Behind the YouTube Scenes

As I set the Songs for Libby launch aside for a bit, I managed to record a video for my YouTube channel yesterday. I haven’t done that since COVID came on the scene. The video isn’t long, and there wasn’t much postproduction required for it, but I barely managed to finish it in the 2+ hours when all my kids were in school.

I want my videos to look nice. Of course I do. But to get all the lighting and sound dialed in, as well as a pretty background, it takes some finagling.

Let me demonstrate. This is the background that you see in the video I just published:

Then I zoomed out a bit. You can see my lighting rig (called a ring) and you get a glimpse of my microphone hiding behind it.

Zoom out more and it starts to get really *lovely. 🙂 You can see the lower shelves that I didn’t bother to make pretty because they weren’t in the shot, as well as the huge stack of book balanced on top of a side table. I used this to perch my laptop on it, so that I could check my notes while I recorded.

And so that you can better see my microphone—as well as truly appreciate how impressive my book stack was:

Soon out a little more and you see the entire office. The trash can. The random junk sitting around. It’s all very glamorous. And I’m a little surprised that there are no dolls laying around. One point for me!

If you’d like to appreciate all my hard work, you should go check out the video!

And if you’d really like to appreciate my REALLY hard work, this is your reminder to please go pre-order Songs for Libby so that it will be auto-delivered to your Kindle when it releases on October 15th.

Book Highlights

You guys, I ended up picking up this book even though I hadn’t read this author before, and it is So Stinkin’ CUTE! I haven’t quite finished, but I’ve really loved it so far. It’s a regency inspired by twelfth night, which means a girl masquerading as a boy and falling for the man she’s helping who thinks she’s a man. Gah! It’s so cute.

True of Heart by Martha Keyes:

An Ode to Reviews

(Not actually an Ode)

I’m coming up on a launch. Songs for Libby releases on October 15 and is up for pre-order now. That means that I’m going to be putting out my hands to beg for reviews as soon as it’s out.

I think a lot of people think that in order to leave a review, you have to be a “good reviewer.” For the record, anyone who bothers to review something is a good reviewer in my book. You don’t have to do a special intro to the book before you give your opinion. It doesn’t have to be long. You don’t have to cover every aspect of what you did and didn’t like. If all you want to say in your review is, “I really liked this one,” that’s great! You can write as much or as little as you want. No one is out their judging your reviews (unless you are a professional reviewer, but that’s different).

To demonstrate my point. I want to share one of my favorite reviews with you. Here it is:

One may ask WHY this would be a favorite of mine. It’s not even five stars! It’s not a glowing review. Why in the world would it be a favorite?

Ahem:

Number One! Honesty. She likes her romance dirty and isn’t afraid to say so.

Number Two! Because my book isn’t steamy (like she prefers), she took off one star. That’s totally legitimate. If some aspect of the book makes it so that it just isn’t your cup of tea, you can (and should) take off a star. Removing one star because she didn’t like one aspect is perfect. She didn’t say, “Ugh. It was clean, so I hated it. I’ll give it one star!” No, she gave credit where credit was due.

Number Three! She made me laugh. The bookshelf at the bottom that I circled—”hand-cuff-me-hot-cop”—makes me laugh every time. Glad you liked my hot cop character, Jae!

So, for anyone who finds review writing intimidating, I hope this helps.

And if you’d like to be part of my street team and help me with early reviews, please join my Fan Group on Facebook and read through the posts there.

Weekly Book Highlights:

I read this collection of three novellas years ago, and I still go back once in a while to reread one or two of them. I really love all three, though What’s in a Name is my favorite.

This is part of an interesting collaborative project. It’s a series of six books where there is something that happens in the previous book that impacts the next book, even though each book had different characters and is written by a different author. They’re on the shorter side, but they’re all sweet and fun.

Beta Alpha Delta

I’ve mentioned beta readers several times and I’ve had a handful of people ask me what the heck they are.

It’s like beta testing a product. When you develop computer software or hardware, you have to beta test it before you start to sell it for real money. There will always be coding issues that need to be fixed, so developers have to debug it so that users don’t waste their hard-earned cash on something that’s going to have issues.

Same thing with books. It’s a product, and my readers spend their hard-earned money on it, so I don’t want to sell them a product that is defective.

But how can a book be defective?

It’s different than a computer program, of course, but the concept is the same. Of course, physical books can have defects, and ebooks can have formatting issues, but what my beta readers are examining is the actual story. When my readers dive into one of my books, I want their experience to be as immersive and seamless as possible.

Part of that is editing, but editing is separate from beta reading. When I hand a book to a beta reader, I’m not looking for grammar and punctuation advice. What I am looking for is any other ways that the reader experience might be disrupted so that I can fix it. I don’t want a reader to be pulled out of the story because they stumble over the wording. I don’t want them to be jarred from the emotion of the scene because they’re wondering who George is and why he’s suddenly being mentioned a third of the way through the book. Those are things I would consider bugs in the story just like there are bugs in software.

In order to properly debug my story, I have to have multiple beta readers because they will all catch different things. It would be easy to have a couple people read it, tell me it’s fantastic, and then pat myself on the back thinking it’s ready. But it’s so much more satisfying to have quality beta readers who ask questions, who demand that I clarify something, who call me out when I make a character use a word that’s out of character, etc…. The more of those bugs that I can fix, the more seamless and enjoyable the reading experience will be.

As I first pointed out in my Preparing to Publish post, good beta readers will ask questions like:

  • Who is talking right now?
  • Is Joe still in the room or did he leave?
  • You said she put her hair in a bun earlier, but now it’s down.
  • She’s holding the gun the wrong way.
  • Who is this guy? Am I supposed to remember him from earlier?
  • This sentence makes no sense.
  • This dialogue doesn’t sound realistic.
  • Is this really what a cop would do?
  • I kind of hate this character right now. Am I supposed to hate them?
  • This sounds creepy instead of romantic.
  • I had to read this three times to figure out what was happening.
  • Too much description.
  • The man who loves her is less than 15 feet away, so why is she fighting the bad guy by herself? Shouldn’t he be helping??
  • Did we just switch points of view?
  • Add a beat here.
  • Describe his expressions when he is saying this.

Good beta readers will also be brave enough to tell me when a section of my book needs a complete overhaul. If I count the number of times that I’ve been told to rewrite the end of my book, the number would be…nine. If you’re keeping track, you’ll know I’m about to release my ninth book, so…yeah. My initial attempts at ending my books are always fine. But I’m lucky enough to have people who read them and aren’t satisfied with fine and demand more. And hallelujah for that.

Beta readers have been on my mind because that’s the stage I am in. I’m debugging my book. I’m shining it up and making it pretty, because my release date for Songs for Libby has been set and it’s up for pre-order. I’m committed.

If you would like to help me with my book launch, please join my Fan Group on Facebook. There are opportunities I’ll be presenting there exclusively.

Wanna See My New Book?

Shall we have a cover reveal? I think we shall.

My approach for this cover was different than any of my others. For each of my other books I’ve been able to come up with a pretty solid concept of what I wanted the cover to be. I always had a jumping off point that I could work with and develop until I reached the point where I knew enough of what I wanted that I could convey it to my husband and he could put it together for me.

For this book, I just could not see it, any of it. I had no vision for this cover. I couldn’t even think of a concept photo shoot that I would want to do. I had nothin’.

I decided I needed a cover artist, someone who had not only the photoshop know-how, but also the creative vision. A cover artist was recommended to me, and by sheer luck, she had one opening in July that I was able to snag so that I didn’t have to wait until September to get on her calendar. *huge sigh of relief*

That opening happened to be over the 4th of July, so I was up in the mountains around Cascade with limited cell service, but I was able to communicate back and forth with her enough that we (really she) got the job done! She was so good at coming up with concepts, giving me lots of different options, and working with my vague feedback. Finally, she hit upon the perfect concept and it was easy peazy to get it perfect from there.

The Blurb:

Libby and Sean have been best friends for years. Libby was there to help him climb the ladder of success, but now that Sean has made it big in the music industry, he’s fallen into the cliché bad habits of stardom, and Libby is constantly having to pull her delinquent best friend out of trouble. The emotional toll is wearing her down, but she’s afraid that putting herself first will mean leaving Sean to self-destruct.

Eventually, Sean’s recklessness lands him in serious trouble, and Libby is forced to make a heart-breaking decision. Rather than becoming collateral damage to Sean’s fame and addiction, she chooses to save herself…by walking away.

Years later, Libby has lived a lot of life, and instead of being the one to pull Sean out of the darkness, she finds herself in need of rescuing. Can she trust Sean to be there for her, or will allowing him back into her life put her broken heart in greater danger?

Full of heart-wrenching decisions and a friendship with the potential to be so much more, Songs for Libby takes a hard look at what it means to truly love someone, what it takes to restore trust after it’s been all used up, and the joy that comes from fighting the battles that need to be won.

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And THE COVER!

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Isn’t it lovely? I think it so perfectly captures the heart of this book. đź’• đź“š

It’s listed on Goodreads, so go ahead and add it to your want-to-read shelf!

It’s not up for pre-order yet, because that requires that I commit to a publication date, and I’m not quite ready for that. I am aiming for mid-October, though. So, don’t mark your calendar yet, but you can get your pen out so that when I get over my fear of commitment, you’ll be ready to mark it. 🙂

Book highlights:

I read Duke of Knight by Elizabeth Johns a couple weeks ago. It was a cute an clean regency. It’s $.99.

Evie’s Knight is $.99. I’ve read several of Kimberly’s books and really enjoyed them. This looks like a retelling of Sleeping Beauty.

Hurt people hurt people

How are you broken? 

We all are. Some of us have jagged cracks through our souls. Others of us have countless fine lines. Most of us have a mix of both.

We’ve been broken by words and by circumstance. We’ve been broken by jealousy and good intentions. Traditions have broken us. Zeal has broken us. Love has broken us alongside the hate. This life is a constant process of trying to put ourselves back together. Filling in the gaps left by loss. Sewing together the frayed edges of a broken heart. It’s important to acknowledge our brokenness, to strive to fix it.

But perhaps even more important, we need to recognize the ways that we are breaking others. Because we all do it. We break our friends along with our enemies. We unknowingly chip away at others’ foundations with our selfishness and our good intentions. We judge others because their brokenness is different than ours. Our own hurts makes us want to hurt others.

When we’re in the midst of being broken, it’s hard to see the purpose. Why do we have to do it? What’s the point of the hard stuff—the stuff that makes you want to give up, or cry, or just curl into a ball? The stuff you don’t deserve and didn’t ask for. The stuff that’s part of life. The stuff that makes us break.

Why does it happen to us? And what’s the point of fighting through it?

I suppose the simplest answer is that if you don’t get through it, you never get out of it. Going through it means you get to the other side. It means that it ends. If we’re lucky, and if we can open our eyes to it, we can start to heal more than we hurt. We can use our energy to fix instead of break.

Because the more we remain hurt, the more likely it is that we will continue to break those around us. In little ways. In big ways. In ways we don’t even recognize, because hurt people hurt people. And if all we do is sit in the pain and brokenness, then our cracks will only widen.

When we do get to the other side, when we can overcome it, then there is a fount of positives that we can gain from even the worst experiences.

Compassion. Understanding. Empathy. Grace. Because once we actually get through it, we’re so much better equipped to deal with other people who are still trudging through their hurt.

This doesn’t mean we go through it alone.

Let me say that again. That doesn’t mean we should go through the hard stuff alone.

It’s easy when we’re in the middle of it, to be TOO aware of the ways in which we bleed on those who didn’t cut us. We know we’re broken. We know we’re hurt, and we are all too aware that HURT people hurt people, and we don’t want to be the one to inflict more hurt. Sometimes it’s tempting to hide away, to separate ourselves from people who love us because we think we’re protecting them. The problem with that is that we’re less likely to heal, and the separation is going to hurt them anyway.

It’s a popular plot point. The moment when a character decides to end the relationship in order to prevent future heartbreak. They do it out of a misguided sense of chivalry, or because—strange as it sounds—sometimes keeping company with our pain gives us comfort. But we all know how that ends. The person left behind rarely feels relief in their freedom. Instead they feel abandoned, cracked down the middle.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes the right thing to do really is to walk away. Toxic relationships are real and should be left behind. But most of the time it’s better for everyone if we reach out and let people in.

It reminds me of the lyrics from She Used to be Mine:

She’s imperfect, but she tries
She is good, but she lies
She is hard on herself
She is broken and won’t ask for help
She is messy, but she’s kind
She is lonely most of the time
She is all of this mixed up and baked in a beautiful pie

We are not good. We are not bad. We are all just beautiful disasters doing our best. It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a tribe to show us how to heal. We need those around us to reach out with understanding, empathy and validation. And the people in our lives need us to reach back with the same. We need to show our cracks and let others know that it’s okay. It’s okay to be hurt. It’s okay that we hurt others.

We’re all learning from every person we encounter, and hopefully all that learning gets us somewhere better.

We are all broken. But we can heal.

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Book Highlights

NEW RELEASE: To Sketch a Sphinx is Book 6 in Rebecca Connolly’s London League Series. Like my Dalthia series, they can be read as stand alone since each one focuses on a different main character. It releases TODAY, so it’s brand new and waiting on my kindle for me. I’ve read the entire series and the first two are my favorites.

There are very few people who rattle John Pratt, gifted code-breaker for the Crown, but Hal Mortimer was one of them. Marrying her in order to go into the field for their mission in Paris would be torture, but they had no choice.

Janette Rallison’s The Girl Who Heard Demons is on sale for $0.99. I’ve read this one and enjoyed it. It’s YA action humor.

Shy Adelle Hansen hears demons, but she’s determined to make friends at her new high school by keeping her ability secret. When she overhears supernatural voices celebrating the impending death of the school quarterback, Levi Anderson, she knows she has to do something to prevent it.

It’s Critical to Critique

Back before I published my first book, I exercised my writing muscles in a lot of different ways. I loaded my chapters onto a critique website and got feedback from a bunch of random strangers on the internet. In turn, I’d read their stuff and give them feedback. That format taught me how to better take criticism, whether that meant swallowing my pride and killing my darlings, or if it meant disregarding their comments because they were so far from my target audience that I had to filter some of their comments as irrelevant.

It also had the added benefit of teaching me how to give feedback. This is a learned skill. I’ve searched enough for useful beta readers to know that not everyone has that skill. It’s not just about reading it and giving a thumbs up or thumbs down. Good feedback only comes when the reader is able to identify that something in the writing isn’t sitting right with them, then identifying WHY that is, and then being able to come up with a possible solution. On top of all of that, they have to have the ability to articulate all of that information to the person whose work they are critiquing.

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Indie Author Hurdles

The past couple weeks I’ve been doing my best to write the blurb for my next book. If you’re familiar with my ramblings, you probably know that I have a hard time with that particular aspect of preparing to publish. How do I make my story sound amazing and enticing, while also being completely honest about what kind of book it is and what people should expect, but without sharing so much information that it lands in spoiler territory? I’m crossing my fingers that it looks something like this:

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The Genius in the Walls

Creativity.

That elusive, fickle, fiendish angel that all artists seek and grasp for and long to hold on to.

Sometimes we call it the muse. Or inspiration. Sometimes we see it as a benevolent wisp or magic, empowering us and sending the thing we create into a higher, more transcendent space. It is our saving grace, making us brighter and better.

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The Way We See Ourselves

My sister visited me last week. We got into a conversation about how we grew up, what our relationships were like with our siblings then, and what they are now. How much we know each other, how much we don’t.

That led to a discussion about how I view myself as an adult. I was an emotional and very sensitive kid, and I think that led me to believe that I would be an emotionally needy adult. But now, looking back on close to twenty years of adulting, it surprises me to realize how comfortable I am being emotionally independent. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I just really need a hug from my husband, but I don’t feel the need to reach out to people very often. I don’t know if that’s an introvert thing, or a social thing, or something else. Regardless, I’ve decided that it’s not a good thing or a bad thing, it’s just different from what I expected I would become.

I wonder how many times we do that to ourselves. How often do we pigeon hole ourselves into a space that we think we fit—or that we think others expect us to occupy—without ever realizing that that isn’t us, at least not anymore.

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I Choose You—NEW Deleted Scene

I’ve got a new deleted scene for you all to enjoy! This one comes from All That Stands Between Us, and it’s an alternate version of Julie and Drew’s reunion.

To read it in its entirety, you’ll have to subscribe to my newsletter to get access to all my extras. If you’ve already subscribed, check your email inbox for my latest letter. If you have GMAIL, it will be in your Promotions folder.

Here’s the beginning…

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