The long wait for the final audio version of Chasing Swells is finally here! I can't wait for you all to listen to this book. It's so much fun!
In an earlier post I explained the process of getting the book made but I didn't expect the final phase of getting uploaded to retail to last so long. ACX said it would be 10-15 days after the producer was paid for the final project, but that wasn't the case. I think their estimate is based on some other milestone or maybe dog years. So caution to other authors out there... I planned a blog tour (which I hope you are all checking out) but the audio book wasn't out yet. I couldn't stop the tour so I let it go to bloggers without the links--the whole purpose of the tour. Oh well. Live and learn.
Go download this summer MUST-Listen for some adventure, love, and laughs. Matt Haynes had to go through countless accents to get this book voiced, and he did it so well. There were times we would laugh because a conversation would be going on with three or four different accents and it was crazy. He did such a great job playing out all these roles, but most importantly, he gave Dean that sultry deep voice of his that lingers in the waves. Don't miss this one!
The moment you get a new laptop: jumping for joy as you sign the UPS signature, carefully opening the pretty packaging, assessing every little piece of paper or foam that comes in the box. This time I even posted a photo because it really was so beautiful. It felt like I was getting a mink stole (in my imagination it's the 1920s and fur is still fashionable). But I'll be honest, I dreaded turning it on. Why? I'm about to tell you a secret.
My last brand new laptop, an HP Envy that I customized with the highest memory, processor, and gaming cards available, didn't work for more than an hour before the screen went black. It wasn't a dead battery or a bad joke... the screen died. Before I even entered all of the registration information. I had to send it back and wait two weeks until HP could send another to me. I think they sent the same one refurbished in honesty... which I guess I accepted with quiet embarrassment because I'm feeling pretty angry about it now.
So I'm about to turn on my new HP Spectre x360 with the 15.6" screen, stylus pen, and all the pixels humanly possible and it boots up... and... it's beautiful. Really beautiful. I'm doing a happy dance. So I start downloading my most important and most used programs like Spotify, Photoshop, Illustrator, Scrivener, Vectorworks, SketchbookPro, Office, etc., and I hit play on some music. Again, freaking amazing sound. My old laptop had Beats by Dre which I was sad he went to the Mac dark side... but B&O sounds great. I'm in love. So I play with the pen and sketch on the giant screen... yep... it's love. Then I settle down and open the book I'm writing now. It's my 2nd full draft and I'm coming into the third act where there are major structural changes I've planned. I start typing a paragraph and then hit ENTER to start a new paragraph, because that's how it work when you're on a roll but... nothing. I hit ENTER again... and... nothing. It won't even move. I wiggle it for a while until it moves but the function wasn't happening. I restart the fucking thing and try again. This time I get it to function once or twice but it's not consistent, certainly nowhere near working properly every time the button is pressed... like it's supposed to work! Ugh! I want to cry or scream or BOTH!!!
Meanwhile, my hubby, Mr.MacBook-Apple-Cult-Lover, asks how it works, because he remembers everything that malfunctions on all of my PCs or Android phones. He, like most Mac people I know, loves to throw it in my face too. It's the only thing I truly dislike about the man in all honesty. Anyway... so I tell him I love it and try to get a hold of tech support. Nothing. They won't even chat LIVE with me like they have before because they claim my issue is beyond the scope of a LIVE chat. WTF is that? You either give customer service or you don't. They sure as hell have had good service for the last 10 years that I've owned HPs but now... not only have their computers gone up so much that they're the cost of a MAC but they've let their customer service completely fall away.
I'm ranting today because I don't want you to suffer the same fate as I. Don't be fooled by pretty packaging or fancy features. HP has gone down hill in every aspect of quality... so I'm switching to the Lenovo touch screen. I need a fast machine that can allow me to draw, design, and play while giving me a laptop I can write novels on. It may not be pretty, but I bet it will work out of the box.
Below is the email I posted to HP's Customer Service help board when they wouldn't answer my phone call (on hold for half hour) or my LIVE chat attempts (8 attempts the day I opened the box) or when I responded to many of the similar complaints I found once I looked for help (there are many, many other customers with keyboard issues right out of the box).
HP Support Message Board:
I am so upset. I just received my new Spectre x360 that I was so excited about and spent way more money than I planned to... and right away there is a problem. The ENTER key was completely stuck. I wiggled it for a while until it loosened a bit but the function wasn't registering when pressed. I then typed and typed, each line holding down the ENTER key until it functioned. It will not function properly nor consistently.
I'm debating whether to send the laptop back because I need it for work this week. This happened with my last Envy notebook three years ago which also came broken and had to be returned. I waited for almost two weeks for the replacement laptop to be sent to me. Furthermore, it's impossible to actually get LIVE help through HP anymore. At least with the Envy I was connected to a LIVE chat with a person who arranged for my computer to be sent back on their dime. I can't get a LIVE chat at all. The website says my problem isn't included in the chat list of issues. I just want to not pay $1,500 for a piece of shit. Is that so much to ask? When you pay as much as a MacBook would cost but get a piece of junk in a pretty box, it makes me reconsider the platform I've worked on for ten years. I've always purchased HPs, but it's getting too embarrassing to justify it to my husband when I have to send them back every time.
Excerpt #4- Chopes Pirate (invasion of the man snatcher)
“Where did all those people come from?” Oh my god! Azure moves towards the middle of their boat to take photos of the crowd. The boat unexpectedly goes vertical, as the waves get more aggressive. She grips onto the canopy, nearly dropping her camera to the deck.
“I gotcha,” Pilson says, scooping his shoulder under her arm. “Hang on. It’s gonna get real wild out here.” He laughs before his smile drops. “Holy shit!”
Azure’s head whips around, unable to breathe. At first, she doesn’t grasp the direction of his shock is towards the shore, not Dean. She’s lost until the small yacht aimed directly for them blows a horn. “Are they going to hit us?” she asks Pilson. The Captain skids the boat sideways, and the yacht occupants cheer with crazed delight at his skills.
“No,” Pilson says. “They’re just going to ruin our day.”
Azure’s eyes land on a familiar female body. The woman walks gracefully onto the bow pulpit, her black string bikini barely visible against her dark skin. “Is that—?”
“Unfortunately,” Pilson says, stomping his foot. “What the fuck are you doing here?” he shouts, making Azure jump. The woman turns her large black sunglasses and huge rimmed sun hat towards them, flashing her award-winning smile. Her wave is not even slightly intimidated by his tone.
Abigail fucking Leland? Is this happening? What was left of Azure’s stomach just jumped overboard, and their boat is steadily drifting closer to the yacht in the building current.
A loud laugh escapes Abigail’s lips as she grips the pulpit railing, dangling over the large swell. “Hey, Pilson! How ya doing baby?”
Pilson moves towards the railing near the stern and hangs over, as if two feet will give him a more private realm for discussion. “Seriously, what are you doing here?”
“I scheduled the New Zealand leg of my tour around this last year, remember?” She waves for her captain to get even closer while she moves towards their side of the yacht. The current does the hard work, and soon Azure realizes just how much taller the obscene vessel is. A telescoping gangway, or plank, starts extending above them, as her crew rushes to manually adjust its trajectory. She poses along the railing, provoking whistles from the crowd. The ramp settles against the deck of their now diminished boat, and before Azure really grasps what’s happening, Abigail Leland prances aboard.
Pilson reaches out to help her while Hamilton and his friends gather around. Azure can hear Lennox, still at the bow, cursing loudly under his breath. “For fuck’s sake.”
“Surprise!” Abigail says before hugging and kissing the guys. When she gets around to Azure, she says, “Hey there. I’m Abigail. But you probably already know that.”
A simper crosses Azure’s lips at the singer’s ego-filled laugh.
“We’re missing him!” Abigail runs to their bow.
Lennox looks back at Azure, moving to a new spot along the railing, away from Abigail. All Azure can really do is shrug and throw her arms up in defeat. Hamilton and Pilson instinctively reach for her hands. They escort her back to the bow just as Dean drops and grabs rail. Positioned deep inside the huge tunnel of water, he looks completely in control.
“Whoahoo!” Abigail shouts, her arms wide. “Your good-luck charm is here baby!”
All eyes not gawking at the Grammy star seem to stare at Azure.
Paris? London? Tokyo? Serengeti? Yeah, when I think about a dream ticket I lean towards the far away and amazing. The kind of ticket I can't afford on my own. Africa. Dubai. New Zealand.
Where would you go? What would you do? I like to find out where the locals eat and sit there to soak up the vibe. I usually find a neighborhood to roam around in, but for the Serengeti I think I'd stick with a guide. Ha!
For today, I daydream of places far away. Beautiful places. Tell me where you want to go today in the comments. Share your dreams.
I went to New Orleans for work recently... not exotic or far away, but a new city for me. It's also one that everyone seems to agree is absolutely unique. So I look with an open mind and try to approach the new place with loving eyes and ears... hoping some jazz and southern hospitality seeps in the after-work mix.
Excerpt #3- No More Games (their first night together)
The glass of water is waiting for her, and the sliding glass door is open, so she steps out. The ocean glows from a nearly full moon, but she doesn’t see Dean. The waves crashing are hypnotic though, drawing her closer. By the edge of the grass and sandy berm she shivers from the crisp air sending goosebumps down to her bare toes. She turns to find Dean handing her a new glass of wine before he lays a blanket down.
Seriously? Is he being that forward? No. Not after all the times he’s left me hanging. What does he-?
“What do you think?” he says looking back towards the house. “I’m thinking of selling it.”
“I don’t understand this place,” she says, taking a gulp to warm her bones.
“What do you mean? You don’t like it?”
“It’s beautiful Dean, but it doesn’t fit. I get the ocean right here, but the house is so big and sterile. It feels like a hotel or a museum. The library and den feel like the only traces of you.”
He looks back and shakes his head. “I thought it was what she wanted. I guess I was just trying to make her happy.”
The last thing Azure wants to do is turn his focus on a heartbreak, but she has her answer. He bought this house for a rock star she could never compete with. “You loved her that much, huh?”
He stares at the picture windows of pristine white furnishings and shakes his head slowly. “No she needed everything big; her lyrics and venues and headlines.”
Please stop talking about her…“I’m sorry. It’s completely not my business and I shouldn’t…”
He reaches over and gently turns her face to his. “I was trying to force something that wasn’t right. It wasn’t love. Not even close.” His eyes are so honest and vulnerable. Her heart races as he moves in. “You really don’t like it?”
She studies his lips as they get closer. “It’d be great for croquet.”
His smile hovers within an inch of her mouth. “What planet are you from? I’ve never met your kind.” His warm breath tickles her lips as their breathing syncs.
“I’m the only one,” she says.
He whispers, “I believe that.”
His lips melt into hers slowly as he wraps his arms around her. The taste of sweet wine on his tongue brings an instant buzz that she welcomes. If this is another dream she doesn’t ever want to wake up. He glides his lips slowly across hers, as if reading them like braille. Azure can sense that he’s nervous, like he’s afraid she’ll run from him at any moment. He’s as gentle in rhythm as the waves behind them, but her pent up passion builds quickly and he’s more than capable of keeping up. Dean tosses his glass of wine a distance into the grass, doing the same with hers. He grips her hips as before, gluing their bodies together, and when his hand moves up her back, that same animalistic need hits Azure hard.
I guess the smart-ass answer would be, because I can. But really I design my book covers because I have control issues. I'm aware of it. I know it's the reason I like self-publishing, too. That doesn't mean everyone can or should design their covers. I have a graphic design background so it was natural for me to design them, but it doesn't mean my covers can't improve or benefit from others. I've put together a list of things to help you design your next awesome cover!
1. Photos set the mood, but don't be too literal.
Don't get hung up on trying to fit every major element of your story on the cover. You don't want to kill the reader's imagination by giving too specific a visual, or worse yet, give away the plot. Let the narrative unfold for them and use the cover to set the tone and mood. If you want a sexy man or a couple on the cover, do a lot of research before choosing an image. There are only so many stock photos out there, so avoiding an image that someone else has used isn't always possible or guaranteed, but fishing around on Goodreads or Amazon can help you weed through the options. Also keep in mind the trend in bestselling romance books is not what it used to be. You don't have to have a half naked man to sell a sexy book. It may help in your promotional marking graphics, but for most of us our book cover, like our books, are more than just sex.
2. Color choices set the mood too.
When you think of romance, what color pops into your head first? Red is the most common color used to illustrate romance novels, but depending on the context of your story, sometimes red isn't the most suitable or effective color. Soft love stories call for shades of light pinks or pastel yellows. Antique romance covers could use palates of teals and magenta tones. And for erotica stories, deep, empowering colors like purple, chocolate brown, or dark reds work well.
3. Sparse, minimalist covers are timeless and popular.
Don't be afraid to be sparse. Photography with the perfect subject matter and color can be really effective to display your underlying message. Look for images that are subtle, clean and simple. Designers and modern audiences love white space these days (or black space, depending on the novel's mood). Think about an important object or element in the story that can capture your audience, but not give too much away. Leave a bit of mystery, leaving the reader wanting more.
5. Use what works. Common elements or themes.
Cliches exist in part because people identify them like symbols. If you're writing a sad story about loss in war time you shouldn't put a pithy cartoon character on your cover, unless the book is dark sarcasm, in which case you better make that cartoon really spectacular to pull off the "bait-n-switch."
6. If you're still not confident, hire a pro who won't gouge you.
I meant the offer in the title above. If you want a fantastic cover that doesn't look like a "pre-fab" romance book or cost you $2,000... contact me. I've been doing graphics for the film and television world for more than fifteen years and made all of my book covers, logos, and websites too. It means more to me that someone gets a beautiful representation of their hard work than ripped off... so call me. Email me. Leave a comment. If I have time to take it on, I'll do it for cheap. (hint, I am dedicating one day a week to graphics right now... so I can probably squeeze you in.) Just tell me when you need the cover, genre, title, and a synopsis so we can get the initial conversation going. Relax... if you aren't forging ahead with this yourself... I've got you.
1. It's Faster and More Reliant
Digital devices, such as smartphones, are everywhere, but that doesn't necessarily make it any easier or faster to give someone your contact information. You can email the information to them but that necessitates getting a person's email address and inputting the information. That's not a bad thing, but you don't always have internet or a data connection. Aside from that, a card is instant. No waiting for your connection to load.
2. Swapping contact information digitally is impersonal.
Networking is about making genuine connections. Sending contact info via text or email on the spot is convenient, but it's also extremely impersonal. Engaging in eye contact and actual conversation is how real relationships begin. Two people with their heads buried in their phones typing away won’t create any kind of significant memory of the encounter. You can easily transfer the information from a business card to your mobile device after the conversation, but making that connection mean something will last a lot longer.
3. They really are an effective direct marketing tool.
Email marketing, search engine optimization and paid media all do a great job of attracting leads and prospects, but they still aren’t as effective as an in-person meeting sealed with a business card exchange. Whether you're at a book convention or a writer's workshop you may encounter a potential reader, agent, or publisher at any time and arming yourself with cards will ensure you never miss an opportunity to make a valuable connection. Keep some in your pockets, wallet, money clip or laptop bag so the next time you encounter a prospect you are prepared.
4. A business card is the first impression of your brand.
When you meet someone that could potentially be a great prospect or connection, you want him or her to walk away with a great first impression. A memorable business card does a lot more than just pass on an email address or phone number. It sells who you are and what you do in one glance. It's important not to cheap out when it could also be the only sales tool that person sees. A retail store trying to make a great first impression wouldn’t create a storefront sign with a piece of cardboard and a Sharpie. You don't have to spend a fortune, but make sure the paper, logo, and style reflect you the best way it can. Branding is incredibly important these days in our industry. Make sure your cards stand out in the pile.
5. Creative business cards get shared
Since I'm on the branding subject, a business card is a physical object that you leave a potential prospect with. That is your brand staying with them. Let's say you meet a book reviewer and exchange email addresses and phone numbers. You each walk away with another contact on your mobile phone and the connection ends there. You become another "author" named Jane in their address book. If you hand over a creative business card that makes a great impression that person is likely to show it to other people which puts you and your brand in front of additional prospects.
6. Business cards show you were prepared.
Have you ever had someone write his or her contact information on a cocktail napkin or some receipt for their dry cleaning? How about someone that had a mobile phone with a dead battery? It isn’t the most professional approach. If you met two individuals and one was scrambling to find a pen and something to write on and the other person simply pulled out a business card, who would you want to do business with? I'm not saying it would get you published, but if you're trying to get an agent, they just might think working with you would be less hassle. Let's face it. everyone wants a hassle-free life. Showing that you are prepared at all times is a great indicator that you are a professional.
7. Business cards provide a legitimacy to your career, even if it's the second one in your daily life.
BONUS Tip for Authors: Use the backside for extra promotion
I like to put some of my book covers on the backside so there are images connected to my brand. You can do just one book or even print multiple variations of your cards with a different book on the back of each one. It's a great way to get fans at the next book expo to round up a few and give them out to their friends like trading cards.
Excerpt #2- Landing Skids (her loss revealed in a helicopter)
She looks like one of those tarot cards my mom had. The Goddess one, with all the hair and fabric flying around her. I like this dress better than the yellow one. Dean watches the flutter of fabric around her breast, catching glimpses of the soft skin underneath. The only part of her dress that isn’t flapping in the wind is stretched across her lower back. Her curves are very, very nice. He can see the line of that black lacey thong he’d like another glimpse of while she leans against Garrett’s seat.
“Are you okay over there?”
Dean doesn’t realize she’s talking to him until her eyes remove his from her ass. "Yeah, I'm fine,” he says, amused by the return of her shy face. “Just taking in the view.” Azure sits back and secures her harness. Dean grows serious to prove he wasn’t ignoring her. "It must've been hard to be so far from your family. Were they in Oregon? Boston’s about as far away as you can get."
Her face goes blank and she turns away with a shrug.
Guess my bullshit smalltalk is even worse than my overly detailed wave analysis. When Azure stays distant Dean leans outside again, letting the wind sting all over. Don’t women always complain that we don’t listen? One minute she’s flirty, the next she’s not. Hope she’s not a cold-hot-cold kinda chick. I’ll pass on that, even for a quickie. The whole Candice mess is bad enough.
After a long minute Azure says, "I didn't have a family by then.”
There’s a still moment before Dean’s brain registers each sound of her words and their meanings, delivered so straight forward and simple. He pulls back into his seat slowly, searching for context in her face.
Azure puts her sunglasses back on, at first not looking away. "My parents and little brother died in a car accident when I was six. Drunk driver."
She retreats to the open air and Dean’s hand slides into hers. She doesn’t acknowledge it, but she doesn’t refuse it either. It feels like they're losing altitude, even though Bryce has them perfectly level. A truth rarely spoken about isn’t the kind of thing divulged over a microphone in a hurricane. No one knows what to say in the radio silence. It’s a familiar discomfort that Dean knows all too well.
"I'm really sorry," he says, "I lost my dad to a car accident when I was ten."
Of course, I still had my mom, so I’m an asshole for trying to compare shitty tragedies. I can’t imagine losing both. Losing everyone. And even younger than I was?
He puts on his sunglasses too, avoiding everyone before the emotions get too heavy. When she caresses his palm, still staring out into the reef, there’s a twist in Dean’s stomach. She doesn’t owe him any comfort. Especially not when his prying opened this can in the first place. But she’s done it. With the tiniest of movements on an inch of his skin, she sends the most soothing vibration through his whole body, making him feel less alone. His friends stay quiet in their unease, but what can any person say about a tragedy like they’ve faced?
Here's a Peek at the Chapter: Fresh Eyes (when they meet)
It's clear right away which of the four men on the porch in front of her is Dean. His confidence and physique are superb. Although the Latino man could easily pass as a competitor, Dean’s bleached hair in its slightly wavy shag fits the stereotype. She wasn't expecting him to smolder though. His jaw is too chiseled, and his chest muscles are too thick. Sure, surfers are in great shape, but she thought they were lean, vegan types. This was a meat eater. A strong, tall, carved, carnivorous man. She can feel her pulse pounding when he stands to greet her. If she lacked all self-control, his cobalt eyes would’ve sold her the moon.
Dean’s playing spades on his porch with the guys when he sees Lennox and Moses walking with a beautiful, tall brunette. Her long yellow sundress flows in the breeze like a flag waving for his attention. Even through all that fabric Dean can see her hips swaying naturally as the cotton clings to her body. Before he can survey her bare breasts underneath, she raises her eyes towards him. Even at a distance, they glow like the ocean, adding a spark to her perfect smile. It’s worse than he dreaded. He can handle pretty or attractive, but this woman is beautiful.
Moses stops to show her something, stealing those eyes away and Dean flinches. Not holding her attention stings a bit. He drops the cards in his hand, giving up. There’s no way he can deal with real distractions right now, in life or a card game.
The other guys turn and stare. The way she genuinely listens and reacts to everything is intoxicating to watch. She doesn’t carry herself like a beach bunny, but her skin is just as golden. Her long brown hair isn’t being twirled or tossed by a nervous hand, it just flows naturally, never shaking her poise. Most of the women in Dean’s past walked with a false confidence. Especially Abigail. She was always ready for a photo through a veil that sheltered her from the world's honest eyes. This woman in yellow is different. She doesn’t need to be patronized or complimented, and her laugh is so unguarded and full.
Fuck. She’s gotta knows she’s beautiful. She wouldn’t have traveled in that if she didn’t. He stands as casually as he can manage wondering if she’s going to be a bitch. Part of him hopes she is so it’ll be easy to blow her off, but her laid back shoulders and relaxed smile hint that she’s pretty cool. He blurts out, "Welcome to Fiji," wincing at the sound of his own voice. I sound like a fuckin’ idiot. He cracks his knuckles gently at his side until her cheeks flush a little.
I'm not the best speller or typer. I admit my flaws. But I refuse to let them bring me down. That's why I love Grammarly. In this digital age, what we write on social media or other new media reflects who we are. When we make mistakes in spelling or grammar it reflects on us as careless or ignorant. Think about how often people tear apart bad Tweets. Donald Trump gives us an example every day. I wanted to be better, so I gave the Chrome extension a shot and it has worked. It doesn't just check my grammar, it looks at the context of my writing and suggests punctuation changes when appropriate. Best of all, it's FREE!!! Sure there is a Pro version, like with everything these days, but the free app is more than enough to kick start a better delivery.
Do you need Grammarly?
If you are a professional writer, a student, in public relations, a secretary, a blogger, or just a citizen of the world who wants to write English better, then I think you will need Grammarly. No matter what condition your writing is in, it adjusts to your needs and gives you confidence in your writing.
Did You Know?
I like to build things. Like decks and furniture.