You might want to look that one up!

Everyone has a slip of the pen (or word processor) from time to time, and we’ve all seen them. Read enough books and you’ll discover weird or wrong word choices, misspellings, or zany phrases. Some of them are caused by upbringing—because mom and dad always said it that way, so it’s assumed everyone says it that way! Other boo-boos are the result of poor editing, senior moments, or mistakenly choosing a sound-alike word which has a completely different meaning. Here are some noteworthy blunders I’ve found that still make me laugh.

an eradicate heartbeat (erratic)

rot iron fence (wrought)

shutter (shudder)

woken up (awakened)

absents (absence)

champing at the bit (chomping)

try a different tact (tack)

wooden stove (wood stove)

tit bit (tidbit)

slither of information (sliver)

dumbie (dummy)

homely (homey)

cumber bun (cummerbund)

Silicone Valley (Silicon)

latter (ladder)

indigent (indignant)

distress (de-stress)

eatable (edible)

abstracted (distracted)

ascended through the crowds (descended/clouds)

made of led (lead)

boaring (boring)

seizes to amaze me (ceases)

Anything you’d like to add? While I found these funny, they also made me cringe. I don’t want to be guilty of such obvious mistakes, yet I know I’ve made some, and will make more in the future. So just quit trying? Not on your life! Wrangling words into submission, creatively or otherwise, is my job. The goal is continuous improvement, not perfection. Good thing, too, or we’d all have to give up!

##########

What’s been keeping me busy….

I’ve spent the last seven weeks making repairs to Expectant Moon—book one of my Gladstone Shifters series, published two years ago and in need of some TLC. Yesterday, I uploaded the new edition to Amazon! It was a labor of love (emphasis on labor), but needed to be done. With that out of the way, I’m free to begin writing book four, Forbidden Moon.

This one promises to be a challenge, with a new pot-stirring character no one will be expecting. Jonah’s going to have his hands full with his long-awaited mate, and the pack has some lessons to learn. Hopefully, my readers will appreciate all the effort it takes to throw a monkey wrench into the works after three books! I’ve got some really cool ideas to present, along with humor, drama, and steamy romance. In other words, this will be a fun book to write!

If things go exceptionally well, I hope to publish this one by year’s end. After that, I intend to write another collection of shorts for a sequel to Rise of the Draman. I must admit, in the back of my brain is a niggling fear that those two series will go on and on, leaving me no time to write all the other stories waiting in the wings. If only I could clone myself. Hmmm… even that could be a cool story!

I needed to hear that!

I’ve spent the last month+ going over my first Gladstone Shifters novel with a fine tooth comb. The book was published over two years ago and I’ve learned a great deal since then. A number of issues needed attention, including a re-arrangement of the opening chapters, a thorough search for crutch words, and the correction of wordy sentences and unclear phrasing.

It’s been a frustrating slog, taking much longer than I ever thought it would – not surprising for a manuscript of over 110,000 words! The good news is, I’m almost done! The bad news is, I’m not finished yet! My next novel is nattering away at my writer brain to GET STARTED ALREADY.

One of the discouraging things about this process is that realistically, very few readers will notice anything different after weeks of hard work and significant improvements. So why go to all the trouble? Is it worth it? Wouldn’t my time be better spent on the next book in the series, rather than fixing book one? As I’m sure you’ve guessed, nagging doubts and questions don’t improve motivation!

In the midst of all this, I ran across a wonderful passage in scripture I hadn’t noticed before, and found it incredibly encouraging.

“For the ear tests words as the palate tastes food.” Job 34:3

Isn’t that great? When people read my stories, they test/taste the words, parsing out the various flavors and meanings. The effort to improve my book hasn’t been wasted at all! Rather, it will leave future readers with an even better sensory experience than before. After all, enjoying the dish doesn’t require knowing the recipe.

Even so, as soon as I finish the current project, I intend to get busy writing book four (rather than fixing book two in the series). Since my readers aren’t complaining, I can start that project down the road when I don’t feel so pressed for time. When it’s all said and done my stories won’t be perfect, but they’ll be the best I can make them.

My Publishing Anniversary – Three Years and Counting

It’s time to celebrate!

Somehow, another year has come and gone and I’m still doing what I love. Despite personal setbacks, financial concerns, and the pandemic, the last twelve months have been fruitful ones.

Three books published, for a total of nine

Added a new genre (fantasy)

More interaction with readers

New author biography

Improved marketing and sales

Added “the writing of” and reading samples to each book page on my website

Records reveal that in the last three years my books have sold over 52,000 copies in thirteen countries (96% FREE), along with over 917,000 kindle pages read, generating 59% of my income. Though the numbers look great, I’m not making much money, and all of it goes right back into publishing and promoting. I’m fine with that for now, as the goal is to build my brand and a broad reader base (hence all the FREE books). It feels as though I’m turning a corner here as my backlist grows, and I’m excited to see what it means for me professionally.

Last year’s goals never materialized for various reasons. My new ones, I hope, have a better chance of being accomplished.

Focus on writing new material

Three to four new releases

Set up my books for print on demand and broaden distribution

Make some author-to-author connections

Join at least one writing group or professional association

With each new book, I incorporate what I’m learning about the craft, marketing, and a thousand other things. My long-term goal is continued growth, better writing, and a broader reader base. I’ve seen some encouraging progress lately and anticipate another great year!      

The Writing of Abundant Moon

I never intended to write this story. Book three of the series was supposed to be Forbidden Moon, written right after publishing book two in February of 2019. I hadn’t counted on the mental fatigue resulting from an arduous writing journey of nine long months. In short, I was sick of the series and desperately needed to do something else for a while.

I’d been toying with the idea of trying my hand at short stories and had a really cool idea regarding a little orphan boy and a dragon. Just what I needed – something quick and different to focus on before diving back into the series, right? Nope. The sneaky little kid and his dragon friends got into my blood and I couldn’t stop writing! The result? A five-story collection published as Rise of the Draman in April of 2020!

Meanwhile, 15 months had gone by and I’d been receiving polite demands from readers, pleading for book three – the one I should have published already. What to do? If Forbidden Moon also took nine months to write and publish, my readers would have skinned me alive! I decided on a shorter, interim story to plug the gap, and then start working on the full length novel I’d promised so long ago.

After rereading books one and two, I decided to write about the birth of all the babies conceived towards the end of Traitor’s Moon. Perfect! Throw in a romance with a new character and you have Moon Pups – Book 2.5. However, once I got working on the manuscript, the story developed into a novel of its own! So, I changed the name to Abundant Moon, designated it as the new book three, and buckled down to write the thing as fast as I could. Three months from beginning to end is warp speed for me, and required many changes and personal sacrifices to get it done.

Part way through the manuscript, I hit a bump in the road which slowed me down. It also scared me! At first, I wasn’t sure I could fix it without starting over completely. You see, Robert’s character, who is involved in the major romance of the story, simply wouldn’t work the way I’d planned. He needed drastic changes to his personality, career, attitude, and integration into the pack. A ripple effect caused adjustments to other story threads, requiring a lot of rewriting. I’ll admit, the end result is much more pleasing and fits the overarching idea of the book better.

This story was intended to be less heavy and emotionally charged than the first two books, allowing Gladstone a bit of a breather. My characters and their experiences needed to match the happier themes of family, pups, and new mates. Fortunately, balancing this with essential drama and action wasn’t as difficult as I expected it to be, and the book contains all the elements my readers have come to expect. The wild journey between books two and three is one I wouldn’t enjoy repeating, though I’m happy with Abundant Moon and believe my readers will be too.

Postscript: The book is off to a good start, and with some Amazon reviews in hand, I can start promoting. Early feedback is very encouraging and I’m no longer on tenterhooks. It feels good to make my readers happy with a new story, as well as attract new fans to the series. Exciting!

New Release! ABUNDANT MOON

Fans have been waiting a long time for this one, and the book is now live on Amazon! It’s been a strange journey for this third installment of the series. In fact, book three was supposed to be something entirely different. I’m pleased as punch with the story and early feedback tells me I have a winner! Take a look at the book blurb and ARC/Beta reader comments.

Get your copy HERE.

Gladstone is preparing for an invasion – of pups! With five little ones on the way, Ben and Evan have their hands full with first-time parents, a daring winter rescue, and disturbing information from Hezekiah’s journals. If that weren’t enough, a visitor arrives with a troubled past and a bond gone awry. Their only hope lies with a risky True Elder intervention that’s never been tried and could end in tragedy.

Join your furry friends for all the fun, drama, and romance you’ve come to expect in this celebration of love and family. Nobody does life like your favorite wolf pack, in book three of the Gladstone Shifters – ABUNDANT MOON! Notice: contains steamy M/M content.

########

“Gladstone deserved some happiness after being under attack for so long, and the book flowed nicely as a third installment. The story has enough drama, fun, and romance to satisfy everyone. Readers are going to love it!”

“I’m loving Abundant Moon. You’ve made me laugh and cry – one time in the same chapter! You have a gift, my friend.”

“I am absolutely in love with the characters, story line, and the culture/society you have created. The characters have great depth and many dimensions. Relationships are well-defined and clear. Dialog seems natural and appropriate. The threads to the first two books have continued and are logical. Alex, this is your best book yet!”

July 4 Memories

Not the real Ginger of this story, but as close as I could get!

Looking back, July 4th was always a fun family day with an evening cookout, homemade ice cream, watermelon, and fireworks!

Before the sun set, Dad would dole out the snakes, smoke bombs and parachutes, since none of these were any fun in the dark. It kept us busy for a while while he set up the bigger fireworks display. They were illegal where we lived, so he would drive to a neighboring state to buy them. His job was to light them while we kept an eye out for the cops! Bottle rockets, roman candles, fountains, pinwheels, firecrackers – he always bought a variety of cool stuff for our private show.

After the main event, he handed out the sparklers and we enjoyed trying to write our names in the air with them (you have to move really fast!). I recall some years we also created floating lanterns made out of newspaper and straight pins. We had a lot of fun every year, and I don’t recall anyone ever getting hurt. Except for Ginger….

Ginger was the mutt my Dad adopted as the house dog – as opposed to Sam, the yard dog. About to be put down at the animal shelter, my father came along to rescue her, and after being treated for distemper and spayed, came home to live with us. From the beginning she showed signs of a nervous condition, most obvious during thunder storms and – you guessed it – fireworks displays.

At the first spark of noise she would start shaking and lose control of her bladder. Often, she would creep upstairs (a big no-no) and shiver in the hallway outside our bedrooms until someone noticed her. More than once I stepped in cold puddles of dog pee on my way to bathroom, or spot her glowing eyes in the dark and almost peed my own pants!

Dad’s solution on the 4th of July was to tranquilize the poor dog and lock her in the laundry room for the duration. We couldn’t trust her anywhere else in the house or let her outside. Ginger had other virtues we valued such as running away to raid the neighborhood garbage cans, farts that could clear a room, shedding 365 days a year, eating ONLY buttered pieces of popcorn, and chasing squirrels. She actually caught one once and seemed so surprised by success that it got away!

July 4th always brings back good memories for me, including those of a weird little canine companion who deserves to be remembered.

##################

So, what have I been doing during my blogging absence? Writing my next book, of course. I removed as many non-essentials as possible in order to get the MS done faster, and am happy to report it’s working! I have only a couple chapters left to write, then edit, send to my beta readers, re-edit, and launch! The book cover is in hand and is beautiful! Check out the Abundant Moon tab above. I expect to release it later this month or early August.

On a more personal level I am working and healthy, as are my kids and extended family. So very much to be thankful for as the country winds up for another blast of the virus. Like everyone else, I am weary of the restrictions and wish we could get through this and out the other side. Meanwhile, my writing keeps me busy and grounded. My hope is that all of you are faring well these days and taking all the necessary precautions. Be safe, my friends!

When Something’s Gotta Give

I’m stepping back from a weekly blog post. I have a self-imposed deadline with my current WIP and need every spare minute to reach it. This hiatus may extend even longer, since I seem to have so little free time to do what I love – write.

Let’s face it – I don’t have much to say of interest and there are tons of other bloggers out there who do. I started it to share my thoughts as a new author, adding other things along the way to make it more relevant to a broader audience. Success, shall we say, has been elusive.

So, for now, new posts will appear when I have the time and something I feel compelled to share. I’m going to focus on two things: writing new material and marketing my already-published books.

I’ll still be around, reading and commenting on the many fine blogs out there and engaging with my readers. Feel free to contact me if you want to say hello, ask a question, or share what’s going on in your world. Another way to follow my progress is to check the “Books in Process” page on my website.

I’m grateful for the engagement of faithful readers and for your understanding regarding this change. You’re the best!

Email: aelliottbooks@gmail.com

Books in Process: https://aelliottbooks.com/books-in-process/

Me or Thee – For Whom Do I Write?

pexels-photo-261909

Do I write for myself or my readers? There’s only one answer – both, yet it’s a balancing act affected by a number of ever-changing variables. If I only write what my readers want, I run the risk of stifled creativity, boredom, and resentment. Eventually, the personal sacrifices necessary to write in the first place would no longer seem worth it. If I write only what interests me, readers may move on to someone else, and without an audience for my work, what’s the point?

Series are popular, yet I’ve found them both a blessing and a curse. Once the foundation is laid in the first book, I have a clear road ahead for more stories. Readers fall in love with the world and characters I’ve created and they naturally want more. Great! Who doesn’t want happy fans and increased sales? Strangely enough, it may be the author!

I’ve always resisted being trapped into long-term commitments with no exit strategy. I want options, and with a series there don’t seem to be any! Spending years writing about the same world and characters feels like prison, and I have to get away for a while and do something else. There are other ideas to pursue and genre’s to explore. Give me variety or give me death! OK, that’s over the top, but you get my meaning. When I explained this situation to one of my beta readers, this is what she said:

“Most of us hate it when we find a book we love and can’t read a second book for many months or years. If something is popular now, you should keep writing it or they will lose interest and you will never get them back because they won’t remember how much they liked it.

“I understand that when you have more stories you want to write, you would rather go on to something new that has been waiting. But, I think that authors have to write what will sell to some degree, or they won’t make enough to do it for a living. Tough decisions!”

I think she’s right, but even if I did as she suggested, it takes me around nine months to complete and publish a full length novel. So, I’ll still end up disappointing some current readers who don’t want to wait, but satisfying future readers who have the benefit of my backlist! There’s really no way to “fix” this, given my personal limitations and time constraints, but I’m going to see if I can do better.

At the moment, I’m working on a shorter in-between story for my Gladstone Shifters series. Fans have been waiting for over a year since book two came out, but I set the series aside to do something different (insert Rise of the Draman here). At the time, book two wasn’t doing all that well, and along with craving something new, I hated the thought of wasting time on a series no one was buying.

Due to an influx of new readers, and insistent pleas from established fans, I’m back on track with Gladstone Shifters. The plan is to finish book 2.5 and then move directly to book three, which is a concession on my part. After that, who knows? A second volume of dragon stories is possible (creating yet another series!) or I may move on to one of several other ideas bubbling away on the back burner. Tough decisions indeed!

As a writer, do you have a similar struggle trying to balance your needs with those of your readers? As a reader, do you lose interest in an author if the series you like is still in process? Let me know your thoughts!

The Post-Pandemic Future of Fiction

pexels-photo-272254

We don’t know what the real future looks like yet, but it’s almost certain the world will not return to the way it was. What effect is this going to have on writers of fiction? I suppose works considered “contemporary” would almost have to reflect what’s really going on in our world, but should they? Must they? How do authors in the middle of a series handle this crisis? Do they incorporate current events or continue the series as originally planned?

I assume some readers will actually prefer stories that make no mention of the pandemic and it’s wrenching and unwanted effects on our lives. Most people read to escape reality for a while, and with the pandemic literally everywhere, there’s little stomach for more of it in their reading material!

Admittedly, I would be hard-pressed to craft a compelling story where everyone is trapped at home, can’t meet face to face, or really do much of anything without fear of dropping dead! (Well, Stephen King could probably come up with something even more frightening, but I would have no interest in reading it.) On the other hand, how can I get away without at least mentioning the life altering affects of the virus in my work?

Some claim this will be over soon enough and relegated to the dustbin of history. If so, it might be unwise to focus on the pandemic in our current and near-future books. Instead, we could offer a mix of fleeting references alongside the familiar setting of  a world in which life as we knew it still (mostly) applies.

pexels-photo-208494

It’s right for us to ask questions, yet I don’t claim to have the answers. Only time will tell what readers want and expect, and of course, the new normal is evolving as we speak. Going forward, perhaps book descriptions should include a content label such as “Pre-Pandemic” or “Post-Pandemic”  to help readers make an informed decision before they purchase. Realistically, what works today may not fit the world of tomorrow at all. By  “dating” our books amidst a very fluid and quickly changing situation, we risk publishing stories with what could be a very short shelf life.

As a writer, what changes will you be making, if any, to your stories or the way they are marketed? What about a series already in progress? Will the pandemic and it’s effects show up in your writing – a little, a lot, not at all?

As a reader, what do you expect your favorite authors to do in response to recent events? Do you vote for escapism, realism, or something in between? How might this affect your decision to purchase?

This is an issue we cannot ignore. Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

PS – until things have settled down, I don’t plan to incorporate the pandemic into my writing, including existing series. 

Go ahead – brighten my day!

pexels-photo-3826674

I ran across an older post by Susan M. Toy entitled “How YOU can invest in authors and books… without spending any money!” In it, she lists ten ways to help, including borrow and read their books, tell your friends, talk about them in your own blog, and my favorite – contact them personally.

“Contact the Author privately (usually their websites will offer a way of connecting) and tell them how much you enjoyed their writing and books. It’s one thing to receive a positive public comment from a reader, but if you make the effort to tell that author, one-on-one, what you really think about their writing and their books… it is so, so much better than in a public review. Because again – it’s honest and heartfelt!”

I couldn’t agree more! In a more recent post, Susan shares a quote from Graeme McGaw’s newsletter which sums up the idea nicely:

“Take a minute to write to your favorite authors and thank them. Thank them for the books they have written, the adventures they have taken you on, and the worlds they have allowed you to escape into… thank them for pouring months and months of their life into their stories. Authors have it rough. Not only is it a lot of work, but they’re also putting themselves out there. Think of all those negative reviews an author receives on a book. That sort of thing can be crushing… So yeah, take the time to write to your authors. It will make their day.” 

I’ve received several personal contacts from readers lately, and each one put a long-lasting smile on my face, chased away the doubts, made me feel good, and strengthened my determination to keep going. It only cost a few moments of their time, but meant so much.  

“First of all please allow me to congratulate you for your writing. You just acquired another fan!!! I have immensely enjoyed the first two books Expectant Moon and Traitor’s Moon and I loved the way you made me feel reading them. I started the first two days ago and I just finished the second and I was so sad that the third is not out yet. In these difficult times, reading about Ben and Evan and their friends and family is giving me a glimpse of hope, and I thank you for that. I hope you will get the necessary inspiration to allow me to dream a little longer.” John from Belgium

“I loved Rise of the Draman. Clean language, wonderful nonstop adventure. Interesting take on dragons and their bonded. It was nice to read about good dragons and kindness throughout. It’s how we should be with each other. I really hated for it to come to an end. Thank you for sharing.” Romae

“I thoroughly enjoyed the book (Rise of the Draman). You are a talented writer and hope I get to read many more of your works.” John

 Aren’t these great? Interaction with my readers is one the big perks of being a writer. When I get notes like this, I doubt the people sending them realize the positive and powerful impact they have. The cool thing is – YOU can be part of it! 

Authors – make sure to provide an email or snail mail address where readers can reach you. When they do, be sure to respond and thank them.

Readers – never underestimate the power of a personal contact! Even if you can’t leave an official review (also really great), make a habit of letting your favorite authors know how much you appreciate their work.

pexels-photo-2764669