Making Lemonade

It’s been two months since my last post. Oops!

I dropped my commitment to regular blog posts to transition back home where I hosted a house guest for several weeks, during which I bought a new laptop which failed shortly thereafter and then went through the process of transferring all my files a second time just as I started a new contract from home. Frankly I’m in disbelief that it’s been two months.

All of that is not much more than the excuses that are the enemy of writing. Getting back to WordPress today has been a fight but one worth winning. To make it easier I am taking advantage of the porch I cleaned up to enjoy my outdoors, bringing my new laptop out with me, and accompanying my effort with a glass of homemade lemonade. I recommend making everything as delightful as possible to break through the non-motivation barrier when writing!

During this transitional time, I am happy to share that my search for book reviewers paid off with a great review on a summer reading blog here. Sharing the review garnered much support and interest as hoped.

In related news, my time with Amazon Kindle Unlimited has expired. I can’t say that the exclusive publishing with Amazon did anything special for Tempt the Ocean, and I’m looking forward to expanding the novel’s market to other outlets such as Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, etc. I am saving the second round of publishing for when my contract is over, but stay-tuned for updates and promos.

While bouncing around the files of my current novel, I experienced a tiny epiphany as to the restructuring it required, and now know how to get from the second half of the middle to the beginning of the third act, which is already written. I’m relishing getting into the guts of mid-18th century New York, and my pair of star-crossed lovers.

Finally, let me share this simple recipe for lemonade, in the hopes it will help inspire:

Lemonade

Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon into a glass jar;

Include a bit of lemon rind, but omit seeds;

Add a tbsp of raw sugar;

Add in 1 cup of hot water and stir gently until sugar dissolves.

Let cool.

Pour a bit of cooled mixture (to taste, but no more than 1/4 cup) over ice in a tall glass,

Add cold water (I like sparkling), and voila,

Lemonade.

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Readers, Where Art Thou?: Blog Touring Pt. 1

After seeing the catch phrase “blog tour” many times, I figured I should find out what the term meant, since “blog touring” has been a heavily touted avenue for successful independent book promotion. I did some digging and discovered that Blog Touring is not what I thought.

I thought a blog tour meant roaming around the super highway searching out book readers (in my specific case, Romance readers). In effect, a search for blogs is part of a tour, but nailing that list of romance blogs happens long before the “Blog Tour” ever launches.

The aim of an efficient Blog Tour is the same as any mass promotion: hit the target market with as many instances of the new product as possible, making it familiar—and therefore friendly—and ultimately, desirable. If something is everywhere, it must be good.

The key proponent of a Blog Tour is to line up a number of book reviews and author interviews, or any other vehicle for author/book visibility like guest posts, such that all of those posts occur within a limited time frame. Each of those posts are blasting readers with the well-designed book cover you chose, so that when they see the cover for the third or fifth time they will click on the link to your purchase page and buy the book. A blog tour is a virtual book tour.

There are now exclusive blog tour companies who will organize the above, who have done the legwork and made the connections with the reviewers. They also charge plenty for the opportunity. For most start-up indie authors on a limited budget, paying someone else to set up a blog tour is out of the question. This is precisely why there is plenty of sage advice about establishing connections and drumming up interest before publishing occurs.

The shiny new novelty of blog touring has lost its sheen of late, likely due to the above, not to mention the huge number of self-published authors slamming small-time book bloggers with their wares. I don’t blame bloggers for taking a bit of cash in exchange for reviewing and promoting. However, I’m not a publisher and I don’t have the means.

I’ve missed the boat on blog touring for the first book (and for those twelve people out there who have read it… pun intended). However, I have every motivation to seek out readers by requesting reviews wherever I can, even with the publishing date behind me. My tour will be slow and therefore more of a fizzle than a blast.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying the process of seeking out Romance readers, something I should be doing regardless.

Here are some of the Romance reviewers I have come across this week on WordPress:

https://romance4thebeach.wordpress.com/

(She only reviews books that one would take to the beach. Perfect. She also has a Twitter feed.)

https://tinyobsessions.wordpress.com/

(She reviews books, movies, TV, and loves travel. Perfect. Also on Twitter, etc.)

http://naughtymomstorytime.com/

(She’s a mom who likes naughty romance. Avid Reader. Big following. Great!)

http://onlyonemorepage.com/

(She reviews Romance, Fantasy, and Thrillers. Good coverage. Yes, pun intended.)

https://bookreviewdirectory.wordpress.com/fiction-book-reviewers/romance/

(And finally… a link to a bigger list of Romance-specific review sites.)

I have begun the long process of review requests, and should I be lucky enough to have my novel reviewed I will either link or re-post the review here. If anyone reading this has a decent following and wants to review, let me know.

Next week I won’t be posting as I am going away for the Easter weekend.

Save the Date: Tempt the Ocean will be free for Kindle readers to download on March 31st . Read and Review the book!

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Breaking Through Some Writer’s Block

I didn’t realize I’ve been suffering from a bout of writer’s block until I broke through it last week. I’ll guess that’s because I’ve been writing around the block, instead of not writing at all.

Every writer suffers from writer’s block. I’m not mad at myself for hitting one. Running into a wall is an unfortunate part of the writing process. The important thing is to find a way through the blockage. I thought I’d share how I found mine in case it helps someone else.

I spent November writing the bulk of a new historical romance. I had committed to finishing within the month, and knowing the structure I also knew where I wanted to be in the plot on any given day (writing chronologically as I was). I anticipated a slow-down in the middle of the middle, so when the slump caught up with me I jumped ahead to the third and final section in order to reach the finale by the end of the month. At the end of November, always a dark month for me, I burned out and crawled into a hole until the holidays arrived. At the start of January, I began a new work contract away from home and looked forward to revisiting the manuscript and tackling that missing chunk. Except… I found more time to promote my finished novel and design my author page and blog a little and share an already-written excerpt. You catch my drift there… Writer’s Block!

Last weekend, with no more convenient writing distractions at hand, I procrastinated by eating breakfast while watching hours of YouTube and then went out cross-country skiing by myself. That sounds terribly non-productive, but here’s the thing: on YouTube I returned to a British TV show I’d discovered while researching my novel’s setting, a BBC show called “Renovation Home.” Part of the fun of the series is the show’s archive-digging into the home’s historical occupants and their lives. One of the episodes I watched reminded me that during the era of my novel’s setting, everyone corresponded by letter, and frequently. In my novel, my characters write, but I had not thought of using the physical trail of letters as a way to carry my plot forward.

After breakfast I headed out into the woods alone, my morning viewing simmering in my head. All those thoughts of correspondence and paper trails unravelled into a new path that my character could follow to get him where I wanted him to go. By the time I got back from skiing I knew how he escaped from the place I couldn’t get him out of, how he arrived at the place I couldn’t get him to, and how the people who met him there would know where to find him.

Thus, writer’s block dashed. I sat down when I got home and pummelled out 1000 words.

Returning to the source of research won’t work for everyone, but I found a revisit to source material very inspirational. Partaking in some methodical activity afterward where the ideas can fall into place works wonders. Going for a walk has always been a fall back for me when I’m stuck. My mind wanders and there’s probably something to the rhythm of walking that helps that happen. Skiing alone in the woods clearly does the same thing.

Feel free to comment below if you’d like to share your own way of breaking through writer’s block.

Next week I investigate promoting my novel via blog touring, and what the hell that means.

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Official Author Page!

I have struggled a little (mostly with schedule) to publish an official author page for Agnès de Savigny. The work has interfered with blogging, editing, writing, active promoting, and the occasional book read.

But I’m happy to say that I’ve finished the work, and Agnès not only has her own menu tab (above), but I can now link back to a proper dedicated page from anywhere on the web.

This is so much better than making the blog feed her author page which, while it did bring readers back to the blog, did not demonstrate any sense of professionalism. Promoting the book (and therefore the author of said book) with absolute professionalism is a must for independent authors.

The resulting page is simple, incorporated into the blog, and carries all the key links for publicizing both the book and the author—everything I wanted from it.

Have a look.

If anyone would like to share their own author page in the comments, please do.

This week I hope to embark of some romance blog tourism, and plan to share my experiences when I get back.

 

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Excerpt from Servitude (Work-in-Progress)

“Evaline, it is unfathomable that you should find every pattern in this shop objectionable,” said Eva’s mother.

Eva understood her mother’s point. The shop had no shortage of the latest silk patterns and new colours for the season. More birds and flowers and sea shells and butterflies than she could dream of festooned each set of new selections. Most of the fabrics met well with her approval, and stood above the items she already owned. But the beauty of the silks was not the problem.

“Maman, it is not the fabric which is objectionable,” replied Eva.

“I don’t want to hear it,” snapped Elizabeth, lowering her voice.

“Why don’t you pick something suitable,” Eva flung back at her. “This entire arrangement is for you and Papa’s interest. I have no say in it at all.”

Eva ducked out of the reach of her mother’s arm and ran out the door of the shop into the street. She shivered in the cold spring morning air, having left her overcoat inside the shop. She looked back at it through the glass, deciding whether the risk of its retrieval was worth more than her discomfort. She caught her mother’s glare fixed on her, and turned her back to the store. Why could her parents not have found a husband less horrific? Why in all of London was there not a handsome well-to-do gentleman willing to liberate her from this predicament and insist on making her his?

Eva could see her own breath as she exhaled. She rubbed the cold from her arms. In her distraction she missed an approaching couple who jostled her aside. Their rudeness interrupted her daydreams of marital rescue. Eva noted that back inside the shop her mother had decided to indeed take matters into her own hands and was poring over several new imports and a variety of laces.

Across the street, a crowd had gathered around a new print shop. Cartoon prints filled each window pane from the inside. Eva could hear gasps of surprise and loud chuckles from where she stood. She looked back at her warm cloak but decided that its retrieval would be an invitation to entrapment once again. She shivered and set out in the cold to have a look at what was so funny in the window across the street.

Eva was much smaller than most of the crowd—and not only because she was not yet a full adult. With two slight parents she had not much hope of ever being of average size. She attempted to squeeze through a break in the crowd, but a heavy, roughly dressed man beat her to it, shutting her out. Determined, she moved around the crowd to the other side of the print shop. The crowd swelled as greatly on this side, pushing her into an adjacent alley. This was too much for Eva, who despite a sheltered upbringing had spent enough time around her family’s various shops to know that alleys were the cesspools of dangerous vagrants.

Eva looked down the short stretch of covered cobblestone to see a hang-dog group of men strutting towards her. In the dim light of the alley, which opened up to another bright road at the far end, Eva could not make out more that their silhouettes. Still, she could see that most of the men appeared worn and broken, except for one of them who walked upright and strong with the pride of youth. Perhaps he was a son of a member of the gang, or perhaps he led them. Either way he would be the last one she’d want to face. As the group bore down on her, Eva didn’t know which way to turn. She froze in the mouth of the alley.

The men burst into the sunlight, their faces as frightening in daylight as her imagination had made them in the dark. They moved around her as if she were nothing more than an inconvenient post. The smell of sweat and coffee lingered in the air as they passed. Unlike the others, the young one stopped directly in front of her, only inches away and standing a full head above. Her heart fluttered against her closed throat. She forced her gaze up to meet his, across his half-open linen shirt, his bare chest which glistened with sweat, under his chin with its faintest fuzziest shadow of a future beard, finally reaching the barely familiar face of her long-lost Sam. Relief burst from her with such force that she threw herself into his arms.

“Sam!” she cried.

“Please don’t,” said Sam, peeling her arms off from around his waist. His voice was colder than the air.

Eva swallowed her flush and began to straighten out her skirts as a distraction. She shivered with the removal of his body warmth.

“Why don’t you have a cloak?” asked Sam. He sounded annoyed, as if her lack of warmth obligated him to take care of her, and this were the worst of outcomes.

“I do,” she defended. “But I left it in the shop with my mother. She’s purchasing a new outfit for me.”

Eva’s gaze stretched back down the other side of the street to the silk shop. She saw no sign of her mother, but knew there was not much time before Elizabeth expected her to return to have her measurements taken—she had changed so much lately. If her mother came out looking for her and found her talking to Sam…

“How nice for you,” groaned Sam, moving out into the sun to get passed her. “I guess you’re showing your appreciation by removing yourself from the process?”

“It’s not nice for me,” declared Eva. “She’s buying an outfit to flaunt me, like a fancy horse. They are marrying me to an old man!”

Eva’s voice cracked in its crescendo. She felt her eyes fill but choked back her tears. For whatever reason she suddenly needed Sam to understand what she was going through, and how desperate her situation really was.

“Help me, Sam,” she cried, grabbing his hand and holding it up against her face. His skin felt rough but warm against her cold cheek. A drop spilled over from the pool in her eyes and rolled down across the back of his hand. She kissed the tear away.

“What can I do?” asked Sam, snatching his hand away and rubbing it against his breaches. “What am I to you?”

“You’re my only true friend,” explained Eva.

“If that’s the truth, it is a sad one,” said Sam. He turned his back and started off in the direction his crew had gone. One of the men stood waiting for him, long down the street at the far corner.

“Wait!” called Eva. “Where can I find you?”

Sam’s back stiffened. When he turned back to her the anger in his eyes scared her.

“At the Parish where my mother and I receive our poor rations,” said Sam, before turning again and heading down the road. Sam’s tone hung heavy with finality. That he didn’t mention which Parish told her he had meant his statement as a warning to leave him alone, to let her know that he was destitute and out of her reach. His information was not an invitation to future acquaintance, but Eva stored the kernel of it away for future use. She had a vague idea where Sam and his mother might be living, or guessed at least that they would not be far from where her father had cut Sam’s widowed mother off from her livelihood and thrown her and Sam into the street.

Eva watched Sam walk away until he reached the far corner of the road. Once there the elder man waiting from his crew boxed Sam’s ear before the two of them carried on out of sight.

At the throes of another shiver, Eva shook off the incident and turned back to the silk shop. This time her mother was standing outside, a cold hard stare fixed on her daughter. Eva’s warm cloak hung over one arm, while in the other she carried a wrapped package of niceties from the shop. When Eva reached her mother’s spot across the street, her mother slapped her wrist.

“Did you get your fill of smut?” hissed her mother. At first Eva thought her mother had seen the entire exchange with Sam, but when her mother then wrapped Eva’s cloak around her cold shoulders, Eva realized her mother referred to the cartoons in the print shop windows. Had her mother seen Sam, she would have demonstrated no evidence of kindness.

My favourite was the caricature of the parents selling their daughter on an auction block, Eva wanted to say. But instead she chimed, “No, Maman, I couldn’t get close enough to the windows to see any.”

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