Tuesday, September 4, 2018

A Story, A New Venture, A Sad Good-bye, and Taking the Next Steps!

Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows that I'm not shy about sharing the lows of the publishing world, and I've had a lot of them lately. It's been quite doom-and-gloom around here, but not today! Today, I have some really exciting news to share. But, before I get into that...

A STORY:

When I got my license, I had high hopes of getting a car. A little red sports car, to be exact. Of course, that never happened. I was in high school still and working part-time at the local Arby's, and my parents were in no position to buy me a car. So, my first car was some clunker--I think it was a Chevette or something. LOL. As I got older, I upgraded cars, drove a couple minivans and SUVs, but still no sports car--until recently. 

This summer, my husband bought me the little red sports car I always wanted: A Pontiac Firebird!




Isn't she pretty??

Shortly after getting the car, my husband jokingly referred to it as "The Fireturd." Thankfully, that nickname didn't stick around long. So, he then affectionately called it "The Firechicken." That name did stick--my kids think it's hilarious, and every time we leave the house, they ask if we're taking the Firechicken. It has quickly become our family joke, and I love it.

So, what does this have to do with publishing?


A NEW VENTURE:

In my last post, I admittedly whined about the rejections I got for a paranormal romance I was querying. While I'm still saddened by them, I'm happy to report I have received another full request. YAY! So, I'm not giving up on that route, but while I wait, I've decided to focus on something new.

Indie publishing! That's right, I am fully committing to self-publishing. And because I don't ever do anything halfway, I have filed for an LLC and will be creating my own publishing company that will publish just my books.

I'd like to introduce you all to....


FireChicken Press, LLC

That probably sounds like a silly name for a publisher, but as I said, it's solely for my books, and it has special meaning to me. I think it's absolutely perfect!

My daughter even made a couple hand-drawn logos for me!




Isn't she so talented?? Shameless plug time: She'll be opening to custom art commissions soon if anyone is interested. You can find her on her websiteTwitter and DeviantArt.

I've worked in publishing for years, so I know how much work this will be--I'm excited and committed and a tad bit overwhelmed. Which leads me to the next section of this post...


A SAD GOOD-BYE:

Because of the amount of time and focus self-publishing will take, I made the difficult choice to resign my position at Anaiah Press. While I have thoroughly loved my time there, I know I can't give Anaiah the attention it deserves while also making FireChicken Press successful. My last day will be December 31, 2018.

And now...

TAKING THE NEXT STEPS:

It's no huge secret that I got my start in publishing in the secular market--erotic romance, to be exact. While I no longer write that (nor do I plan to do so again), I have been doing some soul searching in terms of what I want to write and publish. I love Christian fiction--it has been my focus for the past 5 years. I love to read it and edit it. Sadly, though, in terms of writing it...well, that's a different story. It's not my passion. Therefore, I will be returning to the secular market.

Under FireChicken Press, LLC, I will be publishing YA, NA, and A across a variety of genres; although all of my books will have an element of romance in them. My NA and A books will have cursing, violence (especially my romantic suspense titles), and possibly sex (but not overly graphic). My YA will be a lot cleaner. So, to all of my CF writers and readers, if you chose not to follow me on this new journey, I 100% understand and support your decision. There are no hard feelings on my end, and I wish you all the absolute best.

For anyone who sticks around, I plan to start by re-releasing an older NA title that I recently got the rights back to---Death of a Waterfall. I'm going to revise the heck out of it, add some new words, cut some words, get new cover art with a brand new title and then unleash it back into the world. My goal is to do so in March 2019. I will follow that up with the sequel (never before released), and then book 3 (also never released). Additionally, I have a book written for one of the secondary characters that I'm super excited about :-)


I have an adult romantic suspense series that I'll be releasing eventually, too. And, of course, I have a TON of YA books that are half-finished that I'll be busy finishing and publishing, starting with my Georgia Corbins series.

So, there you have it. And now, if you'll excuse me, I have some writing to do!








Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Is There a Place for Me in Traditional Publishing?

So.... It's been an interesting couple of months. I've had some highs and some major lows--I'm talking curl-up-in-a-ball-and-cry lows.




And all of it has made me ask a very hard question:

IS THERE A PLACE FOR ME IN TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING??

I'm honestly not sure. Yeah, I know publishing is vast and there's room for everyone. And that I shouldn't write for market trends. And that I need to stay true to myself and write what I want to write. That if one book doesn't sell, move on to the next. Publishing is so subjective. It's not you or your writing--it's the market. I've heard it all. Heck, I've said it all. So, what happened to make me ask this question?

Well, it all started about 8 years ago. (You'd better get comfy. This is going to be a long story.)

I started my writing journey out of boredom. Yeah, I know how that sounds. LOL. Bear with me. I'd always wanted to write a book, and I'd had a lot of false starts, but this time I'd found a story I was excited about and characters I instantly loved. I was determined to finish! And I did. In fact, I wrote the sequel, too. Then I was once again lost...What did I do with it now that it was finished?


I joined a local critique group and realized just how bad it was and how much I didn't know about writing. So, I began the lengthy process of revising. While doing so, I tried my hand at some shorter works--novellas.

And I had some success!!!!

On September 15, 2012, I had my first ever story published. It was an erotic romance novella published by a small press. For the most part, my experience was great! Working with my editor was a good experience. I loved my cover art. My reviews were awesome! My sales could have been better, but I think the pricing was a big factor here (something I had no control over.) I went on to publish two more novellas with this publisher. Those books released December 2012 and January 2013.

While I was working with the above publisher, I was also publishing a couple erotic romance novellas with a different publisher. The first one released in October 2012 with the second releasing in January 2013. Again, good experience, positive reviews, slightly better sales. I went ahead and published a full-length book with this press that released September 2013. Sadly, things went sour shortly after--but that's a different story for a different day.

During this time, I'd finished revising the book of my heart (or I thought it was at the time). It wasn't exactly YA (characters were in college) but it wasn't adult, either. New Adult wasn't even a thing yet. I queried agents, pitching it as an adult romance, and got nowhere with it. Looking back, I know now it should never have been queried. LOL. Live and learn, right? Having had some success and decent experiences with small presses, I began to research those options for this series, too. And guess what?


I had an offer from a small publisher. I signed on the dotted line and was well on my way. The experience with this press wasn't as great as the other two places, but it was okay. Editing was sub-par and sales are almost non-existent. This book released in June 2013. To this day, I have never revised or published the sequel. Partly because I don't want to work with this publisher anymore, but also because I've lost interest in it.

Throughout the process of getting that book published, I was busy working on a new project--a contemporary YA romance. I was so in love with this book and the characters (still am). I eagerly queried agents. Again, I got nowhere! By this point, I was starting to wonder what the heck was going on? How / why could I get published with a small press and have wonderful reader reviews but not be able to get an agent to show any interest? Again, I went back to my the place I knew I could excel--the small press! And again, I got an offer.

My book released in June 2013. I loved everything about this publisher--my editor, my cover art, the staff, the other authors. For the first time since I'd embarked on this journey, I'd truly felt like I'd found my home.


I had big plans, too. I was going to publish everything with this press! This is also where I got my start in editing. Some of my closest writer friends I have today, I met at this publisher. But then things went bad. Horribly bad! You can read about what happened HERE. This experience left me broken and very leery of small presses, and I knew I didn't want to go through anything like that again.

During my time there, I was working on a new project--an adult romantic suspense. When the publisher closed, I vowed to try my hardest to get an agent. I mean, I'd learned so much and was a much better writer. Surely now was my time, right?

And then I got the email -- An agent wanted to have "The Call." I promptly signed with my first agent. I was on top of the world! Together, we edited my book and got it ready to go out on submission. Then we waited and waited and waited some more. I think it was a little over a year before I had to face the fact that my book wasn't going to sell. Talk about soul-crushing!

But I didn't waste all that time just waiting--I had accepted my position with Anaiah Press, and I was busy editing. I also sought a co-author and together, we wrote and published two Christian romantic suspense books. They released April 2015 and February 2016. It was such a wonderful experience that I wouldn't ever change.

Somewhere in all of that, I had a call with my agent where we discussed my career and where to go next. We decided I'd write a contemporary New Adult romance--NA was hot at the time, and I had a fun idea for a series. So, I dove in. By the time I was finished and it went out on submission, we got a lot of "NA isn't selling anymore" rejections. Because, of course. (I'm one of those people that if it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all.)


But then! Then we got an offer from a very reputable mid-sized publisher! I was back in the game!!! I published two NA books with this press (under a pen name). They released May 2017 and October 2017. I wish I could say everything was roses and sunshine and rainbows--I really wish I could say that. But I can't :-( You can read about why HERE.

Throughout the years and all the ups-and-downs, I've been working on other things. I haven't finished many of them, but I've been working on different things.

Recently, I finished a project that has taken me 4 years to complete--and it's a book that I love more than anything I've ever written. It's a young adult paranormal romance (very Twilight-esque). I revised and edited and revised some more. I sent it to critique partners and beta readers. I even worked one-on-one with a mentor. I did everything right. I eagerly jumped into the query trenches, knowing this was the best thing I've ever written.

As of today, these are my query stats:

54 total queries sent.
22 rejections
1 full request (ultimately rejected)
1 partial request (ultimately rejected)
32 queries still awaiting a response. (Most of these are due to expire next week and fall under the "no response means no" category.)

Now, a note on the full and partial requests.... Getting those amidst all the rejections was a HUGE boost. Anyone in this business knows how it feels. Sadly, both of those came back as rejections. I was fortunate enough to get feedback as to why, and it boils down to this:

My premise isn't unique enough to stand out in the current market. 

Let that sink in.

My premise isn't unique enough to stand out in the current market. 

It's not my writing. It's not my query letter. It's not my characters. It's not a lack of connection between my book and the agent.

It's. My. Premise! 

The entire concept of my book isn't good enough. Now, tell me, how do I fix that? Short of rewriting the book or shelving it, how do I make my idea--my premise--stand out?

Needless to say, I was gutted. I didn't write or edit or do anything but read and watch TV. Thank God for my awesome writer friends who pulled me out of the dumps. Once I wallowed in it for awhile, I took a deep breath and re-evaluated. I still have queries out, but honestly, I have no hope that any of them will result in a request or an offer.

BUT! Not all is lost. I'd sent it to my editor at my pen-name publisher, and I (naively) put a lot of my hopes into that single query. I prayed that she would love it and want to acquire it. Then I could rest easy knowing it would be published, and I could work with someone who I admire and trust.

Then, a few days ago, I get an email.... My editor has left the publisher.


She assured me my submission would be passed on to a new editor, but...

I'm tired, y'all.

I don't know how much more I can take. I've tried my hand at adult romance, romantic suspense, Christian fiction, young adult, new adult....and I'm not any further ahead in my career than I was way back when I started. In fact, I've gone backward!

And so, I've been pondering the question I posed at the start of this very long post. Is there really a place for me in traditional publishing? Do I even want one anymore? Should I keep trying? If I do, what do I focus on--adult? YA? Romance? Something else entirely? What if I never get another offer? What if I do and it turns out to be another horrible experience? Should I just throw all my efforts into self-publishing? Or should I stick to what I'm good at--editing--and throw in the towel on writing?

I don't have any answers right now. I'm not sure if I will anytime soon, either, but I know I need to do something because I'm taking an emotional beating, and I'm ready to crack.





Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Persist?

Last Christmas, someone I admire and respect sent me a very thoughtful gift...



It's a simple silver bracelet with the word PERSIST etched across the face. This single word seems to be my motto as of late. No matter what life throws at me, I keep persisting. Anyway, last night I heard that song "The Gambler" by Kenny Rogers. If you don't know it, you can listen to it HERE. But there are some lyrics in there (You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, Know when to walk away and know when to run.*) that got me thinking...

In terms of chasing a dream (~cough~publishing~cough) how long should you persist before you say enough is enough? Is there ever a point where you should "fold 'em" and walk away? I've been stewing on this a lot lately because honestly, I'm tired. I'm tired of people telling me no. I'm tired of people telling me what I'm writing isn't good enough or that it won't sell in the current market. I'm tired of taking three steps forward only to be knocked back four steps. This business is hard, and I often question my sanity for getting involved in it. I think all writers do at some point.

While giving up and walking away has never truly been an option for me, I've personally reached that point where I need to do something different because what I'm currently doing isn't working for me. I'm stressing about things I know I can't control, and it's affecting me emotionally, mentally, and even physically.


And so I've made the decision to finally say, "enough is enough." I'm not going to quit writing, but I am adjusting my goals and expectations. I've always written because I like it--it's an escape from the real world--but I've come to realize that the things I like to write aren't well-suited for the traditional market. And that's okay! I'm okay with that. So, as of now, I'm no longer pursuing traditional publishing. I won't be querying agents or publishers, but rather I'll focus on the joy that comes from writing. I'll do a lot more reading. I'll continue to work with my authors at Anaiah. And when the time comes, I'll reassess, but right now I'm leaning toward throwing myself into self-publishing. Because at the end of the day, I write for an audience of one: ME! Self-publishing will give me the freedom to write what I want and how I want, and if even one person reads and loves my book, then I've done my job as an author. 

I hope you'll stay tuned and follow me on this journey of self-discovery :-) 


(*Disclaimer: I do not own any rights to the quoted lyrics and all legal copyright belongs to the writers, Kenny Rogers, and his team.*) 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Why I Gave Up -- A Failed Reading Challenge

When I set out to read more vampire books in the hopes of finding something similar to Twilight (to catch up on what & why, please read THIS), it had been my intention to blog about each book as I finished them. And I was doing well for a while--I read and blogged about The Vampire Diaries. (Here, here, and here) But then I moved onto the next book on my list and ooohhhh boy!

I'm one of those people who, when I start a book, I have to finish it. I always hold out hope it might get better, or that I might change my mind and start to like the story. After years of reading, I should know myself better by now. lol. If I'm not fully engaged by chapter three (five at the most) then it's safe to say I won't suddenly become engaged. I'm also one of those people who has a high tolerance for stuff--violence, cursing, sex, etc--but I do have some limits, which I'll get into here in a minute.

I have (easily) put down the last two books I've read and labeled them as DNF (did not finish).

After I reached my limit with The Vampire Diaries, I moved on to My Blood Approves by Amanda Hocking. It was a little...harsher than Twilight and TVD in terms of the main characters attitude and internal dialogue. But that didn't really bother me once the initial shock of it wore off. For the most part, I was engaged in the story. The pacing was a bit fast, and I was bummed there wasn't much in terms of high school setting / drama / conflict. I was able to get past that, though. What I couldn't get past was.... {{SPOILER ALERT}}.... The hero killed a dog.

The hero and heroine were walking in the park and were attacked by a rabid dog. The hero stops the dog from attacking the heroine and then kills the dog. The hero gets bitten, but heals quickly and has no real side effects, which clues in the heroine that something is off. Now, I fully get what the author was doing. The hero is a vampire, and so the author was looking for a unique way to show he's different, because let's be honest, in terms of vampire fiction, everything has been done to death. Pun intended ;-) But this rubbed me the wrong way. It was completely gratuitous, in my opinion. So, I stopped reading and moved on to the next book....

Laney (The Brookehaven Vampires #1) by Joann I. Martin Sowles. I didn't make it past chapter three. The premise of this one is great, and I was really excited at first because it seemed to have the nice, slow burn that I loved so much in Twilight. But the writing itself is...bad. Allow me to show you...

Chapter 1 -- "Oh, my!" Professor McBaldy Bald said all frantic-like, with his bird face and balding head.

Chapter 1 (same page) -- I just stared at Beautiful Boy, amazed by his beauty...

Now, I don't point these out to poke fun, but rather to show the quality of the writing. There was a lot of time spent on descriptions of rooms and furniture and driving and not nearly enough time on dialogue or characterization. The entire opening was like this, and I'm going to guess the rest of the book is, too, and I just can't. Yeah, I know Twilight droned on in places and there was a lot of telling, too, but it worked in that book because we were moving toward something. In this book, it felt like it was all there simply for filler, that it served no real purpose. *shrugs* If that makes me a writing / book snob, then so be it.

So, there are two more books on my list, and I'm admittedly weary to dive into them. I think, for the time being, I'm going to put them on hold and move on to other books on my TBR pile. Don't worry--I'll continue to blog about random things :-)


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Twilight vs The Vampire Diaries

For anyone who's been following along, you know I've been on a long quest to find a series that's similar to Twilight. (You can read that HERE.) Having recently read the first four and half books of the Vampire Diaries series, I thought I'd take a moment and compare the two.



So, does The Vampire Diaries compare to Twilight? Not even close.

I love TVD the show, but I'm not super impressed by the books. The books skip character development in favor of action and conflict. They move at a lightning fast pace, which makes it hard to build up much anticipation because I often had to go back and re-read sections to make sure I understood what was happening, and I was still confused most of the time.

Twilight, however, builds very slowly. There's a lot of time to get to know the characters and become invested in all the different relationships before the action and danger started.

I'm not saying TVD is worse than Twilight--it's just different. I will always have a soft spot for TVD because it has Damon. But all the things I love about Twilight--the slow burn, the focus on the characters and relationships versus the plot, the innocence and simplicity--just isn't present in TVD.

So, what do you think? Have you read either series? How do you think they compare? Which is your favorite? Sound off in the comments!


Monday, March 12, 2018

The Vampire Diaries (Book 5): This is a joke, right?

*Deep breaths* 

Before I dive into the insanity of this book, take a moment to catch up on my personal vampire reading challenge:


All caught up? Good. Let's get started then.

Book 5: The Return: Nightfall


I can sum up my thoughts about this book quite easily...


Okay, so, a bit of context. The fourth book was supposed to be the final book, and it was released in 1992. The TV show first aired in 2009. This fifth book, The Return: Nightfall, was published in 2009-- SEVENTEEN YEARS after the series ended. See what happened here? The TV show was starting and so the publisher probably decided to cash in on that and publish new books in the series, and let me tell you, this book reeks of a money grab. It is so far beyond ridiculous that I actually stopped reading and DNF-ed it. (Which is something I almost never do!)

As you'll recall, at the end of book 4, Elena had come back to life--again--but now she's an angel. I think. Or she's something like an angel. She has some sort of energy / power in her veins that makes her irresistible to vampires (or any supernatural creature, really) and everyone wants to steal her power and kill her in the process. Stefan is protecting her. Damon is still trying to claim her and wants to share her power so they can reign together. Her friends are, as always, super supportive. And there is, once again, a dark, evil force in town that they need to fight as soon as they figure out what it is.

But here's where I have a major issue.... In the book, Elena is in a child-like state. She can't read. She can barely speak, yet she can still write in her diary (???) She needs help getting dressed. Even her thoughts are very innocent / confused / child-like. She floats and needs someone to keep her grounded (literally). In fact, at one point, Stefan ties a rope to her waist and takes her for a walk!


Yeah, I wish I was kidding. But oh! It get's worse! Knowing she's extremely child-like, you'd think Stefan would morph into a guardian / protector / parent role. And he does. But he does more than that, too! This is from page 95 of the hardcover version. Pay special attention to the sections in the yellow box.



HE ACKNOWLEDGES SHE CAN'T GIVE COMPETENT CONSENT AND YET HE DOESN'T STOP!!!!

But this is where I stopped.

Yes, I know what you're thinking. But Kara, in Twilight Jacob imprints on Renesmee and that's just as gross / creepy. Why is that okay and this isn't? Well, for starters, I never said it was okay in Twilight, despite how much I love that series. Secondly, in Twilight, we don't see Jacob kissing or hugging or otherwise having physical / sexual thoughts and/or contact with her. For me, that's the difference, and yes, it is a fine line. But it's still a line I feel was crossed in The Return: Nightfall.

I honestly have no idea what happens in the rest of the book, and I don't plan to keep reading to find out. I'm officially done with this series and plan to move on to the next series.

Up next is My Blood Approves by Amanda Hocking. Stay tuned!



Monday, March 5, 2018

The Vampire Diaries (Books 3 & 4): Maybe this isn't so bad...

To catch up on my personal vampire reading challenge, read Post 1 and Post 2.



THE FURY (Book 3):
So, at the end of book two, Elena had driven off a bridge. Book three, The Fury, picks up right were the previous one ended (again, making it feel like I was simply reading the next chapter rather than starting a new book). In this book, Elena awakens alone, confused, disoriented and as a vampire. This part really bugged me. She's stumbling around, confused, and very childlike in her thoughts / actions. Knowing she's been in love with a vampire for however long now, it seems like she'd be a bit more...grounded in what she is and how she became that way. But, having never been a vampire myself, what do I know?

Stefan, thinking it was his brother that caused Elena's death, goes after Damon and the two are in the midst of a pretty ugly fight when Elena stumbles upon them. Having more of Damon's blood in her system and seeing him as her creator, she attacks Stefan out of fear that he will hurt Damon. Even though, up to this point, she's hated Damon and loved Stefan. Confused yet? Me too!


The fighting finally stops. Stefan is back to his whiny self, feeling bad for himself that Elena seems to have chosen Damon over him because she must love Damon more. No idea how / why he got that impression simply by her trying to protect her creator, but okay. Moving on.... They realize she's now a vampire, too, and they help her adjust.

There's a new vampire hunter in town--Alaric Saltzman (love his character!)--which adds to the conflict. While avoiding him, Damon, Stefan, and Elena attempt to figure out what evil presence is lurking in town. During Elena's funeral, some weird stuff begins happening, like all of the towns' pets turning on their owners. This is really where the story picked up for me, and I raced through to the end. We find out it's none other than Katherine causing all the trouble in town. She didn't die as Damon and Stefan had thought, and she's out for revenge against Elena for stealing the brothers' love. Elena feels guilty, stating she never wanted this to happen or to come between the brothers. She shoves Katherine into the sunlight and she dies. So does Elena. Again. (For good this time, right? Don't count on it!) But not before she makes Damon and Stefan promise to get along.

Overall, this book wasn't anywhere near as bad as the first two. Maybe because I was getting more familiar and comfortable with the characters. Or maybe because I was finally used to the author's writing style. Either way, I eagerly started book four...



DARK REUNION (Book 4):
At the start of this book, Elena is still dead, (it's been 6 months) and the story is told primarily from Bonnie's POV. I've never really been a fan of Bonnie (especially in the TV show), so this POV shift took some getting used to. Thankfully, it was fairly consistent, so that made it easier to stay engaged with the story. Like book three, I raced through this one. It was REALLY good! Probably my favorite of the series.

Bonnie and friends summon Elena using a Ouija board, and they make contact. Elena warns them of something evil. Bonnie then summons Stefan for help. Stefan returns, with Damon in tow. YAY DAMON! More weird stuff happens. We learn there's another (unknown) vampire in town, who ends up killing Vickie. We also find out Tyler is a werewolf and is in cahoots with this other vampire. We find out it's Klaus, one of the original vampires. He's just as evil in the book as he is in the TV show, but he's flat in the book. We don't get to know nearly enough about him or why he's in town causing trouble.

We get to the big battle at the end. Elena is there in spirit and calls upon other spirits to defeat Klaus. The good guys win, and it ends with Elena coming back to life as a....ready for this... AN ANGEL! Yes, you read that correctly. She dies as a human. Turns into a vampire. Dies again. Then is brought back as an angel. Everyone is super happy Elena is back. Happily-ever after. Roll the credits. The book is over.

But wait! HOW did she come back as an angel? WHY? What happens next?!?


It's never explained. We are left with more questions than answers. I mean, I'm glad there was a happy ending--who doesn't love a HEA?--but seriously. To just end with a human turned vampire turned angel and not give us any explanations? Shame on you, Ms. Smith! Now, I'm already peeved with this ending, but if I had been reading these books as they released, I would've bordered on ragey. But, thankfully, it's not the end :-)

Stay tuned for my review of The Return: Nightfall....