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Monday (Mini #BookReview) Madness

This week I read:

This book drew me in and wouldn’t let me go. It had a bit of everything – secrets, suspense, dogs – even some humor for levity. I loved the characters and the plot – a girl who was found feral and alone in the woods when she was young now, as a teenager, trains search and rescue dogs with her adopted family and they get called to help search for a little girl who’s gone missing – was intensely compelling. As if that wasn’t enough, many things are not as they seem. I loved this book and was surprised to find the author wrote another book I read recently, “The Inheritance Games”, which I enjoyed, but this one was so much deeper and more emotional!

The plot of this book is all in the title, and given what it’s about, how could I not give it a try? But I was still taken by surprise, because it was so much more than I expected! It’s hard to express why I enjoyed this book so much without giving too much away, but the setting, the culture, the empathy the author creates all worked together in a way that had me hooked! Short and almost sweet.

I just started:

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Publishing: 1 Month After Release (Sharing My Experience For Other Writers)

My collection of short stories was released in the US one month ago today. And while I’ve been published before (all of the pieces in the book featured my reoccurring character Detective Shaw and had previously appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies), this was different. This book, every part of it, was mine.

There were no stories by other authors to carry the reader through if they didn’t like my writing, the style, the voice of the piece, the characters or the plot. If a reader hated this book, the only one they could find fault with was me. It’s a daunting thing, making yourself vulnerable, putting yourself out there like that. I didn’t know what to expect.

And, this being my first release, I had no idea what to do.

I didn’t do any blog tours. I didn’t even do a proper book release leading up to publication.

I wrote the stories, put them together, formatted them, etc., but that’s the easy part. Getting someone to read them is an entirely different, much more difficult task. Because obviously, that’s the goal, right? To be read? But how, exactly, do you get those readers?

I used my Bookfunnel account (I pay $20 a year, which allows me to offer a link for a pdf, mobi and epub file for up to 5 books, which is how I distribute a free copy of a short story to people who subscribe to my newsletter), to create a landing page for a free download of the book. I then took out an ad with a $15 budget on Facebook targeting mystery readers in the US, UK and Canada. I had 72 downloads.

I also posted on several boards on Goodreads offering free copies for review. I had about 25 people request a copy.

I offered a free download to everyone on my mailing list. Six people requested a copy.

So, in the first week, I managed to get my book into over a hundred hands. I actually only know 2 of those 100+ people.

I’m painfully introverted – it was difficult and awkward just posting requests for reviewers on Goodreads – and there I was, relying on the kindness of strangers. Crossing my fingers that I got some reviews. And that they were good. And that some of them ended up on Amazon. Because just a tiny bit of research will tell you that’s what it’s all about – after getting 50 reviews on Amazon, Amazon will start taking measures to advertise your book for you. What writer wouldn’t want that?

And then, instead of obsessing about it, clicking the refresh button every five minutes to see if someone had left a review or actually *gasp* purchased a copy of the book (I made myself wait at least ten minutes to refresh), I got back to writing. Now, one month later, here are my results:

16 ratings, 15 reviews on Goodreads, 6 reviews on Amazon, and 6 books sold. I even got a little Instagram love from the fabulous @Booking.With.Janelle!

I’m more interested in reviews at this point than in selling copies of the book, I believe that one will lead to the other. I’m happy with these results, and believe it’s proof that you don’t need a huge budget to advertise your book.

But I’m going to tell you what you do need – an end product that lets readers know you respect their time. Which means making sure the copy is clean by EDITING your butt off – then doing it again and again! Working on the formatting until you get it right. Resisting the urge to hound the people who directly requested a copy from you, asking where their review is.

And I’m going to say it again. EDIT. We’re all human. I’ve found typos in books distributed by the major publishing houses. And there’s no denying that it’s hard to catch errors on something that you’ve read over a dozen times, especially when you wrote it, because you know what it’s supposed to say. But, as writers, if we expect readers to make the effort to leave a review, we should first make the effort to make sure what they’re reading is our absolute best effort, whether that means reading the work out loud, backwards, one sentence at a time, trading edits with another writer, or all of the above.

The reason I’m harping on this is that I’m hesitant to read books by Indie authors myself because I’ve read so many that were error ridden. And a couple of the reviews I received remarked about the lack of typos, which means other readers have had this experience as well. The publishing world is changing. The gatekeepers have lost control and now anyone can – and does – publish their work on the various available platforms. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t make sure the book babies we’re releasing into the world aren’t quality work. Take the time, make the effort, and your readers will thank you (and read your next book!).

If you missed out on getting a copy of Detecting Fear and you want to do so, it will be available FREE on Amazon next weekend.

Friday’s Flavors: Individual Beef Wellington With Blue Cheese

Hey, Foodies! Happy Friday!

I’ve always wanted to try Beef Wellington. Fillet wrapped in pastry? Yes, please! So when a package of puff pastry caught my eye right around my birthday, I thought, why not? And when I was researching the process, cooking times, etc., and I came across a recipe that added gorgonzola into the mix, I remembered the blue cheese crumbles I had in the fridge, and again thought, why not? So I did.

I must say that since I wasn’t willing to let this meal be an all day thing, I skimped on a couple of steps. After you pan sear the steaks, most recipes suggest refrigerating them for an hour – I only did this for 40 minutes. Also, after you wrap everything in the puff pastry, it’s suggested that you put the wellington in plastic wrap and refrigerate for another hour. I found an explanation that this is done to help the puff pastry keep its shape during cooking – I didn’t care if it was pretty, just tasty, so I skipped this step entirely and put them right in the oven. To my surprise, it held its shape perfectly, and the taste? Well, I’ll definitely be making this again!

Ingredients:

2 fillet mignon steaks, 1″ thick, brought to room temperature

1 package of puff pastry

mushrooms (I used 4 good sized baby portabellos)

1 large shallot

garlic, 2-3 cloves

salt and pepper to taste

1 egg

1 tbsp. butter

2 tbsp. high smoking point oil

parchment paper

Preparation:

Salt and pepper the meat. Heat oil in a cast iron skillet on high. Sear both sides and all ends of the steak, then turn the heat down to medium, removing the pan from the heat while it cools if the outside starts to crisp. Depending on the size of the steak, cook for another 10 to 15 minutes. When steaks are done, refrigerate for 40-60 minutes.

While the meat is cooling, finely chop mushrooms and shallots. You could also use a food processor if desired. Melt 1 tbsp. of butter in a pan and sauté mushrooms and onions until the shallots become translucent and the moisture is cooked out of the mushrooms. (Tip: dry clean your mushrooms so you don’t add extra liquid to them.) Add crushed garlic, salt and pepper. Stir until garlic is fragrant, then remove from heat and allow to cool.

If you don’t plan to refrigerate the assembled steaks for an hour, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Beat 1 egg to use as an egg wash.

Lay out your puff pastry dough. I rolled the dough I was working with a little thinner because it looked rather thick. Spoon blue cheese crumbles onto the dough in roughly the size and shape of your steaks. Add the cooled mushroom mixture over the blue cheese. Top with a steak. Fold opposite ends of the pastry over, sealing with a sparing amount of egg wash if it won’t stick on it’s own. Fold the other two ends, making sure all seams are well and tightly sealed. Remove any excess dough.

At this point, you can put the pastry wrapped steaks in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour, or you can go ahead with the cooking process. When you’re ready to cook them, place them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and brush with the egg wash. Bake for 20 minutes at 425 degrees.

And that’s it! It was a touch more labor intensive than the average meal preparation, mainly because of the refrigerating time, but it was soooo worth it. The flavors melded together into savory steak perfection, and the puff pastry took it to a whole new level of delectableness!

If you try it, please let me know if you like it!

Check back next Friday for another Foodie Flavor!

Monday (Mini #BookReview) Madness

This week I read:

This novella was a quick, down and dirty slice of horror by the author of “Clown In A Cornfield”. The MC is a grocery store worker by day, a horror movie director by night, and was developed in a way that felt true to life. But what happens when one of the actors takes things too far? It’s interesting to see the evolution of a writer’s style and talent from their earlier works. This one was a bit rough in places, but it kept my attention more than several more polished works have lately. I understand what Cesare was going for with the ending, and I like it, but I felt it needed just a little bit more, a page, maybe two, to give the reader the payoff they deserve.

This book is a modern day, YA retelling of some of Edgar Allan Poe’s works, and OMG does the author throw references to enough of them in here – I lost count. I am a HUGE McGinnis fan, and a Poe fan, so my expectations were really high for this book. But whereas McGinnis’s characters usually feel deep and developed, in this book they felt kind of shallow and flat. We get slices of the story from both MC’s perspectives, but even though all the reasons are there to feel for the girls, I didn’t. And there’s motivation, sure, but not enough to explain why things would be taken so far. It ends on a cliffhanger that feels more like the book just stopped in the middle. There is a sequel in the works that will hopefully wrap up the loose ends and answer all the questions, but the way it ended with really nothing to satisfy the reader who just spent 370 pages with the book was frustrating. Good, but not as great as I was expecting.

I just started:

Click the links to friend me on Litsy or Goodreads and unite our bookish communities!

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