publishing

Counting Down Every Last Minute

"How much of your book is inspired by real life?"

When it comes to the Time Wrecker Trilogy, I'm relieved to say: not much. Thank goodness, right? Even after drafting all three books, I'm still not sure what I'd do if I was offered the chance to travel back in time.

However, there are a few things I have in common with my main characters. For example: like Mara Sterling, I've lived with chronic pain. In fact, several months before the release of Every Last Minute, I had a much-anticipated surgery on my right ankle. After a lot of rest and a lot of physical therapy, I was able to walk and move more comfortably than I had in a long time. On my book release date, I walked in to the party pain-free, and it felt amazing.

After that, I felt confident setting some big publication goals for Books 2 and 3 in the trilogy. Since both books were already drafted, I planned to release Book 2 in the spring of 2018 and Book 3 in the fall. Yep, two books published in one year! I knew it would be a big push to make it happen, but it was totally worth doing. After all, as a reader I don't like to wait too long between books in a series. Is it any surprise I'd have the same preference as a writer?

Unfortunately, my pain-free days didn't last. Over the winter, chronic pain slowly crept back in to my life. After a lot of thought, I decided to push back the release date of the second book in the series to prepare for my next surgery, which will require a longer recovery time.

As hard as it was to make that decision, it was definitely the right thing to do. Like many things in life, chronic pain has a way of throwing a left hook at my neatly-laid plans. The good news is, I can always reassess, refocus, and revise my goals. 

So here's the new plan: I am working towards a tentative release date of October 18, 2018 for Book 2 in the Time Wreckers Trilogy. I've also set a tentative release date for Book 3: October 18, 2019. (If you've already read Every Last Minute: Book 1 of the Time Wreckers Trilogy, you know why October 18 is a significant date!) I love the symmetry of releasing each book one year apart. I won't make my original goal of releasing both Book 2 and Book 3 in 2018, but that's okay. I'm still going to meet my goal of telling all the stages of Will and Mara's story. I promise it will be worth the wait.

Thanks for sticking with me through this unexpected turn of events! To celebrate the six months since Every Last Minute released, I am offering the Kindle ebook for free (today only, so if you don't have a copy for your ereader yet, be sure to grab it now!) 

Every Last Minute by Ellen Smith || available FREE on Kindle for April 11, 2018 only

Regardless of any other circumstances, writing and sharing these stories with you has been a dream come true. I'm grateful to be an author on any publication schedule and I'm looking forward to everything 2018 and 2019 will bring! Stay tuned! 

Cover Reveal: EVERY LAST MINUTE

People like to say that writing is a solitary profession. It's one person, putting down word after word until paragraphs become chapters, and chapters become a final draft. But there is so much about creating a book that isn't solitary at all. For example, I have amazing critique partners and beta readers, who talk me through troublesome plot points, give me incredible feedback, and celebrate with me when a draft is done. When you're writing, it is invaluable to talk with people who believe in your story and want to help you tell it the best way you can. 

In order to get a book ready to publish, even more people join in. These are the professionals that work behind the scenes, helping authors take their final drafts and polish them to perfection. One of those professionals is Monica Haynes of The Thatchery. She is the cover designer that has created all of my book covers, including my newest book, EVERY LAST MINUTE. Talking with Monica about cover design and seeing the beautiful covers she creates is one of the most exciting times in the publishing process!

I first met The Thatchery when I was getting ready to publish RELUCTANT CASSANDRA. I was entirely new to the world of publishing. Making that initial call felt like I was crossing the threshold from "writer" to "author." I was so nervous! Like many first-time authors, I had a deep-seated fear that no one would 'get' my book. Monica quickly put my fears to rest. Her cover design was so perfect, it felt like she'd brought Arden McCrae and the town of Eagle Valley to life. Ever since, I've kept a printed-out version of the cover pinned to my bulletin board. It was confirmation that this story wasn't just a figment of my imagination anymore. Now RELUCTANT CASSANDRA was a real book, and other people could visit this world I created, too. 

This beautiful book cover opened so many doors when I started marketing RELUCTANT CASSANDRA. Selling does not come naturally to me. I even dreaded selling Girl Scout cookies when I was a kid, and those are possibly the most marketable things on this planet! So when I was speaking with booksellers or potential readers, I quickly noticed that I could let the cover do the hard work for me. If I started out just talking about the book, my own nerves would stop me from saying very much. But if I whipped out a bookmark or pulled up an image of the book cover on Amazon, I'd hear people say, "That looks amazing!" or "This looks exactly like something I would read! What's it about? Tell me more!"

Naturally, Monica is also behind the bookmarks and my Facebook banner. She designed the cover for my Channillo short story series, GHOSTS OF EAGLE VALLEY, too. Last year, she also created my website. It's safe to say I love everything Monica designs, and I'm a big fan of her work! (You can see more of her portfolio here.)

So when I finished self-editing EVERY LAST MINUTE, the first book in my Time Wrecker trilogy, I was eager to e-mail The Thatchery and see what Monica could dream up for the book cover. Despite the fact that this story has been running through my head for over six years, I had no ideas whatsoever about what the cover should look like. This story is science fiction, but it's also a romance. It explores the implications of time travel, but it also follows the marriage of two imperfect people that are perfect for each other. 

Monica's design took my breath away. I am beyond excited to share the cover for EVERY LAST MINUTE, designed by Monica Haynes of The Thatchery:

EVERY LAST MINUTE by Ellen Smith || Book cover designed by The Thatchery www.ellensmithwrites.com

More about EVERY LAST MINUTE:

Will and Mara Sterling are already living their dream. After surviving a tragic shooting, they both went on to finish college, fall in love, and start a new life together as husband and wife. That’s not to say things have been easy: Will suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and Mara has debilitating chronic pain from her gunshot wound. Despite it all, they feel lucky to be alive and even luckier to be in love.

Then a new initiative from the Justice Department offers Will and Mara the chance of a lifetime. The shooter has been rehabilitated and his crime qualifies for a timeline rectification. With Will and Mara’s consent, they can all travel through time back to the original scene of the crime, giving the gunman a chance to put things right.

It sounds like a dream come true, but both Will and Mara have their doubts. Timeline rectification—called “time wrecking” by its critics—have been the center of a politically charged debate since its inception. Will and Mara aren’t entirely sure where they fall on this issue and the clock is ticking for them to decide. Is it moral to change time for the rest of the world, just to undo one crime? Is it moral to deny the gunman a chance to correct his past crimes? And what if this one ripple means that they never meet...or fall in love?

Set in 2011, EVERY LAST MINUTE is the first book in the TIME WRECKER TRILOGY.

There's more work to be done before this book will be ready to hit the shelves. I'll be collaborating with a professional editor, formatting the inside of the book, and making super-important publishing decisions (White pages or cream? Should I add book club discussion questions to the end, or just post them here on my website?) But seeing the gorgeous cover for EVERY LAST MINUTE reminds me that this story isn't just my work-in-progress anymore. Now it's a book--and there are lots of people helping me polish it up before I send it out to all of you.

I can't wait.

Thanks to The Thatchery for creating a beautiful book cover for EVERY LAST MINUTE! To see more of Monica's work, check out her website or find her on Instagram.

First Book Anniversary: 5 Things I Learned in my first year as an author

This June marks one year since I published my first novel, Reluctant Cassandra. Making the leap from "aspiring author" to "published author" was a completely different experience than I imagined. Here are five things I learned along the way:

1. Connecting with readers is my favorite part of the job

As a reader, I've sent quite a few e-mails over the years to authors whose books I enjoyed. I never guessed how much fun that would be from the other side! After spending so long with this story living inside my head, it's neat to see how other people have connected with it. Some people read Reluctant Cassandra because they have a loved one with Alzheimer's disease. Others connected with the setting in small-town Virginia. Others have told me about premonitions they've had or about a relative who had a "sixth sense." Based on their own experiences, everyone had a slightly different perspective on Reluctant Cassandra.

It's true what they say: the author starts the story, but the reader's imagination finishes it. I love hearing how different readers have "finished" the story!

2. "Marketing" isn't as scary as it sounds

If you ever want to scare an introvert, tell him or her they're going to be responsible for marketing something. I didn't even like selling Girl Scout cookies when I was younger, and those are possibly the easiest things to market on the planet. There's a pretty dedicated customer base for cookies. The idea of marketing my own work to people who had never even heard of me before was a lot more daunting.

As it turns out, marketing wasn't nearly as scary as I thought. I love talking about books. I love talking to other book lovers. It's not a huge leap to talk to other book lovers about my book. Bonus: some of my readers have written books too, and if not, they have great books to recommend. My to-read list has grown exponentially in the last year.

3. I still have a lot to learn

I used to think that after I'd gone through the publishing process once, I'd have this whole writing-and-publishing thing down.

*cue riotous laughter*

Experience helps a little. I have a better idea of where I hope to publish next time, how to plan out my budget and marketing strategy, and the people I'd like to work with when I've finished drafting my next book. At the end of the day, I'm still the same person, sitting at my desk trying to figure out how to get the story in my head out and onto a blank piece of paper. There are a lot of false starts. There are a lot of ideas that don't pan out. There are a lot of times I look back on what I've drafted so far and wonder what in the world I was thinking.

That sounds frustrating, but I like knowing that fiction writing still has plenty of surprises left in store for me. I hope I'm still learning as much when I'm writing my fiftieth book as I did when I was writing my first.

4. Connecting with other authors is essential

Thankfully, one of the things I've learned this year is how to connect and learn from other writers. I'm lucky to work with fantastic critique partners. If I'm stuck on a scene or struggling with a sub-plot, I know that they can help me figure it out and get back on track. I look forward to their critique submissions the same way I look forward to downloading a new book for my Kindle or picking up a paperback from the bookstore. Watching their works-in-progress go from "rough draft" to "polished novel" is an incredible experience and I love being part of it.

The Internet has been another great place to find support and guidance from other authors. After signed up for the Plotting Workshop, I joined the Ninja Writers Facebook group, also led by Shaunta Grimes. The group includes lots of opportunities for authors to ask each other questions, seek out support, and share what's going on with current works-in-progress. 

I also joined the Curiouser Author Society, which launched just a few weeks ago on May 17. I've followed the president, Shayla Eaton, on social media for a long time because of her incredibly valuable insights on editing, indie publishing, and the writing life. The author society has been a great resource and a great place to connect with other indie authors.

Even though my actual writing process is solitary, it makes a big difference to connect with other authors for insight and support. Everyone needs a community (or three) and I'm glad to be part of mine!

5. Being an author is even more fun than I imagined

I've been dreaming of being an author since I can remember. I still have spiral notebooks and binders of story ideas that I scribbled down in elementary school. (Most of my early stories were about princesses and dolls that came alive, FYI). When I visited a library or a bookstore, I used to find the books written by authors with my last name, put my finger there, and promise myself that someday, I would have a book on that shelf.

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Making that happen was worth every second.