Thursday, January 31, 2013

Book Review: Reasons I Fell For The Funny Fat Friend

I've been writing a lot lately about plus-sized heroines in books, especially since my latest novel deals with a main character who's not just plus-sized, but morbidly obese. I'm writing about an extreme example, but most women are NOT a Size 2; having dealt with a lifetime of weight issues myself, I appreciate when a story features a curvy character who's portrayed as being beautiful, smart and loveable.

Author Becca Ann does a wonderful job in creating such a heroine in her YA novel REASONS I FELL FOR THE FUNNY FAT FRIEND. Hayley is described as being "not fat, not thin," but has many insecurities about her weight, thanks to her belief that she's just the "Funny Fat Friend" (or FFF). Interestingly, the story is told from the guy's POV; through a smitten Brody, we learn how terrific and gorgeous Hayley really is.

I really enjoyed getting the guy's side of the story because girls tend to be harder on themselves -- and each other -- than boys. When I was in high school, I was SKINNY, dangerously so at times, but I seriously thought that I was fat. I remember my guy friends telling me that I was too thin and was very surprised by this; but most of them agreed that they liked girls to have curves.

I was also drawn into Hayley's very toxic relationship with her mother, who has rather unrealistic expectations for her daughter. For anyone who thought the mom is critical in BAND GEEK, this one is far worse! I do wish that we'd seen more of this relationship because the mother came off as being one-dimensional and I feel as if we got only a glimpse into a serious issue. But again, this was told from Brody's POV, so he'd only have so much access to the mother and Hayley's home life.

I also would have liked to have had some more detailed scenes. We never get much information about characters' appearances or even what the town looked like. I had to fill in most of those blanks on my own. But, in a way, the limited descriptions made sense for a male narrator because most of the guys whom I know, including my husband, tend to be less visual than females. If Jon needs directions, for instance, he can just look at coordinates on a map and figure out where he's going. I, on the other hand, prefer directions like, "Turn left by the gas station and blue house." I'm not saying that ALL men think in a more linear than visual way, but a lot do so this felt realistic to me.

What I really loved, though, was the meat of the story which was Brody and Hayley's relationship. They go from being friends to more over the course of the book and Becca Ann did a geat job in showing this progression. Both mains are extrmely fun and likeable, and you can't help but root for them to get together.

Overall, I give this sweet read four stars and highly recommend!

Meantime, please read my novel REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD, now only 99 cents!

Writing A Novel: Role Call

One of the concerns that I have with my work-in-progress novel is that it has too many characters. There are the two main characters; their family members ... and then everyone they deal with at college, including Sadie's suitemates, Griffin's teammates and their various new friends/romantic interests. So a lot of people are involved in this story!

BAND GEEK had many characters, too, since it took place in a high school, but the challenge with this novel is that it takes place in two environments: college and the characters' hometown (which, by the way, is also the fictional 'burb of Sequoia, NY where BAND GEEK is set). I suppose that I could have this book set only at college and just skip over school breaks and such, but I feel like I wouldn't be giving an accurate portrayal of someone's freshman year if I did that. When you attend a school that's away from home, as I did, it can be very jarring to go back and forth from one place to the other. Part of me was always glad to return home, back to my old room, homecooked food and old friends. But as time went on and i grew used to college life, those breaks at home became more difficult to deal with. All of a sudden, I was back under my parents' roof and had to follow their rules. In college, I was 18 going on 19 and got to be independent and act like an adult, but at home, I was still treated like a teenager. Many of my high school friends had changed, as well, so our reunions were a little awkward. And it was kind of lonely being back in my parents' big house when I'd grown used to having other students all around. Overall, it was a very confusing feeling and I felt as if I were torn between these two worlds. I want to show what that's like for my characters, as well.

This is why I have so many side characters. College just wouldn't be college without the other students. When you live in a dorm, they become your family -- even if you hate them -- and you're constantly meeting new people, even in senior year. Some of my best memories are when almost everyone from our floor (at least 20 of us, anyway) would go to the dining hall en masse, push a few large tables together and enjoy a huge family-style dinner. On my 20th birthday, we took our dinner party to TGIFridays, where everyone tied balloons to my chair -- and to me. Was I best buddies with all of these people? No, of course not. But even the acquaintances had an impact on my life.

I'm trying to edit down the number of characters and only keep the ones who are important to the story. But I'd still like to give as realistic a picture of college as possible.

Please read and review my first novel REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Writing A Novel: College Band Memories

Before I started work at Soap Opera Digest I had dreams of becoming a music critic. I got my start writing for the Arts section of my college's newspaper.

Our paper's Editor-In-Chief had this idea that there could be no such thing as a completely positive review. His argument was that everything has flaws and that it was up to us as reporters to reveal those imperfections. He had a point, but I think he just enjoyed reading and writing negative reviews. The meaner a write-up was, the more he liked it.

In order to assure that I'd give him bad reviews, he'd have me cover uh, eccentric, events. There was the one-woman show about drowned prostitutes where the performer lifted up her skirt and shouted "Whore" at the audience. There was the art gallery exhibit where the painter specialized in creating portraits of smashed-up cars. And then there was the band, Superaction C--- Modified.

Yep, you read that correctly. That was their name, which I "bleeped" for the sake of this blog because I really don't want to say or write the whole word. They did not bleep it. In fact, they called themselves "The C---" in casual settings.

I didn't want to attend this concert alone so I brought my now sister-in-law, Debbie, with me as my plus-one. She and I are more into classical or jazz so we weren't sure what to expect from this alternative band. Still, we figured that it would be an interesting evening.

We were right. The C--- indeed gave a memorable performance, mainly because they were loud. Seriously, all these guys did was scream. I can appreciate good punk music like The Sex Pistols, but I don't think this band hit an actual note during the entire performance. They just screamed and shouted, "We're Superaction! Modified! We're Superaction! C--- Modified!" over and over again. At one point, two of the "singers" -- and I use that word reluctantly -- sang together, one in a low-pitched voice and the other in a high-pitched wail. "What on earth are they doing?" asked Debbie. "I think they're harmonizing," I told her.

By the end of the night, we'd moved to the second story of the student union so we could listen to them from a distance and not get headaches. Plus, we were laughing so hard that we were crying. No, we didn't like the music AT ALL, but we did have a good time. And though I didn't entirely agree with my editor's review policy, I did appreciate the fact that I was getting some new experiences on campus.

When I'm writing, I often borrow from my real-life experiences and create new ones for my characters. In the case of my latest book, though, I just pulled right from this memory when my main characters, Sadie and Griffin, attend a concert for a group named Superaction Dick Modified. I had a blast writing this chapter because it took me right back to that night with Debbie during our sophomore year.

I'll have to ask my SIL if she remembers seeing Superaction C--- Modified with me. If she doesn't, maybe this chapter will jog her memories of this fun time in our lives.

Please read and review my current book REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Writing A Novel: Remembering College Life And Psycho Roommates

One of the best parts about writing a novel that's set in college is that I get to recall my own college experience which began -- gulp -- 20 years ago. Overall, I had a blast at school and am still close with almost all of my college pals (one friend is now my sister-in-law!). However, my freshman year sucked. It was so terrible, in fact, that I considered transferring out of schools. I'm really glad that I stuck things out and stayed because I would've missed out on meeting some wonderful people, not to mention my husband.

My freshman roommate was not one of these people. She wasn't a bad person at all; she could actually be very sweet at times, but she was extremely immature and inconsiderate. She'd graduated from high school early so she began college at 16; though she was three months younger than I was, she was already a junior by the time I began. She didn't want to bother moving and had been in the same room for three years, so when I moved in, she viewed me as merely being a guest. In her mind, this was her room and she was going to do whatever she wanted.

In general, she was a decent, clean kid. She rarely drank, never did drugs, didn't smoke and was pretty religious, so she didn't date. I never had to worry about coming home to find a sock on my door (the universal signal to get lost because your roomie is gettin' busy). But she was loud. Extremely loud. At all hours of the night.

She had a very specific method for studying, which I guess worked for her because she had a 4.0 GPA. Basically, she'd do an all-nighter right before an exam and cram all the information into her brain at the very last minute. This was a problem for me, though, because she insisted on studying in our room with the lights and radio on. Our dorm had a very nice study basement just for this purpose, but no, she didn't like the basement; she liked her bed. So the nights that she stayed up meant I had to stay up, too.

She was annoying even when she wasn't studying. Sometimes she left the radio on all night because it helped her sleep. The good news is, she liked R.E.M. The bad news is, she especially this novelty song (I forget who sang it) called "Fuck You." When she was in the mood for that, I got to listen to a CD playing "Fuck you, fuck you, fuck over," over and over again. Sometimes she'd bring friends over at weird hours, like 3 a.m., and then be upset with me for being asleep. FYI, we lived in a suite so we were fortunate enough to have a private common area for the six of us, which she could've used. But again, this was HER room and she wanted it RIGHT THEN. Sometimes she'd just sort of huff and close the door leaving me be, but other times she'd march right in and flip on the light as if I weren't there. I wanted to kill her. My sleep was so fragmented during the first semester that I ended up getting sick. I actually had to show her a note from the school medical center saying that I needed to have a steadier sleep schedule.

Now you're probably wondering why I didn't do something about her, like go to our R.A., sit her down for a talk or even call her parents. The answer's simple: I was a big, ole wuss. I've never been very confrontational, anyway, but I was even less so at 18. I was an only child who'd never dealt with siblings or roommates (whereas my roomie had five brothers and sisters), was extremely shy and honestly, I'm not sure that I was really ready for college. It was such an overwhelming experience for me and really was a baptism by fire sort of situation. That said, I didn't know how to approach and deal with her. Since she'd lived in our dorm for three years, she knew everyone and kind of ruled the building. I feared that if I dared to tell her off, I'd be persona non grata. And so, I stayed mostly silent.

Anyway, I wanted to present a realistic view of a college freshman's life in my book and having a psycho or inconsiderate roommate is a common ordeal. Only my narrator, Sadie, deals with her roomie (who is way more psycho than mine ever was) in a much different way than I did. One of the great things about writing is that you get to "relive" certain life experiences and give them a different outcome. I certainly wish I'd been more like Sadie because I could've had a better freshman year.

When I think about college, I rarely think about my first year or even my classes. I mainly remember the good times I had, the nights that friends and I stayed up talking over pizza, the parties, the lifelong relationships that I forged. It's these things that shaped me as a person and I'm trying to show this in my book, as well.

I may be 39 in a few days, but writing my latest novel makes me feel as if I'm taking a trip back in time -- and is keeping me young at heart.

Please read and review my first novel REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Writing A Novel: "Innocent" Characters

One of the most surprising and frequent praises I've seen of BAND GEEK is that it's "wholesome" and "not too racy." I certainly don't mind the praise and am glad that parents feel comfortable letting their kids read my work. Truthfully, though, I had fears that my novel would be written off by the YA audience -- no pun intended -- for being too mature in certain parts.

For one thing, my characters talk like teens. And by that, I mean they swear. Josh, in particular, has a bit of a potty mouth and often uses the F-word. He even uses it to address his school's principal at one point. Meanwhile, Melinda curses at her mom during a major argument. Mind you, I don't have them cursing all that much; I felt that if every other word was a swear word, my dialogue would get pretty boring. Still, I didn't want to whitewash my kids' speech. Having them say, "Oh, golly gee, what the heck?" in 2012 just didn't feel realistic in my opinion.

On that note, there is also a big scene that features underage drinking. I don't paint it in a great light, but I don't condemn it, either. Let's just say that some characters handle their liquor better than others. In real life, I'm not a big drinker myself and wouldn't encourage my friends' teenagers to do it. But teens do drink and I wasn't going to pretend that they don't.

As for those other things that teens do, there are no actual sex scenes in BAND GEEK, but there's plenty of talk about it, some graphic makeout scenes and some very naughy band locker room behavior. My characters also say some pretty bawdy things, especially Mel's friend Lana. There is also bullying (both in person and cyber) and some minor violent acts beween students. I mean, my title is REVENGE of a band geek gone bad...

I guess my book is being called "wholesome" because compared to a lot of other YA stories out there, like the GOSSIP GIRL series or the BRENNA BLIXEN trilogy, it is pretty tame. But compared to some of the books that I grew up with, I think it's kind of edgy. Besides, I'm always surprised to see which books get knocked for having "inappropriate" content; the ALICE books, for instance, are often maligned because Alice and her friends have very frank discussions about sex. Yet Alice herself rarely cusses or does anything that out of line. Judy Blume's JUST AS LONG AS WE'RE TOGETHER also has some reviews with complaints about its "racy" content, which I find ridiculous. I LOVE that book, but the 13-year-old girls in that story from 1987 are BABIES compared to today's 13-year-old's who have exposure to so many more things.

I think what perhaps people are reacting to in my story is that there are consequences for the bad behavior and that ultimately, BAND GEEK is a tale of redemption. I don't know if I'd call my work wholesome, but I do think that there are some lessons to be learned from it.

Please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Writing A Novel: When Characters Come To Life

When outlining a story, I put a lot of thought into my main characters so that I can make them seem as realistic as possible. However, sometimes a secondary character will surprise by taking on a life of its own.

In BAND GEEK, this happened with the characters Ken and Lenny. Ken was originally meant to just be mentioned in passing and did something very bad to Lana, but ended up becoming a pivotal part of the story. He also turned out to be very likeable as time went on. Lenny was written as a comedic character, but he ended up having a lot of heart ... and he has one serious scene, which gives him a bit more depth.

In my latest novel, I'm really starting to like the character Rachael, who's one of Griffin's sisters. He has three younger sisters -- Rachael, Deborah and Judith, named for my cousin and two sisters-in-law, respectively -- and I originally intended for them to have very small roles in the book. As I wrote for Rachael, though, she developed more and more of a personality -- as is quickly becoming one of my favorites.

What I like about her is that she's strong, outspoken and opinionated, even though she's only 14. She's not the oldest sibling in her family, but she is the oldest girl and is extremely protective of her loved ones. She's a bit of an idealistic and will stand up for what she believes in.

Though I'm an only child, I have plenty of friends with siblings and in most cases, the oldest girl has a certain role in the family. The sister of my childhood friend, Lani, is seven years older than her and seemed like an adult to me when we were growing up. Now that I'm 38, a seven-year difference isn't that big of a deal, but at 15, she'd babysit for us and was so maternal. She was almost like a second mother to Lani and readily accepted the responsibility of looking out for her little sister.

One of my other friends has three sisters and though she's technically not the oldest in terms of age, she's the "oldest" in regards to attiude. My friend is the one who helps organize family dealings, handles family crises and has the shoulders that everyone cries on. Again, she's very maternal and take-charge, and is deeply protective of her siblings.

I guess I was thinking of these women as I wrote Rachael since she has some of their traits. I know that it may seem strange to say that a character "takes on a life" of her own; after all, she's my creation. But even your own writing can surprise you and go in a different direction than what you'd planned. Most writers have experienced this at some point and if you spend a lot of time writing, you probably will, as well.

I'm really pleased with how my recent chapter turned out because it covers a significant event in my novel. I just hope that I can find more motivation in the coming days so that I can continue!

Please read and review my first novel REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Publishing A Novel: Cover Model?

It's been a little over three months since BAND GEEK came out on Amazon and I'm thinking of doing something very drastic: I'm debating whether I should change my book's cover.

I'm very, very torn about this because I spent a lot of money to have my cover professionally designed. Moreover, I absolutely LOVE the cover. The designer, Damonza, did an amazing job and came up with something that's fun, mysterious, cool and interesting. It's received many compliments from readers and is definitely different than many of the young adult book covers that are out there:

The problem is, I don't think that this cover is attracting the audience I really want to get: teen/20-something girls.

While browsing online and on Kindle, I realized that most of the best-selling YA books have something important in common: they have people on the cover. There will either be a close-up of a girl, a shot of a cute guy or a shot of a couple. I doubt that this is what makes these books best sellers; a great story and writing is, of course, necessary, but I do think that the packaging helps. For instance, a really cute book that I recently read is Lacey Weatherford's Crush. As you can see, there is a smokin' hot guy on that cover; he really does get your attention! And based on many reviewers' comments, this is what made them purchase the book. Don't get me wrong; it's a great story and many readers agree with me, but many also admit that it was the cute guy who drew them in. Weatherford must be aware of this, too, because her soon-to-be-released sequel, Smitten, has yet another close-up of the same hottie.

I shouldn't be too surprised by this because now that I think about it, most of the teen books that I've read do have people on the cover. Judy Blume always had a pensive or happy girl (or boy in some cases) on the front of her books. The Sweet Valley High series featured shots of the twins, Jessica and Elizabeth, or their friends. The Alice series always has Alice the character front and center. Even the Harry Potter books have kids on the covers. In fact, the only seriously popular YA books that I can think of off the top of my head that DON'T have cover people are The Hunger Games and Twilight. But they cross over into other genres. BAND GEEK falls right into the contemporary fiction/romance slot where cover people dominate.

People seem to be enjoying BAND GEEK; it's getting great reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, and most of the bloggers who reviewed it during my last book tour gave it positive write-ups. Right now, it's at 4.5 stars on Amazon and 4.09 stars on Goodreads, for which I'm very proud. But despite the good press, it's not selling as well as I'd like and I suspect that I chose the wrong type of cover for my coveted audience.

As of now, I'm not sure what I'm going to do. If I switch up my cover, I'll have to once again plunk down a hefty chunk of change and I can't guarantee that a new cover will indeed boost sales. On the other hand, if a change DOES work, it could be worth it. I don't know. But I do know that with my next book, there will definitely be a face on the front.

Please read and review REVENGE OF A AND GEEK GONE BAD.

Writing A Novel: Deciding Your Novel's Theme

Yesterday I wrote about my friend Amy's advice: that a writer needs to find the conflict in a story. Another thing we discussed during our time together was our novel's themes.

In BAND GEEK, the main theme was revenge: what can drive a person to want to seek vengeance, just how far will a person go, do the ends justify the means? Most of my characters were seeking revenge on some level so that theme repeated throughout my story.

But there were other themes present, as well. One was redemption. Josh starts out as a typical "bad boy" but realizes that he has to eventually grow up. Melinda learns some lessons, too, when it comes to taking on the role of "bad girl." Lana's ex-boyfriend, Ken, betrays her in a major way, but becomes more likeable as the book goes on. Melinda's parents have issues, but they, too, attempt to redeem themselves when it comes to dealing with their daughter. Even the novel's villains, Kathy and Mr. Francis, show different sides of themselves over time.

When it comes to my latest novel, I'd say that the main theme is identity. Griffin has only recently begun telling people that he's gay and has to figure out what this means for him: where does he fit in with his friends? In the dating world? At school? On his sports team? With his family? With his religion? He has a lot of decisions to make, all which center on him deciding who he is. The same goes for Sadie, who for years, has merely identified herself as "The Fat Girl." She's let her weight imprison her, physically and mentally; once she begins to come out of her shell, she realizes that she's been trapped in this version of herself for so long, she has no idea who she is. So both characters have to go through a lot of self-exploration and maturing. This is why I set the story to take place during their freshman year of college. It's a time when most new college students go through many changes and explore their identities; they're living away from home for the first time and are exposed to different types of people and experiences. That theme of identity is there on a micro and macro level.

Of course, as I continue with my story and flesh it out, more themes will come up. I want my book to be as detailed and complex as possible and am still in the process of putting it together. Having an overriding theme, though, at least gives my tale a direction. I plan to use this "map" as I forge on ahead in my writing.

Please read and review my first novel REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Writing A Novel: Finding The Conflict

One of the great things about having writer friends is that they'll help you view your own work in another way. Take my good friend, Amy. She's a really talented middle grade novelist and always have something constructive to tell me about my books.

We met earlier this week and shared some issues and concerns that we're having with our latest works in progress. One of her characters plays flute so she had a lot of music questions for me. I then read aloud the beginning of my most recent chapter.

"That sounds like a lot of information, a lot of exposition," she noted as soon as I'd finished reading. "I think that it would work better if you wove that information into a conversation between the main character and her mom."

At the time I wasn't so sure that I agreed, but decided to try it. And you know what? She was absolutely right! The section flows a lot better, plus I added in a really nice scene that highlights the close relationship between Sadie and her mother. In this case, Amy was right on the money.

Amy also had some general advice for me that's really made me think. She explained that whenever she comes up with a plot or situation, she tries to deepen the conflict; she doesn't want an easy answer. In other words, she doesn't want stuff to happen without examining how each character is affected; she really gets into the personal aspects of each situation and keeps from making things plot-driven.

I think that I do this in my writing, as well, but I liked the way that she put it. I also liked that she asked me all of these nitty-gritty questions about my characters, such as why I decided to call the male lead "Griffin" -- and I was able to answer everything! We're similar in that we put a lot of thought into our characters and their backstory and motivation. That's probably why she and I have been such close friends for so many years; because we think alike.

It's one thing to get an opinion from a friend, but I so appreciate having someone who can dissect my writing and force me to examine the details. I'm looking forward to our next brainstorming session!

Meantime, please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Love At First Sight? Bah, Humbug!

True confession: I'm not a big believer in love at first sight. I enjoy stories about love and romance, and especially like a good RomCom ... but I'm just not into "epic loves" that take place over the course of one meeting. West Side Story is one of my favorite musicals because I love the songs and dancing, but Tony and Maria kind of bore me. Titanic was a great movie and beautiful to look at, but Jack and Rose barely knew each other. Call me a cynic. But I'm more into a When Harry Meets Sally-type love -- one that changes and matures, and endures over time.

I was thinking about this today because I saw the movie version of Les Miserables with some friends. I thought that it was a wonderful film: it was beautifully shot, the acting and singing were fantastic and the I adore the music. But I just couldn't get into Cosette and Marius' "great" romance. I mean, they briefly saw each other across a crowd and then had ONE little conversation before declaring the other the love of his/her life. Huh? I just don't understand it.

I guess I feel this way in my real life, too. I believe in lust at first sight -- I certainly think that you can be attracted to someone whom you've first met -- but wanting to see someone again is very different from wanting to die for that person. I first saw my husband in a photo that my now sister-in-law had with her in college. I thought that Jon was cute and asked if I could meet him, but I wasn't ready to race across continents to find him. He and I were then friends for several years before we decided to date. Come to think of it, I've always been friends first with a guy before dating him. So I'm consistent.

I know that some people really do fall in love at first sight and I say, good for them! If your love is true and it works out, that's rare and wonderful. Enjoy it. But for the sake of entertainment, I prefer TV, movie and book couples who take their time. For me, the romance is in the build up of the relationship. I love when a couple whom I'm rooting for finally goes on a date and then finally kisses and then finally sys the L word. Where is there to go storywise if the couple is instantly bound together for life? I want to savor those milestones and feel that when a fictional couple hooks up too quickly, it's robbing me of one of my favorite parts of a storyline. Granted, it can be difficult to take the time with a couple in a 90-minute movie, but you can still move things along a little bit more slowly.

When writing my own novels, I try to take my time in building up my characters' friendships/romances. In BAND GEEK, most of the story centers around Melinda and Josh's friendship; it takes them a very long time to reach the next stage. But readers are treated to all sorts of fun situations between them and I hope that they're cheering by the time my characters move to the next level. My work in progress follows the platonic relationship between a straight girl and gay guy, but it's still a love story of sorts ... and I'm still taking my time with them. They don't become close friends right away. While they do share a connection, their closeness comes later on.

Of course, for me the most romantic couples are those who've beaten great odds and have stayed together for years and years. Love at first sight may seem like a romantic ideal, but those couples will have a long road ahead of them -- and that's when things get interesting.

Please read and review my young adult romance REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Writing A Novel: More Excerpts From My New Manuscript

This is my 100th blog post at Naomi Rabinowitz Author! In honor of this milestone, I present to you two more excerpts from my latest manuscript. It's still a work in progress, but I'm pleased with how it's turning out.

In this first excerpt, the narrator, Sadie, is describing her rather colorful suitemates in her college dorm:

I lived in a dorm community called The Montgomery Cluster, which is made up of five three-story brick buildings: McGovern, Hastings, Dorchester, Adams and Montclair. McGovern is particularly popular with upper classmen because the dorms have suites. While most of the campus dorms consist of long hallways that have rooms on either side and one communal bathroom, McGovern's suites each have a small common area, a bathroom and three double rooms. The six suitemates share the kitchen and shower, and it's practically like living in an apartment.

If you and your suitemates are close, this is a great arrangement. You get a lot of privacy and have the chance to hang out in the common area as if you were a family. But if you don't like your suitemates, the set-up sucks because you're always in close quarters. In my case, I had to deal with the second scenario as most of my suitemates were well... eccentric.

Danica and Lori lived in the A room. At first, Danica seemed as if she were sweet; she always smiled and has big, brown eyes that twinkle with mischief. But the reason why she looks like this is because she was always laughing. Like a hyenna. I'm not exaggerating when I say that she cackled at everything. If you told her that you had a ton of homework, she'd crack up, her loud giggles echoing off the walls. Invite her to go to dinner and she'd let out a chuckle. Ask her if she can please keep quiet because it's 1 a.m. and you'd like to get some sleep and she'd launch into a full-out fit. I don't know what the deal is, but she laughed and laughed and laughed. I figured that she was permanently stoned, but her constant braying bored through my brain like an earwig on acid.

Lori looked like your typical beauty queen with big, brown curls and deep blue eyes. I think that she and Danica shared a stash, though, because while Danica was always laughing, Lori was constantly staring into space. Ask her if you can change the TV channel and she'd reply, "Whaaaa...?" Tell her that her phone is ringing and she'd say, "Huhhhhhh.....?" She was also a collector of clowns. Yes, clowns. One or two clown dolls wouldn't be a big deal since we all decorated our rooms with silly knickknacks. But she had about 50 clown puppets, clown figurines and a series of circus postcards. No one ever said anything to her about her, uh, colorful collection, but I can only imagine how much it messed with Danica's mind when she was under the influence. Maybe this is why she laughed so damn much, because she thought that she was at the Big Top watching a show.

Inez and Jill lived in the B room. Inez was a junior and was actually normal. She chose to live in a freshman suite because she was gearing up to become a residential advisor and thought that she could help out the rest of us. Unfortunately, she was hardly ever around. She knew pretty much everyone in the building and belonged to about a zillion clubs, so we only saw each other in passing. When she was home, she was like an oasis of calm among the rest of us.

Jill, on the other hand, liked to sleep all day. I don't know when she went to classes because she was always in bed. Surprisingly, she often had guys in said bed, though I'm not sure when she met them since she never left her room, at least during daylight hours. At night she came alive ... and paced our suite, back and forth, back and forth, for hours. I suppose that she was just a night owl or suffered from insomnia; then again, she might've been a vampire.

And then here, Sadie describes her eating binge:

Later I hid out in the back of the dorm's all-night cafe, a plate of cheese fries sitting in front of me and a pint of Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey faithfully cradled in my hand like a delicate vase. I sat facing the wall so that no one else could look at me or scrutinize what I was eating. Once I was sure that I was as alone as possible, I quickly scooped up spoonful after spoonful of the sweet, creamy treat, sighing as the ice cream melted on my tongue and numbed my throat. When I tired of the sugar, I grabbed a fry, letting the saltiness of the cheese warm my stomach. The more I ate, the more my brain shut down and I was able to forget about Veronica and her bloody artwork, or the fact that I hadn't connected with any of my other suitemates. For a few blissful moments, I could shut away my loneliness and concentrate on nothing but the ice cream's taste and texture. I slowly closed my eyes and licked my spoon, relishing the way the nuts crunched against my teeth and calmed my nerves. My suitemates were banished to the back of my mind.

For the past few days, most of my work has involved going through the first few chapters and rewriting certain parts. I keep meaning to move on to the next chapter and write that, but I'm not yet satisfied with my book's beginning. I'm getting there, though. I feel as if my characters are beginning to come alive and that their backstories are interesting. Once I have an appropriate build-up, I'll feel a lot more secure about getting to the next section. So I haven't progressed with my writing in a linear sense, but I've definitely improved upon my original draft.

I can't believe that I've already written 100 entries in this blog! A lot has happened in the past three months, most of it good. Hopefully by my 200th entry, I'll have much more of this manuscript completed.

Meantime, please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Last Day Of My Blog Tour!

It's the final day of my blog tour and it's ending with a nice review of BAND GEEK up at Sweet Southern Home. Thank you, Carrie, for hosting me! Readers, be sure to comment on her post so you can have a chance to win a prize of a CD and earrings!

To be honest, this all-review book tour has had mixed results for me. On the one hand, it's been GREAT because BAND GEEK has gotten so many wonderful reviews and I've enjoyed getting that feedback. I now have more reviews up on Amazon and Goodreads, which will only help me in the longrun, and the positive comments have bolstered my confidence in my writing. I truly, truly appreciate these bloggers for taking the time to read and then write about my book (some even posted reviews on multiple sites for me). Indie authors need all the help they can get when it comes to marketing and I think it's great that these bloggers are doing so much to help writers. At the end of this post I'll again link to all of the sites that hosted me; I encourage all of my readers to check out these blogs because they're written by some very thoughtful and intelligent people. A BIG THANKS once again to Goddess Fish and everyone involved!!!

Unfortunately, sales of my book are still slow. I've blogged about it, posted links on Twitter and Facebook, and have even included links on sites like Stumbleupon. And yet it's been kind of dead this month and I'm not sure why. I'm wondering if perhaps I needed to offer a different kind of prize in my blog tour, maybe something other than a CD and earrings? I thought that my gift is cool -- something handmade and different, but I see that a lot of other authors on blog tours are offering things like Amazon gift cards. Perhaps the next time I should follow the pack a bit more and do something that will encourage more people to check in and comment on the blog posts -- even if I am using some bribery, LOL. Oh well, live and learn, I guess. What do you guys think? What sort of author "prize" makes you want to participate in a tour?

The good news is that these bloggers' reviews will be up on their sites and Amazon for the longhaul so this can only help my book. It's helping me as a writer, too, because I've gotten many different perspectives on BAND GEEK. It sort of felt as if we were part of a round-table discussion! So while an all-review blog tour may not guarantee sales for an author, it certainly offers many other positives.

Once again, here's a list of the blogs who participated in my tour:

YA Book Addict

Unabridged Andra

Andi's Young Adult Books

My Neurotic Book Affair

Buried In Books

Musings From An Addicted Reader

Sweet Southern Home

Long And Short Reviews

Rogue's Angels

The Life (and lies) Of An Inanimate Flying Object

Paranormal Book Club

Please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD, 4.6 stars on Amazon!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Literary Lessons I've Learned From The Kardashians

I'm not a huge fan of reality TV, but I have a shameful secret to share: I really do keep up with the Kardashians. It's a guilty pleasure and yes, I watch all of the spinoffs and specials, too. Their shows are like trainwrecks and I just can't turn away.

I think that there are some good reasons, though, WHY the Kardashians have stayed in the limelight (beyond being famewhores, I mean) and have such a following. Since I've been sucked into their orbit and obviously don't have the best taste, I figured that I may as well study them like a sociologist would and determine just what makes them watchable. I've even found some ways to relate this to my writing! (Okay, it's a sttreeeetttch, but work with me here. I really do have some points).

1. The Kardashians are an ensemble TV show. One reason why viewers keep tuning in is simply because there are so many of them! It's difficult to escape the K-clan because everywhere you look, there's Kim or Khloe or Kris, or... you get the picture. Moreover, more people means more storylines. For me, many "reality shows" about families or couples get boring pretty quickly because those two or three people can only generate so many plot points. But the Kardashians can mix things up. Some episodes center around Kim, sometimes poor Rob gets to be the center of attention... and, of course, you get everyone else's reactions to the drama. LITERARY LESSON: Make ALL of your characters engaging and well-rounded, even the side players. Our real lives are filled with plenty of people who shape us. Make every character have as much depth as possible.

2. The relationships between the Ks are organic. Yes, I know that the show is 99 percent scripted, but the "characters" really are family members. They all share a history so when Kim and Khloe scream at each other, or at their mom, there's a story behind it. They're not just a bunch of randoms thrown together for the sake of a reality show. The fact that they really are family adds some weight to the storylines, scripted or not. LITERARY LESSON: Don't just throw characters together for the sake of doing so. SHOW -- don't tell -- how your characters know each other, or are getting to know each other. That backstory is important.

3. The Kardashians have all different types of "characters" in the family and appeal to many age groups. There's Kris, the famewhore mom, who tends to be painted as the villain; Kim, the "glamorous" one; Rob, the "slacker"; Khloe, the "truth teller." Each family member has a certain persona and the show features parents, grandparents and kids. If you don't like one person, you can relate to and root for another. LITERARY LESSON: Have some variety in your characters. Don't make everyone unlikeable or too nice, etc. Have some villains, some heroes ... mix things up.

4. There's some humor in the program. Kourtney's babydaddy, Scott, used to be more of a bad guy, but in recent shows, he gets the funny storylines. Scott obviously gets how scripted this show is and fully understands his role -- and he just goes for it when it comes to his stories, even if he has to do silly things like pretend to be an English Lord or go gaga over a walking stick. He adds some comedy to the show and breaks things up. LITERARY LESSON: Don't make your story 100 percent serious or funny. Even in drama, there are some funny moments, and vice versa. Make your story well-rounded in that regard.

5. Everyone is at least somewhat relatable. In real life, I probably wouldn't be friends with any of these people. They're fame hungry, shallow, super materialistic and a little too caught up in that Hollywood lifestyle. But -- and this is a big but, like Kim's -- no one really seems to be particularly evil to me. Some other reality show folks come off as being absolutely violent, racist, homophobic and horrible, but the Ks are at most, kind of dim. I often wonder WHY they're famous and WHY I watch them, but I don't actively hate anyone. They don't make me want to smash in my TV screen. LITERARY LESSON (and yes, this is really pushing for a connection): Give all of your characters, even the villains, some redeeming qualities. Most people are good and bad; show both sides in your writing.

6. The Kardashians go big! Yes, Kim and Kris h's wedding was a sham, but boy, what a sham wedding it was! The Ks know how to put on a show. Many episodes will follow them as they do mundane things like go to a photoshoot, but then they'll have some "event" like a sister's wedding or a baby's birth, or a family vacation. LITERARY LESSONS: Have a few memorable moments in your story -- and make sure that you build up to those moments so that the payoff is worth it.

7. Though Keeping Up With The Kardashians is mainly scripted, there are some very real moments caught on screen -- and it's hard not to get caught up in them. Since 100 percent of their life is recorded, there is bound to be SOME reality in the program and you get that with scenes like Mason and Penelope's births, or Rob's breakdown at the therapist's office. Plus, we've gotten to see the family expand in almost real-time and have witnessed the girls, Kylie and Kendall, grow up. Some things can't be faked and I like the show best when we get these small glimpses of reality. LITERARY LESSON: Even if you're writing a work of fiction, inject some reality into your story. You may write about aliens or vampires, but at least try to make your characters' feelings and reactions feel real. This will draw in readers when they can understand and relate to what your characters are going through.

So there you have it! This is my way of justifying my interest in the Kardashians. And yes, I will be tuning in to Kim & Kourtney on Sunday, ready and waiting!

If I haven't scared you off with this post, please read and review my novel REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

More Reviews Of BAND GEEK -- And A Defense Of A Character

Got two more great reviews of BAND GEEK from bloggers! You can read YA Book Addict's take and the one written by Unabridged Audra. Thanks again, ladies, for your support -- it's much appreciated. And readers, again, make sure you check out their posts and comment on them so that you can have a chance to win my special giveaway package.

It really means a lot to me to know that so many people are enjoying my writing and characters. I try to have faith in myself as a writer and to not put too much stock in reviews because I don't want the negative ones to bring me down, and I don't want to get too caught up in "believing my own press." But let's face it, I think I can speak for most authors when I say that we definitely care what others think, good or bad. Getting a really positive review makes my day and boosts my confidence in my abilities.

But it seems as if even the readers who adore BAND GEEK still dislike Mel's mom, Lydia. Poor Lydia; that character is misunderstood, I guess, LOL. It's funny, because when I wrote Mel's nemesis, Kathy, I wrote her with the INTENT for her to be the villain. She's the leader of the "mean girls" who taunt my narrator and has many unlikeable moments. However, some have commented that they actually came to hate and like Kathy in some scenes; she's turned out to be that girl whom you "love to hate." Lydia hasn't quite garnered that respect, maybe because she's a mother and should know better? I don't know. Truth be told, though, I didn't write her to be the bad guy. I wrote her to be a very stressed and hypercritical parent who wants what's best for her daughter and goes about dealing with Mel in the absolute wrong way. She does try ... and seems to have failed, even if she does get redeemed. I suppose that it's good that I created a character who's geting such a strong reaction! The good news is that the mom in my latest novel is the complete opposite; she's very laid back and sweet -- to a fault, actually -- and dotes on her daughter. Like I said in my last post, there is no right or wrong way to react to my book, but I wanted to share my perspective and the thoughts that went behind creating this woman.

I'm not a parent, but I do have a niece and a honorary nephew, and have many friends who are new parents. It's interesting to see different parenting styles. Not all adults handle their children in the same way. Some are awful and abusive (I'm not referring to any of my friends here; just parents in general). Some are firm and loving. Some, like Lydia, love their kids but let their own issues affect their relationships. I wrote this story with my teen years in mind, but now that I'm an adult, I can understand the parents' side a little, too. Just because you're a grownup and have children doesn't mean that you have all of the answers. In BAND GEEK, the adults are as a flawed as the teens, if not more.

One of the things that I like the best about writing is exploring the idea of different types of real-life relationships -- for better or for worse. I hope that the characters in my next book make as much as an impression as Lydia, Mel and Josh are for readers of BAND GEEK.

Please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD, currently 4.6 stars on Amazon and 4.09 stars on Goodreads!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Writing A Novel: Making Characters Different And Interesting

Woo hoo, BAND GEEK got another great review today! This one is from Shari at My Neurotic Book Affair. Make sure you comment on her post so that you can get a chance to win my CD and handmade wire wrapped music earrings.

So far, almost every reviewer -- even the ones who haven't cared for my book so much -- have mentioned how much they like and relate to my narrator, Melinda. This makes me so happy because while writing her, I came to love her (and Josh) almost as if they were real people and put a lot of work into making them come alive. I'm pleased that others are enjoying them as much as I enjoyed writing about them.

Now that I'm working on my next book, I'm still trying to get to know these two main characters, Sadie and Griffin. One of my biggest challenges is writing a narrator who's interesting and relatable -- but has a different voice from Melinda. It's taking some work because the girls have some similarites: like Mel, Sadie is overweight (though much more so), is reserved and a bit of a loner, hasn't had much experience with dating, and has musical talents (in Sadie's case, she sings). I put a bit of myself into my characters so it's not surprising that all will pick up some of my real-life traits. But being a writer means you have to "write what you know" and then expand upon that. Sadie's background and homelife isn't at all like Mel's; plus, Sadie is experiencing her first year of college, so the setting is shaping this newer character. I'm still finding her voice, but it'll happen soon enough.

I think it's common for an author's characters to take on certain similarities because they're all coming from the same place: from that author's imagination. My favorite writers have managed to share their voices through their creations -- and mix things up just enough to keep me guessing and wanting more.

Please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Writer's Dreams (And Nightmares)

My blog tour continues today with an awesome review of BAND GEEK at Andi's Young Adult Books. Thanks again, Andi, for saying such wonderful things about my novel! Make sure you check in and comment on her post so that you can have a chance at winning a copy of my CD and my handmade music earrings, which are silver wire wrapped earrings with Swarovski crystal hearts:

Most of these reviews have been posted very early in the morning, so I've been feeling a little anxious as I've gone to bed. Needless to say, I've been having some odd dreams about writing. I had one the other night where someone left a one-star review on Amazon complaining that my portrayal of a flute player was offensive to all of the flute players of the world. I then had another dream where I was trying to write, but my fingers refused to type the actual words. It felt as if my hands were stuck to the keys ... and of course, I was on deadline. I was very relieved when I awoke and realized that my fingers and typing skills are fine!

Obviously, this book is the big thing on my mind right now. I'm trying to relax and enjoy the ride, but I still worry about getting my work out there, finishing my second book ... and then I worry if I can really make it as a novelist. Then again, how does one decide if she's "made it?" Is it when I'm a best selling author? When I reach a certain number of four and five-star reviews on Amazon? I'm not sure. This is something that I'm still working out.

I'm supposed to have TWO blogs review BAND GEEK tomorrow, so that's twice the anxiety! But for today, I'm pleased that the blogger enjoyed my book ... and I'll hopefully get a good night's sleep tonight.

Please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Publishing A Novel: Writing A Plus-Sized Heroine

Today BAND GEEK was reviewed at the blog Buried In Books. The blogger, Heather, wrote a very thoughtful review which has provoked an interesting discussion among commenters: Does having my narrator's mother nag Melinda about her weight send a bad message to young readers?

When I wrote Melinda, I made her a Size 12 (and eventually a Size 10) because I wanted it to be clear that she's not stick thin. She's definitely not fat, but she's curvy -- and it takes her a while to accept that she's beautiful inside and out. The mother, Lydia, is hypercritical, but it's the mom's problem; she can't control the health of her sick father so she's instead trying to control her daughter's weight. Many of the things that the mother says aren't kind, but in her own messed-up way, she's trying to help her daughter. I've had arguments with people in my life about my weight and know that I'm not alone; I wanted to present a realistic and raw dynamic between the mother and daughter. I attempted to show that it was the mom's issue as Lydia eventually comes around and lightens up. Perhaps I should've done more to show that, but the weight storyline is only one aspect of my novel. One of the commenters referred to Lydia as "horrid," but if you read the book, you'll see that she's not horrid at all; she's just dealing with a lot of sress and anxiety and because of that, isn't as kind to her daughter as she should be. The mom is very flawed, but does redeem herself.

In the end, though, Mel comes to appreciate herself, curves and all. Meanwhile, Kathy, the character with the "perfect" figure has her own insecurities. I tried to show how being bone thin doesn't automatically equal happiness. It takes a while for Melinda to learn this, but she does.

I guess weight will always be a controversial topic, one that as a plus-sized woman, I'm all too familiar with. I think it's really great that this discussion was sparked and want to make it clear that I don't see others' opinions as being "wrong." I'm always happy to get a new perspective on my writing and appreciate the posters for chiming in with their thoughts.

Please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD and let me know what YOU think!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Publishing A Novel: My First Overseas Review!

I find it amusing that one of my most-read posts on this blog is the one I wrote about my first bad review. I don't know if the people reading this are other writers who've received rejections and are happy to know that they're not alone, or if these readers are simply people who enjoy hearing about others' bad days, but for whatever reason, that post is getting a lot of attention.

I'm happy to report that BAND GEEK received its first review from the United Kingdom on UK Amazon. And it got five stars from this person!

I haven't sold that many books overseas, at least not yet, so I still get a kick out of seeing sales from the UK or Germany, or France. I wonder how BAND GEEK's tale will translate in these places. Obviously there isn't a language issue for readers in England and the rest of the UK, but the British sense of humor is a bit different from America's. So I'm pleased that a teen from the UK enjoyed my book so much.

I do want to make it clear that I'm not trying to brag about my work by sharing these little triumphs. As you know, I'm more than willing to share my disappointments and I'm my own worst critic. I'm hoping that by blogging about both the good and bad points in my writing career that I can give readers -- and prospective authors -- a chance to see what being an indie author is really like. That said, thanks again to everyone who's weighed in on my book so far.

Please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Writing A Novel: Psycho Typos

I've always tried to catch typos in my writing, but I'm not perfect. I still make mistakes from time to time. I do work hard, though, at trying to make my writing as clean as possible. Right now, I'm going through my work in progress with a fine-toothed comb and have already come across some crazy typos.

In one scene, my narrator talks about how she's singing along to the radio. Only instead of saying that she sings another verse, I have her singing another voice. Say what? I get WHY the wrong word was used, because voice equals singing and I was writing about her singing, but still -- this didn't make sense.

Shortly after, there's another scene where my narrator says that she sings along to another song. Only here I say that she sings along to another car. WTF? Again, I understand why I used the word "car" -- because the character is in a car at the time of the scene, but really, I don't know where my head was when I wrote this chapter!

This is why it's so important to get as many capable editors to look over your work as possible. It's good to have fresh eyes see your words because your mind can play tricks on you. You may repeat a word like "the the" or use a word incorrectly ... but because you know your story so well, your mind will automatically correct the mistake as you read. I know that I've done this with my own work.

With my WIP, I'm going through each chapter carefully. Perfection is impossible, but the closer I can get it to perfect, the more satisfied I will be.

Please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Writing A Novel: I'm Not The Only Writer In My Family

This blog is mainly about my writing and my projects, but I'm not the only author in my family. I'm surrounded by many talented people who challenge and inspire me.

My dad also has a science fiction/historical novel up on Amazon called The Lincoln Exchange. It's actually a two-part story, but is a quick read. I'm not a huge fan of alternative history, but read this because, well, he's my dad ... and ended up LOVING his story! Seriously, I was very impressed, both with his writing and with the execution of the plot. He includes so many details and everything ties together in the end. As you can see from the reviews on Amazon, others agree. Now he just has to put his book on Kindle and he'll be all set...

Speaking of alternative history, my husband Jon is working on a series of short stories about Haiti. I'm not going to list them all, but here's one that was published in Lacuna Magazine and here's another. He eventually plans to put them together in an anthology. Meanwhile, he's working on a full-length novel about ancient Minoans called THE BULL AND THE DOLPHIN. He's written a draft and is currently revising it, and will then decide where to place and market his work. Again, this isn't a genre I usually read, but Jon's writing pulls you right into the story.

As for actual history, my cousin Rachael is a personal historian who writes people's biographies. The books that she puts together for her clients are beautiful and her genuine care for her clients come through. You can read more about her work at Life Stories Today.

As you can see I have plenty of people to turn to when I need help with my own writing. I'm so proud to have such creative family members!

Please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD, 4.5 stars on Amazon, now just 99 cents.

Marketing An Indie Book: Blog Tour Disappointment

Part of being an indie author means that you have to do your own marketing of your book -- and in most cases, this means putting money into some things.

I don't mind making an investment if I feel as if the cost will be worth it and I realize that with marketing, as with selling most things online, it's kind of a crap shoot. You can pay to have the most popular blog in the world review your work, but that doesn't necessarily mean that people will buy your book. Still, I at least want the services for which I paid to be carried out.

Sadly, this does not seem to be happening with my latest blog tour, which is supposed to be an all-review tour. The first two days went as planned; both blogs had reviews posted right on time. One review wasn't as positive as I'd hoped, but she was what I asked for. That blogger did her job.

Unfortunately, the tour has since fallen apart. One blogger had to postpone her review due to illness. That's fine. I don't expect anyone to work while they are sick and she gave me a new post date well ahead of schedule. But the other two blogs just sort of flaked. One still hasn't posted a review; the other posted a blurb and excerpt, but no review ... which is well, specifically what I paid for.

I want to make it clear that none of my annoyance has to do with the host company. They've been great. They've kept me posted on my tour schedule and have sent me continual alerts about the review (or lack thereof) situation. I know that they've contacted the bloggers to find out what's up.

But I am upset with people for not honoring their commitment and not meeting deadlines. I understand that life can get in the way, that people have jobs, kids, doctor's appointments and a number of other things that can make a schedule crazy. But if you can't get something done on time -- something for which I PAID MONEY -- at least have the courtesy to tell me that you can't do the job.

I do want to say that I'm grateful to the bloggers who've hosted me or have posted reviews of BAND GEEK. Blogging does take a lot of time and it was generous of them to feature me on their sites. I hope that these other bloggers come through in the end and that the rest of this tour goes smoothly. I just want my money's worth and don't think that this is asking for too much.

Please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD, 4.5 stars on Amazon, now just 99 cents!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Publishing A Novel: Finding Your Audience

First up: My blog tour continues today with an excellent review of BAND GEEK up at Musings From An Addicted Reader. Head over to the site to comment -- and get a chance to win a free copy of my CD FLUTE PATH and a pair of my handmade music earrings!

I'm grateful to be getting so many positive reviews, of course, but one thing that I've noticed is that my audience isn't turning out to be the audience that I'd planned to get.

When I wrote BAND GEEK, it was with teens in mind. It's a story about high schoolers and definitely has a teenage sensibility. My heroine, Melinda, is naive, somewhat bratty at points and is still learning about the world. In some ways, she's very mature, but in others, she's way behind her peers. I figured that a 14, 15-year-old girl could relate to her and attempted to write Mel as realistically as I could.

To my surprise, a lot of adults have picked up and enjoyed the book! I suppose this shouldn't be that shocking to me; after all, I love young adult literature and read it often. I just didn't expect so many people who are in my age-range to be interested in a high school story. But I think that it's appealed to them because going to high school and being a teen is something that EVERYONE can relate to, whether you're still a teen or not. It's kind of a universal experience and readers are either dealing with that time in their life right now ... or are reading my novel with a sense of nostalgia.

I think it's also easier to get different types of books today, thanks to the Internet. Not that it was difficult before; bookstores stock every genre and it's not like I grew up in the Dark Ages (though sometimes it does seem like it as I can't even imagine being without my cell phone these days). But when I went to the bookstore with my parents, I'd generally hang out in the YA section while they looked around at what they wanted. If I wanted to get books from different genres, I had to find them in the bookstore or library. Nowadays, you just click on a couple of links and there you are. It's not a huge change, but it does making shopping for books quicker and easier -- and you never know what surprise book you may stumble upon in an online search.

What I've learned from this is to not market your work to just one audience. For my next novel, I'll pick a prime group of people whom I think may be interested and market to them, but I'm going to broaden my horizons, as well. You just never know who will want to read your story!

Please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD, now just 99 cents!

Monday, January 7, 2013

New Book Tour Kicks Off Today -- New Review Of BAND GEEK!

Since my last blog tour was reasonably successful, I signed on for another one with the promotional company Goddess Fish. This particular tour is an all-review tour, meaning that the bloggers simply read and review my book. I'm not writing any guest blog posts or doing any interviews; I'm just commenting on posts that readers write in response to the reviews.

This morning, my tour kicked off with a critique from Long And Short Reviews. Overall, she really liked BAND GEEK. She related to Melinda and appreciated the growth that Josh goes through during the story. I'm glad that she "got" him as a character because I really worked hard to not make him a straight-up hero; I wanted him to be flawed with a chance to make some changes about himself. She said that she really got into the story and was anxious to find out what would happen.

She does take off some points for typos. She's not the only person who's commented on this so I'm wondering if perhaps I should hire a professional editor. I've read my work so many times at this point that I think my edits would be useless and I'd probably miss typos. I thought that I got them all, but you reach a point where your eye automatically corrects them in your head because you know your work so well. I had several writer/editor friends do reads ... but all have their own jobs, kids, etc. If this book were produced by a large publishing house, I'd have an editor on hand who'd spend months going over every sentence. So perhaps it's time for me to invest. In general, I've gotten very positive comments about the story and if this will take it to the next level, it could be worth it.

For now, I'm going to wait to see what the other bloggers on the tour have to say. I'm just glad that people are enjoying BAND GEEK and getting so into the story. I really do appreciate every reader and reviewer that I have!

Please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD, just 99 cents!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Writing A Novel: Use Your Words Wisely -- An Interesting Review

I haven't yet read the 50 SHADES OF GREY trilogy so I can't comment on the books; however, some of the reviews are pretty funny, including one where the reader kept a running count on repetitive phrases and words, such as "blushed," "flushed," "gasped," etc. Recently, I received a review where the reader also apparently kept count in my book ... and complained about my repetitive use of the word "that."

I'm not sure whether she means that I used "that" too many times (see, I used it twice in one phrase) or if she was critiquing sentences where I used the word twice in a row, i.e. "I told you that that girl isn't worth talking to!" (In this case, my usage is correct, though I very well could've had a typo where the word was incorrectly repeated.). Anyway, it was an interesting review and one that friends have joked about. One suggested that I used "a" and "the" too many times; another advised me to use more accents over words.

Still, much as some people may have laughed about it, her review got me thinking: When does a writer know when he or she has overused a particular word or phrase?

When I was at the magazine, we were all very aware of our word usage. Our longest articles were about 1500 words, certainly not anywhere near novel length, so we tried to vary attributions. As we quoted an actor, we wouldn't just say, "He said." We'd use everything from "He stated" to "He mused." We tried to mix things up as much as possible, making sure that everything made sense of course.

There were some other instances where repetitive words were pointed out to us. My boss once told me that I overused "however" as a transitional term. And the copy editors were always coming up with new ways to say the same thing. For instance, if we wrote about the winter weather and used "cold" three times in one paragraph, they'd suggest that we use a "cold," "frigid" and "freezing" to add some variety.

This may seem like nitpicking, but this kept our articles interesting and colorful. I kept this in mind as I wrote BAND GEEK. I thought that my first draft contained too many "weirds" so I edited a lot out. I also edited out a lot of characters' eye rolls, sighs and smirks. Actually, describing facial expressions and ticks was pretty tricky because there are only so many ways to write about emotions without going completely over the top -- so I can understand why E.L. James relied on a lot of blushing and flushing of her characters.

When one writes a 70,000-word novel, it's nearly impossible to NOT repeat certain words. I do think it's important to have some variety, but I haven't yet read a book where every single key word is different. Ultimately, moderation is ideal. I try to at least keep repeated phrases a few paragraphs apart.

This review was a little surprising to me, but I'm open to constructive criticism and appreciate the fact that this woman took the time to give me some. She definitely gave me something to consider!

Please read and review (and count words, if you wish) REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD, just 99 cents!

Publishing A Book: The Surreal World

Many of my former high school classmates have read BAND GEEK. It's flattering that they're supporting my work, but I think that at least part of their reasons for reading my book are to see if they "recognize" any of my characters.

As I've said before, I did base some characters on real people, though most were a composite of people whom I knew. However, there were a couple of cases where I just out-and-out used a person's name. It's no secret that the character Principal Scott Muller is based on my friend of the same name. It's just a cameo role and I named him after my pal as a little joke; happily, the real Scott is pleased to be "in" the story.

Things got a little weird, though, when I had a discussion with his MOM about my story. I know his family very well and count them among my friends, but still, it felt strange to be talking about Book!Scott with the mother of Real!Scott. She was very encouraging, though, and went out of her way to tell me how much she enjoyed BAND GEEK. I didn't ask her about it or even if she'd read it; she sought me out, which was really sweet. I did ask her what she thought of Book!Scott, though, and she laughed.

I think that most authors name at least a couple of characters after real people in their lives. I'm actually a character in my cousin Barbara's ESL books; she wrote several books that are used to teach English and named her characters after relatives, including me. It's a fun way to give props to the people you care about and who encouraged your writing. I'm just glad that my real-life friends and family -- and their family members! -- like my literary shout-outs.

Please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD, just 99 cents!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Publishing On Kindle: KDP Select Pros And Cons

My 90-day contract with KDP Select ends this month, which means that I'll have to decide whether I want to renew with this service. It's a pretty big decision, so here are some of the things that I've liked -- and haven't liked about my experience with KDP Select so far.

CON: KDP Select asks authors to grant them 90 days of exclusivity. This means that you can only sell your books on Amazon -- not on Smashwords, Lulu or even your own website. This greatly limits authors who want to diversify their products.

PRO: However, 90 days isn't a very long period. It's not like KDP Select is asking for five years of exclusivity. And out of all of the indie publishing platforms available, let's face it -- Amazon gets the most traffic.

PRO: KDP Select authors' books can be borrowed in Kindle's lending library. Amazon Prime members can borrow your work for free ... but you still make money from borrows. So far, I've made almost as much money from borrows as I have from sales, so I really like this feature.

PRO: KDP Select gives you five days during a 90-day period during which you can give your book away for free. The idea is to put your name out there and gain publicity. I've had mixed results with this, but my last run was successful. Sales went up for quite a while after the promotion and I got several more reviews on my Amazon and Goodreads pages.

CON: I don't plan to do another free giveaway because, well, I want to make money from my book -- even if it's just 99 cents a download. I'd rather promote my work in a way which will encourage people to actually buy BAND GEEK. And 99 cents is about as cheap as you can get outside of getting it for free. Besides, Smashwords allows authors to giveaway books whenever they want; there's no limit on days. But again, Smashwords' traffic isn't as high as Amazon's.

CON: I find it very difficult to get visibility and a higher ranking on Amazon. When my book has sold well, my visibility goes up... but when sales slow down, so does my ranking. It's a vicious cycle and a system that's designed to reward already-successful authors. I wish that Amazon had some promotional options for indie authors (other than free days) to put their names out there and get their books on the most visible pages.

PRO: As I've said a few times now, Amazon gets great traffic. I've heard mixed things about Smashwords and authors' success on that site. It reminds me a bit of how I tried to sell my jewelry on Etsy and ArtFire, but didn't sell a thing on the latter, simply because ArtFire doesn't get Etsy's traffic. Still, it would be nice to have some more options for my writing.

As of now, I'm leaning toward not renewing my KDP Select contract. I can still sell my work on regular Kindle/Amazon and at least try Smashwords and Lulu. It can't hurt to see what happens since both sites are free. And if I don't like those results, I can always re-sign with KDP Select. In the end, I just want to do what's best for my book and I'm glad that indie authors have a few choices.

Please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD, just 99 cents!

Kindle Direct Publishing: Pricing Your Book

I published my novel with Kindle Direct Publishing almost three months ago, but am still trying to figure out what the best price is for it. Thankfully, Kindle makes it easy to change your book's information, including its price, so self-published authors can experiment and see what readers are willing to pay.

I initially sold BAND GEEK for $2.99 because several other indie pub YA titles that I like sell at that price. However, what I didn't take into account is that these authors are more established than I am and have had their work up on Amazon for a while. Readers know what they're getting with these authors so they're willing to pay a bit more for their work. New authors, like me, still need to prove themselves. That said, I did manage to sell a few downloads at $2.99, but it was mostly to friends and family members. After that, sale died down.

I decided to lower the price significantly and repriced my book at 99 cents. Sales went up tremendously! I guess people are looking for a bargain, especially when it comes to unknown names. I ended up making more on my book at $.99 because I sold so many more copies. I also sold a bunch of books in the United Kingdom, Germany and France.

My last free giveaway was a success and gave my sales a huge boost. It was then that I decided to take a chance and raise my price back up to $1.99. And ... sales went down. I still did alright, but not as well as before. Plus, I didn't sell any copies overseas at that price.

I've kept my book at $1.99 for a few weeks just to see how it would do, but I've now decided to relist it once again at $.99. I'd like to eventually sell my work at a higher price, but as I said, I'm still a new author and I feel like I can make up for the cost with increased volume. It's now so easy for readers to get thousands of free books for their Kindles that I need to stay competitive and remember where I stand. I'm still at the bottom of the ladder in terms of author recognition. BAND GEEK is getting good reviews and readers are enjoying it, but it's not yet a bestseller. Until that time comes, I think I'm just going to keep it at 99 cents.

I'm not epxecting to get rich from my writing. I would like to make some money, but more than that I'd simply like to get my work out there. If pricing my book low is to way to do it -- for now -- then this is what I'll do to reach my goal.

Please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD, now just 99 cents!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Book Review: The Alice Series By Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

There are some books that I can read over and over again and enjoy, sort of like literary comfort food. Among these are the Alice books by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor.

The books' premise at first seems simple: they follow Alice -- an average-looking girl with an average life -- from ages 12-18 (though Reynolds' wrote three prequels featuring Alice from ages 9-11 and her final Alice book will follow the titular character through her adult years). However, in reading the dozens of incredibly detailed and realistic books, you realize that almost everyone has an interesting life and a story to tell.

Most of Alice's trials and tribulations involve things that would worry a typical teen: she wants to fit in with her friends, find love, do well in school and figure out what she wants to be when she grows up. She lost her mother when she was four so a big part of the plot involves Alice's attempts to hook up her dad with her teacher, Miss Summers (which she succeeds in doing as they eventually marry). Naylor really makes you feel for the narrator, though, and at times, it's easy to forget that Alice isn't actually a real person. She's intelligent, introspective, kind and funny -- and though she's supposed to represent EveryGirl, she's the type of girl whom most teens would want to be. Still, she leads a life that girls could emulate; she's not the most beautiful or popular or special ... she's just hardworking and does her best to work with what she has. It's a big difference from one of my other favorite teen series, Sweet Valley High, where twins Jessica and Elizabeth were impossibly beautiful and hung out with the children of millionaires. That was pure fantasy. But Alice lives a life that's pretty nice and attainable.

I have to say, though, that I like the earlier and middle books in the series better than the later ones as I feel that Naylor is much better at writing tweens and young teens than young/new adults. The early books contained plenty of adventures, but most centered around realistic problems, such as Alice's friend Pamela dealing with her parents' divorce. Readers got a deep look into Alice's thoughts as she beautifully expressed her opinions and feelings on life around her. In the later books, however, the stories became much more plot-oriented. The main story in Alice In Charge, which takes place during her senior year, involves a group of teen Neo Nazis who try to terrorize the school. What? The latest book, Alice On Board, takes place on a cruise and most of the story is about the goings-on on the boat. I wish that these later books had involved more details about Alice's senior year with her friends and her feelings on college and potential careers. Instead, Naylor crammed these "episodes" with issues, making them feel like an After School Special. I don't know if the author was trying to make them more modern or had pressure put on her from her publisher, or what, but Alice always had plenty to say without these added obstacles. In fact, the best part of the Alice books was getting to know Alice herself.

Even so, I'm looking forward to Naylor's final Alice book, Always Alice, which is scheduled to be released this spring. I've enjoyed reading about the character and admire Naylor for not only writing one book, but an entire series! Having covered soaps for so many years, I can appreciate how much work went into crafting an entire LIFETIME for a character and her friends -- and for creating a persona who's so likeable.

I highly recommend that you check out the Alice books. No matter what age you are, you'll relate to her story. There is some strong language and a lot of talk of sexual situations, so younger kids may want to wait to read them or read them along with an adult. Meantime, please read and review my novel REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Writing A Novel: Writing Character-Driven Stories

This New Year's Eve, I rang in 2013 by watching the SyFy Channel's annual 48-hour Twilight Zone marathon. No, I didn't watch all 48 hours, but I did catch a good number of episodes. Many I've seen before, but I still enjoy them the second, third, fifth, tenth time around. This is why TZ is such a classic program.

What I really like about The TZ's stories is that most are very character-driven. Yes, many are science fiction and involve aliens, space travel, etc., but because they didn't have great special effects in the 1950s, the show had to depend more on people's reactions to things than on actual action sequences. My favorite episode, for instance, is called "The Midnight Sun" and is about a group of survivors dealing with the inevitable end of the planet as Earth gradually moves closer to the sun. In many ways, this is very topical as we deal with global warming and climate change. But what I love about this particular episode is that every scene takes place in one woman's apartment. We never see shots of the Earth barreling towards the sun or of the oceans drying up. All we ever see are the reactions of the woman and her neighbor as they suffer from thirst, dehydration and fear. However, this approach is so effective -- and frightening. You can feel the ladies' pain and confusion, and I often think about this episode on really hot days.

That said, I try to make my stories character-driven. I love a good action sequence, but it's difficult to make readers feel emotions if they can't connect with the people whom the story is about. So for me, getting into my characters' heads is of the utmost importance; I make that my priority and then write the more plot-driven scenes.

I don't know if I'll ever come close to writing something that's as brilliant and thought provoking as The Twilight Zone -- but I can at least try to create stories that are deeply moving.

Please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Publishing On Amazon: The Case Of The Disappearing Review

If you decide to publish with Kindle Direct Publishing, be warned: Lately, Amazon is really cracking down on getting rid of reviews that don't seem to be legit. The idea is to prevent authors from posting "sock puppet" critiques, i.e. reviews that they themselves have posted under fake names. In fact, authors are no longer even allowed to write reviews of other books (which I think is so unfair, but that's a post for another time). Unfortunately, whatever software Amazon uses is a little too sensitive and often deletes perfectly legitimate book reviews. It's happened to thousands of authors online (just do a Google search and you'll see plenty of write-ups) and it recently happened to me.

A few days ago, I received a wonderful five-star review of BAND GEEK on Amazon from a reader named Cornelia. She (I'm assuming this is a she) wrote:

"Band geek Melinda falls for the zany, popular trumpet player Josh. Every girl in junior high or high school who longs for a boy to see past her exterior appearance and fall in love with the real wonderful person inside (a.k.a. most girls) will relate to Melinda and fall for Josh. He sees beauty and creativity in Melinda and leads her on adventures that help her see herself in a new light. What starts off as a simple love story evolves into an examination of the morality of revenge. Is revenge ever justified? How much is too much? The stakes increased as the novel progressed leading to an exciting and satisfying ending."

What I really liked about this review is not just the fact that she gave me five stars (though that's nice!), but that she seemed to really understand my story and what I was attempting to say. Plus, it's flattering to know that I touched her enough so that she felt compelled to write such a lovely review. I so appeciated her critique that I copy and pasted it onto my Facebook author page to show friends.

Boy, am I glad I saved it because a few hours later, it disappeared. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because I copied it and Amazon took it to mean that the review was already on another site. Perhaps the writer is an author hersef or had her Amazon account taken down. I guess I'll never know, but I'm disappointed that such a great review was removed. So if you're reading this Cornelia, I just wanted to publicly thank you for taking the time to read my book and write about it. I'm sorry that your review wasn't good enough for Amazon, for whatever reason.

For the most part, I've been happy with Amazon and think that the company is pretty fair. However, I'd like to see them have a less strict review policy. As an avid reader, I enjoy looking at others' book reviews and I'd hate to see too many legit ones get lost in the shuffle.

Speaking of which, please read and review my novel REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Writing A Novel: New Year's Resolutions

Happy New Year, everyone! It's been a crazy and fun December, which is why I've been so lax about blogging. But the holiday season gets a little nuts for me, as I'm sure it does for many of you. There were several parties, an illness, plus my jewelry businesses exploded just in time for the holiday rush so I was busy with orders. I'm back, though, and eager to return to my writing!

I don't really make New Years resolutions; instead, I'm constantly trying to come up with resolutions throughout the year. Still, it's impossible to NOT think about new beginnings at this time, so I've been thinking a lot about what I plan to do with my writing in 2013. So far my goals are:

To finish my second novel, at least a draft of it, by the end of April.

To blog more often.

To put together a book on making jewelry. (Yeah, this really has to do with my other businesses, but it still involves writing...).

To write SOMETHING every day, whether it's a blog post, novel chapter, article for HubPages, etc.

As you can see, my goals are pretty simple. I'm not looking to write The Great American Novel or some epic play; I just want to keep up with and finish projects that I've already started. I think that it's important to follow through -- and one of the best ways to improve as a writer is to well, keep on writing.

2012 was a very challenging year for me and my family for many reasons, but one of the bright spots is that I finally published BAND GEEK. I'm so glad that I finally put my work out there and am sharing it with the world.

Please read and review my novel REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.