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Posts by Amanda

With the New Year Come Changes

With the New Year comes new resolutions. That includes MGC. As we’ve been hinting for the last few weeks, there are some changes coming to the blog. It’s my pleasure to show you some of those changes today as well as to make an announcement or two. We hope you will be as excited by the changes as we are. Of course, as with most things, it is a work in progress. Read more

A snippet revisited

Here’s hoping everyone who celebrates Christmas had a wonderful day yesterday. I’ll freely admit to suffering from too much fun followed by battling a refrigerator yesterday afternoon and evening that decided it wanted to torment me with the question of “Am I failing or am I not?” So, I’m doing the Mad Genius Club form of regifting. I’m sharing a snippet you first saw Christmas season 2016.

Witchfire Burning (Eerie Side of the Tracks Book 1)

It’s never easy going home, especially when you left under less than ideal circumstances. But that’s the situation I found myself in. It might never have happened if it weren’t for my daughter, the light of my life. Four months ago, Ali turned five. A month after that I finally admitted she presented challenges I didn’t know how to deal with. Fortunately, at least in some ways, my mother did know how to handle my special little girl. Like it or not, that meant returning home to Mossy Creek, Texas, smack dab in the middle of the buckle of the Bible belt. Read more

Movin’ on up

Maintaining a blog for any length of time requires dedication, time and determination. When Sarah and Dave started MGC years ago, it was with an entirely different cast of bloggers than we have now. Over the years, bloggers have come and gone until we settled into the crew we’ve got now. I think it’s a wonderful group of men and women and I’ve loved working with each of them. And no, this isn’t a goodbye post. Far from it. But it is a post about change. In this case, change for the blog. Changes we believe will be for the good.

The main change that you, our readers, will see will be to our “theme”. If you aren’t familiar with WordPress, it allows bloggers to choose from a number of different themes that determine what a blog page looks like, what additional information can be displayed, etc. For the first time in years, we will be moving to a new theme. This one will be a bit cleaner than our current theme. There will also be things like a blogroll, links to recent posts, etc. It is all meant to make it easier for those reading the blog to find previous articles, articles related to the one they are reading, that sort of thing.

The pages of the blog will be undergoing some changes as well. We will still have the page for the Path to Publication. We’re adding a page (or pages) that will help you get to know our bloggers better. From these pages, we’ll link back to the authors’ blogs or websites. We will also have a link to their Amazon author pages and at least some “featured” titles by each blogger.

But the changes go further than that. Those of you who have read MGC for long, know that we would much rather be writing than promoting. When Sarah and I started looking long and hard at the blog and what needed to be done to improve it, promotion was at the top of the list. So, MGC will be getting its own FB page and — gag — probably its own Twitter account. This is one area where you guys can really help us. Once these go live, I’ll announce it on the blog. We need you to help by “liking” the pages and sharing the posts. That is the sort of “word of mouth” that helps writers more than any paid promotion ever could.

The content of the blog isn’t going to change. This is still a blog by writers about issues we think are important to writers and readers. However, there is going to be one big change. It will take time to implement because it means we are having to retrain ourselves, but the blog will no longer be static to a single post a day. That’s another reason for wanting to increase our social media presence. This way, if one of us sees news from the industry we think needs to be shared right away, it will be. The post of the day will still be there, still ready to be read in the morning. But there very well may be second or third post during the day. It won’t happen every day but it will happen whenever one of us feels there’s something we need to share. These supplemental posts may also be reviews of books we’ve read or new book announcements.

In other words, we are going to try to be better about letting you know when we have something new coming.

That means you will be seeing more in the way of snippets. We’re still working on the details about how we’re going to do it. As more details on this are figured out, we’ll let you know.

Sometime during the week, possibly Tuesday but more likely toward the end of the week, you will see the WP theme change. It may take a day or two to get all the glitches out and this is where you can help us. When the new theme goes live. along with leaving your regular comments about the post, let us know if you have any problems with the theme. In particular, we need to know if there is any issue scrolling (yes, I had this happen when I changed the theme for my personal blog) or if the theme runs off the page, is hard to read, etc. We have been testing it using a number of different OS and browsers, but it is easy to miss something.

I’ve rambled on long enough. We’re excited about the changes coming to the blog and hope you are as well. We will always be the Mad Genius Club, sometimes a bit more mad than others. Here’s hoping you and yours have a Merry Christmas and a safe and happy holiday season.

Oops, it’s Tuesday

That means I’m supposed to blog. Oops. Tell you guys what. I’m going to have another cup — or three of coffee — and get my brain functioning again and then I’ll be back. Well, maybe I’ll be back after I have breakfast with our own Kilted Dave and family. In the meantime, I’m open for suggestions about what to blog on. I have a question for you as well. If the blog design wizards were to swoop down on MGC and redesign the site, are there any special functions or attributes to the site you’d like included?

Until later!

Realizing when you’ve gone down the wrong path

The last month, I’ve been fighting the work-in-progress. I found all sorts of excuses about why I was having issues with it. There’s the knee injury that’s made it difficult to sit for long at the desk — or just about anywhere else — and write. Then there was Thanksgiving (which dragged out for three days with three large meals to plan and cook because of the different waves of company we had). There were other real life issues as well. All reasonable excuses for work not happening.

But they were excuses and I finally had to not only admit it but figure out what was going on.

This book, from the very beginning, has given me fits. I started it almost six months ago. The plotting went well. When it came to sitting down and writing it, the brakes slammed on and everything came to a standstill. So I did what I usually do when that happens and started asking myself questions about the plot, the characters, etc. I thought I found the answer. I needed to change the main character a bit and needed to do major changes to the plot. I did so and then the writing began again.

Then it stopped.

I finally threw my hands up in the air night before last and saved out the file on all the various back up media I use and closed down the laptop. Something was wrong and I needed to figure out what. Otherwise, the book wasn’t going to get written or, worse, I’d force it and be left with a sub-par product.

So I slept on it. Morning didn’t bring any answers. I pulled out my notes for the novel, going back to the very first handwritten notes and started reviewing them. As I did, an inkling of an idea came to me and I started searching my office for my series notes. There was something there, if I could just put my finger on it.

This particular series, Eerie Side of the Tracks, has been different from my other books and series from the onset. The stories are a mix of romantic suspense and urban/contemporary fantasy. The fantastical aspect isn’t in every story but it plays a huge part in others. Each title has a different main character from the one before. Even so, there is a core group of characters who appear in each of the stories.

Another way this series has differed from my other books is that I tend to plot them out in a bit more detail than the others. I am, at best, a mix of plotter and pantser but, in this case, I am a plotter. Each chapter has a paragraph or so of notes and there are overall story arc notes. Even so, once I start writing a book or novella in the series, I tend to simply review my notes and then sit down and write. It almost always leads to detours and changes but I at least have a general idea where the story is supposed to go.

So what was going on with the current book? Why had it ground to a screeching halt?

I couldn’t figure it out — until I got to the last sentence I’d written in my original notes for this particular volume in the series. Somehow, I hadn’t transferred that one sentence to the working file. And, reading it, the light went off. The book I’d been writing was just fine. Except it was the wrong book and in several ways.

Oh, goody.

Somehow, between real life and injured knee, I’d done two things. The first? I’d tried forcing the characters to do things they didn’t want to do. I know it sounds crazy, but the characters knew better than I did that I’d screwed up and had them doing things they wouldn’t do in the situations I’d set up. Yes, I know it wasn’t really the characters. It was my subconscious.

The second, and more important, issue with the book was even more fundamental. The book was not the next one in the series. It was, in fact, the book that will follow. So, in one way, I’m a step ahead in the creative process, I’m also behind the eight ball in going back and getting the right book written. However, for the first time in more than a month, I want to write. I’m excited to write.

I know what to write.

But it wasn’t easy getting to this point. I fought admitting there was something wrong with the project for weeks. Why? Because I let myself fall into the same trap so many writers do. I blamed writer’s block. I blamed real life interference. It was easier to find excuses than to sit down and take a hard look at what was happening and why.

And that is something we, as writers and especially as indie writers, have to do. We have to remember to turn a critical eye not only to our finished product but to our writing process as well. The latter isn’t easy, especially if your process changes project to project, (Please tell me I’m not the only one this happens to.) It’s also not easy because it means we have to learn the difference between a real problem in the process vs our craft has improved and so writing doesn’t feel the same as it did before. When that happens, it can be scary. But it’s a good scary. It also shouldn’t bring the writing to a stop. It will, often times, push the writing into overdrive.

So now that I know what the problem is, I found myself not sleeping last night. Instead, I reviewed all my original notes and then what I’d written. Some of it can be salvaged and made part of the book that needs to be written. Most of it will be put aside until time to really write Book 4 in the series. Better yet, the opening I wrote for it originally can be used with a little modification.

Fingers crossed.

(You can see the opening on my blog.)


Amazon Review Policy Change & More

Since Amazon first opened its virtual doors, there have been concerns about reviews. Not just for books but for all the products sold through its site. It is no secret that authors have paid for reviews — and some still do. Or that there have been fake accounts set up to give sock puppet reviews. There have been stories about sellers and manufacturers planting fake reviews as well, all in the hopes of bolstering their product rankings and ratings. From time to time, Amazon has taken steps to combat this trend. One of the last times they did it, they brought in a weighted review system. This one differentiates between “verified purchasers” and those who did not buy the product viz Amazon. Now there is a new policy in place, once that should help — at least until a new way around it is found.

Simply put, Amazon now requires you to purchase a minimum of $50 worth of books or other products before you can leave a review or answer questions about a product. These purchases, and it looks like it is a cumulative amount, must be purchased via credit card or debit card — gift cards won’t count. This means someone can’t set up a fake account, buy themselves a gift card and use it to get around the policy.


To contribute to Customer Reviews or Customer Answers, Spark, or to follow other contributors, you must have spent at least $50 on using a valid credit or debit card. Prime subscriptions and promotional discounts don’t qualify towards the $50 minimum. In addition, to contribute to Spark you must also have a paid Prime subscription (free trials do no qualify). You do not need to meet this requirement to read content posted by other contributors or post Customer Questions, create or modify Profile pages, Lists, or Registries

Whether this change will work in the long run, I don’t know. But, for now, I welcome it.

There is, however, one change I wish they would make. There are a number of readers who are active reviewers but whose reviews aren’t weighted as “verified purchases” because they get their books through the Kindle Unlimited Program. Those downloads are as easy to track as “verified purchases”. So why aren’t they given more weight than those reviews from people who have not gotten a particular book from Amazon?

On a totally different topic, I came across this article earlier this morning and it left me not only shaking my head but wanting to rip someone a new one.

Landing a traditional publisher can be a frustrating, convoluted process. Yet, most speakers, professionals and fiction writers want to publish a book. The main reasons being: credibility and retail distribution, followed by logistical help producing and fulfilling sales.

Self-publishing lacks legitimacy, especially now that anyone with internet access can publish on amazon and call themselves an expert on whatever topic they choose. It’s lowering the legitimacy of Amazon bestsellers every single day, while traditional publishing remains an elusive endeavor.

That’s what Loren Kleinman had to say at the beginning of the “interview”. Yeah, way to alienate a lot of authors right off the boat. But I kept reading and I kept wanting to reach through the screen and shake someone. I’ll leave it to you to draw your own conclusions, but here are some of my concerns about what Publishizer does.

The first thing that stood out to me as I looked at their site (which did not inspire a great deal of confidence) is the second step in their process. You “raise funds by selling preorders for 30 days, using our book marketing tools.” This is before you submit your book to publishers. So, how are you going to follow through with these sales after you have signed a contract with a publisher? More importantly, if Publishizer uses these “preorders” as part of their sales package when they market your proposal, I have several more questions: 1) what if you don’t have a large enough number of preorders to show your book has serious traction?  2) Who determines what that number is? and 3) How doe the publishers know these are legitimate sales?

Then there is the fact their “software” determines where to pitch your book. The questions about this are numerous but they boil down to one or two. First, how do they gather their information to make this determination? Second, what publishers are in their main database and how many of those publishers have they actually submitted to? There’s a third question that goes hand-in-hand with all this: how often do they update their database and submission parameters?

If you scroll down, you see they have no cost to “set up” your campaign and you get to keep 70% of your preorders. Oh-oh. That rings more alarm bells. That means they keep 30%. What do the publishers you are trying to sell to think about this?

In the fine print down below, they have some questions and answers. It seems they will pitch at least 30 publishers. This is where it gets interesting. They say they will pitch traditional, advance-paying publishers but also  “independent publishers and high-quality hybrid publishers”. Anyone want to take a bet one which type they sign with more often? In the links at the bottom of the page, they have a list of publishers. Another knock because that list is not alphabetical.

Now, this site might be completely legit and it might have successfully helped authors get viable contracts. I don’t know. What I’m saying is if you are contemplating using it, be sure to read all the fine print first and do an in-depth search on it before “signing” anything.

Until later!

Post is coming

Don’t give up. There will be a post. Something came across my desktop a short time ago I need to investigate before writing on. Back in an hour or so.