The Prince and the Omega: look at these cuties!

I liked my cover for Christmas Caroling so much, I’ve decided to go with Amourisa Designs again for The Prince and the Omega – and I couldn’t be more pleased! LOOK AT THESE CUTIES. Just look at them! We had a devil of a time finding the right model for Gus (our prince, he’s in the foreground) but I love the final product. I especially love the castle background, and the crest at the bottom is just a bonus.

So I’ve found myself in a funny situation at the moment.

I have two books more or less ready to be published.

Okay, granted, I was in this spot back in November with The Country Alpha, but that had been intentional. This one isn’t.

The Prince and the Omega is set to go out later this month. I’ve spent all morning polishing it up, formatting the pages, inserting links, and writing the front and back matter. It’s a lovely thing and I’m very proud of it, and I’ve even decided on a release date: May 25.

Camp Lake Omega is my summer camp story, and as such, it’ll come out in July. (Mostly because I think my dad wants to watch the process.) It’s in great shape at the moment, too – it’s going through the final beta, and then it’ll be ready for all the bells and whistles.

What’s throwing me off is that I’m ready well in advance of when I thought I’d be. I could very easily release P&O next week if I wanted – most of the reason I’m waiting is because I’m going to indulge in a bit of advertising for it, and late May works better for the various companies I want to use. I could probably start sending out ARCs tomorrow… but that’s too early, reviewers would forget what they read by the time it came to write the review for Amazon (which doesn’t allow reviews to be posted until the book is released).

I have to keep telling myself that being ready with this much advance time is a good thing. Especially for Camp Lake Omega – I could actually get it out to the review blogs well in advance of its publish date, and maybe those reviews would coincide with the release! I could pick and choose my release date and ARC dates based on when I think is best, not what works best for the calendar! I could have less pressure getting the book to be pretty, and more time sitting by the pool while the kids splash each other.

(Okay, let’s be honest. I will be inside the air-conditioned house while my mother watches the kids in the pool splashing each other. Grandmas are awesome like that.)

This is so weird, guys. I’ve never been someone to wait until the night before the project was due to complete my work, but I’ve never been the kid who did the whole damn thing the weekend after it was assigned, either.

It’s so weird I find myself balking at stupid things. Should I create Goodreads pages for the books now? (Answer: probably yes.) Should I go ahead and make a pre-order for Camp Lake Omega on Amazon now? (Answer: maybe? I could at least start the process.) Should I start shopping both of them to review blogs? (Answer: OH HELLS YES.)

For the moment, I think I’m going to bask in the glory of having a book ready to go — or nearly; I’m sure I’ve forgotten something. I’m equally sure that I’ll remember exactly what it is at 3am.

The Country Alpha Cover Reveal!

Out of all the things I’ve learned (and continue to learn) about self-publishing, I think the hardest curve has been with covers. I am not a graphic designer, by any stretch of the imagination. I love photography and in the past, I’ve enjoyed playing around with digital photography to achieve certain effects… but I can’t claim to know what I’m doing. I mean – when I took photography in school, we were still using film. The entire degree program had exactly two weeks of digital manipulation. I didn’t even own a digital camera until about five years after I graduated.

Graphic design? Way harder. It’s my ineptitude with Photoshop times twenty.

Which is why I’m so pleased to reveal the covers for the upcoming duo of books The Country Alpha: Ned’s Story and The Country Alpha: Veronica’s Story. I knew designing these covers would be a challenge – after all, they’re both the sequel to The Country Omega, but they each have their own storyline that takes the main character, Jake, in different (though complementary) directions. I wanted the covers to reflect each book individually – but still echo the other.

And I think I got that.

What surprises me is that they’re from two different cover artists. Ned’s cover was designed by R.A. Steffan, who also designed the covers for The Country Omega and The Omega Nanny. I loved the way that R.A. turned the black-bordered theme on its ear, and went with the snowy background of Jake’s cabin as inspiration.

Veronica’s story, however, was designed by Suze Howe, a long-time friend who asked for the chance to flex her designing muscles, and turned out something I fell in love with at first glance. I feel like every time I look at her cover, I see some new detail, like the heart pointing at Veronica, or the way the hockey diagram blends with the wine rack.

But especially, I love how well the two different covers complement and reflect each other, too – which is good, because I like to think the books complement and reflect each other, despite being two very different stories. And while my intention is that a reader should be able to read either one of them and not feel as though they’re missing anything – readers who read both are going to get a much better picture of Jake than they would by reading only one story.

I’m nearly done with formatting the stories – and some last-minute tweaks. I still haven’t picked my release date for the books, but I do know it’ll be sometime in November, and I suspect it’ll be simultaneous, unless someone can give me a good reason why that’s a bad idea.

In the meantime, though, I have to tear myself away from staring longingly at Veronica and Ned’s covers, and actually finish the formatting. (Details, yo.)

Have a lovely day, everyone!




Five Ways to Help an Author (Without Writing a Single Word)

Tomorrow is The Omega Nanny‘s Release Day! (I keep thinking it in that sing-song way one says “Groundhog Day”, which is really appropriate, since both days are largely inconsequential to 99.9% of the general public.)


Drive, Phil, Drive!

I keep feeling like I’m forgetting something – no idea what, though. I mentioned this to my husband last night, and he gave me a very serious look and said, “Pen – did you forget to write the book?

I’ve reblogged and retweeted and created the Goodreads page (and there’s even a lovely early review for Omega Nanny!) I’m feeling extremely positive about my out-of-nowhere little book – which is such a pleasant feeling!


It’s kind of a given – if you like a book, the best way to help an author is to write a review of that book in some visible location, such as Amazon or Goodreads. And this is true – readers love reviews that give them an idea of whether or not they’re likely to enjoy the book too.

But what if you don’t want to write a review? What if you can’t write a review? What if you turn into a frozen block of self-conscious ice upon seeing that blinking cursor at the top of a very, very empty text box?

blinking_Cursor(Don’t worry. It happens to authors, too.)

It’s okay. There are other ways that you can help – all without having to write a single word.

(You might have to click the mouse button a few times, though.)

Rate the book. Amazon Kindle even makes this easy for you, if you’ve downloaded the book from them. Once you finish, they’ll pop up a screen that asks you for your rating. If you’ve got a Goodreads account, they’ll even post the rating in both places for you. Click on your favored star rating… and they’ll do the rest. No writing necessary!

Vote on other reviews. Both Goodreads and Amazon have a system to “vote” on previously written reviews – for Amazon, it’s that little “Was this helpful?” question that follows every review. For Goodreads, it’s the more blatant “Did you like this review?”

Why is this important? Well, reviews with the most votes are more likely to be the first shown when someone navigates to that page – regardless of whether or not the reviewer liked or disliked the book. If you liked a book, and there’s a review already written that you agree with – vote on it! The more votes a review gets, the more likely it is to be at the top of the page – and the more people will see it. Plus, they’ll even be able to see how many people agreed with that review – which just gives it more weight. All without having to write a word.

Reblog/retweet on social media. “But how can I blog about something without writing a word, Pen?” Easy. Most authors, to some extent, are egotistical. (Some more than others.) At some point after a book’s release, though, we’ll have made a comment about it, or shared a link where to purchase it. Some will even provide links for you in the body of the ebook itself. Click on those links – reblog or retweet those posts – and you’ve just shared with all of your followers that great new book you finished reading.

Amazon provides links for you to reblog/retweet on their website – if you navigate to the book’s page, you’ll see a handy row of them under all of the purchasing information on the right-hand side of the screen. Click on your preferred social media platform – press “Post” – and you’re good to go!

“But I only have six followers! And one of them’s a chicken!”

reading chicken

“Whatcha reading, Maude?”

That’s okay. They’re five people who might not have known about the book before. And maybe the chicken will like the book, too. Thing with social media – it’s not about how many followers you have, it’s about who’s online watching at any given time.

Shove the book into someone else’s hands – literally. Buying the book for someone else is the obvious route – and don’t let me dissuade you from that course. But lending it is equally good. (Some ebooks can be shared for a limited amount of time, if the author has allowed for that.) I know it seems a little counter-intuitive to lend a book – after all, the author doesn’t get the proceeds – but really what you’re doing is trying to convert another person into a fan of that author, which will in turn make it more likely that they’ll buy the next book. Trust me. Authors are really good with that concept.

And if you can’t find a friend (or co-worker, or unsuspecting person who sat next to you on the bus that one day) who wants to read it – consider donating a copy to your local library. Most libraries love free books, and who knows? Maybe it’ll find a dozen new readers that way. (Check with your local library first to see what their donation guidelines are.)

Join your favorite author’s mailing list or follow them on social media.Assuming you aren’t already, of course. Authors may traffic in words, but numbers are super important too – and knowing there’s a certain amount of people who are more or less signing up to read literally every word we put out there is a gigantic egotistical boost –  which in turn is going to spur us to write even more. (And hey – more is exactly what you want from the authors you love, right?)


So there you have it – five super easy and fast ways to help an author you enjoy, all without writing a single word. Of course.. feel free to write a few words too. (Even just a simple “I liked this” is a great way to get started, and very nice to hear. We aren’t picky, trust me, and we aren’t going to judge you on lack of verbosity.)

I’m sure there’s other ways to help writers without writing a word – but it’d take writing them here to let me know. 🙂

Making it Look Good (Literally)

One of the things that surprises me most about self-publishing is how much I enjoy all the fiddly bits. I figured I’d enjoy the writing and watching the book take off – I mean, that’s the whole point, isn’t it? – but actually formatting the completed book, adding in all of the front matter and back matter and making sure every page looks perfect?

I actually like that part. I like it a lot.

This week, that’s what I’m doing: taking the final, finished draft of The Omega Nanny and making sure it looks picture-perfect for when it’s time to upload on Saturday. (Amazon requires the final copy 10 days before release when you’re setting up a pre-order.) It’s all little, fiddly stuff, but that’s what will make the final product look awesome.

“Good design, when it’s done well, becomes invisible. It’s only when it’s done poorly that we notice it.”

-Jared Spool, American writer/researcher/designer

And it’s true. Everyone’s read a book or ebook that was might have been a great read – but was so riddled with errors that it was impossible to enjoy. (Everyone’s also borrowed that library book where a previous reader felt the need to correct every error.)

Trying to make a terrible book look good, of course, isn’t going to save the book. But a fantastic book, terribly put together, isn’t going to do much better, especially in today’s market, where there are just so many books, and therefore so many reasons to stop reading something that isn’t thoroughly enjoyable, on every level.

(And yes – I will totally stop reading a book if it’s impossible to read. I have too many books on my Kindle to put up with that.)

There are, of course, multiple ways of formatting ebooks. You can get down and dirty with the html.  You can purchase a program, or download a free one, that will do the dirty work for you. There’s websites that can even tell an author how to make a few tweaks that will generate a larger page count (which is important if you’re being paid by the page).

There’s even services where you email your manuscript off, and get it back later, all prettied up and perfect. (For a small, or maybe not so small, fee. Of course.)

I have to admit, I’m enough of a nerd to enjoy the first one. I’m pretty comfortable with Word, I know my html. I’m not going to be coding any massive programs anytime soon, but I can hold my own with the basic stuff. Coding a book? Piece of cake. Or at least a piece of cake I’m willing to tackle.

Actually… I find it kind of soothing. There’s a certain satisfaction in coding, or setting up hyperlinks, or arranging a Table of Contents so that it looks nice. It’s busywork, sure – but once it’s done, it’s good to look back and say, “Yup, that looks good, that’s one more thing accomplished.” It’s not fancy… but it does look nice and neat. Plus it’s something I can build on – it took a while to make The Country Omega look good on a Kindle, but I’ve found that the process is moving much faster for The Omega Nanny, and I think it’ll look more professional from the start, too. (I’ve redone the design for The Country Omega and reloaded updated versions twice now.)

The only disadvantage is that it does take time where I could be… oh, writing, for one thing. I’m sure there’s better ways of doing it. But for now, this works for me.

Social Media Frenzy?

Every time I think I have a good handle on time management, I realize I’ve forgotten to include some necessary task. Generally, the task involves cleaning the bathrooms, making dinner, or emptying the cat’s litterbox.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy the tasks I’m ignoring – okay, I can think of about a thousand things I’d rather do than clean out the cat’s litterbox – but it’s just so much easier to ignore them in lieu of other things. Like writing. Or playing with the baby. Or having lunch with a friend. I mean… the bathrooms aren’t going anywhere. The 6-year-old is totally content with pb&j for three meals a day. And the cat spends a lot of time outside anyway.

One of the pieces of advice I’ve seen over the last couple of months is about maintaining a social media presence online – generally speaking, via Facebook, though Twitter comes up fairly often as well. (Tumblr and Instagram are a bit lower on the social media totem pole.) While the details of the recommended method of participating in those sites varies – the fact remains that just about everyone, their publishers, agents, and kid brothers, wants authors to be online.

Which is fine. I get that. I even get the difference between selling books (which nearly everyone admits a Facebook profile or page cannot do) and selling yourself (which is absolutely what Facebook does do, whether on a professional or personal level).

What amazes me are the number of authors out there who run not only a Twitter account… but also a Facebook, and a website, and a blog, and still have time to produce books every couple of months. (Oh, and some of them also raise children, have another part- or full-time job, and presumably do not hire housekeepers, cooks, or professional litterbox emptiers.)

I really, really want to know their time management secrets, so I can steal them.

My own solution to time management is based solely on how long the baby naps – and he’s never been the best of nappers. He started to cut down to one nap a day when he was ten months old, and he still doesn’t sleep through the night. (And recently, he’s decided that 2am is an excellent time to play with his brother’s toys, since his brother is sensibly sleeping at 2am and cannot defend them.) On a good day, I’ll get around 2 hours. On a fantastic day, I’ll get nearly 3.

On a really horrible day – like last weekend? One hour. And he wakes up so crabby that I kind of want to murder some dinosaurs and drive around in circles until he goes back to sleep.

What happens is this: the baby goes down for a nap. I gently lay him in his crib, whisper a loving wish that he have a lovely long nap, tiptoe out of the room and softly close the door.

And then I hightail it downstairs, turn on my laptop, get my water and the baby monitor, and write like the wind without stopping for about 45 minutes or until I hit a stopping point or until the baby wakes up, depending on the day.

Most moms use that time for dishes, for cleaning, for mental health, for making dentist appointments, for… oh, I don’t know. Whatever other moms do. I use it to get my characters naked. Hey, it’s a living.

I have to do the writing first. (The only thing that trumps writing is washing the dishes.) I’ve found that if I do anything else on the computer before I start writing… I end up not writing. And that includes Twitter, Tumblr, LJ… anything.

And when I do use those… I have to limit myself, or I end up spending hours on them and then the baby’s waking up and the bathrooms are gross and I haven’t taken anything out of the freezer to defrost for dinner and the cat? She’s not even speaking to me, probably because the whole house smells like litterbox. I can’t say I blame her.

So I get five minutes on Twitter, and five minutes on Tumblr. (Not for the whole day. Just at a time.) And I’ve found… that’s kind of all I need. I can usually get a queue running in that time, look at what other people are saying, mark out articles I want to read later. It works.

I could probably expand that to include Facebook… I’m not sure I want to. I had a Facebook, years ago… and I hated it. I deleted it that day that my feed was full of pictures of everyone’s lunches. (Friends, I love you, but I do not care about your lunch box.) It took me a few months to get the hang of Twitter, and even now I’m still only so-so with it. It took me about a year to really start to like Tumblr (but now I adore it).

I’m still not entirely sold on how much of any of that is necessary.  Whereas I’m fairly sure that if I don’t clean the bathrooms, I will inadvertently create new life forms, or possibly rediscover penicillin. If I don’t make dinner, my children will develop rickets from too many pb&js. And if I don’t clean the cat’s litterbox… okay, probably not much will happen that doesn’t already occur from time to time, if I don’t clean the cat’s litterbox.

It just might happen on my bed, instead of next to it.

Do you split your online time across various social medias? How do you decide what goes where?

3 Things I Did Right When Self-Publishing – and What I Wish I’d Done Differently

After all, self-publishing is all about taking that first step up a very steep staircase….

I am way too new at the self-publishing game to really write a how-to for anyone looking to do it.  After all – I went into it knowing practically nothing about how it worked, except a few key basics.  (To wit: create a KDP account, upload the book, watch the sales happen, get paid two months later. Oh, the naivety of me.)

But I still want to jot down a few notes about my experience – which was surprisingly really good. I didn’t think I’d like the business side of publishing as much as it turned out I did.  After all, when you’re self-publishing, it means that you are the only one who is guaranteed to work for your book.  Any advertising, marketing, sales pitches – that’s all on me.  Thing is, I’m not really one to toot my own horn and I absolutely hate asking anyone for help, so the fact that I actually enjoyed doing any of this is sort of a shock.  It does bode well for the next time, though.

Here’s what I think I did right:

  1. I didn’t rush myself.

Originally, my plan was to publish The Country Omega by Christmas. It ended up not coming out until the end of January, and I’m really, really glad I decided to push publication back.  By waiting the extra month, I gave myself time to make sure the copy was absolutely perfect, that I had included everything I wanted to include, and it gave me time to start creating a presence for the book – and myself – online.  I didn’t feel rushed – actually, by the end of the month, I was totally anxious for Publication Day to happen – but all in all, it was a very low stress time, which worked in my favor, because the learning curve for what I was doing was so steep.

And it was a pretty steep learning curve.  I mean – I’m a writer.  I don’t do graphic design for book covers, I don’t know how to format a .doc file for Kindle off the top of my head, I’ve never had to advertise something in my life. Heck – until a few weeks ago, I didn’t even have a Twitter account.  I was learning a ton of stuff in a very short time.  That’s a lot of pressure – and it was December.  Can you imagine the stress level if I’d been trying to do all this and deal with the holidays?

Giving myself the time to manage all of it was probably one of the best decisions I made.

2. I asked for help, and when it came – I listened.

Remember how I said I don’t like asking for help? It’s true, I really don’t. It’s why I tend to use the same beta team over and over and over until I’m pretty sure they want to drop kick me off a tall precipice. But this book – and its launch – was important, so I asked.  Far and wide.  Against my better judgement, sometimes – but just about every time I asked, I was rewarded with a “Yes!”

And something funny started happening… sometimes, I didn’t even have to ask. Sometimes, the help came to me, in the form of people saying, “Um, look, you could… do that… better.”

Some people, they hear that, and up go the defenses.  Same here, sometimes. But not this time – this time, I said, “Okay! Help me make it better!”

Country Omega coverAn example. I’m not a graphic designer by any stretch – but hey, I took photography bazillion years ago, I have a good eye for composition, and there’s a bunch of how-to websites online. How hard could it be?

So I made my own cover for The Country Omega. That’s it, on the right. I thought it was very nice, I ran it by a few people, they said kind things about it, and I metaphorically brushed my hands and called it done.

Until a friend stepped up and said, “Um, can I offer some advice?”

My initial instinct was to say, “No.” Because… well, I liked my cover. I was proud of my cover. And worse – I had spent money on my cover. Not a lot, in the grand scheme of things, but to me, it was the principle of the thing.

I bit down on that instinct, though. And said, “Okay, yes. Fire away.”

The Country Omega cover 2And, wow, did I get schooled. Turns out I broke just about every genre rule in the book when it comes to romance covers. And as a result, I ended up with what I think is a much better cover for the genre I was writing in. (That’s it, on the left.  Better font, better picture, better design that actually says, “THIS IS A ROMANCE NOVEL.” My cover? Murder mystery, probably. With a little old lady knitting somewhere. And it’s not even the right size!)

But there’s no point to asking if you’re not going to listen, too. I listened – and as a result, my book cover is better. My Twitter experience is better. My website is better.  All because I wasn’t afraid to ask, and then accept the help I received.

3. I figured out my goal, and only took the advice that I believed pertained to it.

There is a ton of advice online about how to publish a book properly. And I’ve read a huge chunk of it now. The thing is… not all of the advice applies to every situation, which is why I think it’s vitally important that before you publish a book, you figure out why you’re doing it in the first place.

Are you looking to make oodles of money, gather thousands of Twitter followers, and turn yourself into a household name? Are you looking for some extra cash to help out the monthly budget, and it doesn’t matter if you’re wildly successful?  Or does money not matter in the slightest, who cares how many people download your book, because it’s all about telling a decent story and proving that you can?

What’s your end goal here?  That’s not exactly the easiest question to answer, and you’re the only one who can determine what that answer is.

But once you know your goal – you’ll have a better idea of what advice applies and what doesn’t.

If you want that household name and thousands of Twitter followers – well, then you’re going to need to put in the time and money for advertising, online book tours, professional covers and formatting, professional editing services, and even paid review sites. There’s an old adage: You have to spend money to make money. It’s not far wrong, sometimes.

If all you want is to publish a book and money doesn’t matter – well. You probably won’t want to worry about some or even all of those things.

Most of us are probably somewhere in the middle. I mean – sure, who wouldn’t like to consistently be in the Top Ten Bestsellers list and rub shoulders with the likes of J.K. Rowling and Neil Gaiman and Insert Your Favorite Writer of Choice Here?  But I doubt all of us are willing to put in the time, money, and effort involved in getting there completely on our own – at least, not at first. I didn’t want to spend money on book covers – and look how that almost turned out. Now I’m convinced it’s worth it – and I know how to find them at prices that won’t break the bank of a newly published author.

But I would like to sell my books, so I’ve created a webpage and Author Pages on both Amazon on Goodreads.  At some point, I’ll apply to have The County Omega included in some of the pay-for-inclusion digests that are sent to thousands of readers, and I’ll look at different ways of advertising it and its successors as well.

Not everyone follows the same rules. I’ve got my online presence now – but not every self-published author has done even that much.  Heck, not every traditionally published author has done those things (much to my sorrow; there’s some questions I’d like to ask Connie Willis, who seems to have minimal online presence).

Just because one author has done something – even an author you admire and aspire to be like – doesn’t mean it’s the right decision for you. Don’t feel compelled to do anything you don’t want to do, or what you don’t feel is going to work for your end goal.  There’s no hard-and-fast rule to any of this. There’s only what works for you.


That’s what I think I did right – other than writing a good book, I mean. Here’s what I wish I had done better:

  1. Create an online presence earlier.

This is really the big one for me. I waited until nearly the last minute to start creating my online presence – that is, my Twitter, this website, the newsletter.  None of it existed more than about a month before The Country Omega was released.

I think that was a mistake. One of the biggest parts of having a successful book launch is the “buzz” you create beforehand. I had very little buzz, in part because I didn’t have a platform from which to create it.

My inexperience in these things also hampered me. I’ve never had a Twitter account, wasn’t much interested in having one – but in my research, I was convinced that having it would be beneficial. (And it has been, that’s absolutely true.) But I would have liked more time to get used to the platform – I still don’t quite understand how to make it work for me, and I know there are things I’m completely missing there that would probably help me even more.

That’s also true for this website. If you’ve been here before, you may notice that the layout has changed. I haven’t had a WordPress account before, but I realized that it really is the best platform for hosting the kind of website I need. When I chose the original layout, I didn’t really know what I needed, though – now I do, and now I’ve got a layout that is better for me. (It’s not perfect – and there’s still things I’d like to do with it – but I’m happy with the changes I’ve already implemented, and this style will support what I eventually want to do – and if it doesn’t, I feel more comfortable with changing it again.)

All of this is stuff I could have been doing months ago -but I didn’t, and I wish I had. I’m happy with the way my launch went – but who knows if I could have made it even better?  And definitely, I’ve got a ways to go before I’m fully happy with my Twitter experience and this website. (Ask me again in a year, and we’ll see how I’m feeling.)

2. Research different options; don’t assume the first choice is the only choice.

I know this seems basic. For some reason, I had to relearn this one several times.

I had it stuck in my head, almost from the very beginning, that the best – and possibly considering my genre, only – way to publish was via Amazon Kindle. Now, I still think I made the right choice, but I wish I’d taken the time to look at other options as well.  I never even considered options that would have allowed me to sell a physical copy of the book, which I could have easily done and still enrolled the digital copy in KDP.  It wasn’t until I was fairly late in the game that I looked at companies that specialize in self-publishing – such as

And honestly, that’s ridiculous, because I’ve been aware of as a self-publishing platform for at least a decade. But I was stuck in the mindset that in order to have my books available on Kindle – had to work with Amazon.  And that’s not true. It’s probably easier, but it’s not the only option.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I went with Amazon. But I wish I hadn’t had my head stuck in the single mindset of “MUST GO WITH AMAZON.”  And I have no doubt that I’ll branch out with another book at some point in the future.


I’m sure in another year or two or ten, I’ll probably be able to expand that second list somewhat.  There’s probably half a dozen things I’m screwing up even now, and I just don’t know it yet.  But on the whole… I don’t think my opinion on the things I did right is going to change all that much.  I’m really happy with my book, with how it’s done sales-wise, with everything, really.  What more could a first-time published author ask for, honestly?

(Apart from the NYT Bestseller’s List, that is.  Hey, a girl can dream.)