Weekly Roundup 12-5-18 Reference Material for Romance Writers

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

I prefer to get my news online and like to save articles which might help my writing, be it general information or new story ideas. Back in June I was intrigued by this one: “Sixteen Hot Spots on a Man’s Body You Should Know About” by Carina Hsieh. Naturally, as an M/M romance writer, I was intrigued and wanted to know more. It never hurts to introduce some new ideas into a hot bedroom scene, and I certainly can’t claim to know it all.

While the list contained the usual suspects (lips, penis, nipples, perineum), there were a few odd places mentioned:

  • Adam’s Apple
  • Lower back
  • The dip under the ankle

I am uncertain how much serious research is represented, but the author claims the advice comes from “experts”. I can think of at least two hot spots which were left off the list, though most gay men are not shy about taking advantage of them. You’ll have to read the article for yourself and decide if the information is helpful!

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Traitor’s Moon – I’ve made some great progress this week and am deep into chapter twelve! Word count stands at 96,300+. This part of the book is both winding down towards the end and building up to the final conflict. During a short break in the action, I’m having fun with one of the sub-plots, fleshing out a newer character. Too many new people tend to distract from the primary pair in each story, so I have to be careful. It remains to be seen if he will be featured, or only mentioned, in future books.

Since I’m near the end, I occasionally have trouble remembering details from the early chapters. Research is often required to make certain I am being consistent with important details (thank goodness for the “search” feature in MS Word!). I suppose it could be said that many readers would not notice minor errors, since they have most probably forgotten the details by the end of the book anyway. Perhaps, but I simply can’t let things like that slide. As an author, I feel obligated to give readers my very best, and I hope it shows.

My goal is to complete Traitor’s Moon by the end of the calendar year and publish it early next year. Stay tuned for the cover reveal!

Expectant Moon Gets a Makeover

The importance of a great cover cannot be overstated. It’s crucial to grab a potential reader’s attention while also giving them a general idea of what kind of book they are looking at. Great, now you’re halfway there! The second step is to provide an enticing book description, which, if done correctly, peaks their interest and convinces them to purchase. I’m going to save step two for another post and focus on the cover today.

One of the challenges an indie author faces is the overwhelming body of knowledge needed to successfully publish a book. Assuming you have a great story and the manuscript has been written well and edited properly, you’re still left with all the marketing issues – including the items mentioned above. I was arrogant enough to believe I knew better than my graphic artist what a great book cover should look like. Consequently my choices have been underwhelming, affecting sales and my brand. (Yes, my other books need new covers too, but I can’t afford to change them all right now.)

Well, this old dog really CAN learn new tricks! At times it’s difficult for me to admit I was wrong, swallow my pride, and let the “experts” guide me. Perhaps you share the same struggle and know what I mean. Anyway, with Traitor’s Moon nearing completion, I was determined to find an AWESOME cover for it. The original plan was to model it after Expectant Moon’s with slight changes. Now, I’m very fond of the present artwork and wouldn’t normally spend the money to replace it so soon, but I’d made too many mistakes and it had to go.

After eating a generous portion of humble pie, I contacted my graphic artist with a request to start from scratch and design the whole series, which will include at least three books. This time, I gave her the freedom to do it properly and ignore my input if it got in her way. The difference between the old and new is quite striking and early feedback is convinced I’ve got a winner. Tell me what you think!

New Cover:

ExpectantMoonSmallerWebUse -new

Old Cover:

ExpectantMoonSmallerWebUse

 

WEEKLY ROUNDUP 10-17-18 May I quote you?

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

This week I want to share a mix of wonderful book quotes:

  • “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.” Groucho Marx
  • “The library is inhabited by spirits that come out of the pages at night.” Isabel Allende
  • “You cannot open a book without learning something.” Confucius
  • “The worst thing about new books is that they keep us from reading the old ones.” Joseph Joubert
  • “Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity.” G.K. Chesterton
  • “Why can’t people just sit and read books and be nice to each other?” David Baldacci
  • “A book is a dream that you hold in your hands.” Neil Gaiman
  • “In books I have traveled, not only to other worlds, but into my own.” Anna Quindlen
  • “Everybody does have a book in them, but in most cases that’s where it should stay.” Christopher Hitchens
  • “A book is a gift you can open again and again.” Garrison Keillor

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Traitor’s Moon – I’m deep into chapter 10! Two of the minor characters have been brought together as mates and were named after my parents. If they were still alive they would not be amused! I didn’t do it on purpose…it just happened that way – really! Anyway, I’m unpacking the story box at a faster pace, revealing jewels which had to wait their turn. I’m not sure if I get more pleasure from revealing it to myself or to my readers. Word count stands at 80,000+.

My graphic artist is busy working on the cover for Traitor’s Moon! I love seeing the book come to life visually this way. In fact, she is creating covers for the series, which means Expectant Moon will get a new one too. I may give you a preview but will definitely reveal it when Traitor’s Moon is released. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

Weekly Roundup 8-15-18 My Publishing Anniversary!

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

art-bright-celebrate-1229838By Rudolf Kirchner on Pexels.

WOO HOO! One year ago I became a published author! It’s been an incredibly busy time of growth, change, excitement, and, yes, discouragement. Though I’ve learned an awful lot, it’s obvious I have much further to go and wonder when, or if, I’ll ever arrive. It isn’t just the constantly changing nature of publishing, but the deep pool of knowledge an author needs to run the business side of things. Self-publishing is not for the faint of heart, and I can’t even imagine trying the traditional route!

One of the reasons I spent a year writing before any attempt to publish was the sheer number of things I needed to learn. I came very close to giving up when I realized how complicated and time-consuming it was. The process would have been far easier and more pleasant if I’d had a mentor to guide me and answer questions. l still wish I had some fellow authors I could talk to when I need to vent or ask advice.

At the beginning, my sales figures were the primary driving force, and I was riding high for a while – until Pronoun closed up shop. Sales tanked after that and I am nowhere near where I’d like to be. Once more, I seriously considered calling it quits, but made a commitment to stick it out for two years before making that kind of decision. In the meantime, I had to find an other source of motivation and settled on two things:

  1. I love to write.

I have tons of ideas for future stories; so many in fact I don’t think I’ll live long enough to ever see them all published. Writing is so fulfilling and downright fun I simply MUST keep going!

  1. Readers enjoy my work.

Even though sales are slow, I realized it wasn’t because my books were bad. I’ll probably never be famous or rich, but I believe I have something to offer and feedback from my readers tells me I’m on the right track.

My goals for the next year include improvement in the mechanics of writing/editing and more effective marketing. Meanwhile, each book will be better than the one before it and adds to my back list. Perhaps I’ll get a lucky break and win an award or be offered a movie deal! What?! I can dream can’t I?

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Current manuscript:

Progress has been slow on chapter six of Traitor’s Moon. At this point of the story, I’m transitioning from the set up to the main action points and the primary romance. It’s tricky weaving all the threads together without leaving out anything important. I’m hoping to finish the chapter in the next day or two. Current word count is 46,000+ which is close to novel length and I’m only half done!

Quotes I liked:

“Too often do reviewers remind us of the mob of Astrologers, Chaldeans, and Soothsayers gathered before the “writing on the wall”, and unable to read the characters or make known the interpretation.” Charlotte Brontë, author of Jane Eyre, September 19, 1850.  (Well said, Charlotte. Some things never change!)

“The breathless voice belonged to a vivacious blonde. Her clothes screamed popular cheerleader. Perkiness seeped out of her pores in puke-inducing waves.” From Lone Wolf by Shelley Munro. (LOL. Can’t you just picture this person? How did she do it with only 23 words?? Thanks Shelley!)

Weekly Roundup 8-1-18 CURSES! Using naughty words in fiction.

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Curse. Swear. Expletive. Oath. Profanity. Cuss. Invective. Malediction.

Virtually everyone does it; from presidents to the smart-mouthed kid next door. Swear words may be pithy or profane, mild or malevolent, productive or pointless. Even mild euphemisms such as darn, shoot, and heck are simply substitutes for the “real” thing, and everyone knows exactly what you mean (sorry Grandma).

It follows, then, that fictional characters will also run a blue streak from time to time, and most readers would find it strange if they didn’t. Swear words are verbal emotions; cathartic for the speaker, able to evoke a visceral response in the hearer. It’s a non-physical way to let people know how you really feel and a powerful part of our interaction with others.

I grew up in a household where the strongest language included hells bells, ship ahoy, and crapola. Why? My parents were determined to raise respectful, educated children and they believed excessive swearing was a sign of moral failure and below average intelligence. Consequently, the cuss words I generally use are mild and infrequent and this spills over to the characters of my books.

I find strong language offensive (especially the F-word), and have no interest in creating foul-mouthed characters, even if it makes them more realistic. I believe I can convey the proper meaning and attitude with minimal obscenities, and my readers seem to agree.

I can’t tell you how many times I have stopped reading due to excessive use of profanity, even though the story up to that point was quite good. You might be surprised how much I put up with, but if the writer can’t tell the story without gratuitous curses every other sentence I will look elsewhere for my entertainment. Your standards and mine may differ, and that’s OK – just don’t expect to find F-bombs scattered through the pages of my books!

Here’s a few quotes I like:

“Grant me some wild expressions, Heavens, or I shall burst.” George Farquhar

“The foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing is a vice so mean and low that every person of sense and character detests and despises it.” George Washington

“I think the reason that swearing is both so offensive and so attractive is that it is a way to push people’s emotional buttons, and especially their negative emotional buttons.” Steven Pinker

“There ought to be a room in every house to swear in. It’s dangerous to have to repress an emotion like that.” Mark Twain

“I’ve never found an interesting person with a foul mouth.” Marilyn vos Savant

“Swearing was invented as a compromise between running away and fighting.” Finley Peter Dunne

“Writing for adults often means just increasing the swearing – but find an alternative to swearing and you’ve probably got a better line.” Steven Moffat

“Profane swearing never did any man any good. No man in the richer or wiser or happier for it.” Robert Lowth

You may find these resources interesting:

Why Do We Swear? by John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

What’s Wrong with Swearing? from the Cuss Control Academy

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Traitor’s Moon update. Another Gladstone pack member finds their mate! Word count is now 40,000+.  I finished chapter five on Sunday and will complete the editing today. I prefer to clean up each chapter as I go so the task isn’t so daunting at the end. If I don’t, the errors I KNOW are lurking in the text become so distracting I can’t concentrate on new material! I have read advice from established authors who do all the writing, followed by all the editing, but that method doesn’t work for me.

One step forward, two steps back. As an Indy author, I don’t have access to professional help to improve my writing skills. I’ve learned so much since I published my first five books almost a year ago, with advice coming from beta readers, reviews, various articles and blog posts, and a daughter-in-law with an English major (thanks J.)

When I become aware of an issue, I have to not only incorporate it into my current manuscript, but I also correct the others which came before it. This takes time and headache-inducing editing!

Recently, I’ve been working on three areas of concern:

  • 3rd person POV – apparently I missed the memo about Third Person Omniscient being decades out of fashion and should therefore be using Third Person Limited. What? Not going to happen! Well, not the way it was described in the article I read. I’m not prepared to ditch the Omniscient view entirely, as I find it quite useful, and will most likely continue the combination of Omniscient/Limited I have been using. What I am going to do is limit the view to a single person or group of people in any given scene/paragraph to reduce head-hopping.
  • Quotation marks – “When dealing with quotations that extend over more than one paragraph, you need to put quotation marks at the beginning of each paragraph but at the end only of the final one.Great! What wonderful advice! Do you know how long it’s going to take me to fix this? Now would be a good time for an expletive….
  • Several reviewers have commented that they feel they are being told the story rather than living it, but none have gone on to explain exactly what they meant. After consulting with someone who has read all of my books (thanks T.), the suggestion was to include more specific descriptors. Nothing extensive, but by adding occasional colors, textures, sounds, smells etc. to the text, the reader will be able to experience the story in a way which echos real life. This is not a bad suggestion, but will take time to correct retroactively, and force me to change the way I write going forward.

Well, that’s more than enough from me today. Time to get some $!#*&@ writing done!

Weekly Roundup 7-18-18

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

I’ve got so much going on in my head I don’t know whether I’m coming or going. This week has been particularly overwhelming and I wish I had some time off work to deal with everything!

  • Current manuscript – Traitor’s Moon is coming along, though not as fast as I would like. Word count is 30,000+ and I am almost finished with chapter four. I’ve been looking forward to writing this part of the story for quite a while, though it presented its own challenges which slowed me down. I’m looking forward to book 3 which I hope will be a bit less involved and complicated. We’ll see.
  • Book sales are still flat and I need to start building my email list. I now have MailPoet, but it  isn’t set up completely yet. Relying on forums to answer my questions is a waste of my time, especially when I am already paying for the service! I need to hire a tech-savvy assistant to do this kind of stuff for me.
  • I’ve been joking around with a co-worker about writing a custom short story with her as the heroine. We have a lot of fun laughing over possible titles and content, and I would really enjoy doing it – but no time! My current book gets the majority of my attention for the foreseeable future, and I can’t allow myself to be distracted. Easier said than done…
  • The countdown to my move across country is getting close now – only a couple of months! It’s going to mean a major interruption in my writing, of course, and I hate the thought of losing momentum. It will push the release date out further too, but it can’t be helped. Meanwhile I have to start packing and make arrangements. There’s a lot to do!
  • I read a blog post this week in which the author suggested traveling to the places you write about. In some ways that would be cool, but then I decided it would punch too many holes in my imagined world. My current series is set in Michigan’s upper peninsula, which is someplace I have never been. I use maps and Google to get the info I need and base the story on real names, places, and facts, but add my own details when necessary. Actually traveling there (while I’m writing the books) wouldn’t be a good idea, as I would begin to doubt everything I’ve already written! Perhaps I’ll visit after the series is complete.
  • This week I started re-reading a quirky series from a few years back: Ganymede Quartet, by Darrah Glass. The basic premise involves a forbidden gay romance between a rich teen and his personal slave. The whole thing is fascinating and disturbing and difficult to put down. The biggest disappointment is that the author never really finished, leaving her readers hanging without some kind of resolution or addressing the important questions the MC has about his life and future. Still, if you want something different, this series might fit the bill! Get it HERE.

Reader Roundup 7-4-18

Reader Roundup is a weekly update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

“The Fourth of July – also known as Independence Day or July 4th – has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1941, but the tradition of Independence Day celebrations goes back to the 18th century and the American Revolution. On July 2nd, 1776, the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence, and two days later delegates from the 13 colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, a historic document drafted by Thomas Jefferson. From 1776 to the present day, July 4th has been celebrated as the birth of American independence, with festivities ranging from fireworks, parades and concerts to more casual family gatherings and barbecues.” See the full article HERE.

Looking back, July 4th was always a fun family day. I don’t recall my parents teaching us anything about the Holiday itself or why we celebrated it, and as a child I’m almost certain it would have gone over my head. I was more interested in the evening cookout, homemade ice cream, watermelon, and fireworks.

I may be mistaken, but I seem to recall July 4th was one of the few times we used the grill. Perhaps it was because meat was expensive and feeding our large family wasn’t easy. Pasta goes a lot farther on a budget than beef! Dad would cook hot dogs and hamburgers while Mom served potato salad, baked beans and other picnic type foods such as chips and pop.

Making the ice cream came before the the grill was fired up, and I was probably in my teens before the old hand cranked device gave up the ghost. It always took at least two of us to get the job done – one to crank the handle and the other to sit on the top (cushioned with a folded rug) to keep the blue wooden bucket from tipping over. It was the only time of the year we got to enjoy homemade ice cream, and couldn’t wait for dinner to end so we could have some. Hello brain freeze!

Sometime after supper the ice cold watermelons were brought out and sliced, which inevitably ended up in a seed-spitting war. Uncouth? Sure! We had a blast anyway! (If you’ve never done it, the trick is to nail the other person in the face with the seed, minus the spit. Sometimes you got both…)

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 Dad 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’m amazed no one ever got hurt! I don’t usually bother with going to fireworks displays any more. I don’t like the heat, noise, or crowds, and the magic of it all is long gone. Oh well.

I hope you and yours take a moment to remember what we are celebrating and have a safe, enjoyable Holiday.

Other things going on this week:

  1. Making some good progress on Traitor’s Moon. Still in chapter three and hope to finish it up by next week. I’m at an exciting part of the story with a lot of action, and writing it requires careful thought and precision. Nolan finally meets his mate, and they’re both in for a surprise!
  2. Been working on adding an email sign-up to my website. I chose MailPoet and am wading my way through the settings and trying to figure it all out. I’m not a tech person, so this kind of thing gives me hives. I would vastly prefer to let someone else do the set-up while I get more writing done.
  3. Started reading a dragon book this week, but had to quit. It wasn’t billed as a YA title, but it certainly wasn’t geared for adults! Too simple, too cute, too illogical for me to enjoy. That’s OK – there are enough books out there to satisfy every taste imaginable, and I’m not arrogant enough to assume everyone will enjoy my work simply because I wrote it.
  4. I don’t know about you, but the heat here has been awful, and I tip my hat to the fine gentlemen who invented air conditioning! In 1902, the first modern electrical air conditioning unit was invented by Willis Carrier in Buffalo, New York. In 1945, Robert Sherman of Lynn, MA invented a portable, in-window air conditioner. The first mass-market system for automobiles appeared in the Nash Ambassador in 1954. Without these fine inventions I would melt into a puddle of goo like the Wicked Witch. Not pretty folks!

 

Reader Roundup 6-13-18

Reader Roundup is a weekly update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Seems as though everyone and their mother is trying to sell me their book on how to be a successful author. Much of the material I’ve seen is repetitive, common sense stuff with little value. Allow me to share some helpful gems which are worth repeating – and I won’t even charge you for it!

  1. SLEEP. A consistent sleep schedule with 7-8 hours per night is essential to supply your mind and body with the energy and creativity you need. Shortcuts lead to lethargy, sluggish thinking, and a lack of productivity. No more excuses – DO IT!
  2. STOP. Stop writing before you are finished. What?? The best way to jump-start your writing the next day (and avoid writer’s block) is to stop before you complete the section/chapter you are working on. I find it very helpful to leave myself brief notes which include the things I still want to say, giving me grease for the wheels when I come back to it later.
  3. FORGET. Forget about the guilt if you can’t write something every single day! I work full time and often have days of zero writing. There are enough pressures on my time and psyche, so laying a guilt trip on myself is destructive and pointless. Yes, a serious author must remained committed to the task, but there’s no need to beat yourself up in the process.
  4. COLLECT. I’ve mentioned this before, but always be prepared to record ideas when they make themselves known. Just because you are on chapter one doesn’t mean you should ignore a great idea for chapter six or even the end of the book – or subsequent books if you’re doing a series. Write it down, send yourself an email, record it on your phone – whatever works for you. The point is not to let good ideas get away simply because they occur to you at an odd time. Once forgotten, they may remain so!
  5. EDIT. Go over your manuscript with a fine tooth comb, and then hand it off to a team of beta readers. Make corrections and then re-read the thing from start to finish to see what else you and the others have missed. Repeat as often as necessary to produce the cleanest possible product. If you cut corners here, you are shooting yourself in the foot. Readers will forgive occasional mistakes but they will not give your book(s) a second chance if it is riddled with errors.
  6. COVER. You must have an attractive cover if you expect people to seriously consider looking at your book. Even if your writing is top-notch and the manuscript has been carefully edited to within an inch of its life, you have one chance to grab their attention. Spending the time and money to do it right will pay for itself many times over. Remember this – many potential readers will initially see your book cover in a thumbnail size, so make certain it’s clear and eye-catching.
  7. BLURB. Writing a book description, or jacket blurb, is one of the hardest things an author must do. It has to be brief, yet catch and hold the attention of a potential reader within seconds. It ain’t easy! You are competing with hundreds of other books, and readers are looking at the cover, blurb and price to determine if they want to purchase. If you lose them right out of the gate, all your hard work on the manuscript will be for nothing. Personally, I use my beta readers to help me determine if the blurb is doing its job. If not, I write as many as necessary until they give me a thumb’s up.

There are probably a zillion other things I could mention, assuming I’m even aware of them myself, but this is a good start. The next step is marketing, which is a minefield each author must learn to navigate for themselves without losing limbs, and I’m not going to pretend I have it figured out. For now, focus on writing a great story and preparing it for publication, since that in itself is a huge milestone and worth celebrating!

Do you have tips and tricks to share? Comments/questions? Just want to say hello? I would love to hear from you! Click HERE.

***Update on my current manuscript, Traitor’s Moon. I finished chapter one today and am ready to move on to chapter two! This may not seem like such a big deal, but it’s an indication of real progress. I’m eager to write about new characters as well as old friends from book one who have an integral part in the story.

Reader Roundup 5-23-18

Reader Roundup is a weekly update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Two things have kept me busy this week: promoting Expectant Moon and thinking deep thoughts about BEAR, DRAGON, and CAT shifters.

As to the first, Expectant Moon has been well received so far and garnered ten five-star reviews. This makes me happy! A recent FREE promotion on FreeBooksy resulted in over 2800 downloads. This also makes me happy! Overall sales are not what I was hoping for. This does NOT make me happy! Until I figure out what I’m still doing wrong, I suppose I will have to be satisfied with whatever I can get. There’s a magic formula of “behind the scenes” tricks for selling on Amazon, and I don’t have it figured out yet. I honestly don’t think it’s the books themselves – it’s the cursed marketing which is giving me fits! Like many authors, managing the business side of writing is a time consuming, confusing, and often frustrating endeavor. I didn’t really sign up for this part, but I’m stuck with it now!

On to more pleasant things…

Now, who doesn’t want to think about shifters?? They are so COOL, and lend themselves to really interesting stories! Some of you are wondering why I am spending time on anything other than book 2 in my Gladstone Shifters series. I have been working on the outline and background material, but have not yet started writing the story because other ideas have been popping up in my brain and I cannot ignore them!

I have found it beneficial to stop and record new ideas whenever they reveal themselves. I always carry a small notebook and pen at work for furious scribbling when no one is looking. Often, I get great ideas while in the shower or on my way somewhere in the car. Even dreams have presented new ideas or helped me solve problems with a current manuscript. Sometimes it’s simply an interesting book title or a general idea I might want to use in the future. Other times, I get the entire story line in a flood and have to hurry up and record it  down before I forget.

The bears are on my mind because I am toying with a bear shifter story for either Christmas or Valentines day (you’re going to love it!). I have dragons on the brain right now because of a series of books I have been reading lately. They too will get their own story in the future – probably a series. Recent articles in the news regarding cougars and lynx got me all excited about cat shifters – particularly because they reside right here in the states.

For those readers who are waiting for more Science Fiction books, never fear! I have some great stories on the back burner, and have been adding new ideas all the time. Imagine vast ocean creatures waiting to get their tentacles on the humans who have invaded their planet. Hey – they just want to talk!

 

My Books Now On KDP Select

Beginning today, I made an executive decision and moved all my books to KDP Select, meaning they are only available from Amazon for the foreseeable future.

I gave D2D a try for a couple months, hoping a wider distribution would result in greater sales – it didn’t. Plus, it prevented me from offering my books for FREE as a promotion option, which is something I really didn’t like.

The loss of Kindle Unlimited income was also a factor in switching back to Select. Right now, sales are slower than I would like and I need the additional KU income to pay for promotions.

I realize some of my readers prefer a different format or don’t like shopping on Amazon – so I offer my apologies for the inconvenience. If I had unlimited time and funds, I would have the freedom to do things differently. I appreciate your understanding, and hope you continue to enjoy my work.