I love doing workshops and discussions about writing. It’s great to get out there and meet fellow writers and to hopefully help someone with their work. I know that over the years I’ve learned a lot from others and by posting these articles, I hope you may learn something as well.
I’ve also found some articles from friends and others enlightening and have listed links to them as well. I’ve noted the authors on these articles and unless so noted, the article is one I’ve written and am sharing you from my personal files.
If there’s any topic in which you are interested but I haven’t covered, feel free to drop me a line. If I can’t do an article on it, I’ll see if one of my writing friends can provide some guidance.
We’re very lucky to have with us today India Drummond who is going to offer up some advice for writers.
India is the author of paranormal romance and urban fantasy. She knew from age nine that writing would be her passion. Since then she’s discovered many more, but none quite so fulfilling as creating a world, a character, or a moment and watching them evolve into something complex and compelling. She has lived in three countries and four American states, is a dual British and American citizen, and currently lives at the base of the Scottish Highlands in a village so small its main attraction is a red phone box. In other words: paradise.
The supernatural and paranormal have always fascinated India. In addition to being an avid sci-fi and fantasy reader, she also enjoys mysteries, thrillers, and romance. This probably explains why her novels have elements of adventure, ghosts (or elves, fairies, angels, aliens, and whatever else she can dream up), and spicy love stories.
So without further ado! Here’s India’s Advice for Writers!
My advice? Oh, don’t ask me that! Why not? See, I’m perfectly happy to share. I have learned so much from authors I’ve met online, from classes, workshops, and the good, old school of experience. Ask me anything specific, and I’m happy to give freely of whatever knowledge I have, but I rarely offer advice.
I’ve learned that what works for one author often doesn’t work for another. For example, I used to write by the seat of my pants. Then I heard all these authors saying, “You have to learn to plot. It’s the only way.” And I tried it… and failed. I was so frustrated! I felt there was a right way to do things, but I couldn’t do it. Of course, I also assumed this was why I was languishing on the query-go-round.
Then, as I began to write more books, I saw the patterns in my various novel projects, how I created turning points in around 1/3 and 2/3 of the way through a book, how I wove multiple storylines into one. I was developing my own style, and from that, I created an outline template that works for me and makes life easier. Would it work for anyone else? Probably not.
There’s so much advice out there on the internet. Some of it’s good, some… not so much. And as an unpublished writer, I gobbled up every morsel of it, hoping to find the magic nugget of gold that would transport me beyond the forbidden gates and into the world of the published.
Now that I have achieved my dream of publication, I have more perspective. And looking back, I see that I used to spend hours socialising with other writers on the various networks out there. I wish now I had spent at least 50% of that time writing more books.
So here’s my one piece of advice to aspiring authors. It might annoy some to hear it. But if you can get this, it will make you a better writer: Write more books. Quit agonising over your query letter. Quit worrying that one project to death. Quit spending more time blogging than you do writing fiction. Quit spending more time critiquing for others than you do writing fiction.
Write. More. Books.
Why “more books” instead of just making the current project better?
Because the average published author has written six books by the time they get a contract. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, will improve your writing like experience. And you can’t get all your experience in one book.
I think part of that is that with each successive story, we experiment. Those experiments lead us into new places, and we begin to see what works and what doesn’t. I promise those unpublished projects won’t be a waste of time. What you learn by the third or fourth book, you can go back and apply to your first book, once you have some perspective on it.
So, yes, there’s some good advice out there. Do learn to write a professional query letter. Do learn how to write a blurb, how to write effective dialogue, how to use just enough description, but not too much… But don’t obsessive over the mountains of advice you can find on the net these days, hoping to learn “the secret”.
The real secret, in my experience, is experience. And you get it by writing. Nothing more, and nothing less.
So go forth and WRITE!
Never give up. Never let yourself get down. Never give in to the voices in your head that tell you it’s too hard or it can’t be done, or maybe getting published is too big a dream. You CAN do it… if you’ll only WRITE… and write… and write.
THAT is what I wish I’d known two years ago.
* * * * *
I second India’s advice! I always tell writers that the only wrong thing to do is to not write. There is no wrong or right way to write. Each person has their own creative ways of doing things. So don’t be stymied by well meaning advice about “the right way” to write. And NEVER GIVE UP!
For more information on India, please check out these sources:
India’s website and blog: http://www.indiadrummond.com/
Facebook Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/india.drummond.author
To arrange an interview or contact the author, please email: email@example.com
My friend Rayna Vause and I were recently at the Moonlight & Magnolias conference in Atlanta to give a workshop on publicity and promotion in cyberspace. One of the topics we discussed was Social Media and how to use it to help build your brand online.
One of the major concerns expressed by many was the time demands of being in so many places online. It’s a truly valid concern. With so many authors still holding down jobs and/or the needs of family, spending time on the web and social media sites can be a major time suck, especially when you’re also trying to write a book.
But it is possible to use technology to alleviate some of the demands of Social Media promotion. If you’ve got a blog, Facebook, Twitter and Myspace, it’s possible to automate many of these applications so that you’re content will be available on all of them with minimal work. How do you do that?
Feed your blog to your Twitter, Facebook and/or Myspace pages:
Both Twitter and Facebook allow you to feed content automatically from your blog. In Facebook, find your NOTES section and you will see a spot where you can add your blog feed to bring it into your Facebook profile. With Twitter, you can use Twitterfeed to automatically post your blog content as a tweet.
Unfortunately, I have not been able to find a similar application for Myspace, but it is possible to create a widget for your blog feed that you can embed on your Myspace page or in other applications that accept Widgets. I’ve used Spring Widgets and find their RSS feed widget very handy.
Feed your Twitter, Facebook and/or Myspace to each other:
It’s possible to feed your various tweets, status changes, etc. from one Social Media site to another.
There are a number of applications that will allow you to view and take action on your various sites at once. Two of the more popular and useful applications are TWEETDECK and HOOTSUITE.
Tweetdeck is a desktop application that will allow you to see tweets, respond, retweet as well as view your Facebook and Myspace content. Hootsuite is a web-based application that also does much of the same, but also allows you to schedule tweets. A great ability to have if you must get information out but know in advance that you will not have access to the web.
I hope you found today’s Tuesday Tip helpful and that it will help you avoid the possible time suck of Social Media. If you have any good applications that you can recommend, please let us know by posting them to the comments section.
We’ve got a very special guest with us today! Please welcome Amy Corwin who is going to offer up some tips on writing my favorites – Paranormals!
Plotting the Paranormal
My name is Amy Corwin and I write paranormals. Actually, I write mysteries—both contemporary and historical—as well, but today I wanted to explore writing paranormals. They really aren’t much different than writing other kinds of novels, except perhaps the focus of the plot. When you’re sitting down to write other kinds of fiction, you generally fall into plot-driven or character-driven categories, regardless of whether you’ve never plotted out a book in advance in your life (a “pantster” writer) or do a complete plot outline before you place fingers on the keyboard to write.
Plot-driven writers create a plot and their characters weave their way through it. Character-driven writers let a character’s strengths, weakness, and goals drive the plot. For example, in a character-driven plot, the main character may be a kleptomaniac and that trait causes the character to get into a series of escalating problems. In a plot-driven novel, the plot may be that someone wakes up to find a dead body in bed next to him and has to figure out what happened before he is arrested for murder.
Ideally, you want the characters to drive the plot, while keeping them in line so that the plot doesn’t just drift off randomly like a blind man lost in a swamp. For example, if the guy does wake up in bed to find a dead body, it may be that his character led him to that place to begin with (he’s a party guy and notoriously drunk and someone used that to decide to frame him) and his character may drive the rest of the plot as he tries to prove his innocence. Most books aren’t purely one or the other.
A paranormal novel adds an additional dimension to the plot: the paranormal. What is interesting, however, is how this changes the basic plotting. In a way, you could think of a paranormal as being paranormal-driven. Whatever element makes the story a paranormal, be it a supernatural creature or some super-psychic ability, is what needs to drive the plot. If your story is about a woman who can see dead people, then the plot needs to revolve around her ability to see the dead. Perhaps she sees her dead son and learns he didn’t really commit suicide, but was murdered. She’s then driven to resolve the case, but runs into other difficulties due to her psychic abilities. That ability is the “character” trait that must drive the plot. Kay Hooper does this very, very effectively in her Noah Bishop, Special Crimes Unit novels. Each character in that series has a different psychic trait and that trait forces the character into the story and propels him or her forward.
Haunted house stories are another familiar breed and in contrast to Kay Hooper’s Special Crimes Unit, haunted house stories tend to be more plot-driven, but the plot is in essence the paranormal element: the haunted house. But since it’s rare to have successful books solely plot or character driven, and a classic example is Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. While it is a haunted house story and driven by that paranormal element, the haunting works on the main character’s weaknesses. It was Eleanor’s personality and sad history that intensified the paranormal elements and created a compelling story. Without Eleanor’s specific emotional makeup, the story would have been just another blah-blah ghost story. Instead, it became a classic that few other books have ever matched.
It’s never easy to blend all the elements and it’s perhaps a wee bit more difficult when you add the paranormal. It’s like a juggler picking up that third axe: two axes seem dangerous enough, the third just seems crazy. But it’s thrilling to be crazy.
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Memories may help her survive, but will they help her resist her vampire protector?
Exploring Gwen’s long abandoned childhood home in the company of her attractive neighbor, John, sounds like an intriguing evening. However, she soon realizes her mistake. John is a vampire and her house is not exactly empty. Secrets—and the dead—don’t always stay buried, and John’s extraordinary strength and determination may be all that can withstand what awaits them in the darkness.
In the following excerpt, Gwen has asked her neighbor, John Wright, to accompany her to her abandoned family home. She knows he’s a vampire, but despite this, she’s attracted to him and wants his company on this adventure.
But when the two of them get to the house, she’s not so sure it’s a good idea to enter…
Excerpt from Vampire Protector
John stopped and waited on the stoop. He glanced over his shoulder. When she didn’t move, he held out his hand in a peremptory gesture. She stared at it, thinking how human his hand looked with a sprinkling of dark hairs on the back of his wrists and strong, blunt-tipped fingers.
He must have been working outdoors the day he died, for there was still a tinge of sunburned red deepening the tan. The sun-kissed color reinforced the false sensation of heat radiating from him. He felt warm and alive to all her senses, despite the knowledge that he was not.
Her heart twisted with loneliness. It had been so long since she had felt arms around her. But she hadn’t met a man she felt she could trust, and a vampire was out of the question.
She had lost her way and did not know how to find the path back to a real life.
“Hold my hand if you’re afraid of ghosts,” he offered with a twisted smile. A flicker of sympathy grew in the depths of his eyes, revealing a sad recognition of the gulf between them: vampire and human.
With a sense of surprise, she felt his warm gaze tug her even closer to him. As if his awareness of the differences between them meant they shared similar core beliefs and that she could trust him because of that.
She shivered and thrust her thoughts away.
“Hanging onto your cold, dead fingers is not going to make me feel any better.”
“I’ll warm them for you.” His dark eyes flickered. The corners crinkled with silent laughter.
“You can make me think they’re warm. But they’ll still be cold, dead fingers.” The hairs rose along her neck and arms. She glanced over her shoulder toward the graveyard across the street.
“The remnants of the dead—those tatters—have probably drifted over from the graveyard. They’ll collect here. It’s not that I’m afraid of them. It’s not like they’d consciously attack me or anything, but they’ll be attracted to the body heat of anything living. Like me.”
She gestured toward one of the drifts of leaves in the farthest corner of the porch.
A few pitiful gray, black, and white feathers lay amidst the debris. At some point in the past, a mockingbird had tried to nest in the shelter of the porch. The bird had been sucked dry of energy and warmth before it realized what was happening and flew away. All that remained was a dry handful of feathers and bones.
The sight did not bode well for anything alive that entered the house.
About Amy: Amy Corwin is a charter member of the Romance Writers of America and has been writing for the last ten years and managing a career as an enterprise systems administrator in the computer industry. She writes Regencies/historicals, mysteries, and contemporary paranormals. To be truthful, most of her books include a bit of murder and mayhem since she discovered that killing off at least one character is a highly effective way to make the remaining ones toe the plot line.
Amy’s books include the two Regency romances, SMUGGLED ROSE, and LOVE, THE CRITIC; three Regency romantic mysteries, I BID ONE AMERICAN, THE BRICKLAYER’S HELPER, and THE NECKLACE; and her first paranormal, VAMPIRE PROTECTOR.
Join her and discover that every good romance has a touch of mystery.
Today’s Tuesday Tip is about Creating Empowered Heroines
Anita Blake. Eve Dallas. Buffy Summers and last but not least, Diana Reyes. What is it about these heroines that appeals to modern women? How do you create such a sometimes perplexing heroine and once you do, what do you do with her?
A good tool for developing such a heroine is the Archetype. Archetypes analyze the various aspects of a persona and what happens when someone either achieves balance or goes to the “Dark Side”.
The archetype that best matches our concept of the empowered heroine is the Diana Archetype which is named after the goddess in Roman and Greek mythology.
Diana is the goddess of the moon. She is often portrayed as a protector and nurturer. These traits began early in life, when Diana helped her mother give birth to her Diana’s twin — Apollo. Diana is always ready to assist others, but vulnerable herself. She does not have good relationships with others. In particular, she does not interact well with men, often being competitive and challenging. Diana even killed her one great love — Orion — in an act of rashness when Apollo challenged her to shoot an arrow at a distant object which later turned out to be Orion.
The traits exhibited by the goddess Diana (and attributed to her archetype) are personified in many of today’s more popular butt-kicking heroines. These traits are:
1. Self-confident and Independent
2. Protective and helpful to others
3. Motivated and able to accomplish her goals
5. Equates physical strength with mental fortitude
(hence the kick-butt attitude!)
All of the above traits appear to be good ones, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. If the Diana heroine cannot find balance, the above traits will lead to someone who:
1. Suppresses her emotions, thereby appearing cold or distant
2. Is not a nurturer and cannot handle passive or clingy people.
3. Allows her single-mindedness to damage or hurt
others as she strives to reach her goals.
4. Can’t deal with competition, especially men.
5. Is contemptuous of vulnerability which makes her
appear inhuman when faced with someone weak.
Many of the Diana heroines with whom you are familiar exhibit the above negative traits. In fact, it is typical to see Diana heroines regularly battling these darker aspects. This battle appeals to readers. Who hasn’t experienced puzzlement at why a Diana heroine pushes away a powerful and very sexy alpha hero? Think Eve and Roarke. Buffy and Spike. Diana and Ryder.
This struggle in the Diana heroine is what compels us to become involved. It is what makes us root for them since we know that once they achieve that balance, they will triumph in love or in battle.
How does Diana evolve?
To grow as an individual, Diana must discover that the love and trust of another person is special to her. She needs to learn to be vulnerable and understand that exhibiting such a trait does not make her weak. Often, this happens to a Diana heroine after she has failed to reach a goal or is tired of the fight. At that point, Diana may look inward to reflect on what is important.
By achieving balance, the heroine will be able to move ahead and find peace in her life. But even this peace is temporary since Diana will always battle the doubt within her. When another challenge arises in her life, she will again need to tackle all her issues in order to maintain equilibrium and remain a hero.
What kinds of heroes appeal to Diana?
Definitely alpha males. Diana’s lover is physically and/or mentally strong. He is sometimes wounded in some way, which reaches past the shell Diana has placed around her heart. His combination of strength and weakness will challenge Diana’s view of herself.
Diana’s relationship with the hero may start off as true lust. After all, Diana is not afraid to go after what she wants and if the hero will satisfy a need, she will use him for satisfaction. But if she finds balance and the hero is strong enough to break through her shell, not only can true love ensue, it is generally a very powerful love.
But remember, Diana is ever-doubtful so don’t be surprised that as the next challenge arises, the hero will once again need to remind Diana that what they have is special.
Because Diana heroines are ever-doubtful, they are great characters if you plan to create a series. With each story, a new challenge will arise and require our brainy, beautiful butt-kicker to commit herself to that new challenge and her hero!
One thing that I’m often asked is how I decided to build my website and what tips I can offer to someone who has to either create a new site or update one. So today’s Tuesday Tip is Part 1 of a series of articles on how to build an effective website! I hope you find it helpful.
Part 1: Deciding on the look and feel of the site
Before you even go with a programmer or other web professional, the first thing to do is to consider how you want your site to look. A site should reflect what you do as a writer (or what you plan to do in the near future). If you’re writing paranormals, your readers and other industry professionals may expect a look that’s quite different from what they expect to see at a site for someone who writes romantic comedy.
So, visit sites for writers in your genre and see what they are doing in terms of color, graphics, etc. Make a list of your favorite sites to send to whoever is programming your site so they can have a reference point for where to begin. If there are certain images that you like, save the links to where they are on the web or visit one of the stock photo places to find images of interest (istockphoto.com and fotolia.com are two good ones).
Decide whether you want any animated features on the site, like those flash intros which are the opening pages or the headers at sites (you can check www.caridad.com or www.thecallingvampirenovels.com to see what I mean by a flash header).
Also make a note of the names of the designers on the sites you like the most. You may wish to approach them to design your site. Prices may vary from a low of $150 or so to tens-of-thousands of dollars. That range will depend on whether the programmer is creating animated intros for you or whether they are creating custom fonts and graphics.
Finally, what kinds of pages should you have on your site? A nice opening page where you tell people a little bit about yourself and what’s happening with you. A bio page for sure. Contact page where you have the information on how people can reach you. A list of either your published books or projects you have in the works. Those are pretty much the basics, but think for the future so that however the site is designed, it will be possible for someone to easily expand it.
Will you be blogging in the future? Have a Myspace or Facebook page? Add an Amazon store or calendar? Make sure to let the programmer know that you have these ideas in mind for the future and it will help them decide how to code the website.
One thing to know is that having all this information on hand is one way to keep down website programming costs and get a site up and running in a reasonable amount of time.
Also – you may wish to have your designer do a banner or button that you can upload to other sites and use for web advertising. This is generally easy to do and shouldn’t cost much more. In addition, if you’re going to do a Myspace page, try to use the same design if possible. You’re building your brand with this website and it’s good to reinforce that brand at every web presence you have if it’s possible.
Stay tuned for next Tuesday’s Tip – Types of sites and how to get them up and running!
Registration of the domain name and building a brand
You know those long addresses that go something like this http://yahoosites/user/mynameismud.htm
Not so long ago it was expensive to register a domain name and there was only one Registrar, but not anymore. There are lots of domain name registrars out there and the prices can be as low as $8.99. Be sure when you get that great price that it doesn’t include some kind of advertisement requirement for the registrar.
Also, since you have to have someone host your website (in non-geek speak – the company who has the web server that will hold the files for your website), they may offer a deal where they will purchase and set-up your domain name as part of the hosting package.
But back to the domain name. What should it be? Something fun and sexy?
Keep the domain name manageable in terms of length for starters. If you’re going to use a pen name, google it and see what pops up to make sure there aren’t a lot of other people with the same name. Also go to the WHO IS and make sure it’s not registered yet before you not only try to register the domain name, but before you start designing your site. The last thing you want is to find out the name is taken and you have to redo your graphics, etc. You can do the WHO IS at this link: http://www.networksolutions.com/whois/index.jsp
Another thing to consider is whether you are going to be a .com, .net, .tv, .us or some other dot extension. The most common extension – and the one most people expect to see – is .com so lean towards going with that.
Back to the naming issue, which goes hand in hand with the branding issue.
I’ve learned over the many years I’ve been publishing that the one thing that keeps changing in my career are the genres in which I write. The one thing that remains steady (for the most part) is my name. When my first books came out under Caridad Scordato (an error which could not be corrected), I opted to go with caridad.com as my website because I knew (1) that I would be changing my last name and (2) that Caridad was unique enough that most readers would associate that name with me regardless of that last name that was being used.
So build your name and not some idea of the writer you are now because the latter will change while the former will likely not change.
If there is some other message you want to get across to readers, go with using a tag line/slogan. Check out Rayna Vause’s: When you need a little paranormal in your romance
Tag lines/slogans are a good way to reinforce what you do, but again, the emphasis should always be on you.
We’ll go into how to get people to visit your site next Tuesday, but as I mentioned last week, you may wish to design banners for when you start getting word out about yourself and your work. The banners should have the same look and feel of the site if at all possible and again, should stress your name so that people will start recognizing that name.
Building an Effective Web Presence – Part 3: Types of sites and how to get them up and running
There are a number of different types of websites and ways to get them running. How you decide to go will impact on the costs of not only building the site, but maintaining it. The options range from free – but involving a lot of your time – to having someone totally build and maintain the site for you. Of course, there is the in-between option as well – someone else builds and you maintain.
The first thing to decide on is the platform or in non-geek speak – what the basic foundation of the site will be.
One thing to keep in mind – regardless of the platform the coding for the site will generally be in HTML which is the most common language used on the web.
Traditional website: Usually coded using HTML, but may also have underlying coding in ASP or SQL (other languages). Websites of this nature generally require more advanced technical knowledge not only due to the coding, but also because such coding is usually done at a local computer and then uploaded to a web-based server using an FTP program (File transfer Protocol). In general, sites like these are created by programmers and also maintained by programmers unless you are well-versed in HTML and FTP.
One thing to consider with a site like this is to have it programmed by someone who has a writing community, such as Writerspace, Romance Designs or Noveltalk. These communities will not only build and host your site, but include you in their community listings, etc. giving you immediate exposure to your core audience – other writers and readers.
WordPress/Drupal: These are two of the hottest platforms out there. Both platforms are freeware (always nice). That means that you pay nothing for using the software that is the basis for the website, but you will notice that the WordPress/Drupal name will appear on every site using this technology. Sites based on these platforms are generally easier to maintain, especially WordPress. They are menu-driven and allow users to create and edit new pages via the internet, eliminating the need for the FTP procedure. WordPress also allows you to work with a WYSIWIG (What You See Is What You Get) editor which eliminates a great deal of the need for HTML coding (although those you know some basic HTML may find it more reliable to use the coding).
Drupal is a little more complex in terms of coding, but is quickly becoming popular, especially with programmers since they believe it provides more flexibility than WordPress.
I must confess to loving WordPress. Both of my sites are written using this platform. For more information on WordPress, you can visit www.wordpress.org. WordPress is also blogging software and so you can have your website and blog all with the same look and feel at one place.
If you chose this route, you will likely need a programmer to install the WordPress/Drupal software at the company which will host your site. Once that’s done, however, you should be able to apply one of their free themes to your site and begin coding it. Another option is to have the programmer design a custom theme and then you start coding and/or maintaining the site. Or, last but not least, you let the designer code and maintain the site.
FYI – WordPress also has a free site (www.wordpress.com – not .org) where you can create your website, pick a theme and be up and running with very little effort. The downside to the free service is that there is little you can do to change the theme, etc. without paying extra.
Finally, one of the other ways that you can have a web presence is by going with a blog only one of the free blogging services – Eblogger, WordPress or LiveJournal are some of the more popular services. You can customize the looks of the sites on these services and there are generally no (or few) charges associated with having your site at these locations. If you decide to move to a different web presence, I believe all of these sites have a way of letting you move your content to a new site or you could just choose to link from your new site to these services for the blog aspect.
You may be asking yourself, as a pre-published writer, why should I worry about getting people to visit my site?
If you’ve been reading the publishing news (and I’d highly recommend that if you haven’t already subscribed to Publishers Lunch that you do), publishing had its Black Wednesday recently. Layoffs at Simon & Schuster and Houghlin Mifflin announcing that it had a freeze on acquisitions. Lots going on at other publishing houses as well.
What does that mean for all of us? Maybe less slots available for commercial fiction.
If you’re a publisher and have a choice between two pre-published writers – one who has regular visitors to their website and one who doesn’t – who would you choose? One has demonstrated that they know how to get publicity and may already have an established group of people to notify about their book.
So how do you get people to visit your website?
I’m a firm proponent of blogging based on my own experience. I have nearly 4 times the visitors I had two years ago since I started blogging. But like anything else, if you’re not going to commit to doing it regularly, don’t start.
What’s regular? That’s really up to you. Once a week? That’s fine as long as you let your readers know and they can expect that weekly post.
If you’re going to post more than once a week, consider themed days. I do that so readers know when to visit. Some like the fun days, some like the excerpts. I do each on the same day each week so people know when to come back.
Also – you can feed your blog to various other sites, increasing your presence on the web. If you’ve got friends with blogs, get together and put together guest blogs. Share banners or links with those friends or get listed on other similar sites as well.
You can also consider writing articles to draw traffic to your site.
Finally, make sure you get listed on the search engines by submitting your site to the search engines and by making sure you’ve got the right metatags in your website (ask your programmer on how to do the metatags). That will help people find you on the web.
Unlike the baseball diamond in the midst of the isolated corn field in FIELD OF DREAMS, just building a website doesn’t guarantee that anyone will come visit. In order for people to know that you are out there on the Internet, there are a number of steps you can take to increase awareness of your website and improve how you are listed in search engine results.
The first step you can take actually happens even before you get your website up and running. When you are designing your website, make sure that you include metatags in your site’s header and web pages.
What is a metatag? A metatag is information inserted in the header (“head”) portion of your website. The header portion of your website is not visible to viewers on your site, but is read by search engine spiders as they comb the Internet for information to include in their search engine results. You can place your title, site description, and keyword metatags in your header to improve how a search engine will list your website in the search.
For example, the keywords to include in your header metatags could be as follows: “caridad, piñeiro, romance, author, romance author, blog, free read, silhouette, harlequin, pocket books, vampire, novel, fiction, author, south beach, chicas, the calling, romantic suspense, paranormal.”
There are no limits to the number of keywords you can place in your metatags, and you should attempt to make a comprehensive list of words that are applicable to the content of your website. The search engine spiders will note these metatags and next time someone searches on one of those keywords, your website should show up if you’ve been spidered.
Also keep in mind that the keywords you use should also be repeated in the content of your web pages. It will improve your relevance in search engine results if your keywords appear often. An excellent article on how to use Metatags can be found at SearchEngineWatch.com (http://searchenginewatch.com/showPage.html?page=2167931).
Once you’ve got your metatags in place, you need to make sure that the search engine spiders visit your site so that you will be included in their search engine results.
You may want to set up a separate email address for search engine submissions, as doing this will generate a number of emails from the various services. There are a number of other free search engine submission sites, but some ask that you place codes on your site in order to use their services. You may also pay for these submissions, but it can get quite costly and using
the manual and free services generally works to get your site submitted.
How often should you submit your website to the search engines? Some people say as often as every month, but too many submissions may get you banned from future submissions. I would recommend that you resubmit your website at least every six months.
Being listed in search engine results will help draw people to your website, but how else can you get people to visit?
The first and easiest way is to get listed on other similar sites. If you’re published, ask your publisher if they have a web page for you at their site and, if so, ask for a link to your personal web page.
Do a search on “romance novel links,” and you will get a long list of romance novel related sites. Visit the various sites and follow their procedures for getting listed on their links and list them on your links page.
Expand your presence on the Internet via social networking sites such as Myspace. Make sure your Myspace page has a link back to your main web page.
Do you have information to share with others, such as articles on writing? Visit Ezinearticles.com and similar sites to post your articles for others to find.
Finally, keep the content on your site fresh and interesting. It’s important not only to draw readers to your site the first time, but to develop a pattern of returning visitors. There is nothing worse than visiting a site where the last update is many months old.
Hope these tips gave you some ideas on what to do with your web presence!
At the February meeting of the Liberty States Fiction Writers we were very lucky to have my friend and fellow author, Anna DeStefano, do a wonderful workshop on revisions. During the course of the workshop, Anna mentioned something which I truly believe – Characters are plot.
Why do I believe that? You may read a book that has a good plot – pacing works, premise is interesting. But if the characters leave you flat, you will forget that book almost as quickly as you read it.
Writing emotionally developed and interesting characters is, IMHO, key to creating a memorable book and plot. Why plot? you ask. Because it is the development of the characters and how they resolve their internal conflicts that creates the story arc of your plot. It is your job as a writer to craft scenes in which the characters are challenged to deal with their conflicts and advance until at the end of the novel, the characters have resolved those internal conflicts (or maybe just one of them if you are creating a series with the same characters).
For this reason, I totally believe that characters are plot. When you define your characters and how they need to grow, you can then build a story around that. When you do, you will have a book where your readers are always on the edge of their seats wondering whether or not the character will rise up to the occasion or fail. Readers will cheer for them and their hearts will break when the characters encounter problems.
When your readers finish your book, not only will you have given them a story that engaged them, but you will have touched them and created characters they will remember long after the books are sitting on a shelf.
Characters are plot. Remember that before you get started and your story will almost write itself.
Many thanks to fellow author Amy Atwell for providing her advice on how to setup a cool Facebook landing page. If you follow these steps, you will be able to provide new visitors with more information than what’s available on the regular Facebook wall (see below). This splash page will be visible to anyone who has not “Liked” you yet.
How do you create such a landing/splash page?
You will need to use Facebook’s FBML language, which is basically HTML code. If you’re not familiar with HMTL don’t worry. If you are using either WordPress or Blogger, you can use the regular editor to create a draft of the page that you want. When you’re done, disable rich text editing or the Visual editor and what you’ll see is the HTML code for what you just laid out.
Step 1: Search for FBML and you’ll find a user for that. “Like” them and add their “App” to your Fan page.
Step 2: Return to the Fan Page. At the top below your name you will see “Edit.” Click on “Edit.” You will see a list of items on the left hand side of the page. Click on “Apps.”
Step 3: This will bring up a list of added “Apps.” FBML should be down on the bottom. Click on “Go To App.” This will open up a blank page where you can either type your HTML if you know how to code or where you can cut and paste the HTML that you created with your blog program. Make sure to also give the page a title, like “Welcome!” Some things to remember:
The page width is about 500.
To get paragraph returns, use a < BR > (without the spaces).
You can use tables and other more complicated coding, just keep the page width in mind.
Keep the title short as there is not much space on the sidebar.
Step 4: Once you are done with the HMTL coding, click on “Save Changes” down at the bottom.
Step 5: Click on “View Page” and when you reach your Fan Page, look at the left hand side below your profile photo. You will see a list of available items. Click on the name for the FBML page you just created to view it. If it looks good, proceed to Step 6. If not, go back to Step 2 and repeat to tweak your code.
Step 6: To make this your “landing” page for people who have not yet “Liked” your Page, Go to “Manage Permissions.” This choice is located near the top of the items on the left hand side of the page. Down toward the middle of the page in the choices, you can choose which of your pages to make the “Default Landing Tab.” Choose the FBML page you just created.
Step 7: Logout and then go back to your Fan page so you can enter Facebook like someone who has not yet done the “Like.” This will let you see this new landing/splash page. Once you have done a “Like”, you will not see this landing/splash page again.
You can also use the FBML App to create additional pages with content for your readers! Visit my Fan Page to see what kinds of goodies are available.
Hope you found this useful! Feel free to share it with others.
I’ve been asked this question a lot lately and thought I’d share this tip with you. It’s actually really easy to create a rotating banner or a rotating series of book covers/images.
Best of all, it’s free! Why do you need to do this as a writer? Publicity and Promotion. It’s not enough to write a good book anymore. You need to know how to promote. For those of you who may be attending the NJRW Conference in October, Lisa Renee Jones and I will be doing a workshop titled Promo or Perish during which we will discuss the many avenues of promotion that writers should consider.
So here’s how to create a rotating web banner:
First, download Microsoft Gif Animator using this link:
Next, make sure that you’ve got gif files of all your covers (or whatever images you want to animate).
The images/covers should all be the same size. You can use PAINT to make them GIF files if you don’t have any other graphic software. You should be able to resize them using paint as well.
If you plan on loading the banner to a specific site, you may wish to check their requirements. Otherwise, 170×269 pixels is a good size for a banner that looks like a book cover (see below).
For a traditional web banner, the typical size is usually 468×60 pixels (see below for a sample of a traditional web banner).
The problem is that the bigger you make each cover/image, the larger the rotating file becomes which can make it too big for some sites or your own website.
Once you’ve saved all the covers in the one size, open Gif animator and click on the OPEN icon. Open the first GIF file you created. After that click on the INSERT icon until you’ve got all the covers you want to rotate in the order you wish for them to appear. You can move them up and down later if you change your mind about the order.
Do a FILE SAVE AS (using the Icon that looks like multiple disks). Give the file a new name so you don’t write over your first GIF file.
Now it’s time to get the covers/images rotating.
For the first cover/image, click on Animation and then on Looping, and finally on Repeat Forever.
Then go to Image and use a Duration of at least 120 (2 seconds).
Do this for each cover and then Save the file.
When you are done, you will have a rotating set of covers/images.
To test, insert this new GIF file into Word and say – Web Page Preview. You should see the covers rotating on your screen.
Hope this Tuesday Tip was of assistance. If you’d like to see more Tech kinds of tips for writers, please let me know.
I blogged a little last week about the RWA National Conference and the workshop on digital publishing (click here for that post). Since then I’ve been thinking about some of the issues that were discussed in that wonderful workshop and I thought I would elaborate a little more on them for today’s Tuesday Tip.
Of course, let me preface this with that this is not intended to be legal advice and you should always consult with legal counsel before entering into any legally binding agreement. With that said, here goes!
Digital publishing is expanding at an incredible rate and with that expansion, there are more things that writers need to think about when entering into a contract. Here are some of the major things to consider:
Grant of Digital Rights: If you are a traditionally published author, namely an author of books that are in print, do you intend to grant to your publisher the rights to publish your books electronically? Some major authors have opted to retain those rights until certain issues related to digital publishing are resolved, such as the 9.99 pricing for Kindle editions. There has been a lot of discussion on how this pricing may cannibalize print book costs. One publisher, Sourcebooks, is holding back digital editions to counteract this possible affect. For more on this, you can go to this link: http://www.blackplasticglasses.com/2009/07/20/demand-pricing-for-ebooks/
Option Clause: What can I say about this except LIMIT, LIMIT, LIMIT. If you’re selling a 60,000 erotic paranormal to a publisher/e-publisher, try to limit the option for your next book to a 60,000 erotic paranormal.
Royalties: Royalties on digitally published books can range anywhere from 4% or 6% if you are with a traditional publisher to 35% to 40% for an e-publisher. Talk is that traditional publishers should pay higher percentages to authors on digital editions of print books and I’m sure that will happen as digital publishing becomes more established for traditional publishers. But regardless of the manner in which you are first published – print or digitally – make sure that you know how the percentage is calculated. For example, is the royalty calculated based on the cover price, catalogue price or the net price. What’s the net price? The amount the publisher gets after deducting costs of distribution, etc.
Territory: Make sure of the territory for which you are granting either digital or print rights. Although you may grant print rights to only North America, the Net is global and it may not be possible to limit digital rights to a particular territory. This may limit your ability to sell digital rights in a particular territory to another publisher.
Reversion of Rights/Out-of-Print: This is probably the most important of all the things to consider in any contract, namely, when do you get your rights back. With the advent of digital publishing, it’s possible that a book will never go out of print. Therefore, it’s important that you set a standard for when a print book that goes digital will go out of print. For example, if less than $100 a year is earned in royalties, the book is considered out of print or if less than 100 copies, whether print or digital, are sold a year.
I hope you found this morning’s Tuesday Tip helpful!
People often ask me what helps me create new stories. Is it an article I see in a newspaper? Sometimes, but more often than not, stories come to me thanks to the things that I am lucky enough to be able to experience.
A few months ago I was blessed to get away for a writers’ weekend with some writing buddies. Our writing destination – Las Vegas.
Las Vegas! You may wonder how conducive that could be to writing, but after a few days I came away with the proposal for a brand new romantic suspense novel that is currently sitting with my editor for consideration.
How did that happen?
Well for starters, my friends and I spent some time talking out plots and helping each other with problems we were having. It’s always good to bounce ideas off people to see if the idea is working. Then we spent time writing every day.
So now you’re thinking – You could have done that anywhere.
Well, you’re right, but the one thing about Las Vegas – or any new location – was going around and exploring since many of those places and activities generated the idea for that new romantic suspense proposal.
For example, we took a class on stripping and lap dancing! Yep, you’re reading it right. Why? Well, as I bumped my knees on the pole, my brain was busy figuring out how the heroine in the book could tempt her hero.
A spa trip yielded yet more insights on temptation while seeing all the construction going on prompted ideas of what would happen if the hero happened to be building a casino in Las Vegas.
Add all those themed casinos, it occurred to me what kind of theme was missing and what kind of casino my hero could be building.
What about the suspense you’re wondering? Research into the problems casino owners face, like prostitution, money laundering, card cheats, etc. got my mind going about what would be the action behind the romance (and no, not spilling the beans just yet on what I chose!)
Last but not least, a hike into the Red Rock Canyon provided the perfect setting for a suspenseful chase scene!
I bet you’re saying to yourself, “But what if I can’t get away to some place new?”
Well, look around at the place where you are. What kinds of things are there that you see every day but someone else might find interesting? Are there any places or events you could use in your novel? For example, an interesting local festival or landmark? Could they be the backdrop for your novel (think Fort Hancock as I did for SINS OF THE FLESH). Being intimately familiar with a locale often adds a level of authenticity that resonates with readers moreso than an exotic locale.
Let your imagination run wild! It’s your greatest gift as a writer. Maybe you’ll find like I did that you can go from a stripper 101 class to a suspense novel just by flexing your imagination.
I’m a firm believer that one of the most effective ways for any writer to spread the word about themselves is via the Internet.
Whether you do it by having a website or blog, doing press releases or video trailers, the Net is the way to get more bang for your buck. Another of those ways is by doing guest blogging on other people’s sites.
How do you go about doing guest blogging? First, build a network of connections. Reach out to friends with blogs or visit blogs that you find interesting and ask them what you need to do to be a guest blogger.
I’ve done that recently and am guest blogging at two sites this week! For those of you who visit those sites and leave a message, you’ll be eligible for a drawing to win a CALLING T-shirt, copy of DESIRE CALLS and SOLDIER’S SECRET CHILD. Just leave a comment at either of these blogs!
Sign up with one of the promotion companies that will put together a blog tour for you. I’ve used my friend Dorothy Thompson’s service, PUMP UP YOUR PROMOTIONS, and she does a nice job!
Hope this Tuesday Tip gives you some ideas for your next book promo.
Also — Harlequin is celebrating it’s 60th Anniversary and to do so, it is giving away 16 free books — one from each of its imprints. Click on the icon below to get your free books or visit www.HarlequinCelebrates.com.
I know I’ve posted about this before, but I truly believe that guest blogs are one of the best ways of meeting people and getting the word out about your book. Plus, you guys seems to love them and the fun prizes at each stop.
So – the fun continues this week and up until midnight EST on March 20th! Visit any of these blogs and leave a message and you could win a copy of SOLDIER’S SECRET CHILD, an autographed ARC of SINS OF THE FLESH and a CALLING T-shirt. Also drop by Fresh Fiction on March 20th because they are featuring FURY CALLS as their Fresh Pick! (So excited about this!)
Staying sane involves remembering a long list of things that have to be done before I head out again since I am taking my daughter on a Girls’ Vacation next week. So here goes:
1. Tell everyone who won the Jane Green Contest — Lisa Avila! Please send your postal address to firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Tell everyone about the great time you had at the national conference of RWA. Boy, did I have a blast. More below.
3. Make a list of everything you need to pack for next week.
4. Finish writing the next CALLING book — FURY CALLS — about Blake and Meghan (and oh boy, are these two wonderful together!)
5. Apologize for not posting the inspirational picture you used for Mitch Lama, the hero of SECRET AGENT REUNION (you’ll see that as Monday’s Guilty Pleasure) since you couldn’t think straight on Monday after getting home late Sunday night from the National Conference.
6. Finally, the real Tuesday Tip — Networking
So, what’s so important about networking to an aspiring writer? Well, everything. The reality of it is that there are hundreds of talented people out there trying to sell either their first book or their next book. Networking is one way to improve the odds of getting published.
How do you network? Attend conferences that are geared to your writing genre. Not only will the workshops help you improve your craft, it will give you an opportunity to meet fellow authors and industry professionals.
Get to know people. Say hi and learn something about them. If it’s an industry professional, remember that they are people as well and not every encounter is meant to be the time to pitch your work. Choose when to pitch wisely.
Remember to say thanks when you do get a chance to pitch and always have your business card handy to give to them.
I spent a good deal of time meeting new people at the national conference. Some were people whose names I knew, but hadn’t met face-to-face. It was so nice to be able to finally meet them and share some time. I also met a bunch of new people and had a blast speaking with them and sharing some laughs. I hope they had a good time meeting me as well.
I’ll be sharing some photos with you in the next few days, but for now, here are some from friends and fellow authors Suzanne McMinn and Loreth Anne White.
I want to thank all of you who dropped by for yesterday’s Birthday Bash. Thank you all for sharing in my special day! The winner of yesterday’s Gift Card giveaway is CrystalGB! LOL – Crystal you have amazing luck. Please e-mail me at cpsromance at att dot net with your mailing address so I can send the card.
Today we’ve got a special visit from fellow author Elaine Cantrell who is going to be sharing her tips on creating a page turner. Thank you so much for dropping by Elaine!
* * * * *
I don’t know of an author anywhere who wouldn’t like for readers to say that his or her book is a page turner. Everyone knows what is meant by the term; it’s a story you can’t stop reading. You know you have to get up in the morning, but you don’t care because you absolutely have to find out what happens. I love it when I find a book like that.
But what makes the book a page turner? What has to be in it for me to lose sleep just to read it? I’ve analyzed this thing, and this is what appeals to me. First, the book has to use proper grammar and punctuation. It turns me off and feels jarring when subjects and verbs don’t agree, there’s a run-on sentence, etc. Naturally, there are exceptions to this rule. Characters can massacre the English language all they like, but I have to have the feeling that the author is doing it on purpose and not that he/she doesn’t know any better.
Second, you’d better have a good hook if you want me to read the book. I don’t have time to waste on books that don’t interest me. In my latest release, A New Dream, which is coming out today at http://www.astraeapress.com, I begin the book with a car crash:
“Oh, Matt, it’s such a beautiful night,” Stacey declared with a sigh. “I’m going to miss you when you leave tomorrow.”
Matt reached for her hand and brought it to his lips. “I’ll miss you too, but if I don’t report on time, I’m in trouble with the coach.”
“That’s what I get for falling in love with a pro football player,” Stacey teased, her blonde hair turned to frosted silver by the light of the full moon above them.
Matt squeezed her hand that wore his engagement ring. “It’s too late to back out now,” he teased. “You’re mine.”
“Mmm, do I like the sound of that!”
The car rounded a curve, and without warning a deer bounded across the road. “Look out,” Stacey screamed.
Matt braked sharply to avoid the animal. The tires slid on a patch of loose gravel in the road, and he lost control of the convertible. It fishtailed and started to spin in the road.
He hauled on the steering wheel to correct the slide, but it was useless. The car turned around once more and skidded backwards for a short distance before it charged off the road. It jumped a steep ditch and went airborne. All Matt could see was a blur of trees and darkness as the car careened into the woods. It made a lazy turn in the air and came to rest bottom side up.
The last thing he remembered was the sound of Stacey’s scream.
Okay, several questions immediately come to mind. Are Matt and Stacey okay? Do both of them survive the crash? Will the accident affect Matt’s pro-football career? Could his relationship with Stacey be changed in some way?
Third, the main characters must be dynamic and sympathetic. I have to like them and want things to work out for them. I recently read a book by a famous author, but I didn’t like it because the heroine just wasn’t a nice person. She made her living preying on grieving widowers and let her young daughter help her. It was hard to care what happened to her. The characters don’t have to be syrupy good, though. In A NEW DREAM, my heroine Violet is unforgiving when a loose thread from Matt’s past comes back to haunt him. She hurts Matt and jeopardizes their relationship with her doubts and suspicion.
Fourth, there must be some suspense involved. But I don’t read suspense, you say. You still need suspense. Readers should be biting their fingernails worrying about the outcome of the book. Will the heroine win the hero’s heart in spite of a dreadful accident which left her scarred and reclusive? Will the hero defuse the bomb in time? Will he believe the bad girl’s lies? Will she accept his child from a previous relationship? Well, you get the idea.
Lastly, the pacing is important. If it goes too slowly I lose interest. I like a face paced story myself, and that’s what I write. I’ve been accused of setting a blistering pace which is absolutely true. Okay, maybe I need to slow down a bit. Maybe I could throw in a few sensory images. Okay, you do need some sensory images, but like my friend recently said, “I just skip that part to get to the good stuff.”
Okay, I’ve given you my definition of a page turner. Do you agree with me? What’s your definition? If you’re interested in my work you can check it out at http://www.elainecantrell.com. Hope to see you there.
An Internet presence is one of the most important steps that an author can take, and it doesn’t require a big financial investment. The problem many authors face is deciding what kind of web presence they wish to have since there are so many types of websites and each has different benefits and burdens.
I hope this Tuesday Tip provides you with some basic information about establishing a presence on the worldwide web and the different ways you can accomplish that.
The most common way of getting a presence on the web is through a traditional website, such as the one that I have at www.caridad.com or THE CALLING site at www.thecallingvampirenovels.com. Websites such as these generally require the following:
1. Registration of the domain name (for example, www.caridad.com).
2. A server to host the site (in laymen’s terms, a computer which will hold
the computer files for the website).
3. An FTP (or file transfer protocol) program to copy/upload the files to the
4. Coding of the website.
5. Maintenance of the website.
If you’re not tech literate, you may require someone who can do the above steps for you. Companies such as Stone Creek, Moonglade Designs, Crocos Designs, Noveltalk, Writerspace, Coffee Time Romance, Romance Designs, and others will provide packages that can do all or part of the above.
One advantage of going with such a package is that you can choose for your website to be listed with other websites in the company’s “community.” Belonging to such communities may result in increased traffic to your site and added benefits, such as the ability to chat with readers who visit the community, or inclusion in a monthly newsletter. Most of these packages include maintenance as part of the services offered.
Another option is to register the domain name on your own and then have a programmer do the remaining steps or a combination of same. For example, I registered my own domain, engaged a hosting service (siteocity.com or bananahosting.com are ones I would recommend) and had the programmer do steps 3 and 4. I do maintenance and upgrades on my own.
This has the benefit of allowing me to control the website and do unlimited updates whenever I want. The down side to this is that I had to learn some HTML coding in order to update my site. A great site for information on HTML codes is HTML Code Tutorial at http://www.htmlcodetutorial.com/. The other down side is that doing the web coding will take time away from other things. However, if cost and control are factors, this is a nice mix.
If you’re not tech literate, you can reduce the need to learn a lot of code by going with a platform such as WordPress for your website. WordPress is a free program that has quite a number of additions (plugins) that make it relatively easy to maintain the site or even add features such as video trailers, flash, etc.
WordPress also has a number of free themes (themes are the look of the site). You can choose from a wide variety of themes or hire a programmer to create a unique theme for your site.
If you are not familiar with hosting, FTP, or coding, you will likely need a programmer if you are going to install the WordPress site on your own, but if cost is an issue, there is the alternative to create the website right at the main WordPress site at www.wordpress.org. This will avoid installation, hosting, and FTP issues.
One nice feature of WordPress is that it is basically a blogging program, so you can create a site that has traditional website features (pull-down menus, etc.) as well as a blog. There are a number of other free blogging programs, but I am going to save that discussion for a future article.
Once you’ve decided whether you are going to go with a hosted website in a community or a website you will manage in whole or in part on your own, what do you need to do next?
Research, research, research. You want your website to reflect your unique style, and the programmer (or you if you decide to do it on your own) will need to make basic decisions about the following:
1. Colors and fonts
2. Kinds of pages you want (For example biography, booklist, contest)
3. Menu Styles (Will you want them to drop down, or will they be links on the page? Will they be on the side or along the top?)
4. Flash or no-flash (Those animated intros that so many sites have)
6. Getting listed on the Search Engines
7. Joining a community
For the first four, take your time searching the web for sites that you like. Make a list of the sites and what you liked about each particular site. Check the site to see who designed it if you’ve decided to go with hiring an individual programmer rather than going with one of the packages. For fonts, one good site to visit is cooltext.com which lists a number of different fonts grouped by style—for example, horror or gothic fonts.
Whether you are going with the package, individual programmer, or on your own, make a list of all the things you wish to see immediately on the website. The price of the site is oftentimes linked to the number of pages you wish to have.
Then, make a wish list of those things you would eventually like to do, but can’t do right now. For example, those flash intro pages can be quite eye-catching, but sometimes slow to load when using dial-up lines. They can also be rather expensive, ranging anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars for a small header flash to thousands for larger and more complex flash elements. Let the programmers know what you would like to add eventually so that they can create the flexibility in what they are programming to allow for change.
Good programmers should show you a mock-up or two of a possible site based on the information you have provided them. This way you can fine tune the general look of the site before developing all the pages.
Some other things to remember:
1. Make sure your name or the name of the site is clear and prominent. The purpose of the site is to build your brand.
2. The site should reflect your writing style or theme. Again, this will help to build your brand visually.
3. If you are going to add a blog, Myspace, or other page, try to keep the above two items in mind and create a unified brand across all of your web presences.
4. Have key information on the main page and keep it current. There is nothing worse than visiting a site that has outdated information.
5. Give your visitors information about yourself, and give them some fun things to do while they are visiting. Fun things can include: video trailers, recipes, photo galleries, excerpts, contests.
6. Ask the programmer to include some kind of site meter so you can see how many hits you are getting and from where. Google has some wonderful site tracking software that is free for sites below a certain volume of hits.
If you do not have a web presence, I hope the above will help you in establishing one. If you do have a presence, maybe this information has provided you with some new ideas.
The article contains some useful examples for you on how to increase your visibility on the Internet and improve search engine rankings.
We’ve discussed some of them before, like leaving comments on blogs (and finding those blogs by using news alerts). Sending out books for review and having those reviews posted online is another great way to get your name noticed.
Likewise, we’ve talked about doing article submissions to create buzz and drive traffic to your site.
What else can you do?
Having links from key sites back to yours is another way to improve visibility. How do you do this? If you’re book has something that would be of interest to a particular industry (i.e., knitting, crafts, civil war), find sites for that industry and see if you can’t be listed there. Make connections to stores, vendors and magazines in that industry.
If you’re book is in a particular genre, like vampires, search out sites for that genre and ask to be placed on their list of links. Oftentimes sites may require that you link back to them which seems like a fair exchange.
Search engines will see those incoming links and if the site on which your listed is a high ranking site, that will improve your page ranking.
Finally, don’t forget press releases, especially close to the date of your novel’s launch. Reach out to local papers and use those free press release sites to get the word out!
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) experts will tell you that one of the most important things you can do to increase website traffic and improve search engine listings is to increase the number of backlinks to your website.
What is a backlink? Backlinks are incoming links to a website. Backlinks are also one way that Google determines PageRank in order to assess the popularity of a website. (Did you know Page is actually the name of Larry Page, the inventor of the ranking algorithm?)
Wondering how your website ranks and how many backlinks there are to it? Click here for a nice backlink checker that also provides a ton of other info.
So how can you boost backlinks?
1. Exchange links to your website with others. List them on your links page in exchange for them linking to you. If you’ve got a book/author/writing related website to share, leave a comment with it and I’ll add you if you’ll add me!
2. Article submissions. Writing articles in your area of expertise or about topics of interest are a great way to create backlinks. E-zine Articles is a great way to do this. You can check out some of my articles by clicking here.
3. Social sites (Facebook, Twitter and Myspace) and social bookmarking are also great ways to create backlinks and it doesn’t have to be time-consuming. Applications like Hootsuite and sites like Ping.fm allow you to propogate multiple sites. Make sure to bookmark important pages on your site to Digg, Delicious and Stumbleupon, but also remember that “social” bookmarking is about being “social”. Share fun and interesting links as well via these sites.
4. Video submission sites are another manner in which to generate backlinks to your site and your uploaded videos.
5. Get listed at the various search directories like dmoz.org, Alexa, Google, Bing and Yahoo. This will assist in making sure that these search engines spider your site. This will help boost where you appear in their listings.
6. Guest blogs and comments on blogs also help create backlinks to your site. While every blog/website has a different method for leaving comments, try to use choose the method that allows you to leave your name and URL.
I will leave you with those tips for now, but I also invite you to drop by later today and visit with me at the Carina Press blog where I will be chatting about AZTEC GOLD and what inspired the story, including my own personal fear which influenced the herione’s character.
Journals are a wonderful way to keep track of so many things. Whether it’s a diet journal where you keep track of the foods you eat, a workout journal to record progress, a personal journal for important thoughts or a travel journal to remind you of where you have been, journals rock!
So what’s the best way to keep a journal?
Like everything else, different things work best for different people. I’m a computer person, so for a lot of my things – like my travels for research – I jot down notes on my computer and upload the photos I take. But I also hang onto the tickets and pamphlets from the various places we go. My daughter and I will then often sit down and create a scrapbook for our trip to retain the memories for the future.
My daughter is very hands-on, so she keeps a paper journal with her where she writes down her thoughts and stories and adds pictures and other keepsakes.
Many writers keep journals of their personal thoughts or of ideas for new books. Some do it on paper, others on computers. Some even do it online via their blogs or websites. You can use blog sites to keep online journals, just make sure of two things:
If you want to keep it personal, make sure there is a way to set the blog as being private and not public.
Make sure there is a way to download or copy that journal to your hard drive or move it to another blog platform.
How often should you keep journal entries?
Again there is no right or wrong to it, except maybe one wrong – Not doing it.
Find the best time for you to collect your thoughts or the information you want to record. It may be private time or it may be out in public. At the gym I see a number of people with note pads to track their workout progress. They record the weight and repetitions that they do in order to have an effective exercise routine.
What do I get out of journaling?
As a writer, you build your writing chops with each writing exercise that you do.
Plus, it’s a way to keep track of important events or memories that might be lost if they are not recorded in any way. Many years ago I wrote down the history of how my family had come here for my nephew and it was amazing how much there was that he didn’t know and how much I had never really discussed with anyone. I thought it would only be a few pages when I got started and it ended up being more like 20. And that was just general information about the short two year stretch around when we left Cuba!
If you have a family elder that is still alive, it may be a good time to see about making a video journal of them with some of the stories of when they were younger. There are so many differences from then to now and in the future, all those stories and memories might be lost if don’t record them or if you don’t repeat those stories to the next generation.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the holidays, but as a writer they provide one of the most serious distractions from getting any writing done. Even with the assistance of Santa’s helpers such as this one!
So what can you do to actually accomplish some writing and not allow worries about deadlines/revisions/etc. to dim your holiday cheer?
The first thing is to do a loose schedule of what needs to be done, when it needs to be done and with whom it needs to be done. See if there aren’t any chores which can be combined in order to use your time more effectively.
Second thing to do is multi-task. If you want to be able to watch those shows you love, set up your wrap station in front of the television so you can do two things at once.
Get up an hour earlier or stay up an hour later on as many days as you can. Try to fit in your writing in that extra hour. If you are definitely either a morning person or night owl, choose to do that extra hour during the time that is best for you. I’ve discovered I’m a morning bird and will get up at 5 a.m. instead of 6 to get the writing done.
If you’ve got some time coming to you at work, see about taking a day off to either do some of your chores or the writing.
Last, but not least, don’t worry about it. Worry is one of the most draining emotions that exists. It will accomplish nothing and only leave you feeling worse, which is the last thing you want to do during a season that should be filled with happiness, family and friends.
What do you do around the holidays to try to keep to your routines? I’d love to hear how you’ve managed to keep things running smoothly.
The Pine Barrens provided a rather uncivilized and dangerous place close to civilization which was perfect for those scenes.
Look around you and I’m sure you’ll find lots of others, like Plum Island. Growing up on Long Island, my always ambitious writer’s mind pictured what kinds of experiments would be happening on this island off the coast which houses an Animal Disease Center. The purpose of the center is to research pathogens which could affect animals, farms and ranches thereby impacting on the national food supply. To my writer’s mind, it always screamed biological weapons research. In fact, because of the sensitive nature of the Animal Disease Center, access to the island is severely restricted.
Because of that secrecy, the island remains fairly untouched which now presents an issue since the government has decided to close the Animal Disease Center and move it elsewhere. Recently, environmentalists were allowed a glimpse of the island which also houses an 1869 lighthouse in addition to the research facility. The hope is that the island will be maintained in its pristine and protected state.
Which allows writers like me, or Nelson DeMille who titled and set a novel on Plum Island, to continue weaving stories about its mysterious history! (You may also recall that in SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, Hannibal Lechter is promised a move to that location in exchange for assisting the FBI.)
One of the things that has been coming up often on the ARE YOU STRONG ENOUGH blog tour are questions about how I get the inspirations for the books that I write.
Which makes me vaguely remember a quote somewhere about writers being able to talk to themselves without being labeled crazy (or at least not at first) and some very popular writer kinds of T-shirt quotes, such as:
Watch out or you’ll end up in my novel.
I kill off my enemies in my book. You’re on page 12.
Truthfully, those quotes are accurate. For example, a very nice waiter was the inspiration for the Ryder name. Roman mythology helped create Ryder’s lover, Diana. I confess to killing off at least one person who truly pissed me off in very gruesome fashion. Last, but not least, the names of friends and family have graced characters that I like, sometimes more than once.
But beyond that, where the ideas originate is difficult to say, although it is safe to say that a writer’s mind never stops observing and recording those things around them in order to use those observations in a story. Whether it’s a meal that you savor or where you eat it, a walk along a street with a different vibe, a new city that you visit… Any and all of those life experiences may germinate the kernel of an idea that takes root and grows into a story.
Take STRONGER THAN SIN for instance. You may have heard me mention on other blogs that the idea for the genetic engineering came about as a result of my science major geekdom. But my love of sports was what influenced the hero’s occupation. Rather than choosing baseball, which is more a game of physics and strategy, I needed the hero to suffer serious physical injury in a bone-crushing collision. Bazinga-he had to be a football player. Someone big and powerful cut down in the prime of his life.
Enter the heroine who I had already introduced in SINS OF THE FLESH, but who I came to love and needed her own big story. Was it coincidence that she was a doctor in book one? No because I needed someone who could offer medical assistance on the sly in that book. Was it coincidence that she was training to be an orthopedic surgeon? Not really either since I knew even then the second story was going to be about someone with a bone disease and I also had a friend with that profession who I could ask questions about treatments, etc.
My life experiences and influences eventually led to ex-football player Jesse Bradford and Dr. Liliana Carrera and their story.
Other life experiences, namely my love of history and travel, are what helped set up the evolution of the SINS series for books 3 and 4 – THE LOST and THE CLAIMED as well as the two books coming out from Carina – AZTEC GOLD and THE FIFTH KINGDOM. Although I’m a little crazed right now with trying to finish THE CLAIMED, I’m going to dig through some photos and get them scanned so you can see what inspired some of the story elements and locations that I chose for those books!
I guess what I’m trying to say in a very long way is that a writer’s inspiration comes from everything around them and in particular, from those things about which they find interesting or about which they are passionate. Why are those last two things so important? Because when a writer is interested or passionate about something, it shows in the words that they put on the page and bring the story alive for readers.
Also take a moment to visit with my very good friend and fellow author Mary Kennedy at SOS Aloha today! Mary is chatting about Sherlock Holmes which is thoroughly appropriate since she has the wonderful Talk Radio Mysteries out on shelves. Just click here to visit!
First let me preface this with: I love CHUCK. It’s a great spy romantic comedy suspense.
Last night’s episode kind of annoyed me. I think in many different kinds of stories we’re asked to suspend disbelief for certain things. In the case of CHUCK there are many of them, but the primary one is that a person’s mind can somehow be programmed to be a supercomputer. It’s like believing that people can be genetically engineered to be something other than human (LOL!).
But when it comes to real life things, it’s up to a writer to make sure those real life things are portrayed accurately.
Case in point: The escape from the villain’s jet using parachutes. Chuck and his seemingly more nerdy older spy guy put on parachutes. They don’t secure them in any fashion, just slip them over their shoulders. They open the door to a moving jet and it goes flying off. They have time for banter and then jump out. The remaining people in the jet, who are unsecured in any way, are able to stay on the jet.
So wrong from a real life perspective.
1. You need to secure the parachute pack or it might get pulled off your body when you engage the chute. That’s just common sense.
2. Most parachute jumps occur from about 13,000 feet. HALO (High Altitude Low Oxygen) jumps occur from about 25,000 to 35,000 feet. HALO jumps require bailout oxygen because of the lack of oxygen at those high altitudes.
3. Most passenger jets fly at altitudes of between 30,000 and 37,000 feet. Smaller business jets may fly at even higher altitudes. Some twin engine aircraft and prop planes may fly as low as 8,000 feet. At higher altitudes, jumping from any kind of jet operating at standard norms would require bailout oxygen.
4. Flying planes at those heights also requires something else: Cabin pressurization to prevent passengers and crew members to maintain a safe and comfortable environment. Think of the inside of the cabin as the inside of a bottle of champagne. What happens when you pop off the top? With explosive decompression, things may get sucked out of the plane if the hole in large enough (as in an open door) and if the difference in pressure from inside the cabin to out is high enough.
So in other words, the jet plane parachute escape was totally implausible on various real life points. Again, while some liberties are allowed with certain fictionalized elements that form the basis of your story, you cannot skimp on facts. If a viewer or reader immediately says, “That’s so not realistic”, it draws them out of the story. It’s your job as a writer not to let that happen.
Hope you enjoyed today’s Kiss Me, Kill Me Tuesday.
On another note, don’t forget the various contests that are running to celebrate the release of STRONGER THAN SIN!
It seems somehow appropriate on this dreary and rainy Tuesday to discuss something about which all writers worry. No, not the Dreaded Synopsis.
It’s especially appropriate since I just turned in a manuscript which required revisions and since at my Saturday workshop someone asked, “What do you do when someone asks you to change your work?”
The answer was simple: You do the revisions.
It’s one of those things that I often warn aspiring authors about – being a diva. I’ve heard more than one writer say that they won’t make any changes to their work and I often wonder whether they’ll ever get published or if they do, will they be able to sustain a career.
Although some believe that editors are like carpenters with a hammer and nail, give them paper and a pen and they want to make changes, the reality of it is that editors know the market and what’s selling. They understand voice and pacing and conflict. They oftentimes will see past what’s on the page to what the writer wants to accomplish because many times the writer has become so involved in their work and knows it so intimately that they fail to get what’s up in their heads down on paper.
It’s the editor’s job to make sure that gets done and a good editor will accomplish just that.
What if what the editor wants you to do is totally different than what you want to do?
That’s a tough situation for sure and the answer is not so simple. The first thing to do is divest your ego from the work. Look at it as an outsider would. Are the editor’s comments justified? Do you think that they might possibly make the work better or more marketable? If the answer is “yes”, then take a moment and try rewriting the first ten or so pages with the editor’s suggestions.
Now step back and look at it again. Is it better? More marketable? Then dig in and start rewriting.
You may have noticed that I’ve used that “marketable” word multiple times already because the reality is that if you’re writing commercial fiction (as in selling to the mass market), what you’re writing needs to sell. That means it needs to meet certain reader and bookseller expectations.
Your editor is the one who can best tell you whether or not you’ve managed to do that.
If you’re still not convinced about all the changes, then try a conciliatory approach rather than a confrontational one. For example, when I first wrote DARKNESS CALLS one of the revision requests was that I have the heroine, Diana Reyes, become a vampire at the end of the novel. In my heart I felt that the story was much too complicated and rich for that kind of ending. I also felt that there would be greater emotion and impact for the readers if the characters had that conflict hanging over their heads – Love me even though I will die before you do. It spoke of a much greater love and commitment if Ryder and Diana chose to get together despite that fact.
I discussed it with my editors and we agreed I would write the ending as I envisioned it and that if it did not work, I would revise it. Bottom line was, the ending worked and we left it as is. Everyone was happy with the compromise we reached initially and the end result.
So the bottom line is, be open to change. Be willing to compromise. Your editors know what’s best and what’s selling. Trust them to help you craft a better book.
Today we’re offering up some tips on writing. Wendy is here sharing her thoughts on “Making It All Fit” while I’m visiting Wendy’s blog and chatting about why I put my characters on the couch before I write!
So without further ado, here’s Wendy!
I was scanning through the cable channels Saturday morning looking for a something good to watch. After reading the description of The Crush, I decided to give the movie a shot. The movie was described as a suspense (my kind of genre!) about a college student who had sex with a woman. The woman then became obsessive. I started watching the movie and things that didn’t make sense started jumping out at me.
If you are an author you know what I’m about to talk about. If you are a reader only, you might find it interesting to know about this part of the writing process. When we are writing a book we have to make sure that the actions fit well with the plot. Everything has to run smoothly together or we get our edits back with comments like “Why is she doing this? It makes no sense at all,” or that the details don’t fit with the plot, or that something similar. Our books are like puzzles, every single piece must fit perfectly or the picture is not complete.
So back to the movie. One of the key points is that the college student is house-sitting for a rich stranger. As the owner of the house leaves, he mentions his niece stopping by occasionally for a swim. I had an issue with this. Why would the owner have a stranger live in the house while his niece (an adult) lives close by and can do it? Did not make sense to me. I kept watching. So the college student met the “niece” who happens to be there all the time! He has sex with the niece even though he has a girlfriend and the niece becomes obsessive over the college student. At one point she wraps her hands around his neck and makes him tell her that he loves her. The college student becomes so scared of this chick that he can’t sleep at night. It affects his schooling and the sport he plays. So why doesn’t he leave? I don’t know and that fact alone bothered me. The owner calls the college student who mentions that he had met the owner’s niece. Guess what? The owner told him that meeting his niece wasn’t possible since his niece had taken a trip out of town. Did the college student leave yet? Heck no. I would have packed up my crap and hit the road. He later finds out that she is a ghost and is in love with the college student.
There wasn’t any ghost stuff through 3/4 of the movie. There wasn’t any hint of the movie turning paranormal or even close. I kept watching though just to see how it ended. The ghost woman transformed from being a beautiful woman to an evil entity which the sudden change scared the crap out of me. I couldn’t look at her half the time. Even after the change, the actions didn’t make sense. She told the college student (now locked in the house so he couldn’t leave) that she was the one who would end all of this stuff but then she went into the water with slit wrists. Made no sense. Then she was back in the bedroom telling him he needed to die so he could be with her forever. She did manage to kill him as his girlfriend (who had been ignoring him all through the movie) suddenly appears to save him.
I love watching movies that reminds me of the “right way” to write a story. By showing me everything wrong, reinforced the desire to make everything fit smoothly together. I don’t want a single reader to ask why the heck I threw another puzzle’s piece in the center of the one the reader is enjoying. Thanks, crappy movie writers, for reminding me of this!
A little something about the author
Wendy Ely is a contemporary romance author. She writes some romantic suspense, really hot stories, and the wonderful happily-ever-after. She lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her own real-life hero and her two teenagers. Wendy loves to hear from readers and you can e-mail her at authorwendyely at gmail dot com.
A tasty tidbit from Wendy’s book: CONFESSIONS
Can Chelsea and Jordan find their child, and rediscover each other?
When Chelsea Montgomery vanished eleven years ago, her hometown thought she’d been abducted. In truth, she’d given up the daughter she’d secretly had with Jordan Case.
Now he confronts her to help find the child. With a little girl’s fate hanging in the balance, will the uneasy partnership — stained by the past — transform into something else?
First of all, I want to thank Erin D. Galloway, who is the Marketing and Publicity Coordinator for Dorchester Publishing, and Lisa Renee Jones, a fellow author and friend, for the help with my PROMO OR PERISH workshop. This Tuesday’s Tip is a just a small part of a workshop on promotion tips for writers and I hope it helps any of the published authors out there with their promotional plan.
Here’s some things to think about when deciding how to market your book and when to think about them:
12 months prior to publication:
You know the publication date of your book and should already be brainstorming ideas for your marketing campaign. Do you have any useful contacts in publishing or outside of it? What authors could you approach for cover quotes? What are you willing to do to make your book a success—send galleys, get a Web site, finance a small or large contest? Will you be doing book signings or running ads?
Make a list of all of these things and plan ahead to avoid a last minute rush. It’s always more expensive to do things at the last minute and what you do may be less effective if you don’t get the word out in time.
9-10 months prior to publication:
Before doing anything, discuss your marketing plan with your editor. Editors present upcoming titles to our promotions/sales staff generally nine months prior to your book’s publication, and it is at this point that your editor should be able to relay what you have planned and what you’re willing to do to promote your title. This way, your marketing department will know what support you will require and can plan accordingly.
Also, your editor can let you know what they’ve got planned for pubilicity so that you don’t duplicate what’s already being done.
7 months prior to publication:
Your plans of whether to embark on a sizable promotion or book signing or to place advertising should be finalized. In addition, your editor and publicity department should be fully aware of those plans so that your company’s sales staff has the tools necessary to present your book to their accounts. If you intend to send advance galleys to booksellers, you should do so now.
3-4 months prior to publication:
Send ARCs or galleys to reviewers. If you don’t have bound advanced reading copies, a photocopy of your author galley plus a cover flat and a short letter is sufficient. Also remember that the reviewers can be very busy and may not get to reading your book right away. Patience. They will get to it, but if you’re writing a category book, you may want to send the ARCs even further ahead so that the reviews will be available before your book is off the shelves.
Last but not least, remember to keep your publisher’s publicity department informed of your promotion efforts, whether big or small. The publicity department can take what you’re doing and help get the word out. Also, you can avoid duplicating efforts and save money by keeping them informed.
I thought I’d share something different with you today: Part one of my writing journey.
Someone asked the other day if I had always wanted to a be a writer and the truth was, I didn’t really think of it as a possibility until the fifth grade when my English teacher, Miss Kreschenko, advised our class that in order to pass we had to write a 20 page typed book. The book could be about anything and it would not be graded. It just had to get done which brought a sigh of relief to many, I’m sure.
Once the books were turned in, they would be placed in a class lending library so students could check them out to read them during the last month of class.
I can’t really remember what I thought back then. Like most kids that age, my mind was filled with more important things, like whether Danny Keller liked me or not or whether we’d play saloogie at lunch hour or whether I would pass whatever test was headed my way in the near future.
All I do remember is that I went home and at some point early on, started writing. I had just read LORD OF THE FLIES over the summer (for fun) and WUTHERING HEIGHTS. I was all caught up in the drama of Catherine and Heathcliff and why they could not have a happily-ever-after. I think I must have thought that if they had been born into another time and another place, it might have happened.
Maybe on a tropical island somewhere. With no kind of class structure. They might possibly be younger, like high school age. Maybe even in some danger where they would be thrown together and love would blossom.
The idea for that book quickly took shape and by the end of the school year, my mom had to help me type up the book. 120 pages of a book!
It was quite an action-packed romance-filled work. First there was the plane crash onto the tropical island where the high schoolers had to find a way to survive. Then there was a threat from “others” who were already on the island and the star-crossed romance between one of those “others” and one of the high schoolers.
And a kiss. . . Boy, was that hot for the fifth grade, not that I knew all that much about kissing at that age! LOL!
In any case, if how often it came off the lending library shelf was evidence of a hit, then I guess it was a hit.
And I guess I knew then what I wanted to do. I had always been an avid reader and had always had stories in my head. I had just not known that it was possible to take those stories and put them down on paper for others to read.
Thank you, Miss Kreschenko and Gardiners Avenue Elementary School.
This is a picture of my family right around that time. Check out the bugles. My sister and I joined a drum and bugle corps that met at a nearby church. Lots of fun. We did it for several years, participating in a number of local parades, but also the Van Stuben Day Parade down Fifth Avenue. Very exciting for a group of young kids! I’m the one in the green culottes with the pink flowers.
A few weeks ago I shared with you the start of my writer’s journey and although I got the writing bug in the fifth grade, it wasn’t until high school that I once again sat down to think about writing something longer than a short story or class assignment.
As some of you may know, I was born in Cuba and left when I was quite young. That story is a long one and filled with adventure in many ways, but the story of what came before was what inspired my first book.
Throughout my life I’d heard bits and pieces about how my parents had worked with the Civic Resistance in Havana to help bring about change on the island. I’d also heard how they realized that the change they had wrought, namely putting Fidel Castro in power, was totally not what they had expected. Because of that, they had started working with many of the same people to bring about change again. Of course, that’s what prompted my parents’ precipitous escape from Cuba and started a nearly two year struggle to get the rest of the family out of the country.
But the “after” part is for another time. It’s the “before” part that inspired the first novel I wanted to write, a romantic adventure about a wealthy Philadelphia Main Line woman who goes down to Cuba and falls in love with a handsome doctor who is involved in the rebellion. In real life, it was my mother who was the rebel and briefly engaged to a rich Main Line man. His family didn’t approve and so that romance ended not-so-happily, but in my books there is always a happily-ever-after.
I gleaned what info I could from family and friends and books so I could write that romance set during the Cuban revolution. Off and on during my high school days, I did that work and built the story in my head. I asked for a typewriter (no computers in my day!) and desk for high school graduation and pictured myself slaving away to write that novel.
I’m not sure my mom approved on many levels. For starters, she rarely talked about Cuba and what had happened. I know it had hurt her deeply to be so wrong and bring about such horrific change to the country she loved. Once we came here, we became American and moved away from all that, I think in part because remembering was too painful for her.
I’m not sure she approved of my thinking of writing as a possible career choice. I’d already been accepted to a few colleges and in her mind there were only a few professions that would allow her daughters to prosper, law and medicine being at the top of the list. Writer, not so much.
I didn’t get that typewriter or desk for high school graduation, but that didn’t stop me from collecting all my notes and research so I could start writing my novel during the summer before college. That decision shocked my mother I’m sure, but she went along with it.
Her office was getting rid of this awful pink paper and so she brought some home for me to type my first draft on. We weren’t well off so things like reams of paper were not in the budget.
Somehow the pink fit the romantic undertones in the novel. LOL!
I didn’t finish that novel that summer, but I got at least a hundred or more pages done. I kept at it during free time in college while I was a Science Major with my eye set on a career as a doctor. That’s my hubby and I in the summer after our freshman year of college.
I figured, doctors read and doctors write. I could always do the writing in my spare time and finish my novel.
By the time college was done, I was a little closer to having a finished work, but life has a funny way of throwing a curve your way just when you think you know where you are going.
I graduated magna cum laude, but I didn’t get into medical school. My mom had left her job to join a new law firm and I went to work with her while I decided what to do. But even though there was some hesitation about my future as a doctor, I was sure of one thing: I was going to finish my novel.
Since I’m headed off to the RWA National conference like many other writers, I thought I’d offer up some tips on networking!
Conferences are one of the best ways of not only improving your craft skills, but also provide wonderful opportunities for meeting new people and expanding your contacts. That kind of networking is invaluable in today’s publishing climate.
So what are some things you can do to accomplish that kind of networking?
1. Get out of your room and down into the common areas. Mingle and don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with someone who is sitting beside you or standing alone in the lobby if they seem open to communication.
2. Know when not to approach. If two people are standing there talking, heads close together or directly facing one another, they probably don’t want to be interrupted. Also, don’t hover by expectantly. Step away and approach only when they are ready to invite another into the discussion. How do you know that? Look at their body posture. People standing side-by-side or not directly facing one another have not closed themselves off to others.
3. Make sure you have business cards. If you’re a published author, have one card for business contacts and another for fans and readers. The first should have detailed contact information and the latter should have info on your books as well as your website.
4. If you’re published, have bookmarks available to hand to fans and readers, but not to publishing people. They don’t need your goodies, but do need your business card.
5. If you want to submit to someone, see if they are attending and wait for a good time to approach them. In the few minutes before their workshop is not a good time! Also, remember they are people as well. They likely will appreciate some general talk and getting to know you first. Let the conversation segue naturally into talk about what you do and your submission.
6. Be positive! Negative talk is a total turn off so always try to look on the bright side of things and always offer a smile and a thanks. Positive vibes are always welcome.
7. Last, but most importantly, have a good time! Meet new people and reinforce old friendships.
I hope you enjoyed today’s Tuesday Tips. We’ll be traveling tomorrow, so look for some photos and updates on Thursday.
Having just come back from a fabulous conference with the Liberty States Fiction Writers, I wanted to offer up some tips on what to do after the conference!
First, if you enjoyed the conference, take a moment to write to the Conference Chair or President of the organization and let them know that you enjoyed it. If you liked something a lot, let them know so they can consider including it in future conferences and if you have any suggestions for what you would like to see, offer those up as well. It’s tough to run a conference and new ideas are always welcome.
If you’ve had an editor/agent appointment, make sure to make a list of who asked to see what while it’s fresh in your mind. Editors and agents don’t expect to have the material waiting for them the next morning, but they also don’t expect to get it months later. Send in any requested material within a reasonable time (a week or two) and in the format specified. If you’re not sure of the format, check the publisher’s guidelines at their website. Be sure to mention to the editor/agent that the material was requested at XX (conference name) and thank them for taking the time to consider your proposal.
Did you listen to an interesting workshop? Likewise, drop the presenter a quick note.
Finally, ask yourself – What did I do right at the conference? Did I meet at least one new person? Was my pitch solid or did I notice something that needed work? What goal do I have for the next conference I attend?
“We are family. I got all my sisters with me . . .” Come on, everybody. Sing it! You all know that great Pointer Sisters song!
So how does that become a Tuesday Tip? Well, people often ask me about how to do effective promotion as a writer and there’s lots of ideas to discuss. A website, blog, Myspace and Facebook page. Penny for penny, the Internet is probably one of the most effective ways a writer, or any other artist, can meet people and spread the word about what they are doing.
But like anything else, going it alone on the Internet can be a lonely affair, as it can be going it alone at signings and other events.
But if you’ve got family, especially writing family, the world becomes a much smaller place. For me, I got my first writing family at my local RWA chapter in New Jersey. I recently joined the Orange County chapter in California since I have a number of friends in the chapter and like getting out to California.
One thing I’ve recently done is band together with other writers for some new endeavors. A few years ago I went to a conference down in Miami and got to hang out with some old and dear friends, but also got to know some new and really great women. We banded together to form an e-mail loop to share ideas and thoughts and not be so alone. We actually titled the group and our new website NUNCASOLA which means “Never Alone”.
Another thing I’ll be doing next year as part of a group of friends is hosting a mixer at the 2009 RT Convention in Orlando. We’ll be meeting readers, booksellers and other writers and sharing a good time with them. The STREET PARTY mixer was the brainstorm of my friend Kimberly Terry, but the lesson of the story is that together we can do more than we could alone.
When you’re considering promotion, consider not only the things that promote only you, but see if you can’t find a writing family to help support your efforts to get the word out about your writing.
For your enjoyment, courtesy of The Pointer Sisters and Rhino Entertainment, here’s WE ARE FAMILY!
My friend Rayna Vause and I headed to Georgia at the beginning of the month on a new adventure – the Moonlight & Magnolias Conference!
It was a fabulous conference run by the Georgia Romance Writers and many thanks to all the wonderful organizers there for a great event.
You must wonder what that has to do with Tuesday and Tips of any kind and here it is – You’ve heard me say it before and I’ll say it again – Networking!
One of the most important things you can do both before and after getting published is to get out and about and expand your horizons. Meet new people. Make new friends. Gain more knowledge that will help you not only write better, but also learn about the publishing business.
Some people go to the same conference every year. Sometimes that’s good if it’s a solid conference that brings in new blood and new possibilities. But it’s also important to allow room (and funds) for different conferences and adventures.
I’m glad I took my little adventure to Moonlight & Magnolias! It was a great group of people and there were some wonderful workshops and events. Thank you Georgia Romance Writers!
Here are a few photos for you from the conference. If anyone out there has more (I know I posed for bunch of photos), please send them to cpsromance at att dot net.
I was searching for a friend’s website the other day when I ran across some nice comments about him at a blog site. I sent him the link and suggested that he set up some news alerts so that he would know about such comments.
Whether you’re a pre-pubbed or published author, interested in a particular topic or have a client you wish to follow, news alerts are a great way to stay abreast of what’s happening.
I use both Yahoo alerts and Google alerts to keep me advised about possible reviews of my novels, but it also helps me to judge the efficacy of online press release sites as well as keep an eye out for people who are pirating my books.
I recently had an incident where a Google alert brought my attention to a site offering downloads of the MISSION: IMPASSIONED series in which I participated for Silhouette Romantic Suspense. I immediately sent the link to my publisher’s piracy contact.
I also watch for reviews and make a point to visit any reviewer who has been nice enough to read and comment on the book. Word to the wise, however – Don’t engage if there’s negative comments. It accomplishes nothing and everyone is entitled to their opinion. Just agree to disagree.
How do you set up a news alert? Click on one of these links to some of the news alert services that are available:
You may need to open an account with them and check to make sure the account is free.
You can also sign up for news alerts at your favorite television stations, newspapers and magazines, but these may not include searches for activity on the Internet, such as reviews on blog sites, etc.
Keeping abreast of what’s happening puts you one step ahead and will help you to meet lots of new interesting people! Try it out and see!
We’ve got a special guest blogger today to give us our Tuesday Tip! Please welcome Maureen Fisher whose debut novel is The Jaguar Legacy. Maureen will be discussing something that strikes all writers at one time or another — Writer’s Block!
Writer’s block is terrifying, painful, paralyzing, humiliating, and demoralizing. I must have moaned to my husband a gazillion times or more, “What if I’ve lost it? What if I never write another word again? WHAT IF I NEVER FINISH THIS BOOK?”
I speak to the topic of writer’s block with a high degree of authority because I suffered a particularly debilitating attack during the edit of The Jaguar Legacy. Obviously, I needed a contingency plan to counteract future occurrences. Being a proactive project manager in my former life, I took the only possible approach for the anal, the analytical, and the afflicted. Moving forward, I would identify the issue (consultants never, EVER refer to “issues” as “problems”); I would examine the causes; and, I would formulate strategic solutions. At the end of the day, I would have a viable implementation strategy to keep me on track and on target. Believe it or not, a couple of years ago, I used to toss off jargon like this with a straight face.
The issue was self-evident. My editor had requested a re-write of the last chapter, and I couldn’t crank out that final scene, not even if several body parts and a couple of lives depended on it.
The causes were less obvious. On the surface, the reason for my writers block was obvious, even to the most naive layman — re-writing an ending to make the climax more suspenseful is tough. Oh, yeah! However, after a full week of sober and due consideration (I had lots of time to ponder because of my inability to write), I grew to believe that coming up with a brand new and more suspenseful ending, which neatly tied up the main plot and several sub-plots, dealt with the antagonist, wrapped up the romance, and left the readers with a sense of satisfaction and a burning desire to read more of Maureen Fisher’s brilliant novels, was merely the tip of the iceberg. To use a mixed metaphor, I peeled back a few more layers of the onion and am now convinced that my writer’s block was (a) a temporary and necessary delay caused by little grey cells percolating, (b) compounded by the two ugly sisters of perfectionism and self-criticism, and (c) fuelled by the stress and panic of an inability to put two coherent sentences together while the clock ticked on—a self-fulfilling prophecy, so to speak.
I should have recognized the signs. God knows, at the beginning of every consulting project, I used to feel the same sense of panicky urgency and helpless frustration. I needed to know EVERYTHING, and I needed the answers IMMEDIATELY. Never mind that the hairy problems had taken an army of public servants several years of diligent effort to create. And when the light didn’t blink on within a couple of days, I would pick up a heavy two-by-four, figuratively speaking, and whack myself over the head a few times as a well-deserved punishment. “This time, they will find out that you’re a fraud”, the nasty little voice in my head would whisper. “This time, you won’t find the answer.”
Now, here’s the thing. For me, like many others, the creative problem solving process takes time. Time to for concepts mature, time to formulate new ideas, time to produce a finished product that is more than the sum of its parts. I need to suffer through this necessary incubation period of inactivity interspersed with frantic bouts of trial and error, even as I writhe and twist on the hook of frustration.
So what do I do with this new insight? What amazing strategic solutions have I formulated? For those of you who have persevered to this point, you will no doubt be pleased to know that I have decided to take a brand new approach to this creative problem solving thing. So here’s my Implementation Strategy:
a) Cut myself some slack: stop beating myself up when ideas do not magically appear on demand, tell myself it is okay to take the time I need.
b) Silence the little negative voice in my head with positive affirmations, for example, “I am taking the time to formulate brilliant ideas”, “I know the perfect solution”, etc.
c) Talk the problem through with someone. Anyone. My husband. My critique group. A friend. Sometimes, I just need to hear myself talk to discover the answer.
d) Keep writing until I reach the solution. My creative problem solving process is iterative and employs tedious, often painful trial and error. I wish it didn’t, but it’s my process.
e) Eat chocolate.
To see for yourself whether or not Maureen’s technique worked, check out Maureen’s website at www.BooksByMaureen.com and read about her latest release, The Jaguar Legacy.
Also, check out my guest blog on November 29th! I’ll be chatting with Mandy Roth at her Marketing with Mandy blog.
Before I sold my first few books, I never had either a synopsis or outline of the story I would write. I would just get started and bam –
Of course, my first book was an unwieldly 1200 pages and needed to be broken into three stories for it to be marketable. I managed to break out the first story, but never sold it. One day I may dust it off and see what to do about it.
Since then, I’ve learned the necessity of having at least the basic elements of the story in my head before I sit down to write the dreaded synopsis. (I so hate writing the synopsis!)
So, before I write, I consider the following three points in the overall story arc:
1. The ordinary world of both the hero and heroine and what their role is in that ordinary world.
2. The ending, namely, what I want both the hero and heroine to have learned and accepted about themselves when the story ends.
3. How I will make them confront their internal conflict at the height of the story (the black moment as it were).
For example, in HONOR CALLS, I knew that the heroine, Michaela, was a loner in her ordinary world and devoted to a cause – hunting the vampire that raped and killed her mother. The hero, Jesus, was also a loner with a devotion to his own cause — the FBI and upholding the law.
What ending did a want? Well in a romance it has to be a happy ending so I knew I had to get them together somehow and they had to have learned something about themselves. In this case that they didn’t necessarily have to be alone for the moment. (I say this because I would really really like to continue this story in a full length novel.)
As for their internal conflict at the height of the story — sorry, I’m going to tease you and say you’ll need to read the story to find out.
With those three basic plot points you can then write the scenes to start your story, know what you have to do to reach the black moment and where you will go once you overcome that obstacle.
For those aspiring writers out there, I hope that this helped! Also, if you’ve got a project and need a jump start to get it going, check out the Liberty States Fiction Writers Mayke It Happen Challenge. (No, that’s not a typo!). The Mayke It Happen Challenge ends in May, hence the MAY in MAYKE.
If you reach your goal by May 31, you will be eligible for a drawing for a critique. Three people will be chosen and either an editor, agent or published author will offer a critique of your work. From now until May 31, you will be on an e-mail loop sharing your progress, asking questions and being mentored by four published authors! The four published authors are:
Once you download Audacity you plug your mike into your PC and just click record. That simple. Just remember to speak evenly and not too close to the mike. Don’t rush your words and have a script of some kind to follow. It’ll make things easier. Also, make sure there isn’t a lot of room noise so that the recording is nice and clean.
When you are done with your recording, Audacity lets you save your recording as a WAV file. If you need to save your recording as an MP3, you will need to add a small piece of code to your computer which you will add to Audacity. Links to the pages where you can get the code and detailed instructions are available at Wikipedia. Just click on this link! I know this part of it sounds difficult, but it’s really a lot easier than it looks.
Why an MP3 file instead of a WAV? Some sites require that you have your recordings in this format.
What do you do once you have a recording? The simplest thing is to just load the recording to your own site and offer it so visitors can listen to it. Another thing to do is list your recording with Itunes. Here’s a podcast I did for the South Beach Chicas and posted to Itunes – click here.
How do you get your recording into Itunes? A little more difficult. Itunes requires you to create an XML file to send to them which contains information on the contest of the recording and the location of the MP3 file. You can click here for more information on creating the XML file specifically for Itunes.
Hope this Tuesday Tip was helpful and good luck with your podcasts!
Also — I’ll be chatting with Romance Novel Television tomorrow from 4 to 6! Be sure to drop by!
Right now, with the release of SINS OF THE FLESH just over two months away, I’m in the trenches promo-wise, gearing up for that last big push to get the word out about the book. By now, I’ve coordinated with the publisher the things that both of us will be doing so as to not duplicate efforts. I’ve already reached out to people about doing guest blogs and am finalizing dates for some of the visits as well as arranging some key booksignings. I’ve also planned to attend conferences close to the release date, like DragonCon and Moonlight & Magnolias.
Both of these conferences happen to be in Atlanta, but target different audiences. DragonCon is totally for the paranormal crowd while Moonlight & Magnolias is more for romance writers and readers.
Which I guess leads to another tip – don’t limit your market! There are lots of different spins that you can put on the same novel in order to reach all kinds of readers. Think out-of-box and target several different markets through things like blog tours, conferences, book signings and even advertising.
What else is being put into place in these final months? Videos, podcasts, book signings, e-mails. Getting out there to share the word about your book is key, both in person and on the Internet. Make sure your website is updated about the release as well as any social media sites you may have.
When it comes to the e-mails, podcasts and video trailers – time them to be effective. Release them too soon and they lose their impact. Wait until the book is almost on the shelves for the most effective use of these two promotional tools.
Check out the schedule below for where I’ll be doing some promotions. I love meeting fans face-to-face and also online. I will be updating the calendar with new events regularly so you can check here or also visit the Meet Me section at www.caridad.com for a listing of events.
Promo or Perish? It’s a topic I’ve talked about during several workshops and I’d like to share just some basic ideas for what you should do to get the word out about yourself if you’re either pre-published or published.
But first — my own bit of goods news! Some of you may know from reading the main site that I accepted a two-book offer from Grand Central Publishing (formerly Time Warner Books) for some new romantic suspense novels with a paranormal element. What kind of paranormal element? The heroine is a cancer victim who is developing superhuman traits as a result of a genetic engineering treatment. Worse yet, she has to battle to keep her humanity while being hunted down for a murder she did not commit! The first book will be out in 2010.
Now back to today’s Tuesday Tip — Promo or Perish. If I had to list the top things an author can do to get the word out about themselves, here’s what they would be:
Whether published or not, have a website, social network page or blog where people can meet you, learn about you and reach you. Make sure to keep it current with some recent news about what’s going on with you. There’s nothing worse than visiting a page and seeing that the last time it was updated was a year ago.
There are tons of sites on the web that allow you to do press releases either for free or for a nominal cost. If something really good happens, a contest win, new contract, etc., send out a press release. Also make sure to get the contact details for local papers, television and radio stations. Local papers love featuring a “local person done good” story and those kinds of grass roots stories are wonderful.
Are you an expert on something? Can you write an article about that subject? Did you recently travel somewhere interesting or do something different? Can you write an article to share your discoveries? Of course you can! We all have interesting things that we’ve done or information that we can share. Write an article and post it to one of the many sites that will publish it on the Net. Make sure that whatever site you use let’s you keep the copyright in the article.
You have a website/blog, I have a website/blog. Let’s get together somehow. Exchange links with friends, fellow authors or sites that would be of interest in connection with what you are doing. For example, I’m on a number of romance, paranormal, vampire and Latino sites. If you’ve got a blog, do a blog tour or guest blog at someone else’s blog. Invite people to blog at your place!
If you’re a published author and you want to learn about how to promote your book, I highly recommend that you sign up for the Author and Marketing Experts newsletter. The newsletter is chock full of tips and tricks for how to publicize your book. You can also check out their free online courses and podcasts at Publishing Insiders.
Of course by now some of you may be wondering, “What the heck is social bookmarking?”
Social bookmarking lets you share your favorite websites, pages, etc. with others. Sites such as Delicious, Digg and Stumbleupon are just some of the sites which store your bookmarks and share them with others.
If you’ve got the Google Toolbar, you can also post your content to Blogger, Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, Yahoo and a number of other services with just the click of a button.
What can you share? Articles or blogs that you’ve written, reviews for your books, videos, contests and basically anything that you have online and that you want to share.
These bookmarks are great tools for having people discover you and your work and will help drive people to your website.
You can also make it easy for others to share information you’ve created by using buttons such as these in your posts and on your website! You can get this simple social bookmark widget at Addthis.com.
I hope you enjoyed today’s Tuesday Tip.
Also, many thanks for all your help last Tuesday when I asked for suggestions for some upcoming contest. The lucky winner of the Valere! Please e-mail me your postal address so I can send your prize.
In many of the above discussions, there has oftentimes been a use of the terms e-publishing, self-publishing and vanity/subsidy publishing interchangeably, but there are vast differences between those three types of publishing. In light of this, it seems as good a time as any on this Tuesday Tip blog to distinguish between e-publishing, self-publishing and vanity/subsidy publishing.
With e-publishing there is no monetary outlay of funds by the author. The e-publisher will do editing, create the cover and arrange for distribution of the book through their various channels. The author does not typically get an advance as is done with traditional print publishing, but will receive a royalty based on sales, usually in the neighborhood 25%-35% of either the cover or net price. The e-publishing model shares the reward between the author and the publisher, but the risk is borne by the publisher.
Oftentimes e-publishing will allow for books that don’t fit a niche to find a home and it has proved financially sound and rewarding for some publishers and houses.
With self-publishing, the author will pay for the printing of the book and any related design services (such as the artwork on the cover). The author will own the ISBN, copyright and be responsible for marketing, distribution and sales. The author usually keeps 100% of the sales made, so all risk and reward is with the author. Self-publishing is a riskier move. Many bookstores will not stock self-published books. While there have been some success stories (such as The Shack and The Celestine Prophecy), for every one of those success stories, I suspect there are thousands of tales about books sitting in garages or the trunks of cars. According Bowker, although more ISBNS were handed out for self-published books than for traditionally published books in 2008, the average self-published book sells less than 100 copies.
With vanity/subsidy, the author pays for “publication” of the book as contrasted to the printing and design of the book. For the fee, the vanity/subsidy publisher will provide X number of copies of the book as well as suggest marketing, editing and other services in order to achieve “publication” and make sales. In addition, the publisher may also retain a portion of the sales for offering the book through their distribution channels. For example, you may pay $600 for the basic vanity publishing package, but you may also need to pony up 50% of the either the cover or net price of each sale to the publisher. Therefore, you will only receive 50% of the cover/net price as a royalty. Please remember that the net price could be substantially less than the cover price, drastically reducing your “royalty.” For example, Amazon takes approximately 35% of the cover price as its share for listing the book, so as an author, you would only receive 50% of the 65% left from the cover price. In the vanity/subsidy publishing model, 100% of the risk is borne by the author but not 100% of the reward.
So what is an aspiring author to do? There is a difference between being published and being in print that is being blurred by today’s print on demand technology and the advent of the Internet. For starters, remember the first rule: Money should flow from the publisher to the author. Then, remember the second rule: If anyone asks you to outlay money to publish your book, seriously reconsider that “publication.” There is a reason why AAR and other organizations have a code of ethics that prohibits literary agencies from charging fees to aspiring writers. As a writer, you should consider applying that rule to any publishers that you are about to consider.
Last night we were discussing an oft-used phrase: Show, Don’t Tell.
One of my friends asked, “How do you know you are doing telling and not showing?”
My friend Anne Walradt is an expert on the subject and does a wonderful workshop on the concept. I can only offer some very basic advice and examples.
First, if you read it aloud and it sounds like a laundry list — You’re telling. An example of telling:
The alley was dark. It smelled of old garbage. There was movement at the end of the alley. It was a large man. He looked like a criminal. Fear gripped her. She ran away.
Was that interesting at all? Did you get involved in what was happening? Did you impart any of your knowledge to the scene, thereby becoming involved in the story?
If you answered “No”, then you understand what’s bad about telling rather than showing. So how you do write the above scene by showing? Here’s a shot at it:
Darkness swallowed her up as she entered the alley. Days old garbage filled a dumpster, making the air rank with the smell of decay. Shadows shifted at the end of the alley. A man stepped forward into the muted pool of light cast by a security lamp. Blue-black prison tattoos covered his arms and his face had the look of a boxer who had lost one too many fights. Her stomach clenched and a cold sweat erupted across her flesh a second before she whirled away.
A little better? Do you impart your own experience to what decay smells like? Did you wonder what the shadow was? Did the description of the man show you he was a criminal and/or trouble without telling you? How about the fear aspect? Didn’t use the word fear, but her reaction demonstrated it and you as the reader, recognized it.
That’s the biggest difference. When you show, the reader becomes involved in the story by interpreting what you are writing. With a laundry list, there’s no involvement on the part of the reader because it’s plan and simple. Of course, that does not mean that you should so confuse your reader with how you show something that they are lost.
So, that’s a very quick rundown on the concept of Show, Don’t Tell. I hope this Tuesday Tip was of help!
There are a lot of things that can drain your creativity as a writer, but one of the worst is trying to edit while you are writing.
One of the important things to learn in writing quickly as well as writing effectively is not stopping and second guessing yourself about choices of words, sentence structure, spelling or grammar. Those are all things that can be fixed after the fact.
When you are writing your first draft, let yourself run free. Put down what comes out of your brain immediately. It’s always possible to go back and fix whatever it is that you think is wrong.
If you stop yourself from running free, you may miss creating something really different and interesting.
I will often write vital scenes without stopping (or stopping only a little). I want to get that rush of fresh thoughts down on the paper, especially when it comes to dialogue. Having the right pacing and words in dialogue often come easier when you just let it flow. It’s easy to go back and fill in what may be missing if you’ve got a good rhythm to your dialogue.
So – shut down your internal editor for that first draft. Let yourself explore new things and pour your heart out onto the paper. There will be time enough to fix things once you’ve finished the scene.
Tagged!! I got tagged by my friend Michelle Swan! So I asked her, What’s a tag and she explained that one blogger tags another who has to answer a number of questions. Then you tag someone else. It’s one way to make blog friends and spread the word about yourself and your friends.
Memes are another way. What’s a meme? Wikipedia explains the origins like this: “The word meme first came into popular use with the publication of Dawkins’s book The Selfish Gene in 1976. Dawkins based the word on a shortening of the Greek “mimeme” (something imitated), making it sound similar to “gene”. Dawkins used the term to refer to any cultural entity that an observer might consider a replicator.”
One of the more popular memes is the Thursday Thirteen, but there are a bunch of others you can join in order to spread your word to other people. Basically, you repeat certain information, questions or ideas on your blog/website according to the rules of that particular meme.
For now, I’m going to answer Michelle’s tag and go tag my friend Irene Peterson!
1. What is your occupation?
Lawyer and writer.
2. What color socks right now?
White (I’m such a geek!)
3. What are you listening to right now?
4. What was the last thing that you ate?
An Oreo Mcflurry.
5. Can you drive a stick shift?
6. If you could be a color what color would you be?
7. Last person you spoke to on the phone?
8. Do you like the person who sent this to you?
Yes I do. She is quite an interesting person who always shares lots of fun with me on my blog.
9. Favorite food?
I hope chocolate counts!! (This is Shell’s answer, but why ruin such a perfect answer.)
10. Favorite drink?
Black Cherry Fresca.
11. What is your favorite sport to watch?
12. Have you ever dyed your hair?
Do I have to answer this question? Yes, I have. I’ve actually gone darker for the summer.
I have a totally black cat named Osiris who is crazy! A turtle named Buffy and assorted fish in my pond who are incognito.
14. Favorite Author?
Totally hard one to answer, but I’d have to say Nora Roberts writing as J.D. Robb. Karen Rose is great also!
15. Last movie you watched?
We are Marshall (I had already seen it, but it was late at night, nothing else was on and I really liked the inspiring tone of the story).
16. Favorite Day of the year?
Christmas Eve. There’s nothing better than getting together with family and sharing this day.
17. What do you do to vent anger?
I try not to get angry in the first place, but when I do, I exercise to work out my anger.
18. What was your favorite toy as a child?
I still have my favorite toy. It’s a rubbery kind of male doll that I brought with me from Cuba. His name is Pepito and he sits on the top edge of my couch with me.
19. What is your favorite time of the year?
I love spring because of the return of life after the dull and cold winter months.
20. Strawberry or Blueberry?
21. Do you want your friends to participate?
Yes, I do, so Irene P., you’re next!!
22. Who is most likely to respond?
23. Who is least likely to respond?
Hadn’t thought beyond tagging Irene.
25. When was the last time you cried?
I’ve been blessed to have a fairly happy life lately, but the last time I cried was several months ago when I dropped off my daughter at college.
26. Who is the friend you had the longest that you are going to tag?
27. Who is the friend you had the shortest that you are going to tag?
28. Favorite smell?
29. Plain, cheese or spicy hamburgers?
30. Favorite car?
My Sebring. I always wanted a convertible and bought one several years ago. It’s an awesome car.
31. Favorite Quote or motto?
Nothing worthwhile is ever easy.
32. Number of keys on your key ring?
At least ten.
33. How many years at your current job?
I can’t tell you because then I’d have to kill you. Let’s just say, too many.
34. Favorite day of the week?
35. How many states have you lived in?
Three — NY, NJ and PA.
36. Which political label most closely reflects your views?
Fiscal conservative, social moderate.
37. Worst injury you’ve ever had?
Broke a finger when I was playing field hockey in high school.
38. What is your favorite book?
Tough one! There are so many, it’s hard to say.
39. What were you doing at 12:00 last night?
Sleeping since I get up at 5 almost every morning.
40. What famous person, dead or alive, would you most like to meet?
Albert Einstein, Rachel Carson, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Jacques Costeau, Arthur C. Clarke.
Whenever I buy a new computer for the office or home, I’m always astounded at how the biggest part of the price is for the software! Now, I understand that there’s development costs and the like, but it’s still a big chunk of money to put down for something that you will have to buy again in a few years.
So because of that, I am always on the lookout for freeware or shareware that’s inexpensive and keeping my eye open for new ways of doing things that will make my life easier.
Here’s a few of the things I’ve discovered!
AVG Anti-virus: Great free anti-virus program for basic protection. AVG also has root-kit protection and a number of other free products.
Babelfish: Need to translate to and from a variety of languages. This is one of the better translators out there.
Cooltext: Need a new banner or logo? Need to find a new font to use? This is the place for you!
Dollzmania: Want to create dolls, glitter graphics, avatars and more? This is a great site and easy to use.
Flash Forge: This is a free program which converts Flash files into screensavers with installers. Look for more on this one on Friday when I offer you up some screensavers from THE CALLING.
GIMP: GIMP is the GNU Image Manipulation Program and is good free software for working with images, photos, etc.
GoogleDocs: Need to backup some documents? Or keep them where you can access them from anywhere? Open a Google account and check out GoogleDocs which offers basic wordprocessing, presentation and spreadsheet capabilities.
Microsoft GIF Animator: Created animated banners using this free software. You will need to make sure all your files are GIFs.
A-PDF: Need to extract text from a PDF file? Another piece of freeware to do that for you.
WordPress: What can I say? An absolutely fabulous, free and friendly way to build a website. All of my sites are now built in this and it gives me amazing flexibility with the many plugins that are available to use.
Hope some of the above help save you a little time and money!
There’s one thing we can never get enough of . . .
Okay, all of you get your mind out of the gutter! The correct answer to the above is TIME! We are always running around, multi-tasking and wishing we had more time to check out this and that, etc. You get it.
So, today’s technology tip is about saving time.
How can you save time? By being able to keep up on your favorite blogs and news without every leaving your home page (if you’re using the Google, Yahoo or other personalized web page features which I would highly recommend). You can also do it by just looking for an RSS Feed Reader that suits your needs (like one that feeds into your Outlook program).
Okay — I can hear all of you saying that this sounds like a lot of work and work takes time and I don’t have enough time . . .
Yep, it will take a little work, but once you do it, you will be able to keep up on things from just one place! Doesn’t that sound great? (To a tech geek like me it sounds great!)
So, if you’re using Google or Yahoo or another personalized home page, you can add an RSS Feed to that page. Check with Google or Yahoo for their reader setup. They may even allow you to add news feeds from a list they already have.
How about adding the feeds from the blogs and other sites you visit? Look for the Feed buttons on the blog or page you are visiting. They will look like these on the bottom of my blog sidebar (shown to the right here so you can see how they appear).
What next? Just click on the appropriate button. I use Google, so I clicked on that button and when it asked, “Add to your Google home page?” I said yes.
What happens next? When you return to your home page, you will either see the blog added to your home page or added to your RSS reader. Here’s some samples of what this may look like.
Blogs added to a Google Home Page
RSS Feeds in a Google RSS Reader
Once you get this set up, you can take a sneak peek at all your favorites from one easy location. If something interests you, just click on the link on your home page or reader to either display more of the feed or visit the original entry.
I was rewriting a chapter yesterday and when I read it to my critique group, I didn’t need them to tell me what I was doing wrong.
I knew I was doing the Dreaded Info Dump.
What’s that? you might ask.
Well, if you’re a reader it’s something you hopefully will not see in a book. It goes something like this:
Mary realized that it was Dr. Smith. He had treated her for bunions three years ago. Then again two years later for a heel spur. Now she was there to see him for an ingrown nail, but suspected it was much more than that. For two weeks her toe had been hurting. It had first been a slightly pink color. Then a few days later a little brighter red. Then after a week it had started getting really nasty. Finally a day ago she realized it was time to go see her favorite foot doctor.
Yes, I know we wouldn’t be interested in a story about her feet, but imagine that the story was a romantic suspense and all that information was about what had happened to the heroine in the last three months – an info dump.
Much like the person in the photo I posted, info dumps inundate a reader with too much info at one shot and in general, are boring. It’s like reading an encyclopedia entry for your hero or heroine.
If you need to provide the reader some backstory, it should be layered throughout the chapter and provide subtle hints and information about what’s put the protagonists in their current situation. In fact, the less you say and make the reader intuit, the more they will be drawn into the story you are writing because the reader is participating in the story.
Of course, don’t make it so confusing or obtuse that the reader will say, “I just don’t get it,” and disengage from the story.
The hints should be clear and lead the reader toward an understanding of what’s happening. They should be like the breadcrumbs that Hansel and Gretel leave behind, enough so they can be followed to a particular point where you, the writer, are leading them.
How do you know you are doing the dreaded info dump as a writer? Look for long paragraphs filled with too much information. Dense paragraphs like that are a clear sign that something is up that you should revisit.
I hope you found this Tuesday Tip helpful.
Also, don’t forget this week’s b’day bash. Just visit any of the blogs listed below this week and leave a comment and you’ll be eligible to win a prize from me! At Barbara Vey’s blog, there are tons of other prizes as well!
I’ll be visiting all of these blogs and if you’ve left a comment at any of them, you’ll also be eligible to win a $25 Godiva gift card! The more times I see your name at the different blogs, the more your chances improve to win the gift card. So take a moment and stop by one or all to improve your chances of winning a prize.
The contest ends on Friday, March 13th at midnight EST, so be sure to get your comments in there on time!
Last night I pulled out the laptop to work as I am in the middle of multiple deadlines.
Imagine my surprise when my three year old Dell refused to start up. Lights blinked, etc. but no image. I plugged in a monitor to see if it was the screen – no image. After hours of trying, nothing.
Did I freak? Well yes, because I really can’t afford to buy a new laptop right now.
Did I worry about the data or my more important programs? No.
If there is one thing that I am, it’s a stickler for doing backups and you should be as well in order not to lose valuable data when things go wrong.
How can you do backups? Here are some suggestions for you:
Use a thumb drive and do a SAVE AS of your work-in-progress as soon as you’ve finished any major changes. Keep that thumb drive in a safe and secure place.
Use an external drive to do daily/weekly/monthly backups of your data. You know best how often you add data to your drive, so that should determine how often you do a backup. Terrabyte drives are now in the $79 to $129 range at various locations and will store a mess of data for you.
Copy files to an offsite location. You may really really really need not to lose your data in case there is damage to your home. There are services which let you copy your files and hold them offsite. Carbonite is one of the more popular services. If you’re an Optimum Online customer, they have a backup powered by Carbonite which allows you to store up to 2 gigabytes of data offsite.
Those are all nice solutions for safeguarding your data, but what about your programs?
Make sure you store your CDs in a safe place and keep the serial numbers handy. I have one of those audio CD library cases with my programs and I write and/or cut out the serial number from the box and keep it with the CD.
f you’ve downloaded the program from the Internet, keep the program files in a DOWNLOAD folder on your computer and back it up with your data files. Be sure to keep a copy of the serial number information handy, either in a document, address book or other location where you will remember you put it.
If you can’t even bear the thought of reloading all the software, there are programs which will save images of your hard drive which can then be restored to avoid such reinstalls. ACRONIS has a number of backup programs including one that creates a hard drive image. The cost? Only 39.99 right now.
I hope you found this Tuesday Tip helpful. As for me, the Dell decided to boot this morning, so I am busy making a full backup of data and an image backup just to be on the safe side!
One of the hardest things to understand as a new (or even established writer) is POV – Point of View.
When I wrote my first novel, I didn’t even have any idea what POV was. I had been a biology major and although I’d been writing since the fifth grade, I had never had anyone talk to me about POV. The end result was that my first completed book was 1200 pages long and in a POV that pulled the reader out of the story.
So how do you know what POV you’re using and how do you keep that POV firmly focused?
I like to use a technique that I call the POV camera. What’s the POV camera? Think of the character telling the story as a cameraman focusing a camera on the scene. That character can only see what’s happening before the camera lens. Keep that in mind as you consider the three most popular POVs in fiction, namely, Omniscient Narrator, Third Person and First Person.
What are the traits of these POVs?
Omniscient Narrator (3rd Person): An Omniscient Narrator is someone who can see everything and comment on it. Think of the Omniscient Narrator as a cameraman perched up high up on a boom crane filming everything that’s happening down below. He says everything and can skip from one person to another and tell/see everything about them.
With an Omniscient Narrator, there isn’t anything that is unknown. The Omniscient Narrator can tell the reader everything about everyone.
Sounds good, right? Well, the problem is that when you tell the reader about everything, you don’t let them engage in the story. You don’t trust them to figure some things out for themselves and get involved by trying to figure it out.
To do Omniscient Narrator right is a difficult task, so I would recommend you stick to the one of the other two POVs.
Third Person: Third Person is probably the most common POV in modern fiction today. Basically, Third Person is when one of the characters in the story is telling the tale. Because of that, think of the camera that characters would be holding and what that character would see. Those are the only things that the POV character can describe. So, that character can’t describe how they look (and please, stay away from looking in the mirror shots if at all possible!).
Also, the POV camera can’t read the other person’s mind, so the character can’t know what the other person is thinking, they can only guess at what they are thinking.
That helps build conflict and tension. It also allows the reader to guess at it. In addition, because you are seeing things through this character’s POV camera, you are getting to know the character by how they react to what’s happening. This builds a relationship with the character.
In romance, we do jump to the POV of other characters, usually “head-hopping” from the hero to heroine. How do you do it right? Don’t do it too often and don’t give away too much information when you do “head-hop”. And to keep things straight, remember the POV camera and what the character can see through that lens.
Last, but not least is First Person which has become quite popular in certain genres, such as chick lit and even urban fantasy (think Anita Blake). What is First Person POV?
First Person POV: “It’s all about me.” The “I” and nothing else. First Person is when one character is telling the entire story and uses “I” (first person singular) whenever the character is describing what’s going on.
So, the POV camera is much like Third Person, but everything is filtered much more personally by the cameraman. Every piece of information, even that of other characters, is touched by/colored by the First Person cameraman.
What does that create? Sometimes a greater sense of intimacy since you get to know the character very well. It can also be misleading if the First Person cameraman isn’t dealing with reality (think about using a soft focus lens on an older woman at a minimum or totally choppy and jumpy like someone wired on drugs).
Done well, First Person can be very very effective. Done poorly, you get tired of hearing “all about me” all the time.
Personally, I really struggle with First Person. I find it very difficult to always be working in the “I” and prefer third person. I think the important thing to consider when deciding what POV to use is, which do you feel most comfortable in? You need to find you voice and what POV works best with that voice. Then you can start writing and remember — Put yourself behind the camera so you can be sure that what you’re doing is right for the POV you’ve chosen.
Writer’s Block. Two of the most dreaded words for writers besides synopsis and revisions. Writer’s Block happens to all of us. Sometimes it lasts a day or so. Other times it lasts for weeks. What can you do to help break past the walls that are blocking your creativity? Well, here are 13 suggestions for getting those creative juices flowing!
1. Take a long shower or bath. Try to think of nothing except the warmth of the water or slickness of the soap and just how relaxing it is.
2. Savor a favorite drink. Whether it’s hot chocolate, wine or coffee, sit down and focus on just the drink and nothing else. Let yourself enjoy the nuances of it, from heat to nuttiness to floral overtones.
3. Take a long walk. Preferably near somewhere scenic. Again, think about nothing except what is around you. The wind, the smells, the sights and the sounds should take priority.
4. Ground yourself. I have to say I have not done this myself, but my trainer at the Y says it works. Take off your shoes and go outside and tickle your toesies in the grass/dirt for at least thirty to forty-five minutes. Imagine yourself becoming one with the Earth once again.
5. Exercise. Whether it’s yoga, strength training, a jog, etc. get the blood flowing throughout your body and brain.
6. Read a good book. I like to read books outside my genre to see how the author puts the story together.
7. Watch a movie. Much like reading a book, let your mind process the scenes and how they flow (or don’t) and think about what made the movie work.
8. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. No matter what, watching one of the old shows helps me see how wonderful characters are created and sharp dialogue can deliver a jab as potent as any punch.
9. Go to Writer’s group or workshop. I belong to the Liberty States Fiction Writers and I find that going to meetings and listening to the workshops always inspires me to write.
10. Shut off your network card. Oftentimes I find that my “block” is actually just distraction caused by the Internet and the time suck it creates.
11. Visit a new place. Go somewhere interesting and explore the sights. It doesn’t have to be far. I took a short trip to Sandy Hook which inspired tons of scenes for my SIN HUNTER series.
12. Visit a favorite place. Remember what it was about that place that made it special. Explore once again the sights, sounds and feel that made it favorite.
13. Talk to a friend. Sometimes you just need to vent. If they’re a writer friend, they’ll understand and may be able to offer up an idea to deal with whatever plot/character/setting problem has stopped you in your tracks.
Hope you enjoyed today’s Thursday Thirteen. I welcome you to add any of your suggestions for breaking writer’s block in the comments section.
The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others’ comments. It’s easy, and fun!
On the 19th I’ll be at the wonderful Liberty States Fiction Writers Create Something Magical Conference. It’s a great event with some awesome workshops and 20+ editors and agents taking pitches. Plus, there are going to be a bunch of gift baskets, including one with a Kindle, some nice giveaways and a book fair that’s open to the public. If you’ll be in the Woodbridge, NJ area that Saturday, please drop by. The book fair is from 5:30 to 7 pm on March 19th.
So with that conference at hand, today’s Thursday 13 is all about some conference tips. Here goes.
1. Have a business card at hand, even if you’re not published. You want to start making connections and people need to know how to reach you.
2. Mingle. Make connections.
3. Don’t mingle. LOL, yes a little bit of a contradiction, but you need to learn body language. If two people are close together and in a serious discussion, it’s not the right time to butt in.
4. Enjoy yourself. Yes, it’s work, but it’s also a chance for you to unwind.
5. Choose your workshops carefully. Make sure they are ones that fit a need that you have.
6. Dress professionally.
7. Dress comfortably. You can do 6 and 7 and it’s important to find that balance. If you’re not comfortable, those vibes carry to others.
8. Don’t drink too much. You can’t believe how often I’ve seen people break this rule.
9. If meals are being served, choose a table where you can meet new people.
10. If you’ve got the time to spare, stay after the conference ends and the fun time begins. It’s part of networking, but it’s also part of finding time to share with other creative people. It can be really rejuvenating.
11. Prepare your pitch. Stand in front of a mirror or sit with a friend and practice it. See if it sounds natural.
12. Don’t be nervous in front of the editors and agents. They don’t bite. Really they don’t.
13. Have fun! You’ve probably spent some money to attend, travel, stay, get new clothes, etc. Take the time to enjoy yourself a little.
Hope you found these tips helpful! Hope to see you at the book fair!
My deepest apologies for not giving you a Guilty Pleasure Monday yesterday, but unfortunately a series of computer glitches at work kept me busy for the better part of the day! Yes, I do still work and write, which made me think of Today’s Tuesday Tip – Time Management.
Yes, time does get away from us in so many ways, but the one question I hear repeated often is: “How do you find the time to write since you have a full time job and a family?”
It’s not always easy since yes, I do have a full time job, hubby and daughter not to mention other important family members and friends. Then there’s the volunteer work of hosting writing groups, workshops and doing work for my local Romance Writers chapter. Lots of time taken in various ways, but here’s what I do to make sure that I find time to write and that it doesn’t get unnecessarily hectic.
1. Make a plan. You know that old adage about those who fail to plan plan to fail? It couldn’t be more true. When I’m working on a new project, I always set a deadline for myself — a reasonable deadline. I could say I’m going to set a deadline of a week, but if I don’t meet that deadline it will be depressing and start a whole negative vibe and who needs that? Life is too short to make yourself miserable so set a reasonable goal.
2. Know your schedule. When I’m taking on a new contract or planning a new project, I always look and see not only what’s already contracted, but what obligations I have with my family (vacations, trips to school) and for my lawyer job (conferences, projects, meetings). Based on that, my agent and I schedule the new delivery dates and I plan my own completion date in advance of the real date to give myself time to read and revise.
3. Use your free time effectively. I admit it — I love being a couch potato and watching television. But I’ve always been able to watch TV and do other things. In fact, doing other things keeps me from falling asleep during the shows! LOL! So, I use that couch potato time to do research, update the website, check out things to do with you on the blog, put together promo materials, etc.
4. Work on your book every day. Do I do this? Almost always, although there are days I take a break here and there (although I am almost always thinking about the book I am writing or an idea for a new book). I normally write every day on the train ride to and from work and on the weekends, I get up at 6 and put in a few hours. Sometimes I’ll write on weekend nights as well depending on my plan and the schedule.
5. Give yourself some time off. Yes, I know that sounds inconsistent give 1 through 4 above, but you do need time to recharge the creative juices and you will know when it’s time. When your mind says, OVERLOAD, take a day or two or even a week to get rid of all the excess stuff cluttering your brain so you can refocus and revitalize.
6. Find your peak creative time. Some people are better in the morning, others at night. Find when you are at your most creative and structure your writing time around that peak. I’ve found mornings are best for me and so I try to set aside those hours for writing.
7. Find your prime physical space. I have a desk in my office. I swear I do! Here’s a picture of it! What do you mean you can’t see it? It’s right there, behind my knapsack and promo stuff. To the right of the telescope. Buried beneath the mounds of paper and goodies I picked up at every conference I’ve been to in the last two years! The desk is a good place for keeping all my Buffy action figures (they are not dolls!!).
Seriously, though, you know where you are most comfortable and creative. Make that place your writing place. As you may guess, I don’t work at my desk often as that is not my comfort zone for writing. As I mentioned before, certified couch potato. I usually write on my laptop while snuggled beneath my favoritest Buffy comforter while in my sweats. Writing is so glamorous, isn’t it? VBG
So that’s how I do it. I know it sounds rough at times, but I’ve found that it works well for me. Just remember everyone is different and what works for one person may not work for another. Find your peak time and place. Make a plan that won’t make you miserable and try to stick to it.
Just remember, even if you write just one page a day, at the end of a year, you’ll have written a book!
To tweet or not to tweet, that is the question. Some of you may be wondering just what a tweet is. A tweet is a post using Twitter.
So now some of you may wondering, What’s Twitter? Wikipedia defines Twitter as “a social networking and micro-blogging service that allows its users to send and read other users’ updates (known as tweets), which are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length. Updates are displayed on the user’s profile page and delivered to other users who have signed up to receive them. ”
Lots of people are sending tweets. Some believe it is a useful way to promote yourself (see this discussion at Bubblecow) and others do not (see West Pier Words).
I’m undecided, although I’m leaning toward the not. Like Dot at West Pier Words, I’ve gone through the Shelfari, Gather, etc. thing only to find they take up too much time. I do have Myspace and Facebook pages. I’ve found them to be good for letting people know about the books and also, connecting with friends from all over. Same goes for this website and blog. It’s nice to hear from you and it does truly make a difference to me!
As for adding yet another thing to my life – my already crowded and busy life – I think I’ll forego the tweets for right now.
How about you? Do you Twitter? Do you find it for keeping up with friends? For those of you who are published authors, do you like it?
Also, a big thanks to my fellow author Chris Redding for the links to the Twitter discussion. You rock, Chris. You also tweet! LOL!
The other day I did a blog over at the Savvy Authors about Dealing with the Day Job and one of the things I mentioned was finding a place and time for your writing as well as how to recharge. I like to call it finding your creative center because it’s one of the most important things you can do as a writer or any other kind of artist for that matter.
For me, being near the shore energizes me. Maybe it’s because I’m a Pisces, but there is something about the ocean and beach that I find invigorating. When I head down the shore, I know I am going to get a mess of writing done as well as a spiritual uplift.
Now I know I am luckier than some that I can pick up and take the hour, or two hour or three hour (there is a reason why it’s called the Garden State PARKway) trip down the shore. But even if you can’t get away, you should try to carve out a place and time where you can work more effectively and also a way to recharge when you’ve emptied your brain of all thoughts and need a break.
When I’m not down the shore, I have my office at home and I’ve filled it with things that I love. Family photos, useful books, my keeper and TBR collection of novels, candles, DVDs of my favorite movies and television shows as well as a comfy couch, sweater and comforter since I don’t like working at a desk when I write.
Even if all you can do is carve out a small space down in the basement next to the washer and dryer, make it your own. Surround it with things that you love and will make you feel creative.
Also find a time during which you feel most creative. As I mentioned in that earlier blog, I discovered I was a morning person. My most creative time is from around 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. and I take advantage of those early hours for some truly peaceful time because there are very few crazy people up at 5 a.m., especially down the shore!
What about when you hit a block? Well, a long shower or walk work best for me. There is something about those activities where you don’t have to be thinking about doing something and can just think that help me work through problems in the story line or visualize the next scene I want to write.
I hope you found this Tuesday Tip helpful! Good luck with the writing.
When other writers ask me what’s the single most important thing they can do to grow a career, I always say, “Have a web presence.” Dollar for dollar, being on the Internet is one of the most effective forms of advertising that you can do.
You can accomplish that in a number of ways. A website. Blog. Social Networking page. I always tell people to keep those Internet sites as current as you can.
I also tell them to balance the work involved in all of these things with the singlemost important thing — writing a good book.
But once you’re on the web, what can you do that will help grow that web presence. Lots of things that we’ve discussed before and one that we haven’t — using Google and Yahoo alerts.
“Huh?” you may say as you shake your head in wonder.
It’s simple really. Both Google and Yahoo (as well as other search engines) have what are known as “alerts”. Plug in the keywords of interest and ask them to notify you whenever one of those keywords is found by one of the search engine spiders.
I do it at work all the time to keep track of what clients are doing.
Authors can do it to see who is talkingabout/blogging about/reviewing them. More importantly, it’s always good to acknowledge when someone has done so and leave a comment or message for them to say “Thanks!”
Call it Politeness on the Web. Politeness is always a good virtue to foster.
So with that in mind — thank you all for dropping by today and remember — GO VOTE!!
What’s a web widget? Wikipedia defines a web widget as “a portable chunk of code that can be installed and executed within any separate HTML-based web page by an end user without requiring additional compilation.” In other words, you will get some computer code that you will need to add to your website or social networking page, so you do need a little bit of technical expertise to know how to do this.
You may already have web widgets on your site without even knowing it. Banner advertising or site meters are some of the most common web widgets available. If you’ve uploaded a video to Youtube or another video hosting service, the code that you place on your site or Myspace page is a web widget.
What’s the benefit of web widgets? They allow you to place useful information on your site, collect information to assist you and offer others the ability to spread the word about your website and books.
Check out the cool countdown widget I created for FURY CALLS, the next book in THE CALLING Vampire series which will be out in March 2009. You can click here to download the code for the widget and post it on your sites/Myspace pages! Send me a screen print of it once it’s on your site or a link to the site with the widget and I’ll send the first 50 people who do so a CALLING t-shirt!
Site meters: Site meters help you keep track of how many people are visiting your website, where they are coming from, how much time they spend on your site, etc. Such site meters help you track the efficacy of what you are doing on your blog or website. How? If you run a contest, the site meter can tell you if you had more visitors on the day you ran a contest. One of the easier site meters to install can be found at www.sitemeter.com.
Site/Blog Sharing: If you have more than one website or social network page and wish to share information from one site on the others, a web widget is a great way to do so. For example, my main blog is at www.caridad.com/blog, but I want to share those blog posts at my website for THE CALLING Vampire novels (www.thecallingvampirenovels.com). I created a web widget that would create a list of recent blog posts on my other sites at www.widgetbox.com. Using the code that I generated at widgetbox, I loaded it on all my sites so that visitors could see my blog posts and then link back to my main site. At Widgetbox, you can also obtain web widgets in order to provide information at your site to your visitors. For example, if you’re a Mets fan, you can load up a widget that will keep your visitors posted about what’s happening with the Mets (http://www.widgetbox.com/search?q=mets).
Clock: Want to tell users what time it is? Check out some of these clock widgets: http://widgets.yahoo.com/widgets/digital-clock, http://www.springwidgets.com/widgets/view/25, http://www.clocklink.com/
Translator: Want to allow visitors who do not speak English to read your site? Babelfish is a great translator and has a widget so users can translate your site. Pick up the widget here: http://babelfish.yahoo.com/free_trans_service
All of the above widgets help you and your website visitors and even better, they are all free. However, you do need to be careful when loading code that has been provided to you by third parties. Sometimes widgets can contain spyware or malware that will create problems, so be sure to only use widgets from reliable sources.
Hope you’ll try out some of these web widgets to add some content to your website!
As you can see, we’ve got a whole new look to the site and a big thanks to the designer – MJ from Sizzle Designs. I absolutely love what she’s done and I hope you do as well. It’s clean, but its mood definitely reflects my romantic suspense and paranormals.
So there are a few little tweaks on things I didn’t think about immediately (sorry MJ!) and then there’s the reconstruction of the pages from the old website.
Why reconstruction? Well, I’ve learned a few things and also didn’t realize just how long it had been since I updated some of the pages. So little by little, I’ll be working on those, especially since I’ve got the second SINS book – STRONGER THAN SIN – due to be delivered later in the year.
Here’s what I’ve learned and will share with you in the hopes it will help you with your own website design.
Keep It Simple Stupid: Yep, I let my natural desire to bling just put way too much stuff on certain parts of the site. So to keep it looking clean and professional, I’m trying to unclutter.
Let the program do it for you: There’s a number of places where it would be way easier just to let programming bring in content. For example, on my Cook’s Treat page I’ve figured out how to feed in all the blog posts that had recipes. Much better than my remembering to code and add those blog posts every time. Now I’ve got to work on putting them in alphabetical order, but at least there’s no more recoding to do!
Forget about links to third party news articles: I’ve discovered that online newspapers, etc. don’t keep their articles up for long periods of time and the URLs no longer work. So, rather than having a lot of dead links (as I had on my Press Page), I’m going to just stick to mentioning the articles without a link. But if anyone knows of a good link checker, it would be greatly appreciated.
Don’t mention dates without a year!: I didn’t realize how many times I said, “this October” or similar and forgot to go back and update it later. So “this October” was actually like three Octobers ago! Be specific with dates or maybe better yet – if the date isn’t important, leave it out.
Using Categories Correctly: Remember that comment about letting the program do it. Well to do that you have to be consistent. WordPress and many other programs let you create “categories” for your links and blog posts. Be consistent when you use those so that you can pull up just the content you want rather than a mish-mosh of unrelated posts. Also, create categories that will actually assist you in gathering data for your website visitors.
Thanks for dropping by! I hope this Tuesday Tip was helpful!
Also, please be sure to drop by tomorrow to share some time with a wonderful friend and fellow author – Amanda McIntyre. Amanda will be sharing some of her recent exploits with us and anyone who leaves a comment on tomorrow’s blog by midnight EST will be eligible to win a SINS OF THE FLESH t-shirt!
This Thoughtful Thursday is about a question I am frequently asked? What do you in-between books? The answer is that you hope you’ve got something else contracted!
But seriously, what I do is start research on the next book and work on other proposals to be sent out by my agent. I’m always working on a new idea because for every book I am lucky enough to sell, there are at least one or two that end up gathering dust at my desk. Sometimes even though I think it’s a rocking book (like UNDEAD UPRISING!).
So the first answer to the question is: Always be preparing another project for consideration. Even if you’re in the middle of working on books that are contracted, keep your creative mind going, even if it’s to just to jot down some story ideas that you can flesh out later.
The second answer is: Get to work on the next book you need to write.
This spring and summer was blessedly busy for me. I had to finish two more book in THE CALLING vampire novels – ARDOR CALLS and VENGEANCE CALLS. Also had to do copy edits and galley proofs for SINS OF THE FLESH. And in the midst of all that, I was busy writing the next book in the SINS series – STRONGER THAN SIN – as well as researching that book.
Third answer: Spend some time researching your next novel.
For me, researching STRONGER THAN SIN meant long walks through some of the shore towns where I planned to set the novel. Snapping photos of places where I might be putting the hero and heroine so that I could get a real feel for the places. I’ve always thought that it’s important to really let you get a sense of the place and am always delighted to hear from someone who visits one of those towns that they felt like they knew it because of something I put in a novel.
So far in STRONGER THAN SIN, my ability to move them around has been limited, but I’m working up to allowing more and more scenes where the hero and heroine will be walking along the same streets that I visited and sharing their views of some of New Jersey’s delightful shore towns.
In STRONGER THAN SIN, most of the action will be taking place in Bradley Beach, Asbury Park, Ocean Grove and Spring Lake. For today, I’m sharing with you some pictures of Ocean Grove and Asbury Park. I’ve got to head down the shore again this weekend and work on adding some shots of Spring Lake and also, the wonderful tent city area close to the Ocean Grove auditorium.
Sometimes you just hear a name and know it’s right. I oftentimes use names from mythology, like Diana. Many people have read Greek and Roman mythology and therefore have an immediate impression connecting one of those names with a certain type of character.
There is a Random Name Generator that some friends pointed me to for inspiration. You can click here for this in case you want to try it out.
And in case you’re working on a paranormal and are totally at a loss, here’s a fun way to maybe figure out some vampire names!
I’m really lucky to have with me today my friend and fellow author Mary Kennedy. Mary is a national best-selling author, and a clinical psychologist in private practice on the east coast. She has sold forty novels, all to major New York publishers, and has made the Waldenbooks, BookScan and Publishers Weekly best-seller lists. Her early novels included middle grade fiction and young adult fiction for Scholastic and Penguin.
Mary is currently writing an adult mystery series, The Talk Radio Mysteries, which is set in a fictional town in south Florida. The first title, DEAD AIR, will be released in January, 2010, and the second, REEL MURDER, in June, 2010. The Talk Radio Mysteries was pitched and sold as “Frasier Meets Murder She Wrote.” The heroine is Maggie Walsh, a psychologist who closes up her Manhattan practice and heads to sunny Florida to take a job as a radio talk show host. And, yes, she solves a murder in every book!
Please join me in welcoming Mary and I hope you enjoy this very inspirational blog about resiliency!
When the Going Gets Tough
“When the going gets tough, the tough keep going.” This is the Cliff Notes version of a concept known as “resiliency,” the ability to bounce back fast from adversity. As a practicing psychologist, I try to build resiliency in my clients, helping them to withstand the stresses and disappointments of daily life. All of us possess resiliency, but how much? A lot depends on genetics, learned behavior patterns, personality traits and life experience. I’ve seen patients make a remarkable recovery from traumatic events; the death of a spouse, chronic illness of a child, even financial ruin. And I’ve seen other patients in tears over a bad haircut or a thoughtless remark by a relative.
Why is resiliency so important for writers? Because rejection is part of the game. Like all artists, writers put themselves on the line every time they send out a manuscript, leaving themselves open to judgment from editors and agents. So much of our identity is wrapped up in “being a writer,” that rejections are brutal, and go to the heart of who we are.
How can you build resiliency? I’d recommend four simple steps. Let’s take the example of an editor rejecting your manuscript.
First, take a cold hard look at the situation and determine if your first impression is accurate. Artists tend to “catastrophize,” meaning they put the worst possible spin on a situation. Does the editor really dislike the manuscript as a whole, or can you tweak it a little and resubmit it? Re-read her comments when you’re feeling calm and reflective. Panic can lead to cloudy thinking.
Second, ask a close friend for feedback. It’s always good to at least consider a situation through another set of eyes. Since your friend is less emotionally invested in the outcome, she may have a totally different–and more realistic–impression than you do.
Third, try to reframe the situation. Yes, the editor may not like this particular manuscript, for whatever reason. It may have nothing to do with your talent, or the quality of your work. It may be she’s just bought a book with the same theme or that the market is flooded with similar books. Let’s try reframing the situation in a more positive light. She’s not interested in acquiring this particular manuscript at this time. But is it realistic to say she never wants to see anything else from you? Ever? This is known as “depressive” thinking, or looking at something in a negative light. Reframe the situation and you realize that you can submit other projects to her, down the road.
Finally, immediately take action to seek a solution. Ruminating and drowning in negative thoughts will not help. Taking action will. List three things you can do–today–to get back on track. You can polish up another proposal, start something new or spend two hours in a bookstore, checking out the new releases. All these are positive steps you can take. Action leads to power, and a sense of control, which makes for a happier outlook. You will find that you are more resilient than you thought!
For more information on Mary, please visit www.marykennedy.net
DEAD AIR (Penguin, January 5, 2010)
The first of the Talk Radio Mysteries.
“Frasier meets Murder She Wrote” in this entertaining new series by a real-life psychologist.”
As an author, you do hold the world in the palm of your hands when creating your novel. This is particularly true if you are writing science fiction, fantasy or paranormals (the SFP from now on to save some time).
What’s the first thing to do on your way to building a world for your novel? The first thing to do is to decide what kind of world it is, namely:
Normal World: In a normal world, the SFP elements exist beneath the radar of most of the normal world’s inhabitants. The rules of the normal world are still followed. A good example of an SFP in a normal world are THE CALLING Vampire novels.
Alternate World: In an alternate world, the SFP elements are known to the inhabitants and the world is very similar to a normal world except for the changes imposed by the existence of the SFP elements. Urban fantasies are a good example of alternate worlds. In particular I would recommend Kim Harrison and Kelley Armstrong for wonderful alternate worldbuilding. The JD Robb books are also a good example of an alternate world, but one set in the future this time.
New World: In a new world, all the rules of a normal world are gone. You will develop all the rules, lands, people, culture, foods, etc. Many fantasy books are set in new worlds and they require quite a lot of worldbuilding. An excellent example of a new world can be seen in Jacqueline Carey’s KUSHIEL series.
Once you’ve decided on what kind of world you are going to build, what do you do next?
The next thing you want to do is establish the rules for your world. In a normal world, that would involve the rules dealing with the SFP elements, whether the inhabitants know about them, etc. It will also involve creating the rules for the SFP underworld that exists in your normal world. The same goes for an alternate world. While the inhabitants in an alternate world are aware of the SFP elements and those elements play a role in their lives, you will still need to craft rules for your SFP world to follow. Finally, in a new world, you will need to craft EVERYTHING and with sufficient detail so that the reader understands the rules of this world and how they impact on the story you are trying to tell.
How do you create these rules?
One of the best ways I’ve discovered is for you to think of your world’s inhabitants (and/or your readers) as visitors to a foreign land. You will need to provide them with enough information and detail that they can understand the rules of this foreign land. Some of the things which visitors to a new world may need help understanding are:
Language: Will your characters use ordinary language or do they have special words related to the SFP elements ala the Harry Potter incantations? In a new world, you may even have the characters speaking a totally new language that you’ve created. Make it simple for your readers to understand the context of this new language and its words. The last thing you want is to toss out so many new words/languages that the overall meaning of your novel gets lost or bogged down with the worldbuilding.
Food: What do your inhabitants eat? How do the foods/dietary needs relating to the SFP elements get satisfied. In a new world, you will have the option of creating totally different foods and or creatures to be eaten. Again, strike a balance between this worldbuilding and the story line.
What is the basic culture of your world? Is it founded on Judeo-Christian beliefs? Arabic or Asian influences? Is it current/pop/urban or futuristic or historical. Consider the elements that most would understand given the culture of the times and provide explanation for those things which are different from that cultural norm.
Roles of Men and Women:
What are the respective roles of men and women in this world and in relation to the SFP elements? Are women equals? Do they rule like the Amazons? What are the acceptable sexual roles of men and women and even more importantly, what is culturally acceptable regarding sex in your world. Is it puritanical or anything goes?
What is the political structure in your world? Democracy, theocracy, dictatorship? How does one attain political power and keep it? Does the political world impact on the SFP elements? For example, in alternate worlds, there are often political acts which have granted the SFP inhabitants certain rights or which have enacted rules governing how the SFP elements may not act.
Weather and Geography:
What does the physical world you are building look like? What is the weather there? It may sound insignificant, but weather and geography can sometimes be key elements. For example, think of Frank Herbert’s DUNE novels. Almost all of the political, cultural, food, business aspects arose as a result of the climate of the planet.
If you get hung up on whether something is working or not, step away and ask yourself, “If I was a visitor to this world I’ve created, would I understand this? Would it make sense based on what I know of this land?”
If the answer is yes, you’ve done a pretty good job of worldbuilding. If not, you may have to go back and rethink the information you’ve got in your novel. But always remember, it’s the story that will keep the reader reading so make sure that you don’t lose the wonder of that while you are busily creating your world.
I have with me a very special guest today. Please welcome Gary Morgenstein, the author of JESSE’S GIRL who is going to offer up some tips on writing!
Without further ado, here is Gary’s WRITE UNTIL IT HURTS!
Writing is a muscle like any other requiring exercise. Relentless, agonizing, sweat-drenched, every single day. No time to rest sore muscles. Sorry but, as Vito Corleone said, that’s the life we choose for ourselves.
Beyond the pain, a writer must, as Faulkner said, be able to devour its young. As I learned in my thriller Jesse’s Girl, sometimes you have to let go. You know, Luke Skywalker closing his eyes and feeling the light saber?
Jesse’s Girl is about a widowed father’s search for his adopted teenage son, who has run away from a drug wilderness treatment program to find his biological sister. Now when I started the book, I had all these ideas. A small story, small canvas, almost a two-hander of a father and a son overcoming their troubled relationship.
So much for that. I wrote the opening scene where Teddy, the father, gets the call from the wilderness program that Jesse, his son, was missing, and after that, all bets were off. Characters I had thought of changed or vanished. New ones beamed down into me. Storylines emerged. Suddenly it was a thriller. I had to discard all my pre-conceived notions. From the excellent reviews Jesse’s Girl has been getting, I’m glad I did.
Admitting you made a mistake is essential in writing. Never be afraid to say you’re on the wrong path. Just because it sounded good in your head or in an outline doesn’t mean it will necessarily work as a story. How many times have you played out a scene in your head and then wrote it down and said, Ew!
Philip Roth said that there were times he wrote 100 pages only to realize that inside that was the one paragraph that contained his story. The rest of the 99 plus pages was simply the path to get him there.
As life is the constant journey for a writer, so is writing the constant road to your art. You might get ambushed, but that is the process. To paraphrase FDR, the only thing we have to fear is not writing.
In addition to Jesse’s Girl, Gary Morgenstein’s most recent novels, both available exclusively on Amazon.com, are the political baseball thriller Take Me Out to the Ballgame and the romantic triangle Loving Rabbi Thalia Kleinman. His chillingly prophetic play Ponzi Man played to sell-out crowds at a recent New York Fringe Festival. A PR consultant for Syfy Channel, he lives in Brooklyn, New York, with lots of books and rock and roll CDs. You can visit him at www.facebook.com/people/Gary-Morgenstein/1011217889 or at http://redroom.com/member/garymorg.
It’s not often that I get Writer’s Block, but it does happen on occasion. Often times it’s because I’m wrestling with which way the story should go and not happy with any of the directions which are coming to me.
When I hit that wall, I do wish there was this big red door that I could open to break through, but sometimes the best way is to not keep butting your head up against the wall. Sometimes the best way is to take a step back and take another look at the wall so you not only see the door, but now who to open it.
How do you do that?
1. Pick up a good book to read. I would recommend that it even be something different from what you are trying to write. Reading other genres, and interacting with writers from other genres, is a good way to see the same problem in a different light.
2. Watch a good movie. Again, preferably one that’s different from what you’re writing. Same idea only it takes less time if you’re as impatient as I am. Also, some people need more visual stimuli to see the big red door.
3. Listen to music. I’ve been inspired more than once by a song lyric that’s allowed me to tackle the story with a different perspective or a revitalized concept of the conflicts.
4. Try writing something new. Sometimes you get just too involved in a story or you’ve looked at it one too many times. Refreshen yourself by trying out a new story line or concept.
5. Take a nice long hot shower and while you’re at it, consider the problem in your story that’s creating the boondoggle. Something about putting showers and thinking together always seems to yield good results.
6. Take a walk or do some exercise. Again, think about your story and see if getting out into the fresh air or taxing those muscles produces some new ideas.
I hope those little tips help you find the way through the wall created by your writer’s block!
Also, remember that you have until midnight EST March 25 to visit my friend Kaye Monro for a chance to win a SINS OF THE FLESH T-shirt and a copy of SOLDIER’S SECRET CHILD!
My mother instilled in me a thirst for knowledge. I firmly believe that a day in which I do not learn something is a day wasted.
I know I’m not the only person who believes this since the world is full of libraries, schools, universities and of course, information on the Internet.
That thirst presents a wonderful opportunity for writers in many ways, including using that thirst to create website traffic by submitting articles on topics of interests to a number of sites on the Internet.
You’re probably asking yourself about what could I possibly write an article?
If you’re a writer, the most obvious answer is that you share information which you’ve learned about your craft with others. Explain about the basics, such as dialogue; goal, motivation and conflict; how to use a semi-colon (LOL! and I hope I’m doing it right); plots, etc. You get the picture. As with any article writing, try not to make it too dry by not just offering blah facts, but personalize it with your experience and what worked for you. Oftentimes that hands on advice is just what someone needs to get over their own hurdle.
If you’ve got expertise in some field, for example, you’re an ER nurse or an attorney, offer up facts that someone might find useful for a particular activity. As an example, if you know about forensics, write an article on the reality of forensic investigations versus fictional TV forensics so that writers might understand what would be correct in that romantic suspense novel they are writing.
Have you visited somewhere interesting? Take the time to write an article on your experience in that city or country. Provide details of restaurants, events, interesting sites, etc.
Have you recently had a life-altering experience? How did you cope with it and what advice could you offer others that might be of benefit.
These are just a few of the possible ideas you can consider for an article to be submitted to the various Internet sites. Once submitted, the articles will be available for viewing by others and the Internet article sites generally provide a link to your website. Someone who reads an article that they find interesting or useful may then choose to come visit your website, thereby creating traffic to your website.
In addition to the benefit of increased traffic, there’s the benefit in practicing your craft by writing. Practice does make perfect (or at least better!).
One difference with Internet-based articles versus print articles is that you will also be asked to provide keywords for the search engines so that they may categorize your article for the future. Make sure you have identified the key issues in your article and list keywords related to those issues in the appropriate keywords field on the article submission site.
So are you ready? Here are some sites where you can submit your articles:
These are just a few of the dozens of article submission sites available. As with anything else, please make sure you read the fine print and that you remain the owner of the copyright in the article and that there are no hidden fees for submission. Also, some sites require that the article either be original or not be posted to any other sites.
Whether your published or pre-published, one of the ways to get the word out about your work is to enter contests.
For those who are pre-published, contests offer a number of possible benefits. First, look for contests where you get feedback about your writing. That will help you hone your skills as a writer. Next, try to enter contests where the final round judges are editors or agents. That will get your work before people who can either acquire it or represent you so that others may acquire it. One cautionary note, avoid contests where you will be published in an anthology or other publication being printed by the party who is running the contest. You will be a “winner” and then get asked to pay for a copy of the book in which your work will appear.
You may wonder whether contests for pre-published authors ever really lead to publication. Well, one of my friends, Lois Winston, has amassed an amazing number of contest wins, both before she got published and after. The contests helped her get the word out about her work and yes, one of the contests — the American Title contest run by Romantic Times Magazine — led to her getting a publishing contract.
Now that she is published, Lois enters contests to get the word out about her published books as do many authors. The key is to look for contests where the judges are readers, booksellers or book buyers. Why? They are the ones who can influence whether or not your book makes it into a store. Also, look for contests that have established reputations in your genre or the industry in general.
Do these contests work to spread the word about your book? When I attended a convention recently, a bookseller came up to me and said that she had read one of my books as a judge in a contest. She advised that after reading the book she put me on her “To Buy” list. A very nice comment to receive, but it also shows that entering the right contests can help make a difference in your sales.
Of course, along with success in contests comes the possibility of failure and also, of conflicting opinions on your work.
Another friend and fellow author, Carolyn Martin, has recently made the finals in a couple of contests (Way to go, Carolyn!). Here’s what she had to say (FYI – m/s is shorthand for manuscript):
Here’s what I learned from entering contests, based on the
judges’ comments–sometimes in the same contest!
My dialogue is sparkling and witty.
My dialogue is flat and predictable.
My heroine is well drawn, spunky and intelligent.
My heroine is a stereotype and an “idiot.” (And that’s a direct
quote, thank you very much!)
My hero is a cardboard cutout.
My hero is a fully realized, three-dimensional human being.
My POV is too deep–it bogs down the story.
My POV is deep–it provides excellent insight into the character’s
My m/s has simmering sexual tension.
There is no spark between my hero and my heroine.
My m/s is well researched and has great period detail.
My m/s has anachronisms that are “jarring.”
There is no sense of place.
Love the setting! So realistic!
My m/s needs work.
My m/s is ready to be published–today!
LOL, Carolyn! You’ve summed up what could happen in any contest. The important thing to remember is that much like the lottery, you can’t win it if you’re not in it. When it comes to publishing, being in the right contest can make a difference in your career.
That big sigh of relief you heard this morning — that was me! I finished the manuscript for my November 2009 release, SINS OF THE FLESH, and sent it to my editor at Grand Central Publishing. A big woo hoo since the novel had gotten moved up in the production schedule which meant I had to finish it way earlier than expected.
Which leads to this Tuesday’s Tips about writing goals, namely, how to set them and how to keep to them.
When I first got the call about the available slot in November 2009, I thought WOO HOO which was followed by OH MY. Could I finish a book in that time frame? I asked myself which quickly led to a plan — X number of pages a week would lead me to a finished book by X date. That was the plan.
Why haven’t I given you any numbers there, like 60 pages a week? For starters, and as I tell every writer who asks me, there is only one right way to write a book — sit down and write. Whether you write one page a day or five, it’s only wrong if you’ve made a plan for yourself and don’t keep to it.
Why didn’t you keep to it? Too busy? Not in a creative mood? Unrealistic expectations? A combo of all of the above.
While I am now a firm believer that if you fail to plan you plan to fail, the most important thing to keep in mind when setting a writing goal is that your plan be reasonable. Don’t say you are going to write 5 pages a day when you know that in a typical day you only have half-an-hour to write. Unless of course you are going to find more time in that day.
How many pages should you strive to do in a day? Again, there’s no right or wrong. I generally write anywhere from 4 to 10 pages a day during my weekday commutes to my job. More on the weekends when I can get a few more hours of writing done. The key to your success is finding what you can do each week and that’s the key — committing to a reasonable weekly goal.
For example, if you know you can’t write on Mondays and Wednesdays because of family demands, set aside time on the other days and make it part of your regular schedule just like anything else. Let the family know that on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 am to 10 am, you’re writing. Stick to it. If your family sees how committed you are to your writing, they will support you. If they think you’re not serious about it, it will be difficult to get them to respect your desire to write.
Say to yourself, in those two or three days that I write this week, I want to write X pages. (A reasonable X pages remember). Before you know it, the pages will begin to pile up!
I mentioned finding more time to write. How do you do that? Well, what time do you get up now? 8? How about getting up at 7?
Do you write at night? I don’t normally, but when deadlines demand it, I come home from work and after dinner, write for another hour or so to meet the writing goal I’ve set for myself.
How about weekends? If you sleep in late on Saturday or Sunday, could you pry yourself out of bed a little earlier?
You would be surprised at how much time there is for you to get back if you think about your “lost” time each week.
Finally — find a critique or support group and tell them your goals. Tell them how you are doing on your goals and ask them to help you stick to them. As with anything else, a strong support group will help keep you motivated and moving forward.
Today’s Tuesday Tip is from my friend and fellow author, Mayra Calvani. Mayra’s latest release is DARK LULLABY from Whiskey Creek Press. So without further ado, here’s Mayra!
Writing Great Blurbs
A great blurb can make the difference between a customer taking out his/her wallet to buy your book or putting the book back on the shelf. Great blurbs sell books.
But what is a blurb, exactly?
A blurb is the copy on the back cover of your book. After the cover, the blurb is the first thing a customer will check when considering to buy a book. It should hook, intrigue and grab the reader right away.
“Book blurbs are eye candy to the consumer,” says publicist Penny Sansevieri, founder of Author Marketing Experts.
Not only to customers. A great blurb can help you find a publisher or an agent, too.
Last year I sent dozens of query letters in my search for an agent. As you probably know, most query letters are composed of a blurb of the book (the hook), some info about the book (genre, word count, etc), and a short author bio or list of qualifications. The agents who responded said “No, thanks.” I’m not surprised. The blurb was as flat as a French crepe. One of these agents wrote to say she wasn’t particularly excited about my book, but asked if I had something else to show her. By this time I had improved my blurb and had a completely new version. I mentioned this to her and asked her to consider my edited blurb, which she did. Her response was “Well, I have to admit this is a pretty convincing blurb.” She requested the first three chapters. To make a long story short, she took me in based on the strength of those three chapters. In this case, my blurb was the key factor in getting the agent’s attention.
This is the blurb I first included in my query letter:
Can a good man be persuaded into committing murder and still retain his goodness?
Lullaby is about the restless soul of an aborted infant who, in order to become powerful enough to be reborn, must tempt humans into committing evil acts. Having temporarily acquired the form of a beautiful woman, this being plays mind games with the protagonist, bringing back memories of his tragic childhood. As deeply buried feelings of hate and revenge spring to the surface, the protagonist must struggle with his conscience to do the right thing. But will he, when his own ideas about justice and the higher good tell him it is right to kill?
Now compare it to the second one which got the agent’s attention:
At a trendy Turkish tavern one Friday night, astrophysicist Gabriel Diaz meets a mysterious young woman. Captivated out of his senses by her physical perfection as well as her views on good and evil, he spends the next several days with her. After a while, however, he begins to notice a strangeness in her—her skin’s abnormally high temperature, her obsession with milk products, her child-like and bizarre behavior as she seems to take pleasure in toying with his conscience.
The young woman, Kamilah, invites him to Rize, Turkey, where she claims her family owns a cottage in the woods. In spite of his heavy workload and the disturbing visions and nightmares about his sister’s baby that is due to be born soon, Gabriel agrees to go with her.
But nothing, not even the stunning beauty of the Black Sea, can disguise the horror of her nature. In a place where death dwells and illusion and reality seem as one, Gabriel must now come to terms with his own demons in order to save his sister’s unborn child, and ultimately, his own soul…
Here are some guidelines to help you create great blurbs:
*Keep it short (100-250 words). The aim is to convey what makes the book unique in a small amount of space.
*In it set the mood, the scene, and the conflict or enigma.
*It should have mounting tension. The beginning should have a “hint” of the conflict or threat, yet remain pretty innocuous (look at my blurb number two: boy meets girl in a tavern). By the end of the blurb, the conflict or threat should be imminent (protagonist must save his sister’s unborn child and his own soul).
*Think of the best angle to approach your story. Both of my blurbs describe what happens in my novel, yet the second one sounds much more exciting.
*As with a good book review, never put “spoilers” in the blurb. You can do this in a book summary or synopsis, but never in a blurb. (Look again at my blurb number one. In it I make the big mistake of revealing the nature of my “evil” female protagonist—she is the soul of an aborted infant. In blurb number two, you suspect there’s something wrong with her, but you don’t know what. You’re left wondering).
*Think about what makes your book different.
*Question marks can be used to leave the reader intrigued.
*Often ellipsis are used at the end to leave reader asking questions.
*Keep adverbs and adjectives to a minimum and use action verbs.
*Needless to say, make sure there are no spelling or grammatical errors.
*If your book is non-fiction, does it have special features like pictures or diagrams? What is the aim of the book? What are you trying to accomplish? Does it teach anything? How is this book different from others in the field?
*Remember that blurbs are not summaries! Don’t tell the whole story—only the exciting part of it so that the reader will want to know more.
*Don’t exaggerate or sugar coat it. Be professional.
*Study the blurbs from your book shelves, paying special attention to their style, language, and content.
*Write and rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. Then show it to people who can offer honest feedback.
One last tip:
Do you know that powerful, dramatic voice that you hear in the cinemas during movie trailers? That alluring voice, often exaggerated, that describes the movies? Well, read your own blurb with this voice in your mind, matching its tone and pitch. You’ll be surprised to find out how much that helps!
I have a very special Guest Blogger today — Lynn Voedisch — a Chicago journalist and fiction writer with many years of experience working for newspapers and magazines.
Lynn’s latest release is Excited Light, “a story of magic and second chances.”
Thank you for providing this Tuesday’s Tip, Lynn!
Without a Net
There are writers who like things tidy, all neatly arranged and indexed. They probably have neat and organized houses, too. Then there are those of us who are called seat-of-the-pants writers, who work without a net and let our subconscious be our guide. I’m one of those writers who doesn’t use an outline. (My house is a mess, too.) It’s officially Not Recommended, but please understand that those of us who prefer this sort of free-form writing aren’t just flailing in the dark; we, too, have methods.
One of my Australian e-mail friends says we need to watch out for the Outline Police. It certainly does seem, if you pick up any how-to-write journal, that outlining is considered the golden rule of novel writing. Scofflaws are regarded with derision and even hotheaded scorn. Once on a mailing list, I was chastised by the owner, who said that whatever I was doing to keep the elements of the story together was still outlining. He had to believe this, because to him working without a chapter-by-chapter plan was unthinkable.
Well, he’s wrong. I don’t outline. The reason is pretty simple. In my case, having come from the world of journalism, there just never was time to outline. Everything a newspaper reporter does must be completed quickly and there is simply no time for outlines. So, when I approached novel writing, I figured “why start now?” The second reason I don’t outline is that I simply love it when the creative process suddenly leads me in a different direction—and I find it’s a better one. Several times new characters have arrived on the scene and inserted themselves in the action. In my second novel, still in manuscript form, the best character in the whole story is a guy who tapped on my shoulder and said he wanted to come in.
With an outline, those lovely moments of serendipity just don’t happen. I’ve heard from outline-lovers that they will deviate from the path if they want to. They swear the plan is flexible. I suppose it’s possible. But to me, just the idea of having something written down that I must follow seems antithetical to the creative process.
However, let’s get one thing straight: all writers have to know where they are going with their novel. You can’t start typing one day and let whims decide where you are going to go. Here are the tools I use to keep myself moving in the right direction:
• An ending: You’ve should know how the book is going to end pretty early in the writing process. If you don’t have a clue, you’re still not going to have any idea when it comes to ending time. If you’ve ever read a book that has an unsatisfying ending, chances are that author didn’t think his ending out clearly to begin with. Always know where you want the action to resolve and how the protagonist changes.
• Think it through: I spend a lot of time wandering around or lying on the couch, apparently doing nothing. But what I’m really doing is thinking through a chapter. I push my characters through various scenarios until I hit on the one that seems to work. Then I rush to write it all down. Often, a 2,000-word chapter will come flowing out of me in one day. That’s because it’s all clear in my mind thanks to a protracted period of kicking around ideas. Let yourself take this time. It’s essential to a well-conceived story, and works much better than the prescribed 500-words a day.
• Get to know your characters: Don’t let these people you have created stay two-dimensional. They will start out that way, which is why the first chapters of a first draft are often so thin. But after a while, you’ll know their intimate thoughts. Listen to their voices. Watch what their eyes do when they smile. Notice their quirks. If you think you can get away with it, talk to them out loud. (Not recommended in public.) By the last draft, you’ll have characters who come alive—and you won’t want to say goodbye to them.
• When stuck, draw a dramatic arc: On paper draw an arc, that gathers height slowly and then pitches down to the end, rather like a roller coaster. That’s your arc. Now draw a second one just below it. One is the outer arc (plot) and the other is the inner arc (character development). Mark on the arc key moments that are happening to your characters and notice how the plot gathers steam along with your protagonist’s revelations or pitfalls. Find your climax point and then the denouement to the ending will be easy. Each chapter has its own dramatic arc, too, but I don’t draw that out, I only keep it in mind.
• Always remember what readership you are aiming for: If it’s a romance, don’t get all heavy on historical details. If it’s a mystery, don’t lose your way in a lot of subplots. If you are writing mainstream, picture who would be picking up your book and write to him or her.
It’s easy to work without a net if you organize things well in your mind. And when that funny character with the strange clothing and odd vocal inflections taps you on the shoulder, let him in. You don’t have an outline to keep him out.
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