If you’re a parent, grandparent, teacher or around kids for any length of time, then you already know kids have their opinion about most things. They’re often brutally honest, which I find quite refreshing; if you want the truth, ask a child.
One of the neatest things about being a co-owner of a publishing company is the freedom we have regarding our work, design, production, marketing, and pricing.
Freedom of such things do not come without cost, and we often learn lessons along the way, some we’d rather not. Many would argue that those are the best kind of experiences to learn from and I agree with that, and I’m sure we’ll continue to discover new and exciting processes throughout this publishing journey as this turbulent industry continues to change.
The request to conduct a workshop happened to come in at the same time as a new series cover reveal; perfect timing, test the covers out on the target market (niche group of kids). The kids I addressed were intense, listening to every word that I’d said, excellent feeling knowing you have such talented writers amongst the children your spending time with and showing them the steps of production. The staff stayed behind and asked questions themselves, also talking about wanting to become authors, and then I had the opportunity to ask for the kids’ opinions regarding the new covers.
I had six works on display that day and a mock-up of a fourth; all from The Mischief Patch Series. Two different artists, styles, and visions, were presented. One by one, both girls and boys passed on their honest opinions of what I thought about the beautiful new covers and the existing older ones. “Do you like the colors in this one?” I asked. “What don’t you like about this one?” They kept pointing to one or the other and I kept tallies of each. I finally asked, knowing the time, energy and dollars that had been spent on each cover. “Why do you like this one and not the other?” I waited patiently for their responses. The answers surprised me. “Because there’s Boris” or “I like Jack,” and of course my favorite, “I love the one with Lilly.” They were on the other covers as well, but for some reason, they related better to these versions… precisely what I needed to know. Needless to say, Lilly, Boris, and Jack are my escape books. I love to write them and will continue to work on them as soon as my existing projects are wrapped up. A fourth is already mapped out. They’re fun for me to write, fantasy is such a great escape. The characters, Lilly, Boris, and Jack, are sweet and kind, but most of all they hold a special place in my heart. Needless to say, the kids that day helped pick the covers. Kids – Need an honest answer, just ask. BTW – Spider Web Scramble is a Mom’s Choice Awards® (MCA) evaluates products and services created for children, families, and educators. The program is globally recognized for establishing the benchmark of excellence in family-friendly media, products, and services. The organization is based in the United States and has reviewed thousands of items from more than 55 countries.
Shortly after that, I joined a drum and bugle corps. It was a teen group for thirteen to seventeen year olds. My friend this time with Kathy Donahue. Her older brother, Mike was a drummer. Kathy was thirteen too, so she and I are joining together. Girls were in the Honor and Color guards. We would be in the newbies. That was where girls learn to carry the flag and twirl them in nice patterns to go with the instrumentalmusic the boys made with the drums and brass horns. The girls in the newbies would join the Honor and Color Guard the following year when the older girls turned eighteen and would be leaving the corps.
So Kathy and I and about another ten to twelve other girls would spend that spring in training, and the summer would be our first time marching in parades starting on Memorial Day right behind the Color Guard and in from of the brass horns and drum sections. In good weather, the corp would practice on the community ball field across from the club house, a VFW post. At eight AM this one Saturday morning, the newbies gathered in the baseball area of the field. The Honor and Color Guards were already turning their flags in the outfield. The band played on the basketball court loudly performing their signature instrumental, SentimentalJourney in the shadow of Garrett Mountain. The brass horns and beating drums were hammering the song home across the field and ricocheting off the mountain and back again throughout the South Paterson neighborhood.
Our group leaders shouted our instructions over the music were we stood by the bleachers since it would be impossible for us to hear them out in the field. When we were told to line up and march to third base where we would be going over our drills I saw that my sneaker was untied. The others had run out into the field while I sat to tie my sneaker.
I saw the older black guy who had left the corps now that he was eighteen sitting on his bike not far away. I remembered I finished and was getting up when I was grabbed from behind and pushed down onto the bleacher again. I felt my blood pounding in my face as I struggled to push him away but the guy came around and over my body to sit straddle my legs. It was the guy with the small bike. He started saying, “I’ll show them. I’ll show them,” over and over again while pushing me down with a hand on my collarbone.
I fought hard and I turned looking for help. I glance toward third base but my group had their backs to me. No one else was near. I kept fighting to get him off pushing at his chest as the music continued and even sounding louder as it vibrated. With his other hand he began pulling at the snap of my jeans trying to open them. He was much bigger and I was powerless to get him off me.
Then the blaring music ended. And silence. Or I thought it was, until I heard screaming echoed through the air. I was screaming.
We continued wrestling until there was movement around us. Then the weight was lifted from me. Pete, who I knew was one of the drummers was there, and then the two of them were a blur as they fell to the ground and seemed to scrambled away from me. Some older girls came to me and dragged me off the bleacher toward the batting cage. Breathing seems hard. But I was already feeling some relief that it was over but I couldn’t focus on what was being said to me.
Many adults came from nowhere it appeared to me. Faces around me were frowning with concern. I glanced in the direction I came from to see my attacker up against the chain link fence surrounded by male group members and adults.
The woman who ran the drum corps came and wrapped her arms around me. She pretty much dragged me off the field. I heard her saying the guy was troubled.
Someone else walking with us across the street to the clubhouse added how he had behaved about having to leave the corps because he had reached the age limit and his fight with the group managers over it.
Inside the clubhouse I sat while they all talked. Some stared at me and I have to look away having so much attention paid to me. Things began to sink in as they asked questions and I nodded a lot. They asked what happened, what did he say, what did he do. And I started murmuring that I was alright a few times and had to turn away from them wishing that were true. I didn’t want to be here anymore.
My attention sharpened when I heard them mention talking to my parents. While I was glad to be going home, I didn’t want to have to tell them about this. And at the same time, just wanted it to be me who told my mom and dad. But the adults had to tell my parents, to explain the situation to them.
At home, my father was the one who opened the front door. Somehow they all went inside, while someone ask me to stay on the porch. What was said I suddenly didn’t care. I wasn’t in the middle of all the attention anymore. I sat on one of the adirondack chairs. What thoughts I had I couldn’t tell you, though relief was setting in. Home, I would find, was were I would always come to be out of the storm from here on.
Once the club members left, most of the women giving me a hug before going, my mother and father came to the door. They had a short talk before my father stepped out onto the porch where I still sat by myself.
“Are you all right?” he asked in the doorway.
I glanced his way before turning back to watching the afternoon traffic on Madison Avenue. My father looked thoughtful.
“Yeah,” I said, not wanting to talk about it.
Looking back, I’d say he knew me better than I did when I was thirteen years old, for he said, “You don’t want to be bothered, I take it.”
“No,” was all I said as I realized my breathing was normal now and I wasn’t hurt. I was all right, at least for the moment.
He nodded, then he went back in with my mother leaving the door open a little.
It never dawned on me at that time if the kissing incident being brought up at school had anything to do with the boys being black and the girls being white. I did find out weeks after from Leslie that the two boys involved were in a bit of trouble that night but for Leslie and me being their alibis.
So you know, my parents never said anything about the kiss incident. And my parents never talked about race to us. Knowing them as I did, they thought there was no need to. Black people came to our house to have their taxes done all the time. And, over the years I’ve thought about that guy on the bleachers wondering if anyone had ever bothered enough to care about him.
If ever a book was predestined to be written by an individual, it was 50 HOURS by best-selling author Loree Lough. You will indeed find a piece of the author in between each page. Loree, healthy at the time she was commissioned to write the novel, was diagnosed with a similar terminal illness as her main character! The shocking diagnosis of Multiple Myeloma allowed her to write one of her most memorable novels to date. It is not by any means a depressing story that smacks of defeat or worse self-pity, but of all things, is a story of redemption, peace, second chances, friendship, forgiveness and of course, LOVE!
The famous novelist Catherine Lanigan of Romancing the Stone, Jewel of the Nile, and a multitude of other works, wrote, “This is the kind of book that wins Pulitzer prizes,” the highest compliment for any literary fiction novel.
Loree, admittedly, found it challenging at times to write 50 HOURS and early on confessed to Kevin James O’Neill, the screenplay writer the novel is based upon and a movie producer, that she wasn’t sure if she could handle the story or workload. However, for over a year and a half, through twice-daily chemo, plus a stem cell transplant, Loree could not get the characters out of her head and had the overwhelming desire to finish the novel. Wanting more than ever to show readers whose lives had been touched by this dreaded disease, cancer, that, “There’s always plenty of reason to hope and have something to be thankful for,” Loree forged ahead.
The realization that millions of others were facing the same prognosis as her self and her main character, Loree decided to put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward. For her, it was cathartic, and she hoped it would be for her readers—not just cancer patients and their families—too. Loree has always believed she was fairly tough; living by the “Never let ’em see ya sweat” and “Never let ’em see ya cry” codes, and continued to think that way as she poured her heart and soul into her novel through her characters Aubrey, Franco, and Dusty.
Aubrey is living with the constant knowledge that her life is slowly ebbing to an end, but she’s determined to squeeze as much joy from every precious moment she has left. Still, she’s lonely, exhausted, and no matter how hard she tries to hide it, terrified! Meeting Franco gives Aubrey a thread of hope to grasp onto, as she realizes that her long-held dream of painting autumn, in of all places Savannah, has come true with his help. Franco, burdened by the belief that he’s partially responsible for the car wreck that killed his wife, turned him into a man who eked out his existence by merely putting one foot in front of the other because he doesn’t know what else to do. After meeting Aubrey, whose zest for life is infectious, his 50 hours of community service tick by, as he finds himself drawn to her strength.
Loree found herself putting words into Aubrey’s mouth, that she’d only ever said in the privacy of her own mind. Talking with her fellow patients proved she wasn’t alone: A lot of cancer patients keep things to themselves. They do it to spare their loved ones, already worried and afraid of an uncertain future, who aren’t entirely sure or know how to comfort their loved ones. Through Aubrey, Loree was able to tell them that she expected nothing, quite literally, except to be with them (her family and friends). It isn’t easy watching someone you care about suffering the side effects of drugs and treatments. Loree, through Aubrey, showed friends and family that she appreciated their steadfastness. Aubrey’s relationship with Franco and her mother helped her make that point.
Her research and interviews proved there are far too many “loved ones” like Aubrey’s ex-husband; Michael who put on a good show of being the dutiful spouse…until the condition, like Aubrey’s, deteriorated, taking the spotlight off him and putting it back on her. It’s an ugly fact, but a fact nonetheless: The occasional loved one will leave. Through Aubrey, Loree hoped to show cancer patients and family members alike that they can survive even that!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Once upon a time, best-selling author Loree Lough (literally) sang for her supper, performing before packed audiences throughout the U.S. Now and then, she blows the dust from her 6-string to croon a tune or two for her grandchildren but mostly, she just writes full time. Over the years, her stories have earned nearly 100 industry and “Readers’ Choice” awards, 7 movie options, and over eighty 4- and 5-star reviews. There are NEARLY seven million copies of Loree’s books in circulation, and by year-end of 2018, she’ll have 119 books (fiction and non-fiction for kids and adults) 72 short stories, 2,500+ articles in print. Loree shares her [i]learned-the-hard-way[/i] lessons about the craft and the industry, and her comedic approach makes her a favorite (and frequent) guest of writers’ organizations, book clubs, private and government institutions, college and high school writing programs both here and abroad. A writer who believes in “giving back,” Loree dedicates a portion of her income to Soldiers’ Angels, Special Operations Warrior Foundation, and other worthwhile organizations. She splits her time between her home in the Baltimore suburbs and a cabin in the Allegheny Mountains, and shares both with her real-life hero Larry, who rarely complains, even when she adds yet another item to her vast collection of lighthouses, wind chimes, and “wolf stuff.”
Spreading the word about this book increases the opportunity for Kevin James O’Neill to take make it a feature film as intended. Royalties from 50 HOURS go toward Cancer Research. Specifically, the Multiple Myeloma ResearchFoundation.
50 HOURS is available wherever books are sold including Amazon
Sooooooo the coolest thing that I believe as an author, Amanda M. Thrasher, and organization, Progressive Rising Phoenix Press, that we are a part of on an annual basis is the TLA (Texas Library Association) Conference. I have attended this conference for years, signed as a featured author for at least five years, and we have committed as a publisher, for now, four years.
Being an author first, and a co-owner and CEO of an independent press founded by authors, we continually try to locate and find ways that bring the most ‘bang for our buck’ for our authors. What exactly does that mean when it comes to TLA? In case you are not familiar with TLA, it is a professional organization promoting librarianship and library services in Texas. Through legislative advocacy, continuing education events, and networking channels. The conference usually has between 5000 to 6500 attendees, if not more, and often consist of librarians (academic, public, and private), educators, consumers, category buyers, publishers, vendors, to name a few.
Being that it takes place during the week, most attendees go on their companies time and dime. This is good for us, (publishers and authors) because the visitors are pre-registered and literally plan up to a year in advance to attend the conference which brings a different type of ‘crowd’ versus people just look for something entertaining to do. So what do all of those people do?
Everyone attends sessions as they listen and learn about new techniques, equipment, products, and don’t forget they all get to network and socialize as well. Meeting the authors is always a big draw, especially the featured authors, and so many fantastic publishers are represented such as Penguin Random House, Scholastic, McMillan, Disney, Chronicle Books, Capstone, Hachette Book Group, Simon & Schuster, Little, Brown, Book Co., to name a few…. Oh yeah, and us 🙂 as well, Progressive Rising Phoenix Press.
I am not big on the author to author events (me personally), that become book swaps. However, I will always tell our authors, or any other that ask, that I believe in this particular trade conference. This one is worth saving your $’s for and vesting in the trip. It moves yearly, location, but is always in Texas. We network; share our work with the librarians, teachers, and readers. Sign books, and pick up book orders. I have attended and signed at ALA, BEA, and TLA. For us, PRPP, I still believe we receive the most value for our vested dollars in this event. If you have ever considered going, as a company, but you are not sure if it is worth it or if you are an author and you do not know if you should spend the dollars here are my top reasons for doing so:
1) It is a professional trade show; attendees are pre-registered, and that means a guaranteed X amount of participation.
2) Attendees are there with a purpose to do the following: Place book orders for their locations, receive free books for review, and to share new talent or books with their districts. If you have a new title or an old title with limited exposure, it is the perfect place to share your work with the experts or potential real buyers.
3) It is expensive, yes, but with a joint effort it can be done and is worth the $’s spent due to the added benefit of buyers, readers, vendors, librarians, educators, all under one roof at the same time.
4) Networking with different schools, librarians, teachers, readers, is priceless, especially when they are all book lovers and want to be there with you.
5) We have placed multiple bulk orders through this conference, introduced new titles and authors, and re-launched older titles.
6) Negotiated contracts for services authors cannot receive on their own, such as Lexile scoring, contact made through TLA.
7) Received great submissions & we do not solicit authors.
8) Met librarians, teachers, educators, and others that we have stayed in touch with and shared our catalog, and new titles over the year. They have come back, and picked our latest work, sharing it with their districts.
9) Featured author area: the authors are reviewed and scheduled to sign. The advertising is great, and visiting with people as you sign your work is fantastic, but having them come back year after year, remembering you from the year before as they look for your new work….is…..priceless.
10) Often it seems as if we accomplish more at this one trade show than at ten regular author events. Those often seem time-consuming, turn into author swaps, and end up with minimal unit sales.
Many of us belong to groups including social media groups. Often added without our knowledge, some groups I know nothing about the subject matter at all, and yet there I am, added. I won’t lie; I spend very little time socializing online, socializing period. I’m not necessarily an unsocial person, but like most people these days I’m spread pretty thin, and I’m incredibly busy. Between my family, personal writing time, and work, spare time is a real issue. But recently a social media group sent out a question that ended up in my inbox, and it caught my attention. It was a great question, which made me stop, read the question and think.
What was your proudest professional moment?
I thought about that question for several minutes. We all have proud personal moments, kids and family rising to the top of the list. But the proudest professional moment, I hadn’t given that particular question much thought till right then.
I think on a personal, professional level, having Barnes and Noble Small Press Division, NY, at one-time purchasing three of my titles, little author, and a small press was a huge professional moment for me. They don’t stay there long, store category buyers list, and it’s not the same as .com. line. That was a huge accomplishment at the time, knowing we have great titles with sales under their belts, large author platforms, that have been declined over and over again for the category buyer store purchase. That ranked pretty high for me, as an author, as a proud professional moment. Starting a business with my business partner, a press founded by authors, in a competitive industry and personally being invited to discuss our company with our print managers at LSI/Ingram in TN was huge. Touring the plant, negotiating a contract that was feasible for us as a company and beneficial for our authors was also a proud professional moment. But one of the proudest moments I can remember, professionally, was the day I received a letter from a Site Director, Jeremy McNair, for one of the after-school programs that he managed at an elementary school on behalf of another organization. I had been asked to conduct a month-long workshop with multiple sites. Listed as one of my locations the letter stated the following:
My name is Jeremy McNair, and I am the Site Director for the YMCA program at Butler Elementary School. This past Monday, you came and spoke to my students about your book and the writing processes behind them. The past two days since then have been completely filled with the kids telling me how much they learned and enjoyed your presentation. I wish I could take the time to tell you every story, but I’ve typed up several of the letters that they’ve written to you and copied them to the end of this email. Your drive and passion were well received and noted by all the children and staff, and I know that your impact will resonate in a huge way in all of their lives.
Thank you so much for your dedication to your craft, but even more than that, thank you for sharing it with the children at Butler. They were left truly inspired.
This touched me in such a way, as did the letters from the students below (read them, and you’ll see what I mean, precious) that it reminded me of why authors/writers do what we do. Why we share our work, spend time, and encourage our future young writers to tap into and use their imagination to create beautiful future works. Over the years I’ve participated, completed, and accomplished many things that other people would be proud of, but this to this day ranks as one of my proudest professional moments.
Letters from the students below (they’re in a laminate paper for protection) but click on the image to enlarge and read.
Reading apps are not just for you to read Ebooks. Text-to-Speech software or apps, TTS, are intuitive apps that read to you. This is a good way to proofread and spot then easily correct mistakes in your own manuscripts, articles and school papers for anyone not just people with dyslexia.
Of course, some of you might know this already but for those of you who don’t, this can be a stroke of luck. Imagine listening to your own words read back to you before anyone else has read it. For me, hearing my own words read to me was a treat.
BUT there was a great benefit. I was able to hear any mistakes and fix them easily. Now, my main problem is switching words, a problem caused by dyslexia. I might type where or were for here or there. OR, what for that, or and for can.Really. It is a mystery to me even. It’s a problem that has to be weeded out of my manuscripts. So Text-to-Speech software is just what I needed.
I tried a few Text-to-Speech apps and found that Voice Reading (Read Aloud) by Microsoft Word worked the best for me. Microsoft developed this text-to-speech software to help people with dyslexia as well as editing. This app reads to you from these formats: EPUB, PDF, DOC, DOCX, TXT in either a male or female voice. It’s not perfect. It some cases, the borders are not aligned and you can’t move forward without clicking to the next page, which I found annoying at times, and the read voices are not all the natural.
Before you start looking for a text-to-speech app though, look on your devices to see if they have them as part of the operating system. I know iphones, androids, and some tablets already have some versions of a Text-to-Speech on them.
Last note: I did try the Natural Readers free app without success. I found that their free text-to-speech app posts an ad to buy their other versions on just about every page. It flashes up and you have to delete it every time to continue the app. It also would sometimes malfunction when you tried to get it to go back a page or two.
So the FREE Voice Reading (Read Aloud) by Microsoft is worth trying. Find out more about the Voice Reading (Read Aloud) by Microsoft Word at:
I have two teenage daughters at home. My son, now grown, survived the teen years. I’m certain my girls will as well, though they’ll likely receive a few bumps and bruises along the way. Heartache, fallouts with friends, and decisions about future life goals will leave a few scars.
Dating, according to many teens these days, is often nothing more than a hook-up. Sound shocking? Yes! But according to teens, it’s normal. In fact, they rarely call dating, dating anymore. It’s often just referred to as hanging out. I’m hanging out with so-and-so, and then onto the hook-ups. This behavior of hooking up and even random hook-ups is considered normal for many teens. How do I know? I spoke to groups of teens and they spoke candidly and with no fear of their behavior. Local Dr’s told me they treat teens on a regular basis of two to three times a week for STD’s. I know… WHAT?!Scary? It is! It’s not that parents and schools aren’t talking to these kids about the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases or having sex too young because they are, it’s that kids, especially teens, often think that they’re invincible and nothing can happen to them. Some teens were treated over and over by the same Dr. for the same STD, and this is a national problem, not a community issue. In addition to the physical dangers of this type of behavior, the kids often aren’t prepared for the emotional and complications that can come along with behavior that they’re not ready for.
But hanging out and worrying if your kid is hooking-up isn’t the only danger that goes along with teens social lives today. Dying to grow up, surrounded by social media promoting just that, some kids think they’re more mature than they really are, jump into physical relationships taking on more than they can emotionally handle. The problem is they often don’t understand the dangers of that until the emotional rollercoaster starts. Some teens are forced into sexual situations prematurely, especially if they’re not thinking clearly because they’re impaired by using drugs or alcohol. Obviously, the fallout is devastating and can be life-altering.
Concerned about the accounts that I heard from teen after teen, fearful my teens would find themselves in a dangerous situation themselves, I set out to write a novel that would imitate a true-life threatening situation. The situation that occurs in the book, takes place too many times and affects too many young girls/women and boys/men. This type of situation, as in the book, becomes increasingly complicated when the relationship has been a lasting one and something terrible happens. Lines are crossed, emotions are suddenly confused, and lives are forever changed. My hope is that if only one person reads the book, thinks twice about getting into the type of situation described, then I’ve done my job as an author and accomplished what I set out to do with the message in this piece.
I believe I pulled the overall message of Bitter Betrayaloff in regards to showing how the dating situation effects young boys/men and girls/women differently due to their emotions and how they handle a dating situation. I believe the scenes that show the destruction of the relationship depicts what happens to some teens when they find themselves in dangerous situations.
I’ll be one of the authors on a panel at the TeenBook Fest by the Bay, speaking to over seven hundred teens about this book. It shows the dangers of miscommunication while being impaired and how great kids make terrible mistakes that affect them for the rest of their lives. The book has won two awards, The Mom’s Choice Awards® (MCA), Gold, which evaluates products and services created for children, families, and educators. The program is globally recognized for establishing the benchmark of excellence in family-friendly media, products, and services, and the New Apple Literary Award, both for YA. If you’re a teen, parent, educator, youth group leader, or a librarian, this book may interest you.
Picking a college wasn’t turning out to be as easy as Reece had hoped. The school he wanted to attend was out of state and hadn’t made him any kind of offer yet. His coach had written letters of recommendation. His grades were good, game films highlighting his plays were in the hands of several recruiters, and services that assisted students and parents were working on his behalf. But the waiting part was no fun. His parents wanted him to stay in Texas, but agreed not to stand in his way if a school he liked came knocking.
Reece wanted two things: to attend a D1 school and receive an out-of-state offer. Truthfully, he hadn’t thought too much about Payton or what she thought. There were 347 D1 schools that he was aware of, scattered across forty-nine different states. Some colleges were smaller, private schools and some larger universities, but the odds of Reece receiving a full scholarship were excellent. Coach had said a full ride was more than a realistic possibility; it was a probability, especially riding on his brother’s reputation. Reece idolized his brother and wanted to follow in his footsteps, not easy to do, but he never once felt jealous or envious of his brother’s success. Coach always bragged about Royce and Reece. Proud to have coached them both in their high school years.
“Just like Royce, son. You are capable of playing for a D1 program,” Coach Duncan would say. “You know, those programs can generate millions of dollars in revenue annually for the schools. And like your brother, you could handle the pressure of performing and the expectations of winning.”
Reece believed Coach and worked hard at proving him right. Payton cringed when Reece talked about the schools he wanted to attend, because she knew it meant the inevitable—he’d be leaving. He’d get so excited. His eyes would light up and he’d get animated as he talked. She was happy for him, but sad for herself. Despite the heaviness she felt weighing on her heart and in her head because she missed him already, she tried her best to encourage him. He called her to tell her about an email Coach had received asking about his eligibility. He could tell she was down by how quiet she got on the other end of the phone. Now he knew why he hated to call. He’d rather send her a text than talk.
“You know we’ll stay in touch every day and hang out when I come home.”
“Well, yeah,” she replied, kinda shocked that he had to actually state it. Surely that was understood. Wasn’t it?
“Just checking. You sound down or something.”
Payton shook her head, and then realized she needed to answer. He couldn’t see her through the phone.
“Sorry. I’m fine.”
“I’m almost there. Are you ready?”
“I will be by the time you get here,” she said. “If you let me off the phone!”
When Payton climbed in, Reece raised the console divider in the front seat so she could sit next to him. He’d crank the aux and she’d lay her hand on his leg, unless he was holding hers in his. She loved Friday nights, even more than Saturdays. It was the excitement of spending real time with him after being in school all week. They were going to the movies with Reece’s friends. Aubrey didn’t have a date and even though she could have joined them, she opted out. Payton didn’t mind. All of her attention was on Reece anyway.
“You smell good,” Reece said as soon as Payton climbed into the truck and turned to give him their customary kiss hello.
She knew the perfume she’d sprayed all over her clothes and neck was his favorite perfume; smiling coyly, she kissed him again.
“Trevor might bring some girl,” Reece stated nonchalantly.
Payton laughed. “Like just some random girl, seriously?”
Reese shook his head. “Right! I didn’t ask. He said he might bring some girl. I don’t care who.” He took a sip of Coke. “But I think her name begins with an S. Samantha, Sydney, Sophie, something like that. Chase is coming as well, but I doubt he’ll bring anyone; no one will date that loser.”
As they turned onto Trevor’s street, they saw Trevor outside, leaning against his car with a pretty girl standing next to him. She was tall, slim, and blond. Payton didn’t recall seeing her before, but gave her a quick once-over as they walked toward the truck.
“This is Stacie,” Trevor announced as they climbed into the back.
“Stacie,” Reece repeated, glancing at Payton.
“Hi, Stacie, nice to meet you.” Payton made the introductions for everyone.
Reece looked at Trevor as the girl climbed into the truck and gave him a nod of approval. How did Trevor score a date with that? Trevor looked as if he hadn’t quite figured it out either; he seemed to know exactly what Reece meant as he grinned big, shrugged his shoulders, and threw up his hands. No complaints from him. They had met during one of his classes. She was a transfer. Totally used to rejection, Trevor was bold enough to ask her to go out with them that night. Shockingly she had said yes, and here they were. She was undeniably hot and he wasn’t. Weird.
“You never know if you don’t ask, bro,” Trevor muttered as he patted Reece on the back.
Payton leaned over the back of the seat and spoke to the girl.
“You’ll get used to it. They talk to each other as if we’re not here, and they do a lot of things in groups.” She laughed out loud. “They say girls are bad about doing everything together. OMG! These guys. Stick around, you’ll see.”
Trevor grabbed Stacie’s hand, not sure if he’d actually see her again after that evening, but she didn’t seem to mind. More of Reece’s friends were waiting for them at the movies than they’d expected. Doug, Shane, Tristan, and Lisa. Additional introductions were made, tickets bought, and seats found. Sci-fi was not her thing, but Payton was just glad to be there. The boys enjoyed it, though; she knew because they were relatively quiet throughout the entire show. Unusual.
“Where to?” Payton asked as the credits rolled.
“Lake. Tiger’s trail,” Trevor suggested. “Denis said there’s a party up there tonight.”
Returning to the truck, Reece nodded, turned up the music, slipped his hand into Payton’s, and they took off. Trevor was right. Trucks, cars, and kids were everywhere. There was no telling how long they had until someone called it in, but they were there now. The typical classic red plastic cups found at every teen get-together were being passed around. Beer was drunk by most, but others were slamming liquor brought by kids who could get their hands on it. Some of the kids pretended to drink it. Peer pressure. Payton was one of those kids. She held onto a cup that was handed to her and pretended to sip what was in it. Fake IDs were something else that kids seemed to have easy access to. Payton was dying to look into that, but hadn’t quite been brave enough to attempt it yet. Reece didn’t need one. If he needed anything, Royce took care of him. It was common knowledge that teens were able to get their hands on just about anything they wanted or needed if they had a few dollars. If the price was right, someone always seemed to know someone who could get it or whom to ask. At these parties vodka floated around because it looked like water, was easily found in most homes, and easily mixed with soda, juice, or just about anything else. Every time Payton was handed a drink with vodka in it, her mom’s voice would ring in her head. Kids on booze: not only illegal, but lethal. Her mom had recited these words for years, hoping Payton would avoid the teen drinking scene. Payton was an observer and Reece for the most part was too, unless he was planted somewhere for the night and even then he didn’t usually overdo. But he didn’t mind enjoying the scene with his friends and usually he had fun no matter what, especially with his girl by his side. Handed a beer, Reece shook his head and pointed to his truck.
“Dude, I’ve got a full truck tonight.”
His attention turned to Payton as he reached for the cup and handed it to her.
“Babe, yours is gone, you can have it.”
She wanted to shake her head and decline as well, but against her better judgment she held out her hand. Noticing the hesitation on her face, Reece pulled her toward him and whispered in her ear.
“You’re good, you’re not driving. Plus, you’re with me.”
He put his arms around her waist, leaned forward, and kissed the back of her neck. She turned around to face him and he pulled her even closer, kissing her with such intensity that her stomach filled with butterflies. She kissed him back just as hard. As he pulled away from her, he whispered something so softly she wasn’t quite sure what she’d heard. Were they thewords, as in the real form and not a version of them, like he usually said, or number digits in his texts? That’s what they sounded like; surely she hadn’t missed the words? Tugging at his sleeve, she asked him to repeat what he had said.
“Wait. What? What did you say?”
“You heard me,” he countered with a muffled voice so no one else would hear him.
“No, really. What did you say?”
“I love you, babe,” he whispered again, bashfully the second time. He kissed her on the cheek and turned back toward his friends, joining their conversation as if he hadn’t just said the most important words she’d ever heard.
Seriously, the words! First thing she wanted to do was say them back, but she couldn’t because he was talking to his friends. Then she wanted to text her BFF, Aubrey, but she couldn’t do that either, because Aubrey would want details. Super excited, madly in love, how could she have known what would happen next?
In 2009, I decided to become an author, unfortunately, I had no idea what kind of journey I was signing up for. As I threw my hat into the race, publishers were closing left and right due to the Great Recession. Also, Amazon had just started challenging the U.S. publishing industry by creating the Kindle e-reader and their Kindle Direct Publishing company. Now in 2018, the publishing industry has changed so much, today, many authors are choosing to go indie and major publishers are being even more selective about what they acquire. So what would I say to an author just starting out today? Well, I gathered some of the best advice I could and decided to publish it all here. Hopefully, you too will pass it on to the next generation of newbie authors who don’t have a clue about how the publishing thing works.
Educate yourself on the business and keep up with industry news. ~Rachel Rueben
“My advice to authors is to EDIT EVERYTHING WELL! If you aren’t confident of your own skills, hire someone. Yes, it gets expensive, but it’s worth it. We all make mistakes, miss things, or simply don’t know the correct way to say something. Research your would-be editor well. I’ve seen professionally edited, big company published, best selling authors, with grammatical errors. Apparently, neither they, nor their editors, knew the correct grammar. Find someone who will do a good job at a fair price. If you can’t afford an editor, then read your manuscript until your eyes bleed and your brain melts.” ~Dellani Oakes
“Avoid vanity presses they accept your manuscript but they charge you for the privilege of getting published. It’s fine if you have money to throw at the endeavor but you are better off self publishing on Amazon.” ~Karen Vaughan
“Best advice? Decide how much control you want in the decisions about your new work. A finished story can be like the writer’s baby, so that writer has to decide how they feel about letting it go to another for the “growing up” process. Whether to self-publish with a POD, an ebook indie publisher, or try for the traditional publishing houses, it can be a matter of time and persistence. However, the bigger the publisher, the less control a writer might have on the decisions of cover, marketing, or even the edits. So, a new writer will have to choose whether they want to take the time to submit queries, submissions, and find agents so that they can possibly get more notice (and hopefully money) for their work, but have to let the fine details go to someone else and start working on the next. Or, if they have the tenacity to market themselves, they can have complete control of their baby and self-publish. An indie ebook press can offer a range between these two. Some have their own artists and editors, some let the author have the final say. But, once you have your “baby” fresh from your brain and “on paper” (as most books are files rather than typed manuscripts anymore), you need to decide which path of hard work, long hours, and promotion you want to do. It’s a lot of tedious work either way. As a self-publisher, I like having a say in what my books look like, but I sure would appreciate someone else doing the editing and marketing sometimes. Having a strong network of fellow authors is always good to have as well, no matter how you decide to publish..” ~Ruth Davis Hays
“Business is business, dead weight is just that, dead weight. If they are not contributing revenue they will drain your resources, cut them loose.” ~ Mike Thrasher – Chief Sales and Marketing Officer – Apex Capital From Amanda Thrasher
On verbal agreements: “Some states do not honor verbal agreements. Others do. If one of the parties in your contract is from one of those states, then you could be agreeing to something you think you’ve mentioned casually over the phone.This one fact alone is why I do not conduct telephone negotiations with anyone on any project for any reason.
People who want to negotiate with me must do so by letter or, these days, by email. I print those emails and keep them as work product for any agreement that we come up with, or don’t come up with, as the case may be.” ~ Kristine Kathyrn Rusch
“You can definitely build an author platform and generate good sales from free marketing – but you will pay with your time.” ~ Joanna Penn
About mistakes he sees authors make on social media: “Shouting, ‘buy my book’, ad nauseam, on Twitter. No one is listening.” ~Mark Dawson
Whatever you may have heard, self-publishing is not a shortcut to anything. Except maybe insanity. Self-publishing, like every other kind of publishing, is hard work. You don’t wake up one morning good at it. You have to work for that. ~ Zoe Winters
Here are a just a few books worth reading if you want to learn more about self-publishing:
(APE) Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur by Guy Kawasaki
Write. Publish. Repeat: The No Luck Required Guide to Self- Publishing Success by Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant and David Wright
Closing the Deal on Your Own terms by Kristine Kathyrn Rusch
Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook, Second Edition, by Helen Sedwick
How to Market a Book by Joanna Penn (This is book 2, in a series.)
Let’s Get Visible by David Gaughran
Also, if you want more information and resources you can check out: Important Resources for Indie Authors Parts One & Two, right here on the Cereal Authors blog.
Happy 2018, if you have any advice that you would like to impart to the next generation, please share it in the comments section.
In my last post. I talked about Instagram and how authors can use it to build a social media following as well as what type of content to post. Today, I’m going into the specifics on how to use Instagram to promote a book. I’m also going to give a few ideas on when to post as well as how to maximize your time spent there so that you don’t spend all day posting pretty pictures. So without further ado…
A Free Feature Authors Can Use For Book Promotion:
Instagram recently released a new feature (copying SnapChat) called, Instagram Storieswhere you can post a series of pictures, or videos for 24 hours. Why would somebody want to do that? It’s to create a sense of urgency and trigger the impulse mechanism within a human brain which can be ideal for things like:
A limited sale
A book giveaway
Or even a contest
The images or videos appear as a slideshow and you can post throughout the day. The only drawback is, there’s no ability to interact with your followers because there are no comments or likes for these kinds of posts. If you’re interested, here’s a post from Instagram’s own blog which goes into further detail.
Last year, Instagram launched a feature of slide shows posts called Carousel where users can load up to 10 photos or videos to one single post just like the Stories feature but without the time limit. Like the Stories feature, users can spread their posts out over a period of a day or several weeks building up to a big sale or your even the release of your next book. It’s all up to you.
Here are more ways authors can use Instagram’s Carousel feature:
Post a set of teasers from your work
Reveal a book cover
Announce a book release
Have a book sale
Hold a giveaway
Post a series of book trailers
A refreshing example of an author using the carousel feature wisely is author Krystal Sutherland, who used it to display her book coversin various languages. Also, blogger Ana Hoffman, took the feature and used her pics to introduce herself, as well as her work to her followers. These two ladies knocked it out of the park.
Instagram Polling Stickers
One big complaint that many users had about Instagram was it’s very basic features. I mean, there really wasn’t much you could do to engage your followers outside of responding to comments. So in response, Instagram recently introduced polling again, copying SnapChat’s Polly service.
Ways authors can use polling:
Ask about questions about pricing for example: Is $5.99 too much for an ebook?
Opinions on book covers.
Thoughts on book titles.
Ask about various characters for example: Do you think Character A deserves his own book? Should Character B get the ax?
This feature can be very helpful to authors wanting to mine data from their followers. And the good thing is, people love to give their opinions so it’s not considered intrusive.
Scheduling Apps Are A Complicated Business On Instagram
Sadly, Instagram doesn’t allow third party apps to post to their site. But, there are several companies that have gotten around that by offering reminder services, where you create a post on an app and after you schedule it, it sends you a reminder to your phone. When you receive this reminder, you can post it through your phone. It’s a roundabout way to get past the obstacles that Instagram has created for users. If you’re wondering why do they do this? It’s to keep people posting through their (Instagram’s) mobile app and not via a desktop or third party app. However, there are a few rogue services that break those rules but I won’t mention them here, because if you’re caught, your account can be suspended. Remember, Amazon is still suing multiple companies as well as several individuals that repeatedly broke the rules on their website.
I have to admit, I do make it a point to preschedule things just so my account doesn’t lie dormant for months at a time while I write my next book. However, I only use the services approved by Instagram, I’ll list those later on.
Before I do that, I’ll discuss why authors should consider pre-scheduling apps. During a book launch, you might be asked to do interviews or even write a guest post on a popular blog. Most hosts would appreciate it, if they don’t require an author to promote the project on their own social media sites. Now I know that sounds like common sense but you’ll be surprised at how few authors actually do this. It’s not because of ego or the fear of marketing but usually because during a book launch, authors are busy or just plain nervous. Nonetheless, this can be seen as rude or unprofessional by those trying to help promote us and our work.
What can scheduling/ reminder apps help authors promote or remember?
Book signing dates
Radio or television interviews
Online or offline book tours
Holiday posts: Wish your followers a Happy New Year or World Book Day. Yes, that’s a real holiday.
Post while on vacation or even while sick.
Many authors use these scheduling apps for pretty much all their social media accounts, though I don’t recommend relying solely on these apps to post, I do believe they can be aides in helping keep authors organized.
Many authors hold multiple positions in other areas of our lives. However, regardless of how busy we are, nor how many books we have written, it does not change the fact that each time we have a new release we feel the same as any other author exposing themselves to the world for the very first time. Feelings are often are the combination of joy, nervous anticipation, excitement, and a slight element of fear (at least for me). Dellani Oakes is no exception to the rule of a woman with multiple roles; she is a busy wife, mother, Blog Talk Radio host, publisher, and an author. She lives in Florida, grew up in Western Nebraska, has lived in multiple states, and being a people watcher by nature, this has given her the opportunity to gather information over the years for her work.
She’s written multiple novels, but now has a new romance, set to release November 1, 2017, from Tirgearr Publishing, titled – So Much It Hurts. I’m thrilled to say I had the opportunity to interview Dellani about her work and her new novel.
The main character, Pia Donovan, Pia has just moved to the City from a tiny town in Nebraska. Overwhelmed by the fast pace, and after a long day of getting lost in the worst part of the city possible, she finally arrives at her destination, a historic, grand hotel in the downtown area. Picking her way across the rutted ground in front of the building, she loses her balance, practically falling into the arms of Flynn Chancellor. Handsome and friendly, Flynn presents a happy distraction for a girl who’s trying to recover from a broken heart.
1) You have written several novels. Is this your first romance?
Dellani: I have written other straight romances, but this is the first published romance. The others are either romantic suspense or sci-fi.
2) Does Pia resemble anyone you know?
Dellani: She resembles me in several ways. First of all, she’s an academic brat. My father was a college professor. For Pia, it’s her mom. We both grew up in Nebraska, though she’s from the east and I grew up out west. It’s still the small town girl vibe. Also, her musical loves are mine – hands down, exactly like me.
3) Is the protagonist, Pia, a heroine, victim or neither?
Dellani: She is certainly no victim, though she has some hurt in her life. She does suffer a little in the story, but she rises above. I wouldn’t call her a heroine, as there is no real villain. However, she is a strong female lead.
4) When I think of romance, I often think of love stories. Is this a typical love story?
Dellani: It is a love story, with a bit of a surprise. If you’re asking if this follows the standard romance formula, no. But it is a sweet story of loss, love and redemption.
5) I am sure some scenes maybe steamy. How would you rate them, R rated or X?
Dellani: This particular story is very mild. There are some heavy make-out scenes and certain acts are mentioned, but there is no graphic sex in the story. It’s more of an understood thing. Because there are some sensitive people out there, I would give it a light R. It would be appropriate for 17+
6) Being a visual writer (myself), do you have to visualize your scenes. If so, how fun 🙂 but on another note, is it emotionally draining at times being in someone else’s relationship?
Dellani: Yes and yes. I see the scenes play out in detail. I hear them talking in their individual voices, and try to capture their individual styles.
There are times when character’s don’t get along. That’s inevitable. It’s hard when the actions of one character adversely affect another. Sometimes, there’s reparation. Other times, there’s an irreparable split. Those are hard, especially if I really like both characters.
7) I know by nature you are an observer; the material is all around you, but writing romance, is it hard to find good relationships to mimic these days?
Dellani: I don’t really try to mimic any relationships. If anything, their couple dynamic is similar to my own marriage. We’ve been together 35 years and still have fun together. Our style is a little avaunt-garde but it works for us.
8) If you had to tell your audience/readers one thing about this book that you want them to know?
Dellani: Don’t pick it up expecting a “typical romance”. Anyone who knows my work already knows this, but new readers don’t. I have never followed the boy meets girl, boy and girl fight, boy and girl makeup and live horribly ever after. I can’t even imagine people hating one another throughout a book, then realizing they are in love. I give it a year—maybe.
My couples meet, feel a spark and work together against conflict. They resolve their issues and work through them together.
9) Flynn sounds as if he is gorgeous and delightful, but is he a nice person? Don’t answer if it gives away your story 🙂
Dellani: Flynn is a great guy, but he has some baggage that even he doesn’t recognize. He’s learning and growing as a person. I love Flynn. (I love Yancy and Pia as well) 🙂
10) While writing romance is hard to put original spins on twists that are already out there and make them your own?
Dellani: Yes, it can be. People have certain expectations for romance, which I don’t give them. I do my best to find ways to bring my characters closer, not drive them apart. Not to say they don’t have problems, but at least they try. Finding a new spin isn’t easy, but I hope I still deliver a good story.
11) Greenlee honestly could have been any kid, in any town, anywhere in America. Could Pia be any woman, anywhere, in any small town or is she special?
Dellani: She’s very universal, in my eyes. Although she is a musician, she could be anyone, anywhere—a displaced small town girl in the big city. I love that she’s like that, but retains her individuality – just as Greenlee did. (I love her)
12) Who is your favorite character in this book, and why?
Dellani: I love all my leads, but as far as favorite – I’m gonna have to go with Oz. He’s not a major character, but he is pivotal. Oz is special, a young man with Asperger’s, who lives down the hall from Pia. He is fiercely loyal, intuitive and sees into a person with a great clarity. He talks to Pia about seeing the pattern. At first, she’s not quite sure, but when she sings for a group of the residents, she sees it quite clearly. Glancing at Oz, she realizes that he knows what she’s seeing. It’s a cool moment.
13) What would you tell your fans excites you about this release?
Dellani: I love this book! I fell in love with the characters, I love the plot twists and I can’t wait for it to be out so that they can enjoy it too.
14) Did you learn anything about your self while writing this piece?
Dellani: Yes, I learned that I’m very sarcastic and have bizarre sense of humor. Oh wait, I knew that already. Let’s say that the dialogue made that abundantly clear.
15) I cannot go back and reread my pieces for a long time. I would change too many things (it is a personal author/writer thing). Now your new book is ready for release, is there a single thing you would have written differently and will you ever go back and rewrite it?
Dellani: Usually, I’m the same way. I read my books later and find things I’d change. This time, I can’t say that. I am really pleased with how this came out. Of course, five years from now, I might feel differently, but right now, no.
16) Will you write a sequel to this piece?
Dellani: I’m not sure about a sequel. It’s possible, but I think I tied up the loose threads successfully. However, I’m very likely to bring these characters into other books set in the same city. There are a few incidental characters that the three core characters encounter, who are featured in other of my books (which aren’t published yet).
17) Is there an element of mystery to this romance?
Dellani: For once, there is no real mystery involved. Since I mostly write romantic suspense, I thought it would be interesting to break away from that for once. I think I was successful.
18) How do you define success as an author?
Dellani: If I get positive feedback from readers, I feel I’ve been successful. I would love to be the writer making millions (who wouldn’t?) but I’m realistic. Those contracts are rare. If I make even one reader laugh, cry or sweat, I have done my job.
19) Define the best makebelieve day as a writer?
Dellani: My best makebelieve day would be to have a movie company call me up and tell me they want to turn one of my books into a movie and I can pick the leads.
20) If you could speak to a stadium full of Dellani Oakes fans about this book, what is the very first thing you would say after the initial introduction?
Dellani: I think I’d channel comedienne Minnie Pearl. I’d walk onto the stage in a big, flowered hat, wave my hand and say, “Howdy!” Once I had everyone laughing, then I’d start to talk.
“You weren’t kidding about how close it all is. I’ll have to explore Making Music soon. I can’t go long without a fix.”
“We can go in now, if you want.” He turned to face the store.
The front window was filled with shiny saxophones, sparkling flutes, and tantalizing objects Flynn couldn’t name. It caught his artist’s eye, drawing him in.
“Today’s goal is campus.”
“As the lady wishes.” He swung her around to face the way they’d been going. “I should see if they’ll let me do a camo piece there. I could have fun with all the shiny objects. Matching things like metal and leather is tricky.”
“I imagine so. The textures and the way it catches the light. And suede versus tanned hide would be an additional challenge.”
“You must have taken painting classes.”
“A few. Mom thought we should all have a well-rounded education. Her granddad was an artist in Mexico. Quite well known. Maybe you know the name. Rafael Dominguez?”
Flynn stopped in his tracks. “No! Really? Shit!” His hand flew to his head, searching for a cap that wasn’t there. He grasped his hair instead. “I am the hugest fan of his work. My first copies were of his Santa Rosada Sitting. The colors are so hard to match, I couldn’t do it justice. It’s phenomenal.”
Pia’s eyes watered and she sniffled. “That was my great-grandmother. He painted that of her just before she died.”
“The play of light…the textures…his use of bold colors. It just leapt off the canvas. Incredible! Is it true he made his own paints?”
“Yes. Mom even has some containers of his original paints. Would you believe, they’re still good? We don’t use them, of course, but Mom has his recipes. Virtually unintelligible, though. We’re hoping someone will be able to read through them and figure them out. He used a very bizarre shorthand, since he couldn’t read or write.”
Flynn dug his hands into his pockets, biting his lower lip. “I need a project for my final semester. I chose the work of Rafael Dominguez. Do you have copies of the notes, or could you get them? Because I would be honored to try to translate them.”
“I do! Well, Mom does. We loaned the originals to a museum, along with some of his paintings, and sketches. They scanned them for us and put them in a display case. I can make that happen.”
Swept away by the moment, Flynn grabbed her face and kissed her. It was brash and impulsive, but he didn’t even think. As soon as he realized what he was doing, he considered stopping, but Pia took his face in her hands and kissed him back. From there, it took on a life of its own and he couldn’t stop. Sighing contentedly, Pia disengaged and smiled up at him.
“Unexpected,” she murmured. “Nice.”
“I’m sorry. I got carried away…”
“Don’t apologize unless I rack your balls.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He pulled her close, resting his forehead against hers. “Does that mean I can hope for another?”
“We’ll see.” She cut her eyes at him, grinning. Swishing away, she walked down the street.