The Ilia Stone by RJ Loom

The Ilia Stone by RJ Loom.

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Freebies and Giveaways: Do they help or hinder?

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News released Thursday that Liberty Media was privately selling off the majority of it’s investment with the struggling book store chain, Barnes & Noble, rekindled a question that has been niggling at the back of my mind. Are authors and publishers helping or hurting the book market by offering freebies and giveaways?

Let me start off by saying that I am a writer and an avid reader. So I am considering my own purchasing practices as I write this. The writer in me understands why we do it. With the hopes of expanding our readership, exposure to our work or gain more reviews it proves to be an irresistible and maybe necessary part of marketing for our books. The competition is overwhelming and growing daily.

What I’ve noticed recently is, a swamped market of freebies and books selling for $.99. It’s not just independent authors either. More and more New York Times and USA Today Best Sellers are offering their books for free on Amazon and other places as well. The market is so swamped that even the Best Sellers are getting very few taking advantage of their freebies.

When so many books are available to consumers for free or at a dramatically reduced price, why would they pay $10-$15 for a paperback when there is more than enough to choose from in the free or $.99 ebook bin? I know. I know. “You get what you pay for.” Or those books are not of the same quality as those selling for more. To that I’ll remind you, there are Best Selling authors books in that bin too.

I guess my question boils down to this, are we as authors collectively undervaluing the works -that often take a year or more to complete- of our fellow writers? Are we driving down prices? What does expanding our fan base really do if readers become unwilling to spend more than $.99 for any of our future releases? Is this practice hurting us in the long run?

This issue goes far beyond every authors dream to show up on the bookshelves of brick and mortar bookstores. It even goes beyond the paperback vs. ebook debate. This affects the sales of books (ebook or otherwise) as a whole.

I would love to hear some feedback on this topic and welcome any comments or discussion.

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Cover Reveal

Cover Reveal

Coming Summer 2014, The Ilia Stone

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Happy New Year!

“Last one!” Nia announced as she placed the last stamp on the last envelope, placing it in the pile with the others. It was a little late to send out holiday cards but putting together a year end update of all that had occurred was something her parents had always done before they passed away and she liked to continue their traditions.  She even included a little historical factoid from all the places she traveled over the past year, just as her parents used to.

She slid off of the stool by the breakfast bar and stretched before looking over to where Gabriel, Brynn and Dex were all sitting in the living room.  Brynn was sitting on the couch next to Dex, speaking animatedly on her phone as she made calls to every single person in her contacts, wishing them a Happy New Year.  While Dex, was lounged back, flipping through the channels from one Times Square ball watch concert to another New Years Eve bash. “There’s not shit on.”  Disgusted, he tossed the remote aside and proceeded to watch the “shit” and ignore Brynn’s attempts to get him to wish whoever she was talking to, a Happy New Year. 

That is, until she smacked him upside the back of his head. 

“Ouch!” He whined, rubbing the back of his head before he took her phone and said “Happy New Year.” dryly for what had to have been the twentieth time. 

She laughed and shook her head as she wondered over to lean over Gabriels shoulder where he sat across from them with his laptop on his lap. “Whatcha doin?” She said, peering at his computer screen. 

He glanced up distractedly as he continued to type. “Sending out a New Year’s Newsletter for Rossi’s.”

She raised a brow. “Really?  That’s awfully…friendly of you.  Maybe I need to sign up for that newsletter.”

Ten…nine…eight…seven…

The corner of his lips quirked up, revealing a dimple as he hit send and closed his laptop. Setting it on the coffee table next to the buffet of snacks she had set out earlier, he glanced back at her. 

Six…five…four…

Then he grabbed her arm and pulled her over the back of his chair, into his lap. She yelped and tried to squirm away but he held on tight around her waist, looking down to meet her gaze.  “Always asking for the words, aren’t ya Nia? That’s too bad.  I was planning on showing you.”

Three…Two…

She raised a brow and shrugged.

One…Happy New Year!

His smile faded as he looked down at her, his gaze traveling over her face. “Happy New Year, Nia.” Leaning in, he placed the softest, sweetest kiss on her lips. 

When he pulled away, she looked up into his deep brown eyes and smiled the most genuine smile she had felt in a really long time. “Happy New Year, Gabriel.”

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New Year’s Resolutions: Your Holiday Hangover Cure

I am horrible at making New Year’s Resolutions. Like many, I’m even worse at keeping them.  But this year, I really feel the need to make not one but several New Year’s Resolutions.

The holidays are always hectic and often stressful; family coming in from out of town, the expense of buying all those presents, fighting crowds, searching for deals, gatherings to attend and dealing with those bills that seem to pop up out of nowhere to be paid by the end of the year. I seem to have felt the stress more this year since the holidays arrived when I was deep in a zone with my writing. While I feel more appreciative than ever of my family, I am also a creature of habit and like my solitude. I am used the rhythm of my life and to having a routine .

In spite of all that, I do enjoy the holidays.

I love my friends and family. I feel blessed to have them in my life and love spending time catching up with them or picking on each other’s quirks, such as my sister’s germ phobia and my mothers penchant for department store cosmetics. (Before you judge, this is how we show our love.) These things were made even more amusing while enjoying my brother-in-laws special brew which he called “Holiday Cheer”.  It was a concoction made up of apple cider, Pino Gris and a caramel liquor and he made sure nobody’s glass ran low the entire day.  I later discovered that he and another brother-in-law of mine had a wager going on who would end up in the “drunk room”, which was a spare bedroom that many have sought out in the past to recover from my brother-in-laws “special” drinks.

Have I mentioned, I’m not a big drinker?  Well, I’m proud to announce, I did not spend any time in the drunk room…this year.

After the wrapping paper that I had spent hours with had been shredded and placed in the trash, relatives returned home and the leftovers from all those gatherings lost their interest as they sat in my fridge. I looked at my Christmas tree and tried to remember if it’s bad luck to take it down before the new year or not? The Holiday Hangover has begun to set in.  It has become time to find my way back into the rhythm of my life, to fill the void that is left after Christmas lights are taken down and the chaos of the holidays has passed and think about what next? Which brings me to my New Year’s resolutions…

What is it that I want next? Do I want to return to my routines of the past? Where I live, the new year always brings with it long months of cold weather, gray skies and very little sun. Everyone returns to their normal life and the gatherings become few and far between. There are no preparations to be made and at the risk of sounding pessimistic or depressing, there’s not much to look forward to.  But what I realized is, it doesn’t have to be that way. By making resolutions of things I’d like to change about my life in the new year, that will give me something to focus on.  Maybe many of you already realize this but for me, this is the first year that I think I truly get that.  I want to spend more quality time with my family. I want to continue writing. I want to push aside fears that keep me from achieving goals I set.  I want to push myself to reach more goals.  I want to learn more, do more and stretch further out of my comfort zone.  In order to do that, I need to be better organized and take better care of myself.

To keep these resolutions I will need to shake up my routine and resist the pull back into what is familiar.  But that’s okay. I believe it’s possible to have the solitude I enjoy and the social interactions that I often forget I need. The new year does not have to mean returning to the monotony of a slightly different version of the previous day.  It does not have to begin with a Holiday Hangover. It can be starting new routines or throwing routines out the window all together.  It’s all in how I choose to make it.

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Under Vegas Lights

Vegas is many things.  There’s gambling, sure but there is also the glitz and glamour of  the enormous hotels, casinos, shows and the miles and miles of high end retail stores.  But for a writer like me, who is not big on gambling, it’s a sensory overload and huge source of inspiration. 

I’ve been to Vegas a couple times before and as I packed my bags for this most recent trip -accompanying my husband who had a conference there – I was not looking forward to hitting it big on the slots but to having some time away from the day to day distractions so that I could write.  I set goals for myself and while I didn’t reach those goals, I did manage to get some writing done and come away with something more. 

As we hit the airport for a long trip there due to a lengthy layover in Denver, I decided that I would do a blog post about my trip.  I’m an observer and people watcher by nature and what better fuel for inspiration than a crowded airport.  

When we approached our gate in Denver, I couldn’t help but smile when the sign at our gate read “Reno”, which is the name of a character in my good friend Jas T. Ward’s Shadow Keeper Series. But my observations and the questions they raised didn’t end there.  It was announced that our flight had not only been delayed but also moved to another gate.  I wondered what caused the change and what caused the delay.  Mechanical problems?  Bad weather in another city?  Something else?

We made the trek to the new gate and our wait continued.  I got as comfortable as I could in the waiting area, choosing a seat with at least one seat buffer between me and another person, plugging in my phone to charge and pulling out a book.  It seemed to go by fast enough and when they announced it was time to board, I collected my things and looked over, noticing a guy sunk down in his seat, a well worn baseball cap pulled down low over his eyes and his mouth hanging slightly open.  He was out cold.  I briefly wondered if I should wake him as the rustle of passengers near him didn’t seem to disturb his sleep.  I didn’t.  Though maybe I should have because I wondered if he missed his flight.  

We proceeded to line up near the numbered posts by the Southwest gate and I watched as people asked what boarding number they had or peered over the shoulders of others to get a peek at their boarding pass to ensure all were adhering to the honor system that seemed to be in place to board the plane in numerical order. 

The flight went by fairly quickly since I was able to sleep through most of it.  And when we got checked in and settled into our room at the hotel, it was well after midnight or 3 am east coast time.  In spite of being exhausted we did decide to make a quick loop to check out our new home for the week.  But by the time we went back to the room, I just wanted sleep.  

The next day arrived when I blinked open my eyes not more than 3 hours later. Sleep while traveling always evades me.

I quickly discovered that the time my husband was going to be off in meetings was less than first anticipated.  Between that, maid service interruptions and the need to get ready for social functions associated with this conference, my writing time was greatly impacted.  A small frustration since I had set goals but as I look back at the trip, I realize that I did come back with more than a few extra dollars in my pocket.  Over the week, through winning, losing, walking around doing the tourist thing and through people I’d met or encountered in the elevator, restaurants or on the street, I gathered inspiration for future writing:

The guy sleeping at the airport

The chat had with the staff closing up at the smokers lounge in the Denver airport.

The maid we had all week who was so friendly, you couldn’t help but smile.

The young, good looking, suit wearing guy – I’ve labeled him Christian Grey or Gideon Cross. Yes, that is who he reminded me of – who joked with me in the elevator about the elevator choosing to ignore my repeated attempts to press the button for my floor.   

The woman from Israel who -again I met in the elevator- and was so friendly, excited to be there and seemed to want to fit as much conversation into the brief ride up as possible. 

The couple tiredly toting their suitcases into – yes, you guessed it, the elevator – our last night there.  They had just arrived and I thought that they looked as exhausted as we felt that first night. 

The man pushing a woman in a wheelchair into the elevator; the woman with drink in hand. Turns out she hurt herself stumbling off some steps.  But by the smiles on their faces, they weren’t going to allow that to slow them down. 

The flustered dealer at the roulette table who was handing out the wrong winnings.  To another player, thankfully. I double checked. 

The loud non stop talking guy at the table next to us at a buffet who spent his entire meal talking to his friends about how good he was at his job. Anybody looking for a good fabricator, I now know a guy…

The many people who dressed up as Star Wars characters, Hello Kitty, Pee Wee Herman, Show Girls or Spartan warriors who lined the streets waiting for people to ask to pose for pictures with them. 

The guy holding a sign that read “Kick me in the nuts for $20”. Proof you can make money at anything. 

Standing on one of the sky walks overlooking the lights and Billboards that line Las Vegas Boulevard and thinking the music I heard was a great mix of a favorite song.  Only to turn around and realize it wasn’t music piped out to the streets from one of the casinos but was a guy right across the skywalk from me beatboxing it. 

Again, Vegas is many things.  It’s Italy, France, Egypt, Monaco.  It’s upscale or budget friendly. It’s home to wealthy and to homeless.  It’s home to vice.  It’s also home to creativity and talent and those putting themselves out there because they are passionate about something.

While I’m of the strong belief inspiration can be found anywhere, the neon lights of the Vegas strip shining down on all these everyday people attending conferences, on vacations or making a living by performing on the street, cleaning hotel rooms or dealing at tables, reminded me of that fact.  Each person has a story even if the only small snippet you see of their story is of them sleeping in a seat in a crowded airport.  

 

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The Path That Guides You by R.J. Loom

The Path That Guides You by R.J. Loom.

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