Sunday, August 24, 2014

Two marketing ideas for writers to consider . . .

As August winds down, here are two marketing ideas that have inspired me AND that may be useful for you!

Birthday Month Reader Appreciation Sale.  It's Frank Zafiro's birthday this month. Frank's celebrating his birthday by setting a very special price -- 99 cents for ALL his e-books, ALL month. 

I've only read one of Frank's crime genre books so far, but I enjoyed his gritty, sometimes noir style that pushes the reader to reconsider the moral issues that crime solvers sidestep or face, at considerable cost either way. 

Frank's offer extends just to the end of August, though. Here's the link to his blog, to his Amazon page that lists his books, AND the link to Thriller Thirteen, an anthology of 13 crime/thriller novels that features a story by Frank -- some 3,520 pages for 99 cents!

I think having a birthday month sale is a great idea -- as is being a part of a writing anthology. 

Writers can plan their blogs? 

This second idea comes from a newsletter from The Book Designer (hosted by marketing guru Joel Freidlander) which featured Nina Amir's article, "How To Create a Blog Plan for Any Type of Book." 

Nina lays out how to plan posts for your blog so that they are focused around a theme and follow a neatly specific week-by-week, month-by-month plan that you -- and your readers -- can rely on. She suggests using your blog to build an e-book . . . post by post. 

I know a writer who's doing just this! Building an e-book, blog post by blog post. Check out Ruth Nestvold's blog for her very helpful series on Starting out as an Indie Writer. Ruth writes fantasy/science fiction and is a prodigious writer, with 16 published books and 4 works in progress. She takes the craft of writing seriously as well as sharing what she's learned about publishing and marketing. And her e-book will be forthcoming!

May your writing and marketing go well. 

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Four ways to write a little more . . .

Resting Kitty (Kevin Kosbab, FeedDog)
Who's ready to write? 

We all have our writing rituals, those little behaviors, like a cat peering out from a pillow or a dog settling into a nest of blankets, that ensure we are truly ready to write. Most mornings, I leap to work, inspired by my mini-outline from the last session, ready to work on what's next -- but that's AFTER I check e-mail.

Sometimes, though, between one major project and the next, we experience a lull in our writing. So here are four tips that may prompt your writing.  

1. Set aside time for exploratory writing. Dig into your character's back stories. Go ahead and draft a page or two (or a paragraph) that describes this person's attitudes about the great generalities -- life, love, their greatest hopes. Move from generalities to specifics. Include what they detest and what they fear most. Natter on about their dreams, when they have experienced joy. What were their most memorable experiences as a child, as a young man or woman? What will they never forget and why? 

2. Do a little research. Finding articles online remains a great distraction. But with a few key words, one or two articles can lead to insight and scenes for drafting.

For example, I have a teen-aged character in my current project who's fairly important, but he's shadowy, almost a stereotype. So in desperation, I looked up "behavior + teenager" and found several useful articles on teens and their developing brains that help me dig beneath the surface. 

These theories suggest that teens don't develop rationality until they are in their 20s. Their need to separate themselves from authority figures to create their own identity (called individuation) means lots of conflict. We can see that in a teen's willingness to test boundaries -- and how quickly that teen might defend dangerous behaviors or a dangerous friend. Because of hormones changing, teens also feel deeply and intensely; life with a teen can be filled with drama. All of this leads me, even in mid-19th Century, to see lots of potential conflict for my sixteen-year-old in the wilderness of Canada. 

3. Draw a portrait of your character with an illustrated map showing key events of her or his journey. I resisted trying this one because I simply do not draw very much. This kind of drawing -- do not lift the pencil or pen from the paper -- is like a trail that takes you to new insights. Somehow the brain relaxes as you scribble out the path, stopping to illustrate a key character or scene, sometimes with stick figures! You may find yourself surprised by what you learn from the drawing.

4. Make a commitment with a concrete deadline. Your promise to write can be to a writing group (lucky you, if you have a good face-to-face group), to an online writing community like The Internet Writing Workshop, or A Round of Words in 80 Days, or even Weds WIPpet, publishing a short excerpt from your current work in progress. Or, your promise can simply be to yourself. Key: Set a deadline and stick to it!

What strategies do you use to motivate your writing?

For your enjoyment, here's a very short video trailer (under a minute) for my just published Years of Stone.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

About the surprise . . .

Long ago and far away, I met a wonderful man, a Viet Nam veteran who wrote a book, though that doesn't define him. He had an agent in New York and loved to travel. I was entranced by his stories and his dreams. For whatever reason, his book, Reaching, made the rounds, and he collected a healthy handful of rejection letters. He stopped writing when our daughter, Rachel, was born.

Our 40th anniversary was last week. Like many partners, he can usually guess what 'the present' will be. Not this time. Rachel typed his old manuscript; I copy-edited and formatted it to Amazon's CreateSpace style, and ordered a proof copy.

Imagine the moment. We are at a rare lunch out at Anthony's, overlooking the Spokane River. He says, "Ah, a book." Then he says, "Ah, my book." He was surprised and pleased (I'm sitting there, thinking thank all the gods of writers, for even after all these years, I wasn't sure he would be pleased.) 

Allen, 1967
What's next? He doesn't want us to pursue the traditional path of agent/publishing house. In fact, he doesn't really want anything to do with the book. If we want to self-publish, he's OK. This quiet, modest, unassuming, and talented man wrote a book based on his experiences in Viet Nam. It's still, even 47 years later, a powerful story. We believe this story should be out in the world.

So sometime over the next few weeks, expect an announcement here. I'll be working on a new cover, making the editing suggestions he's mentioned, reformatting, and developing some sort of marketing plan. I'm not really sure how to move the book out to readers, but that's the next step for Reaching.

Meanwhile, my own writing continues. All is well.

Friday, August 01, 2014

99cents for Years of Stone! Just today!

Happy August 1st.

Today begins my Amazon Countdown deal for Years of Stone, 99c just for today. Check out this amazing read set in Australia in the mid-19th Century, when Tasmania was the dreaded penal colony, Van Diemen's Land. Can true love find its way?

Today is my anniversary. I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate than a lunch out with my dear hubby and this celebration pricebreak for my readers!


Tune in later today for another surprise.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

J. A. Jance: Big laugh, big heart.

Last night, J. A. Jance, known to friends and family as Judy, talked with a few friends. OK, those friends were about 350 fans in Spokane's Bing Crosby Theater in an author visit sponsored by Auntie's bookstore. I arrived ten minutes early to find Judy seated comfortably on stage, talking about her dogs and answering questions from the audience. 

J. A. Jance has a big laugh. She listens and talks directly to the audience, weaving her personal story into how she writes. She asked, "Why don't you read my blog?" and "How many of you receive information about my books?" Ha! A direct call to action -- and helping readers understand how they can connect with her personally.

She hates outlining ("I have a terminal fear of Roman numerals"), said that finding ideas to write about is not like going exploring with a butterfly net, but that her writing is more reflective of her life, the people she's met who resonate with her. Jance also said, "Don't piss off mystery writers" as they can take revenge. "Who was that crazed murderer?"

As an established author with a big fan base, she doesn't shy away from enticing new readers -- to read her books! As she talked, I added three books to my 'must read' list -- Second Watch (a Beaumont book set in the Viet Nam era), her latest, Remains of Innocence (a Joanna Brady book), and After the Fire, a book of poetry and mini-essays, her first book, autobiographical. She recited one poem from memory, simple and direct.

In her one-hour monologue, J.A. Jance held the hearts of her audience. She talked about recovering from an 18-year marriage to an alcoholic, a man who denied her desire to write. She ended with a song, "I'm so glad we had this time." As she left, a Viet Nam vet hugged her, thanking her for writing Second Watch.

How many connections can I trace? Many. I shall write her, thanking her for showing me how any writer can open up about those things we tend to keep secret.

J. A. Jance's BLOG is HERE.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Snowflakes and commas in July . . .

I'm about 35,000 words of a meandering draft into Rivers of Stone, Book 3 set in the Pacific Northwest between 1842-1847. But I'm just now starting to work out the underlying structure. I know my characters and where they're going, but the ending eludes me.

"Crater Lake" by James Everett Stuart (1852-1942) (Wikipedia)

So I'm working with Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake Method that builds on a simple outline of set-up + three disasters + resolution to dig more deeply into story structure before jumping back to drafting. 

I'm finding the disasters easy to plot. After all, things go bump every day. The issues of abandonment and perseverance in the wilderness and frontier settlements with their rough code of justice are fun to work on. The plot thickens as I throw in a volcano or two, bears, a fiddler with a broken-heart, and a woman disguised as a boy. But coming up with a resolution that is true to the characters and the theme is more difficult.

Even at 35,000 words, I'm still at the beginning.

The other issue of the week is simply punctuation. A writer recently apologized for the editing of her draft, saying, "I'm just not very good at commas." Aargh!!! And, I'm wordless.

Punctuation is the warp and weave
of all words, that balance point
between order
and meaning
that we writers use with intention
in all seasons,
as sure as quail tracks in the snow,
or lines of geese heading south
under a cloudless gray sky.

So I want to say: Start small. Master just one form of comma -- perhaps the lowly interrupter comma that offsets any person being spoken about or to, as in:  "Hey, pa, I'm over here." or "My best friend, also known as a writer, insists on commas being used in far too many places."

I want to say: Write freely. Tell your story. But then take responsibility for being the best editor of your own work. Editing for punctuation is a skill that can be learned, even if you take a class or study a handbook.

But I am quiet.

What would you do?

More about Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake Method HERE.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Thank you between . . . and between

I'm reminded of that well-worn saying:  "It takes a community . . . "

Maybe that's particularly relevant for self-published authors.

At least this afternoon, I'm feeling thankful for those readers, friends and writers, who have excitedly embraced Years of Stone, my just published, second book of historical fiction.

Chris Kincaid brightened my morning with a wonderful review of Standing Stones, Book 1, posted on GoodReads and on her blog, Dino Chronicles, named after her dog. 

Then Chris hit Facebook this morning to say she's reading Years of Stone, Book 2, over the 4th of July!

And Sandy Brown Jensen posted the first review of Years of Stone on Amazon. She liked it! See her blog at Mind on Fire.

Thank you, Chris.
Thank you, Sandy.

After all those hours of research, drafting, writing and rewriting, revising . . . then transforming the text into appropriate formats, now, dear readers, I turn Years of Stone over to you, with hope and a full heart of thankfulness.