Saturday, January 23, 2021

The New Books for 2021

I told everyone I was done with release dates and I am so very done with release dates.  The truth is that I am always writing.  When I work on a project, I know I'm getting closer to finishing it.  I feel it as soon as I finish the first draft.  I whisper to myself that as soon as the groundwork is laid out, I'm close to finishing.  Then one magical day, it's finished.

One time, I turned to my husband and said, "I finished Where Her Garden Grows." (the first title of Hidden Library)

And he said, "Just like that?"

And I nodded.  "Just like that."

I had finished the first draft.  The end was so close.  Little did I know I would replace two whole chapters, cut another chapter completely, and add another plot arch.  I even changed the title.  It's hard to say exactly what needs to be done to a book in order to proclaim it complete.  The sanding that must take place has to continue until the words are smooth.

With that said, I'd like to tell y'all what I've laid out for the coming year.  First up:

Rose Red

Rose Red is a book I wrote ten or eleven years ago.  There's an old version of it on fictionpress.com.  It has 96 reviews.  Even though it has been that long, I still get fan mail for it occasionally.  It's a weird story, about how in the future a man can buy a woman.  It's full of renovations, cows, deadly diseases, hot models, princesses, and strangeness.  And it's only 60,000 words.  Once I learned how to prepare a manuscript for print, I needed to practice, so I decided this was a perfect project to polish for a paperback.  I thought it was in great shape because I still had people writing in to tell me how much they enjoyed it.

I would hate to tell my fans that they are wrong, but fans... I had to rip half that book down to the bone when I began preparations for publication.  

Ugh... words everywhere.

Okay, so maybe my fans weren't wrong... it was a fun book, but after I got my hands on it, I made it SO much better.  I've actually been working on it in my spare time for months and I can see the end on the horizon.  It's definitely coming out in 2021.

This is a trailer I cut to advertise it.  I've never posted a video to my blog before.  Let's see if it runs smoothly.  It's the cover reveal:


Onto the next book:

If Diamonds Could Talk

This is the sequel to His 16th Face.  I wrote the whole first draft last summer when no one could go anywhere.  Then I also finished the second draft, still in the summer, because no one could go anywhere.  Now I'm working on the third and I have high hopes that it will be my final draft.  Let's be honest, when you're working with characters you've already established, there is nothing in this world simpler than to write a second book.

I would hate to give a spoiler for His 16th Face.  It's one of my favorite books.  It goes like this: Beth was dying of heart disease until Christian mysteriously saved her life.  After three years of living as his ward, the only thing she knows for certain is that Christian Henderson is not his real name.  Who is he?  Why does she love him completely when he hides so much from her?

If Diamonds Could Talk has been a great project, because I've never written anything weirder.  It is very weird.  I'm actually terrified to release it to the public because of how smart the reader is going to have to be to understand it.  When I work on it, the words spin and twirl.  It's a very brave project.  Sometimes it's nicer just to write a romance novel where two people meet and fall in love and the rules are rules that everyone understands.  If Diamonds Could Talk is not like that.  I'm scared to death I won't be able to connect it to the readers who will truly appreciate the imagination to break everything we understand.

I'll do a cover reveal for this when I'm on round two or three of editing.  The cover is enchanting.

If I Tie You Down

This is the romance novel I've been waiting for.  It's not just the romance novel I want to write, but it's also the romance novel I want to read.  Cutting to the quick, I have read a lot of romance novels.  Nurse/doctor romance novels where there is never enough blood or emergency.  Office romance novels where the author has never set foot inside an office and doesn't know how things go down.  Farm romance novels where the hook might be baking your own bread and not the man at all.  Emergency romance novels where you're stuck in the woods and if you don't strip down, you'll die of hypothermia.  Or perhaps the most common, the one where a billionaire buys love.  I really don't like the billionaire ones.  They're gross.

No, no, no.  I showed the first chapter of this to a publishing company and they offered me a deal... which I turned down.  I gotta do things my way.

It's about Shannon and Fletch.  She kidnapped him with her friend, Natalie, only to discover that he was not the man they were trying to kidnap.  After handcuffing him in a deserted camp kitchen, Shannon and Natalie fight with unconscious consequences.  The book begins when Shannon wakes up, handcuffed to Fletch in the camp kitchen with Natalie nowhere in sight.  She has no idea who Fletch is, but he knows who she is.  She's famous for breaking hearts and ruining lives.  If she ever wants to get out, she's got some explaining to do.

So, I was going through bits of my old, discarded writing.  I read the title, had no idea what it was, and opened it up.  I read the first chapter and squealed.  There was no way I even reviewed it before I got snapped up to do something else.  Immediately, I wrote two more chapters.  I LOVE SHANNON AND FLETCH.  Then I wrote three more chapters.  Then I wrote MORE!  

I really hope I get to release this in 2021.  It's what everyone needs to cheer up!  Wish me luck and when I say that, I don't mean 'Good luck'.  I mean 'All the luck in the world.'


Monday, December 21, 2020

Hidden Library: The Second Spell Book Launch

It's snowing today. My cat sits by the window and growls at the falling snow.  I guess he doesn't remember the last time it snowed.

Today is release day for Hidden Library.  I started writing this book five or six years ago.  When I wrote Behind His Mask, I had no thought of it being a series and, truthfully, I don't know if there will be another Spell Book.  I started writing it thinking about a girl, who was like Emi, but not Emi.  What would happen to her if she had to make a similar choice?

The back of the book is not a synopsis.  It's a character reveal.  Here's how it goes:

Sunday, December 13, 2020

The Christmas Rat that Tried to Ruin My Life

    The first thing you must understand about my tale is I don’t really enjoy Christmas.  It’s no one’s fault.  I don’t like looking at red, white, and green together.  I find the color scheme jarring and ugly.  I don’t like Christmas music.  I find it repetitive and boring.  I don’t like decorating for Christmas, because any kind of interior decorating stresses me out.  I’m not good at it.    

This leads me to a moment sometime this last summer where my husband and I were talking about our artificial Christmas tree.  It was HUGE and there was no place for it in the garage.  After some discussion, we decided we could put it in the loft of one of our sheds.  Up it went.  

Fast forward to ten days ago, my kids wanted to put up the Christmas tree.  I declined any involvement and left the whole thing to my husband and kids.  They got the tree out of the shed and brought it into the house.    

I wasn’t even home, but my husband called me.  

An animal had been living in the Christmas tree box.  It was too big to be a mouse and it was loose in my house.  Our son thought it was a rat, and he was the only person who had seen it.

I got home and promptly (and stupidly) started tearing my living room apart to try to find it.  I found it and it raced for the deck door… which stupidly, was not open.  Why did I look for it when I had no plan for what to do when I found it?

I trapped it in the laundry room.

My husband and I are humans and we figured out a plan to get it out of the laundry room.  We made a rat run so that when my husband chased it out of the laundry room, it would run along a path, straight to the deck doors and out of the house.

He went in with the broom.

The rat was a rat and had a completely different plan.  It got under the fridge and no matter what my husband did, he couldn’t get the rat to come out.

Now is time for a quick lesson on what kind of a rat it was.  Being from Alberta, this was the first rat I had ever seen.  It was brownish, which meant it was a roof rat.  It climbs trees and gets into people’s attics, which was why it was in the loft of our shed.

We trapped the rat in the laundry room and bought traps.  It wasn’t long before we found out it had chewed a hole in the wall and was hiding there.  Over the next few days, he also chewed a hole in a tube under my washing machine to get water, which flooded the laundry room and meant I could no longer do laundry.  Then the central vac died.  It’s still unclear as to whether or not that was the work of the rat.

Let’s talk about first-world fear.  Every time I heard a scratching sound, I thought about where that rat could be chewing and what parts of the house he could get into.  Being a rat, he's super dirty and my laundry room smelled like rat poop and pee.  Plus, he was tearing my insulation and sticking it outside his hole.  I couldn’t stop thinking about rat babies and what would happen if that rat was a pregnant mother.  I wasn't sleeping.  Every time I heard a scratching sound, my whole nervous system was set on fire and my heart pounded painfully.

I called a pest control company and they set out a dozen traps in my laundry room.

Then the rat started setting off the traps without getting caught in them.  Then I didn’t just hear the scratching, but the traps going off half the night.  There was evidence that he was getting stuck on the glue boards, but he was simply chewing his way out of them.

I have a book coming out next week and this whole situation has felt like the universe hoped to stall it because my brain was completely taken over by my rat.  How am I supposed to think of snow-covered love like the whisper of unseen worlds when I can’t stop thinking about what wires that little devil might be chewing?

It’s true that I don’t particularly enjoy the festival that Christmas has become, half celebrating winter and half celebrating Christ as a baby.  I am a Christian and I don’t get it.  When I think about Christ, I think of a man who understood human grief, who understood suffering, with nail prints in his palms, wrists, and side.  I think of the King of All, who conquered the trap that this world is and showed us the way through this life to the next.  He’s not a warm, soft baby.  That moment was so brief in the timeline of our world, it deserves celebrating… but I’ve never been good at celebrating.

However, I am good at praying and the God I pray to is good at answering.  

My daughter had to stay home from school one day, and she has a very strong stomach for a teenage girl.  So, she helped me dispose of the artificial Christmas tree that was littered with rat poop and smelling of rat pee.  She was there with me while I lifted up the branches and checked the box for more rats.  We learned that there was no rat’s nest in the box so it was unlikely that our rat is a pregnant female.  My daughter helped me clear out the rest of the mess in the shed and take it to the eco-center.  Having her there was a huge comfort.  She is not afraid of the things I am.

Then, my husband, who loves Christmas much more than I do, took me out to buy a new Christmas tree.  It’s a green tree that looks like it has been snowed on, which is quite nice here since there is no snow.  It’s also quite a bit smaller, so we won’t have problems storing it.  He took me to buy ornaments, which is something I’ve never done.  I’ve always made our Christmas ornaments.  My new ornaments are baby pink, chartreuse, navy, and so much silver and glass (okay, it’s plastic. I still have kids and a cat). 

And the Christmas decorations are actually pretty because everything old is gone.

Those are the little blessings.  Here’s the big one.  After a few days, I started praying that I would be able to calm down over this whole thing.  That rat was not going to be driven out of my house in one day, maybe not even in a week, and I needed to calm down.  And I have.  I calmed down enough that I completed the finishing touches on my book.  I have been able to sleep and get on with my life without terror or heart palpitations with every scratching sound.

What happened to my rat?

Yes, he’s still in the wall.  We’re still working on it, but the kind of inner peace I have felt has been the true gift of Christmas.  No, life isn’t perfect.  There are rats in some people’s walls, and some people wish their problem was that they had a rat in their wall instead of what they have to face. But whatever our problem, peace is there for those who are willing to ask and trust.

Merry Christmas!  

I’m going to go take a nap.






Tuesday, December 1, 2020

My Newest Novel - Hidden Library

Hello, My Dearest Readers!

As some of you may know, I'm set to release the second spell book, Hidden Library by Winter Solstice 2020. 

This is the sequel to Behind His Mask, except the main characters are not Sarah and Evander.   This time, we go to Emi's old coven where her cousin Veda is having troubles of her own.  Veda dreams of the day when she'll have one of her books included in her coven's hidden library, a special place for housing spell books.  Except before such a thing can happen, Salinger strides in with his newly authored spell book.  He thinks nothing of the honor of having his spell book included in their sacred place, and only which girl from Veda's coven he can spirit up north.  

I love romance.  I love this romance.

Of all the books I've written, I feel that this one captures the spirit of my hometown.  Those of you who know of the sleepy little prairie town where I grew up will undoubtedly find all the witches, conjuring, spells, switchblades, and needles in this story surprising.  But to me, it feels perfectly natural.  There weren't the exact things portrayed in the book, but there were bats swooping, Venus shining like a diamond over the horizon, white clouds lit by moonlight, and cousins everywhere.  I had way more cousins than Veda.  

I wrote this book at the lowest point I've had in 25 years of writing.  As I worked and reworked it, I had a deep fear growing inside me that it would be my last.  I wish I could explain how I found the time and how the book turned itself ever so slightly so that I was able to finish it.

It's a special book to me because the whole time I was writing it, I was thinking that it couldn't be about this one thing.  When I got to the part where I was supposed to put the twist in, the twist was nowhere near good enough.  I had to pause, figure out who I was, what I had to write, and what this book was really going to be about.  At first, I shied away from how great this story could be because I was scared to talk about something I feel so strongly about, but in the end... it was about the thing that made me uncomfortable.  It's about a lot of things that make me uncomfortable.  

That's where it is brilliant.  

This story takes me in its arms and whispers in my ear that it understands my struggles, fears, and disappointments.  I cry at the end of Behind His Mask and I cry when I read certain passages in Hidden Library.  It's funny because I don't do that.  I don't cry when I write like a sap... until I do.  So far, I have written 22 books and these two are the only ones I cry in.  

Here's the link to preorder the ebook on Amazon.com.

https://www.amazon.com/Hidden-Library-Second-Spell-Book-ebook/dp/B08P6LKC5B/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&qid=1606855048&refinements=p_27%3AStephanie+Van+Orman&s=digital-text&sr=1-1&text=Stephanie+Van+Orman




Thursday, November 5, 2020

The Final Screwup

The final screwup is my screwup and it's the screwup I always make when I screwup.

I began writing because I discovered a world where I could express myself until I was finished.  That luxury is not available for very many people very often.  You have something you want to say?  A coffee date with your friend will end.  Someone's ear will get sore on the telephone.  Your therapist's buzzer will ring.  It will get dark.  Someone will fall asleep.  Someone will reach the limits of what they can stand to listen to and snap.  

I can talk longer than anyone can stand to listen.  

And I get it.

When I'm the listener, I'm like that too.  Someone wants to go off on a rant that literally goes on for hours?  I can't stand it.  I might be very happy to hear everything they have to say in manageable ten-minute chunks, but not a neverending verbal tirade.  

So, I shut my mouth and opened my hands.  Through a novel format, I can talk about whatever I want for as long as I want.  I can go over the text and perfect it, smooth out the wrinkles, make it more interesting, and say exactly what I want to say in exactly the right way.  It's beautiful.  So often I say the wrong thing, but when I write it, it's as close to perfect as it's going to get.  

It's also extremely pleasurable to write the book I want to read, but it has a downswing, which is the screwup I'm alluding to.  I have very little interest in reading other people's books.  My husband reads to me for at least one date night a week.  Anything he reads is cloaked in the power of his personal mystique and doused in his credibility, even if the writing is trite, but I rarely read anything by myself.  I have probably read four books this year.  This makes me feel like an incredibly selfish writer.  

People often want me to look at their work, or tell me about their work, and offer my opinion.  It makes me want to look around to see if there's anything I can use to light myself on fire.  Stopping, dropping, and rolling is an effective ender of conversations if there ever was one.  Mostly, there's nothing handy and I have to endure the conversation or the paper stuffed in my hands.

This is usually what happens.  I look over the first page and notice a lot of problems with their writing on a technical level.  If I were to get out my handy red pen and start marking it up, I would make the author cry, because they would have looked over it carefully to make sure there were no grammatical errors.  Yet, effective writing is not merely free of grammatical errors.  Notice I did not say 'creative writing'.  I said 'effective writing'.  I was not trained in 'creative writing'.  I was trained in 'effective writing'.  Thus, when I edit, I cut anything that doesn't move.  Think of it as throwing out anything that doesn't spark joy and doesn't serve a strong purpose.  

Naturally, I can't say what I think or mark up the paper.  I'll crush their soul or piss them off.  Little do they know that when I'm alone with my manuscript, I make it bleed and refuse to listen no matter how hard it screams.  I can't even explain that to the person who is showing me their work.  They won't believe that I take my precious words and cut them viciously.  Going soft on my edits will not produce extraordinary work.  But the person in front of me is very new to writing and very tender.  They don't understand the bigger reasons for the edits and unless I am carefully diplomatic, they'll think I'm a monster.

Of course, I am a monster, but let's not get into that now.

Instead, let's talk for a moment about the mistakes I have printed into books that I have sold (or tried to sell) in bookstores.  YES!  There have been mistakes because I used to go easier on myself.  There will always be mistakes, but I wouldn't be a novelist if I didn't grind myself to dust trying to remove them.  Whoever is showing me their work is merely enjoying the creative process and is unprepared for what I have to do a manuscript to get it up to snuff.  There isn't just one round of brutal editing.  There are FIVE!  And more if I don't think the book is ready.  If I find too many mistakes during the last round, then we go again.

The long and short of it is that their writing isn't good enough and I can't tell them.  I don't know if that isn't also true about my writing no matter how much effort I put into it, and I don't feel like being persecuted because I'm in the middle of the learning process.  What I do know is that no matter how much someone claims to be ready to hear criticism, they're not.  I can't walk around setting people on fire and then trying to put it out with my spit.  They need encouragement, not criticism.  AND SO DO I.

This happens when I'm supposed to read other people's work online too.  I start reading something and I'm supposed to offer a favorable critique, but I can't. So I say nothing.

This is my greatest screwup as a writer.  

I will never build a strong group of author buddies who love my work, share it, I love their work, share it, and we're all enriched by each other's fan bases.  

No matter how well I write, this will always bite me in the bum and handicap me - the greatest screwup of all.

Hopefully, next time I'll be closer to being ready to release 'Hidden Library' and I'll have something to promote.  Hopefully.  


Tuesday, September 29, 2020

The Eighth Screwup

Let's talk about advertising, marketing, book reviews, and awards.

This is where we separate those that have money for their project and those who do not.  You need the talent to write your book.  You need to practice to bring your craft to a whole new level...  AND you need to have a secret hoard of dragon gold to pay to advertise it when you're finished.

There are a lot of people who are willing to take your money in order to market your book.  I get emails from them, telling me they think my new book is marvelous (there's no way they've read it) and they think the readers on their mailing list would love to buy my book.  A spot in their newsletter only costs $25.  Websites that promote books do this too.  Cover slot only $35, and they'll send out information about your book in their next newsletter.  Promotional packages cost between $10 and $400.

Stuff like this.

I don't know how well any of that stuff works.  My Facebook feed is full of people who have tried all this stuff for promotion and got nowhere.

Remember those digital publishing companies I mentioned in my post about ebooks?  Yeah, they won't help you much with advertising.  They'll put it all on your shoulders.  You know why?  Because this sort of thing is super expensive and very much like playing random games in a casino.  Who knows what's going to stick?

Now let's talk about book reviews.  Getting them is an enormous pain in the rear.  Finding someone who is willing to sign their name to a review, saying your writing is good is rare.  Also, Amazon really cracks down on reviews that have been paid for, and A LOT OF AUTHORS PAY FOR REVIEWS.  I've been working hard at getting reviews in 2020 and I'm starting to get better at it.  It does mean giving away a lot of books and doing a lot of begging.  Turns out, I'm not that bad at either one of those things.  

Now let's talk about book awards.  If I decided to be in charge of a book award program, it would become my part-time job, and here's how I would run it.  I would charge $40 for each book to be entered into the contest.  The top award would be $500 with three lesser prizes of $200, plus another ten honorable mentions.  This means I would only need 28 people to enter in order to pay for the program, but let's be real.  There are 5,000 ebooks published a day.  So many people are desperate to become authors that more than 28 people would enter with an entry deposit of only $40.  That's less than a lot of the ad campaigns I mentioned above.  I would send each of the entries a banner to put on their social media advertising the award and get a boatload of free advertising directly to the writing community (they're my customers).  After the submission deadline, I pick up the manuscripts and anything I can stand to read gets shortlisted.  I can drop anything I don't like without reading it to the end.  I can weed through thousands of manuscripts this way, by dropping anything that rubs me wrong immediately.  Chances are I would only like a few books well enough to finish them.  I'd sort through those and choose my big winner and my three runners up.  It would also be pretty easy to choose ten honorable mentions.  I'd make them all banners to put up on their social media so they give me more free advertising.  And cablooee!  I keep all the extra money!

Okay, I would never do this.  I hate reading.  I wrote the above because that's what my internal monologue says whenever I read the info packets for writing awards.  I'm staring at the deposit amount versus the prize amount and I think it doesn't add up.  The entries are probably generating a lot more money than what they're offering as prizes.  They can argue that they're paying the selection committee and I could argue that for myself with my setup above.  I just find it hard to believe that it could be a fair contest since the judges could stop reading with one mislaid sentence.  Reading stuff that sucks is soooo hard.

By the way, not all literary awards ask for a deposit.  Those awards don't offer a cash prize either, but those people are going to heaven FOR SURE.

Soooo... Advertising... you'll lose money.

Monday, September 21, 2020

The Seventh Screwup

I promised we could talk about ebooks and today we will.  

Let's start with digital publishing companies.  They don't publish print books and they don't prep manuscripts or covers for print-on-demand.

Do you know how long it takes to do the graphic design for an ebook cover once the art is complete?  Not long.  It's an absolute cakewalk compared to making a cover that wraps around a paperback.  Along the same lines, do you know how easy it is to prepare an ebook for publication compared to something that has to go to print?  Again, it's a snap.

Digital publishing companies prey upon writers who know how to write but do not know how to independently publish a book.  They'll lend you a hand with editing without being too handsy (unlike traditional publishing houses who are risking a lot and can get very handsy), they'll help you with a polished looking cover, and they'll do all the technical things you have no interest learning.  They'll skim a little off the profits on your ebook for themselves and everyone is happy.

These guys are less choosy than a traditional publisher.  You're way more likely to get a publishing deal with one of them.  Their standards are a lot lower because they have a lot less on the line.  They have invested very little capital in you (just what they paid for your cover art).  They'll put a few minutes into your manuscript in order to prep it for publication, they're tech-savvy and they're building an empire, so the more manuscripts the better.

Because their standards are lower, if you get turned down by one of them, it may mean that you are not ready to be a published author.  

However, do not despair.  Even if they turn you down, and you're done working on your manuscript, it's okay.  Go to a free writing website like Inkitt, Wattpad, Fictionpress, and post your writing there.  You can work with sample audiences there and get a feel for what people like.  You will have to write more than one book... but you were always going to have to write more than one book.  

The New Books for 2021

I told everyone I was done with release dates and I am so very done with release dates.  The truth is that I am always writing.  When I work...