Samantha’s Favorite Reads of 2011!
As another year comes to an end, a fun thing we book bloggers like to do is look back and crown our favorites of all favorites when it comes to books we read. Throughout 2011, I read and reviewed 143 books, a twenty-two book increase compared to 2010. Not too shabby considering I also published my own novel and started CLP Blog Tours! I can’t wait to see what 2012 has in store for me, but for now, let’s reflect on my Favorites of 2011!
No one writes a book hoping everyone will hate it. At least, I’m 99% positive on that. But what does a bad review do to an author’s spirits? When Destined to Fail went on sale in October, I was truly petrified. I remember when the first review popped up on Amazon. Four stars. Good review. Reader connected with the book. I cried. Of course I cried. Years of hard work and determination and endless typing and editing and frustrations over characters and scenes and nightmares of red pens had all culminated to that moment. My book was being read and getting reviews.
The next five reviews on Amazon were all four stars. Then reviews started going up on GoodReads. Four stars. A five star! (Yes, I nearly fell over when I saw my first five star rating.) Book bloggers were posting their reviews, and the feedback was overwhelmingly good. While I was ecstatic about this, I knew a bad review was out there lurking. It had to be. I never expected everyone to love or even like my book. It just wouldn’t be possible.
Then came the two star. A short little blurb on Amazon that said there were too many heavy topics and my main character was “contradictory.” Not much more was said – only six lines, so I really didn’t know what to take away from the review. It wasn’t really constructive feedback in my opinion, because it was so short and didn’t explain why they thought this. But hey, that’s okay. And you know what? It really was okay. I honestly expected myself to have a meltdown when the first “bad” review came in. I thought I would cry and yell and tell myself I would never write again (okay, maybe not that last one, but you see what I mean). But…I didn’t. I was strangely calm. So strangely calm I wondered if perhaps I was getting sick. Or if I didn’t read the review properly. Or something – anything!
I think I had prepared myself enough that when a negative review was posted, I knew it was coming. It’s a part of life for people to disagree with others and not like everything, even if others do. And another thing – I realize that my book has some pretty controversial subjects in there. It’s not light, it’s not fluff. Serious issues are spoken about, serious decisions are made by the characters. If everyone had a positive reaction to the book, I would think something was seriously weird.
I won’t mind if people give their feedback saying it wasn’t their cup of tea, or they didn’t expect something with a pink cover to be so serious. I will also be happy if people have a strong reaction to the book, whether good or bad. Even if it is bad, it means my story said something to them. It touched them in some way. I have read books before that I didn’t particularly enjoy, but some of those same books have characters that haunt me. That I can’t help but tell everyone about. Because I want others to read it and let me know what they think. If some readers have this reaction, great. Maybe it will get more people to read Destined to Fail and they will enjoy it. Who knows?
I will never be able to write a book that is aimed just at pleasing people. Who can? I want to write what I want to write, and I will do just that. Some books might be deeper women’s fiction. Some might be lighter chick lit. I have on my writer’s bucket list (post about this to come soon) to write a mystery and a book with a magical element.
My journey as an author has only just begun. Feedback, reviews, and ratings will always be there. Whether positive, negative, or just in between, I will embrace the comments and enjoy knowing that my book is being read. Because no one writes a book without wanting readers.
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I am in the process of writing book number two. Like I mentioned in my previous post, I didn’t give myself a lot of details before I started writing. I planned on the main character and a few of the supporting characters, I knew what I wanted to happen with my plot and some key scenes I felt needed to be included, but otherwise, I was just gone with the wind. Seeing where my writing takes me. And oh boy, has it taken me places.
Now, I’m about to where I think the halfway point should be, and my characters are getting themselves into some rather large messes that I didn’t see coming. How is this possible? I wondered the same thing when I was just starting out, and authors would tell me that they could type without even thinking. That the story was coming from somewhere inside of them. Crazy? I thought so. Now? Not even close. I’m starting to slowly plan for my third book, and just last week as I was leaving my job, a scene came at me with full force, uncurling slowly in my mind. I saw the characters, I saw the opening scene, and I saw a new character that I hadn’t yet thought of enter the picture. I ran the rest of the way to my car so I could dig out a napkin and write everything down.
Then just yesterday, I was typing Chapter 11 for book number two. I had a set scene that I wanted to get written. Planned it in my head, knew how to approach it. All of sudden, something had taken over my fingers and what was being typed was not what I had envisioned. A whole new scene popped out of nowhere and found its way into my story. After I finished the scene and was rereading the chapter, I found I was in love with this version of Chapter 11, which was completely not what I had expected when I started my writing.
When I first realized that I could type scene after scene without really thinking, that I was just letting that inner voice do all the work, was a thrilling moment. Do I have to go back and heavily edit and make some revisions? Of course. Do I cut some of the scenes that came so naturally to me? Yep. But that’s all part of the writing process and one that I have come to accept. Now, I don’t feel so confused when someone talks about the voices in their head or says one of their characters is giving them a hard time. I’m right there with them––and I wouldn’t want it any other way!
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Every writer will have a different way of plotting their novels. Some craft the characters, the scenes, the turning point, the climax, and the resolution before beginning to write. Others just start writing. Many fall somewhere in between. With my first book, Destined to Fail, I had a lot planned out before I started writing. I knew who I wanted the main characters to be, the conflicts that would arise, and how the story would end. That was for draft one. Draft two was changed slightly and draft three was completely different than what I had originally penned out.
When I started my second novel (while Destined was being edited) I wasn’t sure if I want to plan everything out like I had before. What if everything just changed again, then I had all these notes and plot points for nothing? After doing some research online, talking to other authors, and seeing what firmly worked for me with Destined, I came up with my own plan. First, I jotted down what I wanted to be the focal point of the story. What lessons did I want readers to take away from my story? What was the main complication the main character must endure? How does she resolve it? I quickly answered these questions, then noted the setting and time frame that I wanted to stick to.
Next was characters. I filled in details on three characters to begin with, my main character, the antagonist, and the best friend. For the main character, here is what I listed:
Most Notable Personality Trait
Other facts included her job, the name of her dorm, and major.
After the three main characters were complete, I wrote down a few ideas and even scenes that I knew I wanted to be in the story. For example, I knew how I wanted to begin the story, I knew I wanted a specific conversation to happen between my MC and her best friend, and I knew how I wanted to have the love interest meet MC’s family. Those all were jotted down, among with a few other specifics that I thought of at that time.
Then, I got deeper in the characters. I wrote detailed descriptions of what I wanted my MC to look like, what her childhood was like, her nervous traits, the fact that she makes a to-do list every day, what her school schedule was, her favorite food, etc., etc. Then went on to the MC’s best friend. What she looks like, how they met, her major, her hometown, her goals in life, that she’s addicted to popcorn and on the verge of breaking up with her boyfriend. Same with the antagonist. After that, I started to break up my characters into sections. School friends, family, work friends. The love interest and his friends. The staff where MC works. My goal with these was just get a name down, who they are, looks, and why they were important to the story. The full details didn’t come in my planning process. I added more to their sections as the writing started. But before I began, I just wanted a solid base, a solid starting point, of characters that I wanted to be included.
It was important to me to at least have a few details on the characters. I didn’t have as much information when it came to the actual plot; the storylines have been occurring on their own as my writing progresses. That will actually be my subject for next week’s post, so be sure to come back and check that out! Thanks for stopping by, and Happy Thanksgiving week to those who celebrate the holiday!
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When I first started getting serious about writing––about three years ago––my first thought was not about self-publishing. I was thinking write a great book, get a fab agent, and then get hooked up with an even better publishing house. Get a big contract, lots of advances, have my books be turned into movies, and not do anything but write books the rest of my life. Sound familiar to anyone else? Then this little thing called a recession hit the US, and things started to change. Agents stopped taking on so many clients, publishing houses stopped taking on so many authors, and little devices called eReaders started popping up. The publishing world was shifting.
What did this mean for authors? Securing an agent (which is never a guarantee to a publishing contract) was already hard enough, but now with tighter budgets and dwindling staff, it was getting harder. Agents and publishers alike were less keen on brand-new authors and genres that they didn’t feel could market as well as others––hello, chick lit. Self-publishing websites such as Lulu and CreateSpace were becoming an enticing option for those who wanted to be published.
Due to my book blog, ChickLitPlus.com
, I am often queried from agents and publishers to review their clients work and feature them on CLP. But I noticed a trend that was rapidly becoming the norm back in late 2009 and early 2010––authors promoting their own work. More and more people were choosing to self-publish. Many book bloggers weren’t taking on self-published authors, but I thought, why not? I readily agreed to review their work, and I’m happy to say I found many great authors––and made great friends––with these authors. The more I spoke to them about the novel I was writing and how I was anxious for the agent query process, the more I found out about self-publishing and why these authors chose that route. My eyes were opened to a new world, and I started to wonder which path I would choose––traditional or self-publishing?
The months ticked on, and I was writing every chance I could get. CLP was growing as well, and I was meeting more people, making more connections, and hearing more advice. At long last, in the summer of 2011, Destined to Fail
was complete. Now what? I told myself that I needed to try to get published in the traditional sense. I needed to write that query letter, I needed to give it my best shot of securing an agent. So I started working away. But I realized in the middle of writing my query letter and researching agents that my heart just wasn’t into it. I won’t lie––I simply was not into it. Why? Heck, I’ve asked myself the same thing. Who wouldn’t want the security of an agent and a publishing contract? Who wouldn’t want the advances and seeing your book in a bookstore? Why couldn’t I get excited about this?
To be honest, I’m not sure I’ve ever answered that question. But the truth was, I was more interested in self-publishing. That was a fact. I did query a whopping three agents, and received almost an identical response from each one. Promising writing, market is not good for that genre, blah blah blah. I also was told from an editor that agents might not want my story because the characters and situations were too old for YA, but too young for standard women’s fiction. So I had to completely change my characters and the timing of their lives to fit “the norm?” Bull! I happily turned to self-publishing.
Has this road to publishing Destined to Fail on my own been easy? No. Heck, it’s not even complete yet. As I’m writing this, I’m still fighting with my print copy cover. But people who say self-published writers are lazy and taking the easy way out are insane. The hours put into the actual publishing process are gruesome. I kept saying that I thought writing was supposed to be the hard part. That was a breeze compared to all the formatting, designing, uploading, converting, marketing….Self-published authors are doing all of that on their own. There’s no one there to hold their hand, do their marketing, find them an editor, design an eye-catching cover, secure them interviews, etc, etc. Self-publishing is a full-time job, and the risks are there. Maybe your book won’t sell. Maybe you just paid multiple people to help you format, design a cover, do your marketing, and you don’t make that money back. But what isn’t a risk? Will you let your fears constantly hold you back? I didn’t want to. I wanted to take my goals, my dreams, into my own hands. I have an entrepreneurial spirit anyways. I started Chick Lit Plus as a book reviewing site. I now offer editing services, marketing services, and am on the verge of launching two new businesses in early 2012. I went to a business college and learned how to start and run a business. To learn how to market, to advertise. Please know I’m not bashing traditional publishing, or the authors that secure their agents and publishing contracts. That takes a lot of work in its own right. I would never want to take anything away from those talented authors. Nor I am trying to tell you that you must self-publish. Self-publishing is definitely not for everyone. But with the industry changing the way it is, new authors are more easily looked over. I know some fantastic authors that have self-published that I’m utterly clueless as to how they haven’t been snapped up yet. But that’s the way it is. Did I really want to sit around and wait for years and keep hoping to get published? No. Maybe I would have become so frustrated and down on myself that I would have given up on writing completely. Maybe by self-publishing, I am paving my own path to finding an agent and getting that contract. Maybe I will always self-publish. I don’t know. You don’t know. But I do know one thing. I know that self-publishing Destined to Fail was the right choice for me. I’m proud of myself that I let nothing stop me from pursing a goal I set for myself at eleven years old. I’m published.
I am a bad, bad girl. I forgot a very special birthday- the 2nd birthday of Chick Lit Plus! Man, I felt like such a tosser when I realized that earlier in the month. Who forgets their own blog’s birthday? I’m hoping I have a good enough excuse- the publishing of my first book! Destined to Fail became available as an eBook on October 20th, and the weeks leading up to that were crazy. Last minute edits and revisions, formatting woes, cover battles and choosing fonts. What a process! In all the craziness, I forgot that October is the anniversary month for Chick Lit Plus. But better late than never- right?
I want to give a very heartfelt thank you to everyone who has continued to make CLP a success. I can’t believe what has come from this little blog- almost 300 book reviews, dozens of author interviews and informative guest posts, plus branching out into editing and marketing. And now to be a published author- what a crazy two years this has been. The friends I have made are just the cherry on top for me. My world is now open to so many new ideas, and the support and encouragement just does not stop. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I am truly one lucky lady.
Now on to the fun part- the giveaway! *Rubs hands together with glee* As usual, I need to tidy up my bookshelf. I give books away like they are going out of style, always pressuring my friends and family to read, read, read, but I still have some books for you! Check out all the books below I am giving away- and that includes copies of my own Destined to Fail. Yay! Check out the details and enter to win. Happy Birthday Chick Lit Plus!
Win copies of the following print ARCs:
The Summer We Came to Life by Deborah Cloyed
On Folly Beach by Karen White
The Lies We Told by Diane Chamberlain
Full Moon Bride by Shobhan Bantwal
Little Black Dress by Susan McBride
And three winners will win an eBook copy of my debut, Destined to Fail, published as Samantha March.
To enter, please leave a comment below letting me know which books you would like to win and why. This is open worldwide. Winners will be chosen Friday, November 11. Thank you!
The winners are:
The Lies We Told- Jennifer Fischetto – firstname.lastname@example.org
Little Black Dress- Kathleen Anderson- email@example.com
The Summer We Came to Life- Nancye Davis- firstname.lastname@example.org
On Folly Beach- Lucie Simone- Lalucie@sbcglobal.net
Full Moon Bride- Lisa/Lost in Literature- email@example.com
Destined to Fail eBook:
Laura/The Reading Nook- Laurabcrupi@gmail.com
Cindy R- firstname.lastname@example.org
Michele W- email@example.com
When I first decided to really buckle down and write a book, I didn’t have any idea what that would entail. I thought I would write a few chapters a day, clean it up/edit a bit, and boom! Published. That’s not really how it worked out for me. About three years ago, I started to get the itch to write. I had told myself that if I went to a “real” college, got a fancy degree, and still wanted to write, I would follow that path. But even before I slipped on my cap and gown and moved the tassel from the left to the right (or is it the right to the left) I had already begun to outline my plot and develop characters. I just couldn’t wait.
My ambition to write a few chapters a day quickly met the real world. Going to school, working three jobs (at a gym, hotel, and hospital) did not add up to chapters being written. I was lucky if I got in two hundred words a day. Some days, I was too exhausted to even look at a computer screen. And did I mention I didn’t own a computer as this time––I was using the computer lab at my school to get my writing done, and saving my work to flash drives. So that only added to the challenge. A year went by––a whole 365 days––and my book was just over halfway written. Something needed to change.
It took me some time, but I was able to figure out little plans and deadlines to help keep me on track. I realized that I write effectively in the morning as opposed to the afternoon or night (shocking, since I hate mornings). So I carved out pieces of time each morning to write. I didn’t give myself an impossible goal, I just told myself to write from 6:30-8:00 each morning. Nothing spectacular, nothing huge. But with that little goal, I found myself writing each morning, cracking my knuckles first thing and excited to dive back in. This plan has been working for me ever since. Sometimes, I add some new goals in here and there. Finish chapter 9 by Friday. Introduce Emily’s character by Wednesday. Finish all revisions by December 7. This bigger goals help keep me on track and help me maintain a look at the bigger picture. I’ll give an example of some deadlines I have imposed on myself for book number two:
- Monday-Friday: write 7:30-10:30
- Introduce Henry/Kevin conflict by November 3
- Figure out Carmen’s big secret by November 7
- Finish Chapter 15 by November 15
*If you’re wondering what “figure out Carmen’s big secret” means, it literally means figure out what Carmen, one of my supporting characters, is hiding. I still haven’t figured this out. I hope she tells me soon.*
You may also be wondering why I only write three hours a day. It’s all I can do. Really. I work full-time, I run ChickLitPlus, CLP Blog Tours, freelance editing services, and have two more websites/businesses underway for launches next year. Oh, yes––and I also just published Destined to Fail
and am feverishly trying to do my own marketing. Then I have a life on top of that. Sometimes. So, three hours is the best I can do. But, when you really put your mind to something and work hard, it doesn’t seem that bad. It isn’t unusual for me to write 3,000 words a day, which I think is great. I am hoping to have book #2 out by late spring of next year. Now that I have been through the process and know what works for me, the second time around has already been much easier.
My advice is to create your own goals. Keep in mind that you might have to tweak them along the way. Maybe you realize you write better at night. Switch it. Maybe you realize you work better by giving yourself word count goals. Shoot for what is feasible to you. Don’t make your goals based on someone else’s. We all lead different lives, have different jobs and families and responsibilities, so none of our goals and deadlines should look the same. But keep yourself motivated, and keep writing!
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Well, I’ll be. My eBooks are here. Like- you can buy them. Yep. It’s official. Destined to Fail is for sale. That is so surreal to type. And to say. It has only been three days, but I don’t think it has quite sunk in yet. And get this- people are buying my book! Say what?? I can’t believe it. I’m hoping the shock feeling will wear off sometime soon.
Anyways, the eBooks are here. As of right now, they are available on Smashwords and Amazon. I also have a GoodReads author page that you can visit, and my Samantha March website. Samantha March is also on Facebook and Twitter. I’m all over the place My paperbacks should become available as scheduled in November, so be on the lookout for those if you are not an eReader lover yet. For all you lovely book bloggers that have embarked on many blog tours with me and CLP Blog Tours- don’t you worry, I will be going on tour. You should be hearing from me shortly.
Thank you so much to everyone who has supported me throughout my journey. Many of you are in my acknowledgement, so be sure to find your name in there. I couldn’t have done this alone. All the writing, re-writing, editing, revisions, formatting (I hate formatting), designing, uploading…has led to this. Now the fun part- and frightening part. Having readers. Getting reviews. I know not everyone will love the book. I hope not everyone hates it. But I do hope you enjoy and appreciate Jasmine’s journey, and take away a little something from Destined to Fail. Of course, I would love to see reviews on Amazon and other sites, your own blogs, or little comments on this website. Feel free to email me anytime as well. I am preparing for a whirlwind of marketing, but will also be continuing work on my second novel. I’m hoping to release that one by the spring of 2012. Listen to me- talking about my next release. Surreal. Thanks again for all the support, encouragement, and guidance.
Debut Authors and Titles- November 2011
Title: One Little White Lie
Author: Pricilla Bleik
Synopsis: India Roman has always come second best. Growing up with a clinically depressed sister, overbearing mother and then settling for a controlling marriage to a much older man, India is used to accepting what little life throws at her. When her husband leaves her with two young children and a mortgage, on the same day her sister goes missing after successfully auditioning in the first round for the world’s premier talent show, India decides to take a chance on herself. Taking her sister’s place on the talent show, India lies about her age and pretends to be her sibling to make it through to the finals. But there is more than one dark secret in her past, and just when it seems that India might finally come first, a shocking revelation rears up to steal the limelight once more.
Available: ebook in November and paperback early 2012.
Title: The Bollywood Breakup Agency
Author: Naina Gupta
Synopsis: Twenty-six-year-old Neela Solanki’s family is fed up with her rude refusal to either work or marry any of the eminently suitable men put before her, so they cut her off without a penny. Unable to make her designer ends meet, Neela stumbles upon a unique business idea – a breakup agency that helps ‘de-arrange’ unsavoury Indian engagements. However, Neela’s brash attitude to her culture soon comes back to haunt her, when she finds love in the most unusual of places.”
Available: ebook in November and paperback early 2012.
Title: Destined To Fail
Author: Samantha March
Synopsis: Jasmine Jones is ready to begin her new life as a college student, and is ecstatic to have best friend Abby by her side. But weeks into their new college life, Abby drops the bomb- she is pregnant, and dropping out of college. Jasmine can’t handle the fact that Abby is wasting her opportunity to get an education, and going back to her cheating, abusive boyfriend. She struggles to move on from her friendship with Abby, but befriends two new girls at college. Everything seems back on track for Jasmine- great new friendships and roommates, a strong relationship with boyfriend Nate, and excelling at her college courses. But Jasmine’s newfound happiness is shattered when her pregnancy test comes out positive. Does she have to drop out of college now and become a young mother? Will Nate stay with her? How can she afford a child? Jasmine’s life has been filled with obstacles and challenges along the way- from a missing father, sexual and physical abuse, and addictions that tore her family apart. With this latest setback, Jasmine fears her life will always be a struggle. Destined to Fail is one woman’s story about overcoming adversity in life, about taking the negatives and finding a positive, and about never giving up hope.
Available: November 2011
Authors: Natalie Aaron & Marla Schwartz
Synopsis: As a producer on a reality dating show, Abby Edwards knows that true love is a myth. Her career and her friends are all she needs. Right?
When her screenwriter ex makes a hit movie based on their relationship, Abby’s faults are projected on screens across the country. Suddenly the fact that her job depends on orchestrating hot tub hook-ups doesn’t seem so impressive.
Her friends rally to help. Zoë thinks she needs to meet a guy. Stephanie suggests an attitude adjustment. Nancy wants her to get in touch with her inner Goddess. Abby knows they mean well, but she prefers to focus on her work. Unfortunately, she’s already embarrassed herself in front of her new boss, Will Harper, who she would find totally crush-worthy if he weren’t so irritating.
Abby’s about to be reminded that life doesn’t follow a script—and good things happen when you least expect it…
Available: November 2011
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