Why I Took (Most) of My Books Off Amazon

Since the summer of 2012, I’ve self-published 13 books on my own.  The writing, editing, formatting, cover design, etc., was all my own doing.  From start-to-finish, every book I’ve churned out (10 novels, 3 poetry collections) has been a labor of love and insanity.  But of those 13 books, there’s only 6  I could recommend to you without cringing, or giving some sort of disclaimer.

See, I did the self-publishing thing on my own.  Since I started, almost three years ago, I’ve had other writers interested in self-publishing contact me to ask about anything from formatting to pricing.  Heck, I even self-published one woman’s debut novel, because it’s not the easiest process in the world to go through and sometimes, when you have a book you just want to release now, it pays to have someone else do it. (she self-published her second book on her own, and I’m proud of her for conquering that learning curve)  I’m not saying I’m the reason these people have gone on to release successful books, because they’re all wickedly talented, but I like to think the process was made easier for them because they had someone to turn to.

I didn’t have that.  Self-publishing wasn’t as popular three years ago as it is now, and even if it had been, I didn’t know anyone who’d self-published.  Okay, not true- I’d known people who’d gone the traditional self-publishing route, where they worked with an independent printing company and shelled out $5,000 for their first run… of which they might have sold 20 copies out of 500.  18 and fresh out of college, I didn’t have that kind of money and I really didn’t want to try and sell 500 copies of a book I wasn’t sure people would like.  So I jumped onboard the online self-publishing bandwagon and for the past three years, I’ve been trying to figure out how to swim in this tumultuous ocean.

… okay, three years in and I can honestly say I’m still trying to figure out how to tread water.

Look at the books I’ve published and you’ll see how I’ve grown, not only as an author, but as a book publisher as well.  There are still areas I’m not great at (lacking an artistic bone, I hate cover designing), but I’m getting better all the time.  And I’m proud of that.  I love every book I’ve ever written… but there are some that make me cringe when I think, “What if that’s the first book someone reads by me?”

I’ve had people start at the beginning, with my debut novel, and decide they dislike my writing and find the whole production to be immature and lacking.  These are people who live hundreds of miles away from me, anonymously review my book, and there’s no way I can say to them, “Try my latest book.  My latest is always my best.”  I can’t convince people I can’t talk to; I can’t give you a disclaimer if you’re not there to hear it.

So I’ve decided to remove some of my books from Amazon.  What remains are the books I would recommend to someone without cringing or offering some explanation.  Because I’ve come to accept the fact that people’s first impression of me is going to be what they find on Amazon, so might as well make it the best I can offer.

But for those of you who are interested in my evolution as an author (or any relatives who insist on owning a copy of every book I’ve ever written), all my books will forever be available through Createspace.  It’s the Amazon owned company I publish through, but it doesn’t get anywhere near the traffic as my Amazon page, so I’ve deemed it a safe place to have all my books available without running the risk of ruining someone’s first impression of me.

As for future writing?  You have to admit, 13 books in 2.5 years is impressive.  There were so many stories I wanted to tell and words I had to say in those first three years and I have to say, I think I’ve said them all.  Now I’d like to slow down, put a little more elbow grease into what I do, and maybe just craft something that’s really something.  My projects for now consist of a poetry collection, and a general fiction novel set on the Oregon Coast.  I can’t say when these books will be ready for publication, but you’ll know where to find them when they finally are. :)

Until then, thank you to the people who have read all my books, have sworn they’re not as bad as I think, and have encouraged me to keep going, keep learning, keep experimenting, keep having fun.  It means the world to me.

-Britt

Here’s Why I’m Single, And Why Your Children Should Date

A few years ago, my brother watched me tear into a hunk of fried chicken and (jokingly) decided I was single because of my table manners.  Other people have joked that the men in my family would do away with any guy who came-a-calling.  Others claim it’s because I’m an independent woman who will drop-kick you into the next zip code if you annoy me.

To varying degrees, all of this is true: the men in my family are protective and probably intimidating to outsiders; I’m not afraid to break ass myself; if you value your life, you will not come between me and food.

Here’s the real reason I’m single: I’m gun-shy.  A string of stupid decisions have left a bad taste in my mouth when it comes to men and the thought of dating one.  But let me back up real quick.

My grandmother sent me an article about why courtship was fundamentally flawed.  Having grown up in the church and having read “I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” I thought there was no way this article could be right.  You know?  The author had to be some confused, secular person or… something.  Yeah, right.

Christian. Homeschooled. “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” veteran.  Essentially me only older and male.  So I read the article, if only to humor my grandmother who would no doubt ask me for my thoughts when she saw me next.  I was giving the article maybe 5% of my attention until I read this line:

It is not uncommon to find a 21 year old stay at home daughter who has never been asked out on a date.

I’d just turned 21 and had to take a long pause as I tried to figure out who’d decided it was okay to use me as a case study for this article.  After getting over myself, I scrolled back to the beginning and this time, I really read it.  And I agree with everything that was said.

It’s time to let your children date.

The author took his grandmother out and asked her for the rundown on how dating was back in her day.  There was a simple rule: Don’t go out with the same guy twice in a row.  So… lunch with Tom on Tuesday, a movie with Bill on Friday, dinner with Tom on Saturday.  By the end of high school, this grandmother had dated plenty of Toms and Bills and knew which Tom or Bill she wanted to marry.  Best part of her dating strategy? (okay, the one her parent’s designed?)  Because she was dating so many different guys, no one guy felt like he was entitled; the relationships weren’t exclusive.  As she said, “The guys wouldn’t even want to kiss you!”

I didn’t date when I was a teen.  At 13 I was told I could court, but dating wasn’t allowed.  But as a teen with issues, desperate for love and acceptance, with a penchant for diving into the emotional deep end, and then writing about it… I found ways.  Just because I couldn’t date didn’t mean I couldn’t give away parts of my heart for free.  It was so easy to fall for boys who’d bask in that adoration, soak it up, and then say just the right things to keep me going; it was even easier for those boys who got all the affection and didn’t need to commit to get it.

As soon as I turned 18, I dove head first into a relationship (coincidentally, my brother did the same).  It was a train wreck.  Emotionally abusive and manipulative, with just a dash of possessive/control issues.  I tried to play it cool at first; I’d grown up with a heavy male presence in my life and had always been comfortable around guys, which apparently translated into me having “experience.”  He definitely had experience so I wanted it to seem like I wasn’t some semi-emotionally-stunted girl who was about to get her first real boyfriend.

Cue disaster.  After the relationship ended, I crawled into a hole to lick my wounds and emerged (some time later) completely gun-shy.  What few guys showed an interest in me after that sent me diving back into that hole and waiting for everything to blow over.  The men in my life now are either related to me, or platonic friendships (or writing mentorships) founded with people who live states away.  So, you know, I don’t actually have to see them in person.

I wish I’d dated as a teen.  I wish I’d learned how to spend time with a guy and walk away with my heart intact.  I wish I’d dated so many guys, I could spot who the players were and which ones were genuinely interested.  I wish I had a list of guys I’d dated, instead of a list of guys I gave my heart away to for nothing.  It’s not that I’m looking for a relationship, but I do have that nagging voice in the back of my mind reminding me that, should someone come along, I’m pretty much incapable of forming any sort of relationship with them.  Actually, I’m pretty sure I’d much rather die alone than go through the guaranteed awkward embarrassment of putting myself out there.

So please, if you’re a parent reading this, let your kids date.  They’ll do it anyways, so why not teach them how to do it right?  Set rules, discuss them, and be honest; no more talk of how “you’ll understand when you’re older” and “dating is something you do when you’re serious and an adult.”  They’re going to fall in love and date, so teach them how to guard their hearts.  Teach them their worth.  Teach them how to date so they don’t end up an insecure twenty-something who has people telling them they need to date, yet have no clue how to date.

Or have grandma teach them how to date, because grandmas seem to have pretty solid dating strategies.

Until next time.
-B.

My Life From Scratch [a review]

First things first: Gesine Bullock-Prado, author of “My Life From Scratch,” is the younger sister of Sandra Bullock.  Yes, that Sandra Bullock.  Funny woman, America’s Sweetheart, total babe.  That Sandra.  Or as Gesine calls her, “Sandy.”  You learn this fun fact towards the beginning of the book, but it’s hardly the story.

As head of her celebrity sister’s production company, Gesine Bullock-Prado had a closet full of designer clothes and the ear of all the influential studio heads, but she was miserable. The only solace she found was in her secret hobby: baking.Screen Shot 2015-01-13 at 5.30.47 PM

With every sugary, buttery confection to emerge from her oven, Gesine took one step away from her glittery, empty existence—and one step closer to her true destiny. Before long, she and her husband left the trappings of their Hollywood lifestyle behind, ending up in Vermont, where they started the gem known as Gesine Confectionary. And they never looked back.

Confections of a Closet Master Baker follows Gesine’s journey from sugar-obsessed child to miserable, awkward Hollywood insider to reluctant master baker. Chock-full of eccentric characters, beautifully detailed descriptions of her baking process, ceaselessly funny renditions of Hollywood nonsense, and recipes, the ingredients of her story will appeal to anyone who has ever considered leaving the life they know and completely starting over.

The real story here is Gesine, who sells her soul to a Hollywood production company then decides, “Nah, I want to make cake instead.”  And so she does. (there’s a lot more mental anguish, closeted baking, and taking candy from the devil, but you get the gist of it)  She uproots and moves to Vermont with her uber-charming and tactful husband Ray, and the pair of them decide to open a bakery in a town smaller than mine, staffed by people I would like to know.

The flow of the story is as perfect as the best pastry you’ve ever had.  Gesine starts with her childhood affair with sweets and then quickly moves to life at the bakery, starting at the (ridiculously early) beginning of her day and dragging you along for the ride.  She fills in the hours with snappy bios of co-workers and regulars, flashbacks to life with her German mother and grandmother, and the occasional snippet about how Sandy is one of the best sisters in the world.  You see Gesine’s relatable introversion, sass, and inability to act normal in front of a camera (be it for a write-up in the local paper, or a segment on Food Network).  All the while, Gesine is sharing her recipes with the guarantee that she hasn’t changed a single ingredient or measurement.  So, you know, if you can’t go to Montpelier, Vermont and visit her bakery in person, you can make some of her goodies at home.

Perhaps my favorite element of Gesine’s story is the continual presence of her health-nut mother.  Living in a family of health-nuts myself, I shared Gesine’s pain as her mother insisted on quinoa and wheatgerm when all young!Gesine wanted was cake.  Her mother subscribed to the belief that there’s a time and place for everything, especially dessert.  But despite Gesine’s eye-rolling at her mom as a child, she grew up to understand and appreciate what her mother was trying to teach her: that you need to be conscientious about your indulgence.  Have cake, but have a slice.  Living in a society that is pushing acceptance of obesity, I feel this is a message that needs to be plastered all over the county.  Everything in moderation, guys.  Get that cupcake, but don’t eat the whole damn bakery.

So if you’re in need of a straight-forward, recipe filled, honest read about the power of pastry and the perks of a European upbringing (and how mom is great, no matter what gluten-free nonsense she feeds you), make “My Life From Scratch” that book.

★★★★★

Check out Gesine’s blog, her books, and her delicious looking Instagram feed.

a taste of “Garlic and Sapphires.” [a review]

Gentlemen may prefer blondes, but redheads have more fun, as proven by Ruth Reichl in her book “Garlic and Sapphires.”  While not about hair color, it is about her years working as the restaurant critic for the New York Times, a job that required quite a few creative disguises.  Skim over what the book is about (below), and then let’s move on to the food.

Ruth Reichl, world-renowned food critic and former editor in chief of Gourmet magazine, knows a thing or two about food. She also knows that as the most important food critic in the country, you need to be 9780143036616_p0_v1_s260x420anonymous when reviewing some of the most high-profile establishments in the biggest restaurant town in the world—a charge she took very seriously, taking on the guise of a series of eccentric personalities. In Garlic and Sapphires, Reichl reveals the comic absurdity, artifice, and excellence to be found in the sumptuously appointed stages of the epicurean world and gives us—along with some of her favorite recipes and reviews—her remarkable reflections on how one’s outer appearance can influence one’s inner character, expectations, and appetites, not to mention the quality of service one receives.

I love hearing people describe food, especially the taste, because I have a hard time tasting certain spices and ingredients.  For me, hearing someone describe a meal is like tasting that dish in a way I’ll never actually taste it, because my tastebuds like being defective.  So for me, Ruth Reichl is… a dream come true? someone I want to spend the rest of my life listening to as she describes food?  all the above?

As The Washington Post Book World said,

Reading Ruth Reichl on food is almost as good as eating it.

What I love is that Ruth was a cook long before she was a critic, which I feel gives her a leg-up with the whole “describing food for the masses” schtick.  I can see her writing some amazing menus that would make people drool long before they ordered.  Heck, this book made me drool a couple times and just like the Food Network, I found myself having to pause frequently to dig up some food to eat while reading because this book makes you hungry.  In an absolutely wonderful, “I want to eat like that, but also cook like that,” kind of way.

Ruth doesn’t just talk about food, though.  As the restaurant critic for The New York Times, the restaurant world keeps an eye out for her, which results in her creating a few clever disguises with the help of friends and family.  You see her as an icy blonde, a vivacious redhead that attracts crowds, and my favorite: her mother.  She throws herself into each role, becoming her new identity with an ease that is surprising, but so honest, it’s impossible to read about her transformations and not recognize that in yourself.  We’re all chameleons.  We can all change, fill a role, be someone else.  It’s just that so few of us have a real reason to do that, but reading about Ruth’s adventures, seeing the different aspects of her personality brought to life, left me wanting to play dress up, take myself out, and get to know the different sides of me.

“Garlic and Sapphires” not only left me hungry for food, but it left me hungry to discover other sides of me.  My best side (Ruth’s “Brenda”), my worst (her “Emily”), and the part of me I inherited from those who came before (“Miriam”).  This book is as deep, flavorful, and layered as the food Ruth Reichl describes, which makes me want to flip to the beginning and go back for seconds.

Maybe even thirds.

★★★★★

Check out Ruth and her books here.

I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti… and it was delicious. [a review]

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“I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti” by Giulia Melucci is the kind of book you pick up on a whim at a bookstore, because the title has to do with spaghetti, there is spaghetti on the cover, and there’s a promise of recipes inside… being written by an Italian-American woman, you assume there’s going to be at least one spaghetti recipe and, if you haven’t noticed by now, I have a thing for spaghetti.  Who doesn’t?

Melucci’s book, for me, is just as I described above- that impulse buy because it was about food and love and that was all I needed to know.  The recipes were an added bonus.  But here, just so you’re not left in the dark, is what this book is really about.

From failure to fusilli, this deliciously hilarious read tells the story of Giulia Melucci’s fizzled romances and the mouth-watering recipes she used to seduce her men, smooth over the lumps, and console herself when the relationships flamed out.

From an affectionate alcoholic, to the classic New York City commitment-phobe, to a hipster aged past his sell date, and not one, but two novelists with Peter Pan complexes, Giulia has cooked for them all. She suffers each disappointment with resolute cheer (after a few tears) and a bowl of pastina (recipe included) and has lived to tell the tale so that other women may go out, hopefully with greater success, and if that’s not possible, at least have something good to eat.

Peppered throughout Giulia’s delightful and often poignant remembrances are fond recollections of her mother’s cooking, the recipes she learned from her, and many she invented on her own inspired by the men in her life. Readers will howl at Giulia’s boyfriend-littered past and swoon over her irresistible culinary creations.

Okay, so it’s exactly what I described- food and love.  It’s also about a woman in the book business (!!!) who managed to cook delicious food using cookware she picked up at REI (a camp stove, wasn’t it?), and fell in love with as many men as she did types of pasta. (by the way, you will come out the other side of this book being a pasta snob and thinking you can make your own from scratch)

My favorite part?  She’s completely shameless about it all.  … her love of men and pasta.

The older me and my friends get, the more I feel the pressure to be “cool” about dating.  As if we’re somehow supposed to mature overnight to the ridiculous extent that an attractive guy checking us out is not cause for a breath check, but rather a dismissive look as we wait for him to approach.

Come. On.

Somehow getting more mature the more you date and not acting like a lovesick teen girl is an old wives tale and having just finished reading Melucci’s book (scratch that, I’m calling her Giulia), I think she’d agree with me.  Because no matter how bad the last heartbreak was, and no matter how not-so-prospective the next one looks, Giulia lets herself dream.  She can have the house and the names of the kids picked out before date number one and yes, she is a grown woman who gushes to her friends about all the details and the fantasy dream house she’ll have (with a gorgeous kitchen, of course), and I love her for that.  I love that she’s fearless in her love life as well as her cooking life. (homemade pasta from scratch? with no recipe? hats off.)

I also love that, although this is a memoir about “good food and bad boyfriends,” Giulia never digs at the exes.  This book does not read like a bad breakup song, but rather one woman’s story about all the relationships that didn’t work out (despite winning over the man’s stomach, no matter how delicate) and how she’s still hopeful she’ll meet The One.  But also, there comes a point where Giulia completely accepts herself, her singleness, and decides to be happy.  She stops waiting for Mr. Right, the big wedding, the picket fence, and just buys her own place.  She makes “fabricated” (factory made) pasta for her boyfriends and decides to save her homemade pasta for The One, enjoying it herself until he shows up.  She’s not shy about her love in any area of life and that’s the kind of woman I aspire to one day be. (also, I want to write about food the way she writes about food, because it sounds less like a meal and more like an old, dear friend who can solve any of your problems)

To wrap it up, I’m a fan of endings, and I particularly liked Giulia’s.  I try not to skip ahead, because I want the ending to be a surprise, and while this ending wasn’t exactly a surprise, it is, nonetheless, perfect.

Giulia’s recipes are interspersed throughout the book, tying in with the narrative at appropriate times.  She concluded the book with this recipe:

HOMEMADE PASTA
Flour
Eggs

I don’t know the exact measure.
I’m still trying to figure out the steps.

Five stars, you guys.  Or maybe five bites?  Five plates of spaghetti?

Until next time.
-Britt.

Check out Giulia and her book here.

Howl Book Tour, Book Sale, Book Giveaway… lots of books.

Hey Guys!

For those of you who don’t know, Howl is currently on a little book blog tour this week.  For the master post that tells you which blogs are participating (reviews, promos, fun facts, etc.), check out this schedule over at Book Enthusiast Promotions.  There’s also a little giveaway going on at the moment (2 signed copies of Howl, 3 ebook copies of Howl, and 2 ebook copies of Star Fall), so feel free to enter when you check out the schedule!

Howl-blog-tour-banner

If keeping up with a blog tour just isn’t your thing, don’t worry; I’ll be recapping the highlights at the end of the week.  But just so you know, Howl is $.99 on Kindle this week, or if paperbacks are your thing, it’s 30% off on Createspace.  Just use code L3BDG29X at checkout. :)

I’ll be back after the tour is over to tell you about my upcoming book (hint: it’s not a novel), and fill you in on the latest novel I’m working on.  Until then!

-Britt

Value As A Writer

This time last year, I was applying to writing residencies, poetry scholarships, and sending in submissions to writing contests.  I’d basically spent the year throwing myself into the self-publishing pool and attempting to swim, and I had decided it was time I was recognized for my talent.  Or rather, enough people had told me to broaden my horizons, make a name for myself, and “get out there,” that I bottled up all my hopes and dreams and sent them to strangers with the best intentions.

Guess what?  I was rejected.  Every. single. time.  One of my applications was even lost in the mail and later returned to me by a postal worker and yes, I may have cried, because I’d really wanted to win.  Sure, the opportunity I had applied for would have been amazing, but I basically just wanted to win.  Why?  Because I figured it would validate me and make me a “real” writer.

I’m a self-published author.  That means I do everything from writing the book to designing the cover and promoting the finished product.  I make books.  Yet for some reason, I’m not as legitimate as my traditionally published brethren.  Even they don’t get the recognition they deserve.  Hell, even people who land the New York Times’ Best Sellers list don’t really matter that much outside book circles anymore.  Now, success is measured by whether or not your book was made into a movie, and a good one at that.

For a self-published author, the odds of one of my books being made into a movie (or tv show- also considered “making it”) are next to nil.  I have a better chance of becoming fluent in a foreign language and if you know me, you know how bad I am with languages.  I’m pretty sure I could become a Victoria’s Secret model before landing a movie deal, which shows how nearly impossible it is, because I’m 5’5″ and would need serious knee/leg surgery to be VS Angel height.

So it’s virtually impossible for me to be a “real” writer/author by the world’s standards.  But I don’t particularly care about the world’s opinion as I do the opinions of those I meet.  Mostly because those are the opinions I’m going to encounter face-to-face, but also because there are a lot of people in the world and I long ago accepted I can’t please everyone.

The number one question I’m asked after telling someone I’m an author is, “How much money do you make writing?”  Some people ask out of genuine curiosity, but the majority need to know how much money I make so they can classify my writing as either a hobby or a career.  Because that’s all writing is.  It’s either that thing you do while you look for a real job, or it’s actually your job and “gee, wow, how cool! How can I get paid to stay home all day in my pajamas and write?”  At this point, I’m pretty sure that answer is something along the lines of “Sell your soul to the Devil.”

Apparently, writing isn’t worth it if I’m not making bank.  Apparently, I’m not a “real” author unless I have a contract with an actual publishing house, preferably one of the Big Five.  Apparently, people should only read the book once the movie trailer has been released… or after they see the movie.  … or never.

Establishing your worth in a world full of unique, inspired, artistic people is hard.  Actually, it’s more along the lines of tiresome, soul-crushing, and you may or may not abandon all hope and take a desk job that will steal your sanity in a different way.  I entered contest after contest looking for my worth.  I figured if I won an award, I could tell everyone I was more than just a writer, I was an award winning writer.  My writing wouldn’t be a hobby then, right? I’d be worth something… right?

A year later, and I almost missed the submission deadlines for those same writing opportunities I applied for a year ago.  It’s not that I don’t care whether or not my application gets there, it’s just that I’m no longer obsessed.  I don’t need a fancy award to tell me I’m a good writer, because there’s a girl in Wisconsin who buys my books and writes essay long letters to me telling me why she liked them.  I don’t need to win a contest, because my younger siblings think I’m cool and that’s about as validated as you can get.  My older brother brags about me.  Someone dressed as a character of mine for Halloween.  A friend wants one of my poems to be her next tattoo.  I’ve met so many wonderful, artistic, helpful, and kind people, which is something that would not have happened had I not continued to write.  You can’t win friends like these.

I’m going to keep entering contests, not to win the award, but to challenge myself.  I’m going to keep trying for amazing writing opportunities, because this is what I want to do with my life and I want to better my craft.  But above all, I’m going to keep writing.  For my friends, for my family, for you and your friends.  I’ll keep writing.

Because I’m a writer, and that’s what we do. :)