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Last week I couldn’t bring myself to blog. I just couldn’t do it. This is going to sound really silly, but earlier in the week I’d read a blog by RONI LOREN who was actually sued for using a copyrighted photo on her blog.

I have yeeeeears of photos on this blog. Let’s face it, it’s so much more interesting if all the words in a post are broken up by pictures. It’s fun for me to find and include cool pictures in my post. I’ve always been very careful not to use photos with watermarks or anything that obviously belonged to someone else. But I’ve never worried so much about whether someone is going to come after me because I googled an image and used it.

I honestly believe that 80% or more of the images we find on the internet have been posted by people who don’t mind if we use them. But what if like this poor author some photographer claims I had no right to the picture posted? Roni (and many authors I know) went back and actually removed every photo from their blog sites. *sigh* I just don’t want to do that.

I mean, it’s not like I don’t understand intellectual property and being pirated … of course I do. (Been there. Done that. Cried as I watched my book being pirated in the thousands.) My issue is trying to figure out what sites freely allow people to use their pictures. Until I figure that out, I’m using photos I’ve paid for from stock photo sites. But here’s the thing, I already threw this out on my facebook page and a couple of artists said they like it when people use their pictures … with attributes and links of course. Again, how do I know who doesn’t mind and who will sue?

Of course this is spilling over to Pinterest and facebook. I really believe status updates with pictures get read more frequently than those without. I mean come on, they’re more interesting. I haven’t really seen people slowing down with their e-cards, inspirational or humorous sayings or LOL Kats. It seems like only authors have stopped posting all that man candy that makes me stop on a post and sigh.

Now why did this affect my blogging … because I’m a visual person. I’m actually motivated by the pictures I choose. I was so bummed I couldn’t include a picture with my posts last week that it stifled my muse. Silly I know … but hey, it’s how I’m wired.

So what now? I’m not sure. What do you think? Is this going to change how you blog? Will you find it less fun to visit blogs without fun little pictures to add to the posts? You know me … I’m curious about this stuff.

This is a crazy month for me. Lots of traveling to visit family which is wonderful, but it also is cutting into my writing time. This is only a problem because¬†I’ve really got to pull my act together and start working. I have plenty of projects, but I can’t seem to settle on one and get it finished. But I’ve decided that since my life is still kind of crazy at the moment that writing something totally new is a bit overwhelming. So I’ve decided to pull out a never-published book and do a complete rewrite. I’ve always loved the story, but it’s never caught the eye of a publisher. Which is fine. I’m sending it out in the world on my own. It’s a romantic suspense novel, which I understand isn’t selling through NY. Got to love this whole self-publishing avenue available to me now.

Anyway, since my other self-published books are beginning to sell I’d like to keep it going by releasing a new book. That means the pressure is now on to produce. Again, it’s my own personal goals that create the pressure, but still.

Every writer (whether they work full time at their craft or squeeze it in around another job) tries to find the balance between creating new stories and editing upcoming releases, promoting their books — and real life. Sometimes it’s a precarious balance.

I’ve found myself over the last few months ago frittering away my days. Bad. Very Bad. I spent my days typing at the computer, but somehow emails, Facebook, Twitter and visiting blogs were more important than putting words together to form chapters. ūüėÄ hee hee. That’s me.

When I was in high school about every three months I’d fall apart, tears streaming down my cheeks claiming I couldn’t possibly live up to everyone’s expectations. My mother would calmly suggest I drop out of this or turn over the responsibility of something to someone else.¬†I’d claim I couldn’t do it. Then I’d mop up my tears and rise to the challenge and of course I’d push through and meet all the deadlines and fulfill my responsibilities. It’s what I do.

After all these years, I’ve come to realize it’s how I’m hard wired. I can’t change it. Nothing but deadlines … a goal to finish by a certain date … works for me. It even happened when I was teaching. Even though I knew I wanted to create a new program I never buckled down and actually did it until I had the first group scheduled to come for the program. Then it was no holds barred until the research was done and the lesson plan complete. The deadline¬†has to be real.

I’ve tried to participate in writing challenges, but there were no repercussions. No one except me knew if I didn’t finish.¬†1k 1 hour … just can’t seem to do it. I need to know something tangible is at the end.¬†So, after being a published author for nearly four years, I’m finally figuring out what makes me tick.

So authors, how do you work best? Do you find deadlines (either actual or self imposed) motivational or do you like the freedom to create at your own pace? And if you have any secrets about keeping your productivity up, please share!

Curious authors want to know.

Cigarette hanging from her mouth, the ash long and dangling. Smoke circle her head as fingers peck out a rapid tattoo on the the old Royal. Papers balled and crumpled near the waste basket as her characters chatter incessently in her ear, but not loud enough to get it juuuuust right. And as the final pages add up on the corner of her desk, she renews her efforts to finish that manuscript and get it out to a publisher.

That’s how I picture my favorite author’s careers in the past. It was all about the writing. All about receiving that boxed manuscript from an editor with redlines and arrows indicating editing suggestions. Editors and publishers had time to put time and energy into a book, to groom the author and create an image and a marketing plan for her and her books.

Sadly, those days are gone.

An author no longer has the the luxury of just sitting down at her computer and pounding out a new best seller. There are so many hats she must wear. Writer, editor, marketing guru and in many cases, publisher.

Publishers now want to see manuscripts that have had the bulk of the editing done. Beta readers and critique groups are now working with an author to find unforgivable flaws with a hero no reader can love. They’re helping fill in those small plot line holes that an editor used to discover. If a manuscript hits an acquisition editors desk with any of those problems it will no doubt receive a form email rejection. If the author is fortunate, there will be some explanation as to why it was rejected, but often there isn’t time for an editor to explain in detail why a book “doesn’t fit”.

With the advent of digital books authors are no longer receiving advances. Advances meant an author was compensated up front for months of being bent over the keyboard. Without the advance, the author now depends only on royalties from sales to make her money. (I don’t even want to speculate my hourly rate of pay for the books I’ve written.) Without the backing of a marketing department from the good ‘ole days, it also means she has to go out and pound the pavement to let readers know she has a new book out there. Spending time on Facebook and Twitter shouting about her book, which equals time away from writing the next book.

Now, Amazon and Barnes & Noble among other venues, have made it possible for an author to actually publish her own book without going through an agent or publishing house. And as exciting as this has become for authors to have full control of their books, it’s also a heck of a lot of work. It becomes the responsibility of the author to find her editor and cover artist. To make sure the book is formatted correctly for all digital platforms. And as you can imagine, this means more time away from writing.

To keep up with this changing world many authors are hiring assistants who can help with the extraneous work load. Of course you need to have the sales to justify this expenditure. Ah hem, I so am not there … yet. And there are publicity companies who are hired by authors to go out and do some of the pavement pounding. But as a reader I find them very annoying and they become white noise in the thrum of all the book marketing. Since I delete these announcements from my email and ignore them on Facebook, I haven’t bothered with any of the companies.

I keep saying this year I’m going to figure this whole thing out. To set a schedule of some sort that not only allows time for all of these things AND writing. Of course before all that happens I do have to get my personal life to slow down juuuust a little.

As a reader do you see these changes effecting your buying habits or has it all happened in the background unnoticed by you? If your an author, are you happy with all the changes in publishing or would you like to go back to the days before digital books? Because you know me, I’m curious like that.

You know when your life is completely insane and you wonder if you’re really going to be able to survive the storm of craziness that fills your days? Yeah, well, that’s been the kind of summer I’ve had.

But this week the planets finally aligned and I managed to find my mojo and get back on track. With the redesign of the Tilling Passions series book covers (including new titles) I feel re-energized with the series. I’m working really hard on the final edits for the third book “Cheat Her With Charm”. With some hard work it should be released by the beginning of October.

And since I’m looking at all the exciting things that happened this week, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Facebook. Because yeeeeeeah, that’s exciting … NOT! I know it’s true it’s a FREE social media and they can do whatever they want, but as an author I am expected to have an active presence over there. So yeah, I think I have the right to say they’re really pushing my technical abilities into the abyss of chaos. Every time I have some sort of handle on this “making friends” and posting pictures, they change the way I’m supposed to do something or other. And that scrolling update thing is really too many moving parts for my liking. There are many blogs I don’t visit because of the moving advertisements in the sidebar. I know it’s not going to change anything, but complaining like Facebook can not only hear me, but gives a s**t what I think, certainly makes me feel better.

On a disappointing note, this week Romanticon, EC’s reader convention, begins. But I won’t be there. Life conspired against me and I had to cancel my reservations. But lots of my friends and fellow authors will be there enjoying the cavemen, a little pole dancing and LOTS of laughter. That’s what I’m going to miss the most. Just hanging out and having fun. Enjoy everyone … and hug a sexy caveman for me!

I’m crossing my fingers that the house we’ve been trying to buy since May, might actually be ours before the end of this month. Which means all my stuff that has been in storage for six months will finally be back in my home. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve turned around wanting that foolish little thinga-ma-jig tucked in the waaaaaay back of the cupboard that you only need once a year. Of course this summer it seemed I wanted something or other every other week! Anyway, it will be nice to be back to normal in our new community.

I’m looking forward to another productive week. What about you? Anything exciting happening in your corner of the world?

I love all the new technology. Weeellll, not all of it. Okay, probably not most of it. I’m what you call a techno-idiot and I resist upgrading or downloading anything until the device has wires hanging or so many error messages that I can’t make it function.

But my children? Totally in love with anything gadget.

And I was going to say it is their generation, but that’s not the case. There are plenty of people my age who wouldn’t go anywhere without their Smartphone where they can tweet, email and update their facebook status from anywhere.

Ummm, what about interacting with the people standing right in front of you??!!

When my children were going through school we didn’t have the internet. No, it wasn’t 1970…it was within the last decade and I didn’t want to have to deal with policing them when I didn’t really know much about it myself. They had to do their research the old fashioned way … encyclopedias. *Gasp* Oh, the horror! There was no facebook and cyber-bullying wasn’t even a word.

Simpler times for sure.

Now, they’re as plugged in as their friends. (And mom is getting there.) But we’ve banned cellphones at the dinner table (because we get together so infrequently these days). But on our recent family vacation, every kid under the age of 25 had their phone in their hand nearly every minute of the day. I have no idea if they were texting or updating internet sites. The point is…they didn’t put them down.

And companies are making it even easier for them to stay connected. Cars and phones with facebook status update technology have made it so people (not just the twenty-somethings) don’t EVER have to unplug. Crazy. Where is the mystery of the morning-after phone call following an awesome first date? Where is the living in the here-and-now?

No one is going to stand up at a funeral extolling the number of friends on a Facebook page or how fast someone could text. I just worry that we’re going to get so caught up in the technology and forget that life is NOW and you need to enjoy the people you are WITH.

And yes, I completely see the irony of putting this whole diatribe on my blog … just go with it. ūüėČ

Okay, so when I first found out I had a contract I jumped onto MySpace. I made a beautiful page and uploaded book covers and found a whole¬†bunch of friends. Or should I say, they found me. I loved MySpace. I went there nearly every day and left comments and updated and even posted blogs. But then it started doing weird things to my computer and some people’s pages were too big and wouldn’t load and MySpace slowly faded into the background.

Then I found Twitter. I loved Twitter. It was like having a massive chat with 300 of my best friends. I’d post, they’d post, we’d laugh. A good time. But then somehow I ended up following 600 people. Now granted, they’re not all active, but still, that’s a lot of 140 character info streaming into my computer. Not quite so intimate.

Somewhere in the middle of all of this I found Facebook. Mostly because my family was all hanging out and chatting and I was feeling very left out of everything. And I love facebook. But some people now have their tweets streaming to their facebook status. Which is all very cool, but it makes for an incredible overload of information on some days.

And now facebook has fan pages and I’m being asked if I want to “fan” some of my friends. Really, I’m not sure what to do about this. Every day I have people making friend requests … and this is great really it is, but I wonder if there’s such a thing as friend overload.¬†Being both a middle child and a mother I have this need to make sure everyone gets their attention. With all this information flying at me I’m seriously wondering if I’ve taken on too much. On the other hand I don’t want to offend someone who loves my books. For goodness sake, that’s the person I most want to chat with.

And as if all that isn’t confusing enough, now I’ve discovered that¬†some agents and editors are using twitter to send out mass rejections. As in “if you queried me prior to April 1 and you haven’t heard from me, I’m not interested in your manuscript”. There are mixed reviews on this, from “it’s great to have an answer” to “what if I’m not on twitter?”. I guess my worry if I queried one of these people would be what if I missed the post. I’d be a maniac frantically checking and rechecking their twitter stream (as well as my inbox).

It’s definitely a whole new world out there. Social media has made it possible for authors and readers to connect in a way they never have before. Which is awesome. On the other hand it’s also created a situation that sometimes feels like a feeding frenzy to the harried author trying to balance marketing with writing.¬†Twitter and Facebook and Yahoo Loops and MySpace and blogging are all part of the publishing landscape these days. I guess it’s just a matter of planting seeds where you’re most comfortable and nourishing the buggers in hopes it helps grow your career.

Where does an author go to keep in touch with and find new readers? Where do we hang out to gain words of wisdom from successful authors? And how do we do all this without sucking so much time from our day that we don’t have time to write?

These are all questions authors ask themselves. Social media sites have exploded exponentially with the growth of the internet. And in my opinion this means authors and readers are having a harder time finding each other. I absolutley love to talk to people. As an extravert it’s how I recharge my energy levels. Since writing is such a solitary endeaver and I’m now disabled and not getting out of the house to work, it’s the social sites that keep me in touch with the outside world. But how much is too much?

Here’s a list of some of the places I hang out on the internet and some of them I understand and use effectively, but others I’m still not sure about …

MySpace – I LOVED MySpace when I was first contracted two years ago. I had a teenager in the house who walked me through setting it up. I went there every day to touch base with my “friends”. This means I read comments left on my page and usually went over and commented on other’s pages in reply. MySpace has a blog feature which I tried to see if blogging was something I wanted to jump into. I really enjoyed it. But over the past year or so MySpace has become cumbersome. It loads slowly and often times locks up my computer when I try to visit other people’s pages. I have no doubt that it has invited several unwanted viruses onto my computer. I’m moving away from MySpace. I’m not sure if I’m going to delete my page, but I’m definitely not using it as much.

Blogging – Wow, this one is hard. If I were to do it all over again I don’t think I’d have my own blog. Though I do love having this space that’s all about me and a place where I can display all my book covers and buy links, a place where I can share my life with my readers, I’m not sure whether or not if I’ve run out of things to say. (Don’t laugh … yes, I can talk … blogging is something a little bit different. LOL!) If someone were asking me whether they should blog I would caution them about the time it takes to post blogs. In order to get followers YOU MUST BE CONSISTENT. IMHO there’s nothing worse than someone stumbling upon your blog and finding the last post was one month earlier. You’re going to be hard pressed to get them back when you have posted something that would be helpful. If you don’t have your own blog I would highly recommend finding a group of authors willing to start (or joining in) a group blog. But again, it’s very important for everyone to agree that posting on their scheduled days is important. Building a readership is hard. Losing a readership is very easy … don’t be consistent in your posting.

Yahoo Loops – When I first started writing I joined RWA and through that my local writing chapter. We stay in touch with each other through email on a Yahoo loop. The wonderful thing about loops is you email one announcement and it goes to the inbox of every member of the loop. It’s a great way to communicate. Many authors started their own loops. It gave them the opportunity to share news with readers. As I started looking into Yahoo loops I realized there were soooo many that I chose not to start my own group. As a matter of fact, at one point I was on so many loops I could receive up to 1000 emails a day! Though these groups allowed me the opportunity to post excerpts and chat with others about books and writing I found myself spending my day answering emails. (Mostly because it’s important to me not to be a “fly-by” poster. I try to chat with people on the loop even as I post my own promo.)

Forums – My first publisher had a forum. THAT threw me for a loop. It looked like one long list of goble-dee-gook. It just seemed so confusing. Then I realized chats were in threads and if I wanted to participate I simply needed to open the thread. I found a wonderful forum in Romance Divas. I highly recommend this group. It’s filled with authors both published and unpublished, new and some very established authors. They are a very welcoming group that is willing to share without reservation. Again, this is a place I visited every day, both my publisher and Romance Divas forum. But I found I was hanging out and chatting for so much of the day that I wasn’t writing. So I’ve slowly moved away from forums.

Facebook – This is the newest place I’ve set up housekeeping. I really enjoy it over there. There’s none of the personalizing of MySpace, which is good … because everyone’s home pages come up without having to take time to load. Again, besides posting my own news I do comment on the posts of my friends. I am really enjoying this social media and IMHO, I think more people are shifting to this site and away from MySpace. Mostly because it’s easy to set up and easy to use.

Twitter – The best way to describe this is that it’s an instant chat with 800 (or however many followers you have) of your very best friends. When I post a tweet it feeds to the home page of anyone following me. When anyone I follow tweets it streams to my home page. If you enjoy chatting, twitter is a great place. Some people complain that people are chatting out about what they’re eating or the fact that they’re doing their laundry. Some are. It doesn’t bother me to follow a few people who do that once in awhile. I’m probably guilty of doing that as well. I use Twitter to give links to my blog posts or share a link to someone else’s blog if I think it’s a good post. I also use twitter to follow links to blogs on subjects that interest me. Since I don’t surf blogs I do find this is a great way to visit blogs with relevent posts. I like twitter. But there are a lot of people who don’t and avoid it at all costs. I do have this linked to MySpace and my blog (you can see it in the sidebar) so it posts to those two places whenever I tweet. (But couldn’t figure out how to get it to go to my facebook, but it does have that feature.)

These are the places I’m active. But I also have accounts at

Goodreads – I can’t help you here folks. On most days I can post what I’m currently reading and what I’ve read. But I don’t go there enough to be able to remember how I did it the last time. *g* I know you can post events or join groups and do a whole bunch of stuff, but I don’t know how to do it.

LinkedIn – Again, I’m hanging there … but I REALLY have no clue what to do with it. Not even sort of.

And that’s where I am. Now there’s NING’s and I know some people on Live Journal (who love it). But at the moment I’m pretty overwhelmed with all the places I’m visiting right now. Sometimes my social obligations can take over my whole day. I’m trying to figure out what’s an efficient use of my time. I’d love to hear your opinion. Where do you go and what do you enjoy. Because in the end it’s all about what helps readers find new authors and authors to help readers find their books. And sometimes it’s having the opportunity for experienced authors to share what they know.

So what works for you as a reader or an author?

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