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Saturday, May 28, 2011

France, ready or not, here I come!

Oy vey. I am so not prepared for this trip but what can you do? I still haven't packed. My flight isn't until tomorrow night at 8:30pm so I feel like I have plenty of time to do it tomorrow. I have gone shopping for all my personal items (soap, handy wipes, toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, et cetera) so I have prepared in that way but I haven't tackled my wardrobe and to be honest, it is a daunting prospect.

If I am to be honest, truly the reason why I have not packed as of yet is because I really don't know what to take. This global warming has me (and the weather) all screwed up. Take us here in Vegas for instance. I don't know how many of you have actually been here in May but usually it's a hot. I don't mean sort of, "oh, isn't it a bit warm?" hot but "Damn, where is the nearest casino/strip mall/indoors place with air conditioning?" hot. We usually have entered the late 90s by this time if we haven't already started on our 100 degree plus days and this lasts until about mid to late September (one year, it lasted until early October).

This year, the weather has been bi-polar. I don't know any other word for it. Perhaps Mother Earth is manic depressive? One minute (today), it is a high of almost 90 degrees. You're blasting your air-con in the car and generally sweltering. Now, it's windy and the temps have dropped into the 60s. Our high for tomorrow? 61 degrees. No, that's not a misprint. A whopping 61 degrees! If that isn't bi-polar, I don't know what is. And it has been like this all month. For a few days, we'll have temps into the 80s and maybe a day flirting with 91 or 92 and then bam!, it's back down to temps in the late 60s and early 70s. WTF?

Now, if I hadn't lived here for the past seven years and didn't know usual Vegas weather like the back of my hand, I would say perhaps it is an anomaly. But it has NEVER been like this as long as I have been here. It has always been no spring weather (not really)... just straight from cool temps to hot temps. And now, my body is all screwed up. I'm actually sweating on days in the 80s when they used to not even phase me. I complain about it being hot when it is a mere 90 degrees (and that is nothing for a city which spends most of June and July with 100+ temps and July is usually 110+).

Mmm, don't know what it is... end of the world, maybe? The temps in France are just as schizo so this isn't purely an American phenomenon. They have highs in the mid 70s and temps at night in the 40s and 50s. Huh? In the spring time? Yes, I know, Paris is a bit north and therefore going to be cooler. It isn't Barcelona or Madrid and I don't expect it to be but then again, it isn't Manchester either. So, what's going on?

Basically, the moral of this story is I will layer and not take many clothes for *hot* days. I will take some thin shirts in case I need to peel off a few layers but I think it is safe to say I can leave my shorts and capris at home.

The next time I communicate with you all, I will be on French time so don't be surprised if you receive blog updates at odd times as they are 9 hours ahead Pacific Standard Time (6 hours for EST et cetera for all y'all living in Mountain and Central). You'll figure it out. I wish you all a wonderful weekend and will be back again soon!

Au revoir... ;-)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Anyone on Facebook you never want to run into?

Yes, I know that was not a very grammatically correct headline (if the newspapers can get away with it, why can't I?) and I apologize to the one follower I have at the moment but read me out. I have been extremely busy this week as my BFF flew down from L.A. to see me for a couple of days (two days of gambling and not going to bed before dawn has made me a not-so-happy-camper). I then only had three days to prepare The Hook Up: Book Two but it was done and posted on Smashwords, Pubit (B&N) and Amazon this afternoon by me. I also worked on the paperback version as well on CreateSpace.

All of this has to be put into perspective as I am leaving on a month-long vacation to France on Sunday to see friends and I still haven't packed. I haven't left my computer all day (except for quick errands that couldn't be helped). I am working insanely long hours between the book and promotion. I try my best to write on this blog at least twice per week (that has suffered this week and for that, I apologize) and I also have a full time life outside my work as an author (who doesn't so no excuses being made).

I have spoken about my divorce (albeit briefly) because it had to do with my books. I changed my name and resubmitted all my work in both my maiden and divorced last names because this series is merely a transition. When I begin the Pop Stars novella series, Benson will be long gone and I will no longer use this hideous name which carries nothing but bad memories for me.

Okay, so what does this have to do with what I was talking about and my headline? A fellow blogger is getting a divorce from her husband (for her own privacy, I will not share her name and unless you follow her blog, you would have no idea). I thought I was pretty much over mine now that it has been more than a year. I would like to believe I am a strong woman; independent and very capable of moving on. In a way I have. I don't date (at the moment) but that is merely because my professional life (divided between university and my more-than-full-time job as a writer and author) keep me very busy. That's not to say there isn't someone special in my life or who could be special but it's only to say at this time in my life, I am merely donating all my time and energy to my schooling and writing. I am living vicariously through my art, so to speak!

So, I sign on to Facebook yesterday and up pops the "People You Might Know" button or whatever it says and there he is. The one person I would rather not see ever again. If I could have lived my whole life and never laid eyes on him, I would have been one happy camper. But no. He's there mocking me, arm-in-arm with a trashy bleach-blonde who looks like an Eastern European prostitute who hasn't escaped white slavery yet (my apologies to Eastern European prostitutes in white slavery; you're probably better looking and much nicer people too!).

He is listed under a different name of course. I always knew he didn't use the name we had as our married name and our marriage was complicated and an absolute mess. I won't say much more than that as I feel like I have preserved his identity even if I have probably massacred my own. I know I sound petty and mean and probably just a spiteful witch who is just jealous. I'm all of those things but most of all, I am hurt. Hurt that I still feel anything for this human being. Hurt that he can still hurt me. Hurt because I am ashamed to admit my feelings to my family but I can tell the whole world literally in cyberspace.

Okay, the pity party is over. Please forgive me but as I am a writer, I'm allowed to be temperamental (Henry Miller and Ernest Hemingway are my heroes).

Without further ado, I unleash the cover of The Hook Up: Book Two of The Beautiful People series now available on Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/62547. It should be available on Kindle and B&N tomorrow.

Enjoy and I will definitely update before I leave for France and while I am vacationing there too. I will be spending some much beloved time between Versailles (yes, it has a famous chateau but it is also a suburb home to over 100,000 people; some of which are my friends) and Paris. Have a wonderful weekend and a lovely evening.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Coming by the end of the month...

I have been doing this whole e-book thing almost a month and the only thing it has convinced me of is nothing helps sales like more books. I was going to pace the novellas coming out but as they are completed (they just have to be edited), there is no reason to speed up the process and have them come out every two weeks, or even every week. The only snag is June since I will be France the whole time and I work on two different laptops. My netbook is easier for me to write on but I need my 15 inch to do editing and it has an official "Word" version (as opposed to just Open Office).

So, without further ado, I will release The Hook Up: Book Two before Memorial Day (I leave on the 29th so that gives me plenty of time and as the cover has been completed, it's only a matter of re-editing and proof reading). I didn't want to seem like a rank amateur and churn out copies of rubbish; badly edited and barely proof-read novellas which everyone would complain about quality but at the same time, I no longer have school as the semester is over and I just can't stay on the writer's boards as they are much too depressing. It's better if I were to actually do something with my time (especially since I can't write at the moment).

TBP series is draining all my time and energy and until it's finished and completely published, I highly doubt much will be done on my current novel. This makes me a bit upset as I want to write but at the same time, there is so much that needs to be done and the most important issue is to get myself noticed and to be out there.

I've had my first interview and I love it so much, I am giving a shout-out to the blogger, Nadine. Here's the link: http://www.indieebooks.blogspot.com/. I was interviewed on Friday so I'm below the Osama Bin Laden book. ;-)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

An author's work is never done!

Argh! Apologies to the few fans I must have which follow this blog. Not only is it the last week of school (two more finals to go) but I have been trying to turn my novella into an ePub document (without success so far but we'll see how that goes), have also signed up for Barnes & Noble.com, re-vamped my cover for the Kindle version and have completed a ROW edition (Rest of The World for the uninitiated).

If I might try to explain in not so many words, I have a lot of friends who live outside the States and as English isn't their native language, I didn't want them to have to also have a measurement book next to them as they read my novel. For their sakes, in the ROW edition, I use the metric system of measurement and the euro/pound as opposed to the dollar. Yes, it was a lot of work but to me it was worth it.

I also have posted my first Craigslist ad in the Las Vegas section; it was a bit scary at first and I don't know what will come of it (most of the books on sale were from UNLV and CSN; mine lists a link to my Amazon Kindle book page and also has the two new covers I used).

It's a bit confusing because I wanted to use the color version for B&N (and CreateSpace) but the black and white was used. On Kindle, the B&W is the ROW edition;  the color is the U.S. edition. As Kindle is the only place I will be selling the ROW edition, I hope I haven't confused people.

In other news, I leave for France in less than two weeks and I can't even start to get excited about it because I am still preoccupied by my book. As I am the neurotic type, what will I do once uni ends officially at the end of this week?

And the other change, I am claiming my name back. All new editions of my novellas will be written under Blanchard Benson; once The Beautiful People series is over, I will no longer use Benson at all in my writing career. The marriage was dreadful, the divorce even more so; the quicker I can shed that dreary name in public, the better.

Without further ado, here are the new covers. I believe this reflect the essence of the book better than the lovely statues I photographed myself mostly at Versailles. In case anyone is wondering where the photos are from, there are many royalty-free sites where you can find hundreds of thousands of stock photos to use for your book. I use depositphoto.com as they offered a week for free to try it out and I think they are an awesome site!

(Amazon Kindle) http://www.amazon.com/Proposal-Book-Beautiful-People-ebook/dp/B00512EI28/
(Barnes & Noble) http://search.barnesandnoble.com/The-Proposal/Danielle-Blanchard-Benson/e/2940012571991/
(CreateSpace) https://www.createspace.com/3614624

Monday, May 9, 2011

Contests & Incentives

I troll all the different communities for us self-published writers and it just occurred to me that sometimes, you have to make your own luck. I am in a very comfortable position because I have written a series and therefore I can afford to be a bit generous. So, I decided to start my own Facebook page for my writing and I posted a few contests as well.

*The first fifty people to buy my book will receive a free Amazon Kindle version of The Hook Up: Book Two.

*Of those fifty,  the first ten will actually receive a free autographed paperback edition of The Hook Up: Book Two.

*I am also hosting a contest for the first fifty people and one lucky winner will win The Beautiful People series (I suppose I should have said they win books two through eight as they will have purchased book one).

I suppose what really gives me solace is the one author who said she sold zero copies of her book the first month, twenty-odd copies the second month, fifty-odd copies the third month and more than seven hundred the fourth month. The author said she had sold more than seven thousand copies of her book so far. That is amazing and although Stephen King and James Patterson shouldn't quit their day jobs for fear of this author, I still believe that is quite an accomplishment.

Being a self-published author doesn't mean you have to only depend on Kindle to sell your novel; so far I also have copies of my novel on CreateSpace (where I created a paperback edition that is out of this world and brought tears to my eyes when I received the proof in the mail), my novel is also available on Scribd and Smashwords. For those who don't understand how big Smashwords is, they have a premium site which, if your book is chosen, feeds into Sony and Barnes & Noble amongst other book stores and ebook chains. This opens up the possibility of your book being discovered by the world; the same way as any other author who has to pay an agent, manager, publicist and publisher.

This journey has been so fulfilling (and mind you, I still haven't even sold a copy of my novella . . . yet) that I wished I had started it at the beginning of the year. Life is filled with so many endless possibilities and yet, inertia is our biggest enemy.

I stopped letting fear drive my life. Fear I would be a failure, fear no would appreciate my work, fear my work was not good enough because I couldn't get an agent. I started making my own luck and have never felt so in charge of my own destiny ever.

Friday, May 6, 2011

What's in a name?

This has been a question I have been pondering at least the last few days but I fear now it is too late and I should have thought about it before I decided to publish my novels (any novels, for the matter).

I have been in a quandary as it has been a little more than over a year since I have been divorced but for some insane reason at the time, I decided to keep my married name instead of returning to my maiden one. Now that I have had a chance to think about it, before the end of the year, I do plan to return to my maiden name (including passport, driver's license, et cetera) but now that I have been writing and my name is out there (well, as much as it is out there), I can't start writing in my maiden name, can I?

It would cause so much havoc and the headache alone would not be worth it but it really upsets me I hadn't thought about it sooner. To be honest, self-publishing was a bit of an impulse, driven by the fact that I have this novel just sitting with me and no one has read it except for myself, my sister and another friend of the family. I had no illusions about being a multi-millionaire; an overnight success. I merely wanted a modest amount of notoriety for the right reasons and maybe thirty or forty thousand people (with the world population being well over a billion, I certainly don't think this would qualify me as having delusions of grandeur, or does it) who enjoyed my work and liked what I wrote as an author.

Who knows? At this point in time, the whole subject is a moot point but if I had to do it all over again, I would rather be known as Blanchard than a Benson.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The link to my website!

It isn't much but here it is:


One Question I Dare Not Answer...

So, what does a self-published writer do once their work is put out there and they are in the middle of writing yet another work of fiction? This is the question I have been confronted with, unfortunately.

What can I say? My novel, DeGeneration, has taken a beating since I started publishing my novella, The Beautiful People, and the first part of the series, The Proposal: Book One. I have started a website to promote my book, along with this blog, joined Twitter and also talked about it on my Facebook page. I troll the web, including both the boards at Amazon and CreateSpace, looking for ideas on how to get the word out; once I have done all this (plus my homework for uni), I rarely have time to write a paragraph or two.

I was writing solidly a good sixty pages or so every week before I decided to publish this book I have been sitting on for so many years. The problem is, unlike The Beautiful People series, which is finished and takes place in a familiar environment and country, DeGeneration takes place (almost) completely in Western Europe. The characters are speaking languages other than English (though the book is being written in English, my native tongue) and there are lots of French and German phrases thrown in. It means I have to be in a whole other mindset as well; The Beautiful People series is light and airy (Britney Spears if you like a musical alliteration) to the dark, brooding of DeGeneration (think of the seriousness of an artist like U2 or Sade).

I am finding it very difficult to drift between these two frames of mind and because of this conundrum, I am not getting much done on my novel. This is serious for me because I live to write. I absolutely enjoy the whole stringing together of characters and plots; spinning a web of complex stories. I am not capable of doing this at the moment due to the whole improbability that the current series I have on offer might be a failure. What's more, even if it is a success, will those readers follow me down a darker path or will I have to make a whole new set of readers because I'll lose them due to the change of course?

I believe I am just being silly as these are questions I don't have to ask myself at this time. I am not even mildly successful (I only have three followers on Twitter) and I can't expect my friends to buy my book just because I wrote it. What if they aren't interested in the storyline at all? These might be the same friends who will find DeGeneration amazing and original. I will just have to wait and see how all of this plays out... and in my mind, that is the hardest part. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Check Out my paperback preview for The Proposal: Book One


The book should be available on CreateSpace within the next two weeks!

Countdown to my trip to France!

I am well aware this blog is supposed to be about my journey with self-publishing and what happens after an author decides to take matters into their own hands and put their work out there for the world to see. This blog will be about that but I wouldn't be a blogger if I didn't include my own life and the details which happen from day to day.

I am leaving for France to see my friends for a little more than a month on 29th of May and will return back to the States on the 3rd of July. What does this have to do with my novella? Well, it is one of the reasons why the second part from The Beautiful People series, The Hook Up: Book Two, won't be released until I return.

France has always held a special place in my heart. I first traveled to this gorgeous country in July of 2010 and met my first French pen-friend. Although nothing panned out, not even our friendship, France inevitably left its mark (perhaps it also has something to do with my paternal grandfather being three quarter's French origin and having a French last name until I married the man who is now my ex-husband).

I visited yet again in December of 2010 thanks to joining http://www.couchsurging.org/. The two week trip was much too short but I truly felt like it was an eye-opener. Not only was I there during some of the worst snow-storms in French history but the weather was definitely a side-story and not the main one.

I look forward to visiting France this summer when the weather will be nicer (although technically, summer doesn't start until the 21st of June and well over three weeks into my trip). I would love to visit a few other places while I am there but more than that, it is a great sense of freedom and a world view bigger than the United States which leads me to travel. My latest novel, DeGeneration, also takes place almost exclusively in France so it reminds me of landmarks and allows me to be more in tune with what I am writing about.

If I had the money and the means, I would definitely apply for the Compétences et Talents visa, which allows a three-year length stay in France if you have business, a project or work of art that will benefit both France and your native country. I think it would be a tremendous experience to live abroad. I also have an issue with wanderlust anyway as I have resided both in the United Kingdom (Manchester) and Sweden (Stockholm). Every time I have lived abroad, I have learned something new about myself, the world and others in general. If I could give any person advice on how to grow as a person, the number one nugget would be to simply travel. 

In the meantime, I will have to live vicariously through trip reports on Tripadvisor's France forum, and the best blogging sites that give me the low down on what is going on over there....

Other than that, I have linked my blog to my author's page on Amazon.com and I will try to post here at least three to four times a week. 

If I have learned anything, it is there's a lot of legwork involved when one decides to publish and put their work out there for everyone to see. I am awaiting my proof from CreateSpace so I can read through it and make sure the novella is ready to be released in paperback form and I have to constantly try to promote myself and my work; otherwise how will people know it exists at all?

I have to give a huge thanks to all my friends and frenemies alike on Facebook who must be forever rolling their eyes at all the self-promotion I do. I have also gotten my sister involved as she knows various professional writers, including a professor, who will review my work and decide whether it is good enough to be given a shout-out on her live journal page.

Wow... this is the world of an author and not even a professional one but I have a feeling this is going to be a very crazy summer... ;-) 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Why a Blog?

Mmm, this is hard because everyone seems to have a blog, right? I suppose the biggest reason why I created one was to talk about the process of a self-published writer and the trials and tribulations which exist for us.

I consider myself luckier than others as I have loyal friends, a supporting family and many people who could potentially buy my book but I would like to be known in my own right.

This week has been one of the most exhilarating and hardest of my life. I discovered (by accident) from a fellow blogger, Sion of Paris (im)Perfect, that friend and fellow blogger had self published her book on Kindle. Why hadn't I thought of that? I have been sitting on the same novel for about ten years and no agent will touch me with a ten foot pole.

I must admit, the rejection letters have been more friendly this time around. They ranged from "this project just didn't grab me" to "I just don't have the time to represent anymore clients". Not bad; it just means that although my work might be good (or it could be complete and utter crap), it wasn't bad enough to illicit "not in a million years would I think of representing you".

So, here it is for all other future self-publishers to see as I have started from the beginning. My novel, which has been split into an 8-part novella due to length and word count, was initially published on Kindle on the 29th of April, 2011. I have just created a CreateSpace account yesterday, uploaded my novel, designed the cover and the proof has been sent out to me. If it looks okay then it will go on to be distributed via CreateSpace. To be honest, I would still rather readers buy it from Kindle as it is much more reasonably priced and I am not looking to rip anyone off here.

The first section of my novella can be found here on Kindle:

I admit... the book is not for everyone. People who are religious and regular church goers might find the book to be repugnant for sure but if there is anything I value in my work, it's a sense of reality. Real life isn't nice and PG rated.

If you are more of the high-brow, literary type, then it probably won't be for you either. Don't get me wrong, I am a writer; I LOVE to write; not only the popular, frothy stuff that seems to sell quite nice (hey, this series could be my own Harry Potter or Twilight ... you never know!); I absolutely love complex, in-depth novels and I write those too. I suppose it will always be a dichotomy for me. I will be the Mylene Farmer of writers... most people won't understand the reference but I will give you a quick story.

The woman could easily be compared to a sexier French version of Madonna. She is a pop singer who has had a very lucrative career. She has albums that, obviously, to some of her most ardent fans, don't seem to quite fit her style.

I suppose I will be like that. I will eventually have fans who love my popular books (that is, The Beautiful People series and the coming Pop Stars series) but who will hate my attempts at literary writing. I'm sure those same people will look upon my attempts in disdain. As a fan of someone, it comes with the territory and I won't consider any of those fans any less than the ones who love my literary style and dislike the "pop" stuff.

If this journey has taught me anything, it's that I should be prepared for anything... Thank you for reading...