Friday, August 31, 2012

My Life in Stitches: She's On Fire!

Last week, I posted about my lovely little Verdant. I raved about how much I enjoyed knitting it. It rightfully earned its place as my favorite project. Unfortunately, it held that spot for a short while. I seem to be on fire with picking great projects.

Love this sweater!
Last week was odd for me. I got a sinus infection with debilitating headaches. I slept most of the week and the pain from the headaches made it hard to concentrate (the migraine I got last Thursday didn’t help, either). I couldn’t read. I tried watching TV but found that too mentally tasking. What I needed was something super-mindless. And what could be more mindless that stockinette in the round? My husband caked my yarn for me and I casted on $5 in Paris by Anna Peck. Boy, I’m glad I did.

First of all, it did meet my requirement for mindless knitting. It was simple and easy.  I’ve had a sweater-phobia for a long time, and this project went a long way to ease my fears. But more than it being mindless knitting, it’s a really great pattern. I love the fit, the look and the color (I used Stonehedge Fiber Mill Shepherd's Wool Worsted). I love everything about it.

I also love the fact that I could make adjustments as I went to insure a perfect fit. Don’t have to worry about my teenage daughter stealing this one. It would look frumpy on her since I’m a little curvier than she is. I had no problems understanding the increases and decreases even with a pounding headache, which earns this pattern more cool points.

This pattern looked so great on me that it inspired my husband to start a sweater project of his own (but no sweater-phobia for him. This is his fourth sweater). He’s working on Cloudy Sunday by Hilary Smith Callis. It’s nice, but it’s not as fitted as mine. I certainly want to make a striped version of $5 in Paris.

My $5 in Paris is now my favorite pattern. We’ll see how long it stays at the top. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Tea and Read: Short Straw Bride

Title: Short Straw Bride
Author: Karen Witemeyer
Rating: One cups of tea (three stars)

Sometimes you just want a fun read, a book that pure escapism reading. This is what I found Short Straw Bride to be. It was a cute book with a cute story line. I have enjoyed books from Karen Witemeyer before and this one was no different. 

No one steps on Archer land. Not if they value their life. But when Meredith Hayes overhears a lethal plot to burn the Archer brothers off their ranch, a twelve-year-old debt compels her to take the risk. Fourteen years of constant vigilance hardens a man. Yet when Travis Archer confronts a female trespasser with the same vivid blue eyes as the courageous young girl he once aided, he can't bring himself to send her away. And when an act of sacrifice leaves her injured and her reputation in shreds, gratitude and guilt send him riding to her rescue once again. Four brothers. Four straws. One bride. Despite the fact that Travis is no longer the gallant youth Meredith once dreamed about, she determines to stand by his side against the enemy that threatens them both. But will love ever be hers? Or will Travis always see her merely as a short-straw bride?

Most romance novels about marriages of convenience require readers to suspend their disbelieve a little. Witemeyer makes it easy. Travis and Meredith are fun characters. I love the idea of the Archer brothers living on their own and taking care of themselves and their sibling interactions. I also love the idea of honorable men like Travis. I think that’s what draws me to western romance. Even though the theme of this book was weighty or heart-wrenching (and it didn't need to be, in my opinion), I enjoyed the lighthearted approach Witemeyer took on romance in marriage.

The plot flowed well but I did find myself skimming a bit out of eagerness to find out what happened next. I also enjoyed the secondary characters included in the book. Even though there weren’t a lot of them, they added a sense of fullness to the story. Although handled with a light hand, the themes of the book, martial romance and loyalty, were presented clearly.

This was a very enjoyable and easy read. A great beach book.

Friday, August 24, 2012

My Life in Stitches: Sometimes You Just Know...

You see a pattern and it speaks to you. And not just a "Oh, that's cute" kind of know. Or "I may have the yarn in my stash already" knowing, but a deep resonance in your knitting bones. Sometimes you just know when something is the perfect project for you.

Me and my Verdant
That’s the way it was when I saw Verdant. Yes, I fell in love, but it was more than that. I knew it was going to be perfect for me. It wasn’t quite your average shrug. It was a little quirky, like me. I loved the stitch used at the bottom of sleeves. Also, it seemed like it would fit my long arms well.

Despite my love for it, it took several months for me to actually buy the pattern. I had the yarn for it in my stash for years, acquired in a yarn swap in 2010. The pattern sat in my queue for the longest and I would lovingly gaze at it. I finally decided to buy it as a reward for finishing some of the edits on my novel that I recently self-published. It took me only six days to knit it, and that's with ripping out six inches to correct a mistake.

And as I suspected, it turned out great. Really great. So great that when I posted a pic of me wearing it to Facebook, I got over 25 likes in a matter of minutes. So great that the designer asked if she could use my pic for the Verdant pattern page on Ravelry. That was a pleasant surprise and a first for me.

I can’t wait until the weather changes so I can wear my Verdant with pride. It was the perfect project for me. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Keywords and Smut

It’s been one week since my novel, Love Simplified, went live on Amazon Kindle. To all the kind souls who bought a copy, you should have a notification that the file has been updated. Why, ask? I had to update my keywords.

For those who don’t know about the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing process, a part of uploading your novel is entering in up to seven keywords. Keywords are very similar to tags. They make it easier for people to search for my novel on Amazon.

Or they make put you in bad company.

When I first uploaded my novel, I didn’t use all seven of my keywords. I only used, in this order: Christian fiction, African American (my protagonist is African-American), reality TV, relationships and romance. I thought I had picked good keywords…until I saw the other books with those same keywords. Well, one keyword in particular.

Apparently, African American fiction is synonymous with smut. I am not a shy person and I don’t embarrass easily, but some of the other books with that keyword made me blush. And the covers! Oh, my. I really wish Amazon had a feature that filtered cover art. Call me sheltered, but I don’t want to see anything that makes me want to wash my eyes out with bleach.

And there was my baby, mixed in with all the smut. As soon as I realized it (last Friday night), I went in and changed my keywords. As much as I hate to admit it, I had to take the African American out. That seemed to be the culprit.  I did, however, try a new keyword: interracial relationships (there is a mixed couple in the book).

And that made it worse. I found my novel buried seven pages deep in more smut…now just interracial smut. So I went in and changed it again. No African American, no interracial, just Christian fiction, romance, relationships, dating, and reality TV. I have two more keywords I can enter, but I’m afraid.

The African American/smut connection makes me very sad. I would love to see some redemption come to that genre. I would love to read books with African American characters that aren’t half naked, crackheads, drugdealers or pastors sleeping with the members of his congregation. But that is for another post.

For now, I’ve changed my keywords and hopefully have escaped my bad company. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

My Life in Stitches: Ravellenic Games...Epic Fail

This year, I participated in the Ravellenic Games, an event in which knitters compete by completing a project while they watch the Olympics. I hadn’t planned to participate, but after all the hullabaloo over (the website hosting the event) getting a very nasty cease and desist letter from the US Olympic committee (and their subsequent apologies), I decided to join my LYS’s team. I was completing in the scarf sailing with a design of my own.

Verdant blocking...
Epic fail. Like German-diver-hitting-the-water-flat-on-his-back epic fail. Or Michael-Phelps-failing-to-qualify epic fail. I started the sample of my scarf on needles two sizes too big (and yes, I did create a swatch but decided to ignore it). I should have entered the frogging competition. Anyways, I had to drop out because there was no way I could have finished in time.
 And then I casted on Verdant by Gina Bonomo on the Friday morning before the Olympics ended. I finished it last night…which makes that six days of work. Why, oh why didn’t I knit that for the Ravellenic Games? Despite this, I love the shrug so far. I foresee I’ll be wearing this a lot.

Also it was great to take a break from fingering/sock weight yarn. This is my favorite weight to work with, but projects made in this weight can be slow going. I’m reluctant to go back to fingering. Unfortunately, my two WIP are both fingering. I’ve been trolling Ravelry looking for another project using worsted weight but having no luck. Maybe I’ll look for something in DK.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

How to Support Your Friendly Neighborhood Indie Author

Making the decision to become an indie author hasn’t been an easy one. It has caused me to look at my writing career in a different light, sometimes a terrifying and overwhelming one. Since I committed to being an indie author, I’ve noticed that the learning curve is pretty high, but not impossible to mange. I’ve learned that this is a tough road to walk (although with the changes happening in the publishing industry, it’s getting easier). I’ve also learned that this process is easier with support.

There is an innate sense of loneliness with indie publishing. In essence, you’re breaking away from the norm and deciding to go it alone. Instead of the team of industry professionals making decisions, you have to make all the decisions yourself. It’s daunting, but not impossible. Support becomes a balm to the soul for indie authors.

With the popularity of independent publishing, most of us know at least one person who has self-published. I know many since I’m a graphic designer and have done layout and cover design for years. These indie authors are our friends, pastors, coworkers and family…the people we care about.

It goes without saying that the best way to support your indie author is to buy their book. But your support doesn’t have to stop there. Here are some simple ways you can support an indie author.

  1.  Pray for them. I can’t say enough about the value of prayer. Even the simplest prayers can be very effective. It can be great encouragement to know that someone is thinking of you and petitioning the Father for your needs. If you don’t pray, encourage your indie author. Trust me, they’ll need both.
  2. Don’t treat them like they’ve grown a third eye and a horn. I must admit that when I first announced that I was going to become an indie author, I got some unexpected critical feedback. It threw me for a loop. Independent publishing is not a cop-out, a way to circumvent the system, a mark of laziness or low-quality writing. Independent publishing is an option that some have chosen to take, plain and simple. I think the stigmatism of independent publishing is quickly fading, but until both traditionally-published authors and indie authors are on the same social standing, don’t treat your indie authors like second class citizens.
  3. Write a review. This can be very helpful for indie authors since they don’t have a marketing team to promote their books. A good review helps readers decide whether they want to take a risk on an indie author. But a word of caution: please be honest with your review. If you didn’t like the book, say so. Give reasons why you did or did not like the book. Don’t worry about giving negative review. They can be just as helpful to a prospective reader as a good one. Here’s a previous post about how to right a helpful review.
  4. Tell a friend. Word-of-mouth is the best and cheapest marking an indie author can get. If you like a book, recommend it to a friend. They may love it, too.
  5. Share resources. An indie author has two choices when it comes to successfully producing and publishing an excellent book. They can either learn to do everything themselves or they can hire someone to do the things they can’t. This is where resources come in. If you know a great copyeditor, graphic designer or marking professional, let your indie author know. I’m sure they would appreciate all the help they can get.

What are some other ways that you use to support your friendly neighborhood indie author?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Who Would You Tell?

Here a scenario: You’ve read a great book. I mean, really, really great one. Stay up all night and have crook in your neck good. Like you chuck all your plans for the day and get behind at work good. Suck you in and won't let go until you get to the end good. Now what do you do? Do you think about how wonderful the book is as you place it on your bookshelf, never to be touched again?

No! If you’re like me, you tell someone as fast as you possibly can.

Great books are like the gospel, it’s too good to keep to yourself. Both need to be shared. You wanna tell someone about it. You want to share that great experience with someone, and most of the time, you know exactly who you want to tell before you even finish the book.

I love passing on good books because it helps build good relationships. One of my passions is for people to have good relationships in their lives. When I recommend a book, it can be a test of how well I know a person. If the person loves the book, that means I know them pretty well. If the person doesn’t love the book, it means that there is an opportunity for me to get to know them better. Find out what kind of books they do like. And if nothing else, it gives me an opportunity to start a dialogue about why they didn’t like the book I recommended. 

In my personal life, my passing on of books depends on the person. If I read any great book, I tell my friend Linda Sothern first. She is a global reader and like many different genres like me. Second, I tell Dyara Henderson, who can inhale a book in a few hours. She has more specific tastes than Linda, but I recommend to her because of the sheer volume of books she reads.

If it deals with historic events, international locations or is Celtic, I’m calling Kim Ross. If it’s a man book, I’m telling my husband, Brian. Chick lit or women’s fiction, Damola Curtis. Non-fiction history and Christian living, Jake Greene. Any book about Christian disciplines, my pastor’s wife, Sharon Jones. Speculative fiction, my little sister, Sherrie Whittington. Great YA, my oldest sister, Wanda.

I have more people I recommend books to, but you get the picture. When I read a great book, I can’t wait to share. What about you? Who would you tell about a great book?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Can you wait a little longer?

As an indie publisher, you’re responsible for every decision. You have to decide not only the story, but the cover art and the marketing. You have to decide what you can do and when to call in for help. You have to decide when something is working and when something isn’t or won’t. Sometimes you have to separate what you want to do from what you can. And when you realize something can’t be done, as much as you push yourself, you are upfront and honest with those supporting you.

As much as it saddens me to admit this, my novel, Love Simplified, is not ready for release on Monday and I have decided to postpone the release for one week to August 13th.

For the last three months, I’ve been working hard on finalizing everything. I, with the help of my husband, created a timeline of when each task needed to be finished. Everything was on track until I got hit with three different illnesses in last week. I got a virus that knocked me out for three days, had an allergic reaction to a delicious blackberry cobbler, and the most debilitating of all, I had Torticollis (a condition that effects the neck and shoulder), a very painful muscle sprain accompanied by disfiguring muscle spasms. I was on some pretty heavy painkillers, so of course, my timeline was wrecked.

I wrestled with this decision to delay. My plan was to push myself hard and get if finished by Monday. My shoulder disagreed first, and the pain slowed me down. Last night, I finally realized that I would hurt myself if I did continue to push myself. But more importantly, I would be compromising the quality of the book if I did.

So, loyal fans and supporters, can you wait one more week? I pray that it will be well worth the wait. And if I’m really good, I may be able to cut some time off that week. Visit my blog and my Facebook page often for updates.

Now, back to work...