Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Spring Break





















This year has been flying by.

It seems we say that every year. If last year were a person, she’d be one crazy bitch. And the insanity extended well into 2015 with the release of A Groovy Kind of Love.

I burned myself out, both professionally and personally. You know how it is. There’s always more that can be done. One more marketing venue to explore. One more book review blog to seek out. One more place to pitch your writing.

More. More. More.

My kids’ schedules provided the perfect pause with two different Spring Break weeks. At first, I was stressed out. How could I possibly work with everyone around? I gradually let it go like the Frozen song and enjoyed my time first with my eldest and his girlfriend, then with my younger son.

My husband took a few days off too while the collegiate crew was here, and we all played tourist in our own city, showing my son’s girlfriend Chicago (she’s from California). We took a trip to the Sears Tower (real Chicagoans will never call it the Willis Tower) some 1,353 feet in the air, 103 floors up, out on the Ledge, a glass box that extends about four feet outside the building.

After a bout of vertigo several years ago, I haven’t been very good with heights. Even my beloved roller coasters have been tabled. But somehow, I thought it would be cool to get a picture of all of us out on the Ledge. Again, the Frozen song echoed in my head, so I steeled myself and climbed on.

Wow.

Looking down, I marveled at the feeling of being outside of the building, literally outside of conventional structure.

I felt free.

My father is downsizing and moving to a garden apartment in the same building where I spent a good chunk of my youth. Not good with change, this move is an enormous stressor on him, and consequently on me as well, even if it is only two floors down. A couple more weeks, and he will be in his new place.

The kids are back at their respective schools, and we are in the throes of our first high school lacrosse season (he’s starting attackman on the JV team —hooray for him!), which will be followed by club lacrosse summer travel tournaments. My eldest is finalizing plans for his senior year at Knox College (crazy, right?). I’ve been doing various projects that really needed my attention, including the aforementioned stuff plus various spring cleanings and my youngest’s scrapbook that I have six years of memories to chronicle before I forget everything.

I hadn’t felt the urge to write.

Until now.

A tiny fluttering flew into my stomach this morning, the spark of an idea or two rumbling through my brain. An essay, perhaps. Some snippets of a short story are beginning to make themselves known. Edwina Hipplewhite, actually. We shall see where they go from here.

Taking time off is essential for all of us, and writing is no different. Though it is a passion, it’s still a job.

And we all need a break.


Friday, March 20, 2015

Celebrating Five Years



Today marks the fifth anniversary of the release of my first novel, A Whisper to a Scream. Five years ago, I uploaded my story on Kindle, pressed “Publish” and crossed my fingers.

I had no idea what I was doing.

I started learning about this relatively new thing called social media. I met all sorts of people crazy enough to do the same thing at Kindle Boards, people you might know like Al from BigAl’s Books and Pals, Lynne from Red Adept Publishing, and Karen McQuestion, the first indie darling of Amazon who had her work optioned for film. And yes, Amanda Hocking and Joe Konrath were there, too. We shared helpful hints as we all mitigated our way through this infant of an industry alongside birth announcements. It’s amazing what a close community can spring up from a virtual world.

Exciting. Rebellious. We made our own paths, blazed our own trails while Konrath banged the drum of independence.

My first sale was exhilarating. And the one after that. And the one after that. Five years ago, you could actually make sales without four-page marketing plans. The traditional publishers had yet to take e-books seriously and Amazon needed content to fill its new Kindle devices.

Those were the glory days of self-publishing. Some Kindle Board authors were offered traditional contracts, and we all toasted their successes. A win for them was a win for us all. Eventually, some hit the best-seller lists, even in the New York Times. Heady stuff.

Today, the climate is greatly changed. Discoverability is king as more and more books are published on Amazon every day. E-books live forever. There is no shelf life in virtual bookstores. Unlike their brick and mortar counterparts, shelf space is not a precious commodity and doesn’t need to be kept fresh to keep customers coming in.

This is both good and bad for self-publishers. Sure, our books will be on Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and Barnes and Noble for as long as we want them. The bad news is so will the traditionally published authors. Have you seen the Amazon best-seller list lately? Some of those books have been out for years.

E-books represent a solid 25% of the total market share, and the Big Five have finally caught on.

Although Amazon’s KDP makes it possible for anyone to publish, which I’m grateful for, the company has also succeeded in devaluing the written word. Because of Amazon’s bargain-basement prices, the public never buys books at full price. Ever. For self-publishers, who usually sell their work for cheaper to begin with, this means a base price of around $2.99 -$3.99, which then turns into 99¢ or even free when the book is on sale, which is now pretty much all the time to make any steady sales. These basement-level prices have been fueled by the rise of the bargain book sites, like BookBub and all of its clones, and the auxiliary markets that make money off of cheap books.

Great for the consumer.

Horrible for authors.

For cultivating readers?

Depends.

If a book (an entire book!) is only 99¢, will consumers read it or will they just fill their Kindles to the brim with free and 99¢ books and build insurmountable reading lists? 99¢ are expendable, practically worthless really, and can easily be deleted. I’ve done it, and I’m sure you have too.

With giveaways, bargain book sales every day, and book services like Oyster, Scribd and Kindle Unlimited, why ever pay full price?

99¢ for an entire novel.

That’s cheaper than iTunes for music, my fifteen-year-old pointed out to me the other day. A song is $1.29 for three or four minutes of entertainment.

Not 99¢ for hours or days of reading pleasure.

Awhile back, I had lunch with a traditionally published author of two really good books that orbit the Jane Austen world but don’t rip off Austen’s plot or characters. She had a two-book deal with one of the Big Five publishing companies.

And she was looking for a job.

Her kids were headed to college soon, and she needed to contribute a real salary to the household.

I don’t know if it’s possible to make a living writing fiction anymore. It’s always been difficult, but now, it seems almost impossible. According to Hugh Howey’s author earnings report last year, most Amazon best-selling authors are not making minimum wage.

I’m not writing this to be petty or to whine, but rather to state the facts as I see them.

Still…

When your head bubbles over with characters, situations, and themes, what are you supposed to do? Ever since I can remember, I’ve written things down. Used to be a time when I didn’t feel something was even real until I put it on paper. I have been a professional writer since my sophomore year in college, when I was a stringer for the local paper. I don’t know how to do anything else.

You see, writing wiggles its way first into your life, then into your very core.

Occasionally, I get on a roll, and it’s not even me in control anymore, it’s the characters, and they take over the scene, and I get butterflies in my stomach as the whole piece suddenly comes together.

That’s the magic of writing.

Thanks for taking this journey with me. Some of you have been around since the beginning, while others have recently discovered my work. Whether it’s one of the books, this blog, or any of the other pieces I’ve written over the years, I truly appreciate you taking the time out of your busy day to spend with me.

So, please raise your virtual glasses to five years of publishing. I’m excited to see what the next five bring.

Cheers, friends.

Karen

Monday, March 16, 2015

The 2015 BigAl's Books and Pals Readers' Choice Nominees


I'm happy to announce that A Groovy Kind of Love has been nominated in the Women's Fiction/Chick Lit category of the 2015 Readers' Choice Awards over at the awesome BigAl's Books and Pals review blog.

Voting started on Saturday, 3/14, and will continue until Saturday, 3/28. You could win a ton of books and even a $75 Amazon gift card if you head over to BigAl's Books and Pals to vote. If you were to vote for A Groovy Kind of Love, I'd be eternally grateful. Just sayin'.

Here's what the Pals had to say.

"In the twelve months ending February 28th, 2015, BigAl and the Pals will have received over 3,000 review requests and published more than 300 new book reviews. From those, we chose the books we felt stood out from the pack as exceptional examples of Indie (self-published and small press) writing and divided them into fourteen categories."

Here is the list of nominees.

Children/Middle Grade

Kid Nitro and the Sinister Slorp by Rusty Sherill
Lionel and the Golden Rule by Paul R. Hewlett
The Hunt for Well-Hidden Treasure by Bob Sheard and Timothy Taylor
The Mysterious Case of the Golden Egg by Ernie Lindsey

Contemporary/Literary/General Fiction

Keeping Private Idaho by Rick Just
Playing Charlie Cool by Laurie Boris
The Earthquake Doll by Candace Williams
The Ribs and Thigh Bones of Desire by Sandra Hutchinson
They Call Me Crazy by Kelly Stone Gamble
Will by Dan Cardinal

Crime Fiction

A Man Alone by David Siddall
Hustle by Tom Pitts
Lamentation by Joe Clifford
The Curious Case of the Missing Moolah by Martin Stanley
The Unburied Dead by Douglas Lindsay

Fantasy

Raising Chaos by Elizabeth Corrigan
Scorched Earth by Lynne Cantwell
Stormhawk's Warning by Susan Stuckey
The Five Faces by Frank Tuttle
The Road to Rebirth by Dean F. Wilson
Wytchfire by Michael Meyerhofer

Humor

Evolution of a Wine Drinker by Alicia Bien
Heads You Lose by Rob Johnson
Mischief in Italy by Beate Boeker
Vugarian Vamp by Barbara Silkstone

Mystery

Blue Wicked by Alan Jones
Confessions of a Hit Man by Richard Godwin
Girl Jacked by Christopher Greyson
One Right Thing by Matthew Iden
The Broken Saint by Mike Markel
To Hell and Gone in Texas by Russ Hall

Non-Fiction

99 Jobs by Joe Cottonwood
Follow the Joy by Jason Kurtz
The Divide by Nathan Doneen
You Are Not Alone by Leah Carey

Paranormal

Aversion by Kenechi Udogu
Blood Diva by V.M. Gautier
Rock'n'Roll Heaven by Shawn Inmon
The Deathtaker by S.L. Baum
The Road to Nowhere by Shana Hammaker
The Shadows Call by Matt Hilton

Romance

Craving Caine by Erica Lucke Dean with Elise Delacroix
Following His Heart by Donna Fasano
In the Sunshine by P.J. Lincoln
No Perfect Secret by Jackie Weger
Rescuing Lara by Lyn Horner

Science Fiction

Amish Vampires in Space by Kerry Nietz
Ghosts of A.R.C.A.D.I.A by Ramsey Isler
Living Backwards by Tracy Sweeney
The God Particle by Daniel Danser
The Little Universe by Jason Matthews

Short Stories/Short Story Collections/Anthologies

Pieces by Michael Crane
Purple, Silver, Olive, Orange by Helen Smith
Return to Bry Mairwyn by Jennifer Selzer and Daniel Huber
The Dark Age: A Short Story by Jason Gurley
Two and a Half Weeks by Tim W. Jackson

Thriller

A One-Way Ticket to Dead by D.V. Berkom
Binds That Tie by Kate Moretti
Dark Witness by Rebecca Forster
Home Owner with a Gun by Samuel Hawley
Post by Sean Black
Shadowline Drift by Alexes Razevich

Women's Fiction/Chick Lit

A Groovy Kind of Love by Karen Wojcik Berner
Early Daze by Jennifer Gilby Roberts
Game Changer by Beth Orsoff
Green Eggs and Weezi by Cathy Oliffe-Webster
Mazie Baby by Julie Frayn
Molly Harper by Emelle Gamble

Young Adult

All the Butterflies in the World by Rodney Jones
dEaDINBURGH by Mark Wilson
Dragons of Wendal by Maria E. Schneider
Long Live the Suicide King by Aaron Micheal Ritchey
The See-Through Leopard by Sibel Hodge

Congratulations to all!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Writing About All Kinds of Love



Writing each book is a great learning experience, and A Groovy Kind of Love was no exception. Cheshire Cat's Looking Glass blog asked me three things I learned while writing this latest novel. Here are my answers.

1. My co-protagonist Spring Pearson’s mother and father were Hippies. There’s a common misconception that all Hippies did was smoke pot, listen to music, and roll around in the mud at Woodstock. While I’m sure a few did, that’s definitely not all. Many marched for civil rights, protested the Vietnam War, and truly believed they could change the world and its societal ills.

My father was delirious with joy I was only a toddler in the mid- to late sixties, because he was sure if I were older, I would have been out there protesting with the Hippies, and he would have had to bail me out of jail on several occasions. He’s right.

2. The other co-protagonist, Thaddeus Mumblegarden IV, plays baseball, much to his dismay and to the delight of his overbearing father. You know how Little League baseball players can only pitch a few innings at a time? I found out why. There’s a condition called Little League elbow. Too much of the repetitive motion of pitching can injure young children’s growth plates and cause arm deformities.

3. Did you know there’s a rose called “Always and Forever”? It has velvety, ruby red petals. Thaddeus plants these gorgeous flowers in their garden for his new bride.

Which brings me to the main thing I learned while writing A Groovy Kind of Love. Actually, “remembered” might be a better word. After I was done writing and began reading through my draft, I realized it’s really a book that celebrates love of all sorts, from the obvious romantic love of a new couple, to the love of non-perfect families, to the love of books that brings the Bibliophiles book club members together. All kinds of loves swirl around us every day.

And that, as Spring’s parents Bob and Donna Pearson would say, really is pretty groovy.


Monday, March 2, 2015

Hi, my name is Karen, and I'm a Social Media Addict


As you know, my latest novel, A Groovy Kind of Love, has been on two book tours for the past month and a half. These promotional opportunities were supposed to provide me with the freedom to write while others did the work.

Instead, however, I was sucked into a vortex of checking each spotlight, review, interview, guest post, and mention like some crazed Pavlovian dog awaiting the electric shock of positive reinforcement.

Multiple times a day.

Blogs. Facebook. Twitter. Google Alerts. Amazon, B&N, iTunes, Kobo, and Smashwords reviews.

If I didn’t check for a few hours, I’d get jumpy, like I was missing out on something. It was all so readily available on my phone, iPad, the computer, I lost control.

Once you get caught up in the promotional cycle, it’s difficult to get out. There’s always more that can be done, you see, whether you are traditionally published or self-published. More reviews to court. More guest posts to write. More interviews to give. So many blogs, a seemingly infinite amounts of possibilities.

More. And more. And more.

I tweeted so much, I even got sick of myself. I’ve checked Twitter more in the last two weeks than in the entire four years I’ve had an account. Don’t even get me started about all of the other platforms.

Sigh.


I became one of those crazed self-promoters the experts warn about. You know, the ones who render themselves useless by constantly pitching their books? In my case, it was constant retweets from the blog tour and giveaway.

This is not me.

I’m an introvert. Sure, I can be the charming life of the party, but most of the time, I’m happy sitting in the corner observing. Small talk and Twitter’s 140 characters don’t come naturally.

On Facebook, I had been making a conscious effort to post once a day during the book tours, sometimes twice if it’s really newsworthy, aware of not glutting anyone’s newsfeed.

But Twitter? It’s so easy to retweet every item that has your name in it. Besides, the tour stops send out posts that mention my book. It would be rude not to retweet, right?

I can’t switch back and forth from writing to promoting. Such different states of mind, they don’t gel well for me. All of this promotion whipped me into a frenzy like some whirling dervish tangled in virtual internet cables. I even started sniffing fresh lavender from little sachets to relax.

My poor WIP sits among a pile of manila folders packed with research and scene fragments. A query letter for a completed novel jets out from another stack on the other side of my desk near my headless Shakespeare statute from Stratford-upon-Avon. I dropped it once while dusting and the impact lopped his head clean off. Now, every time I slam a drawer shut, the Bard’s noggin tumbles across my desk. It’s sad really.

I return this morning, a bit muddied by the experience, but happy to have overcome the pushy, brazen addict and settle into me again.

The one in the corner.

Keen on observing.

And writing again.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Monday Mishmash


Happy Monday! I'm borrowing an idea from my blogger friend and YA/middle-grade author Kelly Hashway this morning. Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. My thanks to Kelly for this great idea and for the graphic. Feel free to grab it and post your own Mishmash.

Here's what's on my mind this morning.

1. Trivia Tuesday doesn’t seem to be catching on. That’s okay. Not everything works. Besides, usually I blog on Monday and occasionally Wednesday or Friday, so Tuesday feels strange, off kilter. Consequently, I’m moving Trivia Tuesday to Twitter and my Facebook page and will resume my old blogging schedule. Click here to join me on Twitter or here for Facebook.

2. What are you reading? I’m halfway into Joyce Carol Oates’ Carthage, which has already taken a twist I didn’t expect. She never ceases to amaze me.

3. Can you believe this is the last week of February already? These first months of 2015  have flown by. I seem to have a difficult time writing amid the inevitable organization that comes with the turn of the calendar. The planning and coordination of our family schedules. Assembling everything for taxes. All of the busy work. Once my younger son’s practice schedule for high school lacrosse is sorted out, things will resume their natural flow. As of now, very little writing has been done, and I’m getting jittery.

4. This week, my second blog tour for A Groovy Kind of Love wraps up. I plan on finishing the query letter for my chick lit novel for those who hate pink. Fingers crossed as I start pitching it.

How about you? What are you up to this week?


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Music and the Writer


Last week, I contributed to British author and journalist Roz Morris’ fascinating series “Undercover Soundtrack,” which explores the symbiotic relationship between music and literature. My piece discusses how music inspired many parts of the Bibliophiles series, including all three of the titles.

Here's a bit of it.

"The chance to delve into the '60s and the Pearsons’ background was too much fun to resist. Only a small child when the Hippies embarked on their psychedelic journey, I was drawn to their sense of freedom, something I had never felt growing up as an only child.

Every day while writing Spring’s childhood, the velvety smooth vocals of Jim Morrison in The Doors’ classic "Light My Fire" showed me a window to their world and explored quintessential sixties sounds. I mean, does anyone use an organ like that anymore? "Aquarius" belted out by the 5th Dimension and originally from the musical "Hair" signified pure freedom. Anything was possible if you opened your mind and let the sunshine in. That bass line underscores the funkiness of the dance. You can’t help but move.

That’s how I felt about the Pearsons. Sure, they might be potheads who left their eleven-year-old daughter in charge of their juice bar, but you can’t help but like them.

In contrast, Thaddeus’s family is traditional, and he, himself, is more formal. The Brandenburg Concertos played on repeat while writing his chapters. They helped me focus on structure and complexity. While driving, Thaddeus puts on the local classical music radio station hoping for Handel or a medieval madrigal."

Click here to read the entire Undercover Soundtrack.

Undercover Soundtrack offers a unique insight into the creative process. To read Roz's own piece for her critically acclaimed novel My Memories of a Future Life, click here.