Self-realization Meets Fiction

Soooo, I’m going on a personal level here that makes me super uncomfortable. But, what do they say? Truth is better than fiction?

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I’m working on a book where my married heroine is debating having an affair with a man she knew from her childhood. The angel on my shoulder doesn’t want her to do it, because I want her to be an upstanding woman with deep integrity who puts her husband and family first.

The devil on my other shoulder thinks it will make a great side story to an all ready intense book.

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So, I dug deep in my gut and examined my own standards to make the decision.

I’ve always said I wouldn’t consider an affair because I would never put my husband in an embarrassing situation. I have far too much respect for him to ever purposefully do that. But this morning, I had a revelation! I not only think and feel that for HIM – I have my own personal reasons for ME!

I come from an abusive past and find it hard to let people close to me. This includes men. I can’t open that door to trust and intimacy without a lot of emotional pushing and pulling. And that is definitely not a one-night fling sort of process.

Back to my heroine. If she feels like I do (and they always do, don’t they?), she wouldn’t have the affair, because she couldn’t be intimate with someone without first trusting them. Since the man knows she’s married, the relationship would be built on dishonesty. That’s a rocky start. The affair would go nowhere and the friendship would certainly end badly. My poor heroine. I don’t want that for her with all the rest of the crap going on in this story. Maybe we’ll stick with sexual tension and not let it progress farther. Let’s see if my personal beliefs come out in this story. If they do, you’ll know the truth about their origin. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone.

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Of course, these characters always have minds of their own, so we may find her in a moment of weakness.

We’ll see what happens….

 

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The Backstory of “An Orphan’s Heart”

I wrote the wrong book!

My idea was to write about the wild adventures of a young woman traveling alone across the deep south in the late 1800s. Imaging steam trains and covered wagons crossing the “wild west,” encountering gentlemen who were not always gentlemen, accommodations that were less than luxurious, and money non-existent following the Civil War. Now, place a young girl fighting for survival in this rough and tumble world. That’s what I wanted to write.

Didn’t happen!

I ended up writing an emotionally deep love story that made people cry. It wasn’t the story I set out to write. When I finished it and sent it to my editor, I told her I wasn’t happy with it, but it just sort of wrote itself, and I wasn’t sure what to do with it. When she returned the manuscript to me, she said, “I think you’re a lot closer than you think. It’s a beautiful story.” After living with it for a few months, I decided to leave it alone, allowing it to be what it was, and ended up with 92% of the Amazon reviews being three, four, and five stars. It just goes to show you, you never know what the public is going to like.

51w5TKRgkCL._UY250_An Orphan’s Heart is about a young girl from Mississippi who at the age of nine lost her parents to typhoid, during the Civil War. She was subsequently shuffled from family member to family member through her teenage years, ending up in Alabama. When she became a young women, she traveled to see her brother in Texas and fell in love with a young man there. The love doesn’t last long…you’ll have to read the book.

The heroine is a real person. She is my cousin, Martha Ellen Rodgers, simply known as Ellen. She was raised by her aunt Mary (my 3rd great grandmother). I’ve taken the family events, census records, newspapers, train schedules, cover wagon trails, and social events and weaved them into a story of love – NOT a story of adventure, darn it. She was a very brave young woman, surviving things we can only read about.

An Orphan’s Heart is on sale for $0.99 on Kindle at Amazon through March 22. If you like a tear-jerky (is that a word?) tale about a different time and place, give it a try.

Saturday Snippet and Sale

51-lUHhsD7L._UY250_Okatibbee Creek (pronounced oh-kuh-TIB-be) is the story of Mary Ann Rodgers Carpenter Jolly and her trials and tribulations in Mississippi during the Civil War. As her brothers and husband went off to war, a deadly typhoid epidemic swept through the county and decimated what was left of her family. Following the loss of so many loved ones, including both parents, she took in her orphaned nieces and nephews and focused on survival. When the war finally ended, she had to pick up the pieces of her shattered life and begin anew. But how?

Okatibbee Creek is a real place. The characters are real. The events are real. The book will leave you crying and cheering. It is written in first person, present tense, diary-style, allowing you to see inside of Mary Ann’s heart and experience every emotion she felt.

The Kindle version of Okatibbee Creek is on sale at Amazon March 4-8 for only $0.99!

The following is a snippet of the scene when Mary Ann received word that her husband had been killed in the war.

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When I reach the bottom of the stairs, I see him. I do not recognize his face, but I recognize his clothing. He is a Confederate soldier. He is standing in the open doorway of the store with the gray, cloudy sky at his back. He is dressed in a wrinkled gray uniform with a dirty yellow cummerbund. His trousers have holes in them, with mud caked around the bottoms of his pant legs. His jacket is missing some buttons, and he looks quite thin and weary. He is wearing shoes that are covered in red Mississippi mud and probably have no soles on the bottom. He is holding his tattered hat and a piece of paper in his dirty hands.

“Hello, sir, what can I do for you?” I ask as I approach.

“Hello, ma’am.” He nods. “Are you Mrs. Carpenter?”

“Yes, I am. And who are you, may I ask?”

“Private Joseph Brown, ma’am. Captain asked me to deliver the latest casualty list to you in person.” He holds the folded piece of paper toward me and looks down at the floor, like a child in trouble for doing something wrong.

“Why are you delivering this? It usually comes by a mail carrier,” I ask as I reach for the paper. I look at the boy’s face. He nervously avoids my eyes and keeps staring at the floor.

“Why are you delivering this to me?” I repeat.

“I promised I would. I’m sorry, ma’am. Goodbye, ma’am,” he murmurs, and backs out the open door.

I look at the piece of paper in my hand for a long time, wondering if I can open it. I don’t know whose names are on this paper, but I suspect the worst, and I don’t want to read it. My eyes sting with tears as I dread a simple piece of paper. I try to unfold it, but my hands are shaking, so I stop and hold it to my chest. I take a deep breath.

Martha Jane stands behind me, not saying a word or making a sound.

“Martha Jane, will you please go upstairs and mind the children for a few minutes?” I ask her.

She nods and quietly heads up the stairs.

I walk outside across the wooden porch and down the two stone steps onto the ground. I walk across the dirt road that is now filled with puddles of red mud from the rain. I keep walking straight ahead. I walk into the overgrown field across the road. I walk with purpose, with determination, like I have somewhere important to go. I want to run. I want to run away and never come back. I keep walking.

In the middle of the field, the thunder sounds above my head. I stop and look up at the ominous clouds that are almost as threatening as the piece of paper I hold in my hand. My hands are shaking as I slowly unfold it and smooth it open. My stomach feels like it has a hole in it. My eyes fill with tears. My hands are now trembling so violently, I almost can’t read it. The name at the top is the only name I see.

“Carpenter, Rice Benjamin: killed in battle 31 December, 41st Mississippi Infantry, Co C.”

Drops of water fall onto the page, but I can’t tell if they are raindrops or teardrops. Even God Himself is crying.

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Rodgers, Mary Ann Rodgers Carpenter JollyOkatibbee Creek is available March 4-8 for only $0.99 in Kindle at Amazon. Paperback and audiobook are also available. It is the first of three Okatibbee Creek Series books, but they are stand-alone stories. The second is An Orphan’s Heart. The third is Elly Hays.

Okatibbee Creek was the bronze medal winner of the 2013 eLit Book Awards in literary fiction. It also received honorable mention in the 2013 Great Midwest Book Festival for regional fiction and was a nominee in the 2013 Global eBook Awards for historical fiction. It was also awarded Five-Stars at Readers’ Favorite.

Saturday Snippet – Catherine Culpepper

The following is a rough draft of my current work-in-progress, The Culpepper-Fairfax Scandal. Catherine Culpepper is nineteen years old, and her rich father, Lord Thomas Culpepper the baron of Thoresway, has just died. For two decades, he had been living in London with his mistress and had left everything to the mistress in his will, but Catherine’s mother had the will suppressed. This scene takes place at the probate hearing at Westminster.  Thanks to her mother, Margaretta, and her uncle Alex, Catherine inherited nearly everything.

We’ll make due with a painting of Catherine until I can get a proper book cover made. 🙂

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When the proceedings ended in Catherine’s favor, Margaretta and Alex attempted to whisk Catherine from the courtroom, but they were met at the door by a crowd of enthusiastic well-wishers and more than a few gentlemen of questionable intentions. Catherine had just inherited more wealth than she could ever dream of. Not only saw she now the sole owner of Leeds Castle, she also held manors and lands in Sussex and Essex, and was one-sixth owner of the proprietorship of the Virginia Colony. The crowd’s din grew as they attempted to get closer to the wealthy heiress. Pushing and shoving toward her, people reached out to touch her, to take her hand, to gain her attention and her favor. When the family emerged from Westminster, Alex hailed their coach, but when he turned back for Margaretta and Catherine, they had been separated from him by a sea of bodies. Margaretta reached for her daughter’s hand to pull her through the crowd, but their fingers were inches away from each other’s as Catherine was pushed back by the crowd, away from the protection of her mother and their waiting carriage.

“Catherine!” Margaretta called.

Catherine heard her mother’s call but couldn’t see her over the heads of the people surrounding her. She attempted to turn, but a growing throng of people blocked her way. Someone was standing on the hem of her gown, stifling her movement, lest she rip her skirts. Her mother called for her a second time. Her heart began pounding as she heard the panic in her mother’s voice and suddenly realized she might be in a dangerous situation. The crowd was growing riotous, pulling at Catherine’s clothing and her hair. Her honey-colored curls fell to her shoulders as her hairpin was snatched from her head, taking with it a handful of hair. She cried out for her mother, for her uncle, for anyone to save her from the melee. It was then that she felt a strong arm around her waist and another under the back of her legs.

“I’ve got you,” he whispered in her ear.

She was scooped into the arms of a savior. She buried her face into his shoulder as he pushed his way through the crowd toward the waiting carriage. When she was gently placed onto the seat in the carriage, she smoothed her hair from her face and lifted her eyes to look at her uncle. But her savior wasn’t Uncle Alex.

Before her stood a striking man whose brown eyes bore into her own, his dark curls falling over his brow, his full lips begging to be touched. Their eyes locked as if time stood still. He then nodded to her and quickly closed the carriage door, disappearing into the crowd.

Uncle Alex yelled for the driver to make haste, and the carriage sped away from the scene, the wheels bouncing on the rough cobblestone street.

 

New Release and a FREE Book!

Culpepper4The fourth book in the Culpepper Saga – Culpepper’s Rebellion – is here!!!! You can pick it up at Amazon by clicking HERE. If you haven’t yet read any of the Culpepper Saga, you can pick up the first book – I, John Culpepper – for FREE through November 4th by clicking HERE. The four books are the continuing story of the life of John Culpepper, the patriarch of the modern-day American Culpeppers, from his birth in 1606 in England to the end of his life in 1680 in Colonial Virginia. Check out the book blurbs below.

Culpepper_1I, John Culpepper

John Culpepper was born into a privileged childhood, surrounded by abundant wealth, vast land holdings, and stately English manors. As he grew, he was expected to follow family tradition—attend law school and serve in Parliament, following which he would retire to a quiet life as a country gentleman.

John, however, had different desires. He longed to captain a mighty ship, to hear the snap of the sails, to taste the salty spray on his lips. To follow his dreams, John would have to risk being disinherited by his unyielding father. He would have to defy family convention. He would ultimately be forced to choose between the woman he loved and his mistress—the sea.

The Merchant ebookJohn Culpepper the Merchant

For hundreds of years, the Culpepper family backed the monarchy, but when King Charles disbanded Parliament, married a Catholic princess, and appointed an archbishop who was a Catholic supporter, the royalist Culpeppers found themselves at odds with their friends and neighbors.

Years earlier, against his family’s wishes, John had purchased a merchant ship, sailed to Virginia, and spent most of his time there. While on American soil, he received word of the uprisings that followed the king’s actions.

When civil war began, John feared for the safety of his family in England. He was horrified when the king was captured, convicted of high treason, and beheaded. Would John’s family be next? The only way to rescue them would be with his ship, under the cloak of darkness. Would he succeed, or would they all be caught and tried as traitors?

JC Esquire (1)John Culpepper, Esquire

John Culpepper was a prominent figure in colonial Virginia, a merchant in Jamestown for two decades and a resident since the disastrous civil war that shook England to its core. The Culpepper family, decimated by the war, had known great defeat, but none as heartbreaking as the tragic event that abruptly left John in the position of family patriarch.

He struggled with this newly acquired role, marrying off his nieces to eligible colonialists, sending some of the boys back to England, purchasing a ship for his sons against their mother’s wishes.

Upon the collapse of the English Commonwealth, members of John’s family escorted the exiled prince back to London to be crowned as King Charles II. Would the Culpepper family finally reclaim the power and prestige it had once possessed? And how would John hold his family together on two continents?

Culpepper4Culpepper’s Rebellion

John Culpepper thought he had done right by his family when he married off his niece to his childhood friend, Sir William Berkeley, the governor of Virginia. When his cousin Nathaniel Bacon appeared and began an uprising against Berkeley, John was caught in the middle. He did everything in his power to advise his friend, protect his niece, and honor the crown.

He was unaware that during Bacon’s rebellion, his own son was planning a rebellion in Carolina. John had spent most of his life defying his father and the status quo, but when his son was arrested and charged with treason, he was forced to examine every idea he held about his life and his past. The legal training John had rebelled against in his youth would now be the only thing standing between his son’s life and death.

 

Mystery, Thriller, Suspense. Where does your book belong?

Incognito-silhouette-150x150So, what’s the deal with the genres Mystery, Thriller, and Suspense??

Most readers don’t know the difference, but if you’re trying to place your book in the best genre to find the perfect readership, a writer should know the difference. The difference depends on if the reader knows what’s going on in advance and which character is telling the story. There is also some vague talk in the industry about pacing playing a role. Some say a thriller moves at a faster pace and a suspense novel moves at a slower pace.

Mystery – A mystery is a story where the reader finds out what’s going on at the same time as the character. Sherlock Holmes knows he has dead bodies piling up but doesn’t know who the murderer is. The reader can decipher the clues as the Sherlock uncovers them.

Thriller – In a thriller, the reader already knows whodunit and is merely along for the ride. If a story is about Jack the Ripper, the reader already knows what is going to happen and who is responsible, and in the story, the reader lives in the moment with either Jack or the one chasing him. If the story is told from the victim’s point of view, it could be categorized as Suspense (see below) because they know something is going to happen, but don’t know what it is. (One can usually recognize suspense by the ominous music in the background. LOL).

Suspense – The reader knows something is going to happen and perhaps knows who will do the deed, but something is unknown. Either the character doesn’t know it’s coming, or the reader doesn’t know the specifics of what, when, who, or how and is turning pages to find out. The reader may witness a person setting a bomb with a timer, but the characters don’t know they’re about to get blown to smithereens in ten minutes. In the above example about Jack, the reader will know Jack is heading toward the victim, but the victim is oblivious, or the victim will know someone is chasing them, but they don’t know who it is.

So, Jack’s story can be a Thriller or Suspense? Yes.

Often the categories will overlap. If there are scenes of suspense where the victim doesn’t know what’s coming, it could be categorized as Thriller/Suspense. If Sherlock’s story revealed the killer to the reader in the beginning and Sherlock was simply chasing him, it could be Mystery/Thriller. Generally, if the work falls into more than one of the above categories, a writer should narrow it down to two. A work of Mystery/Thriller/Suspense will only get lost in the shuffle. Narrow it down as much as you can.

small_moving_boxesBottom line – Don’t fret too much about genre. If it’s a good story, readers will find it and buy it. It doesn’t matter what box the bookstore wants to put it in.

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Lori Crane is a bestselling and award-winning author of historical fiction and the occasional thriller. Her books have climbed to the Kindle Top 100 lists many times, including “Elly Hays” which debuted at #1 in Native American stories. She has also enjoyed a place among her peers in the Top 100 historical fiction authors on Amazon, climbing to #23. She resides in greater Nashville and is a professional musician by night – an indie author by day.

Audiobooks = press play

TESTING 1,2,3…AUDIOBOOKS
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The first thing you need to look at when considering making an audiobook are the numbers. The Audio Publishers Association reported $800 million in audiobook sales in 2011. The number grew to $1 billion in 2012 and $1.2 billion in 2013. Yes, that’s billion, with a B. Goodereader.com said the audiobook industry was worth over $2 billion in 2014. I haven’t seen any numbers for 2015 yet, but there should be a little bit in there for you.
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Now that I have your attention, let’s create an audiobook. The process of creating an audiobook is completely painless at ACX. This post isn’t a commercial for ACX, but I’ve used them a couple times now, and they are author-friendly. ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange) is the company that links authors with narrators and distributes to Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.
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Your first step in creating an audiobook is to create an account at ACX.com, and then you can listen to some narrators by gender, accent, and style.
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downloadHIRE A NARRATOR
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Once you’re ready to go, you need to hire a narrator. You can narrate yourself, but it you don’t have recording equipment and lots of practice in front of a mic or lots of money to spend in a recording studio, it is a million times easier and faster to hire a professional.
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To find the perfect narrator, just upload a section of your book to ACX and invite auditions. Of course, you can email the actors you listened to when you first signed on. Make sure your uploaded section contains some dialog and maybe some drama in it. You want to hear the range of the narrator. Be ready to move forward quickly because you’ll get auditions almost immediately. Send each narrator a note of thanks for taking the time to audition your sample – whether you hire them or not. It takes a lot of time to record, master, and upload your sample, and they’re doing it for FREE.
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Once you choose a narrator, you then offer them a deal.
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6a00d8341bf73153ef0105359fa532970c-800wi“SO, HOW MUCH IS THIS GOING TO COST ME?”
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Narrators charge anywhere from $100 to $300 per finished hour. This is called a “pay-for-production” deal. Example: If you’re book is 50k words, that’s about 6 hours finished, so the finished cost will be between $600 and $1800. Some narrators opt to do a 50/50 “royalty-share” instead. That’s 50% of your royalties for 10 years with no money up front.
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Take a moment and do the math so you know how many audiobooks you need to sell to break even. ACX sets your price by the length, and the above 6-hour book example would sell for roughly $19.95. The longer the book, the higher the selling price. The shorter, the lower. Read further to find out your share. The range of Audible pricing is 1-3 hours $7-10, 3-5 hours $10-20, 5-10 hours $15-25, 10-20 hours $20-30. Here’s another fun fact: If your book is purchased by a new Audible member as their first download, you get a $50 bounty. That’s fun!
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distributionDISTRIBUTION
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ACX will offer you two distribution options. 1) 40% royalties for an exclusive distribution deal. This is a seven-year contract and you are not allowed to sell the audiobooks yourself to anyone at any time through any avenue in any format (digital, CD, audio tape) during that time. OR 2) 25% royalties for an non-exclusive deal, and you can sell them anywhere you want. ACX distributes to Audible, Amazon, and iTunes, so I don’t know where else you’d want to sell them, unless you want to have them pressed and sell them out of your trunk. But keep in mind, according to the Audio Publishers Association, audiobooks that were downloaded through a website instead of bought on CD in 2009 were 29%, 36% in 2010, and 46% in 2011, and growing, so there may not be any good reason to press your audiobook.
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If your narrator costs $250 per finished hour and your book is 6 hours long, it will cost you $1500 for a pay-for-production deal. If you go with exclusive distribution and are making 40% of the $19.95 sale price, you would need to sell a couple hundred copies to break even. One note here: Audible members which are a huge chunk of your sales pay about half price, so your royalty income and break even number would need to be adjusted for those sales. You’d need to sell about 400 copies to only Audible members to break even. A majority of buyers on Audible are members.
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If you choose the “royalty share” option with your narrator, you would NOT need to pay the $1500 up front, but you would split the royalties 50/50 and only make $4 per copy sold for the next 10 years, and $2 for an Audible member sale.
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So, figure out how long your book will be (roughly 8500 words per finished hour) and how many copies you need to sell before you step up to the plate and ask for auditions and negotiate fees.
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Once you decide on your narrator, make a price/payment deal with them, and choose your ACX distribution option, you’ll need to upload your entire book and give the narrator some deadlines. There will be two deadlines: one for your narrator to upload the first 15 minutes for you to approve and one for the whole project to be completed. If your narrator isn’t too busy, they can have the first 15 minutes to you within a few days and the book completed within a month. They will upload each chapter to ACX as it is recorded, so you can listen to each chapter as it is uploaded and send a message to correct anything you’d like corrected. Be specific about the pronunciation of any strange names or titles up front in the process to avoid later corrections. My book Okatibbee Creek is pronounced Oh-kuh-TIB-bee. That makes it easier.
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When the recording is finished and all chapters are uploaded, you’ll need to approve the recording. Your narrator will then send you a bill if you opted for the pay-for-production deal. If you opted for the royalty-share deal, this step will be omitted. Once you pay your narrator, he/she will let ACX know your audiobook is approved for sale.
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ACX will then take 2-3 weeks to get your audiobook live on the sites. So, the whole process should take about eight weeks. If you opt for a pay-for-production deal, save your pennies first. Do not make the narrator wait to get paid.
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Note
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The size of your cover needs to be adjusted for an audiobook to a square CD shape. You cannot use your ebook cover. Here’s the original ebook cover for Okatibbee Creek and the resized audiobook cover. The needed dimensions can be found on the ACX website.
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okatibbee creek cover front JPEG
okatibbee audio
Note 2
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I don’t know if they always do it, but Audible sent me 25 free download codes to give away. For the above example 6-hour book, that’s $500 worth of freebies, so while you’re waiting for your project to be completed, think of some creative ways to market and give those copies away. Some authors swear by audiobook sales. Give it a shot!
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Lori Crane is a bestselling and award-winning author of historical fiction and the occasional thriller. Her books have climbed to the Kindle Top 100 lists many times, including “Elly Hays” which debuted at #1 in Native American stories. She has also enjoyed a place among her peers in the Top 100 historical fiction authors on Amazon, climbing to #23. She resides in greater Nashville and is a professional musician by night – an indie author by day.