Sunday, October 05, 2014

Write more, faster

We've been busy around here. Layla just released three new titles, and she has six more to finish before the end of the year. (Elyse is taking a back seat for now.)

So, how are we managing to keep that kind of pace? Well, it meant learning to write more and faster. I don't know about you, but I'm a bit of an old dog when it comes to learning new tricks. Even though I'd been "trying" by reading how other writers did it, I couldn't find a method that seemed right for me.

Then I started sprinting with other writers. I began on Twitter with the #1K1HR group. It's open to anyone, and you can find someone there almost any time of day to sprint with you. The goal is one thousand words in an hour. I found this helpful when I was really pressed or on a deadline.

Then I began working with a group in a Google Hangout. We sprint for 25 minutes at a time, break for 5–10 minutes, then go again. At first, I resisted. I didn't think that was long enough to get anything done. Indeed, the first few sessions, I felt like I had just gotten going when the timer buzzed. Then I realized I was producing more words per minute than ever before. I had my first 5K words in a day, a goal I'd been working toward for years.

Being in a group (virtual or real) gives me accountability. I tried sprinting alone, but I cheated and read email and Facebook instead. So, I went back to the group setting and even hung out during my editing and formatting phases. 

My results: Three titles (about 35K words in all), written, edited, formatted, and published in 30 days. We have four scheduled for release in the next month. 

If you've got another way, let me know. I'm open to all possibilities now. No more old dog here.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

A New Adult Sexy Romance from Layla Wilcox: You Show Me Yours (Secret Billionaires Book 1)

I'm very pleased and excited to tell you about the release of the first book in Layla's new series, Secret Billionaires. YOU SHOW ME YOURS (book 1 in the series) is now available.


Curvy billionaire heiress Lauren Daniels has broken free and purchased a small home away from her protective father and interfering mother. She plans to focus on building her career and opening her own accounting business in a few years. Added benefit to the new digs: No one in the modest neighborhood knows about her connection to the family fortune, so she can finally trust that the new people she meets might like her for herself, not her money or her father’s influence.

Derek Holmes started his landscaping business and is halfway to earning his first billion after leaving his father’s company and designating his own billion dollar trust fund inheritance for charity. Tired of dating spoiled rich brats and gold diggers, he keeps his success under wraps in a low-key trailer office. Any woman he meets now knows him only as a small business owner and blue-collar worker.

When Lauren calls Derek for a landscaping estimate, they both think they’ve finally found someone who may be truly interested in the person, not the dollar signs. She’s drawn to his muscular laborer’s body, and he’s knocked out with her curves. Under the covers, the two secret billionaires are generating lots of heat, but will the truth about their pasts pour an icy water bucket on their budding romance?

I'm sharing the launch of the series and the release of book 1 with my readers first. For a limited time, You Show Me Yoursis only 99 cents, but will jump to $2.99 after this week. Here are the sale links:

Barnes & Noble
All Romance Books

I truly think this is Layla's best yet, but I'm eager to hear your feedback, because it has a bit of a different focus than the Secret Lives of Housewives series. If you like it, please be kind and leave a review where you made your purchase.

Read a blurb here and get on Layla's List to receive information about the next book in the series, I'LL SHOW YOU MINE.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Musings of the Split-Personality Mind

When most fiction authors say they're driven to the page by voices in their heads, they are referring to hearing the dialogue of their characters.

Imagine my dilemma. In addition to my characters going on and on, I also have to listen to the banter of my split personalities (pen names) as they vie for my attention and our singular body.

The solution seemed simple at the beginning. I created three websites and three newsletters to communicate to our varied audiences. Then Elyse decided to write contemporary women's drama with a sci-fi twist about parallel-world travel. And, hot Ms. Layla decided to team up with another writer to pen erotic crime thrillers in addition to continuing with her steamy romances.

Conventional wisdom (ha) from branding experts tells me that I need to further segment my activity and target each audience separately. I looked at that possibility, but realized it would be the death of me, or at least one of my inner selves. I may risk losing some readers, but someone far smarter than today's pr pundits whose wisdom has never failed me (my mother) said, "You can't please all the people all of the time."

Sometime in the near future, I'll be integrating my websites into one. If you are on my mailing list (and if you're not, be sure to sign up using the form at the bottom of the righthand column), I've already started including blurbs from Elyse and Layla in my newsletter. I'm going to continue to share some of their stuff here...but only the parts I think are appropriate for all audiences.

I want to hear from you.
What do you think? How do you handle multiple interests/audiences/readers? Please comment below.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Having a Boomer Moment

Note: This post originally appeared on Boomer Lit Friday on May 24, 2013. My granddaughter is now 2 years old, and I've experienced the loss of another dear friend. It's been a rough few weeks for me after losing my friend of 57 years. We met on the first day of first grade, lived practically next door to one another as children, and then again as adults. I dedicate this post to Donna. Her life was a perfect example of someone who knew what she wanted and enjoyed what she had. Many times I secretly compared myself to her in a moment of doubt and thought, "What would Donna do?" That always helped me find the courage to do the things I feared. 

It’s my pleasure to introduce a new concept to you today: The Boomer Moment.

You’re probably familiar with the phrase “Senior Moment,” which is usually associated with symptoms of aging such as forgetfulness or memory loss.

The Boomer Moment is the exact opposite. It is a moment of perfect elucidation, when everything becomes crystal clear and you glean an insight or see the “big picture” in a way afforded to you only by way of years of life experience.

I had such a moment spark last month when in a two-week period I experienced the joy of my granddaughter’s first birthday directly followed by the loss of two friends.

In her one year here so far, my granddaughter Lacie has given me a royally good lesson in how to enjoy life. From the moment I held her for the first time and felt the freshness of new life, I’ve been struck by her complete wonderment as she delights in almost every experience. If you want to learn how to “be in the moment,” watch a baby. EVERYTHING is new, cool, interesting, possible. No words, no judgment, everything just is, and it’s all good.

Watching (and delighting in) my granddaughter these twelve months, I began to realize how much of that wonderment attitude I had lost. Like most adults, I have layers of experiences to screen and filter my views of the world and how I interpret life's events.

But I yearned to be able to recapture the bliss we’re born to experience, the beauty of the “is-ness” of the moment. I didn’t have a clue on how to do it. I could briefly enjoy bursts of that feeling by just watching her, or relishing the beauty of the Western North Carolina mountains where I live, or by savoring a delicious meal. But I could not routinely sustain the feeling.

A few days after Lacie’s first birthday party (a veritable feast of Lacie lessons in how to have fun), we received word that a dear friend has passed, and less than 24 hours after that, another friend. Although saddened, we celebrated their lives. They had both enjoyed successful careers and had been blessed with good marriages, children, and grandchildren.

Yet, for me, their deaths brought to the surface an awareness of my own mortality for the first time. Being more conscious of death’s certainty didn’t leave me afraid to die, but more determined to live what remaining time I have in full-out Lacie mode.

But how? In a Boomer Moment, I realized that writing is the only thing that keeps me in the joy of the moment for as long as I’m involved in the process. I love it all—the days of unbridled inspiration when my fingers can’t keep up with my thoughts as well as the days of staring at the blank page, when I write and delete everything. I love the publishing process from end to end: writing, editing, design, marketing, EVERYTHING. Two of my favorite writer quotes come to mind.
“Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel like I should be doing something else.” (Gloria Steinem) 
“If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I'd type a little faster.” (Isaac Asimov). 
Finally, I know how to sustain the Lacie life, a life of joy, and I am so grateful to realize that I’m at an age when I can fully devote my time and attention to fulfilling my purpose, to filling my soul with joy. In fact, it seems foolish to do anything else.

If you've had a Boomer Moment, please share it in the comments below.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Summer Solstice eBook Sale

Two Summer Solstice Special Offers

From Layla Wilcox
Today through the Summer Solstice on Saturday, June 21, My Secrets Revealed, Book 2 in the SECRET LIVES OF HOUSEWIVES series, is only 99 cents.

My Secrets Revealed is on sale for 99 cents at Amazon and All Romance Books (if you need an epub or pdf file).

Book 1, My Secrets Discovered, is FREE every day. You can download My Secrets Discovered for free at: All Romance Books (all file types supported), Smashwords (All file types supported), Barnes & NobleKobo, and iTunes.

From Elyse Grant
THE PRINCE CHARMING HOAX, a full-length novel, is only 99 cents today and tomorrow, June 20–June 21. You download the book at Amazon, iTunes, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Book Launch Contest

Yay! Parallel Lives Part 1 is live on AmazonKobo,  iTunes, Barnes & Noble, and All Romance Books!

Elyse is very excited to introduce this new story in a serial format, similar to your favorite TV shows. There's a total of six parts, which will be released weekly. Part 1 launched on , Part 2 will be released on June 24, and Part 3 goes live on July 1. We'll take a short summer break, and Parts 4-6 will be released weekly starting September 2.

I'd love to get your help with the launch, and I want to make it fun so here's the deal. Share my Facebook post or reTweet my Tweet and be entered to win a signed beach art poster by Joe Gemignani, the cover photographer!

I should be able to track your shares, but it's a good idea to comment below as well to make sure you're entered. The winner will be announced on Sunday, June 22.

Thanks, and good luck!

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Best Places to Self-Publish 2014

This is an update to the original post from September 2012.

The original laptop.

Considering the rapid rate of change in the publishing industry in the past few years, I'm surprised I don't have more to add or revise. But, there are enough significant new services or changes worth mentioning in an update.

Print Books
CreateSpace is still my #1 choice. Please do not consider pretend self-publishing companies such as Author Solutions, Lulu, or any of the self-publishing divisions of traditional publishers, including Hay House. They charge too much for services and for the books. They do not exist to help you. Their purpose is to make serious profit off a new author's inexperience. Author David Gaughran has expressed this in far deeper detail in his many posts criticizing the predatory practices of these companies.

One of the great things that's come out of the the indie movement and downsizing of the legacy publishing houses is that many quality editors and designers are now working freelance and are available for hire. These independent professionals are committed to helping you put out the best possible product. Yes, they will charge for their services, but at least you can hire a team that works for you, not some corporate conglomerate that doesn't give a hoot about the quality of your book.

When I wrote the original post, I didn't include Lightning Source, because they were not open to working with independent authors. I was able to open an account there as a small publisher, but most indie authors were discouraged. Now they offer Ingram Spark, which is available to indies. Although my dealings are still with Lightning Source and I don't have personal experience with Ingram Spark, the company is the same and customer service stinks on every level. Note, I said service not support. They don't offer support, and their service (answering the phone, returning voicemail or email messages) is poor. Their prices to upload and make changes to your book are high, especially compared to CreateSpace, which is free.

That said, if you are located outside the United States and want to buy or ship books internationally, Lightning Source is a much better choice, cost-wise. For example, if you are a UK author who wants to buy your book at your author discount through CreateSpace, you will pay enormous shipping fees. (This does not apply to customer purchases made through the Amazon or other retailer sites, only to bulk author-discounted purchases delivered outside the US.) Lightning Source has plants and offices throughout Europe and Australia and thus shipping costs are tolerable. A good comparison of CS and LS/Ingram Spark was made very recently by author Giacomo Giammatteo, if you're interested. The one thing I disagree about is that I don't believe Lightning Source print quality is always better, and I have used both companies for the same title.

Since ebooks are the area of publishing with the most growth, it makes sense that this is the area of my previous post that needs the most updating!

Getting my books formatted for Kindle (mobi) and most other readers (epub ) is now my top priority. Once my manuscript is complete and edits are final, I format for the two types of files. Until recently, I outsourced the formatting, but as I added titles and needed updates, it became too costly. I bought Scrivener software, which is a word processing program specifically for writers, and the program enables me to do the formatting without learning any coding. I simply click a series of boxes that defines how I want the material output, and I have my files. It's a bit of learning curve, and at some point when I'm making more money from the books, I'll probably go back to having someone else do it. Bottom line is that time spent formatting my books takes away from writing time. Nonetheless, your decision will be based on your own needs and resources. I use and recommend Maureen Cutajar, if you wish to outsource this important step in the process.

I start by uploading the mobi file to Kindle (Amazon). I don't use the Select program, which requires exclusivity. The general consensus seems to be that the Select program isn't as effective for building sales as it used to be, at least not at the cost of lost sales on other sites, but many authors still tout its effectiveness. My take is that having my books in the most places where readers shop is preferable, but I encourage you to make your own decision.

Some authors establish individual accounts at Nook (Barnes & Noble), Kobo, and iTunes (Apple) and upload their epubs to each site individually. The benefits are being able to individualize the back matter and links to your other books for each site. I don't upload to the individual sites, although this may change for me at a later date. For now, I use a distributor for my epubs. This does decrease my profits, but not significantly to warrant the extra time I'd have to devote. (Once my writing provides sufficient income to afford an assistant, that's one thing I'll change!)

In the previous post, I recommended Smashwords as the distributor to convert and distribute to those retailers. Since then, I have starting using another service (not available in 2012), Draft to Digital (D2D). I love Mark Coker, CEO of Smashwords, for all he has done for indies, but I wish he'd pay as much attention to what is going on in his own backyard as he does to what's going on in the industry. Smashwords' sales reporting and customer service is dismal, and royalty payments are paid quarterly. The recent affiliations with Scribd and Oyster, etc. have been hotly debated, but I don't know enough to comment.

Both Smashwords and D2D will convert a properly formatted Word doc to ebook formats and provide how-to guides. I find this acceptable if you have no other choice, and only if you commit to learn how to prepare your Word doc for the best conversion results. Be sure to download and check the converted files before you authorize distribution to the retailers. Nothing is worse than a poorly formatted ebook, and your sales will suffer if your ebook doesn't look professional.

I haven't transferred all my books for distribution to D2D yet, but I'm going to over time. The sales reporting is much better, payment is faster, and they seem to get the books online at the various distributors more quickly. D2D is not a retailer, as Smashwords is, although I sell very few copies at the Smashwords store. I'll keep my Smashwords account and the books listed, but opt out of its distribution services. In other words, I'll use Smashwords as another retail outlet, rather than as a distributor of my work.  I'd recommend you research both companies and make your own decision.

Both Smashwords and D2D are free to use. There are other companies that will format and distribute your ebook for a fee, and I don't recommend them, much for the same reasons I don't recommend the POD companies that take advantage of new authors' inexperience and charge high fees for things the authors can do themselves or outsource for less money.

I haven't mentioned every place possible to upload and sell your ebooks, most notably Google Play, which I haven't used yet, but plan to in the near future. I'll update again once I have information to share.

As with most decisions, your goals will determine what's right for you. There's never one right way for everyone. The information about companies and individuals mentioned here are from my perspective and based on my experience. Your results/opinions/decisions may differ.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Women of a Certain Age Read (& Write) XXX Erotica, and I'm One of Them

Time to come out of the closet.

For all my liberalness, open-mindedness, and hard-earned independence, I've kept a tightly guarded secret. I started writing about sex 15 years ago, although in a nonfiction, journalistic kind of way at that time. But that book got sidelined by my own resistance and fear...what if my children read it, and what would my friends, neighbors, clients, and ex-boyfriends think?

After letting the manuscript sit in a drawer for over a decade, I fictionalized and embellished those stories, put the book together as a novel, and published under a pen name. I didn't hide behind the pen name, however, and openly associated with my alter ego, Elyse Grant. The Prince Charming Hoax can be considered erotic romance or sexy women's contemporary fiction.

When it came time to write the next book, I wanted to push the boundaries of the erotica genre, but again felt a little uncomfortable about publishing books with explicit sex scenes and taboo themes in my own or even Elyse's name. (Seems silly now, but I wanted to protect her honor, I guess.) The reluctance to go public with these stories kept me from writing what I wanted, and I went through about six months of writing stilted stories that I either abandoned or hated when finished. My muse was not too happy about being stifled.

So I invented a new identity, and the writing flowed. Five novelettes and an omni edition published in two months time. Almost a full year after The Prince Charming Hoax was released. Layla Wilcox, my newest and most prolific alter ego, wrote the Secret Lives of Housewives series of books, which include My Secrets Discovered, Revealed, Shared, Bared and Exposed.

Although I shared (as Shelley Lieber) that I was writing a new erotica series, I didn't reveal the new pen name or announce the publication of the new books, except as Layla Wilcox. I was pleasantly surprised that the books sold despite Layla's lack of social media presence or followers.

So, why am I coming out of the closet now?

I'm turning another year older this week. Now that I'm a "woman of a certain age,"  I've decided that rather than wear a red hat and purple dress (who thought that up, anyway?), I would simply be myself, without pretense or subterfuge.

It's also Valentine's Day this week, and I want to celebrate my birthday, V-day, and the recent release of the final two books of the new series. I"m having a "coming out" party to introduce you to my new alter ego and her work. Layla has agreed to discount the omni edition, My Secrets Collection, (Books 1-3 of the series, plus 2 bonus stories), My Secrets Bared (Book 4) and My Secrets Exposed (Book 5) for a limited time.

If you are at all interested and want to join the celebration, please visit Layla Wilcox Erotica to find out more about the books. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter, and join Layla's Mailing List to receive bonus stories and special giveaways that are sent to subscribers only. She never spams or sends chatty emails. She just lets you know when she has something good to share with you.

I feel so much better now. Thanks to those of you who have stayed with me down to the last line ;-)