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first-time writer


The Joys of Self Publishing?

I have written in the past about the highs of self publishing. They are many - no one to tell you what to do, when to do it. No one to tell you what to write. Are you picking up on the theme here? You are the boss, which can be exhilarating.

It can also be frustrating. Without someone to nudge you along, you can take your time with the book. That can be a negative. I doubt anyone reading this blog has the privilege of writing full-time. Most of us juggle our “real” jobs with all the deadlines and stress to go along with it. After a difficult day at work, the last thing you may want to do is work on that book. Without a nudge, it could take YEARS to complete your novel.

And then there’s the issue with promotion. What do you do?? Do you place ads? If so, where? How much do you spend? Do you record a podcast? Should you have a giveaway on a website? Can you get someone to publish a review? If you decide to do any or all of these things, how do you actually DO it?? How, I say? HOW???!!!

I admit that I have little patience. I just want to write my story and have someone else take care of the business side of things. Hmmmm….sounds a bit like a traditional publishing relationship, doesn’t it?

Well, I don’t have any publishers beating down my door, begging to publish my book. And, I just don’t have the desire to send a manuscript to 100 publishers, only to be told “no, thanks” or worse, “you suck, your book sucks, you should stop writing for the good of humanity.” OK - that last bit may be harsh, but who hasn’t felt that way?

I have written two and half books in the “Through the Mist” series - “Restoration,” “Adrift” (a novella), and “Reunion.” The first book did well, in my opinion. The novella’s sales were meh. “Reunion” has flatlined, which is a shame. I felt as if I hit my stride with that one. The pace is better, and the ending is really good, in my less than humble opinion.

Let me be clear - I know none of these books will be number one on ANY chart. I want somebody to read them, though. Why else did I take the time to transfer the story from my head to the page? If you are a writer too, you know exactly what I mean.

I feel that I am at a crossroads. I just don’t know what to do to draw readers to my books. And, I have at least two more to write in the series as well as a great idea for a standalone novella. What should I do?

At this point, I have considered hiring a book launch coach. I need someone to pick me up by the bootstraps, so to speak, and tell me what to do. I just don’t know where to start. Let’s see if someone else can help me. As long as the endeavor does not cost a fortune, it might be the kick in the pants that I need. Sometimes, that’s what it takes. Wish me luck!



So, What's It About??

Whenever someone learns that you wrote a book, the natural question is, “So, what’s it about?” More questions may follow if people are interested.

I try not to ramble on too much. I wouldn’t have written the series if I was not passionate about the topic, but I realize that you can only hold someone’s interest for so long. Here are some common questions and their answers:

Through the Mist is a series. What’s it about?

It begins with the first book, Restoration. Tilly Munro is a modern woman who suddenly finds herself over two hundred years in the past, in Scotland. How did that happen? Who is this mysterious Benjamin Campbell? Will she go back, if she ever finds a way?

Then, I continued the story in a novella, Through the Mist: Adrift. Tilly travelled to Scotland with her best friend, Beth Hunter Madison. After Tilly’s mysterious disappearance, Beth’s life fell apart. In Adrift, we learn more about Beth and see the story come to a startling conclusion.

The recently published sequel, Through the Mist: Reunion, continues the story of Benjamin and Tilly. We learn what has happened over the last year since Tilly disappeared. We also learn more about Benjamin’s father Malcolm, and the lengths the man will go, all in an attempt to preserve the estate. We experience a new love story with two characters. How does that one end?

This sounds like a lot of time travel romances that I have read. How’s this one different?

It is true that the “Scottish time travel” romance story has been done many times over. In fact, that was my inspiration. I have read a lot of books in the genre. I never read one where the woman was older and has lived a life before she met our dashing Scot. And, the modern women usually don’t have any problem at all with the changes brought on by time travel.

Well, I need indoor plumbing, access to information, and freedom to speak my mind. I am not a twenty-something and would likely be viewed as a spinster. In short, I would have a serious problem with traveling back in time. That got me thinking - how would someone like me deal with time travel? What things would be different?

That’s how the Through the Mist series was born.

I hate the way Restoration ended. Why did you do that to us readers??

It has been my lifelong dream to write a book. Restoration was my first effort. I admit there are issues in that book with pacing, and yes, the ending could use a little polish. However, the story for me is over at that point. It was always meant to pick up in the next book.

Incidentally, the ending of Reunion is much better, in my opinion. Please give it a chance.

Why don’t you just fix the ending and republish Restoration?

I am a bit of purist. Aside from fixing typos, I don’t believe in changing the book once it has been published. Besides, I am afraid too many edits would spoil the sequel, Through the Mist: Reunion.

Why did you write the novella, Adrift?

For awhile, the material in Adrift was the first part of Reunion. I finally decided to cut it from the book. I was afraid no one would hang in there long enough to get to the real heart of the story that happens in Reunion.

I could not bring myself to leave the story unpublished, though. To me, the material in Adrift provides needed backstory into Beth’s life. Expect some callbacks to the novella in the third book in the series.

You have a few historical references in the series. Are they true?

Based upon my research, yes. I read a lot of material about the time period. I study online resources. And, for the next book, I can reference notes and pictures I took on my recent trip to Scotland. It is important to me that you are part of the story. Adding little details about food, customs, or clothing make the experience real to me, and I hope it does the same for you.

Now, I will say this - I do not have a team of people behind me. I do the best I can, and it takes me longer to complete my research. I have a day job. If you find a glaring historical error, I always welcome comments. You can DM me on Facebook.

The books are affordably priced, compared to other e-books. Why are they so cheap?

With my first book, Through the Mist: Restoration, you took a chance with me. It seemed rather rude to ask you to spend $10 on a writer’s first book. I priced it at 99 cents so you would give me that chance. If you liked it, you got a deal. If you hated it, well, you only spent 99 cents.

The novella Adrift is also priced at 99 cents. It is not essential to the series, but it is a “nice to have.”

Both Restoration and Adrift are now free to read on Kindle Unlimited, if you have it.

I have struggled with pricing for Through the Mist: Reunion, the sequel. I try to keep the price in an affordable range, yet, to be completely honest, it would be nice to make more than 35 cents on the book. (Yes, literally that amount.) Hey - we all need a side hustle these days, right? At the current price, it is still less expensive than some ebooks out there. I hope the story is enjoyable enough for you to spend your hard-earned money.

When can we expect the next book?

Restoration was published in 2016. Adrift and Reunion were published in 2018. I seem to be on a “every two years” track. The story in the as-yet-untitled third book is much, much larger than the other books in the series. I hope to complete it within two years, but I don’t want to make any promises.

Keep an eye on this blog and Facebook for updates.

Have more questions?

Find me on Facebook or Goodreads. You can leave a comment here. I love feedback and questions. I really want to know what you think of the story, the characters - anything.

As always, happy reading!



The Goodreads Challenge

As of this post, I have 97 ratings on Goodreads. I am astonished. Through the Mist: Restoration is the realization of a long-held dream. I worked really hard to write and self publish the book. The fact that even one person bought the book is amazing. That 97 people would take the time to give my book a rating on Goodreads, well, that’s just unbelievable.

It would be a thrill to have 100 ratings on Goodreads. I am only 3 ratings away! Therefore, I am issuing a challenge to my readers. If I can get 100 ratings on Goodreads, I will donate $100 to the Avery County NC Humane Society. I adopted G from the organization, so it is a tribute to both you and her.

How do you make it happen? Creating a Goodreads account is free at Once you log in, search for my book, Through the Mist: Restoration. Then, below the picture of my book’s cover, you will see a drop down menu. You can click that you have read the book. You can give a simple star rating, which is all I ask. If you want to leave a review as well, you can. I humbly ask for constructive criticism, though. It is the only way I can become better as a writer.

Even if I do not hit 100 ratings, I am so, so happy. You made my dream come true just by reading my story. Thank you so much!



Read My Book - Pretty Please

For the last two weeks, I have talked about the challenges of self-publishing. I shared that writing the book was actually the easy part. The business side of things opens up a whole new world of challenges. Today, I would like to share my experiences with advertising.

Since I am a frugal person and had no idea if I would sell one copy, I looked at available resources at little to no cost. I have three tips to offer as well as some thoughts about what I will do differently with the sequel, Through the Mist: Reunion.

First, pick the right category for the book. In the description on Amazon, I used certain keywords that were relevant to the genre. It is a Scottish historical romance with a time travel twist. Some people love those sorts of books; I do! I looked at bestsellers in the genre. What keywords did they use? How were the descriptions phrased? I then crafted my book’s description so that it would garner attention from other lovers of the genre.

Second, develop a social media profile in advance of the release. I created a website, but I did not have a Facebook profile. That was a mistake. Many readers are accustomed to finding and engaging with their favorite author via social media. While the website was nice, Facebook is better. And, it is free! I post to Facebook when I want to discuss the book, scones, or any random thing. If someone leaves a comment, I respond. I have already learned a great deal about scones from an Australian reader. I never expected that!

Third, set up an author’s dashboard on Goodreads. It is free! I took a webinar about social media resources prior to my book’s release. Goodreads was mentioned in the course. It is a website for book lovers. Readers can start discussions about various books or themes as well as leave reviews of books. They can create their own profiles and list their favorite books. It was simple to add my book to the mix and create a profile. I have had a few questions from readers about my book, which was cool.

What are my plans for the next book? I feel a little more confident about the experience, so I plan to launch the next book on a broader scale. In the coming months, I will research the cost for ads at Amazon, Goodreads, and other relevant places. I want to explore what is necessary for certain sites to review my book as well how to set up giveaways of the new release. Are there other resources that would “get the book out there?” Hopefully, I will learn more about that soon.

In the end, I learned a valuable lesson with everything – formatting, design, and advertising. Writing the book is a difficult task. Once it is done, I need to put away the writer’s brain and think like a business person. I should “farm out” what I can afford and direct my attentions to projects where I can make the most impact. With a little luck, the sequel will reach more readers. For those of you who are on the same journey, good luck – and keep writing!



Finding Your Voice

As a first-time writer, I found it difficult to figure out how I wanted to write. Sure, I knew the story I wanted to tell. How do I tell it, though? I decided to approach it the way I do tough projects at work: analyze, research, and implement.

I am a voracious reader so I decided to analyze the books I liked. How did the writer structure the story? Did he or she describe every detail in the room, or was the reader left to fill in most of the blanks? Was the story heavy in dialogue? Did we spend a lot of time in the mind of the characters? Did the writer engage my senses – sight, sound, smell, touch?

I watched webinars on They offered short, free sessions about a variety of topics, which was great for my sometimes limited attention span. I also downloaded some of the paid courses. The fees were modest, and the topics helped me understand more about the writing process.

I tried to read some books about “how to write a book.” I confess that I just didn’t find them engaging enough to hold my attention. I enjoyed the online webinars through so much more.

Now that I had lots of information, it was time to put everything into practice. It turns out the best advice is to just start writing. I first wrote a very long draft of the story. Then, I read what I wrote and changed some things. I repeated this process many, many times.

With each rewrite, I noticed some trends. I have a tendency to use the same words over and over again. I used the navigation tool in Word to search for those words and made sure I did not overuse them.

In my book, I have a tendency to write short paragraphs. Have you noticed that?

I discovered that I like to use little techniques that make it easier to follow the story. I like to read before bedtime. The next night or maybe the next day at lunch, I’ll pick up the book and flip back a page or two to figure out who’s talking or what’s going on. In Through the Mist, I made a conscious decision to structure my book in a “reader-friendly” way. If you put the book down, you (hopefully) would know where you were in the story the next time you picked up the book. I began each section with the name of the character involved in the scene.

Another thing I found was my lack of explanation. I assumed too much from the reader. For example, I called Malcolm Campbell a “laird” in one version of my story. In the critique, Mrs. Rich said I needed to brush up on my history; he would not have used that title after the ’45 Rising. At first, I was a little miffed because I knew damn well that the clan system was destroyed by the Act of Proscription. (Google it; it’s an interesting read.) Then, I understood. While I thought Malcolm’s use of the term showed his old-fashioned sensibility, it did not. I had far better ways to portray Malcolm Campbell, and I should not assume that the reader had a thorough knowledge of the aftermath of the ’45.

By the way, whenever someone says “the ‘45” or “the Rising,” they are referring to the Scottish rebellion against the English in 1745. There were a few Scottish rebellions, but the ’45 is the most significant. The English essentially committed genocide after the ’45. That’s my opinion. I suspect many Scots would agree.

Anyway – moving on….

So, the “implement” part took over three years. I rewrote scene after scene so, so many times, to get it just right. The story that I published differs a great deal from the original. I added much more material as I tried to paint a picture of the landscape and Castle Fion as well as take the reader into the minds of the characters. It took that long to figure out how I write.

If you are embarking on this journey, I wish you luck. Consult with whatever resources you have at hand. It is always useful to understand how other people write and how the process should work. However, in the end, it is your book. Tell the story in the way that fits best for you. If that means you write extensive outlines and put major plot points on note cards, great. If you prefer to jump into the story and make it up as you go along, that’s good too.

I do not believe there is a fixed way that everyone should write. I believe you should write your way. Most importantly, just write! 



Constructive Criticism

I paid a modest fee to have the first 25,000 words of Through the Mist: Restoration (TTMR) reviewed by Mrs. Lani Diane Rich at I thought that the book was done, so this was akin to putting on a few finishing touches. Oh, I was so, so wrong.

The genre of TTMR meant that Mrs. Rich was the victim at She gave a great critique of my work. A devastating, but great, critique.

Up until this point, “criticism” usually meant something negative. Let’s face it. At work, folks are all too happy to tear you down. When I received her critique, I learned that there is a different form – constructive criticism. What a revelation!

Mrs. Rich offered the objective opinion I needed from a professional writer. I learned so many valuable lessons that sent TTMR and me on a completely different path.

For starters, I have a problem with point of view (POV). I still don’t understand how writers can construct a story in an omniscient viewpoint. Maybe I will learn how as I write more books. For now, it is better for me to remain firmly in one character’s viewpoint.

I realized that I did a poor job “painting a scene,” as I call it. I should not assume that the reader knows as much about Scottish history as I think I do. While I do not need to spend pages on a topic, I can toss in a sentence here and there, change the actions of a character – those sorts of things – and thus provide the reader with necessary information. The reader does not need to be bored with research material and history lessons. As a writer, it is my responsibility to push the story along, and sometimes that involves sharing the facts tumbling in my head.

I also adjusted the timeline. I don’t want to give away too much of the story. Let’s just say that certain events happened sooner rather than later. I should have allowed Tilly more time than I did. In my defense, I have known people who endured similar hardships. These women are amazing. They pick themselves and do extraordinary things. Still, one does need a little time to catch one’s breath. I may have pushed Tilly too much.

The biggest change came with the prologue. (I might publish the original here someday, just for giggles.) Mrs. Rich believed prologues were a bad idea and strongly recommended that I eliminate it altogether. If I insisted upon keeping it, she suggested that I try writing the prologue from a different POV.

That was the best advice. For kicks, I wrote it from Morag’s POV. I decided that, if I did not like it, I would not use it. The new version vastly improved the story. It completely changed the entire tone of the book.

I kept the prologue – sorry, Mrs. Rich. In my humble opinion, it is necessary for the book. I have no intentions of writing a prologue for the next one, though. It has no purpose there.

Remember - it is your book, so tell the story how you like. At the same time, I strongly advise you to seek an objective reader for your work. I spent so much time working on the story that I could no longer spot the weaknesses. I want people to read TTMR, something they will not do if the work is deeply flawed. I did not want readers to toss the book aside because they could not follow the story or were disgusted by the quality of the writing. You probably feel the same way too.

I desperately needed the constructive criticism that Mrs. Rich provided. Even if it stung a little. No pain, no gain, right? I hope you have had an opportunity to read TTMR and agree.



Self Publishing is Soooo Easy

I was blissfully naïve when I decided that self-publishing my book would be easy. It is a lot of work.

In some aspects, the publishing process is better than it was 10, 20 years ago. You don’t need a literary agent or fat publishing contract to print your book. Several vendors are happy to assist you with getting your book printed in eBook and/or paperback form.

I ultimately choose Amazon and their parent company, CreateSpace, because their service is free on the front end. Amazon provides you with tools and other resources to create and publish eBooks. CreateSpace, which will produce your work in paperback form, has similar tools that help you create the cover, market the book, and handle loads of other questions. Both venues take a hefty cut of the total price. I was deeply saddened to see that my dreams of making writing a full-time career likely will not come true. Unless I sell millions of copies, my proceeds won’t even pay for that glass of champagne I featured in the first blog post.

So, yes, anyone can publish a book. That’s also the bad part. When my book is published, it is akin to tossing a pebble in the ocean. Literally hundreds of thousands of books are out there. How can I get people to notice my humble work?

I suppose that’s where the literary agent and traditional publishing house comes into play. All the work I must do on my own would be done by them. I created my own web page. I took the photo that appears on the cover of my book and designed the cover itself. I formatted the book for publishing on both Amazon’s eBook and CreateSpace’s paperback sites, which were two completely different formats. For the most part, I edited the book on my own.

You can find people out there who would be happy to perform a lot of these services for you. Someone would have been happy to design the website, edit the book, et cetera. All of those things cost money, though. When it is your first work, it is hard to justify the expense. It is especially difficult when you have no idea whether or not you have a prayer of making money on the venture.

For that reason, I have done a lot of the work myself. Some snarky folks will say it shows; well, help me for free then. Tell me what I should have done differently – in a nice way.

I would be remiss if I did not mention a very valuable resource that I used. As a fan of Outlander, I discovered a podcast called “The Scot and the Sassenach.” The couple who produced the podcast reviewed each episode of the series. It is a brilliant podcast conducted by two writing professionals. They provide an interesting prospective.

They also offer loads of writing classes (both free and paid) on their website, They will perform all sorts of other services for you – help you with editing, design, et cetera. I found an offer where they would take the first 25,000 words of your novel and provide a critique. It was not terribly expensive, just $100 at the time. I considered the price to be very fair, especially when I received the feedback.

The review was admittedly disappointing at first, because I thought I was finished. However, the criticism was constructive. She helped me to see problems I had with various aspects of the book. In fact, I eliminated the first few chapters and started over. She is not a fan of prologues and wanted me to scrap it, but if I was “stubborn,” she suggested that I write it from a different character’s point of view (POV). I did, just to see how it would read – and the prologue in the book today is the result. It is far richer and ties the story together much better than the original.

If you are thinking about the self-publishing route, be prepared to do a lot of work. Set a budget for what you are willing to invest. Know that you may never, ever recoup that cost. Then, you can decide how much you can do yourself and how much you must pay someone else to do.

Do I wish I had a literary agent and big, fat publishing contract? I really don’t know. I imagine you must relinquish a certain amount of creative control. That’s really the big reason to go with self publishing – it is all you. No one imposes a deadline. No one tells you that you cannot say something. Some people may find that overwhelming. Some may find it liberating.

No matter which way you go, though, the key is to start writing! I do not believe this will be the venture that will rescue me from my job. I probably have a better chance of winning the lotto. However, that is not my primary reason for writing. I have a story to tell-and now I am finally able to tell it.