Friday, December 12, 2014

About Websites and Last Night

Last night's panel discussion on e-publishing at our local library brought a few surprises. This group was small, just 12 folks. One was already published. Five had a draft done, and 5 were close.

But here was the surprise. All were interested in e-publishing, but none of these 12 intrepid writers had a website. None wrote a blog. None tweeted, and only 3 were active on FaceBook.

So here is my question: Do these writers who want to e-publish need an online presence? After all, once we click that "publish" button on Amazon, or Lulu, or Smashwords, or Draft2Digital, our stuff is live.

Our panel response was pretty much: 

1. Where are your readers?
2. How will they find you or learn about your books? Your new releases?
3. How will they buy your books?

Because writing and marketing call forth different activities and different levels of commitment, your first step could be to think about what your long term goals are -- as a writer. And decide how you want to promote your work to connect with your readers. 

1. Recreational writer. Maybe just telling stories is all you want. You might share copies with a writing group or send copies to friends and family. Or, maybe you just want to post your stories online for anyone to read. This article by Reid Kemper lists 25 such online communities

2. One-book/two-book newbie writer. Maybe you're just starting out, and you want to dip your toe in e-publishing to find out if anyone out there wants to read your stuff. Or you don't have time to develop an online platform. Or you want your personal life to stay private.

But you could build (or have someone create) a static website for you. For example, using a free WordPress account, you could have pages that don't require updating but that basically introduce you and your books (and links on how to buy them). Bare bones -- but an online presence that allows readers to find you, a web address that can be used on business cards and other promotions. 

A static website can be the first step to . . . a fully fledged online presence. See Standout Books neat article on "Six Essential Features of a Fiction Writer's Website" or Brian Thomas Schmidt's "Twelve Essentials for a Successful Author's Website."

3. Professional writer. These guys pull out all the stops. They're active with a truly fine website, update readers with a blog that's flavored with their personalities (their "brand" that's tied right back to their genre), chat with readers and other writers via Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, e-mail lists, and direct e-mail. And they sell books. 

What we can do is to study what these professional writers do, folks who sell books in the thousands and can show us how to connect with our readers. Why not start by checking out websites by well-established writers in your genre to push your skills to the next level or expand into new areas? Or investigate this useful resource: "The 100 Best Websites for Writers in 2014" by The Write Life.  

"Ghost Writer" by Steve Petrucelli (Flickr)

Remember, writing is about the journey. We explore, we test, we write and revise . . . Shouldn't we expect to do the same for our online presence?  What do you think?

For further reading, check out this lovely article by Joanna Penn on "Should Authors Blog?"

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Self-publishing and planning ahead for 2015?

Imagine those first moments when that book you've worked so hard to write hits the web. Celebration! Excitement! You've honed the story, and you've got a gorgeous cover. You even paid a professional editor to proofread.

So when a reader and potential buyer opens that magical window, "Look Inside," do you expect any proofing errors? But there they are, laying on the page like a snake on the living room floor. Aargh!

What brings this issue up? This morning, I spent a little time editing the opening pages of a new Kindle book written by a friend. She had written to me to let me know her book was online and wanted me to look at her cover. Of course, I loved the cover, but then I clicked on "Look Inside!" to read that all-important first page and found those snakes. 

We can get overwhelmed by the scope and range of commitment when we enter the indie world of self-publishing. For inspiration and direction, read Russell Blake's end-of-the-year musings about the joys and challenges of being a self-published author. 

Before considering Blake's advice, we begin by writing the best story we can. 

Blake warns that we indie writers can't be just after the money, but if we're serious about building audience, we need to:

1. Publish regularly. Every several months?
2. Write for genres that have a high demand. Romance? Science fiction? Action/thriller?
3. Take the job of being a writer seriously. Have you mastered the craft of writing?
4. Consider writing as a business, not a hobby. Do you have a production schedule?
5. Spend money when you have to for services you need. Do you need help with editing or covers?
6. Write stories that readers will enjoy. Would you want to curl up with a book you've written?
7. Stay light on your feet. How do you stay current with market trends or new technologies?
8. Keep a sense of humor. Who can you blame if you don't?

What's not to like about Blake's advice? Read his complete article HERE.

At the end of the year, it's time to do an assessment. When I think about Blake's checklist, I have more questions than answers. But thinking about these issues will bring me closer to clarifying my writing goals for 2015. Want to join me on A Round of Words for 80 Days

For now, I will blog about some of Blake's topics in the coming week.

Blake says to publish regularly. The first challenge for me is to publish regularly. Right now, my books have a turnaround of about three years from idea through research, drafting, revision, editing, and publishing. According to Blake, that's way too slow. 

Can I do something to tighten this turnaround? I did delay publishing of my first book in the series so that Book 1: Standing Stones and Book 2: Years of Stone could be released in the same year, and I'm about 70% done drafting Book 3: Rivers of Stone. Can I commit to finishing Book 3 by September 2015?  Maybe.

Could I edit my serial killer/mystery and publish Mothers Don't Die this year instead, since we'll be travelling across Canada this summer for research on Book 3?  But that's skipping around in different genres. Will folks who love historical fiction want to read about a serial killer? 

Can't achieve that amazing goal of setting a schedule until I decide who's on first.

Aargh! What do you think about 'publishing regularly'? What does that mean to YOU?

"Writer's Block" by Nata Luna Sans on Flickr 

Friday, December 05, 2014

A month of unexpected kindness . . .

We're now in December, a month of holidays with Thanksgiving (and NaNoWriMo) just past. Just for kicks, here's my graphic for words written during NaNo.

But I'm still feeling thankful for writing friends and unexpected kindnesses.

Out of the blue, Sandy Brown Jensen, a digital storyteller and creative writing teacher, sent me a video trailer she made for STANDING STONES. 

Now I did experiment in making my own video trailer for Standing Stones and Years of Stone, using PowerPoint, images I took, and freebie music via youtube. But I love Sandy's new trailer, "Beth Camp: Writer of Forgotten Worlds."  

Another unexpected kindness: Annette Drake, author of Bone Girl and Celebration House, hosts a table at a local craft & book fair this week. She invited me to participate. Here's her table!

Baskethound Books and me
Annette has a marketing mind and inspires me to try new ideas to promote my writing. For some reason, just as many other writers feel about marketing, I'd rather be writing. I'm on the verge of trying something new that will definitely expand my marketing boundaries, but I hesitate. Why push right  now, this holiday month, for more visibility, when everyone else is out there? Accountability? Belief in my writing? 

The research for book 3, Rivers of Stone, goes well. With each detail, I'm able to imagine the life of a voyaguer crossing Canada in the 1840s. The arc of the story may not satisfy every reader, for the resolution is not traditional. But I like it, even as I wrestle with the idea of what it might be like to be a woman in that time.

I still need tenacity and courage to achieve my marketing goals, those very specific tasks that always seem to get pushed down to the bottom of the to-do list. 2014 is close to ending and 2015 is filled with promise. 

But today I'm celebrating that community of writers -- virtual and face-to-face, that encourage my commitment, that connect me to like-minded souls, especially those self-published indie authors who simply want to write their stories and poems. 

Thank you! And may your writing go well.

A Round of Words in 80 Days
The Internet Writing Workshop
Weds WIPpet at My Random Muse
NaNoWriMo National Novel Writing Month
Spokane Authors

Saturday, November 29, 2014

NaNoWriMo and My Heart's Desire . . .

These last few days have been crowded with family and friends, a new baby just three weeks old, and so much to be very thankful for. 

Writers face a special challenge in November IF we take on the commitment to write 1,667 words a day for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The overall goal? 50,000 words by the end of November.

For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to write stories. This challenge, this commitment to NaNoWriMo this year, despite all else, has brought 46,814 new words to my current writing project with two days left before the end of the month. (Thank goodness for automatic word counts, for I'm not counting them myself!).

Can I write nearly 3,000 words in these last two days? Maybe, but this is the closest I've ever come to meeting that 50,000 word goal. 

On December 1, the real fun will begin. I'll start moving blocks of text and scenes into five different sections that make up the structure of Rivers of Stone. And I will have met my personal challenge to write "to my heart's desire."

15th Century tapestries: "The Lady and the Unicorn"
"To My Heart's Desire"
Cluny Museum, Paris (Camp 2004)
Writers may wonder what I gained from participating in NaNoWriMo, and, perhaps more importantly, how I achieved this goal. 

First:  What would a writer gain from this kind of writing streak?

Immersion writing for an entire month brought me closer to the story. My characters are staying with me in a deeper way, wedging into my subconscious, bringing new insights into who they really are, what they do and why.

Generating so many words has freed me up to 'kill the darlings,' cutting those scenes I might like but that don't advance the story. 

Practically, though, how on earth did I actually write this many words each day (when my usual output is 250 words a day)? What advice would I give to someone else wishing to NaNo?

1. Make a commitment. Believe in yourself. Sounds funny to say this, but start the month with a commitment to get those words on paper.
2. Tell your family and friends so they'll maybe understand your craziness (the house and all else will suffer).
3. Write 'to your heart's desire.'

I write very early and have a chunk of time of two to three hours before the rest of the family wakes. That is gold. This time, I learned to sprint, seizing those 20 minute intervals at odd moments  to just capture the story, sometimes with Twitter sprints, sometimes on my own.

Know that you will get stuck. Fine. Accept this as part of the writing process. Go for a walk, read some research. Do an info search on the internet. Talk to a writing buddy. All may help you get back into your story. But know that moment will come when you simply plop down in front of your computer, mug of coffee nearby, and you will write.

May you write to your heart's desire!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thanksgiving and Romance . . .

Most of us are elbow- or knee-deep in preparing for that great Thanksgiving feast. But writers who are going for 50,000 words by the end of November's NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) might skimp on preparations for Thanksgiving this year.

How about a romantic break from stress? Why not put temptation between two covers -- book covers! Luckily, there's lots of temptation in this sweet romance written by Annette Drake, writing buddy, editing partner, and ongoing source of inspiration. 

Annette is offering her first ever Rafflecopter, with a $25 Amazon gift card as the prize, to promote her recently released, A Year With Geno.

Available on Amazon
The blurb: Single-mom Caroline Taylor wants nothing more than to make a home for her two young sons in Eagle River, Alaska. The only problem: an eviction notice.

When the perfect rental falls through again, she and her boys move in with Air Force Sgt. Geno D’Antoni and his two teenage sons. It’s only for a year, so she can polish her credit rating and save a down payment to buy a home. It’s a perfect plan.

Or not. When Geno stands up to Caroline’s bully of an ex-husband, he retaliates by suing for full custody. Then Geno’s ex-wife, spurned by her fiancĂ©, moves back in. She wants Caroline out. Now.

The tiny spark of passion between Caroline and Geno sputters and dies. Or does it? Maybe they had no chance with the chaos from their pasts eclipsing their future. So why does Caroline rush home to share all the details of her day with him? Why does Geno dream about her? And when exactly does your best friend become your future?

One thing’s for sure: it’s gonna be a heck of a year!

A little about Annette:  Annette Drake is a multi-genre author whose work is character-driven and celebrates the law of unintended consequences.

A Year with Geno, her contemporary romance set in Eagle River, Alaska, was released on summer solstice, June 21st.

Annette’s second novel, Bone Girl, premiered in March from Baskethound Books and is available in ebook, print and audiobook. Her debut novel, Celebration House, was published last August by Tirgearr Publishing.

Now, Annette turns her attention to regaining her sanity and writing the two sequels to Celebration House. Both books are slated for publication in 2015.

She left high school after two years to obtain her GED and attend Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri, where she earned a degree in journalism. Annette worked as a reporter and editor for newspapers in Missouri and Kansas from 1987 to 1993. After earning a bachelor of science in nursing in 1994, she worked in hospitals in Missouri, Alaska and Washington before returning her focus to writing.

Annette makes her home in Spokane, Washington. A member of the Inland Northwest Writers Guild and Spokane Authors & Self Publishers, she loves libraries, basset hounds and bakeries. She does not camp. Much.

Here's the LINK to Annette's Rafflecopter Giveaway. Entering is easy. I did it. Will you be the lucky winner???

Annette's Website:

And, all of Annette's books are available on Amazon!

Happy reading and happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Cover Reveal: "The Fifth Watcher"

As a writer, one thrilling moment in the long journey from idea to actual book-in-the-hand is the day the cover jells.

Today's blog celebrates the cover reveal for Melissa Barker-Simpson, an energetic writer of science fiction and fantasy. Her latest book, The Fifth Watcher, will release on November 21.

Is that a gorgeous cover? 
Are you ready for another good read?

Here's the SYNOPSIS for The Fifth Watcher.

At the moment of Audrey Montgomery’s birth, a new world came into existence -- a barren place, a catalyst for the darkness spreading through the multidimensional system. The shift in power makes Audrey an invaluable pawn in a war between those who want to protect her and those who will go to extraordinary lengths to eliminate her.

As a result, she has spent her life on the run, unaware of her true origins. When her father dies and leaves her with a shocking legacy, her life is irrevocably changed. If she has any hope of surviving, Audrey must embrace her new reality and trust a man who is as dark and uncertain as the future itself.

Lieutenant Keith Delany, an Interdimensional Officer of the Law (IDOL), is tasked with bringing her in. It is an assignment his entire team are invested in, having spent years searching for her. As a senior member of the squad, Keith is charged with protecting her, with showing her the truth about her past, and with preparing her for an unknown future. As an IDOL he is responsible for every life, for every traveller who navigates the system.

But his connection to Audrey is unprecedented, and he soon discovers she alone holds the power to prevent the continuum’s collapse.

Here's a taste of Melissa's writing style in an EXCERPT:

I shook my head to clear the hum in my ears. The sounds were duller now, my vision blurry. I was looking through some kind of membrane and it was closing in on me. It pulled me further and further inside until I wanted to scream for it to end.

My father hadn’t prepared me for this. If I could see the enemy, I could fight, but I had no way of defending myself against this.

Heat travelled along my skin, but it didn’t burn. There was no pain. I held onto that as everything faded and I was engulfed by a shocking blast of light. It was everywhere. Even when I closed my eyes, it pierced right through me.

I couldn’t deny the strange pull; a demand in my blood that told me to let go. I had little choice but to obey.

In the next moment, a wave of nausea caught me unaware, and I clenched my teeth to control it. The light receded, little by little, and my skin felt clammy now, rather than hot.

The silence was deafening, and though I was afraid, I opened my eyes, holding my breath until the spinning stopped. The world settled around me slowly, sharpening as I exhaled the air caught in my lungs.

I was no longer at home. I was out in the open, somewhere strangely familiar.

Melissa currently writes from England where she balances writing, parenting two teen-aged daughters, and working as a sign language interpreter. I first met Melissa as part of two online writing communities: A Round of Words in 80 Days and WIPpet Wednesday (both incredibly helpful sites for indie writers). She was kind enough to answer a few questions for today's big cover reveal for The Fifth Watcher:

1. What led you to become a writer? Have you always known or did something happen along the way? I’ve always been a writer; I’ve certainly been creating worlds for a long as I can remember. It is a part of who I am, a part I’m grateful for.

2. What do you want the reader to take away from reading your stories? I want my readers to have fun, to care about the characters as much as I do, and to feel a sense of connection. Entertainment is my main goal, to give back, because I gain so much pleasure in reading and it has helped me throughout my life. If I can do that for others – well, that just fills me with joy.

3. What's your next big step? I’m working on a Fantasy romance at the moment, which is a first for me. I love the characters, which makes it really hard to take a step back! I need to write the third in the Morgan and Fairchild series, or my readers won’t be too happy with me! The Fifth Watcher is also the first in the Worlds Apart series, so at some point I need to start thinking about that. I really should concentrate on one thing at a time, but I learnt long ago it’s not how my mind works and we have to be true to ourselves.

Melissa ends by reminding us to be "true to ourselves." I respect her commitment, her energy, and her sheer writing creativity. You can read about her other books on Amazon HERE.

Connect with Melissa on:

Her blog:

Go ahead, check out her book on November 21. Make an indie writer happy!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Historic Fact or Fiction?

Last week, I really enjoyed talking with writers at the monthly meeting of Spokane Authors about writing contests. I'd been invited to talk on this subject because I'd "won" two literary competitions. So I did a little homework and had fun in the process.

One writer asked a few questions as just now, I primarily write historical fiction. He wanted to know if I used footnotes when I wrote and how I separated historic fact from my fiction.

My automatic response is that writing historical nonfiction is about information. Yes, to avoid plagiarism, I would use footnotes, and the emphasis is on the what, how, and why.

When I'm writing historical fiction, though, my emphasis is on my characters, their conflicts, their motivations, their personal successes and failures. The 'facts' are deep background, buried in a telling image, or a historical personage, or the setting.

The telling image. The truth is I read and study, and then, maybe because I'm an older than average writer, I forget. Except a telling image will float in when I need it or just stick in my mind. 

For example, for Rivers of Stone, when the men of the Fur Brigade Express were trekking across Canada in the 1840s, of necessity they traveled so light, they would run out of food. I read one man's memoir to find this statement: "I can't tell you how many times I had to eat my moccasins."

Native American Moccasins
Kim Alaniz (Flickr)
That writer at Spokane Authors raised his hand and said, "That's a story right out of my family tradition." Turns out he was descended from those French Canadian voyageurs and had heard the "eat my moccasins" all the years he was growing up. I love this image and have already used it.

A historical personage. Even with a historical person, my approach to writing historical fiction is rather dreamy. I read as much as I can about the person, those physical details that mark the 'reality' of who that person was, what they did, how they acted, and, if possible, their manner of speaking. 

I want to be true to the person, but keep the focus on the story. For example, when writing about the intrepid Lady Jane Franklin in Years of Stone, I was shocked to discover her class bias. She never called her maid by anything other than her last name, Stewart.

The setting. Finally, while this is not always possible, I like to call on my personal background to transform what I read into fiction. 

My current draft for Rivers of Stone has me writing about the voyageurs and their incredible skill in navigating nasty rapids in fragile canoes at all times of the year -- for an average of fifteen hours a day. It helps that I've been white water river rafting and have stared down into great sucking whirlpools.

You may know this is NaNoWriMo month. So far, I'm making my word count every day, but this morning, I woke up wanting to blog about how I write historical fiction in hopes it will clarify the process of writing or help you achieve your writing goals. My tips simply are:

1. Do the deep research to find those images that speak to you.
2. Work to be true to the essence of any historical persons who are in your story.
3. Call on personal experience to transform what you read into what you know with your own five senses. 
4. Try to avoid information dumps. Historical fiction is always about the characters, their conflicts, their hopes and dreams.

And may your writing go well.