Hello August. Let’s do this.

Do you have a To-Do list for August? I do. In my head. Where it’s going to collect dust if I don’t write it down…so here it is in super rough draft form…

  1. Release Print version of ‘Dying to Know’
  2. Mail out print copies of ‘Dying to Know’ to winners
  3. Proof through the Find Me series. Again.
  4. Reformat FM ebooks. Again.
  5. Begin writing FM 4: research, research, research
  6. Hire narrators for remaining audio titles
  7. Continue writing FM 4: drama, drama, drama
  8. Begin research for next project
  9. Say goodbye to summer: school starts in 3 weeks
  10. Purge house in preparation for new school year
  11. Become a full time teacher again: homeschooling never stops
  12. Continue writing FM 4: tears, tears, tears
  13. Consider shopping for publishing agent
  14. Find an awesome local bookstore to sell my books
  15. Research upcoming local author/writing/publishing events

It’s a long list – for me – and some of these things are definitely out of my comfort zone, but hey, progress. Here’s to a productive August for us all!

BlogAugust1

Yes, I know.

A few weeks ago, a reader left a message right here under one of my Station novelette posts asking if I was writing under a different name, then notified me of a title that started so much like one of mine did around Chapter 3, that I admit, I had heart palpitations. No joke…panic mode was enabled.

See, here’s the thing – you can’t copyright an idea, or even a concept. But as a writer, if you are mindful of this, one of the best (and hardest) parts of writing Fiction is the world-building, the fresh ideas, the character development, the plot, the twists, etc… It feels good to lose yourself in a world of your creation. But there will come a time, no doubt, when two books are unintentionally similar. Perhaps by theme, perhaps by setting, or perhaps in a hundred different other ways, but when two books combine too much of those things and have entire sections with a similar theme, setting and timeline of events that possibly borrow from one title to set the story for another – is this coincidental…is it still unintentional? The fact is, I don’t know. And legally, as far as copyright law, this enters some very grey area.

It is this grey area that has me curious, and yes, concerned. See, when I wrote Dying to Forget, admittedly, I had not read a gazillion afterlife titles in ‘preparation’. For me, every story I’ve done was 99% waking up from an awesome and twisted dream, to that 1% of real life influence, and that’s what the Station books have been.

I was going through the difficult time of healing and acceptance after the death of my Aunt. She was one of my favorite people. With the biggest laugh and equally large heart, when she took her life it stunned me. Not because I didn’t think it would ever happen, but because I thought I could have prevented it. I know now, how hard and impossible that was. See, mental health is a real issue, not just a phase, not just something someone can get over. Clinical Depression took my Aunt’s life, and I wish that all of us in her life had understood before she died, how hard every day truly was for her. Since she’s been gone, I hear her in my head all the time. She talks me down from my own ledges, pumps up my self-esteem when I need it, and is generally just an extra version of my own sub-conscious. She’s really with me every day. This is what I wanted Piper Willow to be for you.

What I didn’t know would happen, is how many truly amazing people would relate to Piper and the creation of ‘my’ Station. Some of those who have been hurt, or who hurt themselves, have truly found a bit of solace in these books, and they’ve reached out to tell me so. The point of the Station is not a selfish one – but intended to go beyond the pain of one person to help others. And before I get too mushy and start crying all over the keyboard, what’s important to me is not that someone else may have intentionally or unintentionally used the platform of my Station books to create a version of their own, but it is that there is only one Piper Willow. And there’s a little bit of her in all of us. This won’t be taken away by another title; Piper is here to stay.

So, until it is legally necessary to pursue this funky and unexpected matter further, it’s at that point where online I can’t stay completely quiet anymore. I’ve gotten your messages, I’ve read your posts. I totally get the passion behind why some readers of the Station series are curious, confused and yes, pissed off. I also get why readers of this other author are pissed, but if you haven’t read the Station books I guess you just wouldn’t understand why this is a really strange occurrence and why Piper fans are more than a little concerned. The only way to even remotely get the passion behind a Station fan would be to also read Dying to Forget. And this isn’t a sales pitch – because the title is 100% free. It’s not enrolled in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program, which means I get exactly $0.00 for each download and read. KU books are free for Prime members, but the author still gets paid. I would hope that any reader of the other title in question would do their own research before attacking my Station readers. It’s only fair. For those who want to have mature and respectful discussions with each other about this topic – the comments section is open to you.

So, yes, I know. I’ve been made aware of what is happening and I’m choosing to focus right now on what really matters – that Piper’s fourth story be finished and in your hands soon. Because my Station still has tales to share, and friends to make.

Any decent writer can retell a story, but not all can create one. The books I choose to write are hopefully the same as the ones I love to read: different from the masses. In the end, it comes down to you, the reader, and what you want. I hope that my Station books give you what you want or need, and keep you entertained. If this happens, it’s a win for me.

No, I don’t want to publicly talk about this other title or author by name. It’s not my way, regardless of how I may feel. So keep on doing what you do best as a Station fan – share the book with your friends. Let them know why Piper matters to you.

Now off I go, back to her world and the never-ending drama of the Station, where I’m currently obsessed (and with over 200 million views, I must not be alone!) with Alan Walker’s ‘Faded’ and have on repeat in my writing playlist. I’ll share the video with you below, for your listening pleasure…

XOXO – Trish


Courtesy of YouTube

Wednesday Writing Tip – Be Your Own Boss, At Your Own Risk

Being a writer is one of the best jobs in the world. It’s my dream career, and I can’t imagine doing anything else. But there are pros and cons to being your own boss in the Indie-writing world, all which can make or break ya.

Here’s my Top 20 list of Pros and Cons of Being Your Own Boss. Enjoy it with coffee, if you’d like. Or vodka. I won’t judge.


TOP 20 PROS

  • No Supervisor (unless your editor is waiting for the manuscript)
  • No Commute (unless you write away from home often)
  • No formal work schedule, or clocking in and out
  • No penalties for being late or calling in sick
  • No uniforms required. Or washed hair. Or makeup. Or clothes at all, for that matter.
  • No formal degrees needed
  • Introverts welcome
  • Procrastinators welcome
  • Multi-tasking dragon trainers, unicorn riders and Middle Earth trail guides always needed
  • Ego inflation automatically included for all book awards won
  • Tax write-offs for travel. And coffee. And printer ink.
  • Knowledge gained in spelling, editing, formatting and marketing
  • Mastering of ‘Internet Research’. Followed by, Mastering of panic-mode ‘Clear Browsing History’
  • Constant practice in the Art of Humility
  • Expansive knowledge gained in caffeinated coffee and tea products. Also in chocolate. Or hard liquor.
  • Paying bills with writing income
  • Feeling accomplished and successful
  • Making friends within the writing community
  • Being stalked online by readers
  • Spending more time at home with family and pets.

TOP 20 CONS

  • No Supervisor (you’re on your own to figure everything out)
  • No Days Off (if not writing, you’re thinking about writing – 24/7)
  • No formal work schedule
  • No employee benefits (health insurance, dental insurance, office romance possibilities or water cooler gossip)
  • Showering may become so sporadic that the neighbors notice
  • Introverts welcome (being alone full-time does bad things to the mind)
  • Procrastinators welcome (an Achilles Heel for some writers)
  • Insomnia
  • Ego inflation can reach dangerously high levels. Friends might be lost. Family might move out. The dog might even run away.
  • Self-Employment tax
  • Knowledge gained on spelling, editing, formatting and marketing can create madness. And broken laptops due to constant head-banging.
  • Weight Gain. Also, Flat-Ass Syndrome
  • Bad reviews are guaranteed
  • Hearing at every social event for the rest of eternity, ‘You’re a writer? Have I read anything of yours?’
  • Addiction to any, or all of the following is expected: Social Media, checking email at least ten times a day, hard alcohol, chocolate, junk food in general, really comfortable pens, notebooks and Forensic Files
  • Constantly checking online for pirated work. And laptop sales.
  • Feeling accomplished and successful is almost always followed by moments of self-loathing and self-doubt
  • Meeting crazy people within the writing community
  • Being stalked online (or in person) by readers
  • Spending less time with family and pets because writing consumes everything

Enjoyed this post, friends? Don’t keep it a secret – like, comment and share!

You’ll earn some good Karma.

The Uncertainty of KDP Select for Indie Writers

Exclusive: unshared and/or restricted. When you’re talking book distribution, being exclusive with any distributor seems a bit…well…crazy, right? Why put all the eggs, so to speak, in one basket – or all the books on one shelf?

Enter in Amazon’s KDP Select.

The program is an exclusive distribution deal for writers that offers a handful of promotional perks. This program locks a book title in to be sold only by Kindle for 90 day periods, in which it automatically renews at the end unless the book is pulled from the program. During that time, the book cannot be distributed elsewhere.

This isn’t an anti-Amazon or anti-Select post, let me just put that out there. I’m not stupid; I won’t bite the hand that feeds me. Amazon sells more books than any other distributor and my Amazon royalties alone account for nearly 3/4 of my income. However, that being said, Amazon isn’t perfect, and Select is even less so. And here’s why I think that:

  • Exclusivity sucks. It’s limiting. It means the author must rely solely on one distribution channel and one group of readers to sell books. Sure, there’s a ton of readers on Amazon looking for those specials, deals and freebies that Kindle Unlimited or the Lending Library offers, but what about those who don’t have a Kindle or don’t use a Kindle app? They won’t find Select titles elsewhere.
  • The numbers don’t lie. My Select sales have always been infinitely small. Always. I’ve never seen a tremendous amount of success from any of my titles that were enrolled in Select. Never. Consider me unlucky.
  • Promotional flops. With Select-only available promotions such as Countdown Deals, authors are afforded the option of putting their Select title on sale or listing it for free, for a limited time. This should help a title attract new readers, preferably a good amount of new readers, during the promotion, thus increasing sales afterwards. There’s no guarantee of success with these promotions though, as Amazon doesn’t suddenly advertise the title under promotion, and my most recent one totally flopped. It happens. It sucks.
  • It’s risky and we know it. All of my Indie writer friends have bounced around with the idea of using Select for all their work, one book/series, or just a few (like I do, for my novelettes) pretty regularly. It’s a hot topic amongst writer friends. Does it work? Who does it work for? Is it worth it? The answer is: Yes, it works really well for some, but not for everyone and not for every genre; Select is not a golden ticket, it’s a risky business move. I don’t know why it doesn’t work for all of us. If I had the answer, I’d have taken advantage of it a long time ago. I’ve some Indie friends who bring in big bucks from Select with some of their series or titles, which is fabulous. I also know of author friends who’ve pulled their Select titles and seen a tremendous drop in sales, or the opposite – a tremendous spike from being able to use multiple distributors. I’ve been on both sides myself. I’ve tried Select for most of my titles initially, to hopefully give it a good foothold via Amazon’s large amount of users. But that no longer seems to work for my titles or genres. And 90 days is a lot of time to lose sales via other platforms like B&N’s Nook or iTunes/iBooks, Kobo, etc… In fact, I’d lose money if I pulled my books off NOOK and elsewhere to list them all on Select. Not only would that suck for the non-Amazonites out there, but it would be a bad business move for me.

So, I may not have the answers, but I do have some numbers. My Station novelettes have been in Select since publication. They don’t sell a whole heck of a lot – really it’s the hardcore Station series readers that invest in them, which I’m very grateful for. I don’t do promotions often because there’s a limited amount you can do in any 90 day period – so perhaps that’s my fault.

Anyway, skip forward to this week. From Monday – Friday, I’ve had a Countdown Deal going for each of my three novelettes. It was an experiment, really. Even though there’s still Friday to contend with, I know at this point, that the promotion didn’t work. The sales for each title are down this week, not up. How is that possible with a promotional deal? Doesn’t seem to make sense, but yet, it happened.

Compared to last week’s sales, NILES is down 56%, MALLORY is down 50% and Kerry-Anne is also down 60%. What the actual F? I kind of want to spell out the word ridiculous to emphasize how absurd those numbers are, but that’s a lot of dashes. I won’t do that to you. I’ll just let you go back now and read those numbers one more time. Like I said: ridiculous.

Here’s a secret – I did NO promotion for this week’s Countdown Deals on purpose. WHY? Because I wanted to see if they work organically to improve sales. And the big fat answer of the week is NOPE. I’ve promoted such deals in the past and seen small bumps in sales, but the real promotion success has come from outside advertising – not with Amazon. Like I said, nothing from Select has ever worked for me, and I’ve had all lengths and genres in there. I actually sell more books on Amazon without being in Select where the ‘promotional deals’ taunt writers. Yeah, scratch your head at that one.

So, what’s the answer? You’ll be mad when I tell you this, but there is no right answer. Because every author’s work, their experience, their email contact list, their overall visibility in the writing world, their social media presence, their covers, their luck, their everything – is different – there’s NO right way for all of us.

Bummer. I know. Select failed me this week, this month really. But I won’t pull my titles just yet. I’m trying to be the glass is half full kind of person. I have another promotion for the novelettes that I can do in the future before their current Select term is up, and it will be another experiment. And the next time – I’ll promote it myself to see if that gives a different outcome. I want Select to work for me. I really do. But it’s a fight. And how long should I fight before I’m ready to submit defeat with Select and win the battle with someone else?

Sure, it could be worse, but it could also be better. This is Amazon we’re talking about. I hope someone is listening.

Wednesday Writing Tip – Speed It Up

I’m not the fastest of writers, but I’m not as slow as I used to be. And I don’t mean the speed of my typing (which for a book, averages about 1.5 – 2 thousand words per uninterrupted hour) I’m talking about the entire process, here.

After high school I started so many ‘projects’ that it’s almost embarrassing to go back and look at all the unfinished WIP’s hanging out in my file cabinet which are now birthing millions of little dust bunnies. But as I work on the eleventh book to be published, I now understand why it is I didn’t finish those stories when I was younger.

I got hung up on the little things.

Seriously. I freaked myself out about the process: the spelling, the grammar, the type of comma I should use, the plot, the outline, the spacing and paragraph settings on the computer or the paper I was writing on, the pen I picked, etc… Basically, the entire project seemed like one red flag after another the more I thought about it. My mess of scattered thoughts and worries destroyed the projects – every time.

All the little things strangled the starving artist inside me. I became a creativity killer.

Fast-forward almost two decades (relax, I’m not that old) to my first ‘completed’ full-length project that I started in 2011 and published just over six months later, I HOPE YOU FIND ME. I didn’t worry about any of the things I mentioned above because I just started typing, in fact, the only thing I changed in the Word document initially was the line spacing (I made it 1.5 because at the time, single spacing made me feel ‘cramped’ and double spacing made me feel like there was no end whatsoever). Now, IHYFM isn’t the best written book, I know this. I mean, it was my first. But I learned so much from that book about how I’d write the rest after it. The process itself is of course different for everyone, but when starting something new, especially a book, the more you try and figure it out before hand, the harder you make it on yourself.

So here are my tips for writing faster

  • What do you do before you start writing? If you’re the outlining type, keep it simple and to the point, and save the creative time for the actual writing. If you aren’t using an outline, still take a moment to jot down a few words about the characters, beginning, middle, end and a few climatic moments you’ve already thought of so you have some direction to go. Eventually, the characters take on a life of their own anyway.
  • If you are typing in a Word document (or equivalent) take one minute to adjust your paragraph settings and styles. Seriously, only one minute. Anything more than that might drag you over to the OCD side. Like I mentioned before, I prefer to write with  1 or 1.5 spacing, the first line indented or hanging at about .3, no extra spaces before or after paragraphs. All other formatting options can (and probably should) wait till the end.
  • Simplify. While writing a first draft, the font you use is NOT important as long as you can read it without distraction. Setting up all your headers ahead of time isn’t important (unless you want your chapter headings to all look the same right out of the gate). Times New Roman or something similar (I’m using Liberation Serif size 12 for my current WIP) are perfectly suitable fonts. Boring? Yep, but if you’re actually writing and not worrying about these things, the font becomes a teeny-tiny issue. Seriously – don’t overthink. Keep it simple in the beginning.
  • Use page breaks between your chapters. After you hit the last enter/return of your current chapter, insert a ‘page break’ so you are automatically moved to the next page. It’s a lot easier than hitting the enter/return button 100 times to move to the next page. That gets old REALLY fast while editing through the first draft. Plus, extra spaces are something you’ll have to remove anyway if you create an ebook.
  • Ignore the ‘page’ numbers of your document and pay attention only to the word count. Mine is displayed at the bottom of every document (currently using LibreOffice) but in some programs you might have to seek out your word count from the Tools section (or equivalent). The page numbers don’t matter for a few reasons: If you are writing double spaced, single space or something in between, the page number of your document will not be an accurate indicator of the length. Font type, paragraph styles and size of your text impact the length of your document. Telling yourself you want to write one more page might be deceiving if down the road you change any of the above things. Telling yourself you want to write 500 words (or 5,000) is the most reliable way to look at it. You can change everything about your document’s looks with a few clicks, but the word count will still be the same.
  • Don’t let grammar or spelling bog you down while you write. There’s a reason why editing your first draft takes time. But if you stress about the little things, then edit later. I see writing and editing as two totally different jobs, which take up different sides of your brain. You’ve got the analytical side for editing and the creative side for writing. Trying to cram both processes together for your first book might make your brain explode. Okay, maybe that’s dramatic, but seriously, you’ll write faster if you concentrate on writing first. If you come across a word, phrase or paragraph you aren’t ‘sure’ of, then highlight it and move on. If you stop the creative flow to constantly edit as you write, you’ll slow yourself down. Think of a snail towing a tractor trailer. Don’t let that be you. Spelling and grammar skills are expected from a writer, but it’s totally okay to have Thesaurus.com up in the background while you write (or a nifty diagram like THIS from Pinterest – check out my Writing Love board for more awesome writing tips). Use whatever tools will make you a better writer, so that editing is not as painful. For me, because there are gaps in my writing sessions (I have kids, my entire life is one big interruption) I’ll go back and read either the previous chapter, or the last few paragraphs I wrote before I start the next to refresh my thoughts, but that’s it. I never stop writing in the middle of a chapter unless it can’t be helped. That’s a personal style, but it sure makes it easier for my brain to flip the right switch when I sit back down at the computer.
  • Just write. If you’ve been a writer for a little while, you’ve read this and heard this elsewhere probably 100 times before today, but it’s so totally true. Just write – every day and every hour that’s available. If you have a story to tell, then for the love of chocolate, tell it. You can edit the manuscript and play with the fonts and format the paragraph styles and create your cover page after you’ve finished the story. That’s called editing and formatting and they are entirely different monsters, which leads me to the next suggestion…
  • Outsource what you can’t or don’t want to do. If you are self-publishing your book, chances are you need help with editing, formatting, cover design, etc…so outsource for it. There are a ton of writer groups online (Facebook, Twitter, Google+) where it’s easy to seek out the people that can do what you can’t or don’t have time for. Check references always, to make sure your investment in these people will produce a polished final project. And, before you release your work to the general public, have a few trusted people beta read for you (beta readers read the unpublished work first). They’ll be able to spot errors you might have missed, and any plot issues that might need clarifying. Beta readers rock.

So, there you have it, folks. If you follow those tips above, or even just tweak a few, chances are pretty high you’ll speed up the writing process and maybe even avoid a few bouts of writer’s block.

Writing can bleed a person dry, but you know what, it’s totally worth it in the end.

Happy Writing, y’all!


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