Lessons Learned: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

I’ve been on a quest to read some of the classics I should have read by now. Actually, I listen to them on audiobook while I run, but same difference. I wanted to read classics not just so I know what people are talking about when these books come up, but because reading is one of the best ways to improve your writing, so why not learn from the masters?

As Stephen King said, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” I’ve got the writing a lot part down, but I’ve neglected reading lately, particularly classic literature.

stephen-king-read-a-lot-quoteIn 2017 I’ll continue my quest, and share you all what I’m learning along the way.

So, on to Betty Smith’s “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”

2017-01-03-03-58-11This was a different type of book than I’d normally pick up, but my friend Denise recommended it so I thought I’d give it a try. This is a coming of age story, but it doesn’t really have a focused plot. The reader simply follows the characters’ lives for a certain period of time. I have to admit, it wasn’t one of my favorite books for that reason. I like a clear-cut storyline I can follow.

However, I found the book absolutely fascinating from a historical perspective. If you want to know what early 20th century life in Brooklyn was like, read this book! I don’t write historical fiction because it is way too much work. I’m not willing to put in the research, time, and effort to do it justice, so I leave it to those more capable. If I were ever going to write historical fiction, though, I’d use this book as a guide.

Aside from the careful attention to detail in this book that made it so fascinating, one of the most poignant lessons I learned from this book was the importance of writing realistic characters, and I mean realistic to the point of almost being painful. Because this is a historical fiction novel meant to capture the great difficulty most poor Brooklynites faced in the first few decades of the 1900s, it truly delves into the awful situations of the time.

***Spoilers head***

There were times the family has so little food, they would play a game pretending they were explores at the North Pole waiting for supplies to arrive-slowly starving in the mean time. Sometimes the rescue didn’t come quickly.

The mother, Katie, admits not only that she loves her son more than her daughter because he is an easier child and different enough from her that she can understand him, but also that her marriage choice has left her facing a bleak future of staying with her drunkard husband and carrying the family largely on her own.

Francie, the main character, is often told by others that she’s barely pretty enough to be considered passable. It breaks your heart when she falls for the first guy willing to dote on her and ends up bitterly heartbroken when she realizes how cruel people can be.

The handsome, charming Johnny, a young man teen girls dream of being swept off their feet by doesn’t turn out to be Prince Charming at all. He’s a drunk who folds under pressure, never wanted the children he has, and despite loving his family is incapable of being the father or husband his family needs and deserves, and dies young and penniless.

The early 1900s in Brooklyn were a harsh time period. Betty Smith doesn’t sugarcoat it to give readers a nice, feel-good story. She highlights the unfair struggles real people face, the crushing mistakes they make, the regret they face over unrealistic or selfish choices, and the often bleak hope they hold onto that things will get better.

Lesson learned: If you’re goal is to tell a realistic story, develop characters who are deeply flawed, make choices they regret, face unfair situations, and are sometimes unlikable. In other words, write real realistic characters.

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Who’s ready for 2017?

2017-fireworks

It seems like everyone is happy to say goodbye to 2016. It was a weird year, to be sure. I know for myself, going back to college made things a little crazy, as did a few too many writing deadlines.

A hectic year has pushed me to reevaluate a few things, get organized, and set more realistic goals and deadlines.

So…you’ll see a few changes this year, and yes I’ll explain why.

1This first big change is that I’ll no longer be offering free ebooks on retailer sites like Amazon and iBooks. I’m already in the process of changing free, first-in-the-series books back to their normal prices. Amazon will be the slowest to change, so if you want free books, go get them now.

Why no more freebies? Basically, because it no longer works as a marketing tactic. There are too many free books to have good discoverability any more. It will be more effective for me to offer short term deals on books than to keep them perma-free, so that’s what I’ll be experimenting with this year.

If you want free books once all the price changes go into effect, the only way to do that will be through my newsletter. The plan is that each monthly newsletter I send out will have a coupon code for a free book. If you’re not already signed up, sign up now. All you need is an email address.

Sign up here: http://eepurl.com/C35Q5

2The next big change is that I will be pulling my books from the Kindle Unlimited program. I’m doing this for 2 reasons.

  1. I’ve struggled to ever find success with KU in the various times I’ve tried it out. I just can’t figure out how to really market for KU well, and I have a strong enough reader base on other platforms that it makes more sense to distribute my books wide.
  2. From the beginning, I’ve had my doubts about the fairness of the KU program in how it rewards and pays authors. Recent changes have only increased my dislike of the ethics of the program. While it’s a great deal for readers, it devalues books, and authors often get paid less than half the listed price for a book that is read 100%. I’m just not doing it anymore.

So, most of my books will be out of KU by early spring. The Oblivious Girl’s Handbook will stay in a bit longer because of contractual obligations with a box set it’s part of, but after that I’m out of KU for good.

3The last major change is that I’m scaling back. What does that mean? I can’t say exactly, except that means I’m going to stop overloading myself by saying yes to too many things and setting unrealistic goals. I need to be able to focus on school this year so I can finish my degree in December and start looking for a new day job, while still having time for family and occasionally cleaning my house.

For sure, I’m done with box sets for the time being. The two I’m currently in and the one I’ve committed to for 2017 will be it. They’re a great way to cross-market, but they take a ton of time and effort. As do comic cons, teaching, author events, school visits, etc. As much as I love doing all that stuff, I just don’t have the time right now.

As far as my writing plans, I really can’t say. I tend to write when I’m stressed out, so I may keep on as usual, lol. What I won’t do is push myself into corners where I’m struggling to meet pre-order dates or publishing deadlines. I’ll be writing on my terms and my deadlines. That may mean fewer books or no pre-orders or longer spans between books. I don’t know. I just ask that readers are patient as I finish my last year of undergrad classes. Encouragement is always appreciated, but if you’re waiting longer than usual for a new book just remember that even authors have day jobs, families, laundry, dishes, homework, and those other day-to-day things going on.

I hope everyone’s 2017 is starting off well, and I hope you all have a great year of reading ahead of you 🙂

 

Release Day! The Ghost Host: Episode 2 #kindle #kindleunlimited #paranormal

The next installment of The Ghost Host is here just in time for the holidays!

The Ghost Host

Episode 2

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It’s bad enough that Echo already has ghosts haunting her 24/7, now her past mistakes want to join the fun and come back to haunt her, too?

Moving to Georgia was supposed to be a fresh start. So far, it’s turned out to be a fresh start at more chaos. After battling Devourers for the soul of her childhood friend, Echo learns the depth of what her abilities might cost her. She’s always been pretty good at failure, which is concerning when the fate of the spiritual world is suddenly in your hands.

If that isn’t enough pressure already, Echo’s personal life is a mess. She and Malachi are both freaked out by her ability to control him and have no idea whether their relationship was ever based on more than their bond as Medium and Keeper. Kyran is keeping his distance from both of them to keep from doing something stupid, things are still tense with her parents, college is proving more than she bargained for, Agent Morton is doubting her stability and brings in his son Griffin to help keep her grounded-which only causes more problems between her and pretty much everyone, and Echo gets pulled into her first case: a young boy whose mysterious injuries and claims of monsters in his dreams has everyone baffled and terrified of what it might mean if he isn’t lying.

Oh yeah, and a past mistake Echo thought had already been dealt with is back to settle a score. It can’t get much worse than that, right? Except, for Echo, things can always get worse.

Buy now for $0.99 or read FREE on Kindle Unlimited

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Secrets and Shadows Box Set is here!

Are you ready?

ss-17The Secrets and Shadows Boxed Set is a compilation of TEN not to be missed Young Adult Paranormal, Fantasy and Science Fiction full-length novels that will have you turning the pages faster than ever before.
Packed with fairies, witches, shifters, ghosts, space soldiers, aliens, deadly magic, gritty dystopian worlds, complicated relationships, and the ultimate swoon worthy love interests, follow ten badass heroines with remarkable powers and gifts as they face extraordinary challenges and decisions with potentially deadly consequences. They will stop at nothing to protect everyone and everything they love. They are fierce!
With over a million words and more than 700 combined four and five star reviews, this is your ultimate young adult collection of mesmerizing paranormal, action-packed urban fantasy, enthralling time travel, gripping dystopian and captivating space operas from 10 Award Winning, New York Times, USA Today, and International Bestselling authors!
Check out this epic line up and secure your Limited Edition copy today!

The Ghost Host – DelSheree Gladden
Everyone thinks Echo Simmons is crazy, but being The Ghost Host isn’t just a YouTube hoax like people think. It’s the only way to control the ghosts haunting her…at least until the FBI shows up asking questions.

Waken – Angela Fristoe
The people of Everod have been waiting for Janie and if she hopes to survive she’ll need to confront who and what she really is.

The Midnight Society – Rhonda Sermon
Witness protection has a protocol for every threat – except magic.ss-3d-box-set

The Other F Word – Susan Stec
Even with wings you can’t fly away from fate.

Chosen – Laxmi Hariharan
His family is being held to ransom by a deadly mastermind.

Sunset Empire – Melissa Eskue Ousley
She may be guilty of arson, but she didn’t kill the burned girl haunting her.
When Elyse is haunted by vengeful ghost lurking in the tunnels under Astoria, she discovers her family may be responsible for a fire that nearly destroyed the city, as well as mysterious disappearances spanning hundreds of years. Helping her uncover the truth is Phantom, a boy with a hidden weapon and a dark heritage of his own, that could turn him from friend to hunter.

The Retreat – Kelly St. Clare
Earth was ruined. Humankind destroyed. And it’s old news.

Swords & Stilettos – Kristin D. Van Risseghem
Seventeen-year-old Zoe must devise a kickass plan to thwart evil or watch the world burn.

Saven Deception – Siobhan Davis
The truth doesn’t always set you free…
In a futuristic undersea city, Sadie falls hard for captivating Logan – only to discover he comes from another world! Romance and intrigue combine in this addictive page-turner.

Talented – Sophie Davis
As an exceptionally powerful mental manipulator, seventeen-year-old Talia Lyons can read and control the thoughts of others. In Talented, the first book of her epic story, Talia inhabits a pounding, siren-ready world as she trains to become a highly specialized covert operative.

Buy now for $0.99 or read for #FREE on #KindleUnlimited

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3 Tips for Researching #Paranormal (for your writing) #research #podcast

For Halloween, I decided a paranormal themed podcast was in order! Read the transcript or listen to the podcast for tips on researching paranormal for your writing and incorporating what you learn into your story.

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The blending of fiction genres has led to a variety of paranormal subgenres, from paranormal romance to paranormal military fiction. Readers love paranormal fiction, but they expect it to be either factual or wholly unique. Now, when talking about factual paranormal fiction, what do I mean? I mean researching the common theories, terms, mythos, and culture. Writing paranormal may sound as easy as throwing in a few ghosts or vampires. Writing paranormal that truly draws in readers takes a little more than that. Today I’ll discuss how to research paranormal and incorporate what you learn into a convincing story that will capture reader’s attention.

Research

How do you find reliable information on your chosen paranormal topic? That’s a tough question, because when you type “ghosts” into a search bar, you’ll get anything and everything. There are two important aspects of researching the paranormal for a work of fiction.

First:  You’re not looking for a scientifically proven set of facts. You’re looking for the general consensus among a community of believers. What are the hallmarks of belief in ghosts? What do most accept as standard and what are the outlier theories? What is dismissed outright? Talk to people who actually believe and participate in the culture. It’s important to understand the core beliefs of a paranormal topic in order to ground your story in the basics. Then you can take it where you will.

Second: Learn the culture. Given that I’ve been working of The Ghost Host: Episode 2 lately, I’ve been researching ghosts, ghost hunting, and concepts of the soul and afterlife. Even though Echo doesn’t need as many physical tools as the average ghost hunter who can’t see ghosts, it’s important that she knows what others are using to confirm her talents and explore their own paranormal experiences. I need to know about EMF, EVP, protocol for séances, what herbs are involved in ritual cleansings, and more. Know the terminology, tools, and implements of your topic so your character can convincingly belong to that world.

Applying what you’ve learned

The tough part of research is that you learn thousand things when you only needed to know about one. A mistake writers sometimes make is trying to cram everything they learned into their book. Just because a reader is interested in ghosts doesn’t mean they want a chemical breakdown of why salt disrupts spiritual energy.

When incorporating your research into your stories there are two questions to ask:

Is this integral to the plot? If it is, blend your research into the story as needed. Don’t info dump. Give the reader only what they need to know in each scene in order for them to suspend disbelief and stay involved in the story. Add research as you would leave pieces of a breadcrumb trail: Just enough to follow along.

The next question you want to ask is: Will this help create a believable setting or world? In The Ghost Host, I mention that one of the characters sleeps with a hex bag under his bed. Other than a brief mention of what “might” be included in a hex bag, I don’t go into any more detail. The story itself doesn’t deal with hex bags. I used it only to add to Kyran’s character and illustrate that he comes from a family who believes in the occult and doesn’t think twice about what others would consider odd.

If a bit of research doesn’t enhance the story or help with world building, save it for something else.

Suspend your own disbelief

Writing paranormal fiction, by its very nature, requires authors to write in a way that convinces readers to put aside typical logic and science and accept the unexplainable as fact. You can’t convincingly do that unless you as the writer can do the same thing. Now, just because you write about vampires doesn’t mean you have to believe in them. You do, however, need to believe they could exist in the world you’ve created in order to convince a reader to believe.

This requires the paranormal aspects of your story to hold equal weight with the plot and characters. A brief mention of one character believing in something paranormal during the course of plot and character development doesn’t constitute a complex blending of story and paranormal. If the main resolution of the story hinges on the paranormal, it can’t come as a surprise to the reader. No one likes to get involved in a coming of age story only to have a horde of ghosts jump out at the end to resolve some critical plot point. Trust me, it happens.

Even in “The Sixth Sense” where the twist is that Bruce Willis is in fact a ghost, the entire storyline revolved around the viewer believing that ghosts are real and involve themselves in the world of the living. Had there been absolutely no mention of the paranormal and the story focused only on a young boy receiving counseling for behavior issues, only to have Willis suddenly figure out he’s a ghost with unresolved issues and the boy knew it the whole time, would have been confusing at the least.

Just as when an author researches another culture, specific location, scientific breakthrough, or historical event, due diligence is required in order to fully capture what they are researching. There are many people around the world who believe in the paranormal. If you intend to write an authentic account of someone experiencing paranormal phenomena, treat it the same way you would write about anything else. Your fiction may be someone else’s real beliefs, and they’ll spot lazy or halfhearted work a mile away.

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The Oblivious Girl’s Handbook #sweetromance

The Oblivious Girl’s Handbook

Oblivious Girls HandbookHandbook Series #2

Being oblivious to all the signs that your life is about to fall apart doesn’t stop it from happening to Sara Taylor.

Alone except for the Siamese cat her boyfriend—ex-boyfriend—Joseph left behind to teach her a lesson, Sara has no clue how to survive on her own. She hasn’t handled her own bills in years, can’t meet a deadline without someone else programming alarms into her phone, and is constantly either losing important things or getting herself hopelessly lost. Sara has no idea how she’s supposed to move out of her university apartment and start her first real job without someone there to hold her hand.

Although she knows her new friend Monroe would step in to help, she’s not about to call him after having thrown him out of her apartment when his suspicions about Joseph prove true and Sara is left angry and mortified. It doesn’t take long before she is desperate to lean on someone else’s strength, even for just a few minutes, as real life begins to overwhelm her. Pride forces her to either sink or swim, even when sinking seems the most likely outcome.

The Oblivious Girl’s Handbook is available as a novella in the “Christmas Pets and Kisses 2” box set and as a full novel, where Sara faces the difficulties of a new relationship while barely holding onto being a real adult for the first time in her life.

Buy or read FREE on Kindle Unlimited

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Christmas, Pets & Kisses 2 Novella Box Set

CPK2 Box Set 3D croppedYou can now purchase the CPK2 box set for only $0.99!

Kindle * B&N * iBooks * Kobo