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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Graph of How my Free Giveaway of Ascendant is Going


This is a screen shot of the free Kindle downloads of ASCENDANT. I started running the offer this morning and by 6:30pm, there have been over 500 downloads of the book.

I had no idea there would be so many!

Now I realize that there is no way of knowing the percentage of downloads that will lead to reads, reviews, and purchases of the second book in the series, but I'm curious to see what happens as a result.

Here is a screen shot of the book ranking so far.



The promotion is scheduled to run through the weekend. I'll keep posting the results and how it's going.

Do you have experience with doing these Amazon promotions? I'd love to hear about your thoughts and outcomes.

Monday, December 28, 2015

This Year, I Let All The Way Go


I finished my first novel in 2008, seven years ago. And pretty much since 2008, I had been trying to have a book picked up by a traditional publisher.

2015 was the year I let that go.

I don't know exactly what changed, it may have been any number of both positive and negative experiences and realizations, but probably a combination of:
  • The horror of having my first YA book published by a now defunct microscopic independent press that didn't have any idea how to be a microscopic independent press (truly a horrible, but valuable, learning experience that I won't soon forget.)
  • Unexpectedly, and thankfully, getting the rights to ASCENDANT back at the beginning of 2015 (instead of waiting another year for the rights to revert) and republishing it my way--to great personal satisfaction that was largely unexpected.
  • Reading the writing (no joke intended) on the wall with regards to me and my now former agent. Which was basically that, while we connected on ASCENDANT, everything I sent her thereafter was sort of a "meh" for her. Not that she said it like that, but I've always thought a girl should be able to tell, and be honest with herself, when someone is "just not that into you." We parted extremely amicably, but I knew I was writing stuff that didn't excite her the way that first book had--it happens. Once we parted ways, I couldn't even begin to imagine starting all over. Querying agents? After already having one that wasn't able to sell your first book and didn't really like your others? That felt like trying to get back in the game after a divorce, five kids, and a mortgage to pay. Seriously, working harder and staying single (self-publishing) seemed to me the far more attractive, and constructive, use of my time. 
  • Realizing that no matter what all the publishing professionals tell you on their blogs and Twitter feeds, the terminal waiting of traditional publishing is ridiculous (seriously, you have never waited for anything, not even your baby to be born, like you wait on every step of traditional publishing. The terminal waiting is of course a direct result of an extreme excess of supply (i.e., writers with non contracted manuscripts waiting to be read) and a demand nearing zero. The exception? You are super important writer (lots of media buzz) or high dollar earning self published writer, and then everyone in publishing drops everything else and runs to woo you. In case you are wondering, MOST writers do not fit into either of these categories--sadly, not even the ones with a traditional publishing contract.)
  • The vagaries of what everyone in publishing THINKS they want--but, with the exception of the perennially successful and talented editors that seem to get to STILL EDIT BOOKS, most don't really have an articulated clue that doesn't vacillate wildly from week to week. Essentially, and they may not say it right out loud, I think it basically boils down to wanting the "sure thing" that "sells well." This is often called "just loving it." *shrugs* If you read a lot of books, your guess about what might sell well is probably just as good as theirs.
  • The time I spent working at an agency, lifting the curtain, and seeing the whole show first hand. This experience, while extremely valuable, I will equate to those that have become vegetarian after visiting a Tyson plant or a pig farm. Sausage is probably less palatable to anyone that has seen it being made. As a writer, this was probably the best and worst job to have ever taken because now I know the truth, and sadly, I also know the truth.
  • And the saddest truth? Sigh, good books, hell great books don't get picked up ALL THE TIME. It's not enough to be a talented writer with a good story. And weirdly, mediocre stuff does get championed and sold to publishers (even if it doesn't eventually sell well, or at all, to the public) and it all boils down to one gatekeeper's personal taste and the personal relationship that particular gatekeeper has with certain stakeholders in New York et al. Furthermore, most writers have NO IDEA what sort of relationships certain agents have with certain editors at certain houses. How could we? Agents and editors RARELY badmouth each other publicly, that would be unprofessional. But they definitely hold opinions about each other (both good and bad) that effect acquisitions. But the writer almost never knows...and yet these relationships, or lack thereof, impact the writer most of all. 
  • And finally, self-publishing is a lot of work. But what I've found is that in comparison to the quagmire of traditional publishing, for me anyway, self publishing is a constructive, forward moving, direct path that leads to the whole reason I want to write books in the first place--SO THAT READERS CAN READ THEM. Period. That is what I want. For readers to read and enjoy my books. And they do. Because my books now exist out in the world for people to read. Some readers buy them, some readers get them for free, but I'm writing books and connecting with readers because the link between the writer and reader (THE BOOK) is available instead of waiting in a pile of first level slush hoping to get championed and then shoveled into the second level pile of slush (where it may, but probably won't, get placed in the lineup to be pushed out the door in two-three years.)

So yeah, a few experiences coupled with epiphanies topped off with letting go and moving forward. Traditional publishing is absolutely a successful route for some writers.

Just not this writer. I've let all the way go.

Monday, December 21, 2015

I Have a Cover to Reveal, but....

I'm so excited! Finally I have a cover for my latest novel, Affective Needs.

But...I'm only showing it to my newsletter readers right now. Now before you moan, I have some good reasons for doing this:

  1. Early admit is something I've promised my newsletter subscribers. They always get to see things first.
  2. They can give me any early feedback they feel like sharing with me about the cover before I go PUBLIC with it. This is especially important to me this time out because...I made my own cover people. So believe me when I say, I want to know what they think FIRST. 
  3. I will have a little time to make any tweaks and changes before I go for the big reveal in January 2016. 

So, if you'd like to be one of the first to see my new cover and offer feedback, all you have to do is sign up for my mailchimp newsletter here.

When you sign up, I'll send you a free ebook of Ascendant.

(I only send out about one per month and I NEVER share your email address with anyone else.) 

I'm emailing the cover to all my readers tomorrow night at 7:00pm so make sure you're signed up before then. 

Keeping Sane While Saying "YES"

Well, it's Monday, the first day of the 2015 winter break--I almost thought I wouldn't make it this year. I wish the lead up into transition times weren't as crazy frantic as they always are, but they ALWAYS ARE. I used to think it was only me, that I lacked some fundamental skill that all others seemed to have--the ability to be all things to all people and mange all the things both at work and at home without feeling completely insane.

But I've had enough honest conversations with other educators/parents to realize I'm not specially deficient. We are all slightly losing our minds and our sense of self agency as we rush from one task to the next trying to prepare for a holiday apocalypse.  

There is always some comfort in knowing we are not alone.

For me, I've found that peace can be obtained. Here are my go to remedies:

  1. Lists (These have always brought me comfort and stop my brain from spinning)
  2. Surrendering, fully, into the most immediate task and focusing only on that one thing
  3. Shutting my bedroom door and lying down for 10 minutes while taking deep breaths
  4. Taking a time out to do something I enjoy (playing a game with my kids, watching a movie, taking a walk, etc)
Furthermore I also keep in the forefront of my addled brain that I am the ultimate creator of this over-scheduled life. Because I LIKE to be always moving and pushing and saying "Yes" I find myself:
  • Working full time in a VERY stressful field like school psychology 
  • Preparing to begin teaching MFA classes at Regis University this spring 
  • Contributing to and compiling an anthology of short stories with six other amazing writers to release this spring 
  • Writing, and editing, and managing the self publishing process for my new young adult novel to release next summer 
  • Trying like hell to also be a good mother, a loving wife.

Did I mention I'm also hosting Christmas dinner in a few days for 20+?

Which reminds me to add, "Clean the bathrooms" to my list!

And it's true that all those things make me spin, but they also all bring me so much joy and fullness. I want all of those experiences, all of those processes, all the end results and joys of digging in and completing things I love to do. I just happen to enjoying doing a MULTITUDE of various things.

My life it full, very, very full--and I'm grateful for every single second of it. Mostly I'm thankful that I'm able to keep up with the pace of it. To still say yes because when I step back from the minutiae of overwhelming details, and take a birds-eye, global view of my life, I see that I want all of it. And more importantly, I'm DOING all of it.

I'm trying.

Because for me, nothing is worse than that sick-knot of regret that develops from not allowing yourself to go for it.

  

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thankful 2015


As I prepare to drive myself, husband, and children up to Cheyenne, Wyoming to spend the day with tons of family and indulge in ALL THE FOODS, I want to take a minute to write down all that I am grateful for this year:
  • My children. They are amazing, and smart, and healthy, and kind, and challenging, and the reason I know the true measure of love.
  • My husband. He is loving, and smart, and healthy, and works hard every day to support this family and seems to love us all a great deal, even when we, collectively, are difficult.
  • My family. They are big, and messy, and kind, and supportive, and a safe place to land if and when you happen to fall down. 
  • My health. Because I experienced not having this, and ever since that time I now know it makes all the difference in the world. 
  • My home. It's safe, mostly clean most of the time, gathers together the people I love most in this world, and keeps us warm and sheltered from the rain and snow. 
  • My job. I get to work with dedicated teachers and staff who fight the good fight for the kids that probably need their efforts the most, and I get to be amazed by those kids and be a part of their lives and growth while also being able to be home with my own children at a reasonable time every night and during their breaks from school so that my "mommy guilt" is kept to a minimum. 
  • My writing. It's a never ending well of possibility that excites and exercises my love of creativity and desire to connect with people through the written word. 
This Thanksgiving, I am deeply grateful for my every blessing in this world, because the people and things I've listed, and so much more, are tremendous gifts that I get to have in my world every, single, day.

Many people in this world, too many, never or rarely get to even feel safe, warm, or well fed.

So I am exceedingly grateful--be very grateful.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Not at This Address


“This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don't consider it rejected. Consider that you've addressed it 'to the editor who can appreciate my work' and it has simply come back stamped 'Not at this address'. Just keep looking for the right address.”


Barbara Kingsolver

Monday, November 16, 2015

My Personal Rules About Critique


As some of you may know, this January I start teaching at Regis University's Mile High MFA program. Consequently, I've been thinking quite a bit about critique. Critique I've received, critique I've given, and critique yet to happen (sorry--holiday brain).

Specifically I've been thinking about how critique, no matter which direction it is flowing, can be stressful. 

Years ago, when I first started writing, the very thought of showing what I had written to another human being brought on spasms of anxiety. Writing was like, getting caught in the act of admission. My writing was personal, raw, and tethered tight to the roots of my identity. To share this type of writing, and subject it to critique, would be to cut open my darkest innards, spread them ugly and haphazard across a table while handing another person a knife to finish the job of judging and killing my soul--this was not the type of writing to be shared with others. Thankfully, even though I had no idea what I was doing at the time, I knew enough to sense that these words were only for me.

Later, when my writing moved past that need to examine only myself and my personal histories, I started working on my first novel. I remember not having any idea what I would do with such a thing, I certainly didn't entertain any ideas about publication, but I did feel that I would like to share the story with someone other than myself. I wanted to know if it was any good, if I was any good as a writer and a storyteller.

I joined my first critique group.

I will never, ever forget that drive, that first night I would ever dare to read my words out loud to a group of other writers. Pages carefully printed and stapled for each person rested on the passenger seat beside me, a nervous and excited thrill coursing through my entire system, the thoughts about turning the car around, driving home and making up a lie about a sick child, maybe a sick *cough* me. I wasn't just scared, I was exhilarated and terrified to read those ten pages. But somehow, I managed to make it all the way to the back tables of that now empty Borders Bookstore and steady my voice long enough to get through all ten pages so that, in the end, I got to hear a fellow critique partner whisper the words, "Wow, I wish I could do that."

Jubilation!

For the record, my critiques have not always been this positive, but I've always felt fortunate that my very first one was. It set the foundation for beginning to believe in myself as a writer.

After that first night, I collected all my printed pages back with every note and correction, drove home, turned on my computer, and made every single change that every person recommended. Even the ones that didn't make sense or contradicted other changes! And the next week, I excitedly went back with that first, now revised chapter, and we all read it again with the suggested changes. And again, my generous critique partners offered up more revision notes.

This went on a few more times before one of the more seasoned writers suggested I bring in chapter two for the next meeting. (sigh, we all must learn how to do this it seems)    

It's hard for me to believe that those nights were almost exactly ten years ago.

Anyway, I learned a ton from those amazingly generous and kind writers, and much more from the many, many writers I have had the pleasure of getting to know since those early days. Some of the biggest and most helpful epiphanies are ones that I will share with my students this January and they have to do with incorporating critique advice into your work.

When you put your early draft work out there and ask others to help you view it through a different lens from your own, you're going to get back a wide swath of suggestions and some of it, maybe much of it, will be in opposition to other feedback from other readers. If you get too hung up, like I did in those early days, trying to please everyone, it's likely that your story will actually end up worse, not better.

I found that it was easier for me to incorporate meaningful suggestions once I had established a few ground rules regarding critique:

1. Realize that critique is a tool that you can choose to use to make your writing better. But always remember, it might not be the right tool--and only you as the writer can know the difference.

2. Critique of your work is not personal if you don't let it be. Regardless of how it is delivered, and it should be delivered professionally, it is still up to you as the writer to accept this feedback gracefully.

3. You are not obligated to change anything in your book--but you should really, really consider what other people are saying.

4. If you have more than one person giving you the same or very similar feedback, you should probably REALLY listen to what they are saying and make changes.

5. When a reader says, "I think...," and you get a strong, almost deja vu like feeling--there is something this reader is telling you that you sorta already knew but hadn't quite put your finger on yet--you've hit the feedback jackpot. This is absolutely when I for sure make changes.

6. Many, many, many critique readers can identify the WHAT is not working but are unable to hand you a good HOW to fix it. So while their suggestions to "Engineer a fight scene!" may sound exciting to them, while not working AT ALL with the tone of your book, it doesn't mean that they got the WHAT IS WRONG, wrong. Don't get hung up on the pieces of advice that are a miss. Be objective and separate the useful from the not useful.

7. And finally, always, always, always, thank a reader for taking the time to not only read your work, but to think about it critically and offer feedback. This is incredibly time consuming for them, acknowledge them and be grateful that you have such excellent people in your life.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Being Friends with Other Writers

Friendship, Collaboration, Wine, and a Sefie Stick
Writing is a mostly lonely business. No question about it. There is an equation to writing that looks something like: time x solitude + quiet = words on page. For an introvert, which many writers are by nature, that solitude part can be a relief from our daily tornadoes of activity. For me, writing is my legitimate excuse to shut my door, tune everything out, and focus.

I suspect the solitude is much more difficult for the extroverted writer. (If you doubt this creature exists, I invite you to attend a writers' convention and watch the lobby bar for signs of existence. Usually they are standing and holding court in the center of other introverted writers that are drawn to their spectacular energy and oration skills like moths to a flame).

In either case, introvert or extrovert, the requirements of being a writer, one that actually does the physical writing part of being a writer, can leave you feeling a little like the lone inhabitant of your own private writing island.

Mostly, this is great--so much writing gets done on the island! But sometimes, even the introverted writer needs some company.

For me, developing and nurturing reciprocally supportive relationships with other writers has been a huge benefit.

Huge!

These people as a collective have so much information. It's through my writer friends that I've learned about techniques, events, opportunities, the list goes on and on. Furthermore, I've had the pleasure of sharing my ideas, my knowledge, and the joy of engaging in crazy town conversations about characters, plot, and settings no other people in my day to day existence could possibly tolerate.  

Starting these relationships can be hard, especially for introverts, but there are so many places and opportunities for these friendships to take root. Maybe it's through your critique group, or social media. Maybe it's attending writer's conferences and offering to volunteer, or simply striking up conversations. No matter how these relationships with other writers begin, it's important to fan them a little and help them grow. Getting to know and sustaining genuine relationships with other writers is enormously beneficial to your continued, and rapid, growth toward improving your skills.

At first, it can feel hard and awkward. I know this. But keep showing up, keep reaching out organically by attending events, shaking hands, contributing to the conversations that surround the writing community. The friendships that develop will bring you a unique joy because it exists between two people, or a group, that share a passion for an activity most people in your day to day life cannot fully understand.

Writing.

   

   

Saturday, October 31, 2015

A Thought: Teen Characters That Are Unlikable

Click here to read the entire The Wall Street Journal article

I'm often in defense of "unlikable characters" in books. I think they are the most interesting especially if the author has done a great job at rounding out a bit about why this person has so many fatal character flaws while handing us a fictional mirror to hold up to ourselves--simply brilliant. 

I am especially drawn to the young adult book that is willing, and unafraid, to show those characters engaged in a realistic struggle of identity formation. 

As a school psychologist and mother of two, I love writing for and working with teens. I feel that part of that passion stems from the fact that I fully acknowledge they are in the middle of a sometimes volcanic developmental period that frequently manifests into some not very "likable" character traits. To deny this and not represent this struggle as reflected in some teen characters in literature is to pretend that they are only physically younger adults (albeit much, much cooler and better dressed adults) but still in possession of all the wisdom gained of a life already lived. How much more powerful is the YA book that makes the discovery of that character development with teen readers instead of assuming they already know they shouldn't respond to conflict by acting like jerks?

Friday, October 30, 2015

Are You a One Book Wonder?


So I recently received a question from a reader and they graciously gave me permission to answer it on my blog. If you missed it, you can go back and read the previous post here. Beyond their main question, there were actually several other thoughts that popped into my head and here I'm addressing the next one on my list.

Are you a one book wonder?

The reader shared with me that they had written one book and that they've been trying to find an agent for that book for the last two years without any response other than rejection.

Two years.

Now I realize that there are many stories out there about writers querying 90 agents, and they were about to give up, but then, gosh darn if it wasn't agent number 91 that said, "Yes!"

What an exciting, exhilarating, hopeful, writer's tale that is. It would be fantastic if could be every writer's experience...but it's not. I would love to see some data on this, but all I know are the hundreds of stories I've read and heard from writers willing to share their stories from the publishing trenches. As a collective they essentially boil down to this, most first books never go anywhere.

That's not to say that first books NEVER get picked up, because they certainly do.

But if it is highly unlikely, and you really want this plague of a writer's life, then you need to keep writing instead of waiting. Send that first book out, and send it out, and send it out, rinse, repeat, revise, rewrite, send it out. But don't get stuck there. Don't put all you writer hopes and dreams into that first book.

Move on to something else and move on quick because the publishing universe is a black hole in which you're going to mostly send out ships never to be heard or seen from again. If you're wasting your precious time hoping and praying for a signal from that void, you're not doing the one thing that will help get you closer to eventually hearing, "Yes, yes send me your book." You're not working at getting better at writing.

It's one thing to send a book out to agents for two years.

It's another thing entirely to put all your forward progression on hold while you stand frozen hoping that what you've already done will be enough.

Because it almost never is.
Keep writing.     

Thursday, October 29, 2015

In Case You Ever Need an Anthem

Writing is hard. Life too. In fact sometimes it's so hard you might require the assistance of an anthem to pick yourself back up--here you go. 




Write on my friends. Write on.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Writer Question: "Should I give up trying to traditionally publish?"

Rebecca at the Nagle Warren Mansion in Cheyenne Wyoming

Question in my email: Should I give up trying to traditionally publish?

Dear Rebecca,

I hope you don't mind me writing to you. If you can't respond I understand, but it seems to me like you've encountered a similar experience to mine and I was wondering if you would mind giving a little advice? I'm a writer with a completed manuscript, historical romance, and I've been trying to find an agent for over two years. As you can probably guess I've received nothing but rejections. I really want to publish my book, but I have completely lost hope that it will ever happen. I am now wondering if I should consider self-publishing but I know that it is a lot of work and it is unlikely my book will sell many copies without a big publisher marketing it for me. I would really appreciate any advice and/or thoughts you have about this.

Sincerely,

On The Fence


Dear On The Fence,

Thank you for writing and giving permission for me to re-post your question here, anonymously of course. I hope all my readers know they can always shoot me an email--I do my best to always answer.

About your question, I have so many thoughts about so many things you've shared, I feel like I could probably write five blog posts addressing each one (I think I will do exactly that!). However, your main question was, "Should I give up trying to traditionally publish?"

When I read this, I got the same feeling I always get when I'm sitting in a meeting with a parent whose child has just been diagnosed with x, y, or z. Usually they have already worked through a course of action to take, but every now and again one will ask me, "Do you think I should medicate my child?"

These are, obviously, two very different scenarios but the emotion they elicit in me as the "advisor" is the same--extreme caution and the desire to choose my next words carefully.

Here is what I will say: It's a very personal choice and one you should not make lightly or on a whim. Weigh the pros and cons, because when it comes to self-publishing, there are many on either side. And I would further caution that you not only think about the extreme success stories that receive regular press coverage and earn half a million dollars a year (and surely you realize that I am not one of these stories) because, much like traditional publishing, the ocean is mostly filled with all the small fish with names you have never, ever, nor will you ever, hear of.

Basically, if you are hoping for a get rich, famous, and retire quick escape route, self-publishing is very unlikely to be it.

However, if you really love your book, and you have it on reliable authority that your book can probably find a audience out there that would appreciate and enjoy it, AND you are willing and able to learn about self-publishing, AND you end up, like me, quite enjoying all the many processes required to deliver a manuscript to a public audience in a tidy book format--then I would say you should definitely maybe consider self-publishing.

But!

If in your heart of hearts, what you REALLY want is the gold star standard VALIDATION that you believe comes with being accepted by an agent and then a traditional publisher...well, in that case I would say you should honor that need and continue to try and find an agent OR, put this book away and start another book armed with all the lessons I'm certain that first book taught you.




  




Monday, August 24, 2015

In Pursuit of a Creative Life


I love watching Project Runway, but if you saw me in real life on most days, you would realize that I don't really care about fashion. What I love about that show is being able to watch people take raw material and create something new. The drama and pressure of challenges that result in sometimes stunning conceptions, executions, and final products is what keeps me running home on Thursday evenings to tune in year after year.

It's about watching creative people live a creative life--and many of the struggles that creative desire brings. Whether we are drawn to write, sew, paint, sing, act, dance, carve, name your art, often there is a great personal struggle involved in doing these things. Both internal and external.

Here are just a few reasons why we either don't start or stop creating:

Having time
Having a place
Quieting the critic in our own head
Quieting the critic in your own house
Persevering through the "beginner stage"
No monetary pay off for time invested
No professional validation has ever been extended

Oftentimes, the struggles overwhelm the desire to create and can snuff it out all together. Or more likely, cause us to shove that desire down, deep down into a place inside us where it will maybe fester and possibly make us very unhappy people. (I often wonder if some of our harshest, most cynical critics have unpursued creative inclinations of their own.)

Recently, Project Runway has been airing an AARP commercial with Tim Gunn and a gentleman named Chris Donovan. Chris was the winner of a contest sponsored by AARP and Lifetime. He received critical feedback from Tim Gunn for his shoe designs. You can see some of Chris's work here. In the commercial, we see Chris and Tim examining some of the unique shoes Chris has designed. In the ad, Chris explains how he has worked at a phone company for most of his life, then at 55 he quit his day job to pursue his creative passion--shoe design.

Now if you are thinking, "Well, I can't quit my day job to pursue xyz. I have a family to support!" I hear you, I can't quit my day job either. Even if I could I'm not sure I would because, even though it is at times ridiculously stressful, I happen to really enjoy my career in education. My point is not that Chris took a risk and jumped from his day job and into his passion (that's really fodder for an entirely different blog post) it's that Chris is actively pursuing his creative life despite not experiencing creative success or recognition until later in life (thank you to the AARP and Lifetime for pointing out that as-of-yet-unrealized-dreams don't have to die at 29, ahem.)

Let's face it, most of us will always struggle with those internal and external barriers between us and our work, whatever our individual media may be. I believe that if we find personal joy, fulfillment, and a meaningful challenge in working through our creations, finding the time, finding the place, finding the self confidence to face the blank canvas is totally worth more than any monetary pay off you may never see from commercial success.

If we hold our center to be the act of creation, our creative life is about the active engagement with our media. That is where the real joy resides. The outcomes (acceptance or rejection) elicit emotions of their own, but in an ideal creative existence, should not interfere with the joy found in the original process of building our works.        




Sunday, August 23, 2015

A.G. Henley, The Gatherer

http://www.amazon.com/Gatherer-Brilliant-Darkness-Story-ebook/dp/B0134GW6SU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1440335320&sr=8-1&keywords=the+gatherer

A.G. Henley is one of the authors (along with myself) who will be contributing to a young adult anthology of short stories next spring. But right now, she has a new young adult novella out! Please check it out.
 
THE GATHERER: A BRILLIANT DARKNESS STORY

Alev is proud to be a Fire Sister, one of a fierce group of women who live in a flaming mountain compound called the Cloister. The Sisters live without men, so Alev Gathers young girls to replenish their numbers. After she plucks young Kaiya from the remote village of Koolkuna, the girl’s father follows them into the wilderness. Alev keeps him at bay, but over time she suspects that this man, at least, isn’t the monster she was taught all men are.

When Kaiya's father manages to reach the Cloister, the Sisters want to put him to death. Alev can look the other way, or she can heed the growing whispers of her heart to help the girl and her father escape. But to defy the Fire Sisters is to revoke the only life and family Alev has ever known—and to face certain death herself.

THE GATHERER is an exciting 50-page prequel novella in the young adult fantasy Brilliant Darkness series. The first novel, THE SCOURGE, was a finalist for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Award. Two novels and two short stories are currently available. The final novel in the series, THE FIRE SISTERS, releases September 25, 2015.

Recommended series reading order:
THE SCOURGE
THE KEEPER: A BRILLIANT DARKNESS STORY
THE DEFIANCE
THE GATHERER: A BRILLIANT DARKNESS STORY
THE FIRE SISTERS (coming September 2015)

______________________________
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Goodreads Book Giveaway

Midheaven by Rebecca  Taylor

Midheaven

by Rebecca Taylor

Giveaway ends September 15, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Friday, July 17, 2015

Goodreads Giveaway--Midheaven

I'm running a Goodreads Giveaway for Midheaven.

There are two signed copies and it is open to international entrants!

Click here:


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Midheaven by Rebecca  Taylor

Midheaven

by Rebecca Taylor

Giveaway ends September 15, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Wattpad and Harlequin Teaming Up For "So You Think You Can Write" Contest

https://a.wattpad.com/image/harlequin.jpg 

So I just received a message from Gav at Wattpad announcing that Wattpad and Harlequin are teaming up for the next "So You Think You Can Write" Contest. The winner will be eligible for a two book contract with Harlequin (I'm sure there are many rules, so read ALL the fine print carefully!) 

The submission time is from July 2, 2015 through September 21, 2015 so if you are interested, you can learn more here. I love Wattpad and Harlequin but, as with any contest, make sure you know what you are getting into (i.e, READ ALL THE RULES) and know what your rights are before entering (because what if you win?!)

Good Luck!!



Monday, July 6, 2015

Publishing Question: Should I Use Wattpad?

"Hello Rebecca,

Thanks for your offer to help me out with Wattpad! My first novel, xxxxxxxxxxxx is in it's (hopefully) final stages of drafting/editing/ and polishing and I was wondering if posting a chapter or two on Wattpad would be helpful.

I'm honestly not sure what kind of publishing route I'm hoping to take with this book, but I know a lot of agents and small publishing houses won't take submissions that are published elsewhere.

Any advice or suggestions would be helpful. I'm really new to all of this and there is so much conflicting information out there on the subject.
"

Hi xxxxxx!
So great to hear from you. So, if you think you will want to approach traditional publishing, I would NOT put your work up on Wattpad first. While I realize that there are the “Wattpad Winners” out there that have landed a pub contract after gaining millions of reads, this is FAR from the norm and highly unlikely. I would query agents first and exhaust that route (assuming you want trad pub); then small press (if that would also suffice); and THEN consider Wattpad if you think you would like to self publish.

The problem is that many agents won’t even look at something that has been “already published” on Wattpad. Not all, for sure, but you’re going to limit your potential agent pool and also never really be sure exactly which ones do and don’t frown on this sort of thing. It should be said that of course some [agents] troll Wattpad for material, but really, not many.

If you have exhausted yourself on the traditional road and/or decide to self publish anyway, Wattpad can be a useful tool for building a reading audience (all the while realizing that these readers do not necessarily translate into “sales” but some of them can if you release your book in a serial way (i.e., one chapter per week with links to buy options for those that don’t want to wait for the updates) and engage with readers in the comments (something I’m trying to get better at :-)

Furthermore, I’m not really sure how much the “sample chapter” approach works for a one off title with no pre-existing audience. I know some of the larger publishers have tried it with some of their writers, but these writers have an existing fan base. You have to consider that the Wattpad audience are readers looking for free books, not necessarily free chapters of books they will have to buy to finish. Unless they already love your published work, you’re not likely to build up much of a following with only a couple chapters.

So in your specific case, I would not put a book up on Wattpad that you are hoping to find an agent/traditional publisher for. However, if you have anything else, maybe some shorter works that you won’t ever try to traditionally publish, those could help you build an audience without jeopardizing your chances with the big boys for your completed book.

Long winded enough? :-)

Great to hear from you!

Best,

Rebecca

(Do you have a writing, reading, or publishing question you'd like me to answer? If so, email me at rebecca (at) rrtaylor (dot) com. I'll only post it here, anonymously, with your permission.)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Reader Question: Why Do I Write?

I have an active relationship with my readers and try to respond to every one of their questions and comments about my books and/or writing in general. One of the most recent that a subscriber to my mailing list asked was: "Why do you write?"

I think there must be a ton of reasons why people gravitate towards writing books. There are also all sorts of judgments that get placed on those reasons, as if some reasons could be more worthy than others. But here are mine, starting with why I don't. 

I don't write because I hope to be famous some day...because I honestly think that being famous must suck--seriously suck. I'm a pretty private person. I realize this might seem like a contradiction to my actions seeing as I do more than the average person when it comes to putting myself out there for the public to see (teaching, signings, facebook, twitter, blogs, wattpad, goodreads, mailing list) but if you want anyone to read your books, and I do, these are really the essentials unless you're a well known writer with a huge fan base buying your books shelved in the giant box stores (and, um...I'm not.) So while I do quite a bit on social media, I'm still in the real world showing up at Target looking like I'm on my way to or from the gym. Who wants to be recognized while looking like that?

I don't write because I hope to be rich some day. Now I do think being rich would have some amazing side effects on my life (I would travel all the time and everywhere) but I'm smart enough to realize that this is a highly unlikely thing to ever happen. And yet, I write anyway.

I don't write because I hope to feel more important or more accomplished...seriously. I have enough responsibility between being a parent and working in special education to ever doubt myself in those arenas. Furthermore, once you realize how many people HAVE written a book, or multiple books even, this particular milestone starts to feel a little, "me too!"

So, it's not about being rich, famous, or important. What is it? Because I spend a ridiculous amount of time pursuing a writing career for these things to not matter.

I write because I enjoy it. I enjoy thinking up characters, settings, conflicts, and then working to piece them all together--like a puzzle really.

I also write because I have always been a huge readers--I LOVE BOOKS. I love the experiences I have with other writers through their work. I have cherished being on the receiving end of those experiences and I want to be on the giving side as well. I swear to all that is holy, when I read a comment, email, or review that says something like, "OMG, I loved this book!" my heart melts. Not because I think it means I'm an extra special writer (because I'm not) but because the book I thought of, created, and sent out into the world gave another reader an experience that they treasured.

The same experience that I'm always hunting for as a reader.

That is why I write.

Do you have any questions for me? Send them to: rebecca (at) rrtaylor (dot) com or just put them in the comment section below.

Are you on my mailing list yet? I give away a free copy of Ascendant to every person that signs up. You will be entered in my gift card giveaways every month and will be among the first to know when I have a new book, event, or special going on. Sign up here No spam, EVER. Spam is evil.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

It's Here--Midheaven is on Sale

That's right! Finally you can get book 2 in the Ascendant Trilogy.


It's officially on sale in Kindle and Nook at Amazon, Amazon UK, and Barnes and Noble, just click your preferred link above.

For my paperback lovers, that's going to take just a weee bit longer (uploading files, and getting proofs takes more time) but I'm thinking those will probably be available next week.

All my newsletter subscribers found out yesterday. If you would like to be "in the know" you can sign up here .

Happy reading!

Hugs,

Rebecca

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Giveaway: $25.00 Amazon or B&N


In celebration of Midheaven's imminent release, I'm doing a giveaway for all my newsletter subscribers this Sunday, June 14th.

Two lucky winners will receive...

  •  A 25.00 gift card to either Amazon or B&N (winner's choice)
  • Signed copies of both Ascendant and Midheaven
So YES, free things (I do so love free things ;-)

Entry is sooooo simple, just sign up for my newsletter below (We value your privacy and would never spam you--I swear.) And if you're already a subscriber, then you're already entered in this giveaway and every other giveaway I ever do for ETERNITY (unless you unsubscribe, of course.)


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Friday, June 5, 2015

Cover Reveal--Midheaven

It's almost here! (and by "it" I mean MIDHEAVEN!!)

Yes, finally, finally I have had days of uninterrupted work, work, work and I expect all the "buy" buttons to be up and ready by the end of next week.

I can hardly believe it.

So I can now share the gorgeous cover for the second book in the Ascendant trilogy.






I lurv my cover designer--seriously. This is our 4th cover together and we have the BEST working relationship. Lucky writer girl.

Oh, and here's the back copy:
As Above, So Below


As the direct descendant of Francis Bacon (aka Shakespeare) Charlotte is the next Ascendant. She is destined to teach mankind the secret mysteries of alchemy.


If only she knew what those were.

With her father’s stone box, and her mother’s first key, Charlotte will quest around the world to solve the puzzle and reveal its secret.


Unless Emerick gets her first.  

Short, sweet, to the point. I will let you know as soon as it's available for purchase.

Of course, my newsletter subscribers will know first, so please don't forget to sign up. I'll even make it easy for you, you can do it right here!

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Saturday, May 30, 2015

What I'm Writing This Summer


It's SUMMER.

Which for me means I GET TO BE A FULL TIME WRITER FOR 11 WEEKS!

Sorry, I just get a bit excited about this.

I love my work as a psychologist, and I'm good at my job, but I love working as a writer as well. Reconciling these two careers, as in TIME, can be challenging. Not impossible, clearly, because I DO IT. But I always love when this time of year arrives because I don't have to try and balance two roads--I erect a road block in my brain for my day job and drive one hundred and twenty miles an hour down Writer Road.

It's pretty awesome :-)

Thursday night I was meeting with one of my two book club groups and I was asked, "So, now you have all this time, what are you working on now?"

Now usually, summer is the time for me to knock out most of the first draft of a book. And, I have three solid new book ideas that I am DYING to get started on. I love them all--seriously.

However, I am not allowed to even glance in their direction until a few other things happen first. What are those things? Basically, I have to clean up after my other projects.

1. Finish laying out Midheaven and kick that baby out of the fricken nest (like within the next week)

2. Get the print version of The Exquisite and Immaculate Grace of Carmen Espinoza set up in InDesign and uploaded to Lighting Source (by the end of June) so the physical book can be ready for purchase

3. Finish edits for Affective Needs and decide what is the right thing to do with this book (a few editors are quietly considering this title--we are VERY hopeful about this but also not holding our breath--so we'll see) 

I have promised myself, nothing new until all of these things are squared away. This is soooo hard because I LOVE starting new projects--very exciting times!--but this also gives me a huge motivation for shoring up these loose ends.

And I now have ALL THE TIME--we are delirious with joy.

I'll keep you posted so you know when Midheaven is ready but, I'm still really trying to grow my newsletter audience. So, if you'd like to get an email as soon as the book is ready to buy, please sign up for my MailChimp list (top of the right side bar--------->>>>>>^^^^^^^^^) Thanks!

As an incentive, I will be running a 25.00 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card giveaway next week (winner's choice) only for my newsletter subscribers--so if you like book money, sign up!


Sunday, March 8, 2015

Share Your Short Story With My Readers

Would you like to share your short story with my readers?

Starting this week, I am looking for short stories to share with the amazing, supportive, book loving, subscribers of my newsletter. I will select one story per week that will be delivered on Saturday. Here's the deal:

  • Preferably Young Adult
  • Preferably less than 1000 words (although I'm flexible with word count)
  • Submit only one story (or book excerpt) per week
  • Deadline is Thursday at midnight
If you're interested, send your story as a Word doc (attachments are fine) to:

Rebecca (at) rrtaylor (dot) com with "Short Story" in the subject line. Please be sure to include your author name and any of your social media links that you would like included.

If this works out, I will be sending out one selected story per week every Saturday. 

Love to read fresh and entertaining stories for free? Not a subscriber yet? No problem! We can take care of that here. (never, ever, ever spam--because spam sucks!)


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On SALE

Also! The Exquisite and Immaculate Grace of Carmen Espinoza is only .99 cents--This week only :-)
Get your copy here.
http://www.amazon.com/Exquisite-Immaculate-Grace-Carmen-Espinoza-ebook/dp/B00KGO52D0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1425870003&sr=8-1&keywords=carmen+espinoza

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Reedsy--Connecting Indie Writers and Freelance Publishing Professionals


Hiring freelance editing and design services can be a huge stress for many self-publishing authors. 

Many indie authors I know (including myself) are really struggling to find quality freelance editors and designers that are within their budget. Usually we hear about someone from someone else, and we might eventually track this person down and try to communicate our basic needs while hoping we aren't going to be completely taken advantage of by an "editor" who is not really that great of an "editor" in the first place.

Never mind the fact that when hiring contract work of any kind, you really should be getting multiple quotes from a variety of professionals--are you kidding? Do you know how hard it was for me to just find and contact ONE freelance editor?

My thoughts on the matter were this, "Wouldn't it be great if it was easier to find and hire good editorial help? Something like Angie's List...yes, that's it I think. Is there something out there, a connecting place where independent writers could research, connect with, and possibly hire an editor that was great instead of floundering around in the dark relying on personal recommendations from other writers?"

Sometimes when I ask, the Universe answers right away. Seriously, within hours of me thinking about this problem I received an email from Thomas du Plessis. Thomas is in charge of publishing, marketing, and communications at Reedsy.

Right away Reedsy had my attention. First off, because I had just been wondering if there was a service like this on the market, and second, the business model looked like it was actually designed to help indie authors, not take advantage of them.

So what is Reedsy?

In a nutshell, Reedsy is a curated marketplace where authors can go to shop for industry professionals. Right now their listings are for editors and cover designers.

Editing services include:
  • Content Editing
  • Copy Editing
  • Editorial Assessment
  • Proofreading

Design services include:
  • Interior Design
  • Cover Design
  • Illustration
  • Typographers
What is a curated marketplace? Ricardo Fayet, co-founder of Reedsy along with Emmanuel Nataf, explains in an interview on the Triskele Books Blog that, as of September 2014, they had received approximately 3000 applications from freelance editors, proofreaders, and designers--as of January 2015 they had accepted only 200 to be included on their site.

"The broad vision behind Reedsy is to invent a publishing model that combines the quality of traditional publishing while keeping the freedom and business model of self-publishing." 

Basically, not just any "publishing professional" can be included. Freelancers apply to be listed on the site and those applications are reviewed. Each professional includes examples of work they've done in the past. Many, if not most, of the current freelancers listed have extensive experience in traditional publishing.

What does this mean for the already spread thin indie author? Basically Reedsy can serve as a one-stop shop for editing and design in a simple to navigate platform. Even I was able to figure it out without getting stressed! :-)

How does it work? First you set up a basic profile for yourself.

Next, you can browse the marketplace by filtering for what you are looking for (editorial or design) and you can tighten that filter further by selecting the specific type of editing/design you need as well as genre (freelancers that have more experience in working with romance, sci-fi, YA--you get the idea.)

Then, select up to five professionals you're interested in possibly working with and request a quote from them.

The entire process is handled within the site's platform and it was seriously one of the easiest I have yet to encounter in all my self-publishing endeavors.

I tried the site myself and requested quotes from three editors for copy editing services. Within twenty-four hours I had two professional quotes with free examples of their work based on the small writing sample I had uploaded. As of writing this post, I have yet to hear from the third editor, but because I had set the quote deadline for next week, he still has time. 

How much does it cost? Reedsy charges the freelancers 10% of the freelancer/author agreed upon rate. There are no other costs for using the service at this time.

So what were the quotes I've received thus far? The first quote came in at $1600.00 for a 100,000 word manuscript. The second quote suggested that I didn't need full copy editing (which is more expensive) but rather proofreading--their cost for this came in at 500.00. I'm still waiting for the third. Both quotes also provided me with a time frame for being able to start and complete the project based on their current workloads/schedules.

Honestly, if you're looking to self-publish and don't already have an experienced team of editing and design professionals that you love working with, Reedsy might be a good place to start looking for them. 


Friday, February 20, 2015

5 Reasons I'll Be Self Publishing Ascendant

Question from my inbox:

Becky, now that Crescent Moon Press has folded, will you be trying to find another publisher to take over the Ascendant trilogy?

Several of the authors who were with CMP are now looking for other publishers to take over their now homeless titles. I'm sure many of them will be successful in cooperating with another small press, but most medium and large publishers won't pick up an already published title unless it has a very impressive resume (huge sales, awards, bestseller lists, etc) Over the past couple of years, I've learned a lot about working with a small press. My biggest personal take away is this: If you are willing to learn about self publishing (and because of technology, it is becoming easier to access this learning every day) there is almost zero advantage to teaming with a tiny publishing house unless they can do at least one of two things.

1. Distribute your title into retail stores
2. Work to successfully market your title to a large audience 

Most small presses don't do either of these (of course, there are always exceptions :-)

When you sign with a tiny house, you are handing over the control of your work. This is clearly a worthwhile trade off when working with medium to large publishers that are bringing benefits to the table (distribution, professional editing, professional interior design, professional book cover design) but if that small house produces a product that simply looks like some of the less professional self-published titles--really what's the point?

In my particular case, ASCENDANT is not a title that would interest a medium to large house. The sales are abysmal and it doesn't have any idea what a bestseller list even is. Furthermore, for those of you who don't know the history, ASCENDANT has already been submitted to all the medium and large presses back when my agent was originally trying to sell it in 2011.

I may have my faults, but I know a brick wall when I see it--I get it.
  
I have been learning quite a lot about self-publishing over the last few years and I think that is the next best step for me, my books, and my writing career.

Here are 5 talking points (based on my experience with CMP) about why I won't be knocking on any more small press doors.

1. The editing wasn't really editing. CMP outsourced to volunteer editors who knew even less about editing than I did at the time. Consequently, this is an area of writing that I have been studying and working hard on. To be frank, editing is not a skill that comes naturally to me. I've had to learn. Regardless of what happens in my publishing future, I want to always be growing in all my writing skills--especially editing. 

2. The Marketing consisted of putting my book on their CMP site and on their Facebook page. While I am grateful for whatever exposure that gained my title, neither source attracted an audience much beyond other CMP authors and writers who were thinking of submitting to CMP. Most small presses do not have the distribution relationships in place to get your book into the major bookselling stores. Furthermore, because many of them use Lightning Source for print copies (I still use LS for my own printing needs) the cost of producing one off POD books is too high for them to offer the typical discounts expected by many retailers. 

3. I'm just going to say it--the interior layout of ASCENDANT was terrible. Because I gave CMP control over my book, I lost the power to fix that. I am not an InDesign expert, but I can lay out the interior of a typical print book so that it looks just like a traditional print book with regards to font, spacing, and trim size.

4. When there was a BIG problem with my book (the version they initially printed was the initial draft) I had to fight hard to get it fixed. If I had control over the work, I could have taken the title down immediately and corrected the issue. Because I had to first make a case, and then fix the problem myself anyway, the process took months. (Lesson I Learned: YOU are that last stop on the quality control track. Never, ever assume that just because you are working with a publisher someone else is going to care as much as you about catching errors. Everything is easier to fix BEFORE you give your final okay so, regardless of how sick to death you are of looking at your own book--LOOK AGAIN...and again :-)

5. Since I signed with CMP, I've grown in my specific skills as well as emotionally. Looking back, I can see that one of the biggest reasons I signed with CMP was the solace of being under someone's umbrella. Because someone else said they wanted my book for their list, it gave me some much needed confidence to start believing in myself as a writer. This wasn't a bad thing--it was just a false thing. Signing with them didn't make me any better or worse of a writer. My skills rise or fall from my own efforts. Once I realized that, honestly, no one really stands with you except for the readers that enjoy your work, I began to feel that there really wasn't any benefit to working with a small press over doing it all myself. (Disclaimer: Please remember, this is based on my own personal experience working with one particular small press. Not all small presses operate this way. I've heard of some writers who have had, and continue to have, excellent working and professional relationships with their small press.)

So is it scary to self-publish my books? Hell yes! But I finally realize that publishing is scary no matter how you go about it. When all is said and done, it's my name on the book regardless of how it got there. I'm the one that takes the heat if a reader finds fault. And I will. But if I'm accepting responsibility for the entire package, I will now be calling all the shots.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

When You No Longer Care Who's Watching--The Freedom to Say What You Want


For a while, I've been afraid of blogging. I'll come back to why in a moment, but first, a moment of self reflection.

Over this past week, I've noticed a subtle shift in my thoughts and emotions with regards to communicating in a public space. Suddenly there are ideas for blog posts, and topics for debate, and questions, so many questions circulating through my brain. Topics I would have shied away from in the past now have me thinking, "Yeah, I'd like to write about that."

Overall I'd say I'm feeling a wee bit bolder.

Why?

A couple of months ago, I deleted a particular blog post from my archive. It wasn't an earth quaking post created in hopes of shaking traditional publishing off its high horse and onto its delicate knees, it was a simple post, from two years ago, about my summer.

And it was a post that had a high rate of incoming traffic from New York.

This is the place where we pull back the curtain and take a peek at Becky's sometimes paranoid mind. 

This post was titled something like: Why you should be forcing yourself to write, and it detailed all the many ways I had been wasting precious time that summer not writing and being as productive as I possibly could. It was one of my more popular posts, probably because so many other writers could relate, and thus, it popped up pretty high on the results page if someone, say from New York, happened to Google: Rebecca Taylor Writer.

Here was my paranoia: What if all those New York hits were actually editors checking me out. AND, what if that blog post, that makes me sound like I lie around a pool all day watching Netflix and drinking wine, was my only shot at nailing that precious first impression and I was basically screwing myself by trying to be flip and funny while referencing some of my many, highly human flaws?

Basically my fear was this, what if editors were reading that post and then deciding, "Ugh, I'm not going to be able to count on her to produce on a deadline because, look, she says right here, on her own blog, she procrastinated. No thanks--Reject." **see below

Paranoid much Becky? Maybe.

Because here's the thing, editors and agents DO check you out online if they're interested in working with you. And if you have anything, ANYTHING, up that makes you seem like you might be even potentially flaky, chances are they're not going to want to take a chance on you. Especially if they were on the fence about your work to begin with!

So, being afraid I was making a hugely wrong impression by trying to be honest and funny and relatable--I took the post down. Because, at the time, I wanted to be a traditionally published author more than I wanted to be myself.

Yes--I know it's sad.  

The result of all that muddy, worried thinking was that I became hugely terrified of blogging about almost anything. What would THEY think should THEY come looking? What opinions about me would they form? How could I strike the perfect balance of professional, hard working, and reliable? Maybe I should post something positive about one of the big YA pros? What hasn't yet been said about John Green? Should I be deferential? More book reviews? Interviews with other authors? What would let an editor know without a doubt that I'm IN IT?

What about a picture of me in a gray Calvin Klein skirt suit sitting in a cubicle with my hands glued to a keyboard? 

Sigh. 

I pressured myself so much I didn't end up blogging about anything, which I rationalized as being okay because everyone reads Tumblr now and I sort of hate Tumblr and thus I have already lost this social media race anyway and blah, blah, blah.

The truth is, I quite enjoy blogging--when I give myself permission to say whatever I feel like saying.

So the unexpected side effect of getting off the Yellow Bricked Road of Sadness, is that I feel bolder. Suddenly, I'm not at all worried about someone looking over my shoulder and making a snap judgement about who I am as a writer, a person, or a potential "stabled author" because of thoughts and opinions I decided to share. Because I'm no longer trying to get there, I don't care about how my opinions may or may not be impacting my admission into the Land of Publishing Oz.

It's like Dorthy has stepped off the path, yanked a monkey out of the air, and decided to ride the winged beast all the way back to Kansas on her own. After all, as all storytellers know, Dorthy never really needed to get to Oz in the first place, she already had everything she ever needed, right there at home.

**To be clear, I'm not implying the reason I was never able to publish with a traditional publisher had anything much to do with my blog--the reasons have much more to do with my work, timing, the market, and personal tastes than my social media presence. (or lack thereof)