Descriptions for heat levels in book list

------holding hands, perhaps a gentle kiss
♥♥ ---- more kisses but no tongue-- no foreplay
♥♥♥ ---kissing, tongue, caressing, foreplay & pillow talk
♥♥♥♥ --all of above, full sexual experience including climax
♥♥♥♥♥ -all of above including coarser language and sex more frequent

Friday, March 30, 2012

Montana Dreaming

To find background images that are possibilities for these covers, I've (figuratively as I don't write time travel books) gone back to 2008 where I have so many great photos from Montana and Idaho. I've been copy-pasting them into a file where all the ideas for covers are being accumulated.

We've been back to most of that location since, but 2008 was the year we had the ultimate trip as we first rented a cottage where the Shields River joins the Yellowstone River. Next we got lucky on getting a cancellation and could stay at Roosevelt Lodge for two nights (right near Lamar Valley), from there luck followed us to Old Faithful Inn with a night before we headed to our final prearranged cabin rental on the Henry's Fork River in Idaho. It was the year I got some of the best photos which are proving very usable for these cover backgrounds.

On a personal level, it's disappointing that two of the interesting houses that we rented are no longer vacation rentals. There is nothing I like better than a week at a house on the edge of a good fishing river, with mountains out the backdoor. You can have your hotel with a view of the Eiffel Tower. For me, that place is on a river and at the edge or in the middle of wilderness.

Oh I like time in the cities, and those photos prove useful for some of my covers, but to find photos and locations, that bring to life where my stories are set, with my own ability to take the photos, then hike, swim, learn more about fly fishing, well that's the icing on the cake.

I wanta go back but might wait 'til the snow is gone. :)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Words and Images or is that Images and Words

My last week has found me obsessed with covers for the eBooks. I have gotten myself so sidetracked by it that I have even worked on covers for my manuscripts that are not only not on Kindle but might never be on Kindle. It is an obsession plain and simple, and I think I have realized why.

The images on a cover have the potential of telling the story before the reader opens the book. Images can reveal the emotions that the writer hopes the words inside also do.

There are a lot of ways to do that. I have seen books where there are a ton of small images on the covers and those with one key symbol. I am interested in both options. As a commenter here said earlier, if a person is a known writer, they can sell books based on their name. If they are not, they better use what readers of their genre are expecting to find.

Once I reconciled myself to redoing covers and buying stock photos, it led to two types of covers. The easiest is simply using a photo or combination of photos. So far, I have done three of those. Some have required republishing so future readers get the cover that Amazon shows on the ad.

And yes, I sold out; but I have to admit the guy does look like I visualized my hero in both cases. Too bad there aren't more 'types' putting out sites like his. With more writers creating their own covers, it is helpful to have someone creating the costuming and images to help the vision become real-- at least as real as any photo.

For my covers, I set stock images either onto a bit of a digitized backdrop (from my own photos) or just the straight photo.  My favorites are those with no faces as that leaves the face open to imagination.

Then came the covers where I opted to do digital paintings for the characters. IF I could have found more photos of my protagonists, I'd have used them. It's not easy finding a photo of a character I have imagined but have never seen. The digital paintings were a mix of photos I had bought as well as some I had seen as inspiration but where I changed them to fit the character.

I learned a few things. For instance I had one nice image I created of a man who I thought was a bit young for one of my characters but thought I could alter it to appear older. When I told my husband I couldn't make a boy into a man, he laughed saying he had heard that elsewhere. When I tried to work with the heroine, she ended up looking like the youth's mother.

The thing is although my hero was young, this was not a coming of age story. The images have to stay true to the kind of story. This is the kind of thing I really never paid attention to before. I have never bought a book based on a cover. I am not sure others do either but apparently at least some do decide whether to look beyond the cover based on it. Now what kind of image works, that I am still not sure about. I will keep trying to learn. I can do a lot more this way than I ever imagined but it has led to some failures along the way.

The boy, who simply was never going to work, I dropped alongside a waterfall which came off a photograph I took in Idaho in 2008. Who knows maybe someday I will do a coming of age story although it's unlikely to be of a boy... I wonder how hard it'd be to turn a boy into a girl......

I have three of the new covers alongside here but not yet republished for the books. That takes time with Amazon........

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Art and writing come together

I have spent more hours than I care to number looking through stock photo sites for images with the idea of creating new covers for at least some and maybe all of my eBooks. I found several beneficial sites and after going through a ton of images bought a few, but with no definite plan for how I would use them.

For this redoing, I began with Desert Inferno, which seemed right as it's the first book I put out. As I looked at it, I liked the original cover's layout. For awhile I had put up a temporary cover of a sunset, but it never seemed to really depict the book. The original face for Rachel though had never seemed quite right either.

This business of trying to visualize my characters, to put faces to them has been an addition to my writing that I never used to think I had to do. I wrote descriptions but the characters were sort of ethereal, more like dream characters. Making covers changes that.

Rachel was supposed to be the kind of woman who when she walked into a room, men and women would turn to look. She also had no personal vanity thanks to how she was raised which meant her face should have a quality of innocence. My original female face never seemed quite right. Rather than totally redoing the cover, I decided to redo her. I found an image for inspiration and using the digital brushes changed it to get Rachel.

Actually I feel a lot better about it now than I did on several levels. I feel she's not only beautiful but also looks like she's caught in that desert inferno. I could see this woman being an artist and also the kind of woman who would stand up to whatever fate dealt her.

Jake stayed the same as he is the bulwark, the strength, the kind of man people know they can count on. Finding a face that would come closer to him than this wasn't happening. I looked at a LOT of images with the potential of changing him; but in the end, this was Jake.

Finally I decided to experiment with a different background. Eventually I used one of my own photos of a desert sunset while in Tucson. When I layered Jake and Rachel into it, the whole thing came together. I might still not have something that satisfies some of the readers, but I am happier with it.

For now, this will only show up here. It takes several days to get anything changed on the Amazon page and even longer to redo a book's actual cover. Everything comes in stages.

If I am learning anything through all this, it is to be patient and keep eating away at problems until I get the final products that I feel do justice to the stories. I hope that before I get to the last three contemporaries, I'll be better at figuring it all out before they get published!

Desert Inferno's cover and all the searches through stock photos has been informative. You begin to feel cross-eyed after awhile and have to quit. Of the stories I have yet to go, I am not sure I'll change two; but will go back to look for more possibilities when my eyes un-cross. What I am trying to do with this is satisfy readers as well as myself. I can't say how readers will see this change, but I am happy with it. Of course, I was with the first one too....

Friday, March 23, 2012

That cover business!

Well, I have resigned myself to changing covers again. Since I entered into this Kindle world in December, I have been trying to learn what readers want in a cover. I am keeping in mind a few key points: A) I cannot forget selling is a business, B) I am not the average buyer; and C) A reader won't even get to the story to decide if it works for them-- if they hate the cover.

So within reason I am open to changing to what works... hopefully. That does not mean ordering a custom cover for hundreds of dollars or paying a graphic artist likewise amount of money. Truthfully my books may not meet the average reader's desire no matter what I do. BUT they won't even get a chance with the wrong cover.

I liked my original covers. Although they were different than the Kindle book covers, they were similar to those I had seen out in the stores. Key point here-- this is Kindle. And what works for a published writers is not necessarily what will work for an indie writer where the reader already suspects they don't have the talent to write an exciting and meaningful story.

The covers I created when I recognized the problem frankly aren't ones that would excite me to buy a story. I might look at it anyway but those covers, symbolic or not look dull.  When I can't sleep at night, I have thought about what might work instead and spent more hours than I can tally up with this issue. The one thing I know for sure is I am open to changing. I believe in my stories but realize they have to sell themselves and that starts with the cover.

So to figure out an appropriate image, I've thought about what a one word message would be for each book. One word that says what is inside. I had read before that I should learn to put together a 30 word post that sells the book. That was hard. One word even harder.

One word is intended to lead to one image which might be two people, might even be an object followed by a background that tells more about the story. This isn't easy for me which surprises me as I think of myself as a person who is image oriented and very aware of symbolism. Apparently not so much as I thought.

So to start this process,  I first had to put aside my personal feeling of hurt that what I did for covers, the characters I painted were not good enough. I spent a lot of hours doing that, more time thinking what kind of faces would work, but if it's seem as amateur or slapped together by a reader, none of that matters. I recognized that if that cover doesn't demean the book, I can do it. Once a writer gets past that hurdle, once they decide they have to do what they need to do, then it's all about the challenge of what would work?

I've begun this by spending hours looking through stock photos and finding reasonably priced ones that would give me a legal right to use them on my covers. Since I have made some money on my books, I can reinvest that in these images.

One advantage for me is I have a lot of my own photographs, probably more than most writers would have. I have landscapes of all sorts in the areas where my stories are set and pretty nearly any type of animal that one might want to use; but where it comes to people, I have to have permission to use even someone I shot at a distance. This gets tricky and the stock images seem a smarter way to go.

Yesterday I looked through one of the stock photo sites for male torsos (my idea being a male torso without a face doesn't detract from the image of the character in my head), and even looked for faces that might work for different characters as I decide for which books should I do this first. Women appear to be harder to find than men right now.

There are, in case you didn't know, some very very ugly male bodies out there in the male torso arena because body builders are apparently what many people want. There are also a multitude of expressions that would never fit any cover and yes, there is one site that puts together images expressly for romance book covers-- and I might say does a good job of it if you want a certain type of romance cover.  Since I have seen that site, I recognize the covers on many a book.

To be totally honest, if I was younger, I'd use me for the women and could adjust to the need as well as shadow out what didn't work, but a nearly 69 year old woman just cannot pass for someone in their 20s or early 30s; so I am looking at other sources and hoping to buy what I see that would work... I hope. I thought about trying to find models to hire but that would require advertising for certain types, then if I got responses, not only paying them but getting releases. I think it would end up more expensive than stock photos where I  pay a set fee to use an image 500,000 times on a book.

Humorously some have worried about that last limitation and the answer from more a experienced writer was-- if you sell that many copies, you can afford a good graphics artist to do the cover next time. Good point! As long as I don't spend too much money, I can afford to play-- and play I will be doing because after I get the images, I will have to fit them to backgrounds. It's a learning process-- and something I never could have understood without doing it myself.

And if the next book I write turns out to be about senior citizens, you'll know why...

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Loss of dignity

When I began writing, it was as a teenager and all about the stories in my head. There were a lot of them that never ended up as words on paper. Some I can still remember even if I don't see the expansion of the idea into a book length manuscript. There have been countless dreams that I thought might make a book. I would read of something that happened in the world, and often the germ of an idea would come to me for a story.

Or I'd travel somewhere and think-- that'd be a good place to base a story. There are so many places I love in the West that it's easy to do that. The fun of the story would be its combination with those mountains, that river, or a city I know well.

It really was all about me. I am not saying I never thought would a reader like this or that, but it wasn't the emphasis. The emphasis was the stories that came to me and could I use them for more than a germ of an idea?

When I put the first books onto Kindle, the dynamic began to change. I am not sure if that will prove to be a permanent shift, but it certainly has added a new dimension. Now it's also questioning what is it that readers want? How could I promote my book ? Can I deliver what others enjoy reading, or is it just not in me?

I read someone's comment in one of the Kindle Forum topics as to how he was going out of Select; so he wouldn't be coming to the Forums anymore. He felt he had sold his soul (figuratively speaking) in trying to put up shameless plugs (what they call them there) for his book of poetry. His poetry still had its dignity but he wasn't feeling that he did.

When I read that, I smiled as I could relate to how he felt. I go into various forums to read the posts and see the same writers and same books with the same blurbs. Does it work? Does a person reach a point of going beyond what you created to question why it isn't meeting the needs of others? And what can fix that? How can you get the people, who might like your work, to even try it?

I haven't posted a lot of what some call spam simply because I can't see how it would help; but if I thought it would, would I? I began to keep a notebook of when I did post something and then noted whether sales related to that. So far as I can tell, they never did.  At a certain point, I can see how, instead of selling your own vision, you find yourself wondering what vision would sell?

Generally speaking when I look at what is apparently selling, I don't like it. It doesn't touch me. Sometimes it out and out feels disgusting. One book I started to read, got me so revolted that I skipped to the end where I felt it ended ridiculously, and deleted the thing from my Kindle.

I can still enjoy a well-written romance especially set in a place I love. But I also know that nothing I am going to read will really be new. It's all been said before and even the most popular book out there today has been told with different elements in different places but plot line such that I usually know about where it's going and what will come next. I recognize authors get desperate for finding something new as once in awhile I have seen something that makes me laugh as I can almost feel the author's reasoning-- let them say they read that before! Well there is a reason the reader hadn't, it's ridiculous.

Now that doesn't mean I think my own stories are great works of art. They are what they are and I don't think we can always assess what our own work is. It's like doing that where it comes to our children. They are beloved by us and that's where it's hard to go beyond it.

You couldn't decide you wanted a baby, set out a list of criteria of required qualities what would make that child successful in the world. You take the child as they come to you and hope you can help them develop their own identity, to be all they can be. When I was pregnant with my first child, it's what I wrote in the journal I kept. Same with the second. Help them be all they could be.

It's all I want for my books. Help them be all they can be. Develop the craft to get them to that point. It is extremely rewarding to do that-- until comes that next stage and it's where the problems start-- when you try to sell it to someone else. It's easy to get to the point that you wonder-- what could I write or use for a cover that would be more marketable?

Would it help to buy one of those Jimmy Thomas photos? I've actually read reviews that mentioned how hot the cover was as a factor in the purchase. Really? (Once you know who he is, you see him everywhere on romance covers.) Well, to be honest, a cover is just a taste of the book. I could change that to something more appealing to the potential buyers; and if it takes that, I could do it. Have I just sold out?

Marketing is where the loss of dignity seems at risk of setting in-- and probably not just in getting a book sold. It's where the fun of writing ends-- or is it just a new challenge, a recognition of what it takes?  I don't honestly know, but it's as much a factor in what I am thinking right now as writing and editing. It takes a lot to decide what is selling out and what is facing reality.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Moon Dust

Doing free books has been a rewarding part of having them ePublished. I now have seven books out there with only two of them yet to have a free period. Amazon allows those in the Select program to have five such days in a 90 day period. Moon Dust gets its turn on Monday and Tuesday-- March 19th-20th.

Often in a romance I only share the viewpoint of the hero and heroine with sometimes a villain to build the feeling of danger. With Moon Dust, I added in three teen-age boys because even before I had the idea for a second book, I thought it was important to have the viewpoint of the kids. These boys are in a militia group, being trained as warriors to fix the problems of the world or so they believe because of their brainwashing adult leader. Seeing how the hero of Moon Dust impacts their lives, what he is trying to do and how well it works or doesn't, was an important part and illustrated the theme of moon dust.

Moon Dust will be free beginning at 1 AM PDT on the 19th and lasting until midnight on the 20th.

Moon Dust

After I had written Moon Dust, I had the idea to take two of the characters and bring their story ahead eight years to see how it all worked out. That story is Second Chance (link alongside here) for the name of the wildlife rehabilitation facility at its heart. It's not necessary to read both books as each stands alone.  Second Chance is not free this week but is available at $2.99 on Kindle.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Second Chance

Pretty much we decided to create six ebooks as quickly as we could get them properly formatted. We would then decide whether to add the other four. The idea was if the books found readers who liked one, having several up at the same time was good. But then came the question--  would it help to have more?

None of my stories are sequels as such although some do have common characters. When I find a character I really like in a book I have written, I often think about the possibility of using them again with a story of their own. That happened with two characters from Moon Dust.

Barrett Shaeffer was Susan's best friend and confidant in Moon Dust. Actually she was also in Evening Star as a psychologist. I liked her as a strong woman who was a single mom. Who could be her hero? There were several possibilities but only one perfect one-- the one with whom she never should become involved. Why make it easy?

Barrett already has her share of problems with an invasive ex-husband, a nine-year old daughter, and a busy counselling practice. The last thing she wants is a love relationship with the last man she wants-- who turns out to be the one man she needs most.

Although one could read Moon Dust or Second Chance without the other, I do think they work well together.

The owl on the cover is one that got into our garage. My husband was able to catch and release it-- not before I got some good photos.  Originally I had done a digital painting of the couple for this book. With my problem of creating digital covers of the couples which turned out to be unpopular with Forum readers, I began to think of other ways to go. I actually like what's happened to these covers as I think of the symbols that fit the stories.

If you buy the book, you would get both of these covers-- the second one inside. Where I like the idea of symbols, I don't like the idea of canned models with those steroid/gym bodies. If this doesn't prove appealing, I might have to go looking around for people I know but who might fit the stories.  hmmmmmm Too bad my grandchildren aren't older ;)

Book available for Kindle:  Second Chance

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Writing-- as a body of work

When I wrote a lot over the years, I never really thought about my work as a whole. Well with the exception of historical novels on the settling of Oregon. Otherwise, all of the romantic contemporaries, ten now, just seemed like the books that came to me. Some had similar characters. Often I'd find a character in one that said he/she would make a good lead for their own story. But even then they weren't a series to me. Even the fact that seven of them are Oregon based, with off and on characters that know each other, didn't cause me think of them that way.

Although I have bought from a few authors who created series, they weren't the main ones-- and I rarely liked all such authors wrote. An exception was Patricia Veryan. I think I have now every book she wrote (don't like all equally though) and often they were historically one following another with a common theme and problem. They didn't require reading the earlier book, but it was always interesting when I would see a secondary character and know they were likely to end up in a future book of their own-- and they would. I also liked the elements I knew that I could count on to be there-- and they always were.

Today in the Kindle world, I see a lot of the series thinking, and it's almost always a turn off when it comes to my own purchases. I just don't want five books that follow the adventures of five brothers through five romances. Do I feel they will be forced? Is there just not enough variety in five brothers? I don't honestly know, but I have almost never read more than one from such a series. 

In putting out my own books, with six out and one more to come soon, I have thought a lot more about whether I have written stories that are too much alike in their form. The question a writer must ask is-- should every book be different or should you offer certain dependable qualities that a reader can count on being there?

If each book is different, then no way would a reader know they'd like a second by the same author. If they are too much alike, doesn't that mean once you've read one or two, why bother with three? Until I saw so many of mine out there, it wasn't an issue that bothered me. Then I began to think about it and wonder what readers wanted.

In mine there are certain similarities. I always like some adventure. I want there to be risk and danger, sometimes a mystery to solve. Somewhere, in all of them, there will be a moment where life is on the line. I like that but is that repetitive?

The love stories vary quite a bit from the kind of people that you can easily imagine getting together to putting together two people who shouldn't fall in love but do. I've written two stories where, although the couple end up together, there is every chance they won't be able to stay together due to big career differences.

Often, I like a villain. Villains are sooooooo much fun to write. The more despicable, the better. I almost never write a villain who is redeemed in the end-- even though I believe humans are a mix of hero and villain. But an all-bad villain is great fun to write. They break all the rules, shock people with their lack of concern for social taboos. Sometimes they end up dead and other times there is the possibility they have survived-- lovely potential for another story.

Writing about a villain who would turn hero might seem fun. Actually Veryan did that very successfully with one of her books. He had been despicable but in a rather understandable way.  Then he met a good woman and the whole thing turned around where he became the ultimate, even sacrificial hero.

In my own stories, I have not written about someone who has been a true villain and turns around for a good woman's love. If they have done wrong, I want them to have turned it around before she comes into their lives. I do have one where the young man, as a teen, has been in with a bad group. He turned it around long before the heroine comes into his life. I see it as a weakness in women that often  think they can redeem a man who they should know will be bad for their lives.  Also if the man treats other people poorly, never think it'll be different with you someday... See... my books tend to end up with some messages in them about what I consider to be healthy love. Redeeming a real villain works out best in fiction.

Another of the things that pretty much is always the case in my books. My heroines are not victims. They might get in bad situations, but they do not constantly need a hero to bail them out. I cannot stand to read that kind of book either. If, by mistake, I buy a book where a heroine constantly goofs up needing a hero to fix things, I quit reading as soon as I see it happening. No way would I write such a story where I'd have to live with that lightweight for months as I wrote her story.

But now I am asking myself if I have too many similarities in my stories. Oh, they are all different plots, and problems, but the basic form of the story is probably quite similar. That is less true in my historically based manuscripts which tend to follow a line of history as well as the love story; so they are different. But they are also not out on Kindle, and I have not yet decided if they ever will be. That's another thing I have to decide.

When you write a lot and see your stories all out there, together, in a line, and you imagine a reader looking down through them, the question a lot of writers have probably asked themselves and I am now-- Is it good that they have that basic form in common or is that a weakness in selling a lot of books?

Picture at top is a digital painting based on an Arizona stream which I had thought about using for a book cover but never have.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Under the Covers

Hey finally someone writes an article depicting what I see as my goals for  romance novels. Romances are the disrespected part of literature and yet a lot of writers are like me with using the novel format to express other ideas. Sure they are meant to be fun and emotionally satisfying, that roller coaster ride that I have written about before, but why can't they offer something else along with that.

When I wrote a story like Moon Dust, I was using a love story to discuss two important issues. The main one was the adult repercussions of childhood abuse-- in this case of a man where often the thinking has been that it won't be that harmful because he's a guy. That's not true. What fit with that was our educational system, and the problems it faces in today's culture. It's a love story and to be enjoyed as one, but what's wrong with setting it into other issues? Something can entertain and educate.

When I began writing, this kind of thinking was quickly my goal. I'd be interested in something like say the Oregon Trail. I would then put a story along with the traveling the route; and in the case of that book, the journey is one of emotions as well as physical.

For me putting something I find interesting, which could be a historic period, a place or emotional issue, into a story is a lot like my other blog in how I write about what interests me.

So I set those kind of issues into a story of two people falling in love or maybe back in love. Writing about the love story is fun, emotionally satisfying to me, but I always like that added aspect, the element that makes me feel good about the message within the story. I was happy when I saw the link which Andrew Sullivan had in his blog which said my goals are the goals of many romance writers.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

covers covers everywhere and not a... oh wait there is one

Of the six books I have up on Kindle, only one has yet to have a free day-- Moon Dust. It's probably also the hardest sell for a romance because it's about a very tough topic, actually three of them-- a marriage on the rocks where the couple are still in love but something bigger is standing in their way, the adult repercussions of childhood abuse, and dealing with dangerous people determined at any cost to control our society where our educational system is the first front.

The cover has been tough especially after people made it clear in the forums that readers are suspicious of covers that are not photographic. It might seem who cares, but a writer who is publishing themselves has to care. If a reader will not get past a cover they consider handmade (handmade is bad), they won't be even trying the story.

I worked through several possibilities after I gave up on using the people. The first moon, which is back here a blog or two, had too much of a werewolf feel to it. It wasn't capturing the positive nature of this book which although there is danger, emotional trauma, also is a positive look at how we can make a difference in the lives of others. The title, Moon Dust has meaning which meant a moon was the second perfect choice (assuming the couple didn't work).

So I went searching through my hard drive for a different moon shot. Luckily I have photographed the moon many many times. I came across what to me is the perfect one. This moon has the softer, more healing quality which I think the book does have in spite of its difficult subject matter.

The following will be the new cover as well as the promo that I (at least for now) settled on to hopefully get across to readers what is inside the book. I've said it before and say it again that writing a book almost seems like the easy part when you begin to look at the difficulty in marketing in a way that potential readers find the book and you give them a realistic view of what they will find if they decide to read it.

Moon Dust is about danger, the passion of love, and the work of making relationships—all kinds-- succeed. How do we really impact someone else’s life? It is a love story set into the turbulence of inner city conflicts where everyone is sure they are right and some are willing to kill to prove it.

As a high school principal, you might think a day, when you successfully ended a confrontation with a student holding a gun, was about as difficult as it could get. For Dane Connors, it is just the start as he comes home to the shock that his wife of two years wants a divorce. Susan can’t handle the emotional distance to which Dane has subjected her. He can’t handle her discovering the reasons why.

The story explores the adult consequences of childhood abuse and not only that which happened in the past, but current abuse of the youths in the militia group who have been manipulated into thinking their leader has all the answers. Can Dane save them or himself?

Portland Oregon is the setting for this imaginary school, which could be in many cities with the problems educators face today. It’s not all turbulence as there is Susan’s home decorator business, with her own problem clients (although not homicidal at least), and while Dane and Susan might not have had good emotional connections, sex has never been the problem.

88,967 words

For now it is at Amazon and clicking the link alongside here will take you to its page.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Amazon Author Forums

For anyone not familiar with Amazon, they have two forums. One for readers and one for writers. Each of these forums offer many possible topics, created by the participants themselves, where there will be an opportunity to comment and read what others think. These allow for discussions; and in the case of the author forum, a place for authors to put links and information about their books. Some of those forums go to the many thousands of comments.

Originally there was only one forum  and both readers and writers posted there. It appears that some writers abused the privilege of linking to their books on any topic and over and over again to where it reached the level of spam; so last May Amazon created the writer forum and banned writers from posting links or really even talking about their writing or that they do write while in the reader forums (hope that was clear).  An author can, and some say they do, post on topics there, but it makes it tricky to be sure they never post they write. IF they do, the readers come down on them like a ton of bricks as they are defensive of maintaining the quality of their threads.

Writers are still adjusting to the change and some feel their sales went down after the change which would indicate reader forums help sell books.  I wouldn't know having not come into any of it until December.

The question has been posed by the writers-- how many readers come to the writer forums? Some for sure but obviously not as many as probably visit the reader forums. Does it sell books to post links in the Meet Our Authors forums? I do think the western romance author forum probably helps sell books. It is people writing in a genre that they also read. They say they buy each other's books. I have bought a few from reading there; so it might be so. It is one of the few forums of which I regularly keep track

Before I decided to put books out as eBooks, I figured they'd have to be promoted other places-- in other words away from Amazon. Amazon promotes only their best sellers. How do you become a best seller if you can't get promoted? It has to be outside of Amazon so far as I can tell. Although I guess you can pay for advertising there-- but if it is not in a place where someone is looking for books, how much good would it do? I don't read ads anywhere-- which is one of the reasons I never had them in Rainy Day Thought.  I also decided not to try and market my books there for the feeling I'd turn off regular readers who were not romance novel inclined-- hence the creation of this blog eventually.

The MOA Forums have an aspect which I have enjoyed and someone who isn't publishing might also-- a place for writers to discuss their craft. Even though it's supposedly for authors, readers are not only very welcome but appreciated as they comment about what they want from a book, what draws them to buy one, and what is a total turnoff. I can see it being a good place for wantabe writers and have found I enjoy the forum questions that are about writing or marketing from the writer's viewpoint.

Sometimes I post on a question raised there, other times just read what others say.  One interesting topic was -- how long did it take you to write your book? I read other answers but didn't post one for myself because I have no idea how long any of mine have taken. They are organic and evolve over a period of time. Once I wrote an 80,000+ word manuscript in a month, but it wasn't finished in a month-- just the rough draft. One of my historical romances was begun when I was probably seventeen or younger. I only really considered it finished this year.

When I have begun something, I might have three or four other things in varying stages. I would have no way to know how long I worked on any of them before I thought-- fini.  The same thing was true of my paintings or sculptures. I guess a professional would keep a journal and note the hours?

The forum question got me to thinking about how the writing of the first draft might only take a few months or even less. The editing and finishing it up, that is where it can go into years where the stories sometimes are refined and even changed in important ways as new ideas come about the characters and what is happening to them. I wonder if writers, who have to rush them out to make a deadline, lose some of what their stories could have been with more time to ruminate over them. On the other hand, to never say 'done' won't get you anywhere with a painting or a book.

Through author forums I have learned that most of the indie books on Kindle appear to be fantasy or sci-fi with detective and horror types coming up fast from the inside. There are some non-fiction and short story writers also. Romances seem less common but maybe that's just representative of those who bother to come to the forums. I do not think those who are in Kindle through a big publishing house would come to forums. They are likely doing book signings at locations likely to buy their books.

There is a little bit of the bookstore signing feel to the way forums bring writers together with readers-- and even more probably before the spam issue changed reader forums. Now writers just have to hope readers visit the author forums and sort through what sounds interesting.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Cover dilemmas

When I decided to do eBooks, one of the first issues was  covers-- buy from someone else or create my own? Covers could be symbolic-- i.e. something out of the story but an object. They could be impressionistic paintings of the settings or of the main characters. They could be one color with the title and author.

I opted for impressionistic digital paintings of the lead characters. That took some thinking as unlike many writers (from what I read), I didn't visualize faces for them other than the description of features. I never imagined a movie star to play the part. Digital painting though, being something I began doing a few years back, seemed like a good amalgamation of my skills and the books...

Amazingly it turned out-- my paintings were not considered good enough by many readers at the forums-- most especially when a book is by an indie author and the cover not created by a professional graphics artist! They assume if the cover doesn't look like they are most used to seeing (i.e. photographic), it means the book will be no good and they won't go further!

After I adjusted to the shock-- okay not so much shock, I began to think what to do about it. There is the option of buying stock photos. They are out there, and they look just like the ones you would see in the store-- they actually pretty near are the ones. They are not very expensive.

Where marketing is a business all of it's own, one I know little about, I am open to whatever it takes to interest a reader enough to give my stories a chance. Well maybe not quite anything.

It turns out there is a Fabio of today, and you see him on covers everywhere from those in publishing houses to those from indie writers. Buying a cover already put together and putting your own title on it doesn't take a lot of professional skills, but it evidently is more impressive to some readers.

It's not hard to see why this particular model is so popular. You can buy a photo of him doing pretty much anything, dressed in costume, with women of all types in all sorts of poses... He's handsome, tough looking, all muscle and appears every bit the part of a hero-- if your hero type is a better looking, young Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger.  The thing is I wanted to write stories about real people-- good looking but not many of them movie star handsome. I didn't want the kind of bodies that came from steroids or spending hours at a gym with weights. I favor wiry muscles myself. That is soooo not in.

Some readers said they liked objects which means like a champagne glass and rose-- or a tree... but definitely photographic looking. Okay, I can do the photos... and if my son didn't know I was using him, I actually do have a very nice realistic handsome as hell potential model... Except he might find out and he would not like it. His wife even more wouldn't... actually she'd make a good model too... but no, they won't go for it and neither would my daughter and son-in-law. I do get why.

The thing is as soon as I turn any of them impressionistic, I would lose all those people who want the photo like image. So what to do...

Well I came up with a potential new idea for a book already out there. It's a story that hasn't had a free day yet and really hasn't caught on partly probably because it's a tough subject-- the impact of childhood abuse on adults and our world.

I need to emphasize more the healing aspect of that story, but how does a cover do that? A cover cannot do everything; so I asked myself-- what could I use that would get some of the emotions from the book?

While it does have romance, danger, and all the emotion that go with that, it does deal with a tough subject. I think in a positive way but you know you have to get that reader past the cover; so... the idea I am working on now is to use a new cover at Kindle (which is a photo) and then put the one I had hoped to use inside as a second cover.

Outside cover which will bring across the sense of peril.

and then inside representing the love story...

Will it help? Who knows but there is a book that comes after Moon Dust, one that I have yet to put onto Kindle. It has a photographic cover; so they would work better together-- no, not the hunky guy.

I still haven't given up on the idea that someday paintings might work and the whole fad of using these professional models will be gone. But it's not going to happen today! Meanwhile I am still thinking about that hunky cover guy for a different story, more of a cowboy one. Would that mean I was selling out?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Another free book

Golden Chains will be free today on Kindle as an opportunity for readers who have not read my stories (or if you have an would like to try another). The basic promo for it is on the link alongside here. Click on it to read more and order it.

Set in Oregon in a small art college, the story is about love, second chances, suspense, art philosophy, and a mystery where the hero has to find a murderer before he or she finds him.

David Bannister, was a secondary character in Desert Inferno. I liked him a lot and began to wonder about his back story.  When I realized he had an ex-wife, then the question was-- can he win her back?

Being a sculptor myself as well as having worked with models (some nude), I brought my own experience with art to this story.  One of my favorite parts of writing it was to place the home for the heroine right along the Tualatin River just the south of Portland, Oregon. I had a different cover for it but decided to use the river as its real inner spirit. For those who do get the book, it has been changed a bit to include the original cover inside on the first page.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Music for Images

If anyone knows my other blog, Rainy Day Thoughts, they know I love to put together images and music. This sometimes has been all photographs and other times digital or oil paintings. Then when I began to do covers for the eBooks, those found their way into this mix of music and art.

There was always a complication as most of the music I wanted to use was not available to average people to use on anything but a private site. I found a classical site, but it added a recorded ending to their website. When I'd visit sites that did offer more popular sounding music, at a reasonable price, it sounded electric and usually had little melody.

That changed when I visited one of the Amazon artist forums and an author, Peggy Henderson, whose books I had bought because they sounded good (but haven't had time to read yet), said she had created a book trailer. To be honest, I had not been too impressed with the book trailers I had seen to that point. If they tried to tell the story, they lost my interest fast, but this one depicted the characters, atmosphere, and energy of the story more than just the plot. Plus it had very good music that fit her chosen images--  

At that point, I went looking at where she said she had gotten her music. Jewel Beat offers diverse music for $.99 which includes a license. Peggy said some of their music is free if you put a link to their site at the end of your video.  What I like about their music is it has the emotional energy I always want but not so expensive that I cannot justify its use.

I bought three of their songs that same night and used one with a set of my covers (published and unpublished) along with some of the paintings that I felt went  with the characters and their settings. This is the kind of thing I have done for the fun of it; but for the first time I could eventually put it on YouTube as an additional opportunity to bring people to my books-- and frankly as an indie writer, you need every way you can find.

One author wrote they didn't believe you could ever sell a book with a trailer and that it took up too much time to do them. I don't know about that, but as an author and artist, I love to work with both mediums and appreciate someone else's ability to use images, music and words.

Eventually I will give a book trailer a try although that will be more complicated than what I did do. A book trailer requires thinking of the images that fit the characters as well as the country into which the story is set. Then putting together some words with the images. Not that words are hard for me but limiting them to the essential ones-- that's the tough part.