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I recently finished the Smashwords formatting on Whistling Woman. It took me a long time, but I’m happy to say I received this email from Smashwords within a half hour of submitting the book:

Congratulations! There were no AutoVetter errors! Your book is now in the queue for review by our vetting team.

So, Whistling Woman is available on Smashwords but it’s waiting on the Premium Catalog approval. Not too shabby for a first time effort but I have to be honest and tell you, it wasn’t an easy thing to do–even with the free Smashwords Style Guide by Mark Coker. Still, there were no Autovetter errors and I’m told that’s a really good thing.

The thing is, I’ve been reading quite a few free books on my Kindle and though I haven’t tried any yet, I plan to check out some of the free offers on Smashwords. That is, if I can bring myself to do it. I love free books but…I absolutely hate the quality of some of the ones offered for no cost. Because, they aren’t really free, some of them come with a price. Not a monetary one, but an emotional one. Too many–and if you ask me more than two or three is too many!–left me frustrated and in a few cases downright angry because of the time I lost reading them. Not that they were all bad, there were a lot of really good ones out there, but some of them were full of typos, grammar errors, and yes, bad writing in the form of repeated words, missing words, words that have no business being where they are in the book, cliches–yes, I know, my love for cliches is well-known, but come on, there’s a reason “too much of a good thing” is a cliche–historical inaccuracies, implausible events, TSTL characters…the list goes on and on.

And that doesn’t even touch on the worst of all–formatting errors. When I see a book that isn’t formatted properly, the first thing that comes to my mind, especially if it’s a self-published book, is this author doesn’t take pride in their work.

That’s not a good thing because there are plenty of books, many of them free on Kindle or Smashwords, that walk you step-by-step through the formatting. All you have to do is follow the books and you’re almost guaranteed to have a, well, maybe not perfectly formatted, but at least nicely formatted book. You know, one that doesn’t make the reader want to slam it up against the wall immediately delete it from their reading device and never purchase another book by you again.

So, please, if you’re an author, self-published or not, and thinking of putting your book(s) up as e-books on Kindle and/or Smashwords, grab a little pride! Get yourself a copy of these books, read them, and more importantly, follow them!

Publish on Amazon Kindle with Kindle Direct Publishing (Put out by Amazon.com. It doesn’t really walk you through the formatting steps, but there’s a lot of valuable information in there and it’s free.)

How to Publish Your Kindle Book on Amazon for Free and Make Money From Home by Ron Taylor (I haven’t read this one yet so don’t know how much help it is. It’s free for Prime members and only .99 for everybody else.)

How to Publish an Ebook on a Budget by Stephanie Zia (This one’s no longer free)

Smashwords Style Guide by Mark Coker (Free and a must-have if you’re going to publish on Smashwords. You can also view it or download a copy on Smashwords.)

Also, if you do click on the links for these books, check out the “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” box just below the book cover. Lots of other books there that not only deal with formatting, but with marketing and writing too. Plus, if you’re thinking of publishing on Kindle, there are lots of good tips and advice on the KDP forums and help pages.

And finally, check out Jinx Schwartz’s blog post DYI Kindle e-books, I did it and so can you. Ms. Schwartz just reposted this and if you’re going to publish on Kindle, it’s a must-read!

I’ve been doing some research on Vampires–yep, Vampires, thanks to the third book in my Apprentice Angel series. Tentatively titled Unworldly Angel, the plot revolves around a young girl who’s really into *gasp!* Vampires! Something I swore I’d never write about but…never say never, right? Anyway, I started researching Vampires and I kept getting lots and lots and OMG, tons of sites dealing with Stephenie Meyer and her Twilight series. Now, I’ve never read the first word in any of her books but when you’re researching Vampires, the Twilight series is all the rave right now and you can’t get away from it. Seeing all the sites, I couldn’t help but click on a few. The first one I ran across that had me stopping to read was called Reasoning with Vampires where the blogger first read the series then posted about the many mistakes/errors in the books. From the blog:

Before I had any right to dismiss Twihards or criticize the psychologically unhealthy relationship model that Bella Swan and Edward Cullen present, I felt obliged to read the books. So I did. All four novels, one novella, and an incomplete document in portable format.  The content lived down to my expectations, but I was unprepared for how poorly crafted the saga is.

Pretty funny stuff–and boy, I can’t tell you how much I would hate to see my own books held to this kind of scrutiny!

From Reasoning with Vampires, I found another blog, Mark Reads, where the blogger reads books and reviews them chapter by chapter, including the entire Twilight series. Hilarious, so much so I’ve added it to my Favorites list and am slowly, slowly, like I’m savoring every word of every post, working my way through his reviews. Like I said, he doesn’t concentrate solely on the Twilight books but since my chief interest right now is with Vampires, I haven’t clicked on any of the other chapter-by-chapter reviews although I hope I’ll find the time to read them all one day.

Anyway, I’ve made my way through the first two books, Twilight and…uh-oh, can’t remember the title of the second one…Eclipse? No, New Moon. Yeah, that’s it, New Moon. After the last chapter of New Moon, there’s a post entitled “Mark Reads ‘The Story Behind the Writing of New Moon’” from Ms. Meyer’s own website. And it was in that post that I finally–finally!–found something I disagree with Mark about–sort of–and OMG, I hate to say it, agree with Ms. Meyers–um, partly, anyway.

She writes:

…I am a character writer. I write my stories because of my characters; they are the motivation and the reward. The difficulty with strong, defined characters, though, is that you can’t make them do something that is out of character. They have to be who they are and, as a writer, they’re often out of your control.

Mark’s response:

WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT. There are few times you have ever kept your characters consistent. May I remind you of the bizarre, unnatural things you’ve made Jacob do? You are ABSOLUTELY in control of your characters! THEY ARE NOT REAL PEOPLE.

The thing is, I understand exactly what Ms. Meyer is saying. She has a point about strong characters being the “motivation and reward”–and I have to add that was beautifully expressed!–and she’s also right when she says “you can’t make them do something that is out of character.” Except, according to Mark, Ms. Meyer manages to do that a lot. And judging from Mark’s chapter-by-chapter reviews of the first two books in the series, I have to say Ms. Meyer’s characters are definitely inconsistent.

And if they are, that’s all on Ms. Meyer. There are times when my characters do what they want instead of what I want. Yes, characters, as Mark says, are not real people but they can certainly drive the story down a different road than the one the author had in mind. And I know Mark is talking more about keeping the characters consistent, which is a must, but I have to say I’m with Ms. Meyer on the strong characters “are often out of control.” Witness Betty Sue in Storm Shadows. I almost didn’t finish that book because she was so adamant about taking the story in a completely unexpected directionand it’s not always easy to force a character to do something they don’t want to do. They may not be real but when you’re the author, they are very real to you and sometimes it’s impossible to argue with them.

But, and this is a big BUT, if they’re acting out of character, it’s your job as the author to take over the wheel and drive them in the right direction–even if you have to sneak and do it!

Wow, I can’t believe it’s been almost 3 months since I posted anything on here. But then, I’ve been busy what with polishing Whistling Woman and readying it for publication. Who knew it would take three…wait, what? You mean you don’t know about Whistling Woman? Well, let me tell you:

Whistling Woman is a book my sister, Christy Tillery French, and I co-wrote under the pseudonym of CC Tillery (a combination of our first initials and our maiden name). It’s about our great-aunt Bessie and is southern literary fiction. It takes place in Hot Springs, North Carolina over 6 years, 1895-1901, and is based on family stories we heard from our dad and Aunt Bessie when we were growing up. There is quite a bit of Cherokee folklore and medicine woven into the story, as well as some historical facts about Hot Springs and the surrounding region. The book is fact-based fiction, or faction, as I’ve heard it called.

The title comes from an old southern saying, “A whistling woman and a crowing hen never come to a very good end.” The meaning of the saying varies. It could be a warning to women to live a proper life or as I’ve always heard it interpreted, “be who you’re meant to be.” Just another way of saying be true to yourself. That’s exactly how Aunt Bessie lived her life and so that’s why we decided to title the book Whistling Woman.

So now you know what’s been keeping me busy for the last 3 months. One book, two authors, countless edits, and boatloads of frustration, learning, and anxiety. But, as of yesterday evening, Whistling Woman is available as an e-book on Kindle. Yay! Just click here to order your very own copy at the bargain price of $2.99!

Meanwhile, Christy and I will be tackling Smashwords so it can be available on all the other e-readers. Wish us luck!

I’ve been AWOL from this blog for way too long. I don’t have an excuse really, unless you count breaking my foot two days after my birthday, working pretty steadily on editing Whistling Woman, setting up the blog for same, trying to contribute to the two other blogs I’m a member of, and okay, I’ll be honest, quite a healthy dose of laziness.

The thing is, everything else has fallen by the wayside and that includes writing. I know, I know, broken foot and weeks of not being able to move around without crutches should equal at least one book, right? Not for me. I have been trying but I just couldn’t seem to get into anything. I have 30,000 words written on Sun Shadows and I’ve hit the mid-book slump that I always seem to hit. But that doesn’t worry me, it will work itself out in time as it usually does–fingers crossed–but I haven’t been able to get into anything else.

Until today, I’ve been doing a little research on cutting, vampires, specifically Barnabas Collins in Dark Shadows, and this morning I actually got about 2500 words written on the next book in my Apprentice Angel series. What did it? What finally broke the block? Composing an email to one of my publishers asking them to please heed the certified letters I sent them last September telling them I did not want to renew the contract on the first book, Unwilling Angel. The contract expired in November of last year and after sending the certified letters, I sort of forgot about it and assumed the book would be taken down when the contract expired. Oh sure, I knew it might take them some time to get it down but we’re nearing a year later and it’s still up there so…I’m writing an email and hoping the publisher will respond.

While I waited, I read through the second book in the series, Unruly Angel, which I finished last year and it sparked an interest in the third book, tentatively titled Unworldly Angel. I’ve known for quite a while what that one’s going to be about so I got off my lazy duff and finally started researching. Reading through all the info I could find about Dark Shadows got me interested in writing again.

Whew! Thanks Barnabas, you’re still the only vampire I ever loved!

Today’s my birthday and I’ve spent the day doing only things I enjoy doing.  I started the day reading, and with the exception of a few phone calls from family and friends, managed to while away the entire morning lost in a book.  After a completely non-nutritious lunch, I decided the next thing I wanted to do was work on the most important thing in my life right now: Whistling Woman.

First a little backstory; Whistling Woman is a book my sister, Christy Tillery French, and I co-wrote about the life of our great aunt.  It’s part fact, part fiction, and includes a lot of the stories we grew up hearing from our dad and our great aunt Bessie when she was alive.  Christy calls it faction–love that word!–and it works but I’m not really sure what recognized genre it would fall under.  Historical fiction?  Southern literature?  Whatever, it takes place in Hot Springs, North Carolina, in the late 1800’s and there’s quite a bit of history and folklore pertaining to the mountains of western NC, as well as the family stories.

We finished the book a couple of weeks ago and since then have been trying to decide which way to go now that the manuscript is complete.  We first thought, try for an agent and hope they can sell it to one of the big publishers in NY.  But then we started thinking about the time factor.  While you could say the book was inspired by our great aunt’s life, the real inspiration is our dad.  He told us most of the stories that play such an important part of the book, and he continues to tell us the stories today–thank God!  But you see, Daddy will turn 83 years old next month, and while he’s healthy and he comes from a family that is long-lived, you just never know.  One of his oil paintings will grace the cover and it’s very important to us to be able to give him the book so…we started looking at smaller publishers and POD publishers.  Still a wait in most cases so then we started thinking of self-publishing, something both of us swore we’d never do.

Oh, how the not-so-mighty have fallen.  Yep, we’ve decided the thing to do is self-publish.  Not only does it give us more control over the book and how it’s presented, it’s a lot quicker.  As an added bonus, we wouldn’t be under contract with a publisher and any money the book makes comes back to us without anyone else taking a cut.

Can we all say Scrooge-alicious?  I can and I do because while I have been making money with my writing and I know Christy has too, this is a book from our hearts, a true labor of love, so why share the money from our hard work with someone else?

So, that’s how we came to the decision to self-publish.  And today, on my birthday, I decided to get down to business.  I sent an email off to a local printer, BP Solutions in Asheville, to a woman who comes highly recommended by a member of one of the writing groups I belong to–thanks Celia!–and less than 5 minutes after I pressed “send” I get a phone call from her.  Hmm…as Aunt Bessie would probably say, it’s a sign.  I have to say I agree with her.

I also have to say, if being a self-published author is half as fun as being a traditionally published author, it’s going to be a heck of a fun ride!  Oh, I know, it’s a big change and one that will involve a lot of hard work, but it’s a change that has me excited and looking forward to what comes next.  Not a bad 56th birthday present, if I do say so myself!

I’m back online after nearly three months of dealing with an MS flare-up that affected my vision and wouldn’t let me work on the computer without bringing on a vicious headache.  I still can only be on for a limited time but at least I’m on and that’s something!  Guess I’ll just have to ease myself back into the grind which isn’t a bad thing…except when I want to write and I can’t.  Oh well…what is it they say?  Patience is a virtue.

Meanwhile, here are the top three things that have been going on in my life: 

First and foremost, the release of my latest book, Winds of Fate, a paranormal romance based on the Native American legend of the Blowing Rock in North Carolina.  I don’t think I’m biased or anything when I say, “Gorgeous cover!”  Now I need to get it posted on the WoF page here on my blog and on my website.  And I desperately need to start promoting, something I haven’t been able to do because of my wonky vision.

Hmm, maybe this calls for a contest.  Stay tuned…

Second, I haven’t been able to do much writing so I spent the time reading.  Have I mentioned how much I love my e-reader?  Probably not, but I do and the best thing about it is the ability to adjust the font size.  Love it, love it, love it!  And I love that I’ve been able to read–no back light on the e-reader which I think is key to not causing a headache–something I haven’t really had the time to do in a while.  The absolute worst thing about being an author is that it doesn’t leave much time for reading so if nothing else, I have to be a little grateful to the MS for giving me this time to indulge in something I really love.

Third, spring training is here at long last!  Yippee!  Won’t be long till my guys are playing at Fenway and from what I’m hearing this will be a banner year…or maybe I should say a pennant year?  I just hope all this talk about how good the Red Sox are going to be this year doesn’t jinx them right out of the running.  I want to tell everybody to just shut up already but I don’t think anybody’s going to listen to me–unless it’s someone else who’s as superstitious as I am.  I guess we’ll see what we see when we get to the season but I’m really, really, really hoping that my guys have a year full of wins and more important, no injuries!  Go Red Sox!

And that’s it for now.  Time to rest my eyes and get back to reading…or maybe I’ll push and try to get some more writing done.  This morning I was able to get a few hundred words done on the third book in my Eternal Shadows series, Sun Shadows, and a rough draft of the synopsis for Whistling Woman, the fact-based historical my sister and I have written about our great aunt’s life growing up in the mountains of NC in the late 1800’s.  I hate writing synopses but it has to be done and I’m slowly making progress so…maybe a few more minutes!

1.  My sister and I finished the manuscript for Whistling Woman, the book we’ve been working on for two years about our great aunt’s life growing up in the small town of Hot Springs, NC.  We took a few days, rented a cabin in Hot Springs, and worked on the first edit.  Now we’re in the process of editing it again–this time by email–and are hoping we’ll have it polished by the end of the year.  After that, beta readers!

2.  Although I’m not participating in NaNoWriMo–or whatever it’s called–I’ve been working on the third book in my Eternal Shadows series, Sun Shadows.  Last Monday, I set a goal of writing a thousand words a day and so far, so good.  A little over 9,000 words and counting!

3.  Edits, edits, and more edits on Whistling Woman.

4.  Working on getting the blog for the Writers’ Guild of Western North Carolina up and running.  Had a minor problem with WordPress–for some reason it wouldn’t let me add widgets to the blog–but that was solved by going to the forum and posting a question which was answered fairly quickly.

5.  The contract with Red Rose Publishing for my novella, Unwilling Angel, expires on the 18th of this month and I’ve been trying to decide what to do with the book when I have the rights back.  Numerous people have advised putting it on Kindle and thanks to one of the members of the Writers’ Guild, who is currently working to get his books on Kindle, I have a pretty good idea of what that entails.  It won’t be easy but I think I’ll probably try. 

Of course, first I have to get the rights back.  As per the contract, I sent two certified letters to Red Rose Publishing 60 days before the expiration date telling them I did not want to renew the contract, but haven’t heard a word back yet.  Which isn’t really a surprise given the problems other authors are having with this publisher.  I’m doing my best to keep an open mind until the 18th then I’m going to send an email to the owner and inform her that per the contract, the rights have reverted back to me and she needs to quit selling my book.  We’ll see what happens…

6.  After a blast of cold weather to start the month, we’ve had a string of perfect fall days here in the mountains.  I’ve been working to get my gardens put to bed while it lasts.   I wanted to plant bulbs but haven’t been able to find the time and I know I’ll be kicking myself next spring.  Oh well…

7.  Still more edits!

8.  Updating my website and this blog with the 2011 EPIC eBook Awards finalist button.  Yep, that’s right, Storm Shadows made it to the finals.  Yippee!  EPICon is in Williamsburg, VA next year and since my sister, Christy Tillery French, also has a book in the finals we’re seriously considering making the drive up there and attending.  I don’t have much hope that Storm will win, it’s in one of the categories that has the most finalists, but who knows what will happen.

9.  Edits, edits, and more edits with a little research thrown in on the side!

10.  More great news on Storm–The Long and the Short of It gave it a fabulous review last week which means it’s up for Book of the Week.  Woo-hoo!  If you’re so inclined, you can vote by clicking here.  That page also gives you access to Xeranthemum’s excellent review, if you’d like to read it.   Here’s a little taste of what the she had to say:

Storm Shadows is a well written and beautiful romance filled with charm, humor, vivid and lively descriptions and a well earned happily ever after sure to make a reader sigh in satisfaction. Despite the conflict, Ms. Hunter wrote a story that is uplifting and optimistic and just plain fun to read.

So, there you have it, the top ten reasons I haven’t posted anything here for almost a month.  As you can see, Whistling Woman is taking up the majority of my time with the Eternal Shadows series running a close second.  Next week it’s going to be all about Storm since I have an interview and a chat scheduled with LASR.  Which reminds me, I need to come up with a contest for the chat.  Better get busy…

I’ve been so busy lately I haven’t had time to do much of anything except revisions on the book I’m writing with my sister, Whistling Woman, about our great aunt Bessie’s life growing up in Hot Springs, NC, at the turn of the 20th century.  It’s finished.  Yay!  But now comes the hard part; editing and revising.  I usually don’t like that part but with this one, I’m really looking forward to doing the final edits because Christy and I are planning on meeting in Hot Springs when we get to that point.  Another yay!

At the same time, I’m still polishing my older woman/younger man contemporary romance novella, Strict Policies.  And when all that editing gets to be too much, I’m working on the next book in my Eternal Shadows series, Sun Shadows.  Really hope I get this one finished quicker than I did the second one!

Other than that, I’ve been canning quite a bit–my pantry is overflowing!–and putting the garden to bed for the winter–just in time, we had our first frost last night.  Des and I are still walking every day and we’re really enjoying it…for the most part.  Had an encounter with the wicked witch of the neighborhood yesterday but more on that later.  That little event deserves an entire blog post all its own!

I got a great review for Storm Shadows the other day from Amelia Richard at Cata Romance.  4.5 stars!  Yippee!  Here’s Amelia’s teaser:  STORM SHADOWS makes the supernatural seem genuinely real with clever writing and an innovative premise.

Finally, I have an interview up on Susan Whitfield’s blog today.  Lots of fun to do–and believe me I didn’t think I’d ever say that about an interview!  Hope you’ll drop by and check it out!

Back to the edits…

but I don’t think I had many when I was in my twenties.  Not like these women anyway.  Oh sure, just like the song says, I had a few but not that many.  Then again, maybe I’m just too old to remember or maybe the things I regretted back then just don’t seem to be as important now that I’m older.

The reason I’m thinking about regrets today is because I ran across an article on Lemondrop last night, Secret Regrets–If You Could Do One Thing Over, What Would It Be?  It’s about a book that’s a bestseller on Amazon Kindle, Secret Regrets: What if You Had a Second Chance?  The article focuses on women in their twenties and the regrets they have.  All I could think about when I read it was what a good idea the author, Kevin Hansen, had and that every romance writer that read the article would be instantly inundated with ideas for not just one, but many books.

Don’t know if I’ll buy the book, I have too many WIPs, not to mention more ideas for books than I could write in two lifetimes, but I have to say it would be a goldmine if I’m ever stuck for ideas.

Now, if I could just get that song out of my mind, I could get back to working on my latest WIP.  72,000 words and counting…

At times I love this blog…and at other times I hate it.  I love it because it gives me a place to promote my books, a place to talk about what’s happening in my real life, a place to talk about what’s going on with my writing, and a place to rant and rave if I want to.  But there are times when I hate it because I really don’t feel like writing about anything at all and during those times I always feel guilty because I’m not posting anything new.

Which is why when I stumbled across this post by Carolina on The Lady Bloggers Society  blog, I felt like standing up and cheering for the author!  What she said!  She expressed my feelings so exactly that I felt almost as if she were in my head and knew every thought I’d ever had about blogging.

Are you, like me, a guilty blogger?  If you are, read Carolina’s post and take heart, you’re not alone.  And I have to say, if you are like me and struggling to keep your blog going, check out the rest of The Lady Bloggers Society’s blog.  I bookmarked it because it looks like there are lots of tips and ideas for even the most reluctant blogger and I’m sure I’ll go back to it time and time again.  Heck, I may even join the society–that is, if I ever get over this funk I’m in!

In other happier news, my sister and I just topped seventy thousand words on the book we’re writing about our great aunt’s life growing up in Hot Springs, NC.  We’re to the point where Aunt Bessie and Uncle Fletch are “courting” which means there’s not much more to tell in this book.  Yippee!  Maybe we’ll meet our self-imposed deadline after all!

And in the strange news category, on Saturday, I was talking to John Waterman who is a co-member of one of the writing groups I belong to, the Western North Carolina Writers’ Guild.  It turns out John’s a member of the Rumbough family who lived in Hot Springs while Aunt Bessie and her family were there.  The Rumboughs were an important family in Hot Springs and at one time, or actually two times, owned the town’s famous resort.  From all my research, I’m pretty sure one of John’s uncles–or cousins, I’m horrible at keeping up with how people are related in families–a Mr. John Rumbough owned the Annex salooon and was a good friend of my great grandfather, John Daniels, the constable of the town at that time.

Six degrees of separation, you say?  Yep, I agree and ever since my sister and I started writing and researching this book, I’m constantly amazed at what a small world it really is!