Wednesday, October 29, 2014

gathering links

One of the things I do, when I finish a rough draft, is get back to what I least enjoy-- marketing, i.e. promotional stuff. I admire writers who put many hours and much insightful work into promotion. Some are quite good at it and make it seem like fun (even if it wasn't). Unfortunately, promoting is not my thing. I say unfortunately because where it comes to any kind of publishing, promotion is essential if one wants their books ever seen again.

When I got into blogging, I slowly created blogs for different purposes. The general one is Rainy Day Thought which has almost nothing about my books. It is about ideas, photography, creativity, and whatever comes to my mind. 

The first one aimed specifically at promotion for books was Romance with an Edge. I chose the title because it's how I see my stories-- love stories but with an edge, a challenge, and danger as a part of the mix.  That blog ended up a place to put longer pieces about love stories. It is where I have defended the best of the romance genre as healthy for readers and writers. 

Reading vibrant love stories is one way to help readers raise their kundalini or shakti energy. The articles suggest other ways, but reading books definitely is one-- vicarous excitement.

So you don't want kundalini energy? You sure? It's life force, the primal nature. Passionate human encounters can be where it is found most powerfully (can be hardest on it too). Do you have to go out and have an affair to acquire it? Definitely not.  You can experience this energy and rise up your own through mind and spirit, by following your passion. When it happens, your juices flow ;).  

Oh, you are old and no longer want juices flowing? Well, I can't say much about, but if you do... find a good, hot romance novel and see what happens, the kind that tells more than a love story but that excites about life and about overcoming challenges. Sweet romances as well as spicy can touch that basic energy.

This blog, Rain Trueax, is not as oriented to the romance novel itself as it to the creative life in totality. Here I get into marketing (never yet have felt kundalini energy flowing into me from any marketing work), my art (definitely can feel the universe flowing into me when a painting is coming from deep inside), and it is where I write about the joy/angst of being a creative person. Although I might discuss here why I wrote a book or how I wrote it, it could also be about a painting (planning to do some of that in Arizona this trip). 


Most recently, the biggest marketing goal I had was to create a page and link to take a reader to all the sites each book can be purchased. I was pleased when I started this project and realized the blog I had created last summer, the plural of Romance, with no real purpose in mind for it, Romances with an Edge, would be perfect for the links. 

One of the things I say a lot here is whatever you want to do in a creative vein, get into it and see how it goes. Don't wait until you know all the directions it might lead. I call it the muse at work when I end up getting something weeks ahead of needing it. Romances with an Edge was one of many of those.

At first I thought I'd have all links beneath a scenery picture of the region the book is set, but then it dawned on me I could create something deeper, an image that depicted the energy within the book, its underpinnings. Creating that made this whole job a lot more fun than I had been anticipating. The new image ended up being a second cover (one and maybe two of them may become the actual cover as I liked these  energy oriented covers a lot). Putting together new images with a small quote from each book was the reward for the other part of the job.

Setting up working links is anal, detail oriented work-- not my forte. The Amazon links I had. The others were acquired by my publisher (also known as Farm Boss and husband) by sending each book to Direct 2 (to) Digital who then sent it onto Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, Inktera, and Scripd. When they accepted them, he emailed me the links. I only had to keep straight for which book and which site-- hopefully.

For now I am not putting a link to Scripd on the page because it's a site that people join and then borrow the books for free; so I am not sure how that works for the writer, but it's part of what D2D does. My books are there. So, if anyone here belongs to Scripd, you can find them under Rain Trueax. 

Inktera was a new site to me also, but it's good when small sites are putting out books. Some of these sites have already had sales for my books; so Amazon is not the only dog in this fight... and yes, marketing can feel like a fight and struggle.

I am happy to now present two covers to my books. This project, despite how I wasn't looking forward to doing it, was a win/win; and for readers, it offers one more look at what they will find if they read the book. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

being organized-- or not

For some reason, I just cannot seem to be organized where it comes to my writing. By organized, I don't mean that I don't have regular hours to write. When I am working on a book, I am into it. It runs into eight (or more) hour days-- spread out, of course, with breaks in between. What I don't and should do is keep records as to the hours put into each book. I had thought that before, and yet here I was again writing The End with no record of the hours into that rough draft. 


I actually wrote the fourth Oregon historical's first chapter September 22, 2013. I know this because it's the date I saved its title to my computer for the first time. I also know when I wrote The End-- October 17, 2014. What is in between is where the questions linger. 

This particular book is the first one where I wrote a sample of it, trying to get myself into it (summer of 2013) but the sample didn't end up into the book at all. Sometimes when I don't know where a story is going, I just start into a scene to get the flavor. I posted that scene in this blog, [When it works or doesn't], and it's the only place it saw the light of day. I had known then who my hero and heroine were and they stayed true to that vision, but that particular scene never worked in the story.

Jumping ahead to September 8, 2014, I saved what would be the opening chapter, from the year before, onto one of my many jump drives (After too many computer failures through the years, I save my books, as I write, on multiple little drives). The decks had been cleared, and I knew I was ready to start serious writing. Before that though, life had a plan. We headed to the beach for two nights for Farm Boss to go salmon fishing on the Siletz River. 


My friend came by for my full day there. I took many wave photographs. She and I chatted about everything. She painted. I had my computer, but it was not a conducive time for me to write original work especially not that which was set in country very different from where I was watching ocean waves. I try to be where I am when I am and that's what I did for that time at the beach.

I was not worried about the book that had been on the backburner. I knew where it was heading and had a good feel for its characters. In late August, I had found the photo at Period Images, which I'd use on a cover. The images suited my hero and heroine perfectly. 


All I had to do was start typing out the story and I think that likely began the first time I saved it to yet another jump drive-- September 14, 2014, one year after I had written that first chapter.

Now, if i was more organized, I'd know this stuff and not have to try to Monday morning quarterback it. I don't know that I could do what some do, who write down start and finish each day. I don't just sit and write. I write a scene, think about it, walk off, do something else, come back to the keyboard. I sometimes talk it over with my husband-- what do you think these people would do and here are my three scenarios. No way do I have a time card approach to writing. 

I think though it'd be more professional (at least feel more) to have a record of how many actual hours went into a rough draft of 89,000+ words. I had it on the board 59 hours but that doesn't tell me much either since that included getting a snack, checking out an unhappy sheep, collecting the mail, etc. etc. A sheet of paper above me on the bulletin board would let me keep the records for at least on one book-- but now it'll have to be for the next one.

I tend to write about 5000 words in a day that is cracking right along, but often I take the next day to ruminate (throwing in a little cow lingo there) on what happened and how these characters might react to it. While I always know the end of a book and a general plot outline, the little things that happen along the way come out of the events themselves as they are laid down. I can't say, as some writers do, that the characters take over, but how they react and what they would do next come out of what has happened. I often know that only as I am writing it down-- when it becomes obvious.

Finally, when I finish, i.e. write The End, I know I'm not close to done. It's the bones of it. It's not even the whole rough draft, and it's sure not past the six edits it will get. This though happens to be one of the books that most pleased me to write-- The End. 

Other projects, other writing, even the extensive research I needed had gotten in its way. I knew I would finish it at some point, but it was bugging me. I never don't finish a book, but this one sure had a long incubation period. Now the plot is laid out. My hero and heroine have their love story. What lies ahead is fleshing out a few places, some embellishments as I consider if what I wrote tells enough. Don't want too many words, but too few could leave a reader wondering. 

After I have written the story, before editing happens, I like a few months to allow me to look at it fresh. During that time, I have other ideas working their way to the surface-- for one, a lot of reading other people's romances. There are all those books I've bought over the last year and finally might get a chance to enjoy.

About late December or January, this book will get its edits. I want it to be a polished book, as good as I can do today. It might never be published ;) but that's another question altogether! 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Easy Chair

Check this out-- 


One of the problems for writers and readers is finding new books when the brick and mortar bookshops can't have them all and sometimes, like Borders, have gone under with this brave new world of ePublishing. Small sites like Easy Chair have sprung up and if readers bookmark them, they will flourish, making it easier to find the new book that didn't make it on the New York Times bestselling list.

So take a look at it and then spread the word. This is the future of ePublishing. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

algorithms

When the thousand pound gorilla in the room has all the power, it behooves one to find out what it is doing. I did that regarding marketing and rankings of books regarding the thousand pound gorilla in selling books-- Amazon.

One of the frustrations for authors, who are not selling a lot of books, is to go to their Amazon blurb/advertising page for their book and see its rankings heading into the millions. In the case of rankings, being in the millions is not good news. It means you are where millions of other writers are at Amazon-- not selling-- or so I used to think.

My understanding of what rankings meant changed this month when one of my books had three sales in the first part of October. Good news. Rankings would improve. They always had after sales. This one had not. That's when I wrote them. 

One nice thing about Amazon for authors or anyone, they do respond. So we had email conversation where they told me the algorithms had been perfectly right on my book. Its sales were not reflected in its ranking because of how they do rankings, which takes into account the length of time the book has been out, other sales at the same time, and maybe some mysterious other factor which they won't reveal.

(Note to authors: even though I have always said we are not in competition with each other and that your sale doesn't take away my sale-- it does impact my rankings-- so much for camaraderie for those who understand how this works)

There are those, with a lot more expertise than I have, who have spent time to figure out Amazon's policy-- and written about it while warning their reader that it might be wrong since Amazon can change these at any time. Their sole accountability is to their profit margin.


Now, I personally have no interest in beating their system. I simply would like them to take the rankings off the advertising/buy page because it influences readers and has them thinking a book hasn't sold at all when in reality, it might be selling small numbers regularly. The reason its rankings show up negatively is that it's been out there a long time; and although it has had sales off and on, they have not been consistently high enough to keep it up in the rankings. A book out there less time will reflect one sale-- the old guy on the block will not. 
"A book’s Amazon sales rank gives a clue about its likely sales – but only a clue since Amazon doesn’t disclose the actual sales-rank-to-sales ratio. It will change anyway over time (hourly, daily, monthly), and it looks like it’s influenced by where a book is in its sales lifecycle – it treats the same daily sales from a new book differently from sales of a perennial seller." --from Digital Publishing 101 (the link above)
Interestingly, their representative told me that a book's rankings could go up or down when nothing had changed in its own sales.

My first thought when I grasped this, to my limited techie ability, was maybe I should pull my first published books, revamp their stories, add a few words, retitle, and bring them out in a few months as new books. Immediately I saw the problem with that-- what about the readers who already own that book. They would feel cheated if they purchased it under a new name. Bummer-- that is if you care about your readers.

Next time I bring out a new book though, I will look at it differently. What I need are a group of loyal beta readers who will buy my book as soon as it appears-- this makes its initial ratings look excellent. It keeps it where new readers can see it. By having a group ready to buy your books, a network (which some writers do have), you can get the jump on this system. Being the lone ranger, where it comes to selling books, is a losing game on the marketing end. 

It is also important to plan when a book comes out so that it's not when others are coming out. If you come out with yours while a big writer is introducing theirs, you won't show up so well either.  This is where again it benefits someone to not be one lone indie writer and work within big group or a publishing house. The truth of it is simple regarding rankings. You cannot sell a book nobody sees.

Understanding how this works, I see it pitting author against author. If I buy their books (as I have frequently done), it makes my own show up worse, at least if that author does not also buy mine... Okay, just kidding on not buying-- I am not about to cut off my nose to spite my face. When a book looks good to me, I'll buy it-- maybe even someday have time to read it.  

Amazon has the power. Are they using it wisely and fairly even where it comes to corporate published books? Who can force them to do so? Right now with monopolies no longer being broken up in the United States, nobody can do anything. Does this kind of monopoly only impact authors? Paul Krugman doesn't think so.
Book sales depend crucially on buzz and word of mouth (which is why authors are often sent on grueling book tours); you buy a book because you’ve heard about it, because other people are reading it, because it’s a topic of conversation, because it’s made the best-seller list. And what Amazon possesses is the power to kill the buzz. 
 Not sure what anybody can do about it other than-- be aware what is really going on. I am still grateful I have the opportunity to bring out my books without an editor forcing me to fit a mold. Amazon has done a lot for writers-- but we have to figure out marketing on our own!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fiona Mcvie interview with Rain Trueax

Fiona Mcvie enjoys interviewing authors. I heard about this and contacted her to see if she'd like to interview me. Her questions were extensive, went deep, and made me think. Check it out:

Sunday, October 19, 2014

using history in an historical

If you have never thought of how complicated writing an historical can be, just think about how much our means of communication has changed in our lifetime. As soon as you set a story in another period, little things like the mails become issues. If you base your story where a lot of records are available, it helps (other than how history often has two views of the same events). 

My third and fourth Oregon historical romances were set in Eastern Oregon from 1865-67. This was a time of great change, inaccurate maps, and little real information even in the many small museums in the area. Read the newspaper columns from then and you quickly get how hysteria and misinformation in journalism is not new to today.

Even when I visited local museums, I found real information in short supply. They would have physical items from the earlier period but that doesn't really help a lot for the kind of story I was writing. How does the post office operate, how often to mails go through, how about the stage route-- daily or weekly? etc.

The complications of research can be shown by these images-- both of Watson but one Camp and the other Fort. 

My hero was serving as captain of this post on Fort Creek which is over one hundred miles southeast of The Dalles and a little less than forty miles west of Canyon City. When he served there, the post was called Camp Watson. 

There actually had been two Watsons.  One was Fort Watson for the 1st Oregon Cavalry, all volunteers who were assembled in 1862 to deal with the Indian problems.  They were disbanded in 1865 when the Civil War was over and federal troops were sent West. At that time, the fort was moved east and called Camp Watson. Or so might be the case and it lasted until 1869 when it was abandoned. If you read that link, you see the problem in all this-- many versions of the same 'fact.'

So the probability is this diagram of the fort is of the first Watson. The drawing might be Camp Watson. I have been in several old forts but all were considerably older than Watson as well as bigger. I looked for other sketches of small posts, the likely layout and found nothing quite as detailed. 


The story goes that the first Camp/Fort Watson was abandoned as it did not have a good source of water. That would indicate the diagram of the fort's quarters is really Camp Watson... (I think the military downgraded some of these to camps to lower costs as after the Civil War, money was an issue). The photo below is during the period where Watson was a lumber camp.


My story is fiction. It is historical romance, not historical novel, but still I like it to be as close as possible to what life was like. The problem is how do we, today, decide what that was? It sounds good to do research, and I totally believe in it. The enjoyment of research is why I like writing historic romances. but it's not always easy to figure out what was a fact and what was an assumption.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

story telling as emotional catharsis

 image from purchased CanStock image

We've all seen the movies (okay, most of us) like Sleepless in Seattle where the women get to talking about a film, An Affair to Remember, and are in tears as they discuss the angst, the very emotional and romantic ending. It's humorous because the men look at them as though they are nuts and then have their own emotional (real or otherwise) catharsis regarding a guy flick of men at battle sacrificing themselves for each other. 

The same thing is played for humor when the author/heroine in Romancing the Stone is writing the ending to her newest manuscript and sobbing as she writes. Her ability to do this, not to mention far out, unrealistic plots, is what had made her a bestselling author, who (in the story) was famous for her romances wherever she went.

I read the same kind of emotional reaction last week in a writer group where I visit sometimes. A reader had just read a book she had read before and described how she was sobbing at the ending. Now she knew that ending was coming (maybe even knew it the first time she had read the book), but the same emotional waterfall happily overcame her.

There are films that totally aim the viewer to have this emotional reaction. The Notebook is one where when... Okay in case people have not read or watched that book/film, I'll go no farther, but emotions are definitely played for all they are worth looking for that emotional release for the viewer/reader.

Thinking about this has made me wonder if it's the missing link in my writing, and it will always be missing for the most avid romance readers. Is there a market in romance reading that likes good stories, characters, interesting plots, emotions, but is not seeking to pull heartstrings to that level? I have never written a book and sobbed at what I had written...

I cannot relate to sobbing at the ending of a book-- unless a dog, cat, horse, or beloved animal gets killed (Bambi does not have a place on my DVD shelf nor does Old Yellar or any other story that goes 'Black Beauty' on me). I love animals too much, have had too many of my own sad endings with those beloved animals and thus relate too much to that kind of painful loss in fiction. 

So, while I could get emotionally pulled around by a story, I choose not to by not seeing or reading them. It won't happen to me in romances-- not any of them-- from the best to the silliest. A little teary from a movie? Sure but not sobbing.

If one seeks that kind of emotional catharsis, it certainly is safer to have reactions to romantic books because, at least in them, they will end happily. Jane Austen may not have had a happily ever after in her life, but she gave one to all her heroines. Stories based around animals give no such assurances. 

I think I used to have more emotional reactions to films and can remember years ago getting teary at An Affair to Remember. I've had a few tears in my eyes from emotionally significant moments in films but books, can't remember any that did that. Now I am wondering if this is a missing link in me which won't let me really relate to what romance readers most want from their stories-- i.e. an emotional experience that moves them so deeply they sob. 

As I mentioned the last blog, I do go for trying to feel the emotions of my characters and hence the photos I use to inspire me to keep those feelings real, as I find words to describe them. But manipulative writing where I deliberately have something happen, not because I think it would for these characters, but with the reader in mind and how I know it will take them on the teary ride they want, that's something I haven't done. I wanted more realistic romances, but in wanting that, have I cut myself off from what the average romance reader wants?

So if anyone reads here, who is a devoted reader, of any type of book, is that emotional catharsis what you hope to receive from a book? The same thing is doubtless true for men in reading adventures. They vicariously get the adrenaline rush for what the hero braves that they don't have to.