Friday, December 30, 2011

I changed my mind!

Earlier, I posted a book cover for my upcoming release "A Week at the Beach".  Here it is:
I had a few people look at it, and while I got some positive feedback from it, I just wasn't feeling it.  So, I did a little more searching and here's what I've come up with now:

So...which do you prefer? 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What do you want from your chick lit? a reader, what is it that you want from your chick lit?  Do you hope to learn something new about yourself?  Are you hoping to gain an insight into the human condition?  What are your expectations going into chick lit?
For me, when I read chick lit, I do it for a specific purpose.  To be entertained.  I like to laugh.  I like to smile.  Sometimes, I even like to cry.  I read chick lit because I like to escape the real world.  I don't want to pick up a book and be bored with a storyline that mimics my own life. Blah! I want to be swept away by the unrealistic romance.  I want a big stupid romantic moment at the end.  I want a happily ever after!  I've only read one book in the chick lit genre that didn't have what I would call a happy ending, and I was pissed when I finished that book!  I felt cheated and angry! 
As an indie author in this genre, I am curious what others want from their chick lit.  Do you expect more realism?  Do you not want the happy ending?  What is it that you want from your chick lit?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Put your judgement cap on!

I've done this before, so I'm offering it up again.  My next release is A Week at the Beach.  It's a fun, light, beach-themed read that I hope you'll enjoy.  Before it hits the online store, I need to settle on a cover.  I want your honest opinion.  Would you pick this book based on the cover?
Tell me what you think!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Striking while the iron is hot!

I've given it a lot of thought, and I've decided that I should move on things while my name is out there.  Instead of sitting back and hoping that the 10,000+ people who downloaded a free copy of Nuptials for Sale will buy one of the other books, I've decided to give them another bite.  Starting 12/23 and ending 12/24, Second Chance will be free! 
Now that my name is out there, I think offering people the chance to grab another book might help keep it out there.  I plan to throw these free promotional days out there for all of my books for the next few months.  I hope that it intrigues readers and encourages them to read all my books, as well as spread the word about them. 
Again, a big thank you to all that scoop up these books!  You make it all seem worth it!

Happy Reading!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Cows, milk, and books

Take a moment to really think about the title of this post...Do you see where I'm going with this?

Yes, I'm referencing that old saying, "Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?"  I've just finished my first free promotion campaign.  It was definitely successful.  Seeing the number of downloaded books rise all the way up to, and then past, 10,000 was an amazing experience.  I don't think I got much work done at all this week, but I've gotten really good at mental math!
Now that I know there are 10,000 people out there with my book, I'm waiting anxiously to find out if sales of the other three books will pick up.  So far, not counting the free "sales", this has been my most successful month.  I was tickled to receive a 5* review from someone at (thanks for posting on here, Rita!).  Tonight, I nearly wept when I found that another 5* review has been posted on!  (You can read them both here) Since sales of Nuptials for Sale were basically nonexistent prior to this campaign, I would say that sometimes giving the milk away is a good thing.  While your mother may not agree with this sentiment when it comes to other things in life, I think that with indie books, giving the milk away just makes others want to buy the cow!
On a side note, I'd like to say something to the people of the UK.  I love you!  You nearly doubled the US download total!  Believe me when I say that I am seriously fighting the urge to move there so I can be with people who clearly get me!  Thanks!  I love you! 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A small glimpse at success or just a very pricey mistake?

My last post was about my decision to offer Nuptials for Sale for free 12/14-12/18.  I was absolutely thrilled when I woke up on the 14th to find that I'd given away twice as many books in 6 hours as I'd sold in several months (that's with all titles combined).  However, by the time I checked my reports again at school - a mere forty-five minutes later - I started to wonder if I'd made a big mistake by offering the book for free.  It's now been almost 48 hours since the book went on sale for 100% off and I am absolutely freaking out about the results.
As a new indie author, the idea of selling the same number of books as I have fingers and toes in one month feels like success.  So watching my freebie numbers continue to rise is a little frightening. A million questions are floating through my head.
What have I done?
What if none of the free readers buy one of my other books?
What's going to happen when my book is no longer free and disappears from the spotlight?
Will some of these readers post reviews?
Could this actually help me sell more books?
Is that opportunity knocking at my door or is it just the sound of my head banging against the wall out of regret?
I felt a little better when I received a comment on my last post from a reader.  She was very encouraging and then posted an amazing review.  See it here   It's amazing and I seriously want to put it on a shirt and wear it around for everyone to read!
The questions are still lingering, though.  This is completely new territory for me and I feel like I have no one to go to for advice.  There's no one I know that can calm me down, tell me this is normal, and that this will all work out in the end.  Right now, I could really use the sage advice of someone who can simply say, "Been there. Done that."
Basically, I've still got 3 more days of this torture before I can see if this whole thing has paid off.  Pun intended!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The best things in life are free...and so is one of my books!

With the addition of the new feature, KDP Select, for indie authors on Amazon, I was able to promote myself by offering one of my books for free for 5 days.  Despite the controversy that KDP Select has caused amongst indie authors, I chose to sign up with the program.  I do not currently offer my books anywhere but on Amazon, so I figured it was worth a try. 
I decided to put Nuptials for Sale on promotion from 12/14-12/18.  Currently, Christmas in Hell is doing well, but that's a seasonal title and I know that come December 26, the interest in that one will die down.  So, how do I continue to promote myself? 
Apparently, I offer a book for free!
Holy Cow!!!!!
I checked my stats this morning and was SHOCKED to see how many people had downloaded Nuptials for Sale for free!  My first thought was "What have I done?  Look at all the royalties I've lost!" However, the more optimistic side of me calmed me down by saying, "Yes, but look at how many more readers you've just gained!"
I am hopeful that this will work in my favor.  I hope that people will download this free book, be happy with the quality of it, and seek out other titles by this up and coming Indie author! 
I'll keep you posted! case you missed it, here's a link to the Amazon page where you can get this book for free!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Writer's block or just stuck in the mud?

Sadly, I've been too busy with my day job to stop in and write anything.  Fortunately, I have been hard at work on another new book.  I've got the story worked out in my head.  I know where it's going and I'm pretty sure I know how to get there.  Right now, though, I'm in one of those in-between places.  I know where I'm headed to next, but just can't seem to find the words to get me there.  It has taken me two weeks to write about three or four paragraphs of text.  I don't think I'm blocked, I'm just stuck.  The tires of my brain are stuck in the mud, and I need a lift to help get me out. 
The strange thing is, it's these sticking points that make me proud to do what I do.  When I'm finished with a book, I don't remember all the stress that it caused me when I got stuck.  I tend to forget the pain I felt as I sat in front of the screen watching that cursor blinking in a taunting fashion.  I don't dwell on those moments, but instead enjoy the feeling of conquering them all.  When I'm done, the only thing I can think about is how amazing it feels to have completed a book.  I love that feeling, and if I have to get stuck in the mud a few times...well then I'm going to enjoy the mess!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Tooting your own horn: Self-promotion vs. Shoving your book down my throat

As a Kindle "indie" author, I know that it is my responsibility to promote and advertise my books.  This blog, for example, was created to help get my name out there so that maybe more people would buy my books.  My twitter account (@VaJewel) is also an attempt to get my name out there.  Honestly, if not for that reason, I wouldn't bother with this blog or the twitter account.  I don't think that I have anything particularly important to say, but I do want people to read my books.  I also have a Facebook page now, even though I believe that Facebook is evil.
But I digress...
Self-promotion is essential if an indie author wants to have any kind of success.  A book isn't going to sell itself.  It has taken me a few months to work all that out for myself.  (I realize that it does seem like a simple fact, but I can be thick and very stubborn sometimes!) My realization started with the creation of this blog and the twitter account and was later expanded to include my journey to create book covers.  While I haven't noticed a HUGE jump in sales because of my self-promotion efforts, I do think it has helped.  Now that I have a Facebook page, I believe that I have used up all my free options of self-promotion. 
My big issue now is how to use the platforms to promote myself without being obnoxious.  I won't name any names, but there are some indie authors out there who are downright OBNOXIOUS about their self-promotion on twitter and Facebook.  If I'm following you, I don't want every one of your posts to be about your books, what spot they are on one of Amazon's lists, how much they cost, or even what other people are saying about them!   Occasionally, it is okay to toot your own horn.  However, not everything you write should be about your books.  If you have funny, interesting, or thought-provoking things to say on Twitter then I may be tempted to read your book(s).  However, if all you ever talk about is your book then I won't read it out of principle.
Bottom line?  There's a fine line between promoting yourself and being obnoxious, and crossing that line might cost you more readers than you gain.

By the way, if I ever get obnoxious in my self-promotion and horn tooting, as a reader of this blog, you have my permission to call me on it!  Tweet about my obnoxiousness, comment on it here, or post it on my Facebook wall.  In other words, virtually slap me across the face to bring me back to reality! 

Thanks!  :-)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My bestseller

A few weeks ago, when I just had two books up for sale on Amazon, I decided to look at my stats to determine which of my books was selling the best.  I suspected that it would be Across the Pond, as that is my favorite and what I considered my best writing up to that point.  To my complete surprise, Christmas in Hell is far and wide my bestselling book.  When I did my calculations, I had sold almost 3x more copies of Christmas than Across the Pond.  That trend continued this month. 
Admittedly, I am not talking record-breaking sales.  I still haven't quite made my money back from all the book cover designs I had to purchase pictures for.  Every little bit counts, though, and I am proud of the sales that I've gotten. 
I am not sure why Christmas in Hell is selling better than my other books (I have since put two more books up for sale, Second Chance and Nuptials for Sale).  I do know that of all the books I've self-published, Christmas in Hell is what I would consider to be my weakest.  I recently reformatted it, but I still feel like it's not representative of my best effort. 
So, what is attracting people to this book? 
It has to be the title.  Everyone can relate to the nightmare that is the holiday season.  The concept of being miserable at Christmas must be something that most people want to read about.  Perhaps it is the idea of not being the only one who thinks it's awful to spend time with family (or worse, someone else's family!) at Christmas time.  Whatever it is that is attracting people to the book, I'm happy they found it and I hope they liked it.  I also hope that they give me a second chance and try one of my other books.  I'm excited to see how the book sales might increase as the holiday season approaches. 
I'm surprised, but pleased, with my "bestseller" and hope that it continues to do well (and maybe bring some of my others along with it).

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Great Debate: Paper vs. Digital

One of the first posts I put up on this blog was about whether or not having books available in a digital format will help encourage more people to read (read it here).  Recently, through Twitter, I have seen several articles about the debate between book lovers and ebook lovers.  Here are a few of those articles:
Internet killed Borders, but it won't kill books
Why I Already Miss Books
I understand the debate.  Before I got my Kindle, I was a book person.  I loved (and still do!) love the feeling of a brand new book in my hands.  I've always preferred brand new books to used books or library books.  I love the way they smell.  I love the way they feel, and I love the fact that I'm the only one who has ever read it.  All of those things excite me about books.  However, what I really love about books -whether a paper book or ebook- is the feeling I get when I curl up with the story.  I love the act of reading and I don't care what format it comes in.  I suspect that, for most people, it is the same. 
So this debate over whether print books are better than their digital counterparts baffles me. 
I'm going to let you in on a little secret...Writing books, blogging, and tweeting is not my real job.  I'm a teacher.  I teach in an elementary school, specifically fifth grade.  As a teacher, I don't care what format the books my students are reading are in!  All I care about is whether they are reading!  Creating lifelong readers isn't about making a child fall in love with the feeling of a stack of bound papers in his hands.  It's about the stories! 
True, to really get the kids interested you need to be able to offer them the colorful illustrations that often bring a story to life.  However, there are already some ebook readers (or apps) that make the illustrations available to readers. 
Here's the cold hard truth, are drawn to technology like moths to a flame!
If I can find a way to bring a piece of technology into one of my lessons, I am going to reach more of my students than if I present the same information on my own.  Yes, I am a dynamic teacher, and by that I do not mean that I am awesome (which I am, of course *smile*).  I simply mean that I don't just stand there and talk when I teach.  I make it interesting.  However, even I can't compete with the thrill of a touch screen tablet.
What's my point?
The same kids that I am encouraging to read, in any format, are one day going to grow up and run this world.  Technology is a big part of who they are and what they do.  My two-year-old nephew already knows how to use an iPad. In fact, he doesn't know what it's like not to be able to touch the screen and make things happen!  We cannot ignore the technology of this time or the time to come.  Debating whether digital books are better or worse than paper books is irrelevant.  What we should be focused on is continuing to encourage everyone to read. 
As long as there are people out there who are reading, there will be books in some form or the other.  Yes, there is a sense of comfort that comes from holding a book in one's hand, bending the corner of a page back to mark your spot, or bending the cover back to hold the whole book in one hand.  That cannot be duplicated in a digital format, but the times they are a changin' and arguing over which format is best is pointless. 
Don't you think this same basic argument was made when Edison introduced his phonograph?  Surely, recorded music is not as great as hearing it live!
Who among us today would argue against the greatness of recorded music?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Author Central on Amazon

Last night, I spent a little bit of time adding some things to my Author Central page on Amazon.  I added a biography, my twitter feed, and a feed to this blog.  Exciting! My next task is to try and create a book trailer or two for some of my books.  While I am pleased with the work that I did on the page, something else that I saw there caught my eye and made me smile.
What made me so happy was something I spied on the sidebar, the "Customers Also Bought Items By" section on the page.  The list of authors includes my all-time favorite, Jill Mansell!  How exciting!  I know that, by no means, is this saying that my writing or my books are the same quality as Ms. Mansell's.  However, just seeing that my books had been enjoyed (I hope) by fans of her books was very exciting! 
If you have a moment, stop by my Author Central page and check it out.  Of course, if you are reading this from my Author Central page then, "Thank you!" for looking into me and my books.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sales and another book cover

I was curious to know which of my books sells better on Amazon.  When I opened up the reports, I received quite a shock!  Christmas in Hell outsells Across the Pond overwhelmingly!  This surprises me because I think Across the Pond is a much better story (and probably better writing, too). 
I'm not complaining!  I'm happy to have ANYONE buying either of my books.  I just think one is slightly better than the other.  That's all. 
With this new sales information in mind, I decided to design a cover for Christmas in Hell.  Here it is:
It's one of those things that once you read the book, the cover makes more sense (i.e. the animal print and the ornament).
I'm done with the cover designing for now.  I need to focus on my real job now, unfortunately!  I hope these new covers will help to propel my books forward in sales.  *smile*

Saturday, August 6, 2011

It's become an addiction

For a whole week, I tried hard to create book covers using two different programs.  As stated in an earlier post, I never figured it out.  Instead, I figured out how to create the covers simply using MS Paint.  Go figure, it would be so easy!
Well, it's become like an addiction now.  I've spent HOURS on searching for pictures that would fit my books.  I have created 4 covers so far, but only two that I consider worthy of viewing.  One of them is shown below, Nuptials For Sale, a book which is written but still in the review/edit process.  I also did another cover for Across the Pond.  I like the new one a lot better.
This one is up on Amazon here.  It's only $2.99, why not check it out!
My next task is to create a cover for the other book I have out, Christmas in Hell.  This one actually proves to be harder than it seems.  I don't want to scare potential readers away, nor do I want to mislead them that it is some kind of thriller. 
After that, I need to make a cover for my soon-to-be-published book.  It used to be called Take Two, but I think I'm going to change the title to Who Says You Can't Go Home.  Although, another self-pubbed author just released a book by that name in July.  I'll have to discuss the new title with my reading buddy.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Would you read it?

Based solely on the cover above, would you read the book?

I have already written the story, but I'm not giving you any additional information about it.  This is my own version of "Do judge a book by its cover" which is a segment I LOVE on the blog Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


So I grappled with GIMP, and I picked at Photoshop, all in the hopes that I could come up with a cute cover.  And you know what...
I never got it!
Those programs were so complicated and honestly I think they are more complicated than I need.  I don't need to create a spine for my ebook.  I also don't need a 3-D cover.  I just wanted a cute picture that made people want to read my book!
In my searching, I did find a picture that I liked.  I played around with it in Microsoft Paint and what do you know...I found a cover!  It was so much easier to just do it that way.  Here it is:
Is it what I would expect from a professional graphic artist? 
Is it what I would want a publishing company to spend buckets of money on?
Was it simple?
Is it light, and whimsical?
Sort of.
Will it do?
Yes! (For now!)

What do you think?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Creating a cover...this means war!

If you've been reading this blog, which you probably haven't because no one really does, then you know that I've been debating the issue of creating covers for my ebooks.  Well, I've decided that I need to do it!  If I want to market my book then I need a pretty picture to draw people to it. 
I think I have a general idea of what I want for one of my ebooks, but now I have to create it. 
Holy moley!  I had no idea this was going to be so difficult! 
I consider myself to be a pretty tech savvy person, I'm usually good at figuring a program out, but this is ridiculous.  I researched it and found that GIMP was the best free program out there for me to use.  So, I downloaded it and tried it out.  I have no idea what I am doing.  It is much more difficult than I could have ever imagined.  At this rate, I think it will probably take me longer to create a cover than it did for me to write the freakin' book! 
As you can tell, I'm more than a little frustrated with this process.  I am a visual person, so I learn best when I watch things being done and then explore from there.  This process is driving me mad!  I need help and for once the internet is not doing me any favors! 
I'm off to give it another shot...and gnash my teeth the whole time!

Monday, August 1, 2011

"See, you can write!"

That's what a professor wrote on one of my papers in college. 
Boy did that piss me off! 
On the surface it may seem harmless. But since she’d spent every class period, and paper, prior to that making me feel like an illiterate imbecile, you can imagine my lack of enthusiasm at the comment.  Perhaps it wasn’t her fault, it was her job to make me a better writer, but I’ve never thrived under that kind of mentorship. 
In high school, I had an English Lit teacher who hated me.  I worked my tail off for her and she never gave me anything better than a B.  Meanwhile, some of my classmates didn’t even bother to read the assigned books, and she’d praise them for their thoughts.  Over Thanksgiving break my freshman year in college I ran into that teacher.  Here’s how that went:
Me: “Mrs. George*, I got a B on my first paper in Freshman English at MWC!”
Mrs. George (in a very dry voice): “Did you take it back and find out what you did wrong?”
*Less out of a desire to protect the innocent and more out of fear that she will somehow read this, edit it, critique it, and then force me to fix it, I have changed her name.
With encouragement like that, it’s a wonder that I ever wrote even so much as my name on anything!
Despite the rocky road, I still find myself sitting in front of my computer at all hours of the day and night, banging away at the keys.  I can’t help it.  I have stories that I’d like to share.  I remember writing stories when I was a kid.  I’d lock myself in my room for hours and write page after page of my silly schoolgirl stories.  Sometimes a friend would read them, but usually I just kept them to myself.  That hasn’t really changed. 
As an adult, when I sat down to write my first book, I really had no desire to share it.  A friend helped me when I’d get stuck, and she convinced me to let her read it as I wrote it.  It was fun!  The process was exhilarating.  Anyone who has ever created characters, stories, and places knows that feeling.
I was happy with it all stopping there, but then another book followed.  The third, fourth, fifth, and sixth books just came flying out after that.  Somehow this fun escape from reality had transformed into a compulsion to tell these stories.  My friend, and eventually my family, convinced me that all that effort should be shared with others. 
So now I am sharing.  I have two books currently up for sale on Amazon.  Both are available for the Kindle for a bargain price of $2.99.  Here are the links:
Christmas in Hell
Across the Pond
I would love for you to read them and let me know what you think, even if it’s hard to hear! 
Thank You!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Why do you write?

I've been busy.  In the past year I have written four books (3 novels and one that ended up being a novella, but I might add to it).  I didn't set out to write so many, but the characters and their stories came to me and I felt compelled to write them down.  I tried to write every day, but I do have a real job, so that didn't always happen.  When I stopped to take stock of what I had accomplished since last June, I realized how hard I had worked. 
Looking back on what I wrote made me think.  Why do I write?  Like I said before, I do have a real job.  Writing is not how I make my money.  Honestly, I don't think I will ever have a "career" in writing.  It's difficult to bust onto the scene as a new writer, especially in the Chick Lit genre.  However, knowing the reality of the situation has not deterred me from writing.  Right now, I have at least three more stories in my head, just waiting to get out.
Why do I bother if it seems like my success will be limited? 
I do it because I love it! 
I love sitting down in front of my computer and bringing characters to life.  I love the feeling I get when my characters say or do something funny.  I love when things come together and my stories fit!  I love it when my friend reads what I've written and talks about how she loved the characters or what they went through.  I feel a sense of pride when I complete that first draft and love the feeling I get when I go back to revisit a draft. 
I write because I love it!
I kept my writing a secret from my family for a long time.  When word finally got out about my writing, they were really encouraging.  They pushed me to pursue the publishing route.  When things just weren't working out, they encouraged me to self-publish.  It is still a struggle for me to explain to them that I put in all the long hours simply because I love it!  Yes, it would be nice to do it full-time and be able to make a living at it.  However, if I only sell a few copies of anything that I write then that's just fine with me!  My characters and my stories are still there.  I enjoy them and that's enough!
Why do you write?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

To cover or not to cover, that is the question...

As an avid reader and Kindle owner, I am faced with a dilemma as an aspiring author.  If I'm not trying to market my books in print, then why should I bother with fancy cover art? After attempting to get published the traditional route, I found success (okay, limited success, but I'll take it) with self-publishing to the Kindle.  However, I am starting to wonder if I would attract more readers if I had cover art for my books. 
As a Kindle reader, I don't ever look at the cover art for a book after I've downloaded it.  Why would I?  I'm reading it in its digital format for a reason.  As a self-published author, why should I spend time and money designing a cover that no one will ever see?  The saying goes "Don't judge a book by its cover" but honestly, don't we all do that? 
Anyone who has read any of my earlier posts knows how much I love Jill Mansell, and while it's the content that keeps me reading, I'd be lying if I said the cover of her books weren't what initially drew me to her.  I can't help they're just so adorable!  I would argue that sometimes we all go so far as to judge a reader by their book's cover!  If you plan on reading a book where others can see you, you certainly don't want something that is embarrassing.  I know I wouldn't want to be seen sitting on a park bench reading a book with a half-naked couple lounging on the beach together no matter how entertaining the content might be.  However, with the invention of ebook readers, that problem is solved.  No one can see what you are reading.  You could be reading the trashiest of trashy romance novels while sitting on the bus and no one would be the wiser! 
If you are purchasing a book to be read electronically then what purpose does the cover serve?  When I search for a new book to download and read, I don't put much emphasis on the icon of the cover art that pops up.  I look at the title, the author, the "teaser", and then the cover art.  I'm definitely not going to rule out a good read just because of its cover. 
So my dilemma remains.  Do I, as a self-published author, shell out money to get covers made for my books?  Should I pay someone to create the cover art or just purchase a program that would allow me to create my own?  If the title and teaser aren't enough to intrigue a reader will a simple picture do the trick?
How many Kindle, Nook, or other ebook readers out there have an opinion on this matter?  I am very curious to know! 

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Reuniting with an old friend

I recently picked up an old book.  Some whim I had inspired me to seek it out.  I searched high and low until I found it.  Once it was in my hands, I let my fingers glide across the cover that was softened from use. I flipped through the pages and saw where I'd bent edges back or even wrinkled a page or two.  A smile crept across my face and my heart skipped a beat as I thought about the characters in the book and the story they would tell me.
It was in that moment that I realized that a good book is like an old friend. 
No matter how many times you've heard/read the stories; you can't help but be pulled into them every time.  When it comes to a good book, or a good friend, nothing gets old.  When you sit with an old friend you get that feeling of nostalgia, the joy of remembering all the good times you had together, and even linger in the sad moments when you supported each other.  A good book is the same.
Perhaps it's the characters that give you that feeling.  Maybe, it's the story that resonates with you.  Whatever causes it, you can’t stop that warm nostalgic feeling from rushing over you.  Curling up with an old book, just like sitting down with an old friend, gives you that lovely comfortable feeling inside. 
So, the next time you walk past your bookcase, stop and pick up an old friend.  Let me know how it goes.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Pushing them out of the nest

I've released my second book for the Kindle on Amazon.  Across the Pond should be available for download on the Kindle very soon.  While I am excited to see what people think of this book, I'm also a little hesitant to let go of my characters.  Of all the books I've written so far, (by the way I'm up to five with no signs of stopping) this is the one that I think has the most potential and the best characters. 
My friend, Donna, who reads all my books, loves Across the Pond.  Anytime I mention that I am writing, she always brings the conversation back to Across the Pond.  Since she is technically my first fan, maybe I am biased about this book because she loves it so much.  I've actually read through it several times since I wrote it, and each time, my affection for it grew even more.  I hope that people read it and love it. I hope that the characters come to life for them as much as they did for me.  I had a great time creating their story.  Chloe and James were a lot of fun to write. 
If you've stopped by this blog, and you're looking for a great read, give Across the Pond a shot.  Let me know what you think about it. 

Romance vs. Chick Lit

When I first put one of my books up for sale on Amazon I tagged it as Romance and joined in a discussion with other "Indie" Romance writers.  I continue to follow the discussion with those others writers, but the more I read what they write the more puzzled I become.
Is there a difference between Romance and Chick Lit?
For many people, whether they actually read it or not, when they think of Romance books they think of ripped bodices, throbbing manhood, and Fabio half-naked on the cover.  Chick Lit, on the other hand, probably conjures up the image of women drinking wine, shopping for shoes, and complaining about men.
What I read, and write, falls somewhere in-between the two.  I say that only because I have to categorize them somewhere.
 To me, romance leaves some details to the imagination.  It is what's not said or shown that make the "moments" so romantic.  The exchange of looks, the gentle touch of a hand, and the soft words spoken; all of those things mean romance to me.  I don't want to read intimate details of what goes on between a man and a woman.  That's not romance to me.
Chick Lit, in my opinion, is more about the relationships that women have.  They could be the relationships between a woman and her friends, her family, her children, and yes, even her man.  Chick Lit is a way for women to step outside their own lives and live the life of someone else, someone more glamorous, more beautiful, and probably luckier than themselves.  Isn't that what we all want?  To know what it's like to be someone else, even if just for a little while. 
So, my question there a difference between Romance and Chick Lit?  Am I alone in my opinion?  Am I just sheltered in my ideas?  What do other readers of both genres think?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Why I suck at self-promotion

In an attempt to get my name out there, I started a Twitter account (@VaJewel) and this blog.  But what I've come to realize is that I absolutely suck at promoting myself.  I am so uninteresting that I have less than 20 Followers on Twitter and only one Follower here on the blog.  I've racked my brain trying to figure out what to do about this problem.  Like I said before, I don't write because I want to make money or be rich and famous, I write because the characters want me to tell their stories.  So, how do I make people notice me and want to read my books?

After thinking about this problem, I've decided that I don't want to promote myself.  I'm sure it sounds naive, and in the end isn't going to help me at all, but I don't want people to read my books because they find me interesting.  I want people to read my books because they find the characters and the plot interesting.  Who gives a hoot about me! 

So, no, I don't have anything witty or funny to say on Twitter. 

No, my blog posts aren't going to start a revolution and inspire others to rise up against the establishment, or whatever. 

But damn it, my books are good!  The characters who have trusted me to tell their stories are interesting and they find themselves in interesting situations.  They are funny, and witty, and experience exciting things that have never happened to me!  If even half the stuff that happens to characters in my book really happened to me then I wouldn't need to write.  I wouldn't have time to write because I'd be too busy being ridiculously happily-ever-after happy! 

Isn't that why we ladies read chick lit? 

We are boring!  Our lives are not filled with eccentric characters and gorgeous men who are just dying to sweep us off our feet!  We have mortgages and cell phone bills!  We live in crappy apartments or lonely old houses!  We don't have sinfully good-looking men chasing after us!  We have moderately attractive male accountants who sometimes take us to dinner! 

I suck at self-promotion because I don't want to promote me!  Of course, being a self-published author the lack of skills in the area of self-promotion sort of limits my reach.  However, I can not make myself more interesting.  I can not force myself to be witty or funny. 

To quote a great philosopher:
 "I am what I am!"

Friday, April 8, 2011

Review- The Paris Wife

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

I love it when the characters in a book draw me into their world completely.  That's exactly what happened to me with the characters in McLain's novel about Ernest Hemingway and his first wife Hadley Richardson.  From the first page, she had me in the palm of her hand.  She also had me in the heart of the story; the incredible connection between Hemingway and Richardson.  Despite their age difference, and distance between them, the two main characters fell deeply in love, and McLain put me right in there with them.  I found myself cheering them on, even though I knew the relationship was doomed. 
McLain's style made is simple for me to get to know the characters and to care about them. The further into the story I read, the more attached to the characters I got.  By the end of the book I was so wrapped up in their relationship that I wanted to throw my Kindle across the room in frustration at Hadley and her completely passive role in the destruction of their marriage.  Frustration turned to sadness as I read the last words.  In the end, I cried for several minutes at the loss of Hadley and Ernest's love and ultimately Ernest's life.
The Paris Wife is not the kind of book I usually read, but what a fantastic read this one was.  I read it for my first ever book club, and it is killing me that I have to wait a whole other month before I can sit down and talk to them about it.  I have to give this book a whopping 5 out of 5 stars! 

What I accomplished in my week off

Well, my week off is coming to a close.  It's been great, but like all breaks, I didn't get as much accomplished as I had hoped.  Now that it's coming to an end I want to sit back and reflect on what I accomplished.

  1. I moved the eliptical machine and got it put together.   For over a year now the expensive eliptical machine (that I had to have!) has been sitting useless in my extra room.  We had taken it apart when I had my floors replaced and when I had the back porch redone, but it had not made it into the extra bedroom where it belonged.  Now it is sitting in the extra bedroom and I haven't used it once.  Oh well, a win is a win!
  2. I cleaned my bathroom.  Nothing makes me happier than a clean bathroom.  It is one of the greatest simple pleasures in the world to me.  However, for some reason, I just can't seem to motivate myself to clean the bathroom as often as it needs it.  Not this week!  I even mopped the floor.  Go me!  It was so wonderful I wanted to just sit in there and enjoy it.
  3. I've written six chapters in my fifth book.  Even though I still haven't finished my fourth book (truth be told I could probably finish it in a day or two, but the characters have stopped talking to me so I'm stuck), I feel like I've made some good progress with my fifth book.  I got the idea for this book about a year ago, but I haven't had the time to write anything on it.  But this week I sat down and the words have flowed out of me.  I also managed to map the whole thing out so I know where I'm going.  Go me!
  4. I spent time with family and friends.  I know that doesn't sound like much of an accomplishment but I am such a hermit that anytime I leave the house to be social it is a win for me.  I spent a few hours with my nephew and then had lunch with a friend.  That counts as two wins for me! Woohoo!

I could probably fill up several pages of things that I did not accomplish during this week off, but I'm choosing to focus on the positive. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


I am currently working on my fifth book and I'm considering using flashbacks to help explain some of the back story of the characters.  I'm not 100% sure about this method.  I've read books that use flashbacks and it can be done well, but I'm not sure that I have the talent to pull it off. 
My problem then becomes, how do I cover the character's past without making them talk about it.  I get nervous when I see a lot of dialogue on my page.  I'm not sure why that is, because I also get nervous when I don't see enough!  I'm just a nervous writer.  I don't write to please others, but I still worry about having it all make sense. 
Should I just go with my gut and continue on with what I've started?  The characters' voices are pretty loud right now, so I don't want to lose them.  I've had this story and these two characters for about a year, but I've just recently got them down on "paper".  I don't want to lose the momentum.  Just wondering if I should consider other options.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Where does inspiration hit you?

Even though I'm still struggling to finish my fourth book, I've recently been bombarded by the voices of some new characters.  Actually, they aren't new characters.  The idea for the plot of this book came to me a few months ago but the characters didn't really speak to me then.  I'm excited about this new adventure, especially since I've got a break from work coming soon. 

Every time this happens to me, it baffles and excites me.  I don't know how it happens for any other writers out there, but for me it usually strikes me at random times.  There are a few places or times when I find my characters speak louder to me than others: while I'm washing the dishes, when I'm in the shower, and when I'm driving to work.  I've found that my characters talk to me when I'm engaged in activities that don't require a lot of thinking, though the driving to work thing is a little frightening!  I guess I should start working out, because that seems like a time when my mind would need to be otherwise engaged.

When I was working on my first book (one that I will likely NEVER publish, by the way), I couldn't stop the characters from talking to me wherever I went.  I once sat in the waiting room of my orthopaedic doctor and scribbled pages of writing into an old calendar that I found in my purse.  However, over time I've learned to quickly scribble notes to myself and come back to them later.  I've learned to quiet the characters, but not completely shut them up. 

Does all this make me sound crazy? 

Do other authors out there have conversations with their characters, or listen in on the conversations that the characters have with each other?  If so, when does it happen for them? 

Where does inspiration hit you?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Character Connections

A colleague and I continued a great conversation today that we started at a meeting yesterday.  She was telling me that over the weekend she read Stephenie Meyer's Midnight Sun.  For those of you that don't know what that is, it is the Twilight story from Edward's perspective.  I have read it myself, but that's not what made our conversation great. 

She said that she actually missed Edward when she finished reading it.  She said that when she was finished reading the partial draft of Midnight Sun she actually missed the characters.  For me, that news was groundbreaking!  Part of me had always wondered if I was crazy because I felt that way.  I never talked about it with anyone, not even my book nerd friends. 

The first time I felt an emotional connection to a book character was when I read The Catcher in the Rye.  It wasn't a positive connection for me, but it was powerful.  I read it one summer while I was working at a daycare center.  While the little kids were napping I read my book.  It took me a little over a week to figure out why I was so angry when the kids woke up.  It wasn't because I wanted to read more, it was because I felt Holden's anger.  Once I figured out where my anger was coming from, I stopped reading it at work.

Over the years I have experienced this intense feeling a few more times.  I'm not ashamed to admit that I get emotional attached to the characters in the Harry Potter series and the Twilight Series.  I know that there are people out there that may look down on me for admitting that, but I'm not going to lie to you.  Sorry!  Try not to judge me too harshly!  I have also felt a connection with characters in Austenland, with Darcy and Elizabeth in Pamela Aiden's Fitzwilliam Darcy trilogy, and with a few of Jill Mansell's characters.

However, the place where I've had the biggest connection is with the characters I write myself.  I've authored four books (one is self-published, Christmas in Hell, and is available for purchase and download on Amazon).  While writing, my characters float around in my head, talk to me, and tell me what they're going through.  It can take me anywhere from two weeks to six months to get their stories down.  When I'm done, the silence is deafening, but not nearly as difficult as the loss I feel when they're gone.  When I finish with a book, the characters leave me.  I don't dwell on them for weeks afterwards.  Their departure leaves me feeling lonely and sad, like a lifelong friend has just disappeared from my life.

Please do not assume that I wrote this post simply to promote my own writings.  Okay, so maybe a little of my motivation was to promote my books, but not all of it!  I wrote this post to start a conversation with you, my readers, about your own character connections.  Was there a book/character that settled into your being and left a mark when it left?  Have you ever mourned the loss of a character?  Share your thoughts with me, please!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Review- Pretty Little Mistakes by Heather McElhatton

I picked up this book over the weekend.  The colorful cover caught my eye and I was immediately drawn in by the phrase at the bottom "A Do-Over Novel".  The first page warns you that this is not a regular book.  You cannot read it cover to cover.  It claims that while there is one beginning, there are 150 endings.

The premise of the book is that, like life, you make one decision that alters your destiny.  After the first hour of reading, I had lived at least five lifetimes in five different ways.  The decisions can be as simple as choosing where to move to, or as drastic as whether or not you should leave your verbally abusive husband.

I was a fan of the choose-your-own-adventure novels as a young reader.  Perhaps that fondness is why I was drawn to this book.  Before I go any further I would like to say that the logistics of the book (turn here for this choice, etc) are executed well.  It must have been harrowing to put it all together and make sure that it all came out making sense.  I commend the author and the publisher for that.

My problem with this book is that it all felt so cold.  You aren't just the reader, you are the main character.  You are in charge of your own destiny because you make all the choices.  Despite the fact that I was in control, the story always seemed cold, unfeeling, and distant.  There was no connection, no spark, between me and my character.  The author seemed to be forcing the story on me.  It reminded me of a more detailed, and adult, version of the old MASH game.  "You marry David.  You live in a shack.  You have eighteen children, and you drive a garbage truck."  The writing style felt very forceful.  At times, especially when I was frustrated with where my choice had left me, I felt like the writer was pushing the story on me.  There were times when I could almost feel the weight of my choice as I read. 

As for the plot, or should I say plots, of this novel, I wasn't all that impressed.  I'm glad that I am better at making choices in my real life than I am in McElhatton's literary world.  It seemed like every choice I made left me addicted to meth or dying a tragic death.  Rarely did I end up happy.  The worst was when I ended up being murdered by an angry mob in a foreign country.  Talk about a downer! 

Again, the logistics of the book worked well, not once did I find that my choice didn’t line up with where I had left my story.  A few times the stories would overlap, and when they did it was almost a disappointment.  The stories tended to evolve quickly.  In an hour or two of reading, you could easily live several lifetimes, making the other decision each time.  The book is definitely an easy read.  If you are a fan of short stories then this book may be a great read for you.  You could spend months reading this book and never live the same life twice. 

I’m giving this book 2 out of 5 stars.  It just didn’t do it for me.  I like the concept, but not the plot.  I commend McElhatton for giving it a go, but I just did not like the story itself. 

Have you read this book?  Do you have an opinion on it?  Share it with me! 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Kindle, Nook, or just a plain old book...

I spent the weekend at a conference for my real job.  (My fake job is sitting at home blogging, writing, and collecting royalty checks from all my bestselling novels.  I'm not so good at this one yet!)  Anyway...on the five hour long drive to the conference we had the increasingly popular and important discussion: Nook or Kindle?

I am a Kindle owner.  I have a Kindle because that's what my family purchased for me for Christmas.  I did my research before I gave them the thumbs up.  I already spend enough time in front of a computer screen, thanks to both my real job and fake job, so I didn't want to add any extra strain to my eyes by enjoying a good book.  I love my Kindle.   

The discussion got me thinking, though.  Has the introduction of these electronic readers issued in an era of Reading Renaissance?  There have been a few things that have occurred in the past few years to help precede this era; J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series, and most recently Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series.  However, I am curious if the accessibility of books via electronic readers will encourage more reading. 

As a hopeful author, I certainly hope it does.

What do you think?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Celebrity Authors

Just wondering how others feel about the abundance of books out there "written" by celebrities?  Does it make your stomach turn a little when you hear that Snooki and LC from The Hills both had books on the Bestsellers list?  Am I a snob for feeling this way?

As someone who hopes to someday be a published author, shouldn't I be happy that another person made it?  What I can't help wondering though is...why?  Why would publishers jump at the chance to publish a book written by some of these people?  I've thought about it a lot.  I tried being mad at the publishers, but that just didn't do it.  Next, I moved on to the celebrities themselves.  However, it really can't be their fault, they're just doing whatever it takes to make more money and/or get their name out there.  After careful consideration I've finally figured out who needs to take the blame for's us, the readers!

Yes, it's true!  We, the readers, are 100% responsible for the multitudes of awful celebrity books that litter the shelves.  Let's face it, publishers aren't going to put something out there that has no audience.  How many of us hopeful writers know this all too well? 

If we stop fawning over these people, then perhaps we can recapture our literacy! 
Stand up to these awful books! 
Turn your back on celebrity penned novels! 
If we ban together, we can make a difference! 
Who's with me?!?!?!

Monday, March 14, 2011

May I recommend...

Here's the deal...I love chick lit, but I'm very particular about what I like.  I like romance, but not smut.  I like funny, but not obvious gags.  That being said...

I love Jill Mansell!

First of all, let's be honest, I love anything with British men in it!  I think it has a lot to do with Jane Austen and Colin Firth, but that's another post all together.  I simply adore anything Jill Mansell writes.  My first encounter with her was "Perfect Timing" from there I moved on to my all-time favorite, "Rumor Has It."  Oh Jack, ahh...

Anyway, if you are a fan of light, funny, British romance then I highly recommend checking out all things Jill Mansell!

Here's what I've read so far:
Perfect Timing
Rumor Has It
Take A Chance On Me
Millie's Fling
Miranda's Mistake
An Offer You Can't Refuse
Staying At Daisy's

See, I told you I loved her...

Christmas in Hell

Christmas in Hell is my first self-published book.  It follows Kate, an American girl, who finds herself alone in London for Christmas.  As much as she hates the holiday, she can't bear the thought of spending it alone.  Desperate for something to do, she goes home with her only friend, Claire.  Claire's family turns out to be just as much a disaster as the one Kate ran to England to get away from.  Tom, Claire's older brother, seems to be the only sane one in the family, but Kate just can't seem to stop embarrassing herself in front of him.  Read Christmas in Hell to find out what happens when Kate experiences her first English Christmas.  Will it change her mind about the holiday or will it be another Christmas in Hell?

Welcome to Virginia's Bookshlef

Hi!  Thanks for stopping by to check out my bookshelf.  I started the blog to help promote my books, but I'd also love to have you stop by and chat about your own books, your favorite books, or whatever you'd like.  Think of this site as the internet's front porch.  Pull up a chair, grab a glass of refreshing iced tea, sit a spell, and relax.