Slow Year for Ebooks?

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On one of my social media sites, someone who is a book professional doing freelance work asked if it was a slow year for ebook publishing. Apparently, last year had been, but this year bites. I tossed in my 2 cents and then thought, "Hey! That's today's blog post." So here it is.

I don't think it's a slow year for ebook publishing at all though August and September have shown declining sales for the majority it seems. I think the economy, and, by extension, the proliferation of experienced professionals going freelance may be an answer.

The Economy

People are scared. They're holding onto their discretionary income so book sales are down along with sales of a lot of goods and services that are large and small luxuries.

Thousands have lost jobs. Many of those were authors and authors' spouses. Many others were professionals in the publishing industry. The end result?
  • A lot of authors scrambling to make up income shortfall by publishing as indie authors and being very conservative for what publishing tasks they will pay.
  • A lot of experienced publishing insiders like book cover artists and editors who are turning to freelance work.
Income Deficit

Readers aren't buying as much so established authors have declining incomes.

Many publishers aren't taking on new books from their stable of authors like they once did so these authors again are scrambling when an expected book contract doesn't come through or it does, but it results in a smaller advance and subsequent royalties. Many of these authors are trying to make up income shortfalls by indie publishing books.

Authors who once tried to be print published have even greater odds stacked against them so they go the indie route faster.

Shop Around

A lot of these authors described above do the publishing tasks themselves rather than outsourcing it. For established authors, because they have a following, they can usually make do with less than stellar covers because readers aren't as interested in what the cover looks like. They just want a new book from their favorite author.

First time authors may try to do it all themselves too–often with mixed results.

For those who recognize that they don't have the publishing industry skills needed to put together a successful ebook or print self-pub package, they turn to professionals. However, they're apt to shop around for the best deal on cover art, editing, etc. They want low prices too. So they go for the good deal that still allows them, hopefully, to maintain high quality.

You don't have to be a Wall Street trader to be effected by the economy. Anyone who is an author, or who seeks work from an author, needs to have an action plan to get them through this downtime.

Takeaway Truth

Don't think what's happening with the economy won't effect you. That's an underestimation you can't afford to make.

Taking Risks

4 comments:
This morning I'm pleased to shine the spotlight on my guest star Cynthia Wicklund, a fabulous author and a good friend.

You may have read The Garden Series, her popular Regency Romance novels. I know they are some of my favorite books. She has such a way with characters who are just different from the usual heroes and heroines.

What you may not know is that Cindy loves paranormal novels. Her captivating romance, Lord of Always, has a paranormal premise.

Writing Lord of Always led her to writing another paranormal--one that's dark, edgy, and full of passion, but I'll let her tell you about Thief of Souls, the book with the evocative cover shown above. After which, she's going to talk about how much courage it takes to write and publish a novel in a different genre. It takes guts to go from Bestselling Regency Romance author to Contemporary Paranormal, with the hope and prayers that paranormal readers will embrace you too.

Thief of Souls: The Blurb

Nicholas Anthony's spirit has been corrupted. A moment of spite four hundred years in the past turned him into an immortal monster. Now he is obsessed by an unnatural hunger, feasting on the good in others while seeking the good in himself. But unlike the vampire of myth, it's not the taste of blood that draws him but the very essence of his victims. The soul. Fortunately for Nicholas, the evil that dwells within him has not destroyed his conscience, his ability to care, because that in the end will be his salvation.

That and Regina Miles.

The appearance of “Nick” in Regina's life comes at a time when she is vulnerable. As a young intern in a teaching hospital, she's overworked and exhausted most of the time. Her vulnerability is the very weakness Nick intends to exploit. However, he does not reckon with Regina's strength of character or her sensitivity to what he is, despite her pragmatic nature. Most important, Nick does not recognize his own growing dependence on her, emotions so raw, so new to him that are emerging unexpectedly, emotions that can end his purgatory.

Taking Risks
by Cynthia Wicklund

I’m about to embark on a brave new adventure. No, it’s not becoming an Indie Author. I already did that almost exactly one year ago.

On September 20, 2010, I pushed the button to upload my first independent novel, a Historical Romance entitled In the Garden of Temptation onto Smashwords. The only emotion I clearly remember feeling at that moment was a rising sense of panic. What had I gotten myself into?

Had I known what the next twelve months had to offer, I would have been more excited and more confident. I’ve sold books, thousands of them. I’ve got readers. Imagine! I’ve even made a little money. So I should be thrilled about my latest release. Shouldn’t I?

I uploaded Thief of Souls, my newest novel, yesterday. Today, it's live on Kindle, and I’m as nervous as I was with that first book.

A Twist Within A Twist

Thief of Souls is a twist on a modern vampire romance, with an additional twist on the “Beauty and the Beast” theme as well, since the beast's ugliness resides within rather than on the outside. His hope for redemption comes not from being loved by another but from discovering his own ability to love. Needless to say, it’s just a tad different from my other published novels.

So the question becomes: how do I make the transition from one genre to the next, especially when my new story is so unlike anything I’ve published before? My readers are used to my Historicals, and I worry about disappointing those who have kindly supported me over the last year.

To Pseudonym Or Not

The most obvious approach is to use a pseudonym. Then I wouldn’t have to be concerned about confusing my readers. I’ve given that option serious consideration. And it is the path a lot of writers take. However, I believe many readers are like me; they shift from genre to genre, reading all kinds of books, and they’re more likely to try an author they already know, even if it’s not the author’s usual fare. And romance readers are especially eclectic in their tastes.

Risk, Rationalization, Reality
It’s a risk whichever path I take. I know firsthand the difficulty of being found by readers when a book is tossed onto the market by a complete unknown. There is a huge amount of material out there, many, many choices. Without excellent promotion, the right book cover, etc., not to mention a whole lot of luck, the book may never be discovered.

Thus I’ve decided to use my name, hoping that it will bring me some notice through my published novels. I’m also hoping that those who have read and enjoyed my other stories will give me a chance with this new direction my writing has taken. To be clear, I’m not giving up my Historicals; I love them too much. I simply want to write in other genres as well, especially urban fantasy and supernatural.

So, here’s to taking risks. After all, where would I be today if I hadn’t pushed that first button on September 20, 2010?

Still just dreaming. . . .

Takeaway Truth

Cynthia, thank you for sharing your journey and your fear. I'd like to add that if you hadn't acted in spite of your fear last year, you'd still be dreaming--instead of being on the Kindle Regency Historical Romance bestseller lists.

Understanding ISBN

4 comments:
Let me see if I can shed some light on ISBN (International Standard Book Number) because there seems to be a lot of confusion about this relatively straightforward subject.

I've already posted information about ISBN on my FAQ by Joan page on SlingWords. I'll add this post to that information also. (See list of pages at the top of the far right sidebar.)

Most of you probably know that I publish on all the popular platforms so I do know something about which I'm talking.

What Writers Need To Know

The International Standard Book Number or ISBN, as it's popularly called, is a unique numeric commercial book identifier based upon a 9-digit Standard Book Numbering (SBN) code created by Gordon Foster, Emeritus Professor of Statistics, Trinity College, Dublin. The number, which was basically for inventory control, was created in 1966 for booksellers and stationers W.H. Smith as well as others.

From that, a 10-digit ISBN format was developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). That was published in 1970 as ISO 2108. Then, in January 2007, a 13-digit ISBN was created, a format that is compatible with Bookland EAN-13s. (A similar numeric identifier called ISSN, International Standard Serial Number, is used to identify periodical publications.

Sometimes, particularly with self-published books, a book may appear without an ISBN, but this can be corrected if needed at a later date.

In the United States, R.R. Bowker is the Agency of the International Standard Book Numbering Convention, as approved by the International Organization for Standardization.

That means you obtain your ISBN from them whether we're talking a big NY publisher or you, an indie author. Prices for ISBN vary based on how many you buy. If you buy one, it's $125.00. If you buy a block of 10, it's $250.00, a significant savings.

Probably More Than You Want To Know

(Wikipedia defines: "Bookland is a term used to refer to the Unique Country Code (UCC) prefix allocated in the 1980s for EAN identifiers of published books, regardless of country of origin, so that the EAN space can catalog books by ISBN rather than maintaining a redundant parallel numbering system.")

Publishers in other countries obtain ISBNs from their local ISBN Agency. If interested, you can view a directory of these countries on the International ISBN Agency website.

What You Need To Remember

1. Print books cannot be stocked without an ISBN, and some digital bookstores, like Apple, will not stock ebooks without an ISBN.

2. You do NOT need an ISBN for: Kindle, Nook, All Romance eBooks, or Smashwords website sales--meaning no Smashwords Premium catalog distribution.

Amazon and Nook both assign their own Product Number as does Smashwords for
the Smashwords sales site.

3. All Romance eBooks has their own numbering system if you don't have an ISBN. When you register with All Romance, they will assign a specific numbering template just for you then you keep track of the numbers within that system that you use.

4. The only time you need an ISBN is if you want to sell to Sony, Kobo, ScrollMotion, and Apple Bookstores. Most writers do this because they are outlets to which Smashwords distributes. You can use the free ISBN offered by Smashwords to achieve this distribution. That means that Smashwords is then listed as the publisher of your book when it appears for sale at those outlets.

5. If you don't wish to distribute via Smashwords for whatever reason, then you can pay a company to distribute for you. With some retailers like the Apple Bookstores, you simply have to jump through too many loops and pay a rather large fee to distribute to them directly. Some companies like Bookbrewer will provide the ISBN as part of their fee or either as a separate fee (be sure to ask), or you can purchase your own ISBN so that you are listed as the publisher.

6. If you want to purchase an ISBN, you must do so through Bowker since they are the registered company for the U.S. It's easy to set up a publisher account which is what you are if you are an author publishing your own ebooks or print books.

7. Do NOT buy a single ISBN because it's horribly expensive. Buy a block of 10 ISBNs for $250. Twenty-five bucks a pop is reasonable. Chances are you will use all 10 eventually. There's no expiration date on ISBN.

8. A different ISBN is required for each print edition, i.e., hardcover, softcover, etc. Therefore, Bowker holds the same to be true for ebooks in regards to different formats, i.e. .mobi, .epub, .pdf, etc.

9. If you follow Bowker's guidelines to the letter, then you would need to purchase a different ISBN for each electronic format. That's very expensive.

My Plan

I talked to a rep from Bowker, and I asked questions of friends like Marie Force who bought her own ISBN. I came up with this plan for me.

I'm no expert, but I'd say purchase an ISBN for only one format that can be used at all the distribution outlets that take the same format. That seems to be .epub based on my research, but do your own research first so you'll know for which format you wish to obtain an ISBN.

Personally, I don't plan to use an ISBN for Kindle because Amazon has their proprietary Product ID number. I may keep my Nook books with the B&N Product ID number too.

I will not use ISBN for All Romance eBooks even though one of the formats I offer there for my books is an epub file. I prefer using the numbering system they assigned for me because it can cover all the formats I offer there.

I'll keep the Smashwords ISBN on the books I leave to be distributed from their own website and to any outlet that I can't reach with Bookbrewer.

Takeaway Truth

To be successful, an author must not only write good books but also understand the business of book publishing and selling.

Note: If SlingWords helps you get ahead, please consider buying one of my books (Written Wisdom is perfect for writers--readers too!) or making a donation by clicking the button below or, perhaps subscribe, for only $.99 per month to the Kindle Edition of SlingWords. Thank you for your moral support and any monetary support you see fit to contribute.

Help To Delete Accounts

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Account Killer is a website whose time has come. It helps you delete all those online accounts you don't use any more.

Just about every website that offers a service asks you to create an account. We merrily traipse through the internet creating accounts here and there. After a while, we end up with more accounts than we can possibly manage.

If you don't use those accounts regularly, it's a good idea to delete them because if a site gets hacked, your registration data is at risk.

Unfortunately, sometimes it's hard to figure out how to delete an online account. I know I've spent as much as an hour wading through TofS, FAQs, and Site Maps looking for those instructions.

AccountKiller has directions on how to close accounts for dozens of online services. They even have a search box, if you need something more esoteric than instructions for closing Facebook, or any of the other popular apps.

You might find it interesting to read their ease of cancellation ratings for websites. In fact, you might want to check it before you sign up for something. That way if you want out, you'll know whether it will take an act of God to get the account deleted. In some cases, it might be better just to pass them by without registering.

Takeaway Truth

Be wary where you spread your private data. Sometimes, it's hard to get it removed.

Music

6 comments:
There is no attribution to the wise person who once said: "Music is what feelings sound like. "

I love that because I think that is a very true statement. Music
affects us on an elemental level. We listen, and we "feel" particular emotions because of the music--anger, happiness, seduction, love, etc.

We
associate certain feelings with the music we hear, but music also calls forth certain memories. If you are of a certain age, when you hear the Stones or Third Eye Blind or Josh Groban, you travel back in time to when you were younger and listened to that music regularly. You feel the emotions from that era. Music draws memories and emotions from us.

Backstory

I've been working with my new computer for almost 3 months now, but I haven't had the time to get my music set up on it.

You see, I write to music most times when I'm doing first draft copy, but not when I'm doing revisions and editing. There are some songs that just fit the story or perhaps the mood of a particular scene or characters so I often listen to a particular song over and over as I write. Drives my husband crazy.

All these weeks with my new computer, I've been trying to write without benefit of music. Suddenly, I began to wonder if that's why the "flow" just wasn't flowing.

Sure, I've had a lot of interruptions, complications, and emergencies since May which have resulted in delay after delay. Each time I would come back to my writing, I'd have great difficulty with connecting with the story and characters. Naturally, I started to think music might help.

Dumb Techno Dweeb

Bright person that I am, I decided to plug in my iPod, get the new computer authorized, and recover my music. Instead, I somehow wiped out the entire contents of my iPod. Fortunately, I have a backup of it, but I don't have the time to learn what to do to get it back on my new PC and iPod--and probably not the patience or know-how either. Honestly, after erasing it all one time, I'm scared to mess with it. I'll leave that for my DH to do.

Had To Have Music

Disgusted with that turn of events, I just grabbed every CD I could find and loaded them all on my computer, including my new Adele CD. At last, I had music. Guess what? The writing got easier. Call it habit or inspiration or mood music or whatever. I just know it helps my words flow.

Takeaway Truth

For me, writing something emotional means listening to what emotions sound like.

Perfect Day

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I just got back from a "fly-in" in the Texas Hill Country. About 35 planes and 1 black helicopter arrived from all parts of the state.

Last year we had a Life Flight chopper here that provided a wealth of education about the crew that mans these emergency aircraft. Amazing how tiny the space is for a patient on a stretcher.

We had a great time walking around and chatting up the pilots as we examined their planes. Some were real beauties. I was going to post some pics, but my computer here is a rescue desktop that hasn't got all the drivers restored so it won't read my SD card yet.

Instead, I've posted a picture of the police / fire / air / marine / weather scanner I won. Woo hoo! I have a new toy. You better believe I'll have a character listening to a police scanner in some future story. Of course, if I'd known today was my lucky day, I'd have bought a Lotto ticket. Still, I'm pretty happy with a cool scanner for my 1 dollar ticket purchase.

We had a great lunch of BBQ brisket, cole slaw, ranch beans, and ice tea. (In the South, we don't say iced tea. It's ice tea.) Great lunch, lots of fun, and a door prize to boot! Great company since my husband, our daughter, and daughter's fiance were here to share the day.

Takeaway Truth

Perfect day.

Protector by Laurel Dewey

2 comments:
My To Be Read stack is mountainous. That's why I just got around to reading Protector, by Laurel Dewey, a book I've had on my Kindle since February.

Protector is the first of the Jane Perry series, and it is not a cozy, armchair read, but a book that will alternately keep you on the edge of your seat and disgust you. At times you want to shout at the character's refusal to overcome the horrible abuse of her past, and at other times, you feel her pain and are moved to tears.

Compelling Protagonist

Admittedly, Jane Perry walks a razor-edge of sanity, and sometimes she slips just for a moment and acts reprehensibly before recovering. She's a complete and utter mess and sees no redemption in sight.

Jane Perry is deeply flawed and has nothing in her life except an equally-flawed brother and her job as a cop, a job at which she excels. She has something else, but that's something she tries very hard to pretend doesn't exist. I won't tell you what that is, but it adds another dimension to the story.

Realistic Setting

I'm a radical non-smoker thanks to a childhood lived with smoking parents so this book was tough going for me. The author is so good at setting and description that I could almost smell the stale cigarette smoke that inhabits Jane's world and smell the stale booze from the empty bottles and cans that litter her home like refuse in the gutter.

Final Analysis

This was not an easy book to read, but it was so compelling that I couldn't put it down once I'd started. Now that I've finished, I find myself thinking about Jane and hoping that she finds some peace in her turmoil of a life. In fact, I think I must buy the next books in the series to see if Jane finds redemption. If anyone deserves a bit of serenity, it's Jane Perry.

Takeaway Truth

Well-written with finely-drawn characters, realistic setting, tight plotting, and taut suspense. If you're looking for a different kind of suspense thriller, Protector is it.

Free Newsletter--Subscribe Now

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Today, I started something new on SlingWords--a subscription newsletter called Writing Hacks.

Look over at the top of the right sidebar and see that label that reads: FREE Newsletter. Below that, you'll see a hyperlink entitled "Writing Hacks by Joan Reeves."

Click that, and it will take you to a signup form for a free newsletter to be delivered by email about once a week. At this time I'm thinking I'll mail it out on Wednesday each week to see how that works for everyone.

Every little newsletter will have a tip, trick, shortcut, method, or explanation about how to accomplish some aspect of writing, reading, or books. Of course, I'll probably emphasize ebooks since that's what occupies most of my time.

When you signup, you can select whether you want to be categorized as a writer only, a reader only, or both. I'll use this information to customize Writing Hacks and to launch another newsletter that's in the design stage right now as well as to customize the mailing list to send special offers based on the information you supply. I have a lot of things on the launch pad.

Update Preferences

I've been playing with the hyperlink and the newsletter app for a couple of days. I put it on the blog just to see if it worked, and people started signing up.

If you signed up before today at 6 PM CDT, you may want to go back and update your preferences since I didn't get everything finalized until shortly before the first issue went out. Of course, you can always change your preferences or unsubscribe at any time.

I follow all anti-spam laws plus you have my word that I will NEVER share or sell your email address.

Takeaway Truth

The Internet offers a lot of free information. Take advantage of this when you find something that fits your needs.

Lesson In Persistence

12 comments:
This morning my guest is Diana Rubino, author of 18 historical and paranormal novels published by The Wild Rose Press and Moongypsy Press, where she is also an Acquisitions Editor.

You can also find Diana at her blog, DianaRubinoAuthor.

Her latest novel is A Necessary End,a paranormal about John Wilkes Booth and the plot to kill Lincoln. Unfortunately, for ebook readers, this is a print edition.

Diana's story is one of persistence. Here she is to tell it.

A Lesson In Persistence
by Diana Rubino

My story will inspire you to push on, if nothing else will. I'm probably the longest aspiring author to finally get published. My journey took 18 years. I wrote my first novel in 1982. Although my third or fourth novels came close to getting published with Harlequin, they didn't quite make it. My first published novel was actually the ninth one I'd written. Although I now have a great agent with whom I signed with her two years ago, I had 2 agents before becoming published: one retired; the other gave up. So I made my sales on my own.

I'd like to tell any aspiring authors who are frustrated because it's taking them 3, 4, 5 or more years to get that first contract, remember: I wrote for 18 years before getting the call so never give up!

My Backstory

I thought the way to publication would be to write short stories and get recognition that way, but my former journalism prof told me to forget that, and write a novel. The idea scared me to death, but he sent me titles of a bunch of how-to books, and I hunkered down and began. I quit my full time job, a bold move, and started the first draft of my first novel in 1981, at age 24.

Although I wrote and worked hard for many years, toward the very end, a year before my publication, I'd begun to realize publication wasn't my destiny, so I chose another endeavor. I started studying for a master's degree in archaeology.

Writing = Inventory

Because I kept writing through all those years of rejection, I've amassed quite an inventory. I love American history, so I've written a few books set in the U.S. – Colonial, Civil War, turn of the century, Prohibition, and the early 1960s. I've also written a few paranormals – ghost novels and time travels. My latest work is a chick lit vampire romance set on an Italian cruise ship. (I'd love to write a biography of Mayor Frank Hague of Jersey City, who was very good friends with my great grandmother in the 1930s. If only she'd kept a journal!)

Internet Intervened

I wouldn't be published if it wasn't for the internet. I met many great authors and made some wonderful friends at RWA and RT conferences, and I also increased my confidence to great levels at the editor/agent appointments.

Networking on the Internet helped me achieve my goal of publication. That's where I met my publisher, through Lisa Hamilton, another author I'd met on the CompuServe Romance Forum.

What I Learned

What surprised me most about the publishing business is that it's very hard to be recognized. You really have to work on promotion as well as writing. I've read many differing opinions on this, but I do believe you should promote as much as time allows, without taking away writing time. I have a website, a mailing list, and attend as many signings and conferences as possible.

But you have to be realistic; it's not easy to shoot up to #1. I'd had delusions of being on talk shows and seeing my name on the NYT bestseller lists after my first novel.

My Process

I take a year to finish a book, between research and writing. I've never had a deadline from a publisher, but I'd once sent an agent the first 3 chapters of my vampire romance. He said he'd like to see the entire ms., so I wrote ,5000 words a day til it was finished. He later rejected it. Oh, well. But at least I know I'm capable of turning out 5,000 words a day. My usual output is 2,500 words a day.

My Writing Advice

I never feel as if I have enough information to convey at a workshop, but I can tell aspiring authors this:

1. make the opening a grabber

2. make the characters compelling and interesting

3. make the reader care about the characters so they'll keep reading

4. make the novel well-structured so it doesn't have a sagging middle or pacing problems

5. make the stakes high and not easily achieved

6. make the secondary characters real, not mere cardboard

7. humor always helps.

My Personal Life

In my other life, I own an engineering business with my husband, based in Cambridge. I quit my full time job at a brokerage house to write my first novel, and I wrote full time for 7 years. But I wouldn't want to write all day, every day, all the time. Our work from the business comes in spurts, which gives me time to write all day when it's slow. But spending all day every day with no one but fictional characters drove me a little nuts.

My Last Advice

Keep believing, and keep the faith! And of course, keep writing, because you'll only get better. And never give up on your dream!

Discover Book Junkies Library

4 comments:
If you're always searching for new books and new authors to read, have you discovered Book Junkies Library?

Grace Guera is the guiding force behind Book Junkies Library. When I discovered this great resource website, I began listing my books with them so that readers searching for independently published books might see mine.

I asked Grace to say a few words about Book Junkies Library, and she was kind enough to oblige.

Here's Grace

I’ve been asked how did the Book Junkies Library come to be. Let me just say, it started out as a small pebble that fell out of my hand and is now rolling down a very steep snow-covered mountain gaining momentum.

I have always been a reader and a lover of books. I read almost any genre, and I like to try new things. The need for new reading material drove me to search Facebook for groups that share my same passion. I found the Book Junkies and immediately fell in love with the group’s wit and their determination to help out their fellow author-members.

My original idea was simple, to build a spreadsheet to help organize authors with books needing reviews, I just couldn’t figure out how to post it on Facebook and make it available to the other reader-members. With that said, and the talent of a special friend, the library was born, and it’s still growing. I hope to bring readers to the library to introduce them to independent authors and to help them fall in love as I have.

What A Gal!

Thanks, Grace. I not only enjoy discovering new authors, but also, as an author, I appreciate the opportunity to list my books with Book Junkies Library.

Readers, Grace manually lists your books from the form you submit on the website. That kind of attention to detail is one thing that makes the site so special.

If you are an indie author and want to list your books, visit Book Junkies Library. If you have a question for Grace, email her: Grace at book-junkies-library.com and tell her I said hello.

Takeaway Truth

Support those who support authors and recommend their sites to others.

Wimpy Women Need Not Apply

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Writers of books and screenplays explore the female archetypes as they create women characters. These archetypes are usually defined as: Nurturer, Crusader, Librarian, Waif, Free Spirit, Spunky Kid, Survivor, and Boss.

You'll notice there's not a listing for Warrior. I find that odd given that Athena was the Greek goddess of warfare, strength, and strategy (also wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, warfare, strength, strategy, female arts, crafts, justice and skill).

The origins of Athena were the ancient Egyptians so if all those ancient peoples recognized a female as goddess of battles and war, why wasn't warrior among the enumerated archetypes?

Because the origins of these archetypes were a patriarchal society? Because modern interpretation of them was done by men like Jung and his followers Moore and Gillette? Or, because everyone knew that a warrior lurked inside every female archetype so why point out the obvious?

Chicken Or Egg?

In pop culture, women began to be displayed as heroic about the time that the use of the birth control pill became widespread–or was it with the advent of cool, calm, collected women on old black and white TV shows like The Avengers with Diana Rigg and high-tech PI Honey West starring Anne Francis?

Of course, the women's movement was going full-steam during that era too so it's hard to say which came first–perception of women as warriors or real women battling for equal rights--and birth control. In this last decade, look at how warrior women have taken over the movie theaters, televisions, and bookshelves.

Origins

Let's look at the origins of the warrior woman in contemporary culture though you could go back to history as well. Edgar Lee Masters in Spoon River Anthology wrote about a woman who “hated with the hate of Jael when the white hot hands went seeking the nail.” Jael was a woman in the Bible who killed a man by hammering a nail into his head. Oh, now that takes some cold, ruthless determination.

Contemporary References

For our purposes, we'll leave Jael and Joan of Arc and many others in the past. Let's look at Honey West, a woman who first appeared in the 1957 book This Girl for Hire by G. G. Fickling, a pseudonym used by Gloria and Forest Fickling who wrote many mysteries including 10 about the girl detective. In the 1960s, Aaron Spelling brought Honey West, starring Anne Francis, to television.

Spelling was inspired by the British series The Avengers, with Emma Peel, a spy who wore haute couture, caught bad guys, and never broke a nail. Diana Rigg was made to play Emma Peel who could handle anything as well as or better than a man. Then there was Barbara Bain in the original Mission Impossible cast. Her character Cinnamon Carter was cooler than Emma Peel. She had ice running through her veins.

Ripley

Sigourney Weaver made movie history in 1979 as the first woman action star in the original Alien, a movie that scared me witless. Weaver, as the intrepid Ripley, kicked alien butt and blew it out the hatch. She reprised her role in 1966 and should have left it there because the other installments weakened the franchise and were more woman as victim than as warrior.

Buffy

In 1977, Sarah Michelle Geller’s Buffy kickstarted the whole butt-kicking female trend when Buffy the Vampire Slayer premiered on television. Until her stint as vampire slayer, popular opinion seemed to be that women warriors on television would alienate male viewers and readers and possibly a lot of the females too.

Au contraire. I think Buffy had as many male fans as female. Sure, maybe the men were looking at Buffy and Faith in terms of hot chicks, but I think those two made being tough, strong, and durable smoking hot.

Cordelia

When Angel came along in 1999, the show costarred Charisma Carpenter as Coredia, a chick who grew from self-absorbed valley girl to selfless she-ro, as Maya Angelou calls such women. Cordelia had a lot of stages in between her transformation, most of them requiring her to fight demons and other assorted bad guys.

I give credit for the rise in women warriors to Joss Whedon. He absolutely knows how to create a strong woman character. He did this in Firefly, a short lived series thanks to Fox TV, and in the 2005 movie Serenity in which all the actors reprised their roles.

Women of Firefly

Notable as the captain's sidekick and right hand man was Zoe, a gorgeous warrior woman portrayed by Gina Torres. Firefly and Serenity also had Kaley as portrayed by Jewel Staite, the vulnerable but horny female spaceship mechanic.

For the exotic, there was Morena Baccarin as the companion Inara Serra, a woman who commanded in a different way but who also knew how to fight.

River Tam, the emotionally damaged teen rounded out the female cast. River was a killing machine trying to be sane and was played so well by Summer Glau, who became a major attraction as a cybernetic organism in the now-defunct The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

Movies

In the movies we had Lara Croft in 2001 and 2003 as portrayed by Angelina Jolie, who also played Mrs. Smith to Brad Pitt’s Mr. Smith in 2005. Those two roles are possibly the most realistic when compared to the assassin she played later in Wanted or Salt or Grendel’s mother in Beowulf. Odd that Hollywood sees the waif-thin Ms. Jolie as a woman able to beat up any man.

Jennifer Garner also played a warrior, the comic book heroine Elektra, but that was after she'd made a name for herself as the tough as nails agent Sydney Bristow in Alias which ran from 2001to 2006.

Fall TV Season

Torchwood: Miracle Day just concluded. Gwen Foster, played by Eve Myles, is one of the best part of this series. She's a wife, a mom, and a take-charge woman who knows how to do what must be done–no matter how tough that might be.

Now the fall season is upon us with Maria Bello as a take-charge cop in Prime Suspect, Poppy Montgomery as a crime fighter in Unforgettable, Emily Van Camp as a woman hell-bent on destroying another in Revenge, and Sarah Michelle Geller who assumes her dead sister's identity in order to discover the murderer.

There's horror lurking in this fall season too. Ironically, when economic times are bad, horror becomes very popular. I guess people take comfort in the "no matter how broke and desperate we may be, at least we don't have demons chasing us" philosophy. You can bet that strong women will populate many of these shows.

Takeaway Truth

Warrior women have always been with us. Just look at any mother charged with protecting her child. Is it any surprise that what must be a new female archetype is so visible now?

Rain

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Yesterday, it rained. Glorious wet drops falling from the sky. Rain--long absent from most of Texas.

We all had to restrain ourselves to keep from running out and basking in the cool precipitation. I think this is the driest year our state has had in 116 years.

Today, we lunched at Olive Garden. The sky darkened. We looked out the windows at the lead-lined clouds racing to chase away the sun and held our breaths. A raindrop hit the window. Then another. Soon it was raining, and we were all smiling. Although the shower lasted only a few minutes, it gave us hope of more to come.

Now I'm at home and gazing through the windows in my study. The sky is completely overcast, and the temperature hovers in the low 80's. How utterly delightful after weeks of triple-digit temperatures and a blazing sun.

The great Langston Hughes wrote: "Let the rain kiss you. Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops. Let the rain sing you a lullaby."

Takeaway Truth

I'd love for the rain to sing me a lullaby. In fact, I'm going to go crash on the couch and give it a chance to start singing.

Romance Lives At Romantic Love Books

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This morning, I'm thrilled to have Kristyn Gansen, publisher of Romantic Love Books, guest starring on SlingWords.

I met Kristyn when she hosted Amy Edelman of Indie Reader on Romantic Love Books.

Amy guest blogged there about 5 Great Indie Romance Books and named my book JANE I'm-Still-Single JONES as one of those five books.

Since then, Kristyn and I have found we have much in common. She truly loves romance novels and is a great supporter of the genre. I not only write romance novels, but I also love them too. When all is said and done in life, love and relationships are the only things that truly matter.

* * * * * * * * *
A Fine Romance
by Kristyn Gansen


I remember picking up my first romance novel. I was working at a health club at the time, and Harlequin had sent in boxes and boxes of books to distribute to the members in honor of the publisher’s 60th anniversary.

Never one to pass up a free book — or anything free, for that matter — I picked it up. I was done with it three hours after I started. Ever since then I’ve been hooked.

When people hear that I run a romance novel blog, or that I read romance novels all day — as a job, with income, no less — I get a lot of mixed reactions. Sometimes, people are excited and want to know all about it.

More often than not, though, people turn up their noses and ask me how I read so much of that garbage, day after day.

Stats Startle

In truth, I love reading romance. And it turns out I’m not the only one.

In fact, in 2009, more than $1.36 billion were spent on romance novels, according to Romance Writers of America. In 2008, more than 74.8 million people — 9.5 percent of them men — read at least one romance book. More romance novels are sold each year than novels in any other genre.

And those numbers don’t even include mystery, suspense, inspirational, etc., books with romantic elements!

Let’s be honest. Because love is a universal truth, something to which all people across all time can relate, plenty of non-romance books include romantic elements. In fact, a lot of those people who turn up their noses at me probably go home and read romance and don’t even know it.

Are You A Romance Reader?

So how do you know if you are reading romance? Romance novels are made up of two core elements: the story must have a happily-ever-after ending, and the love story must be central to the development of the novel. If you are reading a book with those components, you are reading a romance novel.

The novels are not all the same. They are not all full of sex and stupid women. Not all romance novels have brute men, not all have poor dialogue, not all have unrealistic outcomes.

Forget Stereotypes

And no, romance novels are not all read by middle-aged housewives with nothing better to do. In fact, 9.5 percent of romance readers are men!

So, it’s time to let go of some of those romance stereotypes, because chances are, the stereotype is wrong. Instead, stop into your local bookstore and give a good romance a chance. You might be surprised.
* * * * * * * * *
Thank you so much to Joan for allowing me the honor of guest posting on her site!

Kristyn, it's been my pleasure.

Takeaway Truth

Readers, if you love romance novels -- and I know most of you do -- you'll love Kristen's website Romantic Love Books. Bookmark it today.

Coming Attractions

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Here's a sneak preview of my guests for the rest of September on SlingWords.

Guest Stars

September 16, Friday: Kristyn Gansen of Romantic Love Books on the Romance Genre.

September 21, Wednesday, author Diana Rubino on Persistence.

September 28, Wednesday, author Cynthia Wicklund on Changing Genres.

Takeaway Truth

Guest stars offer valuable insights about books and writing.

Men And Romance

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There are many misconceptions about romance. One of the biggest is that only women read romance; therefore, only women should write romance.

This reasoning is why many publishers require men to take female pseudonyms if they want to be published in romance, and why many women who write science fiction, suspense novels, and even business books take male pseudonyms or use initials.

Good writing should be the criteria for selecting books to read, not the genre classification or the author's gender. Dismiss preconceived ideas about genre and gender. Women write romance and suspense thrillers, as do men, and both sexes do it well.

Defining Romance

I'm going to define romance based on the way traditional publishers define it: a woman and a man learning to love, in a committed relationship that leads to a happy ending. You may think of it differently, but that's pretty much how the genre has always been defined.

Books that are primarily about sex, not relationships, or that contain a man and a woman or any plurality or combination thereof with lots of sex don't fit that description. Also books wherein either the man or the woman is involved in an adulterous relationship don't fit that description either. In romance, characters act heroically. There is nothing heroic about adultery.

IMHO

I'm a romance author who takes exception to books like The Bridges of Madison County being described as romance novels. While the book may be a love story, it is not a romance. In fact, I've said before that most men who elect to write what they think is romance, usually write a book about sex and adultery.

Those books usually are not called romance by the publisher, but general fiction. Those books never have a happy ending. They may have an inescapable ending given the characters and their actions, and that ending may be appropriate, but it's not the kind of happy ending I, and millions of romance readers, want.

Men: Gotta Love 'Em

I have some guy friends who write romance. I also have some fans who are men, and I get emails from them about my books. I'm proud of my male reading audience, but I'm not surprised that there are some.

In 2009, an RWA research project found that 74.8 million people read a romance novel in 2008. Of that group, 24.6 million were regular readers, and that number was an increase of almost 4% over the previous year.

Of all those millions regularly reading romance novels, 90.5% are women with the remaining 9.5% being men. Don't blow off 9.5% as being miniscule because that translates into about 2.3 million men every year regularly reading romance. That is nothing to sneeze at and everything to embrace.

Male Romance Authors

The guys I know who write romance are manly men, if you get my drift. In fact, one of my best friends who has written romance was a mercenary soldier in South America, a swashbuckling adventurer who has been happily married for a couple of decades now, so he must know something about romance.

A while back there was a discussion thread on a social media site about men who write romance. The man who started it is published in traditional print, and he seemed to think he was the only man succeeding as a male romance author.

Most of the people weighing in with opinions weren't men writing romance, but authors of both sexes who, for the most part, were aspiring writers or indie published only. I make this distinction because I've found most newly-minted authors who go the indie route don't know that much about traditional publishing and the way it works with genre fiction.

I made a comment and listed some of the many men who successfully write romance. Their identities aren't some Top Secret "gotta kill you if you know" information, but in most cases, it's not bandied about until they are well established. There once was a Paris Cafe site on Geocities called "Outting Men: Male Romance Authors," but that no longer exists. They had a big list.

Morning Thoughts

I found myself thinking about this today -- don't ask me why because I don't know why my brain serves up some thought first thing in the morning -- so I thought I'd give you some resources so you could read about some of these trailblazing male romance authors. (Sure, I want you guys to read me, of course, but you might find it interesting to read some of these guys too.)

Writer's Digest article about Harold Lowry and Leigh Greenwood

Male Authors In Romance

Tall, Dark, and Gender Neutral

Questions and Quandaries

Male Writers of Romance

Takeaway Truth

Good writing is found in every genre of book, and authors of both sexes write in every genre. Why not try a different genre or a different author and broaden your horizons?

Scheduling Self-Pub Books

9 comments:
The lovely and talented Bonnie Edwards asked me a question last week about scheduling ebooks.

I won't address the matter of scheduling in regards to how many books one can produce in a calendar year.

Ruth Ann Nordin actually weighed in on that subject with a recent blog post that is excellent so please click over to see what she had to say on that subject.

Instead, let's talk about how Indie Authors release, or publish, books and how often they should do that.

Individual or Simultaneous Release

Some authors think that an ebook should have a staggered release on each platform. I assume this is so they can devote time to promoting the ebook on Kindle, then on Nook, etc.

I don't think there's any evidence that this is advantageous in any way. I say this because a Kindle reader is just that--a reader using a Kindle. Nook readers don't troll for books in the Kindle shop any more than Kindle readers shop the Nook bookshop.

If you publish on one platform and then wait to do the others, you're just losing sales and momentum. If anything, I imagine it might irritate these readers if you publish on one platform first and then wait a month to publish on the others.

If a book is out on Kindle, it should be available on Nook, Smashwords, Apple, All Romance Ebooks, etc. at the same time.

The best practice is to get all your file formats ready and then go from one platform to the other, publishing your book on each as you go along. I try to accomplish this all on the same day.

Book Publishing: How Often

The subject of how often you should publish a book harks back to the publishing days of yore when a prolific author was automatically judged as being a hack. The considered opinion among many is that good writing takes time. The longer it takes to write a book; the better the book.

That's just nonsense. Thankfully, ebook readers don't give a fig about this whole slow-writing vs. fast-writing issue. To them, the only sin is making them wait for a book when they really, really want your next book. If you're lucky enough to build an audience who wants your books, then get those books out there as quickly as you can.

Sure, you should take whatever time is needed to write good fiction, to make sure it's well-edited and free of errors, but an author cannot build a career or an income on 1 book every few years or even 1 every year.

Series Books: How Far Apart

Another scheduling issue you might want to think about is how far apart your books should be when you're writing a series.

The answer to that is purely subjective and varies from author to author. If you've got the books in the series already written, then you've got an edge. If you're having to write some from scratch, then how they are spaced out depends on how fast you can bring each to completion.

I'd say to take any current inventory and compute how long to write the other books, then schedule them on a calendar so that you can release them at roughly the same intervals.

I do think a shorter interval--say 6-12 months--is better than a longer interval, i.e., over 12 months.

Poor Planning

I've got a series called Texas One Night Stands. I had 2 books already written. I published The Trouble With Love in April.

Four months later, I published Romeo and Judy Anne. Book 3 is underway and scheduled for release next summer with Book 4 the following summer.

That was poor planning on my part. I'd have preferred to release all books about 9 months apart, but real life interfered with my writing life, and I didn't get the first book of a new series finished when I had planned. I was receiving emails asking for a new book. I felt pressured to get another book out so I went ahead and released Romeo and Judy Anne.

Timing

Figure out what kind of timing works for you. Everyone is different, and everyone has different stress thresholds. Know yours.

I'm a big proponent of planning, but I make mistakes too. I set nearly unreachable goals like my goal this year of publishing 12 ebooks. And I didn't even get started until the last week in March! Dumb, huh?

I cave to pressure sometimes when I shouldn't. Of course, I learn invaluable lessons from all this that I can then pass on to you.

Lessons Learned

1. Make a written plan and stick to it.

2. Make sure your plan has built-in flexibility for those real-life issues that always crop up when you decide to achieve something extraordinary because--trust me on this--the storms of life will be unleashed on you with a vengeance.

3. Know how long it takes you to bring a book to completion so you'll know how many books you can publish in a specified period of time.

4. Know what kind of promotion you want to conduct for each title, and know how much time that will take from writing.

5. Build in time to play because all writing and no play makes Jack--and Joan and you--dull, boring burned-out authors.

Takeaway Truth

What's the most important element of comedy--and of just about everything in life? Timing. Timing is everything. Figure out the various timing strategies that work for you, and stick with them.

Note: If SlingWords helps you get ahead, please consider buying one of my books (Written Wisdom is perfect for writers--readers too!) or making a donation by clicking the button below or, perhaps subscribe, for only $.99 per month to the Kindle Edition of SlingWords. Thank you for your moral support and any monetary support you see fit to contribute.



Give Your Blog A Facelift

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We are in the 3rd month of the 3rd quarter. Now is a good time to take a look at things and see what you can do to reach your goals. Also, it's a good time to see what needs to be tweaked.

If you don't have a blog, now is a good time to start one. If you have one, but it's not serving you well, maybe it needs a facelift.

Don't settle for the rather mundane templates allotted by the blogging platforms. Choose one that reflects your content and your personality.

There are hundreds of websites that offer free templates. Here are a few to get you going. It's time to shop around.

Blogger

Enter a search string "free Blogger xml templates" and you'll get hundreds of results.

Tutorials by Jennifer Apple offers some really good Tips For Blog Templates & Blog Design using PhotoShop.

FalconHive specializes in converting popular Wordpress templates to Blogger.

Wordpress

Same thing. Enter a search string "free Wordpress blog templates," and you'll get hundreds of results.

Free Theme Layouts has some stunning themes.

Free Wordpress Themes has 301 templates.

Clone 24 offers a huge selection with a category search in the right sidebar.

Don't limit your imagination to these few websites. Do your own search. You'll find a dizzying array of choices, and most are free.

Takeaway Truth

Time is accelerating. Write an action item list today, focusing on effective changes that can pay off immediately--like giving your blog a facelift.

September 11: In Remembrance

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September 11. What were you doing that morning?

I read a psychology article once about how certain days mark ends of eras and the beginning of new eras. Those days are remembered with great clarity. Stephen King wrote about this in his book Danse Macabre. He tells of being at a Saturday matinee when the launch of Sputnik was announced. He remembered every detail of that morning at the movies.

Ask anyone who was old enough at the time what they were doing when John Kennedy was assassinated. They can tell you whether they were children at school or adults at work.

Similarly, ask those of different generations where they were when they heard that James Dean, Elvis Presley, Janis Joplin, or John Lennon had died?

We lived in the NASA area for many years. If you ask me what I was doing on the morning the Challenger exploded, I can tell you.

Like all days that mark historical changes in our country, our culture--the very fabric of our lives--we all remember exactly where we were and what we were doing on that September morning 10 years ago. We'll never forget.

In remembrance, I honor those lost on September 11 and pray that their loved ones have found peace. I also pray for those who survived and have struggled to overcome injuries.

With that thought in mind, I urge you to make a donation to help those struggling with physical and emotional injuries. I checked out many organizations with Charity Watch to find one where donated monies actually end up with those who need help rather than end up as payment for office expenses, salaries, expense accounts, and bonuses to those who run the charity.

Sadly, I found it next to impossible to find a legitimate fund for 9/11 victims. So many were scams or, if they were legitimate, funds were misused or derailed. People who take advantage of others' misfortunes ought to receive maximum punishment which still wouldn't be severe enough in light of what they've done.

I've chosen Injured Marines Semper Fi Fund because our soldiers are the ones who ended up paying a tremendous price for the war that resulted from the September 11 attacks.

If you follow the link, there's a big green donate button on the menu bar on the main page. They take major credit cards, and it's a secure site. In the Comment box at the end of the donation form, I put simply: In remembrance of Sept. 11.

Takeaway Truth

Thomas Campbell wrote: "To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die."

Bridge Between Talent & Success

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A few years ago I blogged about something I learned from prolific author Robert (Dick) Vaughan.

In case you don't know much about Mr. Vaughan, allow me to educate you about this remarkable author who sold his first book when he was only 19. He's written over 250 books under 35 different pseudonyms--men's and women's names.

Early in his career, he was nominated for the Pulitzer. He won the 1977 Porgie Award (Best Paperback Original) for The Power and the Pride. He's written television movie novelizations and books in just about every genre. In 1998, he was inducted into the Writer's Hall of Fame. His novel Brandywine's War was named by the Canadian University Symposium of Literature as the best iconoclastic novel to come from the Vietnam War.

I guess one could say he's a man's man because he served 3 tours in Nam and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with the V for valor, the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Service Medal, and the Purple Heart. Let's just say that he can bring a sense of realism to his books, and that's probably one reason he's such a popular author of what my husband calls men's fiction.

This Man Knows Writing

I give you his credentials in order to make the point that Robert (Dick) Vaughan knows a lot more about writing and publishing -- and staying published -- than most of us will ever know. How has he produced so many words? So many books and every kind of writing?

I was fortunate to attend several workshops Dick Vaughan led at writer's conferences in Beaumont, Texas. One thing Dick said really stuck in my mind. I owe much of my writing career to following this one bit of advice from him.

So I want to talk about that -- about a subject to which most people don't pay enough attention because it sounds like, well, hard work.

Remember This

In the workshop I attended, he said if you look at writing talent that it's maybe 15% of writing success. And that might be stretching it.

He then said writing opportunity (going on the internet, finding editors who were acquiring, networking with other writers, etc.) is maybe 10%.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that those two elements make 25% of writing success. What's the other 75%?

Work Discipline

He said, and I agree, that Work Discipline makes up the bigger part of the equation called writing success. Dick Vaughan said to embroider this on a sampler. I didn't do that, but I did print it out into a big sign that I taped above my computer.

The bridge between talent and success is Work Discipline.

He advocated establishing a daily page quota whether it be 1 page or 10 or more. Every day, produce that page quota. That's work discipline. That's how he approaches every project. He knows how long it takes him to write a book, and he breaks that down into pages per day.

Meet your established quota. That's work discipline. That's what will get you going when you don't feel like writing. Work Discipline is often the one thing that many writers lack. I always say that you can move a mountain one shovelful at a time just like you can write the biggest book by writing one page at a time.

Takeaway Truth

The bridge between talent and success is Work Discipline. Start building your bridge today.

Note: If SlingWords helps you get ahead, please consider buying one of my books (Written Wisdom is perfect for writers--readers too!) or making a donation by clicking the button below or, perhaps subscribe, for only $.99 per month to the Kindle Edition of SlingWords. Thank you for your moral support and any monetary support you see fit to contribute.



Don't Make Me Make You Brownies

2 comments:
Nina Cordoba. She is the author of Don't Make Me Make You Brownies, the book I'm reviewing today.

Usually, I place the author's name in the the title of a book review post, but the length of this book's title precludes that. Although the title is long, it's a great title. In fact, from the moment I saw this title, I knew I had to read this book.

I want you to remember Nina's name. I predict she, and her books, will become very popular with readers. I know that I adored Don't Make Me Make You Brownies, and I think you will too.

Book Specs

Available on all major digital book platforms. I read it on my Kindle.

Price: $2.99
Format: Kindle Edition
File Size: 376 KB
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
Language: English
ASIN: B005G82APY
Lending: Enabled

The Story

What do you get when you add a heaping helping of sexual desire to a mismatched couple composed of a pickup-scorning, California-liberal TV consumer reporter and a Texas-cowboy/lawyer?

You get a delightful novel of contradictions, conflicts, and, ultimately, compromises as Abbie and Rick learn that if they want something bad enough -- like the love that grows between them -- then they must blaze their own trail and create a world that works for them. After all, isn't that what we all do when we love someone who holds different attitudes and opinions about the external world?

This fish-out-of-water story has some parts that are downright hilarious. There are times when you want to tell Abbie: "Oh, for heaven's sakes! Grow up." But that just means the author did her job and created a character who elicits a strong reaction in the reader.

Never fear. Abbie grows and changes in ways that are believable and organic to her. That, dear readers, is what allows her to get her very own happy ending, enabling her to stay who she is, and, yet, be more than she was at the beginning of the story.

Although, this is a romantic comedy, you won't find very much "on screen" sex scenes or romance for that matter. The love scenes are more edgy and comical than sexy and romantic, but that's okay for this romance cum chick lit.

The story will keep you turning the pages to the very end. Then you'll want to grab everything else written by Nina Cordoba. Like her other book Not Dreaming of You.

Takeaway Truth

A good book is the least expensive form of great entertainment. Try an ebook today!