Throwback Thursday … The Age of the Curl


Last week I put up a picture from 2000 of Laura Hile, Pamela Aidan and myself. Laura’s perm got the most comments.



Here’s one from the way, way back machineBill_Sue_Will_8604232015_0001 of me in 1986 with the last vestiges of a perm. We were stone cold broke then and I had to depend on birthday money to buy the chemicals and a sister-in-law willing to  roll the perm rods for me.

Was I ever really that young? I guess pictures don’t lie. Much.

What I Have Done and Learned

4 H emblemThat title cracks me up. It was the name of the workbook we had to finish every year for 4-H Club in elementary school. My sisters and I used to laugh about it. I’m sure the wonderful 4-H people weren’t think of native rural Southern dialect. At least I hope not. “I’ve done gone and learned this!” “She’s done gone and got hitched!” “He’s done and learned how to play the geetar!”

But I digress. (How trite!)

I really have learned a great deal in the past two weeks. I always knew that nothing promotes an author’s books like writing another book, but I have actually proven it to myself. When I published Forever Yours, Yours by Design, Book 3, the other books in the series began to sell again. I’ve already started writing a new series which I hope to publish at the end of the summer.

I’ve also learned that having great betas (editors) is very important. People like the story, but many of them comment specifically on how well the books are edited. Readers are distracted by mechanical and grammatical errors, plot deviations, over-exposition, and stiff dialog. They want limited narrative sections and more interaction between the characters. They don’t like stumbling over extra words carelessly left in a passage after the author has edited.

book banner

Better covers attract more readers. With the advent of smart phones and Kindle Fire, even e-book readers get that cover, and a great cover just jumps out of that library. I like color and drama – in book covers. Not so much in life.

Which series would you buy? This set which doesn’t match?

Or would you prefer this set which does?Accidentally Yours kindle cover

Pricing is a great big hairy deal. I don’t pay more than $5.00 for an e-book (unless it’s a runaway best seller), so I don’t charge more than $4.99. As an indie author, I can’t control the price of my print books. I make the books cost as little as I can, and I put them in the Kindle Match program.

Sincerely Yours, KDP coverForever Yours, KindleIf the reader buys a print copy, she gets a Kindle copy free. To me, that’s fair. People have gotten away from having shelves full of books. Open concept modern design is all the rage, and stacks of dusty books don’t fit into that design scheme. I view it as a great compliment readers buy a print copy of my book. They are allowing my work to take up precious space in their homes.

Good formatting is essential. I don’t like to read books in which the font types and sizes are all over the place. I stopped reading a book that I really liked because the font was so huge it was distracting, even when I adjusted it as much as I could in my smartphone. There are also tricks regarding ellipses and dashes which indie authors (and traditional publishers) should learn and use so that there aren’t big chunks of space at the ends of lines. The look should be uniform throughout all the books of a series. I made those mistakes on my first series (The Guardian Trilogy) but corrected them in my second (Yours by Design). One day I’ll go back to The Guardian Trilogy, do new covers, and reformat, but that will have to wait.

I accept that there will be people who don’t like my work. I accept that some of those people will give me bad, even unfair and cruel, reviews. Most of those people have never written a book, and they have no idea how difficult it is. I’m a freight train, and I refuse to let those people derail me.

In writing, sure and steady wins the race. I’m not the type of writer who can churn out a book every two months. That saps my creativity. However, I rarely take a break from writing. I write, edit, rewrite, edit, and continue the cycle until I have something I would enjoy reading myself.

If you are a fledgling writer, hang in there. In the words of Sir Winston Churchill: “Never, never, never give up.”

Incidentally, don’t forget to enter the Forever Yours giveaway!

No one mold to break

Photo: Heather Katsoulis (Creative Commons Flickr)

Photo: Heather Katsoulis (Creative Commons Flickr)

I myself was always recognized, though quite kindly, as ‘the slow one’ of the family. The reactions of my mother and my sister were unusually quick—I could never keep up. I was, too, very inarticulate. It was always difficult for me to assemble into words what I wanted to say….It is probably one of the causes that have made me a writer.

Agatha Christie

How I smiled when I discovered this quotation. Agatha Christie, shy? Inarticulate, even? But she was one of the best-selling authors of all time. She was anything but ‘slow.’

In this busy social media age, when an author is supposed to tweet and blog and be everywhere and all that (for one must be building a platform), how refreshing it is to remember that there is no one mold to break.

As we’ve been celebrating Robin Helm’s release of Forever Yours, I’ve been thinking about how variety is an excellent thing, both in friendship and in reading.

A blessed companion is a book, a book that, fitly chosen, is a lifelong friend…
a book that, at a touch, pours its heart into our own.

Douglas Jerrold

Every writer has obstacles to overcome. Christie has given me countless hours of reading pleasure, and her books are like friends. How thankful I am that, like so many of us, she had financial needs. And that she was able to get past feeling ‘inarticulate’ and write that first book. And the next, and the next.

Except a living man there is nothing more wonderful than a book!
A message to us from the dead, from human souls whom we never saw,
who lived perhaps thousands of miles away; and yet these,
on those little sheets of paper, speak to us, teach us, comfort us,
open their hearts to us as brothers.

Charles Kingsley

Speaking of books, don’t miss Robin’s book giveaway. To enter, simply post a comment here before May 11, 2015.

Throwback Thursday

A little something from the back of a drawer I’m cleaning out:

MICHAEL_WILL_BEACH_medThis is a picture of my son and Laura’s son building a sandcastle at Cannon Beach, OR. The year is up for grabs.





And now, for the really scary pic:



This is from the summer of 2000. From left to right, Pamela Aidan, Laura Hile, and Susan Kaye. No, I’m not drunk, I just photograph that way.

We were having lunch at a tea room beneath an antiques store in North Carolina.
The place was packed, the food was good, and it was hotter than Hades.


April 14th is special because …

I’m musing today on the notable literary events that happened on this day in history.

The funniest thing in this list is the play which opened and closed on the same day – “Take Me Along.” Sad, too, because “Take Me Along” was nominated for ten Tony Awards in 1960, and Jackie Gleason won the Tony for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical. I guess the 1985 version didn’t live up to the standards set by the 1960 production.

Lincoln's assassination1828 – First American Dictionary: its author Noah Webster registers its copyright for publication.
1841 – Edgar Allen Poe’s “Murders in the Rue Morgue” published

Murders in the  Rue Morgue

Murders in the
Rue Morgue1863 – William Bullock patents continuous-roll printing press

1865 – President Abraham Lincoln is shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theater. He was viewing a performance of “Our American Cousin.”

Sherlock Holmes Jeremy Brett1887 – Start of Sherlock Holmes adventure “Reigate Squires” (BG)
1894 – 1st public showing of Thomas Edison’s kinetoscope (moving pictures)
1906 – US President Theodore Roosevelt denounces “muckrakers” in US press, taken from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress

1939 – John Steinbeck novel “The Grapes of Wrath” publishedThe Grapes of Wrath

1980 – Pulitzer prize awarded to Norman Mailer (Executioner’s Song)
The Executioner's Song

1985 – “Take Me Along!” opens/closes at Martin Beck Theater NYC

1992 – “Guys & Dolls” opens at Martin Beck Theater NYC for 1143 performances Les Miserables

1992 – “Les Miserables” opens at Palace Theatre, Manchester

2012 – J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter novels, launches her website “Pottermore”

My only claim to fame is that William Shakespeare and I have the same probable birthday, albeit nearly four hundred years apart. Oddly enough, The Bard died on that same date, 52 years later.

And she kept writing…

“Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

~ Inscription, New York City Post Office, adapted from Herodotus

Forever Yours Kindle

This week we’re celebrating Robin Helm’s release of the final book in her Yours By Design trilogy. To finish a series is a tremendous accomplishment. That’s three books in less than two years.

“Good. Now I can die.” That’s what I said when I finished writing the last Mercy’s Embrace book after what, eight summers? There is pressure on the writer of a series, oh yes.

Robin will not tell you, but Real Life did not exactly stop while Good Darcy and Evil Darcy came to life on the page.

  • Her eldest daughter married, left the service, moved to Japan, and a year later gave birth to an adorable granddaughter. Robin took ‘the trip of a lifetime’ to visit. And she kept writing.
  • Robin had five (that’s 5) part-time jobs. (Now I think she has only four.) Talk about keeping the musician and teacher plates spinning! And she kept writing.
  • She survived a massive clutter purge at home, the retrofitting of the upstairs apartment for her younger daughter, and new flooring throughout her house. And she kept writing.
  • Together with Gayle Mills and Stephanie Hamm, she helped plan, launch, and maintain the free fiction site Beyond Austen. And she kept writing.
  • At summer’s end Robin and her younger daughter (then newly-engaged) planned the wedding down to every detail. And she kept writing.
  • Football entered her life. Did she miss even one home game when her future son-in-law was playing? I don’t think so. And she kept writing.
  • Her beloved brother became ill and went home to be with the Lord. Another of her sisters is courageously battling cancer. Robin was (and is) there for them. Her sorrow is not without hope, but there is grief. And she kept writing.
  • She kept writing, even while designing the covers herself, working with beta readers and editors, and treading the labyrinth of print and ebook formatting. She. kept. writing.

“Writing a book is an endurance contest, and a war fought against yourself, because writing is beastly hard work which one would just as soon not do. It’s also a job, however, and if you want to get paid, you have to work. Life is cruel that way.”

~ Tom Clancy

Too often my own writing work is stalled by the demands of Real Life, so to see Robin’s accomplishment makes me want to stand and cheer. An endurance contest indeed. Well done, my friend, well done.

To celebrate, we’re hosting a book giveaway here at Jane Started It.To enter, simply post a comment here by May 11, 2015.

Robin isn’t content to rest on her laurels. So she’s published six books in a span of 15 months, what of it? She’s already at work outlining her next series, a young adult trilogy called Prodigy. Go, Robin!

Forever Yours Book Launch and Giveaway

Every author can identify with the joy I feel in announcing the publication of Forever Yours, Yours by Design, Book 3. I’m particularly happy about Forever Yours, because it signals the end of a two year writing project and the completion of the Yours by Design series. The other books in the series, Accidentally Yours and Sincerely Yours, were published in 2014. (See! I told you I would finish it!)

Forever Yours Kindle

Forever Yours is available on Amazon in Kindle format. The print version is also available HERE. The print and Kindle versions will be linked in a day or two.

I have just downloaded the Smashwords and Nook files for you readers who use those particular devices.

Prodigy crop

My younger daughter will marry in June, so I’m quite busy at the moment, but I am going to start a rewrite of The Guardian Trilogy this week. It will be a non-Austen, YA, strong first person variation of The Guardian Trilogy. Look for The Xander Chronicles fairly soon if you enjoy YA paranormal romance. I plan to add multiple scenes and delete others. My approach to the story will be very different. If it is successful, watch for spin-off books featuring other characters and their back stories.

I will continue to write Austen variations, as well.

And now for the giveaway information. If you’d like to enter to win a copy of Forever Yours, comment on this thread, publicize the book on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other social media. You may enter as many times as you like, but you’ll have to let me know each time you do so. The U.S. winner can choose either an autographed print copy or an e-book, and the international winner will receive a Kindle copy. Please indicate whether you are U.S. or international in your reply.

The giveaway will end on Monday, May 11, and may the odds be ever in your favor!