Sunday, September 25, 2011

Recurring dreams

First, my apologies to anyone who might have been looking at the blog on Thursday. I was switching to a new template, so the place probably looked a mess. Everything’s all spruced back up again, with some new features (social networking links) and easier navigation. And in happy news, I’ve gotten a few more reviews for Destined. One is by SexxyBlogger and the other two are over at GoodReads. (GoodReads reviews are weird sometimes: it’s not always easy to find them amidst all the “added to to-read shelf” notations. I’m not quite sure how their default sorting works.) The new ones are all 4 stars, which sometimes I think is better than 5, since people tend to take 4-star reviews more seriously. So I’m pretty pleased with them.

Now on to the blog post. One of the themes in Destined is recurring dreams. At the start of the book (I don’t feel like this is a spoiler, since this chapter is available in the excerpt online and in all the free samples), Apolline is thinking about a recurring dream she’s had all her life, where she is on a ship that’s in some sort of distress. Due to her lifelong obsession with the Titanic, she assumes that’s the identity of the ship, and the reason for her dream. Of course, we find out later it’s much more than that. ;)

As for me, I haven’t had a true, recurring dream since I was a kid. The last one I remember having was when I was in grade school. In it I was a teenager, with a bunch of teen friends in an empty movie theater (truly empty: no seats, just a big, dark room and a tall screen), being chased around by cartoon ghosts. It was pretty strange, especially since it’s the only time I can remember dreaming about myself as older than my current age. But after that, the closest I come to a recurring dream is recurring themes. When I first moved back home from Miami, I would dream all the time about my teeth shattering and falling out. I later looked it up in a dream dictionary and found the generally-accepted symbolism was concern about finances. It made sense: I’d just quit a full-time, salaried job and moved back home to take a part-time job while I figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up. (10+ years later, I’m still trying to figure that out, though I’m enjoying “author” so far.) I had school loans and credit card debt, and very little income to pay for it. After my grandparents passed away, and I was able to use some of the inheritance to pay off my debts, the dreams stopped. Thank goodness, because those teeth dreams really freaked me out.

Photo taken by meI have a lot of travel-themed dreams as well. In almost all of them, I’m in Paris. I’m not sure why: I’ve been there twice, and while it is my favorite destination so far, there are so many other places in the world I’d like to see. Maybe it’s the familiarity? Whatever the reason, I’m always in Paris, either just arriving and stuck in some airport store or shopping mall because I realized I forgot to pack something important like underwear. Or pens. I shop for pens in dreams a lot. I have no idea what that’s all about, but my dreams tend to be of the weird, what-the-hell-did-I-eat-last-night? variety. In the other version of the travel dream, it’s the end of the vacation, we’re packing up to go home, or checking out of the hotel, and I suddenly realize I didn’t see anything I wanted to while we were there, and I spend the dream panicking about how I’m going to see it all in the short time I have left. A lot of times one of the things I forget to do is climb the Eiffel Tower, so I race over there to get in line. Another time I dreamt I was stuck at the top and couldn’t get down. When I first started having the Paris dreams, they came almost weekly, and I was always traveling with the same person: a friend from high school. I dreamt it on a pretty regular basis, until we finally decided to go there together in reality. After that, she doesn’t pop up in my Paris dreams much anymore, and I don’t have them nearly as often.

Another common theme for me has always been school. Maybe it’s because I’ve always been a big nerd? I actually liked school: I was an honor student, went to college, did the whole big education thing. Even contemplated grad or law school until I decided I didn’t want that much debt hanging over my head. When I was younger (in my 20s), I dreamed mostly about being back at high school, though often times, the school interior would actually be that of my old middle school. In the dreams it was usually the end of the year/semester, and time for exams, and I would suddenly realize there was a class I’d forgotten to attend, and had no clue what would be on the test. Or, I would suddenly forget my class schedule and spend most of the dream trying to remember where I put it and/or trying to get the administration office to give me a copy. (Or trying to find the admin office.) Other high school dreams would center around my locker. Either I wouldn’t be able to remember where it was at all, of I’d find it and forget the combination. The locker dreams were the most common.

Now that I’m in my 30s, I don’t seem to have the high school dreams as much. Now, I have college dreams. In those, I usually find it’s the start of the year and I’ve just moved into my dorm room. My roommate is sometimes my real college roommate from back when I was at the University of Miami, or it’s my childhood best friend or one of my close high school friends. Occasionally it’s a complete stranger, or I have no roommate at all. These dreams are almost always set entirely in the dorm or dorm room—I don’t think I ever dream about being in class (and I’ve never had that naked-in-school dream most people do). A lot of times, classes haven’t started yet, but rather it’s that time before the semester starts where everyone’s settling in and getting ready: setting up their rooms, buying textbooks, figuring out their class schedules. I sometimes have the “can’t remember/find my schedule” dream like in the high school dreams, but most of the time my back-to-college dreams find me either realizing I left important things back at home (my computer is a common one, as is a TV. I need my TV!), or trying to figure out which textbooks I need or which classes I have to go to or, in some cases, trying to find my way around my dorm building. There have been a few times where the dorm in my dream is humongous, like a massive shopping mall, and I get lost trying to find my floor.

Last night, I had the college dream again, which is what brought on this post. This time, I was sharing my dorm room with … actually, I don’t remember now. I think it was my actual college roomie, but I can’t be sure. I have a very hard time remembering dreams once I’m awake. If I don’t wake naturally from a dream, I forget it within seconds of getting up, and even if I wake slowly, I have to actively think about the details for a while to keep them in my head. Today, being Sunday, I was able to wake without an alarm, so that’s probably why the dream has stayed with me somewhat. Anyway, in the dream I was fretting over textbooks, trying to find my schedule so I would know which ones to buy. For some reason I’d waited too long to move in to the dorm, and it was already the first day of classes, and since I still didn’t know what classes I was taking, or have the books needed, I was skipping them. Not something I did much in real life (again, I was a nerd), but I skip classes in dreams a lot. The only other thing I remember is that I was trying to see if I could buy the books for my Kindle. If only Kindles had been around when I really was in college. It would have saved me so many sore shoulders!

So those are my recurring dreams. I notice that the most common theme throughout all my recurring dreams seems to be of me forgetting things. I’m sure that says something about me, but I always forget to look it up. ;) Anyone else have interesting recurring dreams?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday… on Wednesday

I know, it’s not Tuesday anymore. But I didn’t see this until today, and I want to make an effort to do more fun bloggy things here. When I saw this week’s top ten list, it looked like something I’d get a kick out of. As much as I read (over 100 books a year), you’d think I’ve read everything, but there are still a lot of popular books out that I’ve never gotten to.  So here we go. :)

To Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Books I Feel As Though 

Everyone Has Read But Me


1. The Night Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost. This is more of a genre thing, so not everyone has read it, but it seems that every paranormal romance fan out there has. It’s been on my to-read list for years now, but because my library doesn’t carry her books, I haven’t gotten around to checking them out. I did finally buy the first book this week (the ebook was on sale for $1.99), so someday when I don’t have a stack of library books to read, I’ll finally give it a shot and see what all the fuss is about!

2. The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. I hear rave reviews about this series all the time. I even checked the first book out from the library once, then returned it when the due date came and I hadn’t had a chance to start it yet. The main reason I haven’t made more of an effort to read these books might seem a little silly to some, but here it is: years ago, when she was writing fanfiction, she was the center of a pretty big plagiarism scandal. I never read her fanfiction, but just the thought that she once plagiarized has left me less than eager to give her a try.

3. Anything by Jane Austen (for good measure, let’s throw in all three Bronte sisters as well). There is a lot of classic literature I never read, because my high school was obsessed with Shakespeare and rarely seemed to  venture away from his works. I read Romeo & Juliet, Hamlet and Julius Caesar multiple times, but none of the Austen or Bronte books.

4. To Kill a Mockingbird Another oversight of my high school’s crappy English department. Seriously, I read a better selection of literature in middle school (I was still living in Illinois then, so maybe the Florida school system just wasn’t as advanced?)

5. The Great Gatsby And again with the high school fail. (I was even in AP/Honors English!)

6. Moby Dick Seriously, all we ever read was Shakespeare, some Charles Dickens, and ancient literature like Beowulf, Oedipus Rex and The Odyssey

7.  The Chronicles of Narnia I’ve seen a couple of the movies, even bought the omnibus, but never got very far into it. I don’t know why.

8. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo This has been on my to-read list forever. I even have a copy of it in my TBR pile. But library books always seem to take precedence, so I have yet to get to it. One day…

9. The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis This is one of those that every time travel fiction fan has read, and as much as I love time travel, I haven’t yet read it. It’s on my list, though.

10. The Bible My only excuse for this is that I’m not religious. My family didn’t go to church, so I never had a reason to read it. I had a Children’s Bible when I was younger, and read some of that, but not the whole thing. It didn’t hold my interest, I guess. (So basically, I just said the Bible was a DNF for me. I‘m going to Hell now, aren’t I?)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A little rebranding

After reading some good advice today about drawing in new readers, I decided it was time to tweak my blog a little. Before, I was blogging to other writers, sharing what I learned as I self-published my first book. But now that the book is out, I need to switch gears and aim my blog at readers. And I suspect readers really don’t care about how I got my Kindle margins just right, or what size cover image to use.

Those posts will still be here, and I will occasionally post new ones from time to time if I find myself coming across something I want to share. However, the rest of the time I’m going to aim to blog about things the general public (or at least fans of paranormal fiction) want to read.

So, while I try to figure out what, exactly, that is, I leave you with a photo of my cats. Because really, isn’t that the whole point of the Internet? To share and look at cat pictures?

(If anyone wonders, the one on the left is Buffy and the one on the right is Ana-Lucia. Yes, both are named after TV shows, though I can’t take credit for Ana. She and her sister, Kate, came with their names. I just considered it serendipity that LOST was my favorite show at the time.)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

More promotion frustration

The good news first: I got my first book blogger review yesterday, and it was 5 stars!

I was very excited to read it, and the blog has a fairly large following, so I was anxious to see how the review impacted my sales. Unfortunately… not so much. I know it’s only the next day, but I only sold one Kindle book yesterday, and the Nook, Smashwords and paperback stats didn’t change. So that’s frustrating. Maybe I’m just too impatient, or maybe that blog wasn’t the right audience for Destined. (It’s a paranormal romance blog, but with emphasis on erotic romance. I submitted mine on the off chance they didn’t mind “clean” romance as well, and got lucky that a reviewer happened to be looking for something like that. She loved the book, but if the blog’s followers all prefer erotic romance, then that could be why no one’s buying.)

It’s frustrating to know you have a good product out there, yet can’t seem to get anyone to look at it. I’ve sent it to a bunch of reviewers, got some positive responses that sound like they’re going to read it eventually (many just haven’t responded at all, one way or the other) and joined a bunch of GoodReads groups and other reading-centric message boards. Problem is, in order for the latter to get you anywhere, you have to be an active member of the community, and that takes a lot of time. Time I don’t really have unless I stop working on my next book.

I’ve been getting such good feedback on the book so far. Granted, most of it is from friends and family, but even though they might be more prone to liking it because they know me, they’ve been very positive; more than they needed to be. Like staying up half the night to finish it because they couldn’t stop reading, or saying it made them cry. One lent it to a friend (who doesn’t know me), and that friend liked it enough that she went back and re-read the ending, and said that she was up late one night because she couldn’t stop thinking about parts of it. I love to hear these things, because it tells me that I wrote something that people are genuinely enjoying. I just wish I knew some magic promotion formula to get others to know it exists!

Well, enough whining. Time to go work on editing that second book. The sooner I can have it ready to publish, the better my chances of being noticed. They say the bet promotion is to have more than one book out for people to discover. Thank goodness I already have a few finished, because if I had to start writing the next one from scratch, who knows how long it would take me to finish at this rate!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I'm a library addict

I spent most of the day yesterday tweaking my blog a bit to add handy little buttons in the sidebar for ordering Destined and visiting the various websites I use. It looks better than a long list of text links, and takes less space, but man, was it time-consuming! How am I going to get my second book revised and edited when I spend all my free time dealing with promotion for the first one, or messing with my blog and website? *sigh* There aren't enough hours in the day. It's a good thing my job isn't really full-time, because I'd never get anything done if I had to work 9-5 every day. A 9-5 paycheck would be nice, though.

I’m going to deviate from my usual blog subject a little bit and talk about something near and dear to me: the library.

I love the library. I think I may even be slightly addicted to the library, but with good reason: when you read over 100 books a year and work less than 30 hours a week, feeding the need to read can get impossibly expensive. I had hoped when I bought my Kindle years ago that it would help curb the book cost, but then agency pricing happened and out went the “bestsellers always priced at $9.99” promise of Amazon’s that initially sold me on the device. I don’t blame Amazon: I know the publishers are responsible, and Amazon had no control. But it still sucks, and I refuse to pay more than $10 for an ebook, no matter how badly I want to read it. This, thankfully, is where libraries come in.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

All right Smashwords, you win

I resisted for as long as I could. I really, really didn’t want to have to deal with Smashwords to get my book out there, but the more I researched alternate sales avenues, the more I came to realize: there aren’t any alternate sales avenues. At least, none that work very well.

I gave up on Google Books today. They’re impossible to deal with, they give away too much of the book for free, and I haven’t been able to get them to do the one thing I wanted: sell my ebook! So I sent them a request today to remove my book and account. It isn’t worth the hassle. Kobo is just as bad. Despite multiple emails, I have never received a response to my inquiries about publishing directly to them. So again, I give up.

Smashwords won. I spent all freaking day converting my book to Word format. It was tedious and I have a massive headache, but for the most part, it came out well. I had to give up on some of the fancier things in my hand-coded ebooks: the fancy chapter titles (images – too big a hassle in Word) and the footnotes in the research notes section at the end. So the book is more plain-looking, but it does the job. My only issue so far is that, for some reason, the formatting in the HTML (the read online) edition is still screwy. It won’t center anything except the headings. Very irritating. Though it was worse the first time I submitted it. That time, anything I styled in anything other than the Default (OpenOffice’s version of “Normal”) paragraph style was showing up in a different font than the rest of the book. It looked awful. Again, only in HTML format. So I fixed that, but ended up losing my centered text in the process. Frankly, my head hurts too much to care at this point. As long as the ePub and other formats look fine (which they do), I don’t really care that much about the HTML one. That’s not the version other stores will be selling – it’s only viewable at Smashwords, and most people aren’t going to buy through that site. I have to pick my battles, and I’m tired, so I’ll give up that one.

Still, the best version of my ebook is going to be what people buy directly from Amazon or Barnes & Noble, because I was able to publish Kindle and Nook on my own, using the files I hand-formatted.  But at least now everyone can buy my book, regardless of which reader they prefer. I felt like I was discriminating against the other ereaders by only offering Kindle and Nook. Now I feel better, and maybe once it’s on those other sites, my sales will pick up a little! Here’s hoping it doesn’t take forever to pass Premium Catalog approval. I’ve heard that can takes weeks sometimes.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Print isn’t dead

Perhaps I’m not the norm here, but judging by my sales so far, print is definitely not dead yet. I have 15 sales – not a ton, I realize, but it’s a start – and of those 15, 7 are print copies. (7 print, 7 Kindle and 1 Nook) I’m finding that as I promote the book to people I know, more often than not, they don’t have an ereader, and therefore wouldn’t have been able to get my book if I wasn’t offering a paperback edition.

I guess the lesson to other self-publishers is: offer a print edition.

It really isn’t hard. There are print-on-demand companies like CreateSpace and Lulu that make the process relatively painless, and it’s not too expensive to get it going. Personally, I used CreateSpace, and the only cost I’ve incurred so far is the $39 Pro Plan (which lets me get higher royalties and makes their Extended Distribution available if I choose to utilize it later on). The ISBN was free, and I created the PDF and cover myself, so there was no cost there. Now, if you don’t have the software or experience to do those things on your own, you’ll have to outsource, but you need a cover even for an ebook, so you’ll have already faced that issue anyway. And making a PDF of the interior isn’t that difficult. I used Adobe InDesign, but I’m pretty sure word processing programs like Word can do it as well.

Point is, if you self-publish and choose to only publish ebooks, you’re probably losing some sales. Not everyone is on board the ebook bandwagon yet, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel right lecturing them on how you can still read ebooks on your computer via apps like Kindle for PC (or Nook for PC). Personally, I can’t read anything longer than a blog post on a computer screen without getting a horrific eye strain headache. That’s why I prefer my Kindle and don’t use my iPad as an ereader. Backlit LCD is not kind on the eyes, and I think that’s why a lot of people are resistant to ebooks.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Self-promotion is hard

As I was getting ready to start this post, I spotted something pretty darn exciting: someone gave Destined 5 stars over on GoodReads!  What’s even more exciting is, it’s not a friend or family member!  Unfortunately, most people that see I have one 5 star rating will assume it’s a friend and disregard it, which sucks, but what can you do? Hopefully more ratings and reviews will start coming in as people have time to finish reading. I wish there was a way to mark the rating with a “I don’t know this person, I swear!” notation. ;)

Anyway, great rating aside, things are going pretty slowly so far. I had a bunch of sales right after I announced to my friends that I had published, then the sales stopped. I haven’t had a single sale yet in September, and it’s starting to bum me out a little. I knew this was going to be hard, so I expected things would be slow at first, but expecting it and actually experiencing it aren’t the same. Frankly, it sucks.

My problem, however, is that I’m terrible at self-promotion. I shouldn’t be: I minored in marketing in college and worked for a few years in the promotion department of a record label. I know how promotion works. I just can’t seem to do it when I’m promoting myself  I think I’m too self-conscious. I guess what I need to do is get online and start researching ways to get my book out there.

So far, I’ve promoted it to my friends, told my family (and by extension, some of those friends and family have told their friends, which was incredibly nice of them), bought an ad on GoodReads, started a GoodReads giveaway, signed up for a bunch of sites like and Shelfari, and put up a post on Absolute Write in their promotion thread. But that’s not very much, and I know I need to do more.

I think of all of those, I’m getting the most mileage from the giveaway. I already have over 300 people requesting it and 83 users adding it to their shelves. The problem with that is none of them are going to buy the book until the giveaway is over, if they ever buy it at all. I’m not complaining: I’ll take whatever exposure I can get! But more sales sure would be nice.

I need more reviews. That’s going to help the most, I’m sure. But I can’t ask people to review the book without feeling like an obnoxious nag. It also might help is people tag it on Amazon (there’s a section on each book listing where users can select tags that apply to the book. In my case, I have it tagged with variations of paranormal romance, time travel, vampires, etc.) I’ve read that more tags can equal more visibility when people are searching for something to read. But again, I can’t seem to bring myself to ask my friends to go do that. What I probably should do is find bloggers who do reviews and see if any are interested in reviewing mine. I can gift them a copy of the ebook pretty easily, either through Amazon or by emailing it directly.

I don’t want to pay for a lot of advertising: I don’t think it works as well, and it’s expensive. I only did it on GoodReads because I know at least there, everyone that sees the ads already love to read. I wish I could afford one of the bigger ads they have (the flash ones on the main pages), because those are the ads I personally notice and sometimes click on. I never click the smaller ads, so it doesn’t surprise me much that mine hasn’t gotten many clicks yet. *sigh* So frustrating!

Anyone out there have tips on promotions methods that have worked for you?