Why Writing Book 2 is Harder than Writing Book 1

I don’t know if you know this, but I wrote a really kick ass book and published it in 2015. It took me about four years to finish it, which really is not accurate because I had two kids under five when I started. One of which was still attached to my breast, so my writing took a backseat to dirty diapers and sippy cups. I squeezed in a few words during nap time and Dora the Explorer distractions, but I wrote. I wrote every day, and I wrote with vigor.

I had to tell the story. The main character, Paige, took over my life, and her voice wouldn’t quiet. She talked to me all day, in my sleep, in the shower, at the gym, so when I sat down to write her story, the words flowed. Though it contained a bit of darkness, I developed a sweet love story, and Paige’s sense of humor weaved its way through the plot. Writing Dear Stephanie (shameless plug) was fun.

Actually, writing Dear Stephanie was life. The characters were my oxygen. The story was the blood that pumped through my veins.

My current WIP centers around the very light and fluffy topic of Human Trafficking. I know. But hey, my first book was about depression and suicide, so bygones. As all good writers do, I spend a lot of my time researching. Imagine reading articles about Human Trafficking. Now imagine reading those articles every day. It’s a disgusting industry, and although I am perfectly capable of going into the dark corners of my mind to write this book, those places are hard to visit sometimes, and I find myself literally (cliche warning) letting out the breath I didn’t know I was holding almost every time I write a chapter.

But that’s not the problem.

What is the problem? You’re probably (maybe not) asking yourself. I’m glad you (didn’t) ask.

Aside from the typical and normal self doubt that the vast majority of artists experience, there’s this other very nagging problem constantly putting pressure on me.

People are going to read this.

You see, when I wrote Dear Stephanie, I had no audience. I didn’t even know if I would publish it. I virtually wrote that novel as practice, to see if I could see it through to the end. When I actually typed “The End,” I was shocked. I probably, over the course of my life, started a dozen novels. But I only finished one. And I only finished it because only a handful of people knew about it. So nobody was going to read it. My family had no idea I spent most of my free time writing. My friends also didn’t know. Writing was my secret, a world where I could be free and write words that offend, words that slice and rip the flesh, words that bury themselves in your soul.

But the words were good, and with a lot of encouragement from my small group of friends who knew about them, I decided to publish. I kept it a secret going to such extremes that I created a special list of people on Facebook so that when I shared anything about the book, I could hide it from this core group of people (that consisted of all of my family and a large number of friends).

But now, everybody knows I write, and people *gasp* continue to buy my book and consistently ask me when my next book will be released, and I have readers. I have fans. And they/you expect another good read. They/you deserve it. And I desperately want to give that to them/you.

Aye there’s the rub.

That’s a lot of pressure.

Can I compete with the first book? Will my next book tank? Am I a one-book-wonder? Do I have it in me to put in the work that is required to publish another book? (In case you’re wondering, it’s a lot of work.)

Yes.

I will quiet the voices that tell me I can’t. I will squelch the negative noise, and I will write. I will write free, and I will publish this book.

I hope you will read it.

Girls Teaser

Girls Trafficked – coming eventually 

 

 

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Dear Amazon: In Defense of My Review

Dear Amazon,

I appreciate your giving me a platform to sell my books easily. I appreciate your giving me a place where I can “one-click” all of my favorite authors’ titles. You’ve added hours of enjoyment to my life by providing me a convenient place to spend my hard earned cash on fictional stories, makeup and costumes for my children.  I value easy access to Kindle books, the paperback, and don’t even get me started on Amazon Prime. I support you, probably more than my pocketbook would prefer.

Having said that, this doesn’t seem to be a reciprocal relationship. In one month, I’ve spent  almost $200 on products, which doesn’t include the amount of money I’ve spent on audible books, kindle books, and paperbacks. That’s one month from one customer. I am loyal to you, Amazon. I heart you.

But I’m mad at you right now because I don’t think you care for me in the same way. You see, I’m a struggling independent author who published a kick ass book on Amazon (exclusively, I might add) who continues to sell copies every day; yet, you’re making it difficult for me to sell more. (Which, by the way, the more I sell, the more you make. We are in this together.)

Here’s why. As an avid reader, I’ve always been a little star struck by authors. Since becoming an author myself, I’ve puffed out my chest and sent “friend requests” to some of my favorites. A handful have *gasp* accepted those requests. To which, I performed a shocked happy dance each time. Let me explain though, we aren’t friends. We don’t know each other. Most of the time, we have never even had a conversation.

On some occasions, I’ve been included in social media groups where some of my fellow authors are also members. We discuss writing, books, marketing, and many times Amazon. We buy each other’s books when the books look interesting. Let me repeat: we buy each other’s books. From Amazon. From these purchases, you profit as an organization.

Writers, in general and as a whole, are supportive of each other. If you were to look at my kindle purchases, the majority of the books you will find are from authors who I follow on social media. I read their books. If I like them, I recommend them to my friends. I am a respected reader and am a go-to person for book recommendations. People know that I read; therefore, they value my opinion. Trust me, Amazon, you have profited from my opinion.

So here’s my question: Why are you deleting my reviews? Okay, you haven’t actually deleted any of mine yet; however, you have gone through my fellow writers’ reviews and removed some from them. People who have purchased  (from which you’ve profited) and read a book and written an honest review are having their reviews removed because they “have some connection to the writer.” Listen, Amazon, it’s 2016. Taye Diggs follows me on Twitter, but that doesn’t mean I have his phone number. (If you want my phone number, Taye, just PM me, K?) I am “friends” with Author Kim Holden. She has no idea who I am, but she’s a gracious author and accepts her *fans’* requests. That’s why we are fans. Because we bought books from you. We took the time to read the reviews, we hit “one-click,” and we dove deep into their words.

It seems you’re willing to take our money but not our opinions, and that is upsetting.

What you’re doing is putting a stick in the very spokes that keeps you alive. You are the biggest bookseller for a reason. You’re respected and valued by readers and authors alike. Our reviews are selling books on your site. Please, I encourage you to think about this before you remove the next review.

Sincerely,

Mandi Castle, Author, Reader, and Over-spender on Amazon.

Reviews

Look, you asked for it.

 

 

Busted

It was bound to happen.

You know that moment when you’re doing something you’re not supposed to be doing, and you get caught?

That happened to me.

You see, this whole writing thing that I do has been a huge secret from most of my real life people for a long time, especially my family until last week.

I was sitting at my computer “working” at my new job when I got a text message from my dad.

IMG_1793

Ignore my typos (fat thumbs)

Yeah, my dad found my book. My dad, the preacher, found my book that says the F word a lot, the book where the main character indulges in all things bad: sex, drugs, sex, alcohol, sex, swearing, sex, and being a terrible person in general. Did I mention there’s a lot of sex in my book?

I may have had a mini heart attack upon reading that text.

Or thirteen.

I stared at my phone for five or fifty-five minutes unable to make words. Then I bravely dialed “Dad” and waited for his response.

“Well hello,” he said.

“Hi,” I may have whispered.

“So what’s new?”

“Um. Yeah. You have my book?” Heart palpitations, shortness of breath.

“I do,” I think he enjoyed my discomfort with the conversation.

“Okay, great. Well, don’t read it.”

“Oh, I’m reading it,” he confirmed, rather boldly actually.

He proceeded to tell me that he had plans to do nothing until he finished it, that he wanted to start it that night. I explained to him that there were terrible no good things (like a very detailed chapter about a one night stand with multiple orga um things, and another where she performs something for her boyfriend on her knees, all of which is written beautifully in HD detail) that someone of his religious affiliation and faith in the almighty God should never ever read, particularly when the fingers that typed those words belong to one’s daughter who one sees as a precious little gem who never ever would think much less create such smut…or something like that.

He stopped me mid self-lashing verbal diarrhea to say, “You know you could never do anything that wouldn’t make me proud, right?”

I swallowed the giant lump in my throat and managed a meek, “Yeah, well er … you haven’t read it.”

He then told me that he had read all of the reviews (51 five star reviews and counting) and all of my blog posts (double gulp) and that he knew what he was getting himself into. He also reminded me that he was in the Navy and that he spent forty years in construction and therefore would be surprised if there was anything he hasn’t heard. I didn’t bother to tell him I’m sure there was, as I mentally went through the glossary of words I made up like c*nt punch and slutoweem, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. I ended the call and then threw up in my mouth.

And then I dry heaved in the toilet for the rest of the day.

I wonder if this is what coming out feels like (on an obviously very much smaller scale).

The point of this ridiculously wordy account is that I have been hiding something for which I’m really proud, and now that it’s out there, I realize how foolish that was.

Having it out in the open, being able to put my book out on my bookshelf in my home, having the freedom to talk about this book that came out of my brain is freeing.

It’s liberating. 

I think I should probably thank my dad for opening this door.

I hope that if any of you are living under this cloak of fear where I spent more than four years, you’ll do yourself a favor and boldly throw it off. Stand tall, and be you. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. Trust me. I only wish I had been honest from the start.

So now that we have that out of the way, tell me, what secrets are you keeping? It’s no big deal. This is only the internet. It’s not like your dad is going to read it. Oh wait.

But seriously … spill.

 

 

Pages of Paige

“Write the best story that you can, and write it as straight as you can.” Ernest Hemingway

I kind of like Ernest Hemingway, so I take his advice as often as possible. That’s what I tried to do when I created Paige and the rest of her story in Dear Stephanie. I tried to write it as straight as I could. And I think I did.

If you’re in the mood for a read that will take you on a shockwave ride of emotions, get your copy today. It’s live, and I’m very proud, but don’t take my word for it.

Here’s what people are saying about my newly released debut novel:

LizziDear Stephanie is a tale of a woman’s battle against mental illness and her own efforts to self-sabotage her entire existence. In spite of her privileges and mind-games, Paige’s story is one of connection and relationship and self. It’s a tale of maybe true love and definitely true love, and loss, and hope, and wonder, and deep, indescribable pain.

It made me laugh.

It made me cry.

It made me angry.

BethDear Stephanie breaks molds.

The realities of the main character – Paige Preston- and her struggles with mental illness and drug abuse are not prettied up, and no bush is beat around. You start out not really liking her, until you do, mostly because she starts to resemble you, with vulnerabilities and fragility. She is human. She is broken.

Castle handles this subject matter with realism and care, never glorifying or exaggerating, which I find admirable. I was genuinely swept away in the story. I laughed out loud, I teared up, I worried, and I felt. You really can’t ask for more than that.

HelenaI was moved to both laughter and tears by this book, which I read all at one sitting, never tiring of the wonderful prose — Castle’s character, Paige Preston, was a delightful narrator, speaking to her audience in a voice that was real and believable.
I’d recommend it to anyone who likes character driven stories and appreciates good writing.

DanaFrom the first chapter, I was hit by the hot mess that is Paige. I often decide immediately whether I like a character, but Paige reveals herself over the course of the novel, and my investment in her grew as I read. She is real, flawed, and heartbreakingly human, and her story stayed with me for days after finishing the book. Even now, over a week after I read it, I am still thinking about it. For me, that is the sign of a good book. It seeps into your pores and settles in.

Chrissy: In my head, I was Stephanie. Paige was writing to me.

She’s confident. Demanding. Beautiful. Flawless. But NOT without flaw. Because no one is. Depression is real, and this character exudes everything and nothing all at once. 

So much happens in so few pages, that I can’t even begin to spoil this for you. I didn’t devour this novel, so much as I was consumed by this novel. I couldn’t put it down (even at work, I kept sneaking a page here and there – sorry boss!).

ReneePaige Preston is ALL THAT – just ask her.

She is every man’s wet dream.

She is also completely hollow and bitterly cold inside, or so it seems.

But sometimes you have to give people a chance to show you who they are.

LisaCastle creates a character who is so substantive, so engaging, that you can’t help but be drawn to her, despite her many flaws and violent demons. You will find yourself breathless several times throughout the tale, right up to the very last unbelievable word.

AndraDear Stephanie is a departure from my usual reading routine, an example of trying something new to shake up a reading rut. At first, I disliked Paige Preston so much I wanted to stop reading. I’m weary of books constructed around unlikeable, unreliable narrators. But Paige wove her spell. She is a well-crafted, deep and disturbed character, manipulative enough to charm even me. 🙂 You won’t be sorry you gave Paige a try.

Dear Stephanie Final eBook cover Laura

Paige Preston wants to end her life. After an unsuccessful attempt, she lands herself in mandatory therapy with a sexy psychiatrist. When he and an even more alluring friend begin to help her break down the walls she’s spent a lifetime building, Paige begins to see something bigger than herself. Is it enough to pull her out of her dark world and help her finally feel like a human? Or will letting someone in be the final step toward her demise?

Dear Stephanie is a sinfully addictive walk through a world of beauty, affluence, and incidental love that effortlessly moves the reader between laughter, tears, heartache, and hope with the turn of every “Paige.”

So, what are you waiting for? Read the book (click here for kindle or paper back), and then let’s have a book club discussion. I can’t wait to hear what you think. Oh, and if you want to win a signed paperback, comment here. If you want a double chance, share something on Social Media with the hashtag #DearStephanie. Thanks for playing!

Thank you to all of the people who have read my book and left reviews. I am forever in your debt, and I cannot even begin to tell you how grateful I am for all of you.

Long and Smooth

I’ve always had a healthy admiration of Latin men. It’s no secret. I love dark mysterious eyes framed in whispy black lashes, light chestnut skin, pretty pink lips. Ay Dios Mio! Tulipanes humedos!

Some of you might recall the last time Beth and I had coffee. We coined the phrase: Moist Tulips ©. Well, here’s a new phrase for you: Long and Smooth ©. I can’t explain this one, but I’ll add some content in this post that might help.

Last week, Beth received something very special in the mail: Her first ever paperback copy of her first ever novel. If you haven’t pre-ordered your copy, do so now here.

To celebrate, we decided to have some Mexican food, margaritas, and laughs. We had ample amounts of all three, particularly the last.

We took pictures that will only make sense to our SisterWives, but made us spew tequila all over the table. Here’s one. Use your imagination with this one.

I did not purposely take a photo of the female waitress pegging the male waiter.

I did not purposely take a photo of the female waitress pegging the male waiter.

Thanks to our very eccentric waiter who wanted to motorboat  lick ravage become a fan of Beth, the night will not soon be forgotten. Gonzavo esta muy guapo. Gonzavo loved Beth, and her book. He said to her once, and I quote in a sexy Latin accent, “I am keeping an eye for you. Or is it better for you or on you?”

To which Beth replied, “In me. (cleared throat) I mean on me. On me.” And I concurred. Like a doctor.

When we showed him her book, he got reader wood.

Reader Wood

Reader Wood

Coming soon to a book store near you. Oo7 read by Gonzavo.

Coming soon to a book store near you. Oo7 read by Gonzavo.

 

He focused on the number seven and even gave us a very confusing yet intriguing bible lesson. Again in sexy Latin accent, “Did you know of the importance of the number,” pause for dramatic effect,  “of seven?” We nodded and leaned in closer to hear more of his seductive patois compelling lecture. I have no idea what he said, but it sounded … sigh … enticing.

I never realized I was a match maker, but I think I may have helped these two create a love connection.

Es amor?

Es amor?

As we paid our check, Gonzavo said to Beth, “I think I will be watching you. That was something really special to me. You brought it.”

When Gonzavo left us, Beth looked at me and said, “I’m about to get some long and smooth.” (There’s your explanation. You’re welcome.)

At some point, I noted that Beth said, “You can’t forget ten cats. That’s a lot of pussy.” But I cannot figure out the context of this one, so there you have an added Bethism.  I promise this is true.

See? I took notes. Who does that?

See? I took notes. Who does that?

 

At any rate, when two bloggers who are real life friends get together to celebrate a book that has been the topic of more than a gazillion conversations, well, sparks fly.

Two writers in a parking lot with an iPhone = trouble

Two writers in a parking lot with an iPhone = trouble

Que le gusta hombres latinos? Have you read Beth’s book? Do you like margaritas and getting caught in the rain? Do you like reading posts about nothing? Still here? Click here to get a sneak peak at my book cover … see it wasn’t about nothing after all. (That was a purposeful double negative.)

Laters, Baby

***This post is rated NC-Christian Grey. If you’re not old enough to watch the movie, scroll on.*** 

Ropes,  and cable ties, and whips…oh my! Don’t get your panties in a twist, or maybe do. I’m about to talk Fifty Shades of Grey, the movie.

I saw it last night. My panties are still…never mind.

My friend, Nikki, and I have anxiously awaited this movie since we read the book series way before the masses flooded Sara’s Secret in search of silver jingle balls. With anticipation of our fun night out, we exchanged text messages throughout the day of our impending plans. We discussed hand cuffs, penises, and of course…sex, which is typical on any normal day but a definite on Fifty Shades of Grey Day.

I arrived at the theater an hour and a half early to stand in line in hopes of securing seats  before all of the horny housewives took all of the good ones. I was shocked to see that there were only thirty-ish people in front of me. I love people watching, so I looked around and observed my fellow bondage movie goers. I noticed first the expected groups of women sitting in circles, giggling and talking all things Christian Grey, and then there were the couples. The men obediently sat next to their wives/girlfriends scrolling through their phones as visions of nipples and orgasms danced through their heads.

One group of women who turned out to be elementary school teachers wore shirts that said “Laters, Baby” on the front and “Mr. Grey Will See You Now” on the back. Totes adorbs. When they opened the doors to the (very tiny) theater an hour before showtime, I chose to sit next to them because fun is contagious, and I’m hot for teacher.

I guarded my five seats that I was saving for part of my book club until Nikki finally arrived to help. Bitches with lady wood be crazy and more than once I had to summon my inner doberman and mark my territory with a growl to keep the pre-masterbaters away from my sweet seats.

Finally, after all of the anticipation, the lights turned down, and it was time for us to watch a little S & M a film.

The opening scene seemed to be in line with what I remembered from the book. Clumsy and awkward Anastasia Steele subs (no pun intended) for her sick roommate to interview the mysterious sexy millionaire, Christina Grey for their college newspaper.

“Mr. Grey will see you now.”

She stumbles (literally) into his office. He falls in love, takes her to his red room of pain and spanks her ’til she comes….or something like that.

Here is my review.

Dakota Johnson (the beautiful love child of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson) completely stole the screen. She portrayed the naive, vulnerable, blushing/lip biting virgin beautifully. Plus she looked really good naked. The perfect Anastasia Steele. My favorite part of the book was the interjections of her inner goddess, which is basically her thoughts when Christian tells her his rules, expectations, etc. Because we couldn’t hear her thoughts, her facial expressions were key. She nailed this. In addition to that, her timing of her comic relief was spot on. She was a nice surprise.

But what is Fifty Shades of Grey without our Christian? Jamie Dornan landed the role, which left him with big ahem shoes (and ripped up faded jeans) to fill. The first thing, and I mean very first thing I noticed was his inability to hide his native accent. It drove me crazy. I have several pet peeves, and one is fake accents. Could we not have found someone with a natural American accent to be our fifty shades of fucked up leading man? I guess not.

Christian Grey is confident and stoic, brooding and sexy, a larger than life character which Jamie Dornan fell short in capturing. He seemed to be spitting out lines rather than embracing the darkness behind this highly anticipated character. He did grow on me throughout the movie and not just when he was naked…wait, what? I thought several times about Robert Pattinson’s portrayal of Edward Cullen in the first Twilight movie. Just like Pattinson, I think Dornan has potential to be very big. *insert teenage girl giggle*

Another part of the book that I loved was the way their relationship grew through text messages and emails, which made the story relevant and current, and I was happy to see that they kept that in the movie version. Ana’s and Christian’s back and forth banter was playful and adorable and probably the way a lot of real life relationships start out now that almost everyone keeps a smart phone in their pockets.

Let’s talk about sex, baby. As most of us know, the bones of this story center around a lot of steamy often risque sex. Dakota and Jamie had incredible on screen chemistry. They brought the sexual tension with full force. There were several moments when I had to gasp for air, and more than once, I squirmed in my seat…in a good way. They brought such intensity to the first sex scene, the vanilla sex and came together seamlessly (mind out of the gutter, people)  which they carried throughout the rest of the movie. They even managed to make the red room of pain moments tastefully hot without being raunchy.

I rolled my eyes several time at the instrumental score that coupled some of the scenes. Maybe I kept thinking about Edward Cullen because the music sounded almost identical to the soundtrack from Twilight. Pianos are sexy, and I wasn’t mad about a naked scene that took place on the piano bench, but come on. Haven’t we already seen the long pale fingers playing Bella’s Lullaby (or insert cliche melancholy song) once already? A little more creativity here would have gone a long way.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie. I laughed. I squealed. I had fun. If I had to give it a rating, I would give it 3 1/2 moist panties stars. If you don’t like nipples, you should go ahead and sit this one out because it is nip city up in Christian’s high rise apartment.

Now for all of the haters. Haters gonna hate. I know, but let’s get one thing straight. If you haven’t read the book, you really don’t have enough facts to be critical. E.L. James took a story from her imagination and put it on paper. Isn’t that what writers do? We can say that it’s poorly written or that it lacks depth, and lots of other unnecessary comments, but her pocketbook would disagree.

As for the fact that this book is about abuse and rape:

SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!

This is a story about two adults who enter into a Submissive/Dominant relationship.  He gives her a contract that details everything he expects from her. She negotiates the contract and determines what she is willing and what she is not willing to do. He tells her the safe word for “be more gentle” and the safe word for “stop,” and they both sign the contract, which was written by a (fictional) attorney. If that is not a consensual (fictional) sexual relationship between two adults, I don’t know what is. Plus, a romance brews between them that frankly is pretty believable and more than a little swoon worthy.

In addition to that…spoiler alert…she tells him…spoiler alert…that he can never do that to her again, and spoiler alert….she walks the fuck out on him, and he watches her go.

“Anastasia.”

“Christian.”

Laters, baby.

And now some photos of our night:

The Before Grey

The Before Grey (all smiles)

The After Grey (meh face)

The After Grey (meh face)

Our Anastasia Lip Bite

Our Anastasia Lip Bite

A random condom siting

A random condom siting

Of Foodgasms and Muff-Fro’s

Sometimes in life, we stumble upon a pot of gold, shiny and sparkly. Sometimes it’s a rainbow itself, fresh and clean, an abundant kaleidoscope of color. Well, I found that perfection in the lovely, snarky, witty, yoda-obsessed nerd Nikki Mathis Thompson, and I want to jump up and down and do cartwheels because today I get the opportunity to introduce her to you. Continue reading