Are Independent Book Awards Worth It?

Several months ago I entered the second book in my YA mystery series, Barn Shadows, into two indie book award competitions. Each had an entry fee somewhere between the $50 and $100 range which seemed a somewhat extravagant price to pay considering how little indie authors are paid.

I debated for a few days, wondering if I should roll the dice…

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On the one hand, the entry fees could be a waste of money–funds I could have spent on promotions or a new pair of shoes. On the other hand, what if my book won? It’s always difficult to get people to leave reviews for the second book in a series. Maybe an award would shine a spotlight on my book. Then there’s my need for validation. Friends and family will often tell me my books are great, but I never really know if they’re just being nice. To have independent and unrelated judges choose my book would be a true testament to quality.

Because I’ve had success in the past (my YA mystery, Trail of Secrets, was nominated for best First Novel in the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards), I decided to make the investment.

Chanticleer InstagramLast week, I discovered Barn Shadows has been shortlisted in the Chanticleer Paranormal Book Awards! It was a thrilling boost to learn that my little book made it through the slush pile and onto the shortlist. Even if it doesn’t win first place (the winner will be announced on April 21st), the fact that it made it onto the shortlist of twelve books provided me with much-needed validation. Additionally, letting potential readers know that a book has been nominated gives an author something new to promote and might encourage readers to choose one book over another. With over 2,000,000 books published each year, every advantage counts.

I’m still waiting for the results from the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Whether or not Barn Shadows makes the cut, entering these awards was worth it for me. These awards do more than just boost an author’s ego. They provide validation, encouragement, recognition, and differentiation in an industry that is so often full of negativity and rejection. I encourage other indie authors to enter their books in whatever writing competition is appropriate for them. What’s the worst that can happen? Your book doesn’t win? Who cares? No one has to know…unless you win!

Don’t know where to start? Here’s a list I put together of few well-known indie book award organizations. (Hint:  Make sure you enter your book in the right category!) A quick Google search in your genre of choice will lead you to many more options. Good luck!

INDIE Foreword

Next Generation Indie Book Awards

National Indie Excellence Book Awards

Chanticleer Book Awards

Feathered Quill Book Awards

Independent Publisher Book Awards

Readers Favorite Book Awards

 

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Writing with a Grateful Heart

GratitudeFor my first post of 2018, I thought I’d write about one of my New Year’s resolutions–to be grateful everyday. In all aspects of my life I’m making a conscious effort to be grateful for what I have, rather than focusing on what I wish I could change, or comparing myself to others who (seemingly) have more than me. I’ve learned from others who are wiser than me that being grateful is one of the easiest ways to be happy. Gratitude forces me to focus on the positive rather than the negative. I’m a big believer that positive energy attracts more positive things into my life, and vice versa.

I’m extending my mindful gratitude to my writing journey. Those of us who write knowDeepak-Chopra-gratitude-quote how easy it is to get down about the business, dwell on slow book sales and rejections, or wonder why certain friends refuse to read our books. None of those thoughts are productive, though. So, instead, I’ve gotten into the habit of writing down five things I’m grateful for every day. Here’s an example of one of my writing-related gratitude lists (For the purpose of this post, I’ve added explanations after each item):

  1.  Winning NaNoWriMo–I finished the month of November with a complete first draft of my newest novel, coming in at just over 50,000 words. Rather than focusing on the many revisions and additions that await me in the coming months, I’m choosing to be grateful that I completed the challenge and that I have an exciting new setting, story, and characters to work with.
  2. Signing with a literary agent–A few months ago, I finally signed with a literary agent in New York. I’m grateful that she took the time to read my manuscript and that she saw something special in it. I’m grateful every time I receive an email from her because I know she’s working hard to help me find the best publisher for my book.
  3. Having a supportive husband and family–This one is self-explanatory. They seriously never give up on me!
  4. Contributing to Anthology–I was asked to contribute a short story featuring a character from my books to an anthology compiled by my publisher. I’m grateful that I was included and that I finished the first draft of that short story earlier today.
  5. Working in a home office–After years of working in an office building wearing uncomfortable suits and high-heeled shoes, I’m so thankful every time I sit down in front of my computer wearing jeans and a sweatshirt in order to do something I love. One of the best perks? I get to work with my sweet dog by my side and take Frisbee breaks. It doesn’t get much better than that!

The things I’m grateful for don’t need to be big events or life-changing news. Some examples from last week–I wrote 500 words today, I found a writing conference I’d like to attend, or someone left a positive review of my book on Amazon. When I don’t have time to write these things down, I’ve found just thinking about them during a quiet moment is equally as effective.

Have you practiced gratitude in your writing? What were the results?

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#NaNoWriMo is Almost Here!

Shield-Nano-Blue-Brown-RGB-HiResIs it possible to write a novel in a month? That’s 50,000 words in thirty days. It’s an intimidating goal, but also one that makes my heart pound faster, as glimpses of soon-to-be-created characters and plot twists dance in my head. For the last few weeks I’ve been gearing up for the challenge of National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo, for short). It’s a test I’ve participated in three times before–each time leading (eventually) to the completion of a full-length novel.

As a goal-oriented person, NaNoWriMo is exactly what I need to get myself in a chair and spewing out words from my keyboard. Most writers agree that the first draft is the tallest hurdle when writing a novel. NaNoWriMo forces me to produce the words, and not worry about whether they’re perfect the first time–they won’t be! The months following the whirlwind thirty-day challenge will provide plenty of time for revisions, but at least there will be something to work with.

Another reason I’m a big believer in NaNoWriMo is because it’s worked for me in the past. To be completely honest, I’ve fallen short of reaching my 50,000 word goal in 30 days every time. Last time, I ended up with 27,530 words. BUT…of the three novels I began during NaNoWriMo, two are now published with a small press in Minnesota, and the third is sitting with a literary agent in New York, looking for a bigger home. I’m hooked! pearson-creative-writing

So, how does one prep for NaNoWriMo? I’ve learned from past experience that I’m a “planner” not a “panster”–meaning I need a plan before I start writing, in contrast to some writers who write by the seat of their pants. (How do they do that?) This year, I have a rough outline completed, as well as character sketches of the main characters. Additionally, I’ve done some preemptive research into some unfamiliar subject matters featured in my new book. Finally, I’ve logged into my NaNoWriMo account and “created” my new novel so that once November 1st arrives, I can track my daily word count. My goal will be to write at least 1,785 words per day–that’s based on 50,000 words in 28 days. I subtracted a day for Thanksgiving and a couple of weekend days when I know I won’t get any writing accomplished.

Another way I prepare is by finding writing “buddies” on NaNoWriMo.org. That way, we can cheer for each other and even engage in some friendly competition. I’m always looking for new writing buddies, so please friend me if you are doing NaNoWriMo this year (username LWolfeWrites). I’d love to connect! You can use NaNoWriMo to find local writers in your geographic area by selecting your “home region” on the website. I can’t believe all of the events that are happening at my local library.

I probably won’t be writing any blog posts in the month of November–for obvious reasons–but I will check in to share my results after NaNoWriMo is over. Good luck and happy writing!

A New House and Other Updates

New homeI haven’t posted in a while due to my family’s move this summer. Nothing interrupts a writer’s flow quite like selling one house, buying another, and relocating a family of four (plus our dog) and all of our stuff. It was a huge undertaking. Our new house (originally built in 1931) remains a work-in-progress, but we are all unpacked and my home office is set up. We now live in Ann Arbor, MI, where my husband and I both went to school at the University of Michigan. After living in a small town for the last seven years, it has been amazing to return to a city with so much to offer, especially when it comes to the arts. Just yesterday, I participated in the Kerrytown Bookfest where I got to mingle with readers and fellow writers while selling and signing my books. Sitting next to me was none other than Jack Cheng, author of See You in the Cosmos. So cool! I got to chat with him about writing and publishing, and bought a signed copy of his book for me and my kids to read. Obviously, he was selling way more books than me, but seeing his success and the way readers flocked to his book inspired me to keep going.

 

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A few scenes from the Kerrytown Bookfest

Now that we’re all moved in and our kids are back in school, I’m finally getting back to writing. What’s next? The idea for my newest project has been percolating in my brain all summer:  an adult suspense/thriller novel involving a woman who lives in a tiny house, her dead husband, a missing hotel worker and lots of secrets. I’ve developed the characters and written a general outline to give me a roadmap to follow. Now all I need to do is write the darn thing! I was going to wait until November (NaNoWriMo), but I may not be able to wait until then. There will be many updates to come…

 

Speaking of updates, it’s time for me to check in with the results of my Summer Reading List. Here we go…I read 8 of the 12 books on my list (plus two that weren’t on the list):Summer Reading Images

The Girls by Emma Cline, Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty, All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda, Into the Water by Paula Hawkins, The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman, Ride Every Stride by Amy Maltman, Showdown by Brittney Joy, and The Dogs Who Found Me by Ken Foster.

The two extras were:  The Lying Game by Ruth Ware and Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica.

Oddly, the last two that weren’t on my list were my favorites, but I also devoured Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty. I found all of the books I read to be enjoyable. There weren’t any major disappointments, but I didn’t love The Girls by Emma Cline as much as I thought I was going to. While it was beautifully written, the subject was too disturbing for me. As for the four books I didn’t get to yet, I’m still going to read those, too. I ran out of time! For more on what I’m reading, feel to friend or follow me on Goodreads. It’s always fun to see what others are reading.

Until next time, keep reading (and writing). I’ll be checking in a lot more often in the coming months!

 

Courageous Heroines of YA! (Blog Hop)

Courage QuoteAs part of April’s Kickass Girls of YA blog hop event, I’m writing a post about what I love in my favorite YA heroines. So many admirable traits make for strong female characters in YA fiction: cunning, intelligence, physical strength, empathy and loyalty, to name a few. But for me, one trait stands out more than the others, perhaps because there are so many varieties of it. I’m talking about courage.

I enjoy reading and writing about courage because it first requires knowing the character’s vulnerabilities. Ambrose Redmoon says, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” John Wayne stated it more simply when he said, “Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.” That quote always makes me smile because it reminds me of my main character, Brynlei. (Literally!) She is terrified of breaking promises, drawing attention to herself and disappointing people, yet she abandons all decorum when she gallops her horse into the off-limits forest in the middle of a horse show in the name of something “more important than fear.”

Few things make a reader connect more with a heroine than knowing what terrifies her. When a character then has to face those fears, the reader is left with no choice but to pull for her. The recipe for a courageous heroine is simple–the main character possesses a weakness, fear or phobia, and then is placed in a situation where she has to choose between letting the fear overtake her, or facing down her weakness and doing the right thing. Obviously, she’s going to take the second option because she’s a kickass girl of YA!

I also love courage because–just like our favorite heroines–it comes in many varieties. Of course, there’s the high-action courage we all love–the female dragon slayers and the girls who try out for the all-male football teams who risk their physical health–or even their lives–by taking on opponents much larger than themselves. This kind of bold courage is exciting and fun to read, not to mention empowering.

There’s also the “taking a stance” kind of courage–the girl who sacrifices her social status by standing up for the new kid who’s getting bullied by the popular crowd, or the girl who finally walks out of an abusive relationship, or the one who organizes a rally to save the dying whales. Often these characters know they’ll be judged harshly by their peers or society, but they find the strength to stay true to themselves and their values. Who wouldn’t want to root for these heroines?

Quiet CourageThen there’s a more subtle kind of courage:  the girl who has never spoken out in class before decides to raise her hand. The introvert who feels insecure in front of others tries out for the school play. Or the one whose parents tell her she’ll never amount to anything resolves to focus on her studies every day, quietly charging toward a better life. I love this kind of complex and understated courage, too.

Ultimately, kickass heroines are courageous in their own ways. No matter what type of courage they embody, they all decided that something else was “more important than fear.” This is what makes them #kickassgirlsofya to me.

Who are your favorite YA heroines? What fears did they overcome in order to demonstrate their courage?

Now visit the other bloggers in this BLOG HOP!

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BARN SHADOWS Release Day!

Today is the Day for my Book Release!

barnshadows42737The second book in my YA mystery “Dark Horse” series–BARN SHADOWS–is now available in PRINT and KINDLE and on KOBO!

While BARN SHADOWS can stand alone, I recommend reading Book One–TRAIL OF SECRETS–first because the second book gives away the ending of the first book.

BARN SHADOWS Back Cover Blurb:

A year after her tumultuous exit from the prestigious Foxwoode Riding Academy, seventeen year-old Brynlei returns determined to confront her demons and win Foxwoode’s elite Top Rider Award. When she stumbles over an antique doll at the construction site of a new barn, a series of inexplicable occurrences force her to question whether her condition as a “Highly-Sensitive Person” is to blame or if something more sinister is at play.

As Brynlei becomes consumed with discovering the history of the unearthed doll, the bizarre happenings escalate to dangerous levels. She soon realizes that someone close to her is lying. But who? Could a decades-old tragedy and the threatening events at Foxwoode be more closely entwined than she ever imagined?

Watch the BARN SHADOWS Book Trailer on YouTube!

Thanks for stopping by and supporting my books!

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The Real Life Horses that Inspired My Writing

One of the most fun things about writing my Dark Horse series has been bringing to life the horses on the pages. While some of the equine characters in Trail of Secrets and Barn Shadows are purely fictional, others are based on actual horses I’ve met, ridden, known or loved over the years.

Louie
Louie

Let’s start with the leading man…er, gelding, Jett. During the time I was writing Trail of Secrets, I was half-leasing a wonderful appendix named Louie. Louie was a beautiful dark bay/black gelding full of personality and spunk. He wasn’t always easy to ride, but my riding improved dramatically during the year that I rode him. Saying goodbye to him was so difficult that I actually took a year off from riding after I stopped leasing Louie. He was THAT special. Jett is based on a combination of Louie and the horse I owned as a teenager, Snowman. While not black (obviously), Snowman was about as full of personality as a horse could be. Owning him was the culmination of all my childhood dreams. Whenever I write about Brynlei’s bond with Jett, I find myself reaching back into my memories of my love for Snowman.

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My Snowman

Anna’s feisty mount, Rebel, is also based on a few spunky chestnuts I’ve known. Before

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Edoras

Louie, I half-leased a mare named Edoras. She gave me a run for my money alright. Edoras taught me how to ride a “Whooa!” horse (Elbows bent, shoulders back, bend her in!) I’ve known other horses like Rebel, too. There’s currently a horse at the barn where I ride named Zara. She’s a sweetie, but has an accelerator that can take even the most experienced rider on an “exciting” trip around the ring. What is it about chestnuts?

In Barn Shadows, two new horses are introduced into the mix–Patches and Amigo. Patches is a beautiful Paint pony ridden by a new character, Bethany. The pony is based on an actual pony named Patches owned by my friend and her daughter (pictured below). The real-life Patches is a wonderful teacher, as is the Patches in the book. And both ponies are easy on the eyes…Don’t you agree?

An odd new girl named Grace joins the cast of Barn Shadows, along with her equally unusual mount, Amigo. Amigo does not possess the confirmation of the fancy hunters at Foxwoode so everyone is surprised when they witness the stocky horse’s natural jumping ability. This side storyline is loosely based on one of my favorite non-fiction books, The Eighty-Dollar Champion:  Snowman, The Horse that Inspired a Nation by Elizabeth Letts. Those of you who have read the book might see a few parallels between fictional, Amigo, and real-life, Snowman.

Sadly, I met my new favorite horse at the barn, Abby, after I’d already finished writing Barn Shadows. I’ll have to incorporate this special bay mare into my next book! Isn’t she cute?

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Abby

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the real horses behind many of the horses in my books. Until next time, happy reading, writing and riding!