A cold and windy day, but friends carry on.
I LOVE this picture. I want to be at this party. When I received this email, I just burst out laughing. I hope the photograph makes you smile too.
About two weeks or so ago, I asked readers to make a deal with me: if they would send me a photograph of themselves with their best friend, I would give them a copy of Return to Celebration House. Readers answered the call, and I received some truly lovely pictures.
The problem was, what to do with these treasures? Initially, I planned to build a collage, but because there are so many pictures, they would all be teeny tiny. That’s no good.
Instead, I decided to post one picture to my blog every day for the next two weeks or so. That way, the photographs are of decent size. I’ll share them in the order in which they were received.
It was a delight to receive these photographs. All of the women (and a couple of men) who were shown looked so happy. That in turn made me happy. My husband said I cackled with delight each time I received one.
My sincere thanks.
I just wanted to share with you that my book, Building Celebration House, is free during April because…(drum roll)…it’s being featured by Bookbub on Sunday, April 8th. Day after tomorrow, an email will go out to 1.8 million readers, telling them about Building Celebration House. The hope is they will buy the second book, Stay at Celebration House, and then the third.
Speaking of which, I’m finishing up Return to Celebration House. Thankfully, it’s pretty rainy here on the Oregon coast where my family and I are spending Spring Break. Staying inside our small trailer and working on the book is an easy task.
The manuscript goes to my editor on Monday, April 9th. My plan is to publish the book on Sunday, May 13th, also known as Mother’s Day!
Which brings me to share an idea. The theme of sisterhood and friendship is dominant in the third book. What if I offer readers a free copy of Return to Celebration House in exchange for a photograph of them with their sister or best friend? I will compose a collage of the photographs and publish it on my website on Mother’s Day. I plan to send out an email, sharing all the details.
Thanks so much for your encouraging words. No doubt about it: readers – especially those who took the time to write to me – were the inspiration that helped me finish Return to Celebration House. Thank you.
Happy 1st Birthday!
One year ago today, I republished my debut novel, “Building Celebration House.” It’s the first in a trilogy.
The literary world did not go crazy. In fact, except for my immediate family, no one else noticed. The promotions I paid for brought less-than-desired results. If I check my Amazon sales that month, March of 2017, I made about $30.
Two months later, I was accepted for a Bookbub promotion. And although my book was free, I “sold” 40,000 copies. That’s when the fun really began. Emails started pouring in. Readers of the first book bought the second and then clamored for the third. My author dream of readers writing to me came true. And those emails are still arriving.
Four weeks ago tomorrow, my family and I were side-swiped in a hit-and-run accident. Nobody was hurt. We returned home from filing a police report and notifying the insurance company. I felt beaten up, defeated.
But an email waited for me. Here’s what it said (please note I have not edited this in any way): HELLO! WHAT IS HAPPENING WITH THE THIRD BOOK?? SOON, I HOPE AND THEN I WOULD HOPE FOR MORE IN THIS SERIES!
Those few lines brought me a whole lot of joy. That reader could not have picked a better time to write to me. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.
I’m the mom of four kids. My youngest is 10; my oldest is 27 and expecting her first child. As great as the first year of kid-raising is, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Let’s be honest. Cool stuff happens in the first year, but really, it’s the beginning.
May that be true for Building Celebration House. May it be the first year of life, and an important one, but not necessarily the busiest.
Thank you again to all of the readers who have read my book and taken the time to write a review. And also, thank you so much to the readers who have written to me. Your emails are my treasures, a gift from you to me. Thank you.
Hands and arms inside the cart. Next, we go find Paul Stratton.
Currently, I’m attending a romance writers conference in Seattle. I’ve wanted to go for several years, but I’ve never been able to get the time off from my day job or afford to go. This year, I’m lucky enough to have both.
Romance novels come in lots of different sizes and heat ratings. Friday, I sat in on a session and learned of a new sexual practice: edge play. Do you know what this is? I didn’t either, so I raised my hand and asked the editor to clarify the term. She said it’s when lovers use knives – yes, knives – in their sexual foreplay. Okay. I did not know this. I felt really dumb until I overheard one of the conference keynote speakers, a New York Times bestselling romance writer, admit she didn’t know what it was either.
Yesterday, during another session, a very successful author shared her experiences with the biggest publisher of romance, Harlequin. She said she knew her relationship with the publisher was over when her editor asked her to rewrite her manuscript seven times and then said she realized she had taken the author’s voice completely out of the book. This author said she had a book published (for which Harlequin owns the rights for 30 years) that she is ashamed of. She apologizes to readers for the poor quality of this book. Wow.
I came to this conference to pitch my Celebration House Trilogy to a film scout. And I did that. Will anything come of the business card I palmed off on her? Hard to know. She doesn’t represent women’s fiction, stories that would be a perfect fit for the Hallmark Channel. Her connections at Universal Studios and Paramount Studios are looking for edgy, dark stories. Ones that probably involve knives.
So, I returned to my hotel room and stared out at the amazing view of Lake Washington and Bellevue from my room on the 15th floor. And I’ll be honest: I felt discouraged. It’s like I told my husband, “I don’t fit here.” I don’t write stories where men rape men or molest children or partners use knives to find sexual pleasure. I just don’t. And I will never, never publish a book I’m ashamed of. I’d rather work a day job.
I felt like I just don’t fit. And this made me sad, it really did, until I checked my email. There I found two questions/comments left on my website:
#1: From Pamela, on my Return to Celebration House page: “How in the world can I get this book? I have been looking for months for it.”
#2: From Bonnie, also on my Return to Celebration House page: “Looking forward to reading book 3. Hope you’re busy writing.”
I wish I could convey to these two women who threw me a lifeline of encouragement how much I appreciate them for taking the time to send me a message. Please trust me when I say: this was just what I needed at just the right time.
These two simple messages prompt me to remember my priorities:
- I will write and publish books I am proud of.
- “Readers are the only validation that really matters.” It’s not just a stolen phrase. It’s my mantra. I think I forgot for a short time.
As I finish writing Return to Celebration House, I’m confronted with the idea of legacy. Melanie will do whatever she needs to protect Carrie’s legacy. And I ask myself, as I’m sure many of us do at one time or another, what’s my legacy? I think it’s time to make peace with the idea that I may never sit in a dark theater and watch my stories come to life as only Hollywood can do. I may never sit on my couch and flip to the Hallmark Channel and watch Carrie’s story unfold before me. But I will always, always be proud of my work, the books I publish. The stories I share. And I will always be grateful for the emails from readers that keep me going. Always.
ADDENDUM: Later in the morning after I published this blog post, I attended a session entitled, “Sexy but Sweet: The Art of the PG13 Bedroom Scene Done Just Right” by author Brooke Moss. Have you heard of her? I had not either. Brooke just released her 10th novel, some traditionally published and some indie published. None of her books contain graphic sex. She doesn’t write it. It’s uncomfortable for her. She doesn’t want her daughters embarrassed to read her books, just as I don’t want my Aunt Mary Rose to be embarrassed to read my books. During this 60-minute session, Brooke and other members of the audience talked about the very reasons why they don’t want sex scenes in their books. I looked around at the 30+ members of the audience, and I thought, “Hmm. Maybe I do fit.”
Here’s where to find Brooke: Brooke-Moss
Hands and arms inside the cart: finding a way to get the work done.
You had me at, “Where’s the third book?”
Earlier this year, I made a slightly impulsive decision to leave my day job and write full-time. The decision to actively pursue my full-time writing dream was spurred by two things: 1) a sincere and complete dissatisfaction with my job, and 2) the accomplishment of putting together enough money to provide a meager allowance for ten months. I felt sure that if I wrote full-time and finished my trilogy, then cranked out an installment of my cozy mystery series each month, I could support my family. I was wrong.
Because even though I republished my debut novel, “Building Celebration House,” on March 1st, nobody noticed. I think I sold maybe 10 copies in March. But that was okay, I told myself, because the second book, “Stay at Celebration House,” would be the spark to light up my career. Wrong. Again. I sold even fewer copies in April.
As March waned, so did my meager savings. I submitted my book, “A Year with Geno” to Harlequin and hoped, prayed, that they would accept it, and thus provide me an advance that would carry my family through this financial dry spell. Nope. Harlequin editors asked that I make revisions and resubmit it. For me, that was the death rattle for my dream of writing full-time.
Now, things were getting scary around my household. And though my spouse has always been extremely supportive of my writing, even he admitted I needed to return to work. So, I started job hunting, and lo and behold, I was offered a full-time job, which I started the Tuesday after Memorial Day.
I’d had quite enough of the starving artist life, thank you very much. So, I stopped writing. I like to think of the analogy of Waldorf salad. Have you ever eaten Waldorf salad? It’s a combination of apples, celery, grapes and pecans, usually with a mayonnaise dressing. When I was a little girl, I loved my mother’s Waldorf salad until one summer evening, when after eating too much, I was sick. After that experience, I never – I mean NEVER – ate Waldorf salad. I still don’t.
So, this was how I felt about my writing. It let me down. It gave me the illusion that I could support myself and my family. But I couldn’t. Bills piled up; creditors started calling. And every morning, I woke up at 4 a.m. with worry. What had I done? How could I have been so irresponsible to leave my full-time job?
The third book – “Return to Celebration House” – stalled and faltered. It was supposed to be published on May 1st. I couldn’t finish it. I was too busy looking for a day job. When my family and I moved, I didn’t unpack my office. Writing was something I used to do. Now, my mission was to learn this new day job and be successful in it. No more perusing reviews left by readers or checking my Amazon sales rankings. Those days were over. Or so I thought.
Because even though I gave up on my writing, my readers did not. And they still haven’t.
On May 7th, an advertisement for my novel, “Building Celebration House,” was sent out in a BookBub promotion. BookBub is a website where authors offer their books at discount prices to reach readers interested in specific genres. My genre is romantic comedy or women’s fiction. It took me three years of submitting to hear a yes from BookBub. I offered the first book in my trilogy for free; more than 40,000 readers downloaded it. Sales of the second book, “Stay at Celebration House,” soared. Reviews poured in.
And readers began doing what I wanted them to do for so many years: they began writing to me. Some were just short notes, thanking me for sharing my book. Some were longer, and they moved me to tears. Every day, my in-box would have a couple of emails from readers. I received one just a few days ago from a reader in Wisconsin. I print them and pin them to my bulletin board. They are vivid reminders of where my focus should be: inviting readers to come and play in the imaginary world I created on the outskirts of Lexington, Missouri. Nearly all of the emails ask one thing: where’s the third book?
I’m humbled by the women (and a few men) who took the time to write to me. You guys, well, you’re just amazing.
I’ll close now because I haven’t written my minimum quota of words yet today, and I’ve got a book to finish. And then? Well, maybe I’ll dream up a title for the fourth book…
Hands and arms inside the cart: Doing the work.