Thursday, February 28, 2013

High School Reunions and Ear Infections

This morning, my husband reminded me that our high school reunions should be coming up sometime this year. He asked me if I had checked on mine, and I said no. He said he hadn’t checked on his either.

It reminded me of my ten year class reunion - the only one I ever went to. It was two weeks after we had gotten married. I was a drama geek in high school, so I had been planning on going to my class reunion and showing off my hot new husband to the mean popular girls. Yeah, it’s like we never left.

In high school, I was always sitting behind Andy (thank you alphabetical order). Andy was my raging, teenage hormone crush. He was amazing…handsome, funny, nice, social…everything I wasn’t. But I loved Andy. We hung around the same group of friends, but he didn't notice me, and but he had no idea what I was thinking about him. In hindsight, that was probably a good thing.

When we graduated from high school, Andy continued to haunt me. We went to the same junior college, then the same four year college. Every time I saw him, he walked right past me, as if I were invisible. Well, who needed Andy anyway? Right…right?

Flash forward to two weeks before my 10 year class reunion. I walked down the aisle with my amazing husband, and my dad gifted us a honeymoon in Mexico. We had a blast! The ocean water was as warm as a soothing bath. Unfortunately, that’s also the perfect temperature for cooties. I wound up getting a bladder infection and had to chance Mexican pharmaceuticals. The woman didn’t speak any English, and my high school Spanish teachers had never covered bladder infection vocabulary. With some weird gesturing on my part, she finally took me over to some boxes that started with “gyno.” I realized she thought I had a yeast infection. I finally got through to her with “hot pee.” The medicine worked wonders, by the way. But that’s not the real story.

The cooties got in my husband’s ears leaving him with a raging ear infection. Despite my insistence, he refused all medicines and doctor visits, relying on his testosterone to cure him as usual. That didn’t work so well. So by the time we were set to go to my class reunion, he had been battling the ear infection for almost two weeks. He was one sick puppy. I asked him if he wanted to stay home and rest, but he refused. He said he wanted to go with me.

The ugly truth was, I wanted him to stay home. Normally, he’s really hot, and I'm glad to have him as my arm candy. However, the ear infection had left him acting really strange. He couldn’t hear, so he kept yelling “What?! What?! I can’t hear you!!” Then he would pinch his nose and blow, trying to pop his ears which kept plugging up. He also kept turning his head sideways like a dog and shaking it while slapping the other side of his head as if he could knock the cooties out. He was quite a sight.

We got to the reunion, and I met up with some old friends. I introduced them to my husband. “What?! I can’t hear you?” Pinch nose, blow, sideways head shake, slap slap. I smiled painfully, wondering if I should have introduced him as my “special” cousin Eddie. It wasn’t like he could hear me, but then I figured the rings would give us away. My friends and I tried to catch up while my husband continued his “What?! I can’t hear you?” Pinch nose, blow, sideways head shake, slap slap routine.

Then…I saw him…across the room…Andy. He hadn't changed a bit. He was headed over to the drink table. I made some excuse about needing to get us drinks. “What?! I can’t hear you?” Pinch nose, blow, sideways head shake, slap slap. I made a cup sign with my hand and mimed drinking. He nodded and asked me to get him a diet Pepsi.

I headed to the drink table studiously ignoring Andy. Then I heard “Michelle! Oh, it’s so good to see you!” Andy was staring right at me! “Oh, Andy, hey.” Pretending like I just noticed him (Oscar worthy performance). He grabbed me up in a big hug. “It’s so good to see you. Wow, I remember how funny you were in high school. Seeing you brings back great memories.” Andy said that to me. Seriously. You could have knocked me down with a mini marshmallow. He actually noticed me in high school? He thought I was funny? I brought back great memories?

Not to be won over, I told him that I had seen him at our junior and four year colleges. He said “I wish you would have stopped me. It would have been so fun to hang out with you. I was working on my Ph.D in Marine Biology, and I was so focused, I just didn’t seem to see anything around me.” My sick mind immediately started to imagine Andy in a wet suit.

Thankfully, I saved my face palm for another time. There it was. I missed out. Andy had wanted to hang out with me and hadn’t been ignoring me at all. Well that sucked. Before I could respond, he said “Hey, you’re wearing a ring? Is your husband here?” My eyes bugged out and a chanced a quick glance at our table. Pinch nose, blow, sideways head shake, slap slap. “Ummm…he couldn’t make it. Too bad, I would have liked to introduce you. Well, Andy it was nice seeing you.” I said quickly with my best fake smile. Andy hugged me again and said “I’m really glad I had a chance to see you, Michelle.” Rub it why don't you?

I walked back to my table, kicking myself in the ass as I went. I set hubby’s diet Pepsi down. “Thanks. Who was that?” he asked. “Andy, my high school crush.” “What?! I can’t hear you?” Pinch nose, blow, sideways head shake, slap slap. Dramatic sigh from me.

When hubby recovered (after tons of antibiotics), and I told him that story, he laughed hysterically. Said he couldn’t have planned it better himself. He’s lucky he’s cute.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Working the Amazon System May Be the Key

If you follow me at all, you know I released The Rustler’s Daughter on 2/14/13 (actually I uploaded it to Amazon and Barnes and Noble the day before to make sure it was ready). As with my other two books, I had planned to work diligently on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and was considering doing a blog tour. I had information up on my website and had been talking about it on my blog.


Unfortunately, I had to go to a work conference this last weekend. I wasn’t able to do all of the promo stuff I wanted to because I had to get everything ready for my family to survive without me for a few days. I brought my laptop intending to do whatever I could during my free time at the conference.


I flew out on Wednesday afternoon (2/20), and Thursday morning before we headed out for conference presentations, I checked my sales. I had sold 46 books. Not bad. When I got back in the afternoon, I checked my book sales again on my phone while my colleagues were getting ready to go to dinner. I had forgotten my laptop charger cord, so I was trying not to stress about missing these early book release days. The sale number said 107. Seriously. I stared at my phone, blinking in disbelief.


I said “What happened?” out loud, catching the attention of my conference buddies. In a few hours, my book sales had more than double. I couldn’t breathe. I wanted to know my Amazon rankings were, but I was having trouble talking and my stupid laptop was dead. I frantically called my husband, while one of my friends from the conference also looked on her laptop. I was #8 on Amazon’s best seller list for western romances. I was also ranked in the #40’s for two other western categories.


Freaking out, I started calling some of my author friends to share the good news. That’s when they asked “What did you do?” That was the funny part. I didn’t do a damned thing. My husband found out that my book was #13 on Amazon’s “Hot New Releases in Western Romance,” which I’m sure had a lot to do with it as well as the other rankings.


I used to think the people who blogged about trying to work the Amazon algorithm system were crazy…maybe not. Somehow, I got caught up in the Amazon system, and I am still selling books. I have stayed in the 4,000 – 6,000 range in the paid Kindle store. My rankings in the 3 best selling western categories have varied in the #70’s to the #90’s. I even sold some Nook books on Barnes and Noble. Now that’s crazy.


Honestly, I’m dumbfounded - part of my wants to laugh because I am having success without working like crazy on promo stuff like I have with my other two books, but the other part of me wants to know what made the difference. Is it the genre? Romance is a huge. Is it the cover? I had people tell me they bought it based on the cover alone. Is it the editing? This book doesn’t have the comma issues my other books have. Personally, I'm sure it had a lot to do with the visibility of my book on Amazon, but I just don’t know how I got there. I wouldn't think selling 46 books in 6 days would get noticed on Amazon. Maybe it did. Who knows?


I keep waiting for it to stop. I fell out of the rankings a couple of times and thought “Well, that was fun, now back to reality.” Only to come home and find book sales had picked up, and I was back in the rankings. I don’t get it.


I do have to thank my friends on Facebook. They shared on their timelines and also posted in some of the groups they’re in. Every little bit has helped. It is surreal at this point. I can’t get my mind to embrace the idea that maybe this is it…maybe this book will be the one to open the door for me to continue to sell at a higher level.


I really wanted to be home for all of this craziness, but at least I was in Anaheim for the conference, so I got to celebrate in Downtown Disney Thursday night, and my conference buds were awesome. I’m glad I was there. It’s the best place to believe in magic.

Monday, February 18, 2013

What's on My Kindle? February 2013

As usual, I am completely behind with my reviews, but I wanted to give some love to the great books I have read lately. Here they are in no particular order.

How to Make a Website or Blog Without Coding Using WordPress by Mike Omar - If you read my blog about making my website, then this book will sound familiar to you. This book gives perfect step-by-step instructions to make your own website. So easy, even I could do it.

Forever Me by Thomas Amo - This is a great Y.A. book that, on the outside, seems like a book about bullying in high school, but turns out to be so much more.

Riftglade by K. R. Jordan - This book was full of gorgeous imagery. K. R. Jordan is a true wordsmith, and this amazing love story reads more like an epic poem.

A Splash of Hope by Charity Parkerson - What a fun romance this was. The lead characters were not at all what I expected. Loved the underlying story of recovering from family trauma.

I generally stick to genres I like because I don't have a lot of time to read, so I want to focus on something I know I will enjoy. However, recently I branched out a bit after some fellow authors had deviated from their preferred genres to read my books.

The Duke's Trumpet by Claire E. Smith - I don't really watch Dr. Who, but I really liked this time travel book. It reminded me of sitting around a campfire and listening to a great story teller weave a tale that made everyone want to return the next night to find out what happens. I'm looking forward to the next book in this series.

Shadows of the Realm (The Circle of Talia) - I avoid epic fantasy almost as much as sci-fi, but I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I got attached to the characters, and even stayed up really late one night when two of the characters were trying to escape from the bad guys, and I couldn't sleep until I found out whether or not they made it. Thankfully, the next book in the series is coming out soon!

I love poetry and try to pick up collections when I can. These books were outstanding. These two men have very different styles, but both of them write from their souls. I'm definitely going to be picking up more of their work.

Night Poems by Ben Ditmars

by Robert Zimmermann

Friday, February 15, 2013

Insanity Workout Update - Still Insane

So I’m seventeen days into the 60 day Insanity Workout. I’m very proud of myself for sticking it out this far. Honestly, I’m a little surprised. I don’t think I’ve ever stuck with a workout regimen this long. Seventeen days may not sound like much, but then you don’t know Insanity.

In the schedule, you take the fit test the first day, and then every two weeks to monitor your progress. I wasn’t 100% convinced I would still be doing it in two weeks, so I didn’t count the number of times I could do each exercise the first day. In fact, I was just glad I survived, so I can’t tell you how much I changed after the first two weeks. I can tell you it was a lot easier than the first day.

The Insanity Workout comes with a schedule for the 60 day commitment, telling you which videos to do on what days. You work out for six days and have one day of rest. During the first four weeks, you follow a particular schedule with a one week break (sort of, scaled down workout) before the second four weeks, which are supposed to be more challenging. Obviously, I’m not looking forward to that since I am barely hanging on now.

The positives:

1.   I really am seeing a change in my body. I wouldn’t have believed it, but I’m firming up a bit. My energy level has increased, and I am able to do more with each video. Last week, we went to the gym to work out with the personal trainer. Normally, I dread it. This last time, I barely broke a sweat.  

2.   Shaun T, the exercise guy who is the face of the videos, talks about himself in the third person. “Shaun T needs to take a break.” “Shaun T is tired.” I don’t know why I always find that entertaining, but I do. Also, Shaun T has the body of a Greek god. When Shaun T gets hot, he takes his shirt off. Michelle likes that.

3.   The Insanity Workout comes with a meal plan that has a lot of good tips on food and nutrition along with some recipes/meal ideas. They recommend eating 5 smaller meals which is great. There is also a section to increase your caloric intake based on your weight loss/gain to maximize muscle building and repair.

4.   They warm up and stretch before every workout and cool off and stretch again afterwards, so my flexibility has increased as well. Shaun T always reminds people to work at their own pace, take breaks if needed, and drink lots of water.

5.   They also have online help for people who want more support.

The negatives:

1.   Unless you are a freak who really enjoys pushing your body to the limit, this isn’t fun. I may be enjoying the outcome, but not the process. Sometimes, I put it off until the last minute and workout at 11:30pm because I dread it.

2.   I absolutely would not recommend this program if you have any knee, hip, ankle, or foot problems. They do a lot of squatting exercises and jumping – not something for people with any kind of leg issues. I have some problems with my arms and shoulders, and that is irritating for me at times.

3.   You need to know your own limits. Shaun T can remind you all he wants, but if you don’t know how to pace yourself, you can get hurt.

4.   They say this workout is for everyone, and I guess that could be true in theory, but I’m glad I’d been going to the gym 4-5 days a week for about six months prior to starting this program. I don’t think this is a great idea for people who are really overweight and have not exercised in some time or have serious medical problems. I suppose you could if you really worked at your own pace, but intensity is an important part of the plan. If you can’t push yourself to at least try to match their intensity, you should look into doing something more fun anyway.

As of today, I have lost 11 pounds. I was dieting before I started the Insanity Workout, but I was stuck at 8 pounds. In the last two weeks since starting Insanity, I have lost 3 more pounds, and I am feeling a lot stronger. I have 11 more days before I start the one week recovery before the second month. I will let you know how it goes.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Investing in Self Publishing - Getting Serious

Yay! It’s finally here! I published The Rustler’s Daughter, my historical/western romance. The ebook is available now on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It will be available in paperback next month on Amazon.

This is the third book I have published. However, I realized that I am a writer, not a publisher. That’s a problem. This last year, has been a huge learning experience for me. One of the biggest decisions I've made is to get more serious about publishing. Since getting more involved in this whole process, I have learned that people can write books, make their own covers, and publish on Amazon (and other sites) with little to no help or money - nothing wrong with that.

However, I have been talking to several authors who have challenged me to take the next step, and to get serious about turning my writing into a publishing business. The difference? Money and time. No easier way to say it. I had to ask myself if I was willing to invest in me and my writing.

With The Rustler’s Daughter, I did invest more time and money than I did with my Dion series. I got a professional cover and an editor. I didn’t rush it. I made sure this book was the best I had to offer. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my other two books as well. But this one just feels different…it feels better…polished.

As a result, I have decided to invest in me. I am sending my first two books, Where Will You Run? and Where Will You Hide?, to my editor. I am going to have her go through them the way they should have been before I published them, but I didn’t know that then. Now I do. I’m also working with my very talented brother on making new covers for them as well. I bought ISBNs for my printed books along with bar codes, so that they can be sold in stores, and I am going to start working on book signings and other public appearances.

The other investments? I made a website (, and I also bought business cards (cheap through Vistaprint) and swag items. I am considering some reputable advertising companies as well once the other two books have been re-published with the updates.

Some of the complaints about self-publishing involve people pointing fingers at self published authors, saying they are lazy by not pursuing traditional publishing or publishing crap. The lazy part is totally ridiculous, although I have to say, I have read some crap books (traditional and self pubbed). I’ve seen some self published books that put traditionally published books to shame, and I’ve seen some I wouldn’t use in the bottom of a bird cage. 

Understand that I am not being critical. I'm just concerned. Obviously, it's in my best interest to see self publishing flourish, so I do worry when I see complaints about professionalism and inconsistency. If authors took the time to look professional (editing, polished covers, ISBNs, formatting, etc.), would it lend more credibility to self publishing and shut up the critics? Probably not, but who knows? 

Will I make it? Will all of this pay off? Honestly, I don’t know. But if I do fail, I want to say that I gave it my best shot. I want to say that I did everything in my power to make this work. I don’t want to have any regrets. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Keeping Promises - A Book Dedication

Sorry I haven’t been around much, but for those of you following me, you know I have been working on my website(, and finishing up the final edits and formatting for my new release, The Rustler’s Daughter. Since it is a historical/western romance, I thought it would be fun to publish it on Valentine’s Day. Cheesy? Absolutely J

I dedicated this book to my Papa. I know it seems strange to dedicate a romance book to my grandfather, but he’s the reason I love romance books. When I was young, I couldn’t read enough. Of course, we didn’t have the internet, so I was hooked on the library. Still, I couldn’t check out enough books to keep me busy.

My grandfather was adamant that all of his grandchildren should attend college, and he made me promise to go no matter what. When I was in high school, he wanted to encourage my love of reading, so he would go to the “swap meet” (flea market) and buy grocery bags full of used Harlequin Romances. They were the clean ones, where the lovers kissed at the end and lived happily ever after. That's when I fell in love with romance. Once in awhile, a “bodice ripper” got mixed in, but I never told Papa. I kept those under my mattress…heehee.

He was so proud of my writing. I used to tell him that one day, I would write a Harlequin Romance, and he would say “I know you will, baby.” When he passed away, my grandmother found a worn out piece of paper folded up in his wallet with two of my poems on it. That meant the world to me.

From then on, I focused to keep my word. I went to college (a lot of college), and I worked on my writing. The Rustler’s Daughter is the fulfillment of the last promise I made to write a Harlequin type romance (with a little "bodice ripper" thrown in - don't tell). I decided to make it a western because Papa and I used to love to watch cowboy shows together. Thank you for everything Papa <3

Hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I loved writing it! 

Friday, February 8, 2013

How to Make a Website for Technogoobers Like Me

The dreaded author website…

I knew this was something I absolutely needed to do if I wanted to look professional. As a technogoober, the whole creating a website thing had me curling up in the fetal position, looking for my teddy bear. Sure, I could pay someone to do it and not give it another thought, but, as I’ve said before, I hate paying people to do something I’m capable of doing myself – or potentially capable anyway.

So I bought a book called How to Make a Website or Blog Without Coding Using WordPress by Mike Omar. His claim is that anyone can make a website in under two hours using his steps. I thought, if I could figure out this Blogspot stuff, surely I could master WordPress.

Thankfully, the book had the exact steps needed to set up a domain name and web hosting site. That was especially helpful since I was stupid and thought that I only needed a domain name. You pay for a domain name, and you are good to go, right? Nope. So I signed up for a web hosting plan, and got it connected to the domain name, thanks to Mike’s book.

He then explained how to install WordPress, and I was off to the races. I’m not going to say it was super easy since it is completely different from Blogspot, but I messed around and got the bones of the website up and going within a few hours. He was right. Ta da – almost instant website!

It’s still under construction, but you can check it out at If you have been putting off making a website, this is an easy way to get one done. If I can do it, I know you can!