Monday, January 28, 2013

Choose Your Own Romance Ending: Sidewalk Flower Hero Edition

This week the Rockville 8 welcomes the beautiful and talented Carlene Love Flores! She's here to talk about her debut book, Sidewalk Flower, which has one of the yummiest heroes ever to hit the page. I'm still reading Sidewalk Flower, so I can't say for sure that Carlene actually chose the right ending, but I can tell you that she chose the right hero! Lucky captured my attention from the moment he walked up to Trista's Jeep . . . and he can capture yours, too, because Carlene is giving away a copy of Sidewalk Flower to one lucky commenter!

Welcome to the Rockville 8, Carlene!


Okay, I know I’m supposed to be cool and sophisticated now that I have a book out there…well that’s not happening!  I am having the biggest Holy Moly moment because this is the very first time I have been asked to guest blog!  Uh-huh, oh yeah!  Okay, now I will revert back to the non-silly guest that the esteemed and lovely Rockville 8 ladies intended to present to you today ;)   Need I say that I am honored to have been asked?  Thank you!

Remember the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books?  Man, I loved those.  My favorite was “Jungle Safari” by Edward Packard.  I loved it so much that at the tender age of ten, I wrote my very own and completely unique (snickers and grins) CYOA called…The Jungle.
I guess it’s not a huge surprise that my debut novel, Sidewalk Flower, at one point was on track to becoming a “Choose Your Own Romance Ending” book!  I can smile fondly now at the discarded “When it was this guy or when it was that guy” files on my laptop, but at the time I was beginning to feel like the anti-cupid.
You see, it took a while to find Trista, the story’s heroine, just the right guy.  The Sheryl Crow lyrics “Are you strong enough to be my man” sum up our hero search and the answer was all too often NO.  I’m not kidding when I say it took years.
There were moments when desperation set in and I asked Trista to consider her best friend, Jaxon, as her hero material.  After all, “friends-to-lovers” is one of my favorites to write.  Yeah, no.  “Ew.  That isn’t happening, Carlene,” she said to me.
Then there was the time I tried to push Sin Pointe’s (the band Trista works for, led by her besty, Jaxon) webmaster on her.  All I can say is poor, poor Benny.  Not only did he have to pull me aside and let me in on the fact he’s pretty deep into a secret crush on another woman but next to Trista, he’s the most overworked, underappreciated, low-man-on-the-totem pole in the Sin Pointe world.  “No time for love for the Benny,” he said to me.
Finally, I had resorted to writing Trista these silly love poems in attempts to cheer her heart and assure her I wasn’t giving up on her happily ever after when KABLAM!
He.  Showed.  Up.
Potential Romance Hero #3 was holding his own in their scenes!
It took a few months to work things out, (theirs is a roller coaster of a romance ride) but Trista and Lucky made the best ending ever.  I hope you’ll agree and enjoy reading Sidewalk Flower!
It was my absolute pleasure to be here with you today at Rockville 8!
So tell me, if you could take your favorite romance novel and choose your own ending, how would it go?
Happy 2013!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Identity Crisis

When all else fails. When, just as a for instance, the idea of sitting down to write makes you break out in hives, your critique group partners are starting to make oblique comments about dead weight (or at least that's what you hear in your head), and even after 3 months your office still isn't set up . . . not that any of us would know anything about that kind of thing . . . but say, just for instance, that you DID . . . and say--again, just picking random things here--say it was your turn to blog for your critique group . . . what would you do?

Well, YOU would probably sit down and compose a thoughtful post that had something to do with writing. But what I did was google "identity crisis" which, naturally, took me to wikipedia where I learned that "Identity Crisis" was one of DC Comics' top-selling series. All of which makes tremendous sense to me because I'm pretty sure that ever since September 10th, 2012, there have, on many occasions, been speech balloons hovering over my head. But the eerie synchronicities don't end there!

It goes on to say that one of the major plot threads of "Identity Crisis" was the breakdown of relationships within the Justice League of America (a.k.a. JLA). And that the mini-series was followed by the inter-company crossover "Infinite Crisis".


All is not lost, though, because get this -- It was the "Identity Crisis" series that restored Wonder Woman as a founding member of the JLA. So. While I might be walking around with CRASH-POW-SMASH-WTF?!? balloons over my head right now, it's just part of the process. My Wonder Woman will be restored.

In the mean time, I'll keep chipping away at the office setup . . .

Monday, January 14, 2013

Hey, Baby, What's Your Animal?

Hey, baby, what’s your animal?

Not, I imagine, the zinger to supplant that hoary old pick up line about signs, but totem animals have been on my mind lately and even better, I figured out a way to incorporate this preoccupation into my writing process. Hooray!

Otter love this baby, she's so cute
Otter has been my curious, bright-eyed companion since I was a teen. We both like the water, we love to play. “A little quirky and unorthodox” with an “unusual way of looking at things” and a “brilliant imagination,” what’s not to admire and emulate about my furry pal?

And really, SHE didn’t think she needed a companion on ye olde totem pole. But on New Year’s, my family and I were at the diner for breakfast, storing up the calories for the long journey called 2013 we’d begun that day. Mom was talking about her totem animals. Jeri was talking about hers. And I realized, hey. You two have THREE animals and I only have one?

Not. Fair. Foot stomp. Pout.

“Well,” I was asked with patient forbearance, “Do you have an animal in mind?”

“Yes.” I blurted. “The camel.”
Camel tea pot

Uh, camel? Where the heck did that come from? Dunno, except that I’ve collected camel objects here and there for a few years now. Their funky looks appeal to me.

Quickly, Jeri did a search and came up with a list of characteristics that made this claim of mine seem not so very random. In addition to being great at conservation (see caloric breakfast above), adaptive to their environment, and filled with stamina, camels are “designed to take on the challenges of long-distance journeying over harsh terrain.”

Excuse me, but does that not sound like the kind of spirit guide every writer needs? Lost in the harsh landscape of her manuscript’s barren desert of a middle act, a writer could do worse than to rely on the intrepid dromedary.

All this got me thinking about my characters. Mostly, my heroes are werewolves. Wolves are “the lover of the zodiac” and they’re “fully capable of providing” that love. 

Can I get an amen on that? 

They’re also fiercely independent, loyal, affectionate, and obsessive. Joe is obsessed with making sure Della eats properly. Marco loves his grandmother so much, he’s planning to take a long walk off a short pier rather than subject her to his unstable wolf side. Ky is a super-soldier “fully capable” of ending Jilly’s long sexual drought (though maybe she should look for a camel shifter instead? Or, uh, maybe not.).

A favorite childhood tale
My heroines are not werewolves and so don’t come with a handy pre-set list of characteristics I can draw upon, alas.  Della would make a damn fine wolf, but I’m more inclined to think of her as a hedgehog: spiky on the outside, tender on the underbelly. She can take care of herself. She’s so used to going it alone, she bristles at the thought she might need a helping hand.  Yet she’s perceptive and resourceful and willing to do what must be done to protect those in her care. Even if it means accepting help from a wise-cracking wolf who tries to feed her green things all the time.

What, you've never heard of a
Christmas angel cat?

Krissie’s totem is a domestic cat. She intuitive, clever and just a wee bit mysterious (well, after all, she is a high-ranking elf in Santa’s top-secret special delivery squad. Keeping her own counsel is crucial to conducting a successful Operation Christmas each year).  Cats are a harbinger of change, and Krissie sure alters the trajectory Marco has planned for his last night of life.

I’m not sure about Jilly’s totem yet. She’s overworked, under pressure and it’s been Way Too Long since she’s had sex. She’s got a strong vision for how her life should play out. It’s just not the right vision (and Ky plans to show her why in the near future). But all that sounds depressingly human. Maybe once she and Ky shed a few clothes, Jilly will shed a few layers and give me a better understanding of what makes her tick. We’ll see!

My research for totem characteristics comes from this terrific website:

Do you have a totem animal or two or three? How about your characters? 

Monday, January 7, 2013

One Writer’s Tale of Self-Publishing and Free Giveaways

Hello and Happy Monday! I am pleased and proud to be posting my very first blog with the Rockville 8. It’s such a thrill to be a part of this group of unique, talented and lovely ladies. So without further ado….

A Little Bit of Background

My first two novels, Homesong and Still Waters, were originally published by a small press. My third novel, Her Secret Bodyguard, was self published on Kindle.  I enjoyed the experience of self publishing so much that I reacquired the rights to my first two books, and now all of them are published under my own banner, CWC Publishing (named after my father).  All of my books have been enrolled in a program called KDP Select.

What is KDP Select?

“KDP” is short for Kindle Direct Publishing, and it’s the part of Amazon where authors publish their books on Kindle.  “KDP Select” is a program which allows authors to promote their books by doing free giveaways in exchange for digital exclusivity. Here’s how it works in a nutshell:

An author who enrolls their book in Select is giving Amazon exclusive digital publishing rights for ninety days. During that time, the book may not be available in digital format anywhere else, including the author’s website. (It can still be distributed anywhere in physical format.) In exchange for the exclusivity, the author can make their book free for any five days during that 90-day period. The book is also available to borrow from the Kindle Lending Library, and the author receives payment for the borrows.

Within the indie author community, there’s a certain amount of debate surrounding the use of the Select program. While there are definite drawbacks to exclusivity, my personal experience with Select has been pretty good. 

Here’s a breakdown of the four giveaways that I did in 2012 and how it affected my sales:

First Giveaway: Still Waters 
(Romantic suspense set in 1956.)  

Note: this is the only giveaway where I did a heavy promotion beforehand. The promotional steps that I took are detailed later in this post. The book did make it into the Pixel of Ink newsletter, which obviously gave things a big boost.

Free days: Tuesday, September 26 – Thursday, September 27, 2012

Total giveaways: 23,893 (US 23,672; UK 191; Other markets 30)

Sales results: Up to September 26, I had sold 12 books for the month, with no borrows. By the time the month ended, I had sold 412 books and had 102 borrows. The following month (October) I sold 301 books and had 240 borrows. I also gained thirteen reviews (mostly 5-stars) on Amazon.

Second and Third Giveaways: Her Secret Bodyguard
(Contemporary romantic suspense set in Los Angeles.)

Note: Of the three books, this is the only one where I used all five of my free days. The first giveaway, as you’ll see, was much more successful than the second. I definitely scheduled them way too close together to take full advantage of all five days. I didn’t do any promotion for either giveaway, but by a lucky break the book was still picked up for Pixel of Ink.

First set of free days: Monday, October 1 – Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Total giveaways: 24,200 (US 20,496; UK 3,419; Other markets: 285)

Sales results:  Although this book had hit Amazon's bestseller list several times since its 2010 release sales had definitely slowed. In September 2012 I sold 108 books, and had two borrows. This giveaway took place at the beginning of October, and within two days after the end of the giveaway, I’d almost doubled September’s sales. I sold 611 books and had 108 borrows in October.

Second set of free days: Tuesday, October 16 – Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Total giveaways: 2,692 (US: 1,717; UK 975)

Sales results: No appreciable increase in sales after this second giveaway. (Cue the “wah-wah” music.)

Fourth Giveaway: Homesong
(Contemporary romance set on Caribbean cruise, with interwoven generational stories set in small Virginia town. Little bit of a mess.)

Note: Again, for this giveaway I did no promotion except a few personal tweets and posting it on Twitter and Facebook. Homesong wasn’t featured in Pixel of Ink, but I still got lucky with a lot of downloads.

Free days: Monday December 17 – Thursday December 19, 2012

Total giveaways: 15,826 (US 14,688; UK 1,052; Other markets: 86)

Sales reports: By December 16, before the promo started, I’d sold eight books By the end of the month (twelve days after end of promo) I’d had 383 sales and 415 borrows. I’ve also gained eight new reviews, five of which are five-stars.


Here are the promotional steps I took when preparing for my Still Waters free days:

1) I used the forms provided by the wonderful people at Author Marketing Club to submit my book to almost a dozen different websites where free books are listed.

2) Paid a total of $15.00 to Kindle Book Review for a guaranteed cover display and 15 custom tweets to a total of 14,600 followers.

3) I made blatant (and probably piteous) announcements on three different Yahoo loops where such things are allowed, asking for downloads, tweets, etc.  I provided sample tweets to make it easy for my friends to share the news.

4) I made announcements on Facebook, including posting to a couple of groups. (But only on the groups where this type of announcement is allowed).

5) Coincidentally, I’d already scheduled a two-day ad on The Frugal eReader. The first ad ran on the last day of my free promo, and the second ad ran the first day my book returned to its regular price.


Because my books are so different, I didn't see a lot of carryover from the sales of one book to the sales of the others. I think I would have seen better sales across the boards if I were writing a series. But generally speaking I was thrilled with the results of my giveaways. As I mentioned before, not all writers like the idea of the Select program. Personally I plan to utilize it as long as it's available, but like anything else, a writer has to weigh the pros and cons before enrolling.

As a reader, have you downloaded and read many free books on Kindle?

And if you're a writer, what's been your experience with free giveaways?