70-Author Booksigning on Sunday, March 29

California Dreamin Writers ConferenceIf you didn’t already know, there are going to be 70+ authors signing their books in Brea, California, this weekend. And I’m one of them – woohoo! Here are the details:

Where: Brea Embassy Suites, Brea, CA
When: Sunday, March 29, 2015, 2-4pm
Who: Mostly romance writers of all types, but some also write urban fantasy, young adult, and more

You can find a map and a list of all the authors (including links to their web sites) HERE.

Please share this on social media so your friends in Southern California can stop by. It’s free and open to the public. You buy the books you’d like to get autographed, or just come and shake hands. :)

Lady Jane Salon – Author Readings

There will also be a Lady Jane Salon Saturday night, March 28, from 9-11pm at the conference. This is also open to the public. There will be 12 authors in each of two rooms at the Brea Embassy Suites, each reading from one of their books for 10 minutes.

I’ve never done this before! Ack! But you have to try new things, right? I’d love for a few friends to show up! :) I will be in the Tut room, adjacent to the hotel bar, and I’ll be reading from 9:20 to 9:30pm.

Also in the Tut room, in order of appearance, are: Mary Leo, Elizabeth Boyle, (then me), Jane Porter, Lucienne Diver, Dayle Dermatis, Susan Squires, Christine Ashworth, Vicky Dreiling, Christie Craig, Teresa Carpenter, and Louisa Bacio.

Reading in the Giza room are: Laura Drake, Louella Nelson, Patricia Rice, Rebekah Ganiere, April Kihlstrom, Susan Meier, Linda O. Johnston, Debbie Decker, Lisa Kessler, Shirley Wilder, Anne Cleeland, and Maggie Marr.

Hope to see you and your friends there!

The Enormous Fragility of Life

Double Delight roses in Lauraine's garden

I’ve always been one of those people who wanted to learn from other people’s mistakes, see the road signs others had left behind, and attempt to walk a smoother path. I took it to heart when my mother quoted from the poem Warning by Jenny Joseph when I was a teenager: “When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple.” It was the first time I realized that growing old can come with regrets.

I read and re-read Erma Bombeck’s column “If I Had My Life to Live Over” when I was in high school. Her urging to light the candle shaped like a rose before it melts in storage got me to thinking even more – what can I do now to live my life with the fewest regrets?

One of my favorite movies is Jennifer Garner’s “13 Going on 30.” It’s fun and funny and shows a girl/woman learning important life lessons in a funny way. But I really, really disagree with how the writers wrote the key scene. When Jennifer’s character asks her mother about mistakes and regrets, her mother says she doesn’t regret her mistakes because she learned from them. I absolutely regret every time I’ve hurt someone, intentionally or unintentionally, no matter what lesson I learned from the experience.

I  hate hurting people, whether they’re friends, family, acquaintances, or strangers. But sometimes I feel like I’m all sharp edges, constantly hurting someone no matter which way I turn. I often feel like I think of others and their pain too little, doing too little to help; and too often I feel overwhelmed by the amount of pain in the world. It’s everywhere, in everyone, sometimes like an iceberg so that you don’t see how much the people around you ache.

But then I’ll read something like the beginning of 2 Corinthians:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.”

Life is fragile, so easily broken or destroyed. We, too, are an odd combination of strong and fragile. I think it’s interesting that during the fragile times when we rely on others’ strength through their compassion, our inner strength is being galvanized so that we can pass it on to the next person, supporting them in our compassion when they feel fragile.

Forgiveness is a form of compassion. And I think that is the one thing that keeps me from feeling completely isolated and alone – knowing that most people whom I have hurt have long ago forgiven me. I hope all the people who have hurt me and regretted it believe that I have forgiven them as well. Then we can all continue to participate in the compassion of Christ, giving and receiving comfort together.

Perhaps this is one way we can live our lives with the fewest regrets.

Marvel Madness – It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This!

Avengers: Age of UltronI am so excited for the awesome entertainment coming out over the next five years! Even before I started reading comic books, I’ve loved comic book movies. Well, loved some, liked some, and forgotten quite a few.

But Marvel has been making pretty amazing movies the last few years, so I’m always excited to hear a new one is coming out. Imagine my exponential excitement when I heard they had several years’ worth of wonderful coming out soon!

You probably already know that Avengers 2 is coming out this May. (Yay!!) But did you know Ant-Man will be out in July? Then two more Marvel movies next year, and seven more after that through 2019. (And that doesn’t even count what DC Comics and others will be putting out!) Here is the full schedule with movie descriptions that is posted on Cinema Blend:

Avengers: Age of Ultron – May 1, 2015

Ant-Man – July 17, 2015

Captain America: Civil War – May 6, 2016

Doctor Strange – November 4, 2016

Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – May 5, 2017

Thor: Ragnarok – July 28, 2017

Black Panther – November 3, 2017

Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018

Captain Marvel – July 6, 2018

Inhumans – November 2, 2018

Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019

My birthday is next week and I’m so excited to go see Cinderella with my girlfriends! I’d say it’s a safe bet that for every birthday and Christmas for the next several years, people could give me movie tickets and I’d be just giddy! And our anniversary is May 5, so we’re going to have an awesome date night for the next several years! Woo-hooo!! Hahaha!! :)

See you at the movies!

Restart: The Most Important Thing

Have you ever seen the movie City Slickers? Billy Crystal, Jack Palance, city guys go to a dude ranch. I haven’t seen it all the way through for a long time, but I liked it when it came out. And my absolute most favorite part is when Jack Palance gives Billy Crystal life advice on how to be happy. Take a look.

When I first saw the movie, I loved that line the most because I was 23, had been married for a year, and was thinking about what I wanted to do my life. It helped me to remember that focus on the most important things in life is the only way to have balance.

For me, the most important focus in my life is why am I here? Odd as it sounds when compared to people who save lives, I think I’m here to write things that encourage or help or entertain people. I feel like that’s the one thing God for sure planned for me to do. (Of course, not including the most important ways to live – loving God and loving others.)

Do you think about this question much? What is your “one thing”?

Restart: Beginning Again At Any Time

I’ve been teaching a time management class for writers in January for the last few years called Going the Distance. I’ve been thrilled that it’s been so hands-on useful to my students, and I started thinking I should do another shorter class in the summer called Restart. It would be about taking the time to stop and re-focus when your schedule gets out of control.

Yesterday, I had a brief Restart moment myself. The last few years have been very difficult financially and career-wise for both me and John. The last few months of unemployment I’ve been trying to think of ways to bring in money without totally turning away from my writing and teaching business. After looking at a lot of options, the only appealing one was to try to grow the teaching side of my business.

That has taken up most of my time (8-12 hours a day, 6 days a week!) since I put out my last book in December (A Very Merry Superhero Wedding). When I have tried to work on “My Bullheaded Superhero Valentine”, my latest superhero short story (that was supposed to be out by February 14), I have had to fight to get every word on the page, and still it’s only 15 pages long. Combine that depressing number with the numbers I pulled together for our tax accountant, and I was half-heartedly wondering at what point I should just give up.

Then John was unexpectedly called back to work two days ago! I immediately lost the feeling of wanting to give up, but I felt I needed to take one of those Restart moments and ask God again what I should be doing. You know, check in, touch base, see if there is a new direction, same direction, or if I’ve been blown off course and need to correct my route.

Turns out, it was the last one. I’ve been so focused on our daily need for money to pay the bills, I was chasing that rabbit and too often ignoring the one thing that I’ve been certain of the last few years – that God wants me to write.

And that’s why I’m here. I need to course-correct. So I’m going to hit the Restart button and start blogging regularly here again. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy the posts. ;) But sometimes you need to do things because it’s what you need regardless of what the marketing experts tell you. And what I need is a place to talk about the things that interest me – like spirituality, neuroscience, relationships, and comic books. So I’ll be doing that on Wednesdays every week.

One thing I used to write a lot of is devotionals – little stories about life and how a Bible verse or subject applies to it. I love writing those stories because it’s an outlet to share the silly, ridiculous, interesting, and heart-wrenching things I’ve seen or experienced as well as giving voice to the things I learn about God and his amazing love for us. So I’m going to start writing devotionals again (yay!) and post them here every Sunday.

That nudge I got from God yesterday – that I’m not really doing what I know I should be doing – has turned around my dragging feet and helped me not to feel so down about my writing career. Just the act of writing this post has revived my spirits already! And this is just day one!

I encourage you, if there is anything you feel like you should be doing but haven’t been, take a moment to stop and think and listen. Hit the Restart button in that area and begin again. You may feel your spirits revive, too! And please share it with me here. It’s more fun when we have a conversation instead of me monologuing like a super villain!

Two-Question Survey on Self-Publishing

Hi friends!

Many of you know that I teach online classes on self-publishing, how to get your completed manuscript up for sale as an ebook and/or a print book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online retailers.

You may also know that it’s my personality to want to continuously improve what I do and what I teach. The next class will begin next month, in April (haven’t nailed down the exact date yet), and I’d like to get your input. Will you fill out this survey for me? Thank you so much!

At the end of the survey is an email address you can use if you have questions about the class, but also notice there is a link to my new web site where you can sign up to get a free 10-Step Checklist to Starting Your Self-Publishing Business. I hope you find the checklist useful as you begin or continue your journey in self-publishing.

Thanks again for taking the survey below! Together you and I are going to write books that change the world! :)

Is God Necessary in a Story About the War in Heaven?

Lightbulb idea gifSo I’ve been thinking about something, struggling with “pros and cons” arguments to help me decide how to proceed with a new story idea. I realized I needed to answer this question:

In a YA (young adult) paranormal set in modern day America where the plot is about a teenage girl’s role in the angel-demon war in heaven and on earth, do I or do I not write God into the story? I’m not talking about God as a person who talks and acts. I’m talking about the characters referring to God, that sort of thing.

I was asking God himself what he thought <grin> and it occurred to me that you guys have a wide variety of belief systems and reading preferences. I should get quite a good selection of answers and opinions here. Will you help me? :-D

Here are some of my pros/cons thoughts on the topic:

1. Mainstream publishers, traditional and digital only/first, separate “inspirational” and “not inspirational” mostly along the same lines. If there is a lot of “God stuff,” then there is also little to no swearing, drinking, sex, violence, etc. You can’t have both, as if somehow Christian or godly people didn’t do those things, or that they all believed the line between okay and not okay was in the same place.

I am more than happy that there are lots of people who read and write that kind of inspirational – sometimes I like it, too – but I disagree that it’s the only acceptable way to tell a story with spiritual/faith elements, or the only way to separate stories along the lines of what readers want. This is why I and a lot of other people self-publish – because we want to write stories that are not currently acceptable or marketable per other companies’ definitions.

I write about people like me. That means my characters and I are talking to God, complaining to him, asking his opinion, getting ticked off at him, and about fall over with gratitude when our prayers are answered, while at the same time indulging in a little swearing, taking things that aren’t ours, saying mean things and gossiping, getting into sexual situations that we know to be contrary to what we believe, and on and on. That’s my idea of writing about “real” people. I do think I need to be true to what I really believe about people, but I also want to be true to what I really believe about God. Technically, I *could* write what I want to say with or without direct and numerous references to God. I just don’t know that it would be as honest and transparent a story.

2. I could get really creative and write about the angel-demon war in my story without too much reference to God. But it would be an experiment on my part. I can see leaving God out of a lot of things, but how do you leave him out of heaven?? I don’t know if it would be as good a story. It would be just another story about interesting other beings that we don’t understand and can’t control, and that have no bearing on whether life is good or bad except by way of things they do or don’t do around us.

Supernatural TV show posterThat’s the direction the TV show Supernatural takes. I love that show, but they make it work by making part of the story equation the fact that God has left heaven, left the angels to do as they will with no direction. It makes for interesting and entertaining stories, but that’s not how I see it. God and what’s happening around us is all highly connected, regardless of whether we can see it or see it correctly. That is the most interesting part of the story! That we don’t really know what’s happening, especially what we can’t see, and we’re trying to figure it out.

3. I’ve had some people write in reviews of Unexpected Superhero that they didn’t like the God-stuff. Some people said they’d probably try the second book before deciding if they would read the whole series. Other people said they were done, they didn’t like it at all. Still other people loved it and can’t wait to read the rest because they liked having all those things I mentioned earlier together in one book. I figure those are potential mega-fans, the readers I’m most specifically targeting, and I definitely want to make my target audience happy. :)

So knowing that I can only please some of the people, and that should be my core group of fans, I’ve got to decide how to proceed. Once you’ve said “this is me as an author,” people will expect it. The superhero series will continue the way it began because that’s keeping a promise to the reader. When you’re about to make a new promise by writing a new series, you get to decide again what precisely you want to promise.

I think this conundrum is very much like several years ago when many authors who were happy to write softer love scenes were pushed by their publishers to write more graphic scenes. Some writers liked the freedom, others hated the push. It’s similar to an author deciding if they are or aren’t going to write a certain amount of violence. Who was it who said a few years ago that she sort of had to leave the romance genre because her publishers didn’t want to allow as much violence as she put in? But leaving opened up a whole new audience for her and she’s now a big thriller writer.

I know what it comes down to is doing what I am comfortable with. BUT…if I’m comfortable with a little or a lot of X (in this case “God stuff”), how do I make a decision that will please the largest number of fans I already have, and hopefully build on that as well? For this series, I have to decide if I can and want to write a series about the effects on earth of the war in heaven without too many direct references to God. Or I need to relax and believe that my audience likes lots of things that I like, and make it a really kick-butt book with lots of scary and interesting supernatural stuff.

Since many of you have read my stories (because you’re awesome!), I figure you are some of the best people to ask. What do you think? What do you think you would most enjoy reading in an a series about an angel-demon war?

I hate to beg, but I really hope some of you will reply. :) I love talking about the deeper, esoteric reasons behind why we write and read stories. And I have to make a decision that is rooted in the deep reasons why I write. I’d love to have other opinions to think about as I work through this.

Thanks so much, my friends! I hope you enjoy talking about this, too. Either way, thanks for listening and double-thanks for replying!

Love and hugs! :)

Self-Publishing Class – Sample Lectures

I thought you might want to know more about the self-publishing class that I’ll be teaching starting Monday. So here are some samples from some of my class lectures.

From Lecture 1

Welcome to my class on self-publishing your book! I’m glad you’re here. There are a lot of ways to get your book out into the world, and I’m going to present only a few. Then you’ll be able to take what you learn here, continue to research and learn more about your other options, and make changes (if you choose) in the future with more confidence.

The first things you’ll need to decide are:

  • do you want to publish in ebook only, print only, or both?
  • what software will you use?
  • what distributors will you use?

Starting today, if you haven’t already started a notebook or computer file to save all the information you collect on self-publishing, do it now.

I use an ARC notebook from Staples to save everything that is already printed, or that I print out.

http://www.staples.com/M-by-Staples-Arc-Customizable-Durable-Poly-Notebook-System-Black-9-3/product_886237

I prefer these because I like how easy it is to pull a piece of paper from one section and press it into another without having to open and close a 3-ring binder all the time. But whatever you like and will find easy to organize is what you should use.

I save different information – my house style guide, some how-to blogs that I’ve saved, a list of passwords and links to the distributors I use, and much more – in a Scrivener file.

Screen shot - Style guide

From that Scrivener file, I can cut and paste links I need easier than if they were in a printed file, and I can continually update my style guide, add new books or formats (like audiobooks), and organize other information that I don’t feel the need to print.

From Lecture 2

In addition to the big choices – will I publish in ebook, print, or both formats? what software will I use? – you have a lot of detailed choices as well. This lesson will help familiarize you with some of those choices, and provide web sites where you can look up more information and/or sign up for the service.

Business Type

When you sign up for an account to publish your book with a distributor (KDP, Smashwords, etc.), you will need to provide your legal name (if you write with a pen name) and/or your business name. I chose to register a DBA (Doing Business As, also known as a Fictitious Business Name) so I could have a company name without the expense of setting up a corporation or LLC. You will have to do your own research on this, ask your accountant and/or attorney what is best for you because I am not qualified to give legal or financial advice.

If you live in California, here is a link to the state web site explaining the minimum tax if you set up a corporation or LLC. Google “[my state] minimum tax” to find out more about the tax consequences of setting up a corporation/LLC in your state.

https://www.ftb.ca.gov/individuals/faq/beMinTax.shtml

CHOICE: How will I set up my distributor accounts, and what do I need to do before I can sign up for those accounts?

Tax Identification Numbers

When you sign up with a distributor, you need to provide banking information and a tax ID number so you can get paid and so your earnings can be reported to the Internal Revenue Service.

If you run your business as a sole proprietor, with or without a DBA, you can use your social security number or you can apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN). While I can’t give you legal or financial advice, here are some articles that may help you decide.

http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Employer-ID-Numbers-EINs

http://legal.answers.com/definitions/should-you-use-an-ein-or-your-social-security-number

http://info.legalzoom.com/need-ein-am-dba-23281.html

Depending on your bank and your business type, you may be able to set up a business checking account. (Your bank can tell you if they require an EIN for a sole proprietorship with or without a DBA, or if they will allow you to use your social security number.) Your royalties/earnings can be deposited there instead of your personal account to make accounting and taxes easier. Or your bank may only let you set up a separate personal checking account. Either way, you need to decide where you want your money deposited.

If you use PayPal, you may want to research how you can set up a separate PayPal account connected to your business checking so you can keep your business and personal finances separate.

CHOICE: How will I set up my banking for receiving payments and paying expenses?

ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATION: How will changing from one business type now (sole prop/DBA) to another later (corporation/LLC) affect my business? How will it affect my sales, sales rank, tax reporting, sales reporting, etc. from the vendors and distributors I’ve signed up with?

From Lecture 5

This lecture is not going to be an exhaustive how-to on using InDesign. You’ve either decided to learn it and you plan to use additional resources to do so, or you are already familiar with it to some degree. This will also help you get your book set up in InDesign if you have used Quark Xpress or Pagemaker or another desktop publishing program. There are enough similarities among the programs that knowing how to do this or that in one program gives you an idea of how to do it in another.

I’ll tell you what I do, and you can follow my directions, or just use them as a jumping off point to decide how you want to design your book’s interior. (You can also read along and ask yourself if this seems easy enough to learn. I think you’ll find it is.)

What I Do

Following are directions for creating a new file, making it into a template so you have all your settings saved for future books, and then adding your current manuscript to the template to create a new document.

Open InDesign
Go to File, New, Document
Under Intent on the popup screen, leave it as Print (the default)
Under Pages, make it a few more pages than you think it needs to be

Example: My superhero story is 100,000 words and came in at about 325 pages with the manuscript, the front and back matter, and the short excerpt of the next book at the end; my 8,000-word short story is about 36 pages with front and back matter and short excerpt

Under Page Size, choose Custom, then you’ll create a custom preset for all of your books

Adjust the width and height to the sizes you want for your print book (this won’t affect your EPUB if you create one from InDesign), and type in a name for the Custom Page Size.

Example: You could create one that is 4 1/8” x 6 7/8” and call it “Mass Market,” and create one that is 5” x 8” and call it “Trade Size.” Then you only need to choose which Custom Page Size you want to use this time.

Screen shot InD New Doc 1

Click on the Add button to save the name of the Custom Page Size. If you created more than one, click on the one you want and hit OK.

Screen shot InD New Doc 2

Leave the columns section as is if you are creating a novel template. Adjust your margins according to the CreateSpace guidelines. (You may have to click on the “chain” icon next to the top and bottom margins in order for your changes to save.)

Example: I use 0.75” for the top, bottom, and inside margins, and 0.5” on the outside margin

Sign Up Today!

These are just a few examples of what you’ll learn in my 4-week online class, Your How-to Guide to Self-Publishing. You will receive 8 lectures with 92 pages of information, including screen shots, to help you get your book up for sale as an ebook and/or in print by the end of the class. Everyone will be encouraged to ask questions and offer suggestions to each other so that everyone can avoid or solve problems, and gain the newest information in an ever-changing industry.

Manuscript not ready? No problem. You can go through the lectures and practice with a dummy manuscript. This will give you an opportunity to ask questions about anything you don’t understand so you can be ready when your manuscript is complete.

Check out my Classes page and sign up for the class. It starts Monday, January 12, 2015.

Released Today – A Very Merry Superhero Wedding

A Very Merry Superhero Wedding book cover by Kitty BucholtzIt’s out! My new book, A Very Merry Superhero Wedding, released today! Woo-hoo!!

It has been a long, exhausting, exciting two months! My writing friends, Debra Holland and Brenna Aubrey, suggested I try to get a Christmas novella out by Christmas week, and I took up the challenge.

Of course, because I normally write longer books (350-400 pages), it was really hard to write a shorter story. Haha! A novella is generally thought to be about 20,000 to 40,000 words, about 80-160 pages. This one came in at 45,000 words! I decided to still call it a novella so you didn’t wonder why it was so short compared to Unexpected Superhero, book one in the Adventures of Lewis and Clarke series, and the other books that will follow. ;)

As of today, the book is available on Amazon for Kindle, and on Smashwords for all formats. It’s on the way to iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and other online retailers, and will be available in print in the next couple of weeks.

Congratulations to the 5 winners of the paperback version in the Goodreads Giveaway – Nancy A, Sandra B, Jessica L, Rachella B, and Alena K!

Here is the book’s description. I hope you enjoy it! And Merry Christmas!

A novella in the Adventures of Lewis and Clarke superhero series

WEDDING DREAMS…

Tori Lewis can hardly wait for her Christmas Eve wedding to handsome Joe Clarke. But her friends and family don’t think it’s prudent to marry someone you just met. There’s something about him, though. She’s never felt safer in her life. The only question is — does she have to tell him all her secrets before the wedding?

Joe Clarke expected to be a happy superhero bachelor for years to come. But after meeting Tori Lewis on Halloween, he can’t get her out of his head. Marrying a woman he barely knows is hands-down the craziest thing he’s ever done. So how does he explain himself to a woman who doesn’t believe in superheroes?

…AND CHRISTMAS FIENDS

Meanwhile, the city is going through a Christmastime crime spree. In addition to the usual madness and thievery, a gang of robbers is targeting mall shoppers. Joe must juggle his wedding duties with his alter ego Superhero X’s commitment to protect the citizens of Double Bay.

Will it all come together without ruining the perfect Christmas wedding?

Buy it now!

A Very Merry Superhero Wedding Has a Cover!

My newsletter subscribers get to see and hear about everything first, so since they’ve now seen the new cover, I can show everyone else. Check it out! Release date – December 24, 2014!

And if you’d like to join my newsletter and hear about what’s new and what’s on sale before anyone else, click here or type in your name and email address in the form at the top right of this page. Enjoy!

A Very Merry Superhero Wedding book cover by Kitty Bucholtz