I called her Tink.

I sometimes make grand statements like, “No one forgets their first car”, but then I realize that maybe not everyone has the same fond memories as I do for things. I basically attach sentiment to anything—it’s a bit of a running joke in our home. If a rock is in our backyard for enough time, that rock now has a name and is coming with me when we move.

car pic

This is a picture of my first car. It was a Pontiac Geo Firefly. It had sparkly blue paint, a top speed of 80km/hr (people on the highway LOVED me), a touch of rust on every surface and the biggest hole in the dashboard that makes me question how it got certified. I have so many stories about this car. I LOVED this car.

My parents bought it for me when I got my driver’s license at sixteen for five hundred dollars. My first expedition in it was picking my best friend, Jennifer Sully (side note: I always refer to her using both her first and last name—you’ll get used to it), and stopping for gas on our way to our other friend’s house. After pumping the gas, I turned the car on because we live in Canada and it was freezing, before going into the gas station to pay. The line up was fairly long, and after a few minutes I finally made my way back out to the car and saw that it is filled with some sort of white fog. I opened the door and peered in to see Jen looking at me with slightly glazed eyes saying, “I don’t feel so good”. Remember the hole in the dashboard? Apparently it wasn’t a good idea to keep the car running without some of the windows down, and Jen learnt this the hard way.

Don’t worry, she was fine. And after I bought some duct tape and put multiple layers over the dashboard all was well in the world.

Fast forward a few weeks, my dear friend (same one, all my good stories involve Jennifer Sully), and I decide to take a leisurely drive to the farmer’s market an hour outside our city to get a pie. Once again in the slow lane on the highway going WELL below the speed limit a little light that looks like a helicopter with an extra propeller comes on. Naturally, neither of us have a clue what it means but after some steam starts coming from the hood of the car, we pull over to access the situation. It turns out the engine was overheating—also their was a large amount of hay under the hood (no idea—didn’t question). We were in the middle of nowhere with not a clue as to what to do, but it didn’t seem like it was that big of a problem, so we came up with the ingenious idea that if we turn the heat on FULL in the car it would take some of the heat away from the engine. So that’s what we did, in the middle of summer during a heat wave. By the time we got to the farmer’s market (yes, by some miracle our idea DID work) we were drenched with sweat and Jennifer Sully’s sandals had melted at the tips. But we made it. We got our pie. Yes, we had to drive the entire way home the same way, but we laughed through the sweat.

My final favourite memory (there are so many, I could bore you all day with them), is when my dad got me a new cd player for the car (the current radio didn’t work), which he decided to install himself. In the midst of the installation I had to go to work, but I was assured it was fine that all the wires were hanging down and he would finish it the next day. Well I went to work, put the blanket over the car so it would start again after I had finished my shift, and went on my merry way. Fast forward a few hours and I went to pick up—you guessed it, Jennifer Sully!—and my then boyfriend, now husband, to go out. While I was making a turn, sparks starting flying out of the dashboard where the radio used to be (yes, the same wires that my dad assured me were fine, ha!), and David’s solution to this was to stick his finger in it to separate them. Naturally he had no clue what he was doing and it only created more sparks until two seconds later the entire car shut off in the middle of the road. After hours of trying to figure out how to get the car working again, you know what ended up being the solution? A fuse that cost fifty cents. That’s what the car was running on. The whole thing just made me love that Firefly even more.

After a few years I had to admit defeat when I was commuting to university and the tires for my faithful Pontiac weren’t much wider than a bicycle’s. So I put it up for sale, and the man who came to pick it up was easily six and a half feet tall. As he drove away in my beloved car, hunched over the steering wheel because his neck was touching the ceiling, I knew that the Firefly’s fun adventures weren’t over and it gave me such comfort. Also, my new car had power windows so that helped.

A lot of people ask me where I get the ideas for my stories (actually it’s usually the first thing anyone asks me when they discover I’m an author), and I always tell them that I watch people. I look for things that happen to myself and others and roll with that, because it is always easier to embellish the truth than a lie. But I think it also helps that when things in life don’t go according to plan, or aren’t ideal, I find the humour in it. I realize it is a coping mechanism, but I also think it’s a great philosophy for life. I love telling stories about my first car (Etty’s car in My Sort-of, Kind-of Hero was modeled after it), and I love every experience I had in it. Though Jennifer Sully is not as fond of the carbon monoxide poisoning story as I am. Bless.

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Indie Book Marketing 101

My marketing strategy is a bit of trial and error to be honest. Whether you’re with one of the big publishing houses or you’re an indie author, a large portion of a book’s marketing falls on the author. They’re expected (even before a book is published) to have a “platform”. A platform is basically a resume of what you’re bringing to the table (i.e. readers) who will buy your novel. This platform can consists of many things: for non-fiction writers it is your credentials on the subject you are writing on, if you can market your book to classrooms, etc.; but for fiction authors this mainly consists of your social media following and your blog.

Marketing 101

This is my brainstorming face.

I will be the first person to admit that I don’t like Twitter. Anytime I log on I feel like I am joining mid-conversation and have to drudge back to figure out what everyone is talking about.

Facebook I like for my personal account where I share pictures of my kids so my Nan in England can see, but the Facebook platform for professionals is VERY hard to navigate. Especially if you have a personal page and the business is linked with the same login code. It used to be very simple, but like everything else, as soon as it become popular and they “updated” I found it impossible to use. I don’t adapt well.

Instagram is my go-to. I am a visual person and can waste a lot of time scrolling through endless pictures. This obviously shows in my “followers” as my Instagram account outweighs my Twitter and Facebook account by A LOT. I like taking photos in different lights, sharing them, endlessly checking out my Instagram page to see if it is esthetically pleasing.

As for my blog, I am not great at it. I think the problem is I get super excited and post a ton of things and I forget to actually sit down and write my novels. Then I take a break to write, and completely forget about the blog. Then the cycle starts again.

Outside of social media, I have found the best forms of marketing are:

  • Blog Tours
  • Bookbub and ENT
  • Serial Writing

Blog tours are great, because they generate interest in your book typically right before its released or during the week of publication. It’s along the same lines as a movie premiere. You contact a company who organizes blog tours (you can do it yourself but it takes a lot of coordination) and book bloggers sign up for a tour date when you will be featured on their blog usually accompanied with a review. Obviously this is very important because as mentioned in my previous post here, book reviews are key to an author’s success and placement on Amazon and other buying sites. Blog tours help create a buzz about your book and if the book bloggers write favorable reviews and recommend them to their own followers, you reach readers outside of your social platform.

Bookbub and ENT (eReader News Today) are discounted book promotional sites. Bookbub is basically the holy grail of promotional sites. They are not easy to get on (they only accept about 20% of submissions), and their prices go up the more coveted they become. ENT is the same concept as Bookbub, but they don’t have the same overwhelming following as Bookbub. A great strategy for authors would to try and get featured on ENT a day or so before their Bookbub advertisement to boost their Amazon Ranking.

Bookbub from an author’s perspective:

The first thing you do is submit your book. It has to be on sale during the promotion for FREE up to $2.99 and be the lowest sale price for the past six months. If you are offering your book for free the fee for using Bookbub is lower- they charge based on the category you choose and the more popular the category, the more you will be charged. For example if I was to submit Checking Inn to the “Chick Lit” category (on sale for 99 cents) the ad would be $360, however if I submitted it to the “Mystery” category it goes to a whopping thousand dollars for the ad! This is based on their clientele and how many people are signed up to receive notifications on a certain category. More readers, more money. I can tell you having been featured on Bookbub numerous times, it is definitely worth the investment. When White Lies was featured there over 10k books were downloaded in the first weekend and I received TONS of reviews that helped with the ol’ Amazon algorithms. Even if readers don’t follow Bookbub, the sales will boost your standings on Amazon and you will be featured as one of the top selling books to new readers browsing Amazon for a new eBook. They say that there are many factors that go into the editor’s decision on which books to accept for advertisement, but from observations over the years I would say it comes down to how many reviews a book has (and what star rating those reviews equal), and what they already feature on their site. If they have 20 mysteries all at .99-2.99 but no FREE ones listed, they are probably looking to accept a free one. If they only have a couple of books in the Historical Romance category, they are probably going to be more open to a submission especially if you have a fair amount of good reviews.

Bookbub from a reader’s perspective: it’s really a scenario where you can’t lose. If you have an eReader you need to stop what you are doing and sign up for Bookbub. It will ask you to give your email address, the genres you like to read and then you will get a custom email list every day of books that are on sale. It’s a great way to stock up your eReader with some amazing books that are on sale for a very limited time. Then, when you get a chance to sit down with your eReader you’ve got endless options. I’ve already downloaded 80 books from this site since I got my eReader a few weeks ago, and between this and Kindle Unlimited I think I might be set for a while. I’ve made my way through about seven of the 80 so far and I haven’t been disappointed with a single one—remember, a site that is hard for authors to be featured on means they are only going to be taking the best books with great reviews.

Serial writing is a great way for authors to gain readership. I am an obsessive series reader—especially when it comes to Romantic Suspense. For an author it means writing a book series either with the same protagonist, or a protagonist that was introduced in the previous book in the series. From a reader’s point of view, if they enjoyed the first novel in the series, they will probably continue on because they like your writing style, they liked the characters, and they want to see what is next. Writing a series is easier to market then standalone novels, because you can concentrate a lot of your attention on the first book in the series and hope the rest will “sell themselves” to those who enjoyed the first book. A great way to do this from a marketing standpoint is discount the first book and gain new readers. Then hopefully the readers will pick up the second, third, fourth book at regular price and offset the costs of heavily advertising the first in the series. Whereas when you are writing a standalone novel and advertise it, yes some people will pick up your other standalone novels as well—but it is a whole new set of characters and storyline they are committing to.

I hope that gives you a little more insight to my “game plan” when it comes to marketing. I try and research new platforms to situate myself on all the time though. I think I might experiment with Facebook Ads and Amazon Ads next, but it is taking this technologically challenged individual a LONG time to figure out how to do these ads. Stand by, I’m sure I will have an update soon enough!

Staying In My Lane

We’ve all heard that saying before, right? Know your lane and stay within it basically breaks down to when you find something you are good at, stick with it and don’t deviate.

For authors, this is really smart advice. If I were to write a series of science fiction novels and develop a following, it doesn’t make sense for me to turn around and write a romance novel because I will have to develop a whole new set of fans/followers. And trust me, developing a following is A LOT of work that goes beyond writing a good story (next week’s post will cover this- spoiler alert!).

I know this. I have read all about this. I was told this by MULTIPLE people. Naturally, I did not stay in my lane—because, well, that’s me.

I began my writing career by writing a women’s fiction novel about a woman who put a want ad in a magazine to find the man of her dreams (White Lies). I submitted this to literary agents who are the gateway to the industry and the major publishing houses. I did not get a great response—well, in my opinion it wasn’t great. I think I got five requests for additional material (you usually submit the first thirty pages) out of close to a hundred submissions. So many people used to say to me, “Didn’t the lady who wrote Harry Potter get rejected a bunch of times?”. She got rejected twelve times. Cry me a freakin’ river.

(Side note this became one of my favourite lines in My Sort-of, Kind-of Hero—but more on that later)

Then I woke up one morning with the most amazing email. It was from a lady from a large publishing house who had heard about my novel and wanted to work with me on it. I felt like I was on Cloud Nine at that moment and nothing that would happen to me from that point forward would ever make me feel that happy again. Which, to some extent, is true. It didn’t work out in the end, but it was the very first time someone outside of my mother had said to me: “You know, I think you have something here”. And when the ebb of doubt creeps into my mind ever so often, because I am my own worst enemy, I think back to that email and exhale.

She had read the entire manuscript, which was too long. Usually women’s fiction is anywhere from 50-120k words. I think my manuscript was close to 200k. They were also focused more on traditional romances where a certain formula has to take place within the novel and the hero/heroine need to be present together in the majority of the scenes throughout the novel. This was not the case with my book.

After a few conference calls, the editor and I had a bit of a game plan where I was going to rework the novel and come back with a condensed, more romance focused version. To cut a long story short, after multiple back and forth sessions, it basically came down to what I created was still not a traditional romance. It was a romantic comedy (very heavy on the comedy), and in order to continue I needed to amp up the romance and tone down the comedy.

I should make it very clear before I continue that there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with that kind of novel. I read traditional formulaic romances all of the time. It’s just not what I wanted to write, and therefore I walked away. But definitely not empty handed. While working with the editor and publishing house I did a lot of research on the romance industry, marketing, etc. I think it is fair to say that what I originally submitted was in the category of women’s fiction. What I was working towards was a romance. What I ended up with was something in between. After compiling the research on what readers want and what they were looking for, I decided to tweak what I was left with. I knew women’s fiction wasn’t tremendously easy to market, and the romance genre has the largest market of readers (which makes sense—romance novels are awesome).

Throughout my research I also looked into the idea of indie publishing. Now, five years later the whole process and accessibility is different. In fact, probably the biggest change is the way people view and acknowledge indie authors now. Once thought of as a last resort, is now a very viable and for some SMART option. Especially if you are someone like me who doesn’t want to stay in their lane.

book signing picture

My first book signing back in 2013.

So I published White Lies, did an amazing blog tour and got wonderful reviews from book bloggers. I randomly entered it into a Romance Writers of America book competition and it was a finalist for the Excellence in Romance Fiction Award. It was a crazy, thrilling year. I put it on Bookbub, a marketing site for eBooks, and got a TON of downloads, which then resulted in a ton of positive reviews, which then bumped the book up in the Amazon charts (do I need to go into the importance of book reviews again?!).

In the meantime I had a story brewing in my mind about a romantic-comedy/murder mystery. I had half of a book left from White Lies from the material that got axed, and I loved some of the characters too much to let them go. So I started a writing/cut and paste project and ended up with Checking Inn. Fun fact: the mother from Checking Inn was actually Natalie’s mother in White Lies. So I had this fun murder mystery book that was saturated with romance and wasn’t sure what to do with it. I knew I was going to independently publish it again because I had seen great results with White Lies, but I wasn’t sure if my readership would translate over or if it was too far away from my original book to draw in the fan base that I had built. It was a risk, but I think in the end I had just enough romance in there that people gave me some leeway. I’m talking by the skin of my teeth here, haha!

Then for my third book, I decided to not ruffle anyone’s feathers (i.e. my patient readers) and go back to a traditional rom-com. My Sort-of, Kind-of Hero is probably the closest thing to an autobiography I will ever write. Except for the love story bit, every word in that novel is me on the page. From my struggles as a writer, to my plastered smile at book signings where people spend the time asking me for directions, to deciding what I want to write and how exactly that choice will impact my career. I love that book. I love everything about it, but I (yet again) didn’t follow a traditional formula approach. Some people get it, some people don’t. But it’s a book that I am so personally attached to that I am ok when people don’t get what I attempted to do with it.

I submitted this book for a few competitions as well, and one of the highlights of my life is going to Boston when the novel won the RWA’s Readers Choice Award. It also won the Book Buyers Best Award later that year.

After that, I needed a change. I grew up loving movies like Indiana Jones and National Treasure—movies that not only incorporated but revolved around history. When I began writing the June Jenson series I knew I would basically have to start from the beginning re: readership. It was just way too far out of the lane from the romantic comedy genre that I had built my writing career on.

Was it hard? Yes. Did it all work out in the end? I think so…

Would I do it all over again the exact same way? You betcha.

One of the key advantages of being an indie author (and why I chose to be one to begin with) is you can write whatever you want. The only genre expectations or limitations to being published are what you set on yourself.

I’ve started writing a new series which returns to the more traditional romantic comedy I started with, and after being submersed (and limited) by history for the past few years it is a breath of fresh air to return to the genre. So far I believe it will be a three book series, but each novel will be standalone with a different hero/heroine. After that, well, I’ve always wanted to write a young adult series and a children’s book.

What about you? Are there any authors out there who like to go back and forth between genres? How has it worked out for you? Any readers out there who have followed an author over multiple genres?

Do share!

EReaders, Kindle Unlimited, and no sleep in sight

I should start this product review by saying I will be covering more topics than just my new eReader—because, well, I’m not known for staying on topic. Although I am a book-in-hand kind of gal, I’m running out of room in my little home library (meaning the shelves are starting to bend), so last week I began the hunt for an eReader (gasp in horror, I know!).

I very quickly decided that I would have to go with Amazon’s Kindle for a number of reasons.

  • Amazon has a lot more eBooks available than Kobo, Google play, Barnes and Noble, etc., and as an author I know that Amazon makes sure that their eBooks are the lowest price available..
  • As stated in the previous point, they have the most eBooks available for purchase. When an author signs up for Kindle Unlimited (which I will explain later in this post), they are only allowed to have their book available on Amazon in order to utilize this service. I am not aware of any other platform that has a similar program of exclusivity, therefore its fair to say a book is either on Amazon and no where else, or it is available on Amazon and other retailers.
  • I knew they had Kindle Unlimited and as someone who reads 3-5 books a week I couldn’t pass up the deal (again, I will break down the who/what/where of KU in a moment).
  • I should also note that I do own an iPad that I could’ve used, but between my two older children the only time I get the iPad is when the battery is dead and it needs recharging. Also the light on it (and my phone as well) hurts my eyes after a while, especially when I am reading for hours in the evening.
Kindle blog post pic

My eReader is gearing up for a vacation.  Now we just need someone to take us somewhere!

But first to the eReader. I snagged the Kindle Paperwhite on sale for $99.99 on Amazon’s Prime Day last week. It’s actually the only thing I bought that day and it just so happen to coincide with my decision to become an eBook reader, so I figured it was written in the stars somewhere for me to buy this one. For those who aren’t aware Amazon’s Prime Day is sort of like a “Black Friday” type sales event for those who have a prime membership with Amazon (membership includes free shipping, easier returns, exclusive deals, etc.). I order enough stuff online to make this paid service worth it. The eReader arrived a day late (what the hell Amazon?!), but it was easy to use, compact, and it came pretty much fully charged so I could play around with it a bit and read a little too. When I first saw it I thought the 6 inch screen was too small, but I adjusted the font size and to be honest I don’t really know any different so it’s working for me.

I set up the eReader with relative ease and began my search for books.

For books, like any other eReader, you can search on the actual device when hooked up to Wi-Fi, find a book, buy it (usually for a fraction of the cost of the paperback), and download it to begin reading.

I have quickly determined there are quite a few benefits to an eReader. The first being that if I decide at ten o’clock at night I want to read a book, I can read it five minutes later. I don’t have to wait until I have time to nip to the shops and buy the book—that is both convenient and worrying for what my credit card bill might look like next month, ha! The kindle is also linked with Goodreads (which are now owned by Amazon and are turning a little too corporate for my liking, but that is a whole other blog post my friends!), so you can read both Amazon reviews and Goodreads reviews (Goodreads tends to have more) before you purchase.

And we all know the importance of book reviews from my post last week, right?

But besides the late night impulse shopping and the reviews, Amazon also has this amazing service called Kindle Unlimited. This is basically the Netflix of books.

The way Kindle Unlimited (KU) works is you pay a monthly subscription fee (I paid $9.99) and you get access to a million books in their database. Now, not all books are there, and some of the more well-known authors have zero books enrolled in this program for you to borrow. There are two reasons for this:

  • As an author, you get paid out of a giant pot of Amazon’s KU subscription fees for pages that are read from your book when you enroll your novel in the KU program. For example, if they made a million dollars and had a million pages read that month each page of a book read would essentially be worth a penny. If you have 300 pages in your novel and one person read 278 pages (for some reason they didn’t read the last few pages—maybe they were page stuffers which I will write another post on) you would get paid $2.78 for that novel being read. For someone who has an eBook priced at $2.99 regularly, this isn’t that bad. But the really well known author’s books aren’t sold at this price range because a publishing house has to pay for overhead like book tours, signings, editing, promotion, etc. So if their eBook is regularly $13.99 they just lost over $11.00 on this program. And the publishing houses also factor in that their big name author’s books will sell without this program.
  • For an author to have their books listed with KU their book has to be apart of a program called KDP Select. This means that they cannot have that book listed on any other selling platform. The good news is an author can have certain books enrolled, but other books can be listed regularly (and available on other platforms). So for less known authors, the KU system is a way for their books to get in the hands of readers who might not usually give them a try but the reader’s mentality is: “Well, it’s free, so what can it hurt?”.

I just read a fantastic series on KU by Rachel Caine. The first book Stillhouse Lake and the second Killman Lake were just amazing. They are available through KU and I would one hundred percent recommend them (but don’t start them if you want to sleep tonight, because they are just too good to put down). And guess what I did after I read the books? That’s right, I wrote a review (see below)!

Now, I should point out that the Kindle is NOT friendly with the Canadian Library system, and quite frankly I don’t think they ever will be. Why would Amazon want to lose sales for you to borrow a book from the library for free (you can with the KOBO reader)? The only problem with borrowing the eBook from the library is you have to wait your turn just like any paperback. They don’t have an infinite amount of eBook files to give out, so you request it and wait just like if you were getting a physical copy of a book, which to a “I need to read this right now!” person like myself, that system doesn’t work very well.

So now I need to hear your thoughts. What eReader do you have—do you love it and why? And more importantly, is anyone else reading any Kindle Unlimited books and has  recommendations for me?

REVIEW FOR STILLHOUSE LAKE.

Book Blurb:

Gina Royal is the definition of average—a shy Midwestern housewife with a happy marriage and two adorable children. But when a car accident reveals her husband’s secret life as a serial killer, she must remake herself as Gwen Proctor—the ultimate warrior mom.

With her ex now in prison, Gwen has finally found refuge in a new home on remote Stillhouse Lake. Though still the target of stalkers and Internet trolls who think she had something to do with her husband’s crimes, Gwen dares to think her kids can finally grow up in peace.

But just when she’s starting to feel at ease in her new identity, a body turns up in the lake—and threatening letters start arriving from an all-too-familiar address. Gwen Proctor must keep friends close and enemies at bay to avoid being exposed—or watch her kids fall victim to a killer who takes pleasure in tormenting her. One thing is certain: she’s learned how to fight evil. And she’ll never stop.

 

Book Review:

Umm, holy crap. I don’t even know where to start. Well, I should start off with this is one of those psychological thrillers that just kind of sticks with you. It’s an on the edge of your seat, can’t stop reading, suspect everyone, kind of novel. It was SO good.

The characters are flawless, and I have to say I like that information was very slowly presented to the reader as to the killings in Wichita and exactly what happened. I could understand Gwen (previously Gina) and her fierce protection over her kids. I could feel it. Her motivation is so believable that I wanted to cry in frustration to everyone around her that made her life a living hell.

I could totally run a book club meeting with this novel. First off, could a woman be living with a man for that many years while he murders people in the garage and she doesn’t have a clue? HELL YES! I think you would be shocked what people are capable of, and more importantly capable of hiding.

And while all this psychological thriller stuff was—well, thrilling—what really resonated with me was the theme of cyber bullying. I think, given enough time and internet know-how, someone could easily ruin your life if they wanted to. I could walk into a restaurant tomorrow and say a rat ran over my foot on my Facebook page. How long do you think that would take to go viral? Who knows if I was even in a restaurant! I could take a picture of my foot under a table, Photoshop the rat on it and bam—that restaurants reputation would be GONE, because the truth is, how many people would actually stop and get the other side of the story?

In Gwen’s case, she doesn’t have a very good leg to stand on to begin with. She was completely in the dark as to what her husband was doing, but it’s not hard for an outsider to say, “Come on, how could you not know?” People stalk her and her children, because why should they get to live in peace when her husband destroyed so many lives, right? But then more bodies start to show up and all eyes are firmly turned to her again. But who is killing people now? I can’t tell you, you need to read the book. Like now.

Oh, did I mention it ends on a cliffhanger and there is a book two?

Good luck sleeping this week.

Book reviews and why they matter

Full disclaimer: I am an author’s worst nightmare. And as an author myself, I realize that my habit is a SHAMEFUL SIN. And no, it is not my terrible grammar. I am still in denial about that. Here’s my confession: I never write book reviews *hides face in shame*.

Reviews are the backbone of any author’s career. Even a bad review is better than no review, because essentially someone (whether in a positive or negative way) is at least talking about your book. Who knows— maybe someone would read a negative review and say: “Hmm… you hate this novel because the wizard lures a woman into his basement and forces her to perform show tunes all night long before he will grant her access to a fountain of youth potion. But that is EXACTLY what I want to read right now!” Bam—book sale.

Side note: Should I put a loose copyright on that idea?!? I have to admit I am a little intrigued.  My first question is what sort of show tunes does a wizard prefer to listen to?

Without getting too much into the business side of writing (I feel an upcoming post on this and don’t want to give away the farm too much, so to speak) here are just four reasons why book reviews are so important to an author’s career:

1) If you don’t tell them, how will they know? Unless you are best friends with Sandra (who lives next door to me) and she happens to mention that I told her about a good book, you would never know I read a good book BECAUSE I DIDN’T WRITE A REVIEW! I don’t know you, and I don’t get out much, therefore I think it’s safe to say I am never telling you about the best book I ever read. Which is a shame because it was good, and I want other people to read it as well. However, that’s never going to happen unless I—you guessed it!—write a review and recommend it!

2) There is comfort in numbers.  This doesn’t just apply to books, this basically applies to everything. Imagine I go to buy a fan online and I am deciding between two different ones—one has three hundred reviews and the other has none.  Unless in those three hundred reviews people say the fan burned their house down (even if there were a few bad reviews), I am probably going to be inclined to buy the one that other people have reviewed because, well, other people have bought it and they didn’t say it burned their house down. There is comfort in numbers and knowing, if nothing else, other people have bought what you are going to buy.

3) Amazon and their strange system. Amazon is just the worst in many ways, but in other ways they are the best (sales wise for sure!) and authors have to learn to love them or they will quickly find themselves fighting a losing battle. This is probably one of the most important relationships in an author’s career (especially if they are an indie author), and I promise I will write a post about them in the near future. But for now, staying on topic re: reviews, Amazon have a very complicated algorithm they use which determines your book placement, suggestions to new readers, etc. The more reviews a book has, the more chance the author has of being bumped up on their charts. You could write the next Animal Farm (weird example, I know, but I love that book and try to slip it into the conversation when I can, ha!), but unless you work the system no one will ever likely read it.

4) For an author to be featured on any sort of promotional site, they need reviews. Listen, we would like to read the next literary masterpiece and think the author is in it for the joy of writing. And maybe they are. But they aren’t going to be writing anything else if they die of starvation. Promotion is so important to an author’s career, and some of the best ways to do that are sites like Bookbub and ENT which promote when your book goes on sale. The crux is: you have to have book reviews and a certain amount of them to even be considered for these sites.

Anyways, I’ve gotten away from my point here. My point is, I am the type of reader that once I find an author I like, I am faithful to that author to my last dying breath. I will purchase and read everything that author writes, even if things go downhill after book twenty in the series. But it is very rarely, and I mean very rarely, I will write a book review. I tell anyone who will listen to me about books (mainly, Shauna, my hairstylist, as comparing our recently read books is kind of our thing), but for some reason I just never feel inclined to sit down and actually write a review. And it is such a shame, and something I am making a conscious effort to fix.

STARTING NOW!

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I’m sure you have heard me talk about my fan-girl obsession with Janet Dailey. I found her in my youth and have clung to her words ever since. Whenever the mood strikes me (which is a lot) I return to one of my favourites and will get lost for the afternoon or evening in the stories that bring me comfort.

Maybe it is because they are easy reads. Maybe its because it’s just uncomplicated romance with a few random historical tidbits thrown in for good measure. Or maybe its because most of her stories revolve around cowboys (who doesn’t love a good cowboy story?!).

I’ve read and own about thirty of her novels (and some novels have two books in one, so not only are they a great deal, but if you don’t have a ton of time to read they are shorter but get the job done if you know what I mean). I have so many favourites of hers, but I will list my top three below in case it interests anyone:

Big Country Sky (Found in the “Can’t Say Goodbye” book with “Show Me”)

Western Man

Darling Jenny (found in the “Maybe this Christmas” book with “Strange Bedfellow”)

*Please note while I was reading the backs of the books on my shelf I kept saying, “Oh, but this one is so good too.”

But, I’m not talking about those today. Today I am talking about Dailey’s new book that I just read. It’s called Texas Tall and it is part of the Tyler Brothers Series. I have read the other books in the series and I think this one might be my favourite. Actually, now that I am reflecting I think the first book is my favourite with Beau and Natalie (Texas True), but I liked this one because it is the last in the series and I have been waiting for this story for such a long time (we all knew it was coming).

Texas Tall tells the story of Will and Tori Tyler. They have been divorced for eight years, but because of their daughter they have stayed a close knit family (with plenty of tension throughout the years between the two divorcees). Anyways, fast forward to present day and now Tori, who is a lawyer, has to defend Will when he’s charged for murder after he kills someone in self defense.

I really like Tori and Will as characters, and I think it was smart for Dailey to save their story for last because quite frankly Will can be a bit of a stubborn ass. And not really for a good reason— I think it’s just more he’s the oldest, he is in charge of his family’s ranch, and it’s just sort of expected that what he says is what goes. I can see how this would wear on anyone, and I really liked that Tori didn’t bow to him (in the past or in present day). At the same time, she knew who he was and what his habits were so she picked her fights. I can respect that.

The actual trial/charge against Will was a little weak. There was never a doubt in my mind that it was self defense, and I think that was actually the point (there is some corruption in their town with the local sheriff and I think this was used to really highlight that).  But as someone who likes suspense novels as well, I would have liked it to have not been quite so black and white.

And now for the good stuff: the love story. I loved the backstory on Will and Tori and how until this book, and not until the end, did we really find out why they broke up in the first place.

It’s funny because I just went to see the Broadway show Grease, and while I was singing along, I couldn’t help but stop and think that while I love the music the actual story sends a pretty crappy message. The fact that Sandy can’t be herself and dresses in skintight leather pants to get the man in the end doesn’t really send a great or realistic message to anyone about love. And I am not really sure what Danny took from it in the end, but I think it was supposed to be the fact that if you like someone you shouldn’t care what your friends think. But as previously mentioned Sandy turned into one of them in the end anyways so he didn’t really have that hurdle to face anymore.

The reason I bring this up is, my number one pet peeve in romance novels is when people lose themselves for their significant other- because to me that isn’t love. Yes, your significant other should bring out the “best of you”, but it should still essentially be you with hopefully a few less bad habits. What I liked about this novel, and for the most part all of Janet Dailey’s books, is the fact that instead of spending the novel trying to change one another or even themselves to find their happily ever after, the characters learn to give and take so they can both be themselves but not want to kill each other at the same time.

I’m not sure what else to say, without giving away the ending, but I will sum it up as: it was good; I will read it again; and Janet Dailey is still the Queen of Romance for me ;).

In conclusion: I love cowboys; I still love Janet Dailey; and write book reviews—it’s not that hard, and they’re important.

 

 

Fashionista Friday: Blondie

So, I used to have super blonde hair, but then like anything else I wanted a change.  I went to a darker, blonde ombré look and I feel it went pretty well for the winter.  But I can smell Spring, literally, weeks before it shows it’s face.  I have a weird sixth sense that at some point in February or March every year I put my sniffer in the air and can tell Spring is on the way.  I’m away next week and I keep telling everyone when I get back it’s going to be Spring.  This has been met with eye rolling, but I just know.  I don’t know how I know, but I just do.  Spring temperatures are going to greet me on my return.

And with Spring I decided I was due for a change.  A pretty big change.  So I’m attempting to go ultra blond today.  My hair is going to hate me afterwards but I’ve promised to take care of it.

My favourite shampoo is the Goldwell Kerasilk.  Smells amazing and really repairs my hair after I colour it.  

My favourite finishing spray is the Rusk texture spray.  It has a hold to it, but feels like you don’t have hairspray in your hair.  Also, for waves it separates them (without it my waves clump together after about 5 minutes!).

What do you think of the final product?


Funny side note about the shirt I am wearing.  It’s from RW&Co, but the collar is only attached to the shirt at the back.  When I first saw this I thought: Why would they do that?!  So I sewed the front in. Then I realized they didn’t attach the front because when attached I couldn’t get my head through the neck hole.  So then I unsewed it (<– is that a word?), but the collar kept falling out the front.  At this point I took this shirt as a challenge.  I looked for some safety pins but couldn’t find any.  Then I found some body tape that I had received from my husband the first year he did my Christmas stocking (for that disaster story click here).  You are supposed to use the tape to secure plunging fabrics to your body so you don’t have any mishaps (because, you know, I have SO many plunging necklines in my wardrobe 😉 ).  Anyways, I took it out, taped the collar to my neck and now as long as I don’t make any sudden jerky movements it stays put all day long.  Problem solved.

Fashionista Friday: The Face Wand

For this week’s Fashionista Friday I have to rewind to Christmas. I love Christmas, and that is probably the understatement of a lifetime. I love the lights, carols, spending time with family. I also happen to LOVE receiving my stocking. Since I was a kid, my favorite gift on Christmas has always been my stocking. My mum would fill it with fun lip glosses, nail polish, books, rings or a piece of jewelry. It’s the thing I look forward to most on Christmas morning. When my husband got passed on the duty of my stocking, I think it was a little nerve wracking for him.

“What do you want in it?” he asked.

“Anything!” I replied. I love the surprise of the stocking, maybe that’s why it is my favorite thing. I like taking out all the little trinkets and trying them out.

The first year my husband did my stocking he went on “stockingstuffers.com” and ordered everything.

Yep, you can imagine how that turned out.

The first thing I opened was a lipstick that you could write on the mirror with. When he saw my unimpressed face he commented, “Now you can leave me a note on the bathroom mirror.”

“Why would I ever do that?” I asked. “Then I would just have to clean it off.”

Another gem was a white plastic dome that you could put onto the side of anything hollow (pop can, box, garbage can, etc.) and it would turn into a speaker.

“Why would I stand next to a garbage can and listen to music?”

At the bottom of my stocking was a little pocket book: Urban Slang Dictionary.

“If young people can’t speak English, I don’t want to speak to them anyways!”

Needless to say it didn’t go down well.

After that first attempt, the hubby wised up and just walked around Shopper’s Drug Mart on Christmas Eve with all the other men and the world has returned to normal.

I tell you all of this, because my feature for this week’s Fashionista Friday is something I received in my stocking this year (and who doesn’t love a good backstory?).

My husband got me a Clinique face wand kit this year. It basically is like a big electric toothbrush for your face. You put a bit of foaming cleanser on it (it came with samples and I am still making my way through them, but you can use any facial cleanser you like), and run it over your face for thirty seconds.

Oh boy, does it ever make a difference. My skin feels so soft, and the undertone of pink in my skin on my t-zone has been reduced. I use it once a day in the evening and my skin feels fresh all throughout the next day as well. The charge on it last for about a month and then you plug it in for an hour or so and you are good to go for another month. It weighs next to nothing and comes with a cute travel pouch to take with you on holidays. The machine itself was $99.00, and I believe the replacement heads are around $20, but depending how aggressive you get with your face I would say the head should last you at least 3 months if not longer.

If you are thinking of getting one I would suggest even looking in your local department store (like the Bay or Sears) because they usually have a free gift with purchase for Clinique products. Or you can luck out like my husband did and get free movie tickets from Shopper’s Drug Mart with a Clinique purchase (can I get a woot, woot?)!

If you write it: Things are coming along nicely, if I do say so myself.

Oh, I am in full writing mode now. I’ve started June Jenson book three which has yet to be named (very excited about it, but also very sad to see the series come to an end). I’m also starting to write my Christmas novel. I’m not entirely sure how this will go, writing both of them at the same time. I don’t want to confuse any voices or tones because the two novels are very different, but if I get an inkling something isn’t right, I will stop the Christmas novel and focus on June until she is done. The June Jenson books always take longer to write than my more traditional women’s fiction novels because of the research and history that has to be woven into them. I love incorporating all the history into the novels, but it can also be very limiting. I can’t have June do anything I want her to do (as I can with my other novels) because I have to skirt the lines of history to make them come together in the end and sound credible. I’m hoping that by working on both books at the same time, I won’t feel as confined as I did writing the second June Jenson book. Or I could just be setting myself up for disaster, we’ll see! Should be fun ;).

My dad called me this week as well, and told about a dream he had that he thought would be a good plot for a story. He was right, it’s a cracker. So much so, that at the moment I want to abandon everything and write it. Unfortunately, I like order too much and can’t abandon something; I have to see it through to the end. Instead, I spent last night making piles of notes so that when I am able to write this new story I will remember all the plot points and characters that are swimming around in my head.

Fashionista Fridays: Oh, you pretty little things!

Fashionista Fridays:

If you follow my Instagram feed (@emilyswhitelies) you will know I am somewhat obsessed with the amazing Stella and Dot line. This week’s post is about the recent gems I have nabbed to make my ears look ever so pretty.


First is these amazing Asher earrings (link to purchase). I mean, let’s all just take a moment and admire them. Sigh…

They are pretty light and my favourite thing about them is they are a combination of silver and gold, so I can wear a combination of necklaces and rings with them. They really jazz up a pair of jeans and button down top, and I think they will really rock with a summer dress (that is, if we ever see the glorious sun again!). They come in at $54.00, but honestly they are worth every penny. They don’t irritate my ears which 99.9% of all fashion jewelry usually does- one of the main reasons I love Stella and Dot so much, as this has never happened with one of their pieces. I give them 9/10, only losing a point because I find sometimes the connection between the dangly part and the part that goes through my ear (yeah, I’m super technical in my descriptions ;)), gets caught and I have to wiggle them a little to hang free again.

Second is these super trendy ear climbers (link to purchase). I’ll admit that when I first ordered them I was a little unsure. Because they go up the side of my ears I was worried it would give me a bit of an elfish look (I don’t know why, but you know me- I worry about the weirdest things!). They actually look really chic on. I’m planning to rock then with a ponytail soon, but I desperately need my highlights done and I’ve been wearing my hair down recently to try and not bring attention to this fact, ha! I give them a full 10/10 because I don’t feel them when they are on, they look stunning and I have received a lot of compliments on them. I’m thinking of hinting to the hubby a gold pair would be a welcome Valentine’s present.

If you write it: Audiobooks

A while ago a friend told me that she loved to listen to audiobooks on her drive to work (she has quite a long drive, so she goes through a few audiobooks a month). I’d never really considered an audiobook before, but on her recommendation I gave it a go. I subscribe to Audible.com, which costs me $9.99 a month and gives me a credit for one free audiobook. Sometimes I go through more than one audiobook a month depending on the length, but other times I have credits from a previous month and just use those (they accumulate so you never lose them and they don’t expire). Audiobooks usually cost around $30.00 each, so I’ve found the subscription really good value.

I’m hooked. I feel like I am actually accomplishing something on my commute now, rather than a necessity of just getting from point A to B. So far my favourites are autobiographies. I have never read an autobiography before, mainly because I am not a huge nonfiction fan. But there is just something about having the author read their own story to me that makes me feel like we are sitting down, chatting about their life. Favourite autobiography of 2016: tied between Mindy Kaling’s “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?” and Michael McIntyre’s “Life and Laughing”.

I also really enjoy listening to literary fiction via audiobooks. Again, literary fiction isn’t something I would run to pick up myself, not because I don’t appreciate it, but because I think I am lazy. They just tend to take a little longer to fully engulf me, and I don’t seem to have time or the patience for it. Best literary fiction of 2016: Anthony Doerr’s “All The Light We Cannot See”. There is no chance I would have been able to sit down and read this book, but listening to it drew me into the world of the two main characters and I was hooked. So much so, that when I would get home in the evening, I would sometimes sit in the driveway to listen to just one more chapter. Brilliant, that’s all I can say.

Honorable mentions for 2016: I listened to all of the Harry Potter books. Okay, I know what you are thinking. This was an easier choice for me because I am kind of obsessed with Harry Potter. Well, let me tell you, I didn’t know Harry Potter could get any better until I listened to the audiobooks. The narrator, Jim Dale, turns each book into a one man play. He was simply sensational, and I fell in love with the books once more (something I hope I never stop doing with each new read).

Right now I am currently listening to the audiobook of The Light Between Oceans. I love it so far (I’m about half way through). Again, not something I think I would read curled up on the couch (those tend to be more romance or mystery books), but I am really enjoying it. It’s one of those novels that about three chapters in you think, uh oh, this isn’t going to end well. Time will tell, but I am loving the journey. And now I totally want to live in a lighthouse.