Status: Drafting the fourth book in the PERILOUS series!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Party Girl

You know those parties you're always being invited to? Or worse, asked to host? It can range from Pampered Chef to Scentsy to 31 to Mary Kay...the list goes on an on. You roll you eyes and wonder how you can get out of it without offending.

Well... I'm one of those crazy people who absolutely loves these parties.

I love hearing about them and I love being invited to them. And if I'm excited about the product, I love hosting the parties.

But where does that leave my friends? The poor hapless people who get invited to parties, over and over again?

The good thing about these kinds of parties is that I think there is minimal chance of the host feeling rejected by those who can't come. It's not personal (or it might be and I just don't want to know). Usually it's just that they don't care for that type of product, or just aren't interested right now. And they only have to wait about two months before I'll be inviting them to a different kind of party! :)

What are your personal thoughts on hostess parties? Do you like them? Are they annoying or fun?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Boy meets Girl

Ah, Ricky. By far one of my favorite characters in Perilous, Ricky is the boy with a troubled past, a troubled home, and a troubled record. On the outside, he seems like the typical, no-good bad boy. But he's so much more than that, and so very complex.

Ricky started out having his own story line, complete with his own point of view. Though his point of view got cut, Ricky remained. Here are some insights to Ricky, THE BOY.

Ricky Collins wasn’t interested in helping three runaway girls. Whatever they’d done to get themselves here, it wasn’t his problem.
But he was interested in the girls. The flirty redhead by herself could provide hours of entertainment. Then there was the blond, who looked like she hadn’t smiled in weeks. Neal was about the only serious person he could handle. But she made Ricky curious. He wanted to get inside her head and find out what was going on.
And of course, the brunette.
So between the three girls, Ricky decided it was worth helping out with lunch.
“Where’d you pick these kids up, anyway?” he asked Neal.
“By the high school. I tripped over Amanda.”
Ricky glanced back at them. “Which one’s Amanda?”

Neal snorted. “The one who doesn’t take her eyes off you.”

Ahh. The redhead. “All right. Fine. We can feed them lunch. But you’re paying for it.”

“Whatever, Ricky.”

They arrived at the deli a few minutes later. Ricky stopped and held the door open, waiting for the girls. Wouldn't hurt to appear chivalrous. Neal waited inside.

“You can order whatever you want as long as the sum comes to less than four dollars,” Ricky said.

The brunette looked at him, her eyes widening. “For all three of us?”

Neal rolled his eyes. “Just get what you want, and don’t worry about the price. He thinks he’s being funny.”

Ricky wasn’t being funny. He was being cheap.

The brunette’s brown eyes flicked between them. “How do we tell you apart?”

She shook her head. “Not seeing it.” Her expression lingered on him and she cocked her head to the side. “What about me? Do I have golden flecks in my eyes?”

He stepped forward, putting his hands on her shoulders. “Nope. You’re eyes are a deep green. Not a bad color, but…simple. The gold is for the best.”

“Well, at least you think highly of yourself,” she laughed. “That still doesn’t help me tell you apart.”

“You’ll get it,” he said, letting go of her shoulders and following Neal into the restaurant. “Neal's the father-figure.”

Neal cuffed him on the back of the head. “Because you still need parenting!”

Ricky didn't let Neal bother him—most of the time. “I guess he thinks I’m a kid? Go on and sit down. We’ll order and surprise ya’ll.”

The brunette laughed. Ricky liked the sound. He followed after Neal. “All right, Neal. This wasn’t such a bad idea.”

“You’re just trying to figure out which one to flirt with.”

“Hmm.” Ricky pulled his lips down and raised both eyebrows. “Maybe.” It was kind of nice, though. They didn’t know him. Most girls knew him by reputation before they ever met him. “Get two sandwiches for me.”

“I thought we were saving money?”

Ricky glared at him but said nothing.

Neal placed the order and handed him a tray of food. “Here, take this back. I’ll join you in a minute.”

“Yeah.” Ricky surveyed the deli and spotted the three girls sitting in a booth by the window, talking together. He tossed his head back, annoyed that the hair kept getting in his eyes. “Hi.” He stopped in front of their table and handed food out “I’m Ricky. Mind if I sit here?”

“No, no, not at all,” Amanda said. She scooted toward the wall. The blond scooted over as well.

Ricky sat down next to her and offered a sandiwich. “I’m an idiot, what’s your name? I can’t remember.”

She took the sandwich. “Sara.” Her eyes met his and she looked away.

“Hi, Sara.” He bumped her shoulder with his. “Nice to meet you, Sara.”

That elicited a smile. Finally. “You too, Ricky.”

“So, where are you guys from?” He turned his attention back to the brunette, looking at her across the table as he unwrapped one of his burgers.

“We’re from Idaho. We walked here.” Amanda tapped her fingers on the table.

“Really? You walked? Wow!” He shot a glance at her. “So how old are you?” Neal sat down in the booth behind them.
“What wrong with him?” Sara asked, nodding at Neal.

Ricky glanced behind him. Was Neal upset? No, just ignoring his food and staring out the window. Typical Neal. Ricky patted him on the shoulder and turned back to the girls. “He carries the weight of responsibility on his shoulders. Heavy burden.”

“What about you?” the brunette asked, lifting her brows. “Don’t you have any responsibility?”

The first words from her, and not exactly welcoming. He took a long sip of his soda before answering. “Nah. I avoid it like the plague. It’s for old people.” He nodded at her. “But you never answered my question. How old are you?”
“She’s fifteen,” Amanda said. “So am I. We’re the oldest.”

Ricky shifted his weight partway over the table and looked at her. “Wow, your hair is really red.”

“It’s actually auburn, but if that’s a compliment, thanks,” she said with a quick grin. “And how old are you?”
“We’re both seventeen.” He sat back and took another bite. “Our birthday was in August." Did anyone here talk besides Amanda?

Amanda leaned over Sara. “I turn sixteen in April.”

“I’m only fourteen,” Sara said.

Ricky looked at her in mock surprise. “She talks!”
Amanda stood up. “Hey, Sara, it’s a little stuffy in here. Let me out.”

“Where are you going?” Ricky asked, moving into the aisle to let her out.

“Outside,” she said. “Some fresh air.” The corners of her mouth lifted in a teasing grin. “I wouldn’t mind company, though.”

The brunette chuckled. “Amanda’s a girl who knows what she wants and goes after it with both hands.”

“Right,” Ricky said, not taking his eyes off of her retreating figure. He slid uninvited next to her. Finishing his second burger, he took a drink and wiped his face with a paper napkin. He rested his arm on the seat just behind her. “So you guys walked here from Idaho?”

“Well, not exactly,” she said. “It’s a long story.”

He shrugged. “We’ve got time. Hey! You haven’t told me your name yet! If you’re done eating, you could introduce yourself.”

She laughed, and again he noticed how the sound thrilled him. “I’m done. Amanda introduced me. I guess my name wasn’t worth noting?”

Neal chuckled and came over from his booth to join them, sitting next to Sara.

“My bad,” Ricky said. “I was distracted by your face.” The little red box in the middle of the table caught his attention. Oo, matches. He picked them up and flipped the box open. Neal grabbed them and slapped them back down on the table.

“Cute,” she teased. “Did you read that in a book or something? I know you couldn't come up with a line like that on your own.”

“Oh, you’re clever,” he said, pointing a finger at her. “So, do you have a name?”

“It’s JC.”
“JC?” he echoed. Never heard that one before.

“J-a-c-i. Jaci. It’s short for Jacinta.”

“Oh, that’s cool.”

Neal leaned forward. “Are you in a hurry to get walking again?”

Jaci nodded. “Yes. Thanks for lunch, though. It was very appreciated.”

Ricky grunted. “Huh. This must be some really intense exercise program. Sure we can’t change your mind? Just for a week?”
Sara ran a hand over the table. “We’ve been here too long. Trouble follows us.”

Now that Ricky understood. He’d had more than his own fair share of trouble, and you couldn’t get away from it. They didn’t seem like the trouble type, though.

Jaci stood up and gathered the trash. “All right. Let’s go. I need to throw this away and use the restroom.”

Ricky jumped up, letting her by. “Didn’t you just go? Are you gonna shower again, too?”

“Are you stalking me now?” She turned around and dumped the trash.

Neal’s hand on Ricky's shoulder stopped him from following her. “All right, lover boy. Let’s finish cleaning up here.”

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Serious Lack of Winter

Not that I'm complaining.

Yesterday was sunny and almost 70 degrees outside. When we went out, I started with a jacket and a sweater over a long-sleeved shirt. I worked my way down from there until I'd shed the jacket and sweater.

Nobody really knows what to think. It's been mild all December and January. After having three harsh winters in a row, we love it--but we're all suspicious. You can't really trust Mother Nature, if you know what I mean. The trees are confused, the birds are out chirping every morning, and I'm tempted to start my spring cleaning.

Yet this nagging feeling says, "Don't believe it! Don't give in!"

It's coming. I can feel it. We're not going to escape it. It's going to strike when we least expect it--like, say, during spring break.

For now...I'm going to enjoy it.

How's winter this year for you? Like usual? Worse? Wonderful?

Monday, January 23, 2012

My Growth as an Author

As I pull up deleted scenes from Perilous and prepare them for publication on my blog, something becomes blatantly apparent: I've grown as a writer.

It's not that these scenes are horrible, but as I read them, I wince at some of the--well--the choppiness of it all. Some of the words don't quite fit, the dialogue isn't so smooth, the sentences feel fake. It doesn't take too much effort to fix it up, but to me it just screams AMATEUR.

But this doesn't discourage me. Actually, it makes me feel better. It means I've improved my craft. Perilous was still good enough to get a publisher. And now, I feel like I'm an even greater writer. Which just means my future looks good from here!

And as a reader, you can be excited. If you enjoyed Perilous, my future projects are going to blow you away.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Voices in the Woods

This scene from my book shows the paranoia that haunts each girl, as they spend every second worrying that their kidnapper will catch them again. However, while it shows some of the relationship issues among the girls, as well as their fear, it doesn't actually further the plot. Therefore, it was cut from the final project.

A voice. Whispering in frustration.
Jaci’s eyes moved rapidly under her eyelids, and then snapped open. She lay on the forest ground staring up at the dark sky, partially obscured by tree leaves.
A twig snapped a few feet from her, and every hair on her body bristled in alarm. Her heart began to pound faster, and she held her breath. Someone was there.
She blinked twice, trying to see. There was a lot of scuffling through the leaves near her feet. She wanted to scream. But she seemed to have lost control of her muscles.
There was a heavy sigh next to her and a hand grabbed her ankle. That did it. Jaci bolted upright and screamed.
A hand went over her mouth and Jaci reached up to tear it away.
“It’s me! It’s Amanda! I’m sorry, it’s just me!”
Jaci closed her eyes, chest heaving in gasping, sporadic sobs.
Sara sat up next to them. “What’s going on?” she asked, her voice nervous. She touched Jaci’s shoulder.
“I frightened her,” Amanda said. She moved closer to Jaci and tried to hug her, but Jaci jerked away.
“Don’t touch me! How could you do that to me?” She put her head in her hands, running her fingernails over her scalp. She’d been so scared. The emotional crash nauseated her.
Sara’s knee clanked against something hard. Reaching down, she turned on a flashlight and picked it up. “Were you looking for this?” she asked Amanda.
Amanda looked at the beam of light. Extending a hand, she took it from Sara. “Jaci, I’m so sorry. I dropped the light and it turned off on me. I was trying to find it. I didn’t mean to frighten you. Honest.”
Jaci took several deep breaths, holding for the count of three before exhaling, just like she did in track before a big race. “I’m okay. I’ll be fine.”
“I know how you feel, Jaci,” Sara said. “I hate it out here, too. I hate it.”
“There’s no one else out here, Sara,” Amanda said, her voice reverting to its self-assured tone. “It’s only us. We’re here for you. You have nothing to worry about.”
Sara whirled on her as if she’d been waiting for that opening. “Oh, so you’ll protect me? Like you did last time? A lot of good you two are to have around!”
“Stop it,” Jaci said. “Don’t go around accusing us when you know we have no power over things. We’re in this together.”
“You’re right,” she answered. “I should be accusing those who do have the power.”
Jaci pressed her thumbs into the flesh between her eyebrows, trying to rub away a headache. "Let’s forget about this. Tomorrow we’ll reach a city, and everything will be fine.”
“We need protection, not a city,” Sara spat out, but her voice lacked any venom.
“Maybe we’ll find both," Jaci said. She glanced at Amanda as they lay back down. “What were you doing out there, anyway?”
“What do you think?” she growled. Amanda turned off the flashlight and once again they  plunged into darkness.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Facebook ads: Are they worth it?

I'm going to share with you my experience with Facebook ads. There are a lot of variables here, of course, and I'd be interested to hear if anyone has had a different experience.

I set aside $10 a few weeks ago to run several ads on Facebook and see what happened with book sales. I let Facebook do the bidding for me, so it only took about four days and my money was all used up. However, it was enough time for me to collect some interesting data.

I created three ads with these titles: Young Adult Thriller, Suspense Novel, Mom Fulfills Dream.

Each ad had a brief sentence summing up the book. One had a sentence from a reviewer, one had a summary sentence, and one had a sentence about the history of the book. The book ads had a photo of my book, while the Mom ad had an author photo. Beneath the summary was the price of $2.99. If anyone clicked on the ad, it led them straight to the Amazon.com page for purchasing the ebook.

I had a few expectations. I designed the ads around different target groups, expecting only certain people to like certain ads. I expected them to attract people, though. I also expected that if people clicked on the ad, they would more than likely be interested in buying the book, and do so at the purchase page.

In reality, the book ads attracted very little attention, receiving only one click each. This could be because a) there are too many books available b) it just didn't look that interesting to people.

On the other hand, to my surprise, the Mom ad with the author photo and a one-line history of the book's publication process, received nearly 20 clicks. This surprised me. But here's the thing. The 20 clicks DID NOT EQUAL SALES. I sold the same amount of books that I usually do. Believe me, I would've noticed if there'd been so much as a ten-book sale increase. So why did these people click? I believe these were moms who saw the title "Mom Fulfills Dream" and thought for $2.99, I was going to divulge with them how to fulfill their dreams.

Either that, or they were men who thought my picture was pretty and were disappointed when the click took them to an Amazon.com page for a book.

My final consensus was that Facebook ads are not worth it. Even with my targeting parameters, I either didn't hit my target audience, or they just weren't interested. It's possible that if I'd run the ad for longer time, people might have clicked on it more, but I don't think so. I don't usually start paying attention to an ad because I've seen it so many times, I start ignoring it so that  I don't even notice it's there. I did not see a return of my $10 investment, which is quite sad.

If someone else has had luck with Facebook ads, please comment to know what could have been done differently. I won't try again, but someone else might.

For more details information of Facebook ads, check out this information here.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sibling Awe

Sometimes I think with longing of the days when I only had one child. I had so much time. I taught five classes every day, had nearly four hours set aside for writing, kept my house clean (okay, so that's debatable), and still doted on my son like crazy.

I felt like my life was hectic. Ha! I was young and naive. Even as I struggle with my three, I am in awe of my friends with four or five who do what I do and more.

Sunday I had the unusual experience of my 18-month-old daughter waking up from her nap two hours prior to my boys. For the first half an hour, I thought, "This is so easy! Just me and her." I started thinking that before I have any more children, I need to make sure the others are in school so it's just me and one child at a time.

After about an hour of me and her, however, I started thinking I needed to wake up my middle child so she'd have someone to play with! It was exhausting to keep up with her energy level. And as much as I love sitting on the couch and bumping noses and giggling, every time I'd try to get up, she'd pull me back down. Oh, she's a cutie.

But I had a sudden appreciation for siblings. They play together, they fight together, they entertain each other, and they bond together. And that definitely helps me keep my sanity.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Healing Sara

When I first submitted Perilous, I intended for it to be an inspirational Christian novel about four girls who had to learn to rely on Christ so they could heal for their tragedy. We ended up taking out the religious aspect and turning it into a thriller. No one could be more shocked than I that I had written a thriller. :)
While I am pleased with the fast-paced end result, some of these introspective, faith-building scenes were hard to let go of. Here is one where Jaci and Sara talk about what they've been through and how to let it go. This scene is especially poignant for Sara, who has the hardest time recovering from the kidnapping.

Jaci finished the dishes. Drying her hands, she picked up the lamp and headed for bed. She walked out of the kitchen and through the large parlor, past the brown piano and white pillars.
She paused as she walked past the back door. She thought she’d seen Sara out on the deck. She opened the door and stepped outside, allowing the lamp to light her way.
It was Sara. Sara didn’t answer, just leaned out over the railing. Jaci hurried over, each step creaking as she walked across the old wood. “Sara, are you okay?” She remembered Sara’s response last time and felt dumb for asking.
Sara shook her head. She took a deep breath and stood tall, straightening her back. Jaci put an arm around her.
"It’s okay, Sara. Whatever’s wrong, you can tell me. You need to talk.”
“I don’t want to talk, Jaci. I feel so alone. I’m so frustrated. So angry.”
“Sara. We love you. We’re here for you, even if you never say a word about anything, we care. And Heavenly Father cares.”
Sara shook her head. “I don’t feel Him. I don’t think He cares.”
Jaci held back a gasp of surprise. After their escape, and the old man's rescue... “How can you say that?”
Sara laughed, a harsh, bitter sound. “You go through what I’ve been through and you’ll know how I can say that. How could he let that happen to me? What did I do that was so wrong?”
“Do you still pray, Sara?”
“Do you?”
“Of course. Why would I stop?”
“Well, of course I am too. I just don’t feel anything in response. My heart, my soul, it’s empty. It’s like it’s been taken from me.”
Jaci squeezed Sara's hand. “The Savior will take away your pain. Let him have it.”
“I’m waiting.” Sara reached up and brushed away the tears. “Maybe I just don’t have enough faith.”
Jaci wrapped her arms around her. “Sara. Give yourself some time. He will take your burden from you.”
“He’s taken everything else from me,” she sobbed into Jaci’s shoulder. “He may as well take that too.”

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Kindle Forums

You know how you need money to make money?

Sometimes it seems that way with books. You need to hit the top 20 to stay in the top 20.

And we're all looking for the answer to get into the top 20.

While promoting ebooks, I've heard a lot of people mention the Kindle forums. They say it is a good place to interact and promote and share information about your book.

I'm not much of a forum gal. I was when I was younger, but I don't seem to have the spare time like I did then (what happened??? Oh yeah I got married and had three kids). Still, I made an account and joined the Kindle forums.

I've been there once. I was a bit overwhelmed, to be honest. And maybe I realized that I could easily--easily--spend all day in there, reading posts and commenting on them.

But I've decided to give them another go. I'm going to start chatting it up on the Kindle forums, all with the ulterior motive of enticing people to want to read my ebook. My goaL: get to the top 100. Okay, stop laughing at me. Not all of your goals are realistic either. I have to aim high!

Wish me luck. But before I get started, anyone have any advice? Is anyone active on there? Can you give me some tips of what you do?

Monday, January 9, 2012

School Nightmares

I get to the end of the semester and realize there was a class I never went to.

Or it's the middle of the semester and I remember that I dropped a class and signed up for another, but I haven't gone to the new one.

Or I get to my final exam and see that I studied the wrong material.

Or the year ends and I failed half of my classes because I didn't turn in my homework.

One time, I left my baby in the classroom and when I went back she was gone.

It's been almost ten years since I graduated from college, yet these dreams still plague me. Rather frequently I might add. And they are so real, that when I wake up and realize school is behind me--far behind me--I can't even describe the relief I feel.

I know other people have these nightmares. So why? Was school such a tramautic event that it left this  dark shadow on my psyche? Is this a form of PTSD?

One thing's for certain. I am so glad I'm done.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

VHS vs. Netflix

Remember those?

When I was a teenager, I was absolutely crazy about Star Trek. Like, obsessively crazy. Every week when the show came on, I set up the VCR to record each episode. I carefully edited out commercials. I recorded these so that during the week I could rewatch the episode as often as I wanted. I could get six episodes on a VHS, if I used the worst-quality recording (which I did. I was buying the videos). By the time I went to college, I had almost a dozen recorded VHS.

If only I could've seen the future.

I no longer have a VCR. I don't own a VHS. I have no idea what happened to those. And you know what? It doesn't really matter. Because now we have things like Netflix, with instant streaming from the internet. Yesterday, I turned on Netflix streaming while I took down Christmas and cleaned the house.

I got through all of season one.

Ah, what fun. And if I'd only known, I could've saved myself a lot of money as a teenager.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Best of 2011

My blog has had a bit of a regression in popularity. I do not mind it, really, since it's my fault for not spending more QT with my blog.

But still, you readers continue to visit me and see what's going on, and I appreciate that. So here are the most popular posts of 2011, based on visitation stats. If you haven't read these, here's your chance!

10. Book Signing Gone Wrong
9. Signed Contract
8. Christmas Cookies
7. Ebay Addiction
6. Ripped off by Goodwill
5. Placement is Everything
4. Dirty Dishes
3. Romance and Lemons
2. Advent to Christmas
1. Preteens and Perilous

Happy New Year!
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