Thursday, March 29, 2012

Lucky 7 Meme

One of my lovely blogger friends, Liz Davis, tagged me with this exciting lucky 7 meme.
The rules are as follows:
1. Go to page 77 of your current MS/WIP
2. Go to line 7
3. Copy down the next 7 lines, sentences, or paragraphs, and post as they're written

Though I have recently completed another YA sci-fi adventure MS, I chose to take this excerpt from my latest WIP.
 Emma, to begin again

As an ER nurse, Emma knows life can change in the blink of an eye. When fate comes knocking on her door, she finds herself far away form the city and back on the mountain ranch where she grew up with the intention to close up and sell so she can move on.
But fate wasn’t done with her yet, and that’s when she finds him, the one Two-Feathers refers to as ‘Star Brother’. Wounded and unconscious, Emma assumes he’s a military test pilot, until he opens his amethyst eyes and stares into the very essence of her being.

Emma didn’t need to turn around to know he was there, watching her. The barely perceptible tingling that flowed along her spine, reaching out to every nerve ending announced his presence. She took a deep breath before she turned to face him, intending to offer him a cup of coffee and a taste of the warm Vanillekipferl cookies. Instead, she turned to find him a scant distance from her.
“Good morning,” he said as he drew her into a tender embrace, surprising her.
She slid her arms around his waist and leaned into him, letting his scent, mixed with cedar and fresh air, surround her. When something sparked inside her she gasped and pulled back. The strange flicker dimmed down to nothing just as fast as it had appeared, leading her to believe she’d only imagined it. Drawing in a shaky breath Emma felt his finger on her chin as he gingerly lifted her head so their eyes could meet. Amethyst eyes stared back, and she was sure he could see into the depths of her soul.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Reviews, Getting Your Stars

I have been giving this a lot of thought over the past few weeks. I read all kinds of ‘How to write a review” articles and talked with others on this as well.
Authors depend on reviews and feedback to improve their work before publishing, and to promote and market it afterwards. I want to talk about post pub reviews.

Let’s just say there’s a rating star per following item…

1-There are the basics that have to be taken into account, namely spelling, grammar and punctuation. You'd think that this would not be an issue, but I have read some pretty bad books that had mistakes throughout the entire book.

Authors, I cannot stress this enough…have your book edited! Paying a professional is not a waste of money. Your integrity and professional image are at stake here. Don’t start on the wrong side of the track by being labelled as a bad writer, because you may never be able to convince readers your work is now worth it.
Did the book get this star?

2-Characters: Without them it would be hard to have a story, so hopefully they’ve come to life. They should make you laugh or cry along with them (or, if your into this-scare the pants off of you, LOL). Flat, two dimensional characters can make the reading experience painful. Were they nothing more than talking heads? Did the author do his/her homework and develop characters that respected their age, language, and setting? No “yo, man” in a historical novel. Again…you’d think this would be a given.

3-Setting: Can you see it, smell it, feel it? Did an ancient city rise from the dust? Were you transported to the outer reaches of the universe? Did you hear and feel the leaves crunch beneath your feel while you walked through the book? Did the author research the country, or city area so he knew that there were no Rocky Mountains in Saskatchewan or Iowa?

4-Plot/story line: Did it make sense? Were loose ends tied up or simply lost along the way? Was there continuity to the story? Did you think you were reading one thing, only to get taken for a ride and end up somewhere else? Confused?

5-Overall flow: Were you able to read through without getting hung up on confusing elements, like “Wait, who’s talking now?” Or “What happened to X?”, or “Where did that come from?” When you get lost in a book, loose track of time and realize that you’ve read the whole thing, it’s a sure sign of a good read.

Now, taking all these things into consideration, you have a good place to start rating your book. Once you’ve decided on a rating, write the review…don’t just say, “Save your money, I hated it” or “Great read.” Explain why, give concrete examples that can be useful to the author and other readers to help them decide if they want to read it or not.

Are you the best person to rate this book?

If you hate mushy romance novels, should it surprise you that you didn’t like the read? It would be like asking me to taste your sushi and let you know what I think. I hate sushi…the first time I ate one I thought I had a dead goldfish in my mouth…(and yes, it was fresh) so don’t count on my opinion for a good sushi rating. But, I can fly a plane, treat a patient and teach martial arts, so I can evaluate the authenticity of such elements in a story. If you know you are not the best person to review a certain novel, either step down or be honest about it…say It was a good story, and even though I personally don’t like (insert genre) you might enjoy this read.

Be fair. Authors put a lot of time into their writing, we should encourage them by praising their work, when called for, and offering constructive criticism to help the author grow in his/her writing when needed. It’s easy to verbally bash something, but if you offer no solutions, or points to work from, then maybe you should refrain from comment.

You can refer to my post on having your work edited before publication (to avoid bad reviews afterwards), called “What’s in a Review”:

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Do You Support Your Author?

If I hear one more person tell my I should be cleaning instead of at the computer, or playing with my daughter instead of typing, or cooking instead of writing…well you get the impression. I’m gonna scream!

I do play with my daughter, yes, I know she just spilled her legos across the floor. No, I just put the dogs out. Yes, supper is on its way.  Hold on, I need to polish my boots and get into my uniform so I won’t be late. The fish are hungry and the bird needs water. I made supper for my husband and put the baby to bed. Somehow, and somewhere in between I have written a book which I am now up to my eyeballs marketing. I am half-way through another book while finishing the first draft of yet another for a writing course.

Do I get any help? No. Do I get any encouragement? No. I get, “I think you should vacuum” and “what’s for dinner?”

Do I need to blog, tweet, facebook and have a website? Well, if I don’t tell people about all my hard work, how will they know?

Do YOU want to make my facebook page, write my blog post, review a book or develop my media platform? Do you want to follow up and follow through on these things for me?

If I knew half of what was involved in ‘writing a book’, I’m not sure I would have gotten into it. It is overwhelming at times (to say the least) and I am not a computer IT person, so dealing with blogs and websites are exhausting.

Any author can tell you that there is so much more to writing and marketing a book than you could possibly imagine. So, if you are a full time worker, parent, spouse, or student, who is stealing minutes to write, good for you. If your book has just been published and you are at the foot of Mount Marketing, you are not alone. Here, and amongst the many authors walking the same rocky road, a multitude of information and support can be found. Don’t give up. It’s OK to stop for a breath once in a while, and it’s OK to rant and even cry, because you are not alone.

As for non-author friends and family, give us a break, and If you don’t have anything nice to say… don’t say nothing at all. (Thumper, in Bambi)

People won’t flock to our doorstep or website just because we ‘wrote a book’. We have to get it out there. We have to spend hours in the middle of the night writing and marketing, to avoid disrupting your schedule…so give us a break, and even a hug.

Support your local mom-author, husband-author, friend-author…

You get the picture. ;o)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Blog Tour Etiquette

If you are thinking of putting together a blog tour, then there are several points to consider. If you are going to be hosted on a blog, and not necessarily as part of a tour, then you should have a brief discussion with the one hosting you.

Here are some suggestions for a successful book tour

1) It is not necessary to post ALL info about the book/author, but a picture of the book should be the minimum, with a blurb, teaser or excerpt to inform blog readers about it. (Post the links to where an interested reader can find more info).

2) Reviews;
-having the blog host read and review is important. If is not your genre, either respectfully decline or be objective. We are here to promote the book/author.
        -posting the review before or after hosting the book will create curiosity and add visibility.
        -If you are hosting, you probably should have read the book BEFORE you blog about it.

3) Vary blogs;
        -By respecting a ratio of 1:1 or 1:2 (blogs with higher number of followers vs newer blogs with fewer followers) not only gets the book out there but also helps the newer or lesser known blogs gain some visibility.

4) Book Genre compatibility with blog genre…

5) Have the blog of the day post a link to the next blog on the tour to allow readers to follow the book through the whole tour.

6) BEFORE the blog tour starts, schedule a 15-30 min open chat or exchange where all participants can ask/answer questions, (even a feed on Goodreads or other, but so everyone can discuss ideas and be on the same page).

7) Be creative, check out other blogs that have hosted and remember to have fun. I was surprised when I saw this interview posted. I was teh one to answer the questions, but the way she worded them on her blog was as though we were chatting. It was a nice change from the copy-and-paste I had expected. Take a look:

8) On the tour date, DO NOT post anything else but the book you are hosting, do not overshadow the post. It defeats the purpose of promoting someone if you can’t easily find them.

9) If you do not like the book, discuss with the moderator. You might like to withdraw and be part of another tour. You do not have to like the book, but the idea of giving bad publicity is not the purpose of the tour.

10) If the book is filled with mistakes or is an all around ‘bad book’, (it happens) by having read it in advance, the moderator and author can be contacted, the book could be declined for the book tour. Just as the integrity of the author is to be respected, so is that f the blog site.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Media Kit

As promised, the Media Kit.

In all honesty, I did not know what this was. Now don’t get me wrong, I understood what it was supposed to be, without knowing exactly what it should be composed of. Within the space of a week I had heard about, saw one, followed a webinar on it and made my own. Since my book is now on a blog tour, this quickly became a great tool to have on hand. It kept me from having to repeat the same information over and over again, made sure I didn’t leave out any details, and in some cases, offered more info than requested.

OK, so here goes:

            -you should have a professional head shot, (link to the photo in high resolution),

            -your resume (especially if you write non-fiction),

            -your biography,

            -interview topics,

            -media appearances, (links)

            -a high resolution picture of your book,

            -the book blurb,

            -an excerpt from the book,

            -other people’s comments, reviews and recommendations,

            -the link to your book trailer,

            -contact info: email, facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, blog, web page, etc.

            -purchase links: Amazon, B&N, Chapters, etc.

Add to it as you see fit. The idea is to have an instant package that can be shipped off in a matter of seconds.
You will not regret the time spent on this. You end up with a professional tool that will quickly become indispensible.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Marketing and More Marketing

As a recently published author, I ran head on into the reality known as marketing. The more authors I meet, the more I realize that on some level we’re all in the same boat. It really doesn’t matter how your book was published, the reality is the same. YOU have to promote your book.
I had gone over some marketing points in earlier blogs, but this one sums it all up.

Marketing your book should start as soon as possible, even before the book has been published. Talk about it. Let your friends and family know. Ask them to spread the word as well, word of mouth is valuable. You should lay the groundwork in advance so people will be looking forward to its release.

Let’s break this down into simple steps:

- Define your target audience. This will permit you to prepare your marketing strategy. If you have written a YA novel, you might save yourself a lot of wasted energy promoting it in all the wrong places.

-Create an email for your author/book related business. You will appreciate this later on.

-Create a Goodreads account and include an author page. Take time to explore all offered groups and pages. I honestly think Goodreads is endless…I’m still discovering stuff.

-Use social media like facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Separate your book page from your personal page on facebook, keep it professional. You can also create a separate author page.

-Ask your friends on facebook to share the link to your book page at least once (no one likes to be harassed).

-Search for pages that would be helpful, such as publishers, fellow authors, book clubs etc. Join these book pages.

-Create an author and/or book website.

-List a book giveaway through Goodreads and on blogs or facebook, but not all at the same time.

-Let your local newspaper know they have a new author living in the area, or that their local author has yet another book on the market.

-Ask those who have read it to post a review...not as easy as it sounds ;o)

-Give (yes, give) your book to friends, to blogs or other websites that offer to post reviews (such as Great Minds Think Aloud). Yes I know authors have to pay for the books given, but in the end it will be worth it.

-Make a book trailer (video). Your computer probably has a program such as Windows Media Maker that you can use. You can go on book publishing sites or on YouTube and check them out to get some ideas. There are quite a few posted on the net. Pictures and music can be found on public domain sites if you don’t want to get out there and take pictures.

-Create a blog. Visit other blogs, share comments, information and good news. Post their (other authors) book link in exchange for them posting yours. Participate in a blog tour.

-Link everything together, so your trailer, website and facebook page can be found on Goodreads and the other way around. Write “Click Here to see…” next to your buttons, remember –not everyone is computer literate.

-Join local author groups, review groups and literary groups. If you wrote a sci-fi novel, join a sci-fi group as well. These often have fees, but in exchange they organize author signings, presentations and such.

-Go to your local library. If a citizen requests a book they will get it. Donate a book to a school library. Ask about doing an author presentation with the students; make up a quick giveaway…the best 500 word story gets a book. If the book is not school material, look into book clubs or reading clubs as well as community centers.

-Offer your book to local bookstores on consignment. Most of the bigger chains will have to go through the head office before being able to accept it.

-See if your local or community TV/radio station won’t give you a brief interview or at least share your good news. Offer to give a book away here too.

Time for a breath of air…

I suggest you do these one after another so that you can pace yourself. Once you create these pages or sites, it is your responsibility to maintain them. Watch your page stats and keep traffic flowing. Once you have one working, add a second one, then a third and so on. Keep a pace that works for you; better to have one great page than half a dozen bad ones. As for content, do you really want to just "copy-paste" the same stuff everywhere? If not, then you need to work at a pace that allows you to create stuff for each page.

-Most of all enjoy the process and don't forget to breathe. Go at your own rate because it can quickly become overwhelming...and remember, you are NOT alone!

On my next post I’ll talk about the Media Kit.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Write, Rewrite and Edit...How do You do it?

I enjoy writing and spend hours doing so. I do not belong to a writing group where I can share my work as I make my way to publication. Not because I don’t want to share or read other people’s work, but because I have a system…a network that came to be all on its own.

The most prominent element in this ‘system’ is my dear friend Ursula. She reads everything, over and over again. She has read every story I have written over the past few years and more versions of Amethyst Eyes than you can imagine. I cannot tell you how important her role in my writing is. She has got to be the most dynamic editor I know. If I make a mistake, I hear about it in a heart beat. If there is something vague or unclear, she’ll throw it back. If she doesn’t like it, well, from this side of the fence, there appears to be no ‘politically correct’ way to say it…

She will argue her point until she’s blue in the face, or I can produce some acceptable supporting documents. She admits to not be the greatest when it comes to imagining or visualizing something…but for me, the author, I couldn’t ask for a better person to critique my descriptions, because if I can get Ursula to ‘see’ it, well then I know I’m on the right track.

I have to laugh at times, when she stands her ground and tries to get me to change or remove some element that she believes doesn’t belong. I have to remember that I am writing the story, and her opposition helps me be sure of the decision to keep that part, word or sentence.

What of the rest of my network?

The other seven members of my Amethyst Eyes revision team only came into play once the manuscript had been completed, revised several times and professionally edited. I waited for their opinions, comments and feedback. I purposely chose an eclectic group of people to see what they had to say, and when I asked a hardcore Stephen King fan to read my YA novel, I knew it was the farthest thing from her genre and personal taste. I was really surprised when she said she’d liked it.

By the time I was ready to publish there were little changes to be made, but Ursula reread it again with me. We rehashed details all the way to the author bio and book cover.

I can’t imagine having to write without Ursula’s input. I suppose would have to turn towards a writing group, because I believe feedback is essential to good writing. I am so very grateful for her time and input.

Do you belong to a writing group? Do you have your personal network of readers or do you do it alone?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Is There a Right Way to Write?

One of my first writing instructors recently posted that she would tell her students to “Outline, outline, outline!” because that is what worked best for her. When I hear the word ‘outline’ I cringe…because letting go and writing, seeing where the adventure takes me and discovering all its wonders AS I write, is what works best for me…and I believe that that is where the secret lies.  

What works best for me might be the death of you. So how do you know WHAT to do? Give it a try. Listen, ask questions, take notes, and try it out. To be the best you can be starts with the understanding of who you are and how you work. If you think you have to have a special writing space, designated time, background music and a cup of Earl Grey to be productive, well…sure, why not? But have you TRIED any other way? How do you know beyond a doubt that it has to be so? How do you know that you can’t write on your train commute amidst the noisy passengers? You might discover you are wasting precious writing time.

Observe human interaction, body language, speech patterns, intonation and setting. Describe clothing, features, gestures…

Take one person and let him or her come to life on paper. Create conflicts, interactions, secret situations and what ever you feel like.

Does your writing feel like a job, a school assignment, a documentary or an adventure?

Personally, I like to do my research. I keep technical files. My character files have things like hair and eye colour, physical and personality traits, along with other info I can call up at any instant. I create these files AFTER seeing what my character looks like. However, when it comes to my story, I watch my character(s) come to life and I write what goes on as it happens. No plan, no structure…I’m along for the ride. (I need SOME form of starting point –even if that happens to be the middle of the book). I simply let go and write. The last thing I want is a step by step structure stating who, what, where, when, why and how…

I do admire my overly-structured friends, they intrigue me. I think it’s great that they function that way. I tried it and it didn’t work out for me. It made writing painful and a chore.  That is how I know it wasn’t right for me…but what about you? Do you know how you function best? I discovered that with the constant interruptions of my two-year-old I had to learn to focus and keep my train of thought while I stopped my writing to tend to her needs. When I returned to the computer a little later on my idea was even better, my vision sharper, more dynamic. Pretty cool trade off. Now, when I sit down in a rare moment of undisturbed (silent) writing, I can dive into my story and produce pages and pages.

So if you want to write, write. Don’t stop yourself because you think your conditions aren’t ideal. Until you give it a try, you’ll never know what you can do.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A Little Advice From Me to Me

Just the other day I posted “Pace Yourself” and after the activities of the past few days I think I need to take my own advice.

I have my book tour coming up, an author presentation and a few (dozen) other things to tend to. The first draft of my 2nd novel is expected in two weeks…and I still have about 16,000 words to go before I reach my goal of 66,000.

But I fear I have become somewhat undisciplined over these past few days, lingering over my keyboard and not really being productive. Honestly, how many times do you need to check on your emails, stats, or fb page? Once a day is enough. It has to be, because then you end up spending more and more time, wasting time that could be of use elsewhere. I have a house to run, a 3 yr old, I work part time for the military, I am taking an advanced writing course and writing yet another book outside of the one due in two weeks.

This weekend, my laptop returns to the second floor library. I will allow myself a period of time every day, but then I promise myself I will not return until the next day.

I’ll let you know how it turns out!