Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Helpful Writing Blogs

by Marsha Ward @MarshaWard

I believe in life-long learning. Most of my learning, of necessity, deals with writing and the skills I need to forward my indie writing and publishing career.

I read a lot of helpful writing blogs so that I can learn new things. Then I gauge how or whether to adopt them into my life.

One of the most useful sites for me is The Passive Voice, an aggregated blog with partial articles and links to the complete articles. The host of the site is an attorney with an interest in authors, self-publishing, and traditional publishing.

Sometimes I will click a link to a suggested article and start delving into other articles on the site. That is how I found this post by author Toby Neal about writing a multi-book love story in any genre. Since I face challenges in writing a saga involving my fictional Owen Family, I thought I should have a look. I came away enlightened.

When I find a blog that offers sound advice, I usually subscribe to it so a heads-up on new posts will arrive in my inbox. I finally decided reading through emails was better than trying to chase down each and every blog by finding my bookmark for it. If I should happen to be on the wrong computer, I might be out of luck finding a bookmark.

Some of the blogs I follow are listed on this page at my blog under Indie Writer Resources. I have a couple more I need to add, though, such as Kristine Kathryn Rusch's blog, which I read every Thursday for her Business Musings. I usually focus on the Monday post at The Write Conversation, as it contains tips about effective blogging.

Go ahead, click on the page at my blog and try out a couple of new sites to increase your writing and/or business knowledge.

Then come back here and tell us in the comments about what you learned.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Trust the Process

by Marsha Ward @MarshaWard

For several years, I've been worried that I was not doing something all the books on writing said I was supposed to do in the process of writing my novels, but it seemed to work out okay anyway. Recently, I read a book about writing. Suddenly, lights flashed, bells and whistles blew, and I got a huge confirmation that I'm really okay with what I do. The book is Writing Into the Dark: How to Write a Novel Without an Outline, by Dean Wesley Smith. I'm a pantser, so I never outline anyway, but the truth is, I don't do extensive edits and rewrites, either. That latter fact is what had me so worried.

Smith explains the difference between Creative Voice and Critical Voice, and says we should not give in to the prompting to use the Critical Voice (editing) during our writing process. The job of our Critical Voice is to stop us cold from engaging in risky business, and writing is very risky business!

Instead, he holds to Heinlein's Business Rules:

Rule #1: You must write.
Rule #2: You must finish what you write.
Rule #3: You must refrain from rewriting unless to editorial demand.
Rule #4: You must put your work on the market.
Rule #5: You must keep your work on the market until it sells.

Smith gives tweaks of the rules if you are indie publishing. He also writes strange words like "practice," and "trust your process." That last one set off the bells and whistles for me.

I will say the book rambles a bit and could have been tightened, but despite its structural flaws, I found it very affirming to me. There is a bonus section in the back from another book, Killing the Top 10 Sacred Cows of Publishing. The chapter about rewriting was the whipped cream on top of the milkshake for me: his process is exactly what I've been doing all along. I write the first draft. The second draft is spell checking, then I send it to beta readers. For the third draft, I touch up the things the readers found. Then I'm done.


Saturday, October 10, 2015

Bookmarked Bargains is coming Monday!

Yes, it's nearly here. Dozens of ebooks in many genres by multiple authors will be available at super good prices for five days only, Monday, October 12 through Friday, October 16, 2015.

You don't want to miss this sale!

Friday, October 9, 2015

In Defense of WAS

by Marsha Ward 

[This post is reprinted from a post published in the Writer in the Pines Blog on June 17, 2007. The misguided cautions back then against using was are still around today.]

Lately, I've been listening to a lot of writers get hyper about the word was: how its usage in a novel surely marks the author as an amateur; how terrible it must be to have more than, say, 60 examples of was in a full-length novel; how we should all do a search in our manuscripts and root out the evil word was.

I demur.

No, I didn't misspell demure, meaning quiet and modest; shy, which many people think I am. Little do they know! I mean demur, to raise objection; take exception; object.

Yes, I demur. And now I'll digress a bit, too.

When I was in school, past tense had two forms: preterite (it can be spelled without the last e) and imperfect. Preterite is the simple past tense, like I walked. Imperfect has a helping verb, yes, often it happens to be the infamous WAS: I was walking. It could even be I used to walk.

Now that grammar is much fancier than when I was young, preterite is called simply past tense and imperfect has been split into two, maybe three camps, depending on which source you cite. These are my buddy the imperfect, past progressive, and past continuous. Some people call past progressive progressive past. That's scholars for you, always changing things to get their name out there. The most commonly cited camp of the old imperfect is past progressive, but I like "imperfect," so I'll go with that in my discussion.

Preterite or past tense is used to express actions that took place in the past. Bang! The action was completed. Done. Finished.

Imperfect denotes a past tense with an imperfect aspect. The action is incomplete. It's ongoing in the past, or happened regularly or continuously until it stopped. This might be expressed with a verb ending in "ing": Mary was laboring for fourteen hours. Trust me, that's continuous and progressive, both.

Sometimes you use both preterite and imperfect in the same sentence: As I was walking in the park this morning, I saw a red-winged blackbird. Saw, was, was, saw, hmmmm. [Sorry, I almost digressed again--really far afield. I apologize.]

I studied Spanish in high school and really learned it when I served a mission for the LDS Church in South America. You might say I was learning Spanish the whole time I was there. (Aha! Imperfect!) Spanish makes no apologies for using both past tenses. They each have their use.

Okay, back to why I demur about using the word was. Writers get told to use strong, active verbs to express their action. Yes. That is the best policy, and very handy to keep out passive voice. Most writers take this to mean they always have to use preterite tense.

However . . . when an action is not complete, when it is ongoing, you just gotta use the imperfect tense, which could mean you gotta use was. I maintain that was is misunderstood, misused, and misappreciated, er, unappreciated, and using it not always leads to the dreaded passive voice. All the popular novelists use was. I say you can too! Within reason. Also, with reason. Knowing why you're using it, and all that.

Agree or disagree? Tell me your side of this issue.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Advice for Aspiring Authors

You've got a book manuscript, newly finished or ripening with old age. You desperately want to see it come to life as a real book.

You've seen those ads, either on the Internet or possibly even sent to your email inbox. They sing their siren song, "Come publish with us. We'll make your book real. You don't even have to submit it to a traditional publisher. Just pay us a lot of money, and we'll make sure your book is on Amazon and Barnes and Noble in no time!"

Please, for the love of whatever you hold dear, stop up your ears. Do not heed that alluring come-on. Run fast and far away. That is not the way to self-publish!

These days, the old self-publishing is called by a different name: Indie Publishing. That is where you call the shots, by independently publishing your book yourself, through the miracle of digital and online resources and companies, and with the help of freelance editors, book cover designers, e-book and print book formatters, and other helpful people. It's not easy, but it is a ton of fun, and well worth the effort.

If you want to keep control of your work, and possibly make a little money instead of tossing it down a rat hole, you'll want to take this new direction. If you're willing to learn the ropes, you can go on a real "Indie Publishing" adventure. Most likely, you will be able to save a great deal of the money the vampires of publishing would like to move from your pocket to theirs.

You will need to educate yourself; that's a given. You will need to decide the best path for you to take, and whether to learn vital skills, or to pay experts for the skills they already have. In any case, if you choose to educate yourself, you're not going to jump at a rotten deal that will cause you to be out thousands of dollars and left with a bitter taste in your mouth in twelve-months' time.

Indie Author Hub has plans for Resource pages that will assist you in your journey toward indie publishing your book manuscript. While you wait for their appearance, go get a college education by reading posts over the last five years on author Joseph Konrath's blog here (frank language alert) or this brutally honest post about Indie Publishing by author Dean Wesley Smith here (don't get discouraged--read it to the end). Smith's tab for "Think Like a Publisher" is no longer found on his website, except for information on his book of the same name on this page, but the book is available at all booksellers. He also wrote Killing the Top 10 Sacred Cows of Indie Publishing (green cover), and the information on that book is also on that page.

Two more things: never let go of your dreams, and hold on, the light will come.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Looking for new books?

Are you craving new suspense, time-travel, sweet romance, or YA books?

How about a boxed set trilogy at a great price?

Check out these recently released great reads from members of Indie Author Hub.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Why I'm a Dedicated Indie Author

by Marsha Ward

[This article is reprinted from the "Writer in the Pines Blog" of July 26, 2011, and much water has passed under the bridge since then. The world of indie publishing has changed in scope and names of products, so the article needed a light editing. While the author's covers may have changed since the original article came out, her attitude toward Indie Publishing has not.]

Indie Author = an author who publishes his or her work independently of traditional or "legacy" publishers, which work may take the form of either print books, electronic books, or both.

I have several writer friends who have done some variety of independent publishing, and more who are curious about what indie publishing can do for their bottom line. I thought I would share some facts about what a big change a few hours' work made in my life.

Long-time friends know why I started "self-publishing" several years ago, despite the bias against those writers who did so. For those who don't know, I had a serious health crisis, and didn't want to die with manuscripts unpublished. Therefore, over a span of several years, I put out three print books with iUniverse.

Then my books were such a resounding success with you fantastic readers that I couldn't stop to wait for a gatekeeper to accept/schedule/publish my work. Each new book being part of a series about my Owen family, that wasn't likely to happen anyway. Traditional publishers usually don't buy a series book in the middle of the arc. I am currently working on a fourth in the series I now have entitled the Owen Family Saga. [The fourth book was Spinster's Folly. The fifth book, Gone for a Soldier, came out in 2014. Both were not published with iUniverse.]

When the electronic book distributor came to town two years or so ago, I jumped on the ebook bandwagon, and signed up with my first two novels.

I decided to hold off on the third until I finished writing the fourth. A stupid decision, I discovered later, as I educated myself under writers J. A. Konrath, Dean Wesley Smith, and other early electronic book authors. Smashwords delivers content to most of the big ebook retailers, including Sony, Kobo Books, and B&N--before they came up with Pub-It.* Smashwords has NOT been successful in getting distribution to Amazon, YET, and the head honcho, Mark Coker, advised us Smashwords authors and publishers to go over to the Amazon Kindle site and do it ourselves. I'd heard the Kindle preparation process was complicated and difficult, so again, I held off.

In the meantime, I had some sales through the Smashwords channels. Royalties in the two figures.

Then I decided I'd put things off long enough, added my third novel to Smashwords in late April-early May, 

and decided to see how hard it really was to format for Kindle. Astonishingly, with the free software Kindle Direct Publishing offered, it was easier than preparing a manuscript for Smashwords!

I uploaded my three novels to Amazon Kindle, and heck, just because more content is better, added several short stories and an anthology, which I also uploaded to Smashwords. I topped it all off with a Sampler of three chapters each of the three published novels, and a chapter from the forthcoming one. My prices ranged from $.99 to $3.99.


Now I had TEN ebooks of various sizes (let's call them units) going through both Smashwords distribution and through Kindle's three* stores: US, UK, and Germany.

Let me just say that I've had no, zero, zip sales through the German (DE) store. I understand a bit more now why that is, but it's irrelevent to this discussion.

After I uploaded my works, I joined a couple of Facebook groups, mentioned the works, and then got busy preparing for a road trip with a girlfriend. This took up most of May.

June. June brought me pretty low. I had emergency major surgery, and thus did no marketing for my books.

July arrived. I was beginning to feel like a human being again, and, curious to see if I'd sold any ebooks on Kindle, I took a look at my sales figures.

I about got my socks knocked off! In May I had sales of 90 UNITS in the US Kindle store ($209.03 royalty), and 5 UNITS in the UK store ($6.35 royalty).

In June I sold 94 units in the US and 3 units in the UK. Royalty figures were not available per month yet, but for the period of June 4 through July 9, the royalties from the US store are $287.09 and 63 pence for the UK.

In July thus far, I've sold 81 units in the US and 11 units in the UK.

Yes, I know, these aren't figures in the tens of thousands of sales or royalties yet, but ebooks have the advantage of the long tail. They never get swept off a bookstore's shelf after a month. They are FOR.EVER!

Remember, I've done little or no advertising that my work is even out there, and these are Western-flavored novels and stories, for the most part, not the more-in-demand romances (per se), mysteries, thrillers, dystopian YA novels, vampire tales, or zombie stories.

So, the big question is: Am I ever likely to send queries, try to get an agent, or nervously stand in line hoping for a gatekeeper to say I'm good enough to publish? I don't know. You be the judge.

*Name or number has changed since the original publication of this article.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Awesome eBook SALE!!!

Here are some fantastic ebooks on SALE! Who doesn't love a sale, right? Please pass this on to your friends who might be interested. And help us share it on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks!!

 Check out all these books!

Imperfect Love by Rebecca Talley 

Regular Price: $3.99
SALE Price: $.99 

Purchase Imperfect Love

Lauren Wilson is well on her way to her happily-ever-after. She’s passionate about her career as a middle school English teacher, she adores her handsome, hard-working husband, and with a baby finally on the way, her perfect life is within her grasp.

But then a devastating test result changes everything.

Forced to choose between her baby and her husband, Lauren makes the only decision she can live with, and she returns to her small hometown in hopes of rebuilding her shattered life.

Ethan Campbell is a gifted photographer who travels the world and has no desire to settle down. When his mother dies, he must go home to settle her estate. Then it’s back to exciting adventures across the globe.

When Lauren crosses paths with Ethan, her teenage crush, old feelings resurface—feelings she’s not prepared to face. Will Lauren have the courage to trust again or will she spend her life alone? Imperfect Love is a story about sacrifice, healing, second chances, and discovering that although love isn’t always perfect, sometimes it’s the imperfect love that’s the sweetest of all.

A Change of Plans by Donna K. Weaver

Regular Price: $3.99
SALE Price: $.99

Purchase A Change of Plans
Audiobook  (If you own the eBook, the audiobook is only $1.99)

When Lyn sets off on her supposedly uncomplicated and unromantic cruise, she never dreams it will include pirates. All the 25-year-old Colorado high school teacher wants is to forget that her dead fiancĂ© was a cheating scumbag. What she plans is a vacation diversion; what fate provides is Braedon, an intriguing surgeon. She finds herself drawn to him: his gentle humor, his love of music, and even his willingness to let her take him down during morning karate practices. Against the backdrop of the ship’s make-believe world and its temporary friendships, her emotions come alive.

However, fear is an emotion, too. Unaware of the sensitive waters he navigates, Braedon moves to take their relationship beyond friendship—on the very anniversary Lyn came on the cruise to forget. But Lyn’s painful memories are too powerful, and she runs off in a panic.

Things are bad enough when the pair finds themselves on one of the cruise’s snorkeling excursions in American Samoa. However, paradise turns to piracy when their party is kidnapped. Lyn’s fear of a fairytale turns grim. Now she must fight alongside the man she rejected, first for their freedom and then against storms, sharks, and shipwreck.

Salem Witch Haunt by Theresa Sneed

Regular Price: $4.99
SALE Price: $2.99

Purchase Salem Witch Haunt

When she finds herself thrust back in time, 17 year old Bess Martin, a senior at Danvers High, sets out on a mission to save her 11th great-grandmother from the gallows-tree. With a near-perfect knowledge of the historical events about to unfold, Bess knows the untimely fate of many. 

The problem is that Bess has inherited her grandmother’s sharp tongue—a tongue that caused her grandmother to be tried and hanged as a witch in Salem Village, 1692. 

Can Bess stop the hangings and change the course of history, or will she share her grandmother’s fate? 

Felicity A Sparrow's Tale by Loralee Evans

Regular Price: $2.99
SALE Price: $.99

Purchase Felicity A Sparrow's Tale

Tales of adventure and danger have thrilled Felicity since Augustus, her ivory-billed woodpecker friend, taught her to read as a little nestling. She adores the tales of heroes and heroines who forge ahead in spite of all odds, and who always seem to succeed no matter what. More than anything, Felicity wants to be brave and selfless like them. 

But adventures are in short supply, especially for someone who’s just an ordinary sparrow. 

Until the day an unexpected visitor shows up at her tree with an unusual request…

Newbie by Jo Noelle
Regular Price: $3.99
SALE Price: $.99
The housing market is crashing, and Sophie’s life is crashing with it. At twenty-four, her successful real estate career evaporates. She’s broke, can’t find a job, or pay her bills, leaving Sophie wondering how her successful lifestyle became so fragile.
At the urging of her roommate, Sophie accepts a job in her fallback career—teaching six-year-olds. She hopes it’s temporary. After all, how long can a tanking economy last anyway? The best part of the new job is Liam, another employee at Rio Grande Elementary. The worst part of the new job is, well, teaching.
Sophie has a surprise real estate closing from a contract she wrote months ago, leading her to a niche in the real estate market and to a new partner, Kevin. Sophie must choose between Liam or Kevin and between a lucrative career or recess duty.

Lost Without You by Annette Lyon

Regular price: $2.99
SALE Price: $0.99

For months, Christopher Morris has been Brooke's idea of the perfect man—attractive, charming, and fun to be around. But lately he's begun acting strangely, becoming possessive, controlling, and moody. Brooke feels she has no choice but to break up with him, but Christopher doesn't take it well. He drives her wildly back home and gets into a car accident. 

That's when Brooke first meets police officer Greg Stevens. After she keeps meeting him—at the worst possible times—they begin dating. Greg confesses he's a widower and that Brooke is the first woman he has so much as looked at in years. 

But as Brooke agonizes over whether Greg will ever be able to truly love her, Christopher makes a dangerous return into her life, deciding that if he can't have her, no one can.

The Man from Shenandoah by Marsha Ward

Regular Price: $2.99
SALE Price: $.99

Purchase on Amazon
Purchase on BN
Purchase on Kobo
Purchase on iTunes

When young cavalryman Carl Owen returns from the Civil War, he finds the family farm destroyed, his favorite brother dead, food scarce, and his father planning to leave the Shenandoah Valley to start a cattle operation in Colorado Territory.
But Pa does a bit more: he also chooses a suitable mate for both Carl and his younger brother, James.
With no one else in mind, Carl is agreeable to marrying the delightfully flirtatious Ida Hilbrands somewhere along the trail, but James is devastated. Ellen Bates isn't the girl he loves and must leave behind.
Making their way across the vast continent, the Owen family and their friends battle a prairie fire, internal strife, a band of vicious outlaws, and the land itself to try to achieve their goals, but before that can happen, the two brothers are fighting over the hand of one girl—and only one of them can win!

Dangerous Favor by Joyce DiPastena

Regular Price: $3.99
SALE Price: $.99

Mathilde needs a champion.

Her father has been accused of stealing from the king, an allegation that has reduced her family to poverty. She has one chance to find and marry a man who can help her prove her father's innocence. Lord Therri, heir to a rich barony, has the wealth and connections Mathilde needs to delve into the mysteries of her father's past. Furthermore, Therri embodies all her romantic dreams.

Etienne, the younger son of a disgraced family, has neither wealth nor connections, but is smitten with Mathilde at a glance. She finds the knight intriguing, but believes he is only out to seduce her. While she seeks for a way to win Therri's attention, Etienne tricks her into granting him her favor, an embroidered white ribbon, for a tournament, setting in motion a dangerous chain reaction of events. 

Can Etienne save Mathilde from a nightmare from her past and prove himself the true hero of her dreams?

With No Regrets by Julie N. Ford

Regular Price: $4.99
SALE Price: $.99


Living With No Regrets Is Harder Than It Seems

Finley isn’t exactly sure when her life began to feel unfamiliar. She suspects the transformation started long before she caught her husband and fellow garden club member doing the white-trash-two-step on her new Bernhardt sofa. Now free from the shackles of a loveless marriage, and with her children off to college, she’s finally able to go searching for the missing pieces of her heart.

Finley’s best friend, Cathyanne, is already working hard to ensure that Finley finds true love this time around. But when Finley is unwittingly tossed into the arms of two men—their sexy trainer and her neighbor, a popular country star—Cathyanne fears finding the right guy will be more complicated than she ever could have imagined.

For Finley, building a new life feels as impossible as flying a paper airplane to the moon. But maybe, just maybe, with the right help, she will find her whole heart—even if it’s in the very last place she thinks to look.

This Very Moment by Rachel Ann Nunes

Regular Price: 4.99
SALE Price: $.99 

A Compelling Story of Heartbreaking Loss, Inspiring Faith, and a Newfound Love Strong Enough to Heal All Wounds.

Bill Dubrey is a sought-after plastic surgeon for LA’s prestigious and wealthy, and an equally sought-after bachelor. On the surface it appears he has it all—money, respect, and fame. Yet behind his aloof exterior lurks a tragic past that prevents him from finding lasting happiness.

All that changes on the day Kylee Stewart reenters his life. She alone knows Bill’s secret agony, and she is determined to help him face his past. During the years they’ve been apart, Kylee’s own life has been far from easy, but unlike Bill, she has turned to God in her need, finding a faith to which she desperately clings.

The tentative friendship they begin has Bill rethinking his stark future, yet he keeps his heart in check—afraid to commit, afraid to lose again. During Kylee’s darkest moment, when she needs him most, will he be there for her? 

Shooting Stars by Philip Carroll

Regular Price: $3.99
SALE Price: FREE Sept 15- 19

Chuck McWilliams is fourteen years old and had just started high school in Washington State when his father lost his job and moved them to the hot, dry, valley of Central California. Starting his freshman hear six weeks after the rest of the students, Chuck is insecure about finding his way, making new friends and overcoming bullying from members of the cross country team. 

When he is invited to the Homecoming Dance by a strange girl in his English class, Kelsey Llewellyn, he can't think of any reason to say no. Later that day Dahlia Chand, an attractive girl on the cross country team, asks him to the dance, he wonders if he has made a mistake. 

How a secretive student, Doug Le Roux, avoids the notice of the rest of the students, yet stands out so clearly to Chuck makes him wonder if something extraordinary is going on at this high school. 

Chuck will become entwined in an ages old battle with werewolves, vampires and elves that most of humankind is unaware of in their midst. Remarkably, he will find the most enchanting magic comes from romance.

Ideal High by Valerie Ipson

Regular Price: $4.99
SALE Price: $1.99

There’s no way I’m taking Blake’s place as president of the student body. As soon as the memorial for him and six of our friends is over, I’m resigning as VP. Really.

Except people say the fire was no accident. (I say it’s way too easy to blame someone who’s dead.)

When I read the writing on the wall, literally, the bathroom wall, I know what it means. To get to the truth I have to come out from under my paisley comforter.

But, seriously, what stage of grief says I have to be the one to fix what’s wrong at Ideal High? Maybe I’m the one who’s broken.

First Love Second Choice by Lindzee Armstrong

Regular Price: $.99

When wedding planner Keslee gets asked on a date by her long-lost high school crush, Bryce, everything should be perfect. But Bryce mistakes Keslee for her deceased twin sister, Jadyn. And Keslee doesn’t correct him. Talk about awkward. To make matters worse, she learns they’ll be seeing a lot more of each other because Bryce is the marketing director at the venue where Keslee’s new client has chosen to get married. Keslee knows the charade can’t last much longer, and fears she’ll lose Bryce forever when she tells him the truth.

Emerine's Nightmare by Anna del C. Dye

Price: $2.99

What would you do if one night, life as you know it changes and you are left alone in despair? That is how Emerine’s nightmare starts and now all he does is run.

His family lived at the edge of the forest until dark shadows killed them all. Now they want him, and so does a magic tree. He has never seen dark shadows or enchanted trees before. Emerine has to get to the heart of Red Forest, to the fairy people. Only then he will be safe. Safe? He has never heard of fairies before and once he gets there what?

We have a fantastic line-up of great books that are on SALE! Everyone loves a sale, right?

Cassandra Jones by Tamara Hart Heiner

Regular Price: $3.99
SALE Price: FREE Sept 16-17

What's special about Cassandra? Absolutely nothing. She's as ordinary as any other fifth grader. And yet her ordinary life is riddled with hilarious and sometimes heart-breaking mishaps as she guides herself through the world of pre-teens on the brink of adulthood. 

Cassandra Jones is the new girl at school. She's been uprooted from her beloved state of Texas and relocated to the hillbilly Ozarks of Springdale, Arkansas. She wonders if she will like her teacher or if she will have any friends. She can only hope school won't be harder than it was back home. 

She doesn't expect to have two close friends, and even worse, two friends that don't like each other. As she tries to make a spot for herself, will she keep her friendships intact?