Southern Writers Magazine Christmas Catalog!

Still shopping for Christmas presents? Haven’t even started? Here are some ideas for you, from the best of Southern authors! Be sure to look for mine!

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Especially for Writers


I bet you’ve seen this before, it’s been around awhile. But since I wrote my big “woe is me” post Wednesday, I figured I’d toss this in today.

Since Goodreads conducted the survey, and only 3000 people took the survey, my bet is that the results are a bit skewed in their favor—and I bet their own skewing is what inspired them to start charging authors and publishers for their giveaway program. Either that, or the fact that Amazon owns them now. I enjoy Goodreads as a reader somewhat more than I do as a writer, and it’s true, I do find books I’d like to read on that site. But I’m not your ordinary reader. I rarely have to pay for a book, and I rarely pay full price. I also rarely get to read books by big-name authors.

But going back to viewing this in light of Wednesday’s post, look where Facebook and Twitter land. I don’t doubt this at all. Both Facebook and Twitter have sponsored ads for all sorts of products, while Goodreads is exclusively for books.

Top of the list, though, are “known author” and “friend,” a.k.a. “word of mouth.” Both of these fit into the addage that the best sales tool is your published book. If you had an eye-catching cover and a great, well-written story, readers will be in search of your next book. The more you publish, the higher your sales are likely to go.

Still, marketing and publishing go hand in hand. I looked through a friend’s Amazon page recently. She has written more books than just about anyone I know; but I can’t tell, judging by the number of reviews she gets, that she’s any better known than I am, despite her contracts with big-name Christian houses. (Granted, reviews aren’t a good measurement, but compare the number I get with the number someone like Debbie Macomber gets, and you can see who’s better known.) However, I’ve never noticed my friend promote her books other than when she has a new release. She admitted, during a talk we had once, that her royalties run about the same as mine.

It would be great if we could couple our efforts with TV ad campaigns, like James Patterson or Nora Roberts or Nicholas Sparks, but that’s not our reality. We don’t have big contracts with big publishers, nor do we have the disposable income required to fund national campaigns ourselves (most of us don’t, anyway).

So what do we do? We keep plugging along and take sales where we can get them. Who knows when our rockets will launch!

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Building a Social Platform, a Personal Account

Lately, I’ve been reevaluating all my actions on social media, and I’ve reached the following conclusions:

  • I stink at it.
  • It takes too much time
  • I need to change what I’m doing.

My Twitter feed reads like one long book advertisement. Facebook in general has changed so much, it doesn’t seem fun anymore. LinkedIn is turning into a dating site, apparently, judging from all the flirtations I get in my inbox. I shy away from Google+ because, frankly, many of the folks following me are creepy. Same with any other site where I can pick up followers without realizing it. I didn’t even know that LinkedIn, like Google+, had a system of following without being linked first. A few moments ago, I glanced through the list of followers on LinkedIn and wondered what the bulk of those people want with a happily married housewife from Texas. I sincerely doubt they’re interested in my books. And, like I said, many of them are creepy.

So, for 2018, I’ve been trying to come up with a game plan that will free some time for me yet be more effective. What I’m finding to be best aren’t public sites, but private efforts. My newsletter tops the list.

If you taken my newsletter for any length of time (and actually read it), you may have realized that I’ve been experimenting. For a while, I played with monthly giveaways, which ended up costing me more than it was worth. So I shifted. I write now to connect with my readers on a more personal level. I have the occasional book review, my “dieter’s” section, where I seek commiseration with those who are in this same battle, and a little segment based on Psalm 103:2. Even though most of the readers I’ve acquired came from Ryan Zee campaigns, the fact that I’ve kept so many of them for so long—with a high percentage of “opens”—encourages me that I’m doing the right thing.

For 2018, I intend to focus less on other forms of reaching my audience, including Twitter, etc. Even with the help of Hootsuite, I just don’t see the return on time investment that I need to keep doing the same things over and over again. Any relationship I’ve developed on Twitter is also developed in Facebook, so I won’t be losing anything. As for advertising, I can still do that, but using a tweet service, like askDavid with their 58,000 followers, is probably more effective. Actually, for pure sales purposes, email services like Book Bub and others that are far more affordable and accessible (like Ereader News Today) provide the best bang for the buck.

Even though Facebook is making me crazy with all their changes, it’s still my playground. I have a private group, The Caffeine Dream Team, for people who are true fans of my work and are willing to help me in a variety of ways, from reading early drafts to promoting published works. Since this is an invitation only group, I know each of the members personally, either through cyber-friendships or physical ones.

My other playground is my so-called “author” page on Facebook. I don’t do much promotion there, primarily because I get a kick out of scrolling through the pages I’ve liked and reposting some of their pictures. This page has been more for my entertainment than anything useful, but some of my readers enjoy it too.

I have already quit many of the groups I belonged to in LinkedIn. One in particular was fun, but when the leadership changed hands, it became more of a self-promo group, and I lost interest. And, despite reading Goodreads for Authors, I haven’t been able to make anything work on Goodreads. Don’t have the time to devote to it, and any return on investment requires an investment to begin with, so I’ve been distinctly unsuccessful there. And, as I said, Google+ is totally out. I haven’t joined anything else, like Instagram for instance, because that would be just more of the same.

So that leaves Facebook, my newsletter, my new website (which isn’t generating traffic yet), and 777 Peppermint Place—the original name of this blog.

I moved into Peppermint Place in 2011, and have spent the past six years trying to figure it out. When I write personal stuff, I gain a set of readers that I lose as soon as I shift back to business. Most writers want to know about writing, so my personal life doesn’t particularly interest them, and I lose them.

Frankly, there are tons of far better writing blogs than mine. I tend to rant about writing periodically and even come up with something truly helpful on occasion, but if you want consistent, quality information about this business, check out Writer Unboxed, featuring agent Donald Maass and others, or K.M. Weiland’s Helping Writers Become Authors, or C. Hope Clark’s Funds for Writers.

I could list several more blogs that are more effective and helpful than mine, but I circle back to what to do about this one. After so long, I feel like I have nothing to write about—and the things I’d like to write about take more courage than I have. I’d love to toss my hat into the ring of socio-political discussions, but frankly, I served my time forty years ago and no longer have the heart for the debate and outright hatefulness that seems to go hand in hand with what was once considered honest discourse.

So, I’ve toyed with the idea of moving out of Peppermint Place and closing it up for good. I already dropped out of AuthorCulture for the same reason—I’ve run out of things worth saying. I dread coming up with a topic two or three times a week, especially when there are so many others who are so much better at this than I.

Problem is, this is the one site that truly does have reach. My blog is connected to Facebook, my Facebook author page, Goodreads, Twitter, Google+, my Amazon author page, and LinkedIn, not to mention my website and countless other sites that are linked to it for whatever reason. I’ve linked to several book-related sites where I have a profile, and I don’t even remember half of them.

So you see my dilemma.

  • I could drop this blog and, when I have something truly worthwhile to say, share as a guest blogger somewhere else or write for Southern Writers Magazine, which has a huge circulation. Of course, I’d be losing the reach this blog has to other forums when I have a new release to announce, but that happens only once or twice a year, so . . . is this blog really worth it?
  • I could continue as I have with this blog, writing about whatever comes to mind or the writing/editing rant du jour—assuming I have a rant for the day.
  • I could shift the focus of this blog from writers to readers and just chat.

I have no clue. But I do know something’s gotta give. Between my life and my editing job, my writing often suffers, and adding all this social promo mess to it doesn’t help.

To those who have figured it out or who have earned enough to hire a virtual assistant, God bless you. For the rest of us: good luck.

 

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New Christian Titles for December 2017

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary:

Rebecca’s Redemption by Lee Carver — A nurse seeking redemption for past sins joins a doctor contending against the jungle. Both healers need healing. (Contemporary, Independently Published)

Contemporary Romance:

The Christmas Baby by Lisa Carter — Mistletoe Mommy Anna Reyes is pregnant and widowed, and a Christmas homecoming isn’t so simple. Reuniting with her best friend, Ryan Savage, makes it easier—even though she knows he’ll soon be leaving their small coastal hometown. After putting his career on hold for his family’s business, Ryan’s finally ready to pursue his goals. But as he and Anna work to make the holidays special for a group of at-risk kids, Ryan wonders if he can give up one dream for another. They’re determined to make this a Christmas to remember, but can Ryan and Anna also make their holiday family last forever? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

You’re Gonna Love Me by Robin Lee Hatcher — Nick’s love of thrills and danger and Samantha’s love of safety and security drove them apart two years ago. After her worst fears came true, can they build something new upon the ashes of the past? (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

A Christmas Kind of Perfect by Christine Schimpf — Conrad Hamilton thought his life would be easy. A great job running his own construction business, living in his hometown in Door County, Wisconsin, with Lila Clark by his side. He planned on marrying her as soon as she returned from her Chicago internship but it never happened.
Lila never expected to become a successful writer nor did she plan on spending the last decade in New York. But she did. Can the magic of Christmas turn two hearts back to one another again or is it too late to capture that special kind of perfect? (Contemporary Romance from Prism Christian Publishing)

Under the Mistletoe: A Christian Christmas Anthology by Jenna Brandt, Lorana Hoopes, Carol E. Keen, Elle E. Kay, Mary C. Findley, Judith Robl, Evangeline Kelly, C.J. Samuels — Christmas is the time when families get together and love abounds. Eight inspirational authors have teamed up to bring you 8 wonderful Christmas novellas sure to bring you joy this season. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Making Spirits Bright by Cathe Swanson, Chautona Havig, Toni Shiloh, April Hayman — Christmas is a season for new beginnings and second chances. A time for hope and joy and laughter. A time for people of all ages to find love and come together in community. Making Spirits Bright is a collection of just such stories – four never-before-published inspirational Christmas novellas. From romance to cozy mystery, with a generous dash of humor, these contemporary stories are sure to warm your heart as well as brighten your season and lift your Christmas spirit. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Historical Romance:


The Calico and Cowboys Romance Collection by Mary Connealy — The Old West comes to life under the talented pen of bestselling author Mary Connealy. Enjoy a lighthearted ride alongside seven historical and one contemporary cowboys and the women who tame their hearts. (Historical/Contemporary Romance Novella from Barbour Publishing)



Would-Be Mistletoe Wife by Christine Johnson — Worried she might lose her teaching job if funding is cut for her boarding school, widow Louise Smythe must consider marriage. But the only prospective groom in town is lighthouse-keeper Jesse Hammond, and he wants children–something she may never be able to provide. While Jesse waits for the ideal woman to make his wife, though, Louise can’t help but long for something more than his friendship. If he wants to be promoted to head lighthouse keeper, Jesse needs to find a wife suited to his rustic lifestyle. But as he and Louise partner to give the town’s homeless orphans a joyous holiday, he’s drawn to the petite woman. Will the light of Christmas finally inspire them to trust in each other’s hearts? (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])



Circle of Blessings by Deborah Raney — A young college student is determined to win the love of her English professor at the university in the Dakota Territory where she is studying to be an architect. (Historical Romance from Raney Day Press)

Historical:

Return to Bella Terra by MaryAnn Diorio — When she receives word that her mother is terminally ill, Maria Landro Tonetta travels to her Sicilian homeland with her son Nico. She finds herself yearning for the life she once knew as a child on Bella Terra, the family farm, now on the verge of bankruptcy. Caught between two worlds, Maria dreams of moving back to Sicily with her husband and children to save the farm. When, however, Nico’s biological father unexpectedly appears at Mama’s funeral, Maria faces a new enemy to her dream.
But is there an even greater enemy within her own soul? (Historical, Independently Published)

Brides of Minnesota by Lena Nelson Dooley — Follow a Swedish family’s journey as they settle in Minnesota where each brother seeks a living—and wife. (Historical from Barbour Publishing)

Mystery:

Guilt by Association by Heather Day Gilbert — When the dead body of an overdosed teen turns up next to Tess Spencer’s mom’s trailer, it’ll take a miracle to keep Tess from becoming a casualty in her own personal war on drugs. (Mystery, ACFW Qualified Independently Published)

Romantic Suspense:

Imperfect Justice by Cara Putman — The police say the woman was a murderer. Emilie Wesley knows they can’t be talking about her client . . . can they? (Romantic Suspense from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

Holiday Secrets by Susan Sleeman — When his ex is thrust into the crosshairs of a deadly syndicate, FBI agent Gavin McKade will do whatever it takes to protect her. Even work the case with his stubborn sheriff dad. As if protecting Lexie from professional killers isn’t difficult enough, the unlikely reunion has rekindled their complicated romantic connection. But if Gavin can’t untangle Lexie from this dangerous web, the blurring line between duty and love may not matter…because this Christmas could be their last. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Speculative:

The Redemption of Jedidiah Pinkney by J.R. Pitts — A crippled and bullied young boy finds redemption and healing after an encounter with Jesus. (Speculative from Ambassador International)

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Especially for Writers

 

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Wrapping Up NaNo

November is coming to a close, and so is the annual dare to write a book in thirty days. I don’t take the dare anymore. November isn’t mine to spend the time as I wish. It belongs to my husband and mother. So, while everyone else is racing to the end, I’m just now gearing up for the beginning—in December.

Along with Christmas shopping and cooking and partying and gift-giving, December also holds overtime for the man. The extra hours he works give me extra hours to work too. I have two goals for December: finish writing Ride to the Altar, book three in the Circle Bar Ranch series, and find a cover design for Skydiving to Love, a novella I wrote for The Bucket List Dare collection.

For Ride to the Altar, I need roughly 40K more words to finish the first draft. This one has been a killer for me. It took almost two entire years to figure out how to write it (a horror, since I announced in The Final Ride that it would be released this year), because the point of the novel was predetermined by some of my readers. They wanted to know what happened to Janet Parsons, Talon Carlson’s first fiancée, who was murdered the night before their wedding nine years before Ride to the Altar takes place. And, I have it on reliable authority that I stink as a mystery writer, so I have to solve the crime without turning the novel into a mystery.

Talk about your challenges.

Now, almost 40K words into it, I finally think I have it figured out. I know I’ll have to add some scenes, and I know the entire first scene will have to be ripped out (again) and its information disseminated elsewhere, but at least I’m finally on the right track.

So, while all you NaNoers are drawing to the end of your challenge, remember me as I start mine.

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Especially for Writers: Last Days of NaNo

For everyone on the home stretch and for all those wondering if they’re going to make it, show some steel . . .

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Happy Thanksgiving!

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Especially for Writers

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A Fool and His Monet, by Sandra Orchard

I love mystery novels. Cozy mystery, mystery suspense, mystery romance, police procedurals of any investigative branch. Sandra Orchard’s character is an investigator in a branch I haven’t thought of since one of my favorite TV shows was taken off the air: White Collar, featuring the FBI’s Art Crime division.

In the wonderfully titled A Fool and His Monet, we’re introduced to Serena Jones and her parents, partner, boss, apartment supervisor—a whole crew of folks who come to life in wonderful ways. Even her cat has a great personality. But my favorite is her aunt, a sleuth wannabe with questionable friends in unusual places.

Even Sandra’s bad guys are well developed to the point that one is amazingly sympathetic and the other takes you totally by surprise. The motive for the crimes, a theft of two paintings and the murders that may be tied to them, is both curious and unique. Without giving too much away, let’s just say that lust and greed aren’t always the reasons behind crime. Sometimes it’s simply I told you so.

Sandra presents a trans-series quest, the unsolved murder of Serena’s grandfather, and a fun twist to the mystery/romance. In this first in the series, we the readers get a vote on who Serena’s love interest will be: Nate, the boy-next-door type who is her apartment supervisor, or Tanner, the tough-guy-swagger type who is her partner.

The novel is chock full of wit, quirky family interactions, and suspense. Sandra Orchard wrote a prize winner. I highly recommend it.

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