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Writer’s Block? It’s okay to take a Break… Really.

Half of the planted garden

Half of the planted garden

Is Writer’s Block a real thing? Yes, and no. As authors, you walk that strange little tightrope if you complain you haven’t been writing because you have writer’s block. If you do, you’ll usually get one of two responses. The “Oh, don’t worry, go read, draw or take a break and it will all come back to you in due time,” to “Seriously, that’s such a lame excuse, just write and stop being such a pansy, whiny baby.” Now, maybe other writers really don’t call us whiny babies, but we feel that way.

Tulips growing around the house

Tulips growing around the house

I guess the question is, “are you writing to pay the bills, or writing for fun?” I write for fun. Sure, I’d like to pay the bills and do this full-time but at the moment, even with seven books in market and another on the way, my editing, covers and formatting cost more money than the royalties I’ll bring in for that book in a year. I’m not complaining, it just is what it is.

But writer’s block. Is it real? I think it is. I think it’s like your back hurting or being exhausted. Sometimes I think our brains simply need a break. It’s like working out the same muscle over and over. If all you do is squats, or ab work, you’re going to burn that area out. Sometimes you just have to break up the exercises to allow other areas to get trained. So for me, when I’m struggling to work on a novel, before I stress out too much and pull my hair out (yes, I’m not immune to this as I’m at this point right now still stuck on chapter five of the Kelsey Porter series, and have been stuck for two sort of frustrating weeks), I suggest doing something else to occupy your mind. Draw something, go on a vacation, go to a museum, garden. Do something that’s interesting and makes you happy. There’s nothing worse than allowing ourselves to get stuck within our own minds and making ourselves crazed. Writing is fun, but it’s hard work. It’s REALLY hard work and anyone who thinks differently has never done it.

dahlias

dahlias

While I struggle through book #3 of my series, I put together all my horror short stories into an anthology that is being released next month. It’s called Ricket Row and is at the formatter now. Once that got sent to the formatter, since I still struggled with the book, I put together all my science fiction short stories into another anthology and now I’m editing THEM. While I’m not necessarily writing, I’m editing and still creating. I won’t lie, I wish this third story was coming easier, but at the moment, it isn’t. I pull it up, and think about it nearly every day, but it is what it is.

So instead, I try to keep myself busy. I do these editing projects above, I garden (I put out my entire veggie garden the past few days) and I planted tons of flowers and bulbs. These things make me happy. Things are growing and I feel like I’m creating.

So I leave you with this… when you struggle, take a teeny step back. You’re not giving up, you’re simply resting your brain. Do something to “find your happy.” I guarantee you that your writer’s block will end at some point. Just give yourself the permission to let it end at its own pace.

Why I Wrote a Horror Anthology

Coming Summer 2015

Coming Summer 2015

Do you ever feel like you have a thousand things going on at once? I’ve got a full-time job, a pretty demanding family and I have all these side things I love to do. I know people who devote their efforts to one book at a time. When I’m in the zone I can do that, but right now I’m sort out there doing a ton of things instead. I’ve started both Book #3 in the Kelsey Porter Series, Book #3 in the FLYING series and I edited a romantic supernatural thriller I’ve for some insane reason been sending out to agents. (who, by the way 18 out of 25 of them have not responded after 3+ months). So, while I’ve been working on committing to something, I thought about all of the horror short stories I have in my computer, just sitting there. Most I’ve sent out to magazines for consideration. Many got very nice responses, but weren’t picked up. I then said, “why don’t I compile them all together into a book?”

And that’s how RICKET ROW came to be. I took all my horror, vampire, zombie and just plain creepy short stories from 2K – 5K words in length, and the shorter flash fiction pieces that are about 1500 words max, then added the micro flash fiction of 100 words each and then for fun, threw in my 140 character horror twitter tweets. And that’s how I got the anthology together.

It’s at its second beta reader right now, then it is off to a final proofer and formatter and hopefully will be out into the world early summer. My feeling was, I wrote a horror tale called THE MANNEQUINS and it’s a creepy little book that’s getting some really nice responses. So, if folks enjoyed my horror novel, they’ll be sure to like this. Not to mention, now I’ll have another book in my inventory.

If you’d like to check out my horror tale THE MANNEQUINS and get a taste for how I write, feel free to check it out here: http://amzn.to/1DV9Z9V

And if you love the cover for Ricket Row, check out THE COVER COLLECTION. I was simply surfing through the web one day and came across this site and saw their pre-made horror covers, saw how reasonable they were and it was like an epiphany went off to get this book done. They were SUPER NICE and SUPER easy to work with. Seriously, the process with them was painless. I wrote them with three covers I liked, and the copy I wanted the cover to have and asked them for their advice. They responded with which ones they felt would work best. I chose this image and then they sent back 8 different designs with different fonts. I ended up with “design #7.” After I told them I loved it, within about 10 minutes I had the final JPEG version in my hands to use for promotion. Once the book is formatted and I know the page count and get the back blurb together, they will also work on the create space cover for me. All paid through paypal.

So, stay tuned for release news and feel free to check out my other works at my newly revamped web page at http://www.elysesalpeter.com

The Stress of Writing Book #3 in a Series

Porter Montage (1)So, here you are. You wrote your first book in a series and put it out to the world. It’s something you’re excited about, you have a new main hero you think people will love and you have all these characters you want to bring to the world. When I wrote THE HUNT FOR XANADU, I was so nervous. I felt like this was my standout novel. Something I wanted to be smart, interesting and mainstream. I had the same self doubts like everyone else. Was it any good? Would people buy into this fantastical thriller steeped in Buddhist Spiritual mysteries or would I thoroughly embarrass myself?

Thankfully, it was well received. People liked my super smart and fearless Kelsey Porter, her cop boyfriend Desmond and wanted to see more of her brother, Ari. So when I wrote Book #2 in the series, I wanted to up the ante on all of them. But I had some doubts. Would it be as well received as book #1? Did I totally mess up the series with all my fantastical ideas? Was my premise just too crazy? With all the twists, was I trying to be too smart? I didn’t know, but I got the guts and put THE QUEST OF THE EMPTY TOMB out to the world just two months ago and people are starting to read it and react to it. Thankfully, they like it so far, (SQUEE!) reviews are coming in and fingers crossed I get more in soon.

So now I’ve started Book #3 in the series and suddenly I realize this is serious. People who have bought into Book #1 and Book #2 are people LIKE ME, who want to read the next book in the series NOW! I’ve already had multiple people ask me when the next book is being released! (gulp) I know what it means to get involved in a favorite series. I can’t get enough of them and wait with bated breath for the next one to come out.

So is this what’s happening now with my books? Can I say I’m getting fans? That is suddenly a lot of pressure and I’m stuck on chapter 5, hoping that I don’t screw this up. I have a wonderful book development editor I work with named Denise Vitola, and I throw things her way all the time. She listened to my ideas and the vague outline for the book and thought they were sound, but had a sage piece of advice that was so important it made me take a step back. You see, this Kelsey Porter series is a “thriller with fantastical aspects,” but I’m a writer who tends to “write fantasy with thriller aspects.” I need to make sure that I soundly keep this book thriller so that I don’t lose my thriller fans, while still being true to the story’s fantastical aspects. But she had another wise piece of advice to help allay my fears. You see, if I’ve gotten readers through Book #1 and Book #2, and they want to read book #3, then it’s pretty certain they’ve already bought into my premise. I just need to keep it real and deliver with the next book.

So for everyone that has read Book #1 and Book #2 of the Kelsey Porter series, thank you so much. I love hearing from you and I love seeing the reviews more than you know. Those reviews help me in so many ways, (even if they are only a line or two). They help with ads and promotions for some sites that won’t let you advertise until you have a certain amount of reviews. Not to mention, it’s great for me to actually hear from readers what they think.

So, Book #3 is 27 pages along so far. I have an idea of what I want to happen and where I want it to go, but no idea how I’m getting there yet. But I’m working on it. When I get immersed in writing a book, the story lives with me and now this one is always in the back of my mind. I may not be physically writing at times, but little scenarios constantly play in my head and I roleplay if scenes work or not. So don’t worry, I’m thinking about Kelsey all the time. I think about Ari, Josh and some other characters that will be new to the series. And yes, you’ll find out what Ari is up to… and I assure you, it’s no good. Well, I guess that depends on what you consider “no good.” 😉

On a final note, while I plow away on Book #3 I’ve also been working on other things. If you were fans of my horror tale, THE MANNEQUINS, I’ve just completed a horror anthology and it is at a beta reader right now. It’s going to be called RICKET ROW and is a collection of creepy psychological horror tales I’ve written over the years. Look for that in early June if all goes well. And lastly, I updated my web page, again. Love to hear what you think of it, so please check it out at http://www.elysesalpeter.com

You Found an Error in your Manuscript… and it’s been LIVE for a Year…

I’m going to tell you a little story. Last Friday I had a mini-meltdown. No, seriously. There was ranting and raving. I think I may have thrown something… there were even a few tears. I questioned why I even bother trying to write and publish and the sheer impossibility of ever being able to put something out that’s error-free.

You see, when you’re indie-published, you have this overwhelming need to make sure everything you do is “perfect.” We don’t have the resources of a huge publishing house, their personnel list of umpteen copy editors, proofers, etc… we must do everything ourselves, we must hire our own editors and proofers, then work with beta readers, then possibly even beg and plead with friends, to help proof our books. I sometimes feel like it’s all just too overwhelming, to be honest.

So, back to the meltdown… It all started with me trying to figure out what makes people want to buy my novels. I’m on a lot of social media outlets and trying different things on different sites. I tackled instagram this month and started a hashtag contest for readers to upload my novel THE HUNT FOR XANADU with the hashtag #xanaduquest, and they will be entered to win one of five signed hard covers of the next novel in the series, THE QUEST OF THE EMPTY TOMB. It’s been going well so far and I made a “Fan Shout-Out” page on my website at http://www.elysesalpeter.com if you’d like to check it out.

So, on Friday, I copy/pasted the first two paragraphs of Chapter One of THE HUNT FOR XANADU, loaded it to Paint, adjusted it and put it on instagram. I was thinking it would be a cool way to entice people to read the first part of the novel and maybe interest them enough to want to read more. Here’s what I posted:

xanaduinstagram

I then promoted it on twitter, google+ and then to my author groups on FB. Well, lo and behold “eagle-eye” editing/proofer friend, Bob Nailor, side emailed me and told me laughingly that I had a few edit problems with this paragraph. I went “stone cold.” Edit problems? How can there possibly be any edit problems? I’ve had this book out for over a year and it’s been scanned through meticulously. He HAD TO BE WRONG.

But he wasn’t. Can you see the errors above? I couldn’t. It actually took me THREE reads to find what Bob was talking about – and he even told me what they were. Apparently there should be a comma after the word “drugged” but more importantly, there should be the word “be” after “reckoning it would” – which I obviously missed. Not to mention I see a spacing issue, too, between “an impressive.” But you know what kills me? What made me have my mini-meltdown? I published this book December of 2013. I had an editor, a proofer and six people sifted through it before it went live. I read it myself easily fifteen times. I had six updates I put on both Kindle and Createspace because people kept finding errors. But no one found this… until Friday. No one found this error IN THE FIRST CHAPTER, until Friday. The mini-meltdown happened for about twenty-five minutes where I decided I was going to quit writing, that I was an utter hack and maybe the books hadn’t gotten traction because they are “riddled” with mistakes.

And then my writing friends talked me down. My book isn’t RIDDLED with mistakes. It’s missing a “be” and it’s one of those words the mind actually adds as you’re reading the copy. Most people probably never even noticed. (well, unless you’re Bob Nailor). I’ve calmed down, fixed the document and re-uploaded the fixed document to both kindle and createspace – I’ll have to figure out how to fix the copy on ibooks.

What I learned? You can’t be perfect. I can’t tell you how many errors I find in mainstream published books coming out of big publishing houses, but yet as Indie Authors, we feel this need for perfection and I wonder if I simply have to stop expecting myself to be perfect, because I obviously am not. I may be putting too much stress on myself. Mistakes happen, and we are all human. The good news is since I am indie-published, I have the control to be able to fix these errors when I find them. If I had a mainstream published book, it would not be as easy. In less than 25 minutes I re-uploaded the novel without these mistakes and I moved on with my life… (of course, I try not to cringe, knowing how many people purchased my novel with this mistake, and the hard copies sitting in my closet that I use for book signings have this mistake, but what’s done is done)

FYI – Do you need another pair of eyeballs to proof your work? Maybe give Bob a call – he’s also a proof-reader, author and editor by trade, and obviously a good one. You can reach him here and he’s very reasonable: http://www.bobnailor.com/index_b.php?type=b

And, if you’d like a copy of the novel WITHOUT THESE ERRORS, (sigh), feel free to get it here: http://amzn.to/1JXHtul and hey, come join the contest – I’m giving away five signed hard copies of THE QUEST OF THE EMPTY TOMB. It’s at the formatter right now. Launch date: 2/28. I’m trying not to obsess what mistakes I possibly missed in THAT. Sigh…

Public Versus Private – How Much is Too Much?

publicThis is one of those conundrums indie authors face. How much of yourself do you keep personal and how much do you allow to be public? When you are publishing books without the backing of a big house and you are doing all the social media yourself, you need to continually find ways to be in the public’s eye and brand yourself. This means, in my opinion, you need to use your real name (or the name on the cover of your books). The reason for this is that you must make it easy for readers to find you, no matter what social media platform you are on.

The question is, how much is public versus private? I have a FB page, Twitter, WordPress Blog, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, Goodreads, Linkedin, etc., and all of them have my real name. Each of these mediums also has a bio about me and while I try to keep them consistent, I also try to switch them up based on the particular medium I’m in. Twitter has me as an author, black belt and gastronaut (shock food fan), while other sites I chat up my gardening skills and others I talk about my pet ferret. On LinkedIn I actually downplay my writing and concentrate on my sales day job because I do have to make a living.

So, the question is, how much information is okay to share? I’ve heard readers don’t want to see you just preaching to them to buy your book. Nowadays with the ease of the internet and free knowledge about everything under the sun, they personally want to KNOW you. They want to see what you like, how you think and sometimes, just want to chat. I know that when I reach out to an author, and sometimes “famous ones,” that I get a real kick when they write me back. I’ve had personal conversations with a few “famous” thriller authors on FB and on twitter – not to mention probably a thousand other amazing indie writers on both mediums. I love learning a bit more about them, knowing what makes them tick and why they write what they write. Sometimes people have bought my books just because they know me personally or know me via my virtual persona.

I try to steer clear of discussing religion, politics, sex and personal finances. I also don’t list my home address or personal phone numbers and while I may discuss my family, I try to keep most private information private. Seriously, there are some things people don’t need to know. But besides those small things, everything else should be fine. Think of every post passing “the mom test.” If you won’t get a call from your mother about your post, then you should be fine!

Love to hear your thoughts on this. And for those interested in joining my email newsletter list, please sign up here. I will be offering a free short story in the next few days and information about the new book release of FLYING TO THE FIRE – book #2 in my YA Deaf thriller series. http://www.elysesalpeter.com/contact.html

I also am doing a Goodreads Giveaway of my Buddhist themed thriller, THE HUNT FOR XANADU. Please consider entering or putting my novel on your shelf. https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/96220-the-hunt-for-xanadu

A New Writing Tips Book for Authors

52weeksYou know that saying “You can never stop learning?” It’s true. I always feel like I have something to improve upon. I love writing, but I’m privy to committing a lot of cardinal sins. It’s one of the reasons I desperately need an editor (and she points out every single one of those little buggers to me, too!)

I’ll be honest here – I’ve never been one to read long books about the craft of writing. Maybe it’s my attention span, maybe it’s my fantastical imagination, but I can never get into them. For me, the best way to learn the craft is in pieces at a time. That’s where author Bob Nailor comes in. He has been writing a special blog, featuring author writing tips, every week for over a year. He tackles one subject at a time, in small, manageable segments that are filled with examples and easy, understandable solutions to the problem he is discussing. It’s been an absolute perfect fit for me.

So, when I heard he was putting all of them together (a year’s worth of tips) into an “author tip book,” I was very excited. In this new book “52 Weeks of Writing Tips,” there are quick chapters dedicated to a host of topics ranging from character development and plotting, to building a press kit to dialog.

This tip book is all of 99 cents. Even if you just occasionally take a peek at it, the information and ideas you’ll gain will be well worth it. I would say I learned something from most of the articles – something that I could actionably take away with me to help me with my writing. Here’s the link to purchase on Amazon:

US: http://amzn.to/1pIanrD
UK: http://amzn.to/1fRtaap

I thought it would be fun to do a little interview with the author to get some insight…

SO BOB: Why did you decide to take your writing tips and make them into a book?

BOB: To be quite honest, I was minding my own business, doing my weekly writing tip when a very dear friend suggested I put them together into a book. My first thought was ‘Why?’ then quickly realized that I would love to have some of these tips at my fingertips as a quick reference. I attempted to decide which was the most viable tips but couldn’t decide which was more important. It was then I decided to just do 52 tips – like a year’s collection – and offer it to the public for a very nominal price with the lowest price available at Amazon being $0.99. I want to share what I’ve learned, to give back to the community. Why charge? We all know that if it is free, some won’t consider it worth anything. Why so cheap – uh, inexpensive? So everyone can afford a copy. I really do believe in these tips and feel they are a great tool for any writer – both novice and the well-published.

SO BOB: Do you follow your own advice?

BOB: I’ve always been a firm believer in “Do what I say, not what I do.” Especially with my children when they were growing up. BUT, I really do attempt to follow my own advice regarding these writing tips. I truly feel these tips have improved my writing skills and writing quality over the years.

SO BOB: Where do you find your insight to write these tips?

BOB: Some are just that – insights. Most of them are tidbits picked up via different writing conferences, writing groups, friends, and even agents. Of course, some tips I’ve been lucky enough to glean out of rejects from editors, agents and publishers. My editor has brought several writing errors to my attention. She attempts to point out the repetitive errors and correct them early so I don’t become so entrenched in doing it incorrectly. My current agent has also shown me tricks to make my writing and stories better.

SO BOB: Which tip spoke to you most personally?

BOB: You want me to pick just one!? How about two? I’m a notoriously passive writer. “By Zombies” was probably the best lesson I ever learned. It helped me to quickly define whether or not the sentence was Active or Passive and allowed me to correct it, when wrong. When I mentioned it to my local writing group, at first, they just laughed, but as I showed them how it worked, even the non-fiction newspaper reporter saw how it could improve her articles. Of course, “That As●Ing●Ly – Editing Tricks” is another favorite that I use constantly when I finish a work. I immediately review my raw product to see where I can fix those four issues. In doing so, I decrease bad writing, increase word count AND make my writing better and tighter. Is it too late to add more favorite tips? I really like them all!

Thanks so much for letting me promote this Bob – I really believe in so many of these and I’ve found them incredibly helpful. Again, here is the link… just 99 cents!

US: http://amzn.to/1pIanrD
UK: http://amzn.to/1fRtaap

Happy Reading!

Tired of Giving Your Books Away for Free? Then Stop.

freeIndie Authors: Are you struggling with how to get your books in front of readers? Do you feel like you’ve done everything you possibly can and it still is not enough? Do you resort to giving your hard earned work, after paying for edits, covers, trailers, away for FREE? Or, just 99 cents in the hope someone will pick it up? Does that dream of writing for a living just seem to drift away in a sea of 33 cent royalties?

Maybe it’s time we started asking for the same respect as the authors in the Big Six. We are doing the same work, and even more. We are learning the craft of social media, we are the ones blogging, tweeting, posting and trying every single promotion under the sun. But maybe it’s time we sat back and said, “You know what? My book is worth more than free.”

My good friend Denise Vitola has a blog this week that resonated with me and she’s allowed me to post some of her content here and offer her link to folks that would like to read more.

http://thomas-talks-to-me.com/blog/blog.html – Denise’s Blog (you should follow her – she’s also a phenomenal editor and edited six of my books)

Denise has a few rules in the publishing industry. “The most important rule? Act like the professionals you are. Write a great book. Have it professionally edited. Hire an artist to create a cover that will attract attention. Market your books like your pants are on fire.

The second most important rule? Charge what your books are worth—what your time and talent is worth. Do not listen to the bleating of Old World propagandists, for they open their mouths to spit out bull twinkies. They want to see you fail. They want to see our Indie Publishing Industry go belly up.”

She’s got a point. Another one is this:

“Personally, I buy Indie books all the time and most of those e-books are in the $6.99 to $8.99 range. I feel like I’m getting a good book when I pay more for it, and I’ll bet I’m not alone. Mr. Joe Reading Public looks at the value of things the same way I do. Sometimes, cheap is not better. Sometimes, cheap is just cheap.”

While I’m not going to go and bring all my books up to $6.99, I did move my full length novel THE WORLD OF KAROV from $0.99 to $2.99. It’s Book #1 in a series and it has 27 reviews. That’s nothing to sneeze at. I paid hundreds of dollars editing this baby, money to make a professional cover and a book trailer, too. It’s really enjoyable if you like dark fantasy tales and is definitely worth more than $0.99. And the fact is, at 99 cents it wasn’t even selling, so what’s the point? I’ll use that price point as a special promotion, rather than keep it there permanently. The only thing I will ever do for a freebie any longer is a short story. That will give my fans the chance to read something of mine and get a taste of my writing. As a result, I’m going to put up more short stories (professionally edited, of course) on Amazon and only use those as my freebies.

I’d love to know what other indies think? I have read all of your efforts and celebrated with you when your freebies generated thousands of “sales.” I won’t tell you the pain I actually had for you, knowing that had you been able to get the value of your worth, you could have actually made some money on this — money that you earned for all your hard work. Honestly, because of what we’ve all done I’ve had many people tell me “Oh, you wrote a new book? Tell me when it’s free and I’ll “buy” it.” Did you hear what I just said? Tell me when “it’s free” and they’ll consider reading it. That’s pretty horrifying and I know I’m not the only one who has heard that. We need to change reader’s perceptions. It starts with us.

Trust me, the Big Six aren’t giving anything away for free.

So I leave you with this… your work is valuable… but first you have to believe in it yourself before anyone else will.

Food for thought.