Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Colonel and Her Sergeant Cover Reveal and Release Date!

Coming on June 14th 2019!

Through the din of the military ball, Colonel Anna Archer heard him laughing. Turning, she saw a tall young man with olive skin, black hair slicked back into one thick wave to stay within Air Force regulation, service dress cutting his torso into a sharp inverted-A. Chatting with a group of friends, he laughed every time one of them told a joke—young people.

An enlisted man. She turned away…

From the moment she saw the young, dashing Sergeant Victor Shamrock, Anna knew she wanted him—and that desire would be the end of her. For in her position as a colonel—a rocket launch commander, no less—romantic relationships with lower-ranking soldiers are strictly forbidden.

But when she’s passed over for a promotion in favor of a man with less experience, Anna begins to question the military culture she dedicated her life to. She made her career by conforming to a man’s world, by suppressing her feelings—by denying her womanhood. In a painful reality check, she realizes it wasn’t enough.

Now she can’t deny who she is anymore—a woman who aches for love, no matter the cost.

The Colonel and Her Sergeant is an epic story about all the ways love can hurt and heal us, trying to reach for the stars in a world holding you back, and finding the strength within to rise from the ashes of tragedy.

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Getting Ready to Publish, Trying Not To Claw Face Off (Allergies)

Greetings my legion of fans! (…I know you’re out there playing hard to get, you coy little minxes…)

I know I said I would post more, and then didn’t because I forgot there are only 24 hours in a day and a lot of that time is unfortunately taken up by lame stuff like sleep and hygiene and working at a paying job and spending time with the family, etc.

Truth be told, trying to legitimately self-publish my first book (Battlefield High) is pretty freaking hard. Sure, I technically self-published Spice of Love back in 2015, but I knew nothing back then…

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…so I just dropped it on Amazon with little to no marketing, and three people and my mom bought it.

BUT I’m doing it right this time, with a self-pub plan and checklist and everything! I’m totes legit now. Maybe I’ll flop, maybe I’ll be the next Wool, who knows!

When reading up on how to self-pub the right way, however, it can be super-overwhelming. You need to do about a million things yourself, such as making/buying a cover, all the editing, all the formatting (“Why do extra blank pages appear out of nowhere when I convert my epub file into a MOBI file in Calibre? WHY GODDAMMIT??”), reviewer requests, marketing, etc…OH YEAH and all the other stuff to spit-shine my adjacent products like my newsletter and website. For instance, I eventually need to update my newsletter format, change my FREE BOOKS page, update Spice of Love and try to market that again to maybe people who care this time, pay attention to analytics and start tracking shit like clicks and impressions and buys and………AND………AND…..

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But you know what? It’s still almost certain to be better than the traditional publishing route.

Now I’m not gonna go into a “WHY ME??” pity party rant about how much trad-pub sucks balls for everyone except a tiny sliver of successful authors at the top or whatever, because nobody wants to hear that. I did learn a lot going the trad-pub route, so in that respect it was worth it just to experience both options first-hand and be able to weigh the pros and cons of each.

I will say this, tho – I was shocked at how little value went back to the authors via the trad-pub route (again, excepting the sliver of big authors at the top). In fact, most of the publishing world is geared toward making money off authors rather than with authors. Since most new authors will get little to no marketing help from their publisher, they’ll often suggest hiring a PR firm or paying for your own ads. Personally, I ended up spending a lot more money trying to market my previous trad-pub books than I will probably ever earn back off sales, and I don’t think my experience is unique.

Which is unfortunate. So thank goodness for the rise of self-publishing! It’s a lot more work, but you have a lot more control and can own your potential failure rather than bitching about how trad-pub is so unfair………like some other losers I know……WHO ARE NOT ME…………………

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ANYWAY, also making things about a thousand times harder are the worst allergies I’ve had in my entire life. I seriously want to claw my face off right now, or cut off my nose with a butter knife just to allow air back into my nasal passages. Sorry if you now have disturbing images in your head. One of the dangers of being a writer!

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Jessica Jones, Season 2 – Part 1: What Happened To This Show?

I’ll admit it – I’m not a huge fan of superhero movies. They tend to prioritize spectacle and fanboy service over a compelling story…with some notable exceptions, including Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies and a few of the X-Mens (Logan especially…where was Hugh Jackman’s Oscar nomination, dammit?? He was robbed!). Just the thought of hubby dragging me to Avengers: Infinity War gives me cold sweats of dread.

Of course, I like horror movies – the psychological kind, not the torture porn stuff – but can’t get hubby to watch those with me, so what good is he, really? I’m still trying to figure it out.

Anyway, even though I’m not a fan of superhero movies because of the lame stories and tedious fight scenes that go on forever (seriously: Hulk vs Thor, two un-killable beings punching each other for eighty billion minutes…WOW, how excitzzzzzz), I love the concept of people existing amongst us with special abilities. It opens up so many “What if?” scenarios – be good or evil? Live large or stay grounded? Keep your powers secret or tell the world? But for me anyway, the key to an interesting superhero story if focusing on how people with special powers interact with everybody else in the normal world, and how their alienation affects their humanity.

And this is why I LOVED the first season of Jessica Jones! Krysten Ritter was awesome as Jessica, a PI with serious inner demons and special abilities she didn’t want (super-strength) who’s just trying to get through the day in modern New York City. In fact, the title character of my Valentine Shepherd series is basically Jessica Jones if her superpower was seeing the future during sex (it’s a weird series I’ll admit, but worth reading if you like that kind of thing! Check it out, in fact). The show had a cast of awesome characters, including an ice-cold lesbian lawyer played by Carrie-Anne Moss, aka Trinity from The Matrix, a cute sorta-sidekick heroine addict, Jessica’s hot boy-toy Luke Cage (Mike Colter, who went on to his own show), a bunch of weirdo regulars in Jessica’s apartment building, and an epic villain played by David Tennant. It also had Trish, Jessica’s best friend, but she’s annoying as shit. Sorry, but Rachel Taylor, who plays Trish, just cannot convincingly deliver a line of dialogue.

So most of this awesome cast – and Trish – is back for season 2, which just dropped a few days ago. I’m halfway through the season, and…it hurts to say this, but it’s not very good. I knew it probably wouldn’t be as good as season 1, but this season seems particularly bad, almost like the writers couldn’t decide where they wanted to take the show, so they Mad Libbed it all together to form a barely coherent narrative.

First I noticed there were some blatant continuity errors. For instance, Jeri – the lawyer – hires someone to get in touch with Jessica for her (they had a falling out at the end of season 1) for reasons she won’t say, then finds out she has a serious illness. She later contacts Jessica herself because she wants Jessica to dig up dirt on her law firm partner so they won’t force her out due to a medical termination clause…So why did Jeri want to get in touch with Jessica to begin with if she hired the other guy to contact Jessica BEFORE she found out she was sick? It’s never explained, so I’m assuming it was a continuity error. Then there’s a scene where Jessica mentions it’s hot as hell cuz it’s the peak of summer, but then we see external shots that clearly show it’s springtime (people in light jackets, trees beginning to bloom, etc.). Then we meet a nurse who’s supposedly been on the run from something nasty she saw (sadly not in the woodshed) while on duty in a secret hospital ten years ago, but the actress is obviously in her mid or late 20s, so……..

(I looked it up – the actress is 33, so I guess it’s technically possible if she JUST got out of nursing school when the stuff in the hospital happened, but she’s also supposedly been been living on the streets for 10 years so there’s no way she looks that good even if you buy her age)

THEN Jessica gets a ridiculous tip that a shady doctor she’s looking for just might be hanging out in an aquarium next to an octopus because that’s where he used to go sometimes TEN YEARS AGO, and lo and behold he just happens to be there on the day Jessica cases the joint, and then the aquarium glass breaks but everyone runs out of the aquarium dry, including Jessica, but her phone is somehow soaking wet which conveniently prevents her from taking pics of the fleeing perps and WTF IS HAPPENING HERE?

This is just sloppy storytelling. I can suspend my disbelief for one or two editing errors or obvious contrivances but COME ON. Season 1 didn’t pull this shit. Also, this season’s villain isn’t nearly as compelling as David Tennant’s smooth-talking nightmare Kilgrave…in fact, at this point in the show (I’m up to episode six) it’s not even clear WHO the actual villain is, only that bad stuff is happening for some reason. And stupid Trish is still around, and we’re expected to care about her stupid problems.

On the plus side, Krystin Ritter and everybody else who’s not Trish continue to kill it, and Jessica’s slow-burning romance with her new superintendent is sweet and understated, a nice change from the insta-lust sex-fest (which eventually developed into sorta-feelings) she had with Luke Cage.

So. I’m still looking forward to watching the rest of season 2, hoping it’ll have a second-wind comeback! I’ll report on my final feelings when I’m done watching the season. Fingers crossed Trish decides to get help for her various addictions someplace far, far away!

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No-BS Advice: Ultimatums Are A-OK!

For whatever reason, ultimatums have a bad rap—probably because people presented with ultimatums are usually pissed about it. They feel they’ve been unfairly backed into a corner, blaming the ultimatum giver for leveling threats at them.

But fuck that. An ultimatum is a choice between two courses of action as defined by the ultimatum giver, along the lines of “If you do or don’t do this, I’m going to do this.” There’s usually some kind of major consequence involved, hence the term “ultimatum.”

Life is a series of choices—note that failing to make a choice is also a choice—and an ultimatum is no different. The problem is people often mistake ultimatums for threats. A threat is using fear to force someone to act in a way they normally wouldn’t, ex. “Sign this document or I’ll kill you.” An ultimatum is forcing someone to take responsibility for their actions, ex. “Get help for your drinking problem or I’ll leave you.”

An ultimatum can seem like a threat, but the key difference is the ultimatum receiver’s fear is irrelevant; a person giving an ultimatum is stating a fact about how they will act, not about how the receiver should act. For instance, in the above ultimatum example, the receiver can decide to do nothing to curb their drinking. It’s the ultimatum giver who then acts to change their own behavior by leaving as they said they would, which may or may not affect the ultimatum receiver.

I see to many people stuck in crappy relationships because they think issuing an ultimatum is a shitty thing to do. It’s not! Remember, an ultimatum is about forcing someone to accept responsibility for the things they’ve already done, and you are being forced to act, not them.

So go ahead and issue an ultimatum if the situation warrants it—that is, if you’re ready for a change no matter what. Because you absolutely must follow through on an ultimatum; otherwise, it’s just an empty threat.

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The Difference Between All-Male vs All-Female Events

The President’s Club Charity Event 2018

You might have read recently about the all-male charity event, hosted by a UK organization called the President’s Club, where dozens of the all-female wait staff – ordered to wear tight serving uniforms and sexy shoes – were subjected to an onslaught of sexual harassment so bad the 33-year-old organization disbanded one day after the story came out.

If just the first part of that description – an all-male gathering of rich guys who call themselves the “President’s Club” – doesn’t already scream “sexual harassment city,” then I don’t know where you’ve been, dude. Welcome back to planet Earth!

But it’s worth taking a step back and looking at why an all-male event might be inherently problematic versus an all-female event. Is it fair to assume a bunch of rich dudes getting together is fundamentally different in a bad way than a bunch of rich chicks networking and chewing the fat? After all, women-only or women-focused events happen all the time, and yet those are considered good things by basically everybody who’s not a Breitbart enthusiast. “It’s reverse sexism!” screams my MRA cat, Jenkins.

“It’s reverse sexism!”

No, it’s not reverse sexism, Jenkins, and here’s why.

Since this event was specifically segregated by gender, we’ll consider that particular dynamic rather than the class or race dynamics, which were also in play but less relevant to what happened. The event was designed to stroke the attendees’ egos such that they felt an extreme sense of power, thereby creating the illusion that they were worth more and could afford to donate more to charity. Psychology 101 right there. Want someone to give you money? Make them feel like a million bucks.

The question becomes, then, what does a stereotypically powerful male look like in our society? Let’s do some word association.

Male power = easy access to sex/females, money, wealth, status

Now let’s flip the gender.

Female power = ……………………………?? Easy access to fancy clothes, maybe? A powerful husband? Lots of babies (please no…)?

The truth is women are almost never in positions of extreme power the same way men are. Women are by no means immune from being corrupted by power, but the idea of how that corruption manifests is significantly different for men than for women.

Think about it – if you’re trying to create a power fantasy for a group of women specifically based on their gender (so they donate more to your charity), what kind of party would you throw? Would you have a bunch of male strippers as servers? The ladies would probably find that awkward and annoying – not that women don’t lust after men, but it’s not part of our power fantasy (Let’s be honest – the vast majority of women can easily catch a dick if they wanted, no matter their level of attractiveness. When it comes to sex, women usually have more decision power than men – one of the only facets of life where this is so – which is why rape is at its root about asserting power over women rather than being overcome with lust). Would you have the MC gush over how pretty they all are, maybe offer free makeovers for everyone? Again, weird. Offer free designer clothes? …What?

There isn’t a female equivalent to the stereotypical male power trip, and that’s why an all-male event is ripe for problems the way an all-female event isn’t. Now you know; tell your friends. I mean, you can try to make the case this isn’t true, as Jenkins keeps trying to do by howling in my ear and calling it a debate, but shut up Jenkins.

“It’s still reverse sexism! Your arguments are unsupported by DATA. Instead of engaging me in a totally rational conversation, you’re just walking away as if you have better things to do. Guess that means I win this round, because my argument is superior to yours!”

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No-BS Advice: Tell Your Kids You Believe Them

If you, like me, are scared shitless that some human-shaped monster will take advantage of your kids, tell them this and mean it: “No matter what you tell me, I will always believe you.”

It broke my heart to read Olympic gymnast Kyle Stevens’ account of her sexual assault at the hands of Larry Nassar, the sports doctor who assaulted hundreds of girls and young women with impunity for years.

From a recent CNN article:

At 12, [Kyle Stevens] told her parents about the abuse, but they didn’t believe her. The abuse — and their denial — left her feeling brainwashed, caused a split in her family relationship and led to crippling anxiety, she said.

We all know you’re supposed to warn your kids about inappropriate touching of the “no-no square,” but what we don’t realize is how we also instill a sense of taboo around sex that effectively gags our kids when it does happen. Even in today’s day and age, when sex is supposedly “everywhere,” the fact we frame this observation in negative terms means we still consider it a bad thing. “Special victims” in police parlance are victims of sex crimes, meaning we’ve labeled the crime as especially heinous – something has happened to these victims that, we believe, is more damaging than a “regular” crime like a mugging or battery.

Know how sexual predators keep their victims silent? Not with violence or threats or tongue mutilations. It’s with shame.

They rely on their victims not to tell anyone, and it usually works.

Sex is “everywhere,” and it’s “bad.” So how do you counteract the message your kids get from literally everywhere to keep their sexual assault a secret so they don’t have to deal with the stigma? You vow to be their defender, and righteous avenger if necessary, by explicitly taking their side over society’s side. You make that vow by promising to believe them when they tell you something bad has happened to them.

Don’t let some piece of shit sicko think they can get away with messing with your kid. The first step to protecting our children is breaking the code of silence, and that begins with you.

 

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No-BS Advice: Stop Trying to Lose Weight

 

No-BS Advice: This Is How You Kick Ass at Everyday Life

 

In the spirit of helping everyone reach their full kick-ass potential, I’ve decided to start a new blog feature called “No-BS Advice!” It’s similar to my Night Owl writing advice articles, but shorter and aimed at the epic battles we fight in everyday life.

To kick off the New Year, I’ll start with a piece of advice that’s particularly relevant: Stop trying to lose weight. Just stop it already.

Fat is not the enemy! The REAL enemy is our culture’s irrational hatred of fat. Being a size two or having rock-hard abs doesn’t mean you’re healthy, and not having those things doesn’t mean you’re not healthy.

Did you know 97% of people who lose weight via dieting end up gaining it all back? It’s not because all those people are weak-willed chocolate junkies. It’s because their bodies were like “WTF???” and violently protested by jacking up their appetites while lowing their metabolisms to get back to their normal weight.

We see people on television and think those actors are “healthy” weights. But the truth is there is no one-size-fits-all healthy weight, the same way describing how an “average person” looks is unlikely to be accurate for any individual. Everybody’s unique; there has literally been no other person exactly like you on earth. Trying to conform to some generic version of a “healthy weight” is a fool’s errand.

So start the New Year off right by saying “FUCK IT” to losing weight. Instead, focus on eating healthier, exercising more, and ridding yourself of bad habits. If you lose weight in the process, so be it. If not, then believe your body when it tells you you’re just the right size.

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Marketing Time Management: What’s Been Worth the Effort

DISCLAIMER: The vast majority of this stuff won’t work.

Marketing is a big freaking deal when you’re trying to be a professional author. Which is unfortunate, because it feels like an exercise in futility. “Focus on the marketing things you like to do!” is a common nugget of wisdom from the pros. But what if you don’t like any of it? Then it sucks to be you!

Okay, there’s a teensy bit of it I liked, which I’ll detail later.

For my latest release RECKONING in July, I decided to put together a no-kidding-for-real marketing plan, detailed below, along with my assessment of its effectiveness. Results may vary from author to author, but in case you plan on trying your hand at publishing a book and your publishing company (if you have one) offers little to no marketing backup – which is unfortunately typical – then at least you can use my toiling as a place to start!

The key metrics are: 1) website traffic; 3) newsletter subscribers; 3) books sold. The first two in theory should directly lead to the last.

  • Schedule daily Facebook posts once a week – RESULTS: minorly effective; most posts had a fairly low # reached rate, though the number of people following my feed did steadily increase over time, so a slight positive net effect
  • Write a blog every two weeks (STRETCH: once a week) – RESULTS: ineffective; writing posts is important to keep your website from growing stale, but I had very few comments on any of my posts, making interactions with my potential audience non-existent
  • Spend 10 minutes each day liking/responding to other author’s Facebook posts; RESULTS: ineffective; okay, this is my fault because I didn’t do much of this; I’m just not a social media person, and perusing Facebook feels more like a chore than a way to keep up with friends
  • Compile a list of authors for blurbs/reviews – RESULTS: N/A; I didn’t end up doing this due to the intensive logistics required, though I might try it for my next release
    • Send author requests for blurbs/reviews
    • Offer to send authors all three books
    • Send ARCs to those who respond; follow up with those who don’t respond
    • Have some suggested blurbs ready to make it super-easy for authors short on time
  • Compile list of romance book review blogs, ask them for reviews – RESULTS: effective; though I didn’t get reviews in any major blogs, the ones I did get were good and resulted in some traffic to my website  
  • Update website to focus on my story, not my books – RESULTS: ineffective; I thought about doing this, but decided against it; this is more of a strategy for someone releasing a non-fiction book, where an author’s personal story or expertise is relevant to the book
    • Focus on what makes me unique/newsworthy/worth following, and what I can do for my readers
    • Books should be secondary focus (even though primary goal is to sell books)
  • Find out what a pre-sales list is, try to make one myself – RESULTS: N/A; didn’t need to do this 
    • Pre-sales list is a list of places that will pre-sell your book, like Amazon and Google
    • Already have pre-sales going on via my publisher, so don’t need this
  • Create a sell sheet – REVIEW: N/A; didn’t need to do this
    • Used to convince bookstores to sell your books
    • Not necessary for me
  • Create an online media kit – RESULTS: effective; the online press kit was helpful to send to possible reviewers and anyone else who asked for more information, though the press release was unnecessary
    • A PDF file or webpage (most ppl prefer PDF, cuz it’s easier to copy from) that bloggers or other media people can use to quickly write a story or review about your book
    • Keep it simple; ppl want to easily skim it and find the info they need
    • Include in the kit:
      • A press release, usually the one you write for the book’s launch.
      • Author bio, including previous publications and qualifications to write the book. Include author’s platform information. (keep it very short)
      • Author photo, and it’s smart to include high-resolution files for print and low-resolution for online use.
      • Book photo, with the same resolutions as the author photo.
      • Any awards the book or series has won
      • Testimonials
      • Sample interview questions and Q&A
      • Excerpts from the book and sample chapters
      • Links to everything and contact info
      • Here’s a good example: <https://michaelhyatt.com/platform/media
  • E-mail press release to media and bloggers – RESULTS: ineffective; even though I subscribed to HARO (Help A Reporter Out website), it became clear over a few months that nobody was looking for a story like my press release; this could be useful for non-fiction books where an author wants to advertise the fact they’re an expert at something
  • Create some memes (put name & website on them) – RESULTS: effective; good for sending to bloggers who reviewed my book and posting on my website
  • (maybe) Create a book trailer – RESULTS: N/A; didn’t end up doing this, but worth a try for my next release
  • Come up with special promotion offers ~1 month before book release – RESULTS: mostly ineffective; offering Amazon gift cards to people who signed up for my newsletter or commented on a post had a negligible effect on book sales; probably better than nothing, but mostly a waste of money as people would sign up for the gift card, then unsubscribe shortly after; need less costly promo offers next time, or none at all
  • Day-of live Facebook celebration – RESULTS: ineffective; gave away books to my friends, ended up talking to myself for three hours while no one watched; either don’t do again for next release, or keep it to an hour with a specific structure/script that I can edit and use later
  • Set up a blog tour – RESULTS: effective; writing guest blogs was probably the best tactic in my strategic toolkit, as I usually had a (small) surge of people who signed up for my newsletter after my guest blogs were published
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