Sunday, August 28, 2016

Snag a Magazine Gig

Making a living as a novelist is tough. This has been established. So we need to get creative.

At a recent Writers' Digest Writers' Conference, I attended a number of sessions on freelancing. They focused on pitching ideas to magazines. These were really useful and included tips on avoiding the slush pile, formatting your email submissions, locating a magazine's editorial calendar, and so on.

I came out of these sessions with a lot of useful information but no idea what to write that would tie in to my work as a novelist. I was amazed at how much attention is given to the 'author's platform.' Apparently you are expected to have ten gazillion followers on twenty different platforms to rate as an author--but that is a matter for another blog post. The point is that if you are freelancing to draw in readers and build your platform, you need to write material that links to your novel writing.

Then I happened into a session by Kerrie Flanagan. (I was actually in the session next door and snuck out--along with at least six other people--because it was so boring). She is an author, writing consultant, publisher and an accomplished freelance writer with over 17 years experience and hundreds of published articles. Her step-by-step tutorial on how to build your author platform through magazine writing was extremely useful. In her interactive workshop she instructed us to select themes from one of our books and then come up with article ideas based on the themes. So, for a frivolous example, if you wrote a book in which the protagonist loves blue grass music, you could write an article about the history of that music or its importance in a particular culture as seen through the eyes of a modern day young person, and submit it to a magazine whose readers would be interested in such an article. Your book could be the credentials that you need to get your foot in the door with the article and the article could draw readers to you and your book. Win-win!

One of these days, soon, I promise, I will give it a try... ;-)

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Family You Choose

         On August 12th I had the pleasure of attending the third annual Suffolk Mystery Authors Festival (SMAF) in Suffolk, Virginia. It’s a one-day festival celebrating all kinds of mysteries, from cozies to paranormal, from noir to thrillers. There’s something for every mystery lover.

Me in Suffok

             I wrote a bit about this festival on Novel Spaces back in 2015 (http://novelspaces.blogspot.com/2015/01/guest-author-amy-m-.reade-those-other.html), but I want to give it a little more space today. 

            The first big difference between the SMAF and other, larger, festivals is that there is no registration fee for authors. Having shelled out hundreds of dollars at the bigger conferences only to find myself lost in a sea a gazillion other authors, this has a strong appeal for me. I’m not saying that the SMAF will always be free for authors to attend, but for now it’s a bargain that can’t be beat.

            The second big difference between SMAF and many other festivals is that it’s free for readers and fans, too. My husband was recently charged $185 to attend a conference with me, just so he can see what a writers’ conference looks like. Again, this perk at the SMAF has a strong appeal for my family. There is one caveat to the SMAF: there is a VIP Meet & Greet before the panels begin on the day of the festival, and currently the cost for a reader to attend is $20 (including hors d’oeuvres)- it’s free for the authors. It’s a great opportunity for readers and authors to mingle and chat for an hour before the real business of the festival begins.

            Third, there is a limited number of authors who are able to attend the SMAF. Due to space considerations, the author limit was thirty this past weekend. There may be an increase in the number at some point in the future, but this cap on author numbers helps foster the friendly, even cozy, atmosphere at the festival.

            And that brings me to my next point, the most important of all, which is that I’ve never felt as blessed to be an author as I do at the SMAF. I connect with readers and writers I only get to see in person once or twice a year, and from the moment the authors get there on Friday night to the closing dinner we share on Saturday night, I feel like I’m with family.


This is me with Katie Kelley, the Suffolk Tourism Development Manager and best hostess ever!

            The SMAF hosts panels much like you’d find at any other festival, but here’s the difference: for the most part the panelists know each other (often from prior visits to the SMAF) and their panels become more of a friendly discussion than a series of nervous questions and answers.

            And the building where the SMAF is held- don’t even get me started. It’s an old high school that now houses the Suffolk Center for the Cultural Arts. Think soaring ceilings, light-filled classrooms where authors hold readings and workshops, and a gorgeous restored theater where the panels are held.  The author signings take place in an art gallery. The paintings and photos only add more character to a space that is already steeped in history.

            And speaking of history, the authors and their families are treated on Friday night to an historical tour of some sort in Suffolk- last year it was a Ghost Walk, this year it was a tour of a stunning 19th-century home that once belonged to generations of one of the most prominent families in Virginia.   

            If you want to learn more about the SMAF, you can visit their website at http://www.suffolkmysteryauthorsfestival.com/. I encourage you to try to attend someday, whether you’re an author or a fan of mysteries.

You’ll be glad you did.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Achieving with passion... giving thanks

Hello everyone. And apologies for my late and meagre post.

I tried. I did. I drafted my post and started editing it , getting it ready to post. But somehow, I could not get the words organized in the way I wanted them to sound. I just could not get in the right frame of mind or find the right space to create well. So much is happening in my life at the moment that I have to take time out and one day at a time. Today I listened to my body and took myself for a Swedish Massage. I know I will be sore for a few days am sure, but I hope this will help in the healing process, of my mind, body and soul. I promise I will be ready for my next turn.


I did say with me "nothing is set in stone"...


When Jewel contacted me about joining  novel spaces, I jumped at the idea. I had been a part of a couple writers forums in the past, however, I  had lost touch with that part of the writing world, so I was thrilled for this opportunity to reconnect with other writers in that way.  Never mind I can’t even find enough time or motivation to keep my own blog going, for several reasons - lack of discipline, too much going on , being in a constant battle with routines. I guess I am truly an as and when inspired, kind of person. And with me, nothing set in stone. It has its downsides. 

So much was happening around me that I could not find my space or the inspiration to write. It was when I received the email with Carol Mitchell’s blog that I clicked over and found that what I read, resonated so much with me. For I too have not been reading enough- always telling myself I can’t find the time. Nonsense.  I just need to set aside time for it. Not exercising  as I should- just life really. And although I keep wanting to find time to meditate, I just didn’t make it a priority. Until some heavy personal stuff knocked me so low that I needed something to hold on to, to pick myself up. Something to calm my nerves. Balance me.

 “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Is that an original John Lennon quote? Well that is exactly what happens. And on this stage of life, we have so many roles.  I am not just an author – which I am now qualified to call myself, having published my first book - I am also a mother, daughter, sister, friend, wife, woman. And we know how these  roles carry their own share of expectations, challenges and disappointments.

Back in September, 2015, I took on the very brave challenge of self-publishing my baby Force Ripe. Yes, I say my baby, because from conception to publication, this manuscript, on which I laboured on and nurtured, all those years, with hefty measures of love and patience, became more to me than just a book. 

And step boldly I did. With no set plans, apart from a paid for Marketing plan I could have googled myself,(never used it),  I threw myself into getting my book out there, outside of Amazon, into the hands of the readers I knew would appreciate and resonate with that kind of literature. And so, with no publicist, no marketing manager, but a few friends, my raw determination, undying belief and pure passion - well I guess my impulsiveness came in handy too- I set to work. I had done the branding stuff. Got my website up and running. Started blogging. But it was Facebook which connected me with my audience. So I worked  it, neglecting my website, which I intended to direct the traffic towards.  I posted and shared with diligence. The networking expanded. Force Ripe started its own journey. With no clear direction, the know how  or set plans, except from bits I had picked up along the way, some advice from the few who were accompanying me on this journey, I chose not to get bombarded by all the formulas being sold to me on the internet, and just go with the flow of things. And without naming or labelling this drive, I just did what I had to do to get Force Ripe into the hands of, and read by an audience which the story, language, voice, would appeal to.

I started locally, with book signings at any event I could get into; at restaurants, bazaars, any social event. Anywhere people were gathered, I took Force Ripe there. When I launched Force Ripe, in October 2015, I had no media coverage. What I had were a few family members, good friends and some supporters who have been there with me. It was the doing- the reaching out, sharing, connecting, taking time to engage with readers, which brought together this community of supporters, taking the Force Ripe journey on a different level. 

With no set budget and the general misconception that I was making loads of money – when asked, my reply was always honest – “low to no budget”, I dried up my “Rainy Day” savings, used whatever I received from book sales – self-published authors will understand this best- utilized the old battering system,  exchanging books for service, I ventured out, taking  Force Ripe to New York, DC, Atlanta, Toronto , Montreal, London and Manchester. There is a saying in The Alchemist, that, “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” Even with the forces convincing you that it will be impossible. The character, Lee had spoken to so many, evoked so many memories, emotions, nostalgia, that I was blessed with a community of supporters, who felt the passion, came on board and helped me to achieve this. Helping me to open doors, giving me a platform to share this story.


Despite the fact that I set out with no set plans, I now recognize this as the first phase of the Force Ripe journey. It was a journey of sharing, learning and discoveries, making valuable connections with people who will help me to continue this journey, rekindling old friendships, making new friends. One of the most rewarding part of this experience was celebrating my Grenadian heritage, through this story, with this community of very patriotic people who are with me, encouraging me, pushing me, cheering me on.  I believe this journey was written in the stars. I give thanks. #ForceRipe




Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Scene of the Crime


by Linda Thorne



In February of this year, I had the opportunity to revisit the Mississippi Gulf Coast where I lived for eight years, and where I set  the first book in my series, Just Another Termination. I saw Biloxi and Ocean Springs again for the first time in fourteen years.


All the homicides in my book happen in the little city of Ocean Springs. Victim number one was found shot to death in her home. The second case, a double homicide, occurred in the little city twenty-five years earlier. The final murder takes place right out in the open, just off of East Beach in Ocean Springs. This last murder is the one that produces the clue to solve them all.

Below (to the left) is the picture of the intersection of East Beach Drive and Halstead road in Ocean Spring, Mississippi. To its right is a picture of the entrance to the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory across the street just opposite from the intersection sign. The last murder goes down behind these trees, leaving a crime scene close to the waters of the Mississippi Sound.
 


A lot of things happen in the book on East Beach (just southwest of the entrance to the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory). The picture of East beach on the left here shows the Biloxi casinos (tiny in the distance) at the west end of the Ocean Springs Bridge. The picture on the right below is at the southeast corner of East Beach and shows the tiny island where character, Jimmie Lee Albright, occasionally went to in his boat. These places are all so real to me both in my book and in real life.
I met a couple riding their bikes on East Beach Drive when I was taking these pictures. They referred me to Southern Bound Book Shop in Ocean Springs and Biloxi and now I have my books for sale in this Biloxi/Ocean Springs bookstore.

If you want to see more of the Ocean Springs/Biloxi book setting here's the link to my book trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6fo2qtu_vI

Note: Friday August 19th, I'll be a panelist at Session 5 and also Session 7 at the Killer Nashville Writers Conference held at the Embassy Suites in Cool Springs, Tennessee. If you're attending the conference, hope you'll stop by one or both of my sessions.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Guest author Timothy C. Ward: Strong Women Characters

Guest author Timothy C. Ward
August has been an exciting month participating in the Strong Women giveaway promoting strong women in fiction. We have over $2,500 in prizes, so even if you don’t like women you’d be hard pressed to pass up that prize.

I had a conversation the other day with a studious reader who championed the evolution of promoting strong women in fiction. While I didn’t completely disagree with him, I didn’t exactly enjoy what he had to say.

His general point was that he was sick of reading stories where there is only one woman and her purpose is to sacrifice all else for falling in love. He hates romance, in fact. If a story has women in it, and it should have multiple women to be a good story, they better not give up on their goals to fall in love.

To take a step back, my thoughts on women in fiction is a lot like men in fiction, and children, and old people, and insert race, denomination, whatever: if they only serve one purpose then that’s plain bad writing. To say that a story is sexist against women because you had your main female lead fall in love is a direct contradiction against what the large majority of humans pursue in their lives: someone to love them for who they are and for whom they can give themselves up as sacrificial lovers.

I celebrated my seventh wedding anniversary this year and am preparing for our second child in January. If there is one area in which I’ve struggled and found my greatest success as a husband, it is in the area of sacrificing myself for my wife and son. That is love. Do I want to read a story about a male or female who purports to be strong because they are unwilling to sacrifice themselves for someone else and to experience the best emotional we’ve been created to enjoy? No.

I want stories where women fall in love, where they bear their weaknesses and are lifted up by the person who falls in love with them so that both of them can become stronger people.

I’ll tell you what, the man I was before I met my wife was selfish and hard, broken from a difficult past and completely ignorant about how much more he could love and let love change him.

So, if you’re writing a story and you think, this female character can’t fall in love because they need to show strength, consider how much stronger they could be as a duo.

I wrote a book with three strong women in Godsknife: Revolt. One is a priestess who has figured out how to create a cross species virus that allows her to telepathically control an army of human insect hybrids, and whose goal is to display her powers of Order by overpowering the Chaos she unleashes. Another is an early twenties orphan who didn’t realize the father figure she had been working for is a Chaos doctor and the guy she meets while visiting Iowa State is a recruiter for Order. She goes from the fear of leaving the familiar for the adventure of college to running for her life and into the myths of the supernatural. She will battle the loss of her parents and how easy it will be to turn to vengeance instead of the strength within. Lastly, a middle-aged woman who left the Chaos doctor because of his drinking will also run into her father and face the anger she’s held within about his over protectiveness and subsequent divide that has hurt their relationship for years.


Godsknife: Revolt is available in ebook and paperback from Evolved Publishing. For signed copies and links to online retailers, check out www.spikepub.com.

Timothy C. Ward is a Hugo nominated producer for Adventures in SciFi Publishing, who has been lost, broke and surfed with sharks on the other side of the world. He now dreams of greater adventures from his keyboard in Des Moines, Iowa. This summer he released two novels: his second Sand Divers book, Scavenger: A.I., where two parents use an ancient technology to fight a reproducing A.I. while trying to resurrect their deceased infant, and Godsknife: Revolt, an apocalyptic battle for godhood in the rift between Iowa and the Abyss. 

Preorder Godsknife: Revolt and send him an email at tim@timothycward.com to request two of his Kindle ebooks, free!

Sign up for his newsletter for news, sales, giveaways and more: http://www.timothycward.com/newsletter/.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Vacuum Watching


Artificial (not so) Intelligence

I haven't written much in the last couple of days.  Why?  I've been watching a vacuum cleaner. Now this may sound strange to you. Well ... it is.
We bought a new robot vacuum.  It has a laser to scan the room, memory to keep track of what part it has cleaned already, and the ability to go back and plug itself in when its battery need charging.  Not only that, if it cannot clean the entire house on one charge of the battery, after it recharges its battery, it will go back and pick up where it left off and finish the job. You can schedule it to vacuum the floors every Tuesday, or twice a week, or every day if you are a clean freak, or room with Oscar of The Odd Couple..
How's that sound?
However, ...
How do we know if it really cleans every square foot?  Our floor is not that dirty. We thought about sprinkling sand all over and then we could tell what got cleaned and what got missed. A sure-fire test.  As it began, you could actually see the paths it made through the sand. On the practical side, we would have to stop it and empty its dirt bin pretty often.  And, what if it didn't do a good job?  We would have all this sand on the floor.  Cancel that method.
We have a house a little larger than average.  And it takes the little robot five hours to complete the job.  That means three trips out the gate with a full charge.
It's not quite as methodical or orderly as a person might be, although this model is not just a random go, bump, try a different direction approach.   So say the ads and directions.   At times, it looks like an organized random method.    So, I am drawn to watch it and see what it is doing. Is it more methodical or more random? Does it cover all areas.  (Remember, we decided not to put down the sand.)
At the end of its first battery life, it found its way back to the charge base, got there, turned around and snuggled its behind up to the charge contacts and settle down to be charged.  This took about two hours - the charge, not the snuggling bit.
Once charged, it took off again to try and finish the job. I had spent some time having lunch and answering a few e-mails and was just starting to write when I heard it power up, ready to clean.  I jumped up to see what it would do.
It had found its way back to where it had left off, and started to clean.  Shortly, it decided to clean under the bed. Now, I know we don't do that very often. Okay, never. But the little robot decided to do a good job and once it finished, it stopped and displayed a message: "Please clean my dirt bin."  Well, it did say please.
Once the bin was emptied and replaced, the bot was on its way again.  Except it didn't know where to go next.  It would turn in a complete circle, then stop and consider (or whatever bots do). Then survey the room again, stop and consider. After several of these, it decided to go left. That was okay, for the bathroom was to the left. It spent ten minutes in the bathroom, then came back to where it had done its contemplating before.  And did some more.
You can see why I didn't get any writing done. I tried talking to it on several (okay, many more than several) occasions.  The day was beginning to fade and so was I.  So, I paused it, and then instructed it to go back to its charging base.  It took off like a shot, perhaps tired of our dirty floors.
It zoomed into the next room and stopped. Again, it displayed that bewilderment it had shown before. Survey 360 degrees, think (or whatever), spin around, cogitate, turn around and consider its options.
In fact, the base was no more than fifteen feet away, in plain view, an easy selection with a laser. Possibly the problem was, not once did I hear it say, "I think I can. I think I can."  And it didn't.
So, if you're thinking about buying one, I'd suggest you ask to see its resume or test scores.   I'm going to reset everything and give it another chance tomorrow. 
Writing suffers again tomorrow. 
 James R. Callan
 
 

 

 

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Dread NOT the Back Cover Blurb, for You Can Do It!

Recently I was at Westercon and the topic of writing the back cover blurb came up. You know, those couple paragraphs that describe your book and sell the reader on it. Great ones encapsulate the story and lure you to buy the book. It's the second thing people look at after the cover. If they like the cover, their next move is to pick up the book, flip it over, and read the description to find out what's inside.


One of the authors on the self publishing panel said she hated writing back cover blurbs. I said I actually liked writing the back cover blurb and had written them for all my books, published and un-published. 

I began writing the back cover blurbs with Tea Times Three, then an unfinished novel that I hoped to one day complete. I wrote it is as an exercise to help me finish the book. I continued to write back cover copy and wrote one for Carmine Rojas: Dog Fight which was actually the paragraph describing the book in my query letter. 

I began to do it seriously when I found this blog post by Cat Rambo Notes From Michael Stackpole’s “How To Write a Novel in 21 Days”. Using his plan you write the back cover blurb on day 16. The back cover copy should consist of no more than six sentences. It sounds like an impossible task, to boil your work down to just a few lines. But I went and I counted the number of sentences on the back cover of other, published novels, and by gum, he was right! Most blurbs are just that long. That's not to say they don't cheat with a semicolon here and there too squeeze in an extra long sentence. But that really is the average.

I found that it really helped me focus on the plot, the core conflicts (just like he said it should) and best of all, it will help you write the dreaded query! And you don't have to wait for Day 16 either. If you have a book idea you can always start there. Or write it midway through your first draft when you feel more secure about the plot. Write it when you feel inspired to write it.

Tips to keep in mind:
-Establish your main character(s) quickly.
-You don't need to include the entire plot- get to the inciting incident ("but when").
-Include the stakes! What does your character need to accomplish and what stands in their way?

Breakdown of the original blurb for Tea Times Three:
The sleepy town of Midswich Maine is shaken when three witches arrive and open a tea shop. Bruleé, Anglaise, and Caramel just want to start over in a new place, far from their troubles. Unfortunately Pastor Austin and a pack of upright citizens have other ideas.
Can the witches stay in their new home and save their business? Or will they be run out of town before anyone can even try their magical teas?
Even as they make friends their days may be numbered.
The first paragraph introduces the main characters, the setting, and what the main characters hope to accomplish. The second sentence of the first paragraph introduces the character who stands int heir way, Pastor Austin and his upright citizens. 
The second paragraph raises the stakes for the three witches. Can they save their business or will they be run out of town?
The last paragraph, just a sentence, introduces some hope, they are making friends, but it may not be enough. 
Whole swathes of both plot and characters are left out of the back cover description. The reader will discover those on their own when they buy the book and read it for themselves. They don't need to know everything upfront. If they did, why buy the book?
If you feel intimidated by the task, practice! Write a blurb for a book which has already been published. Or for one that you've read. Before too long you should start being able to tell what to add and what to cut. I will also say that it takes a few drafts too! Don't be afraid to write two, or four, or seven versions.