Gina Lawless Books

November 2, 2012

How You Can Help Out Indie Authors

I am in the process of forming an Independent Author review page in my own tiny corner of this self-publishing world to entice, generate, coerce folks to read, review (an important aspect of any author’s writing career) and otherwise support these hard-working authors. Being one myself, I understand the difficulty of getting people to read your stuff. An author can spend more time marketing (easily) his/her books than actually writing them.

I am guilty of reading books from the best seller’s list exclusively and only began reading indie authors this year. I’m amazed at how many really good writers there are.

So with that splattered out there, many of these authors have free, or cheaply priced works available to the public simply to get their name out. Some have their books listed for free to hook a reader into further purchases, which I have found to be an excellent tactic. I have been hooked this way myself.

In my attempt to support my fellow authors, I command you…okay, not command…ask politely that you check out Smashwords home page, click on the “free” tab and scroll through the many books available. If you are a voracious reader like me, you’ll a find a plethora of marvelously good reads that will keep you entertained for eons. Plus, you’ll be doing a great service to independent authors.

Happy reading!

But, don’t forget to give them a review (good, bad or indifferent) because it only helps their process.

October 14, 2012

Summer’s Over. Now Get Your Damn E-Readers Working.

No more laying on the beach in your tiny bikinis, and worrying if your bikini line has been shaved properly! Unless, of course you have a hot date tonight. In that case: wax on!

Now is the time to load up your e-readers with some good reads and cozy up with your favorite blankie. This is one reason I love the cooler months. I can read without feeling guilty that I should be outside doing something constructive with my yard. I have no idea why I would feel guilty when I have no garden to tend. I gave up on that last summer when my topsy-turvy tomatoes turned black on one end looking like some grotesque monster eyeball. I did get to use the tomatoes for target practice though. So, I said to hell with this mess. I’ll buy my tomatoes from Mexico and pretend they taste like the home-grown sort. Right.

I’m digressing again! E-readers! My books are uploaded through Smashwords, and distributed to Nook, Sony, Kobo, Diesel, and Barnes and Noble. My question to all of my lovely readers is this: What e-reader do you use?

The reason I ask, is because I’m considering going through Amazon for my next book to see how it works. All I hear is Kindle this, and Kindle that. I personally own a Nook Color, which I absolutely adore, and anything that is sold through Amazon is sold through B&N. I’m don’t feel like I’m getting jipped in that respect. However, when it comes to book sales of my own, I sometimes feel like a fart in the wind.

Or are you one of the romantic few who still must have a book made of trees? I still read those old-fashioned kind of books, of course. But, the really weird part is this. I bought and am reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which is an excellent book, by the way if you haven’t read it yet. Anyway, I’m physically holding this book and struggling to hold the book open. Did you get that? I’m struggling to hold the book open!!! Yesterday morning, I awoke to find my left thumb was a bit sore. I’m asking myself what I did to cause this. Ahhh! It dawned on my this morning. I was reading a paperback book! Strange, but true.

Pipe up and give me some feedback on your thoughts about e-readers and perhaps your experience with Amazon.

Don’t click the “Submit” button on the inserted picture. 🙂

August 19, 2012

Tweets Without Blogs

One of my favorite morning rituals is going through my Twitter followers/followings with my cup of coffee, and checking out blog sites and/or websites. I don’t pick up a newspaper anymore because 1) I can read it online and 2) I can’t see anything that’s upbeat and entertaining enough that captures my attention. It’s all about who shot whom, who went to jail for drugs, who beat up whose wife.

Anyway, one of the things that I’m running into on Twitter is that many folks don’t have a blog or website that one can go check out. No place to go check out their writing or WIP. I asked myself, “Self? Can one promote one’s work accordingly just using Twitter?” I suppose you can, but for me, I like to see someone put some real effort into their profession. Anything worth doing, is worth going all out for. Don’t you agree?

I feel like I’ve sold myself short this past month because of my obligations to the job that pays the bills, and taking a bit of time off to reconnect with people. Plus, it’s difficult to stay indoors writing when it’s so gorgeous outside. However, I still have an obligation to myself as a writer to keep plugging away at it. Guilt plagues me.

So, I guess a little advice to those that Tweet: If you do have a blog or website, please include it in your profile. Show us your depth. Give us your perception. And, I know this goes for every author out there. We’re not only writers. We are readers as well. Don’t sell yourself short by just tweeting a link to where your book is being sold. It doesn’t give me a reason that makes me want to go check out your book. I am always looking for material to read. Always! Help us be able to help you. I read anywhere from four to six books at a time and I’m running out of books on my Nook!

What’s your opinion?

August 18, 2012

Another Way To Get Your Words Out

I tried this avenue several years ago and had completely forgotten about it.

You can refer back to one of my older posts  that explains what I’m talking about.

Ezine Articles is a fantastic way to help authors get the word out and also builds your presence. They do have a few rules for submitting an article, one mainly being you cannot put links into the body of your articles to sell yourself. But, you can use the resource box at the end of your article to guide readers to your sites.

You can use some of your blog posts for articles, but again, edit it so there are no links to your sites in the body of your text, otherwise they will kick it back out and ask you to fix it.

It does not cost you anything, and I think it’s well worth the few minutes to sign up and re-post some of your great ideas there.

SEO Baby!

August 11, 2012

Instincts Part 2

The second part of my Instincts post goes along the same line as the first part. I moved to Oregon from California, in a place where the most dangerous aspect would be getting mugged in the parking lot at the mall. We were taught as young girls, to avoid certain places, such as dark underground parking lots, alley ways, always walk together in groups…etc. We weren’t taught to avoid caves, hairy bears and always carry a big gun.

Moving to the PNW was a totally new experience and adventure for me and I wanted to experience everything that my husband had grown up with. Hunting, fishing, the whole gamut. I’ve always been a good shot with a gun, having learned from my father as a child, so my husband decided it was time I go deer hunting with him. I seriously doubted that I would be able to actually shoot a deer, but having the experience of tracking, and enjoying the great outdoors as many people here do.

Hunting season didn’t open in eastern Oregon until the day after we arrived and set up camp. He wanted to take me out to teach me how to scout and track an animal, what to look for and get in tuned with my surroundings. We were not allowed to actually hunt until the next day, so we left our guns at camp and took off on a two-mile trek. I was all eyes and ears as he pointed specific things out to me. Wild turkeys calling to each other, timber tigers chirping warning of our approach. A timber tiger is a small striped squirrel approximately the size of your hand, the most adorable creature! As we meandered farther away from our camp site, I revelled in the beauty of the nature around me. The smells, the sounds, everything so alive. This was a place for animals, not humans. I felt almost like an intruder in this austere place looking out from my bubble of existence into the revered wildlife that I had only heard about, or read about in books. This ecosystem had its own clock, and its own schedule. A time for feeding, a time for breeding, and a time for rest. Here we were, as interlopers messing up their schedule. But, as humans, we feel indulgent enough to interlope at will. Because, after all, we are the supreme species on this planet. Right?

Wrong! As we trudged on, my husband and I squatted down low on a ridge overlooking a meadow. We were about a mile from our camp at this point, and the only dangers I could see were these small timber tigers incessantly barking out warnings to their mates. He pointed the wild turkeys out to me from our vantage point and we could see them down below slowly wandering through the brush and trees. We had been squatting for quite a while and my knees were beginning to ache, and honestly, I was getting bored watching the turkeys. I wanted to go on and see some deer, which I hadn’t seen yet. He is urging to me to be still and quiet, as he scanned the tree lines for these elusive creatures. I am poised on an old dead stump, shifting my weigh so my knees aren’t burning, and suddenly I feel a rumbling underneath my feet that resonated up through my entire body. Here is where the instincts kicked in. I knew I was in danger. My first thought was that I was squatting on top of a bear den, because the rumbling was loud, not in my ears, but in my body. It throbbed through me from my feet all the way up my spine, like an electrical shock. The hair on my head,  arms and neck rose, my heart rate rose, and adrenaline coursed through me like wild-fire. I leaned over to my husband who was still scanning the tree lines. “Do you feel that?” I whispered.
“Feel what?”
“A rumbling underneath.” He quickly rose from his position and took my arm.
“Let’s go,” he said, calmly pushing me in front of him. “Walk in front of me and just keep walking.” He ushered me ahead quietly, to the meadow below and once we got there I had almost forgotten about the weird sensation on the ridge. But, now we’re farther away from our camp site and I was getting a bit tired from the trek. He says to me that we should be safe now that we’re out in the open. Safe from what? He explained to me that we were being stalked by a mountain lion from another ridge that ran directly behind and above us. He also reminded me that we (and he cusses himself for this) hadn’t brought any weapons, and the only thing he had with him was his multi tool, which he was still clutching in his fist. All the while he’s wondering if we are pounced on by a mountain lion, can he defend us with this small innocuous tool and save our lives. My mouth becomes dry and is hanging open. The deep guttural rumble I felt…not heard…was a mountain lion directly above us getting ready to pounce on its prey. This animal outweighs me by at least 30 pounds and to a mountain lion, I would be easy pickings.

Wait! I thought WE were the predator here!

Oh no, Grasshopper.

It was my instinct to run far and fast when I felt that rumbling. The hair rising, the adrenaline pumping is animalistic and warns prey to bolt. But, my human brain wants to ask questions and analyze the situation to make sure that what I’m feeling is actually real. After all, I don’t want to look like an idiot and run for my life when I have no idea what I’m running from. Perhaps, he didn’t feel it the way I did because the mountain lion was focused on me. I shiver thinking about the scenario, and I can still feel that terrible gut feeling to this day. He tells me that the only reason I wasn’t attacked was because he was there with me. If I had been alone, it surely would have attacked. We were on her playing ground, after all. And, we were stalking her prey.

We walk back to camp via the meadow and my husband informs the rest of the hunting party…quite calmly…that they need to be careful of the mountain lion in the area, and to make sure and carry their weapons if they go out scouting.  He reminds the others that they are allowed, according Oregon Fish and Game,  to shoot and kill a mountain lion if they run across it because the lions outnumber the deer in this area.

I wonder if I have gotten myself in too deep coming to this country. I’m a city girl! I’m not used to this way of living, and then be able to take it all in stride. I’m listening to these people talk about this mountain lion as if it were nothing…an everyday occurrence. These people who I’m with on this camping trip have been born and raised in this country and it makes me feel so out of my element. I am so naive in the ways of how nature works. That was six years ago. I am still here because I love it. I can decide to be out there in the wilderness, or not. I have learned so much since then, but I know for a fact, that as a human being, I am still the stupidest creature on the face of this planet when it comes to survival. To question our instincts is a very dangerous attribute that we harbor for fear of looking stupid.

I feel lucky, as a writer to be able to incorporate these experiences I have had into my stories, and even my husband’s adventures. He can tell a story so vividly, it makes me jealous sometimes, but at least I can write about them.

As an after thought: I did not shoot a deer that year. I just couldn’t do it. I had to psych myself up for the entire year to be able to kill a deer the next year, which I did. But, the look in the deer’s eyes right before I took the shot remains embedded in my memory. I will never do it again and that’s my personal choice.

August 2, 2012

Instincts Part 1

My husband and I took a trip though eastern Idaho into Montana wanting to go north from there via the Bitterroot Mountain Range. Beautiful and rough terrain with raging rivers, rocky landscapes and canyons. It’s August, so naturally, it’s hot and dry. We’re following the meandering river north of Salmon, Idaho on Highway 93, the Lewis and Clark Trail, and that water is looking, oh-so-good. I’m so hot, I just want to dip my tired feet in the water for a few minutes, so we can continue in some comfort. We have been stopping to read the historical land markers along the way, something we have always wanted to do, if time allowed.

Bless my husband, he stops so I can take a quick dip. I’m wearing shorts and flimsy sandals, so my descent is a bit uneasy and I need to watch my footing. I do not want a broken ankle. My eyes are on the prize! That water looks cool and welcoming, but as I finally get down there, the bank is extremely muddy and rocky, with reeds all around. Critters! Eww! So, I decide against the idea, and turn to start back up the rocky terrain to our vehicle, pouting the entire way. My husband is still up on the road having finished marking his territory and starts toward me, but he’s still about 50 yards away.

Suddenly, I am frozen in my tracks. Total and encompassing fear has wrapped its steely hand around my heart making it accelerate to approximately 130 beats per minute. The only thing I’m thinking at this point is: Stay completely still-or-run like a bat straight out of hell. Then my brain starts thinking about rational scenarios. If I bolt, I easily could trip with these ridiculously flimsy sandals and I could be dead. I might not be fast enough, and I could be dead.

The familiar rattling sound is astonishingly close, and I turn my head slowly to the left and slightly behind me. Only a foot away, are a few of the most venomous snakes in the US of A. Two Western Rattle Snakes are intertwined and I have interrupted their baby snake making fest. They are unraveling themselves and becoming poised to strike at me if I move. And, maybe still if I don’t move. They are looking right at me! I’m thinking about my bare calf and having their fangs sink in. It’s going to hurt, and then how fast can my husband get me to a hospital? Where the hell are we anyway? Out in the middle of no where.

There is nowhere for me to lunge safely without rocks in my way. Damn stupid sandals. I realize I’m holding my breath and I can see my husband walking in extreme slow motion towards me in my peripheral vision, totally unaware of my situation. So, I holler, “SNAKES!!!!”, trying to keep my eye on the snakes.

He yells at me to keep perfectly still as he turns and runs back to the vehicle. In actuality, he said something to the effect of, “Stay the f**k still! Don’t f**king move!” He’s throwing F-Bombs right and left as I remain stock still and he‘s rifling through the truck, but my legs are beginning to ache as if I’ve been standing there for hours, which has been only but a few seconds.

I know he’s looking for a weapon. My hero husband bounds down to me like Superman, and puts himself between the snakes and my body and commences trying to pound them with a shovel. And, what do I say? “Don’t kill them!” He looks at me as if I’m crazy. “The f**k I won’t,” he says in frustration.

They slither apart and hide themselves under tree roots and rocks unharmed. He is unharmed as am I.

My question is this: I know we still possess instincts that warn us of impending doom.

But, if I had never heard of, or seen a rattle snake, or was unfamiliar with the sound of their alarming rattle, would instinctive fear still have gripped me?

July 28, 2012

Battling With My Demons

I know all of you missed me out there (snicker-snicker) as you wondered, where did she go? I needed to take a much-needed mini vaca with my husband to re-charge my batteries. And his. He insisted we go to the coast for a three-day weekend to get away from our life. I went…kicking and screaming…but so glad we did. This place we went to has no phone, and no internet, so I was forced to try to make my brain  maintain calmness that it isn’t used to. I didn’t have any choice in the matter, so I had to submit.  Of course, I took my laptop knowing that while we were there, I could at least do some writing. I didn’t even do that! This place is nestled by the coastline and amid pines and rolling hills. How can anyone disclaim this natural beauty, ignore it, or take it for granted? I realized this question as I looked out from our friend’s back patio overlooking the green hills covered with Douglas Fir and Myrtlewood trees, and down into a pasture that held a herd of grazing Palomino horses. The sun behind me casting those long romantic shadows across the meadow.

If I’m looking down all of the time, how can I acknowledge this spectacular vision before me? How can I write about it accurately? How can I write about it at all? After all, I didn’t create this landscape. Then and there, I knew I would never be able to escape from writing. Never. Instead of just enjoying the view, here I am staring at a vision and trying to describe it in my head. Trying to make poetry out of this tangible sight, and trying to describe the colors, the smells and the feeling it gives me. I am cursed with this as was my father’s family before me. I simply can’t enjoy the breathtaking view that nature has created. I must make it into words that can convey what is burning into my retina.

So, I take a deep breath in, then exhale. Trying again to let go of the gnawing angst of molding thoughts, sensations, and visions into words. I take a drink of my crappy cup of coffee which has turned cold. The chill reaches the back of my neck and grips me hard, even shakes me a little. You will never be rid of me. I will ride with you until the day you die, little one!  This voice scares me sometimes because it seems more like a demon than something good and creative. Realizing this, I cry a little right then. I am alone, watching a herd of horses, one of them rolling in the grass like a dog, scratching his back, and the demon is scratching my cervical column with its sharp fingernail. That spot right at the base of my skull. If I tell it to leave me be for a time, it laughs hideously and mocks me.

Who is in control here? Certainly not me, I realize.  This curse makes me feel like an outcast among these Oregonians whom I have come to love and respect. I came here from California, where everyone pretty much lived in their own preformed cocoon.

Here, in the Pacific Northwest, people are kind and giving. They are thoughtful in ways I was not accustomed to. They come from a very long line of hardworking families whose hands bled forging this countryside. The landscape is dotted with homes that have been here for one hundred plus years, but still the beauty of this place remains untouched. There are still, to this day, trails that the native Indians formed and used, then the white man came and claimed them making roads for wagon trails. Living here is like stepping back in time. The people who were born and raised here are not naive in any way. Saying that they are “down-to-earth” is putting it mildly. They hunt, they fish, they love to shoot guns, they drink lots of beer and they love to laugh. The men are truly men.

Even though they don’t give themselves away too easily, the thoughts they maintain about living here are so bred within them, they don’t have the need to speak about it. I don’t think they understand me very well because of my lineage and upbringing, but they accept me. I am as curious about them as they are of me, I think. The friend who we were staying with asked me, “Gina, where did your learn to write like that?” His small library is full of books about the history of Oregon, families that settled here, logging, timber species, and even a handbook for Boy Scouts that was old and worn. My answer was, “I don’t know.” I don’t know if it’s a learned thing, or a genetic thing, or both. These people are not into meditation. If you live here, one can’t help but be in a reverent state of mind. They are not into religion, but they believe in God. This magical splendor is their church. Simply looking around is their history, their heritage and their story.

I can’t explain to them about this demon. I don’t want them thinking I’m crazy. So, I only give away bits and pieces of myself when asked. This place that I have chosen as my permanent home is so magical, and chocked full with stories, it’s hard not to write about it.

I am blessed with these people, and this place. And I am cursed with the demon that won’t let my subconscious sleep peacefully. I must learn to integrate the two hemispheres to coincide and insist that they learn to get along together in such a way that it gives me peace.

When it came time to go home, I didn’t want to leave.

June 17, 2012

Don’t Smell the Sweat Stuff

When I first published on Smashwords, I found myself struggling with the correct format requirements, and I became frustrated to the point of throwing pens at my monitor. Sorry monitor! Smashwords requires that your material is uploaded using Microsoft Word. Guess what? I don’t use Microsoft Word! I can save documents using Word, but that’s about it. I’m stubborn and refuse to pay for a word processing program. So, I am destined to have to go the little extra mile  for Smashword’s publication.

Microsoft Works was pre-installed on my computer when I bought it (four years ago…shhh! Everytime I tell my computers how old they are, they invariably quit on me.) and I also use Open Office for some things, but not writing.

After a lot of trial and error…error being the operative word here…I managed to get my first two books into their Premium catalog by means of the nuclear method, which you can find how to do in their Style Guide. I stress that if you choose this method,  read this guide several times over. It will save you a lot of headaches in the long run.

At this juncture, I’m waiting for Creator to be reviewed, and keeping every appendage I have crossed that it pops out of the meatgrinder intact. I had to upload it, I believe, six times before the autovetter errors had been fixed.

What I did with all my books, was go through the nuclear method. I had to since I don’t use Word.

  • Wrote the book on Works, making sure it was completely edited. Copied.
  • Opened Open Office, and pasted it.
  • Checked the paragraph structure, because that’s where I run into trouble.
  • Saved it in Open Office. Copy entire content.
  • Opened Notepad. Pasted. This gets rid of all the mark-ups from transferring from one program to another.
  • Copied the entire content.
  • Go back to Open Office and open a new file, and pasted.
  • Saved as a Word document.
  • Uploaded into Smashwords, and waited with bated breath.
  • Repeat.

I know it sounds like a lot of jumping through hoops, but it didn’t really take me that long.

This link to Smashwords, explains quite a bit about their process, which includes their Style Guide, and explains it  better than I can obviously.

I’ve heard people say they don’t like the wait time on Smashwords, but if you think of it in relative terms to waiting a year or so to have your book published and distributed using the traditional route, a few weeks doesn’t seem so long.

When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.  ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

Have a happy writing day!

May 28, 2012

After the Hard Part Is Done…Now, What?

Filed under: Publishing — Gina Lawless @ 8:19 pm
Tags: , , ,

So, you’ve written a book, or two, or ten. Why are you keeping them to yourself? Why aren’t you sharing your hard work with the world?

  • Is it a fear that you’re work is not good enough?
  • Every time you review it, edit it,  polish it, or re-write it, does it seem like it still needs work?
  • Is that perfectionist deep inside you getting the better of you?

If you can answer “yes” to any of these questions, then good for you. That only means that you’re a good writer. Just remember one thing, if nothing else. The rest of us want to read what you’ve written.

I stumbled on Smashwords by pure accident. I can’t even remember how. I was originally trying to find a widget to insert into my website to allow the purchase of my books. I found many, but most at a monthly cost that at the time, I couldn’t afford. When I put the website up…scared to death, by the way…I had no intention of blogging that much. As it turned out, I blog more than fiddling with the website. It allows me much more freedom, interaction, and traffic.

I’m trying to decide whether to keep the website up, or let it die a slow death. If you’re starting out on this grand adventure of publishing your work, and need some sound advice, and need to keep your pennies in your pocket, read through Smashwords website. Check out the authors, the ebooks they have written and go from there. I would also advise reading through Mark Coker’s, Smashwords Style Guide. It’s free and invaluable to anyone starting out. I guarantee that it won’t seem so daunting.

April 28, 2012

To Ebook or Not To Ebook

Filed under: Publishing — Gina Lawless @ 2:27 pm
Tags: , , , ,

I’ve had several people ask me if my ebooks will ever be put into print. They have expressed quite vocally that they prefer being able to hold the book, read it and set it down, pick it up at will, and take it with them. Trying to explain that you can do all the things with an e-book  just as you would a physical book, is akin to jumping into an empty swimming pool.

I do have to keep in mind that these same folks used to write on one of those whatchacallits…you know what I’m talking about…that thing with the ribbon and the carriage. A typewriter! That’s it!

I’m not dissuaded by the fact that they have that need. We all feel comfort in our own different ways, and after all, we’ve only been reading on stone, parchment or paper for centuries. I can only imagine what someone might have said when they decided to start using parchment instead of stone. “I like to hold my stone when I read it!”

I’m not making light of somebody else’s preferences. It is difficult to let go of old habits. After all, one of my all time favorite past times was perusing Barnes & Noble, or Borders for hours on end. So, I get it. I understand  how they feel.

We’re on the cutting edge of the industry right now though, and if we don’t take advantage of this wonderful technology, we’re missing out on a fantastic opportunity.

So, the answer to the question? I don’t know right now. Perhaps someday I will put them in print.

And who knows. Maybe decades from now, our children’s children will be asking the question, “Are you ever going to put these books in ebook format? I love my Kindle.”

Weigh in, and let me know what you think.

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