Sell It!

Most readers want to like the protagonists of the books they read. Even if the main character has a long way to grow to become likable at the beginning of the book, they had better have something that makes them sympathetic or the reader is going to find someone else to spend time with. Most commercial fiction is populated with sympathetic characters, people we want to root for. But what about when your otherwise likable character makes a mistake?

There’s an old saying among writers, “Reality is no excuse for fiction.” That means that just because something happened in real life, if it’s weird or unlikely you probably shouldn’t have it happen in your book. (The only exception to this maxim is when it makes things worse for your hero, and even then you have to be careful.) We’ve all made boneheaded mistakes, done things that in hindsight we can’t believe we did, things we should have known better than to do. That doesn’t mean our characters get to be stupid, though. They can make mistakes, but you’d better give them a good reason to be blind to the right path or your readers will let you hear about it. And you’d better sell it.

You can hit all your marks, give your character the right emotional backstory that perfectly justifies her inability to trust, or commit, or stop being a workaholic, but if the reader doesn’t feel it, they won’t believe it.

So how do you do that?

  • Understand your characters. Have at least a basic knowledge of your characters before you start so you know where they’re coming from. This makes it easier for you to know how the character will choose between A and B as they progress through the story. It’s okay to build up that background as you go along, just be sure you go back in the revision phase to make everything consistent.
  • Multiple layers. You can’t just tell the reader that the character was hurt by her boyfriend and you can’t do it  just once. Show how that experience is still affecting her years later, in several different ways. Then you can show how the events of the story are causing her to grow beyond that old, limiting experience.
  • Which brings us to: Show, don’t tell. I know, this is an oldie. And you don’t have to show everything. Sometimes telling is the right way to move a story along. But putting a reader IN a scene, so they can watch how it unfolds and how the character reacts, rather than being TOLD about what happened, helps the reader feel it.
  • Tell it from a different character’s perspective. Sometimes you can break the above rule (sort of) by having another character tell about something that shaped the protagonist. By showing that other character’s reaction to the events, you guide the reader’s reaction as well.

That being said, even if you do everything right, you won’t sell it to every reader, every time.

Writing a novel or short story isn’t as much of a group effort as writing for Hollywood, where directors and actors interpret the writer’s work before the audience ever sees it, but it’s still collaborative. Obviously, your editor will have some input. Less obvious is what the reader brings to the story. Every reader has his or her own way of viewing the world. Sometimes that bias prevents them from understanding why a certain experience shaped the character a certain way. The character’s reaction is not what they would have done. If you do your job well, most readers will be able to experience the world through the mind and the heart of your character for that little time they’re inside your  creation. But the magic doesn’t always work. Not every book is a good fit for every reader, every time. And that’s okay. If the author does her job, the rest of the story will be satisfying enough for the reader to keep turning the pages, even when the character makes a mistake.

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For the 28th and 29th of September, DANGEROUS TALENTS will be Free. This is the last time this year that the first Vinlanders’ Saga book will be on sale.

And if you haven’t already done so, you can get a Free fantasy story by signing up for my VIP Newsletter. Just click on Get a Free Story in the Nav bar above. (I won’t spam your inbox or share your email. The only time you’ll hear from me is when I have a new book or when a book goes on sale.)

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For just a few days, DANGEROUS TALENTS is available here for Free:

If you haven’t yet read the first book in the Vinlanders’ Saga series, now is your chance! (This is the first time in two years that this title has been available for free.)

Why am I giving it away now? I want you to fall in love with my world and my characters, and what’s better than finding something you love for a great price? And what price could be better than free?

If you’ve already read DANGEROUS TALENTSTHANK YOU! I hope you enjoyed it, and that you’ll tell a friend or two about this opportunity to get a great read for free– or maybe even give it as a gift. (I discovered two of my favorite “must read” authors when I was given one of their books.)

I also want to say thanks if you’ve written a review. Your opinion is hugely helpful, both to other readers and to authors like me. And if you haven’t already left a review, I hope you’ll take a few minutes to let other readers know what you think. It doesn’t have to be long, just a few sentences will do.

You can leave a review near the bottom of this page:

Happy Reading!


Celia Montrose has been trained to deal with any emergency–except being thrust into another world. Crisis management training hasn’t prepared her for meeting the Viking descendants of the lost Vinland colony, or coping with kidnapping, murder, and magic.

Lord Dahleven is preparing for war when he rescues a strange and beautiful woman in the drylands. Though he fears Celia may be Fey-marked, Dahleven can’t resist the powerful attraction he feels for her. But is Celia in league with the enemy, or will she provide the key to saving his people?

Alone and off-balance, Celia finds herself falling for Lord Dahleven. But dangerous forces are at work, and one of them is offering Celia a way home–for a price.


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A Free Story For You

KoombsTunicI’m giving away a free fantasy story, KOOMB’S TUNIC,  to subscribers to my newsletter. As the folks who already subscribe can tell you, I won’t clog your inbox with chit-chat. What I will do, is tell you when I have something on sale or when I’m getting ready to launch a new book. Subscribers will be offered the opportunity to get sneak peeks and free material, too.

Get KOOMB’S TUNIC  and Sign Up for Frankie’s Newsletter


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Indie Publishing, Three Years and Counting

I’m still here, even though I’ve been pretty quiet lately.

I haven’t posted much in the last year, especially about self-publishing, because I didn’t feel as though I had much to contribute. I’d pretty much shared what I had to say in my post about that first year, and all the decisions that a newbie had to make. But now that I’ve been on this path for a little over three years, I feel like I have a new set of choices. One of the big ones is: how much and what kind of publicity is enough?

This is actually an old decision revisited. Within a few months of starting out, I’d taken to heart the advice that the best promotion is getting the next book out. The corollary to that is to wait until you have five or six books out (some sources even say ten) preferably in a series, before you start trying to do any serious promotion. I wasn’t that hardcore, nor was I that patient. I ran quite a few free promotions and .99 sales on several different books. Some worked better than others, and they all worked better when I paid for an ad to advertise the promotion. But over the months I noticed that the sales became less effective, not only for selling books, but also for generating reader reviews. (Thank you, every single one of you, who has bought and reviewed one of my books!) And over time I found that the additional revenues were eaten up by the cost of the ads.

If you’ve been paying any attention at all to Indie publishing, this isn’t news to you.

One of the immutable laws of business is: adapt or die. So I tried a few things like writing a newsletter, updating my metadata, and my product descriptions, both of which helped sales  a little, though not much. About five months ago I decided to give advertising a rest and focus on writing. I was pleased to note that even without “goosing” sales with promotions, my sales held steady and even improved a teensy bit.

Teensy isn’t good enough, though. Now that I have six novels out (three of which are in a series), I think it’s time to get more serious about getting eyeballs on my books. I’ve been researching what has works and I decided to experiment with some of the techniques that Nick Stephenson recommends in his book, READER MAGNETS: Get Readers to Come to You. While not over promising, the results he reports sound pretty impressive, so it’s worth my time to give it a go, I think. It also seems to be a good fit with the 80/20 rule. (Getting that 80% of results from the most effective 20% of effort.)

I’ll let you know how it goes. And if you don’t want to wait, go buy Stephenson’s book for yourself. I’d love to hear how it works for you. I’d also love to hear from the other authors out there what you’ve done to get the word out. What do you think REALLY works?

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I you live in the Tucson area, be sure to check out the TUCSON FESTIVAL OF BOOKS this coming weekend, March 14-15. Over 300 authors will be speaking, along with many food vendors and live music. I’ll be speaking Saturday afternoon at 4:00 on a panel with several other authors about the differences between Indie and traditional publishing. I hope to see you there

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I’m planning something special for the wonderful people who subscribe to my newsletter, so make sure you sign up!


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Happy Labor Day! And a Sale!

I don’t go to the mall much anymore. Mostly I go to meet a friend for lunch and then take a walk in blessed air-conditioned comfort. (Hey, when it’s 100 degrees outside, that means something!)

So, when I was at Tucson Mall the other day, I was surprised to see the Halloween decorations up already. I shouldn’t have been. Labor Day weekend is not only the last hurrah of summer, but the unofficial beginning of the dreaded Holiday Season when retailers exhort you ever more forcefully to part with the cash your labors have earned.

Some people really love shopping, and are good at it. I’m not one of them. So inBBT500x800 case you’re like me, and would rather curl up with a good book this weekend, I’ve put BETRAYED BY TRUST on sale for only 99 cents though Sunday. It’s a fast-paced thriller with paranormal elements, a love story, and you don’t even have to brave the mall to get it!

If you do decide to pick up a copy of BETRAYED BY TRUST (or any of my other books), I encourage you to leave a review. Your honest opinions help other readers find books they’ll like.

Would you like to be the first to know about sales like this, or when I release a new book?  Sign up for my occasional newsletter. (I won’t choke your inbox. I’ll only be sending you emails when I actually have something to announce.)

Happy reading!

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Heroes: Too Stupid To Live

My husband and I watched Sunday’s episode of “The Last Ship” last night. The evil, bad, nasty Russian Admiral (we can thank Putin for restoring this trusty stereotype) had the best line.


I was gleeful when he said to Commander Chandler: “Your hubris has led to your tragic downfall.” (Sadly, he didn’t take that observation to heart.)

Commander Chandler (or should I say, Captain Kirk?) is one of the worst recent captainkirkexamples I’ve seen of a TSTL hero. This was the third time Chandler left the ship to do a job that his subordinates were better trained to do. But the third time wasn’t the charm in this case. He’s still alive.

Next Sunday, Chandler will no doubt take his XO to task for disobeying a direct order. At that moment, I truly hope that Adam Baldwin’s character says something like, “You weren’t on the bridge. I was. I made a command decision. If you want to make command decisions, STAY ON THE BRIDGE! In fact, if you ever try to leave the ship again before this mission is complete, I WILL SHOOT YOU MYSELF.

Okay, now that I have that off my chest, here’s the point. Your protagonists can make mistakes, but they have to learn from them. Those mistakes can arise out of character flaws, or misunderstandings, or misinformation. Those mistakes cannot be something anyone with the character’s training and background would logically avoid. If circumstances force your character into a bad choice, it’s even better. That kind of situation really makes the reader squirm. (And you want your readers to squirm.) Just be sure your protagonist doesn’t have a better choice available that doesn’t contravene his or her values.

Chandler’s rescue of the scientist’s wife and daughter was consistent with his love for his own family and the values of a decent man. (This was good.) The fact that he was there in the first place was further evidence of his cowboy nature, and I have to wonder if he would have risen to the rank of Commander, or been given this sensitive command, with that kind of behavior in his record.

I recently saw a quote, but I can’t remember who wrote it. “Build people, not characters.” To that I’d add,  build consistent, intelligent people, and be true to their natures, and they will help you write consistent, intelligent  stories.

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Why I Don’t Care About Amazon vs. Hachette

Russel Blake has given voice to something I’ve been thinking for some time now. Frankly, I’m too busy writing (and getting ready for family to visit) to read another word on this subject. When a decision is reached that actually affects how I do business, let me know.

Why I Don’t Care About Amazon vs. Hachette.


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