Decisions, Decisions

IWSG

The idea of self-publishing used to terrify me, but not for the reason one might expect. It had nothing to do with a fear of failure; as an overweight, divorced, bankrupt and often-unemployed woman nearing her fiftieth birthday, I pretty much deal with failure on a daily basis. Believe me, I could write a long and detailed blog post about all of the areas in my life where I have failed.

I fail at a lot of things, and I usually do so spectacularly.

I am not afraid of failure.

But I was afraid to be a self-published author.  You see, I heard all the horror stories. I read the warnings when I haunted the writing forums to learn what the self-published authors were talking about. I learned terms like “carpet bombing” and “Goodreads bullies” and “trolls” and I almost bailed without ever trying.

It was intimidating. No, it was terrifying to think that years of hard work and effort could all be washed down the drain for reasons that had nothing to do with writing skills — or lack thereof. I was afraid to self-publish because I was worried about ending up on the wrong side of the wrong people. I was scared of pissing off someone who might take revenge on my book, because, hey, I read about it happening all the time.

But I have never been able to resist a challenge, so I swallowed my fear and self-published Her House Divided in February of 2014. I made a lot of mistakes and I realized that I had a huge learning curve ahead of me, but it’s been a great ride. A bumpy ride, but still a  thrilling one.

And the people I was warned about? Yep, they exist. Trolls and Bullies and Whackadoodles, oh my!

But I’ve learned that those guys are the minority. A noisy minority, to be sure, but a minority nonetheless. For the most part, the world of self-publishing has turned out to be filled with helpful, supportive, and productive people who really do seem to look out for each other. I have been so warmly welcomed into the community by writers in every genre, at every different stage in their writing careers.

It’s a matter of finding the supportive people and walking away from the destructive ones.

Easier said than done, right?

Here’s how I see it. I can go to the writing forums and spend my time with the people who want to look for the negative in everything. I can argue with every writer who swears Amazon is stealing their money or lying about their sales, and I can end up embroiled in unproductive arguments about every aspect of writing and publishing. In the end, it would be sort of like arguing with a rattlesnake to convince it that it’s a garter snake — it’s an argument I can’t win, and I’ll just end up filled with venom.

Or . . . . I can surround myself with the kind of professionals who understand that we are all part of the same community.That’s been the “bumpy” part of the learning process I referred to earlier. I’ve wasted far too many hours over the past year and a half, spent far too much time around the kind of folks who are more concerned with dragging down than raising up.  

For every author who spends their time mocking a particular genre or writer, there are authors like Marysol James and Mae Martini, who are always ready to offer honest feedback and practical suggestions of what works for them.  There’s an M. Lauryl Lewis  standing by to chit-chat about marketing strategies and share her ideas.

For every author who takes delight in the poor sales of a competitor, there is a Nancy Gideon offering words of encouragement instead.  There’s a Jasinda Wilder reaching out to say “Don’t be jealous of me honey! … Just keep writing. Get the next book out because that is more room on the shelf. I’m rooting for you.”

For every angry blogger posting insults and criticisms aimed at their fellow writers, there are bloggers like Ryan Lanz, Chris McMullen and Kristen Lamb, who use their blogs to offer guidance and support to their fellow writers.  And let’s not forget that Kristen Lamb is also responsible for creating the “MyWANA” hashtag, which is there to remind us all that we are not alone.

We are not alone. That’s what Alex Cavanaugh and his Insecure Writers Support Group are all about. We share our insecurities, and our fellow writers swoop in to offer advice or encouragement, or sometimes just a bit of virtual online hand-holding when needed.

If you go into self-publishing expecting trolls and whackadoodles, chances are good that you’re going to find exactly what you’re looking for. So why not look for something better? Be something better. Surround yourself with those who lift each other up, and try to do a little lifting yourself when you can.

In the week ahead, I want to challenge all of you to step out of your comfort zone and do something nice for another writer. Share a link to someone else’s book. Leave a comment on a blog you’ve never visited before. Reach out and offer a word of encouragement to an author who’s dealing with slow sales or a bad review.

Make a choice. What kind of writer do you want to be?

This has been my monthly post for the Insecure Writers Support Group. If you are a writer struggling with insecurities or just in need of a little support, please check out this FABULOUS group of wonderful people!  http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

Ten Questions with Mae Martini (Okay, Eleven)

If you want to read a hot romance featuring a sexy cowboy, look no further than the works of Mae Martini, the subject of this week’s interview. Her books are set in Texas, which gives wonderful opportunities for shirtless cowboys on the covers. But there’s so much more to Mae than her books; she is a kind and generous author who always finds time to help out her fellow writers.

AJ: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me today, Mae. I can’t wait to find out more about you and your books, so let’s get started.

What made you want to become a writer?

MM: Vivid settings, clear images of characters complete with mannerisms and voices, at times loud, constantly invading my head, propelled me to write it all down in a spiral notebook with a pencil more than thirty years ago. By the time I was done, I had two spiral notebooks filled with an historical western romance which I put in a drawer, and got on with life. When my sons bought me a kindle for mother’s day a few years ago, I started reading e-books, and I’m not even sure how it happened, but I stumbled onto KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). I took out those two spiral notebooks and began to type the words onto my computer. I got as far as page two and realized I wasn’t going to be able to type it. Not only were some of the words faded, but I couldn’t even read my own handwriting. Fortunately, I still get those images in my head that beg to be written down. That and the love of reading motivated me to become a writer.

 AJ: I know that some of your books have some pretty steamy scenes. Okay, some AMAZINGLY steamy scenes. How do you get ready to write a scene like that – do you need to set the mood with candlelight and such, or is it just another day at the keyboard?

lovingyou

MM: Believe it or not, it is just another day at the keyboard – done, however, after days of playing it out over and over again in my mind. I also love to accurately portray the male voice in the sex scenes. Fortunately, my husband obliges me with anything I might need help in.

 AJ: Since we’re talking about “those” scenes, where do you feel the line is drawn between Erotic Romance and Erotica?

MM: I like a story with my sex. To me that is the difference between Erotic Romance and Erotica. Erotica is all about the sex. It lightly touches on character development, and doesn’t need a happy for now or happily ever after ending. Erotic Romances combine the two. Yes, there is sex, explicit sex, but there is a focus on the progression of the characters’ relationship and has a HFN or HEA ending.

 AJ:Your characters seem to fall into the age range for the “New Adult” category, which is the fastest-growing area of romantic fiction. Do you feel that your work falls into this genre? Why or why not?

MM: Good question, Amy. One I had to really think about. Aside from one of the younger supporting characters being twenty-four, my characters are over the age of twenty-five. Perhaps they are on the cusp, but I don’t think they fall into that category. They are out of college a few years, they all went through their firsts already, and they have careers.

AJ: Why did you choose to go with self-publish rather than traditional?

MM: To be honest, when I first published, I never even thought about traditional publishing. I chose self-publishing because it was the easiest and fastest route to get my books out there. I’m happy with my choice. I have complete control over my content, my only deadlines are self-imposed, and I alone own the rights to my books. So, for now, this works best for me.

AJ: You have a reputation for being the kind of author who’s always reaching out to help newbies. I know you really went out of your way to help me when I first started. So, who helped you when you were just starting? Or did you have to figure it all out on your own?

wantingyou

MM: I had to figure it out on my own, which is why I try to help others. It would have been ideal to have gotten feedback before hitting the publish button. Mistakes were made and a couple of my earlier reviews remind me of that every day, but I’m grateful for them in that I feel I have learned from them and have become more honed in my writing skills. Since then, I have learned by listening to the more experienced writers and when I find someone reaching out, I am more than happy to pay it forward.

AJ: How does your family feel about your books, or is it a deep, dark secret?

MM: No deep dark secret there. My husband and two boys were the only ones I told when I first published. I know my husband hasn’t read them, and as far as I know my sons haven’t either, at least that’s what they tell me. They also don’t go around telling any of their friends that their mother writes steamy romance novels.  I’m okay with it, they are very supportive and genuinely happy for me.

 AJ: No mention of your books would be complete without talking about the covers. They are gorgeous. Do you design them yourself?

MM: Thank you so much. I can’t take the credit. I commissioned two wonderfully talented ladies who I’d like to give a shout out to, if I may; Clarissa Yeo who designed my cowboy romance series and Melody Simmons who designed the cover for The Mobster and the Cowboy. I gave them my vision and they brilliantly and efficiently captured it.

mobster

 AJ: What are you working on right now?

MM: I’m currently working on the third book in my cowboy romance series, Needing You. It is Rory and Calista’s story. I never intended to write a series. I wanted to write about new characters, which is why I wrote The Mobster and the Cowboy right after Loving You. I love writing stories about two people coming together for the first time, about a new and exciting love. My fans have been asking for stories on supporting characters that I never intended to write about. (My fans – did I really just say that? That’s so cool). The thing is, as I write about each one, I get more and more connected to them. I’m falling in love with the cowboys I write about. Often, while I’m doing something unrelated to writing about them, one or more will pop into my head and I can hear them talking. Sometimes they are horsing around; other times they are having a heart to heart talk.  I am so grateful my fans want to read more about them, it has given me the opportunity to dig deeper.

 AJ: If you could have lunch with any “big time” author from any era, who would it be?  What would you ask?

Rosemary Rogers keeps coming to mind. It was after reading her historical romance, and first book, Sweet Savage Love that I started forming a story in my head all those years ago. The combination of the Wild West and a strong, sexy cowboy appealed to me then and it still does. I would probably ask her what was the one piece of advice she received that really resonated with her when embarking on her writing career. Would she pass that advice on now, or give a totally different piece of advice, and if so, what would it be?

AJ: What was the last good book you read, and would you recommend it to others?

MM: The last good book I read was “Immortal”, the final book in J.R. Ward’s Fallen Angels series. I loved it and would definitely recommend it. Ward is also the author of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, another series I’ve read and enjoyed. She tells hip stories about sensual male vampires and angels that can keep me so engrossed that I wind up finishing them way too fast.

AJ: Mae, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today. I wish you all kinds of luck with your new book!

MM: It was my pleasure. Thank you for having me!

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If you are an author or blogger who would like to be interviewed for “Ten Questions With –” please contact me at AuthorAJGoode@gmail.com.