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!      

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.

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“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.

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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/

Tripped up – A pantser’s confession

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Yes, I’m one of those.

Despite the fact that I tend to be very organized, thrive on consistency, and pride myself on never being late, it’s not the way I write. Usually, things move along swimmingly with only minor hiccups and the pantser’s life serves me well. Once in a while I end up being tripped by those pants and have to scramble to fix the mess. One could say I’ve been hoist with my own petard.

As you’ve no doubt surmised, I’m busy unwrapping my ankles so I can get to where I really need to be. After releasing my latest book three weeks ago, it was time to begin the next project – book three of my Gladstone Shifters series. Before I could begin writing something new, I needed to go back and re-read the first two books. I’ve been away from the series for more than a year, so a refresher was essential. No big deal, right?

This is where a plotter or planner has the advantage. Why? Because they would already have the series “bible” close at hand with all the needed information: names, dates, ages, physical descriptions of characters, timeline, etc. It was something I should already have done, but thought a cluttered file folder and my memory were good enough. Who has time for all that when there are more books demanding to be written?

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So I began to read, taking copious notes of all the information I might need for book three and typing them up properly for future reference. It turns out this wasn’t the only problem. It quickly became apparent the manuscripts needed yet MORE editing and minor changes. Things which slipped by unnoticed before were now glaringly obvious and must be fixed. Cringe worthy, embarrassing, unacceptable! There’s no way I could release (or begin writing) a new book without cleaning up the first two.

So, my simple task of re-reading morphed into constructing the series handbook I’d neglected, along with a new round of editing and corrections. I should have seen it coming. Since when does one of my easy-peasy tasks NOT become a time consuming black hole? Jettison the goals! Forget the “done by” dates on the calendar! Lower the sails and deploy the anchor! You get the idea – I’ve fallen behind, mired in a to-do list of my own making.

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For me, there was no choice at all. Once I recognized what needed to be done, I had to go back and fix things before starting new material. I know how my linear brain works by now, so trust me, pulling up my pants was the only option if I wanted to keep walking! Not to worry – I have made progress. It’s just going much slower than I’d like.

At this point the plan is to write a shorter in-between novella to pacify my demanding readers. (It’s not their fault, as I’m a year overdue releasing book three). After that, I’ll get to work on Forbidden Moon. I’m not going to promise anything though – after all, I am a pantser!

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NEW RELEASE! Rise of the Draman

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Orphaned as an infant, Croft spent his early years in the harsh confines of the Abbey, dreaming of befriending a dragon. When the day finally came, an accident leaves him utterly changed and bonded to a beast named Rueloo. Facing prejudice and fear, Croft builds a quiet life in the nest among his dragon friends – unaware his unique abilities would soon be needed.

With a powerful foe marching towards their borders, King Augustus appeals to the dragon child for his help. Croft’s example of sacrifice, kindness, and bravery inspire the people of Spiredale to unite and overcome. With the dragons, they forge a powerful alliance and embrace an entwined future neither were expecting.

In this five-story collection, join Croft and Rueloo through a series of adventures filled with intrigue, survival, love, sorrow, and triumph. Their bond is only the beginning… (Suitable for ages ten-adult.)

Now available for purchase at Amazon!

 

Choosing Your Words Carefully

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Take a look at this recent news clip headline:

“Uranus has started leaking gas, NASA scientists confirm”

You can stop laughing now. It’s likely the writer worded it this way on purpose to call attention to the article. I certainly noticed! It’s also possible the idiot wasn’t thinking clearly and ended up with a humorous reference to odiferous body functions. I’ll let you decide.

More important than a good chuckle, it reminded me of a lesson I’m still learning – choosing my words carefully. I’m not referring to my books per se, but public communications such as my website, emails, and blog posts. Sometimes there’s a fine line between honesty and polite discourse, and given the permanent nature of e-communications I must be judicious in what I reveal or how I respond.

Take emails from readers for instance. While Sally just loved my most recent book, would I please consider writing a story about flying pink unicorns? Ahem…well now my first instinct might be to say something rude or dismissive – but I can’t do that. This is where those carefully chosen words come in. It takes more time to craft a polite and appreciative response without telling the person to check their medication or go get a life and leave me alone!

This kind of thing happens all the time with rude or uninformed blog post comments, unreasonable reviews, or things with which you strongly disagree. Some folks don’t know how to express themselves or are convinced they have the right to tell you what to do/think. Sometimes the only response is none at all, or a non-committal “thanks for stopping by!”.

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I’ve never been shy about sharing my opinions freely, so learning to throttle my first instinct has been challenging at times. Honestly, I’ve learned a lot about watching my words from other writers and bloggers and appreciate their example.

Has this been a struggle for you? I’d love to hear how you have dealt with it.

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Book update – Rise of the Draman is almost ready to launch! Look for an announcement with the next week or so.

Virus check – How are you holding up in these crazy days? I hope you are healthy and weathering the storm. Since my employer is considered “essential”, I continue to work as usual and am grateful for a consistent income. It’s still difficult though, as I pick up on everybody else’s stress! People are afraid of each other and no one makes eye contact. The streets are devoid of traffic, businesses are closed everywhere you look, and nothing seems “right”. Checking the news is depressing and scary as things get worse, and it’s all people can talk about. I can’t help but wonder how this pandemic will change our world once it passes.

If you are able, I encourage you to donate to your local food bank or homeless shelter. The need is great for so many and we can only get through this together. Peace.

Who said that?!

Warning – this post is an attempt to distract you from current events. Read at your own risk.

I love collecting quotes. Whenever I run across something worthwhile I jot it down (because heaven knows my memory is an untrustworthy stinker). The following mashup comes from a variety of sources. Citation is provided when known.

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“Imagination is wasted without a creative outlet.”

“There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts.” Charles Dickens

“Rip was so straight you could level a picture frame with him.”

“The feeling flitted across my mind like the shadow of a bird, but it never stayed to sing.” Neenah Ellis

“The best way to a man’s heart is through his mother.”

“Right…Stun the bitches tits off and apologize later.” James Gardner

“The room looked as if it were channeling its inner museum.”

Everybody does have a book in them, but in most cases that’s where it should stay.” Christopher Hitchens

“Just like a zit, she kept popping up – unwanted and refusing to disappear.”

“You’re not old as long as there’s a little bit of whipper left in your snapper!” Hallmark

“It was a wet, burbly sound, like a fart with attitude. The equivalent of a rectal raspberry.”

“I wouldn’t trust them to organize a drinking party in a distillery.” David Weber

“Nothing like a a little judicious levity.”

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Author update – The upheaval caused by Covid-19 affects all of us, even if we remain healthy. I am still working, despite the stay at home order now in effect, and, so far, my immediate family is weathering the storm just fine. A friend recently lamented that the world will be forever changed, and I must agree. We have an opportunity to learn, grow, and change for the better, but will we?

My current project is keeping me busy, and providing a blessed distraction! Rise of the Draman is undergoing a final beta read and I am closing in on a publication date. As usual, I’m struggling with the book description and having an awful time of it. So much to say with so little space! A dozen different ways to approach it, yet which one will hook the potential reader?

I didn’t write this book with any specific purpose in mind. Somehow, it turned out to be chock full of timely lessons for what is happening right now, including adversity, sacrifice, love, unity, and the greater good. Getting it out there ASAP is my goal, and I hope it proves to be both entertaining and helpful. Book launch is tentatively set for the middle of April.

Wishing you peace and safety, my friends.

Fantasy Maps – From Brain to Page

My next book, Rise of the Draman, is a fantasy dragon tale set in medieval times. After writing began, I sketched out a rough map (we’re talking grade school quality here) to use as a reference point. Eventually, I ended up with four, detailing the kingdoms and places where most of the action took place. They not only ensured consistency, but imbued the story with a sense of reality.

As things became more complicated, I toyed with the idea of including maps in the book. Why? While I did my best to describe the world in sufficient detail, words on the page will only take you so far. A good map will enhance the story, help the reader understand action and character motivations, and simplify complex scenes.

“Like a good novel itself, a map draws the reader into its created world, but still leaves room for imagination to fill in the rest.” Clay Andres

Now comes the tough part. I knew I couldn’t draw them, and the available do-it-yourself software was either too expensive or hard to use. What to do? I mentioned the desire for maps to one of my faithful beta readers, and she volunteered to create them for me! The before and after images below speak for themselves.

 

Dramanshire Map

 

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Created by Kari C.

 

The artist and I exchanged many emails and texts to fine tune what I wanted, clarifying various features and making changes which reflected the story as written. The process was exciting and not nearly as stressful as I imagined. In the space of one week, she churned out four completed hand drawn maps! In her spare time!

I’m even more excited about Rise of the Draman now and can’t wait to see what my readers think. While I would love to share all four, you’ll have to buy the book to see the others! They’re beautiful, super COOL, and take my story to another level.

“One of life’s greatest treats, for a lover of books (especially fantasy books), is to open a cover to find a map secreted inside and filled with the details of a land about to be discovered. A writer’s map hints at a fully imagined world, and at the beginning of a book, it’s a promise. In the middle of a book, it’s a touchstone and a guide. And at the end, it’s a reminder of all the places a story has taken you.” Sarah Laskow

Publication is tentatively set for early April.

 

(Don’t) Say that again – Dealing with overused words

I’m on the hunt.

My manuscript was overrun with the nasty little boogers and it’s taking precious writing time to stop and cull them from the herd. You know what I’m talking about, though they go by many different names: crutch words, filter words, overused words, tired words, lazy words, needless words, filler words, repetitive words – and don’t get me started on adverbs! I’m tempted to use a different term altogether, but it wouldn’t be acceptable in polite company.

I prefer the term “crutch words”, but what are they?

“They are words or expressions that an author’s brain defers to like a default setting (and therefore, they become overused). These repeated words/phrases should not be obliterated from your writing, but rather, their frequency and usage need to be reduced.” Sam Giacomo

I found at least three things worth mentioning in Sam’s simple definition.

Default setting – every writer tends to overuse certain words and phrases, but it’s part of your unique writing voice. They spring from your upbringing, education, region of the world, and personality. Relax. You come by it naturally, you can use them, and you’re in good company.

Not be obliterated – When I was first confronted with my own repeats, it surprised me! (Had, that, but, was, & would are some of my worst.) Removal of every single crutch word is neither required nor desired, but you will have to cull them. The effort is more than worthwhile, as it will improve sentence structure and the overall quality of your writing.

Reduced – Here’s the hard part, and none of my research revealed how many occurrences of a word or phrase is acceptable or excessive. Shouldn’t the magic formula look something like this? [20 uses of “X” per 1000 words = disaster] I wish it were that easy! I use MS Word for my writing, so I take advantage of the “Find” feature. If I see a whole bunch of repeats clustered together, I go hunting. If the overall number is large, I look at each one and winnow it down.

For example, while working on story number three of my current MS, I punched in the word “was”. Whoa! Two hundred forty four occurrences in a document of just under twenty thousand words. It took hours of eliminating, replacing, and re-writing to get the number down to one hundred three. The process is subjective, but once you know what your crutch words are it’s easier to find an acceptable balance.

Beware – the little stinkers are tricky! The list of offenders never goes away as old ones are replaced with new ones. Always ask your beta readers to watch for them, as they are more likely to catch them than you are.

Happy hunting!