Monthly Archives: September 2014

The Unpredictability of Being Predictable

I was sitting at my son’s hight school football game a few weeks ago and someone brought up the fact that they used to own a minivan. Suddenly, everyone around us chimed in with, “We did, too.” As I looked around at my friends (none of which drive minivans now) and thought of the cars I’d owned, I began to see a pattern.

My first car was a clunker hand me down that broke down in the high school parking lot on more than one occasion. My college car was a slightly nicer car that I wrecked by not yielding at a yield sign and it stayed wrecked until I traded it in after getting married. My first married car was a two-door sports car with a manual transmission. While that was fun, and a big improvement over my last car, sitting in rush hour traffic with a clutch wasn’t any fun at all.

Not my minivan, but it could have been.

Not my minivan, but it could have been.

Car number four was a four-door sedan we purchased during the family planning stage. It was a car, just a car, but it had an automatic transmission (thank you!) and got good gas mileage. Then came the dreaded minivan.

Yes, I had a child, and yes, I knew lots of people who drove one, but darn it, I wasn’t supposed to be one of them! I soon came to realize why everyone drove minivans. I loved the minivan’s sliding doors because, let’s face it, those infant carseats are heavy. We enjoyed taking the minivan to UGA football games where we’d pack all our friends and gear into the van for a comfortable ride to Athens. We tailgated like kings by taking the seats out and lounging around the grill in style. Speaking of taking the seats out, boy could we pack a ton of stuff into the minivan when the seats were removed. The thing was a veritable moving van.

And then my husband traded in the minivan and I was sad. Yes, I felt much cooler in my SUV, but it was hard getting the kids into their carseats. And the doors didn’t slide. “Watch the doors,” became my new catchphrase, because the under-ten crowd doesn’t care if they ding the car next to them.

Now I’m ready to size down and trade in my SUV for a comfortable sedan. According to the predictable pattern of car ownership, I’ll soon be driving a Lincoln Towncar and eating dinner at four. It’s kind of depressing to look back and note a predictable pattern of life played out through my vehicle purchases. Perhaps I’ll surprise everyone–including myself–and trade the SUV in on a convertible. But…why break a good streak?

How about you, WU? Any predictable patterns in your life?

photo credit: hiestand24 via photopin cc

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It’s All Relative

Man pulling his hair outWhen I published my debut novella under a pen name three weeks ago, I had low expectations. Conventional wisdom says that you don’t get any traction until the third book in the series comes out, and things really take off with book five or six. And I was content to wait for that to happen.

But the book didn’t hover at around 1,000,000 on Amazon like I expected. The day after it was published, it hit an Amazon bestseller list. I was, of course, over the moon.

And that’s when the crazy set in. I couldn’t be content with that modicum of success. Instead of focusing my energy on writing the next book, as I had planned, I felt like I had to promote the one I’d already published, to keep it visible. It was holding pretty steady in the top 20 on the list, and the top 10 in hot new releases in its category. Things were going great.

Until suddenly, they weren’t.

And that’s when the crazy got worse.

Sales were dropping along with the ranking. I experimented with new categories, and sales stopped altogether. So I dropped the price to 99 cents and ran a promo. The 99 cent price point helped, but the promo didn’t. The book was back up to #9 on the bestseller list for its category, and #5 in hot new releases, and I felt like I had failed because it wasn’t higher.

Like I said. Crazy.

I’m working on shifting my focus back to the things I can control, and letting go of the things I can’t. I’ve decided I’m allowed a few weeks of crazy after the first book is published, because it’s a super big deal to achieve something you’ve dreamed of your whole life. But it’s time to get back to business—to buckle down and write. The best thing I can do for the sales of the first book is to finish the second.

A month ago, I would have been so happy to be where I am now. But I am most definitely not happy. I’m distracted and sleep deprived and constantly fretting.

When things change, even for the better, our expectations change with them. And with the new expectations comes a whole new set of problems. Sometimes you have to step back and figure out what really matters. I didn’t become an author so I could worry about sales figures. I became an author so I could write. And when I’m doing that, I feel centered and happy, instead of anxious and out of control.

When we’re young, I suspect we all believe we’ll reach a point when we’ve got it all figured out. Now I realize that’ll never happen. Until you stop striving, you can never say you’ve succeeded. And when you stop striving, you’re taking the first step on the path to failure. I hope that as long as my heart keeps beating, I’ll keep trying new things. Even if that means anxiety and frustration and a bit of obsessive behavior.

What was the last new thing you tried that made you feel out of balance? How did you cope? 

Hello, Fall!

This morning, I woke up and greeted my children, “Happy Fall!”

Glum morning pouts returned, “It’s not fall, yet.”

“But it’s the 22nd. Yesterday was actually the cutoff, so I’m safe today.”

“My calendar says its tomorrow,” my teenage daughter replied.


Hmph. “Your calendar is wrong, or this is one of those off years. Either way, I’m celebrating today! Hot cider anyone? Glass of red wine by the fire?”

red wine by fire

Fall is my favorite time of year. Not only the cooler temps and fall foliage (leaves I get to enjoy on television), but it signals a change in pace. Gone are the unruly days of summer when life is a free for all with the kids home, bored, restless, but it’s also the time of year I get back in the garden.

squash going great

In Central Florida, September is planting month and boy, have I been planting! So far, I have black beans, red beans, lima beans, cabbage, broccoli, tomatoes, squash, kale and peppers in for the new season. My okra and peanuts are finishing, making way for sweet onions, carrots, garlic and potatoes over the next weeks and months. Whew–doesn’t that just sound exciting?

How about you? Do you live where the gardens are going gangbusters right about now? If not, feel free to enjoy mine vicariously….at BloominThyme!


When bad is good

This past summer, at a conference for the Romance Writers of America, I attended a workshop by Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books about how to respond to reviews (basically, by not engaging, ever, at all.), how to read between the lines of them, and how sometimes, if you’re really lucky, bad reviews can be good for sales. It was a workshop I knew would be especially relevant for me this fall, as I steam towards my debut novel release date on September 30th, and I figured it would be well worth an hour spent cooped up in a hotel conference room.

Now that the reviews for The Last Breath are starting to trickle in on Goodreads and book review sites, I’m relieved and thrilled and mostly relieved to say most are overwhelmingly positive. But you can’t write for everyone, and not every reader is going to love your book. The criticisms I’ve gotten so far all center around one issue ~ too much sex. Kirkus Reviews, a site my writer friends assure me is notoriously harsh on authors, even went so far as to call it “sexual acrobatics” that got in the way of plot.

Perhaps if I hadn’t gone to that workshop, this would be the spot where I would defend my book and dispute the acrobatics of my sex scenes. Perhaps this would be where I would climb up on my soapbox and challenge and complain and make comparisons to other books, big books, with far more sex than mine. But Sarah Wendell’s words are whispering in my ear: Do not engage. Ever. At all.

So instead, I’ll just sit back and hope that her other words apply here, too. The words that said that sometimes, if you’re really really lucky, bad reviews can be good.

Because sexual acrobatics? Who doesn’t want to read about those?

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