New books and free books oh my

I love sending new books out into the world. It’s such a privilege to create something and share it with others. Of course, I get a little nervous too, but mostly excited.

Costa Rica has been out a few weeks and In a Field of Oranges will be going out very soon too. Yea! It seems like I’ve been writing and writing, so it’s thrilling to see these two stories come to completion and ready to share. Then I’ll actually be caught up on my works in progress and ready to start a brand new story. It’s one that’s been swirling around in my head for months and months, but I forced myself to hold off on writing it so I could finish my current project list. It’s in the early, can’t-share-or-I’ll-jinx-it stage, but I’ll say the story revolves around two sisters.

And just an update: I’ve added a new “Free Ebooks” tab to my site! Currently, Embers of Hope is free on Smashwords and Kobo, and will probably be free in Kindle too. I still get excited over each and every one of my novels, and I just adore Savanna’s story. It’s about being a mom, a friend and falling in love.

The Fairy and Her Giant is free on Kindle, Smashwords, Kobo and other places. I really can’t say where I got the idea for that story, but it was a blast to write–it has a fairy and pirates!

Well, back to writing I go. Take care!

The Need to Start Anew – Happy New Year!

“Don’t look down! Don’t do it!”   Have you ever felt that way when climbing a steep hill? But if you don’t look down, you won’t know how far you’ve gone. That’s why we look down, even if we’re afraid to.

Life seems to be the opposite. Everywhere I look, I’m encouraged to measure, compare, evaluate and redirect, especially this time of year. We have a drive to track how we’re doing, evaluate the results and plan bigger goals. We want to start fresh. Do better. Do more. It can be invigorating, actually.   A new start!  A new chance!

The beginning of a new year isn’t a magical point in time that changes everything, but we use it that way. We treasure that yearly gift of hope and renewal. We look at any hardships in the old year and say, “So long suckers!”

I’m looking at the new year as a new chance to enjoy life, learn new things and look for beauty. And of course I’m planning to write more stories.  🙂

I wanted to say Happy New Year to all of you and wish you the best on your goals. I’d also like to wish you peace in this coming year–in this busy, interconnected world, remember to take some time for yourself. We don’t have to be the best at everything. It’s okay to relax sometimes! It’s okay to “Don’t Worry, be Happy!”   Go ahead, click the link, listen to the song and watch the video. 🙂 It’s fun.  Cheers!

jumping dolphin

2.5 Years, 20 books, and 100k sales later–What I’ve learned

I had some thoughts this month stemming from my writing journey and what is happening in publishing, and I thought it might interest other writers. I often read the advice to stop checking sales, ranks, reviews, web hits, and focus on writing. It’s some of the best advice out there, and advice I try to follow. On the other hand, sometimes it’s  healthy to pause and evaluate how you’re doing. (Seems to be a trend at the end of the year!) It can also show you that you really have built something.

I have 10 novels, 7 novellas and 3 nonfiction books, and reached 1,000 reviews on Amazon this month. I don’t think it’s bad to check in on sales and reviews, if you keep it under control. I used to read reviews and see if I could learn anything from them–and reviews used to be longer and more detailed. I often get short reviews these days, especially for my novellas. Still, I like to glance through once in a while to see what readers are saying. Amazon Central puts them all in one place so it’s easy. It’s fine to have good and bad reviews; it shows that your book is selling.

On ranking: I used to check my book ranks, but now I mainly check the rank for my most recent book, or a book that I’m running a promotion on. I look at my author rank in Author Central to see the overall trend. (But in general, I’m trying to check less and write more.)

On predicting: I’ve had some awesome months when I had a new release or a promotion went really well, but I’ve learned that I can’t take that and make a monthly prediction of steady growth. Sales go up and down. I put my sales into Excell and then create a month by month chart showing book sales and income. I have another chart that shows yearly book sales and income, so I can see the upward progress every year. It’s the big picture that matters.

On Changing Amazon: In 2011 and 12, it seemed most of my books would sell and have different seasons and spikes. Since this summer, however, it seems Amazon promotes new books, giving them a chance to succeed at first, but sales for my older books have slowed down. (That follows a more traditional model than what I’ve seen on Amazon since 2011, and it might change again in a few months.)

On crazy ebook growth in 2012–there were some blockbuster books the last couple of years that really drove sales. That can happen again. A book or series will come out that will be different, and it’ll see sales like 50 Shades, Twilight, Hunger Games, Wimpy Kid and Wool. There’s been huge bestsellers from both traditional and author published books.

That naturally leads into my next observation: things change constantly. In the last two years, we’ve had all kinds of storms. The huge ebook growth, then people crying that the sky was falling, then people saying Indie stores are making a comeback, and even times when people said books are on the way out. I know better than that one. But things do change, and they don’t follow our predictions. The steady reality is that we keep getting surprised. I just have to focus on improving my writing. (I’ve been working on bigger story lines and deeper themes.)

Another change: I had a sales curve every year that dipped in the summer, but this last summer was more like my typical Decembers. I released a book that I really believed in, but I was surprised at how well it did. Of course, releasing new books has always been the best promotion, and I regret that I didn’t have another one ready to release this fall or winter. Montlake Romance re-released Point Hope in late October, and I relied on that as my ‘new book.’ My next book is coming out in January, and I plan to write and publish 3-5 books this coming year.

With all the changes on Amazon, the US book market, and publishing in general, I’m going to expand into other retailers with some of my books. I’m very pro Amazon and feel extremely thankful to the company for opening the door to so many authors. I’ve built an audience and got a traditional publishing deal for one of my books that I published through Kindle. Because it’s about my readers and reaching more readers, so I’m going to experiment with other retailers.

My biggest lesson: many of the promotional activities we’re encouraged to do don’t get the results we want. I used to advise people to build their “snowball,” and I still believe in this idea, but there is also an 20/80 rule. 20% of what we do will get 80% of the results. In terms that I understand better, focus on the things that make big results. I experiment, and learn from other authors, and I focus on writing.  Maybe I’m stating the same lesson over and over! It’s about the writing. When I launch a book now, I basically publish it and post it here, on my FB page and Twitter. I also did a Goodreads giveaway with Point Hope and plan to do more of those.

Preview on Kindle (also available in print)
Newly updated for 2014 – insight and advice for all the phases of Indie Publishing


The big things I’ve learned pertain to writing and storytelling, which of course is the whole point of all of this. I write, read novels, read books on writing, learn from podcasts and videos, write some more, repeat… and it’s thrilling, challenging and fulfilling. I’m putting together a workbook on novel writing for a class I’m going to teach this coming year. I’m really excited about it. I keep files on everything I learn about writing, and now I get to put it all together with diagrams. 🙂  I had some huge breakthroughs in structure this year, especially about how to up the tension and drama in a novel’s middle, and I’m eager to share that. I’m going to publish the book so people who aren’t local to take the class can also buy it.

One thing I keep in mind is that learning is a continuous, life long process. I have a thick journal where I record notes on useful writing books, videos, etc, and new things I learn. I write life posts and encouraging quotes too. It’s a fantastic way to keep all my writing notes in one place, and I can look through it to refresh what I’ve learned. It’s been one of the best things I’ve done for my writing career. Well, time to wrap up this monster post. I hope you enjoyed it and found something useful. 🙂

~Best wishes to all the authors out there, and thank you for blogging, sharing and encouraging other writers!

P.S. I’m a member of The Alliance of Independent Authors, which runs a series called “How I Did It,” featuring posts from many successful Indie authors. Here’s my interview:  How I Do It: Kristen James Shares The Secrets of Her Self-Publishing Success.    This group is a great resource!

Merry Christmas! Cover Reveal. And Looking Ahead.

There’s a lot stuffed into that title! I wanted to send out a big MERRY CHRISTMAS to everyone – I hope you’re enjoying a bright, wonderful holiday season. Does it feel rushed to you this year? We had a short season between Thanksgiving and Christmas! I just got my tree up yesterday and started my Christmas shopping.

I also hope it’s been a good year for you. For me, a lot happened but then again, things slowed down this year. I published Point Hope and a lot happened with that book, but I didn’t finish another until autumn. (I did publish a novella this summer called A Wedding to Remember.) So Costa Rica will be out early next year, which is actually just weeks away now!

Front CoverHere’s the cover.

You might notice something a little different about this cover, compared to my other books. There’s just one person on this cover. I’ve been writing romance for several years, yet more and more my stories are focusing on family drama and married romance. I love including romance in my stories, but it’s a different kind of romance than you find in, say, a romance novel. The story in Point Hope centered around an entire family. It was actually an in-depth, close up and personal story about the trouble between Trey and Rosette, their own struggles, and the family dynamic. I love that story! I loved writing it and sharing it with readers. It’s the kind of story I look for when choosing books, and the kind of story I wanted to write for so long.

Costa Rica, too, is about family with a twist. It’s about two families, but it’s also about Annalisa’s personal journey. There’s romance, but much more, and I wanted the cover to reflect the feel of the story.

The other big difference is this cover shows Costa Rica and not somewhere in Oregon. It actually begins in Coos Bay (like Point Hope) and then moves to Costa Rica. (I’ll post the description and first chapter soon!)

My next book, In a Field of Oranges, is more of a romance with some heavy personal struggles. It has a feel like Point Hope, but Lance and Sierra are almost strangers when the story opens. I’ll share more about that story in the next few months, and I plan to release it in the first half of 2014. I’m having a great time writing this one, and I have to admit it’s thrilling to write different kinds of stories. Working on In a Field of Oranges feels fresh and new, and I think it’ll improve my stories that much more to have a spectrum of story types.

I’m going to write A LOT next year. I’m itching to share my next story idea, but I’ll wait until I’ve actually started it.   🙂   Stay tuned!

Much Love,




“Know Your Audience!”

The cold weather has descended and I’m spending more time inside writing, and so today’s post focuses on adventures in writing instead of the outdoors. Actually, this is more of a thought about writing and readership.  I keep seeing the advice, “Know your audience!” and “Write for your audience!” and “Target your audience!”  Many, many articles say this is the #1 tip to becoming a bestselling author. (They say that about writing series too.)

The weird thing is, every author I read about that makes it huge didn’t seem think about their audience at all. They wrote a story from the heart. Authors that break out with their first book or an early book often write in the early morning hours before work or late at night, and they seem to be focused solely on producing the story that grabbed and inspired them. Also, that early on, they don’t have their own audience yet. Nicholas Sparks based his first novel The Notebook on a real couple, not an idea for a target audience. I read once that Stephenie Meyer had a dream about a girl and vampire in love and that inspired the Twilight series.

I like to think that I write for the people who love my stories, but I’ve never researched a certain demographic so I could to them. I’ve written and put out books with stories that I wanted to share. As I wrote more and more, I began including more of what I care about, aiming to produce a story with a meaning beyond the entertainment. When I wrote Point Hope, I just felt like it was a great story worth telling. I felt successful with that book before anyone else even read it. I recently finished another book called Costa Rica, and I did think about the things my readers said they liked in my other books. Perhaps that was writing toward my audience. I’m midway through another novel right now called In a Field of Oranges, and it deviates from my last few themes, but it still has my style and tone.

In a way, it seems “know your audience” is an industry catch phrase that doesn’t mean much, at least not to me in a useful way. The applicable part of the advice is to write up a profile for my idea reader and try to write to her… That feels like throwing a dart into the dark to me. (I’m sure there are useful ways to apply that advice, but I’m sharing my opinion and thoughts.) I’d rather write for myself: what I’m passionate about, what I want my stories to say, how I want to improve my craft, and how I want to connect with the readers who talk to me about my stories. I’ve found that the more of my life and passion I put into my stories, the better they connect with others.

So why am I blogging about this? I’ve been thinking about all the authors out there seeking the path to publication or to a bigger audience. Like me, they probably read blogs, articles, magazines and books on writing. I’m just wondering, if they toss out all the confusing advice and write the story that keeps them up at night, what kinds of books will they produce? Yes, it’s important to learn the ropes and fine tune our storytelling and craft, but sometimes we need to take an idea and run. My point is, the books that keep us up reading late into the night are completely different than our own lives and what we  think we want to read. They’re so unique and surprising that they somehow validate and connect with our lives. I’d argue that’s what our target audience is looking for!

Release Day!

It’s here!   The Montlake Romance edition of Point Hope is live on Amazon.

I’ve had an amazing journey with this novel. The story came together so easily, and I wrote the first draft in two months. Some stories I can see clearly while others take more effort to bring into focus, and this one just pulled together like magic. (I think that happens when the plot has inherent conflict and I have a good feel for each character and what they want.) I spent another month going through the story before sending it to my editor. Editing takes about a month as well. I was so excited to share the story with my readers, and I published the book in June. Then Montlake Romance emailed in early August, and here we are on the Montlake Romance release day!

I received my author copies a few weeks ago, and I found myself flipping through and reading the story. After going through the publishing process twice this year, you’d think I’d be tired of it. Instead, it’s just the opposite. I can fall into the story just by opening the paperback or the Kindle version. (I got both just to see them.)

And in case you’re wondering, or waiting for my next book, I’m still writing! I’m finishing the first draft of Costa Rica and working on a newer project called In a Field of Oranges. I’ll share more about those in the next few months.


Preview/ Order on Amazon

After his Navy career came to an end, Trey became an EMT in his hometown of Coos Bay, Oregon. He struggles with PTSD, which affects his ability to do his job and connect with his family. His wife seems to be living life without him.

Rosette can’t figure out what happened to her marriage, or to Trey—the man she once loved so desperately. It feels like she’ll lose everything along with him. Meanwhile, he’s enclosed in his own world without her.

Their marriage is on its last legs when their family is faced with two deaths and an orphan. They’re already raising two young children and Trey’s teenage brother, Alex. Trey and Rosette make a shaky agreement to play “family” for now so they can take care of Trey’s recently orphaned niece. But can faking it ever be enough?

It’s make-it or break-it time. If they split apart, who will raise Hope?

Summer Adventures

Sunset over the wilderness from a hiking trail

I love having a blog so I can share not just writing news, but pictures and stories from my different trips. This blog is full of photos from around Oregon that bring back great memories for me. I recently took the above picture while hiking on a wildlife reserve path near my home. The trail starts uphill right from the gravel parking lot and winds up into the hills. There’s several places to pause and look out over the valley on one side and the ridges of hills trailing off to the sunset on the other.



It’s fun to travel far from home, but it’s also really nice to have places I enjoy so much close by too. It takes me just a few minutes to drive to the wildlife refuge, and I can also drive up the river to several different trails and waterfalls, and even farther to explore mountain lakes.  It’s all still in a day’s drive, and most of the hiking is kid friendly. My kids love to go hiking–it’s a tradition that started with my parents when I was young.



Montlake Romance acquires Point Hope

It’s been a huge pleasure to share with you along the way and hear from readers all over, and I have exciting news to share now.

First I’d like to provide a little context. I’ve been successfully self publishing for almost three years, but “Self” or “Indie” publishing  isn’t a solo operation at all. I’ve utilized a team of freelancers to help with editing, proof reading and cover design, and I feel I’ve continuously improved the quality of my writing and book production. I’m also working with A.K. Waters at Zulu 7 Productions, who has helped with several projects including Point Hope.

I published Point Hope in the middle of June, and I’ve been happily overwhelmed with reader response!  It sold 5,000 copies in less than two months. It’s also been picked up by Montlake Romance, an Amazon Imprint. Montlake will relaunch the book this fall, but it’ll remain for sale on Amazon until we’re ready to switch over.  This feels like a natural next step.  I’m very excited to to work with Montlake because I can reach even more readers.  And of course, I’m looking forward to sharing more of my writing journey with you!


Summer Fun and a Secret!

It’s a bit ironic to talk about summer right now because it’s been rainy here in Oregon for the last week. At least it’s been a warm rain, and we needed it, so I’m not complaining…too loudly. But I am looking forward to the change predicted for tomorrow. Summer is coming back, just in time for a family reunion and camping trip.

I need a break, too. Every year I look forward to the kids’ summer vacation, thinking I’ll have lots of free time to catch up. Then we have the end of baseball and softball season, a garden to plant and get going, yard work, and inevitably lots of other things that pop up. Plus it’s hard to focus on any kind of inside work when I’m itching to go hiking, swimming and berry picking. I joined Zumba, and after only four classes, I’m addicted. I looked up videos online because two classes a week aren’t enough! I also went roller skating with the kids last night, and we want to do that more.

With so much going on, I’ve been doing more “idea work” than actual writing. Which is okay—I have a new release out! Point Hope is out on Kindle and the paperback will be available within days. The first review called it “a happy tear-jerker.”  It went on to say, “Despite dealing with issues such as death, survivor’s guilt, and PTSD, this still manages to be a lovely romantic story. You can’t help liking the family at the center of the story.” Have you read it yet? I’d love to hear your thoughts! My teenage daughter just read it and loved it, which always means a lot to me.

So I am writing here and there… I’ve worked a little on A Wedding to Remember with Trent and Molly, and it’s shaping into more than I expected. A few other characters got ideas of their own, so I hope the story will have a good surprise for readers. It’s a novella, so I’m aiming to finish it by the end of July.

And here’s my secret. I also rediscovered an earlier work that’s been waiting for me. I mentioned on Facebook that I found a manuscript on my computer and suddenly wanted to finish it. I put it aside before with the feeling that it wasn’t focused enough. Now I can see it was just too big for me at the time, with at least four point of view characters and several story lines. It’s more like Point Hope than the shorter romances I was writing three years ago.

This new story is called Costa Rica. This is a rough blurb for the book:

It’s always been Annalisa and Drew’s dream to go to Costa Rica, but it’s always been talk. They spent years trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant, which slowly killed their marriage. Now she realizes Drew is planning to take another woman there on a “business trip.”

Annalisa and Drew have been best friends with Vincent and Melinda forever. Vincent’s cancer is back – his tumor is inoperable and he won’t do chemo again. The four of them have actually talked and talked about going to Costa Rica together for years, and Annalisa realizes it’s now or never. It’s perfect timing for Vincent to ask everyone to go to Costa Rica while he still can.

Annalisa very well could be saying goodbye to her marriage, a friend and her life as she knew it. But for now, they can have Costa Rica.

 Sound interesting? I plan to work on it this summer, but I expect that the main writing will take place once school starts in the fall. I don’t want to rush it, either. There’s so many layers I want to visit. Vincent and Melinda have two children who are dealing with their father’s cancer, and there’s different and complicated relationships between all of the friends.

A few random notes:

If you haven’t read The Cowboy Kiss, it’s free all summer long. I have a sequel idea for that story too, but I’m getting way too far ahead of myself!

I have a newsletter –  sign up here.   (Different than my blog subscription.) I use it to announce new books.  I’m having a giveaway this summer for all subscribers – a beach bag full of books! I’ll include some of my books, signed, and other good beach reads. Everyone who signs up is entered to win, no matter when you sign up.

Check out my Summer Giveaways to see how you can win a signed copy of Point Hope.

Happy Summer and happy reading!

Point Hope is out on Kindle and Print!

Click here to preview and purchase on Kindle                       NOW AVAILABLE!

The mighty Pacific has a rugged, rough, unforgiving beauty—like Trey’s life.


After an IED brought his Navy career to an end, Trey became an EMT in his hometown of Coos Bay, Oregon. He struggles with PTSD, which affects his ability to do his job and connect with his family. His wife seems to be living life without him.

Rosette can’t figure out what happened to her marriage, or to Trey—the man she once so desperately loved. It feels like she’ll lose everything along with him. Meanwhile, he’s enclosed in his own world without her.

Their marriage is on its last legs when their family is faced with two deaths and an orphan. They’re already raising two young children and Trey’s teenage brother, Alex. Trey and Rosette make a shaky agreement: to play “family” for now so they can take care of Trey’s recently orphaned niece. But can faking it ever be enough?

It’s make-it or break-it time. If they split apart, who will raise Hope?

Read the first chapter.

Get it for Kindle here      Paperback

I’m so excited to share my latest novel with you–this is my biggest story yet. Point Hope is my longest novel, has a larger cast and more point of views. I so enjoyed working with the different people in the story, from the main couple Trey and Rosette, to teenager  Alex and troubled Summer. Several characters came to life and made the writing even more fun. It was an emotional journey, too, as writing all novels are.

If you’re from Coos Bay or have visited, you’ll recognize quite a few places and landmarks!


Rosette awoke to the faint sound of Trey’s cell phone ringing downstairs. Funny how a mother wakes to the quietest noise, even a soft newborn cough. Thank the good Lord they were past those early years with the kids. She rolled over in bed to squint at the alarm clock.

It was midnight. Who would be calling him so late? It didn’t sound like he’d answered it, but he could be returning the call. Rosette sat up, feeling alternating chills and waves of heat, as she feathered out the suspicions creeping in. Did he think they’d already severed their tie, and he was now free to talk to other women?

The landline phone on the nightstand rang.

Her heart skipped a couple beats. Something had happened, she could feel it, but what could be worse than Ricky dying?

She always answered the phone with “hello,” but this time she picked up the phone and spoke with a shaky voice. “Yes?”

“Rosette?” a rough voice asked. Harry. Trey’s boss.


“It’s Amanda. She has you and Trey down as her emergency contacts. We just brought her into the ER. We need you here right away. I tried Trey and couldn’t get him. Is he there?”

She said yes again and listened without hearing the rest of Harry’s words before ending the call.

OhMyGod OhMyGod OhMyGod. Rosette threw back the covers and ran out of the room, down the stairs, and into the living room, hitting the light switch on her way as she almost charged right into the couch.

She startled Trey so badly that he threw up his hands, flinching and turning away. Great. Not a  flashback now. She needed him.

“Amanda’s at the hospital. We need to go.”

He shielded his eyes from the light. “She’s in labor?”

A momentary relief sank through her, warm and comforting. Of course Amanda was just in labor. Why hadn’t she thought of that? Because Harry sounded… “I don’t know. Harry called and said she’s in the ER, and we need to get there right away.”