, which is less than half a book. How is less than 1 half of 4?

- I know. I’m not bad at math. I guess I was suffering from a moment of flawed optimism.

- Hey! “Flawed optimism” has an interesting ring to it. That has potential for a book title. Is there any way I could make that a theme for Book 5?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Bonus Meet Cute

My new book, Meet Cute, is now available for kindle. (The print version should be ready in a few days and it will eventually be released for other ereaders.) This book is a collection of 5 sweet romances. There is also a 6th story called “Where’s the Love” that is a bit of a stunt. I posted the story as a discussion on the Amazon sales page for Meet Cute.

My original idea was to include a story about a couple who met on a forum. I wanted to write it as actual posts, something like a modern epistolary. But I knew right away that formatting would be a challenge. Anything I included, like lines or time stamps, to separate the posts would need to be as unobtrusive as possible. I feared that getting something like that to line up properly on various ereaders might be an insurmountable challenge, at least for me.

My husband suggested I post the story directly on an Amazon forum. I had to think about that for a while, and do a little research. I haven’t found anything in Amazon’s terms of service that says I’d be breaking the rules by creating accounts as fictional characters. Amazon (and my own value system) prohibits anything that could be considered fraud. I think I’ve been very clear that I am behind the character accounts. I worked a mention of sock puppets into the story to establish that I know what that is and that that’s not what I was trying to do and I had the characters mention checking out each other’s profiles. That was also deliberate. I hoped it would encourage readers to check the profiles. If anyone missed the part in the book’s description that says the discussion is a work of fiction, each profile says, “I am a fictional character” in some form.

It’s simply a free story, and it was kind of fun.

Once I planned to use a few Amazon accounts, I decided to use my existing account to make myself a character in the story. I’m sure it will be the only time I use a real person in fiction. I’m not worried about getting sued by me. The only problem was that I knew myself a little too well. The real me would not have joined that discussion. That made putting words in my mouth sort of tricky.

I should clarify that writing the story was fun. Running back and forth between computers while trying to keep the characters straight was kind of stressful. For me. My family thought that part was highly amusing.

I think the story turned out pretty cute and I hope anyone who finds it at least appreciates my attempt to do something a little different. I also hope it might provide an extra space for readers to leave feedback. I love feedback. Not enough people write reviews. Anyone can post a quick comment at the end of the story without having to assign stars or add a lot of detail. Please… if you read the story, consider letting me know what you thought. I’ll even take criticism. I had my own characters making fun of me. I can take it.

One more point while we’re on the subject of free stories. Each of the 5 stories in Meet Cute will be offered individually and those will be free for a limited time. Insiders (which means people who have read this post) will know to check Amazon on the 16th of each of the next five months to collect all the stories for free.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Sorting Hat for books would be easier.

It’s time for me to assign the BISAC code(s) for my new book. If you don’t know, BISAC stands for Books Intelligently Sorted into Awkward Categories.* These codes, in theory, determine where books are listed with booksellers. Choosing the category should be fairly simple. I think for some books it is because some of the codes are pretty specific.

But this book, like some of my others, is about couples meeting and falling for each other. Romance you say? I hesitate even to start there. My feeling is that the lines between romance and erotica have blurred. Maybe I’m wrong but I think most people expect anything labeled romance to have a decent amount of sex scenes. And this is part of what choosing categories is all about. No, not sex scenes. It’s about managing expectations.

If someone picks up a book hoping to read one steamy scene after another and finds that in the entire course of the book, the hero only takes his shirt off twice (and has another one under it both times), that reader is going to be disappointed. It won’t matter that the book happens to be a completely awesome story of a witty yet socially awkward young woman finding friends and then true love.** The reader will still be disappointed that it wasn’t what he or she planned to read.

Romance does have several sub-genres and even sub-sub-genres. The closest I’ve come to pegging my books though is to put them under the Romance sub-genre of Christian books. My books are not overtly Christian though and this leaves room for disappointment in the segment of the audience hoping for a profound message.

Yeah, I could just call everything Fiction. But readers cannot even form expectations about a book if they cannot find it, which brings us to the more awkward half of assigning a category. Amazon and Barnes & Noble and most other booksellers have their own categories. (Yes, the S in BISAC supposedly stands for Standards.) They ask publishers to assign a code or two and then they use that information to determine which of their own browse categories is (are) most appropriate.

I don’t know how this is accomplished. I’m guessing it either involves committees and secret handshakes or a dartboard. I don’t have a lot of faith in this system. I have already been surprised at what they thought was a match. And once I selected the same codes for two books and found them listed under different categories.

Even if I was new to this, I’d have doubts based on my experiences trying to find books that I want to read. Barnes & Noble, for example, still uses the same price sorts for ebooks as it does for print. These start at “under $10.” (Yes, even if you’ve already found the section for Nook books under $5, you can still sort them by those under $10.) Not only are something like 90% of all ebooks under $10, I think very few people sorting by price would be willing to spend more than that. Amazon doesn’t instill much confidence when it admits under Indie Books that the category is “hard to define.” Independent is pretty straightforward, but Amazon tries to characterize it by including “cool” in the criteria since there is nothing at all subjective about what makes a book cool.

I suppose the sorts and categories don’t matter all that much to anyone who mostly reads what friends recommend. If you’re like me and can’t get enough recommendations or you recently read something that wasn’t exactly what you had in mind, I hope you’ll appreciate that there are an awful lot of people trying to figure out how to put books in front of readers who might enjoy them. Some of us are putting a lot more thought into it than others. But we are trying.

* Actually stands for something else.
** Tongue in cheek of course, but still look up The 4th Floor Lounge if that sounds appealing.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Writing Reviews

No, this is not another post about how I wish more people would review my books. This is about my reviews. I feel as though I’ve become a harsher reviewer over the last few years. Even when I really like a book, my comments tend to focus on the weaker aspects. This is bad because part of the reason I starting writing reviews was to support other authors. I hate to think I might have offended a few in the process.

Recalling more easily my negative thoughts seems to be an unfortunate side effect of reading my own books. I lost track of how many times I reread the last one before I released it, each time hoping to find a way to make improvements. I’m afraid I read other books like this now, too. Even when I’m completely engrossed in an enjoyable story, part of me is wondering how it could have been even better.

Of course “better” is entirely subjective, as is the nature of all reviews, so I’m not trying to attach any particular importance to my own opinions. I’m simply trying to explain why sometimes even a 5-star review will point out something I didn’t love. I’m going to try to be better at keeping my reviews balanced. But in the meantime, I thought I’d spell out what the stars mean to me as a general impression of the book without regard to nitpicky observations.

5 stars – I enjoyed this one so much that I immediately went back and reread my favorite parts to keep it from being over. I probably read at least part of this book while I was supposed to be doing something else, like sleeping.

4 stars – I’m glad I read this and might still be thinking about it after I finished. There was something possibly indescribable about it that made it easier to put down than a 5 star book.

3 stars – I still liked this book, but there was at least one part that sort of bugged me. Maybe there was a character who got on my nerves or a plot point that didn’t quite make sense. I may have skipped a paragraph here or there to get through it, but I cared enough to find out how it ended.

2 stars – I found less that I liked than I didn’t. It may not be a bad book, but it wasn’t for me.

1 star – There was something inherently wrong with this book. It may have had hideous grammar or offensive content. I generally stop reading and move on rather than bother with a review for something that fits these criteria. Fortunately, I haven’t come across all that many anyway.