Category Archives: Sincerely Yours

#Goals

I always have a goal in mind when I write. Since I have never been wealthy, there are things that I want (and even need), and writing is an enjoyable means to acquiring those extras.

Writing The Guardian Trilogy was a steep learning curve. My main goal was to publish. At that time, it didn’t occur to me that I could make a profit.

The Yours by Design series paid for new floors in my house, as well as expenses associated with my younger daughter’s wedding and a trip to Japan to see my older daughter and her family.

By that time, I had caught on that having a set goal in mind helped to push me to write. When I started working on Understanding Elizabeth, I knew exactly what I wanted (and badly needed), and Saturday, my husband and I went and bought it. (Happy dance!)

I traded in my 2005 Honda Accord for a 2015 Nissan Sentra (with only 4,000 miles on it)! Coincidentally, my sixty-third birthday is this Sunday, so the car is a two-fer.

Happy birthday!

Thank you, readers and writing friends. Looking at the tangible evidence of my work and knowing you helped me realize my dreams gives me great joy.

Every time I drive my car, I smile and think of you.

Advertisements

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!

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!

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Books (Episode 14)

Last Friday was the final day of the craziest summer of my life. From beginning to end, the weeks were wild and wonderful.

Charlie Cook

Charlie Cook

Irises at Kintai Bridge in Iwakuni, Japan

Irises at Kintai Bridge in Iwakuni, Japan

My daughter Mandy gave birth to our first grandchild, Charlie, in Iwakuni, Japan on May 23, and my younger daughter, Melanie, and I left to visit them on June 2. Melanie and I are both teachers, and the last day of school was May 30. As soon as we were free, we hit the ground running.

After we returned home (June 18), I began teaching summer piano lessons. On July 6, I published my fifth book, Sincerely Yours, the second book in the Yours by Design series. Indie authors know how busy the weeks are just before and after publishing.

Sincerely Yours  Robin Helm

Sincerely Yours
Robin Helm

On July 9, while Melanie was in Bangladesh, I received a text followed by a call from her boyfriend.

He was planning to propose and wanted to surprise her. He had asked her to pick out a ring months before, so she had searched the internet until she found the one she wanted and sent him a picture. He needed for me to tell him her ring size. I am proud to say that I was able to keep the secret.

When they called us soon after she accepted, she was squealing and he was laughing.

Oh, yes.  She was surprised!

Oh, yes.
She was surprised!

Dylan and Melanie after she said, "Yes!"

Dylan and Melanie
after she said, “Yes!”

During the week of July 20 – 25, I worked in The Way, a church-sponsored ministry to our commmunity, and on July 26 I drove 35 miles each way to the wedding of one of my former students. I was the only one there, much to my surprise, but being the anal person I am, I had the invitation with me. When I checked it, I saw that I was a week early. Ah, the joys of being 60. Melanie went to the wedding with me the following week, and the ceremony was lovely, even if the wedding party had to run from the rain at the very end. After that wedding, Melanie and I rode around to look at reception venues for hers.

The week after they became engaged, Melanie and Dylan set a date for the wedding (June 27) and we went into full-steam-ahead planning mode. Yes, you can plan a wedding in two weeks. Knowing that we would both start back to school meetings by August 7 (and that she wouldn’t function well with all the question marks hanging over her head), we quickly booked the church, the reception venue (The Ivy Place),

The Ivy Place

The Ivy Place

the wedding director, the florist, the DJ, the caterer, the wedding cake, the photographer, the musicians, and the ministers. She called all her bridesmaids and flower girls, we bought the silk flowers for the one church decoration she wanted, and we started looking for a wedding dress. Three dress shopping trips and several upset stomachs later, she found her perfect dress on August 16 at David’s Bridal in Columbia. This past Sunday afternoon, she designed and ordered her invitations, save-the-dates, and thank you notes online. She had already set up her wedding on theknot.com, so she was able to check all that off and stay within her budget.

My trusty cell phone was with me through all that, so all of my books traveled with me. I popped to the kindle app whenever I was waiting for her and read my headaches away. I even took Laura’s Mercy’s Embrace, Book Three, The Lady Must Decide to church one Sunday. When the flute part rests for 20 measures, I can sneak in a little reading.

Mercy's Embrace Book Three The Lady Must Decide by Laura Hile

Mercy’s Embrace
Book Three
The Lady Must Decide
by Laura Hile

While all that was going on, I had new floors installed in most of my house. I love the floors, but Chloe and Toby don’t. They slip and slide around, and the noise their paws make prevents them from sneaking up on me.

Nana, I do NOT like these new floors.

Nana, I do NOT like these new floors.

I had Open House at school Sunday afternoon, and we started back yesterday. Now do you understand why I haven’t finished writing Forever Yours and I’ve been slack about blogging lately?

I’m presently setting up the Music Academy lesson schedule and looking forward to getting back into my routine. My days at school have changed to Mondays and Fridays, so my blogging and writing days are Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.

Football season starts next week. Let the games begin! I’ll be cheering for my future son-in-law and his team, the University of South Carolina Gamecocks.20140606_121814 Charlie is ready. She’ll be wearing her infant sized Gamecock jersey signed by her favorite football player and future uncle. Bows and ruffles are courtesy of Mrs. Susie Nichols. A girl must have her lace.

Go, Gamecocks!

Go, Dylan!

If you’re looking for us Thursday night, August 28, Gayle and I will be at Williams Brice Stadium, cheering for the team. Yes, we’ll be tired as we teach on Friday, but these times will soon be gone. I want to enjoy it while I can.

Sisterhood of the Traveling Books (Episode 10)

Mandy and Charlie

Mandy and Charlie

For the last two weeks, I’ve posted pictures of my trip to Japan. The reason I went to Iwakuni was to visit my daughter, her husband, and my first grandchild, Charlie Elise Cook.

My daughter’s husband is a Marine fighter pilot and had to leave for a training mission the morning after my younger daughter and I arrived, so we four girls enjoyed plenty of chick bonding. We watched movies, went shopping, visited the Kintai bridge, and indulged Mandy’s passion for renovation television shows (“The Property Brothers,” “Love It or List It,” “House Hunters,” and others).

Jon, Mandy, and Charlie

Jon, Mandy, and Charlie

I came away convinced more than ever that the 90’s called and want my house back. Tomorrow, Mel and I are going to shop for new flooring. After that’s installed, I plan to paint two porches, my office, a bathroom, and several doors.

I am now highly motivated to publish Sincerely Yours and finish Forever Yours, as well as rewrite The Guardian Trilogy, which will become The Xander Chronicles. My writing is paying for the refurbishing. (I really, really need new living room furniture, too. Right, Gayle?)

Charlie and Legacy

Charlie and Legacy

Speaking of The Guardian Trilogy, who better to photobomb Legacy than my own little legacy, Charlie. Too bad it put her to sleep.

I need your help!

I had a very interesting afternoon yesterday. After posting the latest chapter of Forever Yours (Yours by Design, Book 3) on BeyondAusten.com, I taught piano lessons. Just after 6 PM, my younger daughter and I went to First Baptist Church in Lancaster to do a photo shoot for Sincerely Yours, Book 2 in the series. The Accidentally Yours (Book 1) cover emphasized the Regency Darcy’s accident by showing the woods through which he was riding when his horse threw him. For the second book, I used the same template but changed the art drastically. I used the model for my modern Elizabeth – my daughter Melanie.

Cover for Accidentally Yours (Yours by Design, Book 1)

Cover for
Accidentally Yours
(Yours by Design, Book 1)

Tentative cover for Sincerely Yours  (Yours by Design, Book 2)

Tentative cover for Sincerely Yours
(Yours by Design, Book 2)

I thought I would use the huge white columns as a stand-in for the porch at The Oaks, Will Darcy’s plantation style home just outside Atlanta, Georgia. However, when my daughter and I went back through the pictures, we both decided on a playful shot which I could have made in my own front yard. We both think it expresses the personality of the modern Elizabeth – playful, independent, and unconventional.

What do you think? I know the print on the back cover virtually disappears, but I sell mostly e-books, and the back cover doesn’t show on Amazon or other sites. I can have only one font color, and the book title and author name are more important than the blurb on the back. The present font color is lime green, but I could change it to teal (to match her sweater), and eliminate the print on the back cover.

Sincerely Yours  (Yours by Design, Book 2)  book cover with teal font color and no back blurb

Sincerely Yours
(Yours by Design, Book 2) book cover with teal font color and no back blurb

I could also use the green font and eliminate the back cover print.

Opinions, please?